Author Archives: Fishbreath

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 15, 2019)

WWRW falls on a Thursday this week. Yesterday was busy at work, then Avengers night at home, and today featured some dental work in the morning, so here we are, at last, with a somewhat lighter post than usual.

Defense

Science and Technology

Grab Bag

Interdisciplinary Stories


  1. Names changed, of course. 

A Continental Fish

As ever, my entry in this competition is a little less well-thought-out than Parvusimperator’s. Given that I am a little less well-informed about the wider world of firearms than he is, I started with the intention to hit as many achievements as I could while still choosing things which make sense for me. So, without further ado, here are the achievements, and here’s what I’m buying.

Achievements

HIPSTER: because it’s me.
EUROTRASH: which is more or less implied by…
BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: I went so far as to pick one manufacturer, even.
LEATHERSLAP: I don’t know if I would actually go for this were I a real card-carrying member of the Continental, but I wasn’t able to do Heavy Metal because the BREN 2 BR isn’t available yet, so I’ll go this way instead.

The Pistol: CZ P-09 9mm Suppressor Ready (Cajun Gun Works tuning)

We’re going to start with the pistol, because that’s where I’ve been doing most of my thinking lately. It’s also a crucial piece of kit for the Continental assassin—sure, the carbine comes out now and then, but the bulk of your wet work will be done with the handgun, so it behooves you to pick a good one.

Anyway, back to the P-09. It fits my hand almost perfectly and I shoot it well. It’s a good base, and the Cajun tuning turns it into a great gun by any standard. The trigger is light and predictable, if not quite up to custom-gun snuff, but then again, we aren’t allowed to buy custom guns here anyway. The standard sights aren’t great, but they’ll do. If I weren’t doing Leatherslap, I would have Cajun mill the slide for an optic and backup sights (which adds $160).

As we say on the defense blogging side, the suppressor-ready model is fit for but not with a silencer1. It bumps the cost up, but we still get away for a Cajun Gun Works website-quoted price of $915.

Backup Gun: CZ P-07 9mm (also Cajun Gun Works tuning)

I might as well go with a familiar face here. Cajun just so happens to sell tuned P-07s, too, which have all of the virtues of the P-09 while remaining within the confines of the compact pistol style.

The Carbine: CZ BREN 2 7.62×39

Foiled in my plan to go Heavy Metal by the fact that the BREN 2 BR is not yet available in civilian trim, I had to improvise a bit. I ended up with another CZ BREN 2.

The particular model is the BREN 2 MS, which comes in pistol form in the US with a provision for attaching an AR-style buffer tube or the factory stock (not yet available on the open market). The factory stock is a side-folder, which I would prefer if the Sommelier can get it for me. If not, I’ll settle for an AR stock with a folding buffer tube adapter. In either case, it’ll add some cost—say $200, to be safe.

Why bother with folding? Well, because the BREN 2 you can buy today is technically a pistol, slapping a stock on it makes for a delightfully short-barreled rifle, and making that stock fold means you have something extremely compact—about an inch or two longer than the pistol itself. Assuming we’re going for the nine-inch barrel, that gives us an overall length in folded configuration of maybe 22 or 23 inches. You can stage that just about anywhere for your fighting retreat.

Why 7.62×39? One: because it’s me. Two: I’m on record (possibly over on Discord?) with the view that 7.62×39 can do everything a modern .30 short cartridge (.300 Blackout, I’m looking at you) can, and in vast swathes of the world, you will never find yourself hurting for ammo.

Adding our $200 in stock expenses to CZ’s MSRP, the BREN 2 tips the scales at $1,999.

The Shotgun: CZ 712 Utility

It’s a short-barreled semi-automatic shotgun. I’m not much of a tactical shotgunner, and have very little interest in shotgun sports which don’t involve shooting at aerial clay targets, so I don’t have much to say here.

