Friday, July 30, 2010

Back from the BWCAW

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness...

Linda and I were anxious to get back to the Boundary Waters this summer, but our lives are busy so scheduling was a hassle.  Erik had school and work so we had to leave him home or skip the trip this year.  Cassandra had a race - her first 10 miler! - on Saturday the 24th of July.  Eventually we made our entry permit application at for Sunday, July 25th.

First thing Sunday morning Linda, Cassie, Gunner - the yellow lab, and I drove to Ely, MN.  We rented our boat - an 18-1/2 foot Souris River kevlar Quetico - from Canoe Country Outfitters because they deliver and pick up the boat at nearby entry points for free, which makes for one less delay coming and going.  Nice people; I recommend them.

We chose Entry Point #4 - Crab Lake mostly because we'd researched it before but chose another route for a previous trip.  The one mile portage from Burntside Lake to Crab Lake was precisely as brutal as Robert Beymer's guidebook suggested.  Once on Crab we went south for a short nasty portage to Clark Lake.  The campsite there was a disappointment.  It looked like unfinished work, or a small patch of clear cut logging, depending on whether you've had your coffee yet.  Worse yet, it was on the southwest corner of the lake so the trees shielded us and the clouds of mosquitoes from the wind.  Daniel Pauly's guidebook lays out a nice loop of little lakes - Clark, Meat, Sprite, Phantom, Boulder, Battle, Hassel, and Saca - we could travel back to Crab (or to other more distant locations).  We spent the night but on Monday chose to return to Crab the way we came and then make for Cummings Lake.

We found a nice, breezy site on the northeast end of Crab and spent the night there.  The next day we packed our kit into our translucent gold canoe and traveled across Little Crab Lake and down the Korb River to Cummings Lake.  We made two portages, 20 and 70 rods, respectively and floated over a snag going downstream that we had to portage around on the way out. 

What's a "rod"?  Fine question.  A rod is an archaic unit of measure, primarily associated with agriculture, equal to 5.0292 meters, 5.5 yards, 11 cubits (like that helps, a cubit being the length of Pharoah's forearm from elbow to fingertips and most recently used to specify the dimensions of Noah's Ark), 16.5 feet, or 1⁄320 of a statute mile. Why portages on 21st century maps are measured in rods is a mystery to the various sources I've checked.

The few island camps on the east end of Cummings were occupied so we made for a peninsula on the south side of the center of the lake.  There was a thunderstorm very early Tuesday morning and it was cloudy all day, clearing only after sunset that evening.  Wednesday was windy.  Thursday morning we retraced our route on the way back to the public landing on Burntside Lake.

We packed all our gear into two large waterproof packs and a large bear barrel with the idea we could make the longer portages in a single pass. I had a rough time of it Sunday and Monday (I may have been dehydrated) so it didn't work out quite as we planned. Carrying a 49 pound canoe (plus paddles and life jackets lashed to the thwarts) and a heavy backpack (our's lack the padded waist belt found on SealLines newer models) was probably a bad idea. As the food barrel lightened over the rest of the trip the portages were made without having to backtrack.

We spent a lot time time sleeping, reading, napping, playing Scrabble and cribbage (actually, Linda and Cassie played the cribbage), and dozing.  We spent a lot of time relaxing too.  The mosquitoes were a nuisance unless a good breeze was in our faces.  Dog lovers will be pleased to hear that Gunner slept in the tent with Linda and me.  Charming.  Cassandra did much of the navigating on this trip and did a fine job; one less thing for me to worry about and more time to look around.  She trains six days in seven so in addition to paddling and portaging she swam a half mile or more three days out of the five.

About the only thing we missed much was my neck knife, which I left in the pocket of my jeans in the car in the parking lot of the boat landing.  We made do with the hatchet instead.  Fortunately the Gerber pack axe takes a fine edge.  Of course we didn't forget to pack along Clear and Present Danger - the original hardcover (Cassie is patiently working her way through Clancy).  Linda brought Summer for the Gods and The Making of the Fittest.  I deliberately left all work and school reading at home and dove into Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I forgot our one and only knife, but we carried a small library.  Guess that's the way we roll in our house, even when we paddle into the wilderness.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another excellent book on leadership

I've been having some fine luck with recent books on business leadership...

Making Sense of Leadership: Exploring the Five Key Roles Used by Effective Leaders, by Esther Cameron and Mike Green is another fine example of leadership research effectively and concisely repackaged for appreciation and application by a popular audience.  Well worth a look.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Have there been any improvement in Christian apologetics since St. Augustine?  Not really.

