Book, Movie, and Web Reviews Category

Monday, February 24, 2014

  CONTACT! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival
Revised and Expanded Second Edition

by Max Velocity

ISBN-13: 978-1478106692

Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication date: 2012

Sid's R.E.A.D.Y. SCALE 1=Low 5=High
eadability: Literary style and ease of assimilation
ducational : Utility of the information
ccuracy: Fact or conjecture, opinion or consensus.
etail: Depth of information. Are the nuts & bolts of the concepts present?
es Factor: Overall rating

The author Max Velocity (not his real name) is an ex-U.S. and U.K. armed forces member. He served with British Special Operations Forces. Per the authors bio: The author served on six operational deployments, including to Afghanistan immediately post-9/11, and also a tour training and selecting recruits for the Regiment. In explaining what the Parachute Regiment is, it is easiest to compare it in role to the 75th Ranger Regiment, although it is of course its own unique and elite force. He retired from the British Army in 2003. Following retirement, the author spent five years serving as a security contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This included working on contract for the U.S. government in Iraq-- a year of which was based out of Fallujah, the rest variously based out of Baghdad and country-wide. He also spent two years working for the British government in Helmand Province and Kabul, Afghanistan. These roles were operational security roles that included exposure to multiple different training methods and operational schools of thought, as well as both high profile and low profile mobile operations across Iraq and Afghanistan. The author then joined the U.S. Army and trained as a Combat Medic and Civil Affairs Specialist. He is a U.S. citizen and lives in the United States.

CONTACT! Offers the novice both basic and advanced military-based strategies for enhancing survivability in a post-event or societal collapse environment. This book is not suitable for children, due to theme. This is the second edition, revised and expanded with numerous blog posts that embellish the material from the first edition. There is considerable discussion across the Internet, blogs, and forums as to the utility of these techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTP). There are those that firmly believe that all one needs to do for training is to attend and participate in an Appleseed Course or take a Tactical Firearm Training course to learn advanced firearm handling, target acquisition, shooting on the move, et cetera from Front SightThunder Ranch, Gunsite Academy, Vickers Tactical  or any of the hundreds of trainers around the U.S. Proponents of each are adamant in their defense of their chosen path. Others still will stand by their years of experience hunting and strongly feel that's all they need come SHTF. My thoughts are that all of the above methods have their benefits, and one would be well-served to take advantage of them all. However, to discount the value of the TTP's in Contact! would be, IMHO, a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect  or as they say, "You don't know what you don't know".

Now here's the clincher, just reading this book in no way, shape, or form is enough. You actually need to get up out of your chair, step away from the computer, and take a Combat Rifle course from one of the fine instructors out there. Max Velocity and John Mosby  are couple of solid trainers who really care about getting you, the patriot/prepper/American, up to speed. So, read the book already and GitSum !

Readability= 5 A very well-written text with numerous illustrations, which greatly enhance the understanding of the concepts. If you have never served in the Armed Forces, I would suggest keeping a running list of the military acronyms used throughout the book, or refer to lists that have been compiled in the past, such as the Survival Blog Glossary I'd recommend creating your own to help in the memorizing process. “Recce” (pronounced: rɛki, as in Wreck - E) is British slang for reconnaissance and is used frequently in the book.

Educational= 4 The author has put together a well thought out text on military strategies, both offensive and defensive, that was palpable and concise. Realize that some of the material cannot truly be implemented, without having squad-level numbers of personnel available to you, as the average reader with a family to protect. However, having a basic introduction to all of the techniques described in this book may serve you well in the future. Initially, post-collapse, the more complex activities might not be on your list of "things to do today," but as time passes and the situation evolves/devolves they very well could be important skills. Granted, much of this information is available in the U.S. Army's Ranger Manual or Military Operations in Urban Terrain (M.O.U.T.) Manual and other military texts, the author has put together some excellent information for the amateur survivalist or the seasoned, quiet professional in a manner that is much more assessable to the average untrained person. Regardless of whether you and your family can implement these defensive and offensive maneuvers is not relevant. Knowledge of what types of offensive engagements you may be subjected to can help you prepare to defend your retreat/home and family/group. In medicine, doctors miss more by “not looking” than by “not knowing”. In conflict, failure comes by not looking AND not knowing. The knowledge in this book can prove instrumental to your survival.

Accuracy= 4 The strategies and techniques contained within this reference are based off of sound military concepts and have proven effective for decades. The author, having served in both the U.S. and U.K. armed forces brings a wider perspective to the subject manner.

Detail= 4 Both offensive and defensive maneuvers as well as techniques for hardening vehicles and buildings are discussed. Mounted and Unmounted (in a vehicle or on foot) operations are explained in detail with many illustrations that are very useful. Practicing these techniques with a team is catamount to the learning process, and the author reinforces this throughout the book. As it goes with "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men", individual results will vary.

Yes Factor= 5 I would encourage adding this book to your library of essential texts. It was a very enjoyable read, and I realized many misconceptions I personally held relating to what I would do in many SHTF scenarios. I see now that many of my preparations are inadequate and, perhaps, were ill-conceived in the first place. When a book inspires me to take positive action, I feel it was money well spent and time properly invested. Time is short folks!

Take care and God Bless. - Sydney

Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Title: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
Author: Daniel Goleman
Copyright Date: 1995
Publisher: Bantam
ISBN: 978-0553383713
Audio, e-book or foreign translation available:  Audio and Kindle available
Suitable for children: No.  Reads much like a college text book.  Not quite as dry, but not a book for a child.

Let me open with the qualifier that this book does not match the normal criteria for the books I typically review for SurvivalBlog.  I sincerely doubt Daniel Goleman ever had this audience in mind.  However, I think many in this audience would be well served by reading this book.

Two relatively recent posts on SurvivalBlog brought this book to mind for me. "Anticipated Traumatic Stress in TEOTWAWKI" by F. B. (11/23/13) and "We Who Are Left Behind" by M.D.L. (11/26/13) both provided great examples of how our own emotions come into play during a stressful situation.  From the "freeze" response of the strapping farm boy with a machine gun to the lack of a will to live after losing your loved ones, there are things which our own bodies do with which we must figure out how to cope.

When things go wrong with our skeletal structure or our muscles we can see and feel the problems.  Or at least with X-rays and MRIs we can.  We can usually tell exactly what caused the problem and we can create a plan to resolve it.  It is not so with our emotions.  Yet our emotions have the potential to be every bit as debilitating as a broken limb.

If anyone thinks emotions will not play a major role in TEOTWAWKI they are deluding themselves.  Unless you are one of the very rare few who are incapable of feeling you may well find yourself in an emotional mess unlike anything you have ever encountered in your life.  And you can pretty much guarantee that the majority of people you have to deal with will also be emotional basket cases. How do you prepare for that?

I will suggest that step one is developing a good relationship with God.  I know there are many who don't want to hear that, but if you look into those who survive the worst that life can throw at them (POWs for instance) you will find that faith makes a big difference.  Even this book, Emotional Intelligence, which builds its foundation on evolutionary theory, includes a quote on the value of a belief in God.  (More on that later.)

Step two should be educating yourself about yourself, and I believe that this book offers a good start.  I don't find it to be the perfect book, and in fact I would love to hear from other SurvivalBlog readers if they are aware of better resources.  I can imagine that either law enforcement or the military should have developed materials more appropriately focused on this element.  However, lacking a book focused on TEOTWAWKI, this is the best I know of for an analysis of what makes a person tick on the emotional side.

The book opens with discussion of the physical side of emotions, from facial expressions and blood flow patterns to the anatomy of the brain.  A good portion of this part is given evolutionary credit where I personally believe the hand of The Designer is at work, but however you got there, what you have is what you have.  This part only skims the surface and does so in easily understood terms with lots of anecdotal examples.

Goleman goes into depth on the subjects of 1) Knowing one's emotions, 2) Managing emotions,  3) Motivating oneself, 4) Recognizing emotions in others, and  5) Handling relationships.  All of these will be very necessary skills in the event of a system collapse.

Emotions which are addressed with some detail include rage/anger, anxiety, melancholy and fear.  On the opposite side are discussed optimism and "flow". Flow is an interesting subject all in itself.  "Getting in the groove" might be a reasonable synonym.  It is the state of mind in which one is performing at their peak level, doing a task for which they are well prepared, but which involves a degree of challenge.

There are also several pages on the subject of emotional wounds and PTSD.  This material will likely be very applicable to a TEOTWAWKI event.  The healing process discussed may be very valuable knowledge, particularly given that what seems to work best is not what I would call intuitive.  One of the best techniques used by children appears to be the reliving of the event through role play, but with a better outcome.  While parents and educators don't want the children to even think about the event, the children are making a game of it, and apparently that game has healing potential.

Applications discussed for emotional intelligence include such things as education, marriage, management and medicine (emotion plays a role even in healing after surgery).

It should be noted that this is not a book to plan on reading through in one sitting.  To extract what is needed one needs to plan to spend a good deal of time in introspection and consideration section by section.  There was at least one part of this book which I had my wife read and consider how well it applied to me.  Expect to find out things about yourself as you read this.  Plan on spending time thinking about the ramifications of those findings.  It can be good or bad, but regardless of which, you will be better off if you know what you are working with.  If need be, you may be able to make changes now in order to be more emotionally fit for the future. One of the last sections is "Temperament is not Destiny."  There are things you can do to alter your emotional condition.

As I mentioned already I believe there could be better books out there for this audience.  I did not read this book with the idea in mind of reviewing it for SurvivalBlog.  When it occurred to me that this book might be a candidate for a review I had to put some effort into refreshing my mind about the book.  I had been struck by the mention of God when I first read the book, and that in part because it seemed so incongruous to the rest of the text.  Indeed, I went hunting for that reference just to make sure I was not in error in mentioning it.  There is an index at the back of the book.  God did not rate an entry.  However, "Guns, danger of" did rate an entry, and that reminded me of this tidbit from the book, speaking of children born during the 1980s:  "These teenagers are the first generation to have not just guns but automatic weaponry easily available to them..." I couldn't make heads or tails of that nonsensical statement, but I suspect it speaks to the author's perspective and his degree of understanding on matters near and dear to this audience. s

JWR Adds: Harry is correct in pointing out the author's apparent bias and unfamiliarity with firerms facts. Mr. Goleman is woefully under-informed. Here is a dose of truth: Fully automatic weaponry has never been "easily available" to teenagers, but semiautomatic guns have been in American homes since the early 1900s. Semi-automatic rimfire rifles were introduced by Winchester in 1903, and centerfire semi-auto hunting rifles have been quite popular ever since the introduction of the Remington Model 8 series rifles, in 1906. It is also noteworthy that semi-auto shotguns have been in common use since FN introduced the Auto-5 shotgun in 1902. Detchable magazine semi-auto rifles have been very popular in civilian use since just after World War II, when large numbers of M1 Carbines came home in dufflebags. (And there were nearly a million more sold to civilian shooters by the DCM in the 1960s.) The ratio of semi-auto rifles to traditional repeaters (pump, lever action, and bolt action) in civilian hands hasn't changed appreciably in the past 30 years, although semi-auto handguns now clearly predominate over revolvers. What Mr. Goleman and assorted leftist do-gooders fail to recogniize is that even though per capita firearms ownership in America is now at an all-time high, both the violent crime rate and the rate of accidental deaths with firearms have been on the decline for several decades. (Although the percentage of homes with gun owners has gradually declined, the total number of guns has increased, indicating that the average size of private gun collections has increased.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ankara Fever: Journeys (Volume 1) ©2013 Brian S. Vinson available on Amazon Kindle or print ISBN: 978-1494377496
I recently read this novel and it made me think it might be a great book for those in our community who are trying to ‘wake up’ friends and family who are simply unwilling to wake up without a swift kick to the pants.
First off, Ankara Fever: Journeys is a book based on what would happen if a major pandemic broke out.  It follows two couples on their separate journeys to the same place.  One couple is Roger and Jennifer.  He is a disaster planning expert and professor.  They are caught in an airport with only what they’ll let you take on a plane – not much.  The airport gets locked down by the National Guard (not giving away too much here), and they have to plan an escape.  Roger and Jennifer work together to try to make it to Texas, where Roger can get his son and make it to their bug out location.
The other couple is Corey and Ashley.  Corey is Roger’s son and Ashley is a former star student of Roger’s.  They start off in the same town and she takes on the chore of getting Corey (who never listened to his dad) ready to bug out while avoiding – or dealing with – those who are lesser prepared and roaming the streets looking for an easy score.
There are a lot of survival tips within the story, from building fires to disaster planning for those of us who are ‘awake’.  For those who are not, it is an engaging story that draws them in and may make them think about things in a new way.  Though there are a few typos here and there, it is a well-written story with believable characters and a storyline that really could happen today.  From trying to outrun the deadly virus, to keeping one step ahead of the overly zealous militia, it is a fast paced, intense story.  I think if is great for the prepper and the non-prepper alike. - Linda H.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

We just received our copy of the movie Dragon Day - a new movie that went direct to DVD.  The premise of the movie is that China comes to the USA to collect their debt, which we have defaulted on.  They take over all of our electronics and throw us back in time technologically 50 years.  Survivors find themselves fending off each other as well as the American traitors who quickly join forces with the Chinese - some in an attempt to just survive due to lack of food and water.

For a small budget film it was excellent.  The acting was fantastic and believable - there are a few goosebumps moments.  The plot was easy to follow and very believable.  The producers & writers spent a great deal of time researching what we all believe will happen within days of a collapse of any kind.

I strongly urge you to consider this movie - right now for your household or as a nice Christmas gift for yourself or a family member (or two).  You will not be disappointed in this movie.  It is much better than the horrible prepper shows you see on television or the Red Dawn remake.  - Georgia Mom

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We recently received a review copy of the children's book "Prepper Pete Prepares." It was quite well done and very thorough in the breadth of topics covered, and had excellent illustrations. Our young'uns and I read it through once and it was so funny and packed full of information and talking points that we immediately read it again. The book is wonderfully politically incorrect, which caused lots of chuckles to erupt from all of us. I recommend getting a copy for any of your under-prepared relatives who have young children, to encourage their families to get ready. We only noticed one glitch: The artist showed what appears to be a generator set up inside a house, which is a major no-no. There are several other books in the series, including the upcoming title: "Prepper Pete Gets Out of Dodge." (You've gotta love that.) I have insisted :-) that Jim acquire the rest of the series for our extended family.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Downfall of Money: Germany's Hyperinflation and the Destruction of the Middle Class, by Frederick Taylor
© 2013
ISBN: 978-1-62040-236-8 Hardback; also available on Kindle.
416 pages, 25 chapters, appendix, bibliography, and index.

Be assured that I am not an economist, but I do keep the family bankbook balanced. Past that and I am mostly lost in the world of high finance. I read this book in order to answer three questions:

  1. What caused the hyperinflation in post-WWI Germany?
  2. What effect did it have on ordinary citizens and how did they cope?
  3. What lessons are to be learned to better prepare my family’s finances?

This book tackles a complicated financial story in a surprisingly easy-to-read narrative. The author translates economic mumbo-jumbo into everyday language in twenty-five chronological chapters. The Afterword provides a good explanation of how the economy provided fertile ground for extremists of every flavor to grow, and why Adolf Hitler was eventually elected to office.
The Appendix is excellent in showing the steady devaluation of the German mark from 4 marks to one dollar to 4.2 trillion marks to one dollar. It only took one decade of political and economic shenanigans to make the German currency worthless.

All through the narrative I was reminded of what is occurring today compared to 1914-1923. The mark was taken off the gold standard to finance a war; coins were minted of cheap alloys; government debt was incurred that would take generations to repay (Germany paid its’ final war reparation bill in 2010, a full 96 years after WWI began); societal safety nets were expanded by politicians unable to say “No, we do not have the money”; government bureaucracies expanded each year; the policy of allowing inflation was a ploy by highly trained, professional economists to pay war reparations with devalued money (it did not work).

In the worst of times, the city dwellers (golden horde) formed gangs and raided nearby farms for food. They did not offer to pay or work for the food – they looted. Welfare and unemployment fraud were epidemic. Violators were ignored. Politicians responded by raising the monthly checks to prevent riots and to stay in office.

The subtitle of this book is worth remembering: Germany’s Hyperinflation and the Destruction of the Middle Class. The poor in Germany were the first to die from disease, suicide, and starvation. The ultra-rich, in most cases, had the ability to leave the country, or weather the storm. The middle class small business owners, government employees, artisans, and union workers were gradually driven into the ranks of the poor. They first sold their possessions, their children, and then themselves in order to eat. After the hyperinflation was remedied, they remained poor and traumatized. German citizens had purchased 158 billion marks of bonds during the war with the promise of a nice rate of return. In 1923, the government remedied hyperinflation by introducing a new currency. All of the war bonds were then collectively worth fifteen cents. The government stole all that money by merely changing the rules.

So, what does an ordinary citizen do today? Lessons from true German accounts in the book are:

  1. Eliminate all household debt,
  2. Increase your savings,
  3. Increase you stash of material (tangible) assets that will feed, clothe, and protect your family in lean times and are good items for barter,
  4.  Do not have a mortgage, especially if you are a farmer. Thus, your home and land are yours. You have shelter and dirt for growing food.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in history, and for those looking for real life advice on what to do to avoid the approaching economic calamity. It is a hard true story, but well worth your time. Take notes, and read and heed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Last night I was able to sit down and watch the National Geographic channel's "American Blackout" show on (without family interruption!)   I would like to offer an unbiased critique of the show.

The message of the show was very simple - to reach out to the average non-prepping American and illustrate how unprepared the general population is.  The producers of the show used very generic stereotypical characters in order to relate to the widest possible audience.  Every "type" of victim portrayed made simple but life threatening mistakes that were clearly illustrated to make a point about the importance of being prepared.

The format of the show, a series of video blog diaries in a reality show format, was a delivery tool chosen to reach the widest possible audience.  Most people today own "smart phones" and their daily lives are tied to sharing every aspect of their existence via social media.  Most people are so swept up in the drama of the moment and reporting it to their friends that they don't have any common sense in a dangerous situation.

Of all possible TEOTWAWKI scenarios, the one that is the most easily believable to the masses is a hacker attack on the electrical grid - people understand hackers and computer viruses and we all have experienced the upheaval caused by going without electricity for a night due to an electrical storm or car accident at the pole on the corner.  The producers had to use a the most believable scenario that most people have experienced and could relate to.

Below are generalizations about the types of "sheeple" characters represented (we all know people like this, and we all know people who are not like this - please don't hold these generalizations against me). 

"Gemma".   This character represented the young, wealthy urbanites who can afford to have very nice things in their lives.  These people are concerned with living in the right places, knowing the right people, wearing the right clothes, and socializing at the right parties.  They live in the "now" with very little thought given to the future.   These "me me me" individuals generally possess a victim mentality (that when bad things happen it only happens to them), someone else is always responsible, and it is always up to someone else to help them.

Learning Point - Having all the latest and greatest techie gadgets will not keep you alive.  Always have a manual can opener and other manual kitchen gadgets on hand, and keep cash on you.  Each home should have a first aid kit.  The door to the apartment was sub-standard quality and not properly reinforced against break ins.    Venturing forth from a secure location can be dangerous.  Also, don't eat food from a warm fridge as it can cause food poisoning.

"College Kids in Elevator"  These characters represented young people that can function without their parents watching their every move, but generally are still children mentally.  Young people give very little or no thought to "what if" scenarios as help (aka their parents) is only a phone call away.

Learning Point - the one student who kept saying "I can't to this" actually became the one who used his head to solve problems and keep himself and a friend alive.  He illustrated the importance of keeping a clear head and using available resources for survival.  Ken, the first casualty, illustrated that there will be people who take unnecessary risks because that cannot think clearly in a stressful situation.

"Molly's Family".  Young suburban family living the middle class dream.  Probably living paycheck to paycheck, loaded with credit card, student loan and mortgage debt.  Obviously the family loved each other very much, but very little thought was given to the future, apparently it was just easier to run out to the store whenever they needed something.  Possibly their debt load did not allow putting away extra supplies.

Learning Point - ATMs will not work when there is no power.    The family bond is extremely important, and the ability to keep hope and faith alive and to stay close with each member of the family.  It wasn't covered in the show, but I believe the mother of the newborn illustrated the need and importance for breast feeding versus bottles and formula.  Most formula requires water to mix, and water to clean and sanitize the bottles.  A mother's breast is always ready for her baby in any situation.

"VJ Boy".  Young teenager acting as though his mother is a bane to his existence, and yet is still totally dependent on his mother's financial and emotional support.  This boy illustrated that the average 14 year old is still a child.  The foolish boy was very fortunate he was not shot when going out at night, and the fact that he managed not to shoot himself with his mother's gun was a miracle.

Learning Point - Parents should have all guns secured.  The boy could easily have shot someone or himself as he did not have proper firearms training.  The mother should have had emergency contact information on the refrigerator (at the very least the name/location of her work).  The family did not have an evacuation plan in place where to meet in case of an emergency.  This scenario also touched briefly on the importance on preparing for pets.

"Prepper Family".  I believe this is a depiction of the gun-ho armchair prepper.  He has read the books, stored the food, bought the beans, bullets and ammo, and yet has missed the point of preparing - testing your preps and being a part of  a prepping community and working with others outside of your family.

Learning Points - I have several points to cover here:
·         Although I can appreciate the charity of the father by taking the daughter's boyfriend to the retreat and showing him the supplies, he risked his OPSEC and the life of each family member by bringing in a person he didn't know he could trust.
·         The father should have taken the time and energy to befriend his neighbors at the retreat location.  By sharing some of his supplies with like-minded individuals, he could have had allies helping to protect the retreat, instead of making enemies that would raid the retreat.
·         The retreat itself seemed poorly planned.  The scenes of dry, arid scrub-type land appeared unlikely to have a natural water source or the ability to grow a garden in a long term grid-down situation. 
·         The gas/fuel was too easily accessible to thieves and should have been hidden better.
·         The father should have tried to blend in better - the camo outfit, obvious perimeter fencing, and gun on his belt all suggested that he was protecting something worth stealing
·         I question the mindset of a parent that would put a ten year old boy on guard duty.  Again, had he befriended his neighbors, the additional like-minded adults could have shared the protection of the retreat.

By following the trials and tribulations of the characters, the producers of the show repeatedly hammered home the reasons to prepare.   The following basic preparedness tips were covered:

  • Importance of storing at least 10 days of non-perishable food and clean drinking water
  • Keep cash on hand
  • Manual can openers
  • Importance of carrying supplies in your vehicles
  • Solar cell phone charges
  • Avoiding riots/mob scenes
  • Traveling, if possible, will be dangerous and slow
  • Government response will be slow
  • Emergency responders will be overwhelmed
  • Store baby supplies such as diapers and formula
  • Store batteries
  • Keep hand-crank radios to know what is going on

Important subjects that were not addressed include:

  • Preparing for handicapped people, special needs, the elderly, and pets (unless you count the thirsty cat). 
  • Barely touched upon was the fact that international aid is an invitation for rival countries to set foot on American soil.
  • Sanitation was briefly touched upon, but should have been elaborated on more.  At least one scene depicting a person taking a pail of pool water and pouring it into the back of their toilet to flush would have been educational
  • The entire show was filled with cell phones, but not one land line phone was used
  • The blackout occurred in the summer and people complained about not having air conditioning.  Had the blackout occurred in the winter, the initial casualty count would have been much higher.
  • Every person depicted was dependent upon the government for handouts (food and water) in a urban or suburban situation.  The program did not portray any farmers or homesteaders as examples of self sufficient people.  Not one person in the program was shown harvesting from a garden, fishing, or even collecting eggs from a back yard chicken coop.

Interesting to note, of course, was the point made from the clip of the ham radio operators that there will be government conspiracy groups trying to incite riot.

The overall story line of the show was unbelievable - a nationwide cyber attack on the electrical grid repaired and running in 10 days is unrealistic.  I agree with what others have said that the initial mass casualty count would be much higher, and that it would take months if not years to have the electrical grid operational. 

That being said, we have to remember that this was a television show, not real life.  One only has to look at the Philippines right now to see how bad it can really get.

I think we, as preppers, whether beginning or experienced, tend to forget that so many people out there do not think like we do.  We have trained ourselves to always have the mindset that disaster can strike at any time, and that we have to be ready.  What we sometimes forget is that all of us, at one time, did not prep.  We all had something happen in our lives that made us wake up one day and say yes, we need to start preparing.

The intended purpose of the show was not to teach people how to prep, only to make them realize that they should make basic preparations.  If even one person watched this show and said, "Wow, I should store some food and water", then the show has been a success.  The wonderful thing about prepping is that it doesn't matter when you start, as long as you do begin to prepare.

Let us hope that this show was an eye opener to some of the viewers, and that they too received the message that now is the time in their lives to start preparing for the future.

"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.
Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime."

Monday, November 11, 2013

This is actually three books telling one story that is pertinent to preppers.

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943
© 2002  ISBN: 0-8050-6288-2    681 pages

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944
© 2007  ISBN: 0-8050-6289-0    791 pages

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945
© 2013  ISBN: 978-0-8050-6290-8    877 pages
All three volumes have excellent maps, indexes, bibliography, and a flawed endnote system.
All three volumes are published by Henry Holt and Co. in New York City, NY
All three volumes are available at your favorite bookseller in paperback, e-book, or hardback.
The author has also created a web site at to complement the books.

The Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson is the story of World War II in the Mediterranean and Western Europe. It took fourteen years for the author to write the story, and it is a good read for any military history buff and preppers. I purchased the set as they were first issued since 2002, set the first two on the shelf, and did not begin reading until a few months ago when volume 3 arrived. Reading the entire story at one time helps to maintain the flow.
I found the books to be well written, interesting, and informative to me as an historian and a prepper. Although I have been reading about WWII for fifty years, I learned a great deal from these books. The author does not shy away from criticizing the well-known generals and highlights their personality disorders and their genius.
I dislike the authors’ choice of endnote style. The endnotes are bunched by page numbers, and partial quotes leading to the actual source. I found it difficult to navigate when looking for a reference and in some cases the reference for a quote is missing. The author also likes to use uncommon words. Examples are “a crepuscular gorge,” “a lunatic tintinnabulation”, “a pellucid day,” “a bells deep, fatidic toll,” have you ever been “gobsmacked,” or seen any “vitrified clinkers.” Keep your dictionary handy.
In spite of those problems, if you like military history, I recommend you purchase the boxed set and enjoy yourself.

If military history is not your first choice, there is a ton of good information in these three books for anyone interested in prepping and using history as a learning tool. Read this with pen and paper nearby for note taking. The author spends a lot of time relating logistical difficulties on both sides of the fight, and for civilians caught in the middle. When war comes to your neighborhood, the first thing you lose is physical safety, and then food and water. Cats and dogs rise to the top of the menu within days. All other animals follow quickly. Foodstuffs and personal weapons are immediately seized by the military forces. Firewood is scarce due to a lack of tools and manpower. The American forces needed one million cords in the winter of 1944-45, but could only obtain 36,000. That is a huge deficit that lead to frostbite and hypothermia on a large scale. Even General Eisenhower slept fully clothed at times. Allied forces used 50 million rolls of toilet tissue per month. How is your supply? The Allies used 40 billion rounds of small arms ammunition in thirteen months just in Western Europe. The city of Cologne, Germany had no food, fuel, water, gas, or electricity for almost eight months. If you wisely left town you did so on foot. The trains were not running. Socks used by American soldiers lasted three washings before disintegrating. During combat, they were sometimes worn for weeks at a time between those washings due to a lack of replacements. Boots and uniforms lasted just about as long. In short, everything a combat soldier required on a daily basis had to be transported from the USA. Without that supply line, they would starve. The civilians were on their own until arrangements could be made by the military. Civilian authorities were out of business. Hunger was normal. Cannibalism was not unknown. The Dutch ate cats, dogs, nettle soup, and tulip bulbs. Can you live on 600 calories per day?
That said, I pray the USA will not suffer such a tragedy again, as we did in our civil war, and the people of Europe suffered twice in one century. Remember, not just wars bring chaos and hunger to a nation.

My suggestion is to be prepared to be totally on your own. This trilogy relates some harsh realities for people who do not prepare for bad times. If you are a prepper, read and take lots of notes.
I recommend this set of books.

Monday, November 4, 2013

77 Days in September by Ray Gorham. (Published in 2011.) 306 Pages.    

Note: Possible spoilers ahead. 

On June 16, 2013, "Retired Rev". wrote a SurvivalBlog article entitled "Prepping For Seniors" and referred to the e-book "77 Days In September." I made a note-to-self on my iPad to read it in the future. However, in the months in between, I've read several self-published End Times-type print books sold on Amazon, and those turned out to be somewhat painful experiences. A piece of advice to writers: If you are not positive that you can punctuate and follow standard grammatical rules, either hire an editor or engage a literate friend to polish your work as countless mistakes are fatal detractions to your story. 

This week I asked my daughter to put 77 Days in September on her Kindle so I could take it on a trip. Happily, Gorham knows the rules. While there were a couple of minor mistakes (an omitted period and a comma error), my husband pointed out that a person often can find errors in print pieces. 

For a light read, "77 Days In September" hits the spot. It's not "War And Peace," but not many books are. I cared about the protagonist and cheered for him to get home. An EMP attack puts the lights out in America, and Kyle Tait, a devoted husband and father, is desperate to return home from Texas to Montana. 

Kyle realizes he must walk the 1,400 plus miles, and winter will be coming up north. He encounters good guys and bad guys, as expected. The story affirms that there are more moral, ethical, and caring people than the opposite types. Many apocalyptic stories are full of only zombies, gangs, criminals, and assorted crazies. Gorham knows these people exist, but he believes that the world is full of good, solid people who won't turn their backs on a person in need. 

How realistic is this story? In the 1500's, Spanish Conquistador, Cabeza de Vaca, along with a slave, Estabanico the Moor, wandered and explored the arid American Southwest for 8 years. Coronado searched for the Seven Cities of Gold for two years in what is now New Mexico and Arizona. My childhood friend had a great-grandparent who got off the boat from Ireland and pushed a wheelbarrow to Texas. Throughout history, armies have marched great distances and climbed mountains in order to wage war. American pioneers walked from the Midwest, crossing the Sierra to California prior to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Motivated people will do whatever it takes to survive and travel on foot. It's possible, maybe very difficult, but possible with a bit of luck. 

One final thought is a take-away from this story. To Bug Out and go long distances, have something with wheels to carry your stuff, food, and gear.  Get a garden cart, a Radio Flyer wagon, a baby stroller, a grocery cart, a bike, anything with wheels. You will replenish your stash, and you will need a way to carry it. Think how much water you could pull as opposed to how much water you could carry. Water is heavy. Kyle Tait defended his homemade cart with his life, time after time because he recognized that his life depended on it. 

Thanks, Ray. I enjoyed the read. Recommended. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

You recently mentioned the death of the late Robert W. Ford, in England. I highly recommend his book Wind Between The Worlds, his account of experiences in Tibet, captivity by the communist Chinese, and his fight against brainwashing. It is an inspiring story of mental resistance which makes you wonder how well you would have fared in his
position. A free PDF is available to download.

Regards, - Don in Oregon

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hi James,
I just came across the news story about some EBT cards to have apparently unlimited balances leading to the almost cleaning out of a Wal-Mart before the computer glitch was corrected.

I bring this up because it is a near perfect parallel to the situation Nathan Hale Jefferson put in "The Wayward Journey" which I reviewed several months back.  He deserves a pat on the back for anticipating this. - Harry

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back at the dawn of time, when I was commissioned in the Army Infantry, I reported to Fort Benning, Georgia for my officer’s basic course. As part of our processing, each lieutenant received two large boxes of books. There were many books on weapons systems; from the M16 and M1911 to the .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun. Not forgotten were mines, demolitions, and rocket and missile systems. There were also manuals for vehicles and maintenance, first aid and hygiene, and books for subjects I no longer can recall. Most interesting to me were the Field Manuals (FMs) for tactical operations. These started with individual movement and went up to company and battalion operations. These FMs are all readily available, but have limited value to the civilian prepper.  FMs are written for a large organization called the United States Army. The Army has defined units, a chain of command, transportation, medical support, logistics, etc. that dictate tactical doctrine. In short, Army manuals are written for Armies. Preppers are better served to get training and information designed and formatted for the civilian.

Over the next few months I’m going to review a number of books that are, in my opinion, more accessible, current, and applicable for someone wanting to protect family and friends from today’s threats and tomorrow’s unknowns. The first of these is A Failure of Civility. This is a big book and comprehensive in its coverage. Let me say at the outset, this book is not just a tactical guide. Frankly most preppers need to start before any tactical training and consider what their situation is, what resources they might be able to rely on, and what their objectives should be. That is exactly where the authors of this start. In fact, the first chapter is, “In the Beginning…” But this book is so full of information that it includes a valuable chart before the title page. The two-page chart inside the front cover lists 22 possible catastrophes. For each possible event there are 13 possible consequences. So if tornados are a threat you’re concerned about, you can assess the impact it would have on your family and community. The chart includes much more than natural disasters; financial collapse, class riots, EMP events, and many others are listed. This information can be a roadmap for anyone planning for worst case scenarios.

This is a good place to mention the subtitle of the book. “How to Defend and Protect You, your family, friends, neighborhood and America during a disaster or crisis.” I don’t know of another book that takes this approach. Bugging out is not a practical solution for most people. Only a minority of people have the wherewithal and the foresight to establish an alternate home (base of operations) that is fully equipped and provisioned. Staying at home, in a true societal collapse, can work. Success will be dependent on preparations and cooperation. A Failure of Civility shows the importance of neighbors and suggests solutions to defensive problems that will need to be addressed.

There are chapters on weapons, medical concerns, survival psychology, and yes, even on travel should bugging out be required.  No single book can provide all the answers. This book is an excellent starting place for someone trying to know where to start and how to understand what might happen when the unthinkable becomes reality. It also has a place with the advanced prepper or experienced person. We all have holes in our knowledge and need checks on what we think we know. In my opinion, this is a must have book for anyone who is serious about protecting their family.

The authors suggest putting the book in a sealed plastic bag when it’s not being read. That is not bad advice for a book that will be highly valued in an emergency. Just don’t put it in a bag until after you’ve read and understood the lessons it contains.

A Failure of Civility is copyright 2012 by AFOC, LLC. The ISBN is 978-0-615-67010-2.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Published by Edinburgh University Press, ©Birsen Bulmu, 2012
ISBN 978 0 7486 4659 3 (Hardback) $75 to $99 on
This book has 195 pages including comprehensive bibliography, endnotes for each chapter, and index.

Today, I 'm reviewing Plague, Quarantines and Geopolitics in the Ottoman Empire . Once you get past the price, this book has a lot of good information for any prepper in any nation, not just Turkey. The author discusses various diseases and the reactions of theologians, physicians, politicians, and business leaders. They all have a different approach to the problems over the centuries.

Theologians quote holy book passages to support their side of the debate, while physicians use facts, science, and their experience. Business leaders oppose any measure that will hurt the bottom line, and politicians try to not offend everyone. These have not changed over the centuries.

Nowadays, epidemics quickly overrun available local medical services. Outside assistance usually saves the day. Bottled water disappears from store shelves. Politicians are besieged with angry demands to solve the problem.
Recent natural disasters have shown that those of us who are prepared are faced with an inconvenience, not an emergency. History has and will continue to repeat that fact.

The story in this book takes place from the 1400s to 1923, and is useful to all of us today trying to prepare for the next catastrophe. It took the Ottoman Empire authorities almost 400 years to build an immigrant quarantine site in their capital city of Constantinople (Istanbul today). During those centuries, epidemics came and went with regularity. The author explains the interactions of all players in telling why it took so long to do the obvious to fight diseases.

Muslims on both sides of the debate quoted the Quran. It is God’s Will that epidemics kill people. It is God’s Will if you live or die. It is God’s Will if people take steps to eradicate disease. The same arguments were seen in Europe between Christians. The difference was the Europeans took corrective action quicker.

Sanitation reforms finally began in 1838 at the urging of Europeans hoping to improve business prospects in the empire. Measures such as sewage disposal, clean water systems, immigrant quarantine, and better building codes aimed at preventing disease were begun after much debate and fierce resistance from the local citizens. The opponents were leery of government interference in their private lives and perceived religious transgressions.           

In any case, the Sultan had the final say and improvements were made. He took the advice of a Muslim reformer who said, “Take precaution and get ready by any means but do not put yourself in harm’s way: God created you and your actions.”

In other words, “Be Prepared.”

What can we learn from this history? What is important for readers of this web site is to know what happened before we had the sanitation and medical services we now enjoy. In a societal collapse, we will return to the Dark Ages. There will be no hospitals, sewage treatment plants, or clean city water systems.

When epidemics struck our ancestors, the first reaction was to flee the area, or to ‘bug out’. The disease usually hitched a ride and quickly spread. Europeans were the first to use quarantine as a defense. [JWR Adds: The practice of enforced health segregation actually dates back to at least Old Testament times, as mentioned in Leviticus 15:4-5.] Citizens were told to stay away from the marked houses, but do not leave the city. Keep the disease localized and allow it to die out. Other cities would not allow you to enter. The Ottomans finally embraced this practice in the early 1800s. The lesson is: you need a place to bug out to in your present location or nearby.

The bug out place needs clean water, sewage, and garbage disposal of some sort.

You need the proverbial beans, bullets, and Band-Aids. Information on all of these items is available in the archives of this web site.

This book is well written and organized in eight chronological chapters. The ten pages of comprehensive bibliography provide the interested reader with a wealth of further reading. Chapter endnotes and the index are also handy.

The author has skillfully blended the political, theological, scientific, and commercial debates of the subject into an easily read and understood treatment of the subject. All we have to do is learn from history.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Title: The Wayward Journey (Volume 1)
Author: Nathan Hale Jefferson
Copyright Date: 2013
Publisher: Abundant Future Media
ISBN: 978-0989319904
Audio, e-book or foreign translation avail? Yes--Kindle edition of The Wayward Journey
Suitable for children? Teens and up.

The Wayward Journey is a story in which a natural disaster is piled on top of a growing disaster of financial mismanagement. There is not much in this novel which requires significant stretching of the imagination. In this story John, Margaret and their two children are struggling to make ends meet in an America which is burdened with both high inflation and high unemployment. John has a job, but it entails travel to remote locations for the reviewing of plans and construction of oil rigs. It is not an ideal job for a family man, and Margaret is not at all happy about it when John has to travel, but it is the best they can manage given the circumstances.

The story opens with John having to head out west to check out a string of projects. He has arranged things so that he can use his time as efficiently as possible and be home again soon. Margaret is worried because the national financial situation is deteriorating, and it is a justified concern. While John is on the trip the government decides to give everyone in the country a bonus benefit rebate (read: additional cash in their checking accounts), but then makes a mistake and gives many people ten times the amount of money intended. This of course does wonders for the inflationary cycle, spurred on to even greater heights as people try to spend the money before the government can claw it back. It is on top of this economic mess that a magnitude 7.9 earthquake on the New Madrid fault is added, devastating the midwest and plunging the entire nation into chaos. And of course, John is stuck a long, long way from home.

In reading the story I found myself viewing it as the inverse of William Forstchen's One Second After. This is what it would be like to be one of the people out on the road, just hoping for a safe place to rest and a bite to eat. But John is a refugee who no one wants, or at least, no one wants for purposes of good. In addition to chronicling John's journey, the author intersperses chapters which detail what is going on at John's home while he is not there. The author does a good job of showing how society deteriorates both on the road and at home. What I thought was best done was the depiction of how neighbors who were just fine to live around so long as society was functioning smoothly could so quickly devolve into life threatening menaces.

SPOILERS AHEAD! The family in which the parents have handed off the raising of the children to schools, television and the video game industry reveal their lack of true character development when their spoiled brats become the neighborhood vandals. And the father who hasn't been a real father responds to his children's misbehavior by attacking the messenger. Then there is the neighbor whose background we are not given, but whose development of an empire is driven by an unscrupulous, psychopathic mind. His capacity for manipulation and deceit is the sort of thing no one wants to dwell on, but the progression of his acts is within character for human nature. It is on the home front that this book best portrays the descent into chaos. On John's journey the cast of characters is continually changing, but at home the cast is fixed. While the characters John meets become progressively harder and more violent it is hard to pin down the causes and motivations for this behavior. At home however, the development of aggression and violence can be followed from one fault to the next, all along a path which is within the scope of human nature and which underscores the value of true character. When I got to within the last fifty pages or so I began to wonder how the author was going to wrap this book up in so few remaining pages. Be advised that it's a good thing the book opens with a note about the sequel coming available: It does not end with a tidy wrap up, but rather leaves the reader hanging, looking for the next chapter. Not entirely a bad thing for a capitalist to do, but consider yourself advised in advance.

My copy of this story was a [pre-release] PDF, and it still needed some final editing touches for the sake of some grammar and spelling details, but nothing was so bad that it seriously detracted from the telling. I believe this is the author's first book, and as such he is off to a strong start. Language is kept as clean as possible while still portraying bad guys as who they are. The most graphic of violence is largely left to the reader's imagination (the results of gunshots being the most vividly described violence.) Overall, it is a book which I can recommend to the SurvivalBlog audience, and I hope Nathan Hale Jefferson is already pretty far along with Part II.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The public domain book Alone in the Wilderness is available free online at The Open Library web site. In 1913 Joseph Knowles went into the woods buck naked. His 295-page book details his experiences. It is funny how he mentions that he "wonders if modern man could survive in such a situation.”  I had to laugh at that thought because here was a man still very close to the land and yet he wonder if he could do it. Just think how many people in the present day could cope. I'd like to believe that I could but it would be an extreme push.  Sincerely, - Dennis B.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Mac's e-mail in-box is stuffed full every morning. I plow through dozens and dozens of e-mails. After a glance, most of them get a perfunctory "delete" click. In addition to the inevitable SEO Optimization. V*agara, and Nigerian scam letters, I also get a lot of grammatically-garbled e-mails that begin like this one: "Hi friend, Greeting from Ceina. Compoka,China--Headphone manufacturer. What kind of headphones and earphones are you collecting now? Hope we can do some help for you...."

