Thursday, August 9, 2012

PRIMER - The Blood Dancers: "Why do you need an "assault" weapon for hunting?"

In the wake of the Aurora shootings, the media bombarded the public with pictures of the "menacing" AR-15 rifle, and stories about why it shouldn't be allowed in the hands of citizens. It's an argument that I've heard over and over again; we should ban weapons that have no "sporting purpose."  The gun grabbers (reluctantly) concede that guns should only be used for sport, and gun "X" isn't suitable for sport, so no one should have gun "X".  Next week, substitute gun "Y", and continue this pattern until the list is down to five guns or so that they will magnanimously "allow" you to own.

Like most arguments that the blood dancers fall back upon, it starts with a fallacious concept...that somehow, the laws only recognize guns as legitimate for hunting or target practice.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  The Constitution specifically refers to the right to bear arms being recognized as necessary for the militia, which constitutes "...the people themselves, ... all men capable of bearing arms..." Militia weapons are military weapons, because the purpose of the militia is not hunting.

So, yes, regardless of what you think of it, the Constitution does allow for people to own military style weapons.  But, let's assume for a moment that there IS some "sporting purpose clause" that doesn't allow any gun that can't be used for hunting.  "Wow, things would be different," you might be tempted to say.  "No one would ever get shot again. People would sing and get along.  Birds would land on your shoulder every day.  Unicorns would poop jellybeans on your doorstep."

Pay no attention to the fact that we had an assault weapons ban at one time from 1994-2004 and it failed to prevent the Jonesboro shooting in 1998 and the Columbine shooting in 1999, along with a few others. This time, it will work!

But even if the blood dancers were intellectually honest and decided to ban ONLY "assault" weapons that had no sporting purpose, what would the display cases at the gun stores look like?  The short answer is: much the way they look today, but again, only if they could be trusted to remain intellectually honest.  Why?  Because many of the so-called "assault weapons" not only can be used for sport, but many, many are already used for sport. 

"But everyone agrees that you don't need an AK-47 to go hunting!"  Dismissing the fact that taking firearms advice from someone who wants to ban guns is like taking fire extinguisher advice from an arsonist, I can only say, "Yes, in fact, some ALREADY use an AK-47 to go hunting".  The truth is, the AK-47 can actually be an excellent rifle for deer or other medium sized game, dependent upon several factors. None of those factors would necessitate any changes to the gun.

Most AK-47 type rifles fire one particular type of round, known as "7.62x39", in the nomenclature that the Russian makers of ammunition use to denote their caliber.  What this means in layman's terms is that the round is 7.62 mm in diameter, and the entire shell casing is 39 mm long.  If you think of 39 mm, you're not talking about a big object...just 1.5 inches. It doesn't sound like a very powerful round, because it isn't.  In fact, it's American counterpart is considered the .30-30, which is very similar in size and power, that is to say, small size and low power. Nevertheless, the .30-30 (and by extension, the 7.62x39) is an ideal cartridge for deer.

But how does either stack up to a .30-06, a classic caliber that even non-gun owners have probably heard of?  In terms of total killing power, not very well. The .30-06 is a much larger round.  The bullet is the same diameter, but the overall length of the shell casing is 63 mm, or 2.48 inches long, almost an inch longer. What does this mean?  A larger casing means more room for gun powder.  More powder means a much higher powered and deadlier round.  A gun that shoots a 7.62x39 or a .30-30 round is NOT a high powered weapon.  It's effective range is around 200 yards.  Puny, by most hunting rifle standards, and no match for the .30-06 that has a range of hundreds of yards.

So, here is an incontrovertible fact that assault weapons ban proponents don't want you to hear: one shot from your Grandpa's old hunting rifle, which they claim to be uninterested in banning,  is far more dangerous than a round out of an AK-47 which they favor banning. Logical?

