Nude Bee’s Hive?

I have never seen a honey bee hive in the open on a tree branch before!

I have never seen a honey bee hive in the open on a tree branch before!

This bee hive is on a tree branch, with no protection for the comb. I’ve seen bees swarming around a queen on a tree branch or on a beam extending from the side of a house, even – but never an actual hive constructed basically out in the open. Seems like a heavy rain would make these bees at least very uncomfortable, and cold weather would be fatal? Since this one is above my in-law’s home in North Texas, on Lake Arrowhead, near Wichita Falls, they won’t have long to wait for some serious temperature drops!

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Extend-A-Truck 2-In-1 Load Support

One of my regrets in trading my one ton dually truck in on a half-ton was going from an 8′ bed to a 5’5″ bed, thus loosing carry ability. One solution is simply to lower the tailgate and let the load “extend” beyond the bed. This works OK with lumber and some other things that create a long load, but is not especially secure. After researching various “tools” to overcome this situation, I decided on a bed extender made by Darby Industries in Falls PA (www.ExtendATruck.com).

The Extend-A-Trucl bed extension from Darby Industries adds up to four feet of load capacity to a pick truck bed.

The Extend-A-Truck bed extension from Darby Industries adds up to four feet of load capacity to a pick truck bed.

The extender is made of tubular steel and fits in the receiver hitch on my truck, then pins securely just as a trailer hitch does. The longer of the two pieces is in the shape of an “L”, and stretches out 4′ behind the truck bed. The second piece is a “T” with a 4′ “bar” that is adjustable to reach the height of the tailgate in the down position. This allows longer loads to be supported, and tied down securely using the tie ring weld to the ends of the “T” bar. If the position of the “L” is reversed to place the longer leg going up, it can be used with a roof rack to form a “ladder rack” to carry even longer loads at roof height.

This is a sturdy and versatile extension with a 350# carry capacity.

This is a sturdy and versatile extension with a 350# carry capacity.

This is a strong device, with a stated carrying capacity of 350#, but light enough to be easily removed and stored in the truck cab or bed.

Lumber, pipe, furniture - practically anything that is a longer load than the truck bed can be carried with the Extend-A-Truck device.

Lumber, pipe, furniture – practically anything that is a longer load than the truck bed can be carried with the Extend-A-Truck device.

Another use for this system the manufacturers did not recommend that I can see is to install it in the roof carry position and use the “T” bar to hold a rope or cable hoist to lift game animals for transport out of the woods to the cleaning area. I think it will work in this manner on my Kawasaki Mule, making it much easier for me to move a deer or hog by myself.

In the "second" position, the ed extender can be used with a roof rack to carry even longer items, like canoes or flat bottomed boats - or ladders.

In the “second” position, the ed extender can be used with a roof rack to carry even longer items, like canoes or flat bottomed boats – or ladders.

In this position, the extender could also be used as a game hoist.

In this position, the extender could also be used as a game hoist.

The extender works with any vehicle that has a receiver hitch, even UTV’s like a Mule. I often use my Mule or my golf cart to haul feeders, ladders (to fill feeders), and other fairly large things “back in the woods”, and this will be helpful.

The Extend-A-Truck can be used as designed for carrying longer loads on UTV's like my Kawasaki Mule.

The Extend-A-Truck can be used as designed for carrying longer loads on UTV’s like my Kawasaki Mule.

Using the Extender as a game hoist frame will keep me from going back to camp for the tractor to haul a deer or hog in for butchering.

This will work as a hoist from bringing hogs or deer to camp!

This will work as a hoist from bringing hogs or deer to camp!

My only two “complaints” about this accessory come from having to drill out one hole in the long end of the “L” piece that was too small to allow the pin to pass through. No real big deal, but it did have to be enlarged to use the extender.

The other thing I did not think about until I tried to back up with the extended in place, is that the back up camera on my truck is located in the tailgate! With he tail gate in down position, the camera only sees the extender bar – and the road beneath it – and both are closer than the truck wants them to be! This means the camera is useless with the tailgate down, but since the proximity alarm for behind the truck only goes off in reverse, it effectively becomes a “Backup” alarm. A small problem, but one that needs to be noted.

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Dodge 3.0 Liter “Eco Diesel”

Yes, it is a half-ton DIESEL!

Yes, it is a half-ton DIESEL!

The half-ton Eco-diesel by Dodge powers a 4WD “light truck” with a fuel efficient V6 diesel engine that puts out 240 hp at 3600 RPM, and 420 ft lbs of torque at only 2000 RPM. The engine is a 24 valve, double overhead (chain-driven) cam unit with a 16.5:1 compression ratio and common rail injection that is turbo charged and after cooled. This is a fairly high tech little diesel! It is actually a Fiat engine which has been in use in Europe for a long time with a proven track record.

