Thursday, December 14, 2017

Plus 3 Division, A Simple Solution to MultiGun Division Problems

I call this division "Plus 3". Basically, take your Production baseline, and add 3 enhancements to it. In my opinion it makes no difference what those enhancements are. Let the competitor decide what's right for him rather than dumping him into a division he doesn't really belong in for running a completely practical piece of equipment. The issue with current MultiGun divisions is that they are more like a list of required equipment rather than a clearly distinguished division between common use equipment sets and associated costs. And essentially every division in MultiGun is a race equipment required division. You will need to be quad loading your shotgun which will require specific work done to the gun and shell carriers that no one else on Earth would ever employ outside of competition. You will need a custom pistol with all the goodies and a $3K 2011 would really be great, though $1,500 will get you by. You will need an AR with a trick BCG, buffer system and gas block. And I'm not describing the Open division.

cz master race, P09, slide mounted red dot, burris fastfire 3 primary machine custom
My P09 Plus 3 ready. Two enhancements.
This is the reason 2-Gun is getting a foothold around the country and outlaw matches of various types are as common as sanctioned matches. And, it's the reason there are many matches featuring one or just a few of the divisions within the USPSA rule book. I feel that a new evolution is lurking within the competitive shooting world - I don't know what it is but I believe it will have something to do with the divisions at the very least. As with anything that is in the process of evolving and maturing, there are going to be lots of ideas (read opinions) out there and little standardization. That comes with its own set of challenges of course. When Plus 3 found its way into my brain it was due to an effort to avoid the need for standardization, to make the division universal and applicable to any type of MultiGun match. Plus 3 could easily become Plus 5 if the need for more divisions arose. It could be used in 2-Gun or used in 3-Gun with little modification. It covers all of the common enhancements and makes them available to everyone while still creating clearly distinct divisions. I chose the number three because any combination of parts seem to fall neatly between Production and Tactical. It also leaves a few toys in Open where they belong. As with my last post where I talked about Production, I wanted to cover my reasoning behind Plus 3. To get a pdf of my divisions click here. Please feel free to implement my divisions at your own club and pass it around. I'd love to hear other thoughts and ideas.

In determining the Production division equipment there was a strong emphasis on the test questions and the equation among them. Is the item practical? Is the item in common use in the real world? Is there a cost barrier? Is there an overwhelming competitive advantage to the item? With Plus 3, the approach is completely different. Plus 3 is for people interested in useful, commonplace firearm enhancements without the shopping list known as Tactical or Open division. The big test question for Plus 3 is; does it follow and reflect trends in the firearm industry and community as a whole, or trends only found in the competition world? Keep in mind, you cannot have all of these enhancements, you may only choose 3 of them and you may use each one only once. The idea is to build upon the foundational division, Production.

Comps/Brakes: The bottom line is that they are here to stay, they have certain practical advantages and they don't present an overwhelming cost to advantage ratio. They are probably the first thing anyone sticks on the end of their rifle whether they need it or not. But, a comp gives you a pretty good advantage and only costs you one of your choices.

Mag Wells: In the Production post I mentioned that mag wells are becoming more and more commonplace across the board. My feeling is that the huge competition mag wells don't offer much advantage over the smaller, more practical versions, so guys who already run them on a carry gun are good to go. Typically they are easy to install and remove as well.

Red Dots: Totally practical and commonplace on both rifles (offset) and pistols (slide mounted). It's a huge trend in the pistol world across the board. It's not just an Open division competition thing anymore and Plus 3 offers the best solution for including slide-mounted red dots outside of Open. For this one feature alone, I believe Plus 3 would quickly become one of the most popular MultiGun divisions if implemented alongside the current divisions and attract many new shooters looking to employ a different flavor of gear. Requiring a slide-mounted dot supports the polymer framed pistol trend and leaves frame-mounted Open equipment in Open.

Mag Extensions: Very popular as a reload mag for concealed carry and seen in the holsters of law enforcement officers more and more. Why carry 17 rounds in the mag when you can carry 24? One of the smart moves by the sanctioning bodies was the mag length restriction. It created a standard, the industry has responded and the market loves it. Well done I say. It offers an excellent middle ground between Production and Open.

Rifle Enhancements: The sorts of BCG and Buffer system enhancements seen in competition are becoming more widely embraced by the industry which drives down costs, increases reliability and may eventually lead to standard equipment that's just plain better. However for now, they might not offer as much advantage as the price tag would suggest when you can only choose 3 enhancements.

