Thursday, August 30, 2012

Upgrading the SKS

A few years back I purchased my first semi-automatic rifle in the form of a Yugoslavian SKS. I managed to pick it up for much cheaper than its brother, the AK-47 and I've been pleased with the way the rifle has operated.

It wasn't until recently that I decided the old rifle needed a facelift. I was having difficulty aquiring a sight picture in low-light conditions or at night. The rifle was also a little awkward to carry around in the truck. I wanted quick target aquisition and the ability to sling more than 10 rounds for wild pigs. After doing a bit of research, I found several different after market stocks that are available for the SKS. There were three different things I was looking for in a new stock: The ability to accept detachable magazines, rails for a holographic sight, and rails for a foregrip.

The TAPCO Intrafuse 6-position SKS stock seemed to fit all of my requirements.

In addition to my own spec requirements, I also didn't want to spend an arm and a leg. It would have been VERY easy to spend upwards of $500 upgrading this $250 rifle. I set my price limit at $150 and started shopping around.

It wasn't long before I had everything I wanted picked out.
-TAPCO Intrafuse 6-position SKS Stock
-TAPCO Intrafuse 20rd Detachable SKS Mag
-TAPCO Intrafuse Vertical Foregrip 4.5"
-Sightmark Sure Shot Reflex Holographic Sight

I was relatively surprised at how easy it was to install the new stock. One must first disassemble the rifle.

After this comes the only slightly difficult part of the installation process; removing the old wood covering on the gas chamber. There is a small pin that holds the wood into place. This must be removed. It's slightly tapered so it is important to push it out from the skinnier end. The difficult part (at least for me) was actually removing the pin. It took a hammer, driving pin, lubricant, and quite a bit of force to finally knock the pin out.

Once out, it's a simple process of of putting the plastic polymer cover in the wood cover's place. Chances are the it won't fit at first, so take a small file and file away some of the excess plastic until the fit becomes snug. From there, just reassemble the rifle into the new stock, saving the pistol grip for the end. The pistol grip is hollow and has one master screw that should be tightened at the end of assembly. Attach the foregrip and holographic sight and "ta-da". Modernized SKS.

Gear reviews on individual parts soon to come. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Umbrella Theory

The Umbrella Theory is a common phenomenon that most, if not all, outdoorsmen are familiar with. Not to be confused with Murphy's Law (it is just a theory, after all), the Umbrella Theory, in its simplest form, goes something like this:

You awake in the morning and get ready for a day full of meaningless errands. After stepping outside, you look up to see storms forming on the Apocalyptic scale. Since rain appears to be a guarantee, you grab an umbrella and set off to tackle the day...

But it never rains. Oh yes, it still looks like it's going to rain for almost the entire day, but it just never happens. Instead you're stuck carrying around the umbrella for the majority of the day. And God forbid you grabbed a small, retractable umbrella. Rather, in your haste to leave in the morning, you grabbed an umbrella big enough to double as a parachute in emergencies. The day wears on and you step outside from one of your errands to discover that there's no longer a cloud in the sky. It looks as though there hasn't been a sign of rain in years. On the way back to your car, you dodge a tumble weed and overhear a farmer complaining about the horrible drought and his crops. All this, while you carry a stupid, giant umbrella around and get bizarre looks from strangers that almost say: “Idiot. Why are you carrying an umbrella?” It failed to rain this day because...You brought an umbrella. But had you simply left the umbrella at home, the resulting flood would have been biblical.

This is the Umbrella Theory hard at work.

This phenomenon is actually better observed in outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. For example, while driving back to the field house a few weeks back, I encountered a group of pigs. This sort of luck would usually be considered 'good', had I actually been carrying a gun. It was unsurprising to me that I literally had no weapon in the truck. Not even a knife or heavy rock. The pigs, knowing this, took advantage of the situation to casually walk circles around the truck and even stand a few feet from the window to make rude comments about my lack of firearms. I should mention that this was the first instance in over two weeks that I didn't have a gun with me.

The savvy outdoorsman will actually try to use the Umbrella Theory to his advantage. It's not uncommon for many anglers to purposefully forget the ice, forceps, or even the gaff. Doing this will almost assuredly result in a fantastic day of fishing. I've witnessed it happen with hunters too. Lose the bow release in the woods while walking to the stand, and have a shot at a giant buck soon afterwards. Leave the turkey rounds the house, and that big Tom will get close enough for you to consider bludgeoning him with your shotgun. 

