Friday, August 17, 2007

Miscellaneous Gear

People get very passionate about equipment. Glenn Reynolds has a long discussion (by Glenn Reynolds standards) on the best knives -- kitchen knives that is. The Survival Blog, playing to slightly different concerns, talks about shotguns. The article begins with introduction guaranteed to start an opinion thread running.

I own a gun shop and I get -many- people looking to buy their first shotgun. The first question I ask them (and probably a good question to ask ones self before making any purchase) is: “What do you intend to use it for?”. Different guns for different purposes. When they tell me they want an all around do everything shotgun (which is how the shy and low-key convey that they want a defensive shotgun), the choice usually come down to the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870. Both are great shotguns. Both are used by the US military and both are found in law enforcement. Both have a fair bit of aftermarket parts and accessories (not all of them useful) available. When customers ask me to choose between the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870, I go with the Remington.

Since it would be unsporting to leave the subject of gear without throwing a few logs on to the fire, and I feel unqualified to comment on either knives or shotguns, let me bring up the subject of sunglasses, which are actually pretty useful everyday objects. I am going to make a fool of myself and assert a constant astonishment at the ways in sunglasses are not used or used for the (to me at least) wrong reasons.

My interest in sunglasses began in the past. One way to travel through the countryside a long time ago in Mindanao was to hitch rides atop cargo trucks, dumpsters and commuter buses. You'd clamber up top, where the spare tires, jacks, and miscellaneous equipment were kept and brace yourself against an angle in the cargo. Even where you could afford to buy an actual bus ticket it was often preferable to ride up on the roof, or clinging to some part of the framework of the vehicle the better to jump off and roll into a ditch if it were ambushed by rebels, who would sometimes finish off all the survivors in the vehicle itself and fail to pursue those who ran off in every direction.

Riding "top load" on a dusty, jolting road for ten hours under a blazing tropical sun or traveling by outrigger over a blazingly incandescent sea soon convinced me of the practical utility of a good set of shades. Without them you simply burned out your retinas, when they weren't being clogged up with dirt or taking one insect strike after the other. Sunglasses were tools, like a kitchen knife or a pump action shotgun. Tools to be carefully selected and maintained.

I soon realized, however, that many -- and maybe most -- people didn't think of sunglasses in the same way. For them, they were simply a way to look cool or keep glare out of their eyes while driving their cars. For that limited purpose two types of sunglasses work reasonably well: the ten dollar kind you can purchase at a gas station shop and the thousand dollar designer model available at a Famous Brand Name establishment. Neither of these types would be remotely suitable for tramping around for hours in a logged-over forest or bare hills; nor would they likely survive a "top load" on a truck or a long, slamming ride in a fast outrigger.

I have two basic pairs of shades, which I consider the best in the world for their purpose. The first is a pair of 11 gram Maui Jim Kapaluas in the rose lens. That's less than half an ounce of optical equipment, including the weight of lens in an amazing titanium frame. The second is a pair of Specialized Optics in a plastic, photochromic and ballistically resistant lens that's designed for mountain bikers. Although both have wonderful, optically correct lenses, the Mauis are far better for walking around in midday. The quality of the lens is to die for. But in the early morning or late afternoon, or in any situation where you are likely to be under intermittent shade, such as in a forest, the Specialized Optics are the better choice. They have truly incredible photochromic lenses which can adjust between 78% and 22% light transmission that make them useable to within a half hour of sunrise and a half hour to sunset. The Specialized Optics are also designed to deflect bug strikes, twigs and thrown up gravel better than the Mauis, with lenses made, they claim, of the same material used to armor the windshields of Apache helicopters.

Styling, I suppose, must be given its due. Clearly if one plans on wearing a suit or dress clothing, the Mauis are to be preferred to the "Xtreme" design of the Specialized Optics. But if you're hiking around and don't care how you look, the biking goggle look stops being a disadvantage.

I realize that many people don't about knives or pump action shotguns or sunglasses much. They just get on with the daily lives or maybe care about something else, like the appearance of their cell phones or the patterning on their ties. But this is the trivia that makes up life. Have a good weekend.


Blogger Brother D-Day said...

When I used to have a motorcycle, there was a saying, "don't dress for the ride, dress for the fall."

