Lately, Canipe has been the busiest man in the business but he took a minute out of his schedule to share these words of wisdom.
Unloaded guns have two purposes…
– Keep a safe from floating away
Lately, Canipe has been the busiest man in the business but he took a minute out of his schedule to share these words of wisdom.
Unloaded guns have two purposes…
– Keep a safe from floating away
In late 2009, I traded into an HK416 10” upper. With a cold-hammer forged 10.39” (as per HK) barrel widely regarded as the finest production rifle barrels in the world and a gas piston operating system, this gun was my go-to rifle for about 3 ½ years. I knew the back story of US Special Operations units seeking an M4 replacement with enhanced durability and reliability, which led to the development of the 416 between a US Army unit and Heckler and Koch. The platform today enjoys widespread service in many LE and military organizations across the globe. It’s a sad day, that I thought would have come a couple years ago, but it’s time for my 416 to go into the back of the safe. I haven’t been able to kill it, but I want to let it die with dignity. Plus parts are expensive, and I want it to remain functional enough to shoot when I’m bored.
I kept a pretty accurate round count out to 50K rounds. After that, I started counting by the hundreds. As of its last firing on the 14th of March at the Fairfax County, VA range facility, it topped 67,000 rounds. About 17,000 of those rounds were suppressed. When I got the upper, they were going for about $5K on the secondary market. I was into mine for about $2K and some change, which I think was a bargain any way you look at it. Is the cost of mine twice as much as a top-end DI upper? Yes. How many barrels and bolts would I have bought in 67,000 rounds in a DI SBR? I don’t know, but I bet it makes the margin close in pretty evenly. My partners and I often took guesses when a bolt would break, or the gas rings on the piston would need replacing, or the extractor would break. I must have some kind of luck, because none of that ever happened, and other than the buffer spring at 40K I never changed an operating part on this rifle. The gun stayed in one pretty consistent configuration for the entire time I owned it save for the hand guard, which I swapped for a prototype from Geissele Automatics early in 2012, and a riser/magnifier mount I got from Wilcox at a trade show last year. I knocked out the firing pin safety the day I got it so I could use a standard Geissele trigger without needing a custom hammer. It’s had the same Sierra Precision SPR grip, LMT stock, and Surefire Mini-Scout all along I think. It’s had a Surefire FH-212A flash hider so I could run the corresponding suppressor on it. The optic has been an Eotech XPS, or the Aimpoint I used whenever the Eotech was back being serviced under warranty (a few times, unfortunately). It’s a boat anchor, too. I don’t remember what it weighs, but with all this crap on it and the older heavy barrel contour, it’s somewhere in the range of my SR-25…
Today, I’d be lying if I told you the barrel was in good shape. It’s a solid 4 MOA with 77GR MK262 now, and is experiencing some velocity loss. The accuracy is still within acceptable margins I guess, but compared to the 1 MOA I was getting at the beginning of its life that’s a sizable loss. More unsettling is the velocity loss, but that’s just the name of the game with a very shot-out barrel. It also doesn’t like to run suppressed any longer over the last 500 rounds. I haven’t even bothered to diagnose that one; I’m just chalking that up to being worn out. That might be a good problem to solve on a rainy Saturday in the future. The gun went 17,000 unsuppressed rounds between cleanings, although I lube it like I would a DI gun. Moving metal is moving metal, after all. Cleanings came more frequently as I shot suppressed, blowback from the can made the gun plenty dirty, even with the benefits of the piston keeping fouling out of the breech. I think you can regularly neglect a DI gun as well, as long as it’s well-and frequently-lubed, but the ability to leave the gun alone and just shoot it was a confidence builder all the same. While it was not perfect, I would say I had less than 20 malfunctions with this gun. I can attribute all of them to cheap frangible ammo at one particular event or firing with the can attached in the last 500 rounds. Anything related to the gun isn’t coming to mind right now. A special message to everyone worried about carrier tilt: I am sorry to report my gun did NOT wear a new hole in itself, and you’ll have to fabricate a new fatal flaw in the system.
I’m pretty attached to this rifle, and I’m sad to be shelving it. Seeing how badly I could treat this gun and how long it would last with no parts replacements until necessary has been a long-term project, and gun the gun outlasted my willingness to abuse it. The rifle won the battle of the wills. Sure, it’s expensive and heavy, but I’ll be damned if I could find a way to make it not work within its life cycle…3.35 times in a row. Well played, German engineering well played.
