Monthly Archives: January 2008

Did you know you may be able to own a Machine Gun? – Class III in the 21st Century

Thompson Machine Gun - Legal for Some Civilians

Ok this is the nearest to an “Investment Plug” I think the blog will ever do.

Not all that widely known is that a good many US Citizens may qualify for civilian ownership of a Machine Gun – a Thompson Submachine gun – Tommy Gun – an M-16 – or an UZI – or any one of hundreds of other machine guns.

While they own one they will also experience an increase in investment value caused by the strictly limited supply of legal machine guns.

This is nothing new.

Since the 1930’s the NFA (National Firearms Act) has laid out the rules for civilian ownership of machine guns.  The rules have been modified in the 1960’s & 1980’s but the basic structure remains.

After passing a background check and paying a $200 tax (for a stamp) a qualified US Citizen living in a location allowing private machine gun ownership may acquire the firearm.

Here is a good summary of the rules: – LINK DEAD 2/2/2011 – replacement link appears to be:

(Also the ATF has their handbook on NFA online at )

With the number of “Fully Transferable” Class III Machine Guns capped at less than 300,000 pieces the values of these firearms has increased dramatically over the years.

Current pricing is starter Class III (Mac-10 type Machine Gun) currently is in the $3,000 range, having been a $800 gun just five or years ago.

A “fine” machine gun (M-16 or Thompson) range from $10,000 to $40,000.

The nuances of Class III ownership are beyond this short piece, but it is one of those rare occasions when something is Fun, is Investment Grade and so tightly regulated by the Government that there is zero chance of a sudden flood of legal product diluting one’s investment.

Now if we could only find a way to make such stellar investments in the Amateur Radio hobby as well!



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Battening Down the Hatches – Station in Winter Storm Mode

Weather 24 hours

click on chart for a full sized version of the WX charts first 24 hours of the storm

We have various names for these sorts of winter weather fronts here in Wisconsin – “Saskatchewan Screamer,” “Alberta Clipper” or just “The Storm”

Had plenty of warning, so the tower is down, the longwire antenna secured and we’re ready.

Where were at 45 F (+8c) with calm winds Tuesday at Noon, by sunrise Wednesday Morning our forecast weather is -8 F (-23c) with 30-50 mph (50-90 kph) winds – resulting in a wind chill of below -35 F (about the same at -37c)!!

Looks on track with winds already howling at temperatures dropping about 6 F (3.3c) per hour. Already down to 12F (-11c) as we made a dash to the hardware store and supermarket to deal with errands.

The tower here is rated at 23 SF at 90 mph carrying 1 inch of ice extended. I’ve roughly a 11 SF of wind-loading with my mast and antennas and over built the base to take a bigger tower. No way to tell if the bigger base changed the limitations of the tower without new engineering calculations, but it certainly was easy to do at install and would allow a heavier tower to support a larger array of antennas on the same base.

With the tower lowered the performance calculations are high enough that the house would loose its roofing, windows and siding before the tower should show any damage.

I have the feed lines grounded as we’ve found this dry snow rubbed on the tower and antennas can induce a static charge.

With plenty of extra firewood brought in, the larder well stocked and a very well insulated home (even in this howling weather no significant drafts, cold spots or even noise).

Time to catch up on reading and perhaps get a start on QSL card arrears. That is until early tomorrow when weather regardless it will be off to work.




Snap Snap – Photographing Your Shack & Setup


There is nothing like a few well shot photographs to help you duplicate your shack after a loss, move or simply a good cleaning!
With digital cameras letting us shoot & store photos for nearly zero cost, we return on your time investment to have a good selection of shack photos is outstanding!  
I’ve tried to capture the shack layout, the individual pieces of gear, their ID & serial number tags, how they are wired up and anything unusual.
These photos have been handy when I repainted the shack walls, my insurance coverage should be a bit more secure through photo-documentation, and I dud use the wiring photographs when I set up my rig in the field for Field Day.


One small tip I was taught,  with digital cameras you can turn off the flash and often get better pictures of faceplates, ID & serial plates.  
There are a few digital cameras that response to near infrared light, making them useful to experiment with.  I’m told you can sometimes find an energized short through looking at the heat shown on one of these cameras, but I’ve only worked with full industrial infrared survey cameras.    But I’ve been told it works (I wouldn’t go buy a camera just to try it though.)
Get the photos into your station documentation and make sure you have a backup file stored somewhere else!
Smile & say “Cheese!”  <<snap>> 
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Good Reads & Good Listens – Suggestions for Keeping Up with Amateur Radio – Gratis Offerings

Just few of the very many good (no cost) Reads & Listens for keeping up with Amateur Radio.  (There are many more – feel free to add your favorites by posting a comment to this post).