With that, I always sported a leather jacket, heavy denim dungarees, leather boots, leather gloves, plastic sunglasses and brain bucket.

Didn't matter if it was 95 degrees F or 20 degrees F outside, I rode thinking I would be sliding on asphalt at some point.

That's pretty much stuck with me on all fronts. Have a go-bag in the truck and the office, each with a variety of gear that ensures I can hike 30 miles to home in the event of...anything. Bear Grylls is a Cub Scout to me.

Keep your mission in mind when you get good gear, and for God's sake, practice using it.

8/17/2007 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

It's always been Remingtons for me.

8/17/2007 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

The sunglasses you would like to be wearing when terrorists strike, or the go-bag in the truck for unspecified unpleasantness -- there is a tenuous connection here to a rather interesting recent book by Nassim Taleb, "The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable".

Taleb's day job is as a financial trader, where his hunt for black swans led him to the conclusion that life & history are really driven by occasional outlier events, not by normal Gaussian-type variation. Well worth a read.

8/17/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Brother D-Day said...

Black Swan...

Definitely in the queue. John Robb too...

8/17/2007 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Used the 870 a lot, but for a full auto pump, nothing beats the 1897 Winchester.

Design by Johm Browning, designated by the military as the M97, it'll fire as fast as it can be cycled, just keep the trigger pulled and pump. Doesn't chamber the magnum rounds of today, but at close quarters ...

8/17/2007 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

I have a Mossberg 410HS for inside the house---the Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 are a bit much for inside the house use.

Sunglasses (titanium frame, prescription polarized type), definitely need them for the Florida sun.
Working on a bug out bag.

8/17/2007 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Panday said...

A few things:

I make knives. The one thing I'll say about knives is that most people pay way too much for them. There are no production knives with materials in them worth more than $50. Any subsequent amount over that is for name and marketing.

I've fired the Mossberg and Remington many times. I would also add the Binelli to that list- nothing like a reliable semiauto shotgun.

Wretchard, you were hitchiking in Mindanao? What else do you do for fun- winter in Mogadishu?

8/18/2007 04:36:00 AM  
Blogger Marine 83 said...

I would love to find a M97 at a reasonable price. Every longarm should accept a bayonet. As to sunglasses, you cant beat 1980's styled RayBan Wayfarers. Quality glass lenses and almost indestructible.

8/18/2007 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Whenever I go to visit my brother in Oahu, I always drop in at costco and buy hawaiian shirts. they carry the best island brands and they set out in a special section the particular look that's in that year. (The colors go from loud to plain and back again depending --imho--on how emotional everyone is.) The prices are 1/4 of what I'd pay for the shirts in northern virginia and the local costco doesn't carry them.

In march when I was up on the north shore my brother and I went out into the shark cages. The boat operator said he gets about 500 hits daily at his web site. he said a couple years ago he would never have dreamed of being an internet businessman. But now he is.

I make my living doing search marketing. But the rage at internet marketing conferences these days is Web 2.0. People use music video blogs facebook to talk about themselves. They do it in interesting ways so that the net is an extension of their personalities. They become a brand like nike. And they make a good living just by affiliate linking to stuff they like; shirt shoes coffee what have you. the stuff of daily life.

I have made purchases like a video camera and a skype camera in the last couple months for which I would have found discussions very helpful.

I took out the trash and went to a starbucks this morning where I'm writing from now in Mclean. This evening I'll take my nephew to a ruth's cris steakhouse advertised by talk radio commentator sean hannity. My nephew is going to help me celebrate making my first buck in natural search--which is the art of doing web pages that are optomised so as to get to the top of the search engines. (Right now I do paid search which is a different animal.)My nephew wrote articles for me this summer.

Humpf wouldn't you know it. A woman just came up to me and wanted to know about my laptop because she's interested in buying one for school. So I told her.

I would be happier writing about desalination if I could figure out a way to monetized it. (I'm sure that involes getting an adsense account and getting the account off the wordpress server.)

8/18/2007 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger warhorse said...

Heh ... one of my local cellphone companies ran an ad campaign a few years ago with the theme of "Imagine: a cellphone that comes in six replaceable designer colours!" To which I would respond "Imagine: a customer base stupid enough to think that was a selling point!"

8/18/2007 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Oak Cliff Lee said...

