RV Adventures Volume 2, Narrowing Down The Search:

Last time I discussed where we were at prior to choosing an RV. And some of the priorities we had for said RV. In this installment, I will discuss our budget and experiences shopping around and maybe even some lessons learned through that process.

Budget: Our budget actually changed several times during our shopping. At first it was dependent upon the age of the vehicle. Then it came down to whether or not we were going to finance it. Then we finally settled on a monthly budget. I of course had some input on the budget, but really it was mostly on the wife. She recently paid off some of her vehicles which put her in a position of being able to afford to have some fun. So when we first started looking, I asked her how we planned to pay for it. Her response was “I’ll pay for it; you pay for the fuel and insurance.” OK, sounds great to me. But that is why the budget fell mostly to her. And in the end, what we finally decided on was $350 per month, plus or minus a bit.

It turns out, that the price of the vehicle will determine how much and for how long you can finance. The older it is, the shorter you can finance easily. At the same time, once you go over $25,000 purchase price, the length of the loan increases. Also, as the length of the loan increases, so does the interest rate. And, once you get to a certain point, which honestly did not seem to be a consistent number, you can go with a balloon payment which I hear used to be a popular option on houses. Basically, your payment is sized for a 12 year loan, but you only pay on it for 7 years then have a 5 year balloon you have to pay at the end. And again, depending on age, price, quality, or number of birds in the air, that balloon loan type can be 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, or others I’m sure.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we eliminated the class B motorhomes from the very beginning. They were too small, not enough power to tow, and insanely expensive. At the same time, we eliminated diesel class C motorhomes from our search since those appear to all be based on semi-truck chassis and even when 10 years old, they are still bringing in north of six figures. And not too far into our search, I mostly eliminated any class A motorhome with gas engines unless they had the 8.1L GM engine, as that thing seemed to be the best for power and reliability. And if we got a motorhome, it would need to tow the racecar.

Pretty much from the beginning, we also eliminated trailers. We had looked at some before, but without the ability to tow the car, they just are not what we wanted. Therefore, that leaves us with class A diesel, a narrow allowance of class A gas, and class C gas motorhomes. Given our decided on budget of $350 per month, that still left us with a wide array of price ranges to consider given the variety of finance options available to us. I figured setting a budget would help us narrow our search. It did not. We did have a mental threshold we did not want to exceed, even if we could get it and stay in budget, just because the large numbers involved, knowing you have that much debt can make you nervous. So, we tried to be as frugal as we could as this was something we would have in the family for years to come.

We started out by looking at a class C rental that they fix a bit and sell. These are newer units with extremely high mileage. The ones we saw were 2011’s with 130,000+ miles on them. I balked at the 130,000 miles on a gas engine, but the interiors on these looked great for the mileage they have endured. With the V-10 engine on the Ford E-450 chassis, they are rated to tow 3,500 lbs. which is barely enough for our car, but may be sufficient if we decide to go that way. But a 130,000 mile transmission concerns me when towing. They are available in 23’ – 29’ and go for about $30,000. People were trying to sell these same things that were 5 years older for the same and more money. So on the plus side, if we go this route, we likely would not lose a ton of money provided the drivetrain didn’t bleed us dry keeping it going. The smaller versions of these were on the E-350 chassis with the V8 and are only rated to tow 2,500 lbs. That eliminated all E-350 chassis class C motorhomes from our shopping list. Great, we have at least made some progress.

Next we looked at older class C motorhomes that we figured we could pay cash for and not worry about financing. This obviously put us well below our previous budget. It also provided some disgusting vehicles to choose from. My wife likes a project. And I like her to have a project. But some of these old ones are really gross and I don’t want to breathe the air they contain. And due to the disgusting factor, old and cheap was thereafter eliminated from the search, more progress.

That brings us to the discussion about dealers. There are big chains, that used to be privately owned and now they appear to all be part of the Camping World conglomerate. And there are small private dealers of varying levels of virtue. We went to one small dealer that was so tightly packed in to their small lot that it would take an hour of maneuvering to test drive any of their vehicles, the grounds reeked of cigarette smoke, and their knowledge of the motorhomes seemed very limited. We went to one small dealer that we had to drive an hour to go see, online their inventory seemed vast. Once we got there we found out nothing they list online is actually available for sale, even things they relisted just minutes after leaving their lot. Very dishonest place there in American Fork, which claims to be the biggest used motorhome dealer in the state yet didn’t have a single one for us to see unless we were in the market for a $250,000 land yacht. We went to a couple of the big dealers which had amazing machines if you are looking for new, but their used selection was somewhat limited. One lesson learned there though, is never pay sticker. While shopping for a used car you figure offering $2,000 below asking is an OK starting point, maybe $4,000. Without even trying to negotiate at the big dealers they were dropping the price $12,000, $15,000. And that’s before we said we were even interested in the product. Unfortunately, the ones they had, even after dropping almost $20,000 off the price were just too much for us.

