Thursday, March 12, 2009

What is it with March Hares?

There's a lot of maniacs out there, we know that. But during the past 15 or so years we have learned to expect them to 'act out' during April.

Mostly, this is because the homocidal maniacs slash mass-murderers in public places have generally chosen April (Hitler's birthday) as the best time to strut their insanity.

I may be wrong on some of the dates, but if I recall correctly we can place the Oklahoma Bombings, Ruby Ridge and Waco (reverse psychology ... it was the FEEBS), Columbine, etc. in April.

Perhaps the 21st Century Assholes have decided to advance their agenda. Let's look at March 11, 2009:

That's all bad, all the time. They're all mad as March Hares.

Even the "Good Guys", those which stop unwarranted violent attacks, aren't completely unscathed:

(This last story is most upsetting of the two. What happened to the Second Amendment? Nothing, it doesn't apply to your employer. OR does it? Remember the precise words?

" A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. "

Infringed by whom?

Does it apply to Congress only? To Federal and States Legislation? To agents of the State (eg: universities, who charge a student, faculty or staff with 'tresspassing' and/or discharge from employment or enrollment for carrying a handgun on campus, or to employers who discharge an employee for carrying a weapon on the job?

I don't know for sure, but I suspect it does. Still, this stuff goes on and Pizza-men all over the country lose their livlihood for protecthing their lives and their employer's small-change.

But I digress.

The thing is, we keep getting more 'anti-gun' laws passed to restrict the rights of honest men and women to protect themselves, but the March Hares keep on slaughtering honest men and women (and children) because the laws don't apply to them.

We still have "Gun Free Zones" (and "Gun Free" occupations), and the only ones who are limited by these laws and zones are the innocents.

This is the way it has been for centuries. Even with the advent of the United States of America, and it's constitutionlly protected right to "Keep and Bear Arms", bureaucrats and 'elected officials' have found ways to get around the strongest possible support for free men to defend themselves.

Legal restrictions, economic restrictions, 'safety' restrictions ... "If It Saves Just One Child!" restrictions. They're all bogus, they're all phony, and they all make criminals of honest men.

In the meantime, the March Hares are like wolves circling a flock of sheep, picking out the young and the old and the lame ... the weakest victims with the least ability to defend themselves.

The Yaks and the Gnus and the Elephants and the Zebras of the animal world know that the strong must protect the weak, but humans .... ah, humans!

We're so civilized, we emasculate the strong and then fail to protect the weak, thus making victims of our most vulnerable members.



Politicians make the laws. You know them. You voted them into office.

Why do they do this? To protect their own positions, by appearing to 'do something about the problem' while acting to make the problem even more unsolvable by hamstringing our natural defenses against Predators ... who, like The Poor, "will always be with us".

And not incidently, in doing so they encourage the Predators by insuring that they feel free to act aggressively, with little fear of retaliation.

Folks, I don't know why this world is full of Predators, but it is; always have been, always will be. The way to fight them is not to expect Bureaucrats to defend us. The only way to fight them is ... to fight them.

In the final analysis it doesn't matter whether the Predators choose to prey upon us in March or April. The only thing that matters is that a reliable personal defense is not the responsibility of anyone but you.

Nobody else.

Just you.

It Sucks To Be Geek

This may have been titled: "No Match This Weekend: Further adventures of the XL650" . But that was insufficiently pithy.

And it goes beyond that.

You may possibly have noticed that we haven't been doing a lot of writing lately. Many reasons for that, mostly involved in the un-Geekly concept of "Having A Life".

There is a phenomenon in living which might be summed up as "Everything Breaks At The Same Time". My bathroom sink hot-water tap is shut off because the washer is eroded, but so is the screw holding the handle onto the tap and I can't get it off to replace the washer. Speaking of washers, my washing machine has decided that there is no need to actually spin during the spin cycle, so if I do laundry I have to hand-wring the contents before I pop them into the dryer ... for two or three hours until they dry out (the clothes, of course, are stiff with soap which has not been adequately removed from the material).

