Saturday, January 26, 2008

Elmore Leonard

He's probably better known for his gritty crime drama, but Elmore Leonard has always been a cowboy writer to me. I was first introduced to Leonard's work when I picked up a copy of Hombre a couple of dozen years ago. Cuba Libre is one of my favorites and I find it does a great job of walking the line between his westerns and crime novels.

Over Christmas I picked up a copy of The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard and have been slowly making my way through them. Of course I started out with 3:10 to Yuma. I knew that Leonard had been the screenwriter on the original Hollywood incarnation of the story, but I was surprised at how different the short story was from the movie.

The story was first published in Dime Western Magazine in March of 1953. Leonard had already started to master the short story and you can tell by the sparseness of the tale. The plot and location are the same, the main difference is the protagonist and the pacing.

In the movie, Van Heflin plays Dan Evans a rancher forced to take up a gun and escort the notorious criminal Ben Wade to hang at Yuma Prison. In the book, the main character is Paul Scallen a sheriff's deputy just doing his job and making sure that the outlaw Jim Kidd makes it to Yuma prison to serve out his 5 year sentence.

In the story Leonard manages to get across much of the ideas that he fleshed out for the movie with just a few sentences.

"And then one night a drunk cowhand you've never seen will be tearing up somebody's saloon and you'll go in to arrest him and he'll drill you with a lucky shot before you get your gun out." "So you're telling me I'm crazy." "If you don't already know it." Scallen took his hand off the shotgun and pulled tobacco and paper from his shirt picket and began rolling a cigarette. "have you figured out yet what my price is?" Kidd looked startled, momentarily, but the grin returned. "No, I haven't. Maybe you come higher than I thought."

In the end it's an excellent short story without all of the Hollywood additions. It's stripped down and bare and reminds me of a good stiff shot of bourbon. It goes down quick, burns a little with lots of flavor...and gives you something to think about.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10 Tips

Here are the Top 10 Cigar tips from Cheap Humidors

1. To make sure your cigar cutter stays sharp and clean, keep the wrapper on your cigar before cutting.

2. Placing your guillotine cutter flat on a table and placing the cigar straight up and cutting will ensure a clean, even cut every time.

3. When your cigars tastes too bitter, blow through it. You'll see a bluish smoke come out the lit end. Wait a few seconds, and you should get a nice, clean draw.

4. Lost your cutter and don't feel like biting the end off your $10 stick? If you're on the golf course, use the end of your tee to punch a small hole in your cigar. If you have a steel barrel pen, you can remove the top and use the bottom portion as a quick punch cutter.

5. To make sure your cigar is burning evenly, without canoeing, rotate the cigar after every few puffs. You can also blow slightly on the slow burning side to speed it up, and apply a little saliva with your finger tip to the faster burning side to slow it down.

6. Having a hard time drawing from your cigar? You can take a skewer or straight coat hanger and insert it into the cigar from one end to the other. You can also roll the cigar around in your fingers to loosen up the leaves.

7. Take your time when smoking. If you puff too quickly, your cigar will get too hot, and the taste will be altered. Try one puff every minute as a general rule of thumb.

8. Humidity in a humidor is not a science, despite what you hear. Don't concentrate so much on the ideal level. Instead, try to keep the level constant. Fluctuation can cause problems with leaves swelling and shrinking. Most people prefer to keep their humidors at the 65 percent range, which is a little drier.

9. Concerned that your humidor doesn't have a good seal? You can try the drop test or the dollar bill test. In the drop test, you drop the lid of your humidor from half open and listen. If it puffs when closing, you have a good seal. If it bangs, you're in trouble. You can also open the lid, insert a dollar bill half way in the humidor, and then close the lid. Tug slightly on the bill. If it gives resistance and is hard to remove, you have a good seal.

10. A cigar also needs to be judged by its wrapping. A perfect cigar is one that has an intact, undamaged wrapper. (If the wrapper is damaged, don't buy it.) The wrapper should also be consistent in color, and it should have a nice scent to it. If the wrapper is heavily "veined," this is another reason to reject a cigar. While feeling it, the cigar should be wrapped nicely--not too tight (very difficult to draw in) or too lose (loss of flavor).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Modern Day Western

As you probably already know I love westerns. Not just the classic westerns, but modern westerns as well. I also love finding modern movies with strong western themes. "No Country for Old Men" is just such a movie. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy this movie follows Llewelyn Moss a welder and hunter who comes across millions of dollars from a drug deal gone bad. Making the decisions to take the money leads him into a cat and mouse chase with the men who want the money back.

Joel and Ethan Coen use the sparse Texas landscape in the same why they used North Dakota for their classic "Fargo". And just as in "Fargo", Texas becomes a character in the film. Brilliant direction, wonderful acting, and an intriguing and compelling story makes this the best movie from a team that has made great ones in the past such as "Blood Simple", "Fargo", and "Oh Brother were art Thou."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Broken Rope

Something I've always liked even before cowboy shooting is the Old West art from paintings to bronze sculptures, they're just the kind of art I like. Probably because they take you somewhere or set a seen for you, abstract art is, well abstract and not my cup o' tea. A while back Judge's wife was showing me some prints she had recently come by and one was a print of a CM Russell painting and I really liked and said something like I would actually hang that on my wall.

