Sunday, June 24, 2012


I like shooting. I like throwing darts and other accuracy games also, but, there is something about shooting that just makes life better.

My favorite kind of shooting is called Bench resting. A person takes an accurate rifle, typically a bolt action, to a bench and then shoots targets at up to 1,000 yards. Morons will compare this to “sniping”, which it is not. Real snipers typically shoot from the prone position (laying down) and are typically camouflaged. I have hit targets at 700 yards and let me tell you, that is a pain in the ass. Theoretically if you can hit a target within 1” at 100 yards you can hit a 10” target at 1,000 yards. Yeah, right.

I ran into some Marine who was telling me he could shoot a guy in the head at 1,000 yards. Yeah, I will buy that for a dollar. Not. Lets talk shooting.

A 7.62 NATO round, or .308 Winchester if you prefer, travels about 3,600 feet per second. That means it takes a bullet about 0.83 seconds to reach a target at 1,000 yards, IF, it were to do something really amazing like ignore friction.

Let me explain this a little. A bullet is a projectile which takes advantage of the energy created by the rapid expansion of gases caused by a chemical reaction. This means that gun powder does not explode, it burns and as it burns it creates gas. The gas pushes the bullet through a tube into which a bunch of twisted grooves have been cut. The bullet is about the same size as the grooves so as the gas pushes the bullet through the barrel the bullet forms itself to the grooves and begins spinning. If the bullet were smaller than the grooves the gas would escape past the side of the bullet.

How long does the chemical reaction take to push the bullet out of the barrel? This is a good question. If the barrel is too short the bullet leaves the barrel while the gas is still expanding. If the bullet is too long the bullet is inside the barrel when the gas finishes expanding and the friction between the bullet and the barrel reduces the speed of the bullet. It would be great if the bullet left the barrel at exactly the point at which the gas quit expanding, but, slightly before is better than slightly after.

For a .308 Winchester this means a barrel of about 18 to 20 inches.

What happens once the bullet leaves the barrel? Several things. First, the bullet begins to drop at a rate of acceleration of thirty two feet per second (per second if you want to be finickey). That means in one second the bullet will drop 32 feet.

If you look at a ballistics chart the bullet looks like it will go up when it leaves the barrel. No chance of that ever happening, if it ever does call the Pope cause you just witnessed a miracle. When a bullet leaves the barrel it drops, almost as fast as a rock. Not quite as fast. Why not as fast? This guy named Bernoulli figured out that spinning objects create lift. In the case of a bullet the lift will not be enough to prevent the bullet from dropping, but, it will drop slightly slower than a rock.

In addition the shape of the bullet and the spinning creates friction between the air and the bullet so the bullet also begins losing speed as soon as it leaves the barrel. This means that while it might be going 3,600 feet per second at 20 yards it will not be going that fast at 500 yards or 1000 yards. How much does the bullet drop at 1000 yards? About 40 feet. It depends a lot on the bullet shape and the chemical reaction, but, 40 feet is a good estimate. The bullet drops about 7 feet at 500 yards. Targets between 100 yards and 500 yards are so much easier to hit than targets between 500 yards and 1000 yards.

On top of all that drop the longer a bullet is in the air the more effect the motion of the air has on it. This is called windage. Windage is the effect the wind has on the motion of the bullet. The slower the bullet is moving and the longer it is being affected by the wind the farther it moves.

When we fire machine guns we use what is called a “cone of fire”. Essentially this means that every bullet leaving the barrel of the machine gun is going to go somewhere within a very curved cone whose apex is at the end of the barrel. The base of the cone is on the ground somewhere and how big the base is depends on how far from the end of the barrel the base is measured.

Add the effect of the wind onto the cone of fire and things can get wild. See, the wind is not a consistent force. The wind may be blowing 5 mph near the shooter, 10mph 500 yards away and 3mph at 1000 yards. How is that for a wacky problem?