I can't get get a repairman in .... can't spare the full day off work to watch him earn his money. And I can't get a new washer installed, because I'm doing my annual Spring HouseCleaning and the path to the utility room through the garage is cluttered with boxes of 'stuff' which has been accumulating through-out the house during the winter months.

Oh ... and my water heater can just barely produce enough hot water for a 2-minute shower. It takes me 3 minutes to get clean. At least I can be sure that my shower will wake me up in time to get to work, except that I dread my morning shower.

To complete the litany of 'water-related' foibles, the garbage disposal unit in the kitchen sink is hors de combat, having been jammed by a penny in the whirly-gizmo unit. No, please don't ask me how the penny got there, but I am reminded of the poem about "for the want of a penny, an nail was lost, for the want of a nail a shoe was lost ..." etc.

Oh, and as I FINALLY decided to actually write something tonite, I discovered that the battery on my hotsy-totsy wireless mouse was run down. No, it's not replaceable -- it's rechargable and the recharging unit chose this day to turn itself OFF without stopping the mouse to be running all day. (My failure to put the mouse back on the charging cradle correctly may have played some small part in this Domestic Tragedy). I have barely enough charge (now that I have it charging correctly) to jump my cursor from one place to the other in this screed, so if it looks really negative, that's my excuse.

But you know what really frosts my cookie?

Two things:

First, two weeks ago the STI started acting up, and I never found a thing wrong with the gun. Doesn't matter, I don't have ammunition for it anyway.

Second, the Dillon XL650 is also devolved into a pile of metallic sludge, metaphorically speaking.

Last night and tonight I have spent two hours changing the press from the .38 Super configuration (small primers) to .10mm configuration (large primers). I found a primer had jammed UNDER the primer feed disk, which explains part of my pre-existing problems, and thought I had it fixed.

It took most of last night to find all of the parts, including the primer feed tubes for Large Primers.

Tonite I actually reassembled the press in the new configuration, only to discover that no matter WHAT I do, the Primer Feed Disk will not index all the way to align with the thingy that punches the primer into the base of the case. I have never claimed to be 'mechanical', but this goes beyond all expectations in the "Screw The Geek" category of Machinery's Little Ways To Frustrate Humans.

The funny thing is, I finally found all the XL650 parts and all of the reloading components, and still I can't reload ammunition.

So here I sit, smoking on a Marlboro and sucking down some cheap Canadian Rye Whiskey, trying to figure out how I am going to load 150+ rounds of ammunition before bed-time (approximately 1 hour away) so I can compete at the ARPC match this weekend.

[NOTE: my spell-checker on BLOGGER isn't working tonite, either. At this point, it would be disappointing if I could go for a half-hour without finding some other piece of Technology to betray me.]

In this situation, what would a Normal Man Do?

I phoned SWMBO. I told her that I was having a frustrating day, she gave me some "Poor Sweet Baby" consolation, and I'm going to eat dinner and go to sleep.

Somehow, it just doesn't matter that Technology Hates Me. SWMBO likes me, all's right with the world.

The match on Saturday? I have three students from the Introduction to USPSA class last weekend who will be competing safely to complete their certification. I told them I would be there at the end of the match to give them their certification card, and I will. I can probably do a lot of Range Officer stuff during the match, and a lot of visiting with my friends and neighbors. The shooting is only 50% of the event anyway; I go as much to mingle with the good people I've met at USPSA matches as I do to shoot.

And I'll call my landlord next week to get the faucet and the garbage disposal fixed. My landlord can also decide what he is willing to do about the water heater ... that's one of the benefits of renting instead of owning a house.

I'll shop for a new washing machine, and let the delivery guys figure out how to get it through the garage to the utility room.