Image courtesy of

These are some Christian apologetics podcasts I've listened to in the past.  This sort of evangelicalism is apparently the fasting growing form of Christianity practiced in the United States.  I take some comfort from the fact that, except in parts of the Arab Muslim world and among arch-religious Israelis, the sort fundamentalism encountered here is rare elsewhere in the world.

Coffee Cup Apologetics was produced by the late Michael Spencer who by all indications was a gentle soul.  His essay The Coming Evangelical Collapse attracted some righteous lightning from his co-religionists, many of whom didn't seem to have read any of it but the title. He seemed like the sort of guy you could hang with even though you had different worldviews.  I never met the man and we didn't agree on much when it comes to religion but humanity is poorer without him.

The Skeptical Christian really isn't, but the blogger, Kyle Demming, seems to have mellowed a bit during his association with the various scoundrels at the Apologia podcast.

Defenders is a sort of "adult Sunday school" presented by Richard Lane Craig, a philosopher, theologian, and evangelical apologist.  He's really smart and frequently smarmy.

Reasonable Faith is a topical program also done by Craig.  His counterpart in this series is Kevin Harris, who was also a member of the Apologia crew. spends a lot of time setting up straw men and knocking them down.  Their self-congratulatory certitude gets old in a hurry.

The Please Convince Me podcast is hosted by Jim Wallace, a former atheist.  He's living proof that converts make the best zealots.  Wallace is a true believer. 

I even slogged through Dr. John Frame's course on Christian Apologetics from Reformed Theological Seminary Virtual Campus

Ah, the things we do for love...of knowledge.

There is very little about the evangelical fundamentalist Christian worldview that appeals to me on any level so I don't spend any time listening to these folks these days, but if you're like me you might want to see how their message compares with your view of reality.

All are available on iTunes.

Another Good Read

When you put all the good ideas in one place it looks easy...

Just finished John Baldoni's book Lead by Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results.  Good stuff.  Baldoni assembled 50 very easy to read lessons that draw on leadership examples from sports, the military, politics, and the business world.  Many examples are positive but Baldoni calls out more than a few high profile persons in positions of authority for their failure to lead.  The result is a punchy, pithy, and sometimes powerful read.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Surprise me" I said

Here's what a surprise 50th birthday present looks like in my house...

A Couple Leadership Podcasts

Here are a couple leadership podcasts I've listened to recently...

What Great Bosses Know (entering this term in the iTunes search box will take you right there).

SuperVision (these are video blogs but there's usually nothing to watch so you don't miss anything by just listening).

Both are presented by Jill Geisler from The Poynter Institute. Poynter specializes in journalism so there are some references to "leadership in the newsroom," but by and large these conveniently brief presentations are usuable by most anyone.

Teamwork Against Terror

A pre-publication draft of an article I wrote for the October 2003 edition of Stadium Visions, the Official Magazine of the Stadium Managers Association...back when Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was just called "the metrodome."

Image from Wikimedia Commons

An attack on a crowded sports stadium by transnational terrorists was once the stuff of fiction. The nail-biting conclusion of John Frankenheimer’s 1977 film “Black Sunday” was thought-provoking entertainment, but not a daily concern for most stadium operators. Al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001, and the anonymous anthrax attacks that followed, changed all that and threatened to make terrorism a real life consideration for every sports fan.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, hosts the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, University of Minnesota Gophers football and a wide variety of others sports and activities. Owned and operated by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), the combined attendance at Metrodome events since 1982 exceeds 55 million people, making it the most versatile and heavily used stadium in the nation. Unlike many stadiums, the Metrodome is used nearly every day of the week, hosting more than 300 event days per year. Like other stadiums across America, the Metrodome was designed with quick and convenient public access in mind. It is surrounded on all sides by heavily used city streets, two passing literally within feet of the stadium itself. Security had never been a tremendous problem in the land of “Minnesota Nice.” What could be done to protect the Metrodome and its users from deliberate attack without alienating the public? “The natural reaction of the public was to hunker down,” reports Bill Lester, Executive Director of the Commission. “We were concerned that they continue attending the terrific events that take place in our stadium.”

