Saturday, May 19, 2018

Guns: The Tacticool Remington 870 Wingmaster, Part 1 - The Barrel

Remington's recent quality control woes have been well-chronicled, but they don't diminish the many decades of fine gunmaking that have come before. Hopefully things will be better after the company's Chapter 11. In any case, there are still many millions of pre-Cerberus Remington firearms out there, ready for a good home. For my part, I picked up an old 870 Wingmaster some years back, and I thought it'd be fun to convert it into a full-blown home defense shotgun.

The first thing I decided to change was the barrel. Originally, my Wingmaster came with a 30" tube, in a modified choke. That arrangement is perfect for hunting upland game or breaking clays at the trap field, but it's suboptimal for repelling boarders in the dark of the night.

So, I ordered an 18-1/2" improved cylinder barrel from MidwayUSA. The blued finish matches up pretty well with my decades-old 870 receiver, and lopping almost a foot off the barrel makes the gun a lot handier indoors. The improved cylinder choke may or may not have an effect on the 00 buckshot pattern, but it's a moot point since tight chokes are hard to find in 18" barrels.

Upgrades still to come - stock and foreend, weaponlight, magazine tube and sidesaddle, sling...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

TV: Into the Badlands

It's rare for a TV show to find its feet right out of the gate. For every series with a stellar first episode and first season, like "Breaking Bad," there are twenty that need awhile to get going.

Case in point: I watched the first episode of AMC's "Into the Badlands" back when it debuted in 2015, and I liked it okay, but I didn't keep watching at the time. Since then, it's turned into a pretty darn good action series:

The show is one part "Mad Max" and one part wuxia, and follows the exploits of a "Clipper" named Sunny (Daniel Wu, also executive producer). Clippers like Sunny are the warrior/bodyguards of a group of feudal Barons in a post-apocalyptic United States. For whatever reason, the Barons have banished guns from their domain, and the Clippers fight exclusively using Hong Kong wire fu and melodrama. Sunny's life changes forever when he meets a boy named M.K., who might have the key to finding a mythical utopia called Azra.

It's a bonkers premise, even for a network whose two most popular shows have "Walking Dead" in their titles, but it's gotten a lot better since that first episode. Season two introduced much-needed comic relief in the form of Nick Frost's Bajie. More importantly, the show's young actors, Aramis Knight and Ally Ioannides, have gotten much better at their craft, and the plots have moved on from the first season's boring political intrigues. The show is now almost a pure martial arts fantasy, and well worth a second look.

Books: The Odyssey (Gareth Hinds graphic novel)

Author/illustrator Gareth Hinds has adapted several classic works of literature into graphic novels, but my favorite is his sprawling rendition of "The Odyssey." In 250 oversize color pages, Hinds transforms the millennia-old poem (which many people dreaded reading in high school) into a set of panels that feel as fresh and vital as any modern Marvel superhero tale.

Unlike a lot of adaptations, which lean too heavily on their artwork, Hinds matches beautiful watercolor painting with equally evocative text. He borrows from and gives credit to the most beloved translations of Homer's work, including those by Robert Fagles and Robert Fitzgerald. The result is a comic that blends the strengths of both media: striking images that transport the reader back to ancient Greece, and dialogue and descriptions that convey what a picture cannot.