The V-6 Eco Diesel engine fills most of the under hoof space on the 1500 series truck. Luckily, there are no spark plugs to change!

The V-6 Eco Diesel engine fills most of the under hoof space on the 1500 series truck. Luckily, there are no spark plugs to change!

With 4 full doors, this truck has a spacious and well thought out cab.

With 4 full doors, this truck has a spacious and well thought out cab.

My previous truck was a 2010 Dodge dually with the 6.7 Liter straight six Cummins engine. It had power and size I never really needed, but I sure enjoyed owning and driving it for seven years!

The half ton Eco Diesel is a step down in size from my 2010 1 ton dually.

The half ton Eco Diesel is a step down in size from my 2010 1 ton dually.

My dually did pretty well on fuel for a truck of it’s size, but still averaged only 12 – 14 mpg, with the best performance I ever saw at nearly 17 mpg on the highway, with a tail wind! The much lighter half-ton with a smaller engine is rated for 19 “in town” and 27 highway. I have heard of some owners who say they are getting over 30 on the highway, and right now mine seems to be averaging 28. I expect this to improve with a few miles on it, but even averaging 22 – 24 between town and open roads is a huge improvement in economy over my “big truck”.

UPDATE: My first “towing” test was today. Pulled my light trailer and Kawasaki Mule to my woods place. The truck pulled it well – as well, it felt, as my dually. Going down the road at 65 MPH, with no traffic, I got 17 – 19 mpg, as opposed to 12-13 with the dually. When I had to slow to 55 mph, the mileage went to 20 -22!

A backup camera is an excellent aid to towing! I can SEE the trailer hitch ball, and ease it right up to the trailer tongue! No more getting out of the truck to see how close I am – several times! It is also great for backing up with the trailer hooked to the truck, and if I were to need to check on my hitch connection, the camera on this truck can be manually activated when NOT in reverse.

One big difference in the two vehicles is that now I have to start using Diesel Exhaust Fluid to meet emissions standards. There is a six gallon tank for this stuff, with the filler located next to the diesel fill, and a gauge on the dash to monitor the level. Reports are that a full tank of DEF should last for several thousand miles. On our Christmas trip to North Texas, the DEF gauge did not dip very close to the half full make.This fluid was not necessary on my Cummins engines.

The fill spots for both diesel and DEF are located together.

The fill spots for both diesel and DEF are located together.

The dually was a bigger truck, with more power, less fuel economy.

The dually was a bigger truck, with more power, less fuel economy.

The dually was a problem to park in spots designed for normal sized vehicles, and turning in tight places was a challenge. I have sone tight spots on my entry road to my woods property that I have had to be very careful with, due to the extra width of the dual wheels and their fenders. The overall length of the 1 ton was more, also. These problems have all “gone away” with the switch to the 1/2 ton. I won’t be able to haul as much, of course, but I have trailers to help with that. The 5’7″ bed WILL be a bit of a problem, but I have an “extender” on order for hauling longer pieces of lumber and things like sheets of plywood or roofing “tin”.

One of my brothers accused me of buying my first Dodge truck in 1994 because it resembled the Studebakers I used to love!

One of my brothers accused me of buying my first Dodge truck in 1994 because it resembled the Studebakers I used to love!

My wife loves the new truck for all the things mentioned above, and also because the ride is almost as smooth as a nice car. It is also VERY quiet, and much easier to get in and out of than the “taller” dually was.

Also welcomed are the new “gadgets” that were not available when I bought my 2010 truck, such as the backup camera and in dash navigation system. The 2016 truck also has LED lighting for the cargo bed. We opted for dealer installed “running boards”, but they are not needed as badly as on the taller dually. This truck also has “parking assists in the form of sensors on both sides and front and rear to warn if you are too close to another vehicle or other solid object.

A new “twist” (pardon the pun!) on Dodge trucks for 2016 was the twist shift knob located on the dash board, completely out of the way of any other operations. Although there have been safety concerns on some vehicles so equipped, mine seems to operate in a secure manner – at least at this point.

Another welcome “extra” is the remote start feature, which allows push-button starting of the vehicle from some distance away. This will come in handy for warming up the cab on cold mornings, and since the engine can be cranked without unlocking the vehicle, security is somewhat maintained.

The gears are shifted with a twist knob on the dashboard between the ignition switch and the radio/climate controls.

The gears are shifted with a twist knob on the dashboard between the ignition switch and the radio/climate controls.

Easy shifting with the twist knob, and the 4WD controls are just below it.

Easy shifting with the twist knob, and the 4WD controls are just below it.

Everything is on the instrument panel, from fuel economy to DEF tank levels.

Everything is on the instrument panel, from fuel economy to DEF tank levels.