Evidently, Benelli Nova tube extensions have the same thread pitch as the CZ 712’s cap, so I might have the Sommelier throw a few of those into the order, but honestly, the shotgun’s purpose in my loadout is 1) to make a big boom, and 2) to maybe blow open a locked door. It’s part of the challenge, but it’s not my thing, really. If I weren’t writing this at the last minute, I would add a bonus section on a precision rifle, which is much more my speed, but alas, time is short.

MSRP: $499.

The Knife: Gerber Truss multitool

If you have a knife you don’t know how to use, and get into a fight with someone who does know how to use a knife, you’d be just as well (poorly) served by handing him the knife before the fight starts.

I don’t really know how to use knives, so in place of a knife for fighting, I will instead elect to bring a knife for utility. Along with the traditional pliers/wire cutter tip and a variety of potentially useful screwdrivers and files, the Truss has a saw and two different knife blades, giving me some flexibility in how to cut things.

Bonus Picks: Pinching Krugerrands

Obviously, the BREN 2 is the big cost center in this loadout. If I drop it in favor of whatever complete AR-15 Palmetto State Armory has on sale this week (typically for $450 to $500) and add the classic UTG DS3840 red dot ($50), I have a $550 rifle to go with my $500 shotgun and $915 pistol, which brings me in neatly below the $2000 mark.


  1. It’s a Hollywood gunfight movie, so let’s use the classic term. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 8, 2019)

Parvusimperator’s Open gun has indeed finally come in, so all we have to do is find a match which doesn’t fall on a holiday weekend.

The Continental loadout post from yesterday is a new Soapbox game, as you might have guessed from the achievements at the bottom. Mine should land tomorrow.

Headline Link: The Long Way Round

  • The story of Pan-Am’s California Clipper – En route to New Zealand at the outbreak of the Second World War, one of Pan-Am’s twelve Boeing 314 flying boats found itself cut off from its South Pacific island-hopping route. Short on fuel, spare parts, and friendly bases, its intrepid crew had to make their way back to American shores the hard way.

Has this been turned into a movie? If not, why not? Who do I call about that?

Defense

Science and Technology

Abusing Web Services

Guns

Grab Bag

Fishbreath Shoots: C-Zed Carry Optics USPSA Match Report

You may remember that last winter, I wrote a few articles on building a Carry Optics slide for my CZ P-09 Limited gun.

Well, I finished the slide, as one of the links above indicates, made it to a range a few times to get the last few bugs worked out and the sight zeroed, and took it to the opening match of the USPSA season at Castlewood Rod and Gun Club, our favored approximately-local destination for low-pressure shooting sports1. How did it go?

Bugs

The most pressing issue discovered in testing was that the .40 S&W magazine bodies do not actually feed 9mm reliably. They appear to, and work most of the time in testing, but I ran into some issues where the last few rounds would cause trouble. The second-to-last round would sometimes pop up beyond the feed lips to make a stovepipe failure to feed, a very unusual malfunction.

There was also an issue with a wimpy sear spring causing hammer follow, but I took care of that last year at the end of the Limited season.

Practice

The first order of business was getting the sight zeroed. This turned out to be much less drama than I had expected. Parvusimperator and I popped over to our local indoor range, and while he did some drills, I set about adjusting things. Between my ballistics calculator app and my surprisingly not-rusty pistol skills, I got to a reasonable 25-yard zero pretty quickly. It shoots about an inch low at the sub-10-yard ranges you find most USPSA targets at, but is much closer to dead on for the 15-25-yard long-range targets, which is where I’d prefer the sight be the most accurate anyway.

On the second trip, in the middle of the week before the Saturday match, I did a bit of zero-refining—the point of impact was a bit to the left of the point of aim—and ran a printed-target drill parvusimperator brought along. This was also when I discovered the magazine issues mentioned above, happily leaving me enough time to pop the followers and baseplates off of the .40 magazines onto my 9mm magazines.