During the autumn of 2001, the NFL, MLB, and the NCAA responded to public concerns and recommended enhanced stadium security across the country. Many of the suggestions were of the common sense variety and had long been in place at the Metrodome. The Commission had maintained a 24-hour security presence long before the terror attacks, but additional patrols were added to round out the schedule. Perimeter doors were routinely locked and secured unless in use, and employees were given additional security reminders. The Metrodome’s Emergency Medical Plan has long been an example of excellence. With protocols approved by its Medical Director at the Hennepin County Medical Center, volunteers who in daily life are EMTs, paramedics, and nurses staff the First Aid Team. “Security for patrons and employees was always the highest priority,” according to Bill Lester. “We had two objectives; to implement systems and procedures that protected these two groups, and convey confidence in both employees and patrons that there was a security plan in place for their protection.”

Responsible for the security of their events and the safety of their patrons, major tenants at the Metrodome have always provided their own security. For package inspections, ticket taking, and ushering, the Twins, Vikings, and Gophers use contractors and other personnel. As well, uniformed off-duty law enforcement officers supplement contract security, inner perimeters are established hours before the first pitch or kick off, ushers inspect the stands and public areas prior to gates opening, and all staff members are briefed before each game. The art of running a successful event was second nature to the major tenants. What more could be done?

Some of the precautions recommended by league security were new to most public facilities across the U.S., not just the Metrodome. Responding effectively would call for a team response. The Commission hired SecuriCo, Inc. an independent security consulting firm, and began working closely with President – Jim Andrews, Director – Dave Estensen, and Senior Consultant – Michael Brady. Vikings Director of Team Operations, Breck Spinner, leveraged his close working relationship with Dag Sohlberg, the local NFL security representative and retired FBI agent. Matt Hoy, Vice President of Operations for the Twins, and Scott Ellison, Assistant Athletics Director at the University of Minnesota, pooled their resources together. Calls were made. Emails and faxes were exchanged. Meetings were held. A plan came together.

“Unfortunately, times have changed and even an event like a football game is not exempt from these new changes in our lifestyle,” says Breck Spinner. “We have always taken security seriously; however 9/11 heightened everyone’s awareness and forced us to raise security to a much higher level.”

The Metrodome and its tenants had security cameras throughout the interior and exterior of the facility. Recommended camera upgrades included adding digital video recorders, merging existing and proposed pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras in the facility so that any user can call up any camera, adding more PTZ cameras, and installing a controller and monitor in the backup command post.

For extra security, the MSFC routinely issued photo ID cards to all employees, and a new photo ID system would save time and labor cost. As well, visitors and contractors had long been required to sign in and out because the records could be reviewed later if needed. The MSFC is evaluating a system that creates a self-expiring visitor pass and an auditable log at the same time.

Next, restricting unwanted vehicular access called for rapid deployment of barriers. Ubiquitous “Jersey Walls” were used to protect curbside gates at the Metrodome. The pedestrian mall was also cordoned with the now familiar gray concrete slabs. Standoff protection was enhanced when the City of Minneapolis agreed to close streets using heavy trucks as barriers during selected events. While the Metrodome has no patron parking structures on the property it does have one large grade level parking lot. The NFL recommended that large vehicles that needed to park within the safety standoff distance be inspected. A team of retired and off duty bomb squad officers was established to screen inbound buses for explosives.

The Vikings reinforced the Command Post staff during their events. In addition to Vikings management, Commission representatives, and dispatchers for the contract security staff, “we have established a list of qualified law enforcement personnel who participate in our command post every game including representatives from the Minneapolis Fire Department, Minneapolis Police Department, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, and the FBI,” says Breck Spinner. Other teams use similar processes.

Tenants worked with Metrodome management to update notification lists and written procedures for reporting and investigating threats. It is possible that hazards requiring evacuation of the facility would make it impossible to remain in the primary command post. There is a back up command post within the facility and the CP can be moved to an exterior building if necessary.

Air quality is a big issue for the Dome because its Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric roof is suspended by air pressure provided by a complex system of powerful air handlers. While the air handlers are routinely inspected and secured under lock and key, special seals were selected for use on crucial access points to better document access to these sensitive systems. The MSFC has always had the ability to evaluate critical air quality measurements, but biological or chemical threats such as anthrax or Sarin present a far more complex challenge. Liaison with the Minneapolis Fire Department established that they had the ability to test for a wide variety of hazardous gases, including many chemical and biological agents, so it was determined that it would be most effective to make certain that a senior member of the MFD is present in the Command Post during events to facilitate rapid response to such concerns. MFD also enjoys around the clock access to the services of the 55th Civil Support Team of the Minnesota National Guard, which has advanced nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons detection and characterization capability. At the suggestion of Dag Sohlberg, NFL Security Representative, the MFD invited the 55th to attend a Vikings game in the fall of 2002 to conduct baseline sampling at the Metrodome to make a future emergency response more effective.