This constant barrage of e-mails are a sign that mainland China is gaining global dominance in manufacturing of consumer goods.

One of my frequent topics of discussion in SurvivalBlog is generically called "field gear." This includes tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, military load bearing gear, compact stoves, canteens, knives, fire starters, first aid kits, and so forth. While the limits of this category are nebulous, I like to think of field gear as just what a foot soldier would carry on his back, or what a backcountry guide would load on his packhorses.

Surprisingly few brands of field gear are now American made. Sadly, the vast majority of field gear-making has moved offshore to mainland China. Rather than just be depressed about this situation, I have resolved to do something to counter this trend. I urge all of my readers to do the following:

1.) Don't just blithely purchase merchandise without first checking on its country of origin. Take the time to LOOK at labels! When buying from mailorder catalogs or online, take a minute to call and ask, before you order. If a product listing says "imported", then the odds are now better than 80% that it is made in mainland China.

2.) Beware of the words "style" and "type." With field gear, the most common euphemism for Chinese-made garbage is "G.I. style."

3.) Be sure to thank the management of these companies for keeping their production in the States, and tell them that they earned your business because of it.

4.) Read the codes. (See the following discussions.)

Decoding UPC-A Bar Code Numbers:

Universal Prices Codes (UPCs) are a complex subject, so I'll defer to linking to a couple of fairly definitive sources: Wikihow and Snopes.

But generally, if the first 3 digits of the number beneath the bar code are between 690 and 695, then the country in which the code was registered was China. But if the codes are between 000 and 019, or between 030 and 039, or between 060 and 139, then the country in which the code was registered was the United Sates. But remember that this indicates the country that issued the code rather than the country of origin of the product! A list of country codes can be found here.

Decoding NSNs:

For military surplus, get smart about NATO Stock Numbers (NSNs.) A typical NSN looks like this: 8465-01-254-575 . The second group of numbers is the Country Code. If the Country Code is 00 or 01, then it is American made. The code 99 designates the UK, and 20 designates Canada. A complete list of codes can be found here.

By the way, the Defense Logistics Agency has a public web search page, called Web FLIS. There, you can look up even a company name and locale, by searching its CAGE code.

Remember the American Brand Names:

I'm sure that I will miss many companies, but here is a general list of field gear companies that sell all (or nearly all) "Made in USA" products:

Knives deserve their own category, since this is one of the few industries where there is still a large number of American makers. We can maintain this presence by only buying from these makers:

Note: There are thousands of smaller custom knife makers in the United States--too many to list here. (See: The Official "KnifeMakers Database" for a detailed list, with links. Most of these are home-based businesses that do custom work.

Formerly Made in USA: Many knife and multitool makers have moved part or all of their manufacturing offshore. Gerber is typical of this trend. Not only are they owned by a foreign company (Fiskars of Finland), but more than half of their knives are now made in China. On a similar note, I still have readers recommend Marbles brand knives. They were all made in Gladstone, Michigan until a few years ago. But they've started importing them from China. :-(

If in doubt about the origin of a product, then contact,, or

Also note: I didn't even attempt to list the hundreds of American-made brands of guns, clothing and boots. I tried to stick to just field gear.

I'm sure that I will get a lot of suggested additions to the foregoing lists, via e-mail. Once I do, I will expand this post and turn it into a static reference page.

And by the way, I plan to compile a companion piece on American-Made Tools, later in July. Please e-mail me links to the web sites of tool makers that have 100% U.S. made tools that you recommend. Thanks!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reference the controversy about the Longmire television show. It is common on television and in movies to see 1911s carried with the hammer down and the act of cocking prior to shooting. Most folks versed in firearms recognize this as Hollywood adding some drama. The act of cocking being the lead up to a shootout. Hollywood is after all all about drama and not reality or safety. 

E B  writing about the danger of carrying the hammer down on a round in the chamber is correct about the safety concerns of doing so. 

However the older government models had a half cock safety that could be employed with a loaded chamber. I am not proud to say that I used this feature during my stint in the Army when I felt that I might need to get off a quick  one handed shot and carrying Cocked and Locked was prohibited by unit SOP. Of course I could still have been court-martialed for a live round in the chamber but the hammer mostly down was not a visual giveaway that  Cocked and Locked would have been. I only used this sparingly in difficult circumstances when I felt the need, and I will just leave it at that. I do not recommend half cock as a normal way to carry.

It takes a steady hand to lower the hammer on a live round and of course muzzle discipline is of paramount importance. Use both hands and the weak hand is used to lower the hammer. Again, safety! Please don't shoot the family dog. Better yet, carry it Cocked and Locked. It was designed that way for a reason by John Moses Browning.

Modern production 1911s DO NOT HAVE A HALF COCK SAFETY NOTCH so please do not try this at home. Of the four 1911s in my possession only the older Gold Cup series 70 has the half cock. The series 80 guns do not and trying this with a live round in the chamber will quite possibly cause a Negligent Discharge. I have no experience with makes other than Colt and the US Army issued guns. 

I certainly hope folks do not try this and shoot their big toe off. - G.R., former CPT, USAR

Monday, June 24, 2013

Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand Combat: An Authentic Field Manual of the Red Army. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
Gen A. A. Tarasov (Author), Boris Karpa (Translator)

Translated from the Soviet WWII original.  Boris Karpa has done an excellent job of maintaining the flavor of the Soviet manual, keeping the read interesting, and making it reasonably clear. Some sections are a bit awkward, but it seems to be from the original writing, not a translation difficulty.  Those areas that don't translate well are covered more than adequately by the original illustrations.

The first half of the book covers moving in combat and under fire.  It addresses movement over terrain, over obstacles, in and out of trenches, and scaling of walls.  Most of it should be familiar to anyone who's read similar military manuals.  The basics don’t change.  There are a couple of neat tricks I haven't seen elsewhere, for small unit tactics crossing obstacles, as well as for entering close quarters while keeping the weapon ready to engage.

The second half deals with actual combat.  There is a lengthy section on how to throw grenades from various positions, that won't currently be of much use to most readers, but is certainly useful for information, research, and for studying body mechanics, since one can throw other items besides grenades.

The next chapter covers the basics of bayonet and stock, and the explanations and diagrams clearly show the maneuvers, and the text covers specifics down to hip rotation and foot movement for generating the most power in the attack.  I found this section to be a very good summary of melee, and could be useful in event one needs to defend a position.  It does go into detail on using the bayoneted rifle like a spear—I recognized the techniques from medieval manuscripts and Asian martial arts.  This is very useful information, especially for one using a traditional bolt action rifle with its long stock.  One can use a full-length rifle as a very effective pike and club when empty, jammed, or when ammo is at a premium.

The manual advises practice and rehearsal of various other suggested moves on an individual case, basically, to learn one's body and how it moves.

There are some supplemental descriptions of fighting into or out of a trench, actual bayonet fencing against an opponent, some stock strikes and blocks.  This was the twilight of the bayonet, as far as training, but most of the old tactics are still in here, and worth knowing.

The final sections cover in extremis—using a standard shovel or entrenching tool against a foe with a bayonet, and even bare hands if need be.  The reader is motivated to believe the fundamental fact that the mind is the real weapon.

I found Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand Combat to be a readable, useful reference.  It's not a large book at 45 pages, but it has quite a bit of content, and the original pictures are well-executed.  It's also an interesting historical reference to the Soviet combat mindset. Mr Karpa has done an impressive job with this translation.

Disclosure:  I received a downloadable .doc file for review.  I have no financial interest in this book.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
 I read with interest the bit you wrote on the television show "Longmire."  I, too, have found the show somewhat entertaining so have been following it the past few weeks.  Doing so recently I watched a bit that I thought you might find interesting.
During a recent episode Longmire is inspecting the body of a murder victim while talking about the victim with the owner of the property upon which the corpse was found.  Longmire notes that the property owner is wearing a holstered firearm, probably a 1911 or other semi-auto pistol, with some "angst."  I use that word for a reason.  The look Longmire gives the property owner is one of "why do you think you should be wearing a firearm?"  The look, of course, sets up the response by the property owner that explains why she thinks that she needs a firearm.  But she also explains to the sheriff that "it's all registered and all."
Something didn't sound right about that statement. First, that a Wyoming rancher and a Wyoming sheriff would give the idea of a holstered firearm even a one little bit of thought.  In my experience in the west, a firearm is a tool like a shovel or a pick.  Nothing at all to be concerned about.  Unless it comes out of the holster and ends up being pointed at you.  At which point you do likewise and point your own gun at the other guy.
Then there is the question of registration.  Again, in my experience it didn't sound right,  Now, I've been to Wyoming a few times but, as a Wisconsin boy, I don't get there that often.  So, to get the definitive answer on gun law in Wyoming I did what any other red-blooded American would do.  I turned to Wikipedia.
Wikipedia has lots of information about gun laws.  Some of it is even accurate,  This I'm pretty sure of: Nowhere in Wyoming is it necessary to "register" a gun.  It is no more necessary to register a gun in Wyoming than it is in Wisconsin.  Maybe New York.  Maybe California.  But not Wyoming.  In 2011 Wyoming became another state that has shown that it respects the Constitution of the United States by now not requiring any kind of permit at all for concealed carry.  But the state will gladly give you a permit for a modest fee if you want it. (So that you can carry it when you visit other states [with reciprocity agreements.)
I'm sure you will agree with me that there is an enormous amount of bad information about firearms in the popular media.  That includes both news and entertainment media.  The most egregious example, of course, is the magical handgun that never needs reloading.  In this case I think that the script writers brought their own ideas and/or prejudices to the table.  It's likely that the screen writer is a resident of California or New York or some other state where citizen's God given rights are abridged so they bring that bit of "knowledge" to their script.  They're certainly not residents of Wyoming.  Maybe they're Australians.

As Will Rogers once said: “The problem ain't what people know. It's what people know that ain't so that's the problem.”  Regards, - E.B.

JWR Replies: The root of the problem is that most script writers come out of leftist universities and are ignorant about both guns and gun laws. A few of their flubs get corrected on the set by the weapons wranglers just before filming, but many don't. And the actors aren't much help, because most of them aren't genuine shooters, either. (There are a few exceptions but unfortunately the Tom Sellecks and Gerald McRaneys of the acting world are vastly outnumbered by actors who know very little about guns. Many horrible gaffes get filmed.)

In Longmire, the gun-handling is overall pretty decent. However, there is one thing makes me absolutely cringe: The leading man ("Walt Longmire") carries a Colt M1911, which is designed to be carried "cocked and locked." (Condition 1.) But he carries his hammer down, and at least twice we see him thumb cock the hammer while his pistol is holstered. This is an unsafe practice, because it implies that he carries the pistol hammer down on a live round. Unless you are at a shooting range with a safe backstop or you are standing before a specially-built clearing tube backstop, there is NO REALLY SAFE WAY to lower the hammer on a live round to put a M1911 in that condition. (Condition 2.) And if you do slip while lowering the hammer and the pistol fires and cycles, then the back of the slide might tear off your thumbnail and/or rip all of the skin off of the top of your thumb. (Ouch!)

Now I understand that seeing a cocked M1911 in Condition 1 makes some people nervous. (Although it shouldn't.) But Condition 1 is the preferred carry mode. The only truly safe way to carry a M1911 or other single action semi-auto hammer down is with a full magazine but with an empty chamber. This is properly called Condition 3. But it is commonly called "Israeli Carry" , because it was popularized in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s. This carry mode is fairly fast but cumbersome, since you have to rack the slide to ready the piece for firing. Unless you do something fancy and rack the slide on your belt, web gear, or holster (which violates a muzzle safety rule, for most of us) this requires two hands, which isn't always possible. (Such as as when one if your hands is holding another object, when you are grappling, or when you are injured.) So I DO NOT recommend Israeli Carry unless you live in some strange jurisdiction where you can carry a pistol but not one with a loaded chamber.

I also agree that the whole concept of a "registered gun" is absolutely foreign to folks in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. If you were to ask them if their guns were "registered", they'd look at you like you were from Mars, unless you were talking about the small numbers of Federally-registered machineguns, short-barreled rifles (SBRs) or short-barreled shotguns (SBSes) in those states.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Publisher: Vintage Books, New York. Copyright 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-95047-5
A National Best Seller

Spoilers ahead. If you don't like to know details about a novel before you read, you might want to skip this review.

I picked up The Dog Stars by Peter Heller while waiting in an airport, and frankly I enjoy fiction, but only if its intelligent and well-written, which this one is.

The world has been decimated by a flu pandemic, and it's a few years post-apocalypse. The survivors have arranged themselves into small enclaves of existence. Told in the first person by Hig, two men with little in common coexist around an airport, its hanger, and a former high-end neighborhood full of decaying McMansions. Hig intrigues because we finally have an intelligent main character. He shoots a gun, gardens, flies an airplane, loves his dog, reads and writes poetry, and thinks. He thinks, he reasons, and he's introspective.

Strangers are shot on sight. The flu disease has vicious lingering side effects for some. It's a brutal world. But eventually, all survivors, in all novels, must ask themselves the burning question, "What's the point?" What's the point of trying so hard everyday? What now? Is this all there is? Should I keep on trying? I grind away, but does the future hold any hope?

So, when Hig finally approaches the question, he decides to strike out on his own, with the dog, to figure out the answer to his question. What ensues is the story of Hig.

The author writes in that stream of consciousness style with incomplete sentences, but it's not particularly distracting. There is a love interest and plot twists. I read this book quickly as I wanted to see how it ended. Satisfying is how it ended. Satisfying for me. And Hig finds the answer to his burning question.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I recently ordered and read the book Resistance to Tyranny: A Primer. This book was published in the last few years, and therefore is quite modern and an excellent companion to Total Resistance by Major H. Von Dach. As a primer, it provides a general overview of the topic, with listed resources for further research. It has many lessons that I believe would be applicable to a TEOTWAWAKI situation.

God Bless, - Andrew M.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I heard that fellow blogger Ron (a.k.a. "The Orange Jeep Dad") will soon be leaving Phoenix, Arizona and moving his wife and family (they have six daughters) to their old family farm in Oklahoma. Established in the late 1800s, it has been abandoned since the 1980s when his grandfather became ill. Ron promises to blog about the entire adventure and include videos of how he and his family learn to farm, raise livestock, homestead, and homeschool. We wish Ron and his family the best for their move. Their new life will be quite a ride. And as one who has been living in the hinterboonies and homeschooling my kids for many years, I can say most assuredly: He won't regret it! Be sure to bookmark Ron's site, and check it often.

Publisher:  Ulysses Press, Berkeley, California. Copyright: 2013
ISBN:  978-1-61243-129-1
223 pages
Available on Amazon or eBay for between $10 and $15

I received The Prepper's Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals as a copy for review. Tess Pennington made the assumption that the reader of her cookbook is new to prepping.  She goes step by step and explains why to prep, why to be proactive, and how to afford food preps. Also covered are economic prepping, the just-in-time grocery store concept, how to begin to stockpile, and rotating supplies. Additionally, she explains "essential tools" for the prepared kitchen, such as a food dehydrator, wheat grinder, solar oven, sprouter, grill, and water purification system.

No cookbook can be all inclusive, but Pennington covers or at least mentions most of the topics that serious food preppers are familiar with. The beauty of this cookbook is that basic prep information is contained in one easy-to-read, well-organized book for the person who is already serious about prepping or just getting started with their food supplies.

The author touches on dehydrating and fermenting foods, but doesn't go into great depth. She does, however, give readers a lengthy chapter on preserving by water bath and by pressure canning, including charts and recipes.

The author addresses one of my favorite topics -- how to use spices to combat appetite fatigue. She gives the cook 10 recipes for combining herbs and spices to create mixes in convenient amounts to fit spice jars. Some are for sweet recipes, the majority are for savory dishes. I find this to be a very useful part of the cookbook.

Other topics include keeping foods cool, sanitation, making meals stretch, oxygen absorbers, healthy substitutes, and staples to store. Interestingly, Pennington knows to instruct readers about the importance of clean water. Topics covered are how to treat, store, and find water. This water discussion is fairly unusual in a cookbook.

Pennington is a prepper and knows the prepper buzz words, such as FIFO.  She teaches readers by explaining how to get organized, how to plan, and how to start.

I'm encouraged by a short section entitled "Canning Off The Grid." Peterson mentions canning using a fireplace, a fire pit, and a Mexican horno.

One question I have concerns a recipe for "Dehydrated Noodles" using a bag of dry egg noodles. The directions call for undercooking the noodles, then dehydrating, and storing in an airtight container which will keep for 6 months. I'm stumped. A bag of dry noodles will keep for 6 months, probably much longer if you use a Food Saver. Boiling water is still required for rehydration, as it is for noodles out of the bag. What's the point?

The heart of the cookbook, the recipes, is logically organized into chapters: Breakfast, Lunch, Supper, Beans and Rice, Kid-Approved Snacks, Side Dishes, Grains, Breads and Pastas, Desserts, Beverages, and Alternative Ingredients.

A couple of recipes that caught my eyes were "Poor Man's Village Bread" which can be baked, fried, or grilled and uses 2 cups of sauerkraut and "20 ways to eat beans and rice" which combines various types of these two ingredients to build complete proteins.

Many readers have canned ham and canned chicken in their pantries. I quickly found five recipes using canned chicken and 2 recipes using canned ham. Its always helpful to find tasty recipes for canned meat. I intend to try "Cola Canned Ham" outdoors on the grill and in the solar oven. Just wish I had known about this fast and easy recipe that we could have cooked over a wood fire when I was leading my Girl Scout troops. Essentially, use a church key opener to punch holes in the ham can. Replace the gelatin with Coca-Cola and heat for an hour. Sounds delicious, and I can't wait to try it.

In conclusion, I enjoyed perusing this cookbook and would add it to my prepping bookshelf. Best feature of Ms. Pennington's book is how gloriously well-organized, how full of life-saving information, and how eminently readable it is.

Editor's Disclaimer: Although Ulysses Press is one of my publishers (they publish my novel "Patriots"), I have no financial interest in this book, other than that some copies of it might be ordered from the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store. (Just like hundreds of other books that have been mentioned in SurvivalBlog, over the years.) Ulysses Press sent the review copy of this book to the reviewer directly without first contacting me, and they did not solicit me to run the review.

Monday, June 3, 2013

© 2006 Peter Hopkirk
Published by The Folio Society 2010
510 pages with map of the area on the inside covers.
Available in paperback and eBook from Internet booksellers.
There are color photos and illustrations, a lengthy bibliography, and a comprehensive index in my copy.
Recommended for high school students and older.

If you want to know the back story of the present situation in Afghanistan, you need to read The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. First published in 1990, it is still available thanks to paperback and eBook editions. First edition hardback copies are available from used booksellers at decent prices. It is the story of the competition between Russia and Great Britain for Central Asia and Afghanistan. The author takes us back to the Mongol hordes coming out of the east on their fast ponies and conquest as their goal. He concisely relates the struggles to push them back and the efforts to fulfill the Russian appetite for more territory. The British resist the Russian Bear in an attempt to preserve the Raj in India.

The political and military intrigues of both British and Russian characters are vividly told in their attempts to expand their respective empires. Just like today’s headlines, there are corrupt politicians, Muslim jihadists killing any infidel within reach, conservative governments willing to defend themselves, and liberal governments working hard to appease all comers. Readers of this book will have to frequently remind themselves they are reading a history, not today’s newspaper.

The story is easy to read thanks to the authors’ chronological style of writing. This also makes the book difficult to sit down. We learn of the customs, clothing, military tactics, and beliefs of the local inhabitants caught between two imperialistic empires. There are precise descriptions of local political intrigues between chieftains and those who would be king. The vivid descriptions of the geography put you into the action.

The story flows until the advent of World War I finally forces the two adversaries to become allies against the Central Powers. They meet to settle the boundaries of a country not theirs, and all is well until the next Russian invasion of 1979. That is another story.

Note: The author of this book mentions that many of the books he consulted during his writing are either in specialist libraries, or only available at great expense. This is a good warning to you if you are interested in building a library concerning your favorite subject or subjects no matter what they may be. I began my quest in 1979 and some of the books I have purchased over the years are no longer available at any price. My advice is to purchase books you are interested in as quickly as possible. Publishers have short shelf lives for most books, and the price usually goes up when the book goes out of print.

Monday, May 13, 2013

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole, Volume One: Nothing That Eats
By Franklin Sanders
Copyright: 2012
ISBN 978-1-938817-06-9

Although there is a long standing link at JWR's Investing page to his Moneychanger web site, not every SurvivalBlog reader may know of Franklin Sanders. His stories will either have an air of familiarity or yearning to follow in his footsteps. Christian, father of seven, farmer, historian, husband, outlaw, and reenactor are all facets to this interesting man.
This is first of three planned books. It solidly weighs in with a hefty 379 pages. There’s something nice about picking up a paperback that is well made.  There are also a Kindle, ePub, and pdf versions available for those who like the weightless version.
Franklin Sanders wrote the Moneychanger Newsletter every month. In it, he included a section about his personal life. In putting this book together he made a conscience decision to print what he wrote at the time. This is a unique perspective in that most writers would use their notes as a basis and then write history, often years or decades later, as viewed from today. Ask a six year old to what happened to him that day and it might include a story about monsters in the closet. That same writer at twenty-six would likely not tell the tale for fear of looking silly. As you read the book you will get a sense of truthfulness you would not normally expect from someone writing about himself. 
Franklin’s Christian beliefs run deep. One could say that he is exuberant in his faith and it shows in his writings. To some, the interspersed Biblical references and quotes may be off-putting, but it is key part of who Franklin is. In no way do these times come off as condescending or preaching which makes for a pleasant read.
Another thing that makes this book a pleasant read is the way it is laid out. The sections are headed by the month and year it was published. The length may be a page or a few pages long. Franklin’s writing style is straightforward and easy to read. This combined with monthly sections will have the reader flying along through the adventures.
One interesting thread through the book relates to the Y2K bug. For the younger readers, Y2K or year 2000 bug was a crisis in the late 1990s relating to computer programs in their ability to understand the difference between 2-digit year abbreviation (such as 00) versus 4-digit (such as 2000.) Possible catastrophes included all bank account information being lost to public utilities being turned off.  There always tends to be a looming danger in the near future and it is interesting to see how the Sanders family dealt with this example.
Franklin is an interesting man and that reflects in his monthly sections. One month may have you reading about a sow and her piglets, touring America, or the Civil War, I mean, the War of Northern Aggression reenactment as he plays a Southerner. There is always something of interest to read about.

The move to country life or homesteading has become more poplar in the last decade as many people realize the substantial benefits of this lifestyle. The Sanders Family began this journey almost 15 years ago. Like many fish-out-of-water tales, this book has plenty of humorous episodes as they relearn what most of our great-grandparents would have thought as being common sense. Read what he does with 2,000 pounds of Y2K rice for a good chuckle.

W. C Fields, American actor and comedian (1880-1946), was once quoted as saying "Never work with children or animals."The folly of both is bound to drive any sane person crazy when you are trying to get things done on time. Both surround the Sanders. As I am sure Franklin has said to himself many times that God never gives us more than we can handle. Weather it is children that move back home,
horses that bolt off with heavy equipment, pigs refusing to be corralled, or disappearing chickens there were plenty of challenges facing this homesteader.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I was recently sent a Bible, a waterproof Bible, for testing for SurvivalBlog. Okay, I have a shelf full of Bibles, I hold several ministerial degrees, including a Doctor Of Divinity Degree, so I use different Bibles for studying God's word - some versions are easier to understand that others - thus a shelf full of Bibles.
When a survival situation comes down, I can't think of anything more important to have, than having a faith in God, and being a Believer in Jesus Christ - it is a saving faith, and one that has gotten me and my family through a lot of hard times over the years. When I was working in some security positions, and as a police officer, I always kept a small New Testament in my pocket or patrol car - for down time - when I could relax a little bit, and catch-up on reading God's word. I believe you can have all the survival gear and weapons in the world, but if you don't have faith to cling to, the bad times will only be worse for you.
So, I opened the box that I received and just took a look at this Bible - nothing really unusual about it, other than it was a bit heavier than some and it said it was waterproof. Never heard of such a thing, to be honest. I received the English Standard Version, and it is one version I didn't have in my library. I only gleaned a little of it - no need to read the entire Bible.
As "luck" would have it, we had a weekend of monsoon rains, and we even lost power at our homestead for 9-hours. I opened the Bible and placed it on the patio table and figured the next morning, the Bible would be ruined. When we have some serious rains, we have SERIOUS rains. Next morning, I went out to check on the Bible and it was "wet" but not wet...I took a couple paper towels and wiped the Bible off, and it was good as new - indeed, it is 100% waterproof.
Being waterproof, also means that the pages are a bit tougher than most Bibles have - the very thin pages you can find on most Bibles. There was no bleeding through any of the pages when they were wet - and I can attest to how easily a wet Bible page can be to read, more than one of my Bibles have had water spilled on them in the past, and all but ruined them.
The waterproof Bible is the concept and fruition of - a young couple who's ministry it is, to spread the Gospel, and do it in a different way - by providing something a bit different to folks - a Bible that can stand-up to the elements. You need to include a waterproof Bible in your survival gear, especially if you live in a wet climate, like I do, and you may have to bug out. While a regular Bible will suffice, it will get damaged in short order. If you have the waterproof Bible, it will last you through all the elements, and give you comfort and reassurance in troubling times. I have my sample, so I hope you all will check out their web site and place an order for one of your own. They also have different translations besides the English Standard Version, so check out their web site, you'll be glad you did.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Title: After the Snow
Author: S.D. Crockett
Copyright Date: 2012
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
ISBN: 978-0-312-64169-6
Audio, e-book or foreign translation avail? Yes--Kindle
Suitable for children? Teens probably.

When you find a story predicting that the future is another ice age you know you have found an author who is thinking outside of the box. The global warming crowd is not going to be pleased if this is our future. Not only do we get an Ice Age, but the solar farms and wind farms are a complete failure. Nuclear is king and coal is the next best alternative.

As a consolation prize, just about everyone else's sacred cow gets gored too by the end of the novel.

The premise behind the novel is that the polar ice caps do indeed proceed to melt, but once they have an impact on the oceans the currents stop and then everything ices up.

The story revolves around Willo, a teenage boy who has only ever known the ice and snow. He has heard the stories of the graybeards. He knows that once upon a time water came out of the walls and the world was warm, but it's all stories to him. His life is trapping hares so their pelts can be traded for oats and the supplies needed for the family to survive. His family is one of those known as "stragglers".

Almost all of the world has been moved into the cities, and there is no going back and forth. The cities are fenced in and guarded. There is not supposed to be anyone living up in the hills, but that is where Willo's family is, their cabin hidden by trees which grate against the walls with the wind. The author does not go into detail about how they subsist except to say that they raise goats and eat poorly. They trade the furs of the hares which Willo traps in order to get supplies. The trading is done through Geraint, a permitted farmer who has Willo's sister Alice who Geraint got pregnant when she was fourteen.


The story opens with Willo watching his family's empty house and him wondering what has become of them all. The family has been taken away, but there is nothing to tell him by whom or to where. Deciding that the house is not a safe place to be he loads up some essentials on a sled and heads for a cave he knows up on a mountain.

In the process of traveling to his cave he comes across a starving boy and girl in a derelict cabin. They are waiting for their father to return. Willo discovers a dead man in the barn and decides he doesn't want the burden of two starving children. He goes on his way and camps that night in the empty cone of a downed windmill. However, he can't shake the images of the starving children, so the next morning he goes back to get them.

Once he gets there he finds that a pack of wild dogs have found the body of the dead man. Willo is nearly killed by the dogs just trying to get into the cabin. There he finds the boy has already died, and now Willo and the girl, Mary, are trapped by the dogs. Mary doesn't even want to leave, but Willo persuades her that they must. Although he loses his sled in the process he does manage to fend off the dogs and get away with Mary.

His goal is to take Mary down to the road which goes between the city and the coal mines so that she can get picked up by a truck and taken to the city to live. In the process Willo and Mary run into the "stealers" who live in the forest. Pursued by these cannibals Willo and Mary both end up on the road and are both picked up by a truck and taken into the city.

In the hills Willo knows what to do and how to survive, but in the city he is scared to death and doesn't know which way to turn. Here Mary is the capable one. She leads him to a place where they can both get some food, and from there they follow a drunken rat trapper to his hidden abode.

Willo isn't at all comfortable with the situation, and his goal is to find his family. Early in the morning he gets up and leaves Mary behind. In short order he is captured by a gang of children, but then soon freed by one of them who takes him somewhere with the goal of selling his coat so they can purchase some grog (alcohol). She abandons Willo in disgust when he makes it clear that he has not intention of exchanging his coat for grog. Eventually Willo ends up at the home of Jacob, and elderly man who Willo helped out in the streets.

Willo's jacket is the subject of much interest to Jacob and his wife, especially when they learn that Willo made it himself. Jacob is a furrier, and he has a wealthy client who has commissioned a jacket, but Jacob is getting too old to do the work. Willo is quickly seen as a welcome addition to Jacob's household, but Willo wants to be out looking for his family. Jacob argues for patience and suggests that Willo needs to have papers in the first place. Thus it is that Willo has to learn how to live in the city.

After living with Jacob and his wife and earning their trust Willo is shown a book which Jacob has carefully hidden under the floorboards in his house. It is a book which Willo recognizes as one his father owned, although his father's copy lacked a cover and was held together by string. The book is titled "In Search of an Ark" by John Blovyn. The book covers such topics as making snares,tanning hides, childbirth and other survival skills. The mere possession of the book identifies one as a "straggler", and as such, as a subversive element.

Apparently the greatly subversive message of the stragglers is one of optimism. The hope that things could get better and that one should

seek out a better place is an unacceptable message.

In the past John Blovyn had called his followers to the hills. In this book he is calling them to an island. The authorities are determined to find out where the island is, but for all their infiltration, interrogation and torture they have yet to get an answer. Nonetheless, their efforts continue undeterred.

It comes as a shock to Willo when he learns that Robin Blake was not his father's real name, but rather John Blovyn. To make matters worse, apparently not only did his father not tell him his real name, but he didn't love him either and was disappointed in him because he was such a "simpleton" and just wanted to run around in the hills.

Rather than spoil the entire book I will simply say that everything is the opposite of what one would expect. The renowned survival author is gone and his son rejects his hopes, choosing instead to make the most of the world at hand rather than seek out a better place.

A major theme of this book is that things are not going to turn out the way anyone expects. Chinese steel is the good stuff, and Chinatown is where the wealthy live. The premium real estate on the planet is Africa. "Go west" is out. Now the way to head is east.

As long as you are willing to see your own sacred cow served up as hamburger there is value in considering the ramifications of dramatically different outcomes.

After the Snow spares the reader of the details of what could otherwise be graphic scenes. There are plenty of bad things which happen, but most of the details are left to the reader's imagination.

There is some foul language, but only in a couple of incidents, and there it is a matter of a particular character in the novel. On the other hand, the author's choice of devices for indicating the degree of sophistication of Willo's vocabulary may be a nuisance to some readers. Willo speaks in the vernacular of today's youth using such terms as "cos" instead of "because". I suppose there may be some who appreciate the use of their preferred vocabulary, and I expect them to be under the age of twenty. Such is probably the intended audience, and this book is a reasonable option for provoking them to consider alternative futures.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I've been around knives since I was about five years old. For a time, I collected custom made knives, but that "hobby" got too expensive for me. For close to 20 years I was the West Coast Field Editor for Knives Illustrated magazine. I believe I wrote for them longer than anyone else did. During that time, I wrote numerous magazine articles, and had at least a thousand different knife samples pass through my hands. When I first started writing about knives, there were a lot of knives that came across my desk that weren't very sharp - I'm glad to report, that isn't the case any longer. If a knife company wants to sell their knives today - even cheaply made knives - they had better have a useable edge on there.
It has never ceased to amaze me, the number of people who are afraid - yes - afraid of a sharp knife. They are ill-informed, in believing that a sharp knife is more dangerous than a dull knife is. A dull knife means you have to apply more pressure  to do the cutting for you - and if you happen to slip, while applying more pressure, you can seriously injure yourself. A sharp knife is a much safer knife - it takes less effort and pressure to cut something, so there is less chance of you slipping an injuring yourself. But try to convince a lot of people of this, and you'd might as well talk to the wall.
I have never claimed any sort of magical skill when it comes to re-sharpening a knife, it takes a little work and some skill to put a razor-sharp edge on a knife, especially one that you allowed to get too dull in the first place. I've always found it easier to just touch-up a knife blade when it first starts to show signs of getting dull, instead of waiting until the edge is really dull - which means a lot more work to get that fine edge restored on a knife. Over the years, I have experimented with just about every type of knife sharpener out there - some are mere gimmicks, while others can put a decent edge on a blade, and some others can put a really sharp edge on a knife. Still, they all require some skill and effort - and time!
I carry a small sharpening stone in my military butt pack, as well as one in my main BOB. I don't want to have to make a feeble attempt at sharpening a dull knife on a river stone. Let me tell you about Speedy Sharp. They have one of the best and quickest little knife and tool sharpeners I've run across in a long, long time. What we have with the Speedy Sharp is a small, flat-ish sharpener, that is made out of Micro 100 Super Carbide that never wears out - and it is only a couple inches long. Yes, you read that right - this sharpener will never wear out on you. The sharpener is housed in a plastic handle, with the sharpener end exposed, and it comes with a cap to cover the sharpener end - because it is so blasted good at doing it's job of "cutting" steel, you don't want it cutting through your pockets or pack. Check out their web site for photos - that illustrate the Speedy Sharp easier than I can describe it.
Speedy Sharp has been in business since 1994, and last year alone, sold over 160,000 Speedy Sharps. They also come in different handle colors - 7 different colors to be exact, and you can use them as a promotional item for your business - they will emboss the name of your business on the handle of the Speedy Sharp.
Needless to say, the Speedy Sharp is useful for sharpening knives. However, you can also sharpen axes, lawn mower blades, hatchets, scissors and anything else that you can possibly think of that takes an edge to make it a cutting tool. Heck, you can even re-sharpen a razor blade if you had a mind too.
I keep all my using knives sharp all the time, so I was looking for a knife to put a good edge on. I remembered I received some free knives in an order I placed from some company, and they are cheaply made knives, that did not come with any sort of an edge - you might be able to cut soft butter with one - that's how dull they came right out of the package. I took a Speedy Sharp out of the package, read the instructions on how to use it and I set about trying to put an edge on a cheap knife. (BTW, and you can even find them being used on You Tube sharpening different things.)
Okay, Speedy Sharp lives up to it's name - it is probably the fastest knife sharpener I've every used - it took a little bit of practice to get the angle just right, but in no time at all, I had a hair-popping edge on several cheap imported knives, that didn't have an edge to start with. I then tackled a small hatchet that I've used around the homestead, that had gotten dull - and it no time at all again, I had a very sharp edge on the hatchet - you don't want a hair-popping edge on a hatchet - just a working edge - a thin edge will quickly dull and you don't want that on an axe or hatchet.
So what we have here, is a product that is called Speedy Sharp - and that is also the name of the company - and their product lives up to their claim and their name - it is a neat little sharpener that you can carry in your pocket, your BOB, fishing tackle box or any place, and in no time at all, you can put a razor's edge on a knife, and the product will never wear out. I will be replacing my sharpening stones in my butt pack and my BOB and putting Speedy Sharp sharpeners in these packs. During a SHTF scenario, you want the very best products you can get - products that won't fail you - and a product that is priced right, too.
Now, for the good news, the Speedy Sharp sharpeners retail for only $9.95 and if you purchase more, you get a lower price - check out the web site for complete information and pricing. I was totally blown-away by the speed in which I could sharpen knives, knives that didn't come with an edge to start with. And, if you've ever tried to re-sharpen an axe or hatchet, you will really appreciate the Speedy Sharp. When things you bad, really bad, and you can't resupply - you want products that will last and last - the Speedy Sharp is just such a product.
I could go on and on about the merits of the Speedy Sharp, but I don't want to bore SurvivalBlog readers, by telling you about all the edge tools that I used the Speedy Sharp on - the darn product does exactly as advertised, and at a price that is below what you would expect for a tool that will last forever. If you are serious about keeping a keen edge on all your knives and tools, you need to get several Speedy Sharp sharpeners - they make wonderful gifts for everyone - and under ten bucks each - that's one of the best bargains going in my book. I have several, and plan on getting several more for my family for their BOB and packs. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, April 8, 2013

I'm like many folks, and when I can get a good deal on a product, that can help me fill a particular need, I like that. However, when I can get a great deal on a product, I'm even happier. But when I can get a free deal on something I need, I couldn't be happier. When the power goes out, we all reach for a flashlight, to help us find our way in the dark. When out camping, we need a light source of some type as well. Many folks carry flashlights in their BOB, or have lanterns for camping. Still, many other people have those snap chemical light sticks. They give a good amount of light. The only problem is, the source of that light is very limited--just a few hours.
When I was first contacted by Steve Nagel about his products, I was more than a little skeptical, to say the least. The UV Paqlite is an almost forever source of light - yes, you read that right - the light source is nearly forever - it's rechargeable, using sunlight, flashlights, car headlights - just about any light source. Okay, the UVPaqlites aren't "free" in the sense they are being given away. However, the light that you can obtain from the many different products that UVPaqlite sells is essentially free light. Unlike the conventional "snap to activate" binary chemicals glo-sticks that you can only use once, the various UVPaqlites have an unlimited life span, they can be used for a lifetime with a little bit of care.
I tested the UVPaqlite samples that were sent me over more than a two month period. I did nothing in this test, other than leave the various light products sitting on my desk, filing cabinets and the end table in my living room. The light from my office charged the samples I had sitting here, as did the light from the lamp on my end table. If I wanted to charge these products faster, I simply exposed them to an LED flashlight for a minute or two, and these unique products were fully-charged, and they glowed all night long - and then some. And, these glow lights can last for several days and nights, as a matter of fact, from one charge.
UVPaqlite is a family owned small business, and they are up-front and honest in their dealings, from all I learned about them. I had a great conversation with Steve Nagel, prior to doing this article, and he was very straightforward with me about their products. No, these forever lights do not glow as brightly as the chemical glo-stick lights do, but they do glow brightly enough that you can hang one or two in your tent at night, and they will provide you with enough light to function, instead of being left in the dark. And, there are no batteries required, and these unique products can be used over and over again - as I stated above, they are forever lights - a free light source for many needs.
The UVPaqlites are tested and approved by the North American Hunting and Fishing Club members, they were tested extensively by their members, too. What are some of the uses you can use the UVPaqlites for? Well, needless to say, they make an outstanding addition to your survival gear - place several in your BOB and if the need arises and you have to bug out, you can remove the products from your pack and allow them to charge in the light, and you're ready to go when the sun sets. If you like to get out and walk after the sun goes down, you can apply one of these lights to your clothing or on a belt, so you can be seen at night. If you're into camping, boating, backpacking, night fishing, hunting - just about any outdoor activity, you can benefit from one of the many products that UVPaqlite produces.
I was more than a little curious, as to what material was used to make the lights glow. The material inside the various products is made from Strontium, Aluminum and Europium - they are earth elements. They are all safe - if someone ingested these elements, it would simply be the same as if they ate dirt - don't try the same with a chemical glo-stick! I'm no scientist, so I'm not sure how these elements combine to make them glow forever, with a little charge, but I don't have to fully understand it, to appreciate it. I'm not totally sure how I know electricity works, but I know when I turn-on a light switch, the lights come on in my house. And, I know with the UVPaqlite products, that when I expose them to a light source, they glow all night long - and sunlight is the best source of charging. However, as already mentioned, just a minute or two under any artificial light source, is more than enough to give you a charge that lasts all night long.
Some other advantages to the UVPaqlites is that they are reliable - nothing to break. The are reusable --- almost forever. They are portable, waterproof, environmentally friendly, no batteries ever are required, no bulbs to break or burn out, and no expiration dates - they last for generations. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't see anything negative here in these products.
Now, it takes several minutes for your night vision to kick-in, once you are in darkness. When you first enter a dark room, the UVPaqlites may not seem very bright at first. However, give your eyes a few minutes to adjust, and you will be surprised as to how bright the UVPaqlites really are. Again, they aren't as bright as the traditional glo-sticks. However, the advantages that the UVPaqlites offer over the glo-stick products, far out-weigh the fact that they don't glow as brightly.
Okay, let's see if I can cover some of the various products that UVpaqLite has to offer, and there are quite a few, and their product line is growing. First of all, you have the glo-sticks, and key chain lites, and a necklace lite. You can get marker lites and beacon lites, as well as Tooblites and Scooblites (for SCUBA diving). There is also the Paqlite and the matlite. I like the idea of the Matlite for a number of uses. The Matlite can be placed on your nightstand - and you can place your firearm on top of it so it's easy to see in the dark. Or you can place your meds and a glass of water on the Matlite, if you require taking meds in the middle of the night - don't laugh, a lot of people do. The Paqlite is really a super-cool product. It has the rare earth material inside of a vacuum pack that you can roll-up - yes, you read that right, you can roll it up.
All UVPaqlite products are waterproof, light-weight (very light-weight) and easy to pack. I like the idea of something that is easy to pack, and has very little weight. I couldn't tell you the number of times, I left traditional glo-sticks in a pack, and when I went to use them, they didn't work--their shelf life is only a couple of years.
A new product that UVPaqlite just came out with is a flashlight - an LED flashlight (Larry's 8 LED flashlight - UVPaqlite doesn't make it, they only market it) that has a UVPaqlite attached to it - you simply turn the LED flashlight on for a minute, and the glo-stick gets charged and you have a nice gentle light for your tent that will last all night long - or use it for walking a trail in the dark. The Larrys 8 LED flashlight itself is a great product - it operates using 3 AAA batteries and is super bright - and I mean BRIGHT! Best thing is, flashlight is under ten bucks - it's a great deal.
UVPaqlite recently designed some products for the DOD (Department of Defense) for our troops to use. Plus, I'm starting to see UVPaqlite products advertised on various web sites all over the place, as well as showing-up at gun shows, outdoor shows and preparedness shows, and they sell quite well, once folks see how good they work.
UVPaqlites really caught my attention for a number of reasons. Needless to say, a source of forever free light is a good thing in my book - and the light source is virtually unbreakable, easy to pack and light-weight. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, to fill just about any needs for emergency lighting. No, you probably won't be able to read a good book using only one UVPaqlite, but it sure beats sitting around in the dark. And, you never have to replace any batteries - the sun can charge your UVPaqlite in a matter of minutes. And, I like to save the best for last - that is the prices. I'm not going to list all the various prices in this article, you can check out the prices on their web site, but you will be pleasantly surprised at just how inexpensive the UVPaqlites are - considering you are getting an almost forever source of free light, the cost is very reasonable.
If you are serious about your survival and preparedness, you absolutely have to include some UVPaqlites in your gear. And, if you are in the military, you need to keep some of these handy - in your pack, assault vest, or even in your pants pocket - just take them out for a few minutes during the day to let them charge, and you are good to go all night long. If you own a sporting goods store, gun shop, survival gear store - you need to be carrying UVPaqlites for your customers - seriously. I became totally impressed with all the products that were sent to me. And, it was a pleasure, talking with Steve Nagel, at UVPaqlites. He is a wealth of information - and if you have questions, he will talk to you personally. Try that with some big company--that isn't going to happen. More products are in the works, and Steve promised to send me samples when they become available.
While the UVPaqlite products aren't free - but they are very inexpensive - you will have a forever source of free light, once you have these products in-hand. While the power companies don't have anything to fear just yet, I think they might be getting a little bit worried - free light!  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I saw the link in the March 23rd  "Odds & Sods" to 297 free online reference books at Armageddon Online and began to drool with excitement powered by anticipation and saved the link to my desktop. Two days later, while sitting at my desk finishing off a small tube of Albuteral in my nebulizer, I finally followed up on that wonderful impulse to get something good for me for free. I soon found that "free" was actually $5, a small fee supported quite well by an apologetic explanation of the onslaught of used bandwidth when offered for free. We all owe Matt Anderson big thanks for his efforts to help others.

