Category Archives: Sports and Leisure

Gym Power

What a clever idea:  Hong Kong Gym Uses Exercises to Generate Electricity

I’m thinking you could make this fairly cost-effective, since as the article suggests, a generator is pretty basic technology, and is really just a motor running in reverse.  That means that many of the parts required are already present in some types of exercise gear, like treadmills and exercise bikes.  I can see it having some qualitative impact on the customer experience, depending on how you set things up–for example, I’ve always preferred powered treadmills to the kind you have to drive yourself, for example.  But that might be a surmountable obstacle, and I’ll bet you could add generators to some gear, like weight lifting equipment, with little if any effect on the experience.  Resistance previously provided by the weights would be provided by the generator, instead.

I wonder how much power could have been recaptured by now if all gyms did something like this?  I doubt it would be much relative to world power demand, but it might well be enough to run the lights at the gyms.

Ambiguous Adjectives, Anyone?

Headline:  Italy Passes Anti-Soccer Violence Law  Hey, I’m as opposed to soccer as anyone, but I think passing a Violence Law to suppress it seems a little much.

David’s Springfield XD9

Springfield Armory XD9

I finally decided that my interest in recreational shooting is more than a passing fad, and bought myself a pistol.  After doing some research on my options, and having fired a few of them, I picked up the Springfield Armory XD 9mm Tactical Service you see to the right.

The XD shares many features with the Glock 19 I rented.  Both are polymer-framed, striker-fired compact 9mm pistols with roughly 4” barrels.  Both hail from Europe—the Glock from Austria, the XD from Croatia.  Like the Glock, the XD has a trigger safety and an internal safety to prevent accidental discharge if the gun is dropped, but no conventional manual safety.  Unlike the Glock, however—and this is part of what attracted me to the XD—the latter has an additional safety feature, a grip safety similar to that on the Colt 1911, which you can see in the picture at the top rear of the grip.  Unless this is depressed, both the trigger and the slide are locked.  Unlike a manual safety, which requires that you consciously think to release it, the grip safety disengages effortlessly when you hold the gun in a normal shooting grip.

I find the XD’s three dot sights ever so slightly less visible than the bright white dovetail sights on the Glock, but they are still very clear.  Like the Glock, this is a gun I find engenders confidence.  I took my folks out to the range to try it a couple of weeks ago (Mom’s first time shooting) and they like it too.  Between us, we’ve put about 800 rounds through it at this point, and it has performed flawlessly.  I am well pleased.

Oh, and despite being quite a bit less expensive than the Glock, the XD came with a nice accessory package, including a two magazines, a holster, a mag carrier, a cleaning brush, a lock, and a magazine loader.  The last item was particularly welcome, as several weekends of loading semi-autos at the range had left my fingers very sore.

Glock 19

My second attempt at renting a Glock 19 was more successful than my first—and what a great little pistol.

If you’re not familiar with the Glock line, they  make a range of pistols of varying sizes and calibers, designated by the model number.  The Glock 19 is a 9mm pistol with a roughly 4 inch barrel, a little smaller in length and height than a full-size service pistol like the Beretta 92 or the 9mm Glock 17.  With a shorter barrel, you tend to get lower muzzle velocities, all else being equal, but you also get a more concealable weapon.

Glocks are well known for their minimum of external controls, and the Glock 19 was a snap to operate.  Recoil felt very manageable compared to the Taurus 92 I had fired previously, which was not what I expected, given the Glock’s smaller mass–but hey, what do I know?  The sights were fantastic, very high contrast.  I felt myself to be a better shot with this gun than anything I had tried before—though of course, at least some of that could be the effect of practice.

From a usability perspective, this is definitely a gun I would consider owning, but I"m conflicted about  the absence of a manual safety.  The theory behind not having one is that in a high-stress defensive situation, you may forget to disengage the safety before trying to fire, potentially losing critical moments at a time when you can’t afford them.  The flip side, some argue, is that a Glock carried with a round in the chamber, and ready to fire with a pull of the trigger, may be more subject to accidental discharge.  Definitely a matter for further thought.