The work took time. Early ad hoc efforts in 2001 gave way to freshly documented approaches in 2002. As 2002 became 2003, the wealth of personal experience, past practices, and new procedures were organized by SecuriCo into a new Security Policy, a Security & Emergency Procedures Manual, revisions to the long-standing Emergency Evacuation Plan, and a new Emergency Response Guide. “There was a tremendous body of knowledge possessed by all the players” says Jim Andrews, “Our job was to pull it all together, update it where needed, and present it in a concise manner.”

The Emergency Response Plan was developed with the active participation of the Commission, the Minnesota Twins, the Vikings, University of Minnesota Gophers, other users, representatives from Securitas – the contract security firm used by the Commission and several of the tenants, City of Minneapolis Police and Fire, Hennepin County Medical Center, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI. The goal was to create an emergency response process that established who would do what in a crisis, from the decision makers to the ticket holders. Detailed response procedures for likely – as well as some hopefully unlikely – emergencies were prepared. “Developing a unified front on how the tenants managed events in the building went well,” according to Scott Ellison, Assistant Athletics Director at the University of Minnesota. “Since then we all have varied some, but essentially we have remained consistent from event to event.”

Security is a process; there will always be fine-tuning to be done. As the Metrodome entered its 21st season the MSFC hired Dan Twaddle, a retired police captain, as its security manager. He enjoys the new challenge, “Everyone’s goal is to provide a safe environment for all who work and visit at the Metrodome. When everyone has the same objective it makes it easier for all to identify what steps need to take place to achieve it.”

And for the future? The Commission recommends that large tenants create a Command Post for every large event. A public agency liaison worksheet has been suggested. Additional training for bag checkers is being considered, as is a new minimum standard of training for vehicle inspectors. Twaddle is working on testing a variety of new vehicular barriers so that the Jersey Walls may be retired, and he is planning for the future, “I look forward to the time when we can test all that has been done, and what is going to be done in the near future, in a mock exercise.”

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, its tenants – the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, University of Minnesota Gophers and all the others – the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County have long provided a safe and enjoyable experience for its public.

By the diligent application of teamwork, effort, and skill it intends to continue to do so. Bill Lester is pleased, “I believe we have gained the trust of consumers. They have a confidence that even though there may be minor inconveniences, they are entering a safe environment.”

Cigars, Whiskey, & Winning

Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant...

This analysis of the life, career, and leadership style of one of the United States’ most successful generals (and least successful presidents) is a quick, informative, and thought provoking read.

Using the military career of Hiram Ulysses Grant as a framework author Al Kaltman has created a quick reading combination of biography, historical analysis, and a guide for leaders. By using the life of one of the Civil War’s key figures as a backdrop Kaltman engages the reader by showing that a leader’s effectiveness can be a life and death matter. In doing so the author dodges a common fault of many management and leadership books and creates a connection between common sense practices with real world results.

Such a bracing read may be a little too much for sensitive folks who do not believe managers in their corporation deal with conflict and risk on a daily basis. Those of us in the security trade however not only believe it; we thrive on the fact of it.

Across 11 chapters Kaltman moves chronologically through Grant’s early military career, his failures, his return to the Union Army in 1861, his successful prosecution of the nation’s most disastrous war, and its aftermath. The author breaks the chapters into different lessons:

  • Seize Opportunities
  • Failure
  • Turn Mistakes into Training Opportunities
  • Know Your Competition
  • See the Total Picture
  • Don’t Scatter Your Resources
  • Shatter Paradigms
  • Pounce on Your Competition’s Blunders
  • Focus On What You Could Be Doing
  • Develop an Alternate Plan
  • Always do what’s Right.
All lessons are as applicable today, especially in the guarding industry, as they were some 150 years ago. Some sections – such as “Know Your Competition” – will resonate with those of us who compete for business with peers who once were fellow employees. Others, such as “See the Total Picture” will be valuable to those of us with responsibilities to national accounts and other nationwide programs. Other sections deal with discipline, the value of delegation, and the promotion of staff members – for good and ill – in ways that will ring true to professional security managers.