At the end of those two practice sessions, I was feeling fairly confident. Dots are pistol easy mode, and although I felt I had some work to do in picking up the dot on the draw, I was happy with the performance of the gun and my performance with it.

The Match: How I Shot

In short, pretty well! Finding the dot did not prove to be an issue on the clock.

On the first stage of the day, I discovered I had not screwed my battery cover in tightly enough, so the cover and battery popped out mid-stage. It was in one of Castlewood’s small bays, fortuitously, so I was able to point-shoot my way to the end with no misses. Someone found my battery cover in the mud, but not the battery, and since I had neglected to bring extra batteries2, I had to bum one off of someone else.

After that, the drama was limited. I ended up putting in stellar performances on the next two stages, good enough for the Carry Optics stage wins. I dropped some points on the classifier for taking an extra shot, too.

The gun performed perfectly, and having 23 in the magazine makes stage planning even easier than having 20, like I do in Limited configuration. I was able to complete several stages with no reload; Castlewood frequently has short stages mixed in with the long ones, which I appreciate both from a variety perspective and from a costs-less-in-bullets perspective.

The Match: Results

I was 23rd overall out of 60-some shooters, and 2nd out of 6 Carry Optics shooters (within 6% of the leader, too!). I won two stages in Carry Optics, like I said—one a moving-heavy stage with some restrictions on target engagement, one a shooting-heavy stage with a reload.

The classifier for this match happened to be the same one I shot to wrap up last year with Limited, so I can make some direct comparisons. I was a little slower this time out, in part because of penalties, and in part because of some rust on my classifier draw-and-shoot skills. Going by percentage of As shot, I was much more accurate with the Carry Optics gun, and just about as fast. I won’t know for sure until the next match, where I plan to swap the slide to get both divisions in the same day, if I’m faster with Carry Optics or Limited, but it’s definitely close enough to be in question.

I’m entirely satisfied with the outcome. I beat the shooters I was supposed to beat (those in the Lesser Divisions like Production), nearly won my division, and came out ahead of a few Limited shooters who are usually a little better than me. I was the sixth-best non-PCC non-Open shooter at the match, which is the fairest group to compare me to.

All told, the CZ Carry Optics project is an unqualified success.


  1. Except for their sporting clays course, which is brutal. 
  2. Well, I had extra 1620s, but the sight takes 1632s. If you’re familiar with coin cells, you will recall that the second two digits are the battery’s nominal voltage. 2V won’t run a 3.2V sight. Oops. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May. 1, 2019)

Spring has definitively sprung here. Coming soon is the first USPSA match report of the season from me. Parvusimperator might join in on the reports a little later into the summer when his Open gun finally comes in, but at the very least we’ll be shooting matches at the same time again.

Defense

Science and Technology

History

Guns

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 24, 2019)

Defense

Science and Technology

History

  • The Invention of the Salvator Mundi – On the history behind the most contentious painting attributed to da Vinci. The art world remains divided on its legitimacy, but private buyers certainly don’t—it recently went at auction for a few hundred million dollars.
  • Notre Dame burns – This link isn’t a great story. I was hoping for something with more detail on the progress of the fire and its causes. It doesn’t really count as news, either, since I’m sure you’ve heard about it already, but it was a sad day for European history1 and one worth noting.

Guns

Grab Bag


  1. Also a sad day for Christianity, but since we’re all Protestants here at the Soapbox, we don’t put nearly as much weight on the building’s shoulders. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 17, 2019)

As you might have noticed, we’re taking Holy Week a bit easier than usual—parvusimperator is traveling for Easter; I’m in the church choir, have had spring yard work to do, and am preparing for the first USPSA match of the season on Saturday.

Happily, there’s been a lot going on in the world, so we have a longer-than-usual WWRW (unless I miss my guess, the longest ever, in fact) to tide you over until we return to our usual pace.

