Sunday, January 30, 2011

Guns: Battle of the Speedloader Pouches

Carrying spare ammo for a wheelgun can be a bit of a chore. Sure, speed strips aren't too hard to conceal (I like the excellent Tuff QuikStrip Pouch), but most people prefer speedloaders, and they're as bulky as a revolver cylinder. Here are a few belt carriers that are a heckuva lot faster and more positive than stuffing the darn things in a pocket:

HKS Universal Double Speedloader Pouch review

This is one of the cheapest speedloader pouches you can buy (it retails for about ten bucks). It's as simple as it looks - a couple of nylon pouches with flaps to hold the speedloaders in. The thin nylon actually conceals pretty well, since it adds minimal bulk to the loader, and the flaps have lots of Velcro so you can adjust to different size loaders.

Unfortunately, this is also the slowest of the three pouches. The two compartments lack any kind of side cutout to help you grab the loader, and, being nylon, the compartments tend to conform to the shape of the loader. These design quirks mean that extraction of the loader is slower and trickier than the other two carriers I tried. If you do opt for the HKS, I recommend using your fingers to push up on the soft bottom of each compartment when you draw a loader; this will raise the loader enough for your other fingers to get a decent purchase.

Wilderness Speedloader Carrier review

The Wilderness Speedloader Carrier is the bulkiest pouch on this list; it uses medium-weight nylon webbing that folds up to form a rough box around the loader. Thanks to this construction, the Wilderness carrier is fully adjustable - you can change how high or low the speedloader rides in the pouch, how tight the pouch cradles the loader, and so forth.

Though it loses some points for its bulkiness, the Wilderness model is the fastest of the pouches. There are half-moon cutouts on the sides of the pouch for grasping the loader, and the pouch itself doesn't hug the loader too tightly; you can even jam a finger in there if you need to.

Don Hume Pack Six review

The Don Hume Pack Six strikes a balance between the Wilderness and HKS carriers in terms of bulk and speed. Unlike the other two pouches, the Pack Six is made of leather and uses a snap arrangement instead of Velcro.

It has a less boxy profile than the Wilderness carrier, but isn't nearly as size-efficient as the HKS pouch. You can actually thread a belt through the pouch's center slot so that the loader can straddle the belt, but I've found the loader conceals just as well using the rear belt loop.

In either case, the Pack Six is very stable on the belt, and carries the loader high enough so that it doesn't bug me. There are no side cutouts, but the Pack Six's rigid leather design makes it fairly easy to pluck the loader out of the pouch.

Hopefully this comparison has been helpful. All three carriers have strengths and weaknesses, so I can't say one is "better" than another, though I think you should pass on the HKS pouch unless you're on a tight budget. There are more speedloader pouches out there...someday, I'll find the perfect pouch.

Miscellany: Arkham Horror board game review

My friends and I have explored the dark corners of the Mythos before, so I guess it was only a matter of time before we tried out "Arkham Horror," a Call of Cthulhu-inspired board game originally designed by Richard Launius and revised by the good folks at Skotos and Fantasy Flight Games.

In Arkham Horror, you and your friends play as investigators trying to stop an ancient evil from awakening in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each turn, a Mythos Card is drawn, which either opens a gate to another dimension, or spawns a whole bunch of foul monsters. If too many gates have opened or too many monsters have spawned, the Ancient One will awaken, (probably) devour all the investigators, and destroy the world.

Gameplay is thus a balance of gathering resources (in the form of items and clues), closing gates, and fighting monsters (where practical). In terms of game strategy, the Mythos Cards provide a constant impetus - if you wait around too long, it's possible to have so many monsters wandering the streets that movement is impossible. You can tweak your fighting, movement, and exploration skills each turn (some characters are particularly good at this), so turn-to-turn gameplay is pretty interesting, too.

"Arkham Horror" has a good amount of replayability, especially considering the game is purely cooperative. Each Ancient One has a unique, game-wide power that can drastically affect the proceedings; Shub-Niggurath makes all monsters considerably tougher, Ithaqua's icy winds blast any investigator foolish enough to venture out into the streets of Arkham, and so on. The investigators also have unique stats and special skills that encourage a different strategy every time you play (the gangster is good at fighting, the occult author excels at exploring the Other Worlds beyond the gates, etc.).