Okay, lets say you can put five bullets within a one inch circle in the center of a bulls eye at 100 yards. Can you hit a head sized target at 1000 yards? Maybe, probably not. Under perfect conditions those bullets might hit within 10” at 1000 yards. If you want to hit at 1,000 yards all the bullets at 100 yards better be in the same hole and that hole better be smaller than .5” diameter. Add wind and variables with the amount of energy generated by the chemical reaction and absorbed by the bullet and we have.....


See, not every case is exactly the same size, inside or outside. A case that is a little smaller on the outside with thicker material so it is way smaller on the inside will create a very different pressure profile than a larger case with thinner material and a larger interior space.

The first problem is the energy absorbed by the expansion of the case. The case expands to fill the chamber of the rifle. If the cartridge were the same size as the chamber the cartridge would not fit into the chamber. The cartridge has to be slightly smaller than the chamber so it expands when fired and it has to be extracted. In Vietnam the VC used cleaning rods to extract 7.62 NATO rounds from their Russian Mossin Nagant bolt action rifles. I won't get into why and don't try this at home kiddies.

So the variations in case size change the energy. What else? Diameter of the bullet.

A variation in diameter of 0.0001” can change the pressure distribution significantly. As pressure changes drop and windage change.

So hitting a target far away is really hard and that is why I like it. It is me challenging myself to become better. To understand the variables and achieve. This is pretty much why I do anything, but, that is me.

Lets look back at our Marine.

The government buys special super accurate ammunition that goes through more quality checks than your average automotive part, but, they cannot eliminate variability.

If you go to Sniper School they are going to tell you to keep your shots under 500 yards. Why? Because it is way easier to hit targets under 500 yards.

How to achieve the impossible, like moon missions and military operations?

Make the process idiot proof and then put incredibly talented people in the process. If you depend on the talent of the people the mission has failed. Depend on the idiot proof planning and execution of the mission. If you put excellent people in the process they can handle the unforeseen problems and achieve the goals. BUT! If those people have to use their exceptional skills the plan has failed and heads will roll.

If you have not been through Special Operation training you will not understand this idiot proof mission practice. If you have had some training and been through some execution then you know why it is important to put the best people into the most idiot proof plans.

I am not trying to take the wind out of special ops guys, put them down or whatever. They all know that what I am saying is true. People pretending to have been special ops trained think that the best people are chosen to improvise. Not true. The best people are chosen NOT to improvise unless it is necessary and to have the capability to know when the plan has failed and improvisation is key.

So some guy spouting about hitting targets at 1,000 yards and talking about how the plan always goes to shit and how he always has to improvise is just a wanna be, or someone who is hiding what they know with BS. Two ways to keep a secret, talk too much or don't talk at all. The former is easier for me. If people think its BS they won't be looking for a secret.

How about our Marine? Does the guy know how far a 7.62 NATO round drops at 1,000 yards? Has the person ever heard of Bernoulli? How do they handle variable wind conditions? “Variia what”?

I like shooting and I do it for fun. Yes, I can put 5 bullets in a circle about .5” at 100 yards with the right rifle. (and yes, the rifle is a big deal) Can I hit a target at 1,000 yards? Never have and don't think I can. Too much drop, too many variables. Could I be sure of hitting a person consistently at 500 yards? No.

There are lots of guys who are better shots than I am. Lots who are worse. I don't shoot to compete, I shoot to have fun and enjoy myself. If my experience shooting makes it possible to identify a guy bsing about how great a shot they are thats okay. If I choose to let the guy bs that is okay too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How to make a torch

Get an aluminum drink can and a stick.  Cut off the top of the aluminum can.  use a good sized wood screw with a washer which has a hole smaller than the top of the wood screw.  Screw through the bottom of the can into one end of the stick.

You have an empty can attached to a stick.

Good so far?

Now roll up some card board and put in inside of the can.  Melt some candle wax and pour it into the can with the cardboard.  Wait until it cools and hardens.

This is the tricky part.  Carefully score the side of the can with a razor or exacto knife leaving about 1.5" of the bottom of the can.

What you have built is essentially a big candle on a stick that uses the cardboard as the wick.  You can light it with a match or a blow torch or some tinder and flint and steel.

