Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Exploding targets, without explosive!

Let's face it, explosions are fun. From firecrackers to fireworks to firearms to demolition, releasing a lot of energy in a short period of time is very exciting. The sound of the explosion, the flash, the blast, the smoke and flying debris are awe-inspiring and adrenaline-inducing. Lighting a fuse, pulling a trigger or pressing the red button gives one direct control over all that power.

An explosion initiated by launching a projectile at an explosive target ads extra dimensions the fun of the "bang". It makes it more challenging (you have to actually hit the target), but also safer at the same time (no fiddling with wires, switches, ropes, blast caps, fuses, primers, etc.).

Explosives are no joke, but although some are quite safe and can be acquired and used legally (look up "Tannerite"), they are not affordable enough for my taste. Fortunately, there is an even safer and much cheaper way to generate a very loud explosion without using anything even remotely related to explosive or firearms. Enter the humble and ubiquitous plastic bottle.


Plastic bottles that held carbonated drinks are the best because they are designed to withstand high pressure. The size and shape of the bottle doesn't matter, but bigger ones make bigger explosions. The procedure to turn an ordinary bottle into an explosive one is very simple and easy. Just drill or punch a 1/2" hole in the bottle cap, install a tire valve in it and pump it up to about 100psi (my pressure gauges all end at that pressure, so I just pump a bit above it).

Once pumped up, the bottle is as hard as a rock and explodes very loudly when hit. The loudness of the explosion is comparable to a shot from a high powered rifle or a shotgun. You don't even have to use a firearm to trigger the explosion - a BB gun, arrow, slingshot or even a blow gun will do.

The explosion, although very loud indeed, is non-destructive and practically harmless. I've had a bottle explode right in front of me when I over-pressurized it and it didn't do anything but create a loud bang. I wear glasses when working with them though. The plastic pieces of the exploded bottle are not heavy, don't fly far at all and won't break the skin even at short distance, but I don't want any in my eyes. My experience is that these targets are perfectly safe if further than few feet away.

Other recommendations:

- Tie the caps/valve stems to something. They are almost infinitely reusable.

- Type, material and length of the valve stem are not important. I've used short and long rubber valve stems, straight and angled screw-on metal ones, and anything in between. Any valve stem for any type of tubeless tire will do fine, providing you drill the appropriate size hole in the bottle cap.

- There are commercial versions of these bottle caps out there. They are no better quality than DIY ones, don't last any longer and are much more expensive.

- Some people create more/less elaborate stands for these targets to avoid loosing the caps and make them stay upright. I found that hanging them or tying them to something is much simpler, cheaper and easier.

- No glue is necessary, period. If the cap is not holding pressure, use a different (thicker) cap or drill a smaller hole. 1/2" hole works very well for me - it takes a little effort to pull the valve stem through it, but it's a tight fit and doesn't leak.

These are the same bottles, the left one is just pumped to 100psi :)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Stumbling through the Internet is dead :(

O how I envy people that have never used StumbleUpon, the same people I felt sorry for for over a decade. They are not going to miss discovering a seemingly endless stream of new content on the Internet that fits their interests, finding gems they will otherwise never stumble upon themselves. They will continue to be fed by links from sites they frequent, "top ten" lists compiled by someone else and whatever lands in their Twitter/Facebook feed. For over a decade I've been stumbling upon tens of thousands of interesting articles, videos and other content that I wouldn't otherwise find even if I knew I wanted it. Now that this service is shutting down, the way I spend time in cyberspace will abruptly and drastically change. It's a fact of life that things change and sometimes good things die for no good reason, but this is the first time I will truly miss an Internet service. What bothers me the most is that SU is not surpassed by competition or rendered obsolete by an advancement in technology. As far as I know, it was one of a kind. It's hard to explain to those that never used StumbleUpon, but let's say I'll have to drastically re-think the way I surf the Internet.

As eloquently said in this article that I (oh the irony!) just stumbled upon by clicking on the SU button like many times before:

Its death isn’t just saying goodbye to what feels like a bygone era of internet exploration, but bidding a final farewell to a time when curation didn’t dominate our online day-to-day.

Friday, May 25, 2018

James Bay Road, take 3

It's time for another mini adventure. I'll be revisiting the awesome remoteness that is the James Bay Road, this time with some wilderness camping to spice things up. It's one of those experiences that you have to live to appreciate. 386Km between two gas stations. 620Km from town to town (if you can consider 280 residents a town). Enormous hydroelectric dam and generation station. Caribou steaks. This is the land of the giants - everything but trees is mindbogglingly enormous.

I've done it twice before. The first time almost ten years ago on the Bandit while leading a group of five riders. Second time was in a car with my wife Duda. This time I'm taking the scooter and joining three other riders from MC Tesla. Stay tuned for pictures and report, but in the mean time check the albums from previous trips.