“The highest quality steel is used in this unique manufacturing process producing a barrel that provides superior accuracy for greater than 20,000 rounds with minimal degradation of accuracy and muzzle velocity.”
HK416 10” upper, LMT registered SBR lower
1 MOA thru at least 20K rounds, 4 MOA at 67K. I didn’t bench it up very often…
<20 malfunctions, none attributable to the gun itself 400+ hours of arguing the piston-wonder-gun’s virtues, on the internet. 4000+ hours of reading how SOF was dumping it since 2006, on the internet. How’d that work out?
A great many people receive training on firearms. Of course, it should be more, but that’s a topic for another day. I often wonder how many of the people who take regular firearms training classes have stepped out of the normal pistol/carbine class to broaden their horizons in regard to self defense skills. I would wager not many, and I believe self-defense utilizes plethora of skills that are outside the scope of learning to fire a failure drill at 5 yards and executing a reload. Blah blah blah mindset…blah blah blah real-world training for the streets…blah blah blah gamer stuff gets you killed…blah blah blah target focus you can’t use your sights in a fight, whatever. When all that stuff goes horribly awry and you don’t end a fight with accurate, lethal results, emerging unscathed, press checking your back-up back-up gun and stuffing it back under your Photographers vest, what happens then? Can you provide self-aid? Can you give an accurate location to the 911 operator? Can you defend yourself without a firearm? Do you possess the ability to run away? The ability to draw and fire a handgun without stress is not the great equalizer if you have to get in a fight, or compete, or do anything other than draw and fire a handgun on the range.
Number one on my list of necessary skills is medical training. Can you provide treatment for a gunshot wound? Can you stop bleeding? Can you apply a tourniquet? While I have no stats to back this up, I would say the majority of self-defense situations are defensive in nature. This meaning you are not on the offense initially. This meaning you were attacked, and have potentially sustained some form of injury. It might be a gunshot, stab wound, broken bone. Let’s assume you have neutralized the threat and now nobody is there to stabilize you except for you. Do you possess the skills to save your own life? These skills aren’t even tactical in nature. The same type of traumatic injury could happen to you, a family member, friend, or passerby in a car crash, bike wreck, freak redneck snow-sledding accident, or a slip down a flight of stairs. If nothing else, take a Red Cross Basic First Aid class, this is useful and necessary information, and I’d say you’re more likely to encounter an injury in your day-to-day life than that crazed gunman you’ve been practicing for. If you have the means to take a structured class that focuses on the injuries sustained (or dished out) in a fight, I recommend Dark Angel Medical. Kerry Davis at Dark Angel is my go-to when I need someone to teach med classes, and before forming Dark Angel Kerry ran Magpul Dynamics Medical Division. He’s also a former Air Force flight medic and has worked as a paramedic and RN after leaving active duty, so both trauma and routine medical care is no stranger to him. They can also provide medical supplies tailored to your needs including individual kits for low-vis applications or larger packages.
You should probably know how to throw a punch, block a punch, and take a punch as well. Most people are woefully underprepared for a physical altercation, which I would again consider more likely than having to shoot (at) someone. Joining a local boxing gym is a good start, and at a decent one is a lot of bang for your buck. In addition to the pugilistic skills, the added benefits of getting a good workout aren’t to be overlooked. The most applicable classes in a standard 2-5 day format that I am familiar are those from Southnarc. He teaches a number of classes that are geared toward skills for specific scenarios such as movement inside structures, weapons retention, and fighting in confined spaces. Many people shy away from classes such as these because they’re afraid to get beat up. Guess what, the big dude in the Wal Mart parking lot waiting to beat the shit out of you is going to enroll you in his class whether you sign up or not, so you may want to know what to do about it when he does.
Branch out. Fighting and stopping bleeding isn’t a commando skill, it’s a life skill. Defensive driving, dismounted navigation, cold weather survival. Hell, just go off the list of stuff Boy Scouts learn. A lot of that could save your life just as soon as clearing leather with your blaster or making a 250M carbine shot, particularly for the average concerned citizen. The ninja rifle/pistol combat skills are important too, but it’s certainly not the 99% of skills required for your personal safety and survival. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know and find a good place to learn it, those up drills will still be there when you get back to the range.
