Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Music: El Paso

Today is the birthday of Marty Robbins, whose album "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs" is one of the best collections of country/western music ever recorded. I'm particular to "Big Iron," a tale of a gunfight between a Texas Ranger and a notorious desperado, but the album's most famous song is "El Paso." The tense narrative and wistfulness of the song was striking to audiences in 1959, and it became an instant classic - so much so that it was used unironically in the series finale of "Breaking Bad" more than 50 years later:

Here's an excerpt of "El Paso" from one of Mr. Robbins's many, many fine performances at the Grand Ole Opry:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Guns: Marlin Model 70PSS Papoose review - Baby Bugout Rifle

The first gun I ever bought was a Marlin Model 795SS, basically a box magazine-fed stainless steel version of the well-known Model 60 rimfire. I loved the rifle because it was lighter and more reliable than a comparable Ruger 10/22, but I sold it back in college, something I've always regretted.

Unfortunately, the 795SS is no longer in production, but Marlin still sells its little brother, the 70PSS "Papoose" takedown. The Papoose is geared toward hikers and campers who want to take along a .22 for small game and backcountry plinking, but can't fit a full gun in their pack. 

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I grabbed a 70PSS from my local gun store and ran it through its paces...

Takedown System

The main draw of the Papoose is its simple takedown system. You can readily unscrew the barrel from the receiver, effectively splitting the rifle in half and making the overall package something that can fit in a regular backpack (or the nifty floating case that Marlin ships the gun in).

There are only a couple of downsides. First, it takes a few seconds of fiddling to screw and unscrew the barrel, something that doesn't seem like a big deal until you see Ruger's superfast one-latch takedown system. Second, the barrel nut can start working itself loose after a few shots if you don't use the included tool to crank down on it - if it loosens enough, it can cause the rifle to malfunction.

Stock, Sights, Trigger

The 70PSS has a standard Monte Carlo black fiberglass stock similar to my old 795SS, though the Papoose's foreend has been dramatically shortened to accommodate the takedown system. There's not much real estate for your off hand to support the gun, but it's adequate.

Sights on the 70PSS are pretty standard: an open adjustable rear paired with a bright red hooded front sight. Likewise, the trigger is nothing to write home about. It's fine and perfectly usable for a stock gun, but nowhere near the best aftermarket triggers you can get for a 10/22.

Range Report

The first question I had was whether the screwing and unscrewing of the barrel affected the rifle's zero at all. I am happy to report that it did not, at least with Aguila Super Extra 40 grainers:

Then I shot the Papoose with a variety of different .22 loads. Reliability was perfect, even with the weirdo Aguila subsonic ammo that most guns don't like. Accuracy was great too - the gun can certainly shoot better than the targets I am posting here, which were all shot with iron sights and no benchrest.

For instance, here's 14 rounds, offhand, at 25 yards with Federal AutoMatch. I bet a competent shooter could cut the group size down in half.

The 50 yard targets were even harder. My guess is that the gun can shoot 1"-2" groups at this distance with match grade ammo, a scope, and a benchrest, but I couldn't match that standard.

Here's 5 shots of CCI at 50 yards:

Despite the dumb name, the Aguila SSS Sniper ammo shot quite well:


The Model 70PSS Papoose is a rifle aimed at a dying demographic - people who hike, fish, and explore in the wilderness. If you value ease of use and aftermarket support, the 10/22 Takedown is your best bet. However, if you prize light weight, accuracy, and reliability, the Marlin was the better choice back in the early 2000s, and remains so today.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Miscellany: 2018 BMW 430i Convertible review - Sacrificing Everything

The Kaepernick parodies are old news by now, but Nike's tagline remains an apropos description of the loaner BMW 430i convertible I drove over the weekend. That's because the 430i's main feature - a well-engineered folding metal roof that's almost imperceptible when up - also negatively impacted nearly every other aspect of the car.

Performance - The 430i convertible is 500 pounds heavier than an equivalent 3 or 4-series, but still powered by the same 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. The extra weight is immediately noticeable. Compared to my barebones 328i, the car was less nimble weaving around traffic and slower off the line. Stepping up to an inline six 440i or M4 convertible would solve the latter problem, but not the former.

Trunk Space - When the top is down, the convertible mechanism seriously compromises the 430i's trunk space, more so than a fabric top. You can fit a couple of carry-on size bags beneath the trunk divider, but not much else.

Interior Legroom - It's not quite as cramped as my friend's old F-body Camaro convertible, but the backseat of the 430i isn't particularly comfortable, either. Head and shoulder room is fine, but there's a couple less inches of legroom in the back (and the 4-series didn't have a lot to begin with). Again, blame the space needed for the droptop machinery.

Price - According to the sticker, my 430i convertible's starting price was $50,500, thousands of dollars more than an equivalent 4-series coupe. And while the base model isn't exactly a stripper (18" wheels and LED headlights are standard), you get nickel und dimed in typical BMW fashion for everything else. Leather seats are $1,500, navigation and park distance are $2,000, and Apple CarPlay is an insulting $300 extra.

So why would anyone buy this thing?

The convertible roof is flat-out excellent. When it's up, it keeps out noise and the elements much better than a ragtop - I drove in torrential rain and the interior remained serene. When an opportunity for open-air cruising presents itself, the roof opens and closes in about 20 seconds:

I suppose it all comes down to whether being able to drop the top is worth the many shortcomings listed above. I think the answer is "no" for me, but when you're talking about driving along on a sunny day in Palm Beach, it can be hard to tell...

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Guns: Synchronicity

For whatever reason, my left thumb started getting arthritic and sore a few days ago (it's better now, but I'm getting it checked out tomorrow just to be sure).

For whatever reason, I started seeing video posts about one-handed shooting at around the same time:

I think I'll go to the range and practice some revolver reloads.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Books: Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Adapted and Illustrated by Gary Gianni)

I'll have a big post about this year's Dragon Con up eventually, but for now, let's reminisce about a DC memory... 

Most of Dragon Con's pleasures are ephemeral (sweaty cosplay, sci-fi and fantasy panels, playing obscure boardgames), but there are still plenty of places to buy mementos and souvenirs of the con experience. One of my favorites is the Comic & Pop Artist Alley, where hundreds of genre artists hawk their wares.

That's where I met Gary Gianni, who is perhaps best known for illustrating "Prince Valiant." We shared a love of Jules Verne's immortal "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," as Mr. Gianni was selling his lavishly illustrated graphic novel version (a big hardcover with 64 oversize pages). Needless to say, I snapped up a copy, which he kindly personalized and signed for me.

The story is pretty compressed due to the format, but all the major beats are there, including awesome full page spreads of Atlantis, giant squids, and the final escape from the Nautilus. There's also a bonus story, "The Sea Raiders" by H.G. Wells, that includes similar nautical illustrations from Mr. Gianni. The book would be neat on its own, but it's an absolute keepsake thanks to how I got it.