The Cost Of History

I’ve always loved the little WWII-era M1 Carbine, because it’s so much fun to shoot, it doesn’t weigh a ton, and the ammo isn’t fearfully expensive (relatively speaking, in today’s market).

In my various travels about Teh Intarwebz, I came across a YouTube video which looked at the ” Most Overpriced Mil-Surp Rifles On The Market”, in which the host opined that the M1 Carbine is the second-most over-priced. (I think that ALL guns today are overpriced, thank you again, Urkel Obama and Hillary Bitch Clinton, but I’ve ranted about that before.)

I’m not going to argue much with the man’s take on the M1 being overpriced; it is, and horribly so. (A refurbished Korean Inland M1 Carbine for over $1,200? Are you shitting me?)

However, welcome to the gun nut’s Rock (fun to shoot etc.) and Hard Place (damn spendy). It’s a problem as old as time, and one we gun nuts have always had to deal with — only now, it’s worse than ever.

Let’s just assume, however, that the Rock has won you over, and you just have to have this lovely little gun in your safe. How can you get some kind, any kind of a cost saving out of this? Here’s the rundown, as I see it:

  • Rifle: $1,200 (which seems to be about the cost of a decent mil-surp M1 Carbine these days; less, and buyer beware; more, and you’re looking at IBM and Rock-Ola rifles, most probably)
  • Three spare 15-round mags @ $11 each: $33
  • Bulk .30 Carbine ammo (250-round bulk pack): $85
  • Total cost: $1,318 (ignore shipping and FFL transfer costs, because they’ll be a constant no matter what you buy)

Here’s a thought. What you’re paying for with one of those WWII / Korean War M1 Carbines is history — the fact that some GI might once have used this rifle to whack Nazis and/or Commies (always a Good Thing, IMO). But if you can forego that nostalgia (and it’s hard, believe me), you can get a newly-manufactured M1 Carbine from Thompson/Auto-Ordnance (Kahr) for about $765… which means if you forego the history and end up spending the same $1,318 for the whole package, you’d essentially be getting the same shooting fun — only now with three free mags and 1,250 rounds of ammo.

Or, if you can’t shake all aspects of nostalgia and you want a carbine which can take the good old M3 bayonet, you can get a new Inland M1 Carbine (yes, they’re making them again) for about $980, which would mean your “package” cost of $1,318 would get you three spare mags and 750 rounds of ammo.

Or you could just pocket the savings, either way.

As with all my opinions on matters such as these, please don’t pepper me with “I can get this cheaper at X” or my favorite: “OMG I paid $250 for my Carbine” comments — yes, so did I… back in 2004. Unfortunately, we’re living in a different world now, where panic buying (did I forget to thank Barack fucking Obama again?) has caused prices of all gun-related stuff to skyrocket. On the one hand, I like the fact that more guns are in private hands today than there were in 2007, but on the other, those additions to armed citizenry have come at a cost to us Old Gun Nuts in the form of higher gun prices. Intellectually, I’m cool with the outcome, but the dollar-cost reality makes my nuts ache.

Also, don’t think you’ll be able to snap up an M1 Carbine for $600 at a gun show. One, there are no more decent deals to be had at gun shows anymore which leads to two, your $600 “cheap” Carbine will most likely require five hundred dollars’ worth of parts and quality gunsmithing to make it work properly.

So, if you have a spare grand and a half (shipping and FFL transfer costs, ugh), here’s one way to spend it.


One last thought: the regular .30 Carbine round with its little 110gr. bullet has always been knocked as being underpowered. Well, Buffalo Bore now makes these puppies with a 125gr. bullet, and with BB’s amped-up power, the muzzle energy of the .30 cartridge has been increased by over a third — more than twice as much, in other words, as a .357 Magnum firing the same bullet from a 6″ revolver barrel — which turns the .30 Carbine into a bona fide stopper. (Don’t ask about the price of Buffalo Bore ammo; but if you want the best, ya gotta dig deep, as any fule kno.)

Disquiet

As I begin my preparations for my British sabbatical, a couple of things have started to concern me about my impending globe-trotting — and remember, I haven’t flown domestically or internationally for about ten years.

A recent New York Times article [no link, fuck ’em] has pointed out that the root causes of the current woes being experienced by hapless revenue providers (fare-paying passengers, to you and me) lie in two areas: the shift in airline management’s emphasis from passenger comfort / treatment to fiscal measures such as pre-tax profits; and the fact that since 9/11, airline staff can treat passengers like nuisances (at best) or as “security risks” (at worst) without too much repercussion.