I just bought a used but well made Savage 20 ga. single barrel at the gun show for cheap with five rounds of #3 buck shot for an elderly friend in a bad neighborhood worried about someone kicking his door...telling him that if he needs more than one shot at 10 feet...he's in trouble for sure...but did demonstrate how old time double barrel duck hunters carried spare rounds sticking out between fingers of non trigger hand for rapid reload...takes a little practice but repeat round fire in less than one second is possible...personally I prefer the convienance, pure sport and challenge of a .38 wadcutter slug to the kneecap...of course, if you know they're coming call the po-lice or a friend with two long guns, and if you have time and can remember the gun box combo under stress, use two automatic shotguns, one with geese shot and one with rifled slugs, one in each hand a la John Wayne...the grand juries of Texas generally think the homeowner defending his "castle" with a shotgun can do no wrong, whereas the gun guy among the twelve, if not the advising assistant district attorney ask pesky questions like "were those high power reloads, specialty self defense ammo, or plain commercial ammo you pistol shot the intruder with?" This is sort of like asking one if he defended himself with a nine iron or a tire iron. One advantage of the pump shotguns recommended is the hollow "fomp" noise they make when chambering a round, itself striking fear in the heart of the wrongdoer. A good pair of sunshades will be useful more often.

8/18/2007 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger PiltdownMan said...

I might take the conversation into a different direction by mentioning flashlights.

I fly small planes (the kind that are always ending up in the news after violating airspace around Washington DC), and one of the hardest things to find is a flashlight that's small enough so it doesn't take up room in a flight bag, lasts for months without battery changing, and has a red-light option so you can see without losing your night vision.

I finally found a small focused light that straps onto your forehead, made by Petzl - the Taktika. I look dorky as hell, but I can see great in a dark cockpit.

8/18/2007 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

When you're feeling adventurous, you could try a miner's Acetylene Headlamp!
...friend of mine had one of those in High School.
Forget most of the tricks that were played, but do remember that the large pile of acetylene pellets they had in auto shop got put to plenty of alternative uses!

Not much the teacher could do about it when they had him stuffed headfirst in a trash barrel!

Good old School days in the country!

The trick in woodshop was to accidentally let a few 2x4 scraps get sucked into the giant vacuum.
Up the pipe they would rattle til they got to the rotor spinning at some ungodly rpm, and then the real fun began!

8/19/2007 01:25:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

(the vacuum was at the top of the sawdust silo, so extracting the 2x4's was always a reliable distraction from the daily humdrum.)
"Up in the mornin and out to school..."

8/19/2007 01:33:00 AM  
Blogger Cascajun said...

Eyewear is certainly a tool. The GI goggles were a necessity behind the BFV steering yoke.

I used to own a pair of titaniam framed Maui Jim sunglasses. The optics were superb. They were a comp pair from a nice sales rep who shared a road warrior's commute with me. My company provided a rental and I offered a ride and saved him the hassel of a cab from the airport to the hotel.

Today I wear Zeal Optics shades because their frames tend to fit my small head/face better than most manufacturers. That, and they also have frames that allow interchangable prescription lenses.

I have one frame and three sets of prescription lenses - clear, grey, and rose. The rose are best, as you say, in the greatest range of light conditions. That's important to me, as I wear them mountain biking in the pacific northwest. It's quite a contrast going from a clear cut into the shade under the canopy of a temperate rain forest.

8/19/2007 01:34:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Shotgun: 870 in 20 gauge with an improved cylinder & full choke barrels. Typically I shoot about 5 to 8-1/2 shot. Right now I can not recall what size round goes with the barrels one is a 3" and the other is 2-1/2". Most common use: vs. grouse.

Knives: primary set a block of Chicago Cutlery obtained as a gift. Would like to purchase a set of ceramic knives but I will have to wait until way after the "poor house" is built.

Sunglasses: I a number of them. Primary pair - Smith Sliders with polarized dark lenses, non-polarized ambers, and non-polarized darks. I like the look and if it is not too cold they work for skiing as well. Also have a couple of other pairs we (literally) picked up off of the streets. One pair I bought in Bagiuo after my original Smith Sliders were broke.

