Chemistry experiments

This last week, for the first time since 2005, I had both an idea for increasing the sensitivity of Boomerite and the inclination to test it. Son-in-law Caleb was eager to go with me and we planned an experiment which I hoped would reduce the activation energy to get detonation. Tim also expressed an interest so on Saturday I loaded up the car with a lunch and my test tools (a chronograph and a Ruger 10/22).

Caleb wasn’t feeling well but Tim went with me and we performed a bunch of experiments. We mixed up the standard mix for a control and got the expected results. The next mix demonstrated that my “great idea” was a total bust. It was still morning and the entire series of experiments I had planned was pointless. I looked around on the “top shelf” in the Taj and saw something I hadn’t tested in the mix before-sulfur. So we first added 20 grams of sulfur to a batch of Boomerite. It seemed to help.

We added 40 grams and it was definitely more sensitive.

We added 80 grams and it didn’t seem to make much, if any, difference from the 40 grams.

We mixed up a batch for storage testing and locked it in the magazine for safe keeping.

After arriving home that night, just as I drove in the driveway I remembered why I had never done those tests with sulfur before. Even minor impurities of sulfur mixed with potassium chlorate and moisture can cause a runaway reaction resulting in a fire. Spontaneous combustion of explosives just sounds so wrong. And I had forgotten that.

I rationalized that it was cold (near freezing) and that lack of moisture in the zip-lock bags probably would keep the Taj Mahal from going up in flames before morning and I was able to get some sleep.

The next morning (yesterday) Barb and I drove the hour out to the site, removed the five pounds of “New Boomerite” from the storage magazine and burned it.

Well, at least Tim and I had a little bit of fun converting money into noise.

Barb says she married a rock star

On Friday I was in the local Safeway store when from across the produce department someone caught my eye and called out, “You’re Joe Huffman, right?”

I sort of recognized him. I had bumped into him numerous times at the Seattle airport back in the late 90s when I was flying back and forth to/from Redmond/Moscow (ID). Tim lived in San Francisco then but had gone to college at the University of Idaho and his girlfriend was still there. So he frequently spent a weekend in Moscow with her and would take the same flight on the same small plane from Seattle to Moscow that I did. We had another common connection in that his buddy Seth that he went to high school and college with was then his roommate in San Francisco had worked for me when he was in college at the U of I.

Tim told me he would love to do some Boomershoot stuff sometime and if I ever wanted some help to let him know. I told him that I was thinking about going out on Saturday to do some tests and he would be welcome to come along. He sounded very interested.

Later in the day I was hitting up all the places that sold ammo in town looking for some CCI Stinger ammo. I use that for testing of the sensitivity of Boomerite. By moving closer or farther away I can adjust the impact velocity at the target and determine if the mixture is more or less sensitive that other mixtures I have used. At one of the stores I was asked what I was looking for and I told him. He said he was sorry but they didn’t have any. Would one of the other products they had work instead? I told him no, I needed some very high velocity stuff. “What are you trying to kill?”, he asked.

[heavy sigh]

Do I tell him the truth or avoid the question? This has happened so many times. Buying 15 boxes of zip locked bags, or a 50 pound sack of stuff at Costco can make people curious and I always worry they won’t want to sell to me or they will call the cops and I’ll spend an hour or five explaining to them.

I told him the truth and his eyes got big and instead of backing away he said, “Are you the Boomershoot guy?” I confirmed it and he introduced himself, shook my hand, and told me how pleased he was to meet me.

I went home and told Barb that two people in one day recognized me. With a big smile on her face she said, “I’m married to a rock star.”

Somehow I was under the impression rock stars had more groupies. I’d put some effort into increasing the number but I’m afraid the number would drop from one to zero at the first indication I was making the attempt.

Another step closer?

