Friday, October 26, 2012

Finding the Answers

So far in this blog we've covered my philosophies, preparing a garden, and hunting big game with a muzzleloader.  A lot of people ask me the same questions.  How do you know so much?  The real answer that I have to give them is, I don't.  I don't really know much about a lot of things.  But I love to learn.  I think this love of learning is what really has set the renaissance men apart from their neighbors. 

Leonardo Da Vinci is known as the renaissance man.  He had a love of learning.  Don't believe me, read more about him.  He dissected human corpses to learn anatomy.  He was a famous painter and sculptor.  He first postulated the theory of plate tectonics.  He was an inventor.  He drew so many prototypes of things that we hardly know half of what he invented.  And he did all of this at a time when books were rare, there was no internet, and no television.  Do you know why he did all of this, yes he was probably very intelligent, but he had a love of learning. 

In this day and age, human knowledge is growing at an exponential rate.  At no time in the history of the world has it been easier to acquire new skills.  People can learn anything they want in this day and age, and it's only getting easier. 

For instance, take a recent project of mine.  I needed to change the serpentine belt in my car.  A serpentine belt may be the most fragile and yet important part of what makes your car run.  Without it, you can't drive your car.  It runs the power steering pump, the alternator, and several other peripheral devices that make your car work.  To get this belt replaced, it would cost you somewhere between about $100 and $150 at a mechanic's shop.  Why should I pay 10 to 15 times what the belt costs.  This just doesn't make logical sense to me.  So what's a 21st century renaissance man to do?

The first step: fire up your favorite web browser, steer to your favorite search engine, and begin to research. Type in your car model, and type in replace serpentine belt.  When I do this for my car, the first thing I realize is that the belt costs a lot more than $10.  That's okay though, that still just increases what the mechanic is going to charge me.  The first two results are also videos hosted on a popular video sharing website.  All I have to do is watch a couple of these, check out a few of the articles below it, and verify that a majority of them have the same steps. 

That's the only problem with using the internet as an authority.  Anybody can post anything on the internet.  You have to use a little common sense and attempt to verify the information first.  This usually isn't too hard.  If you look at three sources, and two sources corroborate each other.  You're probably good.  Sometimes it's a little harder to find what you're looking for.

The next step: An internet search engine will only get you so far.  You have to know what question to ask.  I will often rearrange words when I'm looking for information.  This will change you're search results enough, that you can get new information.  But sometimes this is not good enough.

Third step:  Find a good book.  Used to be back in the day, you had to drive to the library, search the card catalog for the information you wanted, go look on the shelves and hope the library had the book you wanted.  This is still a good method, but there is an even better method.  Go to your local library's website, and search from there.  At least this way, you haven't had to waste valuable time to drive to and from the library and still not get the book you want.

Sometimes, though you want a book, and you'd rather have a copy you can keep with forever.  Things are even easier.  I bet almost everyone reading this blog has a smartphone, and I know you are at a computer right now.  Fire up your favorite online bookseller (I know I'm not promoting any products today, but I'm trying to be unbiased).  Type what you're looking for, and voila you'll have several to several hundred books just waiting to be bought.  Another thing I like about buying books online, is that you get to read reviews.  All ways read the reviews.  Take them with a grain of salt, but if they all come back as one star, I would stay away from that book.  And if you find a book you like, give it a good review, so that others will know it's worth their hard earned money to spend on it. 

Now you can have the book shipped to you, or if you have a smartphone, tablet or computer.  You can just download the book instantly.  I can't sing the praises of ebooks enough.  I read a lot.  I always have.  I've read around 6500 pages since about March.  (I didn't start keeping track until then).  Some have been books, a lot has been magazines.  This is not counting any webpages or news articles I've read.  If you count those, I've probably read double that this year.  In my day job, I'm a computer programmer, and I love to be able to carry around a half-dozen reference books in the palm of my hand.  It's made life a lot easier.  If you read a lot, I would highly recommend any number of cheap ebook readers, or more expensive tablets.  Depends on what you're reading and what you need. 

Fourth step:  Find some online forums.  I belong to half a dozen different online forums.  Some I don't read unless I have a specific question, some I check everyday.  There are forums out there for just about anything you can think of.  Ford Forums, Hunting Forums, Toyota forums, self-reliant forums.  SHTF forums.  If you have a specific question, find a forum, join up.  Learn the rules of the road for that particular forum, and ask you're questions.  One of the programming forums I belong to, will re-write any program for you, but you have to take the initiative to show that you are trying hard to solve the problem first.  If you just come looking for pre-written answers, they won't give you the time of the day. The most important thing about online forums is to respect the protocols the other members have in place.  Forums are a community, and if you want to have any respect and get real help, you have to respect the other members. 