Pistol Weight: There is nothing specifically impractical about metal framed guns in my eyes and I don't think they should be left to Limited/Tactical divisions. Competitors could run a Limited 2011 but would either have to make a couple changes or run a pretty basic AR in Plus 3. However, people who simply like Sig 226s or CZ 75 variants or other heavier pistols can still run them and likely face more similarly equipped competition. It's important to note that the weight of the pistol is determined prior to enhancements. That means, for example, if adding a mag well to the gun also adds weight it doesn't automatically force the weight enhancement as well.

Rifle Capacity: I see drums as perfectly practical equipment in theory, especially in a military setting. They've been ignored up until recently primarily because they didn't work and they were stupid expensive. Things have changed. They are far from necessary and far from providing an overwhelming competitive advantage but they might find some appeal at certain matches.

Bi-Pod: Because it's something of a grey area for the purposes of Production, it seems fitting to make it available in Plus 3. There may very well be scenarios in which a bi-pod might provide a significant advantage. It's certainly a practical item and should not be left to the Open division only.

Ultimately, I think slide-mounted red dots will probably rule in Plus 3 but in many ways, that's the point. It gives them a home outside of Open. I think comps and extended mags will likely be a toss up for the number two most popular enhancement. Although, I don't think I would choose a comp personally, on either gun. I'm going to say number three will be a toss up between metal framed pistols and tricked out rifle internals. But I'm going to bet most people will put more focus on the pistol than they will the rifle, generally speaking.

For clubs looking to emphasize practical equipment and minimize division complexity, Production and Plus 3 are probably all you need. One additional positive side effect of Plus 3 might be a rise in the use of rifle types other than the AR. But with all this said, I'm not entirely sure we wouldn't see people taking a totally different approach and tailoring their equipment to the match. That's the real beauty of Plus 3 in my mind. It is especially true for my Adventure MultiGun concept, which will be showing up in the next post and involves 2-man teams.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2-Gun Production Division Guiding Principles Part 1

Here is a link to my 2-Gun divisions, please feel free to implement them in your own club and report back your experiences with them. I wanted to make some posts explaining the reasoning behind the choices I have made in my divisions in more detail so here goes.

I would say the number one foundational key to my view of competitive shooting is the word "practical". The "P" in USPSA stands for practical and originally the founders of the various action shooting sports had practicality in mind. So the first thing I ask myself is; is this practical? However, "practical" - though it seems counter intuitive - is pretty subjective to define. One of the primary reasons I find it difficult or less than obvious to define "practical" in this context is that I believe action shooting sports should not be treated as tactical training. Tactics and shooting are certainly connected so how can shooting be practical without them? Well, my feeling is that a game should be a game, and the only good game is a fair game. Attempts to make the actions and scenarios realistic in a competitive environment result in arbitrary and subjective rules that cannot be equally applied to every competitor at every match. Fairness is often mistaken for accommodation, but they aren't the same thing at all. The goal of game design is to create equal opportunities with objective rules that are simple to apply. In my view it's no different from the US Constitution. The laws, or rules in this case, should be about treating everyone equally rather than forcing people to adhere to arbitrary mandates in order to accommodate the expectations of the game maker. The limits should be on the game maker as much as possible, not the competitor.

So the question becomes; what part of competition can and should be practical? I find that much easier to figure out and define clearly. The equipment is number one. Does it make sense or see common use among military, law enforcement and civilian self defense? Number two; are the targets or tasks required of the participant practical? It can be argued that just about any kind of shooting is useful for developing shooting skills and skills are always useful in the real world. This basic idea is shared among all games really. Board games that require critical thinking are useful to build critical thinking skills and those skills are applicable to just about all aspects of life. I'm all about this because I see competitive shooting as an exercise in developing practical skills. However, the targets military, law enforcement and civilians will encounter really only come in one average size. It's also pretty well known at what distances these targets will be engaged, and that they will probably be moving. This brings me to small targets at relatively long pistol distances like 20 or 30 yards, and gimmicky targets like the Texas star. I'm not arguing that the ability to hit them is not a practical skill. I even think they are fun to shoot occasionally. The issue I have with them is that they begin to overshadow more realistic targets and specifically benefit professional gamers. There are none of these trick targets that the pros don't figure out very quickly, and ultimately they are used in place of creative course design. Full-size IPSC paper or steel targets can be made difficult to shoot by obscuring part of them or making them move - both of which represent real world, practical challenges. Essentially, my point is that it isn't the skills which are impractical, but the skill level requirements and often the associated equipment. The equipment and skill requirements are directly correlated and trick targets drive trick, game oriented equipment and shooters. I wholeheartedly support trick shooting, just not when you are looking for at least some level of practicality. There are, and should be, other sports for a variety of shooting types.

