Thursday, December 1, 2016

For it is Nigh at Hand - a View from Gatlinburg

I've  pretty much come to a conclusion that there is a lot of readership here that is not devoutly Christian: they just like guns or bacon. That's OK, I'd rather have you all watching my back than most folks ANY day.

In my new book, which I figured would not be popular because it's Christian Fiction, something I'd not done before, and which a lot of folks don't read, I have a character that is based on my Dad, A WWII Veteran who still reads his Bible every morning. I wrote this book mainly for Dad, not to make lots of money (though I DID hope to break even :-) and he loved it.  Because he is finally glad I share the same depth of faith he does, because for many years I didn't.

During the horrific fires in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which much of the media has ignored, despite 100's of homes burning and many people dead or missing, a worker at Dollyworld, which had flames flickering at its borders a couple of days ago, found this, a burnt and torn page from the Bible with the following passage, just laying on the ground where the winds had blown it,

The day of the LORD is near, the day when destruction comes from the Almighty. How terrible that day will be! To you, LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.  Joel 1:20 Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand

I'm going to sleep well tonight, knowing  that this God watches over me, even though others may not feel the same.

And yes, comments are off for a couple of weeks.  I'm exhausted from finishing the book, working full time, taking care of a family, and flying back and forth to take care of my Dad.  If I don't have the time to respectfully read what you take the time to write, I'd rather have it off for a week or two.   Cheers!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Update From the Range

You'll never take me alive coppers!

I'm taking a bit of time off from all but the dog blog. I'm honestly really tired, and post-election - fed up with a lot of humanity right now.  The Range is fine, Partner is fine, Dad hanging in there.  I'm just needing a short break from so much time on the computer.

I hope you all enjoy this holiday time. I'll check back in with something you might find either fun or interesting well before Christmas, but I need a little break to pick up my spirits (literally and figuratively)

Everyone that requested  an autographed copy of my new book through the Book of Face or by email, you should have them by today, except for my friend V, as I didn't have the address of your new place (I do now).  Thanks as always, for your support and friendship.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pumpkin Patch

I'm with one of my "besties"

in that I am NOT a fan of pumpkin.  This time each year EVERYTHING is suddenly infused with pumpkin spice - coffee, tea, desserts, and beer

Yes, pumpkin flavored beer.


My husband said it's only a mild hint of pumpkin but I wouldn't try it.  He said it was very good.

Sorry.  I absolutely adore Fall and Halloween and all the orange and black decorations were put up.

But I'm still not going to try it.

Then I looked at the label.  It looked like a lizard wearing liderhosen.  He said no, that's a GRASSHOPPER.  Points at "Hopper" on the label like I am possessed.

Looks like a lizard to me.  I told him I think there are jobs out west where Millennials just smoke weed and get paid to design beer labels.

He looked at me and said: "but I'M a millennial!"

True (and that explains all the cougar jokes)  But  I'm a cranky old pumpkin hater.

But what can I say, my engineer husband is so very smart and he built me new steps with lumber and hard work that are easier on my bad knee (oh meniscus, I miss you so). The steps now go back to the yard at a much shallower angle instead of a VERY steep slope to the driveway edge (I think he got the hint when I told him the Red Bull Games were interested in using our steps).
A pictorial version of "how I lost my meniscus".

This way we could install a fence a let Abby Normal the Labrador out. So I'll forgive him the pumpkin thing, especially since he's also put up a punching bag for me in the basement so I can take out my pumpkin spice aggression and burn calories productively (30 minutes of boxing is 2 nice sized glasses of Chardonnay!)

But post-Thanksgiving there is still the remnants of Pumpkin around, in the form of that beer.

I might make something out of it.

Sourdough Pumpkin Ale beer Bread.

I have to say, I had a piece for breakfast and it was really good, only a hint of sweet and spice to it, not a "arghhh PUMPKIN spew! spew! spew!" reaction.  Flavor wise it erred more on the side of a slightly sweet yeast bread rather than a typical sweet pumpkin bread.

I made mine with my  Einkorn based wild yeast sourdough starter but will give directions for both

2 and 1/2 cups 50/50 mixture of einkorn and whole wheat pastry flour (or use white or whole wheat)
1/2 cup sourdough starter (or equal amount flour in place of)
1/4  cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (just a few shakes)
1 bottle pumpkin style ale

Beer instructions:  if using all flour, use full bottle.