Defense

Science and Technology

  • Amazon contractors listen to Alexa conversations – Feeling real good about my lack of smart home technology right about now. Until I can run my smart home entirely on a server in my basement under my direct control, we’ll get up and turn lights on and off with switches, like cavemen.
  • Wifi’s new WPA3 standard is… already badly insecure – Oops. Maybe if they’d developed the standard out in the open, like security researchers suggested…
  • Intelsat 29e exploded? – It’s a geostationary communication satellite, which looks to have flared up on telescope views, then shed a bunch of debris. Also, evidently there’s a company out there which points telescopes at objects in geostationary orbit. Also also, the comments mention a Russian accusation of an American satellite which roams geostationary orbit, photographing things there. Not necessarily implausible—such a thing would be easy to build, and a cell phone camera at 1km has better resolving power than a 10-meter telescope peering from ground level to geostationary orbit, so it would have its uses, too.
  • SpaceX sticks the Falcon Heavy landing, but loses a booster to the sea – The barges have grabbers which can snag the booster by the ‘octaweb’, the bit of framework which holds all the engine nozzles in their appropriate places, but the Falcon Heavy center core has a different octaweb, so the grabbers can’t get a good grip. The barge encountered 10-foot swells on the way back home, and the center core went over the side.
  • More people streaming movies rather than buying physical copies – See my above Luddite-hood on smart homes for my opinion on this practice; see parvusimperator’s DVD stack for his.
  • The future is here, and it’s a cyberpunk dystopia – Satellite-based advertising is on its way, courtesy a Russian company and PepsiCo.
  • Pepsi clarifies: we’re only testing the technology, by running an orbital ad once – Pardon me for not jumping for joy. The only good thing about this is that it’s a Russian space company, and they never deliver on their promises.
  • Declassified U-2 photographs are helping archaeologists find canals, roads, and other features hard to spot from the ground – In terms of count per unit area, there wasn’t a lot of military interest to find in Central Asia, but evidently there’s at least something of historical interest.
  • Don’t call it PlayStation 5 yet, but Sony releases details on their next console – The spec list may look like an ordinary gaming computer, but remember that one of the huge advantages with console hardware is the integrated memory architecture—there’s no conception of separate graphics memory like there is on your average computer, so you don’t have to worry about getting something from system memory to video memory like you do on a PC. (That’s why bus width is so important on computers and not really mentioned for consoles; it isn’t really a concept worth bringing up for the latter.)
  • Google Fiber’s divorce from Louisville is complete – In other words, don’t trust Google with your stuff in the long term, because they don’t care enough about marginal products to bother keeping them around. I read a good article on that subject this week, but didn’t stick it in our WWRW chat, so I can’t link it here.
  • OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot beats human players, but shows the weaknesses of machine learning – See the section titled, ‘A rudimentary Chinese room’.
  • Stratolaunch takes flight – We have a new record-holder for ‘largest wingspan on an airplane’! I would even go so far as to say that it’s not useless, either, which is a bit of a spicy take. There are two main arguments against the flying-booster-launcher: 1) it doesn’t save you much fuel; 2) reusable rockets make it moot. In re 1), the bit which takes the most fuel is precisely getting off the ground and to altitude, because your rocket is the heaviest and you’re moving through the densest atmosphere. Skipping the densest atmosphere lets you design your first-stage nozzles for more nearly vacuum conditions, which means your first stage can burn effectively for longer. In re 2), reusable rockets still require a lot of launch infrastructure, whereas a plane-launched rocket can dodge weather and get you on track for nearly any orbital direction or inclination with minimal steering losses.
  • A security researcher drops three 0-days against… WordPress plugins… – Just a minute. … Okay, we’re good. … drops three 0-days against WordPress plugins to protest “the moderators of the WordPress Support Forum’s continued inappropriate behavior.” Grudge-based webserver-pwning! What a world we live in.