Aside from the fact that gaming most likely isn't good training no matter how arbitrary you make your rules, I find it just plain annoying when game makers try it. I personally did not come to the match to watch people run a hundred yards, stand around reloading a shotgun, or move a kettle bell from some random position to another for absolutely no reason. Go to the gym if you want to work out. Why are we timing it? Training should be done in a training environment, and a shooting match isn't that.

But, going back to "equipment is number one"; it's more complicated than I let on. I am also a big believer that competitive shooting needs to do more to encourage new shooters. While it's a very fast growing sport, those of you who spend much time at club matches will know how many new faces come and ultimately go, never to be seen again. Without a baseline division for participants you automatically create a financial barrier to entry and MultiGun in my view, just doesn't have that necessary baseline. With a financial barrier, you put people at a competitive disadvantage, and ultimately turn them away. And at last THAT brings us to Production division. Get my rule sheet with the link at the top of the post to follow along.

Comps/Brakes: Getting rid of comps/brakes was easy. Are they practical? No. Done. I can hear you now. Wait! Yes they are to practical. Fine, let's dig into it. Do they have practical uses? Sure, they reduce recoil and muzzle climb and therefore make shooting easier. That's practical. OK, how do they stack up in the barrier to entry issue? They can be stupid expensive but they don't necessarily break the bank, so what is the balance of cost and useful advantage to the participant? Well the advantage, especially when pared with other modifications, is too great to be considered part of a baseline division. They give the competitor an edge and can be very expensive. Therefore, they're out. Suppressors are extremely practical in the real world, however the financial and technical barrier to entry is obvious. Budget restricted participants will be at a significant disadvantage against others running suppressors.

Mag Wells: Another pretty easy one. They were born out of competition, which automatically axes them from a true Production division. However, they aren't entirely impractical. More and more they are seen on carry guns and in the holsters of people protecting our nation. Those are often smaller than the silly things seen in competitive shooting and I feel like trying to invent some kind of size restriction is arbitrary and impossible to boot. Secondly, they don't provide a vast benefit to a budget restricted shooter and just add to the cost to play.

Iron Sights: I feel like this is obvious. Next.

Optics: This one is actually less obvious while simultaneously being totally obvious. Yeah, that makes no sense. The point of Production (and ok maybe I should change the name to Practical) is not to force people to use totally stripped down equipment. It's to strip out expensive competition driven equipment and allow people to be competitive with practical gear. The bottom line is that optics on a rifle is just a given. In the same way I dislike forcing people to buy equipment just to keep up, I won't force people to ignore widely available and useful equipment just to make life harder. There is a delicate balancing act going on with optics where money might = performance, but the affordable optic field is deep and wide and ever expanding. Irons are difficult enough that they deserve their own division, which is generally the case. It's a situation where allowing optics does more to level the playing field overall than prohibiting them would. Why have I lumped magnified and non-magnified optics together? Simple. The "Limited" division in USPSA MultiGun or any division that is no different from another save for the optic magnification, in my view, simply doesn't work. If one particular match requires a 400 yard shot and another doesn't have a shot over 100 yards, the non magnified optic is simply at a huge disadvantage one day, and a huge advantage the next day. There is no good solution to this problem and no reason a shooter wouldn't choose the right equipment for the situation in the real world.

Pistol Magazines: I hate USPSA Production division's 10 round capacity restriction. Magazine extensions are a silly price which in my view outweighs the growing popularity and practicality of them in the real world. But more importantly, that leaves a bunch of people in the middle with ACTUAL factory equipment that came in the box with their pistol. If one guy has 17 rounds and another has 18, there really isn't much advantage. So, flush fitting magazines is a requirement simple enough to enforce and prevents the purchase of ridiculously overpriced equipment in order to be competitive.

Duty-Style Gear: OK, maybe a little arbitrary, but USPSA has it covered. This one is simple in my eyes. Race holsters are silly, for any occasion.

Internal Rifle Mods: Bottom line, the rifle is easily one of the most expensive components of competitive gear and offer substantial advantage to those who have them tricked out for gaming. I left out gas blocks, why? Well, they are really only useful when coupled with lightened bolts and the like. I don't want people to have to mod a gun, or swap parts just to participate when it came from the factory with an adjustable gas block. I also left out triggers. Do they offer an advantage? Sure. Are they expensive? Yup. Will it be easy to enforce a trigger rule? Yeah, pretty damn hard and not worth the effort.