I was still excited ( $5 was cheap ) and paying my way was smartest prepper thing I had in the past twenty years of getting ready.

So then I slowly read down the two-column list of categories and their content titles and I was excited all over again.  I now have an "Armageddon Online" icon on my computer desktop. There are 29 different, and especially useful in these tense times, well chosen categories. I found a great many topics that I readily saw I needed more information on, or that I was a newbie guy on a particular topic. This was an enlightenment moment for me, I have doing family and community and church preparedness for twenty years. I have selected just a notable few items from the 297 for a brief overview in the hopes of putting you in the same awareness posture I had found myself, excited to be gaining better information for my family and  friends.

In no particular order, I looked at:

1. ARC - Are you ready - EARTHQUAKES - doing a plan for your home and then practice drop, cover, and hold on, twice a year. And there are 25+ more points, mostly well thought out one-liners.

2. ARC- Are you ready - WILDFIRES - Create a 30-50 foot safe area around your home  - 14 points of completion 7 points of home safety - 8 points of protecting your home - 13 POINTS OF CREATING YOUR FAMILY DISASTER PLAN !   PRACTICE   PRACTICE    PRACTICE and then teach someone else to do and to teach!

• Water supply • Latrines • Areas for washing up, washing clothes, ablutions • Drains • Kitchen (smoke, smell and fire risk) • Food storage • Rubbish disposal • Fuel dump and fire precautions • Areas for eating, working, sleeping and relaxing • Medical area tent/hut   (on the edge of the camp for privacy and safety).

ALL OF THESE ARE VERY IMPORTANT AND WORTH THE $5 ALONE! In this topic I found the "don’ts" to be extremely important and nearly identical to the US Army training from the early Viet Nam era. Even as a base camp commo  wienie  who stayed in the CONUS, I learned a lot about everyday successful field craft, about and health and hygiene..

You may well never have a second chance to stay healthy. You will not need to learn how to dig a grave twice.

4. FACT SHEET -FEMA TORNADOES - when you see or hear your very own tornado, it really is too late to start planning a response  / preparation plan. You will no longer be an observer, you are now the designated target / victim / named debrief topic of the afterwards report. Go to WWW.FEMA.GOV  and download the necessary publications concerning your concerns. This may be both your life saver and the only thing from the government you actually asked for. This powerful but still simple two page free item from FEMA   has great tidbits of life saving information: tornado facts, where and when, how to prepare, develop a communication plan, prepare your disaster supply kit, watches and warnings, danger signs, after the tornado, safety rules during. So how do I know this is important?

We lived in the so-called "TORNADO ALLEY - OHIO" for 45 years prior to moving to western range wildfire country.  I have personally watched funnel clouds pass overhead twice in my life. Yes, it really does sound just like an onrushing freight train!

5. DUTCH OVENS -   THIS IS A SUPERIOR SHORT ESSAY!! I am embarrassed to realize how little I know, about these wonders of outdoor culinary arts. And I will never again sneer at our resident ward Boy Scout leaders who make it look so easy. Eight pages packed with very well written useable directions, diagrams, and photographs with tags and pointers. The cleaning instructions are great and the buying information alone is worth much more than the $5 for the whole 29 7 documents.

6. PREPARING FOR DISASTER FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY AND OTHER SPECIAL NEEDS. This is an important topic that will effect nearly "everyone" in the very likely event of a serious disaster. The Red Cross booklet is 19 pages and is very well done. It is not preachy and is written in "common sense" daily language. It is an easy read and it is free.

 DISCLAIMER. I am 100% disabled veteran with COPD and diabetes. Our family's disability experience is lengthy and personal.  My darling wife ( 47 years ) and I  are full guardians for her mentally disabled only brother. He has been our responsibility since 1968. He came home from the Korean War with a serious brain disability and has never recovered. After many years in hospitals and group homes, he has lived with us from 1992 until just recently when he needed to move to a very good local area rest home.  We do know about emergencies and the disabled. Our disabled brothers and sisters are everywhere, usually living quiet lives doing as much as they can for themselves and often doing much for others. Just stand at the entrances to our major shopping areas for a few hours and count the folks having difficulties just moving from the car to the store. It will be enlightening. If your family, your group, has no members  or relatives who are disabled, relax, we will find you in our hour of need. Here are just a few of the many web sites to obtain timely info on preparedness for our disabled and special needs brothers and sisters. Why should we care about these folks?



These are a few web sites suggested in Matt Anderson's materials in the disabled preparedness area. The Access Board DHHS Administration on Aging National Council on Disability National Organization on Disability American Association for People with Disabilities American Foundation for the Blind National Association of the Deaf Los Angeles City Department on Disability Easter Seals

For more in-depth information, get a copy of "Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities" (A5091) from the American Red Cross.


7. F.E.M.A. RR-28 / Reprinted July 1989



Think about bartering fully charged 12 volt car batteries for a discharged battery plus a few pre-1965 dimes or a quarter!

Actually the report / plans are 90 pages long , I put the full report on a flash drive and went to a quick print and had it ( all of it - every word )  printed into a booklet ( 8.5 x 11 ),  and i have a second set of pages for my backup.
i did this for $11, at my favorite copier place. The final page lists 5 company names and contact info so as to buy plans for other wood gas generators.

8. How to listen to World Radio or "Gee, I sure wish we knew what's gonna happen next" or these darn cheap CBs just never work when there is a hill or something is going wrong" or "Quick, run to town and git the doctor, granny was chopping wood and cut off her finger."

 There are ham operators in just about every area, every town and neighborhood. Use your favorite search engine  and close by zip codes to find your local " ARRL " American Radio Relay League". Use the phone to set up a meet with a member. Ask about the "no code" Technician license. its easy and inexpensive.  Look the test up on the web. there are many free study web sites to help you. You will also want to learn as much as you can about matching antennas to bands and especially learn about not going nuts spending too much money. We put most of our limited funds into a very good world band receiver and dipole antenna system and a mid-quality small transceiver. they both need a 12 volt power system. For my tastes and my experience, design simplicity  and low cost is best most of the time for nearly everyone.

9. A FOOT POWERED PEDAL OPERATED GRAIN MILL _31 pages -  Peddle Operated Grain Mi#8D40E8

This is so darn simple I am surprised i didn't know about the design in the past. The only problem i see is talking some one out of their used bike that still has working parts . The web page denotes a reprint by permission and i do not have that permission. However a single copy can be made for personal non commercial use, or for education, without permission. This is a great item to know about in advance of actually needing it. Go for it.

10. The final commentary  ... and you thought I was going do do all 297.....

FIRST AID MANAGEMENT OF MINOR INJURIES - 157 PAGES - and they are all very well done, an easy read. I'll start with the summary from the last page....

Minor accidents and injuries do occur on expeditions, but with knowledge and a reasonable medical kit most should be treatable in the field and should not impair the enjoyment of the expedition. The expedition medical officer has a responsibility to consider when an accident or injury requires more expert help and to arrange for the patients evacuation to a place of safety and competent care. So what do we learn from the summery?

 A. We need a medical officer / an MD / a DO / an RN / an EMT /a  herbalist / a nursing student, or heaven forbid, a skilled veterinarian doing his / her "good samaritan and not to be sued" team member / person of serious interest to the needy in our group / family.

B. We need a really good medical kit for the probable medical problems concerning injuries and accidents.

 I just googled for the following: " EMT JUMP KIT CONTENTS LIST?"  and Ii found this neat web site from Emory University.

 The site has the lists needed, and pictures, for slow guys like me. We are now  ( this week and next )  working on inventorying the past few years of medical stuff we have acquired and will use this list to determine what to keep and what to get. After we look at the budget again, and again!!

From the viewpoint of age 72, 4 years in the military,  and recent CERT leadership training, there is a serious rule to be considered in every, no exceptions, every medical emergency situation.

You Must Take Care Of Yourself First    Stop!!  Look !! Think!!

Confirm your observations and plan with a partner if possible, or do it again if alone. Look ahead for secure footing. Look at the equipment you will take with you before you start. Know how you will return to safety before you move to the injured person. practice your tri-age in advance. Read the tri-age card in your wallet or purse.

Above all else, know your limits and know your tools.

Finally, before I start an important project, or activity, or begin a class, or attend a lecture, I pray for Heavenly help to learn and to understand, and especially that I might  be thankful for these opportunities.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A History of Warfare © 1993 by John Keegan
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
ISBN: 0-394-58801-0           
Available in paperback and eBook
The copy I read is the first edition hardback.
There are 64 photos and illustrations, a lengthy bibliography, 18 pages of notes, and a nicely done index.
Recommended for both male and female high school students, and older.

A History of Warfare was first published ten years ago, but has no expiration date as shown by now being available on your eBook reader. It is indeed timeless. The author gave us two dozen books in his career before his death in August 2012. He was the senior lecturer in military history during his tenure at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He also held a visiting professorship at Princeton University and was the Delmas Distinguished Professor of History at Vassar College.

In this book, the author uses five chapters and 389 pages of manuscript to ask and answer the question: What is War? Contrary to popular opinion, war is not the continuation of politics by violent means. This book explains why violence, or war, is employed to settle disagreements or to satisfy the urge to build an empire.

The chapters include the limitations of waging war, fortifications, logistics, fire, and the creation of armies since early mankind. We follow the evolution of weapons, tactics, and strategies through thousands of years. We read how different societies conduct warfare in unique ways, but all societies honor their soldiers. As we grow more adept at killing, the importance of harnessing our capacity for violence must grow at a faster pace if we are all to survive. We are a violent species and the better we understand that fact, the better all of us will be.

This book will cause the reader to stop and ponder present day events in light of what our ancestors did. It is mandatory reading for any serious student of history of any genre. I recommend this book for your permanent library.

JWR Adds: I've also enjoyed reading Keegan's books. He also co-authored a book titled Zones of Conflict: An Atlas of Future Warsthat did a good job of articulating the Geographical Determinist school of history, which I ascribe to.

In more than 45 years of shooting, I've tried just about every kind of lube and gun cleaner on the market. Some work a little better than others, and some don't work very well at all. Anyone who is serious about taking care of their firearms, for self-defense, combat, military missions or survival, had better take very good care of their firearms. If you don't properly care for your weapons, they will fail you, just when you need them the most. I couldn't tell you the number of students who have trained under me, who have had their firearms fail them during one of my courses. One of the biggest causes for weapon failure, was either poor quality aftermarket magazines, or poorly maintained firearms - meaning, they didn't lube their firearms at all. Inside of 50 rounds of firing, their firearms would start malfunctioning because of the heat and friction involved. Now, while this may be acceptable under range conditions - it is not acceptable under life and death conditions.
Many malfunctions were easily corrected by simply applying some lube on handguns in my classes. I always have a range box with me, as well as a first-aid kit. I've yet to use the first-aid, but I've used the range box with a variety of tools and cleaning equipment, to get guns up and running once again. It's almost like I've performed some type of "magic" on a student's firearms, when a little lube is applied, the guns start working again. I've had quite a few students tells me that they don't use any lube at all, because they don't want their firearms to attract dirt or lint, of they fear the lube will get on their clothes. Excuse me? You're worried about a little lube getting on your clothes - instead of worrying about your firearm failing you, when you need it most? Stupidity never ceases to amaze me in some people.
The days of using plain old "gun oil" have long passed, in my humble opinion. Sure, plain old gun oil is still on the market, and I guess it's ok to use on a hunting firearm, prior to going out to a hunt. However, in harsh conditions, plain old gun oil will still fail you, when you don't want it to. And, it still amazes me that people use WD-40 as a lube - you are only inviting trouble if you use WD-40 as a lube - it is not a "lube" per se - it is a penetrating oil. WD-40 does not provide very good lubrication on anything, especially firearms - it will wear-off in very short order.
There are a good many different types of CLP (Cleaner, Lube and Preservative) compounds on the market these days. One of my most often used is Break-Free, and while I use it more than any other type of CLP, it isn't perfect in my book. A new family of products have been introduced by Italian Gun Grease - a company that I had heard of, nor their products. A box of various sample Italian Gun Grease products showed in my post office box one day, and when I opened it, I thought to myself "Oh great, another CLP, just like so many other similar products...." I was wrong!
One of the biggest threats to your firearms is heat build-up, followed by deposits of carbon and unburned powder. And, I'm not sure which is the biggest threat to causing a malfunction, however with no scientific study under my belt, I'm going to say that friction is the bigger problem. Metal-on-metal, with high-heat, will cause your firearms to malfunction. I've taken a few firearms courses over the years myself, and I've seen what happens when firearms are not properly cleaned and lubed - in the course of shooting maybe 500 - 1,000 rounds in a day, firearms stop working. I have never had that problem, because I've always cleaned and maintained my firearms properly, but I've seen other students who had repeated failures, because their guns were dirty and not properly lubed.
I think many in the firearms industry have solved the problem of producing a good all 'round lube, with some of the CLP products on the market. However, they haven't solved the problem of the accumulation of carbon and particulate matter, that can also cause firearms to malfunction under extreme conditions - until now! Italian Gun Grease set out to solve the problem. I believe IGG has solved the problem not only by producing a great lube, but also came away with a game changer, that helps prevent the build-up of carbon and burnt powder on firearms.
IGG lubes are very different, they are not true lubes, they contain a proprietary metal conditioner that are actually heat-activated. Their so-called "Heat-Seeking Molecule" formula penetrates into and fills the microscopic gaps where points of friction exist.  IGG doesn't burn-up in high heat, something that can't be said for other lubes on the market. What this does is, it actually produces a very hard, high, heat, high pressure resistant polished surface that can cut friction by as much as 85%. This isn't just a little better than the competition, it's a whole lot better than ordinary CLP products. IGG products may appear dry, but they are producing the protection you need from friction, and it doesn't allow carbon and other crud to build-up in the critical friction areas of firearms.
According to the IGG web site, their lube has an operating temperature range of between -45 degrees, all the way up to 430-degrees. Now, we couldn't last but a moment in 430 degree temps, but the inside and and high friction areas of firearms can reach 300-degrees in rapid or automatic fire. We can operate in -45 degree temps in some areas of the world, and this is where a lot of other lubes fail - they congeal, and don't provide proper lubrication, 'causing firearms to fail, just the same as if they had no lube at all. More information is posted on the IGG web site, and it is worth the time to read it.
I do a lot of shooting for my firearms articles. In some instances, I'll burn through 500 rounds of ammo in an AR-15 or AK-47 style rifle in an hour or less, when I'm doing function rather than accuracy testing. In handguns, I might burn through a couple hundred rounds of ammo in an hour. Then I'll continue testing over several days for accuracy, and testing different types of ammo. The thing is, during most of my firearms test, I don't routinely stop and clean and lube the firearms, unless there is a problem. I usually clean and lube a firearm prior to testing, and then after the testing give the firearms another good cleaning and lube. I know when testing semiauto rifles like ARs or AKs, the guns get very hot, and at the end of my testing, much of the lube is burned-off, and there is a lot of carbon and other crud built-up, that can cause problems and malfunctions.
Over a two month period, I only used IGG products in various firearms, and I will say, I was very impressed with the results. While there didn't appear to be any sort of lube or protection in high-friction areas, like slide rails or locking lugs, the protection was there, you could actually feel how much smoother a slide or bolt was moving both while firing the firearms and while working a slide or bolt.
Italian Gun Grease has several different products on the market, and I highly recommend their Tactical Formula 2 - which is designed for combat use. They also have Advanced Formula 2 for hunter applications, however, for my money, I'd just stick with the Tactical Formula 2 for all my needs, especially in a combat or survival situation - just seems like it would give better protection all the way around. They also have True Grease, and I recommend this for the locking lugs on semi-auto pistols, especially 1911-type pistols. You'd be surprised how many people don't bother to lube the locking lugs at all on a 1911 - and this is a very important area where friction can build-up. IGG also has cleaning kits, that can cover most of your handgun and rifle needs, all in one handy pouch. This is a great little kit to place in your BOB or range bag - just perfect for survival or combat scenarios, with a good supply of Tactical Formula 2 - their combat lube.
I gave some sample IGG grease to other shooters, and asked for their feedback, and each one came away with the impression that IGG lubes worked better than whatever other products they were using - they all said that their firearms seemed to operate smoother and there was less buildup of crud and carbon.  Okay, IGG products made a believer out of me, and I highly recommend all their products to anyone who is serious about survival or who might be in a combat zone, where failure of your weapon is not an option you can afford. You'll find IGG products are competitively priced compared to some of the other CLP products on the market, so it's a small investment, that can return great dividends if you want some of the best lubes you can get for your weapons.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, March 25, 2013

A few months ago, I did a review on Clearly Filtered water purification products, and the response was overwhelming to say the least. You can't survive for more than a few days without a source of clean, safe drinking water. We aren't necessarily talking about surviving out in the boonies, with only mud puddles to drink from. There are many times, when your tap water isn't safe to drink. Think about it, how many times have you heard on the television news about contaminated drinking water, from a big city water supply,and "boil water" warnings? This happens too often if you ask me. And, for the life of me, I still don't understand people paying a buck or more for bottled drinking water from the store. More often than not, that clean safe bottled water simply comes from the tap of a big city water supply. So, why are people paying for water from a bottle when they can get the same thing from their own tap - which doesn't mean it's always safe to drink in the first place?
The simple fact is, you can go many days, even weeks, and some can go a month, with food. However, you can only last a few days without a safe water source. And, I don't care where you live, I honestly don't believe city tap water is all that safe to drink to start with. I live in a rural area, and get my water from my own well. The water is run through a filter in my pump house - and this filter has to be changed every two years, at a cost of about $400 each time it's changed. And, this filter doesn't make my water safer to drink, instead it removes some of the iron bacteria from the well water - without this filter, my drinking water would come in brownish - ugly, and not that safe to drink. Still, in the past, I used one of the popular commercial water pitchers to aid in filtering my drinking water. Only thing is, those commercial filters don't actually purify the drinking water - at best, some of 'em only remove some bad tastes from the water, and honestly don't do anything to purify my drinking water. Enter Clearly Filtered, and all their fine products that actually purify your drinking water - there is a difference between "filtering" your water and purifying it.
Clearly Filtered has some more products that I deemed worthy for testing for another article for SurvivalBlog readers. One is their water pitcher, and it's not like the Brita, PUR or Zero Water pitchers, that don't truly filter all that much from your tap water. First of all, the Clearly Filtered pitcher can filter 200 gallons of water with one filter For comparison, the Brita is 40 gallons, the Zero Water is 22.5 gallons and the PUR is 40 gallons. Also, one of the things I notice when drinking city water - which isn't that often - is the chlorine smell from the city water. The Clearly Filtered pitcher removes 99.99% of chlorine, the rest only "reduce" chlorine. Clearly Filtered removes 90.00% of fluoride, and the rest make no claims at all. Lead removed is 97.50% - the Brita and PUR make no claims and the Zero Water "reduces" it. Mercury reduction is 99.60% - Brita "reduces" and Zero Water and PUR makes no claims. Chromium 6 reduction is 99.87% and the Brita and PUR no claims and the Zero Water "reduces" it. The Clearly Filtered pitcher costs about 30-cents per gallon for pure drinking water, the Brita is 55-cents to 90-cents per gallon, the Zero Water is $1.77+ per gallon and the PUR is 50-cents per gallon. This is a no-brainer in my book, the Clearly Filtered pitcher makes your drinking water safer, and does so at a lower costs than the other filters. The Clearly Filtered pitcher is $69.95 right now - and that's a good deal in my book.
I also tested the Clearly Filtered plastic water bottle with the RAD filter - this filter not only reduces all of the above, it also eliminates 100% of: Radon 222, Uranium, Plutonium, Cesium 137, Strontium, Beta and Iodine 131 - again, the RAD water bottle removes 100% of all these elements - something to take into consideration, if you believe you might be in an area that could have radiation from a nuclear bomb or nuclear plant accident.The water bottle with the RAD filter is normally $74.95 but is on-sale for $69.95 right now. And, you can purchase additional RAD filters if you already own the standard water bottle - a wise investment in my book - no matter where you might live.
For those who want something more than the plastic bottle for everyday use, Clearly Filtered offers a stainless steel water bottle, with a filter in it, and it is one very classy-looking drinking bottle, and it comes in a variety of colors.the stainless steel drinking bottle is $39.95 and would look nice on your desk, as opposed to the plastic bottle or bottled water from the local big box store - that you already know isn't all that much better to drink than tap water.
In my previous article on Clearly Filtered products, I reviewed their military-style canteen, and I was swamped with e-mails, asking me if this canteen would fit in a US military canteen carrier. It does indeed fir very nicely.
For further information, check out my previous article on Clearly Filtered products in the SurvivalBlog archives, or go to the Clearly Filtered web site. In this day and age, its foolish to not protect yourself from the nasty bugs and other things that lurk in your drinking water. To be sure, no surface water is really safe to drink as-is! Sure, that clear mountain stream might look pure and safe, but it's not, so don't drink it without first purifying it, and one of the best methods is with one of the many products Clearly Filtered offers on their web site. It just makes good sense to protect yourself as much as possible from all the things that can hurt or kill you - in your drinking water. And, in the event of a SHTF scenario, odds are, that you city drinking water isn't going to be the least bit safe to drink. And, if you're in the wilderness, you can always find a water source, however, don't drink it without first purifying it - it can kill you if you don't, or at the very least, make you very, very sick - which can lead to being disabled and can lead to death, too.
Look, a safe source of clean and purified drinking water should be right at the top of your survival gear and equipment list. Food is important, or course, but not nearly as important as safe drinking water is. Take the time to check out the many products Clearly Filtered has to offer, and make a small investment in your future survival, but insuring you have safe water to drink. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, March 18, 2013

Without a doubt, the hottest selling long-gun these days is some sort of AR-15/M4 type of gun. Thanks to the efforts of anti-gunners like Dianne Feinstein and Barack Obama, with their proposed bans on certain classes or types of firearms, there has been a run on these types of guns that has never been seen before. With looming threats of banning certain types of firearms, as well as magazines over 10 rounds, the American People are waking up, and are spending their hard-earned money on what they presume will be banned or regulated. Without a doubt, this has led to a buying frenzy, like no other in firearms in history to the best of recollection. This has also led to a shortage of ammunition, the likes we have never seen before, and I suspect it will take the ammo companies a couple years to catch-up with supply and demand. The hottest-selling ammo right now is .22 LR followed by .223 Rem/5.56mm and then 9mm - however, most calibers are in short supply these days. Retail prices on ammo has about doubled or even tripled in may instance. Some mail-order ammo reseller companies have completely ripped-off their customers - what used to cost $150 now cost almost a $1,000 for certain types of ammo. I hope that SurvivalBlog readers are taking note of which companies are doing this, and won't throw their business to these companies. I know I won't!
For the past three months, I've been testing the SIGSauer M400 Enhanced version of their M4-type carbine. This is, for some reason, one of the most in-demand M4-type rifles on the market these days. At my local Wal-Mart, they usually carry a SIG-Sauer M400 in-stock. However with the recent buying frenzy, these firearms go out the door as fast as they come in. For several months now, there have been customers camped out in the sporting goods department of my local Wal-Mart store. They arrive early in the morning, and borrow some folding chairs from the camping section, and sit at the gun counter, waiting for UPS or FedEx to arrive with a few M400 guns. Some days none arrive, and some days only a few arrive.
I requested the M400 Enhanced version, because I wanted something a little bit different. The Enhanced version comes with a flat-top receiver, that has a fold-down rear sight. It is also equipped with MagPul Original Equipment (MOE) furniture - butt stock, pistol grip and forend. I like the look and feel of the MagPul furniture, especially their butt stocks. The M400 also comes with a MagPul 30 round magazine. (An aside: You had better get plenty while you still can. MagPul is located in Colorado, and they have promised to move from that state, if they enact a ban on magazines over 15 rounds. If MagPul does indeed move, it will take quite a while for them to set-up shop again, so get some of these mags while they are still available - or before they get banned by the FedGov with some of their looney legislation that has been proposed.)
The M400 is a 5.56mm caliber rifle, that can also handle .223 Remington, and FYI they are not the same caliber. If you happen to have a rifle that is a .223 Remington caliber, do not shoot 5.56mm ammo through it without consulting the manufacturer's web site!  The M400 is also direct impingement via a gas tube, just like the original AR-15s are. Overall length is 35.6-inches long with the stock fully open, and 32.5-inches with the stock fully closed. The barrel is 16-inches long with a 1 in 7 inch twist, so you can fire some heavier bullets. The gun weighs in at 6.7-pounds and the trigger pull is stated at 7.8-pounds, but my sample felt much lighter than that, with no over-travel or grittiness at all. There is also a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel and the barrel has a unique shape to it - not quite M4-ish, nor is is plain, either - check it out on the web site. The barrel is forged with a phosphate coating on the outside, and chrome-lined inside, that helps it stand-up to harsh weather conditions. The lower receiver is forged aluminum - 7075-T6!
Okay, so we have a very well made M4-type of carbine, but what sets it apart from any other similar carbine, by any number of makers? Well, that's a good question, and first of all, it is manufactured by SIG-Sauer, so you know the quality and workmanship is there - just like it is in all SIG products. You can also get a plain-Jane version without the MagPul MOE furniture on it, for a little less money. And, the Enhanced version comes with black furniture, OD green or tan - my sample was black. For the slight difference in price between the plain-Jane M400 and the Enhanced version - go with the enhanced version.
We have a couple unique features on the M400 that set it apart from other M4-type of firearms. First of all, we have a tensioning device in the lower receiver - this is a spring-loaded pin, that takes any slack out of the upper and lower receiver - no rattling between the upper and lower, and the upper and lower are perfectly matched, too. A lot of AR-type guns require a little rubber tensioning device that you insert into the lower, to take-up the slack between the upper and lower receivers to the two parts don't rattle. Secondly, there is a spring loaded pin in the upper receiver, that goes into the chamber, and this applies pressure to the extractor that is in the bolt. What purpose could this serve? Well, one of the parts that wears out or breaks is the extractor. With this spring-loaded pin, keeping pressure on the extractor, it allows a good bite on the rim of a round, and this aids in extraction. It also helps keep the extractor from blowing out, should you have a hot round that might let loose - bringing your gun to a deadly stop - when you don't need it to. So, two really great ideas were incorporated into the M400 by SIG. They also incorporated a ambidextrous magazine release. And, they also have ambidextrous mounting points on the lower receiver for installing a single-point sling. Here's where I have a complaint. SIG didn't include any type of sling, not even a mil-spec two-point sling. And, if you want to mount a single-point sling on your M400, you have to purchase the little sling adaptor that snaps into one of these two mounting holes. Come on, SIG, you could at least have included a cheap $5 mil-spec sling or gone the extra mile and included some type of single-point sling with the mounting hardware.
With the ammo shortages we are seeing these days, it's even a bit hard for gun writers, to lay their hands on sample ammo, and I'm no different than any other writer - it's hard to get ammo these days, but my usual suppliers came through for me. From Winchester Ammunition, I had their USA brand 55-grain FMJ ammo - which I like to use when testing an AR-type gun for function - and I run through several magazines as fast as I can pull the trigger - no malfunctions at all with the M400. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their superb 69-grain JHP Sniper load - which is always an outstanding performer. From the good folks at Black Hills Ammunition, I had quite an assortment of ammo. I had their 55-grain FMJ reloads as well as brand-new ammo. Their 52-grain Hornady V-Max, 55-grain Soft Point, 60-grain Soft Point, in reloaded and brand-new ammo, their 68-grain Match HP and lastly, their 75-grain Heavy Match Hollow Point (HP) load. In all, over a three month period, I burned-up close to 1,000-rounds of ammo - again, something I regret doing, as replacing all that ammo is hard to do right now, but I'm still begging!
My M400 sample didn't much like the Black Hills 52-grain V-Max load, and I suspect its because of the 1 in 7 inch barrel twist, which is more suited for heavier loads - but this load still came in at around 3.5 inches at 100-yards if I did my part.The Black Hills 55-grain FMJ, 55-grain Soft Point and 60-grain soft point loads all came in slightly under 3-inches - not bad, but not as good as I expected. The Black Hills 68-grain Heavy Match HP starting shrinking my groups under 2-inches, again if I did my part - and my accuracy testing took place over 3-months, in all types of weather conditions. Things started to get very interesting when I fired the Buffalo Bore 69-grain JHP Sniper load - I was getting groups about 1.5-inches, and I was starting to get impressed with the M400 sample. However, when I tested the Black Hills 75-grain Heavy Match HP load, I consistently got groups under an inch and a half. Again, I shot in all types of weather, and some days were better than others in the accuracy department. I did manage some groups under an inch and a half with the Buffalo Bore 69-grain JHP Sniper load, but the Black Hills 75-grain Heavy Match HP load was ever so slightly more accurate in my M400 sample.
I'd like to see SIG-Sauer offer the M400 with either a 1 in 7 inch barrel twist, as well as a 1 in 9 inch barrel twist. I believe the 1 in 9 barrel twist would give better performance with lighter bullets, like the Black Hills 52-grain Hornady V-Max load and even lighter loads. And, the 1 in 9 barrel can still handle bullets up to about 69-grains a little bit better than the 1 in 7 barrel could - in my humble opinion. However, when going over 69-grain bullet weight, you'd want the 1 in 7 barrel twist. Now, I will say that, during all my testing, I never once cleaned my M400 sample and I had no malfunctions. I was also testing Italian Gun Grease lube in the M400, and found it to hold up quite well over several months of testing. Now, seeing as how I never cleaned the M400 during all my testing, I know the barrel was getting dirty and fouled - so this could have contributed to accuracy not up to par with some of the ammo tested. I think, with proper maintenance, and a good break-in period, and proper barrel "seasoning" the M400 will be a pretty consistent shooter in the accuracy department with most bullet weights getting you 2.5 inch groups on a regular basis. Of course, the different bullet weights also shoot to a different point of aim - I zeroed the M400 for a 55-grain bullet at 100-yards. Needless to say, some rounds hit dead-on, some slightly lower and some slightly higher. But the groupings were there - the gun can shoot and it shoots quite well - and I was only using the open sights - not a scope mounted on the gun - and you can easily mount a scope or red dot sight on the flat-top receiver.
Now for the bad news, the M400 is hard to come by right now - even at your local Wal-Mart. And, I've been checking some of the gun selling web sites, like, and people have been going crazy bidding or buying the M400 - over the past couple of months. The M400 has been selling for $1,800 to as much as $2,400 while the suggested full bolt retail is only $1,234.00 on the SIG web site, That can be attributed to supply and demand. Again, some gun sellers are taking advantage of the short supply and jacking-up their prices on anything AR or AK these days. I have no problem with a gun dealer making a decent profit, but when they go way above and beyond, and rip people off because of shortages, I simply won't do business with them. And, the M400 is probably one of the most in-demand M4-type carbines out there right now, and they are still a bit hard to come by, but prices have started to come down a little bit. And, if you want to camp out in your local Wal-Mart sporting goods department, you might possibly get your own M400 for under the suggested retail price. Much as I don't like Wal-Mart, I will applaud them for not taking advantage of the current supply and demand, and they have kept their prices where they were before all this market turmoil started last December.
Overall, I was very favorably impressed with my SIG-Sauer M400 Enhanced sample, and I'm keeping it. Now all I have to do is find the funds to pay for my sample, but one thing is certain, it will not be going back to SIG. The gun is well-made, has some features other M4-type carbines don't have, is quick handling, and the accuracy is there, with a variety of ammo. So, if you're in the market for a well-made and popular M4-type of gun, give the SIG-Sauer M400 a close look - if you can even find one. And, if you do find one, don't hesitate, buy it 'because if you put it down, the guy next to you will buy it right out from under you. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio  

Book Title: Ashfall
Author: Mike Mullin
Copyright Date: 2011
Publisher: Tanglewood Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-933718-55-2
Audio, e-book or foreign translation avail? Yes--Kindle
Suitable for children? Perhaps late teens, but very dependant on the values you want to pass on to them.

Ashfall is the first book in a trilogy of novels by Mike Mullin. This is a story of what the world could look like if Yellowstone blew up, portrayed through the eyes of a 15/16 year old boy who must quickly become a man in order to survive.

Alex Halprin is alone in his home in Cedar Falls Iowa on a Friday evening when the blast happens. His family had left earlier that day to visit an uncle's
farm in Warren Illinois, but Alex had refused to go along with them on account of his disdain for the smelly farm. Alex much preferred the idea of staying home and playing World of Warcraft. His parents decided it wasn't worth yet

The author makes it clear that Alex isn't exactly a pleasure to live with. He regards his little sister as a brat and argues with his mom on everything.
It is also somewhat telling that his parents left him without any "admonition(s) against wild parties and booze. Mom knew my social life too well, I guess. A couple of geeks and a board game I might manage; a great party with hot girls and beer would have been beyond me, sadly." (p.3)

Alex does have one well earned source of pride however: A display case of ten Taekwondo belts, from white to black. The skills those represent are the one thing going for him in the book.


That Friday night while mining gold in World of Warcraft Alex feels a bit of a tremor, which was odd because earthquakes are not the norm in Iowa, and then the power goes out. Suddenly there is a loud crack and the floor under Alex tilts and he finds himself sliding across the floor where he ends up trapped when his desk follows him to the wall, leaving him in a little triangular cavern. It is only a minute before he smells smoke and feels the wall behind him beginning to warm up. It takes everything he has to escape this predicament, but he manages to get out and find that part of the house is fine, but the part he was in is on fire. Finding that the neighbors' cell phones do not work he runs the six blocks to the fire station. No one's phone or radio works there either, but Alex is able to prevail on the firefighters to come and put out the fire at his home.

Once the fire is out the situation can be assessed. Something evidently fell from the sky and hit Alex's home. (There is room for some scientific debate
about this, but the author makes mention of the science behind this in the afterword.) The rest of the homes in his neighborhood all seem fine, but no one
has any power or phone service of any type.

Alex's mom had evidently asked Darren and Joe, the gay couple next door, to keep an eye on Alex while the family was gone. His own home partially destroyed, Alex goes to stay with them. At this point the noise begins. It is a wave of sound that hits like a gust of wind and sounds like endless, exceptionally loud thunder. It is literally painful and makes conversation impossible. The noise keeps going all night long and is still there in the morning. Except, along with the noise, there is ash. It is not until lunchtime that the noise stops, but the ash keeps coming, along with the smell of rotten eggs. Then the noise starts again around dinner time. There are several more hours of the thunder, plus endless ash. Once the noise finally abates, then comes rain. The mix of water and ash creates a new set of problems. A crash outside the house reveals the gutters and eaves pulled off one side of the house. Within minutes the same thing happens on the other side. And trying to walk in the wet ash is all but impossible. It is like walking in wet cement.

The next morning Joe decides to excavate the barbecue grill from under the ash and set to work cooking the food which has begun thawing in the freezer. The food is a heavenly respite, but while napping that afternoon someone starts banging on the front door. When Joe opens the door in rush three thugs armed with a baseball bat, a length of chain and a tire iron. The ensuing fight ends with an enraged Darren shooting the thugs with a pistol and Alex fleeing to escape the nightmare.

The only problem is, the world into which he flees is no better than that which he left behind.

His shoes lost in the muck while fleeing, he quickly realizes he has no place to go, but he knows he doesn't want to return to the blood soaked home of Darren and Joe. The best option he can come up with is his own ruined home. There he changes into his father's clothes and shoes. His bicycle a failure in the wet ash, he ends up finding his father's old cross country skis and sets off to find his way to Warren Illinois.

His first stop is the taekwondo dojang where he hopes to pick up his training weapons for the sake of self defense. He finds the studio looted and trashed,
but does manage to find his instructor's bo staff. Conflicted as to whether or not she would mind, but deciding that circumstances are anything but normal, he sets off for what will be an extremely challenging and arduous trip.

That's a summary of about the first seventy pages.

Hopefully it is evident that this book addresses a potential reality and survival challenge. The subject matter is relevant to the SurvivalBlog audience, however, I would be remiss if I did not also inform this audience that the novel does not uphold the same values as are promoted on SurvivalBlog.
It is not a matter of language or explicit behavior, but more a matter of modern social values.

The first thing to strike me was the gay neighbors and the mother's choice of them for keeping an eye on her son while out of town. I can't see how it added anything to the plot, and in spite of all the noise that is made by those of such a persuasion they still constitute a substantial minority. It is a
noticeable choice on the part of the author.

I then noticed the replacement of traditional male role models with females. It started with the taekwondo instructor and is continued with a mayor and Darla, Alex's travel companion. Throughout the novel, anyone helpful or capable of making wise decisions is female. Most males encountered are either villains or largely helpless geeks. One or two of these situations might have been discounted as coincidence, but by the end of the novel it is a fairly consistent pattern. The only males who did not fit the pattern are the gay couple at the beginning and the uncle who we meet at the very end, and the uncle is portrayed as a fuddy-duddy.

It was also remarkable that Alex missed his mom so much, but had very little to say about his dad. If anything, his dad was nothing more than a benign
background character in Alex's life. At the age of fifteen Alex was able to wear his dad's pants and fill his dad's shoes.

Religion is also cast in an unfavorable light. The first example is the Baptist church in Cedar Falls. They were all gathered together on the roof of their
building where they were waiting for Jesus to come save them. It is pretty clear the author doesn't view these as rational folks.

Later on Alex is rescued and kept alive by a Christian woman and her daughter. Nothing bad is said about this woman, but she dies a most horrible and degrading death at the hand of the vilest of the villains.

The last contact with anyone religious is in the FEMA camp where the Baptists are feeding the children. The one lady who seems like she could be able to help just up and disappears with no real explanation as to why. In short, God comes across as useless in this novel.

The last issue with regard to values is that which seems to be the ultimate goal of the novel: The boy gets the girl. Except in this book, the symbol of
success is not a pair of rings, but rather a pair of condoms.