If using a sourdough starter that's really thick (have to spoon into measuring cup) remove 2 Tablespoons of beer and put rest in mixture

If using a sourdough starter that you can pour into the measuring cup, remove 1/4 cup beer then add rest

Mix well and place in bread pan sprayed with non-stick spray

Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter over the top and pop in oven.

Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 50 minutes. It should pass the knife test with a firm crispy brown top crust (check it, as it may look done before it is, as the butter browns this up a bit more than other breads).

It was also really moist, and really didn't need the butter.

Not that I was going to leave that off or anything anyway.

I like the bread a lot.  Still in looking back on this fall - I can safely say I still hate pumpkin spice.
Now about that Christmas fruitcake that just arrived.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's That Time of Year Again - Black Friday Fashion Advice

Why use a needle and thread if there's duct tape?

I know a number of my female readers have dealt with the whole issue of underwire bras. (for men who are unfamiliar, an underwire bra is sort of a cross between an erector set and fabric).  Then, you've probably had the issue where at the point of highest stress, the underwire breaks, and  pokes through the fabric.  You're sitting there, all of your body parts content and happy and suddenly there's this sharp metal thing poking very delicate skin, to the point of drawing blood.

Many of us have been there.  Discomboobulated.

Unfortunately, in this case, my other bras were currently in the laundry and I had no spare. And there was NO WAY I was venturing out on the morning of Black Friday to buy a new one.

Thank heavens for Duck Tape.

With that and tactical lip gloss (and wedgie free skivies) a gal can handle most anything life tosses her way.
Tactical Lip Gloss?  Even Zeva has some of that.

Yes THAT Zeva.  NCIS is a guilty pleasure of mine, even though Ducky once described the injuries of a run over man as a broken "tibia and fibia". I think a "Fibia" is part of the jawbone of a politician, I've not seen one in a normal human body. But when you've only got an hour to save the planet, what's a little forensic goof. I still immensely enjoy the show.

On one episode, a young damsel is kidnapped from the watchful eye of the NCIS team who are protecting her as she knows a special secret. She's found hours and hours later in an old warehouse, duct taped to a chair, a big piece of duct tape across her mouth to stifle her cries, her brow damp, her shirt clinging to her in the intense heat and humidity. One of NCIS team goes after the bad guy and while one of them RIPPSSS the duct tape off of her mouth so she can speak.

Now, considering that it been stuck to her for hours, that would normally remove the lips themselves. But this is TV. Not only did it not appear to hurt her, her pink lip gloss was absolutely perfect. I mean absolutely flawless. It didn't fade, it didn't smear, despite hours of duct tape and heat. Midwest Chick and I had a long discussion on it, which included a comment in the ladies room at the Indianapolis Symphony as we reapplied our lip gloss. of "good but not duct tape proof" which several blue haired matrons about fainted over.

Look, I have my girly moments even though I own more guns than shoes. Face it, women in general pay a lot more attention to such things than men do. Probably because we grew up with Barbie who if she were a real live woman would be 6 foot 6, weigh about 98 pounds, (1/3 of which was her gravity defying chest) with a perfect hairdo that no real woman could get without enough hairspray to immobilize a Cape Buffalo.What's NOT to give a kid growing up a complex about such things as pouty lips and perfect hair when one has free range curly hair and grew up hoping there was a line of lipstick that came in .50 BMG brass.

Fortunately, I ditched Barbie and got some action figures instead. Action figures didn't have to look pretty, they just had to be able to DO stuff and be self confident. You would never expect G.I. Joe to say "does this M16 carbine make my butt look too big?" Barbie was soon retired, having lost an arm to an unpleasant Tattoo experience with the little soldering iron in the wood burner kit and a leg to a potato gun launch gone awry. She retired on disability in the Barbie FEMA house where she was soon forgotten for much cooler toys.

G.I. Joe was cool. He had only the accessories he needed. Plus he showed up in an action helicopter not a pink convertible.
But I'm not just not shopping because it's Black Friday.  Franky, I hate shopping  I hate shopping for clothes particularly, as I've written about before.