I'll call DILLON and see if they can suggest how I can fix my primer feed mechanism ... or will send me a new one.

Only thing is, my car needs to go into the shop. The power door locking mechanism will unlock every door except for the driver's. I think I'll have to drop the car off at the dealer's garage, right?

Is that what you would do?

Here's the good thing: What else can go wrong?


I would rather it come as a surprise to me.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Daylight Savings Time is officially HERE.

Don't muck about. Don't diss me. Just set your clock forward one hour.

As they said about the 55MPH National Speed Limit a decade ago:

It's Not A Good Idea -- It's Just The Law.

Introduction to USPSA: Class of March, 2009

This weekend I was privileged to instruct four potential USPSA competitors in the Albany Rifle & Pistol Club's "Intro to USPSA" class. If you are a regular reader, you may be aware that I have been volunteering my time to perform this necessary function since July of 2008.

This may be my fifth or sixth class ... I've already lost count of the classes and the number of students ... and as usual I found the experience taught me as much as it did my students.

The people who sign up for this class (free to ARPC club members) are highly motivated, which is the best condition for any training situation. The alternatives are those who are Intrinsically motivated (these people, who sign up "just for the fun of it", or because they derive a benefit from the course of instruction), or those who are extrinsically motivated ... they sign up because they are obliged to do so because it is a necessary stop to achieving another goal.

Intrinsic motivation insures that the student performs to his/her highest possible degree of endeavor.

Extrinsic motivation tends to result in poor student performance; he just wants to get through the day and achieve certification which allows him to compete.

I have been fortunate in that most people who enroll in this introductory course want to learn the skills necessary to compete successfully in USPSA competition. They have an intrinsic interest, because they want to learn how to shoot safely, and to feel more comfortable in the competitive environment.

Those students whose motivation is extrinsic seem, if a generalization may be suggested, to only want to achieve a sign-off. They usually have the attitude that they already know everything they need to compete, and anything that they may learn from the instructor can readily be picked up during competition.

I've been fortunate so far in that most of my students are intrinsically motivate. Those students who are only extrinsically motivated are easy to identify: they either don't show up for the confirming match (see below), or the do show up and are filtered out because they are demonstrably unable to compete safely. It's a Darwinian solution: they drop out of future competition because they don't have the skills, and they are too proud to ask for help.

We know who they are before the complete the "Introduction" class. They don't want to learn, they are confrontational, they "have an attitude".


The Class Experience:
I was extremely fortunate in the four students who arrived early for the class, and were happy to help set up the stage props for the class.

Here's the student roster. (I feel confident in revealing backgrounds while maintaining a sufficient degree of anonymity. As is my usual practice, I provide my blog URL and my personal email address on a "Get Out Of Hell Free" card so they can monitor what, if anything, I have to say about their course of instruction.):

"TOM" is the friend of Aaron, an experienced USPSA competitor. Aaron is actively encouraging his friends to try USPSA competition because it's fun.

"WES" signed up for the course because he wants to compete. I have no idea what his background is, because the training is so compressed into a short time period that it is impossible to interview the students individually. What I know about the students is whatever the volunteer during the training period. It's perhaps enough to know that Wes is willing to work as hard as is required to learn new skills.

"Don" is a USPSA member, a LEO, who has 'other' training and has demonstrated his gun-handling skills during the course of training. As is true of almost all students, I don't really know whether he has actually competed in USPSA matches.

"Chase" is a youngster (perhaps 10 years old ... I don't know, and I didn't ask) whose father "Wade" enrolled him in the class. I don't know if Wade is an experienced Competitor, and I didn't ask.

I won't get into the individual details of training, because frankly the skills and familiarity with USPSA range commands, practices and procedures is almost invariably know and is universally confusing.

The most telling significant events are how they handled themselves and their firearms in situations where the one-hour discussion of test questions and hypothetical scenarios were not adequately covered. It's impossible to cover every event they may encounter, and that's precisely why we start with exercised designed to introduce skills and procedures in a manner which limits the 'new things' they need to do.