One of my fantasies is to be able to make Boomershoot targets completely out of very simple and easy to obtain materials. For a while I was essentially there. I could get ammonium nitrate by going over to the local fertilizer plant with the truck and telling them to “fill ‘er up” and they would dump in as many tons as the truck would hold and I could pay for. The potassium chlorate was a little harder but with just my drivers license I could get that mail order without hassles. The rest could be obtained at the grocery store or Wal-Mart. Then ammonium nitrate started getting difficult to get. I had to use the leverage of my ATF type 20 license to manufacture high explosives to get my last batch of AN. And in the quantities of potassium chlorate we consume the suppliers require the ATF license as well.

But there might be something else as possible replacements.

They are making rocket fuel out of aluminum and ice:

Researchers are using aluminum and frozen water to make a propellant that could allow rockets to refuel on the moon or even Mars.

Last week researchers from Purdue and Penn State University launched a rocket that uses an unconventional propellant: aluminum-ice. The fuel mix, dubbed ALICE, is made of nano-aluminum powder and frozen water, and gets its thrust from the chemical reaction between the ingredients. The propellant is environmentally friendly, and it could perhaps allow spacecraft to refuel at locations like the moon, where water has been discovered.

That is majorerly cool from the standpoint of rocketry and space travel. But it also has implications for Boomershoot. Any high energy compound or mixture has the potential to be an explosive. Rocket fuel in particular is interesting because, like explosives, it contains both a fuel and an oxidizer.

Nano-aluminum powder might be tough to make but the precursor components of that particular mixture sure are going to be easy.

Quote of the day–Steve S.

The world is what it is. A planet full of mostly kind and compassionate peoples but unfortunately there are also a minority of sociopathic murderers who walk among us, acting like rabid dogs. They go by different names be it Jihadist, terrorist or just plain psychotic killer … and they’re one of the reasons we carry handguns.

Steve S.
November 30, 2009
wa-ccw · Washington State Concealed Weapons Discussion
In a discussion about the shooting of four police officers in Pierce County Washington yesterday.


From Canada:

It would seem that Canadian opinion on gun control and registration is divided quite clearly between city and country.

Perhaps the solution lies in the old western movies we used to watch as kids.

It was very common for the sheriff to have a rule that when the cowboys came to town, they had to leave their guns at the sheriff’s office.

I wonder if some form of that idea would not provide a mutually acceptable solution today? Perhaps municipalities could have the option of requiring that guns be registered and stored at police stations in town while rural folk would be free to keep them in their homes?

The feds would still run the registry which they will be doing for handguns anyway. Municipalities could opt in or out depending on the wishes of the majority of their citizens.


I’m all for finding mutually acceptable compromises on divisive issues but this just doesn’t make sense to me. Given that this is Canada I’ll just ignore the fact that the government doesn’t guarantee it’s citizens it won’t infringe upon this inalienable right.

The only rational reason I can think of for demanding people turn over their guns as they enter town is because of some mistaken belief that it will make people safer. So, apparently Cadogan believes people that would commit criminal acts or have careless accidents with those firearms are going to obey the law to turn their gun over to local law enforcement as they enter the city limits. If they believe a law requiring they leave their guns at the city limits will stop criminals from using guns when they commit crimes they why don’t the laws against the criminal acts prevent the acts from being committed to begin with? It’s already illegal but somehow making it “more illegal” changes things in their minds. I can only attribute this type of belief to some sort of mental problem.

Don’t think for a minute that that Cadogan is an anomaly. Remember what Bill Clinton said:

I’m not at all sure that even a callous, irresponsible drug dealer with a 6-year-old in the house wouldn’t leave a child trigger lock on a stolen gun.

If it’s not a mental problem then they must have some other motivation. What is that motivation? Do they believe the average person is so stupid to not notice what they are proposing is nonsensical? I think this might have been the case 20 or more years ago. Communication was not nearly as good and the Internet has made a dramatic improvement in the ability to expose stupidity and maliciousness. These days people like Cadogan, mikeb302000, Sarah Ibarruri (and here), and Maria Cramer are easily and quickly shown to be fools. So after they have been slapped down dozens or even a hundred times why do they keep trying the same type of foolishness?