For starters I'd just as soon buy a bunch of shooty accessories than more shoes. Look, you need shoes, they keep you from stepping on scorpions and spiders barefoot, and all.   But frankly. I wouldn't notice another woman's shoes unless her feet were on fire.  My closet contains four pairs, total, though I do sort of want these Browncoat looking ones.

I have about 6 suits, 3 are court-worthy.  I also have some "it won't bother me to burn them" pants and shirts, a couple pairs of jeans and Irish sweaters and my favorite green cargo pants and black silk shirt.There's also my denim jacket. I live in the latter outfits.

But I do have a couple of  "girly" outfits. There's a little black dress and one pretty little flowered number I bought because I hang out with someone that has occasion to dress up.
But outside of that, I went for the longest time without buying anything new, but finally it happened,  Things started wearing out, cuffs frayed, collars too, and some things just get ruined out in the field.  Plus, I seriously stepped up my physical activity and started doing military style workouts for 90 minutes, three times a week, dropping the 20 pounds I picked up after I blew my knee out.

Apparently though, while I was living in the fashion dark ages, picking up just the occasional Tee-shirt and undies, sizes have changed.  What used to be the size a  thin girl wore, a size 8, is now a size 0.  There's also not just women's clothes and men's clothes, there's  junior and Missy's (which makes me think of John Wayne "well I tell ya little Missy").  Add to that designer label (which means if you're a size zero at Fashion Bug you're a negative integer at Ralph Lauren),  petite and oh, thank goodness, woman's section, which I figured, worked, because I'm a woman.  But no,  that was a way of saying, "you're not shaped like a 2 x 4.  Welcome to mumu land".

According to statisticians, I am just slightly less than the clothing size of the average American woman, usually a size 10 in pants, getting a 14 in button downs if I don't plan on wearing undergarments designed for assassination attempts).  I've got 4 inches in height on the average American gal, but I'm curved like her. I will never be "fashion model thin" but I'm strong and I can go top speed all day, which you can't do on a piece of arugula and a rice cake.

But in a world where a woman with her ribs jutting out seems to be the ideal (which, I think, would be like sleeping with a bag of antlers), clothing designers still don't seem to get how real American women are built, and most of us ARE bigger than our lipstick.
So for them, I will offer some fashion design advice.

(1) Just because I have an ample backside does not mean I'm shaped overall like a VW Beetle.  I have booty.  I also have a small waist.  So why must you make jeans that fit my hips also so big around the waist and the legs (which are decent from 20 years of ballet and tap dancing), that after sitting in them for an hour, they SLOWWLY start sliding off my form.

There I was at Mountain of Geese, seeing what they had in the way of ammo, when the jeans started doing their little gravity dance and I was afraid I was going to be mistaken for one of those gangbangers that normally frequent Don's Guns.  I hoped at least, that the briefs that were appearing were the proper degree of gansta cool. I had to sneak behind the ghilly suit display (no one will see me here!) and "adjust".

(2)  Due to my. .  er. . bust size, I often have to get a larger sized shirt.  Designers? Just because I am bustier than the other size 14 gal, does NOT mean that my arms somehow grow extra long.  Why is it if you go from a 12 to a 14 size shirt, suddenly the sleeves are 3 inches longer and you have to roll the cuffs up?
(3)  Women in my age bracket may BE considered cougars but we don't care to dress like Marlin Perkins Mistress.  Enough with all the leopard and zebra prints for everything from handbags to dresses to sweats.  The only time I wore something like that, the 20 year kid kid at the oil change place asked me out but after I jogged through the park later, I came home with a dart in my ass.

(4)  If it's 90 degrees out, sleeveless would be nice.  Apparently designers think all woman over 40 never work out and  have arms like  flying squirrels and the intent seems to be cover them up, and cover them up with voluminous fabric, even in  smaller sizes. Looking at clothing for the yearly Christmas party, all of them of had these voluminous winged arms, so that when you held your arms up and out they draped in a straight line to the waist.