First scenario: Load one round in your magazine. At the sound of the starting buzzer, shoot target T1 with one round only.

The purpose of this exercise is not only to familiarize the new shooter with the standard range commands (and his response) but to allow the shooter to make mistakes and see how he handles them.

One shooter responded to the start signal by drawing his pistol and then racking the slide of his semi-automatic pistol ... thereby ejecting the single cartridge. His response was to wait for further instructions from the Range Officer.

Positive results: he knows he doesn't know everything he needs to know, so rather than compound his instinctive error (he is not accustomed to a structured shooting scenario), he waited for, and actively requested, further instruction from the Range Office.

Instruction received: "The clock is still running, you may reload with another magazine and continue to satisfy the requirements of the published Stage Procedures".

Lesson learned: the competitor is responsible for every event which occurs after the starting signal.

The second scenario: Load with a full magazine, carry every reload magazine you can carry. Engage target T1 with at least 2 rounds (Comstock scoring), perform a mandatory reload, and engage target T2 with at least 2 rounds.

Objective: become familiar with the 'reload' requirement; also, indexing between targets, be aware of the passage of time while striving for accuracy.

Note that all scenarios were scored by the RO, and time was announced as well. Class members were designated "A Squad", and were required to tape and reset all targets ... to familiarize them with the etiquette of "everybody works".

Reportable Event: One shooter performed the reload when appropriate, but then racked the slide of his pistol, ejecting a perfectly good round and incurring a 'time penalty'. The student said to himself: "Oh, I didn't need to do that. I'm sorry." Not necessary to comment, of course, but it's important that he realized that he had performed an unnecessary function, and understood that time was a necessary factor in his competitive performance even though the defined imperative was first to shoot safely, and second to shoot competitively.

Note that the competitor is ten years old, and he is THIS aware of his priorities!

Also note that the competitor experienced a jam during the reload. He immediately effected the "Tap/Rack/Bang" resolution, in which he smacked the magazine to seat it ("Tap"), racked the slide ("Rack"), and continued shooting ("Bang!") , apparently without even having to think about it. Excellent gun-handling skills, you can tell that the shooter has been well trained.

Also in the same scenario of engaging two Metric (cardboard) targets with a mandatory reload between targets, another shooter demonstrated his prior training by NOT hesitating after successfully engaging the first target and then performing the mandatory reload. Typically, the new student will hesitate between the first target. He will obviously begin to engage the second target, realize at the last moment as it occurs to him that there is something he needs to do before engaging ("shooting at") the 2nd target. Instead, this student got too good hits on T1 and immediately performed his reload.

Lesson Learned: Know what you need to do before beginning the stage. Walk through the functions you must perform at each significant tactical point, and be prepared to perform that function without pausing to think about it.

Finally, we get into the ultimate scenario:

Engage two Metric (cardboard) targets from the shooting box. Move to the second shooting position (in a shooting box behind a Bianchi Barricade. Engage a Pepper Popper from the left side of the Barricade, index, engage a U.S. Popper from the right side of the Bianchi Barricade. Minimum number of rounds: six shots.

Mandatory reload between the two shooting positions (eight feet apart). Do NOT attempt to reload "on the move". (Safety/training issue.)

One student experienced some problems engaging steel targets around a barricade. He ran out of ammunition for his Single-Stack 1911 Pistol. During the standing reload, he forgot to remove his finger from the trigger. He had been repeatedly warned during the exercise to show that his finger was NOT on the trigger during movement, clearing a jam, or while reloading. Still, he had his finger within the trigger-guard while performing a standing reload.

He was DQ'd (Match Disqualified) as a consequence of egregious failure to observe basic safety rules. The failure was carefully explained to the entire class. The consequence of his Match DQ was that he was required to reshoot the stage safely, which he did.