The same display serves as the Nav/backup camera screen as well as controlling most other electronic functions, such as the radio and bluetooth.

The same display serves as the Nav/backup camera screen as well as controlling most other electronic functions, such as the radio and bluetooth.

The backup camera system on this truck is among the best I’ve seen, with a wide screen and good viewing area.

The backup camera screen is one of the largest I've seen.

The backup camera screen is one of the largest I’ve seen.

My new truck has dual exhausts, instead of dual rear wheels!

My new truck has dual exhausts, instead of dual rear wheels!

An obvious additional “performance feature” of the V6 Eco Diesel is that it has dual exhausts to help the engine “breathe”.

In summary, in my opinion, from my limited experience so far with the new Eco Diesel, it seems to be a real “winner” in terms of utility, ride, and economy. When diesel fuel pump prices rose to equal or even exceed gasoline, some of the diesel advantage was mitigated, but with the increased economy of the Eco Diesel, the longevity and strength of diesel power can be used to very good advantage in a half ton truck that is more user-friendly than other diesel pickups of the past.

The 20" chromed aluminum wheels look good and help add to ground clearance.

The 20″ chromed aluminum wheels look good and help add to ground clearance.

As a footnote, my dually turned out to be the best automotive “investment” I have ever made! The original “list” price was a bit over $50,000, and I traded my previous truck in with no additional down payment. I drove it for 7 years while paying off the loan, although I only had 60,000 miles on it at the time of my trade-in – and with what the dealership “gave” me for it on the trade in it almost amounted to banking my payment every month and driving the big truck for free!

UPDATE: Took the truck on its first real “road trip” over the Christmas holidays, driving to Lake Arrowhead near Wichita Falls to visit my wife’s family. I drove half way up then my wife took over and would not let me have the wheel back! She REALLY likes the way this truck rides and drives! Our average mileage for the trip was 26.7 mpg. Dodge estimates 27 on the highway for the vehicle, so this seems to be very close. We were driving in some hilly country on the way up on Hwy 36, however, and my wife likes to use the accelerator perhaps more than is necessary, loves to pass anything that might be in front of her! Had we set the cruise control at below the speed limit – and USED IT – I suspect the mileage would have been at over over 30 mpg.

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Taking Stock Of An H&R Handi-Rifle

The Handi-Rifle series of break open single shot guns produced by Harrington-Richards/New England Firearms offers versatility that AMOST rivals the Thompson Center Contenders and Encore guns. Both are break open single shots that can be had with barrels in several calibers that are interchangeable, but H&R does not stress that feature nearly as much as Thompson does. While Contenders and Encores can use virtually any barrel made for their respective model with no fitting or alterations, H&R prefers the customer to send in their action to have an additional barrel fitted at the factory. H&R does offer shotgun barrels, however, that can be “fitted” to the Handi-rifle action – but they only offer rifle and carbine length barrels, not the handgun length barrels that are the trademark of Thompson Center – and I have a soft spot for sngle shots and hunting with them.. Changing barrels is actually easier on the H&R, as there is no hinge pin to remove and then replace. I have both types of gun, and like them both.

Several years ago I acquired a Handi-Rifle in .22 Hornet for my wife. This is a really pleasant little rifle to shoot, very accurate. We have used it to take quite a few coons and several smaller feral hogs. A very useful gun, but not what you would call “pretty”. Recently I have been “jazzing up” some of my older guns, and when the time came for the Hornet to take it’s turn, I began by putting a Scope skins wrap on the 4X12 UltraView scope mounted on it. I had enough material left to cover the receiver, also. Even though the metal of this gun was in really good shape, I rust browned the barrel – just for a color contrast.

First step in "jazzing up" the Handi-rifle was putting a ScopeSkins covering on the 4X12 scope.

First step in “jazzing up” the Handi-rifle was putting a ScopeSkins covering on the 4X12 scope.

Let over material from the ScopeSkin cover was used to "coat" the receiver section of the rifle.

Let over material from the ScopeSkin cover was used to “coat” the receiver section of the rifle.

Next, the plastic stock needed to be replaced. I chose a laminated “thumbhole” stock in a camo color scheme with a matching fore end. The stock was fairly easy to install – only one screw attaches it, but after I received the set I learned the fore end does not fit without what H&R calls a “Meld adaptor” that mates the squared end of the fore end to the curved surface of the receiver. H&R did not have any of these adaptors, and Brownell’s – whom they recommended as a source – listed the part as no longer available. After some internet searching, I finally found a seller of used parts – Al Bolduc, of Siloam Springs, Arkansas – The Gun Garage (www.gungarageparts.com) who had these plastic adaptors, and ordered one. When it arrived it was a quick job to screw it to the fore end.