If you want to make it really kewl find some heat resistant clear plastic tube about 6" in diameter 12" long.  You can attach this tube so that it acts as a wind break for your.  This is optional so you can figure out how to do that for yourself.

Now, the next time you are chasing the Frankenstein Monster around you will have a reliable torch that you can use against the poor guy.

This torch is also really great for witch hunts, exploring caves, hunting werewolves and all kinds of kewl things.

Basic Logic, education and disagreeing

There are Facts, which anyone with a brain cannot argue although many people do.  There are opinions which we can argue.  There is also the interpretation of facts which is actually an opinion.

Once our pastor preached that Peter denied Christ because of fear.  I asked them to provide me with a Bible passage that told us Peter was afraid when he denied Christ.  At first he told me "sure".  Later he told me it was "implied".  I asked how?  He explained that fear was the reason.  I gave him an alternate possible reason, arrogance.  I told him that Peter could have been waiting in the front yard of the High Priest's house to rescue Christ.

This is not a new idea.  The idea of Peter thinking he could take on multiple opponents and succeed is well defined in the Garden of Gethsemane.  For over two thousand years theologians have discussed the various reasons Peter denied Christ.

This pastor told me he disagreed with me in front of a Bible study class.

Disagreed with what?

I did not say that Peter DID deny Christ because Peter wanted to rescue Christ.  I said that it was a possibility and it is one I chose to believe as being more likely.

Did he disagree that Peter could have denied Christ for reasons other than fear?

Did he disagree that I believed it?

Did he disagree that the Bible did not define the reasons why Peter denied Christ?

Of course not.  He just disagreed with ME.

Anyone who has read of Peter attacking the High Priest's guards in the Garden of Gethsemane and who believes fear is one of Peter's main motivators is not being very genuine.  I asked the pastor to explain why, if Peter was afraid, he was hanging out in the court yard of the High Priest's house.  People who are afraid typically don't walk into the walled court yard of their enemy.  The pastor said that was no big deal, to hang out in the yard of an enemy.

Is that a can of worms or what?

Once I was in a bar when three gun shots rang out from the bathroom.  Of the couple hundred people in the bar three of us fought against the crowd rushing out to get into the room where the gun was fired.  Maybe my pastor would have been one of the three of us.  Maybe, but.....

I have placed myself in many situations where my life is in danger and I am well aware that people talk a better game than they actually play.  When the guns start shooting, when people start kicking ass, most people run.  One of the disciples ran when the guards showed up.

Peter not only did not run he attacked those who came to take Christ and then walked right into the den of the "lion".

Yeah, somehow I don't see fear being a big motivator in Peter's life or his denial of Christ.

So the only thing to disagree with is my believing Peter was more likely arrogant enough to think he could rescue Christ and did not want his plans interrupted because he was recognized than he was afraid.

I read a discourse on this issue once, it had been copied from a document written around 1200 AD.  The basic idea in the document that Peter was waiting to help Christ somehow and he denied Christ because he was "afraid" he would be stopped from helping Christ.  The author also discussed other potential motivators.

One of the problems with guys like me, guys who stand flipping the bird at people who are shooting at them, people who walk into the gunfire instead of run away from it, is that while fear is present it is rarely a motivator for action.

People who have been in firefights are always amazed at the number of misses, especially in low light conditions.  Even at the range I have seen cops (and other people) miss targets 8 feet in front of them.  So standing and letting a guy shoot at me is actually just taking an educated chance.  Sure, I could be hit.  Not likely at 75 ft in low light conditions.

Most people would think standing and letting a guy shoot at me was stupid, or crazy.  To me it was just taking a chance at a time when I knew the odds were in my favor.  Untrained kid with a 22 from between 75 and 100 feet at night.  Yeah, find a range with targets 100 feet away, turn down the lights and start shooting at a silhouette with a 22.  If you hit in a vital area I will buy you a beer.

Sure, tough guys, cops, fire fighters, military, special ops, are afraid.  The difference between them and the rest of the world is that fear is not a primary motivator of their actions.  This is not my opinion, this is a fact proved by behavioral studies over and over again.  The exact motivations are different, some are narcissistic, some are selfless, very occasionally they are grand ideas like freedom and democracy (not often though).

