Retiring my XDS

I’m sad about this. It’s got so few rounds through it. But it’s got to go.

Here’s my gripe: it’s unreliable. The extractor is messed up. When I put a round in the chamber before I go out the door, sometimes the slide doesn’t go into battery. When I come home and unload it, usually the round catches and I have to rack it several times before I can get it out. I did lots of investigation and it’s clear that the extractor is just bad.

I did the Internet research. I’m not the only person to have this problem. I got it on a recommendation from a friend and the only single round I’ve ever seen him fire out of his had exactly the same problems (in and out). This is clearly not an isolated problem.

As for solutions, one person says that you should run the thing wet, dripping oil except for the outside. I can’t carry it like that. I’ve gotten caught in the rain and I’m not willing to risk what happens if the lube — apparently critical to its proper operation — washes off. Plus a significant portion of carry is your quality of life when you’re not using it (I carry most of the time and I’ve needed to use it zero times, thank God, so the vast majority of the carry, “experience,” is what it’s like when it’s just sitting there loaded) and who knows what the oil is going to get all over.

Another solution was to call Springfield and have the extractor, “adjusted.” I’ve owned 3 Glocks and this is my first Springfield. I’ve never had a single problem with any of the Glocks, except for the one time I replaced the original return spring with an aftermarket part (putting back the factory spring returned it to perfect condition). I do expect — and I believe very reasonably so — that it should work perfectly as delivered from the factory. I paid a lot for it and for that price I expect that they make sure it comes in full working condition. If they don’t want to take the time to adjust each piece that comes off their line, they should update the design to eliminate the need for adjustment. Is it possible? Yes. H&K does it. Glock does it. Ironically, almost the entire design of this thing is copied from Glock and they did an inferior job. I’d understand if it cost less but you can actually get a Glock cheaper.

Yet another solution was that the round in the pipe should always be loaded from the mag and not have a round shoved in. There was some explanation about how this was bad for the extractor. I can’t even begin to explain how little sense it makes that an extractor that sits directly behind chamber pressure wouldn’t be able to withstand getting pushed out of the way by a brass base. Once again, I’ve never had this problem in anything else I’ve owned and suddenly I’m supposed to change my habits because someone didn’t copy someone else’s design properly.

One person went so far as to buy another and compare the two of them down to the millimeter. That sounds like something I would do. It also sounds like something I’d never do for a piece of hardware that I don’t have particular expertise in designing. I do expect that Springfield would do exactly that with the first one that comes back bad, then recall every single one they sold in order to implement the fix for their problem. That’s their job, not mine. In addition, I’m not going to buy another one of something that doesn’t work. This is akin to people buying French wine to pour it down the drain as a slight to the French.

It chews up my rounds too. Getting a live round out of the chamber causes the base to get mangled. Once again, thank God I’ve never had to use it which means my carry rounds go in and out frequently. For this price, I expect my rounds not to get chewed up.

Having the round get stuck on the way out is problematic for other reasons also. I carry extra mags with this. It’s good practice — especially with something as unreliable as this — because in a tight situation the best recourse is to drop the mag, clear it and start with a fresh mag. I envision that I may have to rack the slide more than once if the round doesn’t come out of the chamber. This is an unacceptable risk to take for something that I’m prepared to take into a live fire situation.

All the forums I read were Springfield forums. They’re full of people who are foaming at the mouth about the perfection of any product Springfield makes regardless of the problems with it. They cite general problems about other manufacturers and give unreasonable solutions with nonsensical reasons why the work-around is actually the better way to do it. They also commit every statistical fallacy in their, “authoritative,” studies of Springfield’s perfection. I’m sure every other manufacturer has the same sort of problems — the LAPD had issues with Glocks for a while — but this did little good to color my perception.

My perception started in the negative: Springfield isn’t Glock and it’s certainly not H&K. I got it to mirror my best friend’s setup and because it’s small. I had very high hopes for it. I actually wanted it to work better than it did. I even carried it for a while. I ignored the problems with it and tried to justify them as operator error.

