Then And Now, Again

I have always thought that a sports car should resemble a woman lying on her side: the front-wheel arches resembling the shoulders, the middle of the car falling away like the midsection, and the (larger) rear-wheel arches mimicking the swell of the hips.

Hence the beauty of Ferrari’s Dino 246 GT, my love for which has been well documented on these pages, and which resembles the slender female models of its era in the early 1970s:

What then, do we make of Ferrari’s new Portofino, which replaces the superb California?

Here’s what I see: it looks block-y and more muscular — more like a model who’s been working out in the gym who should look something like this:

…except that the Portfino doesn’t look like that either.

I know, I know: so much of today’s automotive design is shaped by what works in a wind tunnel as opposed to actual, you know, beauty. But Ferrari, at least until recently, seems to have been keeping the old proportions alive — which is why their cars have typically looked better than anyone else’s. I’m just not so sure about the Portofino.

(Please note that I’m only comparing the designs — the Portofino’s top speed of 198 mph dwarfs the Dino’s 145 mph.)

Update:  Reader askeptic points out that Ferrari, or at least their ad agency, used to share my sentiments. Note the ad from a later era:

Wrong Ferrari, however: the 308 looked like Twiggy, not Veruschka.


Getting Happy

According to the NY Post, “buying time” can be the secret to happiness. Sarah Hoyt questions their methodology, as do I. Here’s the study’s methodology:

In the study, more than 6,000 people in four countries were given an extra $40 a week for two weeks.
During the first week, the participants were told to buy material goods.
The next week, they were told to save themselves time by paying someone to do their menial, back-breaking tasks.
Ultimately, people said they got more happiness by saving precious time than by buying more stuff, no matter how exceptional it was.

If anyone can think that $40 a week can buy you happiness, they’re doomed to vote Democrat and/or Labour for the rest of their lives. Hell, for $40 you can’t even buy someone’s time to do menial jobs for you, unless you live in India or some other Third World hellhole where labor is cheap. And unless you live in one of the aforementioned hellholes where $40 can buy you someone’s firstborn, you can’t buy much for a lousy forty bucks either. Good grief, a bottle of decent single malt costs more than that, and that won’t last you a week either (if you consume the lovely stuff like Stephen Green or I do).

Most often, the “money can’t buy you happiness” meme is applied to lottery winnings. The usual rejoinder is, “If you can’t buy happiness with $100 million, you just don’t know where to shop” (as witnessed by this picture, sent to me by Reader OldTexan):

But the idea of buying time when you have a boatload of money makes perfect sense, if you have sufficient money. Here’s an example, using the more appropriate sum of $100 million instead of that $40 rounding error.

So you’ve won the Big Lottery. Assume that you’re not going to waste it (on stuff like trust funds for your kids or donations to Greenpeace), and you decide to buy time with it.

Let’s say that you’ve always wanted to own an E-type Jaguar, because if no less a man than Enzo Ferrari called it the most beautiful car ever made, who are you to argue with him? A quick reminder of what we’re talking about here:

Nigella Lawson with wheels.

Now you have the money to afford it; but there’s a problem. You see, beauty doesn’t offset the E-type’s many flaws, to whit:

…which means that the thing often won’t start, the lights won’t work at night and ditto the windshield wipers when it rains, etc. Now if you’re one of those guys who loves working on cars, none of this matters, because you’re going to spend time fiddling with the thing.

Note that I said, “spend time”. If you’re like me, and want to drive the thing instead of fiddling with it and/or wasting time while other people fiddle with it, you’re not gonna get an E-type.

Fortunately, there is a way for people with boatloads of money to get an E-type and be able to drive it pretty much all the time. It’s an outfit in Britishland called Eagle Great Britain, and they rebuild E-types using all the modern techniques and using modern materials which will eliminate the Jag’s problems. If you’re in a hurry, you can get one of their fully-reconditioned E-types and drive it off the lot. If you can’t find one you like (and unfortunately, this will cost you some time), they will hand-build your E-type to the original (or your own custom) specs. Here’s an example:

Suffice it to say that none other than Jeremy Clarkson said that driving this particular E-type was one of the greatest driving experiences he’d ever had — and he’s had a lot.

I’m not to going to tell you the price, because you have enough. (BIG lottery win, remember?)

Just remember, this is all about buying time (which makes one happy, according to the study above) and I would suggest that time spent driving this piece of automotive beauty would be more exciting (and probably less expensive, ask Charles Saatchi) than driving Nigella Lawson. And that’s a hell of a thing for me to say.

