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Benjamin Marauder Air Rifle 3.0 Review

With Pennsylvania recently adopting regulations allowing the use of air guns for hunting, a new air rifle was acquired to take advantage of the new opportunities. It is the .25 caliber Benjamin Marauder, version 3. This is a PCP version, which is to say, highly compressed air from a specialized hand pump that gives you a heck of a workout, or from a SCUBA tank, to a maximum of 3,000 psi. These PCP air guns are quite powerful and nothing like the Daisy BB guns my generation is familiar with.

It was purchased from LG Outdoors brand new in the factory box, for $465.00.

The .25 caliber was selected because the slightly larger pellets can carry significantly higher kinetic energy, as measured in foot-pounds, than the .177 and .22 caliber PCP air rifles. Supposed to function like a firearm.  That was the idea, anyhow.

A UTG 3-9×40 AO mildot scope was added to it, because the gun does not have open sights. UTG was selected on the basis of internet reviews and recommendations. It is designed for .22s and air rifles, which are much harder on scopes than even heavy caliber big game rifles. This was purchased from Midway for $85.00.

Pellets used were .25 caliber 25.39-grain JSB Match Diabolo Exact Kings. According to internet reviews I have read, these seem to be the best performing pellets in the Marauder. They are pure soft lead, rounded blunt, with a pronounced skirt, so no sharp, pointed, killer-type field tip contours here.  But within 25-35 yards, they are going to be deadly.

Shooting Experience

The clip included with the rifle broke right away, and I could not get it to work more than once (eight shots). Apparently the internal spring sprang, and the clip would not rotate afterwards. The clip is an over-engineered, overly complicated contraption, designed to frustrate most users. After those first eight shots, the clip was broken, set aside, and the gun was tediously fed single shots by hand.

After the first ten shots, accuracy began to drop, so more air needed to be pumped in with the hand pump. While the gauge on the rifle showed 1,500 psi starting out with the re-charge, it then went to 2,500 psi after just a few pumps. On the other hand, the hand pump gauge showed 3,000 psi, which is the limit. Mind you this was only the second time the gun had been pumped up. When the bleeder valve was opened and the pump disconnected from the rifle, the rifle gauge needle dropped into the white area below the marked pressure range. In other words, the rifle’s gauge died immediately upon use. Only the pump gauge was accurate.

The de-gassing tool needed to quickly let out the compressed air is not included with the gun, which is ridiculous.

The awful matte finish on the barrel and air tank attracts scuffs, holds any paint it encounters, and the metal underneath rusts easily from even the slightest exposure to moisture. This is not your old Daisy single-pump BB gun’s black finish, a finish that even decades later may be somewhat scratched but is still robust and protecting the steel underneath.

After wondering about how the barrel could be counted on to remain accurate without being rigidly supported by the front barrel band, I learned in a phone call to Crosman customer service that a rubber O-ring was missing from the barrel band on this rifle. That O-ring would grip the barrel inside the barrel band and keep the barrel from flexing or moving, which would destroy accuracy.

Despite lacking the O-ring to hold the barrel rigidly, this gun was accurate. With the barrel band O-ring installed, I’ll bet it is amazingly accurate. The adjustable trigger is outstandingly crisp.

After shooting it into and through half-inch-thick dried oak boards, which are iron – hard, we learned this is a gun quite capable of cleanly taking squirrels, rats, starlings, European sparrows, and rabbits, either hunting or in pest control out to about 35 yards. I am unsure if I feel comfortable using it for more challenging pest control like skunks, groundhogs, possums, raccoons, or feral cats, all of which are very tough, unless it is a head shot at point blank range, like in a trap. Having just killed a large porcupine gnawing on our pavilion the other night, which required five point blank Federal Premium .22 LRs, there is still a distinct power difference between even a “mere” .22 and this souped-up air rifle.

Crosman did respond to this gun’s deficiencies. They sent a new clip (the size of a fifty cent piece) in a package the size of a shoe box. I guess shipping costs are not an issue at Crosman. Days later a new air pressure gauge and barrel O-ring arrived. After looking at the terribly illustrated and poorly worded user’s manual, which did not include instructions on installing either the O-ring or the pressure gauge, I decided against trying to install the barrel O-ring or the gauge myself. The gun is going back to Crosman. They can fix this one or send a new one.