The Glock 42 the same size plus the mag carries an extra round. I don’t know how to justify switching from one extreme to another — from 45 to 380 — but realistically, a hole is a hole. The USP Compact — that’s a misnomer as it’s anything but compact — is fine in the winter. Incidentally, all the searches I’ve ever done about problems with that lead me to realize that that it’s better hardware than what’s holding it up. That, I will carry without extra mags and full confidence that if I die because I had problems while using it, they were my problems and not the hardware’s.

I’m going to have to track down Springfield and go through the process of having them fix it. Even upon its return, it’s unlikely it’ll get its place back in my carry lineup. My hope is that I never need to use what I carry, but if I ever did, I’d want to make sure it’s the most reliable thing I could possibly have. There will always be doubt in the back of my mind that this may be unreliable.

This is too bad because I liked the thing. In the time I carried it, I developed a little bit of an emotional attachment to it. It went with me through some rough places. I really wanted to like it and I’m sad that I have to retire it to range duty. I don’t have any passion in this either way. I’ve simply lost confidence in Springfield’s engineering practices. I don’t hate them or anything. I’m sure there are people who have perfectly good results from their products, people in all different situations. The needs of my situation have not been met by Springfield.

Recycling Plastic

I’ve gone back and forth on this extensively and I’ve decided that I’m going to take the leap. It’s a really small leap, more of crossing over a thin line in the sand.

In my new digs, I’ve got relatively few waste options. Sewer is septic and there’s no municipal trash collection. I’ve got a big bin picked up weekly by a small local company. They provide fantastic service but they’re just too small to have a comprehensive recycling program.

So I sort. Right now, here’s what that looks like:

  • Non-animal food scraps get composted. Banana peels and coffee grounds (with the paper filter) are the bulk of this but it includes parts of vegetables I don’t eat like onion skins and celery leaves.
  • A large portion of the cardboard and paper waste I generate can be burned. I’m not running an energy conversion stove for heat or steam but I do like me a campfire and some chopped and tied delivery boxes make a great replacement for fake firewood.
  • Glass will mulched. I like beer, it’s better in bottles, I don’t have a pool (yet) and I have lots of landscaping needs. Mixed glass mulch is very easy to produce and I believe it will work better than rock across the board.
  • Metal will be melted and poured. I also like Diet Coke. I inherited lots of empty used beer cans with the property. There will be a foundry and I’ll be able to make lots of things out of use metal.
  • Inked or clay paper and cardboard are transcycled. Also in this category is anything made out of metal, glass or plastic that I believe may have a use. I’ve already used some styrofoam for insulation. If it looks like someone went through the trouble of forming it into a shape, I can probably re-use it in the same or similar shape. This is sometimes a difficult decision involving cost of storage (until re-use) and meeting a material and shape to a new need. I’m still working on the mental step of always looking for a transcycling opportunity before using virgin material.
  • Excess material, scrap, dross, food waste, etc. is trashed. There’s not much that can be done with leftovers of spoiled chicken or metal shavings. These go to the dump where they’re managed appropriately by professionals.

I want to keep the last category (landfill trash) as small as possible for two reasons. First, it’s the least friendly category for the planet. Second, it costs me money to get rid of that. Ignoring the first (it speaks for itself), I’ve got the regular pick-up option or I can take items to the dump on demand. I’d like to find ways to eliminate the pick-up option and reduce my total landfill trash production to one or two bags a month that I can take to the dump.

Plastic all goes to the trash right now. It’s generally bulky even though it’s light. I get charged mostly on size (unless it exceeds a very generous weight threshold). If I can eliminate or reduce plastic in the trash, I can probably meet my goal straight off.

I’m going to have to learn how to do this.

Match & Diplex

This is a bump update from some research for the Radio Project.

