Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2014 10 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. A few days ago one of my trail cameras picked up this enthusiastic turkey. Seems fitting to share the picture today. I hope your day is spent with family and friends and time reflecting on all that we have to be thankful for. Beyond all else eat too much and laugh too much. 


St. Croix Avid Fly Rod Review

Sunday, November 23, 2014 , , 4 Comments

While the Streamflex may be my go to trout rod, my St. Croix Avid 4 weight 8' 6" is my small stream fly rod. Utilizing SC III graphite and a proprietary Integrated Poly Curve (IPC) taper, St Croix has put together a very sensitive yet strong fly rod at an affordable price (MSRP $260-$300). The progressive taper creates a moderate action that is a bit slower than many of its' contemporaries offerings but I find this makes a far more enjoyable rod to fish, especially when you are tucked away and communing with nature at your favorite trout hide. Subtlety over speed. Further the smooth transition in the blank allows one to fish a lighter tippet than they perhaps normally would, as the rod itself will absorb much of the initial shock of a take. An absolute pleasure to cast with, these rods are truly at home when a subtle accurate presentation is required. Keep things smooth and don't overpower your cast and this rod will do exactly what you want it to. Finally I find the slower, more meditative cadence required to cast this rod forces me to be more reflective and aware of the surroundings and at the end of the day that what it is all about; getting back to nature, enjoying beautiful water and beautiful fish. 

One last point: if for any reason you have issues with the rod, the customer service at St Croix is top notch and they will do their best to get the stick back in your hands as soon as possible. Made here in the US at their factory in Park Falls Wisconsin, the Avid comes with a lifetime warranty and it has been my experience that St Croix stands by their word and reputation. I have had this rod for several years now and it has accompanied me on some of my most memorable trips and in the process has put more smiles on my face than I can remember. Anyone looking for a classic trout rod would do themselves a favor by considering the St Croix Avid. 


Taurus 627 Tracker .357 Magnum: Gun Review

Sunday, November 16, 2014 , 0 Comments

First things first, this is one fun gun, perhaps my favorite handgun to shoot within my collection. The ergonomics, smooth trigger, and accuracy are just stellar. Not to mention the power, yet manageable recoil only a .357 magnum can provide. An absolute pleasure to shoot. Now to the stats: a 7 round .357 Magnum, weight of 28.8 ounces, a height of 5.4" and a width of 1.531", trigger is double action/single action and includes a hammer transfer bar for additional safety, the barrel is 4" long and ported, and runs at an MSRP of $670. 

Now to the heart of the matter, and perhaps why most of you are looking for a review on this firearm. Taurus has perhaps, shall we say, a tenuous reputation within the shooting community. It is not known for many original designs and to be honest the Tracker 627 is remarkably similar to the Smith & Wesson 686. Secondly, there are many who have had reliability issues. I will touch on both of these. 

As to the similarities to the Smith & Wesson 686. I have shot both, the Smith several times, but own the Taurus. To be honest, and perhaps to my and others surprise, I like the Taurus more. While similar in design they feature radically different grips styles, and though the S&W feels nice in the hand, the Taurus just seems to melt into my hand and absorb recoil better. Secondly, the Taurus comes standard with a 7 round cylinder whereas the 686 comes with 6, though if you buy the "Plus" model it upgrades it to 7 as well. Third, the Taurus is ported and while this does reduce velocity slightly, it serves well at reducing both recoil and muzzle flip--ensuring quicker follow up shots if the need were to arise. The .357 Magnum is no slouch when it comes to recoil, and for many is at the upper end of their tolerance, but the porting does help and it my mind it is just incredibly fun to shoot and puts a smile on my face every time. Of course like all .357 Magnums you can also shoot standard .38 Special and .38 Special +P rounds in it as well, significantly reducing the cost of practicing and marginalizing recoil for those that may be sensitive. Finally, the cost: the Taurus Tracker 627 is $150 cheaper than the Smith. 