Buying happiness just means knowing where to shop. And if you’ve just won a big lottery prize and owning an E-type is your dream, I’ve just told you where to shop for one.

You’re welcome.


The day after my Lord’s pilgrimage, Mr. FM suggested we take a quiet drive into the Cotswolds, some few miles north-west of FM Towers. He knows that I’m not one for scenic drives just for the drive’s sake, so he mentioned the magical words “in the Porsche” — and needless to say, that was sufficient incentive for me to agree.

So we footled around along English country roads — me oohing and aaahing at Teh Scenery, which is spectacular: rolling hills, forest glades, farmers doing Farming Things, etc. Of course, it being a lovely day (sunny, warm, bees buzzing lazily etc.) there were the usual problems (i.e. cyclists), but the oncoming roar of a 3.6-liter Porsche engine usually had the desired effect of sending them flying into roadside ditches, which is all part of the fun of a summer drive. Then things took a turn for the worse. Much worse.

We turned off the country road onto what can best be described as a farm road and ended up at a series of farm-type buildings. Over the door of one such building was a sign which read, cryptically, “R.J. Blackwall”. What place is this, I wondered, and then we went inside.


Rupert Blackwall is one of the pre-eminent Mauser dealers in the British Isles.

O My Readers, I need first to give you a teeny bit of background so you can fully appreciate what was to follow. In the Great Time Of Poverty when I was forced to sell almost all my guns, I found myself, for the first time in my life, Mauserless. Never mind Mauser lookalikes or derivatives thereof; ever since I can remember, I’ve had at least one actual Mauser rifle in my gun cabinet — in fact, my very first gun purchase in the U.S. was a Mauser 98K. Since the Great Poverty, some four years ago, I’ve been without a Mauser — a fact I’d once lamented to Mr. FM, en passant — and only now did his devilment come to light. You see, he’d seen my reaction to the exquisite M12 I’d fired only a week before at the Corinium range and thus, I believe, had schemed a visit to this… this temple to Vulcan’s Dark Arts.

Of course, that’s not how he played it, the foul man; he chatted with Mr. Blackwall — a gunsmith of considerable skill and knowledge, having been trained at E.J. Churchill — about some rifle he was considering for his next African safari, leaving me to wander around the store and browse among (actually, drool over) the store’s wares.

First I saw a matched pair of AyA 20-gauge side-by-side shotguns (which I will need for future High Bird Shooting excursions), but I knew that the cost thereof was going to be silly: and in pounds sterling, still more so. With a deep sigh, I moved on. Until I came to the “second-hand” rack…

..and there it was: a barely-fired Mauser M12, in… 6.5x55mm (my favorite medium caliber of all), at a price that, when translated into U.S. greenbacks, was not expensive at all. In fact, it was… affordable.

Of course, one can’t just buy a rifle and walk out of the door with it, not in Merrie Olde England, oh no. In fact, I thought that I would not be able to purchase any gun, because (as we all know) in the U.S. such things are streng verboten (as I’d discovered when first I emigrated and wanted to buy a gun). Well, no. In the U.S., not anyone can buy a gun, but anyone can own a gun (mostly). In Britain, it’s the reverse. I could buy the gun, but I couldn’t take possession of it — it would have to go onto a British gun owner’s license — until such time as I would leave the U.K. And of course, standing right next to me, with an evil leer on his aristocratic features, there was just such a British gun owner.

All that remained was to give Mr. Blackwall my credit card.

I’ll be “testing” it over the coming weeks at Corinium, once I get a decent scope on it. Range report(s) and pics to follow.

And most important of all, I am no longer Mauserless, so all my old Boer forefathers can stop spinning in their graves.

Not Bisley

Apparently, Royal Bisley is mostly populated by People Who Treat Shooting Seriously — i.e., not my kind of people at all, because I prefer having fun at the shooting range. So instead, Mr. FM booked us time at a private range, where we could do just that. Here’s a view downrange at 100 meters (ugh, metric is everywhere Over Here).

…and I played with several rifles: the aforementioned Blaser 93 in 6.5x55mm Swede, Combat Controller’s Browning .300 WinMag (which has completely recovered from its earlier Scottish mishap, and is capable of shooting minute-of-angle — MOA — at 100 meters, just not by me — I could only manage 2″ groups because eyes), and finally, a Mauser M12 “Impact” in .308 Win.

