Showing posts with label Skill Saturday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skill Saturday. Show all posts

Saturday, December 8, 2012

AR-15 Lower Receiver Build

So to start out I had a stripped lower reciever, a DMPS lower parts kit, a Brownells receiver extension AKA buffer tube and stock, some punches and a little hammer. The Glock tools were tossed into the order as they are a nice thing to have. I hopped onto the build guide and got started. It was helpful to have it open in two tabs so one could stay on the picture with the part diagram instead of scrolling back and forth.

Yes that is a tiny hand with a toy truck in the photo. I was getting set up right about his bedtime.

We will start with the Bad, then move onto the Ugly and close with the Good.

The Bad:

Lets just say I am not mechanically inclined. Tiny little pieces that have to go together in specific ways aren't my thing. Imagine if Homer Simpson and the Keystone Kops tried to build an AR-15 lower receiver.

Things got rolling and were going OK until the #*$%)#* #*%$))#*ing Pivot Pin Detent and Spring. Those suckers went flying off to the abyss of our home. After some looking and harsh words I decided to grab the other parts (there are two of each piece) and just keep going. That #*$)(@#ing spring bent but I had a second one. It would probably still work but the idea of using a knowingly flawed part did not appeal to me. That front pivot pin detent and spring are probably the hardest part of the whole lower build. I kept going on figuring this part could be figured out later. About half the parts need to be taken out then put back in but nothing was particularly difficult and I kept a decent pace.

Once I got to the end of the lower build I had to have that other Detent Pin and Spring. Realizing I had some spare parts lying around I decided to see if these parts were on inventory so things could get finished up. Thankfully I had the parts. Getting the rear detent pin in, the buffer retainer compressed and the stock screwed on was kind of awkward. Anyway it got done.

Doing a functions check the trigger was not rebounding properly/ reliably. I then pulled out another lower to take a look. The trigger spring was not properly in place. To take it out I pretty much had to pull the whole thing apart but since I was a bit ahead on the learning curve it was only a 10 minute thing.

All in all it is done and took about 2.5 hours. During that time I ruined/ lost about $3 in parts. I suspect another build would take an hour and not have any lost/ damaged parts.

The Ugly: The implications of lost or damaged parts are significant in some sort of worst case scenario. Folks who plan to build or fully disassemble weapons would be well advised to have some of those little parts on hand. Had this been a worst case scenario and I didn't have the spare parts my AR-15 would be nonfunctional for the want of $3 in parts which would be like really really bad.

Getting into my spare parts I saw we have a less AR-15 spare parts than I thought. Will address this shortage at some point.

The Good:

I know more about the function of the AR-15 than I did before. While the building wasn't fun I am pleased to have done this. Also I learned a new skill. Getting to the level where I am a competent Armorer (able to restore the gun to factory specs) on all of our core weapons and some common other ones is something I want to do.  Also now I have to go to the range to do a test fire which is a good excuse reason to go shooting.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Skill Saturday: Curing and Maintaining Cast Iron

I have been slacking on this feature. On a tangent I was recently asked if it would be possible for me to do some stuff with video. There are some PERSEC concerns. I am not putting my face out there on the web any time soon and would probably use backdrops or whatnot. We have a video camera but I am not entirely sure of it's capabilities. Will have to do tests at some point.

Anyway today I am going to talk about cast iron. Cast Iron and I had a love hate relationship but seem to have figured it out. If you haven't picked it up I like low maintenance things that can take a beating. It is not an accident that I shoot Glocks and drive Japanese/ Korean cars. Non stick stuff is easy but it doesn't wear very well. My observation is that it needs to be replaced every couple years even if you buy quality. I hate products that do not wear well and like ones that last forever, or at least a long time. Obviously pots and pans that last forever have some preparedness benefits. This leads to my cast iron dilema.

I used some cast iron while camping as a kid but not extensively. Being quite heavy it is relegated to car camping or long term base camps. As an adult we got a cast iron frying pan a couple years ago. I never did a lot with it, the thing sort of got rusty and then sat in a cupboard. Since redeploying I wanted to get this sorted out.

The method I have found successful for curing cast iron is as follows: Clean and wash the pan (or whatever), if there is rust take care of it with an SOS pad, steel wool or fine sand paper. Wash, immediately dry with a towel then put it on a burner set to high (or in an oven) to heat it up and get rid of any remaining moisture. You can let it cool or not after this, my observation is that it doesn't actually matter.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. [If your pan has some baked on junk or residue put it into the oven for an hour, this should burn it off. ] When the oven is up to temp take out some crisco (do not use vegetable oil, it leaves resedue) and use a rag or paper towel to LIGHTLY coat the pan. Stick the pan in the oven bottom side up and put a cookie sheet, ideally an old nasty one, or covered in tin foil, below it to catch drips. This is important because I have heard that if you do not a bunch of junk will drip onto the bottom of the oven and burn. Set the timer for an hour. Go do something else.

In an hour take the pan out using a potholder because the pan is quite hot. Use a clean rag or paper towel to wipe off the excess crisco or any burned on junk. If nothing comes off then you are done. If stuff comes off then grab your crisco rag or paper towel and LIGHTLY recoat the pan then put it back in the oven for an hour. I found two cycles of coating and an hour in the oven left a nice shiny black pan that is easy to cook with. YMMV.

During this whole thing be careful because the pan will be hot. Also it will stay hot for a suprisingly long time.

Cooking with cast iron: Cast iron needs some sort of oil like product to prevent stuff from burning and getting stuck. Not a lot necessarily but some. It cooks very evenly which is nice.