The first playthrough will take awhile, since there's just so much content. Between items, spells, encounters, and monsters, you'll be juggling through several piles of cards, and it can be intimidating to board game newbies. Plus, I hope you have a big dining room table to spread everything out on:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Food: The Big and the Little in Gainesville

Due to the ever-burgeoning student population, Gainesville, Florida is packed with a wide variety of restaurants. You can eat at big national chains, regional chains (Miller's Ale House is a crowd favorite), or at greasy-spoon, mom-and-pop-type joints. Today's post looks at a couple of Gainesville eateries; one is part of a national chain and the other is a purely local affair:

Genghis Grill review

Genghis Grill is a national Mongolian barbecue* chain. As with all Mongolian barbecue, you pick your meats, your veggies, your sauces, and then have someone fry it all up on a big flat griddle. While the Mongolian barbecue concept is typically employed by Chinese buffet restaurants as a way to get rid of excess ingredients, Genghis Grill is based entirely around the grill, and offers no other buffet items. To drive the point home, kitschy pictures of people dressed as Mongols adorn the restaurant's advertising and decor:

As my friend remarked, the place feels like an MBA project. Every aspect of your meal has been calculated to give an idiot-proof Mongolian barbecue experience, from the choice of meats and vegetables to the wide array of sauces. For the unimaginative or lazy, there are pre-arranged combinations that allow you to craft a meal that won't make you gag.

I tried the beef, the chicken, and many of the veggies and sauces. Ingredient quality was better-than-average for this type of establishment; the beef was actually pretty flavorful and marinated well. One big caveat - the chefs are trained to cook the crap out of everything so people won't get sick...I hope you like your stir fry well done.

*Editor's Note: As you might suspect, Mongolian barbecue has absolutely nothing to do with actual Mongolian food

2/4 stars

Blue Highway Pizza review

There are plenty of big pizza chains in Gainesville; most serve the sort of greasy cardboard-with-cheese that'll earn you a date with a cardiologist down the road. For quality pizza, look no further than Blue Highway Pizza, a local chain with two locations, one in the Tioga Town Center and and one in Micanopy:

The biggest compliment I can give BHP is that they indeed use very fresh ingredients. Whereas a delivery pizza tastes like it's been dipped in oil and preservatives, BHP's pizza tastes homemade, with good veggies and a lighter-than-expected crust. My friend and I sampled the Greek pizza (topped with spinach, feta, green peppers, onion, and olives) and found it to be quite delectable.

That kind of freshness isn't without its drawbacks - service is a little slower than the average pizzeria, so you better be prepared to wait for your meal in the relaxed dining room. We also thought the calamari appetizer was mediocre. Still, considering the fair prices, good quality, and decent selection of pizzas, BHP gets the coveted:

3/4 stars

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Miscellany: Clybourne Park review

Ever since the beginning of literature, writers have taken well-known works and imagined them from another perspective. Virgil promoted a secondary character from "The Illiad" into the founder of Rome (sort of the Classical equivalent of Lt. Saavik fanfiction), and the tradition continues to this day, as illustrated by the Caldwell Theatre Company's production of "Clybourne Park."

To get the most out of "Clybourne Park," you'll need to be familiar with Lorraine Hansberry's classic play "A Raisin in the Sun." "Clybourne Park" is both a response and a companion piece: Act I follows the white couple that decided to sell their house to the black family from "Raisin," and Act II is set in the present day, when the now-predominantly black area is being gentrified by yuppies.

"Clybourne Park" could have easily collapsed into a gimmick or pastiche about bigoted white people, but playwright Bruce Norris is careful to point out that prejudice is universal. My main beef with the play is that the plot is pretty flimsy (the second Act is basically a bunch of people having a conversation), but there's an understated, poignant backstory that at least provides a measured end to the production. I don't think "Clybourne Park" really works as comedy, but it sure has tragedy to spare.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guns: AKJ Concealco IWB holster review

One of the benefits of ordering a bespoke holster is that you can obtain unique holster designs that aren't available from the typical gun store shelf. By way of illustration, today's review features an IWB holster from AKJ Concealco LLC for my 3" Ruger SP101:

AKJ Concealco's IWB holsters have a unique shape - the front belt loop is rotated 90 degrees from the rear belt loop and attached directly to the top strap of the holster:

This belt loop placement is a bit more comfy for the user, because a belt holding an IWB holster carried at the 3:00-4:00 position naturally does an abrupt turn around the front (especially if the gun is wide, like a revolver). The reinforced top strap also helps to keep the holster from collapsing after the gun is drawn. It's a clever arrangement that reduces the amount of leather needed for the holster mouth.