I could have jumped out of an airplane in any of them and flown to earth.  When did the 2016 Christmas look become "Base Jumper".  Actually, given all the sparkles on them it was "Base Jumper Elvis".
Spring collections are worse.  Everything is white.  I am messy, I come home spattered with an assortment of fluids you don't want to know about. I've gotten bacon tangled in my hair  But I had to get something for a special occasion. I tried to be kind to the clerk and just tell her the white top and pants she presented were too. . "you know. . plain."  So she gives me a long red scarf to hang around my neck with it to add some "zing".

I looked like a thermometer.

All I could think of was "I wonder if this comes in cammo?"

I gave up,  went home and put on my cargo pants and jean jacket.
Ladies, though we may occasionally stress over the whole fashion thing, especially when under a timeline to get something for a special event, never overstress as to how you are built, if you are healthy and active. Honestly, the good men don't care about that.  They care that you make them laugh, and that you will, and have, jumped up and down with glee over your two inch grouping, and that you don't mind that their car smells like motor oil, Hoppes No. 9 and a hamburger. They look at you and don't see a size or an age, they see the form of love and the color of courage, even on your worst days, the one holding the laughter of their truest friend.

Besides, I have enough to wear for the places I usually hang out.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving - Surprise Visitor

Thanksgiving was quiet.  I have to work tomorrow.  The Head squirrel is gone, and I am in charge of the division, so I'll have to work.  But still, a day off with Partner in Grime was enjoyed.  We had no plans, but to play a few board games, tinker in the shop, and make a simple supper and get to bed early.

Then I dropped a Happy Thanksgiving note to one of the Indy Bloggers, who actually lives in Chicagoland but would visit his parents in Indy during cancer treatments. He and his teenage son had stopped by the Range  here up North when they were in the area after school but had missed my husband on those trips, and with my many trips to check on Dad out in Washington State when I had a long weekend or vacation, I'd talked to, but not seen David in two years.

When I met David through the Indy blog group, doctors gave him 2-5 years to live, and his wife left, not wishing to deal with it.  So in the middle of his chemo, with the support of our guys, Midwest Chick and I actually bought dresses and "make me write bad checks" very high heeled pumps and went on each arm with him to a date at the symphony.
That was several years ago, and despite what the doctors told him seven years ago, he is still here though he is on daily dialysis as the aggressive chemo took out his kidneys. I had figured he would at his parents in Indy for Thanksgiving, having spent one delightful Turkey Day with them when Partner was on the road, and I was on call down there one Turkey Day.  But I  told him, if not, he was welcome to come over for dinner.

Turns out, that sadly, his Dad passed this last year and his Mom recently went in a nursing home, so he was just home reloading, while his son was with the ex.  So the invite was ON! The holiday food was prepped and we looked forward to his visit.

So he came over for dinner.  He used to work in the same industry Partner in Grime does (but for a competitor) so they had all kinds of things to talk about, and there were several antique firearms in the shop getting reworked and restored to keep us from going into a coma after the meal and fudgy brownies (sorry, NOT a fan of pumpkin).

When he  left, Partner looked at me after the door closed and said: "You have the COOLEST friends!"

Indeed I do and I'm grateful for all of you as you see me through life's ups and downs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Unexpected Finds

Partner in Grime is a Mechanical Engineer.  Or at least he TELLS me he is.  :-)  For you see I've never actually seen his workplace or a paycheck, but large amounts of money just show up in our savings account.  I tease him a little about it.

A day or so ago, I came home unexpectedly early, and on the clothesline downstairs where he had done some laundry before running an errand were all these gloves.  Dozens of gloves, all stained with dark rust like colors that wouldn't come out.

I hear the back door open, then footsteps in the kitchen followed by a creak at the top of the stairs .. . I peer up and ask him as I hold up one of the creepy stained gloves.

"So babe - tell me again - mechanical engineer . . . or serial killer?"

I think I made him snort his beer.

Fortunately, he doesn't have to go to the plant Friday as he has a vacation day that's a use or lose.  I have to work, but telework on Friday so he can see why I do during the day and we can eat lunch together.

You all have a safe, and sane Thanksgiving.Whoever you're with.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bacon Care of Business - Mac and Cheese

Temperatures in northern Illinois dropped from the 70's to the 20's within a couple of days.  I can't complain, as according to Facebook, a post of early November of last year was Abby romping in some snow in our backyard and this year we maintained spring-like weather (including heavy thunderstorms) until the third week of the month.

