Friday, December 28, 2012

Product Review for CMMG 22LR Conversion Kit for AR-15

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If you do any sort of hunting, recreational shooting, or prepping, you know the cost of ammunition has gone through the roof....exponentially. It was just a few years ago that I was cursing how .45 ACP was $13 for 50 rounds. Now, the same box costs over $26....if you can even find it.

It's awfully hard to practice your shooting if it is too costly. Even .223/5.56mm has gone through the roof. In many places, you can't even find ammo. I suspect that prices will never come down, even if the availability comes back.

Luckily, about a year ago, I was introduced to a viable option. CMMG makes this drop in conversion for your AR-15 to shoot 22LR. Now, in case you have lived under a rock, a 500 round brick of .22 is about $ opposed to a box of 20 .223 rounds for the same price. It's also easier and safer to shoot the .22LR.

So, when I bought my AR, one of the first things I wanted to get was this conversion. It takes literally 15 seconds to drop in. You can find the CMMG kit, which my dad bought me for Christmas, here. It costs around $220.
Obviously, I am happy with the potential cost savings. It's also safer and easier to shoot than .223/5.56mm.

It is very user friendly, taking about 15 seconds to pop your bolt and carrier out and replace it with this one.

The downsides are, the magazine is very loose.
I have had a lot of misfires with the current box of ammo. I believe this is because the rounds aren't very tight in the chamber. When I really squeeze the trigger, it sometimes misfires. When I jerk the trigger, it fires.

But, again, it doesn't happen very often.

It is now affordable and fun to go out shooting again!

Mystery Tacklebox Review: December 2012 Edition

Yall may recall that I discovered (well, my wife did) Mystery Tacklebox. I reviewed them last month and you can find the review here.

In case you missed it, for a small monthly payment, they will assemble and ship a small box of lures to you. Some from big companies like Strike King and Stanley and some from small up-and-coming companies.

Well, I saw a great opportunity here to do a few things:
  1. Promote a really cool and unique service that Mystery Tackle Box provides
  2. Review and use baits I wouldn't normally use or find
  3. Promote bait companies (big and small)
This would be great for those of you that read the blog, the companies needing free promotion, but best for me. Why? Because these boxes come with baits and tackle that I may never use otherwise. So, I talked with MTB(I'm a NASA engineer and MUST use acronyms), and we all thought this was a great thing to do. Again, we got their name out there, the bait companies names out, but it will force me to use these different baits....and inevitably make me a better least a more rounded one!

Ok. On with it.

Now, I admit that this months is a little late. Why? Because my wife INSISTED that it be a Christmas it sat under the tree until Christmas. Now I can review it!

This month had a theme to it...and I LOVE that! You aren't getting random stuff you can't immediately use. Apparently MTB read this months Bassmasters and the articles done on dropshotting.

  1. Quickdrops Sinkers-2 drop shot hooks and a quarter ounce dropshot weight came in the package. Even had the placard with a link to show rigging instructions! Again, I love doing these reviews because dropshotting is something I MUST add to my arsenal. The sinker has a decent finish and the terminal is unique.
  2. Z-MAN FattyZ-I had heard of Z-Man baits, but really never saw them in the big chain stores that I use. The FattyZ will make a great finesse bait for me. It has a think to thick tail area and is a very soft bait. It is comparable to the stick baits I use like the Yum dinger, but feels a little softer. The overall action is unique...which is important in high pressure areas. The fatter tail gives it a flitter in the water when you give it action. I plan on using this on Shakey Heads and Dropshot rigs.
  3. Whiskey River 6'' Whiptail-A bait company I had never heard of, but immediately put it on my new Quickdrops dropshot rig. The whiptail is a leech-looking bait. It has great action with little rod input. It appears to be a fairly tough bait that should put up with some abuse. Has a flat belly, which will control its fall if you throw it weightless. It's heavier on the head end, obviously, which gives the tail section a lot of freedom to float.
  4. Power Team Lures Finicky Tickler-A slim finesse bait that will work great on the dropshot or shakey head. Comes with "Hog Tonic" which is there flavor enhancer....a very cool addition. The bait is very light and really comes to life in the water.
  5. Castaic Baby Jerky J-This is a soft jerkbait and a great addition to my arsenal, which had been very small on this type. All that you ever find in the big chain stores is the Fluke. The fluke is a great bait, don't get me wrong, but the fish see a lot of it. This bait has a lot of detail that the fluke lacks. The mold is obviously complex and realistic. The bait flits in the water with just a twitch, though it is easy to over motion. I will use it on the drop shot, believe it or not, as well as weightless.
  6. River2Sea Fetch Minnow-Again, another weapon I need to add is jerkbaiting. I have used it a little with mixed success. This little guy is a great length, which I sometimes think the ones I have are either too small or too large. This bait is affordable, fitting right in the middle of the expensive Pointer series from LuckyCraft and the other cheaper competitors. It dives really deep, which I really like. Many of the competitors are limited to the 5 foot depth, which I believe really limits you in winter fishing on deep lakes.
So, there you have it. A cold weather month and a cold weather MTB theme. I've already played with many of the baits and I look to get out this weekend to catch some fish on them. Check back soon!