As Longtime Readers know, I have either a soft spot or a hard-on for Mauser rifles, depending on whether I’m talking about them or I’ve just shot one. Good grief. Thus equipped, I can honestly say that the M12 is in the top three rifles I have ever fired — and let me tell you, that encompasses an awful lot of rifles. With this rifle, minute-of-angle wasn’t just easy, it was a breeze. If you look in the center of the pic above and see the boar-shaped steel target, and squint to see the 4″ heart/lung target area “flipper” plate, I was hitting that flipper dead center with every single shot.

Let me go further: if I was told I could only ever own one medium rifle, you’d have to talk me out of choosing the M12. (I’d get the “regular” model with wood stock, of course, because Kim; but I think you catch my drift.)


And by the way: if anyone knows a way we can get Our Rulers in D.C. to pass the Hearing Protection Act (which will finally take moderators off the NFA list), feel free to apply that particular cattle prod to their backsides.



Same Old Question, Different Time — Handguns

For part 1 (Rimfire) of this series, go here; for part 2 (Shotguns), here; and for part 3 (Assault Rifles), here.

4.) Home-defense handguns:
No other purchase decision in the gun world gives rise to more fevered argument and justification than that of one’s handgun because, quite frankly, it’s one of the most personal decisions extant. And I will confess that there was a time when I would get onto verbal fistfights with people over whether this handgun was better than that one, because… because… because no reason. If you want to start a flame war in any gun forum, just say that H&K makes overpriced guns which weigh too much and aren’t much better than Glocks. Ditto Colt vs. Smith & Wesson, Ruger vs. Beretta and so on ad nauseam.

And let’s not even get started on arguments over the choice of caliber (and yes, I’m as guilty if not more so for my dogmatic preference for the .45 ACP).

So what I’m going to try to do in this piece is to present the philosophy which should inform your choice of handgun for home defense — please note, not your carry piece, or your backwoods must-have piece, or any other use. The key word here is home. So let me look at some of the options, along with cogent considerations why you could pick one over the other, but the very first rule of household defense is simple, regardless of your choice: you should never be further than a few feet away from a gun in your house. Believe me, when trouble arrives, it’s going to come quickly — and you don’t want to be scampering up the stairs to your gun safe when someone has just kicked in your kitchen door and is looking at your wife with unromantic intentions. Yeah, sometimes you’re going to feel like an idiot, schlepping your gun from one room to another. It’s less idiotic than being carried out of your house on a stretcher and/or your teenage daughter getting raped. Now let’s get on with it.

Revolver vs. semi-automatic:
Many people prefer revolvers over semi-autos because revolvers are like a fork: you pick it up, and it works. Mostly, there’s no safety-catch on a revolver (there are some, a development which I deplore), and if your revolver is double-action (i.e. it doesn’t require that the hammer be cocked before shooting), the revolver is like a fork: pick it up, aim, pull the trigger and bang (or BANG!!! if it’s a .44 Magnum or its big brothers). Unfortunately, that same ease of use also means that an inquisitive seven-year-old boy can make the thing go bang just as easily as his mom or dad can. (Yes, I know: teach your children about gun safety while you’re potty-training them or whatever; I’m assuming that my audience is somewhat responsible, but sadly, not everyone is.)

So: semi-autos, which have safeties and as an added precaution, can be stored without a mag. Which adds just a little more fumble-time when a goblin kicks down your back door en route to his grand plan of intra-household mayhem. And just as I mentioned in the Part 2 (shotgun) piece, loading a mag and racking the slide cannot be done in silence, which means that said goblin will be warned of your presence and your intentions.

As much as it pains me to say it, though, Glocks are semi-autos masquerading as revolvers, because they operate in basically the same way. (My dislike for Glocks is purely for personal and aesthetic reasons — I shoot the Glock 19 more accurately than just about any other handgun except the 1911 and Browning High Power.) So the Glock is a valid option — but preferably not in ordinary 9mm, and definitely not using full metal jacket ammo (see below).

It’s your choice. I personally keep a .357 Magnum double-action (DA) revolver next to my bed, but if it’s at the gunsmith for a trigger job, I’m equally comfortable with my single-action (SA) 1911 in .45 ACP in its place, simply because I’ve fired tens of thousands of rounds through both kinds of handgun and using either is as natural as starting a car. And I have no small kids running around in my house, so safety is not a concern for me. Your situation will differ, so decide accordingly.

Your choice of cartridge should reflect the absolute need to have a one-shot stop capability inside your house, which generally means the bigger, the better. However, as we discussed in part 2 (shotguns), you want to strike a balance between a cartridge’s stopping power and the bullet’s penetration. I consider the 9mm Parabellum cartridge an absolute stinker for a home defense round — especially the full metal jacketed rounds — because they are marginal stoppers and penetrate drywall with ease. And frankly, the high magazine capacity that the 9mm offers is a dubious one because generally speaking, very few home invasions result in fifteen rounds bring fired.

