Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Best Cornbread in the World

There are a lot of recipes out there for cornbread. Most of them are not even truly cornbread, but rather a cake flavored with a bit of cornmeal. I'm going to share with you my own recipe for real cornbread. It is a simple recipe, but it makes, to my taste, much better cornbread than most I have tried.
The best foods were developed by poor folks, making due with what they have available to them. Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, Southern barbecue were all developed by salt of the earth types of people, using a few cheap ingredients to create as flavorful a dish as they could manage. Meat, if included, is usually from animals that are either cheap and easy to raise on a small homestead (like pigs and chickens) or wild creatures that are plentiful and easy to trap (like shrimp, crayfish AKA crawfish or crawdads, blue crabs, even sparrows in Mexico). I refer to this kind of food as "peasant food". Most of my favorite foods are peasant foods. And of those, pinto beans and cornbread are one of the absolute best dishes, as well as cheapest.
As an aside, I have noticed that many young people think ramen noodles are a cheap way to eat. They are not. For one thing, you simply cannot subsist on a meal of ramen noodles for very long. It is just not very nutritious. For another, although ramen noodles look cheap when you are looking at a package that costs only ten cents and supposedly serves two, it is really not that cheap. A meal of cornbread and pinto beans is much more nutritious and filling, and can be much cheaper than ramen noodles, depending on the ingredients you use and how you obtain those ingredients. If you have a small homestead and can raise your own beans and corn, and perhaps a couple of hens for eggs, it can be free if you forgo the milk. Or, even if you buy everything and don't scrimp too much, you can buy milk, eggs and dried beans at the grocery store, and either corn meal at the grocery or a 50 pound bag of dry corn at the feed store (currently about $7.50 where I live) and grind it into meal on a $25 Corona mill. Even if you buy cornmeal at the grocery, you spend less overall on your food bill. This is because, as mentioned before, you can't live on ramen noodles alone, not for long. But you can literally live on beans and cornbread, or even beans and corn mush, which is just cornmeal and water, cooked in a skillet.
But enough about that; I promised to share my cornbread recipe. This recipe is not the poorest possible, but it also doesn't have flour or sugar in it. You don't need those things, and the originators of cornbread didn't have them. If they had, they wouldn't have been making cornbread to begin with. So just leave those things out, and give it a try. You will be amazed at how sweet it is, without sugar. I have seen "cornbread" recipes that are made with a mix of 20% cornmeal and 80% flour, and loads of sugar to boot. That is not cornbread, in my opinion. This is:

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups whole milk
1 egg
1/4 cup shortening, lard or bacon fat

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat the fat to smoking in a 10" cast iron skillet on the stovetop, while mixing the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. When the oil just starts smoking, swirl it around to coat the sides of the skillet, then pour it into the batter and mix it in well. Set the skillet back on the stove, turn off the stovetop, and pour the batter into the skillet. Pouring it into the hot skillet will create a nice crust. Put it in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges or slices, add real butter, and enjoy.
Actually, this cornbread is so good, you can leave out the butter if you prefer. It is amazingly sweet, even though it is not sweetened.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wages Of Fear

Actually, "Sorcerer." But the original French film was called "Le Salaire de la peur," or "The Wages Of Fear" and for some reason I can always remember that, but not "Sorcerer." This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I just read an article about the best movie bug-out vehicles. There were lots of comments from readers, but not one mention of this movie. Someone even mentioned the Batmobile, for crying out loud. But nobody remembered Sorcerer. This movie permanently changed the way I look at trucks.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Honda Trail 90 Project, Part 5: Lapping The Valves

In this episode I fix one of the three compression leaks that were preventing this engine from running (and had the benefit of making it cheap enough for me to buy it!): the valves. This is also the most daunting of the three since neither of the two valve spring compressors I have tried were able to work on this head. Honda makes a valve spring compressor that works on this and most if not all of their other motorcycles, but the price is well out of my budget. In fact, it costs about as much as I have in the entire bike so far. I was planning to try building my own valve spring compressor, but then I found one that looks like a copy of the Honda part at a price I can afford, especially since I have other Hondas that I will likely need to use it on at some point. It is made in China (like most things nowadays), but it worked just fine.
Here it is, if you need one. I'm pretty sure it works on other makes of bikes, too.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Honda Trail 90 Project, Part 4: Rolling Chassis