But it made for a weekend where it was just nice to stay inside, and warm. , ,

. . . and do some home cooking.

The last three years have been a blur. A crash pad move due to very noisy neighbors,then a move home, a big career change from field to high-level position at headquarters, taking care of Dad when my brother, his caregiver, suddenly died, getting married, writing three books and doing all the usual author stuff at libraries, book clubs, and signings, and organizing the sales therefrom to several dozen animal nonprofits.
Partner in Grime and Dad - enjoying their reading.

All of this while trying to maintain some semblance of  three blogs (I also have a pet and a fitness blog), canning, baking, prepping and gym rat time. I'm ready for some down time this winter.  I have tried to buy (so I'm a verified purchase -  but thanks for the autographed ones!) and read all of the books my blog friends have written, of which there are some amazing ones.  But I have a whole stack of books that have been sitting here gathering dust over the last couple of winters.  I'm going to take those on with some continued light blogging, spending some time in person with friends, and some new recipes.
Like some mac and cheese.

After I made this and Partner in Grime was stealing spoonfuls as it cooled, I looked at him and said: "has anyone in your generation actually eaten homemade mac and cheese?"  He shook his head - mac and cheese comes in a blue box or a frozen red box. . right?

This was the best mac and cheese I've made in several years, and aside from standing at the stove stirring for 14 minutes (with wine - I'm ambidextrous when it comes to whisking and drinking wine), it was super easy to make and Partner raved about how good it was.  Even these pictures, taken two days later as leftovers with some fresh breakfast bacon (it was too dark when I first made it for photos), doesn't do it justice as to how creamy it was when it came out of the oven.

Creamy Mac and Cheese (serves 4 as a main dish, and 6-8 as a side dish)

1 and 3/4 cups dry macaroni

12 ounces sharp cheddar (I used 8 ounces of sharp cheddar, grated from a block and 4 ounces of pre-shredded cheddar/jack leftover from making enchiladas Saturday). If you can, grate your own. Pre-shredded cheese doesn't have the moisture of block and has preservatives. Shredding your own tastes SO much better; is cheaper, and makes a creamier mac and cheese.

3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard (in the spice aisle for you new cooks)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
4  to 5 shakes of a jar of crushed red pepper (about 1/4 tsp.)

2 and 1/2 cups milk (I used 1 % -  what I had in the fridge)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease or non-stick spray an 8 x 8 casserole dish.

Mix flour and spices in a small cereal bowl.

Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling full boil.  Stir in pasta.  Cover and turn off heat.  Set timer for six minutes. (seriously - for servings up to four -  I never stand and boil my pasta, just give it a quick stir, cover with a tight lid, turn off the heat, and walk away, using the normal time on the box).  Since this will cook further in the oven, I only cooked it to "al-dente", so it was still a bit firm to the bite.

Grate the cheese - you want 3 cups total.
When the timer goes off for the macaroni - drain, then rinse with very cold water and drain again so it quits cooking and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl.

Get timer, beverage of choice, and potholder on standby and in reach.  Once you start the next step you do NOT want to step away from it for "another glass" or "let the dog out" or you will  likely scald the milk or end up with lumps.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan. Set a timer for 14 minutes. Whisk in flour and spice mixture, over medium/high heat, whisking constantly for two minutes.  Use a real whisk, (even WalMart has them), rather than a fork.   In a slow stream, add the milk, whisking constantly. Whisk until the timer goes off and the mixture is thickening at medium-high heat.  You want it steaming but NOT coming to a full simmer (bubbles).

Turn off heat and stir in grated cheese, stirring until it's melted.

Pour cheese sauce over macaroni, stirring to break up macaroni and place in 8 x 8 x pan.  Bake uncovered at 375 for 20-25 minutes until bubbling around all of the edges and just starting to brown. Let cool for 3-5 minutes.

Top with chopped bacon or buttered bread crumbs (I prefer the bacon). I believe there was a vegetable in the room so we covered all food groups.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pocket Pistol Protection - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

I've owned a number if inexpensive "pocket pistols" to varying degree of success.  By success, I mean, not actually having to use it to defend myself but not being known at the range as "Noodle Wrist Johnson" or drawing blood (because if I want something that BITES me I'll get a pet alligator.)

