Awww geeze, not another blog!

Welcome to A Fine Blade!

This blog will focus one of my lifelong passions and one of man's most basic tools - the knife!

As time and events permit we'll tiptoe into other territory where we can use the knife as a metaphor in discussions about current events and have a little politically incorrect fun.

Because you see, knives rank just below guns as the most politically incorrect subject on the web today.

Guns & Knives = Bad. Gay Marriage & Recreational Drug Use = Good

We'll see if we can't have some fun with that.

So stay tuned, and welcome aboard!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Vietnam Birddog Memoir: My First Mission

Hey, look who's got a blog!

My good friend Bill, the guy who got me addicted to fly fishing, has decided to fire up his own blog to highlight his time as a Birddog pilot in Vietnam. Hop over to Bill's blog, have a read and leave him some feedback.


Vietnam Birddog Memoir: My First Mission: "Headhunter One-Four, cleared for takeoff.". The radio call from the control tower at Camp Holloway airfield was the authorization...

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Airweight Chronicles II

Beware weepy eyed nostalgia.

In the first installment of this saga I hinted that earlier incarnations of the S&W Airweights are better simply because they are older. Everybody knows older is better when it comes to revolvers (and knives, cars, airplanes, cameras, cowboy westerns and women, especially women).

A couple of days ago Bill and I went to the range to compare his venerable old Model 37 Airweight against my current production 642. I stepped up to the firing line absolutely convinced that Bill's Airweight would prove to be the much better shooter. After all, it was made back in the 70's when S&W still lavished lots of attention on these fine little revolvers.

A pair of Airweights: S&W Model 37 on the left, S&W Model 642 on the right

Boy was I wrong.

The 642 Airweight was a much better shooter. There really was no comparison. While both revolvers exhibited the same accuracy the 642 was much easier to manage and much more pleasant to shoot. This is only partly due to the trigger job I did on the 642. What surprised me was that the trigger on the much older Model 37 was just as heavy and stiff as the original trigger on my 642. But two other factors combine to make the Model 37 unpleasant to shoot. First is the trigger itself. The Model 37 sports a wide, serrated trigger. Combined with the stiff, heavy trigger pull this serrated trigger digs painfully into the trigger finger. By comparison the 642 trigger is narrower and has a smooth, rounded face that is much easier on the finger.

The next issue are the grips. I admit, the classic old checkered wooden grips on the Model 37 just look better. They look the way revolver grips should look. But while this style works well on larger (and heavier) revolvers, under the sharp recoil of this light little snubbie the checkering digs painfully into the palm of the hand. Combine the grips and the wide, serrated trigger and the overall shooting experience is one of pain. The Model 37 is simply too uncomfortable to shoot beyond one or two cylinders full of weak range loads. By comparison the 642's fat rubber grips provide a better purchase on the revolver, making it much more comfortable to hold on to under recoil. Weak range ammo is fun to shoot and stout self defense loads, while not exactly pleasurable, are manageable and don't tear up your shooting hand.

S&W's Airweights have only gotten better with age. My favorite snubbie with my favorite coffee mug!

But the news is not all bad. Many of the Model 37's issues are easily addressed. Bill already has some Uncle Mike's boot grips on the way to replace the factory wooden stocks. The obscenely heavy trigger pull can be easily overcome with a simple trigger job. The trigger itself can be switched out, but the additional cost may not be worth it; with the new grips and trigger job Bill's little revolver should be much better behaved.

There's a lot of pontificating on the internet about how the earlier Airweights were much better pistols than the ones currently being manufactured. In particular, a lot of folks sing the praises of the 'pre-lock' models (the revolvers made before S&W incorporated the silly safety lock into the side of the frame) over the current series. Well, based on my limited sample set I have to say that the pontificators are full of bull. In my opinion the current production Airweights are better pistols. They have stronger +P-rated frames, they come with a better trigger and grips and the fit and finish is outstanding. Yes the trigger pull on the current Airweights is unacceptably heavy, but so are the trigger pulls on the vintage Airweights.

You gain no real advantage buying an older Airweight; the current production models are simply better.

Stay sharp!

- Brian

Friday, May 1, 2015

Keeping Time

Let's wander off the reservation a bit and talk about watches.

I'm a traditionalist. I like my guns to have cylinders that rotate. I like my knives to be made of steel and leather. And I like my time pieces to be all mechanical.

Now, I'm no Luddite. The folding knife in my pocket has synthetic handle scales, I own a lot of Glocks (the original 'Tactical Tupperware'), and the watch I wear most often has a quartz movement.