There is a plausible explanation for politicians who advocate firearms restrictions. It increases their power and/or decreases the risks if they decide to go on a genocidal rampage.

But why do rather ordinary people do this? I keep coming back to mental problems.

Update: elmo_iscariot asks essentially the same question and proposes an answer.

Update2: Don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out why. In the big scheme of things it’s not really that important. As I have said before it’s just important that we defeat them.

Quote of the day–NRA-ILA

You would think that someone who can spend $200 million of his own money to get elected mayor of New York City three times could afford copies of the U.S. Code and the Constitution. Not only does federal law stipulate the specific grounds for denying a person the right to arms, the Fourteenth Amendment states that no one shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law.

And while he is at it, he could buy a copy of another well-known publication, Webster’s Dictionary, and look up the word “obsession.”

November 26, 2009
Bloomberg Uses Ft. Hood Murders To Push Gun Control
Referring to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his probably illegal acts discriminating against gun owners.
[One does have to wonder about his motivation for attacking gun owners. Surely he knows there is no evidence showing firearm restrictions makes people safer. So what is his real reason? Does it further his political career that much? Is it because he can use the issue to get more new coverage and feed some narcissistic tendency?–Joe]

Optimist or pessimist?

I made a sarcastic comment at Snowflakes in Hell and Bitter came back with this comment:

Joe, you’ve hit upon the next biggest factor making me question kids. Seriously, I don’t know that I want to bring kids into the picture if they are going to live in a mostly government-controlled world. I realize that this country has survived many other changes in the past, and many other generations have survived well enough. But if we’re headed toward the government taking over even larger chunks of the economy, I’m not sure I’d be bringing kids into a better life than I enjoyed. And that just doesn’t seem right.

I understand her point but there is more than one way to view the problem.

Another way to view it is that sort of attitude is creating the problem. See the movie Idiocracy (wonderful premise, good start, but a poor movie overall) for an extreme view of this type of thing taken to the limit.

By tweaking the premise in Idiocracy just a bit one can hypothesis that high reproduction rates by those that believe government should provide “everything for free” will likely result in a cultural, if not genetic, disposition toward more dependency on and expectation of government control of the economy and personal lives. Low reproduction rates by those that believe in and desire freedom will exacerbate the problem. A slightly modified version of this argument is what Barb successfully used on me to convince me to have a third child. That is why we sometimes call Xenia our gift to the world.

But what of the individual? If freedom loving people are but a small minority of the population won’t their lives be miserable? Not necessarily.

It depends on what the outcome is during their lifetime. If it is George Orwell’s 1984 then I would agree with that point. But governments have a history of collapsing. Especially socialist and totalitarian governments. Food shortages, riots, and the break down of infrastructure favor intelligent and freedom loving people. My model of the world is that, ultimately, stupidity is self-correcting. And massive government intervention in the free market and free society is self correcting because it is so stupid. Those people demanding that government supply their every need and want will have higher death rates than those that are self-motivated and value freedom. It may be that within our or our children’s lifetimes the freedom loving minority will become the majority essentially overnight because of the much higher death rates among the anti-freedom people as society collapses. Even if they do not become the majority in actual numbers they may have the majority of power. This is analogous to the U.S. being the world’s sole super-power with just a small minority of the planets population. And that power came about for the same reason that I hypothesize it could happen again in a different context–because freedom creates prosperity and prosperity enables power.

If that comes about then those freedom loving people will be in a position to take over the world. It will be with an anti-freedom lesson extremely fresh in their minds that they form the next governments and economic systems.

I don’t know what will happen. We have never had a situation like this before. In the past there was always someplace new to live. The east coast of North America then migration to California and “The Oregon Territories” provided freedom for millions in the last 300 years. But the “New World” is now occupied by parasites that crave security more than freedom and ensure everyone will receive neither. Where can we move next and escape our oppressors? Antarctica, the ocean floor, and space all appear to be such harsh environments that economic prosperity would be difficult or impossible. This may mean we can do no more than wait for the parasites to starve, riot, and burn themselves out.