Given the values represented in this book I cannot recommend it to anyone in my family. For others these perspectives may not matter, but for the sake of the standards upheld on SurvivalBlog I believe they do. Be advised.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Awhile back, I tested some automatic folding knives from Bear Ops, which is a division of Bear & Son Cutlery and was favorably impressed with the little tactical folders. Now, while I sincerely enjoy all the new types of stainless steel blade materials used on knives these days, I've always been fascinated with Damascus steel. Bear & Son is one of the few commercial knife manufacturers offering knives with Damascus blades. What we have in Damascus steel is a combination of different steels with different properties, that is hammer forged and folded back onto itself, to give you blades with extraordinary toughness and edge-holding ability.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we get a lot of rain. We have two seasons in my part of Oregon, we have four months of beautiful summer weather - not too hot and not too cold as a rule. But then we have eight months of wintry weather - which means liquid sunshine - RAIN! We get a lot of rain, not much snow as a rule, but a lot of rain. So, whenever possible, I try to get gear that can stand-up to the elements, and I enjoy stainless steel knives and guns - when I can get what I'm looking for, to fill a particular need. Even so, with stainless steel, it can still rust - it just rusts less - "stains-less", and it still must be maintained, just not as much maintenance goes into keeping a knife or gun from rusting in my climate. Most of the knives I own, are manufactured out of some type of stainless steel, and only a few are tool steel. And, no matter how hard I try to maintain the tool steel knife blades, they still develop some patina rust and pitting, if I don't pay close enough attention to them. For all my guns and tool steel knives, I use a product called Birchwood Casey Barricade. It's a simple spray it on, and let it dry a bit and wipe it off, and it gives metal a nice coating that protects it from the elements. Still, regular maintenance is required to prevent a gun or knife blade from rusting.
So, why my fascination with a knife blade manufactured out of Damascus steel - and in this case, tool steels, that can easily rust in my climate? Well, first of all, I love the different patterns on Damascus steel blade knives, no two are ever the same. Damascus steel was first produced in Damascus, Syria, more than 2,000 years ago, so it has stood the test of time, when it comes to toughness and edge-retention. Also, when viewed under a microscope or high magnification, you can the tiny saw-tooth carbides what are formed in the blade's edge by the forging and coal fire. What you will discover with many Damascus blades is that, they may not feel as sharp as other tool or stainless steel blades, but they are - very sharp! Even when you feel the blade's edge, it may not feel as sharp as you'd like, but the sharpness is there, and it holds an edge a very, very long time. Also, when ground on an angle, as in grinding a knife's blade, the blade displays a pattern that is stunning, to say the least. To my eyes, a real thing of beauty and art.
Bear & Son Cutlery produce 416-layer Damascus steel blades. Now, I've seen some custom knife makers offering Damascus steel blades with 2,000 layers of steel, and I'm not sure how much stronger those blades are compared to Damascus steel blades with a lesser number of layers. I'm sure there might be some advantage to more layers, but just how much that matters to me, is a moot point. To get more layers, the steel is folded over onto itself and forged again and again, each time getting more and more layers. A very time-consuming process if you are doing the forging by hand, as opposed to having a power forge. In any event, Bear & Son Cutlery still has very limited supplies of their Damascus blades on-hand at any given time. They are in great demand. Knowing this, when I placed an order for a sample Damascus blade for this article, I placed several alternate choices - just in case. Good thing, because my first choice wasn't available. (Like I said, they are in great demand.)
I obtained the Model 549D  which is a no frills Drop Point Hunting style fixed blade knife. It has an overall length of 7-7/8 inches with genuine India stage bone handle scales and a nickel silver bolster. I've always loved the look of genuine India stag bone handle scales on a knife, and Bear & Son did a fantastic job on this sample, the golden honey hue with the roasted grooves, really caught my attention. A nicely done leather sheath also comes with the 549D and the blade was heavily oiled - as is necessary with any Damascus tool steel knife, to prevent it from rusting. The handle scales are attached by two stainless steel pins, and the workmanship is second to none on this sample. You would believe it was a custom knife because of the attention to detail. The handle is nicely configured to fit my hand perfectly, and everyone I showed it to liked the way the knife felt in their hand, too.
Now, before using a Damascus tool steel knife, you really need to wipe off the oil coating, especially if you are dressing out game, you don't want oil contaminating the meat. There was a lot of oil on my sample, and you don't need that much in my humble opinion. Still, Bear & Son are being cautious and putting a heavy coat on the Damascus blades, you don't know how long they might sit on a shelf in a warehouse, or at a dealer's store, before being purchased. Better safe than sorry. I cleaned all the oil off my sample, and gave it a coat of the Barricade, let it dry for a bit and wiped off the excess, and I was confident the blade had a good protection against the elements.
The sharpness of the blade, as mentioned earlier, didn't feel "that" sharp to my way of thinking, however, it was much sharper than any stainless steel blade knife I've laid my hands on, it would easily slice through meat, rope, poly rope (and that is difficult to cut) blue jeans canvas material, cardboard boxes and paper could easily be sliced by the edge into slivers. At the conclusion of my testing, I took the 549D sample and gave it a quick touch-up on some Crock sticks, and it was even sharper than when I got it. You can, if you're careful, actually feel the microscopic teeth on the edge of the blade with your finger - do this carefully, as the blade will cut you. No, I didn't get cut!
The 549D is just the perfect sized fixed blade knife for wearing on your belt when you're out hunting or camping, and the size is not too big and not too small, for just about any reasonable task you can use this knife for. Of course, it's not big enough for chopping wood, nor was it intended for that, you can find bigger knives or an axe for that task. However, most tasks around a camp or in a survival situation, can be handled by the 549D. Now, we're not talking hard-core combat, or taking out an enemy sentry - if you are into a Rambo mentality, then this knife isn't for you, nor will you survive out in a hard-core combat role very long with that mentality - sorry! Being realistic here! I honestly don't believe most SurvivalBlog readers have a Rambo mentality, and I hear from a lot of readers regularly. I've found you are a very intelligent bunch of folks, and I enjoy hearing from you.
In the past, if you purchased a Damascus steel knife from a custom knife maker, on average, it would cost you about $100 per inch for the knife - if you wanted a 10-inch knife, it would set you back an easy $1,000 or more, depending on the handle scales, sheath and other variables. The Bear & Son 549D is priced at only $209.99 and that, is a fantastic deal to my way of thinking. So, if you are in the market for something a little bit different than what everyone else is carrying, take a look at the 549D, and if it's not to your liking, check out some of the other models they offer, I'm betting you'll find something that will fit the bill, and at prices that are very affordable for what you are getting.
As a side note, during all my testing, I did touch-up the coating of Barricade protectant I put on the 549D, I didn't want to have to fight the beginnings of rust. It only takes a minute to put another coat of Barricade on a knife, and its an inexpensive product. Everyone should have a can of Barricade in their survival gear, it can make a difference in keeping your metal gear in tip-top condition, or allowing it rust. A can of Barricade will last you years. I t doesn't take very much to give you a protective coating, that lasts a long time.
Take a close look at the Bear & Son web site, and you'll see several types of fixed blade as well as folding knives, manufactured out of Damascus tool steel. I know you'll find something that catches your eye. And their prices won't break the bank, either. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, March 4, 2013

Over the years, I've received hundreds of e-mails, always asking me if I had to pick just one gun, for the rest of my life, what would it be? Of course, there is no easy answer to this question, and thankfully, I don't have to make that choice - right now. And, depending on how I'm feeling at the time this question is asked, then my answer has changed over the years. There is no one gun solution , at least not in my mind. I said for years, that I'd pick some kind of 4-inch barrel, stainless steel .357 Magnum revolver of some type for my one and only handgun. However, I've also said that maybe a 4-inch barrel, stainless steel .44 Magnum revolver of one brand or another, would be my first choice for a one and only handgun.
The possibilities are endless, when you think about it. I like the .357 Magnum revolver because you can shoot .38 Special loads in it for small game hunting and target practice. And, of course, you can load some pretty hot and heavy .357 Magnum loads in there to take even some pretty big game. It is not the perfect caliber for some bigger game, but it can get the job done. Then we have to look at the .44 Magnum revolver, and you can download it with .44 Special loads for small game, medium sized game and personal protection. Or you can load-up some really heavy and hot .44 Magnum loads for the biggest game and for taking longer shots at game with more power behind the bullet. And, I like stainless steel revolvers because they are better for my local environment - lots of rain - and require less maintenance, and they are almost rustless! Now, with either one of these guns/caliber picks, I'm looking at serious hard-core survival scenarios - in the big city or out in the wilderness.
Okay, just to confuse you all, my all-time favorite handgun is a good ol' 1911 some some sort, and given a choice, I'll stick with a "Commander" sized 1911 with a shorter barrel than the full-sized Government Model with the 5-inch barrel. The shorter barrels on the Commander-sized guns just seem to balance and point better for me and I can shoot 'em faster and more accurately, too. No science behind it that I can think of, but it works for me.
Consider the Springfield Armory  Operator "Champion" 1911. It has a 4-inch barrel, as opposed to a 4.25-inch barrel on some other similar 1911 "Commander-esque" sized guns. And, I'm not going to quibble about a quarter inch here or there. The Champion Operator has a stainless steel match grade, fully supported ramp bull barrel, too. We are talking about a serious barrel, that can give you some outstanding accuracy, and it adds a little more weight out front, and helps tame the recoil - not that I've ever found the recoil of a .45 ACP round that hard to control, and the Operator comes in only .45 ACP.
I want to comment on the slide-to-frame fit on this Operator for just a second. Many aluminum-framed 1911s I've had over the years had a bit of a gritty feel when pulling back the steel slide that rides on the aluminum frame, and there was more play than I cared for. Not so with the Operator - the slide-to-frame fit is tight, very tight, but the slide rides extremely smoothly on the aluminum frame - and I'm talking butter-smooth, too. The barrel is also nicely fitted, to the slide, nice and tight and I knew this gun was going to be a good shooter.
We also have fixed, low-profile combat rear and dove-tailed from sights with 3-dot Tritium for low-light shooting and the sights really glowed in the dark and in low light. Springfield advertises the long aluminum match grade trigger pull at 5-6 pounds and my sample was dead-on at 5-pounds with only a hint of take-up. Perhaps because of its length, the trigger pull actually felt lighter than it was. Usually I have to tinker with any 1911 when I get it and I work on the trigger pull - I like mine at around 4-pounds for a street gun. However, I didn't see any sense in doing anything with the trigger pull on my sample Operator - it was perfect for me.
The Operator came in a nice hard plastic carrying case, with two 7-round magazines. And, it still confounds me today, why so many gun companies only give you one magazine with a gun - like they think you won't need a reload in a gunfight? Springfield Armory also includes a double magazine pouch and a holster, so you are ready to go when you take the gun out of the case. But you'll still need to get one more magazine, to fill that double magazine case - not a problem. A nice pair of Cocobolo hardwood grips adorn the gun's frame with the crossed cannons engraved on them. Okay, nice as these grips looked, I simply had to replace them with a pair of my own designed "Code Zero" 1911 grips. Check out my design - I don't think there is a better feeling designed grips for a 1911. And, as a disclaimer, I don't make a cent off the sales of the "Code Zero" 1911 grips. I gave the design to Mil-Tac - I've also designed several of the knives they sell, too. Again, I don't make anything off the sale of the knives or the grips. I helped Mil-Tac Knives & Tools, owner, Craig Sword, get his company up and running with some of my knife designs and the grip designs. They are nice people to deal with and give them your business if you can.
Okay, I had to make one change to the Springfield Operator Champion. I always have to change "something" on any 1911 that I get my hands on - must be a mental issue I have when it comes to 1911s. The slide on the Operator is forged steel with a black Armory Kote that is pretty tough stuff - it holds up well to the elements. The frame is forged aluminum alloy and it has an accessory rail under the dust cover, if you want to put a light or laser on there. I don't usually hang lights or lasers on the accessory rail on my carry handguns, but I had to try the Crimson Trace CMR-201 laser on the rail to see how it fit and functioned. This particular model of Crimson Trace laser if sort or a universal fit for railed guns, and it fit perfectly on the Operator. Only thing is, it wouldn't fit in the holster that came with the Operator. Okay, no big deal, you can get a custom-made holster, or go with one of the other Crimson Trace lasers that replace the grips, no a problem.
The Operator weighs in at 31 ounces, with a height of 5.5-inches and an overall length of 7.5-inches. A bit heavier than some other light-weight guns of similar size, but still lighter than an all-steel gun. The bull barrel adds to the weight. There is also a beavertail grip safety and ambidextrous thumb safeties - I can live with or without a ambi safeties these days, but the off-side safety is there if you're a southpaw or just need and want it. The ejection port is flared and lowered for positive ejection, too. I had zero malfunctions with the Operator in more than 500 rounds of testing. There is also a dual recoil spring with a full-length guide rod, which aid is smooth functioning.
For my testing, I  had a good selection of .45ACP ammo on-hand. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their steel cased 230-grain FMJ load, as well as their steel  cased 185-grain JHP load. Additionally, I had their 185-grain Barnes all-copper hollow point which is rated at +P. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 185-grain Barnes all-copper hollow point that is +P rated, the 185-grain JHP +P, 200-grain, 230-grain FMJ FN and their 255-grain hard Cast FN loadings. From Winchester Ammunition I had their ever popular USA brand 230-grain FMJ load, which I use for function testing for starters whenever shooting .45 ACP caliber handguns. So, I had a good selection of ammo to run through the Operator. And, as mentioned, I had zero malfunctions of any type. All shooting was done from 25 yards.
On average, the Operator would group about 2 to 2-1/2 inches from a rest, over the hood of my car - and I don't use mechanical rests, I use a rolled-up sleeping bag or a jacket. Was there a winner in the accuracy department? Yes, and it surprised me, the Buffalo Bore 255-grain hard Cast FN load was giving me groups under 2-inches, but I think the gun can do even better than that. On several outings, we had rain, lots of rain, and I know I wasn't doing my best shooting because of it. In this part of Oregon, we have two seasons: Four months of beautiful summer sunshine and moderate temps and eight months of mostly rain. I shoot in all kinds of weather, and I don't pick just nice days with nice weather to do my shooting. I want real-life results, and shooting in all types of weather is like what you'd expect in a real-life self-defense scenario - you can't pick the weather or lighting conditions and more than likely, it will be bad weather and poor lighting - that's where the Tritium night sights can help you.
I honestly believe, with more shooting, in better weather, and on a better day (for me) I think this gun is capable of groups around an inch and a half with the right ammo. I like the 185-grain Barnes +P loads with the all-copper hollow point bullets, I've done a lot of testing with them, from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore and I'm impressed with the penetration, as well as how nicely the all-copper bullets expand and stay together...and these loads are both lower-recoiling than you think they would be, considering they are +P loads. Okay, the Buffalo Bore 255-grain Hard Cast FN rounds that are +P - those kicked a bit, and in the lighter-framed Operator, it caught my attention. I wouldn't want to spend a day shooting these loads. (Ouch!) However, it would be my load of choice if I were out in the wilderness where I might encounter dangerous game - it penetrates a lot. I've yet to recover one of these slugs in water-filled milk jugs that I've lined up one behind the other - this bullet penetrates, and that's what you need against big game, thick-skinned game - you need penetration. For street work, one of the 185-grain Barnes all-copper +P loads is what I carry in my .45 ACP caliber handguns. But you know, it's not a bad idea to have one of your spare mags loaded with the 255-grain Hard Cast FN rounds - just in case you have to shoot through cover to get a bad guy. Tim Sundles, who owns Buffalo Bore brought this to my mind.
The Black Hills steel cased ammo - no problems at all through the Operator. I know some gun companies specifically state that you shouldn't shoot steel cased ammo through their guns, but I had no problems with the Black Hills loads. Plus, unlike the Russian-made steel cased ammo, the Black Hills steel cased ammo isn't dirty shooting - not in the least. This is a good load in either the JHP or the FMJ for target practice or hunting. And I wouldn't hesitate to use it for self-defense, either.
Alright, now that I burned-up more than 500 rounds of .45 ACP ammo in my testing, I'm regretting shooting so much. We are in a very serious ammo drought right now, thanks to the gun, magazine and ammo bans that DC and some states are proposing - and that some states have already passed. Now, I've got to get to work on building up my ammo reserves for more articles. And, all of my ammo sources tell me they are pumping out ammo as fast as they can, and they don't have their shelves stocked with "extra" ammo - everything they produce is shipped right out the door as fast as they produce it.
If you're in the market for a 1911, then take a close look at the Springfield Armory Operator Champion model, that is, if you can find one these days. As with the ammo drought, we are also in a serious firearm drought - guns are simply hard to find. And, I'm not even going to give you a suggested retail price on the Operator - because they are probably selling for more than that these days - as are most guns. Then again, Springfield Armory 1911s are always in short supply.

I can usually find more than a few things I want to change on any 1911, but in the case of the Operator, I only changed the grips to my own design, and that wasn't necessary. (But I had to do "something" its in my blood) - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, February 25, 2013

Way back before computers completely took over our lives, life seemed a lot simpler. If it were up to me, I'd live without computers, microprocessors, cell phones, texting, e-mails and tweets (whatever that is). I long for the time when cars were more simple to work on, I used to love tinkering with my own cars, improving on them, repairing them, and just playing around with them. Heck, I even worked as a dune buggy mechanic in Hawaii for a time. Today, with all the computers running cars and trucks, I can't hardly figure out anything on new vehicles, you need a computer to hook-up to the computer on your vehicle, in order to find out what's not working right on your rig, and even then, sometimes it's still a hit or miss proposition when it comes to making a repair.
Back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, backyard and shade tree mechanics used to have a flashlight or a shop light, to use when working under the hood of the car. Many shops still use traditional shop lights these days - the incandescent bulb still hasn't died off completely. Now, I'll readily admit, a flashlight wasn't the perfect source of light when working under the hood of a car, and shop lights were difficult to get to stay in place and shed their light where you needed it. Okay, so maybe everything back in the stone age wasn't perfect....
I received the Maxxeon WorkStar 2000 Technician's Floodlight for testing for SurvivalBlog readers, and I'm impressed with the product, I'll admit that right up front. What we have is a fully rechargeable work light, with magnets placed on it, so you can firmly attach it to just the right place under the hood of a car or truck, to produce a very bright 270 Lumens of pure white light - no dark spots at all. It gives you a "flood light" where you need it most. The WorkStar 200 is basically a hands-free light, you can stick it to any metal surface or hang it with the retractable hook or mount it permanently with a camera tripod socket in the base. Heck, you can even hold it in your hand if you wanted to - retro!
The WorkStar 2000 doesn't use a reflector like so many flashlights do, instead it uses a fresnel-like lens that creates a huge floodlight beam - no shadows, no rings no hot spots, just pure light. Additionally, the neck of the light rotates 360-degrees and the head also tilts 180 degrees, so you don't have to keep moving the light around from one surface to another - just move the head. Neat! You can also use the belt clip, to clip the WorkStar 2000 to you belt or pants pocket when moving around the shop from one rig to another. You also get two power sources for recharging your light - one for the power outlet in your shop and another for the accessory outlet in your vehicle.  BTW, the rechargeable battery is the NiMH type and will last for years. You also get two power settings, on high the light will shine for over 2-hours, and on low you get 8-hours of run time. For many purposes, the low setting will suffice for many of your needs. However, if you need the super-bright high setting for those hard to see areas, you've got 2-hours of power there. Recharge time is about 3-hours.
So, where does the WorkStar 2000 fit in, for the Survivalist of Prepper? Well, first of all, don't kid yourself into thinking your bug out vehicle won't break down or need maintenance - it will! And, you can count on Mr. Murphy being on-hand when your rig does stop or need maintenance - and you will need light to work under the hood, under the the rig or under the dashboard. Believe me, it's no fun trying to find something wrong if you can't see what you're doing. Sure, an ordinary flashlight will "suffice" if that's all you have, however the WorkStar 2000 can do the job better than any flashlight can - period!
How many times have you had the bulb burn-out in a flashlight? Well, that's happened more times than I care to remember over the years. The WorkStar 2000 has LED lights that will last a lifetime. Just a few short years ago, LED lights didn't product very much light. Sure they were economical to use, but honestly, they didn't throw all that much light. Times have changed, and the WorkStar 2000 is solid proof of that.
You can also use the WorkStar 2000 for emergency lighting in your home when the power goes out - use the low setting, that's all you'll need. If you're camping and you need light in your tent, the WorkStar can take care of that, and you can hang it from the center of your tent and direct the light where you need it. If you're one of those people who insist on walking late at night, in the dark, or early morning hours before the sun comes up, you can clip this light to your pants to light the way for you and alert on-coming vehicles you are on the road. The light also produces a "white" enough light for some photography work, or for producing those YouTube videos - how many of those have you seen that were poorly lit?
One word of advice though, don't look directly into the super-bright light that the WorkStar 2000 produces - take my word for it - you'll have a black spot in the center of your vision for a while if you look directly at this light - I didn't do it on purpose, it was an accident, but you only have to do this once to know you shouldn't do it again! I'm smart - just not all the time!
The WorkStar 2000 retails for $119.75 with $9.99 FedEx or USPS shipping to the USA and $19.99 to Canada (UPS). When I first received this sample, I didn't think it had many uses, ok, I was wrong. This light is also great when it comes to working under the hood of your car in bright sunlight - yeah, there are still a lot of dark areas under the hood even in bright sunlight. And, many lesser lights simply wash out - the WorkStar 2000 didn't wash out in the bright sunlight. Maybe the good ol' days weren't as good as I remember them to be. The WorkStar 2000 sure would have come in handy back in my day when working on rigs.
Also, be sure to check out some of the other Maxxeon lights that they offer on their web site. However, if you work on vehicles a lot, this is a must have item in my humble opinion. It is well made, very durable and comes with a one year warranty as well. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, February 18, 2013

On a daily basis I hear from many SurvivalBlog readers with a variety of questions. Most of these have to do with wilderness survival, or weapons for hard-core survival. Rarely do I hear from folks who think in terms on city survival. Seeing as how a large portion of the population live in urban areas, I'm always stumped, that the readers, don't have a lot of questions about urban survival. Many readers that I hear from live in big cities, and they always have questions about bugging-out to the wilderness. Hmmm!!!!
I was born and raised in Chicago, one of our biggest cities in the USA, and I happen to know a thing or two about urban survival, in many forms. To be sure, I never went looking for trouble, but it always seemed to find me - ever since I was a little tyke. I guess maybe that's why I got into the martial arts when I was only about 15 or 16 years old - I wanted a way to defend myself with just my hands and feet. To be sure, the martial arts can aid you in urban survival, or survival on the battlefield, if you are willing to be a serious student and understand that it takes years to master any style of martial art.
Unfortunately, many big cities, also have the most restrictions on what you can use to defend yourself with on the mean streets. Many places won't allow you to carry a firearm - California, is one place that comes to mind. Additionally, many large cities have some tough laws regarding the carry of knives - some have blade restrictions, as to how long of a blade your pocket knife can have. Many have outlawed automatic folders - switch blades, if you will - falsely believing they are some how deadlier than some other type of folding knife. To be sure, I can draw and open most folding knives with the flick of my wrist, much faster than someone can draw and find the button on an automatic folder to get it opened - go figure? In my home state of Oregon, automatic knives are legal to carry, so long as they aren't "concealed" and therein lies some confusion as to how you can carry an automatic folder. So long as any part of the knife is showing - as with a pocket clip, with the knife in your pants pocket the knife isn't concealed. However, you can also carry an automatic on your belt, in a belt sheath, and it isn't considered concealed - confusing to say the least. And, they are many police officers in Oregon, who mistakenly believe automatic folding knives are flat out illegal to own and use.
I heard about the Inner City Survival Pencil, that is available from US Tactical Supply.
and I have featured some of their other products on SurvivalBlog, and I've heard from many readers, how happy they are with the products and the customer service, too. I've personally been dealing with US Tactical Supply for some time now, and know they carry the best of the best in their product line-up, and their customer service is one of the best in the business in my humble opinion.
So, what do we have with the Inner City Survival Pencil? Well, first of all, it actually isn't a pencil, it only looks like one. It looks for the all the world like a drafting pencil - a high-quality one, at that. The Inner City Survival Pencil looks just like any other regular pen or pencil when it is clipped to your shirt pocket or pants pocket. However, what we have is a spring-loaded steel rod that has a very sharp point on the end - the business end! The pointed rod comes out of the pencil with the push of a button - on the end of the pencil, and it comes out of the pencil with authority, too. It locks firmly in place, with no fear of the rod failing you when you need it most. The entire pencil is top-quality inside and out, and not to be confused with cheaply made imports from overseas.
The pointed rod is slightly over 4-inches long and appears to be made out of carbon steel, but don't quote me on that. The rod locks inside of the pencil's barrel until you need it and with a push of the button, it flies out and is locked in place by four claws. To retract the point, you simply push on the button and push the point against a hard surface to get it back into the barrel - please don't try to push the rod in with your finger - it will penetrate your finger in short order.
I did some penetration tests with the Inner City Survival Pencil - no, you can't place it against an object, push the button and the rod will penetrate into the object - that is not the idea behind this pencil...the spring isn't strong enough to make the rod fly out hard enough to penetrate something, other than a piece of paper. The concept behind this device is that with the push of a button, the pointed and heat-treated rod, can open in an instant and be used as a last-ditch weapon. Now, needless to say, this wouldn't be an ideal first-line of defense, however, it is better than an untrained fist to the eye. The rod never collapsed in any of my testing, and I stuck in into cardboard and wood. Now, it wouldn't penetrate very far into wood, but I have no doubt whatsoever, that the rod would easily penetrate its complete length into clothing and flesh if you had to use it in a self-defense situation - no doubt at all!
Of course, there will be locations where the ill-informed local legislators will have outlawed something like the Inner City Survival Pencil, so check your local and state laws before purchasing this item. However, the good news is, this isn't considered a knife, dirk or automatic knife any place that I'm aware of.
I would have given anything to have had the Inner City Survival Pencil when I was a kid in high school - having to transfer buses in a very bad neighborhood - more than once I was forced to defend myself against more than one attacker, and this "pencil" would sure have helped even the odds a bit. I can see this as a great item for the elderly and the handicapped, who are often targeted by lowlifes. It would also be great for women, and law enforcement officers - again, as a last-ditch back-up weapon. No one would give it a second glance if you had this in your shirt pocket - just don't attempt to board a plane with this - you will go to jail!
So, what we have is a high-quality, very well made product, that looks like any other pen or pencil, that can be used in urban areas as a last-ditch weapon, to help even the odds in your favor, and we are talking about urban survival - something many people don't think about - those in the big cities only think about bugging out to the wilderness - never once stopping to think that they are in the big city every day, and face any number of threats, where a simple item like the Inner City Survival Pencil can save their lives. Most folks think in terms or firearms and knives, and then don't even carry them...when they can be carrying the Inner City Survival Pencil on the streets they walk every single day!
The Inner City Survival Pencil is only $34.95, and that is a great bargain, that can help insure your survival in the inner city. They would make a great gift to anyone in your family, of course, within legal age - you wouldn't want to give this to your grade school children. However, if you have someone off to college, in the military or in law enforcement, this is a great gift, as well as a gift to yourself. Pick one up today, you'll thank me! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

JWR Adds: Reader Michael R. wrote to remind me that carrying a "writing pen knife" is a felony in California. In many counties in California it is almost impossible to be granted a CCW permit but oddly carrying a gun without a permit is a misdemeanor on the first offense in most cases. But carrying a dirk/dagger or stabbing pen is a felony on the first offense. See California Penal Code section 12020.

I just noticed while in COSTCO today that they have 6 gallon buckets of freeze dried food on offer. For $99, you get a one-month supply of 2100 calories a day, enough for one adult. I wonder how many people caught in the megastorm that hammered the East Coast recently had any food stored in, and how difficult it was for most folks to get provisions before the stores were stripped bare?  Just another reason to keep something one hand. For more variety, though, folks should really consider storing other stuff, as taught in your Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course. - S.J.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Hi Jim;
I accidentally stumbled into a documentary film on Netflix which I am sure your readers would enjoy. It is titled Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. I'm not sure if it is available anywhere else.

The film critic web site gives this description:

With Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, Werner Herzog and Russian co-director Dmitry Vasyukov takes viewers on yet another unforgettable journey into remote and extreme natural landscapes. The acclaimed filmmaker presents this visually stunning documentary about indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: by helicopter or boat. There's no telephone, running water or medical aid, The locals, whose daily routines have barely changed over the last centuries, live according to their own values and cultural traditions. With insightful commentary written and narrated by Herzog, HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA follows one of the Siberian trappers through all four seasons of the year to tell the story of a culture virtually untouched by modernity.

Filled with really interesting survival and self-reliant information (that is not the focus of the movie) but some of the ingenuity is really interesting. Well worth the watch. Thanks, - Jim E.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I believe I first started writing about knives for Knives Illustrated magazine back around 1994. Since that time, I've probably had the opportunity to test literally thousands of knives, both fixed blade. folders, and out-the-front knives. Most knives I've tested are really pretty good blades. If something is junk, I just won't waste my time writing about it because folks don't want to read about junk! Once in a while, something new catches my eye, and I sit up and take notice, when it comes to knives.

Blackhawk Products caught my eye with their Gideon drop point fixed blade knife. I've designed several knives over the years, and they have all been fixed blade knives, of the survival or combat style, so I know a little something about designing a good knife. I have one sitting here on my desk that I co-designed with custom knife maker, Brian Wagner, at Okuden Knives - that we are attempting to do a collaboration with a big knife company, in order to get it into the hands of consumers at a reasonable price. We call it the OC-3 for lack of a better term, because it is our third collaboration together.
The Blackhawk Products Gideon is one of those smaller fixed blade knives that has perfectly flowing lines from the tip of the blade to the butt of the knife. It just seems to "sing" if you ask me - it feels great in the hand, and many people have handled my sample. I think the first thing that catches your eye on the Gideon is the handle design, it's made out of G-10 and this is some seriously tough material - almost indestructible. However, it's not just the material itself, it's the curve of the handle and the sculpted design that catches the eye, that feels "oh-so-nice" when you hold it in your hand. There is also a somewhat pointed skull-crushing pommel on the end of the knife, with a lanyard hole in it.
The blade material is AUS8A, one of my all-time favorite stainless steels for knives - it holds an edge a good long time, and its easy to re-sharpen as well, and pretty darn corrosion resistant . On top of it, this steel is one of the more affordable stainless steels on the market. Value! The 5-inch black Ti-Nitride coated blade design flows, and there are also two holes at the base of the blade for tethering the blade to a pole for use as a weapon or for spearing fish - I've done it before - not with this knife, with with others, and it's a lot of fun spearing fish instead of just using a fishing pole. Something to think about in a wilderness survival situation. There is also an additional finger groove in front of the quillion that provides an additional grip area for choking-up on the blade for close up work, like in caping big game, and for more control when cutting. the overall length of the knife is 10.250-inches - and the knife is a total brute!
When dealing with a wilderness survival situation, where you aren't able to get resupplied with gear, you want the toughest gear you can find, you can't afford to have equipment failure in the field. The Gideon won't let you down, this little knife is brutally strong and the blade is very thick - real thick! This is the proverbial sharpened crow bar, that we've all heard so much about. However, unlike some other "sharpened crow bars" the Gideon is very graceful in design and the way the knife feels and handles. If a knife doesn't feel good or "right" in my hand, I won't use it or carry it. There is also a slight upward rise on the top of the knife for placing your thumb for use in the fencing grip, too. An injection molded sheath, with Nylon and mounting plates set-up for PALS/MOLLE or in a drop leg platform helps you carry the Gideon.
My Gideon sample came hair-popping sharp right out of the box, something you don't get with some knives - I've had a good number of custom knives pass through my hands over the years, and there are some companies and custom makers that don't put a really keen edge on their knives for some reason. I don't understand this, a knife is a tool, that is supposed to be sharp in order to get the most benefit out of it. Blackhawk did a great job on the Gideon - it came super-sharp, and held an edge a good long time.
I put the Gideon through a lot of testing, more than my usual routines. I did a lot of chopping - while the Gideon worked as a chopper, the blade and overall length of the knife is a bit too short for this task, but it worked if I put some extra effort into it. I used the Gideon to split wood - using a big piece of wood, to pound the Gideon through another piece of wood - and the knife held-up just fine. There were some rub marks on the Ti-Ni coating, but that was it. I used the Gideon as a throwing knife, but the balance wasn't there for this chore, and I never did get it to stick in a target, tip first. I did however, note some serious indentations in the target from the skull crushing pommel. The pommel's design can easily crush a skull, with a downward movement - so this is something to think about - you don't have to just cut or stab an attacker, you can put them out of commission by cracking their skull open - a last resort method of self-defense.
I used the Gideon for all manner of kitchen chores, and the edge never dulled - even cutting cardboard boxes - which really dulls and edge, didn't affect the sharpness of the Gideon. I whittled on some wood, and finally the blade's edge started to dull, but it was still very useable. I also stacked cardboard and "stabbed" the Gideon into it - and it easily penetrated the full length of the blade - the knife's point and the sharpness of the blade helped in this regard, as well as the shape and contour of the handle! I'm not sure who designed the Gideon, there's no info on the Blackhawk web site, but whoever it was, did a great job on this knife.
I also pounded the point of the Gideon into a tree and snapped the knife out damage to the tip of the knife at all. I said the knife blade was thick - it is, but it is strong, too! I've tried this same test with some other well-known fighting knives over the years, and the tipped either bent or completely snapped off - either the blades were too thin or poorly heat-treated causing the tip to fail. Not something you want in a combat or survival situation. The Gideon won't fail you.
As a bit of a Bible scholar, I know a little bit about Gideon in the Bible. And, the name means "Destroyer" or "Feller of Trees." Gideon was one of the Judges in the Old Testament. So, the name Blackhawk Products gave this new fixed blade seems to, I wouldn't want to try and fell a tree with the Blackhawk Gideon, but it might just do to fell an attacker or destroy him, or save your bacon out in the wilderness, too.
I like to save the best for last, whenever possible. The Gideon has a full-retail of $129.99 and for what you get, this is one of those best buys in my humble opinion. (They also make a Gideon tanto point variant.) You are getting a very well designed fixed blade knife, that is made from top materials, from a company that backs-up all their products. Blackhawk doesn't make any junk - they can't afford to, many of their customers are military and law enforcement and they demand and need the best of the best. The Gideon won't let you down - they are a bit hard to find right now, but you can find one, and if you do, lay claim to it.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse

Reading level: Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (January 24, 2013)ISBN-10: 1594205272, ISBN-13: 978-1594205279
This book goes way beyond the beans, bullets and Band-Aid counsel. In fact, he’s kind of ‘out there’- in one of the finest ‘structured’ swashbuckling adventure sprees that I have read in a long while.  The Disaster Diaries is fun, rousing, thoughtful, and provocative.  Zany (can that word be used today?) might describe more of the unconventional catastrophes depicted in the storyline. The dark humor orientation is evident by the Dr. Strangelove reference in the title.

After the birth of his son, Sam is beset by the powerful parental instinct to protect his child. He worries. He questions, “What would I do if X happened?”  A plague of Hollywood disaster type vignettes infect his dreams and waking thoughts in pandemic proportions. (Pun intended) He worries from A-Z (no, literally, aliens to zombies). He sets out to answer those ‘what if’s’ and so, our journey begins. I was reminded of the old television program Connections, one question answered leads to the next question. The inquiries arise from diverse scenarios delivered in snippets of Sam’s imagination interposed throughout the book. Sam talks to the experts, interviews experienced professionals, veteran and practicing specialist in various fields of study. He consults anyone who can educate him from heroes and celebrities and doctors to former gang criminals and Inuit dog runners. But the writer goes a step further and walks the reader through his internships, training camps and practicums. He makes a study of survivalism and shares his coursework with you, the reader. His humorous and engaging chronicle of his tutelages inspires the reader to commence their own quest preparing for the unknown. This book will light a fire.

Numerous quotable quips and clever, sage counsel are delivered by an assortment of colorful characters, teachers of the lessons that Sam sets out to learn. The educationalists are as interesting as the lessons they deliver. I chuckled out loud numerous times. Sam drops philosophical truisms and sprinkles substantive quotations from classic books and revered authors. His tone is matter of fact and knowledgeable, never underestimating the readers’ intelligence but never delivering his message in a vicar’s voice. You will not find hyperbole, proclamations or a political rant. As a writer, his descriptive panoramas of extreme environments are lyrical and graceful. From vistas of Montana to the cosmic northern lights to the arid deserts of the American southwest, the reader is beside Sam every step of the way. His imageries of physical encounters and actions are clear-cut. Sam’s wit is fresh and his imagination is untamed. His writing is a joy to read.

We know that major disasters happen. Even a small event can really wreck your day, your health, your routine. That’s why we buy flashlights, spare tires and fire extinguishers. Sam Sheridan makes the point “If 9/11 can happen, anything can happen.”  It’s not an outlandish proposition; consider Tsunami 2004, Fukushima, Katrina, Sandy, Aurora, and Sandy Hook…  Most of us prepare for the smaller calamities so why do people consider it paranoid to prepare for the big catastrophes? Yet that is the one of the major questions the author wrestles in Disaster Diaries. Preppers are often seen as paranoid and are portrayed in the media as… (Bluntly stated), nuts!

Sam leads the reader through his quests for knowledge to a deeper level of understanding of what it means to be a survivalist. He questions the role of one’s responsibility to survive. He questions, the rationality- is it paranoia or an internal mechanism of instinctual awareness? He questions the ethics and will to be a survivor and what that means to an individual, a community or even humanity. Although this book provides a treasure of information and some recommendations on ‘tools’ (read weapons), this is more than a how-to’ book. This is a story of a man coming to terms with responsibilities and his need for preparedness. How he came to recognize that to survive requires more than storing water and food. He probes and finds teachers to gain the desirable skills. He takes action and we, the readers, benefit.

This book is more suited to a more mature pool of readers, due to the (at times) graphic violent descriptions. There are no X rated sexual scenes. There are a few expletives in the book. At scarce times in the reading, I wanted to ship a bar of soap to Sam so that he could wash the potty mouth, but, as the cursing was sparse, I think he could get by with a good, hygienic rinsing.

I hope Sam is sleeping better these days knowing the knowledge (and experience) that he gained will help protect his family. I am sure this book will inspire others to do more than the 3 B’s and not feel like a loon for asking the ‘what if’s’. Good on You, Sam!

It’s a fun read well worth your time and money. I could go on in glowing praise, but I have some things to do … quests and all.

In disclosure I received an advance copy of this book. I have never met the author and have no known familial ties. No other payment/ compensation or fee was exchanged for this honest review.
Comments can be directed to

In the past, working as a police officer, security officer and private investigator, I used to wear soft body armor - it only made sense to give myself every advantage available, and to afford myself a better chance of going home safely at the end of the day. Body armor isn't anything new, I believe it was used as early as the 1920s - in a more modern form than the armor that knights used to wear into battle.

Richard Davis, who started Second Chance Body Armor (now out of business) paved the way for much of today's soft and heavy body armor. If memory serves me correctly, Davis started selling his soft Kevlar body armor in the early or mid-1970s. He made quite a name for himself, by actually demonstrating the effectiveness of body armor in live-fire demonstrations. He would fire a .44 Magnum handgun (with full power loads) into his own chest, while wearing his body armor. Needless to say, it was a very effective marketing tool. I still remember when I owned a gun shop in Portland, Oregon, and I bid on a large quantity of body armor for the Salem, Oregon police department and won the bid. However, I didn't have the funds to purchase the Second Chance Body Armor, so I contacted Davis and explained the situation to him. He told me to add his name on the awarded bid, and he sent me the armor, and I sent him a check.

Today, there have been many advances in the design and effectiveness of body armor. Many police officers, wisely wear some form of soft body armor under their uniform shirt. The only problem I see is that most police officers still attempt to wear the same size shirt, and you can clearly see the outline of the armor under the shirt. This isn't rocket science. Get a shirt that is a size or two bigger! And, for some strange reason, I see many police officers wearing their "concealable" body armor over their shirts! Come on! The idea is that, the bad guys don't know you are wearing the armor, so if they shoot, they will shoot a center of mass. But if they see you are wearing body armor, they will go for the head. This is common sense!

Recently, Infidel Body Armor sent me a sample of their hard body armor for testing. This is super-tough stuff to be sure. A complete set-up, with a front and back steel plate and a vest make up the set. The hardened steel plates are made out of AR500 steel - this is the same stuff they use to armor Hummers and other light military vehicles. This is 1/4 inch hardened steel that has a polymer coating on the front and back and comes in a vest. They offer several different styles and designs of vest you can pick from. Each steel plate is bent at a 20 degree angle to conform to your upper torso. The polymer coating on the front and back of each plate is worth note. This coating prevents bullets from splattering off the armor and into your face or arms or lower body. In effect, it is something akin to a sponge - it traps the bullet fragments in the polymer. Each plate is 10 by 12 inches and weighs 7 pounds. Heavy? Well, not as heavy as you think, when you actually put the armor inside of the vest and put it on. I was actually surprised at how comfortable the entire set-up felt.

Chad Cooper, who owns and operates Infidel Body Armor, also sent me a single steel AR500 hardened steel plate for my testing. And, it had already been shot with a .30-06 armor piercing round. There was some damage to the polymer coating, but only a very slight dent to the armor itself. Cooper told me that he didn't know if the polymer coating would stay on the plate - he attempted to re-coat the plate with more polymer coating - so I had been warned ahead of time. If you'll go to the Infidel Body Armor web site, you can see the steel plates being tested, and not with just a few rounds, but with many rounds - as many as a hundred rounds fired into a single plate. The standard for testing the effectiveness of any body armor is that it will withstand 7 hits from the calibers of ammo it is meant to stop. Infidel goes above and beyond in their test. No, their armor is "certified" by the big name company that does this sort of certification, but that means absolutely nothing to me!

Cooper has designed his line of hard body armor for the Prepper crowd, not for law enforcement. Law enforcement requires a certain certification for armor, and that means you pay a lot more for that certification. Cooper's intent is to provide the Prepper with the most effective hard body armor, at the most affordable prices around. He has reached that lofty goal!

Look, the last thing you need in a SHTF scenario is having yourself or a member of your group taken out of action by being wounded or killed. You don't have an endless supply of replacements like the military does, so if a group or family member takes a hit, or is killed, it can put your group in serious jeopardy. A lot of Preppers don't take this into consideration - losing someone to a bullet to the torso. Sure, we all want to think it won't happen to us, but we all know better than that, don't we? You can have all the latest gee-whiz gear and weapons to aid you in your survival, but if you are shot, what good will you be to the rest of the group or yourself? Something to think about!