5 Sci-Fi Books to Read in 2013

About a year ago, someone sent me a link to NPRs "Top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books of all Time". The list can be found here. I was able to check off about half the books on the list, but I find myself going to book stores and randomly picking up books and reading them. I don't select reading material based upon reviews and I admit that I have read quite a few busts. I thought that I would give you a list of a few books that I read this past year that you should also read.

Also, you can check out this super nerdy flow chart.

Now, understand that this list was compiled by votes and a popular vote at that. Now, I am not a big fantasy fan, so I won't be suggesting any of these. I thought I would give you a list of Sci-Fi books I have read this year that I would suggest. I am NOT saying they are the best. I am saying that they really held my attention and made me think. I also considered them unique. But, since I read about a book a week, these were some that really stuck out to me that I would suggest to you.

Here are my list of 5 Sci-Fi books you must read for 2013, in no particular order with a 1 or 2 sentence reason, since I know we are all pressed for time and none of you read everything I write anyway. I'm not going to give you a synopses because I have read it and I don't want to spoil it. I want you to look it up.
  1. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy-Many have called it the most pertinent and important ecological work of all time, and I fully agree. It is simply the most realistic and moving post-apocalyptic novel I have read to date that shines light on what the world would be like and not as we would have it. You can find it on Amazon here.
  2. Helix, by Eric Brown-  Simply a fun to read Sci-Fi novel that is vastly different than everything I have ever read. I believe it should have been spread into a few different books with more development, but I have to admit that I never put the book down. Find it on Amazon here.
  3. Titan, by John Varley-Actually the first of a trilogy written in the late 80s and a good mix of fantasy too. I read this book in 2 days and I never saw where it would take me. Find it on Amazon here.
  4. Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear-Vividly and painstaking written to give you every sense of what the protagonist feels and sees, which is a rarity. You can find it on Amazon here
  5. Aftermath, by Ben Bova-Actually the last of a 4 book series, but I picked this book up and never noticed it. You can find it on Amazon here.
An honorable mention:
The Outlanders Series by James Axler. There are a ton of books in this series. While they are not too deep in plot (you can easily read them out of series), they are decently written and HIGHLY entertaining, especially as a post-apocalyptic earth lover!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review for Discount Battery Outlet

If you are like me, what's the one thing that you dread....most of all...when it comes to motorsports? Batteries. Specifically, dead batteries. It always seems to be the one thing that you didn't check, or didn't see coming until it was too late.

How many times have you pulled the boat out of the shop for that first spring fishing trip, get it off the trailer, and find out that the batteries didn't take a charge?

How many times have your pulled out your lawnmower for that first spring cut, only to find out that the battery is shot?

Well, both have happened to me this year. It's super frustrating and usually a game-breaker.

Like most of you, I am always on a tight budget and buying a new battery isn't something that I budget for, yet always ends of being a last minute need. Seriously, I don't have $100 to drop on a deep cell battery....ever....much less after I have fueled up the boat and the truck, and taken the day off.

Luckily, there is an alternative.

Turns out, a guy I went to high school with works for a company called Discount Battery Outlet. Discount Battery Outlet sells new, blemished, and used batteries for all your battery needs. Shane had seen me complaining about the batteries in my boat. They were still working and charging, but at a limited capacity, and I just can't afford to buy new ones. He quickly sent me a text telling me how he could save me money. He did the same thing when I needed a new car battery for my old 4th hand, thrice wrecked, Chevy Lumina, and even when I needed a lawnmower battery for my dads lawnmower.

The service has been great, but the prices have been the best part.

$39 with a $10 core charge for deep cell batteries
$15 lawnmower batteries
$29-$39 car batteries

All with a 6 month warranty!

So, you can rest assured you are getting perfectly good blemished or used batteries. They are all checked to make sure they are good quality before they send them your way.

Shane covers Nashville and all of North Alabama.
Give them a try and call Shane at:

You can find their location at:
 2409 Jordan Lane, Huntsville Al 35816

Friday, December 14, 2012

Product / Equipment Review for Taurus Millennium Pro PT145

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***Updated 9/25/13***
Up until recently, I had been conceal carrying a Springfield 1911. But, as you are probably aware, that's a big gun for a small guy to carry. So, I started looking into a compact .45. My reasons for wanting to stay with the .45, despite what I have said about Commonality, were that:

1)I had a LOT of .45 ammo bought
2)Can't beat the knockdown power at short range
3)It's a shooters caliber. It doesn't beat you to death and it isn't too loud

I was looking at high-cap guns, but couldn't afford what I REALLY wanted in either the Glock 30 or the Springfield XD45, both of which reach into the low $500s.

Having bought the Taurus TCP .380 and being fairly satisfied (see my review here), I started looking into the Millennium Pro .45. Price point was right....finding it on sale local for $355.