The rear snap is far more conventional. The whole affair screws in to the holster and is adjustable to three different heights and reversible (making the holster fully ambidextrous, since the front belt loop can swivel to the left or right):

The workmanship and attention to detail in AKJ's holsters is quite good. They're certainly worth the ~$70 asking price, which is about the going rate for a custom leather IWB holster:

For me, the SP101 is on the heavy side for IWB belt carry (27 ounces unloaded), but the AKJ IWB holster conceals and carries the gun about as well as can be expected. Retention of the gun was positive, and I noted no quirks in either drawing or holstering the gun. I'm not sure the front belt loop is more effective than a traditional IWB arrangement, but it's certainly not detrimental in any way. Overall, if you're considering a new IWB holster, AKJ Concealco deserves your attention.

Some miscellaneous points to note:

- AKJ is a one-man shop, and that means that the quoted delivery estimates on the website are a little optimistic. It took two months for me to receive the holster from the time I placed the order.

- I was worried about not having a sweat shield, but it really isn't necessary. The gun rides so low on the belt that the hammer spur doesn't even come close to digging into my side. YMMV, of course, depending on your build.

- AKJ slightly undersizes its belt loops. Though they are advertised as 1.5," I've found that the holster is a tight-to-impossible fit on my 1.5" Wilderness Instructor's Belt because of the belt's width. If in doubt, get a wider size loop or order multiple loops.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Miscellany: The South Florida Fair

The South Florida Fair is an annual fair held in Palm Beach County, Florida. The Fair's been a fixture of West Palm Beach for decades, and I recently paid them a visit. I remember first attending as a gradeschooler, and, to be honest, it hasn't changed much. Here's a little tour of the magical sights, sounds, and smells (ulgh) of the Fair:

The heart of the Fair is the Midway, a smörgåsbord of neon lights and movement. While there are some tame rides for the youngsters (a ferris wheel and a sky tram), most of the Midway's rides are guaranteed to make you vomit:

Traditionalists will be pleased to know that there are still "freak show"-type booths operating in the Midway. Most of these rely on pretty cheesy gimmicks, but I guess that's half the fun:

Agriculture still plays a huge part in the fair exhibits (much of the county's economy comes from agriculture, actually). For kids raised in the 'burbs, this is probably as close as they'll ever get to a farm animal:

Fair food is really expensive, and the quality can be iffy. Still, there's just something magical about being able to get chicken on a stick, fried Oreos, and a pulled pork parfait in one place:

There are plenty of carts selling all manner of overpriced Chinese-made plastic toys. When you're a kid, though, you think all this junk is actually worth something - and you'll bug your parents to buy it for you:

One thing I never noticed as a kid was how many vendors are at the Fair. People sell all kinds of tchotchkes - foot massagers, cookware, leather belts. It's like a grown-up version of the junk peddlers on the Midway:

Here's Matt from the Palm Beach County Model Railroaders showing off their Fair exhibit - a full on miniature railway, complete with model trains equipped with onboard wireless cameras. The cameras transmit to overhead monitors, giving visitors an interesting, close-up look at the exhibit:

The most common show at the 2011 Fair is Tyzen, a comedy hypnotist. He's a pretty funny guy, though he shies away from stunts that are too physical:

There's always a little melancholy leaving a fair, no matter how many times you've been. The noise, the shows, the crowds...the whole experience is unlike anything most people get in their day-to-day grind. No matter how expensive, garish, or stupid some of the stuff is, you just can't help but look forward to next year, when the Fair will come around again...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Movies: What caliber for tire?

RUBBER is the story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life. As Robert roams the bleak landscape, he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes without having to move. At first content to prey on small desert creatures and various discarded objects, his attention soon turns to humans, especially a beautiful and mysterious woman who crosses his path. Leaving a swath of destruction across the desert landscape, Robert becomes a chaotic force to be reckoned with, and truly a movie villain for the ages. Directed by legendary electro musician Quentin Dupieux (Steak, Nonfilm), aka Mr. Oizo, RUBBER is a smart, funny and wholly original tribute to the cinematic concept of "no reason."