I don’t know if freedom has a chance of surviving and rising from the ashes and mankind will finally learn the lesson of why freedom is essential. But I do know that if we do not have children and raise them to value freedom then freedom will most likely be extinguished.

It boils down to “Are you an optimist or a pessimist?” The pessimist is more often right because they can easily fulfill their expectations. The optimist may be wrong more often but progress, prosperity, and happiness are always the products of optimists and never that of pessimists.

Which are you?

Liberty stickers

I received an email with a link to There are so many good ones it’s hard to choose but here are some of my favorites.

Note to family–I don’t put bumper stickers on my vehicles so don’t buy me any of these as a Christmas gift.

In quasi alphabetic order except for the first one which is so Kevin will be more likely to notice it.

Quote of the day–Sarah Ibarruri

Oh yeah? 100% of those killed with firearms were saved by no one using firearms.

Sarah Ibarruri
November 24, 2009
In comments to Why would any one in their right mind be against strict gun control?
[If she thinks this passes as a rational argument then as I said yesterday–she has mental problems.–Joe]

Boomershoot Wi-Fi working again

It turns out the external antenna isn’t working. It could be a bad connection or cable. I just don’t know for certain. I switched to the internal antenna on the station at the Taj and I got everything working. This probably will reduce the coverage at the shooting line but I can work on the external antenna problems some other time. Like next spring when the weather is a little warmer. Currently it’s 36 F and my fingers are cold. And if I am going to be replacing cables I want to have warm enough weather than the rubber tape I use to seal everything up with will stick and be pliable.

I also mortared the concrete blocks for the “throne” into place.

I think I’m done with all the maintenance I want to do here. The next trip out will probably be to do some Boomerite mixture testing. If the weather is good perhaps son-in-law Caleb and I will come out on Saturday.

My Appliances are in Heat

That is to say, they’re inside the heated space in my home and it’s heating season.  I can therefore use them all I want, or leave them on when I’m not using them, and it costs me nothing in energy use.  I wrote about this a while back, and Say Uncle has a post that touches on the subject.

There are some qualifiers though.  A dishwasher dumps warm water outside the heated space, as does a clothes washer.  A dryer dumps hot air outside the heated space too, but you can leave your television or oven on all day and it costs you no extra energy useage.  If the appliances or the incandescent lights aren’t heating your home, the furnace takes over and uses that same amount of energy anyway.  I submit that using the appliances more may actually save energy.  Here’s how I got there; at least in my case, the furnace ducts are under the house, outside the heated space.  Some of the losses from that extra-hot air running through the ducts under the house might be avoided by keeping the heat generation all inside the house.  There was also a chapter in my college physics book that explained how inductive loads may be getting you some free energy, because of the way the metering works.  I forget how that happens, but if it’s true then over-use of motors and transformers (florescent lights or anything that uses a power supply transformer) as opposed to relying more on the resistive loads in your electric furnace may be saving on your energy bill.  Though that particular difference would be very small for a single home, IIRC the physics book says that this difference, this un-billed energy, is significant on a large scale.

If you want to save energy this heating season, using CF bulbs, turning off your lights, and using super efficient appliances (with the above caveats) isn’t the way to do it.  Not during the heating season.  Tightening up the house, adding insulation, using a heat recovery system on your dryer vent, etc., using less hot water (assuming that water’s being dumped outside the heated space) or turning down the thermostat, will save energy.  Otherwise, don’t let ignorance and simplistic thinking influence your lifestyle.