More and more often these days, I feel the need to get away from people, the internet, the news, and the sinking feeling that America is, well, sinking. Grumpy old man syndrome is setting in pretty early I guess, and I’ve got to do something to re-boot on occasion. Fortunately one thing we do still have is a set of National Parks, and I’m pretty excited that I got to spend a few days in one. This time, it was Rocky Mountain National Park, which was wonderfully unpopulated except for the busiest trailheads. There’s an old cabin up on a cliff near the Moraine Park visitor center. I’m pretty sure if I ever save the Earth from an asteroid or aliens or something, Bruce Willis style, that’s what I’d ask the President for…
I was staying in a suburb just north of Denver, directly behind a Starbucks, a mile from Hooters, and zero feet from what seemed like an eternal traffic jam every time I left the hotel. I had planned on scouting out places for a possible relocation, but with Colorado legalizing drugs and criminalizing weapons (my livelihood) that seemed ill-advised. With some days to kill, we headed to Estes Park, the small mountain town in Estes Valley between Roosevelt National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). In the summer, Estes Park is a royal pain, literally shoulder-to-shoulder on all the sidewalks, long waits at any restaurant, and traffic seems like it never moves. In the winter, it’s a sleepy town with good food and cool local businesses right outside of the park. Fifteen minutes and one bathroom break at the Visitor’s Center later, we were on a snowy trail headed up a ridge looking up at Long’s Peak and an awesome panorama of Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak, and Otis Peak. The plan had been a recce of routes for a traverse of the ridgeline connecting these 12K-ish peaks, or a possible trip up Long’s, but scheduling and weather conditions didn’t match up to make it happen on this stay. Nevertheless, it was a great couple of days, easy walking, and some easily gained/much needed solitude. And I’m not ashamed to say, more yak burgers than a cardiologist would advise at Grubsteak in Estes.
The National Parks were a hard-fought victory for conservationists fairly early in American history. Thanks to their hard work we’ve got a tremendous resource, open and accessible to everyone. It’s $80 for a pass allowing access to all of them for a year, which is almost certainly the best bargain in America. Starting with Yellowstone in 1872, the National Park System now includes 59 National Parks and a total of 398 sites administered by the National Park Service. The National Park Service was formed in 1916 to oversee this great national treasure. They preserve the best of America as seen by it’s founders, explorers, and citizens, while making it remarkably accessible to all visitors. I’ve been lucky enough to visit over a dozen of the parks, and have yet to be disappointed by the staff, and the ability of the Park Service to find people who genuinely love their jobs.
Disney World is so expensive I don’t know how anyone can afford it, and to me spending a week at the beach with all the other vacationers in the world is about as relaxing as driving a nail through my kneecap. That’s not to say the parks don’t get crowded, but the beauty of them is there is plenty of room for everyone if you’re willing to work your way into it, leaving the most popular routes or venturing farther from the main entrances. For a long time I’ve thought the National Parks were America’s best gift to itself, and I’m still pretty sure of that one today. There is one near you, and making a trip on a shoestring budget is easily do-able. They are your tax dollars at work, and for once you’ll get your money’s worth.
*For anyone interested in the history of the National Park System and it’s founders, check out the Ken Burns documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
Visit www.nps.gov for more info on the parks, prices, seasons, accessibility, and directions. The NPS is very helpful towards visitors.
I’ve seen a number of disturbing videos on Youtube and social media sites recently where people are blatantly disrespecting law enforcement officers in various ways. In one, a man refused to roll his window down to accept a ticket, only cracking it and sliding the documents through, being very difficult and rude to the officer who puled him over for a violation, refusing to roll the window down and answer any questions the officer had. In another, a guy walks up to a cop on the street and just starts cursing at him, calling him names, and taunting him. This seems all to common, with our younger generations and their sense of entitlement, poor upbringing, and an inexplicable notion that they are not accountable for their actions.
Law enforcement is one of the most noble and in my opinion thankless jobs in America. Nobody likes the cops around until they need them, then they complain-loudly and publicly-that they didn’t care enough to get there fast when they needed them. Cops in general get paid for shit. Everybody ponder the fact that Lady GaGa made something like $60 million last year, and the guy that protects you, your wife, your kids, your house, or your work might make under $30,000. These men and women sacrifice time with their kids, their spouses, their parents, and their friends to protect all of us. If that’s not worthy of some recognition, I’m not sure what is. So next time you decide to flash your lights at oncoming traffic when there is a speed trap, remember…the speeders are the ones committing a crime, not the guy trying to keep them from hitting your kids as they ride their bikes around the neighborhood.