Many of those guns are polymer, which makes them both light, and cheaper to make.

I'll be honest. I had never been a fan of guns made out of polymer. But then I added a little Smith and Wesson M and P 9 to the stable after firing one a friend owned and really liked it, and heard the praises of the Glocks from many of my colleagues.

When I saw my first Glock as a young woman back in the late 80's, the 1911 style .45 auto was THE defensive pistol to have when things went south in a hurry. I still felt that way most days, so when one of the Indy gun bloggers first brought one of the smaller Glocks to the range I had to try it.

I wasn't sure what to think.  I mean, It's PLASTIC.  When I thought of going to a gun show and buying one and coming home with friends asking "what did you get!" all I could think of is the Charlie Brown Halloween special (heavy sigh) "I got a GLOCK".  Because frankly folks, to me anyway, most plastic guns have all the aesthetic appeal of a sippy cup.  Face it, I love revolvers. I love 1911's  I love a gun with some character. I love old weapons, period. I love tools as well. Put a wood handled tool in my hand and I just want to craft something with it or at least take a chunk out of one of my fingers so I can practice some new words in the shop.
But I love such things. Especially guns lovingly crafted with steel and rosewood, intricately machined forgings, polished flats and arcs cleanly intersecting, beautiful bluing and straw tempering, it is hard to find anything in a plastic pistol that speaks to me. Give me something made of fired steel and sweat, to be carried through generations, passed on from father to son, older brother to little sister, mother to daughter.
The history of personal weapons is one of honor, family, sacred duty, prestige and adornment. Warriors were buried with their swords, or they were handed down through generations. I have blades forged hundreds of years ago, as sharp as the day they were made. Somehow a personal weapon with the soul of toaster oven seems wrong. Besides, when you draw that 1911, John Moses Browning is probably looking over your shoulder, smiling.

I wasn't a fan of those first Glocks I fired, only for the feel of the grip than the quality or the handling. But then I got a chance to shoot one of their Glock 21's.  It soon made its way to the Range to make a home because frankly, compared to Glock's I'd fired, the 21 was still a barrel of fun but it didn't have that "blocky" feel to the grip I sensed in other models I'd tried with hands which have a small palm, but really long fingers. It now has a custom made laser sight on it, near where I sleep in case of a home break in as I know it won't let me down. But a Glock 21 is not a "budget gun" which is our featured today.

So though I passed on the cheaper Glocks and a Bersa was added  to the collection.
It's a weapon that's been out for a while, and there it was again, for sale at the gun store, at a price I was really surprised at. I picked it up, liked how it felt in my hand and REALLY liked the price. Certainly, there are a lot of small weapons for sale and cheap, but not all are made with good craftsmanship and quality materials. Holding them up, they may look good, but the metals may be poor, zinc or some sort of mystery metal that may be too heavy or too soft, certainly not guns I'd stack up against someone attempting to attack me on an isolated street. I was looking for something for concealed that wasn't just cheap and light, but was made well. Not for a trip to downtown at night, but something small and light that I could carry running errands or in environmental conditions that result in less bulky clothing or as a backup gun.
When I first spotted one, the store owner was quick to point out that this .380 is similar to the Walther PPK/S, including a seven round magazine with a plastic floor plate extension. I did a little homework. On-line reviewers tend to rate them as reliable, well-built, and strong enough for the average "social situation". There are people that want a gun, but aren't into owning more than one or two, or paying a lot of money. So for me at the time, the Bersa was a nice option.

As shooters it's easy to dismiss inexpensive guns as simply being "junk", and all of us wish to own some fine quality firearms.  But history has a way of showing that over time, for many an ordinary citizen, a cheap firearm may be all they had to defend themselves with.
On the table sits an old-fashioned revolver, as finely tuned as a musical instrument, carefully tended and cleaned and oiled.It simply sits, no hand upon it, musing, steadfast, not threatening in its form, yet carrying with it a weight of responsibility.The weapon is old, the barrel black, as if fire singed, cauterized by fury and fight, turmoil and threat.It is a weapon of history, of a hand that raised it in response to such things, taking stock of their principals and courage.  This is my land, this is my family, these are the things that my hands bled to gain.  I may be one man, one woman, but gaunt, tired and undefeated I will take up my arms and not flee.