Pistol Weight Restriction: This one is easy. Virtually all of the guns listed on the NROI list at 32 ounces or less are polymer framed and less expensive. That weeds out the race guns while also creating a clear divide between Production and other divisions.

40 Round Rifle Mags: Maybe a head scratcher for some. In this case, they can provide a significant advantage to someone in say Tactical division but they are practical in the real world in my view, widely available, and inexpensive. Why not take that advantage away from others and level the playing field a little?

Bi-Pods: So in this case bi-pods are totally practical and widely used equipment. So we have to go to price. Well, they can be had pretty cheaply. Ok, so how about competitive advantage? Eh, in certain situations yes, in others not really. I think the bottom line here is; I really don't think MultiGun is the place for requiring or even promoting bi-pod use. It's just another expense and weight added to the gun that has limited application that I don't think interests Production division shooters. This is a situation where I think prohibiting them does more to level the playing field than allowing them.

Lasers: And I am really debating flashlights as well. Are lasers practical? Yeah I do believe so. Are they widely used equipment? I'd say yes and no. Honestly, I have no idea how practical they really are and I get the impression that a lot of other folks aren't sure either. However, I believe at this time they are somewhat specialized equipment and they are prohibited in most competitive environments so I err on the side of caution in this case and exclude them. At the end of the day MultiGun is about conventional equipment for the most part, and lasers just don't quite fit in. The potential advantage is significant enough that at the very least, they don't belong in a Production division.

I am having such a hard time with flashlights because when I ask myself the test questions, there is a really close balance. They are totally practical, though not necessarily useful in the middle of the day at a local match. So then the weight can actually be a benefit and used for the competitive advantage alone. They are or can be pretty expensive so there might be a budget issue there. But, because they are so widely used in daily life, even budget restricted competitors may own them and a single holster designed to accommodate the light. By prohibiting them I am forcing these guys to buy new stuff. I am leaning toward allowing them because I don't think the competitive advantage is great enough to worry about.

And there ya have it. If you are thinking about implementing something like this, it may help to understand my logic to compare it to your club's goals. Hopefully they make a lot of sense for you and your participants. Next post will cover the Plus 3 division.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2-Gun MultiGun Division Concept

Holy smokes it's been over a year since I posted. This is not a revival of my blog, this is just the only place on the net I have to really post something like this. Hopefully it will be an ongoing project, but you guys know how it is.

So, I've been intrigued by 2-Gun clubs for several years now. I never quite got into MultiGun (3-Gun) because of the shotgun, the shotgun reloading, and the overly gamed aspect of MultiGun in general. However, I have been shooting local 3-Gun matches every month all summer long, as well as Steel Challenge and USPSA pistol over the past and current winter. Gotta say, I'm already itching for more MultiGun but will have to wait until April when my club starts back up. However, my disinterest in the shotgun hasn't really waned over this period. Even earning myself a couple club match wins and top 5 spots using shell caddies and a borrowed 8-shot tube Benelli M1 against true Open equipment and quad loading Tac Ops shooters, I haven't succumbed to the gear addiction. Being the sort of person who is never satisfied - the driving force behind virtually all of my projects - I have decided to create my own game. Initially it seemed to me that to create a 2-Gun match it would have to be an outlaw match. But somewhat recently I discovered 3-Gun matches incorporating 2-Gun as a division. While there may be some obvious issues with this approach, it is certainly the simplest logistically, particularly at the club level.

Another primary issue I have with MultiGun is the lack of a base division onto which the others are built. There are really only two divisions in MultiGun and they are divided by virtually nothing, as evidenced by the 2017 Multigun Nationals where Tactical division shooters took the top two spots overall. Over Open shooters! No discredit to these guys as they are spectacular competitors. To address this I created two divisions; a Production division and one I call "Plus 3". The following is my outline for these divisions.