In this installment, my Trail 90 project starts looking like a motorcycle! I install the rear swingarm, wheel, tire, brake, and sprocket assembly. If I had the engine ready and a few associated parts (chain, etc.) I could be riding this thing within an hour or so. Speaking of the engine, I have one that I am doing a top-end rebuild on. It is an original Honda engine from a 1971 model. But the Chinese Lifan clone engines are a siren song that I don't think I'm gonna be able to resist. You can get a brand new engine with carburetor and all associated parts for less money than a comprehensive rebuild on the Honda engine that you already have, and most people who have them say the quality is actually better than the original Honda. There is no question that the performance is better, because the most popular size is 125cc as opposed to the 89cc original Honda. The Lifan is also updated with 12 volt electrics and CDI ignition. So while I am committed to getting the old Honda engine running for the first ride, I will probably buy one of these Lifans as soon as I can find money for it in the budget.

Honda Trail 90 Project, Part 3

In this section I complete the front end assembly of my Trail 90 project.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Honda Trail 90 Project, Part 2

This is the second part of my Trail 90 project, described in this post. In this part I create a hybrid triple tree that will allow me to use the forks, handlebar and front wheel from a Honda XR100.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

(Yet) Another Power Outage

Today has been a relatively nice day, except for the heat (99F, and that's not the heat index). But no storms, or anything like that. Which means it's a likely day for a power outage. And that is exactly what happened. This video is not from today; it is from another recent power outage. As I type this the old Chinese diesel genny is out there chugging merrily away, as it has been doing for the past four and a half hours. I'm really happy it's out there, because that means I can continue working on the computer in air conditioned comfort.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Honda Trail 90 Project

I have undertaken to build myself a motorcycle that I have wanted since I was in my early teens: a Honda Trail 90. I bought a frame to start, and am in the process of gathering the rest of the components I will need. My goal is to have a rideable bike for less than $500. Based on what I have already gathered, I believe I am going to be able to accomplish my goal.
The Trail 90 or CT90 is an offshoot of the Honda Super Cub series of adult-sized motorcycles using horizontal single-cylinder, 4-stroke engines. The best way to describe the Super Cub is to state what it is not.
It is not a scooter. Scooters transmit power to the rear wheel via a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), usually of the rubber belt type. They also carry the engine either on the rear swingarm (suspension member) or directly over the rear wheel. Lastly, they have floorboards instead of foot pegs.

It is not a moped, although a few people refer to it as such. The term "moped" came from the words "motor" and "pedal" and refers to a two-wheeled vehicle which has both; either a bicycle with motor assist or a light motorbike with pedal assist.

It is not a dirtbike. Although several different on / off-road versions of the Cub have been built, they are designed to transport passengers and cargo over rough terrain at a relatively slow pace for utilitarian purposes, while dirt bikes are designed to travel at speed through rough terrain as a recreational pursuit or for competition.

The Cub series consists of a pressed steel frame incorporating the rear fender, with a heavy steel tube angling up to a headstock which mounts the front fork assembly. The engine mounts to this frame and is a unit assembly with a three- or four-speed geared transmission and an automatic or manual clutch. The CT-90 version also adds a dual range sub-transmission for extremely rough terrain and/ or heavy loads. Earlier Trail versions used an overlay dual rear sprocket arrangement for the same purpose.
The rear suspension consists of a swingarm and a pair of coil-over shock absorbers, to which the rear wheel mounts. The bike has 17-inch spoked wheels front and rear, and a pair of foot pegs for driver and passenger. All of these features set it aside from both scooters and mopeds.

So there you have it: a utilitarian motorcycle that can haul an adult rider and a heavy load of cargo over just about any terrain, while returning over 100 miles per gallon (Honda says 178 mpg at a slow cruise of 25 mph) of the cheapest, lowest octane gasoline you can find. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Propane Refrigerant for Automotive Air Conditioning

I have posted in the past (here and here) about automotive air conditioning. This post is not redundant, though. It is intended to be a more comprehensive description of how it is possible to resurrect a nonfunctional car air conditioner. Possible, but not necessarily legal. I know that the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants such as propane, isobutane and commercially available blends thereof is outlawed in some US states, and direct replacement of R12 with such refrigerants is illegal throughout the US. I also believe that mixing refrigerants directly in the AC system (as opposed to mixing in a separate container) is illegal in the US. If you are in Canada, you may be subject to much less-restrictive law. Either way, you are responsible for knowing what you can and cannot legally do. This information is therefore not a recommendation, but educational only.