You can find info on the gun here.

I went and picked on up. Came with two mags. It, like the TCP is a fairly small gun. Easy to conceal, even for me. It is fairly lightweight, though not as light as I would like. It's a little top heavy.  I, personally, don't like the designer etchings and I plan on having them removed. But, the metal slide means you can have it coated, that's a plus. Shooting it is interesting. It's not very accurate over 10 yards. It's very loud and has a long trigger pull. ***Update***But, I did some research and found out a few little tricks to make it better. Here is the post about Light Handgun Repair. It made all the difference and now it is a solid gun.


  • Easy to conceal
  • Price point
  • Ruggedness
  • Ergonomics
  • Great warranty
  • Long trigger pull
  • Required a little work to become accurate and dendable
  • Loud
  • Top heavy (metal slide on polymer grip)
Great carry gun for those on a budget, however. In a tight spot, it will do the trick! You can currently buy this gun for $299 at select dealers. 

Product / Equipment Review for Taurus TCP .380

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***Updated 9/25/13***

For years, I wanted to buy my wife something to carry. In this day and age, you should have a gun within reach at all times, no exception.

I shopped and shopped for something that would be small enough to stick in a purse or a pocket and not be a hindrance, but also provide enough knockdown power. There were a lot of good options out there, but price was also an issue for me. I really wanted a Ruger LCP, and despite being an affordable gun, it was still out of my reach.

One day, I received a flyer from Gander Mountain saying they were selling these things for $199.99. I hadn't even considered Taurus because, frankly, I had heard that they were a cheaply made gun. But, after asking around, people had given me great reviews on them, based upon some changes they had made.

You can find info on Taurus' Site here:
Model: 738B
Finish: Blue Steel
Status: Available
Caliber: .380 ACP
Grips: Checkered Polymer
UPC: 7-25327-60696-3
Capacity: 6 +1
Weight: 10.2
Barrel Length: 2.84"
Frame: Compact
Action: DAO
Front Sight: Fixed
Length: 5-1/4"
Trigger Type: Smooth
Order #: 1-738031
MSRP: $336.00

I went down and picked one up. I couldn't say no to a $200 pocket pistol.
  • It features a 10.2 ounce weight and a 6+1 double stack.
  • It fits in your front pocket. Literally. I have carried it tons of places, from weddings to family functions
  • Price point
  • Good fit and finish
  • Long trigger pull
  • This can throw accuracy off
  • Loud...REAL loud
 ***Update*** I wasn't happy with the action or the accuracey, so I did some research and found out a few little tricks to make it better. Here is the post about Light Handgun Repair. It made all the difference and now it is a solid

Product / Equipment Review for Phoenix Technology Mossberg 500 and Maverick 88 Rear Pistol Grip

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A few months ago, I picked up a Maverick 88 12-gauge for home defense. While I had several shotguns, most of them are nice pieces that I don't really want dedicated to such duty.

The Maverick came with a fixed stock, which I didn't really like. I wanted to chop down the profile of the gun and make it easier to both store and wield (as needed).

I didn't really want to buy the overpriced units found at most chain stores. I didn't want the hassle of dealing with the local gun dealer. Amazon makes it very easy to do such shopping. Plus, I have a Prime account.

So, I got on Amazon and looked around. I found the Phoenix Technology Mossberg 500 and Maverick 88 Rear Pistol Grip for sale for a decent price of under $16. It comes in 3 colors.  So, I purchased it.

A few days later, it came in the mail. It took less than 5 minutes to install on the gun.

  • Ease of install
  • Plastic quality
  • Usefulness
  • Fit and finish on the gun isn't the best. The sides of the grip are wider than the gun itself
But, for the price...hard to beat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Service Review for Alabama Wholesale Tire Pros

There is nothing better than having a good relationship with your service provider, especially for your automotive needs. Many times trust and cost seem mutually exclusive. Heck, finding either-or seems to be impossible in this day and age. Automotive service is no different, maybe even the worst.

Let me start out by saying that I am a "car guy". I have done almost anything and everything to my own cars. I paid my mortgage in college by fixing and flipping cars. But, as the kids added up, spare time was at a premium. I'd much rather spend time fishing, hunting, or doing family things than being a grease monkey.

Now, any of you fishermen have had THAT day. You know...the day that was ruined because the tires blew. The trail or bearings gave out. Your truck brakes are going dead from hauling your boat up the mountain and down to Scottsboro. Truck and trailer care is something often neglected until it's too late.

Fear not. You have a guy in Scottsboro willing to do you a solid.

Kenny Jordan is the owner of Alabama Wholesale Tire Pros. He is, by far, THE MAN.

You can call them at (256) 259-3014
They are located at
2311 South Broad Street
Scottsboro, Alabama 35769
Phone(256) 259-3014

You can find directions here:
You can find their website here:
You can find them on Facebook here:

Remember...I don't get paid. I don't even get a discount. I am here to help you help yourself. I have bought at LEAST 3 sets of tires from Kenny with install, mount and balance. I have had him do MULTIPLE alignments. He has done the brakes on several of my cars.