To be sure the Smith & Wesson holds some important advantages over the Taurus as well. Most notably it doesn't have the reliability issues reported with the Taurus. And here is the kicker, I had those reliability issues. The first time out the cylinder would lock up every few rounds. Revolvers by their nature are touted as the most reliable handguns. Pull the trigger it goes bang, if you encounter a dud primer pull the trigger again and it moves onto the next round. The first time out this didn't happen. Here I was on the range with my buddies, proud of my new purchase, and the gun wouldn't operate. What an embarrassment. That being said, my experience with their customer service through email was prompt and satisfactory. I paid $50 to ship the gun to Miami and had the gun back in three weeks working perfectly. Now obviously two points need to be made on this, one: the gun should have been working perfectly right out of the box, I shouldn't have had to fork out an additional $50. On this point I couldn't agree more, a product should work when you buy it. Two, going forward can I be confident in its performance? This is a gun that I bought primarily as a woods gun; to provide protection while camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting. I am one of the rare individuals who has actually been shot at while in the woods by a bunch of drunken bafoons who somehow got a rise out of endangering my life. Have that happen to you and it changes your life and it is a situation I never intend to be in again unprepared. Statistically the odds are against it happening again but like a fire extinguisher I would rather be safe than sorry. The .357 Magnum is more than able to handle anything on two legs and for that matter any on four in North America with the obvious exception of a Grizzly. So do I trust it? Yes, since the repair four years ago I have put over 1,500 rounds of .38 Special and 300 rounds of .357 Magnum through it and haven't had a single issue. The trip to Miami seems to have taken care of the locking up issue and I am meticulous in my cleaning of my firearms. Secondly, the Smith & Wesson just looks of a higher quality. I prefer its finish and the tolerances just seem to be more exact and tighter. 

My verdict: go with the Taurus. The feel of the gun, combined with the porting and seven rounds won me over. It just feels right in my hand, is fun as can be, and I am able to get back on target remarkably fast, even while shooting .357. Your opinion may vary and I hope I have provided you with a very comprehensive and unbiased review of the firearm so that you may make your own decision. 

Now just for fun and to demonstrate the gun is far more accurate than I am, I thought I would provide you with a few targets showing its performance on the range. All targets showing .38 Special are 7 rounds while .357 are five shots. Ammunition used in test for .38 Special was Winchester White Box FMJ 130 grain and Hornady Critical Defense .357 Magnum 125 grain FTX. Target is 12 x 12 inches. All shots were in single action. 

.38 Special 7 Yards

.38 Special 25 Yards

.38 Special 50 Yards (not pretty but at 50 yards I will take it!)

.357 Magnum 7 Yards

.357 Magnum 15 Yards

.357 Magnum 25 Yards


Hiking Mount Slate Arizona

Monday, November 10, 2014 , 4 Comments

The original plan was to hike and summit Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona at 12,637 feet. However, an unexpected bout with kidney stone pain the day earlier, which had me curled up in the fetal position on the side of the road, left me wary of being too isolated. Thus my fiancee and I opted for a less demanding hike and after reading many reviews of mountain trails in the Flagstaff area choose Mount Slate. Located 37 miles north of Flagstaff in the Coconino Forest, Mount Slate has an elevation of 8,215 ft and is 4.4 miles roundtrip. To arrive at the trailhead take US 180 north and turn left at FR 191.

The trail itself it easy, well marked, and while the mountain itself is fairly unremarkable the view from the summit is well worth it and quite impressive. From the top, one is able to see Mount Humpfreys and the rest of the San Francisco peaks to the south, desert to the east and west, and far to the north the faint outline of the Grand Canyon. If you are looking for an easy mountain trail in the Flagstaff area that you can complete in a few hours and will be rewarded at the end with a beautiful view, than I would highly recommend Mount Slate. Below are some pictures, hope you enjoy and happy hiking.