Early on in our search we looked at a diesel pusher at a small dealer that was just under 36’, gets good mileage, was on a Spartan air chassis, and appeared to fit our needs. It was one of the first ones we looked at so we dismissed it knowing we wanted to shop around. Well, everything we saw after that seemed to be worse in several ways. So after shopping around for a few weeks, we went back and drove it. What a disappointment. It had the 5.9L Cummins. The same one Dodge trucks have. It had an Allison transmission that was only 5 speeds and is about the smallest they offer in motorhomes. And it just wasn’t enough for that big motorhome. It felt like I had to be full throttle all the time just to maintain the speed limit. The waiting continues, but at least we know now that we don’t want a diesel pusher with that small of an engine. I think it was rated at just 260 HP and 500 lb-ft torque. A little more progress made.

Throughout this process I had been consulting with my dad as he has had experience in the diesel industry and had a big gas motorhome at one point and countless trailers in one form or another. After a little more waiting a new listing showed up at the place that had that first one we looked at. This time a 36 foot Country Coach Magna. I did some checking and it sounded like Country Coach made some good stuff. I called up my dad to see what he thought and he seemed surprised that I could find one for the price we were looking at. He basically made it sound like Country Coach is the best of the best. And this bad boy has the 330 HP Detroit Diesel Series 40e engine (this is a re-branded Navistar DT-466) with 1050 lb-ft torque in it with a 6 speed Allison transmission designed to handle at least 1600 lb-ft of torque. This thing is a beast, I must see it. It was a little more money than the other diesel pusher we drove and it was a couple years older, but appeared to be a whole different class of coach. Yes, at this stage we will pretend we are elite and dealing with a coach instead of a motorhome even though the terms are interchangeable and those that says they aren’t are typically douchebags with no friends. Looking online at the same model and year, this one was priced on the very low end of what was available.

So we go drive it. It is very nice. As anticipated, it was in a whole different category. It drove and rode like a quiet bus rather than a motorhome. And exceeding the speed limit was not a problem even given the coach’s nearly 30,000 lb weight empty. For reference the previous diesel pusher we drove weighed about 10,000 lbs less. That is significant. This thing is a tank. It has one big slide out. And even though it’s a 1998, the outside does not look as dated as many of the mid 2000’s we looked at. The interior has the typical ‘80’s and ‘90’s brass fixtures. That needs to go. It has laminate wood flooring that is somewhat weathered combined with marble tile. Yes, you read that right, freaking marble tile in a motorhome. Excuse me, a coach, tehehe. It has a ton of storage. It’s rated to tow 10,000 lbs. It has a huge generator, at least it is supposed to, but we were unable to inspect that at first. It has 50-amp power, two TV’s, two couches that both make into beds, snazzy rope lighting around the windows (the wife is stoked about this feature), a good size bathroom, etc. It’s great. Then we measure it. It is not 36’ long. It is 40’. Great, that won’t fit in our back yard. Now what do we do? And 40’? Do we really want something that big? I know this is a mental block, as it actually felt smaller driving it than the 35’-8” pusher we tried out earlier. The problem is we already fell in love with it. Screw it. The fence can be moved or we can find somewhere else to put it. So we are the proud new owners of a 1998 Country Coach Magna 40’ with slide out. It has just enough things that need updating to keep the wife busy and happy and just enough pimp factor to satisfy me. Unfortunately we will be relegated to mostly camping at private campgrounds. The downside being they usually cost a little more. The upside being they usually have full hookups, more space, and more availability. And the sheer vastness of this beast will possibly keep us out of a few national forests, but at least we know that going in.

And without further adieu, here she is:

Country Coach

Terrible cell phone picture of our Country Coach

To be continued…


Adventures With Our New To Us RV:

First of all, much has happened lately, but nothing I felt like writing about on the blog. However, I do miss writing on here so I decided to start a new series on the blog focused on our experience with buying a new RV. I have never had an RV prior to this. Of course family members have, but that of course is not the same. The wife had an old trailer she did some work on to fix it up. But overall we are fairly new to this.

We were looking for something used due to not only the initial cost seeming astronomical to us, but also because the value of new RV’s seems to drop very quickly and we were not willing to take the loss that quickly on our first RV experience. Besides that we had a fairly low monthly allowance we were giving ourselves to play with this new RV. I will cover that in more detail in later installments.

For this first installment, I will cover where we were prior to purchasing an RV which will also lead to the thought behind why we wanted an RV. Also, what types of RV we were considering. I will probably cover what we decided on in the following post as this has grown to be a bit longer post than anticipated.

The wife and I are both from families that enjoyed going camping when we were young. As adults, we have our kids that we want to provide those same experiences for. We also have a couple big dogs, as seen previously on this blog. We had a small SUV (Honda Pilot) that we use to take the family around town in and also on camping trips. As you can imagine a Pilot is fairly small for 6 people and 2 Great Danes. At first we took the kids camping with just a basket in our receiver hitch that carried coolers and the tents and other supplies. That worked out OK, but it really limited how much stuff we could take. No guns, or fishing poles, or outdoor games would really fit. And even with just that setup, the rear suspension on the Honda was reaching its limit.