Given that Robert can telepathically kablooie your brains, I'd suggest a rifle of some sort - best to keep your distance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guns: The SHOT Show!

Despite the hysteria over the uber-powerful "gun lobby," the firearms industry is actually a relatively small, insular community. Nowhere is this more apparent then at the SHOT Show, an annual event operated and sponsored by the NSSF. This year, it's being held at the Sands Expo Convention Center:

Even though the show includes practically every company that manufactures something to do with guns, shooting, or hunting (including knife makers, flashlight sellers, and gear companies), the entire SHOT Show covers a mere 700,000 square feet. Compare that to CES, another yearly, industry-and-press-only trade show; CES typically spans 2 million square feet and is held in a much bigger convention center.

Anyway, this is the time of year where most of the new products for 2011 are unveiled. I'm intrigued by some (Kel-Tec's bullpup shotgun), turned off by others (Ruger's PF9 LC9), and sometimes genuinely befuddled (Colt's bringing back the Mustang? Really? Is the .380 market that hot?). It's a fun time for all gunbloggers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sports: First Round Ritual Execution

In tennis, the gap between the elite and the journeymen is wider than in any other sport. That's partly a function of the scoring system; since every point counts the same no matter how spectacularly it's won, there are no fluke knockouts or miracle plays that can singlehandedly win a match for an underdog.

Mostly though, the gulf exists because the top players are just that much more skilled than the rank-and-file churning underneath them. You can see the disparity most clearly in the early rounds of the four Grand Slams (the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open). In these 128-player tournaments, the seeded players can encounter opponents in the first few rounds that are ranked far, far beneath them. These matches are among the least competitive sporting events you'll see on television.

This year's Australian Open has produced an unusually high number of these early round drubbings. Defending champion Roger Federer hammered 97th-ranked Lukas Lacko with a flurry of outrageous winners in a match that felt more like an exhibition for Federer's shotmaking than a battle:

Sometimes, a lower-ranked journeyman will opt to play with an injury rather than relinquishing their spot to a lucky loser, since you get a substantial payday just for reaching the first round. That's what happened with world no. 1 Rafael Nadal's first match in this year's Aussie Open. Qualifier Marcos Daniel was so banged up that he literally couldn't hit a single ball past Nadal; Daniel retired in the second set trailing 6-0, 5-0.

Most of the time, though, the lower-ranked player puts up a decent fight, but doesn't have the weapons, the stamina, or the talent to really threaten the favorite. I think it's actually these matches that are the most depressing: both the underdog and favorite play at about their average level, and the favorite wins comfortably, as inevitable as the sun rising in the east. Life doesn't have the brutal pecking order of tennis...that's probably a good thing.

Tech: TomTom XL 330 GPS review

Our family has a mild Luddite streak, so it's not suprising we resisted getting a GPS unit for a long time. From stints with satellite navigation in rental cars, we quickly learned that the GPS sapped much of the fun out of traveling; you blindly follow the unit's directions, instead of matching street names and landmarks to a printed map, or asking the nearest store clerk for directions. Still, there's no denying the convenience a GPS affords in unfamiliar territory, and, when my sister relocated to Atlanta, we decided to bite the bullet and grab the TomTom XL 330.

The XL 330 is a solid, inexpensive GPS system (ours is a refurbished unit bought from CompUSA for about $60). Like all GPS systems sold today, it has a touchscreen, a speaker that periodically barks out directions, and preloaded maps that can be updated via PC connection (a USB cable is helpfully supplied). The XL 330 also comes with a windshield mount (iffy - has a tendency to loosen during a drive), a car charger, and a free map update.

The UI is pretty simple - touch the screen, select how you want to navigate (generally by entering in a known address), and away you go. The unit isn't the newest one on the block, so route recalculation is a little pokey, but it works well enough. I also found the "Point of Interest" feature to be handy - with a touch, you can get directions to the nearest big box store, McDonald's, or public park.

We've tested the XL 330 extensively (trips through central Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California), and it's generally reliable and accurate. The unit has certainly screwed up before (no GPS is perfect), and I found the map updates to be outdated (there's a new road extension right in front of our house that doesn't show up), but the XL 330 rarely leads us too far astray. If you're one of those reluctant late-adopters in the market for a budget GPS, it's well worth a look.