The vari-colored laminate stock from Boyd's adds weigh to the little rifle, increases both comfort and accuracy.

The vari-colored laminate stock from Boyd’s adds weigh to the little rifle, increases both comfort and accuracy.

The thumbhole type grip and MoteCarlo cheekpiece make this a very comfortable stokk to shoot.

The thumbhole type grip and MoteCarlo cheekpiece make this a very comfortable stokk to shoot.

When my Boyd's fore end did not "work", my temporaru solution while huntign for a spacer to match the fore end to the receiver was to paint the  factory fore end - a soli=ution which I'd have been satisfied with, had I never found the part to allow the use of the Boyd's piece.

When my Boyd’s fore end did not “work”, my temporaru solution while huntign for a spacer to match the fore end to the receiver was to paint the factory fore end – a soli=ution which I’d have been satisfied with, had I never found the part to allow the use of the Boyd’s piece.

Once I found the correct spacer/adaptor, I replaced the plastic stock fore end with the Boyd's unit.

Once I found the correct spacer/adaptor, I replaced the plastic stock fore end with the Boyd’s unit.

In my opinion, what we have now is a pretty “wild” looking little gun that is very useful as a truck or back door gun for varmints and pests that can also be used for bigger game if necessary. I already had a Lee Loader for .22 Hornet and a supply of 45 gr .22 hollow point bullets, so I ordered a set of Lee dies to really get serious about optimizing my .22 Hornet ammo. Maybe I’ll get other barrels for this action, when I decide which caliber might be the most entertaining. H&R makes barrels up to .45/70 and even .500 S&W, if the need for a stout cartridge spitting heavy bullets calls to me!

Cutom stcuk and scope/receiver treatments create a unique, one-of-a-kind little varmint rifle!

Cutom stcuk and scope/receiver treatments create a unique, one-of-a-kind little varmint rifle!

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GW Universal Gravity Feed Tube

Many – if not most – barrel-type corn “deer” feeders use a battery-powered spinner to “throw” corn some distance from the feeder, in a circular pattern. Most of these have timers that can be set to varying times of day, and from one to several feeding times a day. This type feeder has the advantage of not needing a lot of attention, except for changing batteries, and the repairs any mechanical, and especially electrical device left out in the elements will need. Then there is the cost of batteries.

The other choice is feeders is the “self feeder” type, where the corn or other offering is simply available to the deer any time they want it. This type is often used when putting out “protein” supplements that you would not want to just throw on the ground.

The biggest advantage to a hunter in using a battery powered “thrower” feeder, is that deer will be conditioned to come to the feeder at the times you want them there the most. While there is always a chance of finding a deer near a feeder at any time of day, it is amazing how soon they learn when the feeder will be releasing corn, and will be there waiting for the sound of corn coming down. With the self feeding type, deer can eat when they want, making this type perhaps a bit more “sporting”?

Gravity feeders solve many problems with battery powered "scatter" feeders.

Gravity feeders solve many problems with battery powered “scatter” feeders.

A good gravity flow self feeder will have a drum of some kind as a “hopper” and will either be hanging from a natural or man-made point of elevation, which can be as simple as 3-4 pole legs, or as involved as a tall tripod from which the feeder is suspended by cables and raised and lowered using a hand winch. There are really neat looking self feeders on the market that mount on a “tee” post or the side of a tree, but these must be designed for use in areas with no coons or squirrels! These pests will empty such a feeder in short order, and the ones made of fairly thin plastic will get chewed up by sharp little teeth!

A decent gravity feeder can be made from a length of 4″ PVC pipe with a “T” fitting glued to the bottom end, even better is a “Y” fitting which can be positioned to “slant” upwards, so the corn doesn’t simply slide out. These feeders are economical and can be hung from a tree branch – using single strand wire helps keep coons from climbing down from above, as they will surely do if a rope is used. This feeder can also be hung high enough to usually keep coons from reaching it, yet be easily within reach of a decent sized deer. The same basic design can be attached to the bottom of a metal drum.

I use both types of PVC feeders, but recently put a Game Winner (Academy store brand) GW Universal Gravity Feeder Tube in use. I like this system so far. It has several pieces to adjust the distance it hangs below the drum, and this combined with the length of legs used can keep critters out. You also need to be aware the feeder station does have to be low enough under the drum to allow a deer to feed without bumping her head – or his antlers! The GW model is metal, and has 3 feeding trays with lips to help keep the contents from falling out on their own, There also is what GW calls an adjustable baffle, but really amounts to a sort of collar on the main tube that opens or narrows the opening the corn is allowed to feed through. It actually seems to work well, although I’m not sure I would call it a baffle.

Three feeding stations allow deer ample room to reach the corn.

Three feeding stations
allow deer ample room to reach the corn.