So we bought a trailer. Not a camping trailer mind you, but a cargo trailer. The thought behind this was I had a kart that I was racing and if we got a trailer I could stop paying for a garage at the racetrack and have the added bonus of being able to carry more stuff when we go camping and also be able to use it as a tent if weather got bad. It’s an 8’ x 12’ with the tall ceiling so that it has more head room and the longer ramp for the kart. I think we took it camping just a couple times. It was handy for the racetrack, but once I got out of karting to autocross with my wife, it became obsolete. For camping, it was nice being able to haul more stuff. And it was not bad for finding a spot to park as it is fairly short. But we had a couple catastrophic incidents with the dogs that kind of turned us off of camping in a tent. Packing up a tent full a Great Dane diarrhea is not a lot of fun. And without a hose, cleaning it out before hand is not an easy task. So that, combined with our new hobby of racing the wife’s car, my resurrection of wanting to train with guns more, and no longer racing a kart, the cargo trailer was relegated to being our storage unit where we store the saw, seasonal yard equipment, and various other seldom used items to save room in our garage.

Later, we upgraded to a larger SUV that was capable of towing 9,000 lbs rather than the 3,500 the Honda was rated to tow. It not only gave us more room, but got almost the same mileage, and should be able to tow much more easily. The Honda showed signs of that trailer being a bit too much for it when we were moving into our new house across town. The transmission started acting odd, and we never exceeded what it is rated to tow, so it should not have been acting up. But that told us, we should get something bigger which might allow for us to get a camping trailer someday. But the camping trailer was pretty low on the priority list at the time; we really just wanted something bigger and stronger than the Honda.

That leads us to where we are today. We are now proud new RV owners. So what did we decide we needed an RV for? Number one was taking kids with us to races and having a place for them to stay cool and safe and being forced to participate a bit more than they do now. Yes, forced, because somehow we managed to have kids that have no interest in cars or racing. Not that we force them out of their box often, but those kindles and laptops are becoming a problem in my mind. Number two was being able to take the kids on vacation. Every year my kids go over 500 miles away to see their mom for the summer and we could make a vacation of it. Also, there are many other places we would like the kids to see. I think this may have been kicked into gear by our trip to Alaska this summer which made us realize again, how little of this amazing country our kids have seen. And number three was my gun training. When I do these events, the wife either stays home with the kids or they stay at relatives’ houses while I am out playing. Having an RV would allow for the family to be close by, and allow us to do a bit more together in my downtime. It may even allow the wife to have some fun shooting with me. And again, if the kids had any interest in it they could as well.

So we have an SUV capable of towing a reasonable amount. But fifth wheels are out since it is not a truck. That leaves us with a bumper tow trailer, or a class A, B, or C motorhome. Class B motorhomes are out because they cost more than class C and sleep fewer people. That left our choices to trailer, A, or C.

Advantages of a trailer: we would be able to drive our truck into town while on vacation. It would sleep enough for a reasonable price. Also, at camp sites we could disconnect and park the truck next to the trailer if necessary for shorter spots. The downsides are: we could not tow the car to races, so either me or the wife would be in a different vehicle. The water and propane capacities are really limited on bumper tows, as is storage space. Mileage on the truck would be fairly low while towing. Camping is not highest on the priority list, racing is. So that hurts the trailer.

Advantages for the class C motorhome: The whole family could travel together. They are short enough to fit in most camp sites if you get a shorter one. If we buy a high mileage one you can get them for a reasonable price. Most of them can tow 3,500 lbs which is more than the car weighs. And they have decent storage. They also have a ton of sleeping space due to the bed above the driver’s seat. Disadvantages being: To be affordable, they have to either be old or high mileage. They get about the same mileage as the SUV does towing. They have the same small water and propane capacity as the trailers. Even though they have a lot of sleeping space, the overall space is limited. And when camping, you have to break camp to drive into town or go do anything unless you towed a vehicle along. This is a disadvantage for all class of motorhomes.

Advantages of the Class A motorhome: The whole family can travel together. Most can tow the same as a class C, but if you go a diesel pusher they can town even more. They have even more storage than the Class C. They can have a ton of water and propane capacity in them. When configured right, they can sleep as much or more than the class C, but also have more room while traveling. Diesel pushers get reasonable mileage, gas ones do not. They can be had in a huge variety of lengths from 24’ all the way to 45’. Disadvantages being: like the class C, to be affordable they are either old or high mileage. If you get a big one, it won’t fit in most public camp sites. Our back yard is only 38’-2” deep, and the highly desirable diesel pushers are usually too long to fit in that space.

Of course this did not cover all advantages and disadvantages of each type, but it covers what was high on our priority list. We have already made our decision and our purchase, so we are not looking for advice on the choice of vehicle, this series is just about our experiences and some insight into our thought processes that help produce said experiences. Right or wrong, we are in it for the long haul, and hope that our family has some fun and educational experiences because of it. I am sure it will be a huge learning experience for me. And I hope that we did not bite off more than we can chew. The wife is happy to have a project to fix up and I am happy to have something else to write about in detail on here.

Boy Scouts, nightmares do come true.