I encourage anyone reading this to feel free to incorporate these divisions into your own matches or suggest them to your local match organizers. I would love to hear all about the results.I'd also love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

PDF link. 
multigun, 3 gun, 2 gun, competition, uspsa, 3gn, 3 gun nation

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Council Tool Hudson Bay Project Pt.2

hudson bay axe
In Part 1 I took a look at the Hudson bay axe from Council Tool's standard line as it arrived to me. The purpose of the project was to get a Hudson Bay pattern axe because I didn't have one, make a new handle in the length I wanted, and then put together a sheath and sling combo similar to what Council offers. Part 1 also covered the creation of the handle from a Locust stump that a local tree service saved for me. There were probably 10 or so 35" staves in that stump, so I have plenty of material for future projects. What I didn't do was cover the creation of the sheath. I used to buy veg tanned tooling leather for these sorts of projects which is probably the way to go if you want all the control and an extra fine finished product. I now just buy finished oil tanned leather. Cut it out, make a welt if you are so inclined, glue and rivet it together, done. Stitch it if you are feeling extra ambitious. You won't get the finely finished edges that you can get with tooling leather, you are stuck with the colors and finishes you can find but honestly, the options are pretty deep and it's a good way to spend twenty bucks here and there to just get enough for the project at hand. If you want to be a master leather guru, this probably isn't the route to take, but if you just want a nice finished product but need to save a little time and spend a little less money, it's a good alternative. As you can see from the pics, I purchased the leather from different places at different times so the strap doesn't match the sheath. That's the case when you start with finished leather products. To wrap it up, all I do is rub in some Neatsfoot Oil, then go over it with Mink Oil and/or you could use some other kind of leather water proofing concoction.

bushcraft axe, camping, hudson bay, custom sheath
Moving on, this post is all about the finished product. I took the angle grinder and went to work on the areas where the flashing had been ground from the head at the factory. Obviously they use a very coarse grinding solution because it's fast, but it leaves rough marks and as was the case with my example, if the head was held out of square with the grinder, it probably only takes a second to take off too much. I trued up the grinds then took it to the belt grinder to clean up the angle grinder marks. I then used a cup brush on the angle grinder to remove the remaining black paint. What I discovered in the process is that the cup brush acts as a really gentle deburring tool that hides some of the belt grinder lines. I hadn't bothered to go too fine with the belt grinder - I used a half worn out 36 grit followed by a half worn out 80 grit. I wasn't looking for perfection, just a clean and tidy grind all around. I applied my own bevels here and there for some personality, then dunked it in vinegar for awhile just to get a uniform appearance. The bit needed some work. It had been ground unevenly at the heel and when you have to do a lot of work to the heel or toe portions of an axe, you are dealing with the thinnest areas where you have to be even more careful about the heat. With a jug of water at the ready I went to the 36 grit belt and began working the bit back to straight. If the steel doesn't get hot enough to burn you, it's nowhere near hot enough to impact the hardness of the steel and even going slow, this isn't a very time consuming process.

Enough talk, let's get to the finished product. The only complaint I have about my own work is that I should have paid better attention to the lines through my handle. I ended up with a slightly "closed" feel where the swell is somewhat forward of the tongue (the portion of the eye that passes through the axe head). This isn't much of an issue unless it's extreme but if you aren't critical of your work you won't improve, I figure.

bushcraft, hiking camping axe

hudson bay sheath and sling

custom handmade sheath and sling

odellstudios odell studios original content

Note the heel has hardly any edge bevel. This is where the factory had already removed too much steel.

But the heel on this side is ground further than the rest in an effort to straighten the edge.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Council Tool Hudson Bay Axe Project and Observations Pt.1

Like an awful lot of axe and outdoor enthusiasts today, the Hudson Bay pattern axe aesthetic catches my attention. While I do tend to find functionally lacking, but attractive looking objects to be flawed and therefore less appealing, I also believe firmly that beauty has a certain kind of functional necessity. With that said, like many popular things, the Hudson Bay pattern has begun to gather a cult following of consumers who view them through rose colored glasses. Soon the humble axe is imbued with mystical attributes, elevating it from good to infallible. Unfortunately, the prices of vintage Norlund, Collins or Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay heads have reached lofty heights in line with the perceptions now associated with them. I never personally found them to be as alluring as some people, but I am interested in axes and enjoy exploring different patterns and even tools from other countries of origin. After all, the axe has existed in some form in probably every culture on Earth and has a long and fascinating relationship with the development of human-kind. But I'm not sure I am interested at $70 or more and the associated bidding war on ebay to get one. Council Tool offers a Hudson Bay axe for about thirty or forty bucks with a handle. Of course there is the Velvicut line, and it gets all the attention, but their regular line is very budget friendly and I am happy to support an American company that works hard to bring affordable tools to the market. In fact, at that price, I really don't understand most of the other offshore produced options that are out there right now.