Miscellany: Thurn and Taxis review

American board games are zero-sum, dog-eat-dog affairs, in that what helps you also hurts your opponents. Whether it's ambushing people with hotels in "Monopoly," knocking someone's butt back to start in "Sorry," or sadistically making them "Draw Four" in "Uno," players are expected to hinder and attack each other in American games. European board games, on the other hand, mostly eschew cutthroat competition. A perfect example of this passive sensibility is "Thurn and Taxis," a board game designed by Andreas Seyfarth.

T&T's theme is the Renaissance-era Bavarian postal system(!). In the game, players build postal networks across Europe, choosing and playing various city cards that represent stations along the postal routes. On each turn, players choose a role that gives them a special privilege (a wrinkle borrowed from Seyfarth's masterpiece, "Puerto Rico"): taking an extra card, laying down an extra postal station, etc. Victory points (VPs) are earned for building routes of specific lengths, or for having postal networks that span the territories in the game (if your network covers, say, every city in Switzerland, you get VPs for the feat).

Like most of these European board games, the physical game components are top-notch. You get a deck of plastic-coated city cards, real wooden houses that represent your postal stations, and even an insert that describes the real life House of Thurn and Taxis. I was particularly impressed by the board; it's made of heavy cardboard stock and features a neat map of 16th century Bavaria:

The biggest problem with "Thurn and Taxis" is, ironically, the lack of player interaction. Though the turn-to-turn gameplay is fun because of Seyfarth's signature role-choosing mechanic, it's nearly impossible to actually interfere with another player's route. For that reason, T&T often feels like multiplayer solitaire; building a postal network and collecting VPs isn't terribly complicated, and you're essentially just racing the other players to the finish. Depending on your tastes, this may not be a big issue, but I found the game a bit boring. Competition might be messy and acrimonious, but at least it's interesting.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson brings to mind another infamous murder - the April 4, 1968 death of Martin Luther King, Jr:

As a youngster, I was amazed by King's final "I've Been To the Mountaintop" speech, which seemed supernaturally prescient. In retrospect, King's words aren't surprising when you consider the death threats he was receiving:

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

It's worth noting that the assassination altered the public's perception of King, who had begun to speak out on a "bill of rights" for the poor (*cough* socialism *cough*) and the Vietnam War. King's death prevented him from dividing the black (and white) communities with those views. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, in death, King became more powerful than his detractors could possibly imagine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guns: Building A Better Mousegun - S&W Bodyguard 380 review


Polymer-framed .380s have proven to be extremely popular in the CCW community. For roughly the same size and weight as the vest pocket .22s and .25s of yesteryear, today's gun-toters can now pack 6+1 rounds of .380 ACP, a far more potent round. The Kel-Tec P3AT kicked off the idea, and the Ruger LCP popularized it...has Smith and Wesson's Bodyguard 380 perfected it?

First Impressions and Field Strip

The S&W Bodyguard 380 is a relatively new polymer-framed .380 pocket pistol. Aside from the added weight and bulk of the integral laser sight, the BG380's dimensions are very similar to its competition, and the gun fits inside even dress slack pockets without any problems. In hand, the Bodyguard feels a bit blocky, like gripping a deck of playing cards. S&W provides two floorplates for the magazine: an extended floorplate that allows you to fit a second finger onto the grip, and a flat, flush-fitting floorplate.

The Bodyguard 380's trigger, like most pistols of this type, is a long, heavy double-action pull. I had hoped that it would be better than the P3AT and LCP, but it's just as heavy, if not more so. The reset is also quite long, and has two distinct "clicks" that might throw off people used to GLOCK trigger resets. On the other hand, the trigger breaks cleanly, and the Bodyguard 380 is a true double-action design with "second-strike" capability (for those who are about to give me a tap-rack-ready lecture, let me just say that it's natural for a revolver shooter to remedy a fail-to-fire by pulling the trigger).

Looking down the slide, we see the first big selling point for the Smith .380. Unlike the diminutive "sights" that Kel-Tec, Ruger, and Taurus have gone with on their polymer-frame .380s (mostly to reduce cost, I suspect), the Bodyguard features front and rear dovetailed steel sights. The sights are actually pretty good, and great for a pistol of this size; the only comparable iron sights are those found on the Kahr and SIG .380s, which retail for considerably more. Since the sights are dovetailed in, they are drift adjustable, and can be replaced with aftermarket night sights as they come on the market. Here's a sight picture:

Field-stripping and disassembly is straightforward; the takedown lever and slide stop on the side of the gun make the task even easier than it is on a P3AT or LCP. One small tip for reassembly: make sure the barrel is forward when you try to put it back together. The easiest way to accomplish this is by simply pointing the muzzle down when you rack the slide back to the locked position.