Bottom line

The Benjamin Marauder 3.0 PCP air rifle is very accurate up to ten shots, and then it needs to be pumped up again to 3,000 psi. Don’t push this rifle beyond what it was designed to do, and it will perform fine within 35 yards. Just make sure you actually get a functional rifle when it comes “new” out of the box!

UPDATE: 6/2/17 Crosman customer service is shipping the rifle back at their cost. The nice lady told me the serial number is from late 2015, which made her think the gun may have already been returned to LG Outdoors once before, as it should have moved through the channels of trade long before June 2017. She also said we’ll be receiving a new gun. That’s good customer service!

UPDATE: 6/23/17 Crosman delivers back to me the same rifle I had sent to them for repair or replacement. Judging by the small amount of pressure indicated by the gauge, the gauge has been replaced. However, the O ring in the barrel band is still missing. It has not been fixed. This means that the barrel is just flopping around, unsupported. This means mediocre accuracy, at best. Dear Crosman (went my unanswered emails and phone calls), WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON OVER THERE? This is not customer service, it is a rip-off. I purchased a brand new air rifle, and months later, it still doesn’t work right. To be continued!

 

Memorialization Day

Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in 1868, as a way to remember the fallen military fighters of both the South and the North, the “Great Rebellion.”

Later it became Memorial Day to remember ALL fallen military service members, who gave their lives so we might live in ease here at home, especially those who fell in the “Great War” of World War One.

Perhaps you are surprised it wasn’t really started in 1968 to sell cheap mattresses and cars at exciting prices? Or perhaps slightly better, a weekend spent with family and friends around a campfire, drinking beer and eating hotdogs. Because that is what it has come to mean for so many of our fellow Americans.

To memorialize something is to “do or create something that causes people to remember (a person, thing, or event),” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.

My son and his fellow Boy Scout troop members make annual pilgrimages to local Harrisburg cemeteries, and arrange flags on the graves of Veterans. The boys tidy up the graves, make sure the bronze emblems are correctly shown, and then they move on to the next.

This activity causes the boys who do this, and those who see the patriotic results, to actually memorialize the fallen heroes. And to me, every service woman and service man is a hero. Whether you see combat or not, whether the armed services gave you the step up you needed in life, or if the armed services were actually a digression for you, it makes no difference. Everyone who puts on an American armed services uniform is a hero, a patriot, and deserves to be memorialized.

Now and later.

The question that keeps rolling around in my head this week is “What will I do to mark this special holiday weekend?”

No, drinking beer won’t do it. Neither will eating hotdogs.

I will figure out something, and it may be as simple as leading our family in the Pledge of Allegiance to our great flag, which flies over our porch. But by God, I will remember, because if there is one thing I cannot do, it is take all this opportunity and wonder for granted.

If not for our armed services, America would not exist.

Thank you, women, and men, for your service.

***********************************************************

HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

2. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

3. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of

JOHN A. LOGAN,
Commander-in-Chief

N.P. CHIPMAN,
Adjutant General

Official:
WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.

 

Some reflections on yesterday’s Election Day results

Yesterday was Primary Election Day here in Pennsylvania, and I was up to my eyeballs in electioneering/ volunteering.

Setting aside politics yesterday after lunch time, I helped bury in the ground a beautiful and perfect 21-year-old young lady who was killed the day after graduating from the University of Miami. Her name is Elizabeth Goldenberg, and she was from nearby Hummelstown, practically a suburb of Harrisburg these days. As her sobbing parents and siblings stood by, a large and far-flung community gathered around to give support, caring, and sympathy.

Young Elizabeth was killed in a boating accident while touring the Everglades with her family. She went from award-winning sky-is-the-limit talent to snuffed out like a light switch had been pushed. She was a hugely positive force surrounded by affectionate people who basked in her glow.

In moments like this I question my faith, I question God, because I can think of plenty of bad people who deserve to die, and yet this perfect young person is prematurely cut down. It is the essence of makes no sense and unfair.

It is hard to shake that feeling, and so that is also my thinking about the politics results: a lot of it makes no sense and is patently unfair.