Also encouraging is the recent turnout of law enforcement officials speaking out in our fight to maintain our Second Amendment rights. It’s certainly not all-inclusive, and while some have spoken for gun control the number of chiefs, sheriffs, and commissioners who have risked their political positions, be they elected or appointed, to speak for our rights is pretty awesome.
It’s no secret our economy isn’t at it’s strongest, funding is being cut in budgets at all levels, and our local law enforcement is at the bottom of the funding line. Law enforcement is chronically understaffed and underfunded in America, and is asked to take on more and more responsibility all the time. Think of the guys in blue when it’s time to vote in your next elections. It seems like every law enforcement organization in the country has a booster organization, so when they ask, donate. If there is something you could do to help the people sworn to protect you, why not support them?
Law enforcement professionals, you have my sincere thanks for all you do. Working long shifts, mountains of paperwork, the pressure of knowing how severely the courts, the media, and the public criticize your every move, all while being expected to lay your life on the line for those same people. That takes some heart and deserves some recognition. The shifts aren’t likely to get any easier, the thugs aren’t likely to get any more respectful, and the pay isn’t likely to get much higher any time soon, but there are a lot of us that really appreciate you laying it all out there anyways.
It’s really cool when an article spawns discussion elsewhere. Tim Lau expanded on Canipe’s “Carry a Gun” post in an article for the Modern Service Weapons Blog entitled, “Why Carry A Gun?” While iIt’s worth checking out to get an additional, but similar viewpoint, MSW is a blog also worth keeping up with.
I frequently hear co-workers tell me they do not carry a gun away from work for various reasons. These reasons range from simply being lazy or the gun being “uncomfortable” to stating that they wouldn’t want to involve their family in something so they leave the gun at home. Despite Emeryville (CA) Police Chief’s claim that guns aren’t a defensive weapon, the National Crime Victimization Survey and National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms indicate that Americans use firearms to defend themselves between 108,000 to 1.5 million times a year. Additionally, according to the NCVS, resisting violent crime with a firearm is the most effective form of self defense resulting in the least amount of injury to the victim, including resisting with pepper spray, mace, hands/feet, or even being completely compliant.
Read the rest of the post here – modernserviceweapons.com
I am a firm believer in concealed carry. If your state has a provision for carrying a weapon that is within your means to acquire you should do so. I am also a firm believer that if someone shoots you, they will have a gun 100% of the time. It’s science, like water and dinosaurs. If you don’t have the means to respond in kind, your survivability drops to somewhere in the range of a snowman in Florida.
I am fortunate to live in a state where permit to carry a weapon is easy to acquire for a law-abiding citizen. North Carolina has some restrictions on where you can carry, but I just avoid those places as much as possible. I love visiting Utah, because it is illegal for most places to prohibit you from carrying a gun. Many western states have similar laws, which is a major check for them in my relocation criteria when I leave NC. There is simply no way I would live somewhere I couldn’t carry. As we learned yet again this week, prohibiting carry is simply misdirected feel-good legislation. The harsh reality sets in for citizens of Chicago on a daily basis. In the only state with ZERO provision for carrying a weapon as a citizen, a 15-year old girl who had just performed at the Presidential Inauguration was shot on the streets by gang members. How could that be? Handgun carry is illegal! They must not have known. Allowing your citizens to be victimized and your population to be held hostage by crime is deplorable at best, and should be our most intolerable form of criminal negligence. Unfortunately, this is the norm for Chicago and countless other liberal strongholds in America. Knowing their intended victims are helpless empowers and emboldens criminals.
So you can’t carry. There are a number of reasons people who would otherwise love to be armed cannot. I understand the simple reality that people have to live in places like Illinois, Maryland, California, or DC. Not everyone can walk away from a career, or family obligations, or their own business to live somewhere that aligns with your personal beliefs on self defense. For these people, your answer here is not clearly defined. Carry a knife, a baton, mace, a rabbits foot…I dunno. For you I suggest a strict adherence to avoiding areas where crime is likely, and never letting your guard down. I also suggest doing everything in your power to support the repeal of laws that endanger you and your family.