I used this feeder tube to replace a battery powered thrower, and was able to use the original mounting holes to attach it.

An adjustable "baffle" controls the amount of corn that down-flows, lips on the feeding stations keep it from falling out.

An adjustable “baffle” controls the amount of corn that down-flows, lips on the feeding stations keep it from falling out.

My setup with the GW feeder tube has the least amount of accessory tubing to keep it closer to the bottom of the barrel – which is 5 feet off the ground – and higher off the ground. I also put several short pieces of PVC pipe over the legs as further coon-proofing. In theory, as the coon tries to climb the legs, the different pieces of PC will slip and turn on the leg, hopefully making the furry bandit fall off. So far, it seems to be working, as I have not arrived to check the feeder and found corn all over the ground instead of in the barrel!

When installing the feeder tube, it is important to leave room for a tall set of antlers to fit under the barrel!

When installing the feeder tube, it is important to leave room for a tall set of antlers to fit under the barrel!

I recently purchased a second of these units, and will possibly return to Academy for a third after the second on eis mounted and in use.

Oh, these do not replace your scatter feeder for hog hunting. For that you need roll pipes and barrels!

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Another old gun given new life!

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my family moved from Pasadena, Texas, to the wilds of Newton County on the Texas-Lousiana border. I had just turned 13 at the time, and was torn between getting to live “in the woods” against leaving friends and familiar neighborhood. To help me “adjust”, my parents bought me probably my best birthday present ever – a Marin 81G bolt action .22 rifle!

As a “kids gun” the old Marlin got a lot of “experience” and probably less TLC than it might have wanted. It killed hundreds of squirrels, rabbits, coons, possums, a few nutria, and an occasional fox. I once hit a dove flying with it, and it put down more than it’s fair share of feral hogs. After all these adventures, it collected quite a bit of rust on the metal parts and some scratches and dents in the wooden stock.

After my “success” in refinishing the Herter’s .44 magnum, I was looking for another project, and found the old Marlin to be staring me in the face. Several years ago I had re-finished the stock, sanding to bare wood, trying my hand at stock checkering, re-varnishing it, and painting on a black end cap. Now it was time to address the metal

With all the rust and faded finish replaced by the new brown, and the stock sanded and given several new coats of satin varnish, the old .22 looks better than it did when new!

With all the rust and faded finish replaced by the new brown, and the stock sanded and given several new coats of satin varnish, the old .22 looks better than it did when new!

This Marlin Model 81G bolt action .22 was my first firearm!

This Marlin Model 81G bolt action .22 was my first firearm!

First step was removing the old finish and accumulated rust with Naval jelly, then taking the extra step of using a wire brush on a hand drill and steel wool to smooth it all out.

Naval jelly does the best job for removing both rust and blueing.

Naval jelly does the best job for removing both rust and blueing.

Again using the rust brown solution from Laurel Mountain, I changed the color and the look of the action, and I hope better protected it from ever getting so bad again!

The rust brown "look" is nice on this barreled action

The rust brown “look” is nice on this barreled action

I did not want the dark “plum brown” color I strived for on the Herter’s, so I stopped after only three treatments of the rust brown solution. I think this coloration complements the stock very well.

The brown metal work reached a "finish" point after only about three treatments with the Laurel Mountain solution

The brown metal work reached a “finish” point after only about three treatments with the Laurel Mountain solution

To complete this “re-birth”, I again sanded the stock and put several coats of satin polyurethane on it.

I REALLY like the way this project turned out, and it will hopefully last until my grandson takes his turn at owning it!

More of a full view of the finished product

More of a full view of the finished product

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Majestic Arms Ruger .22 Slide Racker

Many semi-auto hand guns are difficult for some shooters to “rack” the action for loading a first round into the chamber, checking actual load status, or even opening the slide for cleaning the action. This can be a problem on most any semi-auto with optics mounted on or above the slide that could interfere with getting a firm grip on the slide, even if it moves easily. For some time now I had been looking for a slide assist tool that would “work” on my Ruger Standard .22 LR, which readers of this web site might have noted I have upgraded to a Mark II stainless target “bull” barrel with a scope mount base holding a Tasco 3 power scope. I CAN rack the slide, but it is not as easy to reach as I’d like.

The Majestic Arms sldie racker makes operating the slide with a top mount scope or other optic much easier.

The Majestic Arms sldie racker makes operating the slide with a top mount scope or other optic much easier.

The Majestic Arms slide racking accessory for the Ruger pistols ended my search. An easy to install piece that fits on the “ears” of the pistol’s bolt and is held in place by set screws, it allows easily operating the slide with one hadn – and can be set up for either right hand or “wrong” hand use! It should not cause any problems with holstering the pistol, and is a small price to pay for the ease of use it provides.

