Sunday, February 20, 2011


There are as many chili recipes as there are chili eaters and all of them are the best chili ever.  The following recipe is mine and is inspired by an Emeril Lagasse recipe for Turkey and Hot Sausage Chili and  some chili I had at the Tamarack Lodge at Heavenly Ski Area in Lake Tahoe called Tri-Tip Chili that was served in one of those fancy bread bowls.

The Recipe

1 Tb. vegetable oil
¾-1 pound of steak (I like sirloin tips as they're relatively inexpensive and tasty)
¾ pound hot Italian sausage (without casings)
1 pound of ground beef
1 Tb. Essence, recipe here
1½ cups chopped yellow onions
½ cup chopped green peppers
½ cup chopped, roasted and peeled Poblano chiles
2 Tb. minced garlic
2 Tb. chile powder
1½ ts. ground cumin
½ ts. salt
1 (12 oz.) beer of your choice + (one for the chili and one or more for the chef)
1 (28 oz.) can of crushed, diced, or chopped tomatoes with their juice
1 can (or roughly 2 cups) Pinto beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (if you don't like cilantro you could use flat leaf parsley)
2 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese


Start by roasting chilies.

In a large pot, brown meats in batches after seasoning with the Essence.  When all meat is browned, return to pot and add onions, peppers and chilies.  Cook until veggies are soft.  Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and salt, cook for about one minute.  Add beer, tomatoes, and beans, stir.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Do not cover.  Cook at a simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.  Add cilantro or parsley in the last five minutes of cooking.

Prep and cooking time is directly proportional to the number of beers consumed by the chef, roughly 1¾ hours.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

10-8 Performance

I sent an email to 10-8 Performance asking them about the availability of a wider rear sight.  I received an email back from Hilton Yam himself at 9:00 on a Saturday night in less than half an hour.

That's some customer service.

Either that our both of us spend too much time on the internet.

Project M&P Test Fire

Hit the range this morning for Saturday morning shotgun and to test fire and zero my M&P, which was the focus of my last post.

As expected, the gun functioned fine.  The trigger pull has been slightly reduced and is dramatically smoother.  The reset is also improved.

The sights required no additional adjustment.  I really like the Ameriglo Pro Glo front sight, it is highly visible in all the lighting conditions I've tried it in.  I still think that I might want a wider notch in the rear sight.  There is not a whole lot of daylight on either side of the front sight.  It may be fine on a gun with a longer sight radius, but on the shorter barreled compact, I think it may be a little too slow.

I didn't have the opportunity to run the gun on the timer, but that wasn't really the purpose of this outing.

The snow is getting to be a problem.  Wading through three feet of snow to set or check a target sucks.  Shooting on the move would have involved snow shoes.  I don't particularly like shooting indoors, but that may be the only option for the rest of the winter.

It is becoming more clear that I may have to join another club that is more conducive to my needs.  I'm missing the ability to set up multiple targets at whatever distance I want.  Thankfully, there is no shortage of ranges in my area.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Project M&P Take 2

Smith&Wesson's M&P pistol is certainly shootable right out of the box.  With that said, it does have some shortcomings that can be addressed by an ever expanding aftermarket.  I've spent enough time with the M&P to know what I like about it and what I don't.  So, if you can make a good thing better, why not?

At right is my M&P9 compact.  Like most factory guns, the trigger leaves a little to be desired.  It is in the 6.5 pound range, has a good deal of over travel, and a fairly indistinct reset.  All of these problems have been remedied by the good people at Apex Tactical.  Their DCAEK (Duty/Carry Action Enhancement Kit) which uses their Hard Sear, a stronger sear spring, a stronger trigger return spring, and a USB (Ultimate Striker Block) kit, will drop the trigger weight by approximately one pound and reduce over travel dramatically.

As a former 1911 and Glock shooter, I have come to appreciate a distinct trigger reset, this is another area where I find the M&P lacking.  Apex's RAM (Reset Assist Mechanism) does a good job at both increasing the tactile (which I care about) and the audible (which I don't) reset of the M&P trigger.

DCAEK and RAM Installation

Like any firearm modification, it should be preformed by a trained gunsmith (which I am not) and may void your firearm's warranty.  With the necessary warnings behind us, let's get down to business.