A couple weeks ago I helped my youngest boy build a Pinewood Derby car and that was his first experience with cub scouts. He had a lot of fun and seems excited to go again. The following week, I took the older boy to his first boy scout meeting. Both of these happened at the nearest Mormon church. Which was totally expected. Around here the scouts are sponsored by the church so entry fees are paid for by the church. And meetings take place there. The cub scout event started out with the pledge of allegiance and moved on to the national anthem followed by races. I was expecting something similar for Boy scouts, minus the racing of course, as that is about how I remember scouts. Although, not every meeting was at the church for me, just the majority of them.

Wow, was this boy scout meeting different than the cub scout equivalent. It was downright creepy. I even felt uncomfortable there and I grew up in a Mormon household. I can’t imagine how weird it seemed to a poor kid that has never seen the inside of a church. Lucky for him he has never seen Children of the Corn either or he wouldn’t have slept for days.

They met in the relief society room with the youth girls. For me, this was a once a month thing for the combined activity, and even then we met in neutral territory like the gym. Not the girl’s home turf. A hymn was sung by all to piano music. Prayers were said (I expected this one). Then the girls stood up and chanted some long drawn out thing about being a daughter of God and having loyalty to Jesus or something. I have never heard this chant before and dozens of horror movies were streaming through my head. I nervously paced outside the room with my hand on my knife waiting to run in and bail him out once they all turned to vampires or zombies and started eating the innocent new-comers. Creep level was rising and was about 9 out of 10. Then the boys started to chant. I couldn’t hear the topic of this incantation as my blood pressure had risen to the point of blocking off my hearing. What the literal fuck is happening in these meetings? This never happened when I was in scouts and our troop was as Mormon as one could be. I don’t think we had a single kid that was not in the church.

A prayer, sure, I’ll give you that. The meetings are happening at the church. That’s fine, we can ignore that and let you do your thing while we do ours. But the ritualistic chanting was full-on witchcraft. I was surprised when there was no sacrifices at the altar or vomiting heads spinning. No turkey blood or anything.

So this brought up some questions:

  1. WTF is that chant?
  2. When did that begin? It was not around 30 years ago…
  3. How can you do this and watch those television ads about Mormons being normal with a straight face?
  4. Are all boy scout groups like this or is my super mo neighborhood just some Mecca of crazy town or something?
  5. Do these chants ever end or do you do these your whole life? Like can you quit once you get married, or go on a mission, or expel spawn from your witch cave or something?

For me, scouting was a great experience which I remember with much fondness. A way to learn, experience nature, practice survival techniques, and be away from parents with friends at a young age. I think it can play a critical role in maturation of a boy. And I was hoping for my boys to be able to experience it like I did. I never made Eagle scout as some paperwork had been lost/misplaced/never filed by my scout leader and I got boned out of a whole bunch of merit badges, which made me pretty pissy, so I pretty much quit. But the parts I remember most when thinking back on my scouting days, the campouts, the pinewood derby races, the Jamborees, they all produce a euphoric nostalgia. When I try to focus on bad parts, there is few things that come to mind. One being that I kind of regret my dad was unable to play a larger role in that time of my life. Another being the smell of the church. It was a very old building. Very cool design by today’s standards of Mormon churches as IIRC, the one we met at was built in the 1800’s, so it was vastly different than the cookie cutter unimaginative buildings they congregate in these days. But it did smell funky.

So what happened to scouting in Utah? I sincerely hope this is just something unique about my neighborhood. However, the creepiest parts were not something that existed when I attended church or scouts as a kid. So I assume this is maybe unique to Utah, but not just my neighborhood. It makes me sad that my boys will miss out on all that being a scout has to offer, just because a group of abnormally creepy people have taken it over here. And yes, I know I could truck them 10 miles away to non-denominational troop. But we all have lives and besides that, I just shouldn’t have to. I should be able to expect people to just not be creepy. That being said, the leader of the troop and the boys I have met have all been very nice, and appeared to be normal. I don’t know their roles in the eerie part of the proceedings. But the simple fact is, neither of my boys are interested in continuing, regardless of the fact that they enjoyed it and are interested. They just can’t get past that gut feel that something is amiss. And I sure am not going to force it on them as their gut feel is probably even more accurate than mine as it hasn’t been tempered by years of pessimism and reality.

Eve Progress Check

It has been just a few days over a year since my last progress check in Eve Online. I almost made this post last week, but wanted to wait for one more skill to reach level 5. In the last year, CCP has introduced T3 destroyers, which is a whole new skill set. They have also removed clones which I believe may be the reason for my Science skill count having dropped. Either that or when I put .59 last year, it should have read .06 which would have matched the previous year. During this year I used my first neural remap. Yes, I should have done it long ago. But I didn’t so too bad… Also this year I have been doing a bit more PvP and using cheap jump clones which severely hinders skill training while in them. This year, I have also come to love a new (to me) ship. The Ishtar. It has been whacked with the Nerf bat twice this year and it is still a great ship. Hopefully CCP leaves it alone for a bit and takes their stupid bat home for a while. But I am not counting on it, because it is still a great ship. This year I have trained into Interdictors, Interceptors, Electronic Warfare ships, HACs, HICs, Strategic cruisers, and probably something else. It’s been a great year full of shiny new ships.