Let me give you a case in point.

After a night tournament out of Ditto Landing on Wheeler, I was happy to bring home a check. Not paying attention, I curbed one of the trailer tires. I bent a rim and blew out the tire. I called him and told him I was in need. I sent him a picture of the wheel and tire. He delivered me a new wheel and tire for a great price. I even had some of the check left!

I can't speak highly enough of Alabama Wholesale Tire Pros. I take them my business despite being 70 miles away. Having him close to Lake Guntersville for emergency service is just AWESOME.

So, if you are a fisherman in a bind at the lake...give him a call!

If you want the best prices on tires...give him a call! Tell him Zach sent you!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Equipment / Product Review for Spro Little John Series Crankbaits

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If you read my fishing reports, you know I am a big time crankbaiter. I keep between 2-3 crankbait rods on the deck of my boat at all times. I have high confidence in throwing crankbaits in almost any condition. Crank baits are a quick way to find the fish. They are also a great way to load the boat. But, over time, I have found that I have become very attached to very few manufactures. One of these manufacturers is Spro and their Little John series of crankbaits, found here. There is the 50 Series, 60 Series, MD, and DD Series cranks. I have used all of them at some point. Up top is the DD. The 50 is below. These are my two favorite baits. In particular, I love the Spooky Shad color, Spring Craw, and Chartreuse Blue.

The Little John came to my attention a few years ago on a cold and windy spring morning on Wheeler Lake. I was fishing with 2 of my buddies above Ditto Landing. It was prespawn and we were fishing rip-rap banks. We were all throwing square bill cranks of some sort, but one friend in particular was just wearing the fish out. Largemouth, Spot, Smallmouth, and White bass. We have all had that trip where the magic bait was doing all the work. But this was a little different. Being the engineer that I am, I refused to believe it was something mythical or magic. The baits were the same size. They were almost the exact same color. What was so special about the Little John?

Well, I had to sit down and watch. It wasn't magic. It was a combination of several things.
  1. The Little John 50/60 is constructed a little differently than other shallow cranks. It all starts with the bill. Their bill is a silicone wafer, same as a circuit board. It's tough. It doesn't deflect on the rocks. My friend was throwing it much deeper into the rocks than I did and absolutely SMASHING it into cover. Number 1, I didn't trust my other cranks to survive being tossed against rocks. I have broken many bills in my time. Number two, other cranks didn't bounce off of cover like this one did.
  2. Little John is a flat sided crank. It gives it a very unique wiggle as it works through the water. Even at very low speed, it still wiggles hard. It's tight wiggle makes it come through cover very well.
  3. The coated single tungston bearing is perhaps my favorite thing about this bait. It isn't too loud. It isn't too soft. And it OBVIOUSLY isn't a bunch of bare bearings rattling inside a fiberglass body. It's very subtle, yet audible and unique, which I am convinced is what helps it work when the fish are turned off by other cranks.
  4. The paint schemes are excellent. Some cheaper cranks have cheap painting. I am not TOO picky on this. But, the Spro baits have top notch work
  5. The painting is very tough. I am on the very same set of Spro cranks that I bought a few years ago. I have caught a TON of fish on each of them. I have smashed them into rocks and trees. I have caught 5-6 pounders on them. I have caught 2 at one time.
  6. The Gamakatsu hooks are top notch. I have had to replace them, sure. I have had some sets get dull after a hundred fish. I have had one set bent by a 5 pound smallie. But, they are out of the package good.
  7. The baits run true. Whether it is the 50/60 series that run 3-5 feet or the DD that runs to 18, I have VERY RARELY had to tune one. It is out of the package good.
I have lots of other great comments about them. The only thing to consider with these baits is the price. They aren't cheap. You will pay $11 for a 50/60 Series bait and up to $20 for a DD. That being said, if you spend the money on this bait, then spend the money on a Jewel Bait Hound, then retrieving them isn't a problem. Buy it once. Fish it forever.

Look folks, I don't get paid by anyone. I don't use these baits all the time, but it is tough to beat them for particular situations. Shallow cover in the spring? Check. Deep cover? Check. The results don't lie. One of the biggest bags I ever brought in was on Wilson Lake. I put 18 pounds in the boat in less than an hour without a fish bigger than 5 pounds. I caught around 10 fish over 4 pounds.  It included a 4.73 smallie.

My wife uses it and catches fish with ease!

For quality, these lures can't be beat. They come out of the package and catch fish. One of my favorite series of cranks!

ESPN College Bowl Mania

Come take on me and my friends in ESPN College Bowl Mania!

Takes just a few minutes to sign up and get your entry done.

All you are doing is picking the winner of every college bowl game, then adjusting your confidence in your pick. Do it!

Product / Equipment Review for Mystery Tackle Box

I came across this little gem of a Facebook page about a month ago. Mystery Tackle Box can be found here. You can find their Facebook page here.