"So why would people hunt with an AK-47, if it has so little power?"  Because in some circumstances, low power has advantages.  Youths, females, or shooters that are slight of build love the 7.62x39 and the .30-30, because of the smaller size and weight of the guns that fire them, the small size and weight of the ammo, and the low recoil.  These guns are comfortable to shoot, but are still plenty powerful enough to take a deer or wild hog at reasonable ranges.  I would give a novice shooter an AR-15 or AK-47 to learn on before I would EVER let them shoot a "classic" high-powered hunting rifle.  In fact, my own son mastered my AR-15 before I ever let him try my higher powered .308. 

Furthermore, in many locations, with hilly terrain and an abundance of brush and trees, a long range firearm is overkill, and even the veteran shooter who's accustomed to recoil will grab a lighter, easier to handle rifle if logic dictates. There's simply no need to carry a long, heavy, 1000 yard rifle into the woods with large, weighty ammo (yes, even a few rounds of .30-06 can weigh several pounds) when a lightweight carbine like an AK-47 with smaller rounds will do the job, and leave you much less fatigued at the end of the day.

So yes, the AK-47 can be used for hunting.  If you still don't believe me, look at this:

A "regular" AK-47:

A "sporting" AK-47, called a "Saiga".

The only difference between the regular AK and the sporter AK is the lack of a pistol grip  and the movement of the trigger group rearward to accommodate the different stock.  Guess what?  It can shoot the same rounds at the same speed and in the same volume as the regular AK-47.  Cosmetically, they are clearly different.  Look how scary the top one is! No matter. Functionally, they are identical, so much so that some parts interchange out of the box or with slight modification.

Why did they change the second gun? To make it importable, because our silly laws ban importation of rifles with pistol grips.  But, only from certain countries, one of them being Russia.  You can still get a Romanian AK type rifle that looks almost EXACTLY like the scary "regular" AK-47 pictured above, pistol grip and all, functionally identical to the "sporterized" Saiga. Stupid, huh?

"But, the modifications made the gun less 'assaulty' and more 'sporting', right?" In a word, no. With no pistol grip on the Saiga, the trigger had to be moved rearward so the shooter could reach it easily when holding the stock. The movement of the trigger actually affected the "trigger pull", which is the amount of tension and general feel of the trigger, because it now had to be connected with an extra linkage.

This linkage made the trigger mushy and more difficult to pull, causing the gun to drift off target due to too much effort being exerted on the trigger, It also meant that the gun might not fire exactly the same way every time, preventing the shooter from getting a consistent shot.  So, despite being an attempt to make the AK-47 more "sporting" according to the law, it is actually less so in practice, because there is a slightly greater chance of an inaccurate shot wounding an animal instead of dispatching it cleanly.

As a result, many people who buy Saigas convert them right back to the "classic" pistol grip configuration of the original AK-47 and move the trigger back where it belongs, circumventing the intent law and making them more accurate and pleasant to shoot.  It is perfectly legal to do so, and in fact a cottage industry has sprung up just for the purpose of doing "Saiga conversions". 

I guess the "broken window" theory of economics is alive and well.  Either way, removing the pistol grip wouldn't prevent the gun from being used for nefarious purposes, nor would the presence of one prevent a person from using it for hunting.  For all intents and purposes, it only changes the outward appearance of the gun.

"Well, what about the AR-15?  Surely THAT is a powerful, evil assault weapon.  After all, that's what the Aurora shooter used, and look how many people he killed. There's simply no need for people to have THAT rifle for hunting."

The .223 round used in AR type rifles is even lower in recoil than that used in the AK, and the bullet is smaller to boot.  Most AR-15's are renowned for their accuracy, largely in part because they are built to close tolerances, and as a result, can shoot within an inch of the "bullseye" at 100 yards or more.  AR-15's can still take deer sized game, but are also ideal for smaller animals, and for pest control.

If you still don't believe me, look at this:

Here's a typical, scary AR-15 with a 20" barrel:

And here's a much more tame "sporter" AR-15 marketed specifically for hunting:

Do they look similar?  That's because they are.  In fact, they are nearly identical in many ways.  Lots of parts will interchange between the two.