Lots of us frugal types drive a vehicle old enough to have left the factory with an R12 based air conditioning system. As you may remember, sometime around 1994 the governments of the US and most other countries banned further production of R12 Freon refrigerant. R134 replaced R12 in new cars in the US and most of the world, and automotive repair shops did big business converting existing cars to R134a when they needed service. In fact, we owners of R12-based systems were told that R134a was the only way to go, other than paying increasingly high prices for dwindling R12 supplies. The big problem was that cheap R134a conversions often resulted in major air conditioning system failure in short order, necessitating a complete system rebuild. The only sure way to avoid this, we were (and still are) told, was to rebuild most of the system to begin with. This included replacement of all hoses with the new barrier hoses because R134a, with its much smaller molecule size as compared to R12, leaked out much faster than R12 did. Some people didn't convert, though. I was one of those. I and others like me heard the horror stories of failures and huge repair bills resulting from simple 134a conversions, and balked at paying a thousand bucks to do it "right." So we paid 900% more for R12 when we could afford it, not to mention paying shop labor charges because another new law required certification and licensing to even purchase R12. When that charge of R12 leaked out, if we didn't have $300 to have it recharged again we fell back on "4-60 air conditioning" (four windows down, 60 mph). A few people even drove their cars to Mexico whenever the AC quit working, to get a cheap R12 recharge where it was still unrestricted. About this time, I started hearing stories of some people simply recharging their AC with propane. At first glance it seemed like a really bad idea, and a lot of people get bent out of shape if anyone even alludes to it in their presence. Just do a search on some automotive forums and you will see what I mean. But in some countries such as Japan and Germany, hydrocarbon refrigerants have been and are used extensively with few to no problems. In fact, although I haven't verified it, I have heard references to BMW using HC refrigerants in some markets after the R12 ban. Straight propane works pretty well as a refrigerant, and being lighter than CFCs, it takes less than half (closer to a third) the amount by weight that the same system would use of R12 or 134. This helps a bit with the safety concerns when you consider that the typical car AC only needs one pound or less of propane for a complete charge.  The problem is that EPA expressly forbids the use of any unapproved refrigerant, including propane, as a direct replacement for R12. They do however have a list of refrigerants that are approved as a replacement for R12. Among these are Freeze-12, R406a, Free Zone, Ikon 12, SP34E, Autofrost, and a few others in addition to R134a. To the best of my understanding, once a former R12 system is converted to one of these approved refrigerants, later conversion to propane or other hydrocarbon refrigerant no longer constitutes a conversion from R12. Therein is the gray zone that allows the sale of prepackaged hydrocarbon refrigerants such as HC-12a: EPA doesn't specifically ban it (as of yet, as far as I have been able to ascertain); only its use to directly replace R12. The bottom line is that as far as I can tell, it is not necessary to go for a complete system rebuild (as with R134a) to convert from R12. Just do the far simpler and cheaper conversion to an approved refrigerant that is actually designed and approved to directly replace R12, such as the well known Freeze-12. Contrary to popular belief, it is not hydrocarbon-based. In fact, it is mostly R134a, but has some other stuff added to make it live with the mineral oil in R12 systems. The point is, it is cheaper than R12; and if it leaks out too quickly for your liking or you simply want to use something cheaper, you will no longer be replacing R12. You did that last time, when you switched to Freeze-12 (or R406a, or whatever).
By the way, a search of ebay will turn up sellers who list refrigerants that they claim are fully compatible drop-in replacements for R12, R134a, R22 and just about anything else, with no changes necessary. These products are propane/isobutane blends just like you can make at home. A couple of examples are Enviro-safe and Super Freeze. Both of these are marketed as direct replacements for R12. If you go to the manufacturer's website you might find a cryptic reference to "first generation" and "second generation" R12 replacements. That is just their way of referencing the EPA law without coming right out and telling you that using their product as a direct replacement for R12 is illegal. I personally have no problem with either those manufacturers and sellers, or DIYers who do convert directly to non-approved refrigerants. More power to them if they get away with it. In my opinion, that is one of many stupid laws anyway, that unnecessarily hinder individuals and small businesses in order to profit the government and the big corporations that are in bed with the government. But I do believe in covering my own assets, and helping others do the same. Therefore, convert to an approved replacement before you even seriously consider using an unapproved refrigerant.  