In the book’s Conclusion Kaltman offers the reader his take on “The Quintessential Grant” by encapsulating the lessons Grant applied throughout his military career:

  • Use the Planning Process to Set Priorities
  • Focus On the Contribution You Could Be Making
  • Be Persistent and Tenacious
  • Identify the Information You Need
  • Create a Thinking Machine
  • Surround Yourself with Good People
  • Remember That the Work Must Be Done By Others
  • Be Considerate and Fair to Your People
  • Make Allies of Those Who Do Not Report to You
  • Recognize That Success Is Temporary
  • Always Act Ethically
  • Trust Yourself To Make Good Decisions.
In his final chapter on Grant’s lackluster presidency Kaltman makes the case that Grant may have failed in political office precisely because he did not apply to political life the same skills he used as a military leader.

Perhaps there is nothing new under the sun. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Thucydides, Sun Tzu, and Shakespeare sound very contemporary to the thoughtful reader. Perhaps we have read all this before. Perhaps Kaltman’s gift to the reader is simply to have created a palatable delivery vehicle for common sense leadership methods. Perhaps the rest is up to us.

Sifting the Academic Literature

We're getting there...

photo courtesy of

I've been sifting the academic literature on-line databases looking for papers on security leadership. Security and Security Management trade magazines have some articles and Security Journal has a couple papers. Another interesting sources is the Security Executive Council.  There is no end of writing on leadership, and of course plenty dealing with leadership in the military and law enforcement fields, but not so much on the effect of leadership on private security organizations.  My mind boggles that we used to do this sort of research without computers!  Again, any leads you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thor's Hammer

Let me introduce you to "Mjolnir" - my Marlin 1895G Guide Gun...


My Guide Gun - Mjolnir - is the original 1895G Guide Gun: blue steel, walnut stock, ported barrel, chambered for the 45/70 Government cartridge.  I bought it in 1998.  It has it's name "Mjolnir" - Thor's Hammer - engraved on the left side of its receiver.  I don't make a habit of naming my actually creeps me out most of time when I hear other shooters speaking to their guns or calling them by name, but in the case of this rifle, it's brawny, powerful simplicity inspired me to make an exception to policy.  Okay, it's still a little creepy.

Marlin makes other 1895 rifles, including a very classy looking 1895 Cowboy with a 26 inch octagon barrel and a nine round magazine.  There is the 1895SBL, which we'll discuss later. Other Marlin 45/70 models include the 1895, 1895XLR, 1895GBL, and 1895GS.  Marlin also make several 1895 models chambered for .450 Marlin which offers very stout performance - 350 gr @ 2100 fps. This might be a good load in Alaska but more juice than required for whitetails or feral pig. I wonder how long the .450 will prove popular in the lower 48 if Hornady doesn't offer a lighter kicking deer gun load.


I played with the original irons but my eyes were never great and they're not improving with age. I installed a Lyman receiver sight and Brockman post front sight –  the old one with the gold line running down the middle. With the rear sight set close to the top of the receiver I had to shorten the front sight until it was no taller than it is wide. While I was at it I fit the front sight base a little closer to the barrel so that I could no longer see daylight underneath it. So, sights on the Guide Gun takes a bit of tinkering, but it has never shot a group larger than three inches or so at 100 yards when I do my part. It's worth the effort.

There are other iron sights. XS Sight Systems makes several versions. Skinner Sights are a lot prettier than the XS jobs, but still too high for me. Brockman’s are sturdy (and cool looking) but too tall. The Wild West Guns sight looks hell for sturdy if a little clunky.  I'm sure there are people with better shaped faces who don't have any problem getting a good cheekweld with tall scopes and elevated irons, though I notice Brockman sells a replacement stock with a higher comb

Unless I find a way to build up the stock about the only sight that would let my face get a proper cheek weld would be an L-shaped fixed job right down on the receiver with an aperture no taller than needed to overlook the screws that hold it to the deck. A fella would have to lower his front sight and make adjustments with a file and a brass drift, but the setup would be fast and hell for sturdy. Years ago Finn Aagaard wrote in Rifle magazine about a somewhat similar rear sight Brent Clifton made for his own Marlin 336, but it had some vertical adjustment due to a slightly convex underside. One made elevation adjustments by loosening one screw then tightening the other. Knowing Brent he probably shot the works full of threadlocker once his fixed his zero. A fella could also mill the hole for the rear screw slightly oblong side to side to allow for some windage. One of these days my hunting buddy will get his mill rebuilt and we can play around with this idea.