So, what modifications would I have to do to the scary rifle on the top to make it a legal hunting rifle like the one on the bottom?  None.  I could take the top rifle out into the woods in most locations and legally (and effectively) hunt with it in the configuration pictured, just like the "sporter".  For almost any purpose, and as far as the law is concerned, these rifles are functionally identical.  Both can be equipped with accessories, scopes, different capacity magazines, etc.  The second "sporter" version fires the same ammo as quickly and in the same volume as the "original" in the first picture. But the first one is more scary.

"Wait a minute...you mean it's LEGAL to hunt with an assault weapon?"  Yes, it is, and people do it all the time.  Here are the regulations concerning what guns can be used for hunting in my home state:

"It is illegal to hunt deer with...a rifle using rimfire ammunition of less than .25 caliber...[or] a fully automatic rifle, shotgun or handgun...."

There you have it.  Both the rifles I mentioned are center-fire rifles, not rimfire, and both are semi automatic, not fully automatic. There are actually more regulations concerning the characteristics of bows and arrows used for hunting than rifles, at least in my home state.  I suspect other states would have similar regulations.


Just for fun, let's look at one more rifle I haven't mentioned, the Mini 14 Tactical:
 And the Mini 14 Ranch Rifle:

You know the drill.  Functionally identical semi automatic rifles.  Magazines interchangeable.  Both shoot the same .223  center fire ammo as the AR-15, at the same velocity, in the same volumes.  In fact, the tame rifle on the bottom can be converted to look like the scary rifle on top in a matter of a few minutes, with the right parts.  Not one aspect of its actual function would be affected by the conversion.  It would remain perfectly legal, even desirable, for hunting.

So, when you hear someone say "No one needs an assault weapon to go hunting", as if that is a hypothetical, ridiculous situation that few, if any, sensible people have tried, the fact is, lots of successful hunters have already used "assault weapons" for years as a matter of routine, which is why they think "assault" weapons bans are stupid.  The AR is a precision weapon with great accuracy.  The AK is a tough "brush gun" that is super reliable and cheap to shoot.  The Mini 14 combines qualities of the AK-47 and the AR-15. They are all versatile, handy rifles, so it's no wonder that all three are used frequently in sports shooting and hunting.

So, what's the difference between a sporting rifle and an "assault" weapon?  Scary appearance.  Seriously, if you're for banning assault weapons, this is the trick you're falling for.  When you're lobbying for a ban on "assault" weapons, you're admitting you can be manipulated by scary pictures of things. Adding a pistol grip, barrel shroud, flash suppressor, folding stock, or any other cosmetic accessory does nothing to the functioning of the rifle.  It just makes it look scary.   And people who are easily manipulated, as if on cue, stand and say, "We should ban these scary things!"

You can't ban a rifle based on how it looks any more than you can ban people based on how they look.  Both concepts are incredibly narrow minded and show a lack of intelligence.

"Well, then, why the continued hysteria about assault weapons if the only thing that makes an "assault" rifle is scary appearance?"  Because people simply don't know how they function, and  politicians and journalists like to capitalize on people's ignorance by using terms like "bullet hoses" and "spraying death", which are completely inaccurate and misleading descriptions of how these guns work.  This is no accident.  You are being intentionally deceived, for the sake of an agenda.  As Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center once said:

"The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons." 

By the way, if you're wondering why I didn't cite sources when giving specs on the guns and ammo mentioned in this post, it is because I am speaking from personal experience.  I have fired every gun and every caliber mentioned in this post extensively, often in multiple iterations, over the course of many, many years.

I AM the source.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

PRIMER: Gun control lies.

Over the next few months, I'm going to be addressing the lies told to the American public by the gun control lobby, or, as I like to call them,  "Big Gun Control", "The Blood Dancers", "Freedom Haters" and so on.  This sounds harsh, but when you see firsthand how blatantly false some of their agenda-driven lies are, you'll realize that the last thing these people want is intelligent citizens making informed decisions based on facts.  These multi-million dollar-per-year propaganda and lobbying machines include the Brady Campaign and the Violence Policy Center, among others. 