I had my sunglasses hanging off of my shirt. I was coming out of the CR at a Chow King in the Shoe-Mart and I had to duck down due to the short ceiling and my Smiths came out of my shirt. The timing was perfect and my foot in its stride drop kicked my Sliders, again with timing that could not be produced by man the Sliders came to rest under someone's falling tread and he stepped on them and *_CRACK_*. Dude felt bad, but I did my best to assure him I knew it was a dumb accident. That led to the purchase of another pair of sunglasses.

I want to buy rose lenses for my sliders as I hear the rose tint does wonders on a ski hill with flat lighting.

8/19/2007 04:31:00 AM  
Blogger Brother D-Day said...

I love both the Remington 870 and Mossberg 590 platforms in a 12 gauge with a mixed load of ammo. #4, #00 and #0 buckshot with some rifled slugs in the mix are a potent concoction. Can't argue with it really.

I do question the use of the 12 gauge in confined spaces indoors in the middle of the night. Seems to me the muzzle blast and report from an 18.25" barreled gun would have the net effect of flash-banging yourself. It's dark, you are disoriented and you are not wearing eye or ear protection.

If gross amounts of paperwork were not an issue nor the prospect of BATFE coming to visit once a year, I would get some kind of short-barreled rifle in 9mm with a sound suppressor and a red-dot / tritium reflex-style optic. The smaller barrel allows you better movement in confined spaces, the suppressor keeps the noise to an acceptable level, and the optic helps you get the muzzle on the target in all light scenarios. Not to mention having 30 rounds of jacketed hollow point and semi-auto functioning at your finger tips.

I am aware that adrenaline has a way of making you deaf to gunshots in a crisis scenario, but I am always looking for excuses for getting prurient gear.

Sunglasses: I have had a pair of Oakleys for the past six years that I have beaten the daylights out of. Those things have been dropped, kicked, sat on, ridden over by a mountain bike and they still work. They are the benchmark for me by which all other glasses will be measured.

Flashlights: Concur with Mark fully. There are those fancy SureFire flashlights which are really compact, really bright and really pricey.

I've recently discovered in the checkout line at Lowe's some compact LED flashlights for $15. They are bright, tough and cheap enough that you can buy a few to keep in vehicles and other odd places around the home and office.

Small headlamps are great when you are working on a project and need both hands. Again, Lowe's has some great cheapies in the checkout line that can do wonders around the house.

Got another piece of kit - compact fire extinguishers: at $10 a pop, they are wonderfully cheap insurance.

8/19/2007 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Costco had a two pack of neat little crank-LED flashlight, am fm weather, blinker, flasher, all for $19.99!
Radio works good, led's only take a minute cranking to stay on I forget how long, but long.
One shot deal, so far.
Being Duracell, they must be available.

8/19/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Flasher is like a Telegraph Key, so you can tap out your Mayday to the orbiting neighborhood predator!

8/19/2007 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger PapaBear said...

re:flashights: I'm partial to just having a bunch of LED flashlights all over the house, figuring that way I'll have one handy when I need it. For the car, I've got an LED flashlight that works by turning a crank (15 secs turning produces 10 minutes of light)

8/19/2007 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Our little earthquake taught me the value of having a flashlight handy as I stumbled about my dark room, still waking up.
Also filled up the Propane tank, checked the bag of rice, beans, and etc, and changed the water in our 5 gallon bottles.

8/19/2007 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Rem 870! Never let me down. One 12ga w/ slug bbl, groups 2" @ 50yds w/ "cheap" Walmart Winchester foster slugs ($5 for a 15 round box). Has Knoxx stock, reduces recoil by 50%. My deer/hog/intruder gun.

Other Rem 870. Sentimental. old 20ga. My small game gun, bbl too long for home defense.

Speaking of home defense. A sneeky home owner w/ 12-18" machete can be effective. Imagine Juramentado on interloper!

Early warning imperative. Yappy dog, goose, not bad. I once considered a big ol hog, they are smart and easier to house train than dog. But..... hog haram, dang.

Salaam eleikum Y'all!

8/19/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Will's Dad said...

The problem I have with expensive sunglasses is that they tend to "own" me rather than I them. The consternation and worry that has accompanied ownership of pricey spectacles has never been worth the contrast, UV protection, or comfort.

