Thoughts on low cost tactical bolt action rifle options

It’s been a while since I did a gear review like this. In the realm of tactical rifles it’s easy to get into the multiple thousand dollar range fast, so the ones I’ve listed here do have price as a large concern. So for early 2019 looking across the market….

#1: Ruger American Predator in 6.5  Creedmoor or 308 Win. This sub 400 dollar rifle tops my recommendation list because it can be had for under 400 dollars, without scope, sling or bipod. You get a great action and barrel, an acceptable synthetic stock with bedding block built in, and built in scope bases.

#2: Savage 10T-PT in 308 Win or 6.5 Creedmoor. This rifle retails between 500 and 600 US depending on retailer. Standard heavy barrel, Savage AccuTrigger, and aluminum bedding block in an acceptable hunting style synthetic stock.

#3: Bergara B-14 Hunting Match Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. The first overseas contender on the list comes in between 900 and 1000 dollars before any sales. It’s good to go right from the box, with the most ergonomic stock option in the lineup so far.

#4: Tie: Savage BA and Howa 1500. Both of these retail north of 1,200 and come in various calibers (my preference is the 300 Win Mag chambering).

Now, Scopes. 200 to 300 dollar range.

#1: Swift Tactical 4-12x40mm. This isn’t the latest and greatest, highest magnification scope out there, but it is a solid choice for precision shooting under real world conditions. Clear glass (made by Schott), mildot reticle. Right around 220 dollars off of amazon right now.

#2: Tie: SWFA 6×42 or 10×42 Super Sniper. For 300 dollars these are a tough as nails optic that have a proven track record for consistent adjustment and holding zero. If you plan to hunt, get the 6×42 for increased light gathering at dusk/dawn. The 10×42 is a great scope as well.

Scopes in the 300 to 400 dollar range.

#1: Athlon Argos BTR 6-24×50. For around 300 dollars on amazon you get a first focal plane scope with “christmas tree” reticle for ranging and holdovers.

#2: Swift SRP3911M 6-24×50 30mm. This is not as feature rich as the Athlon, but it does come with Schott glass for better upper magnification clarity.

So there you have it, four rifles, four scopes. The “cheapest” combination listed would be the Ruger Predator (roughly 390 US) with a Swift 4-12×40 mildot scope (220 US) for a grand total of 610 US not including rings, sling and bipod. The most expensive combination Would be a Savage BA or Howa (1,200 or more) with a 400 dollar scope for 1,600 not including rings, sling, and bipod.

There are other good rifles not listed here, and other good scope options not listed here. Feel free to throw suggestions in the comments.

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The European Union, NATO, and Russia

The European Union is a political alliance built over top of NATO. Specifically it was built over the top of NATO by Europeans who purposely see Europe as needing to unite as an entity to balance out the US as a trade bloc. In the past decade some EU politicians have advocated for an “EU” military, which other politicians have said, “The EU military is NATO!” in response.

I don’t normally put too much stock in Vox reporting, and consider this two minute brief a very simplified explanation, but just because they aren’t totally right about why Russia is invading Ukraine doesn’t mean they are wrong either:

Despite being an overly simplified explanation of why Russia is doing what Russia is doing, it does acknowledge indirectly that many Russians view the fall of the USSR as an affront to Russia as a “loss of territory.” This is why Putin’s approval ratings skyrocketed, as he is seen by a majority of Russians as righting historical wrongs done to the Russian empire.

So armed with this information, that there is large scale Russian support for restoring the borders of the USSR to “restore Russian glory and prominence” we come to Poland. And here is why I don’t put too much stock in Vox reporting, as this piece on Poland is presented without any context as to why Poles would freely elect “far right” leadership.

To understand why the Poles would elect “far right” leadership that focused on Polish nationalism, you have to understand the resurgence of Russia does not stop with nibbling away at Ukraine. From the Polish perspective, the EU offers no assurances at all that there is any protection from Russia simply by being a member of the EU. To understand why it happened in 2015, you only need to see that Crimea happened in 2014, to Poland’s southern neighbor Ukraine.

But, this sort of political consequences are not limited to Poland. Angela Merkel has come out in favor of an EU Army:

Whether Merkel sees an EU Army as a way to minimize US influence, and maximize German influence on the continent is up for debate, but it is quite clear that the Poles have no faith in an EU Army to prevent Russia from nibbling away at the former “Soviet Bloc” that was kept behind the iron curtain.

So what is there to do? As always there are multiple courses of actions to consider. On the extreme end is the dissolution of NATO, or at least the US withdrawl from NATO. That would largely leave Europe in charge of European security issues. On the other extreme end is building permanent US bases in the Baltics and Poland, which would very much “poke the bear” as Russia still views those nations as well within the Russian sphere of influence and possibly territories to take back. No matter what the EU does in terms of creating an “EU Army” (which they cannot afford to actually be an effective Army with their other financial obligations), you’ll see a bifurcation again of military preparedness east of Germany from the Baltics to the Black Sea as every nation does their best to discourage Russian incursion.

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Not every “crisis” is an “injustice.”