I took the Infidel Body Armor steel plate out for some testing as soon as I received it. I fired 10-rounds of .308 Winchester FMJ ammo at the plate. On the first round, the polymer coating flew off, as I was warned it might do. I taped the polymer coating back on around the edges of the plate, and continued firing. There were some small dents, hardly worth noting. And, I removed the polymer coating and saw all the little bullet fragments that it had trapped under it - preventing what could have been small shrapnel injuries to the wearer. Additionally, most of my hits were dead center on the plate - one round on top of the next, and still no sign of penetration or of the plate weakening. On several more outings, I fired a grand total of 100-rds of .308 Win. ammo at the plate, ammo from Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Buffalo Bore produces some pretty hot loads, and still there were no signs of the plate giving way or failing. On several other tests, I used some Federal 5.56mm 62-grain steel penetrator ammo on the test plate, again, no failure on the plate, and it really just shrugged off the 5.56mm ammo. Handgun rounds? It was a total waste of time firing those at the plate. All my testing was done from only 25 feet! There were no splash-backs from the bullets, they were trapped in the polymer coating.

Infidel Body Armor rates their plates at threat Level III+ and I don't see any reason to question this, even though they are not "certified" by the big name company that does this sort of thing. The body armor is rated to withstand 9mm, .357 Mag, .45 ACP 12 GA shotgun, 5.56mm, .308 Win, .30-06 and many other lesser calibers. Infidel has on-going tests and haven't had any failures in their steel plates. I have dealt with Chad Cooper before, on some of his other products, and find what they sell to be of the highest quality, and they are just good people to deal with, too.

As I mentioned above, Infidel Body Armor is designed and meant for Preppers, or anyone else who might feel the need for very affordable body armor, including police officers, if they can get past the idea that this armor is "certified." Again, a certification means nothing in my book. It's what the armor does on real life that matters to me. When you get something "certified" you are paying a lot more money just to have a name or title associated to your product, which means the cost is passed on to the consumer. The US military won't let their troops wear this armor because it hasn't meet their standards, and that's too bad. Why are we, the taxpayers, paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars more for body armor, just because it has a certification on it, or a certain brand name? You can be getting the same or better life-saving coverage for less money? That's the FedGov for you: if there is a way to waste our tax dollars, they will find it. I'm not expert on body armor, but I know what my own testing has proven to me. Hits at any angle didn't penetrate the Infidel Body Armor. I was totally impressed!

If you are serious about your survival in a SHTF scenario, it's worth checking out the line-up of body armor that Infidel carries. Now for the good news, depending on which plate carrier you elect to buy with your plates, the prices are very affordable. It's way less than you will pay for similar hard armor that may not have the polymer coating on it. The Stryker vest with a front and back plate is only $305, and the Viper carrier and two plates is $375, and the Banshee carrier with two plates is only $425. If you buy elsewhere you can easily pay double, triple, and more for similar vest and plates. The goal was to produce the best hard armor around, at a price point that was affordable, and Infidel Body Armor reached that goal. Their initial goal was to be at $300, and they only exceeded that by a few bucks. You can even use your own vest if it has plate carriers in it. However, the plate carriers that Infidel sells were designed specifically for their plates. I mentioned that the vest with plates was extremely comfortable, and it was. I was really surprised how comfortable the vest with 14 pounds of steel plate was.

I should mention, that even though the polymer coating that had been re-coated came off on my first shot with a .308 Win round, this won't happen when the plates are snuggly inside the carrier. There's no place for the coating to go, and it will stay on the plates!
With all the stuff happening in DC these days, it's only a matter of time before they get around to banning body armor for civilian use. As a matter of fact, there are a good number of locales that already outlaw the use and purchase of body armor by civilians, just like some places won't allow you to put a laser on a firearm. The insanity never ceases to amaze me. So, if you are in the market for some serious body armor that will stop most common high-powered rifle rounds and handgun rounds, I highly recommend the product line at Infidel Body Armor. Why pay more? - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Title: Rora
Author: James Byron Huggins
Copyright Date: 2001, 2007 Bronze Bow Edition
Publisher: Bronze Bow Publishing, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-932458-51-0
Audio, e-book or foreign translation avail? No
Suitable for children? Teens and up

Rora is a work of historical fiction revolving around the defense led by Joshua Gianavel in an effort to save his people, the Waldenses, who lived in the Rora valley in 1655. This is a story of religious persecution, but it requires no great leap of imagination to see how this relates to our own civil rights today. At its core, this is a story about standing up for what is right in opposition to those who ignore their consciences for the sake of personal or political gain.

The Waldenses (or Vaudois in French) were an old religious group with roots going back, arguably, further than the Roman Catholic Church. They had their own translation of the New Testament, the Lingua Romana, in a time when Rome forbade the possession of the scriptures. They did not believe they required a priest in order to obtain forgiveness, but rather that forgiveness comes directly from God. They did not believe that prayer required a church, but rather that a prayer said in a barn was just as good. They did not believe that the bone relics
in Rome were of any value before God at all. In the eyes of Rome they were heretics and had to be eliminated.

Rome had been trying to get rid of the Waldenses for some time. An agreement had been struck in 1561 which was to grant them freedom to worship, but the Inquisition would not accept that agreement as valid. Only one generation prior to 1655 the church had attacked the Waldenses and killed some 16,000 of them, however, some escaped and survived and came back to rebuild. Consequently, the Inquisition came back to exterminate them once again.

Joshua Gianavel had been a mere boy the last time Rome tried to wipe out his people. He had escaped into the Alps then. Hiding in the forests he learned about troop movements and how an organized military had to function. Evidently he learned exceptionally well. His understanding of strategy and his ability to defeat large, trained forces with only a small, untrained band proved to be a serious challenge to the army of Piedmont and the Inquisition. He put up a fight against seemingly insurmountable odds and simply would not be defeated.

I would rather not offer any spoilers regarding this novel. If I may editorialize a bit, this is one book which I believe should be on the short list of everyone who has the right to vote. This novel paints the clearest picture I have yet seen of the reasons why our first and second amendments are so important. I can’t say the author had those issues in mind when he wrote this
book, but given the state of our national discussion on gun control there is a very timely comparison to be made to our own future and Europe’s past.

With regard to the first amendment, the combination of religion, free speech and the press has always seemed to offer a bit of a puzzle to some folks. The situation of the Waldenses offers clarity for that. The crimes for which they were to be exterminated all revolved around issues for which the first amendment would offer protection. They believed in relating to God without an intermediary priest (religion), they publicly preached their different religion (free speech) and they had their own copies of the scriptures (the press—no, it’s not just about reporting the news). In America in 2013 it’s hard to imagine there being much of an issue with the Waldensian world view, and that is one of the great successes on the part of our founding fathers. In 1655 that world view was grounds for your entire people group to be eradicated. And it is in 2013 too. The situation in the South Sudan is regularly shared here on Survivalblog, and that is not the only place it is happening.

The situation in Rora was one in which the government of Piedmont and the Inquisition wanted to wrap up their cleansing quickly and with as little international notice as possible. One of the factors in the novel was the possibility of intervention on the part of Cromwell and England. Keeping things as quiet as possible was a priority. Things are no different today. No one
wants to defend the actions they know are wrong. If they cannot hide the actions, they will offer whatever reason may be considered plausible to the international community, but certainly not declare it as a religious purge. Consider the situation of the Kachin people in Myanmar (Burma). They are a Christian minority in a Buddhist nation and they are under attack. Right now
they are in the mountains fighting a battle as a minority in a situation very much like that of Joshua Gianavel’s. Religious persecution is alive and well in the world today. We in America are simply blessed in that our founding fathers took lessons learned elsewhere and applied them here. We are enjoying the benefit of their wisdom.

This audience probably has little need to hear any defense of the Second Amendment, but one point that is worth making is on the subject of the ability to resist tyranny. Lately there seems to be no shortage of critics who insist the second amendment is outdated because there is no way the citizenry could stand up to the military. Rora is about that very issue. The odds faced by the
Waldenses were every bit as long as the odds the American citizenry would face today, yet the Waldenses stood up for what they believed in spite of those odds, and with a brilliant leader they won battles which no one expected them to win. And yes, history backs up these victories.

I can already hear the arguments about how technology has changed and the mismatch today is even greater than it was then. No doubt, but stop and ask a Marine about his experience in the sandbox and how thoroughly we have prevailed against third world non-uniformed combatants. Sure, we can wipe a city off the map if we so choose, much like what happened to the Waldenses in the Pelice, but when it comes to the mountains it is another matter entirely, much like Rora. Add in the issue of a house divided and there is plenty of validity to the argument that an armed citizenry can hold tyranny at bay. It is a matter of having the will to do so.

It should also be noted that the mismatch in equipment may even out during a conflict. The inhabitants of Rora did not have cannons to start with, but they acquired them in battle. If America’s own military were to be turned on its own citizenry, a very justifiable fear if there is any truth to the rumors of litmus test on our top brass, I would expect that there would be some patriots in the armed forces who would not comply and quite possibly would transfer equipment from the military to the civilian world. By no means would it be an even fight, but I believe there would be a stronger will on the part of those fighting for freedom than there would on the part of those fighting under orders to kill those they thought they were to protect.

Joshua Gianavel is an excellent picture of the will to fight. With the foundation of his experiences as a child he knew what his enemy was about and he knew what future his people faced. His choice to fight against far greater odds is what made history. It can be done. Do you have the will?

If you're serious about survival, you have to have some type of .22 Long Rifle (LR) firearm in your battery. Some will argue against the effectiveness of a .22 LR but I'm not one of them. You can take all manner of small game and fowl, with a well-placed shot from a .22 LR handgun or rifle. And, in a pinch, it will serve as a self-defense weapon as well. No, I'm not advocating the .22 LR as your one and only self-defense firearm, but it will sure do in a pinch, and make the bad guys wish they were some place else.
I've been a fan of Ruger firearms for many, many years - they never cease to amaze me with the new products they come out with every year - they don't sit back on past accomplishments! And, if there is one thing that you can count on with Ruger firearms, its that their products are well-made, strong and reliable. The new Ruger SR22 semiauto handgun was recently released. What we have is a 10 round magazine - and you get two of them with each pistol, as well as two magazine floor plates - one flat and the other with an extension for catching your pinky if you have large hands. I don't know why more gun companies does provide a second magazine with their handguns - it's a must if you ask me!
The SR22 weighs in a 17.5 ounces, with the black polymer frame, and this pistol just feels perfect in the hand, everyone who tried this little pistol loved the way it felt in their hands. Plus, the grip sleeve can be slid off and a different one slides on there for a thicker feel. Everyone preferred the thicker and more curved grip to the slimmer one that was installed on the SR22. The polymer frame has an ambidextrous magazine release, as well as decocker/safety both are easy to manipulate. There is also a Picatinny rail on the front of the frame, for mounting a light or a laser.
The slide has an adjustable rear sight and fixed front sight - 3-dot variety, and you can actually reverse the rear sight blade so that it is completely black if you so desire. The barrel is 3.50-inches, housed in the all black slide, the barrel is fixed in place. Take-down is extremely easy - pull down on the take-down tab inside the trigger guard (on the top of the trigger guard) and you pull back on the slide and lift it up and remove it. Make sure the gun is unloaded first! The SR22 requires very little in the way of lubrication, too!
I fired more than 1,000 rounds of various .22 LR ammo through my SR22 sample, and there was never a single malfunction of any sort - and some of the ammo I used in my testing was very old - some even corroded, but the SR22 just never missed a beat. I was totally impressed to say the least. The two supplied magazines were easy to load, thanks to the tab on the side of the magazine, that you can pull down with your thumb as you load each round into the mag. My SR22 was sighted in for 25 yards and was dead on at that adjustments were required. On average, I was getting 3-inch groups at 25 yards, and that is from a standing, free-hand position. I didn't bench rest the SR22 to see if I could wring more accuracy out of it!
I had more than half a dozen people test-fire my SR22 sample, and each one loved the way it felt, handled and the accuracy. I was so impressed with the SR22, that I bought one for my wife and for one of my daughters for Christmas presents - so they would stop borrowing my sample. On more than one occasion, my wife has "confiscated" one of my firearms samples - never to return it. She likes to say she'll "share" with me - yes, my gun! My daughter took her SR22 out with some friends, and they had no problems with her gun - ditto for my wife's SR22 sample.
Quite frankly, I wasn't going to bother with the SR22, until my friend fellow gun writer John Taffin told me that I just had to get one - he was impressed with his sample, that he did an article on, that I took his word for it, and got my own. I'm glad I did. If you do any camping, backpacking or hiking in the boonies, it's always a good idea to have some kind of firearm on-hand - laws permitting. You never know what you might encounter out on the trail - or just have a day of fun shooting and plinking - a brick of .22 LR ammo doesn't weigh that much, and 500 rounds will give you a fun filled day of shooting. Of course, right now, all caliber of ammo is hard to come by - thanks to the recent anti-gun legislation and Executive Orders that came down the pike. People are buying ammo like there's no tomorrow, and in my area, there isn't a round of .22 LR ammo to be found.
I honestly couldn't find a single thing I didn't like on the SR22 sample - it even comes with a black carrying case, that is included in the box the gun comes in - as well as the massive lock for securing the gun against unauthorized use. One other reason I like Ruger firearms is because they are simple in design - and that equates to less things to break, and more reliability. The SR22 has a retail price of $399 however, as with all Ruger firearms, you can usually find them discounted quite a bit. The SR22 is an absolute best-buy in my book, and it will give you many years of fun and the reliability factor is there - something that can't be said about many .22 LR pistols - many are very picky about what ammo they will 100% work with - not so with the SR22. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, January 21, 2013

Living in the country, is really great, but there are a few problems that one can expect. One is loss of electrical power - especially in the winter months, where I live - in Western Oregon. We have a lot of rain, and it causes trees to fall across power lines, knocking out power, and we lose our power at times, for days. I have a back-up generator, and I use it to keep my refrigerator and freezer cold, so I don't lose any foods. I don't have a need to watch tv all the time, or surf the 'net, so I don't use my back-up generator power for that. However, I do like to keep my cell phone charged, as does my wife, and daughter who lives next door. I hate to waste a lot of precious gas running the generator to charge-up some cell phones, so this can be a problem.
I was recently sent a review sample Power Pot. To be honest, I wasn't even sure what the Power Pot was, until I read the instructions. I though it might have been a strange-looking camp cup for cooking soup or heating water. Well, it does heat water, but not the way you think. The Power Pot can be filled with water, and placed over a small fire - and you don't need a large fire - once the water heats up you can connect your cell phone to the power cord from the Power Pot, and charge you cell phone. What? Yes, you simply boil water, and you can charge your cell phone, rechargeable batteries, GPS systems, lights and more. You can charge a wide variety of of USB devices with up to 5W of power. This is all possible though Thermo-Electric Generator (TEG) technology.
Let's back up a little bit, why would anyone want to haul around a little pot in their backpack or BOB, out in the wilderness? Well, there's good reason to haul the Power Pot. Suppose you are traveling and get stuck on a back road in the winter, and you can't get out? You cell phone battery goes dead, and you can't reach anyone. I've heard this story numerous times on the tv news - someone gets lost or stranded, and try calling for help, and their cell phone battery dies just when they need it the most. Not a good thing! You can even pack the Power Pot in your glove box or the trunk of your car, and you won't know it's there, until you need it the most. You can carry fuel, or something like a small camp stove, and once you gather fuel, you can get a fire going, and add water to the Power Pot, and once it starts boiling, plug you cell phone into the heat resistant power cord - and in no time, you'll have your mobile devices charged and ready to go.
One of the main things you need to be aware of is that, you can NOT run the Power Pot without water in the cup, if you do, you'll ruin the TEG junctions, rendering it irreparably "dead.". You must keep an eye on the water level, don't let the Power Pot run dry, ever! How can it actually work as advertised? Well, I'll tell you what, I took an old cell phone, with a completely dead battery, and inside of about an hour and a half, the batter was fully charged. Yes! I did have to add more and more water to the Power Pot, but it wasn't that big of a deal to do. And, it doesn't take long for the Power Pot to start generating power - once it heats up, we're talking 10-60 seconds, and you can power-up you cell phone or other mobile device. No, you're not going to charge it in 10-60 seconds, but you can "start" the charging process that fast.
I questioned the durability of the power cable, coming from the Power Pot to the cell phone I was charging - how would the heat affect the power cord? Well, the cord cable has a heat-resistant silicone fiberglass protective layer that can withstand temps as high as 600-dgrees. Still, if I wanted to make sure my Power Pot keeps working, I'm going to try and keep the power cord away from direct flames from a camp fire. Can you cook with the Power Pot - probably, but it's not a good idea, you might damage it and it would be of no use to you when you need to charge a mobile device. The maximum power generated by the Power Pot is 5W - and as low as 1W with low heat - and this is more than enough to power many mobile devices.
The only drawback I can see with the Power Pot is - water! If you happen to break down, or get lost in the wilderness, and there isn't any water source, you can't use the Power Pot. However, if you are prepared, you will have water in your BOB or in your vehicle. Failing that, you will have to find a source of water.
The Power Pot works very well. It comes with a lifetime guarantee, and if you follow the instructions, it will give you a lifetime of trouble-free power. Now the price. The Power Pot is almost $150 - yes, that's a bit spendy. However, how much would you pay, if your car broke down, on a back road, in the middle of winter, and you needed to charge you cell phone, so you could call for help? Yes, that's what I thought: you'd pay just about anything to be able to charge your cell phone or GPS. I believe the Power Pot is a very worthwhile investment for any Prepper. I don't want to run my back-up generator, for hours, just to charge my cell phone, and was all that fuel. I can go in my carport, and start a small fire, and put the Power Pot on, with water, and charge my cell phone that way, and save my gas for my generator for more important tasks. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Editor's Disclaimer (per FTC File No. P034520): I accept cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of my advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company. SurvivalBlog does, however, benefit from sales through the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store. If you click on one of our Amazon links and then "click through" to order ANY product from (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission.

Monday, January 14, 2013

SIG Sauer is always coming up with new and innovative firearms, they are on the cutting edge, and their products are always in great demand, too. To wit: many times I have to wait weeks and months, to get products to test from SIG - they are back-ordered quite often, and that attests to the popularity of their firearms. However, for this article, I didn't test a firearm, instead, I tested the ACP - Adaptive Carbine Platform, this is not a firearm, it is an "accessory" if you will, that you can adapt to many full-sized handguns.
Some explanation is in order. What the ACP is, is a device (for lack of a better term) that can be attached to many firearms that have an accessory rail under the dust cover (they won't work with a 1911, though). When you add your handgun to the ACP set-up, you basically convert your handgun into something of a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW), or something a bit like a "carbine." This ACP comes in several different versions, and one can be used as a short-barreled rifle, if you can to jump through all the red tape that the FedGov requires - I won't and don't! Check with SIG, to make sure your intended handgun will work with the ACP before ordering one.
The ACP is manufactured out of aircraft grade aluminum, and is anodized black, a very attractive look to it, as well as a "mean" look when you get it all set-up on your handgun. The ACP also has accessory rails at 3, 6 and 9 o-clock (as well as the top rail), for attaching lasers, red dot scopes or whatever else you may desire on a PDW. I elected to test the Enhanced version of the ACP, this came with a SIG Sauer red dot sight, mounted on the 12 o'clock rail position (but SIG forgot the battery for this red dot sight). The enhanced version also comes with a bungee corded sling, that you can wear in several positions, and when you adjust it to your liking, you can extend the ACP out from your body, until there is tension, and you have a very stable platform for those longer shots.
I'm a firm believer in that, simpler is better, so I don't add a lot of things to any of my firearms. However, I did think that the ACP would be a good candidate for a laser mounted on one of the accessory rails. I contacted my friend, Iain Harrison, at Crimson Trace and requested one of their CMR-201 Rail Master, universal lasers. If Iain Harrison's name sounds familiar to you, then you'll know he won the very first "Top Shot" firearm competition, on the popular television show. The guy can shoot, and he knows guns - period. The CMR-210 was a perfect match for the SIG Sauer ACP - I mounted the CMR-201 at the 9 o'clock position on the accessory rail, and it was right on for the zero. In my humble opinion, a laser should be mounted on the ACP - gives it that much more versatility.
Okay, now while the ACP was designed by SIG, you can use many different types and brands of handguns in this set-up. I elected to mount my Glock 19 in the ACP, and with a 33-rd magazine, it was the perfect set-up, we're talking a serious PDW weapon here, that can not just reach out there and "touch someone" but it just looks super-mean. (Diane Feinstein is going to hate it.) It took some adjusting to get the Glock 19 to properly fit perfectly inside the ACP...but it really is easier than you think. SIG provides a video on their web site, and also provides a DVD with the ACP, demonstrating how easy it is to insert a handgun into the ACP. Like I said, the first time took a little longer - I wanted everything adjusted perfectly and securely. Once I had the adjustments made, I could easily insert and remove the Glock 19 inside of a couple minutes into the ACP without any problems. A bit of practice is all it takes, and SIG also provides inserts so you can adjust your handgun to fit perfectly inside the ACP. I tried a couple other handguns, but for my money, the Glock 17 or 19 is my preference for this set-up.
The lower portion of the ACP, right at the front, has a "catcher" for your forward hand, so your hand can not slip in front of the muzzle of the gun. This is legal to have in the United States, since it is not a forward grip - which would be illegal unless you registered this as a short-barreled rifle. You really need to check-out the ACP demo video on-line at the SIG web site to totally appreciate what I'm saying. The whole set-up really works as advertised, and I was a little skeptical when I first saw the ACP on-line at the SIG web site - I didn't think it would work as well as it did - as well as advertised. It worked better than I thought it would!
Now, when you have your handgun all installed in the ACP, and properly adjusted, the first thing that will cross you mind is, "how do I chamber a round, the slide is covered by the frame of the ACP?" Not a problem, the way your handgun sits inside of the ACP, there is a lever on the left side of the ACP, simply pull back on this lever, and it retracts the slide, chambering a round - couldn't be easier, and it is very instinctive to do. The muzzle of the ACP - it is huge when you look at it from the dangerous end - it looks like you have a grenade launcher you're aiming at someone. Out of necessity, SIG designed the ACP front end, so that the entire slide of the handgun is enclosed in it - making the front end opening menacing, to say the least. Personally, I wouldn't want to be looking down the front end of the ACP if I were a bad guy! The front end opening is so large, that you can use most sound suppressors on your handgun, if you are paid the $200 transfer tax to have one - the opening looks huge at the front end of the ACP.
The length of the ACP is 14-inches, and that's not really too bad, when you look at the whole set-up. It weights in a 17+ ounces, and that isn't adding a lot of weight to a Glock 19. The ACP is 2-3/4 inches wide, at the widest point. And the height is 7 inches tall, without a long magazine, such as the 33-round Glock 9mm magazine. You can also have the ACP without the sling and red dot, but I strongly suggest going the Enhanced Version route - I shot the ACP without the sling attached to my body, and it wasn't very stable in my humble opinion. And, the red dot - that just adds to the whole set-up, you can get on-target very fast with the red do. You can also add after-market pop-up front and rear sights to the ACP if you want - just attach them to the 12 o'clock position accessory rail, and it's not a bad idea to have these pop-up front and rear sights as a back-up to the red dot sight - never know when a battery might die or the red dot break. You can NOT use the sights on your handgun once it is inserted into the ACP - they are completely covered.
You can also manipulate all the controls on your handgun, once it is inside of the ACP - slide release, mag release, etc.  It did take me a little while to decide how I wanted to wear the bungee corded sling. I elected to have the whole set-up run across my chest - then I simply had to just pull the gun up away from my body, and extend it forward and fire, couldn't be easier. And, I found I could easily engage targets of opportunity out to 75-yards without too much effort, and I'm betting, you can hit a man-sized target out to 150-yards. Now, the 9mm isn't the most powerful handgun round, but I wouldn't want to be hit with it - even at that distance - it can still kill!
I kept waiting for something to quit or break on the ACP, or for my Glock 19 to malfunction, so I could do a malfunction drill, but the gun just kept perking along without any problems. Now, the questions arises, is there a need for the ACP? Well, I believe there is, if you are into Executive Protection, and you want a little more versatility out of your handgun, and you might encounter targets at more than regular handgun distances, the ACP can be a great aid in this respect. As to a use in a survival situation - you bet! Look, we all can't afford the latest whiz-bang ARs or AKs - and the ACP can really boost the versatility of your handgun - you basically have a short-barreled pistol caliber carbine with your handgun inserted into the ACP - without all the red tape involved in owning a SBR. Yes, it's not quite as stable with the bungee corded sling, as it would be with a side-folding stock, but you'll be amazed at just how tight you can get the ACP extended with the bungee corded sling, and how steady the whole set-up is. By adding the ACP to your handgun, you have increased your chances of engaging long-distance targets and hitting them, than if you only had a handgun in your hand.
Now, while the ACP isn't currently on Diane Feinstein's hit list of so-called "assault weapons" - you can be sure that at some point, she will probably add it to her list, if for no other reason than it is one bad-looking set-up, therefore it must be some kind of assault weapon, right? Well, that's her weird thinking anyway. And, right now, you can't find any 33-round Glock 9mm magazines, but when they become available again, grab as many as you can. And if you get an ACP, then you'd better get all you can afford to buy. If for no other reason, get the ACP set-up, just for the menacing look it has - it'll sure grab the attention of everyone at the gun range when you shoot it, and they'll all wonder what it is.
So, my answer is "yes" the ACP does have a place in the scheme of things, for use as a PDW or an addition to your handgun, turning it into a better survival weapon, for taking those longer shots. Full-retail is $499 for the enhanced version I tested. Get one while you still can, 'cause I predict they will ban it - even though it's not a firearm. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Legal Proviso: To reiterate: In the United States it is illegal to install either a vertical foregrip or a buttstock on a pistol without first paying a $200 Federal Transfer Tax to turn it into a "Short Barreled Rifle" (SBR.) Do not risk a Felony conviction, a lengthy prison sentence, and forfeiture of your gun ownership and voting rights over just a one time $200 tax!
Disclaimer (per FTC File No. P034520): I accept cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of my advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company. SurvivalBlog does, however, benefit from sales through the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store. If you click on one of our Amazon links and then "click through" to order ANY product from (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Numa Sport Glasses "Chuck" are glasses you can stomp on.

These must be named after Chuck Norris.  They are tough, and flexible enough I even bent them completely in two.  They resumed normal shape in a few moments.  I tried tugging and bending the bows in different directions, bending and straightening.  They sprung back.  I folded them in half at the bridge.  They sprung back again.  The strength and memory of these things is impressive. I tried sitting on them, stepping on them open and closed, putting boxes down on them.  They show no damage.

The Chucks took a few days to wear in.  They were tight and a bit itchy at first, but once worn in, they were comfortable, while being very snug and hard to dislodge.  I've had no need for a head strap.  The lenses changed easily—just pull the frame and pop the lens out, and the new one in.  The glasses came with clear, smoke and copper lenses in a nylon case.  Prescription lenses are available.

They filter well, and allow clear vision without glare.  They fit closely enough to avoid peripheral light, without obstructing vision or getting sweaty inside.  They're a nice addition to the many flavors of ballistic UV glasses out there, and it's worth trying a pair to see if they work for you, especially if you find yourself damaging glasses in use.

Speaking technically, they surpass ANSI z87, and are marked on the inside of each temple "z87".  This means they meet the government rating for ballistic protection shown here. They offer 100% protection against UVA, UVB and UVC.  They are anti-fog, have changeable lenses, and a scratch-resistant coating.  I haven't managed to scratch them in my vehicle, while shooting or working, and I haven't seen them fog in heat or cold.  I'm sure they have their limits, but all typical abuse just bounces off them.  I wore them as I would any other work/combat glass, and had no issues.  They're in my van as my on-hand glasses for driving and working with tools.

Numa glasses come with a lifetime warranty against breakage.  I haven't been able to take advantage of it because they haven't broken, despite some hard use.

This combination retails at $99 MSRP, on par with other professional eyewear, and are cheaper in some outlets.
Editor's Disclaimer (per FTC File No. P034520): I accept cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of my advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company. I do, however, benefit from sales through the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store. If you click on one of our Amazon links and then "click through" to order ANY product from (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission. Michael Z. Williamson was sent a test pair of glasses to conduct this review.

©2012 Senator Tom Coburn with John Hart
Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville Tennessee
349 pages with numerous charts, graphs, index, and list of official reports available to the public.
ISBN: 978-1-59555-467-3

I recently read The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America. The title tells us exactly what this well-written book is about. Our national debt is a bomb more dangerous than any nuke or chemical weapon known to man. While we spend billions chasing a few terrorists around the world, our politicians are killing our economy, and our freedoms, with rampant, unfunded spending.

Senator Coburn lays out the facts and history of our debt problem in thirteen chapters and three appendixes with a summary of his thoughts in the final seventeen pages. A Republican from Oklahoma, the author castigates members of both major political parties for what they have done to help bring our economy to the edge of chaos. The book is full of stories of politician’s gone loony with our money, and ways to prevent their excesses in the future.

As I prepare this review, the news media is full of ‘fiscal cliff’ reports, name-calling, the sky is falling, and assigning of blame for our economic woes. The US Senate is debating legislation to send financial aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy with numerous unrelated earmarks attached to increase our deficit. Obviously, it is still business as usual. At a time of what I consider a national emergency, our elected officials should be lined up with ideas and proposals to get us out of debt, not pile on more.

We have just that in this book full of specific proposals to solve a specific problem. There are also reports on the author’s web site addressing the problem of our debt. Some folks believe the debt bomb will cause the collapse of our economy and our nation. As individuals, we can address our concerns to our elected officials. If they are unresponsive, we can fire them.

On a personal level for preppers, this book is a good case for eliminating our household debt. A lack of debt makes your home, vehicles, and possessions yours, not the bank. You have no worry of foreclosure or repossession. The money you save in interest payments can be used for supplies.           

During the Great Depression, farmers in the Dust Bowl lost their family farms over small mortgages they could not pay because of one failed crop. Because of the recent housing bubble collapse, tens of thousands of families have been evicted for failure to pay their mortgages. Thousands of properties are mortgaged for more than they are worth and the owners are stuck in a financial nightmare. Some people believe it is un-American to not have a mortgage and car payments. Wrong. Do everything you can to eliminate your family debt and you increase the security of your entire family more than a full pantry or a well stocked gun locker.

I recommend this book for preppers because it is so readable and full of common sense.

My dear friend, the late Chris Janowsky, who ran the World Survival Institute, in Tok, Alaska was famous for always wearing a bandana on his head. And that bandana wasn't just a fashion statement. Chris wasn't a fashion trendsetter in the least. Janowsky was, probably the best wilderness survival instructor in the world. The US Marine Corps sent their winter survival instructors to Chris for their training, and in return, those instructors would train US Marines in winter wilderness survival techniques. Now, if the US Marines thought so highly of Janowsky, that says it all in my book. As an aside, Chris Janowsky put out quite a few VHS tapes on wilderness survival, and it would be worth your time to find them and add them to your collection.
Hoo Rags has come out with a line of bandanas in a variety of designs, colors and patterns. Now, if you are serious about survival, you really need to add a Hoo Rag to your Bug Out Bag. A Hoo Rag only takes up a very little space and weighs practically nothing - you can even carry one in your pocket. Now, the Hoo Rag isn't just used as a bandana, it has a number of uses. While a bandana is a handy thing to have in a hot climate, for keeping sweat out of your eyes, that is only the beginning of the uses you can use this for.
For you gals, you can use a Hoo Rag for a pony tail rag - and as I mentioned, they come in a variety of colors and designs - and if you wear your hair in a pony tail most of the time, you will have a pretty cool survival tool on your person at all times. A face rag can also be made out of a Hoo Rag, this keeps dirty and dust out of your mouth - and it's a pretty good thing to have if you ride motorcycles - I used to, and always got more than my share of bugs in my teeth! If you're out in a desert area, the Hoo Rag can be made into a Balaclava Rag, covering your hear from the hot sun - believe me, if you've ever been out in hot area, without a hat, you'll really appreciate some form or head covering.
Ladies, once again, you can make a fashion statement by wearing the Hoo Rag as an Alice Rag - you don't need a beret when you can wrap this around your hair and keep the hair out of your face. Also, a neck rag can be fashioned, making you into a cowgirl of sorts - it'll drive the boys crazy. How about a neck warmer in cold climates. When I was a teen, back in Chicago, I used to have to stand on the street corner, waiting for a bus to take me to school - and we are talking a lot of below zero temps - it can make a big difference in keeping you much warmer when you neck is covered.  You can also wrap a Hoo Rag around your head and look like a Pirate - once again, covering your head from the hot sun, as well as making a fashion statement - believe me, I've seen plenty of guys and gals with a Pirate rag on their head. How about as a good ol' fashion bandana, just like Chris Janowsky use to wear all the time?  The possibilities are seemingly endless to the ways you can use a Hoo Rag, and with some thought, I'm betting you can come up with a lot more uses for a Hoo Rag.
When I was a kid, it was quite the thing to carry a "Hankie" in your pocket - for wiping that runny nose. You can also, in an emergency, use a Hoo Rag as a bandage to help control bleeding, or use it as a tourniquet to stop arterial bleeding. Chris Janowsky always advocated carrying plastic bags in your Bug Out Bag, to help you collect food and berries along the way in a wilderness survival situation. You could fashion a make-shift "bag" out of a Hoo Rag and use that to collect nuts and berries along the way - sure beats putting stuff in your pockets, doesn't it? In a pinch, you could use a Hoo Rag as an aid to starting a fire if you don't have some dry kindling - neat idea, huh? How about tying the hands of a bad guy, with his hands behind his back, if you don't have handcuffs with you? Sure beats having a bad guy's hands free to do more harm. Ever get some bad blisters on your feet, and didn't have anything to cover them with? Well, you can fashion a covering over those blisters with a Hoo Rag, couldn't you?
I could probably think of half a dozen or more uses, that you could use a Hoo Rag for, but take a little bit of time yourselves, and come up with some ideas of your own, as to how you can use one of these rags in a survival situation. Oh wait, I just thought of another one - how about as a water pre-filter - to filter out some sediment in dirty water, before boiling the water to make it safe to drink? See, there are lot of uses a person can come up with for a simply piece of well-made cloth.
For the life of me, I can't come up with a good reason to not have a Hoo Rag in your Bug Out Bag, or on your person. You can put one in your pants pocket, in a shirt pocket, and you ladies, you can put one or two in your purse - they don't take-up any room and weigh next to nothing. Why not add this simply "survival device" to your survival gear? It can make a big difference when you need it. Right now, Hoo Rag is offering free-shipping on all orders, and the variety of different patterns and colors available to you will blow your mind. A Hoo Rag is $14.95 and well worth the investment - why not order several as gifts? I'd really like to hear back from SurvivalBlog readers, with some of your ideas for different uses of the Hoo Rag. I'll bet you all will fill-up my e-mail box. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, December 31, 2012

I'd like to believe that after Earth for more than 61 years, that I'm getting a little bit smarter in my old age. Well, maybe not smarter, but a bit wiser, might be a better description. There was a time, not too many years ago, when I could hump 50-pounds around the boonies, with a full-set of A.L.I.C.E. gear and a full combat load of ammo and some manner of AR-15. Those days are long gone! However, I'm actually in better shape physically these days, than I was 10 years ago, but that doesn't mean that I want to pack more gear than needed in my BOB. To this end, is why I believe I'm getting a little bit wiser. I still want to be able to survive - as best I can - with the smallest amount of gear that I can carry. If you believe you can haul all the gear and equipment on your back that you'll need for long-term survival in the wilderness, you are only kidding yourself. However, we can pack smarter, and make wilderness survival a bit easier.
Like many folks, I enjoy a good camp fire, however that isn't always needed, especially when cooking a meal. If you've ever had to gather wood out on a camping trip, or a survival training weekend, you know it can be a lot of work to gather enough wood to keep you going for several days. Consider the Emberlit Camp Stove that can making camping and wilderness survival a lot easier in many respects. With the Emberlit Camp Stove, you don't need to build a big camp fire to cook your meals, all your cooking can be done with this small camp stove, and a very small amount of wood, or other products that you can burn in this neat little stove.
The full specs on the Emberlit Camp Stove are available at their web site, so we'll only touch on a couple of them: First off all, the stove is only 1/8th of a inch thick when folded flat. And, the stainless steel model only weighs in at 11.3-ounces and is 100% Made In America. There is also an Emberlit Camp Stove made out of Titanium, and it weighs a mere 5.45-ounces. I tested both stoves, and for my money, I'd pay a little bit more and get the Titanium model - remember, I talked about saving weight in a BOB - this saves a few more ounces.
I've tried quite a few small camp or cook stoves over the years, and while they all worked to one degree or another, they all required that I carry fuel with me - some required small tablets that when lit produced a heat source. Others required Butane gas, and some required white gas or propane, or even a gel - all a pain to have to carry in the boonies, and you are adding a lot of weight by having to carry these sources of fuel - plus some of the stoves were just too big to carry in a pack. I want to accomplish the same tasks with less weight and less bulk these days - again, I'm getting wiser and thinking smarter these days.
The Emberlit Camp Stove assembles in a minute or less, and your don't even need to read the directions that come with it - I like simple, and simple usually equates to stronger and better in my book - less things to go wrong. You can also get an optional carrying case for the Emberlit Camp Stove - although I believe in my humble opinion that, the carry case should be included with the stove, instead of being sold at $6.95 - but the carrying case does fit nicely on a belt, if you don't want to carry it in your pack. Still, I believe the carrying case should be included with each stove - just my take on it.
We were still in the burn ban part of Fall when I tested the Emberlit Camp Stove, so I had to do my testing in my covered carport, instead of out in the woods. Still, I believe I gave the Emberlit a good work-out several times - cooking several meals without any problems. And, believe it or not, this little stove would really get good and hot with just some small twigs. I did have to add some twigs during the cooking process because the stove is so small, you can only fit so many twigs in the stove at any given time. Still, I had no problem cooking over the stove, with my camp cook gear - read: military pan/tray. I even tried doing some cooking with wadded-up newspaper (without colored ink, of course), and I could cook with that - although I did have to constantly feed the fuel into the stove - still, it worked just fine.
I spoke of "simple" and this is about as simple as it comes for a camp stove - again, simple means stronger and with less things to break. Emberlit does offer extra cross bar members for their stoves, and it's probably a good idea to have a spare set on-hand, just in case. When the power grids go down, and you've run out of propane or natural gas doesn't flow to your kitchen stove any longer, the Emberlit Camp Stove can be a real life saver. And, with the small amount of wood it takes to cook a meal, a person can easy scavenge enough wood to keep the stove cooking for a good long time - just about anything that can burn can be used as a fuel. You could even burn some old tax code books if you had to. A face cord of wood, split into small pieces and cut-to-fit the Emberlit Camp Stove would probably last you a couple years of daily use. I've also written about  having a source of safe water to drink, and one way to have safe water is to bring it to near a boil - and you can easily do this with the Emberlit Camp Stove, too.
The Emberlit Camp Stove is the brain-child of Mikhail Merkurieff, and he categorically states on his web site that he wants all his customers be happy with their purchase, period! How many times have you read that you have a one-year warranty, or a limited lifetime warranty on a product, and there are always "ifs ands and buts" when it comes to placing a claim. Merkurieff doesn't put limits on his promise: If you aren't happy with his products, for any reason, he wants to make it right. That is very refreshing in this day and age.
The basic stainless steel stove cost $39.95, and the Titanium model is on-sale right now for $64.95 and a mini Ti model is on sale for $59.95 - for my money, the Titanium version is worth the added cost. Remember what I said about packing smarter? Well, if you can shave off a couple ounces here and there, it adds-up in short order, and any more, I don't want to pack one more ounce of gear than I need to carry. I really believe I'm getting wiser in my old age.- SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Author: Louis L'Amour
Copyright Date: 1987
Publisher: Bantam
ISBN: 978-055
Audio, e-book or foreign translation available? Yes, Audio, Kindle & Nook
Suitable for children? Teens and up, yes, particularly males.

I did not pick up the novel Last of the Breed thinking it would be for a SurvivalBlog review topic. Louis L'Amour is one of the authors I read as "mind candy", an easy read just for the fun of it. However, I quickly realized that this book is one of L'Amour's exceptional works and an excellent read for anyone who lives or is thinking of living in the American Redoubt.

Unlike most of Louis L'Amour's books, this novel is set in Siberia, and set in relatively modern times. There are airplanes and automobiles. Perhaps the best clue as to the date is the construction of the railroad in the Amur region which would put the time right about the late 1950s. This would help explain why certain technologies were not a factor in this novel.

Although there are no cowboys, horses or dusty saloons, there is an Indian. Major Joe Makatozi is part Cheyenne and Sioux Indian, and in the author's words "an unreconstructed savage." And while Siberia may be unfamiliar territory to many folks, it is deliberately compared to the American Redoubt, particularly the Snake River territory in Idaho. This is where Joe Mak grew up and where he developed the skill set which makes all the difference in this novel.

Joe Mak was raised in a home which would be the dream home of many preppers. Built by an ancestral Scotsman, the home was in an area without roads and entirely off grid. Trips to town were accomplished in avoidance of all roads. It would be regarded as a primitive home in the eyes of many, but it was excellent preparation for the circumstances with which Joe Mak had to contend.

Spoilers Ahead!