About ten years ago I discovered UVEX tinted safety glasses. They are light, afford wrap-around protection, block almost all UV rays, and are CHEAP. I usually buy them in batches of ten at an industrial supply store for about $6 a pop.

I can't see buying any other type ever again.

8/19/2007 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I actually think that sunglasses are a necessity of life, especially when driving when the sun is rising or setting.

For good sunglasses, flashlights, and camping gear I like to check out Campmor. I usually drop $70 on sunglasses but I picked up my last pair for $10 at campmor. You can grab a nice pair of polarized glases for about $20. Check the web bargains section.

8/19/2007 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The little Duracell crank leds also have USB 5.5 Volts in and out, headphone and charging jacks all in a light the size of a small flashlight for 10 Bucks!
Ain't China/Costco Grand?

8/19/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Solomon2 said...

I wear prescription glasses, so what am I supposed to do? Currently, when I buy a new pair I order the clear UV coating - it protects better than photochromic lenses do. I have a second pair with a 70% brown tint. Finally, in the glare of winter or staring into a high-temperature furnace, I slip on mirror-reflective ANSI-rated safety eyewear over my normal glasses.

None of it is colorful or stylish. What is the advantage of titanium frames, anyway?

8/19/2007 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Contact lenses enable me to wear my Smith Sliders. A set - the frame, case, and two sets of lenses cost about $100 perhaps $90 on sale or special.

I worry not about losing or breaking them.

My first set last a few years and developed a stress crack. I was going to send them back after my trip to the Philippines, but as I relate the sliders did not come back from that trip. I bought a new pair.

I bought sunglasses for another person spent about $40.00 or so on them. Good glasses, but who knows where they are? She put them away for fear of losing them and can not recall where they are stashed. Soon we move to the "poor-house" and in the process of packing and moving I hope we will find them (along with bluetooth charging cords and other such items long lost).

8/19/2007 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Famously Unknown said...

Solomon2 asked about shades for prescripton glasses -- try Life Extension's Solarshield (nonpolarized) or OveRxCast polarized sunglasses both of which are worn over regular prescription specs; $12.99 & $27.00, respectively. Both give 100% UV protection.
Call 800-644-4440 or see

Also, you ought to be able to find polarized, 100% UV protecting clip-ons at many larger food marts for ~$15.

8/19/2007 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I recently bought some new computer glasses (old ones were 20 years old!) at Costco.

Helpful guy showing the frames took a pair of titanium frames and twisted the lenses in opposite directions approaching 90%.
Glasses sprung back into shape.

Being that they are only about a $15 premium, I was sold.
Got the frames and really light polycarbonate transition lenses for something like $125, I think.
Not bad for another 20 years!

8/20/2007 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This would be my initial comment to The Belmont Club - I've been reading for awhile. Thanks, Wretchard, for your interesting and sometimes inspiring blogs.


Back before I needed vision correction, my sunglasses requirements were simple. Cheap, 'cause I lose things. Polarized, 'cause I want the protection. And finally, the ability to get them off and on with a standard (not flip-up) full face motorcycle helmet. Then I hit the age where my arms were too short to hold a menu where I could read it, and the first requirement was no longer possible. So now I wear polarized no-line trifocals that transition, with Flexon frames that have so far taken my abuse quite well. And with earpieces that work with the helmet.

They're expensive, but they stay on my face except when I go to bed, so I can't lose 'em. Occasional screw tightenings keep 'em together (though I carry a small repair kit just in case). For the past 6 years I've traded off between two sets of frames as my vision keeps changing, with the pair with the less-recent lenses acting as a spare.

Knives: My pocket knife doesn't need to be sharp - except the scissors. But the kitchen knives get maintained assiduously.

8/20/2007 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

For flashlights, I buy AA cell Mini MagLites and replace the krypton bulb with a 3-LED unit. Total cost is about $13 each.

8/20/2007 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Edward said...

Thanks for the link to the Specialized specs. I'm in 1-41 Infantry (1AD) and it is either Wiley X or Oakley here. On the ranges here at Fort Riley doing our thing with 240B machine guns or AT4 rockets, we see the sun cross the sky from daybreak to nightfall. Photochromatic lenses will be perfect.

BTW, when I'm not at work, I prefer my Benelli Super M1 semi-auto 12 ga. for home security.

8/20/2007 08:22:00 PM  

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