Ponder the following statement:

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written in response to eight white “moderate” clergymen who urged MLK and the Civil Rights Movement to “show restraint,” slow down and work for change more gradually. History has decided clearly who was in the right.

Yet, how often do we hear those same arguments today in regards to healthcare, climate change, immigration, racism or any other issues demanding immediate justice? Are we more like MLK or the eight lukewarm clergymen?

Oy vey…where do I start. Lets go in order…

Healthcare. What part of my labor does someone else have a right to? What part of someone else’s labor do I have a right to? The correct answer is, “none.” Passing some law that guarantees that healthcare become a “right” does not make it immune to the laws of scarcity. The most responsive healthcare systems I’ve seen are a hybrid of public/private concerns, where the dynamism of the free market is not shoved out of the space by government. That’s why people come to the US for cutting edge treatment, and not to Spain or Norway.

Climate change. Can you point to any period in all of history where climate wasn’t changing? No? Then why is a changing climate a concern now? The earth has been both warmer and cooler in the past, both wetter and dryer, and it was never catastrophic. Using “climate change” as a thinly veiled scare tactic to take massive government intervention into the economy is just straight up bullshit. If it weren’t bullshit then Al Gore wouldn’t use 18 times the average American in terms of energy per year.

Immigration. What the fuck? Immigration is not some moral crisis of our time? Every single nation on this planet has an immigration policy that is set to protect the interests of that nation, NOT the potential immigrants from other countries. Unrestricted immigration combined with a generous social welfare state is a recipe for bankruptcy, not prosperity or “justice.”

Racism…This might be the only issue listed that actually has anything to do with “justice” but seriously, you can’t stop individuals from being racist. What you can do is address what racism you identify through legal means (and that is a highly successful tactic). Simply calling people you don’t like “racist” is just what the Left does when it doesn’t have facts, logic, or morality on its side of an argument (see immigration above).

To help out Frank Lesko, the pinko communist masquerading as a religious concern troll trying to twist the words of a Republican fighting for political freedom and equality with “climate change”, MLK Jr was not trying to take anything from any citizen. He was trying to restore the inalienable rights of Americans. He could have immigrated to France. He could have kept quiet, but he was not lobbying to take anything from anyone. What MLK Jr worked to accomplish was to address a legal and moral injustice, that did not require anyone to give up more of their personal freedoms to government intervention. Now government intervention, in the form of federal troops forcing desegregation of schools, was a legitimate act to preserve the rights and freedoms of black Americans to equal access of services as citizens. And protecting the rights of individuals is the right and proper place of government.

It is not the right and proper place of government to restrict the economic freedom of citizens in the name of “fighting climate change.” It is not the right and proper place of government to ignore the serious issues of border security. It is not the right and proper place of government to continually meddle in the health care and insurance industries. Government is, and will always be force, and force must be used as sparingly as possible else it become tyranny.

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Coq a Vin

It’s been a while since this blog posted

The slaughtered rooster has successfully been consumed in the French farmhouse style of cock in wine. The meat marinated in “Barefoot” pinot noir red wine for just over 24 hours. Bacon was rendered into fat and crispy bits, pearl onions and quartered mushrooms cooked in the bacon fat (with a little added avocado oil since I felt it needed a tad more fat). Those bits were removed, the rinsed and dried rooster meat slapped into the searing hot dutch oven to get some flavor built up on the outside of the meat. After a few minutes of searing, added carrots, celery, the onions, mushrooms, and bacon, as well as a bay leaf and sprig of thyme, before pouring in another 750 ml of pinot noir. Then it went into the oven at 325 for 4 hours.

At the end of 4 hours, out came the dutch oven, all the solid food got separated out for plating, the herbs and celery put off to the side for throwing away (they’d given all the flavor they had). With only a small amount of liquid left, I turned a burner on high and began to reduce the liquid down. I added a pat of Kerrygold butter, and a teaspoon of cornstarch mixed in with a third of a cup of cool water, and whisked until the sauce reduced down to a dark, thick, smooth syrupy texture.

Results, I enjoyed the dark meat, my wife enjoyed the breast, and the kids managed to eat most of what was in front of them. The sauce was arguably the best part, as the wife asked if I could make the sauce for pouring over some juicier more standard chicken breasts rather than the tougher rooster meat. Honestly it shouldn’t be that hard to replicate the sauce using onions, bacon, herbs, chicken stock, and a lot of time to reduce all that liquid down into thick sauce.

The dark meat tasted much “beefier” than what you would expect from chicken, more like a game fowl than a domestic fowl. Not bad, just different, and rather enjoyable if you like the heavier flavors of mature goose or turkey which the rooster resembled.

The wife and I decided that this type of cooking has potential, but it probably wouldn’t be a normal thing for us (after all, the 1.5 liter bottle of pinot noir set me back a solid ten bucks and change, so while it was good and tasty, it’s an expensive way to make a tough old rooster a relatively tender meal).