Colonel Arkady Zamatev of the Russian army had a plan to advance his career by acquiring military intelligence for the USSR. His plan was to kidnap fairly low profile individuals who had knowledge of key, cutting edge foreign military and scientific technology. His first several captures went perfectly, and with the confidence of those successes he decided to pursue and capture Joe Makatozi, a pilot with knowledge of the developments of experimental aircraft. And indeed, Zamatev was successful in capturing Joe Mak and bringing him to the specially dedicated prison near Lake Baikal in Siberia. This prison was purpose built, and in fact, still under construction. Set in the midst of one of the harshest climates on earth, surrounded by ten foot tall electrified fences with machine gun towers every one hundred yards it was inconceivable that anyone would even think of trying to escape, yet Joe Mak did just that. Under cover of a brief electrical service interruption Joe Mak pole vaulted the fence and sprinted into the forest, setting into motion a manhunt involving competing political interests and a hostile natural environment.

It was initially thought that it would not be at all difficult to recapture Joe. In fact, it was considered that he would probably be eager to turn himself in if the cold didn't get him first. However, these were the thoughts of men who could not conceive of an individual of the type they were actually dealing with.

The one person who had a sense of what they were up against was a Yakut tracker by the name of Alekhin. The Yakut were Siberia's natives and compared fairly well to the American Indian. Alekhin was a legendary tracker, known for always finding his man, but also for always bringing him back dead. Zamatev made it clear that at least this time Alekhin's quarry had to come back alive and at least able to speak.

From a survival perspective things don't get much more bleak. Joe Makatozi is in a foreign country where he doesn't even speak the language. He is on his own in a deadly cold environment with nothing more than the clothes on his back. He has the army and a skilled tracker on his trail. And there is no one he can call on for help.

It must be admitted that Joe has to resort to theft at several points. Just to make it through the first week he steals a few cans of food, a sweatshirt and a knife. But these are all he needs to get himself into a position in which he can sustain himself. From there he was able to fashion himself a spear and a sling for hunting. Able to hunt he was then able to procure skins for warmth, and once able to kill an animal large enough he was able to obtain sinews for a bow string. Making a bow and knapping his own arrowheads he was able to kill at a distance and bring down even larger game. This allowed him to make his own moccasins to replace the boots he was wearing out. This also made him even harder to track.

Lacking knowledge of the area he was traveling posed a real challenge. It was very much his desire to avoid all human contact. This meant avoiding population centers and transportation corridors. Crossing rivers and mountain ranges posed a challenge. Eventually Joe managed to steal a map, but even then it was difficult to pinpoint precisely where he was. Much of the time he simply had to rely on his own knowledge of the general geography of the area.

One factor which Joe had in his favor is the fact that Siberia is a climate which tends to harbor only those who are of a self-sufficient nature. These folks tend to be inherently distrustful of the government. As a result, most of those who Joe did encounter were in no hurry to turn him in to the authorities, but rather were inclined to let him go on his way and let things work themselves out.

Eventually Joe even finds himself among others who are fugitives in one sense or another. Because Joe is a skillful hunter and can provide food for those who are otherwise on the verge of starvation his presence is tolerated in spite of the high profile search for him which is underway. In this setting Joe is able to learn some of the language and how best to proceed on his course. This situation does not last long, but it provides Joe with better shelter through some of the worst of the Siberian winter.

Overall, this novel covers most of a year. Joe's rate of travel is necessarily slow, and there are times when he must remain in shelter for extended periods of time. His demeanor throughout the ordeal ranges the gamut from being at the point of laying down to die all the way to hunting those who hunt him. At no point is this a slow read. Louis L'Amour keeps the reader on the edge of their seat all the way through this one. There is simply no point in which Joe's life is not in immediate danger. Be it from man, nature or self, Joe's future is constantly in jeopardy.

I will not spoil the ending as to do so would seriously detract from the crafting of this novel, and it is an excellently crafted work. This book was published towards the end of Louis L'Amour's career, and it is one of his most refined. The novel opens with a preview of a scene which will take place later in the story. No clues are given as to how much later, and thus a sense of mystery is added to the story. That mystery is very well resolved by the end and in a manner which a warrior will find quite satisfactory. Those of a tender heart and a peace loving nature may not enjoy this novel, but a fighter will relate to it quite well.

This novel does not go to the level of detail to teach the skills required for survival, but it does give the reader a sense of what they must know in order to keep themselves alive in this setting. It should also be noted that the level of physical fitness required is that of a near olympic level decathlete. A substantial part of Joe's success is the fact that his enemies cannot conceive of his level of skill and his degree of physical ability. It is not that average person who can manage this, the author makes that clear. It should also be noted that a modern manhunt would involve modern technologies which would make Joe's flight much more difficult. I still found it a great read and an instructive one.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's no secret that I like big knives, especially folders. While I can get by with small/medium sized folders, I'd take a larger folder over a smaller one if I were out in the boonies, and all I had was a folding knife instead of a fixed blade knife. I still remember when Kershaw Knives started their newest division known as Zero Tolerance (ZT) and their goal was, and is to produce folding and fixed blade knives meant for serious military and law enforcement use - knives that can take a real beating and keep on going. If you're in a profession, such as law enforcement or the military, you can't afford to have your knife fail - period! With that goal in mind, Zero Tolerance Knives was started. They don't have a huge line-up of of fixed blade or folders, however, they have a little something for everyone, from medium size and large size folders, to a boot knife, fixed blade knives and even the stoutest bayonet you'll ever run across - their ZT-9. You may even seen the ZT0301 folder featured on the popular television show, NCIS - it's the knife that Special Agent Gibbs carries - and one of his rules is to always have a knife with you - I concur!
For this article, I selected the ZT0560 for review, and this is one super-sweet folder. A quick run-down on the specs is: Made in the USA - which I like, KVT ball bearings, Titanium frame lock, with quad-screw mounting for blade up or blade down carry on both sides of the handles, steel is Elmas, the handle is 3-D machined G-10 on the front, and 3-D machined on the Titanium back, blade length is 3.75-inches - which I believe is the perfect length, and the weight is only 5.8-ounces.
The blade material is Elmax, a stonewashed, powdered steel, and I've got to admit that, when powdered steels first came out in knives, I wasn't too sure just how strong this steel would be, as compared to forged or blanked steel blades. Needless to say, powdered steels a super-tough, much stronger than I thought they would be, and they hold an edge a really long time, too. The Elmax blade is not only strong, it is also highly corrosion resistant, too - not two properties you usually associate with many knife steels. I also like the stonewashed finish on the blade, makes in non-reflective and I just think it looks cool, too.
The KVT ball bearings - they are mounted in the frame, and the blade rolls out like it is mounted in soft butter - without a doubt, the smoothest opening folder I've ever run across to date. There is also a "flipper" on the back of the blade, in addition to thumb studs for opening the blade. Once you use the flipper, you'll forget all about thumb studs, the flipper is fast - very fast opening, you simply apply a little bit of pressure against the flipper and the blade easily opens, it is so smooth, you'll think the blade is an assisted-opener, I kid you not.
As you point the knife to the left, the handle material is the 3-D machined G-10, and on the reverse is the Titanium handle scale, that also serves as the framelock, giving this folder a very strong lock-up. And, its not easy mating the frame scale to lock-up to the blade, if I recall, custom knife maker, Chris Reeve, is the pioneer in this manner of locking-up a folder. When done right, it's a great set-up, when done wrong, the blade has a lot of slop to it and never locks-up properly - the ZT 0560 is done right, no doubt about it.
On the quad-mounting of the deep carry pocket/clothing clip, not many folders made today allow you to carry it with the tip up or down, and for right or left hand/pocket carry - this is rare for a knife to offer all this. And, the deep carry pocket/clothing clip really allows the knife to sit deep in your pocket - nothing is showing other than the pocket clip in your pants pocket, yet the knife is easy to draw and open as well. There is also a nicely configured lanyard hole on the top back of the knife - but no lanyard is included - which ZT would offer this.
I really like the way the ZT0560 felt in my hand - it's one of those folders that feels like it was custom made just for my hand - yet many others who examined this knife thought it was custom made for their hands as well - they did a great job on designing this folder, no doubt about it. There are also friction grooves on the top of the handle and back of the blade, as well as friction grooves on the bottom of the handle - and they are nicely done - not too sharp and not to dull - they afford a great hold on the knife in all weather conditions.
Over the course of several weeks, I used the ZT0560 for a number of tasks around the homestead, and did all manner of cutting. And, one of the tests I like to use is chopping blackberry vines, they are tough as tough can be, and many knives simply slide off these vines without doing any cutting at all. The ZT0560 easily chopped blackberry vines down with a single chopping motion - I was impressed. And, the Elmax blade cleaned-up easily, too!
You know, I wish I could report something negative about the Zero Tolerance ZT0560 folder, but try as I might, I couldn't find anything in this folder that I didn't like. Even the manager at the local gun shop I haunt, Fast Cash LLC, in Lebanon, OR - loved this knife and he is highly critical of most knives I show him. The ZT0560 is done to perfection - not a single manufacturing flaw could be found, no matter how hard I looked. This knife is better made than many custom knives, costing two or three times as much, if not more. I don't see this knife failing you under the harshest of conditions - it is a great folder for wilderness or urban survival if you ask me.
Quality never comes cheap, yeah, you can purchase a lesser knife, but you can't purchase better quality than I found in the ZT0560. Now quality materials and workmanship make it a bit spendy - the ZT0560 retails for $325. Is it worth it? You'd better believe it! I've owned quite a few custom knives over the years, but not many came close to the quality of this folder - and they couldn't even come close to the retail price of this knife.
Be advised, if you happen to pick-up a ZT0560 folder, you won't be able to put it down, except to reach for your wallet or credit card. You will be totally impressed with how smooth this knife opens - nothing comes close to it in smoothness. If you're in the market for a classy, yet super-strong folding knife, that is one of the best on the market, then look no further - the ZT0560 is what you're looking for. Drop a hint to your spouse or kids, that this is what you want for your birthday or CHRISTmas - it will bring a smile to your face, and you'll have a folder that can handle all your cutting chores and one you will be extremely proud to show to your friends - just don't let them walk off with it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

I've been a huge fan of the M14 rifle system, ever since I was in Basic Combat Training in the US Army, way back in 1969. The .308 Winchester cartridge is the most popular long-range sniping round in use today. The military version is the 7.62 NATO - and they are not exactly the same round - the .308 Winchester round is actually a little bit hotter than the 7.62 NATO round is - not a big difference, but still a difference. When I went into Basic Combat Training, I was a mere 135 pounds - when I finished Basic, and my AIT Infantry School, I was a lean, mean fighting machine coming in at 165 pounds. The one thing I didn't like about the M14 was how long it was - and for a scrawny little guy, the M14 was a bit hard to wield. Back then, I found the M14 a bit too long, but I still loved the gun, and went on to compete with it (a match-grade version) while on the Illinois Rifle & Pistol Team, when I worked for the Illinois National Guard in a full-time capacity. Every match I entered, in my class, I easily won - it was a combination of the match-grade rifle, the match ammo and my meager skills. My love affair with the M14 only grew over the years, and I longed for a civilian-version of the M14 in semi-auto so I could own one myself.
The Springfield Armory M1A was first introduced in 1974. The M1A is a semi-auto only version of the M14, and if you've ever fired the M14 on full-auto, you can appreciate how much that gun kicked and how pretty much useless in full-auto mode. I don't recall when I laid claim to my first Springfield Armory M1A, but it was many years ago - and I'm totally ashamed to say, I don't presently own an M1A of my own. However, I have vowed to correct that, and my goal is to get the SOCOM version of the M1A - it's shorter, lighter and faster handling than the full-sized M1A is. Matter of fact, my local gun shop just picked-up a used, but as-new, SOCOM at a gun show, and I'm tempted, real tempted to get it - but I'd have to do some serious gun-trading, and I'm not sure I'm up to the task - at present. UPDATE: I did a gun deal and now have my own SOCOM 16!
Now, while the SOCOM is a faster handling and shorter version of the full-sized M1A, it can still benefit from a little improvement, especially in the fast handling department. The kind folks at US Tactical Supply contacted me and wanted me to check out a SOCOM 16 that they put in their new M14 Juggernaut Rogue Chassis System, by Juggernaut Tactical. I was intrigued to say the least. I picked-up the SOCOM, that was now transformed into a very short bullpup stock design, fast-handling little carbine. Now, I'll admit up front that I have never been a big fan of the bullpup design - it is just foreign to me.  For some reason, the bullpup design doesn't look right to my way of thinking, and I've tried several bullpup carbines over the years, and they just didn't appeal to me - I'm old school!
Okay, so what do we have here with the Springfield Armory SOCOM set in a bullpup stock set-up? The first thing that catches your attention is that, you don't think you are actually looking at a full rifle/carbine - I thought I was just looking at a stock design, with a phony barrel installed on it. Surely, this couldn't be a .308 Winchester chambered rifle I was looking at, could it? The Juggernaut stock shortens the operating length of the SOCOM by close to 12-inches, yeah, you read that right - almost 12-inches are reduced from the SOCOM in a GI issued stock, without modifying or shortening the barrel. "Can't be" I said to myself, it just can't be!
I'm not going to cover all the specs of the Juggernaut bullpup design, you can read them for yourself on the above link. But I do want to touch on some of the the highlights of this design. The Juggernaut is manufactured out of hardened T6-6061 billet aluminum, and 4140 chrome moly and Mil-Spec Type III hard coat anodized - we're talking tough stuff here. There are also Mil-Standard M1913 rails located at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock on the front of the bullpup, and that measures out to 39-inches of rail space, for all the neat things you plan to add to this platform. The Juggernaut will fit all USGI M14s and commercial variants including the SOCOM-16, as already mentioned above. The platform also installs easily, but it does take some time, without a gunsmith - but be advised, it will be time-consuming, but well worth it when you see the finished product. The Juggernaut is also available in black on black, tactical tan and black - the sample I tested was black on black. The pistol grip is the Hogue AR-15 style which I really like. And, the barrel is free-floated in this bullpup design, which will only add to the accuracy of the finished product. There is also an adjustable neoprene bedding system that eliminates tolerance issues with different manufacturer's receivers, while still maintaining the accuracy potential that is there.
The SOCOM Juggernaut sample I tested had an ACOG mounted on it - and this is an outstanding scope system that is also sold by US Tactical Supply  and is in-use by many military personnel all over the world, is a very tough optic system. And, there are several different versions of the ACOG, so make sure you know which model you want, if you're in the market for this type of optic. (Some are made with ballistic cams to match the trajectory of 7.62mm NATO.) I found the ACOG very fast on-target, in all lighting conditions, too. The SOCOM Juggernaut also had the Grip Pod attached to the 6 o'clock rail, and I have previously reported on the Grip Pod - a very worthwhile addition to many tactical weapons, and in the case of the Juggernaut set-up, it was most welcomed.
The one thing I was a bit concerned with was, how well was the trigger going to work on this design with the longer linkage? Well, it felt a little bit different to me, but it only took a couple shots to get used to the trigger pull - which hadn't really changed much but it "felt" a little bit different for some reason. There is also a left-side charging handle on the Juggernaut design, and I found it much easier and faster to use than the standard M14/M1A right side charging handle - it was very instinctive to use. It did take me a little practice getting used to inserting and removing the magazines with the bullpup design, but nothing that can't be learned with practice. I'm just used to reaching forward of the trigger guard to remove and insert the magazines, with the bullpup design, the magazines are behind the trigger instead of in front of it. Also, the gun's safety is now behind the trigger, and it is a push button design - I liked it!
So, what are the advantages of this Juggernaut bullpup design on a Springfield Armory SOCOM? Well, for starters, it makes the gun as short as possible, without having to get a special permit for a short-barreled rifle, and I refuse to jump through the red tape involved in licensing a rifle as a short-barreled rifle if the barrel is under 16-inches. The total overall length of the Juggernaut bullpup is slightly over 26-inches, which is as short as you can legally go according to FedGov gun regulations. However, even though you will be meeting FedGov gun regulations for overall length, there are some backwards thinking states and locales that won't allow you to have a gun 26-inches in length - they require it to be longer - so check your state and local laws before converting a SOCOM to this super-short Juggernaut design - you don't want to be in violation of gun laws. Another advantage is how fast the Juggernaut handles - and adding the Juggernaut bullpup stock to a SOCOM adds 2-pounds to the weight of the gun. It feels heavier - but it handles much faster - it could possibly be the ultimate CQB .308 Winchester carbine on the market. The added weight really tamed the recoil of the .308 Winchester round, too.
I have to admit, I played around with the Juggernaut SOCOM for quite a while, before heading out to the range to actually fire it. I had a good supply of Black Hills Ammunition .308 Winchester ammo to include their 168-grain Hornady A-MAX HP load, and their 168-grain Match Hollow Point load. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their 175-grain Sierra Match King JHP load, that they call their Sniper Load. I had my target set-up at 100-yards, and I was firing over the hood of my SUV, using the Grip Pod, which made for a very stable shooting platform. The first shot caught my attention - really caught my attention! The SOCOM comes with a muzzle brake instead of flash suppressor and I knew that it would cause more muzzle blast. However, what I didn't take into consideration was how the muzzle blast would reflect off the hood of my SUV- it was loud, and I could really feel it on my face. Before firing a second shot, I placed a sleeping bag on the hood, and when the second round was fired, the sleeping bag really absorbed the blast. See, one is never too old to learn - but my wife might disagree with that statement. I didn't fire the SOCOM Juggernaut from the prone position - the ground was wet, and quite frankly, I'm getting too old to go prone, unless I absolutely have to do so. I don't believe the muzzle blast would be as bad while prone on the ground - but shooting over the hood of a car, with that metal under the muzzle brake caught my attention, but it was easily solved with a sleeping bag under the gun.
The first magazine full of ammo was a mix of the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore ammo - I wanted to fire the gun to see how it would function with a mixed mag of ammo - there weren't any problems. I just plinked at some rocks before getting serious and loading-up for some accuracy testing. I had some concerns that the empty brass might catch on the Juggernaut stock set-up - there wasn't anything to be concerned about, and empties were flung far from the gun, without causing any problems at all. I had a beautiful Fall day for shooting - the temps were in the upper 50s and overcast, and I do my best shooting on overcast days for some reason. Keep in mind I've been shooting high-powered rifles for about 44 years, and I shoot several times per week - so I get a lot more practice than most folks do, and I'm a more than average shot with a rifle.
The added weight of the Juggernaut stock really kept the muzzle down when firing the SOCOM, and as I pointed out earlier, the bullpup stock really makes the gun faster handling, too. The nubbed recoil pad on the butt of the Juggernaut really kept the SOCOM in my shoulder, for follow-up shots, too. With the Black Hills 168-grain A MAX hunting load, which is from their Black Gold line-up, I was getting groups just a hair below 2-inches, and that is great accuracy from a 16-inch semi-auto M1A in my book. I fired a number of groups with this ammo, and they were consistently a hair or two under 2-inches. Next up was the Black Hills 168-grain Match Hollow Point round, which has always been a great round in any .308 chambered rifles I've fired it through. If I did my part, I was getting groups right at a bit over 1-inch - that is outstanding accuracy. Next was the Buffalo Bore 175-grain JHP Sierra Match King Sniper Load, and I've found this to be an outstanding round - it shot great in a FAL I tested some time ago, and I won an informal shooting match with this round - without trying very hard. I was getting groups of 1.25-inches and they were ever so slightly higher on the target than the Black Hills 168-grain loads were - which I expected. I suspect this Buffalo Bore 175-grain Sniper Load would be a little bit better longer range round when we are getting out there 500-yards plus because of the slightly heavier bullets. As an added point of interest, I have used the Black Hills 168-grain Match HP load and the Buffalo Bore 175-grain Sniper load to win a few friendly shooting matches recently - both are outstanding in the accuracy department.
What was amazing was how consistent the SOCOM was shooting with all three loads. I worked hard, real hard to try and get a group or two under 1-inch at 100-yard, but it just wasn't my day. Perhaps on another day, when I'm fresher, I could break that 1-inch group at 100-yard. I worked extra hard to wring-out all the accuracy potential of the SOCOM Juggernaut, but no matter what I did, I couldn't break 1-inch - I was more than a little disappointed with myself. And, after a couple hours of shooting, I knew I had to call it quits as my groups started to open-up, and open-up quite a bit. I was getting tired and was losing a good focus on the target with the ACOG. I still believe this gun is capable of breaking 1-inch groups at 100-yards on another day. The Buffalo Bore 175-grain Sniper Load was right on the heels of the Black Hills 168-grain Match Hollow Point load, and I believe with more trigger time, these two rounds would be in a dead tie for best accuracy. The Buffalo Bore Sniper load, while not designed for big game hunting, could also be used on deer in my humble opinion. The Black Hills 168-grain Hornady A-MAX hunting load, from the Black Gold line-up shot great out of the SOCOM Juggernaut, but I've had much better accuracy out of this load in bolt-action hunting rifles - much better accuracy!
So, does the SOCOM Juggernaut have a place in this world? You bet it does! If you want what might just be the ultimate in a very short .308 M1A package, you can't get it any shorter than the Juggernaut set-up. While not designed as a "sniper rifle" per se, the SOCOM Juggernaut can fill that role with the right ammo combination - and I believe it is good to go as a sniper's rifle out to 400-500 yards  with the right finger on the trigger. It can also fill the role of a CQB gun, when going against hard targets. The gun is very fast-handling, and you have the power of the .308 Winchester round in a very small package, that is controllable and very shootable, too. If I were to set-up a SOCOM in a Juggernaut stock, I'd take the muzzle brake off and put a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel - I don't especially like muzzle brakes - but that's my choice. I'd also add some pop-up front and rear sights on this set-up, as you have to remove the SOCOM's front and rear sight when putting it into the Juggernaut stock. Other than that, there's not much I'd add to the Juggernaut - I believe less is better - but there will be some folks who will most of the 39-inches of rail space and that's fine with me, if that's what they want to do.
Now, the Juggernaut conversion isn't for everyone. The price is $999. However, you are getting the highest-quality bullpup stock set-up you can possibly get for a .308 chambered gun, and there isn't anything else on the market that comes close, for an M1A rifle.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hi Captain Rawles,
I'm a long time SurvivalBlog reader and occasional commenter.

Just had to respond to EagerGridlessBeaver with his post and review of the Paklite LED flashlight battery life test (WOW!) and the possibilities for IR use.  If you could afford to purchase numerous of the IR LED models, these same could be sequestered around your property connected to clothespin  type contacts and trip wires.  With a quick scan at night with your NVGs you would know instantly if any of your wires were tripped, with invaders being none-the-wiser if they were without NVGs.  It could provide an alert and invisible “light on target” so to speak.  They could be hidden under many things like bluebird nesting boxes, etc. and otherwise camouflaged. Not that they are that big anyway.  Any idea how far the light would be visible?

I don’t know which of the two IR bandwidths (880nm or 940nm) that are available would be the better for this purpose.  Any experts out there with suggestions?
Regards, - Steve in Florida


Monday, December 10, 2012

This is a simple fact; without a source of fresh and safe water to drink, you will die within four days - depending on weather conditions. As I'm writing this, the folks back East are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Many are still without power or heat in their homes after two weeks - at least 40,000 people were totally homeless right now, and winter temps are setting in. I read one news report, where people were paying $7 for a loaf of bread, and $10 for a box of matches. FEMA ran out of bottled water less than a week into this emergency and folks were left to fend for themselves for a source of safe drinking water for several days.
Many poke fun at "Preppers" or "Survivalist" for preparing for bad times. I just don't get it! What is wrong with storing some extra food and water, for a future emergency? And, sooner or later, the lights and power go out, and I don't care where you live - it happens! The folks on the East Coast had plenty of warning of the impending hurricane coming their way. However, may chose to ignore the dire warnings, and went about their usual daily routine - instead of spending a few dollars and a little bit of their time, stocking-up on extra food and water. Instead, they depended upon FEMA and the Red Cross to take care of them. I read numerous reports that the Red Cross was giving hot chocolate and cookies to hurricane victims. Really? There are also victims living in unheated tents that FEMA set-up, and depending on the FedGov to feed and care for them. Don't you ever trust or depend on the FedGov to care for you in a time of disaster. And, reports stated that 50 million people were affected by Hurricane Sandy - there is no way that the FedGov can possibly care for that many people in a disaster.
We can all go a good long time without food - some say people can go weeks or even a month, without food. However, without a source of clean, safe drinking water, we'll all perish in short order - this is a fact! While its a good idea to store some bottled water, I wouldn't want to only have that as my source of drinking water. Some excellent filters are made by Clearly Filtered water filters. I recently received three of their products for testing: One is their Athlete drinking bottle, another a military-type canteen, and lastly a straw - all filter waster so that it is safe to drink. The Bottle can filter up to 100-gallons of water, removing approximately 99.9% of many nasty things that can make you ill or even kill you. It filters 99.99% of Giardia, Crypto, bacteria and viruses - ditto for the Canteen and Straw.
I set about to test all three of these products over more than a month - along with the assistance of my wife. She took the Athlete bottle to school - where she works as an elementary grade teacher. Living in the boonies, we have well water - which tastes much better than city water, that is loaded with chlorine. Most folks who live and work in the town, don't taste the chlorine because they are used to it. However, if you depend on well water, you can smell and taste the chlorine in city water, so my wife would usually take a bottle of water from home each day to drink while at work. She decided to give the Athlete water filter bottle a good work out - she said, and I concur, that the first few bottles full of filtered watered had a bit of a "taste" to it - after that, the water was clearly "filtered" and had no strange taste. I found the same true with the Straw and Canteen - after a use or two, the "taste" was gone, and we were drinking great water.
The Athlete bottle will last up to 6-months or 100-gallons of water - and I drink a lot of water each day. The Canteen can also filter up to 100-gallons of water or 6-months of use. The straw, which is very small, can filter up to 25-gallons of water. The Athlete bottle and canteen replaces up to 800+ plastic water bottles - stop and think about that for a moment. I don't know many people who store 800+ bottles of water in their homes - that's a lot of room they would take up. One water bottle or canteen can replace 800+ water bottles - this is a win-win situation in my book. Of course, these water filters do not filter salt water, so don't attempt this. However, if there is a mud puddle in your yard, or standing water any place, you can filter it so it will safely take out all that nasty stuff that will make you sick or even kill you. And, right now, back East, they have plenty of water around - but they just can't drink it. Also, the Clearly Filtered water bottles are 100% BPA free, if this is a concern to you.
Living in Western Oregon, we always have plenty of water - we get about 48-inches of rain each year - we have two seasons - one is about four months of beautiful summer sunshine, and then 8-months of rain (with a little snow) so there is plenty of water around to drink if we ever had to bug out - however, it simply isn't safe to drink from a stream, creek or standing water - without first filtering it. I tested the Straw, and it was difficult to get centered over a body of water and drink it. So, the solution was simple, just take my canteen cup and scoop the water into it, and then drink the water from the canteen cup through the straw - piece of cake!
I also tested some dirty looking water that was standing along a logging road - not something you'd even consider drinking. I placed my Canteen on the side and let the dirt water flow into the canteen - and then, just to be sure the water was actually "filtered" I squirted some of it out before drinking it - and it came out crystal clear - so I took the drive and drank so - no nasty taste and it tasted great!
Just think of what people back East would be giving to have their own source of filtered water right now? FEMA tells everyone to be prepared - and they used to say that folks should have three days worth of food, now they are saying to have two weeks worth of food and water. Too bad they didn't take their own advice and have enough food and water stored to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Anyone who depends on FEMA or the FedGov for anything is a fool in my book! While the Red Cross does some good, did they really think people were gonna survive on cookies and hot chocolate? I just read an article where the Red Cross said their response was "near perfect" to Hurricane Sandy. Huh?
People who had only debit/credit cards of their welfare debit cards, were out of luck, when it came time to purchase food or water, in grocery stores that were able to open, even without power. The debit machines couldn't work without power, so cash was king. Take that to heart, even if a grocery store can open, if they don't have power, they can't take your credit or debit cards - you have to have cash!
Don't wait for the next disaster to hit, or for your power to go off. Start storing some extra food and water, and make sure you have an alternate source of fresh drinking water. The Clearly Filtered Athlete's bottle is on-sale right now for $34.99, the Canteen is also $34.99 and the Straw is $19.99. Additionally, if you'll go to the Clearly Filtered web site, you'll find many more of their water filters that you might want to consider purchasing. In my neck of the woods, a store-bought bottle of water is about a buck or more - and that's a lot of money in my book. To be honest, I've rarely drank bottled water - I don't see any sense in paying that kind of money for water - when I can get it for free at home from my tap. If you purchased the Athlete or Canteen filters, you could drink 100-gallons of fresh, clean water for $34.99 - that would be about $400 in bottled water, and odds are, that bottled water came from a water tap, just like you have at home - so you aren't gaining much in the way of "safe" drinking water. With a Clearly Filtered product, you know you are drinking extremely safe water, and at a bargain price too boot. Plus, the filters in the Bottle and Canteen can be replaced, so you don't have to purchase the entire product - just replace the filter, and save money.
Don't depend on FEMA, the Red Cross or anyone else for a source of safe drinking water - take responsibility for your own needs and the needs of your family and do the smart and right thing - make sure you have a way of obtaining safe drinking water. The Clearly Filtered water filters are a step in the right direction. Check out their web site for complete information on all their products. You'll be glad you did! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Authors: Multiple. Edited by John Ringo and Brian M. Thomsen
Copyright Date: 2010
Publisher: Baen Publishing Enterprises
ISBN: 978-1-4391-3347-7 (also 978-1439134603--mass market paperback)
Suitable for children? Not young ones. Teens depending on maturity. (Parental screening recommended.)

Citizens is a collection of fifteen military science fiction short stories. From a prepper's perspective these stories are not going to provide in depth detail for making provision for an uncertain future, but they do illustrate the mentality required to survive, or at least succeed, in combat.

It should probably be noted that in several of these stories success does not equate with survival. There are heroes in these stories who give their lives so that others can survive. Some of these stories, and particularly "The Long Watch" by Robert Heinlein, are very powerful. Even several weeks after reading it my throat still tightens up thinking about the choices Johnny Dahlquist made
and the consequences he accepted.

It should also be noted that other stories are downright funny. "Allamagoosa" by Eric Frank Russell is a largely humorous jab at the bureaucratic side of a military organization. "The Question" by Patrick A. Vanner, while largely dealing with the delicate matter of introductory contact and negotiation with a completely foreign culture, ends on a humorous note due to the naiveté of a

What makes this book most worthwhile is the philosophical side. These are thought provoking stories about how decisions are made and how one life may be valued in comparison to another. These are stories in which responsibility has a very tangible meaning and consequences reverberate through entire continents. These are stories for a warrior to ponder, and to the extent that a prepper anticipates the role of a warrior in their future this book has merit.

Given that this is science fiction, most of the stories involve factors such as space travel, alien life forms, artificial intelligence, genetically modified hominids and other such dreams for the future. However, those details do not detract from the value of the philosophical issues which arise. The question of the value of a genetically modified hominid is very much parallel to the historical treatment of minorities, lower classes and slaves.

For one who would survive in an uncertain future these stories provide examples of adapting to situations in order to stay alive. Both "Exploration Team" by Murray Leinster and "Neither Sleet, Nor Snow, Nor Alien Invasion..." by Dave Freer provide clear contrasts of those who will adapt and those who would not. Both of those stories involve creative measures for coping with deadly alien species. For one who would step back for the sake of perspective, the issues involved are comparable to different methods of warfare which have evolved over the centuries and over different continents.

For the most part these stories are free from profanity and sexuality. There are no graphic sex scenes, but there are references made in a couple of the stories. A parent wishing to screen this collection should take a look at "Under the Hammer" by David Drake as that one is the roughest one in the lot. It is still substantially better than much of what is published anymore, but it
does have some expletives, references to deviant sexuality (worth noting that the protagonist is repulsed) and graphic deaths.

Overall this is a book for the guys, and probably best suited for a young man considering enlisting.

[JWR Adds: It is noteworthy that one of the short stories included in the anthology, "The Price" was penned by SurvivalBlog's own Editor at Large, Michael Z. Williamson.]

Monday, December 3, 2012

Living out in the boonies, we often have the power go out, especially in the winter months, when trees fall over power lines. More often than not, when the power goes out, it is usually at night, and on a weekend, and it takes repair crews hours, and at times, even days, to get the power restored. When the lights go out in the country, its dark - real dark! I have flashlights in every room of our home, and I can usually just reach for a light when the power goes off, so I'm good to go, in order to find my kerosene lanterns or other lights. However, I remember when I was "young and dumb" and I fell into the trap of buying cheap flashlights - only to be let down by them when they were needed the most in an emergency. And, to be honest, the old flashlights didn't give very much light, nor did they give light for very long.
With modern technology today, flashlights have come a long way, and you can get a really bright flashlight, that runs on AA or AAA batteries, that throws a super-bright light a good long distance. And, living out in the country, this is a good thing to have, in case you need to check outside of your home for things that might go bump in the night. However, I don't always need "that" much bright light inside the house, just to light-up the living room or the bedroom, or out camping, to light-up a tent.
The PakLite, 9-Volt LED flashlight I'm proud to say, it is assembled here in my home state of Oregon. PakLite was born from necessity in 1999, and invented by then 15 year old, Ben Henry, when his brother, Barclay, decided to hike the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail and needed a light-weight flashlight that would last from Mexico to Canada! Armed with two unbreakable LEDs and a switch, it simply snapped to the top of a 9-volt battery and lit the entire trip for Barclay. It couldn't have been more efficient on power AND weight. With no extra bulbs or batteries to carry, it was loved by others along the trail as well.
Okay, I've gotta admit it, when I received the PakLite sample, I was more than a little skeptical about how well it would really work as a flashlight. I mean, come on, we're talking nothing more than two little LEDs in a plastic housing, with a switch that snaps on top of a 9-volt battery. Could the darn thing actually work as advertised, and would it provide enough light to see in the dark and light-up a dark room at night? Well, I'm happy to report, this neat little invention works and works extremely well.
What we have is a little flashlight that will run on "high" for 30- hours, and on the "low" setting for 600-hours. No, that's not a misprint, it will run for 600-hours on low - giving you enough light so you are left in a dark room when the power goes off - and we all know that, sooner or later, your power will go off - you'll have a lighted room.  Now, if you purchase a Lithium 9-volt battery and they are a little more expensive than standard 9-volt batteries, the PakLite will run for 1,200-hours on "low" and 80-hours on the "high" setting! I can't think of any other flashlight that even comes close to this. I put the PakLite to the test, and if actually ran a bit longer than 30-hours on the high setting, and I replaced the battery, and tested it again on the low setting - and I completely lost track on how many hours it ran on the low setting - but it was on for more than 3-weeks, before I finally noticed it had went dead!
The sample PakLite I received has the glow-in-the-dark cap attachment, and it will glow for 12-hours after being exposed to a light source. So, should your power go off in the middle of the night, you will be able to easily find the your PakLite because it will be glowing green on your nightstand or dresser, or an end table. Kool! You can also get a little belt carrying case, and have the PakLite with you at all times - another clever idea. On top of this, you can get the PakLite in a number of different colors including Blue, that is extremely bright, green with is the brightest light, infrared for use with night vision equipment, oran is a soft light, red to preserve your vision at night, turquoise is also extremely bright, ultraviolet for forensic work, yellow that won't attract bugs and of course, the white light, which is best for all around use.
PakLite also has some other clever items that you might want to consider, they have a headband holder that is great for hands-free work and holds up to three PakLites. You could also mount a PakLite on your bicycle with rubber bands so other vehicles can see you at night. With Velcro, you could attach a PakLite to just about anything. Over 4,000 PakLites were in use by the US Air Force Special Operations Command in Iraq. The American Red Cross, US Navy and FEMA also uses the PakLite during emergencies. There is also a 25-year warranty on the PakLite and the LED bulbs will burn for 100,000 hours - so they should never need replacing.
The PakLite is easy to operate - it comes with a toggle switch - one setting is "low" one is "off" and one is "high" - what could easier? They also offer a PakLite version with a flashing mode - and that would be great for campers or hunters - if you got lost, it would flash for hundreds of hours, allowing a search and rescue unit to find you. This is another one of those "gee, why didn't I think of that" inventions, and it is simple and in my book, simple means it works longer and better. Retail on the PakLite is $24.99 and it is one great bargain if you ask me - if you've ever been in the dark for a couple days, due to a power outage, you'd give anything for a long-lasting source of light, wouldn't you? My oldest daughter confiscated my sample after I was done testing it, now I have to get another one for myself - I might even pick one up for the wife, and she can keep it in her purse. If you're serious about survival, or if you don't like being the dark when the power goes off, you need the PakLite. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL by Mark Owen
©2012 by Mark Owen,
Published by Penguin Group, New York, New York
ISBN: 9789-0-525-95372-2
Available at your favorite bookseller

Note: "Mark Owen" is a pen name used to protect the real identity of the author. [He was recently "outed" in a widely publicized incident by Fox News.]

This well-publicized book is the story of one man’s wish to be a US Navy SEAL since childhood, how he realized his dream, and the reasons he left the service to return to civilian life in Alaska. Wrapped up in this well-written narrative is the systematic mission of a handpicked team of the best of our best to finally kill or capture Osama bin Laden. This was the most publicized mission of the author, but not the only one. He gives us great detail on his other missions that you will find just as interesting.
The author has written the proverbial “can’t set it down page-turner.” I began reading on the second day of recovering from surgery with painkillers nearby. I did not use any. I was pulled into the story and read it through to the end in one day. It is that good.

One of the revelations for me is on page 141 in the description of battlefield political correctness. Once again, politicians have emasculated our military and possibly insured our defeat in the long war against Islamist extremists.

The author has included detailed descriptions of the weapons chosen, and why the choices were made. I was not aware until reading the book that each SEAL carries a personal arsenal based on his mission and what works best for him. Some weapons are customized by military armorers.

We learn of the requirements to be a SEAL that do not stop once you are selected. The training requirements are forever as long as you wear the uniform. The personal sacrifice of being on call at all times is described, and should be better publicized for these extraordinary men. At the end of the book is a list of the casualties suffered since September 11, 2001.

There are twenty-four color and black and white photographs in the book showing Osama bin Laden’s compound, the weaponry carried by the author, and much more.
This is an interesting, timely story by an extraordinary man and his comrades. I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan © 2006
Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston MA
ISBN 9780-618-34697-4 (Hardback)
Available at your favorite bookseller in paperback and e-book formats.

If you remove the dust jacket on a hardback edition of this book and you see two hard faces staring back at you. They are a man and a woman enduring the drought of the 1930s in what is now known as the Dust Bowl of America. It is also known as the worst manmade environmental disaster in our history. The Dust Bowl is the most significant weather event of the 20th Century.

The drought came as settlers were attempting to grow crops of cotton and wheat in the seemingly endless prairie. They used their metal plows and tractors to break the rich, black soil to plant their seed. Their techniques worked for many years, but the drought took advantage of the deep furrows and desiccated the soil down deep. No crops meant no money. With no societal safety nets, thousands of people had to leave.

The story is told through the eyes of six families and their communities before and after the calamity. The author explains the allure of the region and the impact farmers had on a fragile ecosystem. Going back several centuries, we are told of how the plains Indians lived with the land with minimal impact even in dry years. This was prime grazing land for buffalo before being slaughtered for their hides. The farmers came in and thought they were in charge. They learned a hard lesson.

I have driven through the panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma known as No Man’s Land and it is easy to see why the name is appropriate. My wife describes the area as desolate, and as usual, she is correct. Yet, there are still people choosing this area as their home.

The recent PBS documentary on the Dust Bowl features comments from the author of this book, but only skims the surface of the story. You need to read the book to hear the stories of the people involved. They are tough, heartbreaking, instructional, and inspirational. There are many tips for preppers throughout the book as people describe what they had to do to survive. These folks lived and died in a manmade disaster without FEMA. The military and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were essentially useless. You cannot shoot a drought, or grow trees without rain. The situation finally triggered a mass migration to California as depicted in The Grapes of Wrath, which is another great read.
The book has several photos built into the narrative helping the story. A good index and thirteen pages of notes fill out a great book on a memorable piece of our history.

Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out, by Jon Robertson
Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, Copyright: 2005
ISBN-13:  978-1-4169-0824-1
ISBN-10:  1-4169-0824-2
Available on Amazon or eBay for under $10

We often say that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and that holds true for this little gem.  Measuring about half the dimensions, length and width, of a regular book, you can see Apocalypse Chow doesn’t follow the rules and isn’t the usual heavy tome full of hundreds of recipes.  The recipes begin on page 112 and there are less than 70 of them.  Apocalypse Chow can be viewed as a jumping off place for what to do with all those beans, all those cans, and all that rice and pasta that you have purchased if you are not much of an inventive home cook.

Apocalypse Chow inspires a love it or hate it reaction. Again, if you are looking for an ordinary cookbook, move along, there are many out there that are more comprehensive and complete. That being said, Jon Robertson wrote this book after he and his wife decided to ride out Hurricane Bonnie and found it to be somewhat of a personal catastrophe. Power went out, they ate peanut butter crackers, and became surly with each other in the hot, humid, and dark aftermath. They learned that true preparations mean more than “stashing a few extra gallons of water and finding your manual can opener.”  They determined that in the future, they wanted to, in those well-worn words, thrive not simply survive, and they figured it out.

I enjoy the subtle cleverness of this book. The title, of course, is a play on the Vietnam epic war movie “Apocalypse Now.”  “The Well-Tempered Pantry” chapter is coyly named after Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier” (or harpsichord). Other chapter names referencing idioms or modern culture are Power to the People, The Calm Before the Storm, Recipes for Disaster, Cooking up a Storm, Just Rewards, and Are We Having Fun Yet?

