Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Miscellany: Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Drive a couple miles south of Marineland, and you'll find a small, out-of-the-way place called Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Much of the site used to be Louise and Owen Young's winter retirement home; now, it's open to the public as a state park. 

Washington Oaks is split in two by A1A - west of the highway, there are hiking/biking trails (which are full of mosquitoes), picnic areas, and (as you would expect) a large set of formal gardens. I particularly liked the rose garden in the center of the park, which is fenced in to prevent deer from eating the roses:

On the east side of A1A, there is a beach with interesting coquina rock formations. It's a perfect place to walk around for awhile.

Just watch your step.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guns: Bersa BP9CC review - The Gaucho Gat


Bersa is an Argentine firearms manufacturer best known for their "Thunder" series of small-framed .380 pistols. These guns have been quite popular in the U.S. for years, so it's a little surprising it's taken so long for Bersa to release a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol - the BP9CC:

Bigger and cheaper than the competition, the BP9CC looks like a good deal on paper - you get a serviceable slimline 9mm and two mags, all for $400. But is the BP9CC a bargain, or simply cheap?

Size Comparison and Impressions

The BP9CC is one of the largest single-stack 9mm pistols out there. As you can see, it's longer and taller than both the Kahr CM9 and the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield, though the Bersa also holds 8 rounds in a standard magazine. "Large" is relative here - the BP9CC is still easy to carry inside the waistband (I didn't have custom rig for it, but it fit fine into my Remora). Unlike the Kahr, however, it's not suited for pocket carry.

In hand, the Bersa feels...okay. The gun has some of the smoothest grips I've ever felt on a polymer-frame, and it tended to shift around in my hands. On the plus side, there are handy little scalloped sections on the frame for your finger to rest on when it's off the trigger.

Sights and Trigger

The Bersa bears an interesting sight arrangement - the front dovetail takes Sig-style front sights, while the rear sight is GLOCK-sized. I suppose the idea was to give the end-user the most options if they wanted to switch them out. In any event, the default sights are typical 3-dots, and they work fine.

The BP9CC trigger is probably its distinguishing feature. There's a subtle integral pivot safety (somewhat similar to the M&P series), and then a short, pseudo double-action pull to the rear. The pull has noticeable creep, but it's extremely light, especially for a factory gun.

Range Report

I personally don't like shooting most single-stack 9mms. The thin grips impart more recoil to your hand, especially with stout +P loads, which leads to fatigue and flinching. I found the BP9CC to be as snappy as other members of the breed, and it was not a banner day at the range for old Mulliga:

Notwithstanding my discomfort, the BP9CC proved to be quite reliable with a large variety of FMJ and JHP ammo, including Federal HST (my go-to 9mm load), Speer Gold Dots, and my array of 115 gr. range ammo (Winchester, Federal, Sellier & Bellot, etc.). Even though the recoil was a touch wild, and I didn't bother to give it a first cleaning until 900 rounds in, the Bersa never bobbled. Of course, this is a pretty big gun (21+ ounces), so that sort of reliability isn't exactly incredible. Still, you have to give credit where it's due.

Final Thoughts

The BP9CC is a pretty good gun in a vacuum, but it's competing in one of the most crowded segments of today's firearms market - the concealed-carry 9mm. If you're a big fan of the trigger, I could see picking one up, but I honestly think most people would be better served with something else.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Books: Corum - The Coming of Chaos

I've never read Michael Moorcock's famous Elric Saga, but I have read an enjoyable work from another part of his Eternal Champion mythos -"Corum: The Coming of Chaos." The book is actually a collection of three novels published in the early '70s: "The Knight of the Swords," "The Queen of the Swords," and "The King of the Swords," though they essentially tell one long story.

At the start of the book, Corum Jhaelen Irsei ("the Prince in the Scarlet Robe") leads an idle life. His race, the elf-like Vadhagh, devote their time to poetry, art, and other intellectual pursuits, and remain aloof from the rest of the world. Of course, this being heroic fantasy, things soon fall apart, and Corum is left to seek vengeance against the forces of Chaos using his sword, his wits, and two otherworldy artifacts - the Hand of Kwll and the Eye of Rhynn.

Moorcock's writing is pulpy and Lovecraftian, and works best when weird darkness intersects with the usual sword-and-sorcery tropes. My favorite part of the trilogy, for instance, is the middle book, which describes a nightmarish journey to the shifting planes of Chaos. If you like reading about mad gods, pitched battles, carnivorous plants, and undead armies, you'll like the "Corum" books.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Links: Jazz Podcasts

I love jazz, but it's devilishly hard to find on the airwaves. Unless your local public radio or university station plays it (many don't), the only way you're going to learn about good jazz music is through the Internet. Here are a few podcasts that might help you in your quest for jazz, old and new:

In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond - Ken Laster hosts this weekly show out of the University of Connecticut's student radio station, WHUS 91.7 FM. "In the Groove" is all about modern and fusion jazz - everything from the classics of John Coltrane to the latest indie releases. The only rule? No "smooth jazz" allowed.

Jazz Boulevard - I've been to Montreal, but I never realized the city had a thriving jazz scene, including an enormous festival. "Jazz Boulevard," hosted by Moz Taylor, is a two-hour weekly show that features the best in Canadian (and non-Canadian) jazz, with a particular focus on acid and world jazz.

Jazz Stew - Like me, Annie Taylor, the host of "Jazz Stew," is concerned that jazz is being ignored by conventional radio. Unlike me, she's decided to do something about it by hosting a podcast featuring an eclectic mix (yes, a "stew") of all genres of jazz from all time periods (including some gems from yesteryear).