Someone mentioned last time that some of the light from your evil incandescents (or any other lights) is being lost through your windows.  True, but the visible light is a small fraction of the total output unless you’re using LEDs.  In any case it’s the energy you don’t see that’s being lost in far greater quantity through your windows, and that loss takes place whether or not your lights are on.  Use double or triple panes, and close your blinds at night.  We use opaque (to visible and IR) venetian blinds.  My friend, who I helped build a house on the Yukon/Kuskokwim delta, had a large, triple pane picture window with an insulated door that swung down from the ceiling and had magnetic seals like a refrigerator door.  The house also has 18″ to 24″ of insulation in the walls and floor (double framed) and more in the ceiling.  We had to insulate the house from the tundra underneath too, to keep the tundra from thawing in summer.  That was an interesting project, but now I have digressed.

At least they got the headline right

In an article describing Bloomberg’s latest attempts at infringing upon a specific enumerated right they gave the article the headline “Bloomberg Keeps Spotlight on Illegal Gun Control”.

I have to wonder if that was just sloppy writing or if it was a deliberate pun to subtly point out what he is proposing is probably unconstitutional.

I’m inclined to think it was just sloppy writing but these are professionals with layers of editorial oversight.


Quote of the day–Sarah Ibarruri

If you found that amusing, you don’t need to explain anything else about why you are obsessed with guns. I think you’ve explained it all.

If you didn’t, then you wouldn’t find guns amusing and fun. You’d admit that being obsessed with contraptions whose purpose is to murder, is not an amusement or a fun activity.

Sarah Ibarruri
November 24, 2009
In comments to Why would any one in their right mind be against strict gun control? (and here).
[And that is what they think of you. They believe the purpose of guns is to murder (I guess that is why the police carry them). They believe anyone who desires to own guns has a desire to murder. And that is why they think it is acceptable to have men with guns (the government) prevent you from possessing a gun.

It is my belief she has mental problems.–Joe]

Brady brief in McDonald v. Chicago

I just finished a quick reading of the Brady brief in McDonald v. Chicago. The short answer as to the question, “What are they up to?” is:

This Court should conclude that regulations of firearms are not subject to strict scrutiny, but instead are subject to a deferential, reasonableness standard of review.

They have apparently concluded McDonald et. al. will win and are trying to minimize the damage to their goals.

What I find most interesting is this:

The policy implications of such a ruling could be devastating, given the demonstrated success of reasonable state and federal gun laws in reducing the use of guns in crime and saving lives. Reasonable gun laws such as licensing for gun dealers and owners, registration, background checks, and safe storage laws have been associated with reduced risk of gun deaths and criminal access to guns.

Contrast that with this:

I am not arguing here that higher rates of gun ownership cause higher rates of crime, violent crime, or homicide. Such causation is difficult to show because so many other factors bear on the incidence of crime. For instance, simple cross-national comparisons of gun availability and crime do not control for the degree to which various countries impose legal restrictions on firearms. It also is difficult to sort out whether high levels of gun ownership lead to high crime rates or whether high crime rates lead to high levels of gun ownership.

Dennis A. Henigan
Vice President for Law and Policy at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Founder of its Legal Action Project.
Lethal Logic: Exploding the Myths That Paralyze American Gun Policy, page 107.

On one hand the Brady Campaign claims the thousands of restrictions on gun ownership have “demonstrated success” but they also claim they don’t, or perhaps can’t, know if high gun ownership rates cause crime. And of course their “demonstrated success” stories are highly contested. Even the CDC says, “Evidence was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of any of these laws.”

As usual, it’s half truths that give them traction.

Update: Sebastian points out more half-truths that are far more substantive than my find.

Dr. Strangelove is alive!

As Sebastian reported yesterday it appears we may have another major attack on our gun rights coming up. I’m of the opinion our allies in D.C. should suggest amendments to the bill to include terrorist list checks before people are allowed to become members of a religion, or maybe in a different political climate before being allowed to not have a religion. And of course, since ideas are more powerful than guns they should take the advice of Joseph Stalin and check their lists before allowing people to express their ideas as well. 

Given that Stalin and the former Soviet Union are now drawn into this I can point out that Dr. Strangelove is apparently alive and is now contributing to the war on the other side. The enemies of freedom are now claiming the U.S. government needs to Close the Terror Gap.