It's important to note that one should NEVER...EVER try to purposefully trick or confuse mother nature with this theory. Don't ever do something like...let's say...bring a fly rod onto a sail boat. Being on a sailboat obviously results in the doldrums, and bringing a fly rod results in gale force winds. Trying something absurd like this would prove catastrophic and would probably result in ripping apart the space-time continuum.
Why did I take out the fly rod?

The Umbrella Theory isn't always at work though. I recently took a trip offshore that was nearly perfect. I brought a fly rod and it was mirror flat over 20 miles offshore with not a breath of wind. I put on sunscreen in the morning and the sun -actually- shone. We slayed the fish and made it back to dock without incident.

While cleaning fish, one of my friends came up to comment on the spectacular day of fishing.

"That was a blast today...Haven't had a day of fishing like that in years", he said as he watched me fillet a King Mackerel.

"I know, it was one of those days you dream about. Hey, hand me one of those Snapper out of the cooler", I responded with a wave of the filet knife.

"Sure thing", he said as he reached into the cooler to pull out another fish. "I just can't believe we...Hey!...What's this umbrella doing in the cooler??"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bambi Never Wore a Collar

“FAWN!”, I yelled as it became clear that the gangly little creature behind the Doe in the road was, in fact, its offspring. And it was un-collared. My job is relatively simple…Put radio collars on fawns, and track them. Like so…

My head jerked back is the Hemi roared up to speed, but I kept my eyes focused on the fawn. It and its mother tore off into the bushes as the truck approached where we had spotted them. The fawn was still in that awkward stage where it can’t run really well. Maybe a week old. I had it in my sights. Radio collar in hand, I opened the passenger door to the truck and bailed out…

While we were still moving.

I realized my mistake only after my feet hit the ground. To “hit the ground running” is much easier said than done. And generally isn’t a phrase that’s supposed to be taken literally. The truck was luckily moving slow enough that I managed to keep my balance and only stumble into the roadside ditch.

My feet soon caught up with my body and with my balance regained I charged full speed toward the brush, watching as a tiny white tail disappeared at shin level. From the truck, the brush looked no more than knee high. It wasn’t until I leaped full speed into the thicket that I realized the brush was closer to chest height.

Now considerably slower, I high stepped my way through the brush, tight on the heels of my spotted little target. I was getting closer. Only a stride or two behind the little guy when it suddenly changed directions and made a 90 degree turn. I did my best to follow, but running full speed through high brush doesn’t really allow for quick turns. And almost as if on queue, I began to lose my balance.

There’s a bizarre slowing of time that happens when one is about to fall. Not the kind of falls where you just end up flat on your backside, but rather the falls that you think you can recover from. Slipping on that slimy rock in the river. The slick boat launch at dawn. Tripping over that cypress knee, or even tilting just a -little- too far back in your chair. This was one of those instances. I struggled to catch myself for a good 10 yards (I got this, I got this, I got-) before finally, (I don’t got this) I fell. Hard

Quail plantations are relatively unique in that almost everything that grows can cut, prick, or outright stab you. So when I finally hit the ground, I wasn’t welcomed by a cushion of soft grass, but rather a healthy mixture of briars, Devil’s Walkingstick, and blackberry bushes.

I should get up and keep chasing that deer, is what ran through my mind. Nature, however, had other ideas as I realized I was practically pinned with thorns. I rolled over onto my back and attempted to get up only to discover I’d managed to wrap myself up tighter in the briars. My adrenaline faded fast as I lay on my back and stared through the body shaped hole in the brush to the blue sky beyond. I became suddenly aware of how scratched up I was.

“Did you get it!? Alex? I’ve got the scale!…Where are you?!”, my boss’ voice drifted up from the direction of the truck.

“Ow”, I answered back. My voice slightly muffled. Something was across my face, pinning my lip back. Ah, another briar…lovely.

It took me a couple of minutes to break free from my vegetative hell. I made my way back toward the truck, bits and pieces of thorns and briars trailing behind me.

I can’t believe I got juked by a deer barely old enough to walk.

“I take it you didn’t catch it…”

“Psh…You think?” I chuckled back as I walked toward the truck through the brush. “I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in..”

I was cut short as I heard something moving not ten feet away. I caught a glimpse of the spotted little fawn as it got up from its hiding place. It had been staying still and quiet right next to where I’d fallen. I watched as it made an awkward break for some even thicker cover, and disappeared completely.

You win…