People have primary motivators.  Fear, or avoidance if you like the politically correct ideas.  Courage, or desire if you blah blah blah.  My primary motivator is desire or courage or crazy, however you want to put it so I decide what I want, I factor in the variables and make a decision to do something like stand and let someone shoot at me.

If I have enough information to make a good decision, if I want something, I do it.  Otherwise I pretty much ignore it.  For example, I may choose not to fight with someone because I want peace more than I want a fight.

Do me, and yourself, a favor. If you have not had special training don't just go stand in front of a guy shooting at you.  Yeah, even cops miss short range targets in good lighting conditions, but, you could end up facing someone trained in point shooting who is holding the gun sideways and will hit you 6 times out of 10.  Make a choice for peace and run.

So when I, or other people to whom fear or avoidance is not a primary motivator, hear about someone we know has reacted without fear before doing something we don't think of fear as being a motivator for them.  We wonder why they did what they did.

Of course if fear, or avoidance, is a persons primary motivator then it would be natural to assume that fear is everyone's primary motivator and seek out facts that support the idea of fear as the motivator.

Of course, my pastor disagrees with highly regarded theologians over thousands of years and all the behavioral studies.  Probably because fear is a primary motivator.

Why bother with logic or educating oneself when it is so much easier to disagree.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


This is going to seem really sstupid simple to some people, but, it is actually how a lot of long term investors make money.

Most forclosure is stupid for the banks, for the homeowners, for the neighborhoods, for pretty much everyone.

Realestate is the best investment in the world.  No one is making any more of it.  What we have is what we have and so the value of realestate is always going to go up in the big picture.  Sure, there will be corrections.  Prices go up, they go down, then they go up more then they go down, then they go up more.  In the end realestate is always going to be worth something.

Mortgage companies are losing money on real estate because they are stupid.  Not because homeowners are stupid.  Not because people made bad loans.  Because mortgage companies are stupid.

If banks maintained leins against property and allowed owners to keep and maintain their properties the banks will eventually make their money back.

This is a long term investment outlook.  Prices were down in the late seventies and early eighties.  Prices were up in the late nineties and early 2K's.  It will probably take 20 years to pull the investment back out of a house, so around 2030.

But the investment will be recouped if the investors wait. 

Banks could take the long term approach and make money or they can take the short term approach and lose money.  Which do they take?  "Lets piss money away, it isn't really ours and we can trash the economy as we do it!  Yay!"

The problem is cash flow and banks believe that forclosing on people, taking the losses, results in some kind of preferred cash flow position.

Now suppose someone can make the insurance, the taxes and half or less of their mortgage payment.  Essentially the interest on the unpaid mortgage interest creates a huge paper asset that in reality will never be paid.  But suppose the bank just offered to allow someone to make payments like that with a lein of 75% of the value of the home when it was eventually sold, what would happen?

Well the interest cash flow from the loan would be reduced.  Suppose someone could only pay $300 a month instead of $1000.  Or the bank can just take a loss of $125,000 on a loan of $250,000.

For some reason it makes sense to a bank to take the $125,000 dollar loss rather than maintain a reduced cash flow with a high probability of recouping the investment plus 6% interest over 20 years.  Yep homes typically average that kind of return on investment.

Now suppose the home never manages to become worth more than the original investment plus 6% per year interest.  Unlikely, but, it can happen.  Some people are going to either keep paying forever or walkaway.  It will probably happen in a few cases.

Now suppose people can't pay enough to make the taxes, insurance and a partial mortgage payment.  Forclosure, we can't save everyone.  A long term outlook will improve the financial position of everyone involved.

Any mortgage company foreclosing on someone that can make 25% of their mortgage payment, maintain the property, pay the taxes and insurance is throwing away money that could be recovered by entering into a long term ownership sharing position.

Mortgage company managers are just too stupid to make money and the United States deserves to get screwed because so many stupid people are allowed to manage money.

Ownership partnerships are and have been a primary investment tool for many years.  This ain't new and it ain't rocket science.