Why do we expend such effort to train new shooters?
Our goal was primarily to train the new competitor in safe shooting, which includes and emphasizes safe gun-handling skills. All students are required to either demonstrate his ability in a beginning "Introduction to Pistol Shooting" class, or to convince Range Staff that he has the skills. When these skills are not demonstrated during the Advance "Introduction to USPSA Competition" class, we have two options:
  1. Re-enforce the necessary skills through repetition;
  2. Require the student to successfully pass a (remedial) "Introduction to Pistol Shooting" class, and then require that he successfully pass the "Introduction to USPSA" class.
In this specific instance, the first step was adequate to allow him to move forward.

The next step in certification if that each student must successfully complete an actual match. This explicitly requires that he shoot all six stages without violating safety rules. We watch New Shooters very carefully, and nobody gets a "Free Pass". The new shooter is held to the same standards of Safety as is every other shooter.

The Downside:
Yes, we have lost enthusiastic, motivated new competitors because they are unable to safely complete their first match.

Yes, we regret that they lost confidence in themselves to the point that they declined to continue trying to safely complete a match.

And yes, we have had people who required more than one match to learn how to shoot safely, but had the confidence and the "gumption" to keep coming back until they learned how to shoot safely.

We regret the loss of New Shooters who are discouraged. And we recognize the courage and determination of those who are willing to learn the lessons we teach.

This is an entirely self-regulating sport, and one which potentially can result in injury, even death, when the mandatory safety rules are not instinctively observed.

But the record of injury and death is less than the record of injury and death incurred in High School Football.

Bad Days:
We realize that we are 'playing' with tools which are essentially deadly weapons. We make every effort to train new practitioners. We use multiple levels of caution to prefent unsafe actions of every competitor, no matter what their level of experience may be. And if you, as a competitor, violate a single Safety Rule in even the most minimal manner, we will disqualify you from competiton for the balance of them match. The rationale is that you have demonstrated that you are unable to compete safely today, and while you may be more "in the game" tomorrow we are unwilling to risk injury to yourself or to others by permitting you to continue shooting when you are "having a bad day".

We don't do "Bad Days".

We train you so that you know if you are having a Bad Day.

We don't want you to have a "Bad Day", because we want everybody to go home in exactly the same condition as you were in when you showed up at the range. Nobody bleeds, and if you leave limping it's only because you pulled a muscle by trying to move faster than your physical condition would allow. You may be tired, but nobody was seriously damaged because firearms were involved in your chosen sport.

Practical Pistol Competition is the safest sport in the world, because we make the effort to insure the safety of everyone who shows up at the Range on Match Day.

I guarantee it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Last October, I noticed that I had developed what can best be described as a "Callous" on the ball of my right thumb. I ignored it, assuming that I had some kind of bacterial infection on the place where I used to put of the safety of my pistol and otherwise used during shooting as part of my unique grip on the pistol.

The dry skin condition continued for a while, and spread to other fingers in my right hand (my "Strong Hand").

A week after this appeared, I managed to knife a hole in my left hand while boning chicken for dinner. Within a few days, this area also demonstrated the 'callous' appearance.

For two weeks, I watched the "infection" spread from my thumbs to my index finger, and then to my middle fingers.

I mentioned this to The Hobo Brasser, who affirmed that he also from time to time discovered a similar skin infection on his fingers. He mentioned that he got a prescription from his doctor for 2% Hydrocortisone ("anti-itch") creme. I had been wearing bandages to protect the infected areas, and that solution was unsatisfactory. Every time I went to a match, the mechanical interaction between the pistol (especially racking the slide) exacerbated the condition. So I began treating myself with over-the-counter 1% Hydrocortisone cream.

That made me more comfortable, because my fingers were not as painful. But it did't stop it from spreading, let alone cure the uncomfortable condition.