 Now, more about those HC refrigerants. As mentioned, some people did and do use straight propane. There are a couple of things to consider about using propane. First, it is best to steer clear of the bulk tanks, like the 20-pounder that powers your grill or the appliances in your RV. That stuff just has too much moisture in it. A better plan is to use the disposable bottles like you buy for torches, lanterns and camp stoves. At 14.1 to 16 ounces, they are also just about the right size for a full fill. Second, be aware that propane will run at higher pressure (on the high side) than R12, although lower than R134a. That is ok and lots of folks accept that, but the prepackaged HC refrigerants like HC12a, Duracool 12a, OZ 12, etcetera add isobutane to the mix. The isobutane lowers the head pressure to the same as R12, and the resultant mix is actually more efficient (cools better and with less horsepower input) than R12, and substantially more than R134a. The ideal mixture is 79% propane and 21% isobutane. This is the mix that the above-mentioned HC refrigerants all use, and is what the EPA calls "Hydrocarbon Blend B." The thing is, you can buy it for about $10 per can and use an R134a charge hose, but you will have to buy it online and pay shipping. But what some other people do, and what I am about to describe here, is mix it at home. Before I go on, just let me say that this mix is fully compatible with R12 and R134a, so if there is any residual refrigerant of either type in your system, it won't wreck your system. In fact, some people have illegally topped off existing systems with propane, with no ill effects noted. But don't do that. You are supposed to evacuate and capture the existing charge of whatever might be in there before recharging with anything. It also makes the measurements easier, although those measurements are in no way critical. Here is what you need, should you be planning to try this:
  1. A low-side fill hose with gauge. I bought a cheap, $22 manifold gauge set and am amazed at the quality for the price. I have included a link to the same set, below. You will also need an adapter to fit from the low-side hose to the R134a connectors you had to retrofit when you converted from R12, if your vehicle originally used R12. 
  2. A way to connect the disposable propane tank to the charge line. I read accounts of people buying a brass propane torch head, hacksawing off part of the tube, drilling out regulator valves, and threading the tube to accept the threads on the hose. I have a much better and easier way to do it, which I will detail a bit later.
  3. A can side tapper. This is for the isobutane.
  4. Two, 1.48-ounce cans of Ronson Multi-Fill Ultra Butane Fuel. I got these at Walmart. Make sure the ingredient is listed as "Isobutane, CAS #75-28-5." I read all kinds of stuff about searching for backpacking stove gas that contains a certain percentage of isobutane to propane, avoiding the ones that have butane instead of isobutane, etc. But then I found this, which is cheaper ($2.47 a can), more readily available, and is pure isobutane.
  5. One, 14.1 ounce cylinder of propane. I already had one, but two or three bucks should get you a new one.
  6. A vacuum pump. You can build your own, or buy one.
Here is how I made my propane tank adapter: Harbor Freight sells a propane torch kit that has a hose between the actual torch and the tank attachment point. It is perfect because it the valve, which attaches directly to a standard disposable propane tank, is threaded to accept the hose. It was not dirt cheap, but when you are not using it for air conditioner service you can still use it as a torch. I just unscrewed the valve, took it to my local home-improvement store and bought the fitting I needed to adapt it to the one-quarter inch flare fitting that is on the fill hose of my gauge set .