Coq a Vin, the rooster meat comes out very dark from the pinot noir. Wasn’t concerned about presentation, so we ate off of paper plates and I paired my serving with German ale (I know, must be heresy or something).

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Skinning a Chicken

Is way harder than you think it would be your first time.

A friend and co-worker of mine gave me a year old rooster when I mentioned that I’d like to make “coq a vin” with an authentic “coq” and she had an aggressive rooster that she wouldn’t mind sending to the oven. Since I’m not a fan of chicken skin, and I think scalding or plucking is a huge waste of time, I decided to skin the rooster.

It’s been a while since I slaughtered an animal (last time was a goat), so I re-learned a few things.

1, a good boning knife is a very important tool to have for a small animal. Big game like goats, deer, elk, can be initially processed with relatively large hunting/butchering knives. Smaller animals like roosters, other domestic fowl, cannot.

2, lots of running water to clear away the processing area is a great asset to have. Letting my nine year old control the water pressure was probably not smartest plan I’ve ever had.

3, skinning a chicken really is the fastest way to process a bird into meat, at least without investing money in the very specific tools needed to pluck lots of chickens fast. You really do need too adults, or fashion a bird holding tool, to really take advantage of it.

4, skills that aren’t used, atrophy. Processing a farm animal every couple of years seems to be enough that I can muddle my way through the job, but I should probably do this particular chore more often so that I have the best tools on hand, a decent setup, and can efficiently do the job.

None of those things should be shockers to any of my regular readers (both of you), but I think it is still worth sharing. We tossed the meat into the freezer so that the formation of ice crystals will help tear down cell walls and tenderize the meat. I’ll also let the meat marinate for a day in some cheap South American Malbec or Zinfandel just to make the French cuisine purists have a case of the vapors.

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The rituals we have, the rituals we keep.

There are periodic events in life on the long term like birthdays and anniversaries, and there are periodic events that happen on shorter terms like church service, or paydays, and there are the daily rituals that we perform. The cycle of life is measured from the breathe in, breath out, to the periodic meal times, and well beyond to longer term cycles, life is full of little rituals.

Which is why I’m writing about shaving.

To look well groomed, a man comes to an age where shaving every day becomes necessary. To some this is a chore to be handled as quickly as possible. To others it becomes a mental break, a bit of “me time” to focus on mentally preparing for whatever fresh hell awaits them at work. Even if you let yourself go for a day or two to get that “manly scruff” going on, you’ll eventually have to complete the shaving ritual to get back into that well groomed state.

Over a decade ago I got into “wet shaving” using a double edge safety razor. I found it gave a very close shave without too many passes over my face. And others have caught on, you can now purchase a reasonably priced DE safety razor at Walmart or Walgreens, along with an increasing array of shaving cremes that require the use of some sort of brush.

In my life, there are plenty of periods of uncertainty, and periods of transition. These are the stressful times, and in times of stress humans find comfort in ritual. I don’t mean to imply that shaving is anywhere on the spectrum near church attendance in the form of comfort, but it does exist on the same spectrum, and can offer some of the same comforts.

Shaving is a good ritual to practice because it is all about preparing yourself to face the day (an affirming, hopeful action). It is a good ritual practice because care is required, lest you cut yourself (requiring a focused mindset). It combines temperature, texture, scents, visual and tactile feedback (engages your senses). In short, the ingredients for a significant daily ritual to make you be the best version of yourself, are all found in shaving, so in times of transition, and uncertainty, spending an extra few minutes to focus on shaving can be time very well spent.

I have a good friend, who is going through a period in his life that is both uncertain, and transitory. I wanted to give him a gift that told him, “I believe in you, and want you to be the best you that you can be.” So he got a bunch of shaving supplies. A DE razor, a brush, a few cremes, a classic aftershave (Pinaud Clubman, always makes me think of the barber shop my dad took me to as a kid), an assortment of different blades, a blade stand. These are the tools of my daily shave ritual, and my hope is that as my friend runs that razor across his skin, he finds his mind sharpened into focus, and his life focused into purpose.

Because the rituals of our life are important, even something as simple as the daily shave. So good luck to all you shavers out there still hitting the daily grind, putting in the time at the job site. May your life be blessed, and your shave blood free.

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Hotel Review: Comfort Inn of Barstow, California

If you, for some reason, require lodging in the Barstow, California area, I cannot recommend the Comfort Inn. Seriously.

It isn’t just one thing that makes staying at that establishment an exercise in disappointment, it’s all the little things. Like the constant freeway noise at night, or the fact that despite knowing you would be staying for two and a half weeks the hotel chose to give you the one room directly over the kitchen area so that you would wake to the sound of pots and pans banging around at 4 A.M. every day, or the fact that the heated pool isn’t, and the guest laundry is two coin operated machines and the front desk clerk will gladly direct you to a truck stop to make change….

On the plus side, the maid service seems thorough, the complimentary breakfast is adequate, and the commute to the mother of all training centers is less than an hour.  In short, you might as well stay in the RUBA and get an extra hour and a half of sleep every day rather than be treated less like a paying customer and more like a commodity used to pull money from Uncle Sam.

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