25 September, 2012


Over dinner with friends recently, we were talking about some gear or other and one of my friends says, "Well, you're a tweaker, like me, so I'd totally expect that...". I recognized that one word sums up a lot of my approach. No matter whether it's a rifle, boat trailer, or a ski boot, seldom is anything from the factory "just right". And one of the things I enjoy is making my gear better, or better adapted to my needs and preferences. A few examples:

Mountain Bike
Could have just hit the local shop and picked up a nice 86-speed with dual suspension. But no, I had to start with a stock SE 29er and build the ultimate hardtail single-speed. Disc brakes, indestructible Profile cranks, custom-built wheels. The result is bomb-proof and a blast to ride.

CZ 452 Rifle
CZ builds a nice little .22LR rifle. Well crafted, exceptionally accurate, nice trigger. Could I leave mine alone? Oh, no. It started with a Montana sling strap and some Uncle Mike's swivel mounts (both super-nice, btw). And then a trigger job to lower to a 2# pull and a more even, consistent pull. Then a new more rigid firing pin and spring. Topped it off with a Bushnell scope and Warne mounting rings. Most recently found a beautiful machined trigger guard from PID Products to get rid of the roughly finished crappy looking stock one. A beautiful rimfire that's a wonderful to shoot - and really not much money in it. Of course, my Ruger 10/22 had to have a trigger job and a few other mods, too.

Steelhead Swinging Rigs
No, just owning a single switch rod with floating line on one spool and spey line on another wouldn't do. First it was a full-size Scott ARC-1287-3 rod. Then an Abel Spey reel. Then another switch rod, the excellent Scott L2H, so one rod could be rigged for indy fishing and the other for swinging. And, naturally, I decided to switch from full lines to shooting heads and running line, for more flexibility. But, I'd say I now have every possible Great Lakes steelhead scenario covered.

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker
Didn't think the lowly smoker could get upgraded? Wrong! After haunting a few online groups, I upgraded the stock door to a Cajun Bandit stainless steel one. Looks great, seals better. And I found that the stock water pan made it nearly impossible to manage the fire. So that gets replaced with a Brinkman charcoal pan that's lower and has a flat bottom. Presto! Easy access during long smoking sessions to add charcoal, redistribute, etc. I'm sure more is coming on this one.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. My ability to leave well enough alone seems to be non-existent. But I think these sorts of mods are half the fun.


24 September, 2012


One of the earliest pistols I had the opportunity to shoot was a Kimber stainless Custom 1911 in .45ACP. As it was a rental unit at a local shooting range and had seen a lot of rounds fired and minimal maintenance, I loved that gun. So guns just fit and feel right - that was this gun's story.

Subsequent to that, I had a number of opportunities to shoot a friend's 1911's. These included a rather basic Springfield Armory that I could just never make friends with and a rather fussy Colt. While I liked the 1911 platform very much. Neither of those guns compared to that Kimber.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to finally own the object of my affections. While I haven't yet had the opportunity to shoot it, I love it already. The heft -- just right. The simple, logical action. The exceptional level of fit and finish is outstanding. Barrel lock-up seems perfect and the action is precise and controlled.

I'm glad I waited. I'd considered a Taurus, but that just didn't seem quite right for this very special pistol. A Remington seemed like a cost-effective American-made option, but the R1 is a pretty bare-bones model. This would have necessitated a bunch of work with a pistolsmith to do a trigger job, polish and flare the feed ramp, swap out the hammer, etc. Before long, you've got a $600 gun with $600 worth of custom work. Or, I could just buy the Kimber that already has all of that and more.

Finally, I must confess to some personal vanity. I can't explain WHY, but I just had to have a stainless model. Do I have any practical reason for this? Nope. It's just shiny and I like that.

More to follow once I've had the chance to shoot this beast.


04 September, 2012

First Impressions - Abel Spey Fly Reel

I've been lucky enough to add a sweet reel to the collection for the upcoming Fall steelhead season. For a while I'd been thinking about a traditional click-and-pawl reel. I love the old school look and feel, plus the idea of a screaming reel with a bit of hot chrome on the other end of the line is pretty appealing!

I was first looking at reels from the Spey Company, in Wisconsin. Fully machined, made in the USA, and readily customized to be cool and unique. But, I hadn't found $450 lying around to dedicate to a "nice to have" reel that I didn't truly NEED (but seriously, is any of this about need anyway?).

Out of nowhere, along comes a deal on an Abel Spey reel. If you're unfamiliar with Abel, these folks make top-notch products. But they're not cheap. My Abel nippers are about the sweetest fly fishing accessory you'll ever find.

Though I have done little other than practice cast with it on my Scott ARC 1287-3, I've been mighty impressed. One area that really stands out is the fit of the spool to the frame. This is an area where exceptional workmanship really shines. My mass-produced Ross and Orvis reels are just fine, but the can't hold a candle to the tight-as-a-drum Abel. It sounds like closing the door on a really high-end European performance car.

My reel is the retro non-ported design, in classic black. I'm not really sure I could even own any color combination other than this. The finish on this reel is perfect - not too matte, not too shiny.

Once inside you realize the simplicity of this sort of reel. All you find is a spring and two clickers. By simply rotating them you can select from right-hand or left-hand retrieve. Simple as that! By engaging both clickers, you get the maximum drag setting (which is where I've set mine). One cool feature is the externally adjustable drag. A nice surprise on this sort of reel. At minimum, this will be a nice way to take the tension off the spring when I'm not fishing.

Can't wait to get this one on the swing this Fall! Only a few weeks away!