The Ghost in the Gun

Creepy title, right?  Don’t worry, we’re not going to get paranormal at all.  I’m just going to make a small observation.

When dad died last year, I inherited a few of his rifles and all of his pistols.  Among them was a Savage Mark II bolt action .22.  It was a nice little rifle with a scope, but I’ve got more than a few .22 rifles and didn’t need another.  What I needed was a smaller .22 for the kids.  I talked to my nephew and swapped him his Davey Crickett for the Savage.  He got the better end of the deal, but I wanted him to have it.

We finally got the opportunity to shoot it a few weekends ago.  He hadn’t shot in a long time, so we went through basic safety, then I showed him how to shoot the gun.  For a guy who had never used a scope, he did okay.


Before I let him shoot, I took a crack at it.  I don’t have pictures, but I was hitting low and to the left.  My heart sank a little.  I inherited my mom’s Remington Model 788 in .243 about fifteen years ago.  My dad was the one who lined it in all those years back.  It always shoots low and to the left and I’ve always just compensated for it instead of fixing it.  I asked him about it when I got the gun and he said that the weight and stance of one shooter to the next would make a gun hit in slightly different spots for different people.  Every gun I’ve ever shot that he lined in was low and to the left.  The legacy endures, even where you aren’t expecting it to.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.






Yard Sale Scores (Ammo Can, Inverter, ATC)

I hit the pavement this morning in search of a deal.  Found it!

First stop:


Ammo can for a buck.  Not the best that I’ve found by any means, but the price was right.



Two power inverters and a CB radio.  I’ve got no use for the CB, but I like inverters.  They were all in the same box.  I got everything in the box for $5.00.

Second stop:  A girly yard sale and I thought I was wasting my time, until I saw this baby.


1984.  200cc.  Honda, my favorite brand.  It’s in great condition for the year.  Although ATCs are known as death traps, due to flipping easily, I had to pick it up, pun intended, to FLIP.


The best accessory in the world…….a gun rack!


I paid $250 for it.  I’m reasonably sure I can double or triple my money.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike Oscar Hotel

Feet Per Second

I’ve got yard rabbits.  Like, rabbits that I let loose in 2014, expecting they’d be eaten by the fox during the night.  They’ve been here ever since.  Many rabbit folk say that a domestic rabbit can’t live on forage alone.  They’re wrong.  The two girls in my yard have done just fine.  In fact, they’re fat with hardly any help from me.

I caught one last year in a live trap and bred her to a buck.  Just to see if it worked.  It did.  A month later, I saw her pull fur.  Four weeks after that, I saw pea-sized bunny babies skittering out from under my shed.  There were seven in all.  All but one were killed by predators.  The last one we figured was a buck, due to the way he was built.  We called him Thunder.

Thunder was about a year old.  Rabbits can breed at 4 months (that’s pushing it a bit), but we’d seen no action between he and the girls until recently.  When he did mount them, they kicked him off.

Apparently, he closed the deal with one of the does, though.  I caught her pulling fur and stashing it under the deck the other day. Being that we’re selling the house, that isn’t ideal.

I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse to pick up some .22 shorts.  I usually buy CCI shorts and look for something in the neighborhood of 710 fps. I know those rounds are quiet and I can do basic jobs without being heard around the house.  They were out of CCIs.  All they had were these.


None of the boxes listed feet per second.  Based on grains, I thought I’d be be okay with the 20 grain rounds, but the sales guy pushed me to buy the subsonics.  I grabbed the Super Extra Shorts figuring they’d be pretty close to the 20 grains and pack a little more punch at 29 grains.

When I got home, Thunder was out in the yard.  I got the kids’ bolt action Davey Crickett .22 and nailed him in the head with a 20 grain.  It was over long before he knew what was happening.  I looked him over.  He was very healthy.  He had never spent a day in a cage and I’d fed him vegetable scraps at most.  He was a self-made bunny.  He was as big as my cage raised rabbits, if not larger.