I am still with Diamond Command. We played around in faction warfare for a bit. And we kind of quit playing PvP in Null and started spending more time in wormholes. We set up a POS in a wormhole that I think is only regularly used by one person. We got a bunch of new guys and lost a bunch of those new guys. We really have about 7 or 8 core members. The rest come and go. I think we are just too small for them. I still like the smallness of it, but I admit, it hampers some activities unless you want to go play with other groups. There is rarely enough people online when not a scheduled fleet night to run a C5 wormhole for instance. As for my progress in the Diamond Command doctrines, I finished them all long ago. I have still not completed the old Brave Newbies DPS doctrine so I am still using that as a supplemental benchmark. I say supplemental, as I am not trying to complete it, it just happens to be getting completed as I do whatever tickles my fancy.

So since July 24th of 2014 to July 27th of this year, here is the breakdown of my skills:

Skillset 7/27/15 SP (millions) 7/24/14 SP (millions)
Gunnery 8.56 5.30
Engineering 4.87 3.08
Drones 5.71 3.74
Spaceship command 8.12 4.05
Armor 2.19 2.19
Shields 2.68 1.61
Navigation 3.29 1.61
Electronic systems 1.41 0.78
Missiles 4.24 2.11
Production 0.37 0.30
Trade 0.21 0.21
Rigging 0.68 0.53
Targeting 1.37 0.58
Resource processing 0.9 0.89
Neural enhancement 0.16 0.16
Science 0.47 0.59
Social 0.04 0.04
Scanning 1.68 0.45
Leadership 0.37 0.05
Subsystems 0.04 0.007
Planet management 0.07 0
Corporate management 0 0

I still have no skill points in corporate management as I have no interest in running a corp.

And here is how the skills are distributed by level:

Total skills 228 188
Skills at L5 63 36
Skills at L4 63 68
Skills at L3 81 60
Skills at L2 12 17
Skills at L1 9 7

Goals for the upcoming year:

Get better at solo PvP. Get to where I can clear a C3 site solo. FC a small fleet. Kill a real character with a Proteus, not just NPCs.

Upgraded the glass on the .300 Win Mag

So Vortex quit making the 35mm Razor HD riflescopes in favor of their new Razor HD Gen II 34mm scopes. These are silly expensive scopes that I have always considered out of my comfort zone on what I want to pay for glass. Without a doubt they are both amazing scopes. But I always figured I am not good enough to justify such an expense. And even if I was good enough, the thought of spending the $2500 – $3200 that these cost, just made me nauseous. It is a weakness I have. I have a lot of experience in machining and manufacturing on an OEM scale and therefore I know what things cost to make and what they should cost to buy. Or at least I have a very good idea. And when things fall outside of what I think they should, the thought of spending that much money on them makes me nervous.

That gives you some background so you can see where I am coming from. As I am sure you have already figured out, I broke down and bought one of these amazing examples of precision glass and fine craftsmanship.

A couple months ago, I went to the range with a friend of mine in from out-of-town. I was testing out the wife’s gun for reasons unrelated to this story, but my friend brought his gorgeous AR-10 with a Vortex Viper PST FFP. I don’t remember if it was the 4-16×50 or the 6-24×50 variant. But regardless, the glass was impressive. I have the regular Vortex Viper 6.5-20×50 on one of my rifles and I have always liked it. However, his PST FFP was in a whole other range of quality. I figured that would have to be my next purchase once I had a need for a $900 scope. Well, all my guns had scopes. Their price/quality levels range from $80 – $900. BTW, the $900 one is a Leupold that I used to think was great until I looked through my friend’s PST FFP of the same price level. Anyway, once that range trip was done, I kept an eye on those PST’s waiting for the price to drop.

Vortex Razor HD 5-20x50

Vortex Razor HD 5-20×50

As luck would have it, Vortex decided to quit making the Razor HD and their prices plummeted accordingly. Of course, you had to find one in stock somewhere as more could not be ordered. And I happened to find one for less than ½ the MSRP. I couldn’t say no. This opportunity would not come around again anytime soon. So I pulled the trigger (pun intended) and bought the Razor HD 5-20×50 MRAD with the EBR-2B reticle. As a side note, Vortex only lists a 10 MRAD per rotation turret for this model. But my packaging shows 5 MRAD. According to a video on Vortex’s site, the difference between the scopes is just that each rotation makes a larger adjustment with the 10 MRAD, but the overall amount of travel is the same. So mine will allow for finer adjustment, but will take longer to make large adjustments. I’m cool with that since paper targets wait as long as I want them to.

5 MRAD turrets

5 MRAD turrets

Even the packaging is fancy. I wonder if this stems from the Japanese origin of it.

Even the packaging is fancy. I wonder if this stems from the Japanese origin of it.