Some of the crap put out by these and other gun-rights organizations is taken as gospel by the media, who then feed it to you.

If you like gun control, and/or don't care that the media is feeding you a lie, then stop reading now.  If you are honest even with yourself, and want to know the truth, even if it may be at odds with your beliefs, then read this series.  I promise to update it "every so often", and hopefully by dealing with an issue that is pertinent to current events.  We'll call this series the "Primer on Gun Control Lies".  Any title you see with "PRIMER" as the first word will be part of the series.

See you soon.

Friday, August 3, 2012

UPDATE: Further testing with the AR 15 and Tula Steel Cased Ammo

If you'll recall, I was experimenting with my AR 15 that tended to be a little cranky with steel-cased ammo.  Previously, I'd run about 150 rounds through it using a ratio of 1 brass to 10 steel cased rounds and found some success.  I finally succeeded in getting back out to the range yesterday to do further testing.

Although I didn't get to shoot as much as I wanted, I still think my results are significant.  I put an additional 50 or so rounds through the AR, which operated without a hitch.  I still haven't cleaned the gun.  Before shooting, I opened it up, and true to the Tula reputation, the insides were quite filthy.  Nevertheless, the gun operated reliably and I experienced no malfunctions of any kind in the entire 50 rounds.

For the record, that's nearly 200 rounds of steel cased ammo that I've fired through my gun.  Before I started mixing steel and brass, the same gun would malfunction on steel ammo, almost like clockwork, before I could finish the third mag.  Usually, the stoppage wasn't fixable without a cleaning rod.

Although my methods are not even close to scientific, they're good enough for me.  Yesterday, I also bought a few more boxes of steel cased ammo, which I intend to keep shooting (for cheap).

I'm going to continue this test.  I want to run the AR to failure using this dirty, cheap, steel cased ammo, performing no maintenance except for oiling with Mobil 1 synthetic 10W-40, my preferred lubricant of choice.  People may laugh at this, but I've had excellent results.  The oil stays where I put it...even after many rounds, when I open up my gun, the internals are still thoroughly coated with oil.  There's little to no cook-off, even on the back of the bolt where most of the heat and carbon usually build up.  And, the anti-deposit nature of synthetic oil means that most of the gunk is actually suspended in the oil, not fused to the metal parts of my gun.  It just works.

I figure if it holds up for a 1,000 rounds with dirty Tula, it should be just fine to shoot that much or more of brass without worrying about a significant malfunction.




Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cinnamon and MATE on Linux - get your Gnome 2 back!


You can imagine the disappointment that many Gnome fans experienced when Gnome decided not to be Gnome anymore, and Ubuntu decided to enter the desktop environment wars with the ironically named, "Unity", which has divided users into several opposing camps regarding desktop environments.  Regardless of your pick, one thing was certain...Gnome was gone and wasn't coming back.

Or was it?  From the instant that Gnome decided to become a cell-phone interface, and Ubuntu followed suit, some intrepid developers decided to save the Gnome we knew and loved, or at the very least, a Gnome-like interface.  The result is two desktop environments that are very similar to Gnome 2: MATE and Cinnamon.

 Cinnamon, tweaked to look like Gnome 2

The default Cinnamon, when running on Linux Mint, follows a Windows paradigm with a toolbar at the bottom and a "start" menu on the left.  It can be configured with top and bottom menu bars, and offers an "Applications Places System" menu, just like classic Gnome.  You have to configure it this way, but it can be done.

 MATE, tweaked to look like Gnome 2

MATE looks almost exactly like Gnome 2, but again, on Mint, requires some changes to replicate the good ol' Gnome desktop.  After some tweaking, it feels just like Ubuntu 10.04 or so, and works just like it too.  The only difference I could see is that there's not a User menu on the top right that gives you IM, social media, and media player status like the old User menu on Ubuntu did.  Not a deal breaker, though, as most other Gnome functions are duplicated rather faithfully.

