Friday, October 30, 2009

Flatland Whiskey Nut

Yeah, a whiskey review on a gun blog. Sue me (please don't, actually). I live in Iowa, and for 11 months of the year is it about 30 degrees below zero, with no sunshine and lots of rain or snow or both. If I can't get out to shoot or hunt, I like to relax by the fire (or oil-filled heater in this case) with a glass of whiskey (traditionally spelled "whisky" but if I spell it this way the spell checker lights up like a Christmas tree). Below are my favorites. Enjoy responsibly--put the guns away, lose the car keys, and turn on some Top Gear. Don't forget the ice.

#1. Maker's Mark bourbon.
Maker's has a traditional smoky bourbon flavor, but is really mellow on the way down. It brings some heat, but in a pleasant way. The flavor is quite good when served neat, and gets even mellower over a few ice cubes. If you want a mixer, get some Jim Beam or something cheap that you can defile with Coca Cola with a clean conscience. This stuff is only a dollar or two more than Jack Daniels, and oh so much better. All Jack has going for him is a fantastic advertising firm. I've read on a whiskey snob blog that you should keep JD in the liquor cabinet on the odd chance your teenager should get into it. They'll go for the JD first, given the brand recognition, and leave your good stuff alone.

#2. J&B's Blended ScotchI was recently turned on to J&B's while at dinner with my father-in-law. I was blown away by how mellow yet flavorful it was. It tastes like....good whiskey. There is only a warming sensation as it finds its way home. The flavor is light, but still bold enough to make itself known. Honey and grains really stand out in the taste. Served neat, it is great. Served over crushed ice, it is sublime. Consider that it is CHEAPER than Jack Daniels (which is the gold standard around here, despite the fact that I wouldn't clean my spark plugs with JD), and this is a real bargain for "everyday scotch". I had it with some chicken alfredo at a fancy-ish restaurant and it was awesome. It's a good starter for someone just getting into whiskey snobbery.

#3. Chivas Regal Scotch WhiskeyYou want good scotch? Here it is. Plain and simple. Serve it neat or over just a little ice....or I'll find you. This one's a bit more expensive at $40-ish for the 18 year vintage. The 12 year stuff goes for a bit less. Both are good, but I find them a little sweet on the finish, and I think that gets old after the second glass. Still fantastic stuff though. Probably pretty good with a cigar.

Honorable Mention (haven't had enough yet)
Knob Creek small batch bourbonI had a glass of this at a restaurant the other day. I had it neat, because I'm the paradigm of manhood. It had a really enjoyable spicy and smoky flavor, but it goes down with some serious heat!! I imagine a couple of ice cubes would calm it down a bit, but I don't know that. So it goes in the honorable mention category. I think Maker's Mark is a bit better, but I haven't had more than a glass of this yet.

Honorable Mention
Templeton RyeI had quite a bit of this once, and I'm ashamed to admit that I mixed most of it with Coca Cola. I'd never heard of Templeton before that fateful day, and I've wanted more ever since. This stuff hails from Templeton, Iowa, and is probably the only reason to live in Iowa willingly. Templeton Rye is truly "small batch" and only so much is released every year. It is not in wide circulation yet, but Templeton is slowly pushing into the rest of the country. Templeton has a very strong scent of vanilla and spice, but it is very understated and mellow tasting. There is very little burn, and the flavor is really great--not overpowering like most rye blends. If you must mix it, it is THE original ingredient in a Manhattan (not bourbon as is popular today). Templeton Rye was Al Capone's favorite drink and has survived prohibition to become a "legit" label today. Al evidently had good taste. This only goes in the "honorable mention" category because I've only had about four glasses of it in my life--but I just acquired a bottle of it tonight. Here's to Iowa's cold, crappy climate.


Long Term Relationships

I typically write quick range reports on my guns, but that isn't always the whole story. Today I'm going to write out what it's like to live with my favorites....and some chronic pains in the arse.

First, you'll notice that most of these updates are positive. That's because I do weeks if not months of research before buying a gun. I recommend you do the same. There's no such thing as too much information when it comes to making a major purchase.

Starting with long guns, I've had my Savages the longest, so they're up first. The 10FCP HS Precision (10 FCP hereafter) in .308 Winchester is pretty easily the most accurate rifle I own. At a range session a month or two ago, James put three of my 168gr FMJBT handloads into 3/4" at 200 yards. I managed to screw up a 1" group at 200 yards by dropping the fifth round about two inches low with a poor trigger pull. This rifle commonly turns in sub minute-of-angle (MOA) groups, even in the hands of novice shooters. The only problem with it is the weight. It weighs about 15lbs--maybe a touch more. It sucks to pack around, but it wasn't really meant as a walk-around gun. Savage built it as an out-of-the-box sniper rifle/benchrest rifle, and it does that very well. The Accutrigger is fantastic, the HS Precision stock is comfortable and unbelievably stable. Occasionally extraction gets weird and empties don't always make it all the way out for some reason. Maybe I'm just not using my man strength to work the bolt fast enough. All in all, the 10FCP is the most accurate gun you can buy for under $1000. In fact, I would bet you'd have to spend $3000-4000 on something like a Blaser or Accuracy International to see an appreciable increase in accuracy over the humble Savage.

