Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gear review: Blackhawk boots, and something else too....


Yup.... boots. Not a gun, nor a reloading tool, nor even a silly idea about shooting practice from under the range bench (that one is coming later...). This gear review is about boots.

Before I wax eloquent about footwear like some silly fashion commentator, allow me to explain how this post happened...... I'll just veer off into blog history and philosophy for a little while here.

Carteach0 came about a few years back as an outlet for occasional scribblings regarding shooty topics we all know and love. It was never expected to amount to anything except a fun pastime. Most especially, it was never intended to become a full blown shooting blog festooned with ads and 'compensated' reviews (if such really do exist). There are enough shooting sport magazines out there already doing that, and we have Gun Blast, Down Range TV, and any number of other places we can visit to catch up on industry offerings. I always held that advertising would be refused on Carteach0, and it would just be me talking with some friends about a hobby we all love.

Everything that appeared on Carteach0 was something I did, bought, tried out, played with, or worked out on my own. Like many shooting enthusiasts, I am a tinkerer, and I love to share that fun. My suspicion was that accepting advertising might change how open I can be about my opinions, and that accepting products for review would be no better. Not that anyone was breaking down my door to advertise here, or hand me new toys to write about.... but enough requests came along that I had to think about it more than a few times. The thirty thousand folks a month who stop by here every month might have something to do with that; More, I'm sure, than any writing ability of mine.

Well, that may be changing, grudgingly, a little bit. I've been invited with some other bloggers to attend a seminar at BLACKHAWK! next week (Yes, that is how they write it, with big letters and an exclamation point). It's a few days of drinking their beverages, eating their BBQ, shooting with Todd Jarrett, ...... and looking at their products.

I'm not glossing over the fact that this is advertising for them. There are no illusions here. For the cost of hosting some folks for a few days and treating them pretty darn well, they hope to get some good writeups and make some goodwill in the shooting community. That said.... it's a darn nice invite, and we are taking them up on it.

Now, therein lies the rub. I'm kind of old fashioned in a lot of silly ways. By my notions, once I am their guest it would be rude of me to speak poorly of their gear. Also by my notions, it would be wrong to put my name and approval on gear that I don't feel is up to snuff. That could possibly leave me in a position where I would have to simply say thank you after accepting their grub, and pass on writing about their toys if I didn't feel they were quality made or well designed. That would make me feel a bit of a heel.

So.... needing some new boots.... I decided to go ahead and order some new Blackhawk footwear BEFORE I go to the blogger event. I paid full retail from a vendor (on Amazon) who had no connection to the company. Yes, I needed new boots... but mostly I wanted to preview something Blackhawk sells before I go there as a guest.

It's like this... if the boots were junk, I was planning on passing up the invitation to visit Blackhawk as their guest. My ability to speak freely about my sport and hobby is worth more to me than a few days in a nice hotel and some free BBQ with Todd Jarrett.

Okay... since that explanation is out of the way, I'll speak to the boots.

Now, some folks who stop in here know me, and know I'm a teacher by trade. In fact, I'm a tech school instructor keeping fifty high school seniors at a dead run all day. That bit of joy has me doing a measured average of three miles a day on concrete floors, nine months of every year, most of it pretty fast paced. To say I am rough on boots is not correct. It's far better to say boots can be very, very, rough on me. There is little harder on the feet, legs, and back than spending strenuous days working on concrete floors. Good boots are not just nice, they are a life saver.

Back when I could buy them around here, I bought Red Wing work boots. Pricey, but simply the best there were. Since the local Red Wing store sold out to some folks I just don't care to do business with, I moved over to high quality hunting boots from Cabela's. Those suited me for years, generally giving me a solid two seasons out of each pair before replacement. Pricey, yes, but the well built hunting boots handled the work load and kept my feet happy, healthy, and pain free.

The Blackhawk boots had some big.... well.... shoes to fill.

The last few days I have been wearing Blackhawk's 'Warrior Wear Desert Ops' boots to work. Heavy fabric and leather padded uppers, and heavily cleated vibram soles, but somehow put together in a package that's lighter than the Cabela's hunting boots. While I was reticent to order boots untried for fit on-line, the first time I put these on I was quite surprised. After a few days, a few miles, and several hard kicks at steel bathroom doors to catch teenagers attention, I will report what my feet said at the end of work today.....