So you can carry…then do it! I can’t count how many of my buddies are well trained Special Operations members, among the best gun fighters in the world, and for years have been saying “I really need to go get that carry permit…” Being too lazy to carry is also criminal in my mind. I bet the Saturday morning CHP class will not have seemed like such a burden in retrospect if you are figuring out how to treat your sucking chest wound in a Wal Mart parking lot, as some crackhead absconds with your groceries. Carry the biggest gun you can. If you can conceal a Glock 19 and you carry a J-Frame instead, get serious. Carry what’s easy to shoot, carry the most efficient gun you can. Carry everywhere you can, all the time. Don’t open carry if you can conceal. It’s not a statement, unless your statement is “shoot me first.” And practice, especially as you would carry. If you shoot one gun exclusively in training and carry another, you’re set up for failure when you can’t afford to fail. If you can’t draw from your AIWB holster of the month because you only shoot from a duty holster, I’m sure your funeral will be lovely.
I’m not going to give the advice to carry illegally. That would be illegal and I fully support adherence to the law. I’ll just leave this here…
There was certainly a different feel at SHOW Show 2013, and not necessarily a pleasant one. There was also a certain tension among all the participants, particularly the firearms-specific exhibitors, as we waited for President Obama to make his announcements on the executive orders that many felt would attempt to bypass Congress to wage an illegal assault on our Second Amendment rights. Fortunately, those orders had little to do with any regulation targeting the sale, manufacture, or ownership of firearms and instead were merely lip service to mental health and background check issues. After a collective sigh of relief, the SHOW carried on at it’s usual hectic pace. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of new product compared to some past years. The market for ARs in particular is more flooded than ever, and we’re at a point where demand is still far exceeding supply. I attribute some of the slowdown in new products for my particular area of interest to the fact that it’s hard to roll something out, then have to answer to the demand for it til it’s ready to go, which only compounds the problem of not being able to make enough of the old stuff as it is. There were a few gems in the accessory market and some great stuff in the soldier systems arena though, and it was certainly great to see all the renewed support for our gun rights at every turn, in every booth, and in talking to every person. There’s hardly a local economy in America that doesn’t benefit from the industry that SHOT represents, and in spite of the assaults on their livelihood by freeloading socialists, that industry is stronger than ever. Here’s a few of the things that caught my attention this year:
1. Geissele SMR MKIV rail. I was an early adopter of the Geissele hand guard for the HK416, and I have a few each of the MKI and MKII rails for the AR series. The MKIV version utilizes a lightened barrel nut and a slimmed down hand guard that is skeletonized to remove all unneeded material, while still maintaining the strength the previous variants are known for. It has fixed rails at the front where you need them, QD cups for sling attachment, and is trimmed down for a low profile and firm grip everywhere else. They also showed a new gas block that will be my new standard, and a Glock optic mount and magazine well under their ALG brand. Look for those soon as well.
Also, a special mention for Bill, who made 100 special edition SSF triggers to benefit the family of John Noveske, with all proceeds going to them. Featuring artwork by Ten Pound Monkey, the triggers sold for a minimum donation of $250 (often people gave more) and raised well over $25,000 for the Noveske family.
2. Smith and Wesson’s expanding product line. S&W debuted any number of new guns it seemed, but my favorites were the Magpul edition rifle and a new 7.62 platform. The Magpul edition features a forged lower reminiscent of the old “China Doll” lowers, a midlength gas lightweight barrel, and a full compliment of MOE furniture. The 7.62 AR-pattern rifle I saw was a hunting-oriented variant, but it’s always great to see the future possibility by a company with the horsepower of S&W expanding into the heavier calibers.
3. The new Arc’teryx pack line. I was fortunate to see these bags from their very first prototypes, thru the finished product you see today. I have always felt that military-specific style packs were always a generation or two behind the commercial market, possibly due to the much greater loads needing to be hauled, or the durability concerns of lighter weight materials. The new Arc’teryx pack line has bridged that gap, giving cutting edge performance to a user base that previously didn’t have that luxury in my opinion. As a bonus, they’re available in the Wolf colorway so it won’t look out of place in the airport, or amongst the fine unwashed citizens of Boulder.