Smith & Wesson M&P 9 mm

Having concluded from my revolver experiment that I prefer a semi-auto, I headed across town to an indoor range that I had read has a wide selection of guns available to rent to see if I could get my hands on a Glock 19.  They had one, but unfortunately it was already checked out—perhaps to someone who was smart enough to call ahead.  The guy behind the counter offered an alternative: a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, which he observed is similar in basic design to the compact Glock. 

This was only the second semi-auto pistol I had fired, and I’m a novice shooter, but I my initial impression wasn’t very favorable.  The sights were marked with low-contrast orange that I couldn’t see well in the shadows at the firing line, and out of 50 rounds fired, I had four rounds stove-pipe on me.  It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that this was my fault, and that I was limp-wristing—defeating the proper operation of the slide and ejector by gripping the gun too loosely.  But I hadn’t had this problem with the Taurus 92 when I fired it, and I haven’t had it with the compact autos I’ve fired since.  Maybe it was a bad box of ammo.  Or, given that it was a rental, of course, maybe it just needed a good cleaning.  Whatever the cause, the experience put me off the pistol.  I resolved that next time I went shooting, I would wait to try the Glock.


For my fourth visit to the gun range, I decided to try something a little different, and try shooting a revolver instead of a semi-auto.  The range rented me the specimen you see to the right, a Smith & Wesson .38 Special.

The gun shot fine; I was about as accurate with it as I was the Taurus 9mm I had shot before.  I suspect that given my relative inexperience with handguns, my skill or lack thereof has a lot more to do with where the rounds land than any variations in accuracy inherent to the gun.

Recoil felt to be about the same as with the 9mm as well, which for some reason surrpised me a bit.  I was expecting a .38 to kick more.  For one thing, I was thinking that .38 rounds were significantly larger than 9 mm rounds.  (In fact, .38 caliber is 9.13 mm, barely enough difference to notice.)  I had also expected a revolver to transmit more of the force of the shot to my hand without the recoil mechanism of a semi-auto absorbing some of the energy.  I didn’t find this to be true in practice, either.  If anything, without the distraction of the action moving, it was easier to stay sighted in on the target for consecutive shots.

On the other hand, I found the gun less comfortable in my hand than the Taurus.  I’m not sure why; it wasn’t actually uncomfortable per se, it just didn’t feel as "at home."  I also found I like that with a semi-auto, the slide locks open when you’re empty, eliminating the question of whether you’ve fired off all your rounds. 

On the whole, I think I like the semi-autos better.  But it was a good experiment.

More or Less on Target

I went pistol shooting for the first time a couple of weekends ago, at an outdoor range not far from my house.  This was inspired partly by the notion that being minimally proficient with a firearm is, like knowing first aid, a useful life skill in case of emergency, and partly out of curiosity.  Specifically, I was curious whether I could hit the broadside of a barn.  I won’t bore you with the various things that are wrong with my vision, but they are many and varied, and I was by no means confident I could even land a shot on the target.

The range loaned me a Taurus PT92, a Brazilian version of the Beretta 92F/M9 pistol used by the US armed forces, and I ran a box of 50 rounds through it.  All in all, I was pretty happy with my first time out.  Most of the time I was shooting from about 10 yards, and as you can see from the picture, I was indeed hitting most of the time.  The key seemed to be that while the target was a good distance away, the sights on the pistol are only inches away, and its the forward sight, not the target, that you need to focus on to aim accurately.  I was a bit unprepared for how loud the gun was when it fired; 9mm rounds are a lot louder than .22s.  I know I’m flinching, and I found the muzzle was climbing to the right.  I’m sure I have all manner of bad habits, though I did enough research before I went to know at least roughly how the gun should be held, what propers stance should look like, and so on.  I could do a lot worse than get a few lessons if I keep at this.

I’ve been back a couple of times, including once with my Dad, and I seem to be getting better.  All in all, it’s been fun, and challenging.  I may just have found myself a hobby.