While it is true that all my candidates but one prevailed yesterday, three issues nag at my mind:

  1. Republican Establishment is still inflicting self-damage by protecting poor candidates who are weak go-along get-along types, while stopping strong candidates from getting ahead. We saw that with the county judicial endorsement. The Dauphin GOP continues to artificially undermine the strongest Republicans and thereby alienate conservative grass roots voters, which the party needs. Unfair and self-defeating.
  2. I feel bad for Josh Feldman, candidate for the Uptown Harrisburg magistrate position, held by Barb Pianka. Feldman is a recent transplant to this area, with no roots, and had done no work related to the job, and yet he threw himself into the fray at the urging of other people. You might say he was used to try and settle a political score. If you read this blog, then you know I played a role in that race. It still brings me no pleasure to have played that role, and now more than ever I feel bad for Mr. Feldman. Hopefully he is able to get over the hard work and big expenditures he invested and get back to his pet service business in one piece. Whoever encouraged you to run was not your friend, Josh. Unfair to the unsuspecting.
  3. All the mainstream media’s anti-Trump fake news and fake leaks and fake analysis and fake issues and fake chaos are aimed at one thing: Obfuscation and diversion, hindering President Trump from digging into the morass and removing the cancer. For fifty years the anti-America left (which is in many ways lead by the mainstream media) has quietly infiltrated and taken over a great deal of American government. Had Hillary Clinton been elected, those bureaucrats were all poised to get it over the goal line, a line of no return, and fully take control of America. If Trump is able to “drain the swamp,” then all of that effort will have been for naught. Impeachment? After 100 days in office? For what? How? After Hillary Clinton’s lying and cheating and sale of emails with secret classified information, and sale of key uranium stockpiles to the Russian government, no one is more due for a trial and jail than she. The US media has become a partisan machine disconnected from real journalism, and so they treat Trump and his supporters unfairly.

While shoveling dirt on sweet Elizabeth’s coffin yesterday, miserable at the unfairness of her death, I was also struck by how meaningless so much of our material life is, how much we Americans take for granted, how relatively easy our lives are, compared to how most other humans live, and how we so easily fill up our lives with stupid, shallow things.

What is most important are relationships: Relationships between old friends, family members who respect one another, business colleagues, neighbors, and so on. Appreciate what we have. Hold our loved ones tight. In the end, it’s all ya got.

 

See-Saw Reactions Indicate Something is Up

When a political party or a movement politicizes every single thing its opponents do, in the hopes of turning every action taken into a negative, you’ve already got a problem.

It is a problem because nothing positive is being sold. It’s just hate and anger and fake outrage piled on top of more and more hate.

Trying to demonize people has many downsides. It is emotionally unsustainable. And it is politically unsustainable. Just ask Adolf Hitler and his Nazi socialists, who perfected the heaping of hate upon their opponents.

Hitler and the Nazis reaped a whirlwind of backlash.

And the credibility gap grows, because the daily bobbing and weaving in search of an opening leads the accuser to become the blesser and vice versa. It looks nutty because it is nutty.

So we have Obama jetting around the planet to sell his carbon control message. The huge SUV convoys taking Obama from place to place aren’t low on carbon emissions, either.

His TV interviewer asks him why he is against eating meat because he has cooked “thousands of steaks” for Obama. Obama admits he sure likes steak.

In other words, don’t do as I do, do as I say.

Obama’s credibility may remain high with a small group of highly partisan hard leftists, but the rest of us shake our heads at his naked hypocrisy.

This Comey firing business is even worse, if it can be imagined.

For months and months, one American political party was demanding that Comey be fired. They blamed him for the loss of their candidate.

Then he gets fired by the president yesterday, and within an hour the same exact people who hated Comey and demanded his firing are now hating the president for firing him and are saying it is a political act.

This irrational hate isn’t just hypocritical. It is self-damaging, because normal people see it as nearly schizophrenic.

Someone quipped last week that Democrats are now so confused, if Trump came out for gun control, the Democrats would be “outraged” and immediately be against gun control.

Somewhere this acting and fake outrage works on people who are not independent thinkers. I understand that. Enough people anywhere simply follow the lead of someone, anyone, to make a real movement. Might only be five or ten percent of a society, but it is usually enough to raise hell. And that is what is happening here.