Now, what I did after having the remaining Freeze-12 evacuated from my system by a friend who has a license, was to simply refill with propane. Straight propane does run higher head pressures than the refrigerant that the system was designed for, but according the information I found there is no problem as long as you monitor the low-side pressure as you fill the system, and do not allow it to exceed 60 psi when the compressor is running. Here is how I did it:
  1. Connect the fill hose to my propane valve (from the torch kit). Before I did this, I made sure the valve was closed. I also made sure both valves on the gauge set were closed.
  2. Tighten the fittings on the gauge set, then open the propane valve. Crack open the low-side valve on the gauge set just long enough to purge the air, but not long enough to release propane. Re-close tightly.
  3. Connect the low-side hose to the low-side port of the system.
  4. Start the engine, lower the windows, and switch on the air conditioner to its maximum-cold setting. Yes, I know that the compressor will not cycle. Bear with me.
  5. Set the throttle at a fast idle by whatever means available. If necessary, utilize a helper for this part. Allow the engine to run for five minutes or so, then:
  6. Locate the sight glass (usually near or on the accumulator) and clean it with a shop rag. Hold the propane tank upside down and slowly open the low-side valve of the gauge set. If the gauge set has a sight glass (mine does), watch it and adjust the valve so that some liquid is passing the sight glass, but do not allow it to become fully liquid.
  7. When the system reaches its minimum pressure threshold, the compressor will begin cycling. The gauge will fluctuate between high pressure (when the compressor is not running) and lower pressure (when it is running). The low pressure is the important reading. The compressor will initially cycle on and off rapidly, and will run for longer and longer periods as the system fills.
  8. When the pressure reaches 28 psi, start also watching the sight glass (of the system, not the gauge set. I have been keeping an eye on the gauge set sight glass continuously, to monitor the propane flow.). Unlike charging with the original refrigerant, the sight glass should never become fully clear. If it does, the system is overfilled.
  9. Occasionally stop, reach into the passenger compartment and feel the output of  the vents. It should be getting colder.
  10. When the line between the evaporator and accumulator is cold, the sight glass shows liquid with bubbles in it and the output of the vents is cold, stop filling and close the low-side and propane valves. The low-side pressure should be at least 28 psi, but less than 60 psi. At this point I remove the gauge set, close the hood and start enjoying my air conditioning.
If I decide I want to have even more efficient air conditioning and lower head pressures, the propane/isobutane mixture works better. Since it is illegal to mix the two components directly in the system, I have to do it into a separate container. An empty 16-ounce propane tank works well for this. This requires a second propane valve. The procedure is as follows:
  1. Connect the propane valve to the empty tank. Connect the vacuum pump to the valve. Pull a vacuum on the tank, then close the valve and disconnect the vacuum pump.
  2. Connect the can tapper to the fill hose. Connect the fill hose to the propane valve.
  3. Place a 1.48 oz can of isobutane (Ronson Multi-Fill Ultra Butane Fuel) in the can side tapper. I had to use a small wood block as a spacer to make it work. Squeeze the handles to puncture the can, and hold them closed while opening the propane valve and allowing the contents to empty into the propane tank. Close the propane valve. Remove the empty isobutane can and repeat the procedure with the second can. 
  4. Remove the can tapper and replace it with the second propane valve. Attach a fresh, full 14.1 oz propane tank to the second valve.
  5. Open both valves and hold the full 14.1 oz tank upside down above the 16 oz tank until all of the propane drains into the 16 oz tank.
  6. Use the 16 oz tank of propane/isobutane mixture to charge the air conditioning system, in the same manner as described for straight propane.
If you decide (on your own responsibility by the way; not mine) to make your own mixture, make absolutely sure that your can of lighter fuel specifies "Isobutane, CAS # 75-28-5" as the ingredient. Regular butane will not work, and might destroy your air conditioning compressor. This is because regular butane is still a liquid at the pressures found in an air conditioning system.   

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bluebird Bus Conversion

This is my Bluebird TC2000 bus conversion RV, popularly known by those who camp in them as a "Skoolie." It has a Cummins 6BT diesel engine and an Allison MT543 automatic transmission. A Skoolie is a good choice for a large RV because it has the frame and running gear of a logging truck and the body is designed to stand up to a rollover. This makes it a safer and more robust vehicle than the typical Class A RV. I also like the fact that I can put my motorcycle right in the back of it; no trailer required. I no longer have the slide-in camper. It had to go to make room for this skoolie.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cheap 16 HP Honda Clone Engine

I've been looking at the 420cc Honda clone engines at Harbor Freight. They have them on sale for $350 with a coupon. Plus sales tax, of course. These are some pretty good engines, according to what I have read. In fact some of the racing kart and garden tractor pulling guys remove the governor, work on the intake and exhaust a bit, and get over thirty horsepower at 7,000 RPM! So when I saw them for only three hundred bucks with free shipping, I just had to share. The video is from one of the reviewers of the engine on Amazon, who says he is rough on the engine and it still takes it. Only 20 left at this price as I write this, so if you want one you had better hurry!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Homeland Defense Rifle

A short discourse on semi-auto Homeland Defense Rifles (HDR). Some term these MBRs, for "Main Battle Rifle." But I'm not in the Army and don't plan on getting in any battles at all; and certainly not so many that I need my main rifle to be a battle rifle! My rifle will be fed reloaded ammo, hunting ammo in most cases, and will be used for target practice, hunting and varmint control, as well as filling the role that Swiss people understand but most Americans have forgotten (which is exactly why we're more likely to need it).

Let's get a few things straight, right up front. This is is where I make some people mad, because I'm just gonna go ahead and step outside convention and tell it like I see it, rather than toeing the party line and wasting my time and yours. So if you can't take the truth, go somewhere else and read the consensus view (which I could quote off the top of my head, but again, there's that time-wasting thing).