 I live in a world totally foreign to the original owner of that old revolver,  yet I too bear the weary, indomitable outrage against those that feel that they can come in and steal what I have worked so hard for.

I wonder what a resident of a 19th Century Western landscape would think of us today were he transported here? For back in the days of the old West, it wasn't just the cowboys and gunfighters that were armed, but the farm and the shopkeeper,

Firearms were prevalent, not only to protect against wild animals, Indian raids and the likebut also against the rustler and the poacher, to whom the laws, gun or otherwise, meant nothing.

But in the later days of the old West, such ordinary folks were unlikely to carry a more pricey six-shooter on their hip.  Many of them got a bulldog, and NOT the canine variety

The “British Bulldog” was a basic double action revolver whose design can be traced back to Philip Webley and Son of Birmingham, England in 1872 and were subsequently copied by gunmakers in Continental Europe, particularly in Belgium and the United States
These had a reputation as being good, reliable handguns. It featured a 1.2 inch barrel and was chambered for .44 Short Rimfire. Most of the ones we have seen weren't made by Webley, but by smaller shops where a few gunsmiths with mostly hand tools, could turn simple forgings into function firearms, have them proof stamped, and  then send them off to foreign markets by the dozen.

Popular in Britain and the American West, US Army General George Armstrong Custer was said to have carried a pair at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, though it didn' exactly make his day end well.
Intended to be carried in a coat pocket, many have survived to the present day in good condition, having seen little actual use.  However, most Belgian copies were not particularly long lived.  "Soft parts" wear quickly, which gives way to timing and lockup problems.  But that was not an era where people had the ammo to go "plinking" for fun or practice, so such firearms, kept clean and used sparingly, would usually go "bang", not "*#(@!) when necessary. It wouldn't be useful at ranges much beyond a few feet, but many a shopkeeper or bartender kept one  under the counter and I guarantee more than one woman of the old West had one nearby when he man was far away from the homestead.

Myself, I prefer a stout looking big barreled big brother - which says more "leave me alone", but too, have a "pocket pistol" when taking the trash out, or walking to the corner store for something quick. Still, back in the day, I don't think I would want to have looked down the shooty end of one of these guns.

Sales of cheap firearms didn't slow down even as the U.S. economy and standard of living increased, paralleling the manufacture of their more pricey counterparts.  For every Smith and Wesson high-quality firearm turned out, there would be a budget minded copy made at Harrington and Ricahrdson. Many of those designs were almost identical in looks to their more expensive counterparts the differences being metallurgy and heat treatment, as well as fit and finish.
Pictured is the Range Harrington and Richardson Hammerless .38 S + W.

It was manufactured sometime prior to 1904 I believe, given the caliber and very low serial number and like all first models of the H & R Hammerless, both large and small frames, it was manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures (a give away for that being it doesn't have the caliber stamped on the side of the barrel and there are no horizontal notches on the side of the cylinder).
Like the (Belgian) British bulldogs, they were not likely to hold up well if shot regularly, but they still served a defense function and someone of average means could sav up a few dollars and order one of these from the Sears catalog.  Having a function al sidearm compared to NO firearm is a no brainer.

Next up is a little pocket pistol that meetings two functions to qualify as a cheap firearm.
(1)  It's a firearm
(2) It's cheap

That's about all of the nice things I can say about it.

The Valor SM-11.  These come up occassionally for sale, usually for less than $200, and I've seen one as low as $25 (which screams run away! right there).. This is not one I'd recommend.  They usually come in two forms, mint in a box with a box of vintage ammo or parts guns.The owner of this example lost the front of the slide downrange using ordinary factory ammo. The mint ones someone probably bought, shot once, vowing never to fire that particular firearm again, the putting it away for years.
“What’s that?” you say,”Is that pot metal?

No, it’s probably Zamak, which is way we city folks say high strength pot metal. Apparently. in order to avoid the cost of forging or machining the frame and slide, they were die cast instead. Sure it's cheaper and faster, but Zamack is NOT the best material based on its inherent brittleness and corrosion issues.