I tried scopes too. For those who want a conventional scope I'd try the Leupold 2.5x Compact.  On a scout mount I'd look into a premium Aimpoint (or maybe Burris) red dot.  Seems to me a fella might mount one of the better red dot sights on the receiver using a single ring and the front half of a two piece set of bases, but I haven't seen it done. Me, I tried an M8 fixed 4x, then a Vari-X I 1-4x variable, on a traditional Weaver base and rings in the conventional position. The sight-line was too high for a proper cheek-weld. Tried the XS scout scope mount (a quick and easy install BTW) and a Leupold 2.5x Scout Scope. Thus equipped Mjolnir shot under two inches at 100 yards with Winchester 300 grain Nosler Partition ammo and a variety of handloads. The scope was still too tall and the back up sights ended up needlessly high as well.

Back to irons. I took the XS scout scope mount and Leupold Scout Scope off Mjolnir. It now wears the Lyman receiver sight and the shortest available Marbles fiber optic bead. I also carved a sky-light into the original front side hood. It points like a bird gun and I like the sight set-up so far. It's a sort of combination poor man's red dot sight and rangefinder. The bead subtends 6 inches at fifty yards. A commercially cast lead 405 gr @ ~1300 fps strikes under the center of the bead at 25 yards and under the top half of the bead at 50. More trigger time will tell me if the slow heavies will land under the bead at 100 yards where it will subtend 12 inches. If so I can hold center and call it venison. If the deer's thorax is covered by the 12 minute bead it's too far away.

If you remove the screw-in aperture from the usual Williams or Lyman receiver sight the larger ring that remains is what most folks describe as a “ghost ring.” This ring is so thin it effectively "disappears" when you look though it to focus on the front sight, hence the moniker.  This makes the aperture sight quicker to use, and usable at all in low light, but it's a little less precise.


Mjolnir is plenty accurate, especially for a traditional lever action. It shoots under 3 inches at 100 yards with iron sights and under 2 inches when wearing a scope. Winchester Nosler Partitions come very close to cutting an inch for three shots. I've taken whitetail with the Remington factory 405 soft-nose @ 1200 fps. Kills great and you can "eat right up to the hole" just like Uncle Elmer used to say. I'm not sure it expands at all at factory velocity (1200 fps from the ported 18-1/2 inch tube), at least on whitetail. Of course, for most work a .458 flatnose 405 doesn't need to expand to get its work done. The Federal 300 gr hollow-nose softs clock 1600 fps from the 18-1/2 inch ported tube. When I went hunting for black bear in extreme northern Minnesota I loaded it with the 300 grain Winchester Nosler Partition.

Recoil depends a lot on what load you run through which gun. The Remington factory 405 gr @ 1200 fps out my seven pound Guide Gun Mjolnir kicks about like a 12 ga field load. The 300 grain hollownose soft at 1700 feels about as snappy as my 30'06 rifles. When a fella starts to push 350-420 grain bullets at 1800-1900 fps the handy short-barreled gun can become obstreperous. I'll guess the longer, heavier Cowboy would be a little easier on the ears and the shoulder.

For deer there's probably no reason to use anything but the 300 grain express load.  For black bear I'll wager the Remington factory 405 @ 1200 would be plenty. For brown, grizzly, or polar bear I suppose I'd be happier with a ~400 LBT-pattern going as fast as a fella's shoulder would tolerate (again, do replace the truck tire the factory calls a recoil pad with something squishier).  Garrett Cartridges offers such loads commercially.  They are very snappy.  The recoil is not brutal, unless you think the kick of a 375 H&H is brutal.

When it comes to handloading I've had good success with IMR3031, IMR4198, and RL7 with the jacketed 350 gr Hornady softs and commercially cast lead 300, 350, and 405s. I'm still looking for a pistol power load for the cast 300s and will probably use Trail Boss for such work.  The 45/70 in first gear still trumps a 44 magnum at the firewall.

Aftermarket Accessories

The Wild West Guns trigger kit vastly improved but did not quite perfect the pull on my Guide Gun. Next time I have Mjolnir apart I may install their improved ejector and aluminum magazine follower as well.  They also offer an accessory rail that attaches to the magazine tube ahead of the fore end cap in case you need to put some light on your target.