Overall, the Bodyguard 380 is well-built and finished nicely, especially compared to its competition. This is not a cheap, chintzy .380. The slide, barrel, and sights are all stainless steel with Smith and Wesson's black Melonite finish. After over 400 rounds, the gun looks and feels brand new. It's obvious that this little .380 can take a heckuva lot of shooting before wearing out.

Ergonomics: Switches and slide locks and safeties, oh my!

If you're one of those shooters who hates extraneous controls on a gun, the S&W Bodyguard 380 might irk you. On the left side of the pistol, there's a veritable forest of levers and buttons - the laser switch, the takedown lever, the slide release, the safety, and the magazine release. The pistol compresses all these controls into a very tight space, and it'll take a little training before you can distinguish between them without fumbling around.

On the plus side, all of the controls are flat and low-profile, a must for a pocket gun. Though I think both the slide release and the manual safety are completely unnecessary in this type of firearm, they are well-designed and click on and off positively. The magazine release extends out just enough to be easily accessed, and the frame around it is nicely contoured and scalloped. Finally, in the later models (more on this below), the frame has a circular ring around the laser button to help protect it.

The Care and Feeding of Your LSW-000-A1 Insight Integrated Laser

I've posted about lasers before, and I've softened my stance somewhat. Lasers can be useful when shooting from awkward positions (shooting from retention, for instance). Additionally, they provide a good dry-fire tool for beginners, since they betray any muzzle wobble or flinching during the trigger pull.

The laser is activated by two buttons, one on each side of the frame. It can be hard to activate out of the box if the buttons are stiff; before you return the gun, take out the laser unit and roll the laser buttons around in your finger. It helped my laser activation tremendously.

A lot of people prefer the Crimson Trace Lasergrips that turn on automatically when you grip the gun. I don't, because that trains you to expect the laser to be on when you shoot. On this type of pocket .380, it also means that the laser will be active when you draw the gun whether you want it to be or not (the laser gives off a visible red light that can reveal your position, and you can't use your trigger finger to block the laser like you can with, say, a 1911 CrimsonTrace grip set). The Insight unit can be totally ignored in favor of the good iron sights, or activated if you need it.

The laser takes two 357 batteries, available from most supermarkets and pharmacies. S&W supplies a small adjustment wrench inside the box (I had trouble finding it; it was in the same bag as the cable lock that comes with the gun). Using that same wrench, you can pop out the unit from the frame.

The Insight laser's red dot is fairly visible in low-light (about 20-25 yards effective range), and hard to see in daylight (maybe 7 yards). One of the newer green lasers would be more visible all around, but would also drain more battery power and likely cost more.

In terms of accuracy, I've found that the laser doesn't come back to zero after replacing the batteries - you'll need to recalibrate it every time you do a battery swap. Thankfully, the laser holds its zero during firing fairly well (though not can wander after a few hundred rounds). I did not note any dimming or other recoil-related problems after several hundred rounds of .380 through the gun.

Range Report: Futuristic feel, old-school snap

I had hoped that the additional weight near the muzzle from the laser would help mitigate recoil, but ultimately, any advantage the Bodyguard 380 had in that department over the P3AT and LCP wasn't noticeable. There was slightly less muzzle flip, but .380 is still quite snappy out of the gun.

Rounds were generally on target, using a variety of 90ish grain factory FMJ loads (mostly Sellier and Bellot, but also Winchester White Box, Remington, and Federal American Eagle). The Bodyguard 380's heavy triger prevented me from getting the best practical accuracy - groups at 7 yards were about 1-1/2" and groups at 10 yards opened up to 2". Even considering this is a .380 with a small barrel, the accuracy was decent, but nothing to write home about:

Reliability was generally good, with no failures to eject or extract. There were occasional instances of premature lockback (slide lock engaging when magazine still had rounds left). I suspected I was hitting the slide stop with my fingers during the gun's violent recoil cycle, a problem exacerbated by the compactness of the Bodyguard. I confirmed this hypothesis by changing to my left hand and shooting one-handed, which eliminated the malfunction. This is a training issue, not necessarily a design flaw. As you might expect, you're going to have to practice regularly with the Bodyguard, or any small .380, before you can safely carry it.