This accessory easily attaches to the "ears" of the guns bolt, and is held tight by two set screws

This accessory easily attaches to the “ears” of the guns bolt, and is held tight by two set screws

The company website has details for which size unit to order for your variation of the Ruger Standard, “Mark”, or .22/.45 series pistols. Unfortunately, I did not read carefully when ordering, and received the wrong size the first time. After some emails and a phone call, this was straightened out, and the second unit I received – which was the correct size for my older Ruger – was easy to install and works great!

The Majestic Arms slide racking attachment is easy ti. install, fits securely, and greatly aids in one handed operation of the slide.

The Majestic Arms slide racking attachment is easy ti. install, fits securely, and greatly aids in one handed operation of the slide.

I have often wondered why manufacturers of semi-auto pistols don’t incorporate some sort of “easy-racking” feature in their factory offerings, but I’m sure there is some potential legal problem they are anticipating? Besides making operating the slide easier for ANY shooter, for those with wrist problems or injuries or similar handicap, this “tool” can be a complete game changer.

So simple to use and helpful - why don't pistol manufacturers offer something like this as a factory option?

So simple to use and helpful – why don’t pistol manufacturers offer something like this as a factory option?

Majesticarms.com, also offers other accessories for the Ruger semi-auto .22 pistols, including extended magazine release and bolt stop, triggers, scope rails, “Ez-Strip” disassemby kits, and even barrels.

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PREESENT ARMS!

When I recently bought my Ruger Blackhawk, “50 Years of the .44 Magnum” anniversary edition revolver, I began thinking a fancy wooden “presentation” case would be just what this revolver needs, rather than the red plastic case it came in. Unfortunately, the only wooden “box” in my collection of “things to never throw away, in case they might be of use someday”, was a 4 foot long mahogany wood box I salvaged at my former workplace that originally held some obscure analytical instrument. Too big for a single gun, and with multiple guns it would be too heavy to easily move, but I did not let the idea die.

A few days ago, while looking for something I dropped by my bedside, I bellied down on the floor with a flashlight and looked under the bed – sometimes a scary thing to do! There, consorting with the dust bunnies, was my old, long “lost” teak briefcase, used quite a bit back in my days as “Capt. Mike”, but ignored since I became more or less permanently stranded ashore. After pulling it out to look it over, the first thing I discovered was that both combination lock/latches were locked – and of course I have no idea now what the combination was! This may have been a GOOD thing, however, as the tiny screws holding the mechanisms to the case were ridiculously easy to remove.

Looking the inside of the case over, it came to me that this would be a good storage/display case for a couple of nice, old Herter’s revolvers – which I just happen to have!

This long un-used teak brief case from my "Capt. Mike" days was called upon to begin a new life as a revolver presentation and display case.

This long un-used teak brief case from my “Capt. Mike” days was called upon to begin a new life as a revolver presentation and display case.

After cutting a "top" piece to fit the revolvers in, it is determined there is sufficient room for my two large Herter's revolvers.

After cutting a “top” piece to fit the revolvers in, it is determined there is sufficient room for my two large Herter’s revolvers.

First step was to pick a top piece for the guns to “nest” in, and cut the shapes traced from the actual revolvers out. For this piece, I also “re-purposed” a section of varnished paneling from a poster board I used at fishing shows in a another life, cutting it to fit the inside measurements of the briefcase. Since the case has a “felt” lining still in decent shape, that was left as is, but I did use some pieces of thin boards to raise the top piece off the bottom of the case and brace the top piece.

Because the top layer of varnished wood is thin, it was necessary to provide bracing beneath it for added strength.

Because the top layer of varnished wood is thin, it was necessary to provide bracing beneath it for added strength.

Next step was to trace the outline of both guns and cut it out – carefully.

To prevent marking the revolvers finish, the cut-outs edges were "lined" with shoelaces superglued to the wood.

To prevent marking the revolvers finish, the cut-outs edges were “lined” with shoelaces superglued to the wood.

To keep the edges of the cut-outs from possibly marking the guns finish, I wanted some sort of “bumper” material, and my wife thoughtfully suggested some thick old shoelaces. These proved to be just right, and were fairly easy to Superglue to the wood edges. I also glued a piece of decorative gold “rope” from somewhere or something as a border around the inside of the case. A new coat of varnish made the top piece look new and custom fitted.

The inside of my case is now complete, with nesting spots for both Herter’s revolvers – befitting the classics that they are – and also for the extra .357 mag cylinder I plan to have re-bored to 10 mm fairly soon. Now I just need to sand and revarnish the outside of the case!

Oh, by the way, after removing the old latches/locks I replaced them with simple hasps and padlocks. Not a gun safe, but beter than leaving them on the kitchen table!