The 10FCP's little brother--the Mk.II has also served me very well. I've killed two flies with it and my 9 year old niece was able to put 10 rounds into about 1.5" at 50 yards with it (the stock is too long for her, but she did very well anyway). I have killed starlings and sparrows at ranges up to 120 yards with it. Once again, the Accutrigger is really the key to the accuracy. It breaks cleanly and crisply at about 3.5 or 4lbs. I've never adjusted it. The only problem with this rifle is that I may have worn out the magazines. I bet I've shot close to 10,000 rounds through it and that may be a bit more than the rather flimsy magazines can take. The rifle REALLY needs a feed ramp or much tighter tolerances in the mag well because every once in a while, the round won't make the jump from the magazine to the chamber--with nothing at all to guide it home. The best fix is just to be quick on the bolt...but even then you can get some annoying hang-ups. This annoyance is easily forgiven due to the amazing accuracy.

My M&P15 has been fed a steady diet of crappy ammunition to include Wolf steel case stuff, and I've NEVER had a failure while shooting centerfire ammo. I've had a couple with my CMMG .22LR adapter, but that's to be expected. Even then, I've maybe had 10 jams out of 2000 rounds or so through the adapter. I've never really sat down and accuracy-tested the M&P15 and keep telling myself I'm going to do it...but then I get ADD again and go do something else. I've killed a few melons and soup cans with it, but I always end up hunting with something else (even though I justified buying it as a coyote gun). I would sell it, but it feels very comforting in my hands--like an old friend coming to visit. I love the M16/M4 platform and an M16A2/M203 saved my bacon once in a very nasty part of the world. I will not forget it, and even though this rifle has ended up being more of a range toy, I don't think I'll ever get rid of it, even if I do think about it once in a while.

For some reason, I bought a Benelli Nova slug gun and converted it into a tacticool piece and it has proven to be pretty awesome. It does everything really well. It breaks clays (better be quick though), launches slugs with a good deal of accuracy, and throws buckshot pretty well out to 25 or 30 yards. I've never had any problems with it, but it's a pump action shotgun. I do like it much better than the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870. The Benelli is just "nicer". The pump feels faster, the magazine interrupt is handy, and for some reason I don't feel as much recoil as I do with the 870 or especially the 500. If you only shoot a few rounds a year for deer or pheasant season, the Remington and Mossberg will do fine. If you shoot more, I think you'll appreciate the Benelli.

On to handguns....

Top of the list here is my M&P9C, which continues to be as reliable as a wood-burning stove, accurate, fast, and concealable. It is a very good gun, and used to be cheap. You'll pay a premium for one nowadays, but I think it's worth it. I've owned the XD, Glock, and M&P. The only one I still have is the M&P. It has a better trigger, better ergonomics, and I shoot it WAY better. I've put rounds on target at 50 yards with this little gun--from an improvised rest and from standing unsupported. S&W hit this one out of the park. The only problem with this gun is my P64.....

The P64...ugh. How on Earth did communist slaves make something this good? How?!!! I bought this because I always wanted a PPK, but .380ACP ammo prices are still in high orbit, and the PPK is about $500. The P64 cost me $217 after shipping, FFL fees, and a new set of springs (you need the new springs). The 9x18mm round is marginally (and I mean MARGINALLY) more powerful than .380ACP, but costs about the same as cheap 9mm Luger ammo. But price isn't the only selling point. James and I shot his P64 (he bought two after firing mine) at 50 yards and got about %60 hit rates from an improvised rest. In fact, one of my six actually hit the bull's eye. If all you're looking for is a "do everything" concealed carry piece, you would be very silly indeed not to get a P64. I haven't had this gun very long, but I've put about 300 rounds through it without a hiccup. It is so good I had to include it.

You can't watch an old detective movie without seeing a S&W J-Frame of some kind. My 442 is the hammerless ("snag-free") pocket model in .38 SPL(+P rated). It is a current production model and features the "Hillary Hole" or integral locking system. I have put maybe 250 rounds through it so far and can do pretty well out to 15 yards. It is hard to shoot, period. The 442 was designed as a pocket gun for gun fights at knife fight ranges, and it does pretty well at that (though the P64 would be a better option...damn you, communism!). J-Frames are not for the faint of heart, nor the "one-box-a-year" shooter. Often, uninformed men will try to push these pocket cannons on their wives because the gun is so small. What they don't realize is that a gun this small--even when chambered in the mild-mannered .38 SPL--is really obnoxious to shoot!

That's pretty much it for guns I've owned for any length of time. Stay tuned.