Maintenance: Water is to cast iron what crack is to Charlie Sheen, a significant problem. DO NOT LET CAST IRON SOAK IN A SINK FULL OF WATER. DO NOT LEAVE CAST IRON WET. Scrape off all the food or residue, wash it normally, dry immediately with a towel and then into the oven or onto the burner to heat up and burn off any remaining moisture.

One benefit of cast iron being a big piece of metal is that you do not need to be afraid of hurting some finish like you would a nonstick pan. You can ruin the nice black oil coat (called a Patina for some reason) but that can be fixed by curing it. I once used a steel wire brush attachment on a drill to clean up a particularly abused dutch oven.

Note: I am certainly not saying this is the only way to cure, clean and use cast iron. Other folks might do something that is better. This is just the way that works for me.

With some reasonable adaptations cast iron can be rewarding and enjoyable to use.

Download the Firefox Book Today!

Well maybe you don't really need to do it today but definitely should do it. Download the first Foxfire book here. The second and third books were available some time ago but I couldn't find them in a dilligent 30 second google search. The first one is IMO the best of the bunch anyway.

Download it and either print it out or buy a hard copy. You can get a set of the first three books (after that it gets more crafty for the sake of crafty than practical) in a box, used but not abused, for under 50 bucks. Considering what printer ink costs and that actual books are nicer anyway it might not be a bad way to go.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Skill Saturday- Skill Development


  1. The ability to do something well; expertise.
  2. A particular ability

 I decided to start paying more attention to skills here. Starting by talking about what skills are and different ways you can develop them seemed like as good of a place as any. To me skills differ from education or knowledge in that they relate so some sort of a specific action or end product. A mechanic could show his skill by fixing a vehicle or a chef by making a tasty meal.

Broadly speaking skills tend to be more difficult to develop on you own than knowledge. A guy who reads the right shelf of books and has a decent memory could learn a lot about history for example. It would be much harder to learn to fix engines from a shelf of books.

Thankfully over the last couple decades between how to tapes and DVD's, the internet, reasonably priced recording equipment and youtube there are some readily accessible individual options other than trying to figure things out from a small black and white picture in a book. Being able to read about something and see another person do it goes a long way towards making it actually work. Assuming we are talking about a reasonably simple skill and you are a moderately intelligent person this is often enough to get started.

The upsides of this self guided at home type learning are that you can do it whenever and almost wherever you want. You can learn skills that are uncommon in your area or you don't want to advertise pursueing for whatever reason. The downsides are that it is seriously limited in what you can learn. Complex skills with multiple things going on at once (shooting, hand to hand combat, complicated auto repair, etc) do not typically work well with this style of learning.

 In many cases the easiest way to develop a skill is to find somebody who has that skill and get them to show you how to do it. This is a good place to start for most skills. Look at people in and around your family/ friends/ work circles. Somebody probably knows how to do basic auto maintenance, another guy might know how to do tile or plumbing or shoot a gun. Typically folks are willing to help you out. Just about everybody likes an excuse to practice their hobby so if the skill falls into that area you are probably good to go. If it is something a guy does for a living like auto repair or construction it is a bit harder. Offering to help them work on a project of theirs vs offering to let them do their job outside of work and fix your car/ toilet/ whatever for free is something I have seen work well.

The upsides of this style of learning are that it is convenient, comfortable and cheap. All of these are good things.

The downsides however are noteable. Sometimes free training is worth exactly what you paid. Jimbo the gun guy or Bob the shade tree mechanic might be completely uncapable or even dangerous. Unfortunately folks with no experience in an area are often not capable of assessing an individuals skill or ability at instruction.  Often instruction in this style is limited by time and effort by both parties. If your 65 year old retired neighbor shot high power for 4 decades and is lonely he might teach you almost everything he knows over a few years of Sundays at the range but if your 30 year old cousin who casually target shoots takes you to the range once the amount of skills you get will be pretty minimal.

Also different groups vary but it is my observation that often skills tend to cluster in groups based on region/ socioeconomic/ cultural leanings. The odds that a rural Wyoming community has folks who can teach you to shoot or hunt are a lot higher than in Manhattan. On the other hand Jim the rancher probably can't do the paperwork to set up a dummy corp incorporate your small business in 20 minutes during a Saturday BBQ. Sometimes skills you need do not exist inside of your social group.

As with anything in life, you get what you pay for.

The next option is looking to local groups or clubs. Join an outdoors or orienteering club or whatever. This may cost a little bit of money but if paying a $20 membership fee and doing some stupid meetings lets you get a skill that you need it is a good investment. The upside is that you can pursue specific skills in this way. The downside would be that it really only applies to certain hobby type skills.

The last option is getting professional training in the area(s) you are weak in. If you really want to learn how to do something getting quality training from an expert is a hard option to beat. For specific skills which have a high level of technical complication that you really want to get good at this is probably the best way to go. Unless your good buddy is an MMA fighter or a tactical marksmenship instructor who is willing to teach you for weeks or years for free this is really the only viable options. One thing to consider is how much time and money you would need to spend to reach a given skill level. Lots of schools can teach you to be a decent defensive handgun shooter in a weekend for a few hundred bucks. Spending 2 years going full time to a technical school to learn to fix engines is a lot harder to pull off. The only real downside of this plan is that it is expensive. The old addage about trading time and convenience for money probably applies here.

Anyway while not exclusive the ways we talk about developing skills are pretty representative of the available options.


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