Afterwards, I decided to try the Super Extra Shorts, thinking they would be similar to the 20 grains.  Man, was I wrong.  I stood in the dining room and fired out the back door and the gun made quite a *crack*.  I laughed and slid the door shut quickly and my wife scolded me for a moment.  I’m certainly glad I didn’t try the subsonics.  The .20 grains will do for now.  Though at $5.00 a box, they’re a little cost prohibitive.

I didn’t worry about the cops showing up.  I learned that lesson through my dad.  He came to visit a few years back and was working on my black powder rifle on the back deck.  He got something stuck somewhere and ended up firing off a shot in the back yard with no lead.  It was pretty loud.  I freaked out, but the old man just stood out there, still working on the gun.  Nobody came.  Mind you, my neighbors are probably 150 feet away.  I asked what he was going to do when the cops came and he said he would tell them exactly what happened and ask them if they wanted to fire off a shot.  By that age, he was at the point where he didn’t give a crap.  Now I understand why.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.





Selling the Canoe, Part 2 (History and Aggrivation)

I worked at an outdoor adventure camp in New Brunswick, Canada in the 1990s.  Part of our services included a canoe ride down the Tobique and Nipisiguit Rivers once a week.  It was at that point in time that I fell in love with the Old Town Discovery 169.

16′, 9″ is a very manageable length for two people, though when I was working in New Brunswick, I often found myself paddling alone.  Often times, the boss would over order from the canoe rental place and we wouldn’t figure it out until the drop off guy was already on the road.  Sometimes, kids would triple up in canoes instead of double up, which would leave me alone as well.  After a few close calls with sweepers and rapids, I figured out the best operating procedure for me and began to excel at handling the canoe solo.  I like to stand up in a canoe, which is frowned on by most canoe people, but encouraged by polers, which I haven’t yet tried.


I bought my Discovery about six years ago.  I hadn’t been in a canoe in years and I was desperate to show my children the fun that could be had on the water.  After some looking, we drove to Fort Collins and loaded it on our Volkswagen van.  Unfortunately, we quickly realized that many rivers on the front range are downright dangerous for canoes and especially so with children on board.  We ended up using it a few times on a lake every year.  I hate canoeing lakes.  Did I mention that?  I’m a river rat.


After figuring out that we’re (probably) going to experience a life changing event soon, I decided (against my better judgement) to put the canoe up for sale.  And like any good man who doesn’t actually want to sell his toys, I priced it much higher than it’s actually worth.  Just because.  Because it’s my friggin’ canoe and I wish I could keep it.  There’s only been one person interested.  And he’s a fruit loop.  There are three players here; his response, my response and the (IMM) response, which is what I was thinking (I)n (M)y (M)ind before I responded.  I’m really a nice guy, but I’ve been suffering from a head cold, which really throws my patience back to what it was when I was in my 20s. Really, I’m not this guy anymore.  But sometimes he busts through.  Here is the email thread:


I am interested in the canoe.  Do the seats have back-rests?  When can I view the canoe?


Fruit Loop
(Name changed, of course)
In my mind (IMM), I’m thinking what kind of Sally are you that you need backrests?  It’s a canoe!
My response:
It does not have backrests.  I’m around today of you want to look at it.  Here are some pictures.  It’s dusty from the snow.  It cleans up well.  I’ve also included a picture of the third snap in seat, which is nice.  I’ve got a few paddles I’ll throw in as well on a full price offer.
 His response:
I just listened to your message.  Do you have photographs of each side of the hull?  What kind of shape is it in?
(IMM) Are you hard of reading?
My Response:
I’ll get pictures in a bit.  It’s just got normal wear and tear from being used.  No cracks, holes, etc.  It’s really in great shape, but well used.
His Response:
Okay.  What are you offering for oars?  I’m not sure, but it seems there are two sets of oars and the buyer gets to choose one set.  Is this correct?
(IMM)  You know, Captain Obvious, you actually use oars in a boat and paddles in a canoe.  I’d like to tell you this, but I’m afraid it will make our conversation longer, which I’m desperately trying to avoid.
My Response:

(I sent more pictures) I took more pictures of the body and the bottom.  Mind you, it’s dirty.  There are discolorations on the floor from kneelers or bladders – not sure which, but it’s a cosmetic issue.  