Over time, the pot-metal frame corrodes even when carefully stored, just from the action of Oxygen on it, and the frame weakens to the point where even a .22 short can blow it up and the barrel alignment to the cylinder is also commonly poor. Shooting at a bad gun only to have the barrel fall off might make a good comedy movie, but it is not smart.

The cost cutting didn’t stop there.  Compare the internal workings of the SM-11 to the much higher quality Colt 1908 parts. (this is a Range firearm)
The pocket hammerless is another design by firearms legend John Moses Browning.  Manufactured by Colts's Manufacturing Company from 1908 to 1948,  it was originally said to have been presented to Colt Management before the turn of the century but they passed on it, allegedly in efforts to produce a larger caliber pistol that would help them secure a military contract.  Their loss was Frabrique Nationale de Herstal's gain as FN welcomed the design, producing Brownings self-loading pocket pistol and the FN Model 100 both chambered for the Browning introduced .25 ACP (Automatic Colt pistol) cartridge.
The European market fell in love with it, a loss which was felt by Colt as their European sales took a hit. Colt wasted no further time in brokering a deal with Browning and FN to produce the handgun for US sales, marketing it as a small concealable firearm which could be easily tucked into a gentleman's vest pocket for discrete carry

The moving parts in the Colt were milled, heat treated and usually ground to a good finish.  Certainly, you don't have to have such a clean finish on EVERY part of a more economical firearm, but when you're looking at parts that keep the gun from firing when it's NOT supposed to do, it's vital they be milled properly and more rugged. Now you may not need to have such a clean finish on every part of a more budget oriented gun,
In the Valor, there are several parts made from stamped sheet metal and a few made of plastic (including the safety, yes, I always think plastic when I think safety)  A quick check with a file makes it clear that the steel bits, maybe aside from the barrel, were not heat treated.

The firearm's basic design is not that bad, modeled off of the Walther Patent Model 9, which is a decent little pistol.  The Valor is easy to field strip, acceptably ergonomically sound, and aside from the safety lever, ( and if you get the one that's not starting to rot from the inside out) probably functional.  But the choice of materials, for me personally, is a deal breaker  Between a brittle slide and the plastic safety block, this is not a gun I would even FIRE, let alone concealed carry.

Now contrast the SM-11 to the ‘cheap guns’ of today, the Glocks, the Keltecs, the Bersa's the Hipoints and more. Some may be plastic, and some may be blocky but if cared for well, they should not let you down and the HiPoints are surprisingly rugged. It's not the one pictured below - but you can get a Hi-Point Model C-9, a polymer-framed, semi-auto,blowback-operated pistrol chamber iun 0 x 10 Parabelluls (and rated to accept+P ammo) for around $160.
Another US-made economical firearm that a colleague who is a retired police officer swears by for his pocket pistol is Keltec.  I've never owned or shot one,  but he loves his little K-11, a compact, semi-auto, short-recoil operated pistol chambered in 9 mm Luger.

Another one I'm going to check out soon is the Chiappa M-22. The M9 Semiautomatic is a 9x19mm Parabellum pistol that was adopted in 1985 as the official sidearm of the United States military after winning a competition in the 1980s, beating out many other contenders. The 92F survived exposure to temperatures from -40°F to 140°F, being soaked in salt water, being dropped repeatedly on concrete, and being buried in sand, mud and snow. Additionally, the 92F proved a MRBF (mean rounds before failure) of 35,000 rounds, the equivalent to five or six times the pistol’s service life.

Want a Revolver? You can pick 8p a 8sed Taurus 82S for less than $300.The .38 Special with a 4″ barrel is a timeless classic as well as a reliable handgun with very few parts to ever fail. A .38spl cartridge has resulting in the bad being being on the short end of the losing side and it would certainly comfort this gal if my front door was kicked in.

So there we've covered a bit of what's out there in cheap handguns, the good and the bad.  And since there 's usually a third term used in that phrase, I present you 

The Ugly,
Remember, whether you get an old classic or a new plastic piece remember, it's about function, not admiration. With some cheap firearms,  you may not get oohs and aahs at the range, but you'll have a piece of defense on your hip or in in your pocket when you need it.  And THAT, my friends, is priceless.