So, which do you choose?  If you want a desktop that replicates Gnome in look, feel, and function, and lots of configurability options, you'll want MATE.  I tend to think of it as a "Gnome 2 Legacy" desktop.  It seems to be a bit less buggy on my system, although your results may vary.  Cinnamon, on the other hand, would be good for someone who would like to use a "Gnome 3 Classic" style desktop - meaning, a desktop that follows the Gnome 2 paradigm, but adds lots of cutting edge features, although you sacrifice some ability to customize (the only option in the Appearance dialog is to reset the wallpaper)  You'll still feel like you're using the next, fancier version of the classic Gnome Desktop.  And, I expect Cinnamon to be better in the next version.

The only bug I experienced with either was with Cinnamon.  Every time I started Google Earth, I got a "phantom window", that opened in front of the tool bar at the top of the application.  There was no "x" to close, and the window would not move or resize.  The only way I found to fix it was to log out and log back in with MATE.  As a result, I've stuck with MATE and it has worked well for me.

The beauty of Linux is that you can try either one.  In Mint Linux, you can look for "mate-desktop-environment" or "cinnamon" in Synaptic, or open a terminal and type, "sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment" or "sudo apt-get install cinnamon".   There are also ways to add either environment to an existing Ubuntu install, but those methods are more involved than I wish to go into here.  Use your Google-Fu. 

So, if you think that Gnome 3 and Unity are complete wastes of time, install Cinnamon or MATE and start tweaking.  You'll be home in no time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Netflix on Linux Desktops...it's PAST time!

I recently thought about opening my own Netflix account, since several of my friends use the service and enjoy watching movies on it.

I've been using Linux almost exclusively since about 2003, and I haven't really had to worry about compatibility issues with various on-line services since 2008 or earlier.  Even ESPN3 (or whatever it is called this week) works just fine on Ubuntu, so I thought that the days of complex workarounds and running WINE or virtual machines was over for the most part.

There seems to be one holdout that is still stuck in 2001, however, and that is Netflix.

Let me state unequivocally that there is NO excuse, here in 2012, to leave any major platform out of any on-line service.  EVERYTHING can run on Ubuntu/Firefox/Chrome these days.  I can run Google Earth, Google Voice, Hulu, Google Docs, and most other major web based services without issue.  Even many Microsoft services run just fine, which is surprising considering the history between Microsoft and Linux.

Netflix's stubbornness about refusing Linux support is just laziness.  Even my son's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii both offer support for Netflix, but there is still no support for Netflix on the Linux desktop.

Inexcusable, but not surprising, considering Netflix's past bumbling and missteps.

Considering that switching to or adding Linux is relatively easy and almost always free, the users number in the millions.  You'd think that Netflix, by writing a few lines of code, would want to open up this market of potential customers.  ESPN3 did so, and as a result, I patronize their services. So do scores of other Linux users that I've talked to. And, apparently, someone inside the company thinks that the Linux crowd is worth the money, or at least they did at one point.  Why the change of heart?  Even worse, why insult us by promising us something and then failing to deliver?

Most people who know enough about computing to use Linux also understand that platform compatibility is a relatively simple issue these days.  They also are the type who will make a stand not to buy a product that won't work with their system on general principle. 

The bottom line is, I'm sitting here, dying to give Netflix my money to use their service.  Too bad they don't want it.

If you agree, give 'em a call: 1-866-579-7115.  If that doesn't work, try this, from one of the most valuable sites on the Internet: Contacthelp.com's Netflix page


Sunday, May 20, 2012

The AR-15 and steel cased ammo - how to make Wolf or Tula shoot reliably.