The airlines, of course, are bleating that all this is being driven by their soaring costs (despite the massive drop in fuel prices), and that in order to maintain any kind of decent profit margins, they have to “unbundle” features like free baggage, seating choice and comfortable seating and turn said features into revenue lines. Thus, when I went online to pre-book an aisle- or window seat for my trip to Britishland, I was hit with a $15 fee, each way. My checked bag (actually a small trunk — I’m going to be Over There for three seasons and some hunting withal) will also occasion an “oversized bag” fee, despite it being within the size / dimensions criteria posted on their website because, as the reservations clerk informed me, “It’s rigid” (i.e. it can’t be squashed flatter like normal bags and suitcases, something you may want to consider in the future when packing those bottles of wine).

By the way: talking to an actual person as opposed to doing everything electronically also triggers a fee.

Of course, because I’m flying in steerage (okay, “economy”) it means that I’m lower than shark shit shadow on the airline’s list of Necessary Evils, so there may well be a “Get off the plane, asshole!” moment in my future.

I do have a frequent-flier account with this particular airline, and have logged hundreds of flights with them in the past, so one might think that I can escape “Involuntary De-planing” (such a nice euphemism for GTFO, isn’t it?) — but sadly, all those flights took place in the distant past, which means that I’ll probably fall victim to the “But what have you done for us lately?” policy. (And if you think there’s no such policy, please direct me to the place where you bought your unicorn.)

Now there’s talk among the Big Four airlines of charging passengers for carry-on bags, something Spirit Airlines (motto: “We Invented Cheap ‘N Nasty Travel”) — are already doing.

It seems that the only way one can even begin to escape being treated like a dog turd on a tablecloth is to buy more expensive tickets (a.k.a. “added profit for not much more service”) in Business- or First Class.

Great Caesar’s bleeding haemorrhoids… what a lovely prospect.

Please note too that I haven’t mentioned which of these bastard airlines I’ll be using to get to England, because I bet that somewhere in their oh-so-tight budget is a line for “Snooping on passengers’ social media in case they say ugly things about us”. Motherfuckers.

And yes: I haven’t even started talking about having to deal with the TS fucking A, yet.

I need to stop now before I get angry.

Safe Sex

Apparently, eligible bachelors are taking measures to have safe sex, just not quite in the manner you’d think:

Hamptons bachelors are getting vasectomies so gold-diggers can’t trap them

I bet it’s not just bachelors in the Hamptons, although the New York media, easily among the most parochial in the world, would like to think so. (I especially like the added wrinkle that they’re having their sperm frozen prior to the operation, so if they decide later to have children, it will be entirely their choice.)

Why would they resort to such extreme measures? From the article:

Child support is 17 percent of the father’s salary up to $400,000, after which the amount is at a judge’s discretion, according to Garr. For someone who makes $1 million a year, Garr estimates annual payments of $100,000 — a total of $2.1 million until the child turns 21. Meanwhile, a vasectomy is typically covered by insurance or costs $1,000 out of pocket.

If I were a healthy young bachelor, I’d do it too. (I did have it done, of course, only at age 42, long after I’d become a daddy. I just didn’t want to become a repeat offender.)

This was always going to be a possibility in the Battle of the Sexes, by the way, after that loony court decision which ruled that even an anonymous sperm donor could be held liable for child support. Predictably, after that, fertility clinics reported that the donor count had fallen to zero and the flow had dried up [sic].

And it’s not just for child support, either: if the woman is an illegal alien, a U.S.-born baby becomes a residence visa.

And if you think I’m being overly cynical about this, please read the horrifying experience one guy encountered (also from the article):

[He] doesn’t want a repeat of last summer, when a woman he met at a party tried to pull a fast one after sex.
She offered to dispose of the used condom, but when she was in the bathroom for a while, John got suspicious. He found the woman seated on the toilet and inserting his semen inside of her.

Now that’s cynical.

Memorial Day

Charles Loxton was a small man, no taller than 5’6”, and was born in 1899. This means that when he fought in the muddy trenches of France during the First World War, he was no older than 17 years old — Delville Wood, where he was wounded, took place in July 1916.

Seventeen years old. That means he would have been a little over sixteen when he enlisted. In other words, Charles must have lied about his age to join the army — many did, in those days, and recruiting officers winked at the lies. After all, the meat grinder of the Western Front needed constant replenishment, and whether you died at 17, 18 or 19 made little difference.

Why did he do it? At the time, propaganda told of how the evil Kaiser Wilhelm was trying to conquer the world, and how evil Huns had raped Belgian nurses after executing whole villages. Where Charles lived as a young boy, however, the Kaiser was no danger to him, and no German Uhlans were going to set fire to his house, ever.

But Charles lied about his age and joined up because he felt that he was doing the right thing. That if good men did nothing, evil would most certainly win.