Apex Tactical was kind enough to provide us with several Youtube videos to help us with the installation of their products.  Naturally, they are for informational purposes only.  Since Randy (of Apex Tactical) has done a better job than I ever will at showing us how to install their products, I will only add where I think necessary.

We will need a few tools for this; a selection of punches and a small hammer or mallet to knock the two coil pins out of the frame, an armorers' block or roll of masking tape to support the frame while driving out those pins, the smallest, sharpest tweezers you can find for handling the remarkably tiny sear plunger and its equally tiny spring, a set of hex keys for removing the rear sight's set screw, a sight pusher or soft punch and vise for removing the rear sight, and coffee.  If you intend on changing the sights at this time, a set of calipers would also be helpful.  In retrospect, you may want to hold off on the coffee until the sear plunger is back in place.

Start with the Hard Sear and sear spring.  Watch part one of the DCAEK installation video here.  This part is pretty straightforward.  There are two sear plunger springs included with the kit.  Mass compliant guns use the larger spring.  The only difficult part is getting the sear plunger back in position.  Use the tweezers.


This is where Randy and I part ways.  Don't put the sear housing back in the frame yet.  Unless you just want to test for function.  I think the next step of installing the trigger return spring is easier with the sear housing out of the frame.

Installing the the trigger return spring is the most difficult part of this job as far as I am concerned.  Watch part two of the DCAEK video here.  There has been an improvement to the trigger return spring since the last time I installed one of these kits.  The two eyes are now aligned.  This makes what can be a tough job quite a bit easier.  My only piece of advice is to make sure that the slave pin is pointing to the right.  Take your time, making sure that the frame, slide stop levers, trigger and trigger return spring are all aligned can be difficult.

We are just about done with the frame.  All that is left is to install the RAM and put the sear housing and ejector back in.  The RAM goes in pretty easily.  The spring goes over the shaft and goes into the sear housing with the milled flat facing up.  There is a video on this installation as well, you can see it here.  Put the sear housing and ejector back in the frame, while being careful not to dislodge the safety/internal lock plug.  Replace the coil pin and we are done with the frame.

This would be a good time to put the whole gun back together and test for function.

USB Kit and Sights

The USB kit is easy, it is even easier if you have a sight pusher.  It is just a matter of removing the rear sight, while not launching the striker block spring and disc into orbit.  See the video here.

As you can see in the picture, the Apex striker block (left) is much more rounded than the factory one (right).  This allows the striker block a much smoother ride on the striker block cam on the trigger bar.

The M&P comes with what look to be Novak three dot sights.  My personal preference is for a single dot up front and a plain rear sight.  I also like Warren Tactical two dot sights or possibly Heinie Straight-Eights, but the Warren's were out of stock and the Heinie's don't have as pronounced white ring as I would like.  

Since we already have the rear sight off, this would be a good time to change it.  I choose a 10-8 U-notch rear sight.  It would be a good idea to give the new sight a test fit before installing it with the USB kit underneath.

The stock sight is the top picture.  The 10-8 sight is below.  As you can see they left plenty of meet for fitting.  The factory sight was a good tight fit in it's dovetail, so I just fit the new sight to those dimensions.  A good thing to remember when fitting dovetails is to set the height first.  This is assuming that you have material in both height and length, which this one does.  Filling down the bottom of the sight will reduce the amount necessary to file off the front edge.

With the new sight fit to its dovetail, install the USB kit and tighten the set screw.  Don't loctite the set screw yet, as some adjustment may be necessary for zeroing.

About this time the big brown truck that brings all mail ordered things arrived.  On it was the front sight I had purchased.

I like a front sight that draws the eye to it.  I also like night sights.  A class I took at the Sig Sauer Academy cemented the value of night sights.  Ameriglo in conjunction with Ken Hackathorn designed a sight that is highly visible in both day and night.  It used to be called the Hack sight, but Ameriglo seems to now be calling it the Pro Glo.

Unlike the front sight I fit, which was a Warren fiber optic, this one went in with no fitting required.  I should note that I did not have the sight pusher at that time.

It is worth mentioning that the 10-8 sight has a .140" wide notch.  The new Ameriglo front sight is also .140".  There is light on either side of the front sight post, but I think I might want more.  I intend to shoot the gun and see how I like it, but I may mill the notch out to .150".