Mystery Tackle Box is just that....each month, you get a little package with a selection of lures and accessories. Some you might use. Some you might not have. With it being kinda close to my birthday, I sent the promo code to my wife. At the time, their current promotion was for a $4.99 box. Their boxes are normally $15 and it's well worth it at that price. My wife took that promotion and I quickly received my first box.

Personally, the coolest thing about the gift was the packaging. Very unique and you can tell that Mystery Tackle Box puts a lot of thought into creating more than just a box of random baits. The packaging really gives you a real feel for "OH BOY! WHAT WILL I GET!"

Well, in this package I received:
Logic Lures Tandem Rig(pictured)
Strike King 1/2 ounce Red Eye Shad (pictured)
Stanley Compact Spinnerbait

And a couple of other things.....

This is the perfect gift for any bass fishermen. Why? Well, for several reasons. Here are a few:
  1. Most fishermen know what they want and buy accordingly, making it hard for you to buy for them. This is a way to avoid getting the wrong thing...or at least displacing the blame
  2. It helps promote versatility in the fisherman you love by providing baits they may not use
  3. It promotes different bait companies out there, especially small businesses. These different bait companies may be something you and your fisherman have never heard from
    1. Some of these baits are just a little different than what your fishermen may already it just a little changeup that may make all the difference
  4. It's more than just baits. New rigging techniques and gadgets that will enhance your fisherman's experience
  5. It's actually something useful that comes in the mail!
  6. It will make your fishermen excited to get the mail, at least once a month!
Now, I admit that I haven't used any of it....yet. Life has been busy. But I plan on doing a monthly installment as well as updating you on the current promo code, which currently is GIFTS10PCT to save 10%. They have many different plans....and surely one is right for you! Check them out!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fishing report for Wheeler/Recreational Companionship

With the weather being so warm despite being in December, it was hard to pass up an afternoon fishing trip on Alyse's half day.

Sure, it's deer season and our house is a wreck.

But how many times will you have the ability to fish in December. In the mid 60s. With a light mist? Never, I'd say.

So, despite being broke and having a filthy house, we put in at the Triana Ramp. You can find it here: Now, here is a funny laugher for you, since I am supposed to be this smart rocket scientist and all....

There are two ramps. I always use the first one. But, I am always finding the pot hole at the bottom of the ramp! I's HUGE. Even when I try and miss it, I still hit it. This thing is so big, it makes putting the boat back on the trailer almost impossible. But,'s no big I use it anyway....

Until one day, this old guy sitting on the dock finally walks up to me and says:
"Boy, can't you tell that ramp is broken?"
"Yeah, half the ramps is washed away. Why don't you use your brain and use the other ramp."

I had to admit. I hadn't thought of that. Some smart guy I am. Of course, I never claimed to be....

Anyway, after fighting with the big motor, I got it lit and idled out of the cove. Shut down the motor and we ate our hot Arby's sandwiches. Yum.

After we ate, I tried to start the big motor, but it wouldn't cooperate. It was flooded. With the cold weather and high humidity, the gas wasn't evaporating out of the carb bowls. So, I decided we would fish the point in front of Triana, especially since the water was so low. Everything around was out of the water, stumps, lay downs, rocks, everything. I guess we would be fishing off shore.

 I flipped on the Hummingbird, switched it to give me Sidescan along with the traditional look and MAN bait everywhere. Not just bait, but there were TONS of fish on the bait. However, they were suspending about 15 feet in 30 feet of water. So, I threw a spoon and I gave Alyse my crankin' stick with a Spro John DD in Chartreuse.

I really like the Little John DD for a multitude of reasons, which I will be going over in a post. That being said, these fish were in the 18-20 foot range and this bait will get there. The Color was perfect for this stained conditions of the water line.


Didn't take long to find out what we were messing with. We started yanking white bass out left and right. 

Catching white bass is a trip. It's particularly great for when you fish with your significant other or your children. Once you find them, you can catch them and catch them. Usually, on the end of a cast, if you DON'T catch can just let the bait sit and they will eventually nab it. HAHA!

Well, we did that for about an hour and until we were almost bored with it. The motor fired up and I ran down river. I wanted to fish some hard placements, like Cotaco creek and the pumphouse. We stopped at the pumphouse first, alas, everything here was also out of water. Worse, I couldn't find any suspended fish anywhere NEAR it. So, I cranked the big motor. And cranked. And cranked. No luck.

