Things that make men go “Oooooh!”

Beauty, Beholder, Eye Thereof

Somewhere on my meanderings through Teh Intarwebz, I stumbled on this photo, which depicts the typical G.I. squad weaponry of World War II.

For those unfamiliar with Ye Olde Weaponrie, they are from the top: M3 submachine gun, Colt 1911-A1 pistol, Thompson 1928-A1 submachine gun (standard and “commando” versions), M1 Carbine, M1 Garand, M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). All in manly chamberings like .45 ACP , .30 Carbine and .30-06 Springfield, and there’s not a single piece of plastic to be found anywhere: just wood and steel and death and stuff.

I’ve fired every single one of them, of course, and loved the experience more than is proper to discuss in polite company.

Feel free to tell me why I shouldn’t feel a sense of longing for the Good Old Days.


(Yes, I know the M3 could be altered to fire the silly 9mm Parabellum Europellet, but like dear old Uncle Ernie who liked to fiddle all about, we just don’t talk about such wickedness.)

Restored Beauty

As a rule, I’m not one for restoring old cars — I’m irretrievably non-mechanical and worse, I hate getting my hands dirty — so when Longtime Friend Knob sent me an email about the old Citroën Type H Van being restored, it took me a while to get up the enthusiasm to click on the link. I mean, sure, the Type H was in production from 1947 until 1981(!), and apart from only a few cosmetic changes, looked pretty much in  1981 as it did in 1947.

When you’ve got decent style, good engineering and excellent functionality, why change, right? (And yes, I do love the Colt 1911 for precisely the same reasons.)

To be honest, the Type H never got me going, although I cannot deny its appeal: those corrugated panels make it look like the French van-equivalent of a Junkers Ju-52 transport airplane (which is unsurprising, because the Citroën engineers actually copied the Ju-52’s style), and its 1.9-liter engine was more powerful than most other Euro vans of the late 1940s. (By the way, although the Ju-52 originally started production in 1931 and finished in 1952, it remained in service with various airlines around the world until the 1980s — making the similarities between it and the Type H even more striking.)

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.

When I finally did click on the link Knob sent me, it was not some boring nut-by-bolt restoration story; oh no, it involved transforming a modern Citroën Jumper van back into a Type H. Here’s what the Jumper looks like before the retrofit:

…which is okay, but dead boring in the usual modern wind-tunnel-design kinda way. However, here’s the retrofitted Type H:

…and I think it looks fantastic. Of the two, I’d take the retrofitted Type H any day of the week; but you knew that about me already, didn’t you?

Life Among The Gun Nuts

So the other day I was parked in my chair writing this here blog, when I became aware of a fly buzzing around. I ignored it for a while, but when Doc came home from work, I asked him where he kept the fly spray.

“Fly spray? Fly spray? I don’ need no steenkin’ fly spray,” he exclaimed, went away and came back with this thing, the “Bug-A-Salt(TM) The Original Salt Gun”:

For those of you unaware of this Implement of Death, it’s essentially a low-powered pump-action pneumatic shotgun which shoots table salt at insects.

So I popped the fly with the Bug-A-Salt at close range. It buzzed around a bit, somewhat erratically, so thinking I hadn’t hit it squarely, I moved the gun closer and popped the fly again. No effect. So I said a Bad Word, and gave it yet another load of salt. This time it fell to the windowsill, but it was still kicking. So I gave it one last shot, and finally the little bastard snuffed it — at least, he was still lying there a couple hours later. Four shots of salt to kill a single fly — I should have just butt-stroked the damn thing.

This alleged insect-killing device was made in China, and perhaps their flies are not as tough as our Texas flying assholes, which make a noise like a buzz-saw and can crack a window-pane with a single headbutt.

Needless to say, this caused some discussion between Doc and myself, and we came to the conclusion that we either need to drill out a larger bore on the gun barrel to increase the gross projectile weight, or use a larger shot size (i.e. coarse kosher salt), or both.

I’ll keep you posted.

Flying Aces

Although I have something of a reputation for being a gun nut, I’m more of an admirer than an aficionado. Sure, I can tell the difference between most older bolt-action rifles with just a brief inspection (because that’s a particular passion of mine), but the model numbers of the various Glock, SIG and S&W guns leave me cross-eyed with confusion. Unless I actually own or want a particular model, I have little interest in its stablemates, clones, extensions or forerunners.

When it comes to things aeronautical, I’m likewise not one of those obsessive types who can tell at a glance the difference between a Spitfire Mk.III or Mk.IX, but my goodness, I do love the shape of the things:

One of the very few regrets of my life is that apart from puttering around with a friend’s ultralight, I never learned to fly and get my PPL, because I would love to have taken a WWII-era fighter aircraft for a quick flight. Even the much-maligned Hawker Hurricane has not escaped my gaze:

The great WWII flying ace Douglas Bader flew both in action during the Battle of Britain, and his comment was that while he loved the agility and performance of the Spit, he grew to appreciate the Hurri as a rock-solid gun platform that could withstand an incredible amount of punishment — even though its rear fuselage was made entirely of canvas-covered wood.