We've all been there...walking around the local gun store (or, as I like to call it, the Magic Goody Shop) and seen Russian-made steel cased .223 ammo selling for quite a bit less than the brass versions of the same rounds.  And, many of us have fallen to temptation and bought scads of the stuff, thinking of how much money we'll save, and how we can plink 'til our heart's content for pennies on the dollar.

And then, many of us have faced the bitter disappointment of repeated malfunctions and losing money when we give away a large pile of ammo that simply won't function properly in our guns.

I've seen quite a few stories of people trying to shoot steel cased ammo out of an AR-15 rifle with less than satisfactory results.  The most common issue is the dreaded "stuck case", where the case wedges itself so firmly in the chamber that the extractor simply doesn't have the "oomph" to move it.  In fact, most often, the only remedy is to put a cleaning rod down the bore of your gun and whack it with a hammer.

That's what I had to do.  My AR was particularly finicky, barely firing 50 rounds of Wolf or Tula before hanging up completely, bringing an early ending to a day at the range.  The thing would run like a champ all day long on brass, even crappy brass, but a couple boxes of Tula would bring it to its knees.

I began reading about this on the Internets, and it is a common problem.  Many have the completely WRONG idea about what causes this, however.

First, it is NOT caused by a "lacquer coating" cooking off and leaving its residue in the chamber.  If you don't believe me, get a spent shell and hit it with a blowtorch.  Nothing's coming off of that sucker.  If you've bought your ammo in the past few years, it doesn't even have lacquer on it.

Second, many people believe it is because the steel expands, and, being less flexible than brass, wedges itself in the chamber.  That's not true either.  But, steel being less flexible that brass does contribute to the problem.

The answer is simpler (and fortunately more correctable) than either of those.

Steel doesn't expand like brass does in the chamber.  This allows a slight gap around the cartridge case upon firing.  That gap admits powder residue and carbon into the chamber, which begins building up on the sides.  Pretty soon, the dimensions of the chamber are too small to allow the casing to move freely in and out.  The next time the bolt slams a round into the chamber, it wedges there, unable to be moved without physical intervention.

"Well," you might say, "the 7.62 x 39 rounds that I shoot are steel cased, and they don't have that problem".  No, they don't.  But, it is not because the blowback of residue into the chamber isn't happening.  It is because of the shape of the round itself.  The sides of the 7.62 x 39 are tapered enough that they can still overcome friction with the sides of the chamber.  The .223 is far straighter, and so it is far more difficult for the extractor to overcome the frictional forces of the now smaller chamber that has a good hold on the straight walls of the shell case. 

This is the problem I had with my rifle.  On multiple occasions, always after firing less than 50 rounds of steel cased ammo, I have had a major stoppage with my AR.  It always involved a spent case hanging up in the chamber, it always was impossible to clear without jamming a cleaning rod down the barrel and knocking it out, and it almost always put my AR out of action until I could take it home and work on it.

Once, while in the presence of a buddy of mine, I experienced the problem and he said, "You need to run a little brass in every mag to keep it cleaned out."

That didn't make sense to me.  How did brass keep the action clean?  Besides, common knowledge was that you never mix steel and brass when shooting...that mixing the two would only make this problem worse. 

Then I read this article on the Box O' Truth about steel case and brass cased ammo.  Although their hypothesis confirmed my friend's statement that brass ammo could help clean the chamber, they stopped short of recommending (or figuring out) that running steel and brass together can make a gun run more reliably.

I figured it was up to me to test it.

I started by cleaning the chamber thoroughly and soaking it down with CLP.  I then loaded my mags with one round of brass case for every 9 of steel.  Then, I headed to the range.

Fully expecting to get a stoppage before the end of mag number two, the AR kept eating the steel case well past that point.  The brass coming out eventually carried a considerable amount of black deposit on the outside of it.  It was rock hard and couldn't be scraped off with a fingernail. I did a variety of shooting, including slow firing (shooting once every 20 seconds or so), sustained slow firing (shooting once every five seconds),  fast firing (shooting as fast as I could pull the trigger) and even some bump firing (near automatic rates of fire).