Even comes with a bubble level, sun shield, and honeycomb filter thing

Even comes with a bubble level, sun shield, and honeycomb filter thing

The Razor HD is FFP, or first focal plane. My understanding of this is that it scales the reticle accordingly as you increase magnification therefore allowing you to range targets the same regardless of magnification. One thing I found really cool with FFP, especially with this EBR-2B reticle, is that as you zoom out (decrease magnification) the reticle is so fine that it almost looks like a fine duplex reticle, but as you zoom in all of the other busyness becomes apparent. The Nightforce reticles are a bit finer, but honestly, I think they are a bit too fine at times. Depending on the background it can be hard to see them. And the Vortex reticle is still very fine.

Love this color

Love this color

The Razor HD compared to the PST has the premium HD extra-low dispersion glass where the PST has their XD extra-low dispersion glass. I was reading about HD glass versus other glass on a benchrest shooting news site and it has something to do with the wavelengths of light it lines up covering all wavelengths rather than just most of them or something along those lines. I would look into it further for you, but what is important, is that it is the best you can get in riflescopes. Yes, there are other things that set some apart from others, but what HD is designed for, it is the best at. Most other differences between the two are aesthetics and ergonomics, save for a couple more things. The tube is 35mm diameter, which has a much smaller selection of available rings to choose from. Also, The Razor HD is made in Japan rather than the Philippines.

Side parallax adjustment. Nothing special, but there it is.

Side parallax adjustment. Nothing special, but there it is.

Now onto my use for this baby:

The obvious choice for gun to install it on is my .300 Win Mag Remington 700. This gun has the Bell & Carlson Medalist Style 2 stock, a Rifle Basix trigger, a Shooter’s Ridge bipod, and EGW 20 MOA Picatinny rail. And now, the Razor HD scope and Vortex high mount rings.

The B&C Style 2 stock is black with grey webbing. It has a nice pronounced palm swell and an aluminum bedding block in it. It also has a Pachmayr Decelerator pad, a nice wide forend, a vertical grip, and a high comb for easier cheek weld. The Rifle Basix trigger is a drop-in trigger assembly for the Remington 700 that has a nice crisp break with no over-travel, and it is set to about a pound of trigger pull weight. Smoove like butta. The EGW Picatinny rail is the 20 MOA variant which means it mounts the scope heading up-hill a bit for long range use. I pulled it off and applied some Loctite and torqued the screws to 20 in-lbs prior to installing the Vortex, per EGW’s specifications. The Bipod is a Shooter’s Ridge 6-9” pivoting model. It has been great. I have not liked the Harris bipods I have used in the past, and even though this has a similar design, it seems to work better and for 1/3 the price. The scope rings are Vortex 1.26” high 35mm precision matched rings. I hear they are made by Seekins Precision, which makes a few components I chose for my latest AR-15 build. And looking at the rings Seekins offers, they do look identical other than the logo cut into the top of them. These rings are expensive, but then again, so is the scope. They are matched to +/-.0005 tolerance. They don’t specify which dimension this applies to, but I have an idea 😉 BTW, the rings are torqued to 18 in-lbs in a cross pattern as specified by Vortex. Now this gun just needs a barrel. The stock one has performed well. But it looks so dinky. But that is not in the budget just yet.

Remington 700 by me :)

Remington 700 by me 🙂

Remington 700 by me :)

Remington 700 by me 🙂

Remington 700 by me :)

Remington 700 by me 🙂

I have been loading 200gr Sierra Matchking bullets for this. My magic load that gives me the best accuracy is 66gr of Hodgdon 4350 powder with Magnum large rifle primers with an OAL of 4.513. This is not the fastest I tried loading, but was by far the most accurate for me. Like ½ the group size of any other load. I will be developing a new load however using Hodgdon 4831 as it seems this powder is more suited for the heavier bullets I am using and also, the 4350 has been very difficult to find around here, but I have been able to obtain plenty of 4831. I may try the 210gr bullet as it ups the B.C. from .565 to .645. Or, I may just go the Berger VLD 200 as it has a B.C. of .624 which is significantly better than the Sierra 200, and almost as good as the 210, but may be able to fit in my detachable magazine better.

66gr Hodgdon 4350, LRM primers, Sierra Matchking 200 gr

66gr Hodgdon 4350, LRM primers, Sierra Matchking 200 gr

As always, click the pics for bigger versions. And as usual, sorry for the slow progress on this blog.

Benchmarking the new computer

What good is upgrading without real numbers to compare the systems? Well, actually, it’s just as good. After all, it is still the same upgrade with or without benchmarks. But I did some anyway. I even overclocked the CPU and GPU and did some benchmarking with those updates as well. This resulted in a surprisingly small increase in performance.

OLD PC NEW PC Δ%: New PC OC Δ% over non-OC:
i7-2600 i7-4790K
GTX 550ti GTX 960
PC Mark 8 Home 3392 4450 31%
PC Mark 8 Work 2998 3817 27%
PC Mark 8 Creative 2633 4585 74%
3D Mark Ice Storm 71504 170795 139% 176984 4%
3D Mark Cloud Gate 11786 24219 105% 24943 3%
3D Mark Sky Diver 6359 21602 240% 21872 1%
3D Mark Firestrike 1834 6899 276% 6991 1%
3D Mark Firstrike Extreme 514 3511 583% 3544 1%

So, as you can see, the old computer was not terrible, but the new computer smokes it. Something interesting came out of the PC Mark tests. PC Mark tests things like audio compression, video scaling, spreadsheets, gaming, web browsing, etc… The new computer did slightly worse times on the web browsing (I blame no windows 8 drivers for my wireless network adapter) and, here is the big surprise, it was a ton slower on the gaming tests. Even though, as you can see by the graphics benchmarks, that gaming performance should be its staple measure. The gaming tests on PC Mark use Direct X 9. The tests for 3D Mark use Direct X 11 (IIRC). So is the new card really that bad at outdated tech or is something else messing with its chi?

BTW, every other test in the PC Mark tests was crazy fast. To the point that total test time dropped from 64 minutes to 44 minutes on the longest one. By crazy, I am talking things like the “video to go part 2” test dropped from 68 seconds to just 14. That’s an 80% drop.

So I think the overall numbers, even though they increased by a good margin, I think are severely being skewed by the poor gaming test performance.

After doing all the benchmarks, I decided to play with overclocking. The Gigabyte motherboard comes with some software that will automatically overclock you CPU and run it through some stability tests until it breaks it then it turns you back a few notches for your final setting. It tested my 4.0GHz system all the way up to 5.1 GHz before it failed. And the software settled on 4.6GHz for my final setting.

The Asus STRIX GTX 960 OC2 is made for overclocking and came pre-overclocked a little. I kicked it all the way up to 1420MHz and it ran fine. So I retested GPU benchmarks. And as you can see, the improvements were essentially statistical anomalies. In other words, the numbers vary that much each time you test anyway.

At this point, I did some load testing on the CPU and found that at 4.6GHz, it was getting up to 91°C which is a little higher than I wanted to see. With the CPU running at 4.0GHz, it never got over 75°C. So I turned it down to 4.4GHz and load tested again. At 4.4GHz, it never got over 75°C, just like the stock setting. So I left it at 4.4GHz. Looks like I found the limitation of that CPU cooler. And due to the insignificant performance gains the GPU overclocking showed, I turned it back down to the factory overclock setting.

Now, the website I used to help decide on CPU and video card choice is maintained by Passmark. They have their own benchmarking software for the full PC. And after running those tests, Iam thinking they may be more reliable than the PCMark tests.

Here are my Passmark scores:

Overall 2372.6 5251.2 121%
CPU Mark 8681 11735 35%
G3D Mark (video card) 2072 6681 222%
Memory Mark 2200 2716 23%
Disk Mark 633 4675 639%

According to the Passmark site, my CPU should score 11245. I am overclocked a bit, so I beat it. And their site says a standard GTX 960 video card is rated at 5987 where mine got 6681. I attribute that to the Asus card being overclocked. As for the hard drive score, have I said lately how much I love SSD’s? And mine score better than a bunch of Crucial and Kingston that seem to be gamer favorites.

Also one of the baseline reference systems Passmark compares my results to is a i7-5820K with a gigabyte X99 MB, 8GB RAM, same size Crucial SSD, and the vastly superior GTX 980 video card. And that system is rated at 4995 compared to my 5251. So yeah, I feel pretty good about this new build.

My new computer build

So my old computer was pretty decent. It lasted me nearly 4 years before I felt it needed any kind of upgrade. So I bought a video card for it. I picked the new Asus Strix Nvidia GTX 960 OC2. The reason I went with this card was because the case didn’t have a lot of room for a long card, and the new GTX 900 series from Nvidia seems to be super efficient, using very small amounts of energy for how fast it is. Well, this old computer was an i7-2600 HP desktop. It had a GTX 550ti video card, 8GB RAM, and 460 watt power supply. It turns out HP only supports the BIOS on their computers for about a year. The newest BIOS update I could get from them was from 2012.

So now, what do I do with this fancy pretty new video card? I could return it, maybe pay a restocking fee, or try to sell it at a small loss. Or I could build a whole new computer. Been a REALLY long time since I had last built a computer. And I just sold my Kart, so I have a little cash laying around begging me to spend it. Let’s do it!

Yes, for a whole new build I normally would have gone the GTX 970 or an AMD. But I already had this one and it is still a great upgrade. And low power is good. So now I get to pick components. I found this great website in my searches called http://pcpartpicker.com This site takes the price from a bunch of sources, gives you the best options meeting your criteria and lets you store the build and even has a section to show off your build and see what other people did with similar components.

OK, so let’s get to the components I chose and why I chose them:

All the toys

All the toys

Video card: Covered this already…

CPU: i7-4790K

Why I chose it: Rock solid (like pretty much all Intel chips), Overclockable, Ranked in the top 50 fastest CPU’s at https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php and only a couple others come close to the performance to price index. Also, it seems to be a favorite (along with the i7-5820K) amongst overclocking gamers. While I don’t plan to overclock, typically chips good for overclocking seem to be more stable and have more support from users. And I was trying to keep the build (minus the video card I already had) to under $900.

My thoughts on it so far: Yup, seems to be solid and reliable and not get hot.

CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS10X Optima

Why I chose it: Looks cool (I love heat pipes). Reviewers seemed impressed with its cooling capacity. The Cooler Master that looks similar that I originally wanted was  unavailable from either of the 2 places I was purchasing from and I didn’t want to throw a third vendor in the mix. I would have tried liquid cooling as it looks the coolest and works the best, however, it was over my proposed budget.

My thoughts so far: Holy piss, this thing is huge! It is 6” tall… In one orientation it interferes with my RAM boards. In the other, the fan barely touches the RAM. The install was a bit of a bitch as you have to do it before you put the motherboard in the case. And then it makes access to one or two of the MB mounts difficult for my fat hands. Given that, when I was running a benchmark test for hours on this thing, the top of this cooler was colder than room temperature. WOW, so much cooling.

Look at the size of that cooler.

Look at the size of that cooler.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-G1 Sniper Z97

Why I chose it: Gigabyte reputation. Overclocking utilities and abilities. Color and heat sinks looked cool. High quality sound built in, not the usual AC97 or whatever they usually have. And it says Sniper in the name, I love guns, I love snipers, it was made for me.

My thoughts so far: Everything booted up and worked first time, that says a lot based on my past experiences. Looks good, fits well. Seems to be living up to the small amount of hype I gave it. I have not tried overclocking yet. And I like that the board itself it black.

MB with RAM

MB with RAM

MB Packaging.

MB Packaging.

RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws X series (4x4GB)

Why I chose it: I went with 4x4GB rather than 2x8GB because Newegg was out of the 2×8 in red. I wanted to stick with the red and black theme I had going. I went with PC1600 because of the price and it was all I needed. Maybe not the best for when I want to overclock, but I really don’t intend to do it until I get desperate for more speed.

My thoughts so far: The cooling fins stick up a little high for use with the cooler I chose. Other than that, it is RAM, it has had no issues.



SSD: Mushkin ECO2 240GB

Why I chose it: It was a good price, and it was the fastest (87,000 IOPS) I could find in the price range.

My thoughts so far: Amazing speed, so small, living the dream.

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1 TB, 7200 RPM

Why I chose it: It was under $50 for a 7200 RPM HDD. It has the SATA 6.0 GB/s interface. And I have heard Seagate Barracudas are good.

My thoughts so far: Yup, it’s a hard disk. Seems to be fine.

Case: Cooler Master HAF 912

Why I chose it: Everywhere I looked it was one of the highest rated cases by users/customers. It seemed to be designed for a ton of airflow. It was relatively cheap. I like the way it looked. Not too old, not too new. Also, it was a “mid tower” that held a full ATX board and came with a couple fans.

My thoughts so far: Mid tower my ass. This thing is huge. And fortunately for me, I needed huge due to that CPU cooler. It only has USB 2.0 on the case. That sucks. Makes it feel old. Also, the interior is all “90’s grey” as a friend of mine put it. Again, that sucks. I like that the power supply is mounted low. I like all the internal drive bays. But really, this case is dated. If I ever upgrade, this may be the first thing to change.

Power Supply: EVGA Supernova NEX750B

Why I chose it: It was on sale and had a rebate on top of that. After rebate it was under $50 for an EVGA (a brand I like) 750 watt  power supply. Also, it is modular meaning you plug in the wires you need as you need them.

My thoughts so far: I really like it. Seems funny to give a shit about a power supply, but this one surprised me with how nice it is. All the wires are in a nice looking black mesh loom. They all have nice velcro straps. The finish on it is a quality looking flat black hammered powder coating. It even came in nice packaging.

Power supply chords

Power supply chords

40 in 1 card reader, DVD burner: Who gives a shit? Got them, they work. Rosewill card reader kind of sucks. Had to stick a micro SD adapter in like 12 times before it actually detected I put something in there, but a real SD card worked first time. Asus DVD burner has been fine so far.

All together. You may now mock my wiring skills.

All together. You may now mock my wiring skills.

Now, not part of the build, however worth mentioning due to its sheer awesomeness, and the fact it came within a couple weeks of the build, is the mouse.

EVGA Torq X10 Carbon and Corbonic mouse pad

EVGA Torq X10 Carbon and Carbonic mouse pad

It is the EVGA Torq X10 Carbon. My wife actually got this for me for my birthday because she knows I am a total nut swinger for carbon and titanium. So almost anything with real carbon or titanium in it is a sure bet for a gift for me. It has the Avago 9800 laser, which appears to be the best laser Avago makes for mice. It has an aluminum chassis with a carbon fiber shell.

Aluminum chassis, carbon shell.

Aluminum chassis, carbon shell.

It has 9 programmable buttons, LED’s that can be 1 of 7 different colors, adjustable shape, adjustable weight, silver coated wire, 20 million click life switches, and super smooth Teflon feet. It even came in a great package. The scroll wheel is nice and wide. The buttons take a little more effort than most I have used. And it is a wired mouse. I hate wires, but I have had issues in the past even with expensive wireless ones. So for this and the keyboard I have had to put my hatred of wires behind me. Overall, this mouse is amazing. I love it. Also, the XTrac Carbonic oversized mouse pad is great.

I will follow this up with a performance comparison. Mostly for my own records and satisfaction.