Let's be honest: S&W bungled the introduction of the Bodyguard 380. Though it sold well in the mid part of 2010, it was still overpriced at $500 when its biggest competition was hovering at or under the $300 mark. Add to that the teething problems that happen to all new designs (early Bodyguard 380s had takedown levers that backed out and triggers that wouldn't reset), and you have the makings of a disaster.

To its credit, S&W ironed out the kinks (the newer Bodyguards, with EAE and EAF serial numbers, are basically bug-free, and S&W will replace an older model frame and pay the shipping both ways). S&W also decided to be aggressive in its pricing: at its current street price of at or under $400, the Bodyguard is extremely competitive with the Kel-Tec P3AT, the Ruger LCP, and the Taurus TCP. For around a C-note over what you'd pay for those guns, you get substantially better fit and finish, real sights (which by themselves are worth the money IMHO), a fully-functional slide lock, and an integrated laser unit.

The gun loses some points for a heavy trigger, and you're going to have to learn how to grip and fire the Bodyguard so as not to activate the slide stop. Considering the level of overall quality Smith and Wesson is bringing to the table, however, these faults are excuseable. Anyone shopping for a pocket .380 should take a long, hard look at the S&W Bodyguard 380 - Smith and Wesson has thrown down the gauntlet, and it has a frickin' laser beam on it.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

News: Six murdered in Arizona spree shooting

Everyone knows about the shootings in Arizona by now. Awful things happened yesterday because of a deranged individual. Six innocent people were murdered.

In all the tragedy, though, there is still some small comfort in knowing that ordinary people have the courage to do what's right:

The "real hero," Zamudio said, was the man who grabbed the gunman first. "There was a gentleman who was wounded on top of the head, I think he got hit with a ricochet or something, (a) bullet grazed the top of his head," but still he "initiated the contact" with the shooter. "Then other people were able to grab on and they were able to kind of contain him and pull him down."

If you carry a concealed weapon for self-defense (and I know most of my readers do), carry it. All the time. Be skillful with it. Pray that you never have to draw it. But be ready:

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Guns: Congrats to Julie Golob...

...for being the cover girl of February 2011's issue of "The Blue Press," Dillon Precision's combination catalog and magazine. She looks great, though I doubt she shoots USPSA wearing lipstick and earrings:

Here's some video of Ms. Golob in action:

Friday, January 07, 2011

Links: New Year, New Blogroll

The sidebar was getting a little disheveled, so I've organized my blogroll and split it up into various categories. I've also added a bunch of blogs, described below:

Gun Blogs:

God Guns, and Grits: Been meaning to add this one for a while. Written by John W. Myers, the blog covers, well, God, guns, and grits. It's mostly about guns, though.

Gun Nuts Media: Caleb and company throw down a heady mix of competition shooting, gun politics, and general firearms news.

Legal Blogs (these may not be very interesting unless you're a lawyer or a law student):

Copyhype: Copyright law from the copyrightholders' perspective. Sick of people who pirate movies, games, music, or whatever and then claim that they wouldn't have bought them in the first place? Let this be your sanctuary.

Patently-O: The 800 pound gorilla of patent blogs. If you're a patent attorney, you probably read this one.

SCOTUSblog: Nine old people in black robes decide cases that affect the other 300 million people in this country. Find out what they're up to.

Southern District of Florida Blog: The SD of Fla has one of the busiest dockets in the country. There's always something interesting going on around here, and this is the place to read about it.

The TTABlog®: All about the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. This one is even fun for non-lawyers, since you get to see wrangling over things like the shape of a gas station pump.

Music: Us and Them - Symphonic Pink Floyd

Over the years, I've come to be quite fond of Pink Floyd. Like most people, I enjoy their three blockbuster albums: "Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here," and "The Wall." Unlike most people, "Us and Them - Symphonic Pink Floyd" was my first introduction to the band.