After any serious modifications, particularly those that may affect point of impact, I will take the gun to the range for testing and zeroing before carrying it.

The finish product.



Project M&P

I've owned or at least fired a lot of different handguns.  I have chased the unicorn searching for the ultimate carry gun and home defense or competition pistol.  What I have learned over those years of independently keeping several gun shops in the black, is that it really doesn't matter.

Any handgun or platform will have its assets and shortcomings.  Finding a platform that you can live with 95% of the time and sticking with it is a far better option than bouncing from gun to gun hoping for something better.  It will save you a hell of a lot of money as well.  This is not to say that experimentation or trying to find something better is necessarily bad, because finding that platform that will work 95% of the time will take the experience to know what it is that you want and who doesn't like shooting new guns.  The key, as I see it, is to know when to stop.

So here starts my year with Smith&Wesson's M&P.  Over the next 12 months, I intend to shoot the M&P platform, forsaking all others, excluding a single Smith&Wesson J-frame revolver.  This will include solo training at my home range, local and perhaps regional IDPA matches, and at least one or two training classes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's For the Children

The back story, a year ago a Democratic legislature enacted a ban on concealed and open carry of firearms in the New Hampshire Statehouse and state buildings.  That ban also had been in effect from 1996 to 2006.  The ban was lifted in early 2011.

The National Education Association-NH Chapter is now rethinking its annual field trip to the Statehouse, where legislators read the works of Doctor Seuss (government in action?) to visiting school children.

Thankfully, it seems a number of N.H. school districts do not share the NEA's concerns and will continue with field trips to the state capital.

My question is this:  does the NEA intend to forego field trips to the rest of the state of New Hampshire based on that it won't be a gun free zone?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


If you like knots check out this website.  Knots  They even have an iPhone app.  Seems they really do have an app for that.

Flashlight Geekery

I like flashlights.  They serve a really important purpose, namely seeing in the dark.

I've been looking for a good, small flashlight for every day carry that won't break the bank.  As big of a fan of Surefire as I am, they are not inexpensive.  For a flashlight that I am probably going to lose, I didn't want to shell out for a E1B.

Enter the Streamlight PT1L.  This is compact, single CR123A, dual output LED light that only costs $48.  The tail cap switch can be used as a momentary by pressing lightly or as a maintained by pressing through until it clicks.  The first press of the switch will unleash 110 lumens.  Two quick presses activates the strobe setting, which I suspect could cause your adversary to have a seizure only rivaled by those Japanese anime cartoons of a couple of years ago.  Three quick presses gives the low output of 12 lumens, good for navigation or maximizing battery life.  Each setting can be fixed by pressing through to the click.  With a little practice selecting the mode you wish is pretty easy.

My only complaint thus far is that the pocket clip is not reversible.  It is fixed bezel down.  This is fine if you use the Rogers/Surefire technique, but less than ideal if you use the Harries.

So far, I haven't lost or broken it.  That's a pretty good start.  If you are in the market for a small, easily carried flashlight, it might be worth a look.


2011 Dillon Calender

I'm all for the larger format pictures of attractive women with guns, but they did sort of miss the calender part.

Dillon Calender

On the other hand, if your buying a calender of attractive women with guns, maybe the calender is the lesser part of the equation.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thoughts on Pocket Carry

We all do it.  Well at least those of us who choose to take the responsibility for or own safety into our own hands.  Sometimes for whatever reason, we don't feel like strapping on that full size handgun or we just can't conceal the gun we would like to be carrying.  Whether it is a trip to the corner store for a bottle of milk or a non-permissive office environment, we turn to the pocket gun.

Like most gun toting people I'd rather have a little gun than no gun at all.  But how well does the pocket gun meet the needs of the day should we actually need it?  How well does the carry means support getting that gun into action?  How often do we train with that little J-frame or pocket auto?

I'll agree that one of the benefits of the pocket gun is that you can already have your hand on it and no one is the wiser, but what happens when you don't see that trouble from a mile away?

There are a number of issues that I think we should address.  First, pocket carry is slow.  I don't train with my J-frame as much as I should, but in timed drills from the five yard line, I think I averaged around 3.7 seconds from a start with my hands at my sides.   This is a long damn time.  It was a lot longer when the holster came out with the gun, which brings us to number two.