History

Sport

  • Baseball twitter is usually good for a few laughs
  • Baseball should end service time manipulation – Unfortunately, doing so would require both the players and the teams to sacrifice something for the benefit of Baseball As A Whole, which is not the typical aim in CBA negotiations.
  • Sports leagues embrace gambling – It’s fan engagement! Pennsylvania is one of the states which legalized sports betting; the local sports talk hosts have lately been singing the praises of the sports book at the local casino. A showdown between the gambling operators and the leagues is brewing; the NBA, MLB, and the PGA Tour want a percentage fee on every bet placed on their games—initially, they said 1%; lately, they’ve said 0.25%. Of course, illegal sports gambling was recently estimated as a $150 billion industry, so…

Grab Bag

  • Restaurants are too loud – As it turns out, the modern industrial-chic style absorbs zero sound, which is unpleasant. There’s a sushi joint near my mother’s house that has some sort of magical sound-dampening technology—every seat can be full, and yet it’s never loud enough to disrupt conversation at your table, and it’s one of the most pleasant dining experiences in the area.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 10, 2019)

We’ve been doing this for half a year now (slightly more, given that we took a Christmas break; 26 entries in total).

Defense

Space!

Science and Technology

Sport

  • Arizona Cardinals: revolutionizing the draft? – Taking a page from baseball’s book, the Cardinals seem to be of the opinion that players on rookie contracts are better than expensive players at the same position, which seems sensible. They’re stockpiling draft picks and aiming to take some players in high-impact positions even if they don’t need them, on the theory that they’re either trade bait or the next man up when the current guy hits free agency.
  • Baseball records: Chris Davis sets the new mark for most consecutive at-bats without a hit – He’s up to 49 right now. His last hit was September 14, 2018; he’s only walked four times this year. And they say the record book is closed!

  1. Grammatically, Russians refer to ships by the gender of their name. Kuznetsov is a he, Moskva is a she. The myth that Russians use male pronouns for all ships stems from the fact that most Russian naval vessels have male names. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 3, 2019)

Your correspondent has been whammied with a cold for the past week, so this roundup does not contain all the interesting stuff we’ve read in the past seven days.

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns

Grab Bag

Sport

One of the AAF’s intentions was to be a football minor league—a place for players not quite up to NFL snuff to grow and perhaps become useful to an NFL team. This included NFL practice squad players and down-the-liners on active rosters—get your third-string QB some playing time, the sales pitch went, so maybe he’ll develop further! This had two flaws. First, the NFL Players’ Association was never big on the idea for player safety reasons. Why risk injury playing for a minor league? Second, the AAF was never going to survive solely on the name recognition of NFL third-stringers. They had to make a watchable, entertaining on-field product.

They succeeded at the latter goal. AAF football was recognizably football, and in the last few weeks was good enough to be enjoyable on its own. The 4th-and-12 onside conversion and the must-go-for-2 rules injected some extra offensive fun into the game. So, why did it fail?

First: investor Tom Dundon, who swept in at the last rumor of financial trouble swirling around the AAF, seems not to understand that nobody is going to pay any more to watch Danny Etling (Tom Brady’s understudy’s understudy) throw passes than they will to watch Garrett Gilbert (the Orlando Apollos’ QB) do the same. Failure to reach an immediate agreement with the NFLPA isn’t financial doom.

Second: the AAF was too expensive for what it was. Minor league baseball is cheap, and so also should be minor league football. If you can’t take the family to a game and buy everyone hot dogs for, say, $50, you’re not going to get the random, “Eh, why not, it’s a good way to spend an afternoon” traffic you need to drive attendance for a minor-league sport.

I didn’t do week 8 picks on account of being sick, but my week 7 picks went 1-3, for a lifetime AAF pick’em record of 12-12. I’m no worse than a coin toss!

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 27, 2019)

The calendar says spring is here, but beautiful Western Pennsylvania is still in winter trim. Ten degrees colder this March than last.

Short roundup this week.

Many Words New Releases

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns