Get On Your Bikes and Ride!

stingray

Coveting my ride, aren’t you? It’s been with me since ’72, and I still get looks… especially when I do my wicked jumps and wheelies. That’s right, kid, the classics never die.

It’s National Bike Week! Which means… what? It’s time to kick a stand! Get out on the open road, weave around and startle pedestrians, water pistol chasing dogs, you know… good times! So, get your home “bike-friendly” with some  cool deals from Harbor Freight Tools:

air compressor - portable

First, the bike’s been sitting there for a long time, the tires are probably low. Forget those ripoff artist gas station bozos who want to charge a buck for some air– air!–here’s a great, little compressor that’ll keep you on the road: The Pittsburgh Automotive 12 Volt, 100 PSI High Volume Air Compressor. You’ll get all the air you need when you need it with this little, high-volume compressor. It’ll fully inflate your bike tires quickly– as well as ATV, mower rider, motorcycle and car– and its lightweight, portable design and handy carry bag make it easy to use at home or store in your vehicle. Features include rubber feet for less vibration, a gearless direct drive for reduced noise, and a cast alloy air pump casing with cooling fins. For only $25.99, you can afford to salute the gas station any way you’d like as you coast by.


bike rack

When in pursuit of distant bike paths (where nobody knows you– who picked out those bike shorts, anyway?), you’ll need a sturdy, reliable bike rack. Harbor Freight’s got a worthy one, a Two-Bike Rack That you Mount to Your Hitch. This type is really the ideal way to get your bike around with ease and safety. This rack includes thermoplastic bike holders with four hook-and-loop straps, and a pinch hitch pin to keep your bikes safe and not bouncing and swaying around like Jack Sparrow in a sword fight. Also, the handy swing-down feature gives hassle-free access to any rear hatch or tailgate. The bike rack will fit both 1-1/4″ and 2″ hitch mount receivers. Just $39.99 at Harbor Freight.

bike taillight

One of the first rules of the road you learn is that the streets are full of boneheads. Which means, it pays to be extra careful and make sure everybody knows you’re there. Be smart and pick up a couple of Red LED Bicycle Taillights for you and your riding companion. This taillight’s got FOUR attention-getting LEDs for high visibility on those crazy roads. The compact light also has three different flashing modes and can adjust up and down 160 degrees. It’s spray resistant and includes two AAA batteries. At $4.99 a pop, I can’t believe I’m still here pitching you.

At the end of the day, when it’s time to stable your stallion, don’t just lean it against the wall– put it away proper, out of the way of clumsy, stumbling feet. Harbor Freight’s got a couple of solutions for that, too:

bicycle lift

 Probably the best return for $8.99 you’ll ever spend on your bike is on the innovative Bicycle Lift at HFT. Using a unique pulley-locking mechanism, the bicycle lift quickly hoists your bike for easy storage, giving you extra space in your garage, apartment or dorm. Mounting hardware and a 46 ft. nylon rope are included, and setting this thing up couldn’t be easier. Perfect for saving your bike from scratches!

bike tree

 Or, if you’ve got a sizable brood to accommodate, check out the nifty Cycle Tree Compact Bike Storage. You can store up to six bikes in only four feet of space! The cycle tree is made of durable, yet lightweight, steel construction and rides on swivel casters for easy maneuverability around the garage. This is the perfect bike storage for every member of the family without taking up a lot space in your garage!  On sale for $39.99 at Harbor Freight.

And don’t forget  to clip your Harbor Freight Tools 20% Off Coupon, where the ridiculous savings get really absurd!

In the meantime, have a great National Bike Week. Have fun, ride smart, be safe… and don’t forget the water pistols!

Annabel on the Rocks

I was 17 when I bought my first 4-wheeler– a ’73 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40. It only had 56K miles on it– all highway– and I taught myself to drive a shift when I drove that beauty home from the seller’s house (killed it at every light). My buddy and I tooled it all over Utah that summer, ’til I finally rolled it at Arches Natl. Park and had to drive it (with a crushed body and intact engine) to a body shop where it rehabilitated for the next month. I loved that ‘Cruiser, and rue the day I got it in my head to sell it. The other thing I regret was never having gotten a winch. We got stuck a few times, and hadn’t it been for the kindness of strangers, we’d still be there.

Now that I’m older and wiser (mostly from getting my fingers burned a lot), I know that a winch is the first thing you want to get your 4-wheeler– long before any of the other jeep bling you’ve got in mind. For a modest investment, it’ll save your bacon from places where other dogs won’t hunt, and pay for itself over and over again.

The first question to address would be, what weight capacity winch should you get? It’s said the rule of thumb is, you take the gross weight of your vehicle, add in the modded bumpers, suspension, tires, etc., and times that number by 1.5. So, for example, if your total weight comes out to be 5,000 lb., the winch should have a (x 1.5 =) 7,500 lb. capacity. If you try to go lower– ’cause, say, a 3,000 lb. winch is on sale– you run the risk of disaster in a ravine. If you go a lot more, like 12,000 lb., you’ll be OK, but it’s kind of overkill– unless, of course, you want to be able to help heavy metal in distress. In that case, my brother, go for it and there will be blessings in store for you in Off-Road Heaven.

Harbor Freight’s Badland winches are legendary pullers– in the dirt, mud, snow, rocks, etc– and are consistently thrown high praise in four-wheeler forums, magazines and customer reviews. I was getting ready to write this article when I came across the story of Annabel, a late-40’s CJ2A that got stuck in the rocks while trying to back down a steep, rocky dugway. The owner, Carl, had taken Annabel up the hill, but then decided he wanted to get it on video, so he backed her back down. He ran into a rock and dirt wall, the driver’s side rear tire went flat, and he was wedged there– he couldn’t go up or down. As luck would have it, he had a Badlands 5,000 lb. winch:


As Carl later posted:

“I am a firm believer in my 5000 lb winch. It has twice pulled me out of a steep sandy bank by it’s self besides this dugway. That’s three hard pulls with the winch doing the pulling for at least the length of the Jeep each time. None of these were easy pulls but once the winch got the Jeep moving it lightened up on the load.”

Badlands off-road electric winches are rugged, dependable and give some of the biggest bangs for the buck. Check out these models:

 

The Annabel Special! We already know how it does with small jeeps, but this lightweight dynamo’s also got plenty of power to assist in ATV recovery, traversing rough terrain or loading a boat. Customers also like it for pulling small trees when clearing an area. Reliable and safe, it comes with a remote switch with a 12 ft. lead, making it easy to use even when you’re alone! Features include a three-stage planetary gear system for fast line speed, aircraft grade wire rope and a permanent magnet motor that draws less current, making it perfect for ATV use. As one customer shared:
“Works great, have used this winch for almost a year now. Installed it on my Yamaha Rhino and use it to pull trees down and once because I got stuck in a swamp. Now I use it to lift and lower my snow plow….for the money I’d highly recommend (it).”  Fletch – Green Bay, WI

A popular choice among owners of small Wrangler-size four-wheelers, boat owners and race car drivers looking for something to pull the racers off their trailers. Never get stuck in a tight spot with this off-road electric winch. Great for pulling out a stuck vehicle up to 6,000 lbs. The winch features a three-stage planetary gear system for a fast line speed, a series wound motor that stays cool during longer winch pulls and an automatic load-holding brake for maximum safety. Made of aircraft grade wire rope, this electric winch will pull up to 6,000 lbs to get you over rough terrain, recover your vehicle or even load your boat!

“I have a 6000 on my Samuri and was able to pull a full size ford truck out that was sunk to the doors this has been a great investment has never left me high or dry.”  Lil K – UT

 

The awesome “go-to” choice for pretty much all off-roaders, rock-crawlers, mud-boggers and sand-suckers. Get over and through the tough terrain with this musclebound electric winch. With a 9000 lb. towing capacity and an automatic load-holding brake for safety, this electric winch is excellent for the 4-wheeling novice and expert alike. A 12-foot lead remote switch makes this winch easy to use even when you’re traveling alone. And the testimonies say it all:

“I honestly believe that my push bars and frame of the truck would rip apart before the winch gave out. LOL. Pulled my 5000-lb truck UP a 40 degree incline, with brakes locked and a bed full of firewood. I say it will do anything I would EVER need it to do… Very happy with my 9000. Now the 12,000-lb winch, and using a double line, is used for what? Bulldozers?”  1997 Silverado 350 Extended Cab – Concord, NC

“Searched a lot of places for a winch before buying this one. I put it on my ’78 Ford F-250 “highboy” with 39-inch boggers. I have pulled out multiple vehicles stuck in the mud, and even a tree from out of the creek that a 3020 John Deere tractor could not. Couldn’t be happier, in fact i just bought a second one.”  TheWiseGuy – Gallipolis, OH

 

When heading out with the buds for an off-road excursion, the wise man will gear up according to the credo, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”  That said, the Badlands 12000-lb. electric winch brings a whole new meaning to, “If ye are prepared, ye need not fear.” This is the Godzilla of the bunch, the one that can take on most any mishap and chore thrown at it. Rescue a vehicle, haul timber or load a boat with this powerful winch. The series-wound motor stays cool while the 3-stage planetary gear system provides fast line speed. Featuring an automatic load-holding brake for safety, this electric winch is a must-have for ANY off-road adventure! Just ask the guys who know:

“Installed the night before an off-road trip, got the Jeep stuck going uphill with the engine not able to run and it pulled the Jeep uphill like it wasn’t even there. Fixed a loose wire on the distributor and the Jeep started like the battery had not bothered at all. Easy to install, I did it in less than an hour. Tough, reliable product. I would definitely recommend to a friend and buy again! No need to spend $1200 on a Warn for a weekend warrior toy with this winch around!”  DocMicro – USA

“This winch is amazing… I pulled a car sideways– not forward or backward– but sideways, without my truck running to juice my battery, and it did it without a hiccup. Strong winch and def worth the money… If you’re looking for a winch, this is the one.”  Toyota Mud Dog – The Plains, OH

So when you’re ready to put a winch on your 4x– or replace your old one– check out the rough, tough line of affordable Badlands winches at Harbor Freight. No doubt, they’ll make a believer out of you, too.

Remote Possibilities

What do you think of when you think “Harbor Freight?” Tools, right? Maybe generators or gas engines or solar panels or parts washers– certainly not radio-controlled models. And yet, Harbor Freight’s got a nice little selection of RC craft, including planes, cars, a helicopter and a speedboat!

Venom Ozone RC Helicopter

The Venom Ozone 3.5 Channel Remote Controlled Helicopter is a particular favorite in the stores and on the Harbor Freight website. Sporting twin 130 brushed motors, it’s easy to fly, easy to land, and is ready to launch in minutes. Durable, responsive and a blast to fly!

 

P51 Mustang

Modeled after the fearsome long-range fighter-bomber that took out over 4,950 aircraft in World War II, the RC P51 Mustang is pre-built and ready to fly within minutes. Operating via a 4-channel, 72 mHz digital proportional radio control system, this awesome warrior soars with amazing speed and handling, and operates at up to a 1,600-ft. range.

 

RC Speedboat

Here’s a great way to pass the time when the fishing is slow. Harbor Freight’s radio-controlled Speedboat will go fast enough to shoot up a rooster tail,  maneuvers like a dream, and will keep you captivated for hours. For a great read, check out the customer reviews to see how some folks modified their boats for even bigger performance. A lot of power for a remarkably low price.

Check out these and the other RC cars and planes– in the store and online!

 

 

Tailgate Warriors… Come Out and Play!

Football! The season couldn’t have come fast enough. I was getting sick hearing nothing but politics and hopscotching around TV reruns.  But– hallelujah!– it’s time once again for Pac-12 and pro ball (Go Big Blue!)– clear the boogie boards and swimming noodles out of the man cave, kick the PS3 crap off the floor and fill the chest freezer with wings, poppers, bacon and shredded cheese. And more importantly, get ready for the blacktop!

The tailgate party is a sacred ritual, much like a holy pilgrimage or pantsing the new kid. And like any ritual that requires serious reflection, one needs to decide how they will prepare for it. For example, go with the beer shorts, don’t go with the beer shorts? Obviously, if the beer helmet is out, it leaves you looking for a viable alternative. Also boning up on your cornholing and knowing the ACO regulation cornhole rules.

To throw a successful tailgate party for a bunch of your swellest buds, you’ll want to bring awesome gear. Of course a lot of what you bring depends on your power source, if any. A gas-powered generator can bust your options wide open– and there really are a ton to consider: a crock pot for the Lil’ Smokies or nacho cheese sauce, an electric grill for burgers and dogs, a portable oven for pizza, a mini-fridge, a heater or fan–depending on the weather, a string of lights or lanterns, a radio or other sound system, an LCD TV with portable satellite receiver, a PA (“attention, fans of other team…”}, a blender or margarita machine, coffee maker… hey, you could be there as long as 12 hours, man. Gear up for any possibility.

That said, my recommendation is getting the Chicago Electric 3050 Watt 7 HP Gas Generator. It runs quiet, it’s great on gas and it’s got all the juice you need to make it a helluva party! This is Harbor Freight’s most popular generator, and the proof is in the praise:

“I use this to power my refrigerators and freezer during outages, as well as charge and run needed electronics. It is very nice for this application since you can run for 24 hours on 10 gallons. She is very quiet… fires up easily and runs smoothly. Very nice product. “

Another customer had this to say:

” I use it mainly (for) hunting and camping, but have used it for power outage. It run a 5th wheel camper AC during day and furnance at nights with TV, frig, lights, PC, water pump, with no problems, and the 4-gallon tank runs it for approx 6 hrs. with over 50% pull on it. A sweet generator for the$$$ for sure. “

Besides football tailgate parties, this generator’s the perfect companion for rave parties, swap meets and fairs, rock concert tailgates, camping, and as I previously pointed out, areas of paranormal activity.

While you’re at it, I suggest you pick up an 8″ Never-Flat Generator Wheel Kit or a slightly-more-economical Mover’s Dolly along with a handy-dandy Swivel Handle. You’ll thank me, I promise. And finally, grab a 10′ x 10′ Popup Canopy while you’re there. Unless burn is your team color.

Cleaning Brass: Tumbler, Ultrasonic, or… Concrete Mixer?

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I like going to the shooting range whenever I have the time. Unfortunately, two of my favorite guns—a .custom 358 Win. rifle and a .327 Ruger single-action revolver—use hard-to-find ammo, and I spend hours online looking for new sources when the others dry up. This usually results in a lot of special ordering, backordering and premium prices. So I’ve recently decided to take up another hobby– reloading.

I knew I’d be going this direction for some time, and have been saving all my spent brass. Now, as I go about assembling my little ammo-making factory, I have to decide how I want to clean it. After initially looking around, I soon realized there are 1,005 different mickey-mouse ways people clean their brass, all of them involving washing and drying (warning: don’t dry your brass in the oven), nasty chemicals, labor-intensive manual putzing, or a combination of these. One approach I found interesting was putting bullet casings in old socks and tossing them in the washer with a little soap. If you and your wife aren’t concerned about getting toxic primer residue in your underwear, then have at it. Also, the idea of feeling “accomplished” by hand-cleaning your own brass gets old real fast. The time, vapors, cleaning up after the chemicals… forget it.

In the end, I narrowed my options down to three of the more endorsed methods: tumbler, ultrasonic washer and cement mixer.

The tumbler actually falls into two categories: rotary & vibrating. Both work well and have strong followings, although there are distinct differences. The rotary tumbler, originally created for polishing rocks, turns a barrel in which the cleaning media (such as walnut shell or corn cob) clean and polish the brass as they tumble together. Because the drum is water-tight, a cleaning solution or polish can also be added. A favorite method of cleaning in a rotary tumbler is throwing the brass in a tumbler with stainless steel media and some dish soap, liquid detergent or a specially-made cleaner. More so than some other methods, with stainless steel the cartridges turn “like-new” bright & shiny, inside and out. Reloaders who have tried this method claim that they’ll never go back to walnut or corn cob media again. The downside is that stainless steel is a lot more expensive, about $50 for 5 lbs. compared to $23 for 25 lbs. It should be noted, though. the stainless steel does last longer, too.

Two examples of rotary tumblers are:

 

 

 

…the Chicago Electric 3 lb. Rotary Rock Tumbler

 

 

 

 

…and the Chicago Electric Dual Drum Rotary Rock Tumbler.

 

Rotary tumblers are generally less expensive and run quieter than the vibrating models. Also, FWIW, they create less dust than the vibrating models. However, they’re vastly slower and there’s also extra time invested in separating the brass from the media.

The vibrating tumbler, as was already mentioned, is a lot faster—even by several hours—so you can get through a lot more brass in the same amount of time Also, it’s a dry-cleaning process, so you don’t have to worry that the brass is thoroughly dry. A downside to consider, though, is the vibratory tumbler doesn’t get the inside of the casings as clean as the rotary. This isn’t really considered a problem; it doesn’t affect the performance of the ammo, or have any adverse affect on the gun, if the inside of the shell isn’t as clean and bright as the outside. Just be aware, that will be the result. Two tumblers you can find at great prices are:

 

 

 

 

the 5 lb. Metal Vibrator/Tumbler and…

 

 

 

 

the 18 lb. Vibratory Bowl with Liquid Drain Hose.

 

The foremost praise given to the ultrasonic cleaner is how fast it works. Plus, it will clean the entire case, inside and out, including the primer pocket, without getting media stuck in the flash holes (as with other methods, when they need to be picked out). You also don’t get the dust all over the casings like with the other methods, and you’re spared having to breathe the lead dust when separating the brass from the cob or walnut media. The downsides are, it cleans but doesn’t polish the brass, you have to dry the cases after you clean them, and the hardware is slightly more expensive. That being said, Harbor Freight has one at a great price.

 

 

 

Chicago Electric 2.5 Liter Ultrasonic Cleaner

 

Which leads me to most out-there, but surprisingly popular method of cleaning brass: the cement mixer. This is the go-to device when you’ve got a lot of brass to clean– like thousands of casings. Indeed, a number of reloaders point to Harbor Freight’s cement mixers as the “ultimate wet or dry tumblers,” not only for their effectiveness, but also their cheap prices and reliability. In order to make their cement mixer work as a “tumbler,” they leave out the paddles when assembling it, leaving the round tub empty. To keep the brass from banging against the steel tub, some spray the interior with a rubber coating, but that’s more for the noise than any concern for the brass getting dinged. All sorts of media can be used in them, but crushed walnut seems to be a favorite, with possibly a brass polish additive. Harbor Freight carries two models made by Central Machinery, both of them used by reloaders:

 

 

 

1-1/4 Cubic Ft. Cement Mixer

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-1/2 Cubic Ft. Cement Mixer

By sharing all these methods, it’s not my intent to try to sway you in any direction. Everyone’s needs and preferences are different. Before you do make a decision, though, google terms like “tumbler vs. ultrasonic cleaner” and “cleaning brass cement mixer,” and see what they’re saying in the blogs and forums– and ask questions! I think you’ll find the methods I’ve listed here are the best.

See you at the range!

 

 

 

Good Optics at a Great Price


On July 4th I commemorated the day the best way I knew how– shooting at the range with a couple of buddies. I recently acquired a beautiful Remington 788 .358 custom rifle and had yet to take it out, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Also, I hadn’t tried out the Gordon 20-60 x 60 spotting scope that I got at Harbor Freight, so I took that along, too.

If you enjoy target shooting, you know what a hassle it is to stop after every few rounds and schlepp to the target to see how you did—so, a spotting scope is definitely a good thing to have. But then go online and you see the suckers can run as high as $2,500 (for that, it better make me breakfast)! I knew Harbor Freight had a spotting scope for $50 when I started shopping, but I was firm in the belief that, when it came to optics, “if it’s good, it’s expensive,” so I quickly dismissed it. Then my friend, Paul (a retired marine, far more experienced than me at target shooting), told me to go for the Gordon model. The magnification range, he said, was perfect, and it didn’t make sense to spend more for the kind of practice we were doing. He’d never steered me wrong before, so I went for it.

It turned out to be a great morning. Zeroed at 100 yards, the rifle shot like a dream, grouped slightly under 1-1/2” (so, I won’t be on Top Shot anytime soon),  and the recoil was mercifully mild. We ended up shooting for about 5 hours (a LEO buddy brought his MP-5… but that’s another story), got so stoked we planned a pig hunting trip, and the Gordon 20-60 x 60mm spotting scope performed wonderfully; clear and sharp. So, at least for the time being, I’ve got no need to spend any more; save that for the ammo. It’ll also be a good companion on backcountry hunts.

If you don’t like to shoot, but do like to watch, the spotting scope’s also excellent for bird & wildlife watching, sightseeing vista spots or sports & music events.

Next time: Cleaning brass with tumblers, ultrasonic cleaners & cement mixers.