But show me a traditional Colt Single Action Army, or a Randall Model 1 with a stacked leather handle or an Omega Speedmaster and my heart will skip a beat or two. But alas, I can't afford a Colt Single Action, the wait time for a Randall likely exceeds the time I have left on this earth and my wife would kill me if she spotted a Speedmaster on my wrist. So I make do the best I can. Ruger Blackhawks, some nice Ka-Bars, and for wrist watches a Seiko diver or two.

Today we'll talk about Seiko Divers, and in particular the rugged, almost bomb-proof Model SKX009.

Seiko SKX009

I've owned several Seiko dive watches down through the years. The first one, a gift from my wife back around 1985, was Seiko's earlier 6309 model. She bought it for me from the Post Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany when I was assigned to the US V Corps HQ. I was thrilled. I had my 'high end' diver. At a time when you could pick up a plain-jane Rolex Oyster through the PX system for about $700 this Seiko was a bit pricey at something like $200. Two hundred bucks was a lot of money to us in those days (particularly with a new baby) and I really appreciated her gift.

Seiko 6309 circa 1980

The 6309 became my daily wear piece. I doubt I took it off even to shower. It got banged up in the normal course of my military duties, the original band ended up being replaced several times over and then one day about five years after Roberta gave it to me it just stopped running. I had a local watch repair shop take a look at it and they reported the bad news - one of the seals had failed, water had leaked into the movement and rusted everything up. The cost of repair exceeded the value of the watch so I just tossed it and moved on.

For a few years I got pulled over to the dark side, aka, Casio G-Shocks. The G-Shock line came out at about the same time my Seiko died. The military fell in love with the G-Shocks. They were inexpensive, rugged and as accurate as a Swiss chronometer. In fact, I've been told that the Air Force began issuing them to their flight crews and para-rescue personnel. The best part was (from a budget perspective) that they were so cheap they were considered expendable. When they stopped working (usually because the battery died) you just threw them away and issued a replacement.

I own a number of Casio G-Shocks. They are all wonderfully accurate (particularly the ones that sync with the atomic time signal from Fort Collins, Colorado). But they are machines without a soul - overly complex, often difficult to read, gimmicky and difficult to use. When the manufacturer has to provide a 20 page instruction manual that's your clue that the gimmicks have overwhelmed the basic functionality.

I need a watch to do two things - display accurate time in a format that is intuitive and easy to read under all conditions and provide a tool for simple timing tasks, like tracking how long the steaks have been on the grill. With its rotating timing bezel the Seiko diver watch accomplishes these tasks with a healthy dose of manly panache.

Let's keep it simple. I like guns with cylinders that rotate, knives with wooden handles and watches
with mechanical guts

But I'm under no allusions; the Seiko SKX009 is no Swiss chronometer, or even close to it. While the quality of materials and construction is very high the movement that Seiko puts into these watches offers only middling accuracy and limited features. The Seiko 7s26 movement is a watch movement born of compromise, designed for ease of automated production, ease of service and ruggedness. These movements can be accurate, and I've got watches that use this movement that can hold to less than 20 seconds/day, but I've got other watches using the same movement that struggle to hold to a minute a day. By comparison I have a watch that sells in the same price range as the Seiko SBX009 that uses an analogue quartz movement and it holds to 15 seconds per month.

The 7s26 movement with the winding rotor removed.
Seiko manufactures these by the tens of thousands each year,
Keep in mind that the movement is less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
and most of the production is done by robots!

The 7s26 is a 21-jewel automatic movement, meaning it is self winding, but it lacks the ability to hand wind the mainspring and it lacks a hacking feature. Hacking is when you pull out the main (winding) stem and the second hand stops. This feature is extremely useful when you want to synchronize your watch with another time piece to gauge its accuracy.

So, it's a 'good enough' movement. How about the rest of the watch? Well this is really where Seiko shines. Seiko is rightfully proud of its SKX-series of watches and that shows in the overall quality of construction of these time pieces. Polished stainless steel cases, screw-down case backs and crowns with waterproof seals, extremely bright luminescent paint on the watch dial, high quality stainless steel or rubber watch bands and ISO certified water resistance down to 200 feet. These watches are rugged and slick looking little beasts.

It's been beaten up, beaten on and neglected. And it's still ready to go!

Seiko knows it has a winner on its hands and dresses its Diver line up in a wide variety of dial, hand, bezel and strap combinations. This drives collectors mad, but that's the whole idea. There is an incredibly strong collector market for modern and vintage Seiko diver models that spans the globe, fueled by folks who are captivated by the concept of a relatively inexpensive, rugged and good looking diving watch that offers outstanding service and value.

I think that describes me...

Stay sharp!

- Brian