First, caliber. The choices are intermediate power vs. full power rifle cartridges. If you place a high value on the ability to stop large bears, disable vehicles, shoot through trees, etc., then you need a full power rifle cartridge. The intermediates will do all of the above, but it may take a few more shots on target to finish the job.
Likewise, if you feel the local criminal gang is gonna show up at your place wearing body armor, the full-power jobs will get it done with perhaps fewer rounds fired; but the intermediates will still get it done. This means .223/5.56, and it also means 7.62x39. Anyone who tries to tell you the 7.62x39 is a full power rifle cartridge is an idiot, a liar, or both. Full power military rifle cartridges include .308 (aka 7.62x51 NATO), .30/06, 7.62x54R, .303 British, all the Mauser military cartridges (6.5x55, 7x57, 8x57 etc.), 7.5x55 Swiss, and many others.

Second, country of origin: who cares! We're looking at design and availability (of the rifles, parts and ammo) here.
If you wish to be pragmatic about it, give up any infatuation with American designs. Only two American military cartridge-firing rifle designs have ever really made the cut. Those two are the single-shot Remington Rolling Block and the AR-15, both of which have been used as a front-line military issue rifle by a substantial number of countries.
But what about the 1903 and 03A3 Springfield? What about the M1 Garand? What about that holy grail, the M14? What about the AR-10?

I'll tackle those one at a time, briefly. I love the 1903 Springfield. I have one. Its quality is wonderful. It is a great deer rifle, and a great rifle with which to while away the hours at the range while not spending too much money, shooting cast-bullet handloads. But as a military rifle, it took the perfect bolt action military rifle (the Mauser 98) and added a few dubious "features" (magazine cutoff, two-piece striker, and a modification of the ejector to allow it to jump the cartridge rim: which it will also do in the other direction, under adverse conditions), all of which served only to make it LESS reliable and more complicated. Even so, I would call it a design that "made the cut," except that it isn't really an American design.

The Garand? It is fairly reliable and accurate, but feeds only with an en-bloc clip that doesn't allow you to top off the magazine, and announces for all the world to hear when it is empty. Without the clips the Garand is a single-shot, and a heavy and bulky one at that. In my opinion it would be a great rifle if only it had a stripper clip-fed box magazine.

The M14? The only military that has adopted it is the US, and that only on a very limited basis (to be fair, Italy did issue the similar BM59 for awhile). It is considered a premium item, and costs two to three times what a basic G3 or FAL costs. Also, I have always heard of reliability issues in adverse conditions, and of safety issues when they get much wear on them (which they usually don't, because nobody uses them for front-line duty). Note that I am only reporting what I have heard here, and have no personal experience with the design. I probably would have experience with it if prices didn't start at about $1600; or if George H.W. Bush hadn't decreed that we shouldn't be allowed to buy sub-$500 Norinco M14s.

The AR-10? Well, it has the disadvantages of the AR-15, while lacking enough of its advantages to make it, in my opinion, a good choice. It is becoming slightly more of a commodity item because of its similarity to the AR-15, but no major military uses it as a main battle rifle.

The real reason the US has always kicked butt in the wars is because we are riflemen. Yes, even now to a large degree. Most of the guys who actually use rifles in the US military, love rifles and love getting paid to train fulltime at things they would likely do for fun otherwise, in the form of action shooting competition, long-range target shooting, paintball, etc, etc.
US soldiers in WWII turned the disadvantage of the Garand's announcement of its empty condition into an advantage, by flipping an empty clip into the air to simulate an empty rifle while holding the loaded rifle at the ready.
And because we love our rifles, we have no problem with the fact that American military rifles have always been maintenance-intensive. We just go ahead and pull the required maintenance.
American troops could be issued Carcanos and would still kick butt; undoubtedly while proclaiming how wonderful and superior the Carcano rifle is!

So, back to the main topic. What are some good Homeland Defense Rifle choices? Let's deal with the intermediate cartridges first. The "big three" here are the AR-15, the AK-47 pattern, and the SKS. Anything else is just too hard to get parts for. The AK is very reliable and parts and magazines are very readily available. They are not well known for accuracy, though. Actually they are well known for their lack thereof. Also, the safety, while positive, is not very ergonomic and is noisy in operation.

The SKS is a wonderful Homeland Defense Rifle. It used to be considered an extreme budget alternative to the semiauto AK. Now that it costs as much as a semi AK however, it is proving to STILL be popular. Why? Because it is a very good rifle. Good power level (same as the AK), more accurate than an AK, ergonomic and easy to shoot. It handles cast bullets very well for long hours of cheap target practice, not to mention hunting deer and smaller game. The 10-round, non-detachable magazine with a quick release catch for easy unloading, and topside loading via stripper clip or loose rounds, works very well for both utilitarian and defensive purposes. Overall, a very good homestead/defensive rifle.