Oh well. It was just flooded. So, we decided to let the current push us down the river just a bit to a set of bluffs. Many of you who read this blog know about how I am trying to learn new methods. I have received a few crash courses on catching spots, on bluffs, with jigs. Determined to give that a shot, I tied a jig on and went to town, throwing a Gambler Blue Grass Jog with Gambler trailer

As luck would have it...I did at least find ONE fish! I wasn't too surprised. I was covering water quickly, I wasn't slowing down, and the water was low, making it hard to target anything particular. I could tell Alyse was getting bored, so I wanted to get us on to something. Motor still wouldn't start. Worse yet, the motor was draining the battery quickly. At her suggestion, I decided to at least start back towards the ramp. But, after about 30 minutes of fighting the current, it was obvious that we might be in trouble. That's when I got smart. See, what I had been doing wrong was flying down the river and killing the motor before letting it idle down. So, it was still pumping fuel in as fast as it could, filling up the carb bowls. In "normal" weather, the gas would evaporate. But, it was humid and cold. So, the gas was puddling up. Well, I knew I needed to drain the gas out...but how? then I thought about it. I unhooked the gas line and let it drain, then I tilted the motor all the way up. A few minutes later, she fired up. We ran up river to the NASA barge tie ups, which always hold fish. Alyse made me tie on her favorite crank bait, a Strike King Series 3 in sexy shad with some small modifications.
After a while, she boated a NICE fish!
With it being a school day, we had to get off the water early. Luckily, having learned my lesson on the motor, it fired right up.

We did stop and catch white bass some more, since I had my feelings hurt that she had caught such a nice fish!

I love spending time with my wife. I REALLY love fishing with her. She is getting good! Maybe TOO good.....

The good news is...Zach caught fish on...gasp...a spoon and a jig. Of all things!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Product Review for Mystery Ranch S.A.T.L Assault Pack

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Info of this pack can be found on Mystery Ranch's website here.

The text from their site says:

The S.A.T.L. is the standard issue assault pack across all of SOCOM and is the first pack to use our Bolster Ventilation and Stability system. This system was initially designed to increase the stability of the pack over body armor. In addition to the higher stability the system also promotes excellent airflow across the users’ back.

I bought this pack as a result of a recommendation given me by a long time friend and serviceman. He said that he and his unit use this exact pack. That was really all the recommendation that I needed to try it. The cost, per the website is $385-472. A quick look on Amazon showed that you can't buy this exact pack on there, but you can get other Mystery Ranch products for around $220, though these are the much smaller packs.

Initially, I was overwhelmed by the bag. It has loops, belts, pockets, EVERYWHERE. There are pockets in pockets!

There are so many great things about this pack, but I will point out my favorites:
  • Inside, there are plenty of snaps and clasps for you to secure specific items. That way, they are secured and will stay right where you want them. For example, I have my multi-utensil on one of the clasps, where as it would fall to the bottom on its own
  • The interior of the pack can be accessed either by the drawstring enclosure at the top of the bag, or by the small section zippers down the seams OR the zippers that runs the entire length
  • The Bolster Ventilation and Stability (BVS) system is incredible. It is a set of tubes that run down the sides of the pack, and a lumbar support.
That, by no means, is the extent of the features. Heck, the volume alone is incredible. 3650 cu-in (60l). Are you kidding! Wow!

The durability is pretty outstanding. Initially, I had all the contents listed here. It was over 100 pounds, but the bag did great. In fact, I was limited by the contents rather than the bag.

The bag now houses a smaller group of items:
  • Army pup tent
  • Wool bedding
  • 72 hours of MRE
I am extremely pleased with the pack.

Wilson Lake 11/30

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Follow my Fish of 2014

It's not often that you can fish November/December in short sleeves. If you get the opportunity, you got to do it.

So. Jon and I did just that. We debated where we wanted to go and settled on Wilson since Pickwick is too far, Wheeler's water level is way down and there are no fish that bite in Guntersville.

As you guys are well aware, I have a special place for Wilson, as it has never done me wrong. There have been some tough days here and there, but for the most part, the fish are plentiful. I have caught some of my best bags out of there.

We didn't get on the water until around 9 since I take the kids to school. We put in at Lock 6 and fished the area pretty well, from the ramp down to Turtle Point Yacht Club. Nothing. So, we headed into Shoals Creek. We fished from 9-2 without much of a bite. I had a few nibbles on a shakey head, but I am almost positive it was bream.

We were seeing plenty of bait. The seagulls were going nuts on them. After awhile, we got smart and decided to start skimming water with the depth finders. We found bait ball after baitball, but no "arches" associated with bigger fish.

We covered point after point after point. Bait COVERED the screen of the Hummingbird 1198.

We were idling along as Jon was talking on the phone and we FINALLY ran across a bait ball that had bigger fish with it. However, it was in 40 feet of water. Neither of us have much confidence in fishing 40 feet, but it was the best sign we had seen all day.

He threw a Gambler Big EZ on a large lead head While I threw a Spoon since it is a technique I need to learn. I figured it was as good a time as ever!
He thew it out and crawled it over the bottom until something slammed it. After the first 3 seconds, we knew it wasn't a bass. It was big and it wouldn't give up.

On my first cast after tying the spoon, I snagged this dude

For the next 30 minutes, we caught drum after drum after drum. It was FUN! Hey, if you can't catch what you want, then catch something else! I also caught plenty of these dudes
Well, sad to report (at least to you bass fishermen) that is all we caught. But we had a SOLID limit of 50 pounds of drum! HA! I guess my lesson to learn is, you may be there to catch bass. But, it silly not to do something, like catch drum, when things get tough! I think the fishing is tough everywhere because there hasn't been a shad die off yet. There is too much easy food for the bass. I could be wrong, and probably am. HA!