For paddles, we have two Carlisles, one unmarked and what looks to be a handmade wooden paddle, which was what I used.
His Response:

I’ve received and reviewed your photos and I’m trying to come to a decision.  There is some damage to the one end of the hull and would need to be repaired.  The gunwales look chewed up, possibly from an animal.  

The scratches on the bottom of the hull are normal, as well as the discoloration and pitting on the inside when stored outside.   The discoloration from bladders is unusual.  It almost looks like resin.
I’m really excited about this canoe, and now I’m chewing the fat.
(IMM)  Thanks for the insult.  And seriously, Watson?  You think a rodent chewed on my canoe?  That’s called use where I’m from and it happens after you take your canoe out more than once and don’t insist on fart-buffing it to a shine every time you get back off the water.  Furthermore, are you some sort of Nigerian scammer?  Did you really write what I just read?  Do you even know what chewing the fat means?  And the hull has no damage to be repaired.  You’re obviously proof of why weed shouldn’t be legal in Colorado.
I didn’t respond.  At this point, all I could have written is above.
His Response:

I want to be forthcoming with you and not go radio-silent.  I will pass on the canoe.  For the money, it is a little beat up for my taste.  My wife says if I am this much on the fence about it now, I will only complain about it years down the road.  

Thanks anyway,
Fruit Loop
(IMM) What is going on in this world when a guy like you can find a wife?  Tell me you didn’t meet online and exchange emails.  If you did, you need to run.  Because she’s obviously that desperate and she’s probably going to kill you in your sleep.  That, or your parents are actually paying an aide to make sure you don’t win a Darwin Award and she’s pretending to be your wife because it’s not as cruel.  And I’m glad we never get to meet.
And that, folks, is why I love craigslist.
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.





Selling the Canoe, Part 1 (Snuffy’s Tripper)

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Photo by Shelly Philbrick Hewitt

I’d like to open this post with some foul language, but I don’t swear, so that’s not going to work.  And it was Sunday when I wrote this, so I guess I’ll keep it to harsh adjectives and whatnot.  Maybe a few &^%$#$% symbols.

We have an impending situation that will probably require me to sell my Old Town Discovery 169 canoe.  While I’m happy about the situation, I’m not remotely happy about selling my canoe.  I intended this article to be a rant about selling my canoe, but the following memory preempted it.  I guess we’ll do part one and two, since I like to stick to 500-600 words.  This post will top 800, but it’s cheaper than therapy, I guess.  And it’s a testament to the brand.

In 1988, my dad bought an Old Town XL Tripper.  For those of you not in the know, it is the Titanic of Old Town’s canoe line.  At a 20′ in length, the company boasted (I’m going on memory) that it would haul over 1,500 lbs.  Dad used to put the boat on Portage Lake and challenge a group of us kids (ten year olds) to roll it.  It could be done, but I assure you that the ol’ Tripper was steady in the water.  It usually took four or five of us hanging off the side and rocking for all we were worth to get her to go over.   Even then, she didn’t sink to the bottom.

In addition, dad put a homemade motor mount on the back and hooked up a Mercury 5hp motor to it.  If you’re thinking it must have looked weird and been a little awkward, you’re right.  Dad would have to put at least 60 lbs. of weight in the front of the canoe to hold bow down low enough so he could see over it and not flip.  Often times, I was volunteered (by him) to sit in the front of the boat while he zoomed to his favorite fishing spot on the Aroostook River after work.  With 5 horses, that old boat would fly upstream.

I can only remember being scared once in the Tripper.  We were on Caucomgomoc Lake in 1988.  Google it.  I’ve been to remote places, but that lake is probably the most remote place I’ve ever been.  He and I took the canoe to the dam and I had our brand new RCA camcorder in the bow with me and had been recording fish trying to jump the dam. We were working our way back to camp when a storm came in.  It was unexpected and came in quickly. The swells on the lake were soon over a foot high, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re in a canoe, it’s a tsunami.  Dad pointed the nose into the wind and waves and yelled for me to hang on tightly.  I asked him about the camcorder and he yelled something to the effect of, “F@$% it, I’ll buy another one!”