(As my hands dried out, the affected area of my skin spread and the center of each infection split. This was similar to a paper cut: a minor wound, but the outer layer of skin sloughed off exposing the nerve endings on the 2nd layer of skin, making it very tender. For example, it is difficult to perform such simple everyday tasks as buttoning a shirt, putting your hand into a pocket, or typing on a keyboard. Bandages only make your fingers more clumsy, and it's hard to 'touch type' with bandages on.)

So I went to my doctor.

My initial complaint was "Eczema", which he decided was probably due to a fungal infection much similar to Athlete's Foot.

My doctor (during a period covering not days, or weeks, but months) prescribed the following treatments:
  • an anti-fungal cream (not available over-the-counter) but in a 1 ounce tube, which was used up after the first week.
  • "Fluocinonide", which is a steroid cream (applied topically, similar the the Hydrocortisone and the prescription anti-fungal cream) in 2 ounce tubes, with two refills.
  • a new 'systemic' drug: "Ketoconazole". I took one tablet a day for 14 days. At the end of two weeks, my infection was much less obvious and it didn't seem to be spreading. But it wasn't killing the infection.
  • Prednisone. I take 3 tablets in the morning after meals for three days, then two tablets for three days, then one tablet for three days.
  • He also suggested that I get some Lamisil, which is an over-the-counter remedy for Athlete's foot. We're still working under the presumption that this is a fungal infection.
  • During that evaluation, the Doctor took scrapings of the infections. His lab reported NO sign of fungal infection. He had cautioned me that fungal infections don't always find fungus from scrapings because the actual fungus may not be evident on the surface of the skin. Interpretation: he still doesn't know what causes this condition.)

(I have continued to treat my hands four times a day. I put down Lamisil as a base coat, then when it dries I cover it with Fluocinonide. When that coat dries I apply Hydrocortisone to protect the active ingredients when I wash my hands. And at night, when I go to bed, I continue to apply Neosporin to help heal the split skin and protect the lower layers. Overkill? I think not. At least some areas are still healing, but not 'healed'.)

Saturday was my second day on this regimen. I taught a class on Introduction to USPSA. I was out in the weather (cold, but dry) and I was fairly comfortable because the worst of the infected areas were not 'active'.

Until I put on gloves to protect my hands when I put the props and targets and stands away. In a half-hour I had new areas of dry-skin callous on my fingers and thumbs, and three of them demonstrated split skin. I have no way of knowing whether it was because the gloves provided a warm, damp environment which encouraged the infection to grow, or because the abrasion between my fingers and the gloves caused the situation to worsen. (I am unable to find the correct terminology, because I don't know WHAT is causing this situation.)

During the class, I 'drafted' an experienced USPSA competitor to help me as a demonstrator. When we were talking, I noticed that his hands, too, exhibited the typical scaling of skin on his fingers. I mentioned it to him, but we didn't have time for me to discuss his experiences with scaly skin and splitting callouses.

This was the second USPSA shooter I've met (besides The Hobo Brasser) who had the same condition which has been haunting me for the past six months ... most of that period I have been under the direct, concerted care of an experienced physician. He doesn't know what is causing it, he doesn't know how to treat it, and my guess seems to be as good as his, so far.

I'm beginning to wonder whether this is a condition which is common to IPSC/USPSA competitors?

This evening I was exchanging email with Bill S., who reports that he is inflicted with this skin condition every Spring, and he has for years.

So there's me, there's The Hobo Brasser, there's Bill S., there's Aaron (the demonstrator) , and there's a Geek in my office who have the same skin problems.

The following photos depict the BEST my hands (fingers) have looked in the past 5 months.

Picture #1: Right thumb. You can see the dried "callous" appearance on the pad of the thumb. This is very sensitive, and when environmental conditions are less than optimal the dried area increases in size, and the skin splits horizontally. This can occur within a matter of less than an hour.

Picture #2: you can see that the little finger has a small patch of skin missing. This area is not physically in contact with any other infection, because the ring finger shows no sign of infection.