Now if you've ever been in my house, you know I don't have anything hanging on my wall, I just don't usually get excited about pictures and nick knacks. I guess the thought of me hanging something on a wall was too much, because last weekend Judge and Dina presented me with the print already framed, it now hangs proudly on my wall and I truly truly enjoy and appreciate the gift.

Thanks again you two.

PS you can read more about the artist at the C.M. Russell Museum

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Where does he get those fabulous shirts?

I enjoy shooting B-Western for a lot of reasons; variety, flexibility, and yes even the clothing. I love the retro boots and shirts. Most of the people shooting B-Western "get it" and I've seen some amazing outfits. As for my shirts I've picked them up here and there at bargain prices, but my favorite shirt came from Vintage Western Wear. It has a load of shirts from replicas to a few authentic vintage shirts. This is the place you shop if you've got a date at the Grand Ole Opry. Check 'em out, you might like what you find.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Reloading, HELP!

Reloading is one of those things that some folks really geek out on, that is, they really get into the "art" of reloading and try to develop the "perfect" load for whatever gun and purpose they have in mind. God bless them, though I'm not one of them, I really am happy that they are around since they usually like to share the information that they have gathered over thThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.e years. The interwebs is the perfect forum for sharing, so we have in these wonderful modern times a multitude of places to find info on loads. I thought I'd share a few.

First up is the powder manufacturers. I don't recommend taking information from less than trusted sources unless you can check it against the manufacturers, so this is the start. Most of the powder manufacturers have info online.
  • Hodgdon Also includes IMR & Winchester. Heavily involved in SASS
  • Vihtavuori Popular high-end powder, fast and clean
  • Alliant Old standby American Select, Green/Red/Blue dot, Unique
  • Accurate I've not used Accurate
One of the things that's helpful to know is how much this is all costing you. Reloading is nearly always cheaper than buying factory ammo, but its nice to know just how much you save. has a nice calculator so you can truly see how badly the astronomical cost of lead is hurting you. For the shotshell reloading, has a calculator for that. These are pretty self explanatory to use, just plug in the appropriate costs and load weights.

If you can't make or find load data on your own, you can look to websites like MD Smith's Reloading Pages, you'll find a lot of load data on many different cartridges. has a searchable database with load data and has even more loads. For those wanting to use Vihtavuori Powder in CAS, you can get good load data from Long Hunter, for whatever reason, Vihtavuori doesn't have a very comprehensive library of CAS cartridge loads using their powders.

As always, take care in following anyone else's advice that you don't trust, remember, most of this data is submitted by many different shooters. You certainly don't want to have a grenade in your hand when you get to the range and I certainly don't want to be the poor sap standing by you with the timer when it goes off.

All that said, to be honest, I've seldom taken load data from anyone but manufacturers and fellow shooters that I know and trust. The Long Hunter website being the lone exception and even then I had the information collaborated by a shooter at TVR.

Finally, you might be wondering what kind of energy the load you created has, well Bill St. Clair has a Muzzle Energy Calculator on his website that is very handy. For instance, I know that the .357 Magnum carry load I developed has 593fp coming out of my 2.5" snubbie. Compare that with my carry .45ACP+P Hornady TAP ammo at 461fp and I have to say that it is very satisfying to know that information. I don't necessarily endorse Mr. St.Clair's views on the world and politics, but he has a darned handy utility online.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

Yes, I live.

I suppose I'm not really like most people in that when I take time off, that means all of my normal day-to-day activities are subject to neglect, most notably, this blog. Judge has filled in and knowing he was bored on his time off watching his little darling, I let him have run of the place while I attended to other things. Mostly that entailed spending time with and trying to nurture (against her will at times) Momma Gigante. Yeah, my mother went and had bi-lateral knee replacement on the 17th of December, so I've been busy with her. She seems to be progressing fine, at least that's what the nurses and physical therapists keep saying, I'm not sure she's buying it at times, but she's getting better.

OK, excuses out of the way, the real reason I posted, to push that picture of me with the first gun cart down the page a bit, we've come a long way since then, that's for certain.

I've spent a good deal of my time reloading 45 Colt and 45 S&W ammo for next season with the bullets acquired from Baron Von Sisco, too bad Royal Bullets is going out of business and we won't have a local source that delivers bullets to the range, that's going to be missed greatly. Sisco's a stand-up guy, he managed to fill the bullet orders he had even though Royal wouldn't produce them for him, so he got access to the equipment and acquired the lead to cast them himself. I really appreciate that kind of effort and in light of other SASS vendors lack of responsiveness, I find it quite refreshing.

I'm also building the sibling to the gun cart I gave to Judge for Christmas, I'm taking my time since there's no rush for the shooting season, so it might take a while. I'm trying to decide whether I have a single lid on it like Judge's or put a larger lid or two lids so I can access the entire area. Why? So I can put a brass can in there for empties. Since I reload for both he and Copper, I usually have a container for empties in my cart for the guys to toss their empties into during the match. I've also thought of a way to mount it externally, cut a hole in the top so the empties can be just tossed into the can. I need to think on this one since I'd like to have an easy way to do this.

I'll post more and pictures as I have them of the new toy(s).