I am alluding to some inherent flaw with the Hudson Bay pattern that not everyone will be familiar with. I wouldn't necessarily call it flawed. When I look at the axe I see a design that resulted from an attempt to produce a simple, lighter weight multipurpose outdoors tool. It resembles a large tomahawk with a poll. It doesn't have the raised cheeks of a felling axe. For all intents and purposes it looks a little like someone took a full-size axe and whacked a big chuck out of it in order to lighten it up. The result is an easier to manufacture axe that's sufficient for the light duty tasks it was intended for. The shallow eye does not offer the kind of contact with the handle that a larger axe does and under heavy use there is the possibility of the head coming loose. What's more, the head is bit heavy and has a significantly different feel in the hand when compared to a true poll axe with perfect balance bit to poll. I don't know exactly what lead to the creation of the Hudson Bay axe, but it looks like a piece of square stock with the bit end mashed out and a hole drifted in for an eye. It seems cheap to produce. Somehow in the back of my mind I can't help but think that perhaps the truth has more to do with visual appeal than I am giving credit for. Attractive things sell.

But is there anything especially attractive about Council Tool's standard line of axes? Honestly, not really. The black paint strikes me as simultaneously superfluous and cheap. One has to consider the target audience while also looking at the paint slathered history of axes. I will say however, if you are going to use color to differentiate yourself on the shelf, black isn't the way to go. Even the specific angle at which the paint terminates before the edge seems odd to me. However, this is not a review of Councol's Hudson Bay axe, I just want to toss out some of my observations concerning the example I received.

I actually thought the handle that came on it was pretty well done. Overall the handle was appropriately thin, and while the swell wasn't generous, it was better than typical, especially in shape. Mine had excellent grain orientation all around and the handle was the most surprising feature. I'll let the pictures tell the story in detail but if I had to give a general opinion of this specific product I would break it into two parts. First, I don't think a 2lb head, especially the unbalanced Hudson bay pattern, is a good candidate for an 18" handle. It feels unwieldy when compared to a balanced hatchet of about the same weight and length. For someone who wants maximum heft but the shortest useful handle length, it works, but you'd be surprised what a couple inches can give you and stepping up to the 24" arena where the heavier HB was intended to be, it really becomes a multipurpose tool.

For the second part, I would say, yeah if it's what you want, go for the Council Tool. It's got some issues that we'll cover but what I see when I look at it is a simple basic tool made affordable and left a little rough so that you don't have to pay for the time spent making it pretty. Do I think Council could do a couple things differently and still keep it low cost? Yeah. If you're like me and you'd rather put in a little elbow grease yourself instead of paying someone else to do it, then it's a bargain.

axe mod, review, custom, handmade
Next to a Craftsman on a handle a couple inches longer and overall weight just 2 ounces heavier - 2lbs 10oz. A balanced poll axe and the extra length makes it feel far more nimble and even lighter in the hand. This Craftsman is for sale - contact me if you're interested. The haft is one I made from Ash, from tree to tool.

Uneven grinding leaves the head out of square.

The biggest issue is the uneven grind on the bit, putting a bend in the cutting edge.

I had no complaints about the hang. It was tight and well done.

 But you know what, I expected all of this. On a basic tool like this the handle is likely to be hit or miss and even when it's a miss, it may very well serve the user just fine. I expected rough grinding and a dull edge. I like the idea that I can get a basic tool because my intent is to put in a little sweat equity and make it nice. All I require is a good enough steel with an acceptable heat treat. The belt grinder and angle grinder can help me sort out the rest. Step one, before I even ordered the head, was to start roughing out a handle. I recently got a Locust stump from a tree service after borers had killed it. It was thornless so I hoped that it was a Black Locust. However, I believe it is probably a thornless hybrid Honey Locust. Does it make any difference? I have no idea. I moved forward with the project regardless.

bushcraft, outdoors, carving, hatchet

So the primary issue with my Locust was that it had a slight twist in it and really wide growth rings. Again, I have no idea if the size of the growth rings makes much difference on this particular species of wood, but if there is some bend in the grain, it's that much more difficult to keep the grain running the full length of the finished handle. Here you can see the bend in the grain but ultimately it worked out fine. I was able to keep most of the grain running throughout the handle.

I also set out to make a sling and sheath much like Council Tool offers, so we'll finish off this post with a shot of the head cleaned up, the handle ready for the final seating, wedge made, and sheath assembled. The head was just a matter of squaring up the grinds where the flashing had once been, then truing up the bit - slowly and carefully, with a water bucket at hand to keep things cool.