It’s not as though he didn’t know what was coming: every day, the newspapers would print whole pages of casualty lists, the black borders telling the world that France meant almost certain death. The verification could be found in all the houses’ windows which had black-crepe-lined photos of young men, killed on the Somme, in Flanders, in Ypres, and at Mons.

He would have seen with his own eyes the men who returned from France, with their missing limbs, shattered faces and shaky voices. He would have heard stories from other boys about their relatives coming back from France to other towns — either in spirit having died, or else with wounds so terrible that the imagination quailed at their description.

He would have seen the mothers of his friends weeping at the loss of a beloved husband. Perhaps it had been this man and not his father who had taught him how to fish, or how to shoot, or how to cut (from the branches of a peach tree) a “mik” (the “Y”) for his catapult.

But Charles, a 16-year-old boy, walked out of his home one day and went down to the recruiting center of the small mining town, and joined the Army.

When years later I asked him why he’d done it, he would just shrug, get a faraway look in his blue eyes, and change the subject. Words like duty, honor, country, I suspect, just embarrassed him. But that didn’t mean he was unaware of them.

So Charles joined the Army, was trained to fight, and went off to France. He was there for only four months before he was wounded. During the attack on the German trenches at Delville Wood, he was shot in the shoulder, and as he lay there in the mud, a German soldier speared him in the knee with his bayonet, before himself being shot and killed by another man in Charles’ squad. At least, I think that’s what happened — I only managed to get the story in bits and pieces. But the scars on his body were eloquent witnesses to the horror: the ugly cicatrix on his leg, two actually (where the bayonet went in above the knee and out below it), and the star-shaped indentation in his shoulder.

The wounds were serious enough to require over a year’s worth of extensive rehabilitation, and they never really healed properly. But Charles was eventually passed as fit enough to fight, and back to the trenches he went. By now it was early 1918 — the Americans were in the war, and tiny, limping Private Charles Loxton was given the job as an officer’s batman: the man who polished the captain’s boots, cleaned his uniform, and heated up the water for his morning shave every day. It was a menial, and in today’s terms, demeaning job, and Charles fought against it with all his might. Eventually, the officer relented and released him for further line service, and back to the line he went.

Two months later came the Armistice, and Charles left France for home, by now a grizzled veteran of 19. Because he had been cleared for trench duty, he was no longer considered to be disabled, and so he did not qualify for a disabled veteran’s pension.

When he got back home, there were no jobs except for one, so he took it. Charles became, unbelievably, a miner. His crippled knee still troubled him, but he went to work every day, because he had to earn money to support his mother, by now widowed, and his younger brother John. The work was dangerous, and every month there’d be some disaster, some catastrophe which would claim the lives of miners. But Charles and his friends shrugged off the danger, because after the slaughter of the trenches, where life expectancy was measured in days or even hours, a whole month between deaths was a relief.

But he had done his duty, for God, King and country, and he never regretted it. Not once did he ever say things like “If I’d known what I was getting into, I’d never have done it.” As far as he was concerned, he’d had no choice — and that instinct to do good, to do the right thing, governed his entire life.

At age 32, Charles married a local beauty half his age. Elizabeth, or “Betty” as everyone called her, was his pride and joy, and he worshipped her his whole life. They had five children.

Every morning before going to work, Charles would get up before dawn, and make a cup of coffee for Betty and each of the children, putting the coffee on the tables next to their beds. Then he’d kiss them, and leave for the rock face. Betty would die from multiple sclerosis, at age 43.

As a young boy, I first remembered Charles as an elderly man, although he was then in his late fifties, by today’s standards only middle-aged. His war wounds had made him old, and he had difficulty climbing stairs his whole life. But he was always immaculately dressed, always wore a tie and a hat, and his shoes were polished with such a gloss that you could tell the time in them if you held your watch close.

Charles taught me how to fish, how to cut a good “mik” for my catapult, and watched approvingly as I showed him what a good shot I was with my pellet gun. No matter how busy he was, he would drop whatever he was doing to help me — he was, without question, the kindest man I’ve ever known.

In 1964, Charles Loxton, my grandfather, died of phthisis, the “miner’s disease” caused by years of accumulated dust in the lungs. Even on his deathbed in the hospital, I never heard him complain — in fact, I never once heard him complain, ever. From his hospital bed, all he wanted to hear about was what I had done that day, or how I was doing at school.

When he died, late one night, there was no fuss, no emergency, no noise; he just took one breath, and then no more. He died as he had lived, quietly and without complaint.

From him, I developed the saying, “The mark of a decent man is not how much he thinks about himself, but how much time he spends thinking about others.”

Charles Loxton thought only about other people his entire life.

In Memoriam

Bucket List Entry #6: Monaco Grand Prix

Today sees the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Monaco, and while I’ve seen a couple of Grands Prix before (at the old Kyalami track in South Africa, back when SA was still on the F1 calendar), this one is #6 on Ye Olde Buckette Lyste.