The AR had two hiccups, probably attributable to the Russian ammo's lower power.  On the first, the round didn't quite come all the way out of the mag.  I gave the bottom of the mag a whack and it kept going.  The next, the bolt didn't appear to come back far enough to grab the next round.  A quick pull of the charging handle fixed it. The gun seemed to run fine otherwise, and most importantly, no casings were getting stuck in the chamber.  After five mags and nearly 150 rounds, I was running out of time and would be late for another engagement, so I packed it up to continue testing later.  Besides, the gun showed no signs of slowing down.  I was satisfied.

I have seen other options recommended, such as changing uppers or barrels to get a chromed chamber, or using a chamber reamer.  Both would probably work, but for the occasional use of steel cased ammo, both seem to be overkill. A 100 round box of cheap brass cased ammo should let you shoot 1000 rounds of steel case, if this method works for you.  You might even be able to tweak the ratios and get away with 1 for 20 or 1 for 30.

If you have an AR that doesn't like steel ammo, but have a stockpile of it or have a source where you can get it for cheap, it's worth a try to mix some brass in with the steel and see if your AR will run it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

V2 Cigarettes - Smoking Nirvana? Not so fast, my friend.

A few months back, I ordered an e-cigarette from V2. The V2 cigarette is supposed to be a premium brand of e-cig. On their website, you're bombarded with phrases like, "America's Best Brand of E-Cigarette", "The Thickest Vapor in the Business", and "The Difference is In Our Vapor".

I was very impressed with it at first. I got the basic kit. In that, you get a battery, USB charger, wall charger, and ten cartridges of your choice.

I ordered "Red", which was supposed to approximate the taste of Marlboro, and "Coffee" which is self explanatory. I also ordered "Vanilla" later on.

The performance of the V2 is top notch. True to the hype on the website, it produces a lot of thick vapor, which makes it feel a lot like smoking. The battery lasts about 24 hours or so, and charges pretty quickly. Even when it is totally dead, a few minutes charging gets you a few puffs, so you don't have to wait until it is completely charged in order to get enough drags to get you by.

The flavors are very good. The Red, although it doesn't taste like a real cigarette, is not objectionable. The Vanilla and Coffee are positively delicious.

A pack of 5 cartridges, with shipping, is around $18. Since a cartridge is supposed to be equivalent to a pack, that would roughly equate to $3.60 a pack. Cheaper, in many places, than real cigarettes, but not here. I can get real cigs for $3.50 or so locally.

So far, so good, but the cigarette itself costs over $60 just to get started. The overall cost of each puff diminishes the longer you have it, but if you already start higher than a pack of cigarettes, it won't be any more cost effective than regular smoking.

Fair enough. Most people buy this as a "safer" alternative to cigarettes, and there is evidence that suggests that it is. So, most won't mind the extra expense.

V2 also allows you to get free cartridges for "pimping" their product...you get an order number with your first order, and you can give that out to friends, who may use it as a coupon code. Each time it is used, you get a free pack of cartridges, and your friends get a 15% discount off the price of a starter kit.

So, the cigarette itself is a well-made, quality piece. And the cartridges themselves are tasty and satisfying, and with a little work, you can get them for free. So, what's the problem?

There are actually two problems. One, quality control. Two, customer service.

Let me just say, I never expect a company to be perfect. I know that all kinds of things can happen during production of a product, and that's understood. It's how the company handles it that makes all the difference, and I was kinda surprised at V2, while trying to pass their product off as a "premium" brand, fell short in a couple of ways.

First, I ordered some "clearance" items, namely, coffee flavored cartridges that were heavily discounted. The product description said that were fine, except that the center electrode might need tweaking to work correctly. Being a handy individual, I didn't think it would be too hard to fix and I ordered some for the discounted price.

When I got them, the electrodes worked perfectly. The problem was, they were absolutely the worst tasting e-cig cartridges I'd ever had. They tasted sour and stale.