The AR-15 has become also a good choice; the number-one choice for most, in fact. They are used by many military forces worldwide, and parts and complete rifles are produced by many, many companies. They have been much-modified, and have become even more of a commodity rifle than the Mauser 98. Also, you can have one lower receiver (the serial numbered and hence regulated part) and multiple complete uppers set up for various purposes. Perhaps a carbine upper for defense, a heavy-barrel, free-floated, scoped, 6.5 Grendel upper for long range targets (and fulfilling the role of an expensive .308 HDR), and perhaps a .50 Beowulf (or .458 SOCOM, or .450 Bushmaster) upper for dealing with those pesky grizzlies in the garden, and a pistol-caliber upper for cheap plinking, indoor range use etc., and of course a .22 LR upper or conversion kit for ultra-cheap plinking and small game hunting.

In my opinion, the best overall way to go would be an intermediate caliber semi-auto military rifle (SKS, AR-15 or AK) and a good military bolt action full power rifle complete with plenty of ammo and stripper clips. A Mauser 98 in 8x57, .30/06 or .308 would be my first choice. My second choice would be a Springfield or a P17 Enfield. Both are expensive, but good choices overall. The extreme budget alternative is, of course, the Mosin-Nagant in 7.62x54R. Some people prefer Enfields. If you have an SMLE, #4 or P14 and are happy with it, I see no reason to disparage that choice, either. Any of the above choices will do the job if you put in the time and effort to become proficient with it.

If you are bent on going the .308 semi-auto route, the two primary choices are a G3 type rifle, or an FAL/L1A1 type rifle. Both are very reliable, popular rifles which have been (and are) used by a great many military forces worldwide. Both have 20 round or larger magazines readily available at cheap prices (usually under $10, which is even cheaper than AR magazines!) and both may even be built from demilled parts kits coupled with an aftermarket receiver, if desired.

Of the two, the G3/CETME rifles are somewhat more reliable under extreme conditions; this is offset by the fact that its delayed-roller blowback (as opposed to gas operated) action and fluted chamber are hard on brass to the point that two or three loadings are probably the maximum you will get from each cartridge case. So if you are an avid reloader, you might be better off with the FAL.
Either of the two would be a good choice. I used to say they were the only really good choices, but the increased availability of AR-10 parts is making me rethink my stance on the subject.

Here are some links to more information.

G3 stuff:
PTR-91 manufacturer link
Gunblast CETME article
G3 on Gunpedia

FAL stuff:
DSA Inc.
Wikipedia on the FAL

Monday, March 4, 2013

E-Commerce "Buyer Protection" A Scam

I've written before about how the buyer protection plan that the online auction giant (you know, the one that has become a four-letter household word) is designed to rip off sellers.

In that case I was parting out a Subaru I owned that needed a new wheel bearing, which unfortunately is a $600 job on that car, and the car wasn't worth $600. So I sold a few parts from the car prior to scrapping the rest. One of the items I sold was the alternator. The alternator had never given me any problem, and I re-tested it before selling it, just to make sure. When I listed it on the well known auction site, I priced it at half what other sellers were selling the exact same item for, and I also offered free shipping. Of course the shipping was not free for me; I had to pay for it which cut into my profit. I also had to pay a listing fee and a selling fee to the auction site, and the auction site owns the also well-known online banking service that is another household word. The auction site pretty much forces sellers to use their online banking, and there is another transaction fee for that "privilege." Bottom line: my profit for removing the alternator and selling it came to about enough to cover my fuel cost to take it to the post office. Since I was not making any money on it, I specifically did not offer a warranty on the part. Nevertheless, the buyer (who was a reseller, by the way) claimed that the alternator did not work, initiated a buyer protection case, and left me negative feedback. The auction site sided with the buyer. Well, actually, it's not quite that simple. The way it works is this: the seller has to answer the buyer protection case by selecting one of a very few choices. Non of the choices dispute the buyer's claim; all assume that whatever the buyer says is golden. What it basically comes down to is that I paid my money, time and effort to give the guy an alternator (that he in turn re-sold), and the only thing I got in return was negative feedback. Well, actually I got a bit of wisdom from the experience, because I scrapped the rest of that car intact, and have not listed anything for sale on the auction site since. After that experience, I did continue to occasionally buy items on the site, because I figured with a buyer protection plan like that, there was no way I could lose. Wrong again.  