Folks, if you are reading this, I hope it is to expand your own thinking and not just to try to find fault. One of the huge challenges the left faces is the constant hatred expressed for people who simply disagree on policy. For decades the Left has been calling opponents haters, bigots, racists, xenophobes, sexists, etc., with no substance to back it up.  Just toxic hate.

What our nation loses when these illogical, erratic see-saw reactions and wild hateful accusations lose their sting isn’t just a diminished political party on the left, but the real issues suffer.  That is because the political mix and debate is reduced and the normal people somewhere in the middle back away, disgusted by the antics.

Don’t be a hater. Be a thinker. For a long time liberals were open minded, thoughtful, reflective, and analytical. That great tradition is gone. And that is sad, because all Americans are impoverished as a result.

First World Problem: Antique Arms Collectors Now Face Mostly Fakes

This headline is probably ho-hum to most people, at best.

To others, it is a “here we go again, another whine-fest by history buffs who spend their money badly on old rusty junk.”

But if you are indeed a history buff with a penchant for old weapons, both edged and those that go BOOM, you may be interested in this post.

My opinion is that most antique weapons collectors are facing an overwhelming amount of fakes.

Much more so with Japanese swords, so let’s discuss them first.

Used to be that finding a Gendaito blade was unusual; maybe one or two a year. Now, you go on eBay and find the same several sellers conveying dozens of them annually. Wakizashis, katanas, even various sized dirks and tantos etc.

These must all be fakes, as there simply were not this many Gendaito blades in existence before Chinese smiths began to create them in about 2011.  Having watched these counterfeits move at an ever brisker pace, I simply feel sad. At some point the uninformed collectors will discover their money has been taken for what is a very good reproduction that is probably worth a thousand bucks, simply because it is that good of a copy. But it ain’t real.

Smith-made (hand made art blades) Shinto blades also fall into this counterfeiting scam by the hundreds annually. Again, there simply were not as many of these blades surviving WWII as there are now for sale on eBay.

With guns, it is harder to fake than a sword, because a gun is obviously a gun. A Winchester 1873 is a Winchester 1873, and its condition usually dictates its value.

What makes some gun values go crazy high are rare or historic marks (the ubiquitous spurious stage coach markings on rabbit eared double shotguns being the best example), which can be easily faked by anyone with good control of a metal punch. This is true fakery and it is an area most collectors know about and do more diligence about.

But let’s talk about the area where it is harder to see what has happened, and harder to call it fakery, though it is: The collectible antique sporting rifles.

Demand is high for antique sporting rifles, because their modern day equivalents cost about $35,000 to start and easily get to $100,000 and much, much higher. So in that context, it “makes sense” to pay $5,000 to $20,000 for an antique sporting firearm that functions as it should, rather than several times that amount for a brand new one that goes BOOM just like or nearly like the old one.

Antique sporting rifles are getting lots and lots of makeovers, both in England and here in America. They are marketed at auction and on websites as having been “period upgraded” or “period refurbished” (say from the 1870s to 1930s), when in fact they were very recently “tarted up” by a gunsmith to heighten their attractiveness to unknowing, unquestioning collectors.

I recently purchased – and immediately returned – such a rifle.

Oh it was a rare dandy, and looking past the hyperbole on the well-known seller’s website, which included an obviously fraudulent claim of “original condition,” there was still a fine gun that could take an American bison or a grizzly. If it worked the simple way a rifle should work, it was the gun of a lifetime. In a rare, hard-hitting caliber that I wanted.

So, I busted a move on it.

After joking on the phone with the salesman about the obviously fake claims of original condition, the seller and I eventually reached agreement on price, and the gun arrived in a couple days. Right out of its original 1895 leather and brass case with the original owner’s name and military rank on it (God, what a case!), the red flags were popping up: Improperly refinished wood had pulled the stock away from the receiver, leaving the stock to accept the heavy recoil on only one side.This meant the stock would crack soon after use.

A punch mark on the barrel lump was testimony to the cheap and meaningless effort to temporarily tighten the otherwise loose action. The list of el cheapo work went on. Yes, the bores were immaculate, but the fact is that this gun had been recently “tarted up” for re-sale, and it had been worn down quite a bit recently. Worn down more by the nature of its heavy caliber than by any misuse by previous owners.