Stopping power, I think, is critical. To make it even more understandable: big boolets — certainly for your primary home-defense handgun, anyway — are going to get the job done better than smaller ones, no matter how fast the latter leave the barrel. For years, my bedside gun was chambered in .44 Special (not Magnum), and I never felt under-gunned. Now it’s a .357 Mag — and at some point, I may just go back to my earlier choice. 

Whatever you decide, though, the rule of thumb should always be: one handgun per adult household member. (You can decide whether your kids can be classed as “adults” or not; mine had their own guns at various ages, starting at 11 for the Son&Heir, 14 for Daughter and #2 Son never got a gun because while I taught him how to shoot at age 15, he’s just never been that interested. So while we were all under the same roof, we had four gun owners out of five inhabitants, and if push came to shove, five out of five.)

There is one caveat to this rule, however, and it’s a big one. If you think your wife / girlfriend / kids are even the slightest bit mentally unprepared, or unstable, do not give them a gun. That’s where the anti-gunners’ trope of “a gun is more likely to kill someone in the household” comes from. It’s bullshit as stated, but at the same time, it does happen, so be careful about this.

Here, then, are my recommendations for home defense handguns. (Note that for home defense, the size of the gun is not as important as it would be for, say, carry purposes.)

For men: a revolver in either .38 Special +P, .357 Magnum, .44 Special or similar; or a semi-auto in .45 ACP, 10mm, .40 S&W, or (reluctantly) 9mm +P. All bullets should be some kind of hollowpoint (Hydra Shok, Golden Saber, SXT and so on). Cor-Bon’s “Pow’Rball” ammo (in just about any caliber) is an excellent choice (less recoil, good stopping power and limited penetration of interior walls because of the frangible Glaser bullets), but many people just can’t justify the high price and go with the usual suspects instead.

For women: a revolver in .38 Special +P or a semi-auto in 9mm +P. (And please: if your wife can shoot the eyes out of a silhouette target with a .357 or .44 Magnum, then of course that’s what she should use.) Yes, women can and do shoot larger cartridges, but after personally training hundreds of women to shoot, I’ve come to the conclusion that the .38+P and 9mm+P are the optimal go-to choices for the average woman. If she is very recoil-sensitive, by all means go smaller (e.g. 380 ACP/9mm Kurz), but make sure that the ammo is not FMJ and can feed reliably. Remember: almost any gun is better than no gun, but in extremis you want to go as big and powerful as you can handle.

I used to have very specific recommendations when it came to handgun brands, but in recent years, the quality among the larger gun companies has markedly improved, so I’m a lot less dogmatic. I would just remind everyone that the cheaper the gun, the more compromises will have been made, whether in workmanship, materials and what have you. The Iron Triangle of Gunnery (price/accuracy/reliability) will not be gainsaid. Using the venerable 1911 platform as an example — the one I know most about — I know someone who regularly shoots a WWII-era Colt 1911A1, and it still performs as advertised. My own Springfield G.I. 1911 has fired more than 30,000 rounds over the past fifteen-odd years, and does likewise. I’m not so sure anyone will be able to get the same results with, say, a Hi-Point. That said: you get up the quality/cost curve really fast with modern guns, and a $2,000 Ed Brown 1911 is not twice as reliable/accurate as a similarly-specced Springfield 1911 at less than half the price.

My favorite semi-auto handgun brands are many, but they include Colt, Springfield and Kimber for the 1911; and for the other cartridge/action options, the Browning P-35 High Power, CZ-75 D, Beretta, Glock, Kahr and SIG. Of course there are more options out there (e.g. S&W, Walther, HK, Para-Ord, Taurus etc.), but these are the brands I’ve fired the most and therefore the ones I would entrust my life to.

With revolvers, my “favorites” list is much shorter: S&W, Ruger, and Colt. (I know about Taurus, of course, but I’ve just not fired the brand as much as the others. Many people whose opinions I respect have only good things to say about Taurus, however, so be my guest.)

As always, Reader comments are welcome. Your experiences may differ, and if so I’d like to hear about them. (Just don’t start any flame wars.)

Same Old Question, Different Time — Assault Rifles

(For part 1 of this series, go here; for part 2, here.)