AHHHhhhhhhhhh.............. NIIIIIiiiiiiiiice.

Yup, comfortable as all get out. No fatigue in my feet or legs, and my back is happy as well. I have intentionally been changing my pace, bouncing around a bit, and trying to challenge the support these boots give my feet and ankles. So far, not a single complaint. The steel support in the insole is very evident, as the boots fully support the instep without that 'wood block' feel some footwear has.

To put it bluntly, I felt more like a prize fighter than a Frankenstein's monster while I was wearing the Blackhawk boots.

It's way too early to report on how these boots wear, or how they handle back country hiking, but that will come with time. For now, I have a choice on what to wear for my hard, hard work day ahead. It's the Blackhawks I'll be putting on tomorrow, and the others can just wait till I need them again.

(Oh.... I paid $119 with free shipping. Come on folks, anyone can beat suggested list on anything!)

Nine months in, and I have worn these boots every day of it..... till last week. One of them just plain disintegrated. Inside lining fell apart, and one side of the upper grew spontaneous holes through the structure.... big ones. A call to Blackhawk got me a return number, and if they deem the fault to be manufacture related, I get new boots. Maybe. After I ship them back on my own dime.

Two things stand out about the call to Blackhawk. The nice girl said the boots had a years warranty.... IF I bought them before August. No mention was made of what kind of warranty they have if bought after August. Also, she filled in the model of boot without me saying anything (Desert Ops). Either she is a darn good mind reader, or they are getting enough calls that she just assumed.

We shall see how their warranty plays out.....

Update Update:

New boots arrived on our doorstep, and I have been happily wearing them since. Not only that, but I was contacted by Blackhawk to make sure I was happy with them. Does service get better than that? Hard to say.... but I'm satisfied.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Upcoming.... a visit to Blackhawk!!

The Carteach0 team will be visiting BLACKHAWK! next week. We'll be looking over their products, playing with their toys, shooting on their range with Todd Jarret (!) and drinking their beer.

We'll be posting a few notes each day, and hope to generate some interesting product reviews in the coming weeks. Check back for some in depth posts, photos, and opinions. If you have any questions you want me to ask, or products you specifically want checked out... ask away!

I wonder if they'll allow me to drag a Serpa holster in the mud and muck to see how it reacts?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fitted to your hand....... making your own grips.


This Ruger Bisley .44 has been in the stable for decades. Acquired at a gun show long ago, it's become an old friend. It's seen it's most use as a cowboy action pistol, with lots of range time tossed in. It's also fired it's share of hot lead at game in the field, and been a bear backup gun during some Maine fishing expeditions. From 200 grain puff loads to 300 grain super boom-en-splat bear loads, it's gobbled them all with no complaint.

One issue, nursed over the years, has been the original factory walnut stocks. Now, the factory wood was nice, and had the nifty Ruger squawking chicken emblem on them. For many people they would have been fine...

For many people.... but not
me. See.... most people don't have paws like mine. Big hairy creature paws that tend to fill up any space they are jammed into. Especially tight little spaces jammed in behind trigger guards on magnum pistols.


My answer was to whittle my own stocks from rock hard Birdseye maple. It took only
a few hours, and they happened on the first try which is amazing. The directions are out there on the net.... and wood is around. I highly recommend trying this activity if you have the desire.

Laying the original factory stocks onto flat slabs of maple, I traced around them with a pencil. Using a band saw (a jig saw works fine) I cut away everything outside the generous line. Working the parts of the oversize rough pieces where they fit the pistol, I filed away till the blanks could be fitted to the pistol. With tape on the blued surfaces to protect them, I then began carefully filing away at the overage, till I
was within .040" or so of pistol frame.

After that, it was simply a matter of sand off a hair at a time till they fit as good as possible, and then sand for thickness and finish. Once final shaped and sanded, an oil finish was applied and allowed to set up for a week or two.

These fill my hand like the gun was fitted to me personally. Oh, wait..... it was. The full house magnum loads are nothing big to deal with, now that the pistol has something to really hang onto. The puff target loads... like shooting a .22, only way more fun.