K9YA Telegraph eNewsletter –

The K9YA Telegraph is wonderful pdf based monthly newsletter that as a (free) subscriber you receive a download link & instructions each month.  I alwasy find something interesting in this one!

ARRL Rate Sheet eMail Newsletter –

Ward Silver N0AX Edits this fantastic bi-weekly emailed newsletter. Targetted for both “active and casual contesters” the Rate Sheet has enough high quality content to make it a newsletter most amateurs would enjoy reading.  You can download copies from the ARRL website or subscribe. 


KE9V Long Delayed Echos (LDE) –

I’ve long been a fan of LDE enjoying the way Jeff KE9V makes Amateur Radio come alive.  For 2008 Jeff KE9V is significantly revamping his podcast offering, adding audio books and videos.  He’s mentioned a May target date for some of the newest of his projects to appear.  Watch his site for news!

TWIAR (This Week in Amateur Radio) –

Another long time K9ZW favorite listen, TWIAR is a tremendous “all around” podcast available in various flavors (International & Domestic versions that can be rebroadcast and ones with music that by FCC rules cannot be played on amateur bands).  Numerous ways to subscribe or download the weekly show.  Well worth the effort!

Handiham Podcast –

You usually will find a slice of this Podcast included in TWAIR, and if you like what you hear you can subscribe to the full Handiham Podcast from a link off the Handiham main webpage.  Though targeted to Handicapped Radio Amateurs and those who Elmer them, the podcasts are really well done and have something for everyone!

ARRL Audio Newsletter –

This excellent audio newsletter has a huge number of options – you can download it, subscribe as a podcast, listen to the current issue over the telephone or get the written text version!  Always something interesting in this one!

I’ve only touched on the first handful that come to mind – the Amateur Radio community is full of creative people who really do effectively communicate!!  (Figures, right!!??!)

In a week or so I’ll touch on my favorite Paid Subscription “Reads & Listens.”  Please add your favorite free suggestions by adding a comment!



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With Varying Frequency – Amateur Radio Ponderings – Year One and 800 Posts Later….

First Birthday!

I forgot to release this post on January 22nd, which is the actual one year anniversary of “With Varying Frequency – Amateur Radio Ponderings” !! First year of writing brought over 800 posts, nearly a thousand readers on days (peak was many times that one week), hundreds of comments, birth of two sibling blogs, and I hope somewhere in this perhaps at least one person inspired to join the ranks of Amateur Radio!

Thank YOU all for reading and sharing your bandwidth with me!

Looking forward to this year!



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Old vs New – Amateurs of All Interests and Abilities

Recently I’ve had an email dialogue with a well known (but not named here as I will take the heat for anything I write) amateur who had received outright “hate emails” and further felt some amateurs had shunned him, because of his opinions he had written up in various blog posts.

He had ventured to touch one of the “third rails” of amateur radio – the Code/No-Code thing.

No bad thing that.  We need to understand the views and voices of our hobby’s members.

But Hate Mail as a result??!!

This is just a hobby.  A passion for many, but certainly a hobby alone for the vast majority. 

As such, to EVER dish out scathing “Hate Mail” because an author holds an opinion differing yours is wrong. 

 Categorically wrong without question.

We’re participants in a very diverse hobby – one that has as EQUALLY VALID members who may build their own replica crystal & tube radios intending to operate QRP with CW, to ones who take pride in having the “killer DX station” regardless of expense, to those enamored of satellites, GPS’s, Computers and Digital Modes, to others who travel as much as possible so as to be able to operate from far flung locations.

These, and the many I have not named, are parallel and equally valid interests and opportunities in the hobby.

Puzzling to meet Amateurs first licensed before I was born who strive each day to learn something new about their hobby, finding the same “let’s learn” attitude in Boomers & Brand New hams, but then finding strange attitude of “If you don’t see it my way, you are not a ‘real-ham’ attitude,” again in all ages and experiences of amateurs.

Actually that attitude is OK internalize, but when externalized in bad behavior it is inexcusable.  It is the ham set upon “raining on others parades” that should reconsider whether they are well placed in our shared hobby.

Where do you fit in the scheme of Amateur Radio and how can you do better supporting your fellow ham?

If you are like me, you will be able to see ways you can strive to better yourself, your hobby and Elmer those your life touches!

Looks like we all could be busy – see you there!



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