3.) Assault Rifles:
There was a time when owning an assault rifle was regarded with amusement. Only the “preppers”or “blue helicopter” crowd owned them, mostly out of paranoia. Those times are gone. The way the political situation has become not only polarized but more antagonistic, and with the possibility of random ISIS attacks and /or riot-provoking organizations like the Antifa and Black Lives Matter thugs, every home should hold at least one assault rifle.

I know, we hide this rationale under cutesy names like “Zombie Apocalypse” and the like. Let’s not mince words, here: there’s no such thing as zombies, and mob violence is going to come from living, breathing human beings who want to loot your home at best, or else do you harm because of the color of your skin, the size of your investment portfolio, because Trump! or even just because it’s Friday. What we need, therefore, is to be able to deliver sustained, rapid fire into a series of human targets, and an ability to reload quickly to address their larger numbers. Reliability is absolutely critical, here — this is no time to call on a gunsmith, or have to start tinkering with components which have somehow failed since the last time we went to the range.

I know that the AR-15 and its many derivations are the black rifle of choice for many. I disagree with that choice. While the AR has been improved to where its reliability is somewhat better than average (and much better than it used to be), I still think that the rifle itself is a little too finicky, and its 5.56mm (.223 Rem) cartridge is an inadequate stopper. The low recoil of the smaller cartridge does not compensate for its lack of knockdown power.

In one of the Tales Of The Gun shows once aired on TV, one of the guys interviewed said something like, “When civilization has failed and collapsed completely, the gun I want in my hands is an AK-47.”

I agree. The AK’s larger 7.62x39mm cartridge is leagues better than the 5.56mm, the AK rifle’s reliability and ruggedness are legendary, and its perceived lack of accuracy at longer ranges (more than 200 yards) doesn’t matter at typical mob violence distances, which can be measured in feet rather than yards. Note too, that I’m not suggesting its use as an anti-burglar tool — you have a shotgun and a couple handguns for that already, right? — because the 7.62x39mm cartridge will go through internal walls like they don’t exist. But as a “crowd control” device, there are few better choices than the AK-47.

Of course, AKs are no longer the bargain buy they used to be. (Have I already thanked that socialist anti-gun prick Barack Obama for causing gun sales to explode and thereby have prices go through the roof? Allow me, then…) On the other hand, while their price has risen, they’re still a bargain compared to the stratospheric prices charged for even the most basic AR-15s.

AKs do not allow for much tacticooling, other than perhaps with the very-much-recommended addition of an Ultimak rail and Aimpoint red-dot sight, like my old one:

And the other fine thing about the AK-47 is that unlike the AR-15, which apparently requires quarter-hourly cleanings to prevent stoppages, the AK can, if necessary, be cleaned only in months (or years) divisible by seven and still be counted upon to shoot. Yes, I know that we should all clean our guns assiduously. Just remember that when civilization fails, you may not be able to find any Hoppes No.9 lying around.

One last point (which I’ve made before): the first pic of the AK shows it with the popular 30-round magazine loaded. I have no problem with that mag, but I myself prefer the 20-rounders (as seen in the second pic), simply because you can’t shoot the 30-round mag from prone without assuming some strange yoga pose. You should have an absolute minimum of two spare magazines, and four would be much better (100 or 150 rounds at hand). Metal ones, because you can drive a Prius over one and it will probably still work in the AK.

As for ammo, use whatever is cheapest. Also unlike the AR-15, the AK is not fussy about ammo and will shoot anything. I like the Brown Bear brand the best, but I’ll shoot pretty much whatever’s on sale. Buy your 7.62x39mm accordingly — a thousand or so rounds will do for starters, not because you’ll need a thousand rounds to fight off a crowd of assholes, but because you can practice with it and not be caught short during an ammo shortage when everyone starts panic buying (such as occurred during the Obama Dark Times).

Final thought: I may be pissing some people off with my preference of the AK-47 over the AR-15. Here’s my take on it: if you’re a veteran of the Armed Forces and thanks to your experience with the M4 you’re as familiar with the operation of the AR-15 as driving a car, by all means get whatever flavor of AR you wish — preferably in larger calibers like the 6.5mm Grendel, .300 Blackout, whatever — or even the AR-10 in 7.62x51mm NATO. Of course the AR platform is a perfectly viable option, and one should always go with the gun one understands, can operate, fix and all that good stuff. (That’s why I prefer the Colt 1911 pistol over all other handguns, despite its couple flaws.)

I just think that the AK-47 is a better solution to an End Times scenario. As with everything I write here, your opinions may vary, and in this case, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Next: defensive handguns.