The front end of the boat slapped back onto the tossing lake after every wave.  Water was splashing over the gunwales and I knew that no matter what, I had to keep my keester in the center of the boat.  Dad wasn’t much for meaningful conversation, but I heard him clear his throat and start yelling to me.

“We go over, you swim for shore, boy.  When you hit the shore, stay on the shore and head that right on the beach!” he hollered.

“What about the camcorder,” I asked again?

“I told you I don’t give a f^*# about that!  Let ‘er sink if we dump!”

“What about you,” I asked?

I knew he wasn’t wearing a life jacket and he couldn’t swim.  Stupid, but normal for him more than I care to admit.

“I’ll go to the bottom and crawl to shore,” I heard him say in a lower voice.

He referred to that move as the “Australian Crawl”.  I have no idea where the term came from, but a few of the men in my family used that term to describe them going over in a boat, sinking to the bottom, and walking back to shore.  Even at ten, I knew the real reality of the situation.

If you’re wondering, we made it to a small cove and waited out the storm on shore.  The memory is still very vivid with me nearly 30 years later.

Dad died last August and my brother inherited the canoe.  That canoe speaks to the durability of Old Town canoes.  My dad used his equipment hard.  When I say hard, I mean it.  I often teased him about having the “Reverse Midas Touch”- everything he touched turned to crap.  When I got to the family farm after he died, the Tripper was sitting alone in the tall grass, full of water, scraped to skin on the bottom, with the thwarts nearly rotted out.  And I thought to myself…..what a canoe.  If she’ll hold water in, she’ll hold water out.  After all those years of abuse.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.





Smith & Wesson Model 17-6

It’s not you, it’s me.  I’ve said that more than a few times.  In this case, it really was me.

When my dad passed last August, I inherited his pistols.  He had some pieces  that I probably never would purchased, mostly because I’m broke.  He was as well, but he appreciated a good pistol and tended to spend his tax returns on fun stuff.


This is his Smith & Wesson 17-6.   My mom encouraged me and my brother to “help” her buy it for him back in the 1980s.  We contributed money earned from our paper routes, delivering the Bangor Daily News every morning.  She paid for the lion’s share, and we contributed our bits.  Dad had many Smiths, almost all with the Dirty Harry style 8 3/8″ barrels.

This one in particular is fun to pull out at the range.  I get a lot of looks when I point it down range.  However, when I shoot it, I get a lot of raised eyebrows.  It’s chambered in .22 long rifle.  People see the barrel and assume it’s going to roar and knock things over, but instead, there’s a whole lot of *pew-pew-pew* action.

From Wikipedia:  S&W also shipped the Model 17 featuring a 4″, 6″ or 8 3/8″ full under lug barrel. The “under lug” was a solid, blued steel, circular rod, cast as part of the barrel, and running under the barrel from the front of the cylinder yoke to the muzzle’s end.. The under lug not only enclosed the ejector rod, it also added considerable weight to the gun itself. The under lug model shipped with a special round butt wood grip that featured inletted finger grooves. The 4″ Model 17 Under Lug is infrequently seen and quite possibly manufactured as an afterthought using factory shortened 6″ or 8 3/8″ under lug barrels.


Can you imagine?  No, really!  Make that enormous .22 HEAVIER.  Sure, the designers said.  I’m sure that someone will argue that it cuts down on recoil.  Stahhhhp!  It’s a .22!

When I was in Maine taking care of dad’s estate, I test fired it.  My accuracy with it was horrible. I threw it in the pistol case and sent it home to Colorado.  I pulled it out a month ago when I was at the range and had much the same experience.  It made me not want the pistol, which I was struggling with because of its origin.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – I’ve got two people that I really look to when I need gun advice – our very own B&A Stowaway and my dear old Uncle Bern.  Uncle Bern knows Smiths, so I dropped him a line complaining about the pistol.

The grips are similar to the ones shown in this picture (

He suggested that I change the grips.  I was a little puzzled.  It came with these funky grips,mentioned above in the Wikipedia article, which were a bit big for my hands and contoured in a way that just wasn’t comfortable to me.  I dug through Dad’s stuff and came up with the grips in the first picture.  They weren’t a perfect fit on the pistol, but they fit my hand better.