While the new XLR appears to have a proper recoil pad every Guide Gun I've seen wears a pad made of rubber about as resilient as a truck tire. I had a SIMS Limbsaver installed. While it sticks to the carpet in the gun safe it feels much, much better when I press the go button.

If I were rich I might install Brockman's cartridge trap in the buttstock to hold a few spare rounds.  As it is I'll buy one of Andy Langlois' leather ammo cuffs one of these days.  A lace-on leather butt cuff beats the cheap elastic job all hollow.  If you order a carry sling at the same time as the butt cuff he can match colors for you.  BTW, Andy's prices on leather of all kinds are excellent.  Check out Andy's Leather Shop before you buy anywhere else.  Seriously, talk to the man.


When slung on its carry strap I keep Mjolnir's chamber empty and magazine tube loaded. I lower the hammer to the half-cock notch over a chambered round when actively hunting. I admit I use the cross bolt "hammer blocker" when cycling ammo through the action to empty the rifle. Why not? When used only for that purpose about the only risk is that I forget to turn it back "Off" when done or that it gets bumped into the "On" position without me noticing. When I forget to turn it off and try to touch off a shot the hammer stops well short of the firing pin, with a disconcerting "click instead of a boom". If a fella doesn't care to remove the safety then the most interesing option I've seen at Beartooth Bullets forums is to turn the set screw deeper - making the safety harder to turn on and off without deliberate effort. Might try it next time I have the stock off.

My 1895G is ported and I suppose I wish it wasn't. The porting was quietly dropped a few years ago.  I suspect that most Guide Gun using deer hunters settle on the factory 300 gr @ 1700 fps express load which does not need the recoil reduction so Marlin reduced the risk of hearing loss ligitation by eliminating the ports. I still wonder whether a 16-1/4 inch unported barrel is quieter than a 18-1/2 inch ported barrel.  If you hunt wearing the same electronic hearing protection you wear when practicing then the extra noise from the ports will cause you no trouble. I strongly recommend you protect your hearing as a young man, or end up a little too deaf a little too soon like me. The Peltor 6S is a pretty good setup.

I may take my Guide Gun to Africa when I go back as it seems just the thing for quick close range work in the bushveld. Mjolnir, a nice kudu, and me smiling would make for a memorable photo. I've got some LBT 420s but I haven't played with them yet. As deadly as they look sitting still they must be quite the hammer at ~1800 fps. A fella might do the trackers a favor by bobbing the barrel to remove the very noisy ports though.

There are those who say Marlin nicked the idea for the Guide Gun from the Wild West Guns Co-Pilot.  The resemblance is striking, but then without Marlin's rifle they'd have had nothing to work with...  In the years since its introduction Marlin seems to have noticed all the aftermarket enhancements being made for their Guide Gun.  Their newer 1895SBL comes ready for serious work out of the box. It's made of stainless steel.  It has a sturdier laminated wood stock set fitted with a real recoil pad.  It has the de rigueur large lever loop, a full length magazine tube that holds an extra cartridge, and serious iron sights.  It comes with the XS combination scope rail that let's you put a scope or optical sight in the conventional or scout position.  Much as I like my 1895G Guide Gun, if I were shopping today the SBL has everything a fella needs and nothing he don't. It’s a neat piece of work.

There are more powerful rifles but few repeaters are this handy and weigh but seven pounds, especially at the price of the Marlin. Whether a 45/70 Guide Gun is any better than a 12 gauge slug gun for bear defense I'll leave to folks who have fought bears with both, but it's certainly more attractive than my old Remington 870 Express.  Try one; I predict you'll enjoy yours too.

UPDATE: In March of 2011 I fitted Mjolnir with a leather butt cuff ammo carrier made by Andy Langlois (who also plays gracious forum host at The Scout Rifle Community).  Andy's workmanship is beautiful and he'll make a carry strap or Ching Sling to match the rich color of your ammo carrier.  Sometimes it's nice to have some spare cartridges or the ability to charge an unloaded rifle in a grab and go situation.  A butt cuff from Andy's Leather is a fine way to make that happen.

REUPDATE: Andy has developed a superior shooting sling for those who choose to eschew the third swivel needed to make the Ching Sling workable.  His Rhodesian Sling is an elegant solution in the extreme.  Check him out before you purchase anything less. 

AND ANOTHER UPDATE: Early in 2018 I had the blast enhancing ports removed by bobbing the barrel to 16-1/4 inches, the unsatisfactory SIMS pad has been replaced with a Kick EEZ, the LOP has been shortened slightly to 13 inches, and a vintage Redfield gold face patridge front sight has replaced the Marbles fiber optic bead. Of course I haven't had it to the range yet...