Picture #3: The left thumb is strongly infected. The left index finger is partially infected (down to the second knuckle) and the left middle finger is lightly infected. The infection is indicated by small areas where the first layer of skin is missing. Left untreated, these areas will exhibit signs of "Callous".

Picture #4 Right Fore-finger ("Pointing Finger"): this finger exhibits the typical 'scaling', where the first layer of skin remains in patches, and is surrounding by the second layer of skin. This seems to be representative of cases where some treatment has been applied, but with limited success. Note that when treatment has not been attempted this 'scaling' is dramatically more pronounced.

Most of my readers are IPSC/USPSA competitors. If you have the same condition, I wish you would write to let me know about it. Is this a long-term, repeating condition? How long? How are your symptoms the same, or different, from mine? What does it look like? How have you treated it, and how effective has your treatment been? Have you seen a physician, and has he diagnosed it as a Fungal infection, or something else? Has he prescribed a remedy, and has the medication proved effective both in relieving your skin condition and preventing it from spreading?

I'm more than a little worried. In recent weeks, the infection on my right hand has skipped the Ring Finger and started in on the Little Finger. Why? I've assumed that the infection has spread from each thumb to the adjacent Index Finger and also by contact from the Index Finger to the Middle Finger. But this has skipped a finger, and I don't know why.

(I feel so lame whining about skin conditions, but it has affected my ability to enjoy my favorite participatory sport ... Practical Pistol Competition ... and also my profession as a Computer Applications Programmer, so it's more than an inconvenience. It's debilitating.)

Buying Reloading Components In Bulk

Several USPSA competitors in the Columbia Cascade Section (NE Oregon) are using VihtaVouri (VV) powder when they reload ammunition. This is popular not only for Open Guns (usually .38 Super or .38 Super Comp, or Major Nine), but also for Limited, L-10, Singlestack Divisions (eg: .40 S&W, .45 ACP, etc.)

I use VihtaVouri N35o for .38 Super, VV N320 for 10mm (loaded to .40 "Slow and Wimpy" performance level), and VV N330 for .45 ACP. I've used other powders for 10mm and .45, but I like the VV for a lot of reasons: not a lot of smoke, reliability, consistant measure, grain shape and size, and I have good load specifications worked up for all 3 calibers. I suspect these are the reasons why many of my colleagues also choose VV.

There's another reason why I use VV: Price.

Yes, that may come as a surprise for those of you who have tried VV, but my 'secret source' is a local shooter who buys bulk and passes the savings on to his friends: Big Dawg.

I've written about Big Dawg before, and posted many videos of him in competition. As his name implies, Big Dawg (BD) could hardly be described as "petite", but he moves with an economy of motion which belies his bulk and he is deadly accurate. More important, he is a true gentleman and, as I said, he passes on bulk powder savings.

Of course, that can be ascribed to simple economics: If he can get a 110# order by soliciting others to pay for most of it, he can get a good price on the powder he needs.

Right now, he can sell a 4# order of N320 powder for something like $86, which works out to $21.50/lb.

Going prices for the same powder (less the Hazard Material -- "HazMat" -- fees) run around $29/lb. for small orders.

E. Arthur Brown Company lists VV N320 at $29/lb for a typical one-pound bottle of pistol powders. Here is a list of their VV gunpowder offerings, mostly at $29/lb., and also includes (as an extra charge) the "HazMat" fees. Best deal of HazMat adds $42 for a six-pound order, up to $51.94 for a 32-pound order.

MIDWAY also offers some VV powder. Here is VV N550 at $53.99 for a 2# bottle. (They don't mention a HazMat fee, but they do note that it is "Discontinued by the Manufacturer".)

An English website offers some VV N320 (which I have arbitrarily chosen as a standard) powder at 31.25 english pounds per pound, plus a 15% VAT. The English Pound is currently approximately 1.6 times the American Dollar, which makes the price of the order of $47/#.