So why Monaco, you ask?

For pretty much the same reasons as to why I would want to watch cricket at Lord’s: because Monaco is one of the oldest racing venues — hell, they were racing at Monaco (1929) before there was Formula 1 — and unlike most of the other F1 venues, it takes place inside a city, on city streets. It is one of the crown jewels of motor racing (Le Mans and the Indy 500 being the other two), and it’s one of the few times I can be swayed by that awful word “prestige” when applied to an event.

Besides, it’s Monaco, FFS, itself the crown jewel of of the Midi.

But enough about the place. The race itself is impossibly difficult: winding through narrow city streets, there are no gravel runoffs, very few cushioned buffers (mostly, they’re stern, unforgiving Armco barriers), and if it starts to rain… oy.

Pole position in qualifying the day before almost guarantees victory the next day, so difficult it is to overtake someone. Here’s the famous Fairmont Hotel hairpin (taken at 30mph):

But let there be a slip-up in the pits, a bad tire decision or even a millisecond’s inattention by a driver during the race, and everything can change in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, I can get in to watch the race from a decent location (at time of writing, good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise) because Longtime Friend and Bandmate “Knob” lives in Monaco, and I have a standing invitation to visit and stay with him for the occasion. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t make it to Monaco this year — e.g. poverty, bad timing etc. — but next year, Rodders [obscure British TV show reference]

Bucket List Entry #5: Cricket At Lord’s

To most Americans, “Cricket” is a darts game, or else a stupefyingly-boring sport played by Brits, or something.

To me, and to millions of people around the world, cricket is the ultimate gentleman’s sport: leisurely, subtle, with occasional moments of great excitement and still-more periods of escalating, gut-wrenching tension made all the more so by the quiet  hours that led up to them.

I’m not going to bother to explain the mechanics of the game: either you know how cricket is played or you don’t, and that’s it. Suffice it to say that there are essentially two kinds of cricket: first, there’s a quick slogfest that takes just a little longer than the average baseball game, but wherein over three hundred runs can be scored by each batting side (as opposed to the average winning baseball score of only four or five runs… talk about boring). It’s called “limited overs” cricket, and as the name suggests, each side gets a set number of “balls” (pitches) to get the highest possible score, the winner getting the higher score. I don’t much care for limited-overs cricket, because it’s just a slogfest (and therefore more popular with hoi polloi, go figure).

The second type of cricket is called “Test” cricket and is played between different nations — mostly, it should be said, by England and the former British colonies: Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh and the West Indies. (Other nations also play cricket, e.g. Scotland, Holland, Zimbabwe, Kenya and even the United States, but those are considered lower-class competitions, not Test matches per se.)

Test cricket is played over a much longer period of five days, and each side gets two innings to bat and field. (Unlike baseball, in which only three batters play per innings, cricket has all eleven players bat consecutively in a single innings.) If you think that a game which takes five days is going to be unbearably dull, well, it sometimes is. But that very dullness is not dull for the players, as each side attempts to penetrate the defenses of its opponent whether by bat or by ball, and dullness can be turned into heart-pounding excitement in a matter of seconds, let alone minutes. Over those five days, well over a thousand runs will likely be scored by the two sides — unless of course it rains (something which happens from time to time in England) and the match becomes shortened. It is also possible that five days will yield a draw rather than victory for one side.

Anyway, having not explained cricket to people who aren’t familiar with it, allow me, then, to introduce you all to #5 on Ye Olde Buckette Lyste.

5. I want to watch a cricket match, and preferably a Test match at the Lord’s ground in St. John’s Wood, London.

Lord’s is rightly called the “home of cricket”, and cricket has been played there since 1787 (admittedly, in three different locations, but the current ground had its 200th anniversary in 2014).

Currently, South Africa is touring England, and the first Test will be played at Lord’s on July 6-10 — and Mr. Free Market has informed me that he’s trying to get tickets for at least one of the days. (It’s a difficult task because both England and South Africa have very powerful teams at the moment, the rivalry goes back well over a century, and interest is therefore keen among the sport’s many followers.)

I’m holding thumbs on this one, but I have to say that if he’s unsuccessful, I’ll settle for watching a county match (between the home team and any other county side). It’s Lord’s, FFS, and it’s my personal haj (if you’ll excuse the cultural appropriation).

(Some people may comment on the unsightly colored advertising splodges on the otherwise-emerald-green turf. Don’t get me started.)

And about that rain business:

Colloquially, that’s known as Pub Time. And yes, I’ll be taking my brolly and wellies, just in case.


Incidentally, the darts game known as “Cricket” in the U.S. is called “Killer” everywhere else in the world. Just thought I’d clear that up.