2008: https://photos.app.goo.gl/aAiJqf6xMysa8r1P2

2012: https://goo.gl/photos/Nr1eGgfyuKoBTXtLA

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Justice, as per Oswaldo Mobray

Just watching "The hateful eight". All-star cast, brilliant acting, stunning visuals and atmosphere, chalk full of memorable lines. Like this one by the hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth)

The man who pulls the lever that breaks your neck will be a dispassionate man. And that dispassion is the very essence of justice. For justice delivered without dispassion is always in danger of not being justice.

Quentin Tarantino and I were born on the same day, BTW :)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Packing heat" in US

It took some time to research and a few bucks, but I can now bring all my firearms to US and carry a concealed firearm in 26 states. When I tell them that, people usually ask two questions:


Because I want to enjoy some of that "right to keep and bear arms" that our southern neighbors have enshrined in their constitution. Not to roam the streets of Philadelphia with a .45 tucked in my waistband, but to avoid any legal concerns when doing some target practice in the forests of Pennsylvania Wilds. Experience tells me that potential encounters with law enforcement are much more pleasant when officers are presented with a few licenses and legal paperwork. Even when it's not what the local law requires, it clearly shows that I'm a law abiding citizen, licensed to own firearms in two countries. 
I know what I can and cannot do in Canada because the Firearms Act (nonsensical and convoluted as it may be) applies coast to coast and my license is valid everywhere. In US however, every state has its own laws and licensing requirements. They differ in almost every detail, from who needs a license for what firearm and type of use, to how you are allowed to transport, to where and how you are allowed to shoot. Second Amendment notwithstanding, you can face criminal charges just for crossing a state line with a firearm that was perfectly legal where you came from.
First, I cannot legally purchase firearms in US and am not planning to rent them, so I had to figure out how to bring in my own. After a bit of research, it turned out to be easier than I thought. Almost everything regarding firearms is easier than most people think, but you have to invest some time and effort to investigate the options because they are often not obvious or spelled out in one place. All you need is to submit the ATF Form 6NIA (Application/Permit for Temporary Importation of Firearms and Ammunition by Non-immigrant Aliens). Once the ATF sends you the approved form (I received mine within a few days via e-mail) you are ready to enter US with your firearms and ammunition. Canadian law allows transport of all your firearms to and from the point of entry, so no problem there (Canada will even let you import whatever you are legally allowed to own, but US won't let you export any firearms).

An important side note: Believe it or not, some firearms that are perfectly legal and non-restricted in Canada are regulated by the NFA and require special permits in the US that a Canadian citizen cannot acquire. Short barreled shotguns and firearms made by Chinese company Norinco are some of them. For example, make sure you don't show up at the border with any of these.
Second, familiarize myself with local laws. For now, I only intend to target practice in Pennsylvania and their laws are fairly liberal, even by US standards. However, to get there I have to pass through one of the most restrictive US states (New York) and I may have to get an OK from NY State Police at the border. Fortunately, the US Firearm Owners’ Protection Act shields those who are transporting firearms for lawful purposes from local restrictions which would otherwise prohibit passage. In short, i'll be fine if  I transport firearms through NY in the same manner that's legal in Canada, so no need to re-configure my luggage at the border in either direction. 

Having a Pennsylvania Shooting Range Permit ($30/yr) will also help. I am examining options to get the PA Gun Permit, but that will likely require a visit to the sheriff's office in one of the non-resident friendly counties.

I recently applied for and received the New Hampshire Concealed Carry Permit. This permit is honored in 25 other states.

A clarification on concealed carry: I have no intention to wear firearms like a piece of clothing. Permit(s) just lessen my worry about variations in local laws. For example, even in places where open carry is legal (read: almost everywhere) having a firearm in your car is often considered concealed carry and can get you in serious trouble. Also, it doesn't hurt having a CCW permit when carry your gun in a holster while plinking in the countryside.

You'll notice a reoccurring theme of overkill when ensuring compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and safety procedures. I'll go out of my way and take many steps that are not strictly required to prove I'm serious about safety and follow the law beyond the proverbial "T". An extra permit or a padlock can only reduce the risk, for me and everyone in range :).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Home "improvement" idiot.

From the "pet peeve" department: Stupid and lazy people that paint over door hinges, latches, handles, switch covers and other hardware. They should be banned from handling any painting supplies or tools.

At some point the previous owner (there was only one) decided to improve the look of this basement door by painting it with chalky matte white paint using a rough paintbrush. She painted over any exposed part of the door, including hinges and the doorknob, but excluding any surface that is not visible when the door is closed. She basically just went over the entire front of the door, letting the paint fall, drip and seep where it may. You can see the lack of any attention or workmanship from afar, but it really "shines" when you open the door and see the  edges of the door and the door frame with paint that dripped over them.

Why would you do such a crappy and half-assed job if your goal was to improve the look (there couldn't have been any other reason because the door functions just fine more than 40 years after it was installed and it suffered no damage)? I'll never understand people like that.