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I'm listening to a couple interesting iTunes U lecture courses these days...

photo of homo erectus skull from wikimedia commons

The course Historial Jesus is presented by Thomas Sheehan, professor at Stanford and the author of, among other titles, The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity which is currently out of print but available The Secular Web.  Neither an evangelical/fundamentalist nor an non-believer, Sheehan's exegesis is sophisticated, thorough, and thoughtful.

The other course is Dr. Stephanie Spehar's Physical Anthropology class at UW-Oshkosh.  This course deals with hominid evolution in a very accessible manner, though I suspect having her PowerPoint presentations to follow along would make it even more enjoyable.  She has a course on the Evolution of Language I'll be listening to soon as well.

Plus, while double-checking my links for this post I came across the very interesting The Do It Yourself Scholar blog which is written by Dara.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Couple Good Reads on Leadership and Decision-making

These are a few of the books I've been reading for my independent study this summer.  They're not exactly beach reading but they have much to offer once you get back to the office...

The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin does not contain the information I need for my topic but it is rich with useful thinking about decision-making.  I checked it out of the library but plan to purchase my own copy and add it to my reread list.

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins is one of those books I wish I'd had at the beginning of my career.  Over the years inspired leaders have shown me pieces of what Watkins pulls all together in this excellent text, that is both quickly accessible and usefully deep.

Not surprisingly, both these books are published by the Harvard Business School Press.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Perennial Grains - What Are We Waiting For?

"The advantages of cultivating perennial grains...could be one of the biggest advances in the 10,000-year history of agriculture."


Ben Coxworth wrote a very interesting little article for the June 29, 2010 issue of the online magazine Gizmag titled Perennial grains could be biggest agricultural innovation in eons.

"It has pretty much become a given that grain crops, such as wheat and barley, need to be started from scratch every spring...There are such things as perennial grains, however - plants that, like the grass in your lawn, simply pick up in the spring where they left off in the fall.

'Increased Food and Ecosystem Security via Perennial Grains' points out that perennials have longer growing seasons and longer, denser roots than annuals. Those longer roots, which can reach down 10 to 12 feet, allow the crops to reach and hold more water and nutrients, reduce erosion, and condition the soil.

Annual crops, by contrast, are said to lose five times as much water as perennials, and 35 times as much nitrate - a plant nutrient that regularly leaches out of fields and pollutes waterways. Needless to say, annual crops also involve the rearing, transportation, purchase and sowing of seeds every year, which leaves definite carbon, chemical and financial footprints."

Those of you with a subscription or academic database access will find the paper in the latest issue of Science, the journal of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science).  You can find a summary here and supporting online materials here, both outside the paywall.

Such thinking is not completely new.  Anne Simon Moffat wrote on the topic in 1996.  "It is possible to boost dramatically the seed yields of at least some perennials, including cousins to corn and wheat. These studies may eventually lead to new, more environmentally friendly crops."  (Moffatt, A. (1996) Science, 29 November 1996, Vol. 274. no. 5292, pp. 1469 - 1470 DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5292.1469)

So, will "Big Agriculture" aggressively pursue the development of crops that will reduce the need for annual seeding, fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides?  Time will tell.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Independence Day

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Apollo 14 image from Wikimedia Commons 

These days not everyone remembers that when the Declaration of Independence was made in 1776 the Colonies had been at war with England since April 19th the previous year, that the vote to declare independence had been taken on July 2nd, or that the document itself wasn't signed until August 2nd. And it is important to remember that the 13th Amendment - which abolished slavery in America - was not ratified until 1865, that the 15th Amendment - which granted black men the right to vote - was not ratified until 1870, and that the 19th Amendment - which finally recognized an American woman's right to vote - was enacted only in 1920. As with many great undertakings perhaps the ideal is easier to express than it is to attain.
For many of us terms like freedom, liberty, or independence are simply words we have come to take for granted. But many Americans have paid a heavy price creating this country, defending it, and insisting it be as great as it can be. This weekend we'll gather with friends, family, and community to celebrate the founding of this great nation.  As we do let's pause to remember that there are men and women, around the world and at home, at war and at peace, building and rebuilding families and communities despite hardships we can scarcely imagine, doing their level best to make sure "America" means everything it should.