I’ve gotten some more clarity on the desired end game for the antenna array. Here’s what I’m looking at:

  • I’m working on an optimized discone for reception in FM broadcast (88-108 MHz), air operations (118-137 MHz), all of VHF and UHF. By, “all,” I mean everything that’s worthwhile listening to and isn’t going to cause any issues. I’m not supposed to — and I have no interest in — snooping in any bands where I have no business. This gives me a wide receive bandwidth of (in round numbers) 80 MHz to 450 MHz. Discone antennas are supposed to have a 10:1 bandwidth so I figure I can squeeze out 80 MHz to 800 MHz and not use all of it..
  • The same discone antenna will be my VHF transmit antenna for 2-meter amateur bands. Discone antennas are advertised (colloquially, on the Internet) as having an, “about 5:1,” transmit bandwidth so with a low end in the 80 MHz range, I should be able to do 2-meter relatively easily. If I design it right, tuning it to 88 MHz instead of 80 MHz as the lowest frequency, I may be able to get it to do a decent job of transmitting on 70-cm amateur bands. Either way, using the discone as a transmitter is mostly a stop-gap bridge to get me on the air and DXing enough to figure out what more I’d want to build.
  • For HF bands, I’m going to build something bigger, along the lines of a dipole. I’m vague about that because I’m not building a 160-meter dipole. There’s got to be something that’ll get me good performance given sufficient ground planes and what not in all the HF bands I want to work in. This will be a transmit and receive antenna and it’ll probably go through several iterations.
  • Once I figure out my VHF and UHF transmit needs in more detail, I’m going to put appropriate dipoles together with the HF antenna. Other than matching, they should be able to coexist if I get the physical configuration right for phasing and what not.
  • Down the road, when I’m comfortable that I have a working and stable platform, I’m going to build some lower-frequency experimental stuff. I’m leaving an empty, “slot,” for a third antenna system that is yet to be determined. That slot may be used for other experimental things as well but having the infrastructure to pop up another antenna — feed lines, a cleared pad, etc. — will be nice. By then, I’ll have experience, I’ll probably have better tools to figure out the electrical characteristics of my experimental antennas and I may very well work towards an upgrade from the FCC.

All of this together means I’m going to have three feed lines into the shack with several wide-band antennas. Those lines will feed several radios:

  • My main ham rig. I’ve got a bunch of equipment but some of it is yet to be determined.
  • The scanner I have right now. I’m not going to build anything for this because I don’t want to mess with any regulatory stuff outside bands I’m allowed to use. I’m pretty sure a scanner out of the box won’t mess with anyone else’s reception of whatever they’re receiving.
  • Hopefully there will be an upgrade to a desktop scanner at some point. Same deal as the current scanner, just a bigger and badder version of the same thing.
  • An FM broadcast radio. The regular deal, listen to music and what not. No reason to tinker with any of that since I can probably get everything I ever wanted and more from Goodwill.
  • Whatever experimental stuff I’m going to cook up. I think there may be an SDR in my future but that’s probably a long way off. It’s nice to have the headroom.

This means that I will have five radios sharing three feed lines. I need to split lots of things. I need to diplex — maybe more — to some of the feed lines as well.

This article (PDF, 718 KB) shows how to build some simple DIY splitters. For some background, this article (PDF, 348 KB) also gives great information. I haven’t processed much of it yet but it looks like splitters are similar to impedance matchers in that they’re mostly LC circuits. In the simplest sense, they’re LC filters, which means I can tune them to the correct impedance with careful work.

Over time, I’d like to design some more isolation and possibly active splitting as well. No definite plans or even feasibility thoughts in the area yet.

This does however give me hope that I can get everything I want, engineered the way I want it, and that I can probably build most or all of it myself. I’m going to have to learn how to wind coils and transformers but I’m not sure how much radio work I can do myself without that anyway. That’ll also be really useful to know for PWM-based work, like power supplies, class D amplifiers, SDRs, etc. so learning that is going to be an important next step.