Posting of the OffCON 4 program/DOPE Book was requested some time ago, however due to organizational minutiae, files were misplaced and other more important things were moved on to. However, since we’re gearing up now for OffCON 6, a concerted effort was put into locating the files, and they were eventually recovered from a backup disk. That said, I present to you, in all it’s unholy glory:
Ballistic Pamphlet-Digital Pub.pdf



In short, no one is sure yet, least of all me. Planning is preliminary, but there is much work to do, and not a lot of time to do it. But in the spirit of “the best time to start planning was yesterday”, and “the second best time to start planning is now”, some quick announcements. We hit some major snags last year and which like the rest of 2020 was a slow motion calamity. fingers crossed We will attempt to avoid that this year.

As per usual, the OffCON is traditionally the second or third weekend in October, sometimes we shoot for a full moon, sometimes we actively avoid it. This year Oct 20 is a full moon, so like it or not, we will have a nearly full moon for the weekend. This should open up more opportunities for night shooting, pending a location that allows such.

OffCON 2021 will be either Oct 14-17, or Oct 21-24. Come back for more official announcements!



There was no official announcement of Offcon 2020 as the event was greatly scaled back because 2020 is 2020, and there’s nothing Murphy hates more than someone making a long-term plan. Despite efforts to avoid it, Murphy made a big showing this year, and for now Offcon is officially dead pending a new location.

Here is the report from Jim about what happened Saturday morning:
OK, here is what happened this morning at Camp Taco. Just after I got out of my tent, I saw a vehicle traveling south on RM361 adjacent to the camp. It said something Police (could not tell who due to bushes). Said vehicle then pulled into our driveway and I saw that it was US Navy Police.

A Lt. got out and asked how I was doing, and then advised that I was trespassing on Navy property. Having not remembered the discussion a year or two about some land out there changing hands, I asked when that happened? He advised that it was in 2016, but the Navy had not started doing anything with the land. A lot of the changes were supposed to happen this year, but Corona slowed some of that down. He was very specific that at this point, his purpose was education. I said that was interesting because we have checked with BLM after 2016 and they made no mention of it. He said yep. The guy was about as nice as he could be about it.

We chatted for darn near 45 minutes. I asked him point blank if I needed to leave and he said yes. He did however say that what I do after he left was not under his control. He also said that there were Navy Environmental people a mile or two north who had seen my camp and reported it to the Navy Police. So I can assume that if I did not leave, there would be a followup visit – and it might not be so pleasant. I fixed and ate my breakfast, did one more drone flight, and packed up. I left Camp Taco for the last time at 1125.

He showed me the map, but said that he could not give me a copy – but he did let me take a photo of the map. That photo is attached.

Here is the attached image of the map.



About two years ago, I first took the plunge into DMR radio with the GD-77, at the time it was one of the relatively few sub-$100 DMR radios that supported both UHF and VHF on the same platform. For those who are unfamiliar with DMR, there is a remarkably sharp learning curve. The programming software (CPS) that comes with most radios does nothing to ease the transition, the GD-77 also has a few particular quirks which interrupt normal reception, often requiring the radio to be put into “promiscuous mode” in order to receive programmed talk groups. If this sounds like a negative review of the GD-77, it very much is, there are some desirable features vs other DMR radios on the market, and it’s very acceptable as a difficult-to-program analog radio.

The GD-77 was a complete disappointment as a DMR radio. One of the additional problems that complicates the management of the GD-77 is the firmware/CPS software versions are highly dependent on being of a similar build and generation, without agreement between these two bits of software, a codeplug might be written to the radio, however, attempts to test would be met with esoteric messages like “Be TX Fail”. In most cases, performing a factory reset was the only way to back out of this.

Enter the OpenGD77 Project. Previously there was what was called a “community edition GD-77 CPS” (now depreciated) which worked well. However, the new OpenGD77 provides substantially more than just a less buggy programming interface, that is compatible with the existing CPS (offering the same plus a few expanded options). Most importantly, the project also includes OpenGD77 firmware which makes radical improvements to the user interface as well as the display.

There are a few downsides to the OpenGD77 firmware, the principle complaint is the firmware has it’s own static setting for the control buttons. Meaning, you can’t simply set the accessory buttons to your desired features. Here is the firmware button mapping:

The other downside to the OpenGD77 Firmware is you lose the capability of accessing the encryption features of DMR. Not that these features are particularly strong, and yes, there are very valid points to turning this feature off as far as international compatibility (a lot of countries have put key escrow regimes into place fairly recently) as well as here in the US encrypted communications over amateur radio is limited to a single case by the FCC: Satellite control.