I heard this tribute album as a kid, and was instantly hooked. "Us and Them" looks at Pink Floyd's songs through the lens of classical music. It contains classical versions of tracks from "Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall," many of which are given the fullblown orchestra treatment. All songs are arranged by Jaz Coleman and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

In retrospect, this is probably the best way for a child to listen to Pink Floyd - the instrumentals are clean and bereft of references to drugs, rock stars, or the price of fame. And even when stripped down to the bare music, Pink Floyd's work conveys surprising emotion, whether it's the patheticness of "Nobody Home" or the thunderous, relentless melody in "Time." Some tracks do edge close to being elevator music ("Comfortably Numb" is interpreted a little too literally for my taste). On the whole, though, "Us and Them" is a worthwhile listen you're a Pink Floyd fan...or if you're trying to raise one.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Food: Atlanta cult faves

On my trip to Atlanta, I encountered a couple of restaurants with loyal followings. These are the kinds of places where the locals eat - tasty food, not too expensive, can't find them anywhere else...

Fat Matt's Rib Shack

For any barbecue place to stay in business, it has to get the basics right. If your ribs aren't good or your potato salad sucks, no amount of frills or regalia will save you. Fat Matt's Rib Shack, near midtown Atlanta, does it up right, and has been for over twenty years.

I thought the chopped pork sandwich was a tremendous value; there's nothing quite like getting a mouthwatering wad of smoked deliciousness on a bun for only $4. My favorite side was the macaroni and cheese, which had the cheesy, you-know-it's-bad-for-you creaminess that makes you ignore the main course for awhile.

So the food is squared away, there's a nice patio to sit in, and there's live blues music:

What's not to like?

3/4 stars

SunO Dessert

At first, I thought SunO Dessert was an ice cream joint. Then, I thought it was a boba tea place. Or was it a crepe factory?

Turns out, SunO does all of those things and more. Sure, the specialty is the snow-like shaved ice (I like mine with pecans and blueberry/chocolate syrup), but there's a confection for practically any taste - from hot lavender milk tea to custard wheel pies. Some are better than others, but you'll never run out of things to try.

Only downside is that the place is a little pricey. The treats are pretty good, though, which probably explains why there were long lines for the fifth anniversary giveaway:

2/4 stars

Miscellany: I thought this was funny...

Back of a Danny's Septic Service truck:

"Back Off! We ain't hauling milk."

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Top 10 of 2010

Happy New Year! Here are (what I consider to be) the top 10 posts from last year. I take into account the response generated by the comments, the clarity of the writing, and the weight of the subject matter, but these are mostly my personal favorites. In chronological order...

---Miscellany: Byrd Cara Cara Knife Review - I still have the Cara Cara, and the review touched off an interesting discussion of the differences between a $70 knife and a $20 knife.

---Guns: A Shooting in Old City - This was a pretty unusual shooting, as it happened right in front of a TV studio's security camera. As far as I know, Ung is still awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder, and still plans to argue self-defense.

---TV: Jack Horkheimer - Star Gazer - Mr. Horkheimer passed away half a year after this post was authored. He made a lot of people's lives a little bit better - not a bad legacy.

---Guns: Snubbie Wars - The snub remains my primary carry, since it's difficult for me to get to a shooting range often enough to confirm reliability with pistols. Someone needs to release a slim, 5-shot .327 Federal Magnum snubbie...

---Sports: A Day at the Sony Ericsson Open - I don't attend sporting events very often (expensive food, crowds, nosebleed seats compared to HD TV), but this was really a pleasant way to spend a Wednesday. Randy Lu made a good run at Wimbledon later in the year, upsetting Andy Roddick.

---Miscellany: On A (Tri) Rail - I intentionally took the Tri-Rail to post about the experience. Made for a good post, but it was excruciatingly slow.

---The Mulliga's Urban Survival Kit Series - A still ongoing series of posts. Having used the items in my kit regularly, I can attest to its usefulness, in emergencies big and small.

---Halloween at the Towers 2010 "The Walking Dead Liveblog - My first liveblog. It's an interesting way to watch a show, though I think it would have been difficult for me to follow the plot had I not already read the comic. "The Walking Dead" turned out to be a great TV series, too (except for the ridiculous Season 1 finale).

---Guns: The Little Big Revolver - Ruger SP101 review - Gun reviews should be coming more regularly. I'm proud of the research and range time I put in on the SP101 in order to be objective. Not a service you'll get from the average gun rag, unfortunately.

---Mulliga's Christmas Spectacular - Holiday Gifts On A (Really Tight) Budget - I actually used all of these gift ideas in my own gift-giving. Hopefully someone else found it helpful.

Have a safe and happy 2011, all.