Some people have groused about the fact this is a vegetarian cookbook. The author and his wife live a vegetarian lifestyle.  That is one of the strengths of this book. In grid down, eat your fresh and frozen foods first or whip up some of these recipes and add a little meat to them. Add some of that canned chicken, Vienna sausage, canned ham or your choice that you’ve squirreled away. (SurvivalBlog readers hopefully have a healthy herb garden growing to cut the monotony and add freshness, vitamins, and taste dimensions to canned and dried foods. Herbs are among the easiest, low-maintenance plants you can grow.)
If your family doesn’t regularly home cook or use your preparation foods, this book can help you get started. It somewhat assumes a pantry with non-electric cooking utensils and seasonings. However, there are handy lists of tools and food items. Someone in your family will have to be in charge of food preparation and this book would make a nice gift to that person.

There are pantry lists and resource lists. One interesting aspect is how the author lists various interesting food products you can find in different ethnic stores. And last, one of my favorite recipes is a black bean patty on page 120 that ends up looking like a sausage patty. Adding BBQ sauce, catsup, teriyaki sauce, or even pancake syrup for a sauce finishes the dish. It’s that versatile. I added a bit of salt to improve the taste because I prefer salty. The patty resembles a pan-fried breakfast potato patty. Some grated onion and even olive oil for frying make this a very appealing little dish.

I’ve prepared several of the dishes and some recipes seem to be simply variations of other recipes in the cookbook, such as a couple of the pasta recipes. However, all in all, I enjoy rereading this little book over and over which Includes main dishes, salads, and dessert recipes. New ideas for combining pantry food, vegetarianism, and the author’s sense of humor are pleasant and entertaining.  Apocalypse Chow is a different  kind of cookbook,  and I cheerfully recommend it.

I've been shooting Buffalo Bore brand ammunition for about two years. The owner, Tim Sundles, never ceases to amaze me with all the new loads he comes out with - not just for self-defense, but great loads for hunting as well. What I also like about Buffalo Bore is that Sundles doesn't use special pressure barrels to test his velocities, he uses his own guns, from his own collection, so you are getting real-world velocities. Additionally, Sundles lists the various firearms he tested his ammo in - I'm not aware of any other ammo maker that does this.

First up is the new .38 Super +P load, with the Barnes Lead Free 124-grain all copper hollow point. Now, I hate to admit this, but I had never fired a .38 Super before I got this load. Over the years, I had plenty of opportunity to buy a few 1911s chambered in .38 Super, but always passed - ammo wasn't available in a lot of gun shops, and most of what was available were FMJ loads - not ideal for self-defense. I know many years ago, the .38 Super was really popular south of our border in Mexico - but those days are long gone, as legal private gun ownership is all but a thing of the past in Mexico. I understand that the .38 Super is still very popular down in Texas, though. So, I had to borrow a .38 Super 1911 from a friend to test this new Buffalo Bore load. Make no mistake, you can't and shouldn't attempt to fire the .38 Super in a .38 Auto chambered pistol - and especially a +P loaded 38 Super - you're inviting trouble if you do.

Many folks believe that the .38 Super is nothing more than a slightly hotter 9mm round - well, not exactly. And when we are talking a .38 Super +P load - we're talking a pretty hot-stepping load - it is in the same ballpark as the .357 SIG loads, in my opinion.  What we have in this newest loading from Buffalo Bore, is the very popular Barnes TAC-XP bullet, which is proving itself to be an excellent manstopper - this bullet stays together - there is no lead core - the bullet is a solid copper hollow point, that penetrates deeply and really expands.  Sundles also uses a flash retarding powder, to help prevent loss of your night vision when you fire this round. No one else is doing this to my knowledge. My chronograph gave-up the ghost sometime ago, and I never replaced it, so I'll just give you the velocities Sundles gets from his handguns he used in his testing. In a Colt 1911 Government Model, he was getting 1,409 feet per second - that's moving. In a Taurus PT 1911 - he was getting 1,288- feet per second, and in an EAA witness, with a 4.25-inch barrel, he was getting 1,228-feet per second. I fired this ammo into some water-filled milk jugs - I lined-up three just in a row, and the Barnes bullet easily penetrated all three milk jugs - so I had to add a fourth milk jug - and the Barnes bullet was caught in the fourth milk jug -and it expanded perfectly and retained 100% of it's weight. What more can you ask for in a self-defense round? If you own a .38 Super chambered pistol, this is s round you need for self-defense - bar none!

Next up is the .454 Casull round, with a 250-grain XPB Barnes bullet - and the difference between the TAC-XP and the XPB is that, the XPB is designed for hunting purposes, it will penetrate a little deeper and not expand quite as much - and when hunting big game, you want deep penetration to reach the vital organs of big game. In Sundles testing, he found that this load will penetrate roughly 24-inches, depending on the impact velocity and the particular bones that may be struck in the game animal. Again, I had to borrow a .454 Casull chambered revolver to test this round. I placed 6 milk jugs in a row, and they didn't stop this round - all I can say is, this one really penetrates. It would be ideal for large deer and black bear, and even bigger critters like elk if you stick to broad-side shots.

The XPB bullet is long-for-weight, and it crowds the case capacity, so Buffalo Bore wasn't able to use their flash suppressed powder in this load. I don't have a problem with this at all - I don't hunt in the dark - it's against the law, so I'm not worried about getting blinded by the flash. I barely noticed the flash in my own testing in daylight.  Sundles is getting close to 1,700-feet per second in a Freedom Arms 6-inch revolver, and that is really moving along a 250-grain bullet. If you own a .454 Casull chambered handgun, you need to check this round out for your next big game hunt.

Okay, I was never all that interested in the .45 Colt round, until my friend--and fellow gun writer--Sheriff Jim Wilson turned me onto this load in a Ruger revolver many years ago. You can load the .45 Colt to power levels above a .44 Mag if you handload, and you can do it safely, too. Buffalo Bore came out with a 255-grain soft cast hollow point, gas check load, which was designed for self-defense. Yes, this load is hotter than other factory loads, which are a bit sedate if you ask me, but it is perfectly safe to shoot in any .45 Colt chambered handgun according to Sundles.

This new .45 Colt self-defense load with this particular bullet, was designed to mushroom at speeds as low as 750-feet per second, but it will still penetrate about 18-inches, depending on the angle of the shot and whether or not bone is hit. Many .45 Colt factory loads have a round nose bullet, and they just slip right through tissue and bone without really imparting the energy needed to put an end to a dangerous self-defense situation. Additionally, this bullet was designed with a special crimp groove and the case mouth is heavily crimped so the bullet will not jump the crimp and tie-up your revolver. Also, a flash suppressant powder was used in this load.

I tried this load through a S&W Mountain Gun, and it wasn't bad in the recoil department at all. I note that Tim Sundles was getting 983-feet per second from the same gun. This round is much more pleasant to fire than any .357 Magnum load - and it will penetrate deeper that a .357 Mag JHP load and probably be a better manstopper. While many folks don't carry single-action revolvers for self-defense these days, this would be a great load to stoke in any single-action revolver or a S&W Mountain Gun. Many folks in the Southwest still carry single-action revolvers when they are out backpacking or on horseback, and this is the round they should have if they expect to face two-legged critters - and it wouldn't be a half bad round for medium sized game, which brings us to the next Buffalo Bore load.

The .45 Colt HEAVY +P "Deer Grenade" round is a massive hollow nosed 260-grain cast bullet with a gas check, traveling a velocities from 1,449-feet per second up to almost 1,900-feet per second, depending on the handgun or rifle you are firing it through. What's nice with this bullet is that it won't lead your barrel because it is gas checked - and if you fire a lot of cast bullets, you know how quickly a barrel can lead and what a pain it is to clean your barrel. Buffalo Bore designed this .45 Colt load to be the world's premier deer load - and I'm sure not going to pick a fight with Sundles over this - I believe him!

At an impact velocity of 1,100-feet this bullet will mushroom to about .80 caliber and should punch right through any deer with a broadside shot - that's great in the mushrooming area - that is serious expansion. At the 1,500-feet per second velocity, the bullet will still mushroom and some of the mushroom will fragment and send those pieces flying through the deer. At the 1,900-feet per second velocity, the entire mushroomed bullet will turn to shrapnel and send bullet particles throughout the deer doing horrific damage and probably push right through the deer. This load wasn't designed just for deer hunting, it can also be used on black beer or wild hogs and if you've ever hunting hogs, you know how hard they are to put down.

Now, a word of warning, and be take this advice to heart: This load is not designed for use in all .45 Colt chambered firearms. Use this round ONLY in the following firearms:

All Ruger large frame revolvers chambered in .45 Colt or .454 Casull, but don't use it in a smaller framed New Model Vaquero.
All 1892 Winchesters and all copies of such made after 1920.
All Winchester and Marlin 1894 models.
Any break-open action like a T/C or Handi-rifle.
Any falling block action such as the Sharps or Winchester 1895.
Any Freedom Army Model 83 or 97.

So, take this to heart, and do NOT use this round in any other firearms!!!!

No one else is making a round that can compare to this one from Buffalo Bore, if you have one of the aforementioned firearms, do yourself a favor and get some of this ammo and give it a try. This isn't plinking ammo. This is serious, +P hunting ammo.

Next up is the new .460 S&W lead free, 275-gr Barnes XPB load - and again, I don't have a revolver chambered in this caliber - but I'd sure love to have one - maybe one of these days, when funds permit, so I had to borrow this S&W revolver to test this load. As mentioned above, this is the XPB bullet from Barnes, an all-copper hollow point, but it was designed to penetrate deeper and expand a little bit less - great for reaching the vitals on big game animals. S&W advertises this round as the flattest shooting handgun round in the world, and I have no reason to doubt this claim.

This load at 275-grains, doesn't recoil nearly as much as some of the heavier loads in this caliber, and that's a nice thing. However, there is a lot of muzzle blast coming out of the sides of this revolver, so don't fire it with someone standing next to you. Tim Sundles has this round at 1,946-feet per second from his S&W Performance Center 10.5-inch revolver, and that is really moving. This round would be great for elk, moose or some of the bigger bears. And, when hunting those types of big game, you really want a load that penetrates. Again, I lined-up 8 water-filled milk jugs and fired this round into them - never did find the bullet - it's buried in a mountainside. So, we're looking at some deep penetration. 

Last up, for this article (and there are more new loadings from Buffalo Bore, but I'll save them for another article) is the .45-70 +P 350-grain Barnes TSX FN. This is really a hot-stepping .45-70 load. Pay attention that this is a +P load , and it is NOT safe to shoot in just any old firearm chambered in this caliber. So, here's a list of the guns it is safe to shoot in:

All Marlin 1895 made since 1972.
All Browning 1885 and 1886 copies,
Rossi Rio Grande.
New England Arms Handi-Rifle.
T/C Encore.
All falling block actions made of modern steel such as the Ruger #1 and #3, Shiloh, Christian and Pedersoli Sharps
All Winchester 1886 iterations made since 1915 and all Siamese Mauser bolt actions.

Now, if in doubt, go over this list again, before firing this +P .45-70 load in your firearms...and if you have any questions, contact Buffalo Bore Ammunition before ordering this ammo. This load is identical in exterior dimensions - but it is rated as +P - so be advised.

This Barnes all-copper, expanding 350-grain TSX-FN (flat nose) bullet will penetrate about as deeply as a typical 400-grain load core partition expanding bullet, yet gives the benefit of a lighter bullet, which means less recoil. Plus, it will shooter flatter. Out of Sundles' 1985 Marlin 22-inch lever-action rifle, he was getting 1,931-feet per second. I tested this load, and although I couldn't chronograph it, I have no reason to doubt the velocity Sundles was getting. I fired this round into a dirt mound, and I dug and dug - and never could find the round - it must be on the way to China because it penetrated so deeply.

With this +P .45-70 round from Buffalo Bore, you can have a "one-gun, one round" that will be capable of taking any and all big-game in the USA - including bison and brown bears. I have no doubt about this.

There are plenty of other newly developed loadings from Buffalo Bore that I'll cover in another article. Tim Sundles does not sit on his past accomplishments - he is constantly developing new loads and he actually tests his loads in the field when he goes hunting. As of late, he's been hard to catch in the office because he's been out hunting and testing his newest loads on game.

I've had some SurvivalBlog readers e-mail me and ask, how is it that I can test all these different loads in one day? Well, let's be realistic here, I don't test these loads in one day, this is over three months or longer - Buffalo Bore doesn't develop all these loads and send them to me at one time - it's a process that takes a lot of time. I have to actually get out in the field and fire these loads - and in some cases, I have to borrow firearms in some of these calibers so I can test the loads - it is a time-consuming process. I also have to take notes on all the calibers I test, and refer to my notes for articles like this.

If you aren't satisfied with standard factory loadings, and you want a little more velocity, penetration and knock-down power, then you owe it to yourself to check out the Buffalo Bore web site to see what they have to offer. They truly do have a huge offering on some of the most popular calibers around. And Tim Sundles tells me that SurvivalBlog readers are some of his best customers, as well as some of his most loyal repeat customers. Similarly, I've found that SurvivalBlog readers are a very intelligent bunch of folks who know what they like and don't like. Be sure to check out the Buffalo Bore web site, I'm betting you'll find something there for your self-defense, hunting and survival needs. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, November 19, 2012

As I've mentioned before in my SurvivalBlog articles, I'm am swamped with requests to do firearms articles on particular firearms. While I would love to accommodate all the requests I get, it is impossible. I know a lot of folks believe that gun writers get guns for free to write about, that simply isn't the case. We have to request a firearm from gun companies, I either have to return it, or buy it when I'm done testing them. As much as I'd love to purchase all the firearms I write about, I can't do it - my finances don't allow it - not even close. So, I return many of the firearms I write about. And, many times, I have to pay for the return shipping, which means, it actually cost me money to do an article - I'm a volunteer editor at SurvivalBlog, receive no pay. So, as much as I'd love to write about all the firearms that you request me to review, I simply can't do it. What I will do is, from time-to-time is, request some of the newest firearms that I think would be great for survival purposes - street, wilderness or end of the world survival.
I've also mentioned before that I'm a habitual gun trader - and there is one very good reason for this - I don't have the funds to purchase all the firearms I'd like to purchase, so I do a lot of gun trading. I honestly don't own as many firearms as most folks believe. So, with this said, let's take a look at one of my latest gun trades. I recently ran into a great deal on a brand-new DPMS AR-15 lower receiver, with a fixed butt stock and fully assembled. My local gun shop also had a used M4 Carbine upper receiver, with the complete bolt carrier group. So, I did some horse trading, and walked out with the DPMS and unknown make of upper M4 Carbine receiver group for some testing.
The DPMS lower receiver had the fixed butt stock as mentioned. And, just when I needed a telescoping 4 or 6 position butt stock - my local gun shop didn't have one in-stock. However, they did have a banned no position "telescoping" stock - which means its basically a fixed position stock, but it was going to look better on my project M4 than the fixed butt stock that came with the DPMS lower receiver. Also, the upper receiver I got in the trade - someone had did a camo job on it - spray paint - and it was painted in blue and gray - I'm assuming this was meant to be some sort of urban camo job - and whoever did it, didn't do a very good job.
The first thing I did was swap out the fixed butt stock for the "telescoping" butt stock on the lower receiver, not a problem. I examined the lower receiver and everything was working as it should. I attached the upper receiver to the lower and it actually fit together snuggly - GREAT! I took the gun apart and checked the bolt and bolt carrier group, to make sure everything was there and working - it was. I examined the barrel for obstructions - none to be found. However, the barrel and chamber weren't chrome plated. In my wet climate, I prefer a chromed chamber and barrel to help prevent rust. Also, this upper had the 11-inch barrel with the permanently attached 5 1/2-inch flash suppressor, and I've always just like the look of this set-up. Only thing is, with the shorter barrel, you don't have the accuracy and longer range shooting abilities, as you'd have with a 16-inch barrel. Still, you're good to go for a couple hundred yards. This set-up is really meant for close-up use and not longer range shooting. The upper receiver is of the A1 configuration, which means the A1 rear sight, which is a bit harder to adjust for windage than the A2 sights are, and there is no brass deflector - which isn't a problem for me, as I'm a right-handed shooter. I cleaned and lubed the upper and put the gun back together and took it out for a simple function test - everything worked great.
Next up was a camo spray paint job of my own, and I used an OD green spray paint with a desert camo spray paint. All things considered, the gun looked pretty good - at least it looked better than it did with the upper receiver with the blue and gray camo paint job did. I also used a drill bit to open-up the 200-yard rear sight peep hole - I just found it to be a little bit too small for close-up and person CQB work - it took all of 30-seconds to open-up that peep hole aperture - the longer range peep sight aperture was fine. After the spray paint camo job was dry, I took the gun out to the range for some serious testing. I had a good variety of ammo on-hand from Black Hills Ammunition, Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Winchester. The first thing I did was run three 30-round magazines of the Winchester 5.56mm 55-grain FMJ ammo through the M4 as fast as I could pull the trigger and change out magazines - this really got the gun hot and it is a good function test. There were zero malfunctions at all!
During hunting season, there are a lot of deer hunters out in my area, so I restricted my accuracy testing to only 50 yards, with a mountain for a backstop - I didn't want any rounds going downrange where they shouldn't be going, and having a hunter return fire on me. I don't do a lot of long range shooting during hunting season. But a 50-yard target would give me some idea as to how accurate this little parts gun would be. I tried some of the Buffalo Bore .223 Remington 69-gr Sniper ammo - and I was getting nice cloverleaf clusters for my efforts - shooting over a rest over the hood of my rig. Second up was the Black Hills 68-grain Heavy Match ammo - again, nice little groups of around an inch. I was starting to get impressed with this little M4 parts gun. I'll take an inch group with this little gun, at 50-yards all day long - that computes to two inches at 100 yards. Last up was the Winchester 55-gr 5.56mm white box ammo - and I not only got one inch groups out of this ammo, I also had some 3-shot one hole groups - which was well under half an inch. At first, I thought I had missed the target with a shot or two. I repeated my accuracy testing, only to find out, I was actually getting some very small, one-hole groups with 3-shots - and we're talking one small hole - not a clover-leaf hole, where all shots are touching - but one hole, and not a "ragged" hole - one neat little hole.
I repeated the accuracy testing with the Buffalo Bore and Black Hills loads, knowing that both of these loads have always been extremely accurate in any ARs I've tested them in. I continued to get the clover-leaf patterns with both of these loads. I went back to the Winchester white box 5.56mm 55-grain load, and continued to get the smallest groups with this load. So, I'm assuming that this barrel liked the 55-gain better than the heavier loads from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore. So, you should always test various brands of ammo, as well as bullet weights, to see which loads shoot more accurate in your guns. I was really surprised that the less-expensive Winchester 55-grain 5.56mm rounds shot this fantastic in this little parts M4. I like to use Winchester white box for a lot of my function testing.
Okay, so how would the little parts M4 shoot with another brand of .223 ammo? I dug out some Black Hills 55-grain remanufactured .223 ammo and ran that through the gun - it too shot one hole groups at 50-yards. So, this confirmed my belief that this barrel really liked 55-grain bullet weights the best. I also ran three 30-rd magazines full of the Black Hills remanufactured ammo through the gun as fast as I could pull the trigger - the gun got hot, but no malfunctions - this little gun was a gem. And, to those of you who don't believe in remanufactured ammo - I've never had a single problem with any Black Hills remanufactured ammo - not one round. That can't be said for all remanufactured ammo. I once had an Ultramax .40S&W round let loose in a Glock 23 - it blew the case head off the brass - and I had to dig the case out of the chamber. I wrote Ultramax about this twice - never got a reply - so they weren't too concerned about some bad ammo - I'll never use Ultramax remanufactured in any of my firearms again. I know that Black Hills hand checks each and every round of ammo they make - even remanufactured ammo!
I only wished this little project gun had a chromed bore and chamber - I mean, I can live without it, but in my wet climate, it just means I have to keep an eye on the barrel and keep a light coat of Barricade in the barrel and chamber to help prevent rust. I know many folks prefer a non-chromed barrel, as they get a little better accuracy from their ARs than from chromed ones. But unless you're shooting in high-powered rifle competitions, you should go with the chromed barrel and bore in my humble opinion. My total investment in this parts gun, not counting the spray paint that I had on-hand, was only $520 - and that is a real bargain for an M4. I wouldn't hesitate to take this gun into a gun fight, or use it for long-term survival. The upper was obviously well-used, which meant, at least to my way of thinking, that whoever owned it before shot it a lot - so I figured it would work for me. As for the brand-new lower receiver from DPMS - I knew it would work, too. Whenever I look at a completed "parts AR" I take a really close look at everything - some folks just don't know what they're doing when they assemble guns - and just because the parts all fit together, doesn't mean the parts were "fitted" to specifications and it can be dangerous to shoot those guns. So, be advised, if you happen upon any parts ARs - take it to a gunsmith and let them check it out before you shoot it. I felt confident in my abilities as a trained military armorer on the AR, that I knew this little M4 would work properly. However, if you have any doubts, take your AR to a qualified gunsmith and have them check it out before you shoot it.
One of these days, I'm going to replace the non-telescoping butt stock, with a 4-position telescoping butt stock. I could go with the 6-position telescoping butt stock, but with the carbine handguard on the upper, and the barrel/flash suppressor set-up, I think the 4-position butt stock will work out better, and the gun is fast handling, too - it only weighs slightly more than 6-pounds. It would make a great bedside gun for home protection, or for use in a survival situation. And, for a $520 investment, it's hard to find much fault in this little outstanding shooter. A person could do a lot worse, and best thing is, it really loved the less expensive 55-grain bullet loads, for best accuracy. A parts AR that always goes "bang" when the trigger is pulled, and outstanding accuracy...what more can you ask for? - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, November 12, 2012

The World Ends in Hickory Hollow by Ardath Mayhar
Copyright 1985 and 2007 Publisher: The Borgo Press, An Imprint of Wildside Press
Audio, e-book, Nook & Secure PDF available
Suitable for children? Yes, by age 10+, depending on the child? (I recommend that parents read it first to evaluate.)

There are two things about this book which strike me as remarkable for the genre:
First, this is a book written by a woman and told from a woman's point of view, and second, this book is very concise. With regard to the first point, I noticed that there was recently another SurvivalBlog book review with similar authorship and perspective, but these certainly seem to be the minority. It is nice to see that there are at least some women writing on these topics. As to the second point, I am going to provide a summary of the first twenty pages of this book. Notice how much the author has packed in and then consider for yourself if that is pro or con for your own preferences. It is a lot of story packed into only 160 pages. Spoilers ahead!

The story is of a young couple who grew up on adjacent farms, got married, moved to the big city, started their family and then realized that the life of the city was not good for them. They sold off their city house, quit their jobs and moved back to the country farms they had left. They had already gotten established in their new lifestyle when the lights went out. Being at the end of the line for service it was no shock for the lights to go out, and even a week later they didn't think it all that remarkable that the lights were still out, but when they went into town for supplies they were surprised to find that the world seemed to have been deserted. Neighbor's houses were clearly vacant, the road was empty and the stores closed. Only once they reached a small town did they notice a few wary folks watching from behind closed doors. Fortunately Zack's (the husband's) mom Allie was waiting for them. Knowing them, she expected they would not know what had happened. She filled them in with what details she had been able to glean from the radio. It was understood that a nuclear war had begun (note the original publication date of 1985) and bombs were dropped on the east coast, the Midwest, Colorado, Houston, and who knows where else. It seemed that everyone who survived the bombings responded by taking off to try to find their loved ones. Mom Allie just waited for the kids to come to her. The local town had chosen to set up a disaster shelter at the armory, but Mom Allie declined to move into there. Once Zack and Luce (the wife from whose perspective the story is told) arrived it was decided that Mom Allie would move back to the farm with them. Determining that the farm was already well stocked Mom Allie sent Zack down to the armory with her stash of home canned food to help out the other old timers who were down there and being fed "bought stuff".

When Zack returned from the armory he still had the canned food plus nine other folks who wanted out of there and back to the farms. Thus is established the core of the community which the reader will follow. And that?s the first twenty pages. As novels go, there is a price to be paid for this degree of conciseness. There is only the barest level of character development for many of the players. By no means does this destroy the story. There is plenty of action and drama to keep the reader engaged in the story line, but it does cause the reader to pause and consider which particular character is this, and where have I seen them before? It is simply the price of efficiency. Survival of the small community is threatened by fallout, tornado, a band of savage prostitutes turned into looters, and a government official who shows up out of nowhere. Fallout poses a concern about which nothing can be done. There is no hard information about where bombs have been dropped nor where the winds may have taken the fallout. Geiger counters and potassium iodide are not even considered (and perhaps were not even available to the general public in 1985). At any rate, all our characters can do is hope for the best on this count. The tornado presents a surprise challenge. It is not that tornados were unheard of in Eastern Texas, but they were not to be expected in summer. Some of the old timers could recall it happening though, and there was the possibility that the nukes had impacted the weather patterns. Regardless of how it occurred, it created some problems and taught the lesson that no one is self sufficient, and no one is coming to help either.

The band of women, the Ungers, seem an unlikely proposition at first glance, but the creation of the problem is plausibly presented to the reader. In essence, the prostitute mother and her prostitute daughters have lost their clientele and business model and resort to looting in order to feed themselves, even using one of their own very young daughters to get unsuspecting surviving farmers to open their doors. Once these women gain access they then brutally beat the occupants, often to death, take all the food they can find and ransack the house. They pose a constant threat throughout the novel, and a growing threat as they refine their techniques. The collapse of society opens up a world of options for those who are already on the fringes. The government official is a surprise vestige of the old world, trying to keep alive the bureaucracy and imposition of those who thrive on such things. More than anything he showed how it will be that everyone will do their best to sustain the world they have lost. Don't count on a collapse being the end of government imposition in private lives. By the end of the book a full year has elapsed. There are no illusions that going forward will be easy, but there are plans for the future and the old are teaching the young so that skill sets will not be lost. Overall, this novel is a good read. There are bad things which happen, but the action is not presented in full, graphic horror. The consequence of those actions are clear however. There is certainly a good deal of drama, but much is left to the reader?s own imagination. I did not notice any profanity. The novel is very quick and concise. This may be better for some, worse for others. Don?t read this book expecting to find detailed information which will help you survive. What this book will show you is the value of a variety of skill sets and of the knowledge of the old ones who have lived through a rougher world.

I was more than a little anxious to get to the new Bear OPS "Bold Action" automatic folder for SurvivalBlog. For those who may not be aware of who Bear & Son Cutlery are, they have been around since 1991 and have a very extensive line of knives and tools for everyday tasks, as well as for survival, hunting and for collectors. Be sure to log onto their site to see their complete line-up. However, for this article, we're only looking at their new division of Bear OPS. The stated goal of Bear OPS is to produce the "best knives made in the USA." Only USA manufactured parts, material, and a dedicated workforce work in this division. They only use premium 154 CM or CPM-S30V steel for these blades and they do their own heat-treat, water-jet and CNC grinding to finish their blades. You also get a Limited Lifetime Warranty on all Bear OPS knives and tools.

My long-time friend, Tom Ables, is handling the outside public relations and marketing for Bear & Son Cutlery. When he told me about the new Bold Action tactical folders from the Bear OPS division, I was more than a little excited to get my hands on a sample or two. Tom Ables spent about 30 years doing the marketing for another major cutlery player, and he knows cutlery inside and out. Now, the new Bold Action automatic folders are only available for those who live in enlightened states that allow automatic folders, or those in the military or law enforcement. However, don't despair, Bear OPS has a good number of other folders that will take care of your needs if you can't legally own an automatic folder.

I received two Bold Action folders for this article, one is the AC-110-B4-T - that has a Tanto-style blade, and the other is the AC-1-B4-T that has a modified drop-style point - probably one of the most useful blade styles ever. Either blade style comes in a 3-inch length, and is made from premium CPM-S30V stainless steel, and is .115-inches thick. The blades are heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness of Rc58-60 - not too hard and not too soft - they will hold an edge a good long time, and will be easier to re-sharpen compared to blades having a higher Rockwell hardness. You can also get either Bold Action with a bead-blasted blade or a black Ti coating .Mine came with the latter. The handle material is G-10, which is super-tough, with grip edges for a secure hold. You can also opt to have good-looking Cocobolo wood. Closed length is 4-1/8" and it weighs 6 ounces. There is a pocket/clothing clip for tip-down carry.

Now, as for the button for the automatic opening on the Bold Action. The button is slightly recessed into the handle - the button is of a good size, too. Several automatic folders I've tested over the years, that have opened in my pocket because the button got bumped and it usually resulted in the open blade "stabbing" me in the leg, or a cut to my hand when I reached in my pocket. Some automatic folders now have an additional safety that locks the button so the blade can't accidentally deploy while in your pocket. The Bold Action does away with any added safety by simply recessing the open button a little bit into the handle scales - nice job, Bear!

I couldn't find any flaws in the blade or the handle scales on either sample, they were done up right in my opinion. I prefer a slightly longer blade on a folder for self-defense purposes, however the 3-inch blade on the Bold Action is plenty long enough for Every Day Carry (EDC) purposes. To be sure, a pocket knife will probably be used 99% of the time for everyday cutting chores, so the 3-inch blade isn't any sort of a handicap in my book. The blades opened with authority and locked in place solidly - I can't say that for all the auto opening knives I've tested of the years - so had way too much side-to-side play when opened. This is not the case with the Bear OPS Bold Action folders.

There is also a nice lanyard hole in the butt on the Bold Action folders, and the liners appear to be stainless steel. To open the Bold Action, simple depress the button and the blade flies open and locks in place. To close the blade, use the same button - press in on it, and you can then close the blade, and it honestly does lock in place solidly! What can be simpler? Both the Tanto and Drop Point blades felt good in my hand - not too big and not too small. I like enough handle to hold onto in a folder or fixed blade knife, and even though the blades on these knives are only 3-inches long, there was more than enough handle to hold onto.

I used the Tanto blade more in my testing than the drop point blade - I'm just partial to Tanto-style blades for some reason - nothing I can put my hand on, but I like Tanto blades a bit more than drop point - even though it has been proven that drop point blades are more useful for more tasks. Go figure. Almost daily, UPS or FedEx brings me a package or two, and I reach for whatever folding knife I have in my pockets to cut the boxes open. I also used the Bold Action folders for chores around the kitchen, and I honestly do a lot of cooking in our house, and the Bold Action handled all my kitchen chores from slicing tomatoes to cutting cucumbers and meat. I also spent some time cutting poly rope - now if you've ever tried cutting poly rope, you know that a lot of knife blades will simply slip right off this slick rope - no problem for the CPM-S30V blades on the Bold Action. I also tested some wet hemp rope - again, wet rope is very difficult to cut - ask any sailor - and I had no problems with the Bold Action samples.

The Bold Action AC-110-B4-T retails for $230, a good chunk of change. But this is one rugged little automatic folder, that would make a welcome addition as an EDC folder. And, I like the idea of Made In The USA and the Limited Lifetime Warranty. I was pretty impressed with the Bold Action samples. And, I'm going to request some more knives from Bear & Son Cutlery to test for SurvivalBlog readers. They really do have quite an extensive line-up of knives and tools, including Damascus blades, filleting knives, double-edge fighting knives, Bowie hunters, multi-type tools, and multi-blade knives. They also make butterfly knives and a host of other tools - too many to list here. Be sure to check out the   Bear & Son Cutlery web site and the Bear OPS web page for a look at all they have to offer. I'm betting good money you'll find quite a few knives and tools you'll want to add to your survival needs or just for collecting. I'm looking forward to testing more of their products. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, November 5, 2012

Make no mistake, given my druthers, I'd rather pick a large knife over a smaller knife. Now, you can get by with a smaller knife, but a larger knife can do more chores than most smaller knives can. When it comes to survival, on the streets, in the wilderness or in a SHTF scenario, my choice would be a larger knife for my needs, especially on the mean streets in our country.

My long-time friend, Lynn Thompson, who owns Cold Steel is a firm believer in big knives - either folders or fixed blade - and I can't really find a lot of fault in his logic. Some months back, I did a review on the Cold Steel "Hold Out II" folding knife, and found it to be super-strong, and priced right, too. Now I'm commenting on the "Hold Out I" plain edge. Let's get some of the specifications out of the way first: The blade length is 6" - yes, you read that right SIX inches! It is made out of one of my favorite steels AUS 8A stainless - which I have found, over the years, to be a great compromise when it comes to price, as well as it holds a good edge a long time, and is fairly easy to re-sharpen. Overall length of the Hold Out I is 13 3/16" - yeah, this hummer is big - even if it were a fixed blade knife. Blade thickness is 3.8mm - plenty of strength there! Weight is only 7.7-oz, so for such a massive knife, it is fairly light-weight. The handle material is G-10, some almost bullet-proof stuff that used to be used exclusively by custom knife makers. There is also a stainless steel clothing/pocket clip on the handle for ease of carry.

A quick review of this design goes back many years, as Lynn Thompson has always been fascinated with the "Black Knife" of Skean Dhu (Gaelic) of the ancient Scottish warriors. It was used as a utility or back-up knife, worn under the sleeve, tucked inside a jacket or slipped into the top of a stocking as it was thin, flat and pointy, and light as a feather. The Hold Out I features the record-breaking Tri-Ad lock, which is simply put, incredibly strong - you really need to check out the tests Cold Steel has performed on the Tri-Ad lock - you'll find it on their web site - and you will be amazed at how strong this locking system is. Lynn Thompson isn't afraid to put his knives to the test, and he proves it on his web site - I don't know of any other knife company that provides this kind of proof on their web sites.

Okay, I know some of you, maybe most of you, are asking "really, a six inch bladed folding knife?" Yeah, and believe it or not, this thing isn't as "clumsy" or hard to pack in pants pockets as you might think. Lynn Thompson usually carries two of the Hold Out I folders in his pants pockets - one on each side. At first, I also thought that this big of a folder would be a bit too much to carry in my cargo pants pocket. However, I hate to admit it, but I was wrong! I slipped the Hold Out I into my right front pants pocket and never gave it another thought - it just didn't feel big or bulky in the least, not even when sitting at my PC for hours on end. Surprised? You bet I was!

The Hold Out I features a thin, acutely pointed tip that's sharp as a needle - it can easily pierce some body armor as is glides effortlessly through many puncture resistant materials. Each blade is expertly hollow ground before being honed to a razor's edge. And, I have said for many years, that Cold Steel set the gold standard for "sharp" when it comes to knives. Once word got out as to how sharp Cold Steel knives were, right out of the box, everyone else had to either jump on the band wagon or get left in the dust. Lynn Thompson is the "King Of Sharp", if you ask me.

The G-10 handle scales are worth a mention, they offer a palm-hugging profile and a thin, flat lightly checkered cross section that resists rolling or twisting in the hand, while remaining comfortable and versatile enough to accommodate a wide variety of gripping styles - I know, I tried! The G-10 handle scales have several holes drilled through them, to lighten the overall weight of the knife, and aid in the balance. There are also friction grooves on the top back of the blade, for proper thumb placement in the fencing grip. Dual thumb studs on the blade aid in quick opening of the blade as well.

I can see the Hold Out I working as a wilderness survival knife, as well as an urban defender. I showed this sample to a lot of folks, and they simply couldn't believe I was carrying a knife "that big" in my pants pocket. When the knife is opened, it will surely get anyone's attention in short order. It reminds me of Mick Dundee saying: "That's a knife..."  That's the same comment you'll be giving a bad guy if you are forced to pull the Hold Out I for self-defense. Believe me, the mere sight of this massive folder will probably be more than enough to make someone wish they had picked an easier target. As a wilderness survival knife - I found I could actually do some serious chopping with it - and the Tri-Ad lock never gave a hint of letting loose - the blade stayed open and firmly locked! The Hold Out I can easily replace packing a fixed blade knife on a camping trip or in a bug-out scenario - I kid you not. I'm a firm believe of less is more - and if I can get by with less, I'm a happy camper...and I believe you can get by just fine with the Hold Out I instead of a fixed blade knife in a SHTF scenario. This is one knife that you need to have in your bug-out bag - seriously!

I liked how fast the Hold Out I was in my hand - it was really faster than many smaller folding knives in different fighting grips. You can also choke-up on the handle for more precise cutting, or move your hand all the way down to the bottom of the handle, extending your reach by several inches in a self-defense situation, or for chopping purposes - we're talking VERY versatile.

I have to admit, when I first opened-up the box the Hold Out I came in, the first thing to cross my mind was "Really, this is too big for a folder." Yes, I was wrong. The Hold Out I will grow on you very fast, and will become a favorite for EDC (Every Day Carry) if you give it a chance. You'll forget you're carrying such a big folding knife, until you pull it out to use it. If someone pulled this knife out on me, I'd be heading to the hills - I wouldn't want to fight against this knife unarmed! My Glock 23 or 27 would be clearing leather - I'm not about to face this knife without being well-armed! Even an untrained person could cause you serious harm with the Hold Out I simply by slashing out at you - keep your distance, simple as that.

As with all Cold Steel products, I believe you get more for your money - you can spend a lot more, but will you really be getting more? The Hold Out I has a full-retail of $159.99 and if you paid full-retail, you'd be getting a heck of a knife. However, you can shop around and find the Hold Out I for less money if you spend a little time on the 'net. Even if you don't, you'll be getting one heck of a folder if you paid full-retail. You will impress your friends and family when you pull the Hold Out I out of your pocket and start doing some cutting chores - you'll even impress yourself, as to what you can do with this folder. You can also get the Hold Out I with a partially serrated blade, too. So, you have a couple choices there. If you're looking for one knife, to do many chores, then the Hold Out I might just be what you're looking for - it can easily replace a fixed blade knife, and it can do most chores that are called upon by smaller folders. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, October 29, 2012

I know that over the years, and in many articles, I clearly stated that when lasers for firearms first came on the market, they were mostly considered "toys" by most professionals, myself included. The lasers back in the day, were big and bulky, cost a lot of money, and the battery run-time was short. Additionally, there really wasn't any way to holster a handgun with a large laser on it - no one made holsters to fit the cumbersome handgun lasers. So, for the most part, lasers didn't catch-on, at least, not right away. They were a rich man's toy.

Today, there is a  huge line of laser products for rifles, shotguns and handguns made by with Crimson Trace Corporation (CTC). I've tested a number of CTC products over the years, and have been totally impressed with all of them. I've toured their manufacturing plant, and got a real insider's look at all that is involved in producing CTC products. It isn't simply a matter of slapping a red or green light on a module and shipping it out the door - a lot of research and development is involved in coming out with CTC products. Just the R&D alone is quite a project, and it requires a lot of work to come up with the various lasers for the many firearms that CTC lasers are installed on. Then we have the production department, and I'm here to tell you, a LOT of work goes into assembling a pint-sized laser for handguns. Plus, each and every laser is individually focused before it is shipped - again, no small project, to be sure. I've watched CTC technicians assembling lasers, and it is a meticulous job - one I clearly couldn't do because I couldn't even see some of the wires they were attaching inside the units - they are very thin.

CTC was the first company, to my knowledge, to come out with "instinctive" lasers. Now, what does that mean? Well, many laser units have to be switched on and off - it takes a decisive movement. Instinctive lasers are just what it sounds like - they come on "instinctively" - you don't have to think about it - just grab your firearm as you normally would, and when you do, the pressure on the laser by one of your fingers automatically turns the laser on. Release the pressure and the laser goes off - couldn't be any easier than that - you just don't have to think about it - the laser is ready to go on when you need it. There are a few units that also have an on/off switch that you can use to keep the laser turned off if you don't think you'll need it - the 1911 grips lasers come to mind. I personally keep CTC lasers turned in, if they have that switch. I don't want to have to think about it - I want my firearm ready to fire when I'm ready to fire.

The CTC product under review today is their MVF-515 laser, and this is for a railed AR-15 type of rifle. Although, you can also attach it to a standard forearm if you attach a separate rail to it. However, many of the standard "plastic" forearms don't stay in the same place - they tend to wiggle around a bit, throwing-off the laser from the intended aiming point. However, for CQB use - up close and personal - the laser won't be "off" by enough to matter if you are taking a center-of-mass aiming point. Still, it's wise to use the MVF-515 on a Picatinny railed forearm for best results. For this article, I used a parts AR - the lower receiver was from POF USA - and they make piston-driven ARs - but also sell lower receivers that can be used to assemble a direct gas impingement upper or a piston-driven upper - my sample has a standard Direct Gas Impingement upper, there is also a quad-rail forearm, and the MVF-515 slipped right on without any problems.

Now, the MVF-515 sample I received had the green laser aimer - and you can even see the bright green dot from the laser in bright sunlight - so long as the target is very far away. I believe lasers are best used at 50 - 75 feet, especially in daylight. Even though you can see a red or green laser from hundreds of yards away, you can't readily ID you target at that distance to make a clean kill shot. So, I believe lasers are best reserved for up-close and personal use. CTC also offers a separate laser module unit - this means you can switch the laser module out in a few minutes from red to green, or green back to red. CTC send me a separate red laser module to test with the green MVF-515 unit. And, it only takes a minute or two to change the modules back and forth.

I don't know how much the MVF-515 weighs, but it was under a pound - maybe even half a pound. I'm not one of these folks who will take a 6-1/2 to 7 pound AR/M4 rifle or carbine, then add another 5 or 6 pounds to it - just doesn't make a lot of sense in my book, no sense at all. Part of the concept behind the 5.56mm round is that, you have a small, light-weight package to shoot this round through. I couldn't tell you the number of ARs that I've seen with all manner of toys attached to 'em - to the point where you really wouldn't be able to carry the gun very far comfortably, nor would you be able to deploy it rapidly. Still, a lot of mall ninjas and armchair commandos insist on attaching everything they can buy on their ARs, no matter how impractical it all might be. Sorry, I'm of the old school, in that, less means more, and the less I can attach to my ARs, the better I like it. As a matter of fact, most of my ARs don't have quad-rails on 'em, so I'm not tempted to hang a lot of junk on 'em to start with. We can agree to disagree on this - if you are comfortable adding a lot of useless toys on your ARs, then go for it. As for me, I'll go the opposite direction, and only put on my ARs the bare essentials.