Had the seller simply disclosed these facts, I might have made a more informed decision, and he would have received less money. We would have had full disclosure and an honest exchange. But within 48 hours of receiving it, I drove the gun all the way back to the sales room, three hours away, where the sales manager and the business owner tried to talk me out of the return. The refund check arrived ten days later, with none of the additional costs I incurred like shipping, transfer, gunsmith evaluation etc. They knew full well what had been done to that gun, and they simply got caught, and they punished me by withholding cash they should have covered.

This is one of the big names in high end gun sales.

Today I am looking at another uncommon rifle on a well known auction site. The gun has clearly been recently overhauled for re-sale. The wood finish is as bright and shiny as the new wood floor in a brand new home. The metal finishes look like they were done weeks ago, and not the 117 years ago that is the actual age of the gun. Yet it is marketed as having a “period” refurbish. Rubbish! Nonsense! Buyer be super aware!

This is not total fakery, as no fake numbers or markings have been punched into the metal or wood. Custer did not purportedly grasp this gun as he fell at the Little Big Horn.

Instead, until a few months ago, this gun’s metal parts were probably a mix of silvered and plum finishes, the welcome, honest patinas of hundreds of days afield in India or Africa, or the Scottish Highlands, chasing big game in the hands of a British, Indian, or Scottish Man of Importance. Until months ago, the wood probably looked like hell, was beat to hell, dented, dinged, and scratched, each a story in itself. Not any more! Now it looks so fake and shiny it about blinds the eye.

Shame, too, because under the fakery is a really cool gun.

Apparently the sellers believe that hiring “gunsmiths” to do quick and dirty upgrades to these collectible old sporting arms is more important than selling the actual honest gun, with its actual original wear and condition.

This means the sellers have gullible buyers who ascribe too much weight to new and fresh appearance, when the opposite is true: An original condition gun that has not been butchered or fooled with by a modern day “gunsmith” is actually more valuable.

The key to fending off the faking is educating new gun collectors and buyers to understand this fact: Fresh, new looking antique guns have been shined up to turn them into shiny objects. Don’t be a foolish fish and bite on them, unless you recognize a) what they are, and b) there are probably problems covered up by the new “improvements” that would have been addressed 100 years ago, but are now papered over, and thus, you are not getting what you paid for.

And as for the Japanese swords out there on eBay, man, what can be said? Be super wary. Ask yourself simple questions about production numbers, survivor numbers, and then answer your own question: How on earth is this one seller repeatedly finding so many of these should-be rare swords? Is every American veteran selling his prized Japanese sword to just these few dealers?

You know the answers to these questions. Run away, and hold on to your money.

In closing, buyer beware. Because there are gullible collectors willing to part with their money, there are unscrupulous sellers willing to sell them things that simply cannot be true. It behooves the smart man to ask the simple questions before biting.

Good luck and be patient!

Turkey Time

And now it is officially Turkey Time, the beginning of the Pennsylvania spring gobbler season.

A gobbler is a turkey that gobbles, which is nearly always a bearded male. Sorry, there are few transgendered turkeys in the wild, and those rare females (hens) who do grow a beard are just as much a target as the males. No artificial PC protections here!

Spring gobbler hunting is one of the lowest pay-off hunts possible, in terms of harvested birds, with success rates somewhere in the high single digits to low double digits. That’s a range of 9-15% success, which means about 85% to 91% of turkey hunters will hang up their shotgun and camo at the end of May without having put a harvest tag on a bird.

Not that hunters won’t shoot turkeys, oh occasionally they will. The question is whether or not the turkey knows it has been shot and decides to die in a place where the hunter can bring it to hand. Wild turkeys are exceptionally tough creatures, and with their tiny pea-sized brains, they can be difficult to actually kill, though shot. A friend of mine “rolled” a turkey at 6:10 am Saturday morning, two days ago, watching it fall over, flop around, and then suddenly stand up, run away, and then fly away. Long gone. It has happened to me, too.

When that happens, the hunter feels awful, for the bird, for himself, for his sense of capability. But like a coyote getting a mouthful of feathers after carefully stalking and ambushing a wild turkey, occasionally we human hunters get just a moment of opportunity and then blow it, too, as all predators must.