I bought an outboard boat motor on the four-letter auction site back in January. The listing claimed it was in good condition. Still, just to be sure, before bidding I sent a message to the seller asking if it runs well. I got a reply back that it runs fine. Based on this and the "Buyer Protection" claims posted all over the auction site, I bought it. However, I did not use the auction site's online bank, because I object to being controlled like that. Ok, actually I used a card from another issuing entity, but even when you do that you have to do so through the auction site's online bank, so you still have to deal with that online bank.  

The problem
I found out, although the auction site is not forthcoming with the information, that their much-touted "buyer protection" is null and void if you elect not to allow their private online bank to hold and dispense your money, even though you must still pass the money through the online bank. They don't tell you that, until it is too late. So pay attention to this warning. So here is what happened: I waited three weeks for the motor to arrive, during which time the seller had my money. Finally I contacted the seller to inquire. Four days later, the motor showed up. The shipping tag showed that it had been shipped the day after I complained. The motor was poorly packaged and partially sticking out of the box. It was not crated; only shoved in a cardboard box. The spark plug was broken, and the air filter/breather was shattered beyond repair. That part is no longer available. But I decided, no biggie. I can easily fix those items. So I replaced the spark plug, put some fresh pre-mix fuel in the tank, turned on the fuel petcock, and tried to start the motor. No dice. It didn't even pop, so I removed the bowl drain screw from the carburetor. Nothing came out. I had to rebuild the carburetor, during which it became obvious that the seller lied when he claimed to have started and run the motor. After I rebuilt the carb, I tried again to start it. It started and barely ran for a few seconds, but had a severe knock as though it were just about to throw a rod. So I delved further into the engine and discovered that the flywheel was loose on the crankshaft, and both the crankshaft and flywheel were damaged. I contacted the seller, described the problem and asked for a fifty percent refund to partially pay for repairs. I knew that would not actually pay for it, but it would at least make me feel better about having bought a parts motor when I thought I was buying a usable motor. The seller agreed, saying that sounded more than fair. And that was the last I have heard from the seller. It has been over a week now, and the seller has neither issued a refund nor replied to further attempts at communication.

 Enter the Online Mafia
So this morning, I attempted to avail myself of the "Buyer Protection." Guess what I found out? In spite of heavy "buyer protection" ad hype, the auction site offers absolutely no recourse whatsoever to a buyer who did not pay out of an existing balance in their wholly owned online bank. This online auction site, including its online bank, does business in a similar manner to the Mafia. If you failed to give them full control of your funds, you might as well "shut up you face." Wow. I hope they don't send an enforcer after me for publishing this. That's why I didn't use their (the auction site's) four-letter name.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meat Smoker From An Old Refrigerator

This is a good idea for a smoker. I have one that I made from an old dishwasher. A metal one of course; not one of the plastic jobs they sell now.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tuna Can Alcohol Stove

I'm going to give this a try. I have made a couple of the pop-can stoves of various designs, and some of them burn quite efficiently. But they are fragile enough to require a separate pot support, and they also tend to be more involved to build than this tuna can stove. The tuna can stove is exceedingly simple to build and operate, and is strong enough to be its own pot support as well as stand up to the rigors of riding in a backpack or bugout bag. One comment, though: the author uses a paper punch and states in the comments that it works fine on aluminum cans. Ok, but the tuna I buy comes in steel cans. If yours does too, you might want to punch the holes with something other than a paper punch.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Home-Built Garden Trailer

This is a great looking little garden trailer, built for next to nothing. It would come in handy for hauling firewood out of the back lot, among other uses.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Home Built Crane

I could really use something like this. I often need to lift, move and/or load heavy and unwieldy items and this DIY crane would be just the ticket. It could be improved by the addition of an electric or PTO winch from a tow truck. In fact, as long as you have the mobile power source you might as well have front, center and rear PTOs and perhaps a hydraulic system. It could start out simple and evolve over time as your needs change.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lost Art of Consuming Meat

This is a video discussion of factory-raised, store bought meat vs. homestead raised meat vs. wild meat. It is a good idea to add home-raised meat and wild game to your diet now, when you have a choice. Not only is it better for you than store-bought meat; it also tastes different from what you may be accustomed to if the only meat you consume is that which is commercially produced. Not necessarily better or worse, but definitely different. I have read of people actually starving to death rather than eat food that is different from what they are used to. I actually know people who grew up in rural America, yet will not eat rabbit or venison. Forget about that "pioneer spirit" that is supposedly innate to Americans; if the thought of eating raccoon meat causes you to feel revulsion, you probably won't eat it during truly bad times either. The time to start working on changing that is now.