I chatted with a company rep, who informed me there were positively NO refunds or exchanges on clearance merchandise, even if problems arose that weren't listed in the description. I pushed a little. They pushed back. No refund or credit.

Let me be clear. If I'd gotten these and the center electrode had been impossible to fix, I'd have never asked for a refund. But not ONE of the clearance cartridges had ANY electrode problems. All had the same unpleasant taste, rendering them unusable. And the company wouldn't stand behind them! Which makes me wonder if there was an electrode problem to begin with. Let's face it, you wouldn't post these as a clearance item and then say, "Stale and sour tasting". Who would buy it?

So, lesson learned. Don't buy the clearance items. The next problem was a little more unavoidable.

The USB charger, which came with the original kit, began to fail. The insulation pulled away from the boot where it went into the USB plug, leaving an exposed red and black wire. An intermittent short meant the charger had to be in exactly the right position to function correctly.

No problem. The charger was under warranty, so I figured I'd have them send me a new one. Got online with the chat person and a new one was on the way the next day. Problem was, they wanted me to pay return shipping for the old one.

Not fair, since it wasn't my defect that caused me to return it. But, they did send me a bubble mailer (without postage, of course) pre-addressed to them that I could put the old charger in and send it back.

The new charger quit working within a week. Two chargers failed. What are the chances?

Had I sent the old one off before the new one quit working, not only would I have been totally unable to charge my e-cig, and I'd have had to pay return postage on two separate chargers. As it is, I might be able to combine postage and get both of them back for one price, since I didn't mail the old one out immediately. I'm still nursing it along.

I talked to that representative and ordered a new charger on or around the first week in November. It didn't arrive at my house until November 14.

Here's the kicker...they told me if I didn't return the old one, they would go ahead and charge my credit card for the new charger!  I was kind of amazed.  

As you can tell, the charger fiasco is a headache. I figured since I'd been through the wringer twice, and I was going to have to pay to get it fixed, that V2 would be nice enough to comp me a 5 pack of cartridges. I mentioned this to the CSR I spoke with, and they would not. I even got a little pushy about it, telling them how many of my friends that I recommended this to, and how I was a loyal customer, etc. No dice.

Surprising, especially since they hand out cartridges left and right for people who pimp their product. Now, when they screw up, they're unwilling to go that extra mile to make it right.  Not only that, they'll penalize ME if I don't respond quickly to their mistake.

I'm reminded of another company that I've dealt with on this blog...Hi-Point. If you have a problem with one of their products, not only will they fix it for free, they'll send you an extra mag as a way of repaying you for your trouble. As a result, even though I don't like all of their products, I do recommend their better stuff to my friends. Part of that recommendation is assuring them that excellent customer service is behind everything they make.

It is asking a lot in this day and age to expect a customer to pony up extra money to continue using your product without getting something directly in return. This isn't eBay after all. Maybe it would be better if it was...I ordered a keyboard from my laptop from eBay a while back. It was defective, and the seller just sent me a new one, no questions asked, and didn't require that I send the old one back. In other words, I got a replacement product with NO ADDITIONAL CHARGES. That cost a lot more than a 5 pack of cartridges, too. If eBay sellers can do it, why not V2?. If V2 has the money to give away cartridges hand over fist for pimping their product, they certainly have the money to make things right with their customers when their products fail on multiple occasions.

I never understood this philosophy. V2 could have had a happy customer for a few bucks out of their own pocket. I could be here blogging about how great their products are AND how generous their customer service is. But, it appears that they are hell bent on sacrificing their own reputation to keep every last penny in their pocket. Is this the kind of business you want to deal with? I'm not so sure I do. I'm just left with a bad taste in my mouth, no pun intended. In fact, I'm trying another brand of eCig that I purchased locally. While not as high quality as the V2, the charger has been flawless, and at half the price, I don't care so much if something goes wrong with it.

V2 has forgotten that one of the tenets of capitalism is that consumers can make choices.