Turkey hunting is tough and low-yield not just because the birds are physically tough and can withstand being shot, but mostly because they make up for their low intelligence with a warp-speed sense of wariness.

Turkeys can see through concrete, my old friend John Plowman said.

While that statement is obviously untrue, it is a truism that experienced turkey hunters agree with. Somehow, wild turkeys possess eyesight and hearing so acute that it seems like X-Ray vision and NSA- quality listening capabilities. They bust hunters at every turn, at far distances, even when the hunter has done everything right: Concealment, calling, gun preparation, etc.  So even the best turkey hunters, who are seemingly magical beings themselves, because their understanding of turkey biology and habits is so good, can get skunked or go a long time before harvesting a bird.

Of course, it must be said the real harvest from turkey hunting is not tagging a bird. Rather, it is the time afield. Time watching the sunrise, listening to the sounds of the forest and field slowly awaken, listen to the sounds of people moving from sleep into active, and so on. And Spring time is a great time to watch the natural world’s most subtle beauties, accomplished by either time lapse photography or by sitting motionless up against a large oak tree for several hours, and taking note of rare wildflowers slowly emerging from under leaf litter, or watching a walking stick bug moving at a snail’s pace along a blueberry bush.

In the frenetic hustle and bustle of today’s American life, we typically rely on naturalists and professional photographers to capture these moments for us.

Turkey hunters go afield at 4:30 am, and discover these hidden other worlds ourselves.

Turtle Time

It is officially turtle time.

Every spring turtles of all types emerge from their muddy hideaways, under stream banks, under logs, or burrowed deep into the soft dirt on the side of a farm field.

Turtles are gentle creatures, hurting no one, and yet when they make themselves vulnerable by appearing on the sides of roads, or trying to cross roads, many drivers go out of their way to hit them. Seems obvious to say, a turtle hit by a vehicle will either die a long, lingering, painful death, or if they are small, they will be crushed outright.

What the hell is that about, anyway?

Seeing these sad, destroyed, dead little things strewn about on the roadsides is painful. Turtles really bother no one, and they should elicit human compassion and empathy for their slow but intense drive to find a safe and soft place to dig a hole and lay their eggs. It is not their fault that humans have built uncrossable roads with no wildlife tunnels, or that some humans delight in maiming little animals.

Please slow down along Front Street in Susquehanna Township and entering into Harrisburg, and give the turtles there a break. After millions of years of moving slowly, purposefully, and deliberately, they have earned it.

A Flyers’ Bill of Rights

If you fly on planes to get long distances, then you know the experience has changed dramatically over the past fifteen years. Ever since 2001, flyers have become suspects, meals have been removed, and it is no longer a fun or exciting experience.

The reduction of personal space allotted to seats, i.e. the increase in the number of seats per plane without increasing the size of the plane, has made it a much more cramped experience.

For most people, flying has become a tense and uncomfortable undertaking.

With United Airlines’ recent assault on the most innocent and gentle Dr. Dao, who suffered a concussion and knocked out teeth because he dared to sit in the seat he had purchased on a United Airlines plane, a national discussion has begun.

This discussion is about what rights do passengers have, and what duties do airlines have.

Shouldn’t passengers have lots of rights?

Shouldn’t airlines have lots of duties to their paying customers?

If the way its staff treat its passengers, United Airlines is an especially poorly run company and is downright dangerous for the passengers. Go online and search out “United Airlines violence passengers” and you will see plenty of videos of innocent flyers who have been targeted by rude, impatient, bullying stewardesses, captains, and other flight staff. The smallest of perceived slights often result in the flight staff accusing the passenger of being “disruptive.”

March in the muscle, and beat the hell out of the person who paid for their seat and wanted to stay there.

United Airlines has cultivated a culture of viciousness against its own flyers.

So much for flying the friendly skies!

Two weeks ago United Airlines booted a just-married couple headed to South America for their honeymoon. The facts are all on the side of the couple. They encountered an especially crabby stewardess who was having a bad day, could not control herself, and who picked a fight with the couple. Even when the couple retreated to their seats and cowered, the stewardess was unrelenting. She was on a power trip.

Other airlines have the same kinds of problems, though not nearly as violent as United Airlines, and thus has the demand begun for a flyer’s bill of rights.