I’ve also been talking to B&A about stance and hold on pistols.  He’s a certified NRA Firearms Instructor and had some great tips.  For years, I’ve been standing side-to, right arm extended, with pistol in hand.  I changed my stance to facing forward, left hand cupping my right hand.  That also seemed to improve things.  I think my dad taught me the first position, stating that standing side-to made you a thinner target for enemy fire.  Being that no enemies have fired on me thus far, I found it okay to change my shooting stance.

I’m learning a lot about trigger pull as well, more in action than theory.  In the past if a piece had a poor trigger, I either worked around it or got rid of it.  My Dad’s Smiths have no trouble in that department.  He either had them worked on by a professional Smith repairman or fixed the triggers himself.  Some would consider them very touchy.  I’m starting to understand that’s part of accuracy.  Why?  If you’re pulling a six-mile-long trigger on a double action only pistol, the muzzle is going to move ever so slightly as you’re pulling on that trigger, knocking off your accuracy.  Sometimes you move much more than you ever could imagine.  All of this is making me rethink my purchases of DAO (Double Action Only) pistols in the past.  Revolvers have fallen out of favor in recent years, but I’m starting to understand what my dad meant when he used to say, “There’s nothing more reliable than a wheel gun”.


All of these things have repaired my relationship with this gun.  I brought it out over the weekend and implemented everything.  Needles to say, things have changed.  I’m not a crack shot with it by any means, but I’m hitting targets decently and found myself walking away with a positive attitude on the gun.


Stay tuned.  I’m losing my vision capabilities in my right eye, so I’m experimenting with shooting with my left.  This should get interesting.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…out.





Get Away Land (Part 1, Buying Boonie Land)

I grew up in northern Maine.  It seems that every family has a “camp” or cabin that they can go to there.  My family has two.  B&A’s family has one.  We’re talking shotgun shacks in the middle of nowhere where you can play cards, hunt and read.  There’s really nothing like it.

Photo Credit: Bill Nixon

That doesn’t much happen in Colorado unless you have money.  Then you get a condo in Aspen and pay twice what I paid for my house for a place you can stay once a year.  Yeah, I’m not doing that.  It’s stupid.

My wife and I started looking for get away land in 2010.  We looked all over the central and southern half of Colorado without much luck.  Our budget was for $1,000 an acre, which is unheard of on the front range (near Denver) where we live.  We wanted a place for the kids to run and where we could get out of the craziness of the metro area.

Most of the land we found in that price range was completely flat with no trees in areas with high winds.  That simply would not do.  We suspended our search in the summer of 2012 because of the lack in options.

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We went back at it in 2013.  I found a piece of land on  It was out of our price range.  We drove to it and it was very remote (me likey) and hard to see from the road (me likey even more).  It was three acres.  Instead of $1,000 an acre, it was $15,000 for three acres.

I wanted to make an offer.  My wife, ever the sensible one, noted that we would have to take out a loan on the property and that our agreement was that we would pay cash.  Crestfallen, I relented and the search continued.  On the way home that day, my wife told me that she had found another parcel worth looking at and that we could see it the following weekend.

True to her word, we went.  As we drove to it, she was excited and I was withdrawn.  I wanted the remote land.  When we arrived, she was blown away.  Five acres, areas to build, views, hills and a few trees.  It was amazing.  To boot, it was $8,100.  Still out of our price range.  I got over the remote land and called the realtor.

She met us the following week and talked to us about the history of the property.   She was from the area and very knowledgeable about the local and geographical history of the area.  After sleeping on it that night, the Mrs. and I made an offer.  We offered what we had, which was $6,100 in cash.  We didn’t get our hopes up.

The realtor called us back and explained that the seller wanted $6,500.  I was psyched.  She said that the seller was the widow of a rancher that had bought many parcels of land in the 70s, sight unseen, and that she had never set foot on the property.  She was happy to take our money after hearing what we were going to use it for.  We accepted the counter offer.  We closed on Independence Day, 2013.

The next question?  How could we get a structure on the land so we could stay there?

Next up:  Skirting Building Codes.  Stay tuned.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.