Commonality: How to be Efficient in Material Selections

One of the things I given great thought when I started collecting survival items, was how to make sure that I intelligently select everything with usefulness, efficiency, but most importantly, commonality. I grew up loving Legos, because each common piece could be used in many different ways when those specific pieces had very specific jobs. If I needed a specific piece and it wasn't available, I could usually re-engineer my toy to use common parts instead. It might not be as pretty, but it worked. In my career at NASA, I still try to maintain that efficiency in commonality by using modular systems. With rockets, it seems like every few days there is a design change. When you design an automated X-ray system, it would be awesome to make it for that very specific rocket. But if any part gets redesigned, your scanner won't work. Or having to redesign your scanner every time someone changed a design drawing would ensure it never got built. . But, if you make it modular, it can be flexible. Not only would it work for different size and configurations, but you might even be able to use it on something totally a satellite or what have you. The same can be said about the actual materials you use. For example, using a super awesome aluminum-lithium super alloy is really cool. It saves weight. But, it isn't well understood. It's difficult to repair. Only a few companies make it. So, when we build rockets...specifically fuel tanks, we have to consider the advantages of such a material in a perfect world vs reality. What if those companies quit making it and we have designed everything around it? What if we can't seem to weld it perfectly? All the weight savings in the world can't help a fuel tank that can't be welded!

What exactly am I talking about? Commonality in use and commonality in existence. The easiest way to explain is to give an example. Now, this example is long and drawn out...but I want to explain it thoroughly so that you see the options that you have.

Let's discuss your guns and ammunition. I don't plan on telling you which gun caliber and ammunition is best, or how many you should have. Because there are simply too many variables; from ballistics, to impact pressures, to affordability, to availability....and the list goes on and on.

Even if you weighed the pros and cons of all the ammunition out there and established a logical winner, people still have their favorite guns and ammo to shoot, and even that can change on the particular firearm.

When I bought my firearms I knew that, despite the many criteria, that I wanted to make commonality the biggest driver. Yet, that meant two different things, but both are very important.
  • Having as many of your firearms a common caliber to reduce overall storage space and weight
  • Having the ability to go anywhere and find ammunition
  • Having the ability to source repair parts
I have separated my defense firearms into 4 main categories. In a perfect world, you would have 1 of each.
  • Long Range
  • Medium Range
  • Short Range
  • Standoff
Allow me to define I see it
  • Long Range-A high powered weapon to be used for 100+yards for precision strikes. This weapon usually has a low rate of fire and low ammo capacity (1-5 rounds). Example: Your typical big game hunting rifle
  • Medium Range-Can be either high or low powered weapon to be used up, to but not excluding, more than 100 yards. This weapon usually has a high rate of fire and high ammo capacity (30+ rounds). Example: AR15 or AK-47 assault rifles
  • Short Range-A high powered weapon that is easily wielded in close quarters. This weapon either has a high rate of fire, or a large affected area, or both. Example: shotgun or hand held machine gun
  • Standoff-A high powered weapon with limited range capability, used under 20 yards. This weapon usually has a high rate of fire and a medium ammo capacity (8-15 rounds). Primarily a "last resort" type weapon. Example: almost any handgun

In a perfect world, you would have the perfect tool for every situation. But like we have discovered in almost EVERY post so far, you have a finite amount of weight that you can carry, period. And even then, stealth and stamina must be considered long before your ultimate load out. Even if you had only 1 type of each of these weapons, chances are that you would end up with 4 different calibers of ammunition to carry, not to mention 4 types of weapons to be lugging around. That's not very efficient. Now, if you were playing video games, your character could carry a plethora of weapons and ammunition. Even in some of my favorite games, such as "Fallout 3", you are limited to a specific weight of firearms and items, but ammo isn't counted against your weight. Nor is their consideration given to the bulkiness of your firearms. Just think about carrying around 1 of each. A deer rifle slung on your back, an assault rifle in your hands, a shotgun slung over your shoulder, and a sidearm strapped to your leg. Awfully hard to do anything more than walk in a straight line, right? In a battle situation, would be hard to make things work, which is why our soldiers operate as a unit, with specific men doing specific jobs, instead of all of them handling sniper rifles, assault rifles, and missile launchers.

I digress....a little....but weapon selection is for another time.

Like I hinted at earlier, commonality comes in two flavors.

1)Commonality between your own weapons (Commonality in use)
What I am trying to convey is, wouldn't your rather have several weapons that fired the same ammunition? I would. I understand that you absolutely have to make some concessions to do this. Those would certainly include usefulness on the extreme ends of target ranges, overall knockdown power vs range, and even into the logistics of weight and affordability. But the concessions made will be greatly overshadowed by the benefits won.