[caption id="attachment_3376" align="alignleft" width="640"]The nearly completed case has "nested" resting places for both my Herter's revolvers and my "spare" cylinder. The nearly completed case has “nested” resting places for both my Herter’s revolvers and my “spare” cylinder.

If nothing else, this case looks good to me, and will be one day used to “present” these revolvers to my grandson, Andy Holmes!

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TROUBLE AT THE FLOWER GARDENS – Everything Is NOT Coming Up Roses!

Major Coral Bleaching Event

On the heels of the mass mortality event in July 2016, we now have a major coral bleaching event in the sanctuary. Sanctuary researchers report that almost 50% of the coral colonies in a study site at East Flower Garden Bank were bleached or paling (in the process of bleaching) as of October 5, 2016.

Sea surface temperatures have been over 30°C (86°F) for 85 days of the past four months, putting the sanctuary in the midst of one of the worst coral bleaching events on record. While the past week has seen temperatures drop slightly to 29°C (84°F), if these warm water conditions continue, the corals may starve and die.

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Another Blast From The Past – George Herter’s Revolver/Cartridge

This is little doubt about which caliber this revolver was chambered for!

This is little doubt about which caliber this revolver was chambered for!

When the Herter’s mail order catalogue company was at the peak of its business period, they marketed a branded line of single action revolvers, based on the single action Colt “Army” revolver – as were most other modern handguns of the type. The Herter’s guns were made in Western Germany, by JP Sauer & Sohn, in .357 magnum, .44 magnum, and a propriatory cartridge – the .401 Herter’s Powermag. The .401 came before and probably influenced the .41 Remington magnum, but never acheived a lot of popularity. This is often blamed on the “looks” of the gun it was packaged in, which was heavier and less graceful in its lines than a Ruger. At the same time, the price of the Herter’s guns was considerably less than a Ruger, even though Ruger was pretty much a bargain in the handgun world. The quality of the Herter’s was not “cheap”, and it used German innovations and workmanship to good advantage.

This is what makes it go "boom"! The massive hammer and frame-mounted firing pin. Those rear sights are heavy-duty, also - and adjustable.

This is what makes it go “boom”! The massive hammer and frame-mounted firing pin. Those rear sights are heavy-duty, also – and adjustable.

On the left is my "new" .401 Herter's Powermag revolver, on the right my Herter's .44 magnum. Both guns were made in 1966

On the left is my “new” .401 Herter’s Powermag revolver, on the right my Herter’s .44 magnum. Both guns were made in 1966

I have gone over the Herter’s .44 magnum in other posts, as I have been restoring and updating one I traded for a couple of months ago. This has been so enjoyable that I noted in one of the posts I was looking another Herter’s to play around with. The first reply I got to my want-to-buy ad seeking Herter’s guns was a scam in which a bogus seller offered me a Herter’s .401 Powermag for $270, shipped. The gun in the pictures he emailed me looked pretty good, with a case color hardened cylinder frame – but it was some sort of Colt clone, with an obvious Colt front sight, no rear sight, and a Bisley hammer and grip. Even more telling was that the seller refused to send a picture of the barrel’s markings, which should have verified it was a Herter’s, and of what caliber. When I insisted as a condition of the transaction continuing, he sent a shot of the very end of a different barrel than the one in the previous pictures, stainless, and with the beginnings of the “lawyer warning” about reading the manual before operating the firearm, which was not done on 1960’s era guns! This person also was very reluctant to tell me where he was located, finally saying only, “Kansas” – yet his manner of speech suggested an internet thief from the far east! I suspect he pulled the photos off the ‘net, and did not actually have a handgun for sale!

After this disappointing experience, I was amazed when my next contact came from an actual Herter’s collector who lives in Santa Fe, Texas – about 30 miles from my home! This gentleman had a .357 Herter’s, a .44 magnum, and four .401 Powermags, and was willing to sell me one of the .401’s! He also had a large stash of brass and loaded ammo, but wanted to save this for his grandkids, so I ordered ammo from GAD Custom Cartridge, which had ammo loaded in original Herter’s cases – made by Norma – and also in cases formed from .41 magnum brass. When I get this shipment in, I will be able to test fire the gun and chronograh loads. My seller also is a bullet caster, and has all the molds made for the .401, so I will likely have him mold some heavy hard cast for me to reload. Dies for “obsolete” cartridges like this can be pricey, but I am told 10mm dies will work for most steps of the process.

I think this Herter's looks better with the white oak grips, but overall is a nice looking revolver, for being made in 1966 - and used a bit.

I think this Herter’s looks better with the white oak grips, but overall is a nice looking revolver, for being made in 1966 – and used a bit.