Here is a try:

Declaration One: If a passenger buys a seat on a plane, and arrives there during the seating period, then the passenger is entitled to stay in that seat the duration of the flight.

There can be no bait-and-switch by airlines. If they sell you a seat, then that is your seat.

Declaration Two: Airlines cannot compel passengers to leave their seats for “overbooking.”

Overbooking is gross incompetence, or criminal theft, where the airline tries to hedge its potential losses by taking on more passengers than it has seats for on a plane, and then blames the paying passengers for having bought a seat. The airline then engages in all kinds of bribery and threats. This is where the sad Dr. Dao got tripped up and professionally beaten to a pulp.

Declaration Three: Airline staff who falsely accuse passengers shall be charged with felony assault and shall pay treble damages to said passenger.

One of the classic tricks these evil airline staff do is start a dispute with a passenger, and then blame the passenger. They accuse them of being “disruptive.” A flight passenger is in a precarious and especially vulnerable position. When flight staff exploit that weakness and falsely accuse the passenger, a bright line separating civilization from barbarism has been crossed. The right kinds of disincentives have to be created to dissuade flight staff from acting like petty tyrants, and to behave professionally.

These declarations might sound simple and obvious, but apparently the law of the jungle is not working on our airplanes right now, and we have to start somewhere to reintroduce basic human rights and civility.

And to think that when I was a kid I looked forward to getting on a plane!

UPDATE April 22: Now American Airlines has new video and still photos of a flight attendant gone wild, a burly man who hit a passenger, a mother carrying twin babies. He hit her on her head with the metal stroller her kids had been in, and then he challenged other passengers who objected to fight him, and then threatened to have them thrown off the plane. Folks, what we are seeing is the result of too much leeway, responsibility, and decision making being given to people with no background, experience, or training to handle it. As a result, the powertripping opportunities and ego rushes take over, and these flight attendants go bananas on people who are literally flying from one end of the earth to the other. We deserve a Passenger Bill of Rights.

Book Review: Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook 4th Edition, Data Rifle Handgun Calibers Molds

My apologies up front to the authors, but this is a disappointing book, sorry to say. The good news is there is an obvious need for a fifth edition that addresses the deficiencies.

Despite its title, this is not a handbook about cast bullets.

It is first and foremost a handbook about Lyman reloading products.

Second, it is a long listing of popular pistol and rifle round dimensions, as cast in an undefined lead alloy (probably linotype alloy, judging by that alloy’s popularity in the book).

Beyond that this book is a random assortment of poorly structured and brief, incomplete descriptions of elements of lead bullet casting. I hate to do this, but here are some specific criticisms:

1) It has few European cartridges and no (British, German, Swedish, Austrian, French) Black Powder Express calibers. This is a gaping hole in any case, but especially in light of the tremendous upsurge in interest in BPE rifles.

2) Nothing about paper patching, which has seen a resurgence because it works very well, and a lot of, if not most 1870s-1890s black powder guns in America and Europe shot paper patch cast lead bullets.

3) Unbelievably lame and incomplete lead alloy list, missing critical and most practical field-use characteristics for each alloy. When I purchased this book new, I was expecting some discussion of the relative merits of pure lead, 50:1, 40:1, 30:1, 20:1, 16:1, and 12:1 lead alloys, and perhaps a discussion of their different purposes i.e. thin skinned or thick skinned game, at what ranges, their hardness and weight out of the same mould relative to one another, plain base vs. gas check, etc. There are some lead alloys that are predominant or most popular (40:1, 20:1, 16:1) among reloaders, because they are very practical, cheap, easy to make, easy to cast. There is zero recognition of this simple fact here. Instead the authors treat us to their own narrow interest in very hard Linotype alloy, which of course has its use on the toughest big game, but my gosh, gentlemen, there is a whole world out there of LEAD.

4) Lots of wasted pages and space on scientific nonsense about melting lead. I have a graduate degree in statistics and economics, which indicates I can think hard and well when I have to, and I have a lot of interest in the subject of casting lead bullets (and sinkers, and jigs). And yet, I still fell asleep after the first paragraph about the physics of melting lead. This section is unreadable, as well as pointless and useless for practical lead casters.