Here's what Big Dawg currently has in stock:
3 - 4lb - N320
2 - 4lb - N350
3 - 8lb Tightgroup
4 - 5lb Silhoutte
3 - 4lb N330
3 - 4lb N340
4 - 2lb N540

UPDATE: later in the night ...

Well I sold most of the in stock powder Saturday. All I have left is ;
2 - 4lb N350, some N330 & N340.
I am waiting to fill a back order & will try to get some N320.

I'm not trying to sell Big Dawg's stock here, although if anyone is interested in purchasing some VV powder from him I will forward requests to him until March 15 as long as there isn't too great a volume for me to act as a 'broker'.

What I'm trying to do is to encourage shooters to consider banding together in sort of a cooperative venture to minimize their individual reloading costs.

What you need to do this, ideally, includes the following group resources:
  • DEALER: Find a local person with a dealer license, who operates more out of his home than from a 'brick-and-mortar' store.
  • SUBSCRIBERS: Find enough local reloaders (subscribers) who go through a large volume of reloading components during a relatively short time period. USPSA/IPSC competitors reload a LOT of ammunition, and are always looking for a way to save money.
  • DISTRIBUTION: Establish a method of distributing the orders. Usually, this is someone who will pick up the entire order, and bring the product to (for example) local matches where the SUBSCRIBERS can pick them up. This minimizes shipping costs .. all of which inevitably include secondary HazMat fees.
  • BROKER: If the DEALER is not able or willing to distribute, or pay for the oreder, you need to find someone to "Broker" the deal. This person must be able to either front the entire cost of the order, or collect payment from subscribers before the order is placed. He may pick up the bulk order from the DEALER and transport the product to a central distribution point (eg: USPSA matches in the near area)or other arrangements may be made.
A lot of the process described above depends on trust. The subscribers trust the dealer and the broker, who in turn depend on the subscribers. Much of this is subjective, but it's not unreasonable to require that the subscribers pay cash-in-advance. In this case, the subscribers trust the dealer and the broker.

Sometimes this trust if broken.

I once (several years ago) was a subscriber to a [brand name] bullet order exceeding $1000; my part was less than 1/5 of the order. We ordered through an out-of-state dealer whom we had ALL ordered from individually for years.

In the actual event, the Dealer was (unknown to us) in a very difficult personal and financial postion. The Dealer left town with no warning, taking our money and making no effort at all to even order, let alone deliver, the product.

We contacted, the [brand name} bullet manufacturer, who reportedly had never received an order from the Dealer.

I mention this only as anecdotal evidence that the element of trust is important, and if you choose to attempt establishment of a Cooperative bulk purchase ... do be certain that the people you deal with are worthy of your trust.

The couple of hundred dollars I wrote off on this purchase was actually less than the amount of money I SAVED over several years of bulk purchasing power.

One of the best ways to avoid breach-of-faith failures is to use LOCAL dealers and brokers. These would (idealy) be people that you know, people that have no hidden agenda, and generally reliable. It probably goes without saying that it helps if you know them personally, and know where they live. They may skip town, but it's less likely if your trust is supported by personal knowledge of their day-to-day financial and character assessment.

Think about it. Consider that Bulk purchases offer significant monetary savings. It may take some effort to put together a 'consortium' of buyers, but as much as the time you spend reloading ammunition is only a part of reloading, the time spent putting together a bulk reloading components order is probably a write-off.

I mention only buying powder in this article, but obviously the savings on a bulk order can be available when buying primers, bullets and cartridge cases as well. As long as you order from a single manufacturere, or manufacturer's representative, you stand to save money even when your powder order includes several powder, cartridge, bullet or primer 'types'.

The thing about gun-owners and those who support their sport is that most of them are people you know personally and (as long as you deal with people in the same geographic area) peoplw whose reputation is worthy of your trust.