Want new grips or stocks? Try this! I mean... the WORST that could happen would be a wasted evening and some fancy toothpicks.... It's not like the order of the universe will be altered if it doesn't work.

Next up on the making-stocks list.... something spicy for the Colt Commander perhaps.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blackhawk and ATK..... a good fit?

Okay, so this has never been an 'industry news' blog.... and somehow I doubt it will ever really be one. That said, it's my blog and I'll write if I want to (g).

Till a month ago Blackhawk (they write it as BLACKHAWK!) has been mostly below my radar. They made holsters, and other gear... none of which I owned. Only one person I know has one of the tricky latching BLackhawk holsters, and it just lays in a drawer.

A month ago, give or take, Carteach0 was contacted by Blackhawk (I just can't keep typing out 'BLACKHAWK!', it goes against my grain). They extended an invite to an upcoming blogger seminar. I read that as a two day sales pitch, during which we would get to play with their toys and, maybe, meet Todd Jarrett (hint hint).

Last night, late, something else came across the screen. Yesterday Blackhawk was bought by ATK/Alliant, the company deeply embroiled in the military brass destruction story unfolding at this time.

To many shooters, the story will mean little. To reloaders, it may mean a lot. On the other hand... reloaders talk... a lot.... and are generally gear hounds as well. ATK/Alliant owns Federal ammunition, and now owns Blackhawk gear. They are exposed financially to the good will of the shooting community. It will interesting to see how they respond.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Impressions regarding the Citadel 1911


During a recent range session with the Heir, he had a few new shootin irons to show me. First up, a simple Glock 19 destined to be his regular carry pistol, and then this piece of work....

A Citadel 1911.

"Hmm... just pass that over here for bit, would you please?" I said. I proceeded to look it over closely, and see what the workmanship is like. While it is a 'cheap' 1911, it does have some nice features. If one can see past the MIM parts and inexpensive finish, whats left is rather pleasing.

The pistol comes stock with forward grooves on the slide for easy operation in racking the slide. The sights are either Novaks, or a pretty darn good imitation, and are windage adjustable. A decent trigger, easy to use controls, beavertail grip safety, full length guide rod... all in all a nice package.

That said, the proof is in the shootin... and the boys Citadel can SHOOT! My first group at fifty feet became the photo at the head of this post. The trigger broke cleanly at what felt like five pounds, and the weapon cycled very smoothly indeed. There were no failures to feed, nor failures of any kind in fact.

My opinion? Should I come across one, or it's small 'officer' size companion, I would happily spend the price they ask. Often seen at retail for around $500, I think it's a fine pistol for the price.

Some photos of the subject:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Well now.... BLACKHAWK! called.......

.Something interesting coming up.....

BLACKHAWK! sent along an invite for Carteach0 to attend a blogger seminar in May.

Look for some daily blog updates, product reviews, and perhaps some tales of shooty goodness in the month of May. Check back and see what adventures we can get ourselves into.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Lasermax put to use on an unlikely target...

.An evening get together on the patio, combining good friends and good food. A young child and her father playing in the back yard, as the sun is beginning to touch the treetops.

"Whoa... what is that?" A visitor clears the weeds near the big tree and heads towards the house. A snake.... a very large snake. A very large and fearless snake.

As the child is brought back to the patio, and everyone clears the yard, I asked Princess to fetch my .45. While waiting, I block the snakes path to the house with a stick... only to watch it rear back in a strike pose and violently shake it's tail.

Uh oh......

While it looked like nothing more dangerous that a very large Black Rat snake, it's posture and total lack of fear made it too dangerous to leave near the house.

With perfect handling skills, Princess brought me my carry pistol; A Glock 30 with a Lasermax guide rod laser installed. Finger clear of the trigger, and muzzle discipline intact, she handed me the pistol from the deck.

Mindful of the slight offset between the bore and the laser, I placed the pulsating red dot on the snakes lower jaw and squeezed off one round. The now 'mindless' snake collapsed in a quivering heap.

A harmless snake? Most likely. Then again, with such a large snake who shows no fear at all, the possibility of getting bit still exists. Not poisonous, but still painful, scary, and rife with infection, such bites are not to be sneered at.

The Lasermax made precision sighting easy, and left no need for followup shots.

Lasermax (1), big scary snake (0).