5) Very little is written about mould types or materials i.e. relative merits of bronze vs. brass vs. iron vs. steel, or should we use the antique moulds or have new ones made, or how to care for moulds, single block vs. split block, etc. This is a huge subject as more and more mould makers have come on line all over America and Canada to meet the strong demand for custom bullet moulds, each offering their own preference of mould material.

6) Nothing about the Ideal tool, which is also becoming popular again, i.e. how do you properly store and travel with your paper patched bullets, so you can load them on-site?

7) It is pre-Internet, although an Appendix is roughly tacked on promoting certain Lyman wares and suppliers available on the Web.

8) Finally, adding insult to injury, the cover contradicts the text. The primary author describes how he ladle – pours with the spout right in the mould pour-hole. Yet the cover shows a dramatic looking stream of molten lead leaving the ladle and landing in the mould some distance below. And that right there summed it up for me: The cover shows one thing, the text describes another. I am frustrated and disappointed by this book, and so I rank it at the very bottom of reloading books.  And yes, I have been shooting black powder since I was a kid, so I know of which I speak. Frankly, you can get much better, more useful, more accurate, more up-to-date information from the guys at various web pages (castboolits, nitro etc.) than you will get from this book.

How sad this is. But as noted, if the authors address these concerns, the next edition should be truly a bible on cast bullets.

 

Ooh-ooh, that smell

Dedicated readers of this site might wonder why we are not commenting about the lameness of a political party that filibusters everything in the US Senate, used “the nuclear option” themselves to advance the most radical and extreme federal judges and political appointees from 2010 to 2015, but which now is screaming bloody murder that the other political party followed their lead, did exactly what they did with the Senate rules, and allowed a simple majority vote to confirm the next US Supreme Court justice (Gorsuch) yesterday.

Why would a normal, healthy person spend time on that issue? It is obviously quite insane. One political party is dominated by people with an agenda that does not fit in with America’s political model. Would you normal people please stop supporting the Democrat Party, until its leadership is replaced with normal, mainstream Americans?

Instead, this essay here takes a line from a Lynyrd Skynyrd song about drug abuse, “Oooh-ooh that smell.”

This is about a daily personal health issue that seems to be unknown and unaddressed, despite having a real effect on Americans across the country. If you care about your health, read on.

We Americans are so addicted to cheap Chinese junk (tools, food, clothing, furniture, shoes, tires) that we shop ever more in big box stores filled to the brim with that cheap Chinese junk.  Or buy from Amazon, which imports from China by the shipful.

And when you enter the doorway of these big box stores, you are confronted with an odd, sickly sweet smell associated with the vast majority of Chinese manufacturing: Formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is used to pickle human remains for wakes and open casket funerals. It is used to stash scientific specimens in glass containers, so they will not rot, so they can be viewed and studied.

Formaldehyde is dangerous, toxic, and both acutely and chronically dangerous. And yet Americans work around hugely elevated amounts of formaldehyde in these ubiquitous big box stores, and Americans shop daily in these same places, all blissfully unaware that they are inhaling a significant amount of nasty chemical.

The formaldehyde you smell in the store is off-gassing from the consumer items sitting in cardboard boxes on the store shelves. This chemical permeates everything made in China, and there is so much of it that for years it keeps leaking out of the plastics, fabrics, and woods sent here, which we then put in our homes and garages as furniture and tools.

You are worried about ambient cigarette smoke? Cut us a break! Exposure to air-borne formaldehyde in these amounts is far worse for the human body, far riskier than the occasional cigarette, as is standing on a street corner in down town Manhattan, waiting for a street light to change, for that matter, because of all the ozone, particulates, and sulfur/ carbon dioxide/monoxide smog.

But nothing is being done about ambient formaldehyde risk, because it is associated with too much money and economic activity. And it is invisible, except to the nose.

There are no sexy prohibitionist crusades about ambient formaldehyde like there is with tobacco use (an upcoming subject here).  And yet take a good whiff the next time you go to a big box store. That weird sickly sweet smell is formaldehyde. Your lungs are getting a free embalming when you enter.

Note: If we bought American products, made in USA facilities where formaldehyde is not allowed to be used, then we would not be exposed to it when we went shopping. But we are like drug addicts, addicted to cheap Chinese junk, to our own detriment.