I think Strangelove’s “mine shaft gap” made more sense.

Zero tolerance

As reported by Kevin, Say Uncle, Sebastian, Dave Workman, and probably others there was “Another victory for zero tolerance” (as Workman said it) recently. A kid was suspended from school for following the rules. Or just as accurately the principal did not follow the rules and punished a kid.

I could say a whole lot about this but ten years ago Fritz Sands said it sufficiently well in two sentences that ten paragraphs by me would be wasted effort.

Quote of the day–Ben Franklin

If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worthy reading,
Or do things worth the writing.

Ben Franklin
[Or both.

Boomershoot, this blog, the software I have written (some used by 100s of millions), the hardware I have designed (10s of thousands of units shipped), and my children are my attempts.–Joe]

What they really want

I find it interesting that pro-gun people have heated internal debates about the NRA being “too soft” or GOA being ineffective, etc.

It turns out the anti-gun people have similar problems and internal debates. Dennis Henigan from The Brady Campaign, devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 3: “But What You Really Want …”) in his book Lethal Logic. In part he complains the VPC (see pages 79, 80, and note 9) causes them problems because their advocacy of total handgun bans can be effectively cited as evidence that a “slippery slope argument” is valid. Henigan claims the Brady Campaign does not advocate a total ban on handguns. I will give him the point that Pete Shields (chair of the National Council to Control Handguns, which later became Handgun Control, Inc., which later became the Brady Campaign) saying in 1979 that the ultimate goal was banning handguns is insufficient evidence that the present day goal is the same as it was 30 years ago.

This doesn’t explain why they supported the ban on guns in Washington D.C. But it may explain why they are filing a brief in support of neither party in the Chicago Gun Case.

But if the Brady Campaign wants to appear as moderates and neutralize the slippery slope argument they need to reign in some of their allies. Case in point is what is being said in California about Jerry Brown filing a brief in the Chicago case arguing the 2nd Amendment should be incorporated:

In July, before the court agreed to take the case, Brown went so far as to file his own friend-of-the-court brief asking that Chicago’s gun ban be overturned – arguing that if the court doesn’t act, “California citizens could be deprived of the constitutional right to possess handguns in their homes.”

His stance has angered a number of gun control proponents.

Julie Leftwich, legal director of Legal Community Against Violence, said this isn’t simply about Brown defending the Second Amendment – it also marks a dramatic turnabout from the administration of his Democratic predecessor, Bill Lockyer, a staunch gun control advocate.

“Jerry Brown hasn’t shown leadership in the legislative arena related to the issue of gun violence prevention … and he hasn’t sponsored or weighed in on any significant gun bills,” Leftwich told The Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci.

It’s possible Leftwich hasn’t read Brown’s brief (I haven’t either) but if the article cited above is correct then Brown is merely trying to protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms in their homes. Leftwich apparently is opposed to this. Has the Brady Campaign contacted Leftwich and company to asked them to tone it down? She’s hurting their cause, right? If they haven’t then their silence is very telling.

Even if the Brady Campaign leadership is opposed to the banning of handguns and they only want “reasonable regulations” they risk making themselves obsolete if they were to get everything they want. At that time they would have to either adopt new, more extreme goals, or existing “extremists” such as the VPC and company will rise to power in their place.

This is the reason why the Brady Campaign’s claim of the Heller decision will make gun control legislation easier is false.* In essence the “slippery slope argument” was working and if that end goal was unobtainable they believed they could make progress toward something that, only coincidentally, was in the same direction (such as gun registration). But those extremists will always exist. If the Brady’s were to fall from power because of near complete success in their present goal either they would change their goals or others would fill the power vacuum. Hence the “slippery slope argument” will always be valid.

*Alan Gottlieb recently told me this in a single, somewhat obscure, sentence. But I didn’t immediately understand what he was saying. It took a number of days before I figured out the essence of his insight.