4. HK416A5. I’ve been a long time fan of the HK416. Mine has probably crested 60K rounds now, and just won’t die. This year, HK debuted a new model, the A5. It features a rail with integral folding front sight, a very functional adjustable gas regulator, a low-profile flip-up rear previously not seen on US production models but common in Europe, a new slimline butt stock, a match trigger, and the best ambidextrous bolt catch I have seen. It’s easy to lock and release, something that many other designs leave lacking. Last but not least, the mag well has been re-profiled to match the standard AR-15 pattern, the oldest common complaint about the rifle, making it fully Gen M2 PMAG compatible. (Note: Just after Magpul introduced the Gen M3 mag, which worked with the old lowers…). I would like to see the M27 IAR use this lower contour personally, which should allow for consistent use of Surefire’s 60-round mags, giving added flexibility and lethality to the Marines employing it.
5. Kinetic Research Group W3 chassis. I can’t say how much I am looking forward to dropping my AICS for one of these. It’s the most functional chassis system I have seen to date. It reminds me of the Sako TRG chassis, which I am a huge fan of, with a number of solid improvements. It’s also very reasonably priced, made right here in the USA by a veteran Special Forces soldier, and can be inlet for almost any popular action.
6. Magpul’s 25-round .308 magazine. Compatible with the industry standard SR-25/OBR/DPMS pattern rifles, the new Magpul .308 magazines incorporate the M3 technology into larger caliber magazines. The 25-round version also features a window to instantly determine the amount of rounds in the magazine. As a Magpul employee I try very hard not to shill…but this thing is awesome.
That’s my want-list for SHOT 2013. Unfortunately I had to keep a very busy meeting schedule and am certain I missed some things. I also apologize for a lack of pictures, but I didn’t have time to take any. Fortunately, lots of other people did and they’re all over the internet now. I am proud to say I made it an entire SHOT week without catching whatever Vegas disease was popular this year (flu, I believe it was this year), and am glad to have an entire year before seeing Vegas again.
So, I like going to the gym. I like olympic lifting, rowing, circuit workouts, whatever. I particularly like the fact that my gym has about 100,000 SQ FT of gym/olympic pool/indoor track/younameit. But after a few years of spending 5-6 days a week in there, waiting to use stuff behind teenagers glued to their iPhones, old people who sit on the same piece of equipment and talk to their golfing buddies for 30 minutes, and the lack of lane availability at the pool for water aerobics 24/7, I couldn’t take it any more. I’ve wanted a garage gym for a long time, and the time has come. The garage has been cleaned out, and save for 3 dirt bikes and a workbench, it’s now earmarked to become the pinnacle of home suffer-fests. It solves a lot of problems, and I wish I could have done it a long time ago. No more gym fees, no more finding child care, no more scheduling around peak times, no travel time, not waiting in line ever again, no dress code, no screaming, grunting, or involuntary flatulence, and no stupid knee-high socks or toe shoes. I can play whatever music I want, as loud as I want, and not need head phones. It presented some challenges though, not the least of which was cleaning out a fully-stocked with junk non-car-parkable garage.
First and foremost, you can’t fit 100,000 feet of square footage into a garage. It’s a big garage, but the oly pool and track aren’t in the cards. I found that 80% of my gym workouts use the same equipment: pull-up bars, a power rack, a bench, a bar, and a bunch of bumper plates. My work had been done for me as the three popular gyms around here use the same racks from Rogue Fitness which take a lot of abuse and look no worse for wear. I just got a one-guy size rack, the RM4 Monster. It’s built like a tank, and should last me a lifetime. Not only that, their racks are like MOLLE gear for fitness freaks, and they make all kinds of torturous stuff to bolt onto them (check out the pull-up globes…). While I was there I ordered 450 pounds of bumper plates and their signature Roue bar, as well as a flat bench. The order was topped off with a Concept 2 rower in tactical black. I’ve already got rings, ropes, LMTV tires and kettlebells so that was covered. Looking at the space that takes up when arranged smartly with good weight storage, I was out about the same amount of floor space a garage freezer takes up…not too bad. There is some more equipment I want to pick up eventually as a luxury, but what I got should cover almost every gym exercise I would want to do. I learned on deployments if you’re creative you get a tremendous amount of use out of a few key pieces of equipment. Flooring was the next consideration. I was shocked how much rubber flooring costs at actual fitness equipment retailers. A quick trip to Lowe’s Hardware got me some purpose built gym flooring, 80 sq ft for $208, which is about 50% of what some retailers quoted, with no shipping involved. Add some chalk, a box fan, and an iPod dock and we’re done. I took the part of the big gym I actually like and put it in one small space.