I’ve seen a Spitfire in the flesh, as it were, as well as its major opponent, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, as both were displayed at the War Museum in Johannesburg.

What struck me then, as now, is how small those wonderful aircraft are. Also at the museum was one of the few remaining Me 262 jet aircraft, and by comparison to the dainty 109, it was a great hulking brute of a thing:

…although I have to tell you, that shark-like fuselage has its own particular attraction for me too.

As a boy, I was fascinated by WWII fighter aircraft and built models of almost all of them: Spitfire, Hurricane, P-51 Mustang, Me 109; you name it, I probably built it. As I’ve aged, I’ve tried to understand just what it is that attracted me (and still does to this day) to these aircraft, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.

These were not the fragile, unreliable and dangerous aircraft of WWI, nor are they the techno-laden jet fighters of the post-WWII era. Instead, they were flying machines which made you feel like you were part of a miracle. The speeds were nowhere close to supersonic (a modern-day Bugatti Veyron has a top speed just 100mph slower than that of a 1939 Hurricane), and honestly, I think my criterion for these WWII fighter planes is one of enjoyment: you’re going fast, but not that fast that you have no time to think about the experience. Kind of like the difference between, say, a Caterham 7 and a Pagani Zonda.

     

I like both, but I’d rather drive a Caterham than a Zonda for the same reason that I prefer a bolt-action rifle to a full-auto rifle: there’s more of an element of actively making the 7 and the turnbolt work, rather than just controlling the Zonda and (say) a BAR. Speed has little to do with it, although I suspect that the thrill of speed in a Caterham may be every bit as good as in a Zonda, even though the latter may be going half as fast again as the 7. Fast is fast: what’s the difference is how much one can feel it — and I suspect that without a speedometer to tell you the difference, you might not be able to quantify it that much.

So give me a good old WWII aircraft — the aeronautical equivalent of the Caterham — any day of the week.

And to quote a friend in a different context: when I see a pic like this one, parts of me start to tingle that haven’t tingled in a long while.

Can you imagine the sound those nine Merlin-engined beauties make as they thunder overhead? I don’t smoke, but I’m pretty sure I’d want a cigarette after that flyover.

Carry Knives

Via Insty, there’s this interesting article about the proper knife to carry on one’s person, and how to carry it, etc., with all the caveats about legality and such.

However, the writer’s basic premise is that nobody should leave home without carrying some sort of blade, and it’s a sentiment that I wholeheartedly support. Honestly, I’ve been more likely to forget my 1911 than my carry knife, especially when I’m in a dead hurry. Hell, I’ve forgotten my wallet but still had a knife on me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to use my blade just in the past year, whether it’s cutting fruit (often) or a stick of dried meat (very often), or cheese (almost every other day, on the way back from the supermarket when the urge to taste the cheese can be overwhelming). And, of course, there’s always that stubborn piece of knotted string, or an over-wrapped package that needs a little coaxing.

As to which blade, of course, we are going to have all sorts of interesting discussions, you betcha. I have two favorites, both presents from The Mrs. from her various business trips: a beautiful Al Mar “Secret Service” from Tokyo, and my favorite folder of all, a Julius Herbertz from Ahrweil, Germany. Here they are, top to bottom as mentioned:

Here’s the thing: I’m aware that the Cold Steel this and the Gerber that are probably “better” knives than these two in terms of fighting or survival or whatever. I don’t care. If there’s going to be a fight, I carry a 1911 for that purpose; and in a survival situation, one razor-sharp blade is going to be pretty much as good as another.

I prefer to carry beautiful knives; and in my opinion (and remember, beauty is the ultimate subjective opinion), the Al Mar with its simple yet elegant pointed blade, and the Herbertz with its swooping edge are more beautiful than any Cold Steel / Gerber knives ever made. Here’s another pic of the Herbertz which shows off its walnut grip a little better:

In any company, that’s a knife which frequently draws ooohs and aaaahs from people who appreciate fine cutlery. (I apologize for the picture quality, by the way; I’m still getting used to the smartphone camera instead of my old Canon, which was already packed for the move.)

And I refuse to apologize for the rather battered state of my carry knives. They may be beautiful, but they have to work for me — which is the ultimate criterion for any tool, right?

Men, Explained

Yeah, maybe. On the other hand, there are thousands of buffalo to be had, but there’s only one fine piece of lioness poontang in the immediate vicinity. And as this is a kitchen metaphor: let’s face it, when she’s wearing that lil’ apron, standing there all hot and bothered, maybe a little messy with flour all over her, ponytail working itself loose, maybe a stray strand of hair falling down her cheek…

…I can kinda see our guy’s motivation.