With all of that said, the OpenGD77 Firmware is worth checking out if you happened to buy a GD77 and haven’t been very happy with it’s performance. It really breathes new life into the radio and fixes a lot of long-standing issues I’ve had. The instruction manual provides a very good tutorial for how to install the new Firmware, and rather than duplicating any of that effort here, I suggest referring to the manual, as I’m positive some of this process may change with time.

  • Open GD77 User Guide
  • Author


    This is the final announcement, and plan overview.

    UPDATE 10/15


    Offcon is now open. Anyone who wants to attend can. It is recommended you be a known personality to the BigSAC crew, but hey, you do you. What’s less awkward than introducing yourself to a bunch of strangers in the middle of nowhere?

    Cost: $40 to participate in the long range rifle clinic. This is to cover materials and is payable in cash on site.

    Meals: There will be no chuck-wagon this year

    Location: The location is approximately 25 miles and about a 1-hour drive from the nearest paved road, in the back country near Black Water Wells in the Red Mountain BLM management area. Exiting US-395 at Cuddeback/20 Mule Team road, and then driving east. The dirt roads in this area do not have conventional road signs but will be marked with RM and a number. If for some reason you get lost and find a different two-letter designation you have left the Red Mountain management district and are terribly lost.

    The suggested route is:

    RM34 (Cuddeback/20 Mule Team) – This is the exit from US-395

    RM50 – RM34 turns into this road on the far side of the Cuddeback Dry Lakebed, pay careful attention as the road and signs are not well marked in this area, essentially you want to continue headed in the same direction at the far side of the lake, however it may look like a left-turn is needed. Avoid this, if you make a mistake this road is labeled RM134, just backtrack until you hit RM50/RM34.

    RM100 – There is a Gate on RM50 at Black Water Wells, this area is property of a Desert Tortoise Habitat preservation group. Please close the gate after driving through. Driving a short way up to the old site of the ranch at BWW, RM100 leads south and goes around the hills to the east.

    RM361 – After passing through the hills and going downhill, the valley opens up, there’s a spot of joshua trees and then make a left turn (north) onto RM361.

    Alternatives (and if you get lost)

    RM363/RM359 meet up with RM361 on the far side of the hill. If you get lost and continue on RM34, this will take you the northern route around the large hill shown on the maps. You can take this road directly to RM359 and turn south until it meets with RM361 you should see camp from there. This route is rockier and at least one person last year tore open a tire going this way.

    This map shows everything from US-395 to camp.

    Here is an inset detail image.


    Thursday – Arrive at camp, set up and establish camp. Enjoy some stargazing.

    Friday – There will be an introduction to long range shooting, including mathematics, observation techniques, gear lists, and organizational information. This will be followed by observation techniques, some coaching on position shooting and gear, and then establishing DOPE, and an impromptu Ball Torture session as the sun goes down.

    Saturday – This will be the practical application of Friday, including Range Estimation, Target acquisition, Wind Reading and DOPE. This will be done as a session of Rifle Golf.

    Sunday – Site cleanup, camp breakdown and drive out.

    Gear List

    • Any bolt action rifle chambered in a centerfire caliber is suitable, we will be shooting from 50-500 yards, optics are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Your rifle should be equipped with a bipod and sling.
    • Handgun – Because of the walking involved a holster that covers the trigger will be required for Friday Night Ball Torture and Reverse Golf. Handguns may be .22LR, but this may not be suitable for Reverse Golf.
    • You should bring at least 100 rounds of rifle ammunition (200 Recommended), and at least 100 rounds of handgun ammunition (200 recommended).
    • Eyes and Ears – You’ll probably want sunglasses, but bring a pair of clears. Electronic muffs are recommended, the two common cheap brands are Walker’s Game Ear, and Peltor Range Guard. The Walker’s are excellent for hunting, the Peltors are better for shooting ranges with constant background noise.
    • Wear a good pair of walking shoes and bring a small backpack that can hold water, sunscreen, and any equipment you might need.
    • Shooting Mat of some variety.
    • Spotting scope and Tripod.
    • Notepad or Notebook – You will be given a small ballistic book with dope sheets, but you may want additional notepaper.