I had set a budget of $1000 for the gym…which I tripled. Mostly out of the desire for instant gratification once I got the idea in my head. However, local Crossfit-style gyms charge from $100-150 a month for access. That includes group workouts and trainers on site, but all I want is access to the equipment so that’s not a big selling point for me. So had I gone the budget route and gotten some stuff on Craigslist over the course of a few months I probably could have gotten the same capability secondhand for $1000 or less. So in 8-10 months, a patient person could have their investment paid for and be working out for free. It’s certainly a buyer’s market on used exercise equipment, and most of it is relatively unused…or they wouldn’t be selling it. I’d look in March or so when all the frequent buffet patrons give up on their New Year’s Resolution dreams of turning into a swimsuit model, steals and deals will abound. Anyways, if you’re tired of waiting in line, or trying to schedule gym trips around the kids, or want to work out at odd hours, or just generally dislike people, look into a garage gym. I’m just as excited about Phase II…the prison gym in the back yard on a concrete slab. More on that later.
I’m writing this from a hotel in Asheville, NC. I’m on vacation, and we went and visited the Biltmore Estate. For those of you who don’t know, the Biltmore is George Vanderbilt’s 250+ room, 178, 926 sq. ft. mansion on a 125,000 acre spread. 85,000 of those acres now form a major portion on the Pisgah National Forest. I’m not sure there is a scale to measure the opulence or just pure size of the place in practical terms a guy like me can understand. I walk around the place with my jaw dropped, that one guy built this and lived here. This was some guy’s HOUSE. That’s right, George Vanderbilt was single when he built the house, though he later married. George Vanderbilt was the grandson of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, often referred to as “The First Tycoon.” He started a shipping business with a $100 loan from his mother and turned that into a shipping and railroad juggernaut, amassing a fortune of over $100 million dollars (todays equivalent of $184 billion). Think Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook…multiplied by 7.
Cornelius Vanderbilt shares the pages of history with names such as Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Morgan, and others in a relatively small group of the uber-wealthy of America’s Gilded Age. Financier Samuel Insull, who made his many millions in the railroad and utilities business, said, “Aim for the top. There is plenty of room there. There are so few at the top that it is almost lonely there.” These men built the railroads, the steel industry, the oil and gas industry, the shipping industry. Not only that, most of these men gave immense sums of their fortunes to helping people.Their philanthropy almost matched their greed. There was a recent series on TV called “The Men Who Built America,” and that’s a pretty good name for it. America’s transition into industry was nothing short of epic. No other nation in the world could compare, due to the ingenuity, ethos, and sometimes ruthlessness of the American industrial empire. The progress made in America at that time is unmatched to his day. With the current state of our society and government, I don’t think we’re due to outdo them anytime soon.
The key was self-sufficiency in America, on a number of levels. The individual American family was responsible for it’s own well-being. People were not entitled to help from the Government without giving anything in return to society. Social programs were decentralized or non-existent. People in need were cared for by the community or Church. People who would not sustain themselves often weren’t cared for at all. You worked for yours back then, plain and simple. Or you starved. People were not dependent on the Federal Government for survival, for their basic human needs. On a larger scale we were a self-sufficient nation as well. We did comparatively very little in terms of a global economy, we met many of our needs ourselves. The political situation was a bit different too. We knew we were better than everyone else, and didn’t have to really give a shit about the rest of the world. I am fairly certain that Teddy Roosevelt and William McKinley never bowed to anyone, never gave aid and comfort to our enemies so as to not offend them, and never considered taking away the Bill of Rights from our citizens. Finally, that government stayed well out of the individual’s business in those days, at least by today’s standards of rampant micro-managing of the individual and business. Capitalism prospered as a system, and without any pseudo-socialist influence by Washington developed the United States into the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth. That is the essence of “American Exceptionalism” as a concept. An individual with the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, unburdened by socialism, tyranny or conscription, making a mark on history that is far greater than that of one man or company.
It’s kind of sad to see such a monument to American greatness, such a sign of the validity of our foundation as a country and our Constitution, such a symbol of the opportunity given to each and every American. I fear that our society has devolved to a point where so many people are supported by so few that it is almost not worth working hard anymore. As we have seen with our eroded base of industry and trade in the last few decades, you can’t have a capitalist economy that punishes making money. You can’t have a democratic society that rewards laziness either. I’m not sure if anyone will ever be able to ever build a house like this one again, but it sure would be nice if we got back there in some ways.