Pocket holster selection is an important part of pocket carry.  The holster in the picture above is a Mitch Rosen El Raton.  Mitch Rosen makes as nice a holster as anyone, but this holds the gun too tightly.  If you miss that barb on the top of the holster it is coming out with the gun.  I've currently switched to a Desantis Nemesis which has a almost sticky exterior that holds well to the pocket lining.  It also has a much looser grip on the gun than a form fitted or boned leather holster might.

Give your unloaded pocket gun a quick draw test.  If the gun comes out still in the holster, it might be time to look for a new holster.  This seems as good a place as any to mention that its probably a bad idea to carry a gun without a holster regardless of whether its in a pocket or at waist level or in a purse.

This past fall, I shot a BUG (back-up gun) match at Pioneer Sportsmen.  None of the stages required drawing your small revolver or pocket auto, but it did go to show you that little guns can be shot well under the stress riser of the clock.  It just takes a lot of practice.  I saw a number of people who would normally smoke me at a regular IDPA match fall flat when they couldn't use that full sized handgun.  At least every other trip to the range I try to get some quality practice with my J-frame.

I won't wade into the abyss that is what is a suitable caliber for self defense.  They are enough arguments spread far and wide across the internet for me to add anything worthwhile.  I will say that you should choose something that has some history of stopping the fight.

I don't necessarily wish to dissuade anyone from pocket carry.  My hope is that you will recognize it for what it is, a compromise.  Now, get out there and practice with that gun you carry whatever it may be.


Reloading Bench

I poured over countless threads on numerous boards looking for ideas when I was designing my reloading bench.  Every gun board must have a "Show us your reloading bench" thread.  There are a couple of good ones like the 1911forum's Let's see your reloading bench,  Brian Enos' Show us your "working" place, and M4carbine's Show us your reloading bench.

If you frequent those boards, you may have already seen mine.  For those who don't, here is mine.  Those with neatness issues or objections to clutter, you may wish to avert your eyes.

It all started with a fairly rough drawing on the back of a Powder Valley receipt.  From reading, most people complained of not having enough space.  Like buying a gun safe, the best advise is to build way bigger than you think you'll ever need because you will indeed fill it up.

My design needed to accommodate three presses.  A Dillon 550, a Hornady single stage, and a MEC 650 shotshell press along with all  the other tools and equipment to produce enough ammo to satisfy my needs.

I failed at both having enough space and producing enough ammo to satisfy my needs.  It seems that it is a lot easier to send it down range than it is to stay on top of reloading it.  Funny about that.

Being somewhat pressed for space, I decided that I wanted my single stage and the shot shell press removable.  You are looking at T-track routed into the bench top.  With these I can slide a press into or out of the T-track as I require.

So far they are holding up well.  I had some initial concerns that they would pull out when the presses leverage was applied.

This post is rolling quite as well as I had hoped.  So we'll just get on to some gratuitous pictures of clutter.

Hit the comments section if you have any questions.  Add yes, I do know where everything is.  Mostly.

Welcome to Thoughts of a N.H. Shooter

I figured that the internet needed yet another gun blog, so here we are.  I intend to write about my experiences as a shooter, competitor, and reloader.  Other topics will probably make their way into these writings as I figure out what the hell I'm doing.

I'll also take this occasion to thank a couple of the people that, while they don't know me from Adam, inspired me to sit down and write about the things that matter to me.

First, The Lawdog Files, his ability to tell a story is second to none.  Personal favorites include The Pink Gorilla Suit and really any of his stories about his childhood in Africa, particularly those involving badgers.  This was the first blog that I ever followed closely and spent days reading all of the archived posts.

Second would have to be View From The Porch, Tam's wit and aggressive use of snark combined with the fact that a lot of our interests seem to be similar make her blog one of the first I check when I sit down at the computer.

Lastly,, Todd's site is full of useful tips to make one's self a better shooter.  His documenting his journey to be a better shooter and instructor is a worthwhile read.  Definitely check out the drills page.

With some good fortune I won't stub my blogging toe on any serious breech of blogging etiquette.  I hope that someone will let me know if I do, so I'll be able to rectify the situation.

I'll hope that you'll look forward to more action packed posts from Thoughts of a N.H. Shooter.