As an update, I finally got my ammo from GAD, 50 rounds n original Herter’s head stamped brass, and 50 rounds in brass formed from .41 Remington magnum brass. The .41 mag brass had to be first “sized” down in a .401 sizing die, then further turned on a lathe. .401 cases can also be formed using .30-30 brass. These were loaded with 170 gr lead semi-wadcutter bullets, and when I shot them the recoil was similar to my .44 Specials – VERY pleasant to shoot! The gun also “shoots to the sights”, and very accurately. I later was able to chronograph some of these rounds, and got an average pf 1040 fps – which explains the light recoil. Most with experience reloading for this round suggest using .41 mag data and reducing it by 10%, and a 41 mag load with a 170 gr bullet would he 1,400 – 1,600 fps, so what I got was a light load. This doesn’t bother me in the least, as I mainly wanted to “make brass” out of these rounds. I have a set of original loading dies coming from Buffalo Arms and plan to reload with hard cast bullets in the 245 gr range for hunting loads. That light trigger pull certainly makes for easy shooting, after the first few shots to get used to it. I did have one chamber of the cylinder that would not let the cartridge seat fully – the same problem I found on my .44 mag – but it turned out to be a small chunkc of debris on some kind in th recess, and once that was removed the revolver functions perfectly.

Top, my .44 mag Herter's. Bottom, the much rarer .401 Herter's Powermag

Top, my .44 mag Herter’s. Bottom, the much rarer .401 Herter’s Powermag

I also learned that Bernold Nelson, owner of GAD, worked for Herter’s when he was younger. He tells me he met George Herter, and considered him a very nice gentleman who always treated him with respect.

This revolver is in better shape than was my .44 mag Herters when I found it. The action is tighter, and except for a slight turn ring on the cylinder, the bluing is better, It wears the original black plastic grips which are in good shape and are going in my gun safe. For now the gun is wearing the white oak grips I first made for the .44, but I will likely make another set of purple heart grips and use magnets to hold them in place as I did with the .44. What really stands out on this revolver is the trigger pull, which seems to have come from the factory at a crisp LESS THAN TWO POUNDS of pull! This contrasts considerably with the 4 pound pull of my .44! I really don’t care for triggers set so light, and especially in a gun with the original Colt style “half cock” lockwork, where the hammer is best kept down on an empty cylinder, extra care should be taken to performing this process with a very light trigger. I once had the hammer on an Old Model Ruger .357 wearing oversized grips “get away” from me when letting it down on a LOADED cylinder, and an “accidental discharge” – which luckily caused no harm – resulted. Also, the fingers should be kept safely away from the trigger on this gun, until it is time – for sure – to actually pull the trigger!

This handgun came wearing the original black plastic grips, with a Herter's emblem. Those are going in the safe!

This handgun came wearing the original black plastic grips, with a Herter’s emblem. Those are going in the safe!

At this point, I want to spend some time shooting this gun before making drastic changes, and the .401’s do have some collector value – but I might strip the bluing and rust brown the whole revolver. Another option is that Numrich Gun Parts has a brass grip frame listed that fits a large frame JP Sauer revolver that might well “bolt up” to this one.

Numrich also has some parts still in stock for Herter’s revolvers, including new cylinders in .357, .44, and .401 calibers. Some folks have had .357 cylinders bored to 10mm, resulting in a “conversion” gun with a cylinder in a modern – and desirable – caliber. .401 cylinders can also be modified to shoot .38/40 rounds, and both these conversions match up to the original .401 barrel. I recently saw a Ruger “Buckeye” conversion Blackhawk revolver with cylinders in .38/40 and 10mm (but NOT .401) offered for sale at $800, and that is a reasonable price for such a Ruger – yet the Herter’s can be made even more versatile for less of an investment.

Since my original post, I have talked to Houston pistol smith Alan Harton about converting the .357 mag cylinder I did purchase from Numrich to 10mm. I just want to shoot the guna s is a bit before turning it over to him to do the job – and I am working on an assignment for an article on the Herter’s guns for the online version of American Handgunner for which I need real-world experience with the .401. The other possibility I am looking at is to obtain another .401 cylinder and have it rebored to 38/40 – an old blackpowder cartridge which seems to provide great performance when updated to modern powders. This would make the Herter’s a 3 cartridge gun – and a very interesting one.

As noted, there is some collector interest in the Herter’s revolvers, and it seems to be growing. For right now, the guns CAN be found, and prices are reasonable. I recently talked to the owner of another custom brass and cartidge reloading company who told me he had a .44 mag Herter’s some time back and foolishly – his words – sold it. He considers them excellent guns, and wishes he had that .44 back. Having gone through the same thing, I agree completely. They probably won’t fund your grandchild’s college education, but it would be hard to lose money – and there aren’t many investments other than firearms that can be used recreationally and regularly and also put food on the table and provide home and family defense!

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