Final step: Make friends.  As I stated above, I don't really know much, but I have a lot of friends with a varied skill set.  They have a lot of friends with an even more varied skill set.  I've got friends that are programming geeks, I've got friends that are IT geeks (there is a difference), I've got friends that love to hunt, and I've got friends that love to work on cars.  I like to do a little bit of it all, but I couldn't do any of it without good friends to help pave the way.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

How-To: Muzzleloading

/shameless plug
It's been a while since I've had a chance to write, and for that I am sorry.  I've been working on starting my own small business  Orion's Consulting.  Software solutions for small business.  We have two clients right now, and we are looking at taking on more.  Check out our website, and call us today for a quote.  Now on to real content
/shameless plug

Today is October the 19th, and at least in my area, tomorrow is the muzzleloading opener.  I would like to take a minute to discuss hunting and the 21st century renaissance man.  In this day and age, hunting for your own meat can be much more expensive than buying it at the grocery store.  It can also be cheaper, if you discount your time, and if you really love doing something, it's pretty easy to discount your time.

In my opinion, there is nothing more relaxing than spending a day in the woods trying to outsmart the whitetail deer.  You would be hard pressed to find a more organic free range food.  Hunting truly is the world's oldest profession.  Man has hunted since the beginning of time, and will probably hunt until the end of time.

Today I wanted to talk about getting started hunting with a muzzleloader.  First things first, muzzleloaders are often called black powder rifles.  A muzzleloader is a type of rifle that you load through the front of the barrel (called the muzzle).  There are two main categories of muzzleloaders, in-line and flintlock.  In-line muzzleloaders are what you will most often find for sale at Wal-Mart, Gander Mountain, or Academy Sports.  Flintlocks are akin to what was used during the American Revolutionary war.  The modern in-lines are much better guns, they fire better under damp conditions, they are more accurate, and they are much easier to clean and use.  I don't have any experience with flintlocks so I will have to discuss them at a later date when I can afford the time and money to experiment with them.

Using a muzzleloader consists of items, a primer (the part that makes the gun fire), powder (the part that makes the bullet fly), and a bullet (the part that actually leaves the muzzle of the gun).  Read on to find out more about these items.  

When you buy an in-line muzzleloader, you have to decide whether you want percussion caps, or 409 primers.  I can't really tell the difference between the two, but I find 409 primers are a little easier to use.  The important thing to do is remember which kind you need.

 The other thing you will have to decide is whether you want to use powder or pellets.  Powder is exactly like it sounds, it is loose particles of loose gun powder.  To use this in your muzzleloader, you would just pour an appropriate amount down the barrel, and seat a bullet on top. I'm not a fan of this type of powder, it's messy, and you really need a good powder measure to make sure you have the same amount of grains everytime.  Gunpowder is measured in grains.  Most people typically you between 90 and 150 grains of gunpowder.  I find 100 grains to be about perfect for my muzzleloader.

You can also buy powder in pellets.  Pellets are made out of powder that comes in a rounded pellet form (makes sense right).  They are typically found in 50 grains pellets.  For the novice muzzleloader, this makes the most sense to use.  These are what I use.  They make the most sense to me.  Just grab two pellets and shove them down the barrel of your gun.   Simple quick and easy.
Powder Pellet

The last thing you need is a bullet.  I recommend buying a kit that has bullets and sabots together.  A sabot is just a piece of plastic that a bullet goes into, this helps to keep the bullet seated properly in the barrel.  It also helps with accuracy.  It ensures that when the powder ignites, all of the gases are trapped against the bottom of the bullet and will push it evenly through the barrel.  Bullets come in .45 or .50 caliber.  Again, most modern in-line muzzleloaders you find a big name store today will be in .50 caliber.  This is a great bullet that can be accurate out to about 150 yards for almost any big game in North America. 

Bullets, Sabot, and Saboted Bullet

Now that we have everything we need for hunting with a muzzleloader, you need to load it.  To do so it pretty easy.  Put your powder done the muzzle, place your bullet next, use your ramrod, to shove the bullet all the way down the barrel.  Last step is to place your primer in the breech.  Once you have the primer in the breech, you will be holding a loaded weapon.  A very deadly, dangerous weapon.  All the rules of firearm safety apply to using a muzzleloader, only they are even more important.  Most muzzleloaders don't have very good safeties, and they are more prone to misfire.  Always make sure you are completely safe.  Every year you hear of close calls, and even deaths due to people mishandling their weapons. 


10 Commandments of Firearm Safety
1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
2. Always be aware of where the gun’s muzzle is pointed.
3. Unload guns when not in use.
4. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions.
5. Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.
6. Never point a gun at anything you do not want to shoot.
7. Never climb a tree or fence or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.
9. Store guns and ammunition separately.
10. Avoid alcoholic beverages before and during shooting.
Once you have bought you're muzzleloader,  you need to head to the local shooting range and shoot.  You can get good accuracy with a muzzleloader, but since every component is purchased separately, you may need to experiment to get the best combination of powder, bullets, and even primers.  Once you have a good load you like, right down the combination and keep it stored wheere you won't forget it.  Nothing worse than missing a shot at a deer, because you couldn't remember what brand of sabots you bought last year.

As usual if you have any questions, feel free to contact me, and I will do my best to find the answer.