While I am sure that most of you are OCD like me, and you keep all your ammunition stored segregated and secure, wouldn't it be nice to not have to worry about what box of ammunition you grab to reload? If you were in a situation where you really only needed one of your specific weapons, and the others were a non factor, wouldn't you much rather have a plethora of the right ammunition?

2)Commonality of weapons in the field (Commonality of existance)
Many of the comments I receive on here, forums where I post, and even among friends is "I'll just load up all the ammo I can carry". While self protection is king, especially in the first 24 hours, as we discussed here:

But for every extra round you carry, you give up valuable space and weight for other things. Bullets can change a lot of things. But bullets can't do a lot of things the simplest tools can do. You need those tools, whatever they may be.

It seems to me one of the biggest misconceptions out there is that people believe they own the only ammunition that works in their gun, and that simply isnt' true. America has more guns and ammunition than any other country in the world. If you went into any 5 houses in America, you would find at least 1 gun and ammunition for it. So, if you select your weapons based upon commonality, you put yourself in a situation where you CAN walk into any house (abandoned of course) or Wal-Mart (after things have died down) or an abandoned Army Humvee, and find the ammunition you need.

Let's consider 1 example of each of the 4 categories, though I won't go into if that caliber is right for you:
  • Long Range - The 30.-06. Possibly the most common rifle caliber in America. I am willing to bet that you can go into almost any rural house in the south and find ammunition for this weapon.
  • Medium Range- .223/5.56mm, Extremely popular among assault rifle owners in the US, it is also used by NATO and the US military. Any sporting good store has it. Walmart has it. Any military...whatever....has it.
  • Short Range-12 gauge. What else is there to say. The most common  gauge shotgun. Comes in a variety of ammo types from bird shot, to slugs, to buck shot. I bet there is a 12 gauge round somewhere in every other house in the US.
  • Standoff-9mm. Possibly the worlds favorite hand gun caliber. Again, any house that owns a pistol for self protection will probably have a 9mm. Used by the US military. Used by Law Enforcement.
I am, by no means, saying that each of these examples is for you. You can, and quite possibly will, go into many different directions. What I do want to point out is, if you were starting from scratch, you have a list of weapons that you can procure that will make it easy to resupply. Let's even take this to the extreme. If you made it long enough to use up all of your stores, which you would likely do, you will HAVE to resupply at some point. Wouldn't you much rather have a weapon that you can easily find ammo for? They might not be the best, but they will do the job.

Now, don't let this all revolve around ammunition. Overall condition and life of your firearm, specifically in a rough environment and constant use, may require you to fix it from time to time. So, consider the source of parts for your firearm. The 1911, for example, is an extremely common .45 caliber handgun. You can find them anywhere and for the most part, the parts are interchangeable. The same can be said for most AR15s, AK47s, Mossberg 500 and Remington Express shotguns. In a perfect world, you would be able to just swap guns as you go. But that may not be the case, so be able to source AND repair your firearm. Again, commonality is your friend. You may have to give up something...for example: the 1911 is heavy and has a limited capacity. But it's commonality makes it easy to source parts.

Now, that's a long example, I realize. And, as much time as it took for me to write it, it will take you much longer to select, buy, and prepare. However, when you are out there buying your guns, unless you are rich, you won't be able to just buy whatever you want in every caliber. I have a decent job and a fairly liberal amount of disposable income, relatively speaking. Yet, as I have bought firearms, I have selected them based upon commonality. I love the .45. It's expensive yet common. It has tremendous knockdown power and crappy range. But, I love shooting it. I feel comfortable with it. So, all my personal guns (that I carry) are .45 caliber. That doesn't mean that's the only caliber I have, because it's not. But, these are the guns I have selected for "The Bag." I don't plan on having a long range weapon. The AR15 is a terrific weapon, and with a lot of practice you can have a long reach. It doesn't have the knockdown power, but if you make good shots, it won't matter.

Again, long example. I am sure you are probably thinking "That's the ONLY useful thing to have commonality in", but you would be incorrect. Remember, don't think about just having modular items in your possession, but using items that are common in the rest of the world.
  • Batteries
  • Fuel for your camper/stove/heater
  • Fuel for your vehicles (diesel vs gasoline)..dont' just think about your cars and trucks!
  • Clothing sizes for you and your significant other. Sounds funny, but if you only have one extra set of clothes for two people and it's too small for one of you...
  • Electrical chargers (if they work)
  • For those that are mechanically inclined....your vehicle and the ability to repair it and source parts (Think Jeep vs Land Rover)
  • Medicines that you require (are you diabetic?)
That's just the start. There are a ton of things I bet you didn't think about. For every item that goes into your pack or your bunker, think "if I HAD to replace it, could I do it easily?" Down to things you wouldn't normally think about, because those are the ones that matter. You opted for that fancy water filtration system instead of the cheap old, yet insanely common Brita. What happens a year down the road if the water is contaminated? You never had a need for eye glasses because you had contacts. The contacts are gone. Whoops!

That's enough for now, suffice to say, that you should always consider the commonality of the items you will depend on.