What we also have with the MVF-515 is a powerful 150/200 Lumen LED light module - it's built into the MVF-515 so you don't have to attach a separate light - nice, real nice! The anodized tang is the foundation for the rock-solid foregrip on the MVF-515 and is made out of 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum for a lifetime of service. The laser and light are instinctively activated as you hold the weapon, and activation switches are ambidextrous - which allows the operator to select the light or the laser individually or simultaneously.  On top of that, both the light and the laser are functions are programmable with three illumination modes to select from including: independent momentary, strobe or constant on. A master on/off switch permits complete shutdown of either the laser of the light.

The material that the actual MVF-515 us made out of is black polymer - super tough stuff. The overmold rubber activation switches are easy to activate, too. Laser battery life is 6-hours of constant on - and will last a lot longer by using it on/off - just when needed. The laser is sighted at the factory for 50-feet, and if you need to adjust it for longer distances, it's easily done with supplied Allen wrenches. The MVF-515 also has a 3-yr full warranty - should you have any problems.

Okay, enough about the specs of the CTC MVF-515, how did the unit actually work in practice? Well, I'm here to tell you, that attaching the unit couldn't be much easier - only takes a minute or less. However, the user has to decide exactly where to place the unit on a quad-rail - some folks like 'em farther out on the quad-rail than others, some like 'em as close to the mag well as possible. I took the middle ground and placed the MVF-515 just about in the middle of the POF USA M4 sample - it felt extremely comfortable there for me - not too far and not too close. I did experiment with the laser placed as far forward as possible, and found it tiring to have to have my left arm extended so far forward on the quad-rail. Experiment to find the "sweet spot" for your own use when you get an MVF-515 for your gun.

With the green laser module attached, I headed out to my usual shooting spot and set-up a target at 25-yards away. Even though it was very sunny out, I could still easily see the green laser dot on the target without any problems. I fired and found that the shots were just a tad lower than where I was aiming. Again, this unit is sighted-in at the factory at 50-feet, you can adjust the point of aim/point of impact to your own liking. I didn't really see any need to make any adjustments for my use - the difference between the aiming point and point of impact were enough to matter. I tried aiming at some trees and brush with the green laser attached, and the green dot was all but lost in the bright sunlight. I switched over to the red dot laser - again, this only takes a few minutes to do. While I could still see the red laser dot on my target in the bright sunlight, I had to struggle a little bit to focus on it - which wasn't a surprise. For daytime use, the green laser is the way to go if you are expecting to take a shot under bright sunlight. For low-light or indoor shooting the red dot was more to my liking. While the green dot laser worked well under low-light conditions, it was actually a bit too bright - the red laser dot was easier on the eyes. Experiment with both and make your own choices...what's nice is that, if you purchased the MVF-515 with either the red or green laser attached, you can purchase the other color laser separately and it only takes a few minutes to change out the laser module.

I wish that, when I was in law enforcement - public or private - that the MVF-515 would have been around, I surely would have had the MVF-515 mounted on my AR or M4 back then. The intimidation factor alone, with a red or green dot on a bad guy's chest is often enough to put a stop to any further hostilities if you ask me. I know that, if someone were pointing a gun at me, with a laser on it, and I saw that little red or green dot over my heart, I'd think twice before making a move - simple as that. Another nice thing about lasers is the fact that, they allow for VERY rapid target acquisition - you don't have to close your eye to get on target - both eyes are open. This really makes it fast getting on target with a bad guy. If you are a home owner, and your bedside has a laser on it - anyone who might be breaking into your house will wish they were some place else if they saw that laser pointed on their chest - I know I would, if I were a bad guy.

In firing more than 500 rounds of various Winchester, Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition though the POF USA parts gun, the CTC MVF-515 never came loose, nor did it need any adjustments when I switched from the red to the green, and back from the green to the red laser modules - the point of aim stayed the same - and I really did switch the modules back and forth a number of times. The MVF-515 never worked itself loose from the quad-rail, either - and I can't say that about some other lasers I've played with over the years. While this wasn't a test of the POF USA parts M4, the gun performed great, never missed a beat - whoever built this M4 up, knew what they were doing. I was getting one-hole, 3-shot groups all day long with all of the above ammo at 25-yards - you can't ask for better performance than that. I couldn't pick a winner from any of the ammo - all ammo went into one hole at 25-yards!

Anything negative about the MVF-515? Well, not really. The unit performed as it was supposed to. However, take some time to go over the instructions and learn about the different modes that the laser and light have to offer - and practice the different modes - it does take some time to get it all mastered.  I really liked the strobe from the light - it would easily confuse someone who looked at the light - and if they had a weapon, it would make it difficult for them to deploy it against you. The steady "on" mode for the light is also really nice - again, if a person is temporarily blinded, it makes it difficult for them to attack you. The strobing laser is sort of cool, too - it catches your attention in no uncertain terms.

Full-retail for the MVF-515 with the green laser module attached is $649 and you can add the replacement red laser module for $249 more - a bit spendy? Yes, but you are getting Crimson Trace Corporation quality (and made in the USA, too) and they don't make junk - simple as that! I believe the MVF-515 would be an asset to anyone who uses an AR or M4 for self-defense. I know this product is used by thousands in our military and in law enforcement. If you want the best-of-the-best, for a worthy addition to your AR or M4, then this is the one product I highly recommend that you attach - you can keep most of the red dot holo sights - I'll take the MVF-515 for CQB use...for long-range shooting, a holo red dot is great to have, though. But for CQB, I can't think of a better thing to add to your AR or M4 - and it won't weigh the gun down like so many other "toys" tend to do - and many of those toys will fail you when you need 'em most - the MVF-515 won't fail you under harsh conditions. You should also be aware that, many green dot lasers don't work well when temps drop below freezing, the  folks at CTC figured out how to overcome this with their green laser module. If you want a laser for $29.99 - then go out and waste your money - you'll be sorry you paid a red cent for junk. If you want what is the best instinctive lasers on the market, then CTC is the only way to go in my humble opinion.

If you plan on using your AR or M4 for self-defense - I honestly can't think of a better product to add to your gun. If you are in law enforcement or the military - there is no excuse to not have an MVF-515 mounted on your weapon - it can and will save lives - simple as that. Save your money and buy the best!

Iain Harrison is the new PR/Marketing guru at CTC - and if his name sounds familiar to you, it should - he was the winner of the first season of the popular "Top Shot" television program. Iain went above and beyond to get me the MVF-515 samples for this article. And, Iain wouldn't have joined the CTC team, if he didn't think their products were the best-of-the-best. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Hi James,
I am a big fan of yours way over from Czech Republic. I want to thank you for all the so valuable information you share. You really changed my view, in fact you opened my eyes.

Lately I was thinking about the offline Wikipedia and its importance in a prolonged grid-down scenario with no access to the internet. The text Wikipedia dumps are great and I started to think about how to get them in a Kindle-like reader. It seems someone did it already (WikiReader Pocket Wikipedia) and since I haven't found it mentioned anywhere on your blog, here is a link. And Amazon sells them for around $15. It runs on two AAA batteries. It also has some limitations, the most of which I am concerned about is the lack of tabular data in the articles, which might convey potentially useful information. Details on limitations can be seen here.

Be safe and I look forward to reading more great posts on your blog and hear you more on Coast to Coast AM podcasts. Best Regards, - Petr T.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I've received numerous requests from SurvivalBlog readers to review the new Ruger 10/22 Takedown .22 LR rifle. I literally lost count of the number of e-mails I got from SurvivalBlog readers, but it was probably close to a hundred requests. Now, I hate to admit this, but I never (personally) owned a standard Ruger 10/22 rifle of my own - my wife and youngest daughter owned them, and I shot them, but never owned one myself. So, this was a good time to lay claim to a sample for this article. I've recommended the Ruger 10/22 rifle to untold numbers of folks, based on the reliability and accuracy of this rifle.
Now, we can agree to disagree on this point, and I honestly don't need hundreds of e-mails agreeing or disagreeing with me on this. A lot of folks don't believe that the .22 LR cartridge makes a good survival or self-defense round - fine! We are all entitled to our opinions. However, my research shows, at least from many years ago, that back in Chicago, according to their crime lab stats (now it's called CSI) that more people were killed with the lowly .22 LR than other, much bigger and powerful calibers. When it comes down to it, I'll take a .22 LR firearm over throwing sticks or stones when it comes to survival. Besides, I'm not advocating that anyone arm themselves with just a .22 caliber firearm for their self-defense or survival needs. However, every survival firearms battery should have some kind of .22 caliber gun for taking small game for the pot. Additionally, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be within 150 yards on the receiving end of someone armed with a .22 caliber rifle, who knows how to use it. It may not kill someone at that distance with a single shot, but it would sure make that person wish they were some place else.
One of the great things about any .22 caliber firearm is the readily availability of ammo, the low cost (all things considered today) and the amount of ammo a person can pack with them. You can easily carry several thousand rounds of .22 LR ammo in a backpack, along with several spare magazines for your .22 rifle or pistol. I don't know about you, but that's a lot of lead a person can throw downrange at an attacker. Try carrying several thousand rounds of .223 Rem., 7.62x39 or .308 Winchester ammo in your pack. That simply isn't going to happen!
The new Ruger Takedown 10/22 rifle that comes in a backpack carrying case. Just a quick over view of the 10/22 Takedown is in order. First of all, it is in .22 LR caliber. It has a stainless steel barrel, with a black synthetic stock and fore end. Adjustable rear sight, with a gold bead front sight. There is an extended magazine release (nice), and a 10-shot rotary magazine - but it also takes all after-market 25-30 round mags, as well as the new Ruger 25 round mag. There is a scope base on the receiver, too. Plus, the backpack carrying case deserves some mention. The backpack carrying case is made out of ballistic Nylon, and when you takedown the rifle, into the two sections, they fit nicely inside two of the three large inside pockets. The third pocket inside the case is for either a scope or extra magazines. On the outside we have a carrying strap and handle, plus two more pockets for carrying spare ammo or magazines, or whatever else you might want to haul. There is the big Ruger logo on the case, and this is my only source of contention. While we take pride in our firearms, and want folks to know what we are hauling, from a OPSEC point of view, I'd rather not have this logo on the backpack. A person could toss the Ruger 10/22 Takedown in the back of their rig, and anyone looking into the rig would just think it's any other backpack and wouldn't bother with it. However, anyone with any firearms knowledge would know that logo means there is possibly a firearm in that backpack. So, I'd like to see Ruger offer the option of not having a backpack with the red Ruger logo on it - just my druthers! [JWR Adds: It is easy to find a 2" diameter round embroidered patch on eBay or at a craft store that can be sewn over the top of the big red Ruger logo. I'd suggest selecting something innocuous like an environmentalist logo patch. Perhaps a recycling theme. After all, most of us shooters save our empty brass and reload our centerfire cartridges. So we're environmentally friendly. ;-) Or, humorously, perhaps a Buckaroo Banzai patch might be sufficiently obtuse and yet still deliver a double entendre. But seriously: The dimensions of the Ruger 10/22 backpack are very close to a soft trumpet case. So a trumpet patch or other music logo patch would be the best camouflage.]
I don't know how many of the various Ruger 10/22 rifles models have been sold over the years, but I'm sure it has been well over a million. It is the most popular .22 rifle in this country to my knowledge. The 10/22 has an unmatched record for reliability, too - no other standard factory-made .22 LR rifle that I know of, is as reliable as the 10/22 is, period! As to accuracy - there's plenty there. In my testing, with a huge variety of .22 LR ammo - I was able to get 1-1/2" to 2" groups all day long without trying that hard. And I didn't have any malfunctions or misfires in more than a 1,000 rounds of shooting. It is noteworthy that some of my stored .22 LR ammo is 15 years old, but stored in US military ammo cans. The 10/22 rotary magazine is famous for reliability and it didn't let me down, easy to load, too. I'd really like to see Ruger include one of their own 25 round magazines along with the standard 10 round mag - where allowed by law. Anyone into serious preparedness will immediately purchase a good quantity of 25 or 30 round mags for their 10/22. They are presently inexpensive and plentiful these days - get them while you can. I even tried some Eagle brand cheap all-plastic mags and they worked fine - I bought some of these many years ago for $6.99 each. Butler Creek brand 10/22 mags also worked without a hitch. [JWR Adds: My favorite full capacity (25 round) magazines for Ruger 10/22s are made by Tactical Innovations in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Their top of the line magazines are machined out of aluminum stock! They also make some less expensive polymer magazines. They all work flawlessly. We've put many thousands of rounds though ours, without a hiccup.]
The 10/22 Takedown rifle is, as the name implies, you can take it down - into two pieces, the receiver and butt stock and the barrel and forearm. And, taking the 10/22 Takedown apart takes all of about three seconds, simply lock the bolt open, push the locking lever forward to unlock it, rotate the barrel assembly and pull forward - it takes longer to explain it, than it does to actually perform this action. To put the two pieces back together, you simply insert the barrel assembly into the receiver, twist 90 degrees and it locks together. The gun comes adjusted from the factory, however should you find the two pieces starting to loosen over time, there is an adjustment ring on the receiver, and it only takes less than a minute to make any needed adjustments so the two pieces are tightly locked together - I had no problems at all with my sample becoming too loose - after at least a hundred times of taking the gun apart and putting it back together. [JWR Adds: It bears mentioning that the takedown mechanism is so simple that it can be done blindfolded. The crucial thing to remember is that the bolt must be locked to the rear when both disassembling and re-assembling the rifle.]
I really like the gold bead front sight - it is fast to pick-up, and it stands out, makes for fast shots. The extended magazine release is also a nice touch, makes mag changes fast and easy. The entire gun only weighs 4.67 pounds -- light as can be. If you are out hiking in the boonies, the 10/22 Takedown would be a great addition to your kit - you have a handy .22 caliber rifle on-hand, should you need it, in a nice backpack. You can also pack a lunch and put it in one of the outside pockets of the backpack, along with water and a good supply of .22 LR ammo for a day's shooting on the trail, or in a worse case scenario, for self-defense against two-legged predators.
Again, we can all agree to disagree about the .22 LR round as a viable self-defense cartridge. However, as I pointed out at the start of this articles, it sure beats having to throw stones at an attacker, or fighting them off with a sharpened stick. Nope, I'll gladly take a .22 caliber firearm over no firearm at all. Plus, there is always the "fun factor" associated with shooting a .22 caliber firearm - and it is cheap to shoot, even though the price of .22 LR ammo has doubled in the past 10 years , and I don't expect it will get any cheaper. You should stock-up on all the .22 LR ammo you can afford to get. In my neck of the woods, at the local membership store, you can usually find some kind of .22 LR ammo for $13.99 for a brick of 500 rounds - that's a day of fun shooting, or put it away for survival purposes. A box of 9mm FMJ ammo cost $12.99 these days--and that's only 50 rounds of ammo. Just make sure to store your ammo in quality US military ammo cans for the best storage life of all your ammo.
The new Ruger 10/22 Takedown retails for $389 and you can usually find them discounted a bit in the big box stores, and many gun shops. They are a super-hot seller right now, and they might be a little bit hard to find, but keep looking, they are worth it. Yeah, you can find a less expensive .22 LR rifle, but you aren't getting a Ruger 10/22 Takedown, with unsurpassed reliability, and the option of taking the gun apart and carrying it in a backpack. Yes, I know, there are some other "survival" rifles out there, that you can take apart, but they aren't a Ruger. And they don't have the Ruger legendary reliability or accuracy, either. Make you choices wisely...your life may depend on it!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I've just received the last catalog from Lindsay Technical Books. I said the last catalog, not the latest one, the last one. The publishing owner has announced his coming retirement beginning the day after February 28, 2013. So the company is going the way of Loompanics. This is a shame.

For those of you who don't know, this is a book company which published books on how to make and build stuff, some from scratch. Mostly focusing on metalworking, blacksmithing, some woodworking, basic electrical stuff. Even some stuff on how to make booze. - Jim B.

JWR Replies: I am hopeful that another publisher will buy the rights to the Lindsay titles and keep most or all of them in print. But in case this doesn't happen, I highly recommend that SurvivalBlog readers immediately round out their bookshelf of Lindsay references. Once they cease publishing, the books will undoubtedly become scarce and more expensive.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I've been writing about Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT ) products for about as long as they've been around. They started out small, with just a few really cool tactical knife designs. They were all were quality-made, and priced right. I've watched CRKT grow steadily, year after year, but adhering to their roots, to provide quality products at affordable prices. Some folks denigrate the idea of knives made in Taiwan, but I'm not in that group. You get as good as you want in a product, no matter where it might be made. I know that Rod Bremer, who owns CRKT, heads off to Taiwan every couple of months, to keep an eye on things in the plant over there. And, when Bremer isn't there, he sends his next in command, Doug Flagg to the plant. So, a very watchful eye is kept on the manufacturing processes taking place.
I know both Bremer and Flagg personally, and have dealt with them for many years, both are great guys and like myself neither one wear suits and ties. They are down-to-earth types, and are always willing to spend time with me, whenever I stop by the CRKT offices unannounced for a visit, to see what's new and how things are progressing. So, I have a good feel for what goes on behind the scenes at CRKT, more so than most folks do.
Some time back, CRKT teamed with custom knife maker Ken Onion, for some collaborations on knives, and this was a smart move - Onion is one of the hottest custom knife makers and designers around. I interviewed Onion for an article I did some years ago, we talked on the phone for quite a while - Ken lives in Hawaii - and he is a wild man, but he knows his stuff. So, I was really excited to see the collaboration between Ken Onion and CRKT.
The "Foresight" is clearly designed by Ken Onion. If you know his style, then you'll readily recognize this knife as one he designed. There is a certain flair to his designs that is easy to see. Now, before I get into the "Foresight" I want to mention that it won the 2012 Blade Show, Import Knife Design of the year. This is an award given to a knife by fellow industry peers - quite an award, to be sure. What you see in the Onion design is "form follows function". The profile of the "Foresight" looks like a chiseled physique just waiting to pounce on your next cutting task.
Without boring SurvivalBlog readers with too many details, I'll outline some of them, and you can check out the knife on the CRKT web site. With a 3.5" modified drop-point blade, with a generous belly and recurve cutting edge for maximizing the full utility of the blade. I really like the recurve blade design, as you actually get more cutting surface than the measured length of the blade. You can also have the Foresight with a razor-sharp cutting edge or a combined razor sharp edge with triple-point serrations. Steel is AUS 8 one of my favorite blade steels - it holds an edge for a good long time, and is fairly easy to re-sharpen, too with a Rockwell Hardness of 58-59, and a Black Ti-Ni finish on the blade for that super-cool tactical look. The overall length of the knife in the open position is 8.69" and it weighs in at 6.3 oz - not too heavy and not too light.
The cold-forged black aluminum handle on the Foresight is purposefully styled and shaped with swept finger grooves and a proper palm swell to provide confident, and comfortable grip no matter what. The knife simply feels GREAT in the hand! Now, as to opening the blade, there is the super smooth IKBS ball bearing pivot system coupled with Interframe style mechanism - making this one of the smoothest opening folders you'll run across. It is smooth as silk, to be sure. There are no thumb studs - instead, there is a flicker on the blade - you simply apply a little bit of pressure to the back of the blade, on the flicker, and the blade effortlessly glides out of the handle scales and securely locks in place. The knife almost feels like it's an auto-opening folder because of the little amount of effort required to get the blade deployed. The knife's smooth opening it is very impressive, and I can understand why industry peers voted the Foresight as the 2012 Blade Show Import Knife of the year.
My wife isn't into knives, she carries a few small folders in her purse and on her key ring, and they are used mostly for small cutting chores. However, she really fell in love with how the Foresight felt in her hand, and couldn't believe how easy it was to deploy the blade after applying a little pressure to the flicker. Guys, this would make a great present for your wife, if she likes knives at all...even though it has that "tactical" look to it, the gals like this baby. Of course, there is the pocket/clothing clip on the handle for pocket carry. CRKT - if you're listening, the gals wouldn't mind having a Foresight in a different handle color - maybe hot pink, blue or ???? But the black handle color will do...
I've said many times before, that I think the ideal blade length on a folding knife for serious tactical or chores is between 3.5" and 4" and the Foresight delivers in this respect, with the 3.5" blade. I just think that folding knives that have a blade length in this area seem to balance a lot better in the hand for some reason, and the knife is quicker if you have to use it to defend yourself. And, as already mentioned, the recurve blade (belly) actually gives you more cutting surface than the blade length. Additionally, the recurve actually grabs and pulls whatever material you might be cutting into the blade - it doesn't slip off!
I used the CRKT "Foresight" for more than two months for various cutting chores around my homestead, and found it to be exceptional at many tasks, especially cutting meat. Yeah, if you sit around my kitchen table for a meal, and meat is served, you might just see me using a folding knife of some type - what better way to test a blade? I can usually be "caught" carrying at least two folding knives or more - not, I'm not paranoid, I just test several different knives at a time, and I find it easier to carry the knives in my cargo pants pockets than to have to go looking for them when I want them. As always, we have plenty of blackberry vines around our place, and I test knife sharpness by chopping these nasty vines down, and the Foresight would easily take care of this task with one swing of the blade.
If you're in the market for a new EDC (Every Day Carry) folder, you could do a lot worse than the Foresight from CRKT. Full retail is only $140 and like all CRKT products, you can usually find them deeply discounted at many sporting goods stores or big box stores. And, remember, CRKT provides an exceptional warranty on all their products - should you have a problem with their products, they'll make it right!
Having used CRKT products for many, many years, they have yet to disappoint me. Have I had any problems with any of their products? Yeah, once or twice, and I returned the knives and they were replaced. To be sure, one knife that was desert tan in color faded - it was a cosmetic thing, and the knife was replaced. So, I know that CRKT stands behind their products 100%. I always try to get the most for my hard-earned dollars, and CRKT us out in this respect. Check out the new "Foresight" and I think you'll really like what you see. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, October 1, 2012

I've been around knives all my life, and I've literally had thousands of knives pass through my hands. For about 18 years I wrote for Knives Illustrated magazine, and for several years, I was the West Coast Field Editor at Knives Illustrated. During the course of my duties, I had the opportunity to tour a number of knife factories and companies, to see how knives are manufactured and designed. To be sure, I've designed quite a few knives myself over the years, and had them produced by custom knife makers, as well as factory produced versions. So, I believe my background and experience gives me a good grip on what constitutes a really good knife. Yes, you can get a knife for $9.99 from one of the tv knife shows, and it'll serve the purpose of opening boxes and letters, or maybe skinning game, but if you want a knife you can bet your life on, don't short-change yourself and buy "cheap" - there is a reason some knives are so cheap.
I spent quite a bit of time recently, testing the Spartan Blades "Horkos". It is one of many blades carried by the good folks at US Tactical Supply  - they carry a good variety of Spartan Blades, too. However, this one caught my attention as a fixed blade knife suitable for combat or light utility work. So, with the "Horkos" in-hand, I spent a good deal of time behind this blade. The Horkos (pronounced "Or-kos") is made in the USA, by Spartan Blades and is located in Aberdeen, NC just west of Ft. Bragg, NC - Home of the US Army Airborne and Special Forces. A little bit of history is in order on Spartan Blades. It was co-founded by Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey - between them, they possess over 40 years of combined military service and experience. Since their retirement, they have been involved in development, marketing and program management of tactical gear and ballistic armor products. For years, Curtis has designed and made custom knifes for his friends in the Special Forces and other companies. Mark and Curtis have combined their shared love of knifemaking to form Spartan Blades, LLC, with a singular mission "Manufacture finely crafted tactical and field knife." Their intent is not to provide a cool knife or the next great pry bar, but rather to produce a knife that is highly functional, make from only premium materials and techniques that look great too.
Spartan Blades are manufactured in North Carolina with only US origin materials, and their sheaths are made by US/US veteran owned businesses, using only the best US origin compliant materials, too. I don't know about SurvivalBlog readers, but I have to really admire a company that goes out of their way to produce entirely US-made products, and using US veteran owned business for their outsourced materials, too. In this day and age, where it seems like everything is being made overseas, it is refreshing to see a company going out of their to make sure their products are made here, in our country.
Where does the knife name "Horkos" come from? Horkos, is a sacred oath and the demon protector of honor/oaths in Greek language and myths. This knife was actually commissioned by the Combat Weapons Team of the US Military Academy  (at West Point, New York) with custom etching to honor the graduating class. As all academy graduates are defenders of our freedom and take a sacred oath to the US Constitution, Spartan Blades think the name fits. The blade is designed to be a great all around combat/utility blade. Here's the specs: the knife was actually designed by Curtis Iovito and Mark Carey, with an overall length of 10-7/8" with a blade length of 5-11/16". Blade thickness is 3/16" and the blade steel is premium CPM S35VN, with a Rockwell hardness of 59-60 HRC. The blade style is a Drop Point, single edge design with relieved distal spine and tapered drop for tip strength. The coating is called ApartaCoat - PVD - Tungsten DLC (black) or ZrN (Flat Dark Earth). Handle material is CE Canvas Micarta Black, Green or Natural Tan - my sample was the Natural Tan, which looks great. Weight is on .556-lbs. My sheath was MOLLE compatible with ballistan Nylon with a Kydex insert - you can also order a Kydex only sheath.
Overall appearance of the Horkos was very impressive - the knife is made to perfection. I closely examined it with my gunsmith magnifying goggles - I couldn't find any defects in material or workmanship. The handle scales are black Canvas Micarta with a large checkered pattern. The handle scales are rather thin, and this was my one and only minor complaint. While the handle scales are great for combat use, I found them just a little bit too thin to my liking for utility work - such as chopping. I would have preferred slightly thicker handle scales for a firmer grip. There is nothing wrong with the handle scales, just a personal preference . There is also a nice thumb ramp on the top of the blade for placing the thumb for a fencing-style grip, which is used in many knife-fighting techniques, one of my preferred grips on a knife, from more than 35 years in the martial arts teaching armed and unarmed fighting techniques. There is also a nice lanyard hole (with 550 para cord lanyard) on the butt of the the knife. There is a cut-out on the bottom back of the blade for placing your index finger when doing close-up cutting chores, like dressing out big game, where you might want more control of the blade. To be sure, the overall blade design is very appealing and very functional, and it should prove to be a great fighting knife in CQB situations.
I tested the Horkos on stacked cardboard - for stabbing tests, and I could easily stab the blade to the hilt into the stacked cardboard, not as easy as it might sound, and it takes a good blade to do this. Now, the Horkos didn't "feel" as sharp as I would have liked, but I was wrong. The blade sharpness almost looks like the old Bill Moran "rolled" edge - it doesn't feel sharp to the touch, but it is extremely sharp. During several weeks of cutting chores and testing, I never once had to touch-up the CPM S35VN blade. I did a lot of chopping on blackberry vines, and if you've ever tried your hand at chopping those things, you know how tough they are - many knife blades will simply slip off these vines. In this part of Oregon we have more blackberry vines than we need - and blackberries are not native to Oregon, but they sure took a foothold. If you don't stay on top of these vicious vines, they will overtake you property. Yes, there is a spray that kills them - but in a year or two, they come back stronger than ever. You have to continually chop them down or dig them out by the root - and you can't do it by hand, you need a front end loader - something I don't have. So, I resort to chopping the vines, and it gives me a great opportunity test a lot of knife blades out for sharpness.
For a combat/utility knife, the Horkos was really pretty darn good. It did lack when it came to chopping small tree limbs or trees, but I wasn't surprised, as the blade is a bit too short and too light for this utility purpose - for chopping on trees, or tree limbs, you need a longer and heavier blade for the most part. For splitting wood, I took the Horkos and pounded it through some smaller diameter logs, with another smaller log - while it did the job, it took a while - again, this knife wasn't designed for this type of work. Where the Horkos would shine would be at the base camp where you might have to open ammo crates, or cut banding material off of boxes, or any other cutting chores you might run across. For a combat knife, this would really shine, it is very light weight, and very fast in the hand, so you can do some serious damage to an attacker in short order. In a knife fight, a quick, light blade can really make a difference - you can slash and cut an opponent several times in a second or two, before they know what hit them. And, as I've mentioned this numerous times, in a knife fight, it usually isn't "over" with a single stab to the attacker's body. Most knife fights usually involve both stabbing and especially slashing attacks. In the latter you cut the attacker's hands, arms and legs - cut the tendons and blood vessels - bleed them out if you have to, or by cutting the tendons and muscles, you assure that they can't attack you. Knife fighting is more of a science than an art in my humble opinion...but it is still a task that needs to be learned and practiced to become efficient at.
I've written about US Tactical Supply before, with some of the outstanding products they carry. They try, whenever possible, to carry US-made products in their store and their on-line web site. And, you won't find any better customer service than they have. They go way above the call of duty to assure that their customers are 100% happy with the products they purchase. If you have a problem with any of their products, let them know, and they'll do everything they can to make it right! I like doing business with smaller, US-owned and run companies whenever possible, instead of the big box stores. I feel I'm getting better service and better products by dealing with a smaller company, a company that cares about doing business with me, and want me to be pleased with my purchase.
The retail price for the Horkos starts at $328 - and goes up to $360. A bit spendy? You bet! But you are getting what you paid for in a Spartan Blade. Yes, you can find knock-off or clones imported from China, that might look good, but they are 100% junk, and I wouldn't want to bet my life on one of those cheap blades. When it comes to my survival, I want the best I can afford, even if it means saving my pennies for a while to get it. Don't short-change yourself when it comes to cutlery - get the best you can get.
Be sure to check out some of the other Spartan Blades. I really liked their CQB Tool and the Enyo, Inside the Waistband/Neck knife - both would be excellent blades for back-up to a firearm. I found several Spartan Blades at US Tactical Supply, that would fill a lot of my needs in combat or a survival situation. I'm betting you'll find more than one knife you'll want to own. And, when it comes to your survival, on the battlefield, or out in the boonies, in a life or death situation, can you put a price tag on a tool that will save your hide? - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Bugging Out to Nowhere a novel by Paylie Roberts  (ISBN 9781470010447 Published in June, 2012.) 

“During the height of economic collapse in the US, Rachel and Tom flee for the countryside a day too late. With the comforts of city life unlikely to be seen again, they are determined to survive on their own out in the middle of nowhere.”  (From the jacket cover)

This fictional work is told from the first person perspective, set in the very near future. Rachel and Tom are ordinary folks just trying to make ends meet. They struggle with everyday needs while preparing for what they believe is coming down the road. They have a very good start on their efforts, when suddenly the beast of collapse is no longer down the road. He’s here. The story is a series of preparations, incidents and accidents, good and bad decisions, mistakes and corrections. This is an entertaining read with heaps of “how to” loaded on a multiplicity of topics related to survival preparedness.  Nearly every page has a teaching moment. The amount of information compressed into these 285 pages is astounding.

In addition to the bounteous information offered, I believe one of the most useful aspects of this novel is the dissection of the decision making process. Countless deliberations are rotated, twisted, and uncurled asking many of the same questions that Joe and Judy Average would ask. This book is an asset to anyone struggling with the questions of “what, how and why” of prepping. This aspect alone is worth the price of the book. The story line has enough developments to keep the reader engaged while learning a lot about the not-so-smooth journey into sustainability. All of this is told through the pragmatic perspective of the woman of the house. Although this book would be enjoyed by both genders, women will find a friend in “Rache”. Among her many qualities, Rachel is intelligent, brave, and practical. She has attained experience in gardening, animal husbandry and is pretty handy with a hammer. It’s refreshing to have protagonist without even one super-hero skill.

The novel is clean with only a couple of flimsy curse words. Sexual content is nil with the exception of a reference relayed by a third party. Even then, no specific content was described. Violence is to be expected in the post-collapse world. The action is there to a slight degree, but this is not the book if you want a hack- ‘em-up, blood and gore, zombie-feed-read. The end product is an appropriate read for high school age or mature middle school age children with parental discussions. Although opinions of the protagonists are woven throughout the book, the author doesn’t invest a lot of ink toward political rants.

As to the inadequacies of this novel, Paylie Roberts is a talented author- in need of a good editor. This book has a lot of needs. I found the numerous deliberations tedious at times with topics visited and then revisited in confab dialogues. The central characters are enormously likeable although lacking dimension. For me, a missing character is God. Given trials and, the long sessions of contorted soul searching, He seems glaringly absent. People tend to turn to God in times of trouble. We turn to Him to plead, to curse, to doubt.  Some will offer thanks and praise for His mercy. When the discussions of morals and values or new characters were introduced I would anticipate some religious deliberation. But, no go. Whether that topic was ignored to be politically correct, an omission of deliberate intention or a simple oversight is not clear. This would have been an opportunity to add depth to the characters and make the pain of loss and the reality of fear tangible.

There are inconsistencies in the storyline. Trite solutions magically fall into place at several junctures. The plot meanders, then suddenly, the ending falls into place. It arrives faster than Grandpa’s gelding through the barn door at suppertime. I found editing issues: grammar, spelling, sentence structure, present/ past tense, repeated sentences, repetitive information, and one humongous issue that I must rectify for safety’s sake. 

! Spoiler Alert! After declaring a person in anaphylactic shock, the author writes, “...this epi pen expires this month, I’m not sure if it’s safe to use. Most expired medications are okay to use expired, but not epi: it could seriously harm him. I can’t tell by looking at it.” It was not obvious by my reading but perhaps Paylie was trying to make the point, “do your own research and use common sense”.

Epi-pens are safe to use after the expiration date. The problem occurs with the loss of efficacy, not a creation of toxicity. There may some loss of potency but the benefits far, far outweigh the risk. In a truly anaphylactic situation if that is all that one has available, slap that in the thigh!  I have a medical background and corroborated my knowledge with a pharmacist and two emergency physicians. (Two sources of confirmation for you: NIH web page and Doctor Solve web page.)

It may seem paradoxical to endorse this book in light of my assessment of missed opportunities and mistakes, but there are several reasons to recommend this novel. This book is motivating and informative. Various potential scenarios within the realm of possibility are explored making this book a great gift opportunity for a couple to open discussions. I guarantee you will re-check your larder with a new eye after reading this book.  Paylie allows the reader to envision prospects to increase survival potential while managing a very tight budget. This book is a cut above many of the self-published works found in today’s survival genre. Paylie Roberts is a writer driven to share her knowledge. How ironic, the protagonists were not quite ready to bug out, but they needed to do so anyway; like Tom and Rachel, this book is not quite prepared by editing standards, but it is praiseworthy read nonetheless.

Monday, September 24, 2012

If many of you are like me, and are from the old Army school, you know all about canteen cup cooking. The old-style canteen cup had a locking "L" handle, that made it perfectly suitable for heating water in your canteen cup, as well as heating meals, or even cooking in that little cup. Today's canteen cup that the US military issues has dual folding wire handles, that are not conducive to placing it on a fire - the handles are too close to the heat source. Sometimes "newer-er" doesn't equate to "better" in my book. When you have something that works, and works well, you leave it alone, but the military isn't like that for some reason.
I'm always looking for a way to lighten my backpack, and the older I get, the wiser I get - at least I believe so. It wasn't that many years ago, when I could hump a CFP-90 pack, fully loaded, with a sleeping bag, and all the gear I needed for survival, and plenty of gear I didn't need. Today, my CFP-90 sits in the back of my closet in my office. I've gone to a lighter and smarter pack for my survival and bug out purposes. And, if there is anything I can do to lighten my pack, and still maintain all the gear I need , I'll do it. I've carried a small "stove" in my pack for a lot of years, only problem with this little stove is that it takes those little fuel tabs that the military used to issue - I don't know if these tabs are still an issued item or not. But it was a hassle to have to carry enough of these fuel tabs for cooking on, for more than a day or two.
Enter the 180 Stove from 180 Tack, a Colorado-based company. The 180 Stove is a compact, folding, put-it-together camp stove, that is small enough to even fit in your rear pants pocket, yet large enough to provide an ample cooking surface for large cookware, as well as my trusty old-style canteen cup for heating water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. What makes the 180 Stove a great backpacker companion is that you don't have to haul any fuel for it. You can use twigs, sticks, dried grass, etc., for your fuel to cook with. Now, unless you're in a barren desert, or the Arctic, finding some form or "fuel" shouldn't be a problem for you. Heck, you can even use dried cow chips for a fuel if need be.
The 180 Stove takes about 30-seconds to assemble, and you don't even need to read the instructions to put it together, it's "that" simple. I like simple - simple is easier and usually fool-proof, too. The 180 Stove is made out of quality stainless steel, with interlocking components, so that there are no moving parts, hinges, welds or rivets that would normally cause a product like this to fail you in the field.
Unfortunately, the 180 Stove arrived during the heat of the summer, and we have burn restrictions in place - no open fires, period. However, I was able to test the 180 Stove in my covered carport, that has a gravel floor and is exposed on the front and the back ends. For fuel, I simply gathered some twigs and pine needles, and put them under the cooking surface of the stove and lit it. Inside of a minute or two, I had a flame hot enough to boil water and cook a burger. I needed to add some more fuel during the cooking process, but it only took a few seconds to take care of this chore. Very little fuel is need for cooking.
The assembled 180 Stove is 7" long 6" wide and 3.25" high, the folded stove is 7" long 3.25" wide and 0.6" high - we're talking pretty compact. And it comes in a heavy duty plastic carrying case, so when you are done with the stove, and it has cooled, you simply disassemble it, place it back in the carrying case, and store it in your backpack ready for use once again. The stove only weight 10.4 oz and that's a big plus. The less weight I have to pack, the better I like it.
Here's some more of the pluses for the 180 Stove. It is truly a "green" stove and does not use toxic fuels. It's light-weight since you don't have to carry fuel, and it is super-strong (and made in the USA). The ease of assembly is another big plus in my book. Simply put the stove together, push a little soil along the sides or use gravel (as I did) then cook, douse and store the stove for another use. I don't care if you live in the city or out in the boonies like I do, you can find some form of fuel to cook with, which makes this stove one of the best choices for cooking in the outdoors in a camping or emergency situation. The 180 Stove comes with a 2 year manufacturer's warranty.
Hunting season is coming up, and if I can find the time to get out this year (didn't make it last year) the little 180 Stove will be in my backpack, or in my rig. Should I find myself stranded out on a lonely logging road, I'll have a stove to cook on, as well as providing some life-saving heat that can make the difference between life and death. In the past, I've resorted to a camp fire to cook on and keep me warm. The 180 Stove will eliminate the need for a big camp fire.
I wish I could write more on the little 180 Stove, however, because it is sooooo simply, and very effective, I find I'm limited as to what I can say about this outstanding product - other than, "why didn't someone come up with this great product sooner?" Sure, there are some other similar stoves out there, but they aren't as well-made as this one is, and many of them also take some kind of canned fuel, which is bulky, expensive and messy to carry with you.
Full-retail on the 180 Stove is $46.95, and it may seem a little bit spendy, but when you stop and think about the quality materials that are used in the stove, and that the thing actually works as advertised, and it can and will be a lifesaver, you are making an investment in your future survival. On top of that, you will be lightening your backpack and assuring yourself of a hot meal when time comes to eat. Yes, you can eat MREs cold - but who likes doing that? If you have a fishing pole and some hooks, you can catch a nice trout and cook it up, using the 180 Stove and nothing tastes better than a hot meal when you're hungry and cold.
I'm gonna see about getting a couple more of the 180 Stoves for my wife and daughters, I know they'd like 'em in their backpacks, just like I do. And, its always nice when you can lighten a pack, and still have all the gear you need. Sure, a camp fire is nice, but it takes a lot of wood, and it honestly isn't all that much "fun" cooking over a large fire...the 180 Stove will take care of your cooking needs in an emergency, like nothing else can. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Original Counter-Argument: The Founders' Case Against the Ratification of the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century, by Paul Douglas Boyer
ISBN: 978-14477450673
Paperback and Kindle Kindle edition available from
298 pages, appendixes, bibliography, nice size print for those of us who wear eyeglasses.
Bad news first: there is no index. (Any nonfiction work should always have an index.)

How many times have you heard ‘they-he-she violated my rights’? How many times have you wondered just how many rights are in the Bill of Rights? How many citizens have actually read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Articles of Confederation? Too boring?

Gratefully, all three documents are written in such a manner we do not need a lawyer to understand the wisdom of the Founding Fathers of this nation. The documents are included in this book as appendixes. Each is short, easy to read, and alone are worth the price of the book.

Another interesting appendix is the Population Chart of the first seventeen states from 1790-2010. One state leads the charge to overpopulation, while a handful has barely grown at all.

The most interesting document in the book is a short transmittal letter written by George Washington. I suggest you read it first, and then read the remainder of the book from the beginning. Then read the letter from a wise man once again.

The author presents thirty opinions from the beginning of the great debate concerning the need for a constitution. Some are less than a page in length while others are more long-winded. All are interesting and still relevant to the discussion. Each essay has a short, less than a page, introduction to set the stage, and a short list of key points after each essay. Both are helpful, and are not the author’s opinion. Whether you agree or disagree with each essay, they all add to your knowledge base of the most important documents of our nation.

It is surprising who opposed our constitution and how close the votes for ratification were in each state. The debates were spirited, thoughtful, and at times quite heated, as they should have been. The debate still rages today, and should continue as long we exist. Is our federal government too powerful is the eternal question.

Copies of the proposed constitution were printed and widely distributed to the citizenry for their input. People were encouraged to study the documents and voice their opinion. Nowadays, our legislators do not even read most of the legislation they cast a vote for or against.
The author is not an historian, which may be why this book is so good. With a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, he has applied his training to pick apart a complex issue, and the book is presented in an easily understood format.
You would do well to include this book on your reference shelf.

Our Constitution will be 225 years young on 17 September 2012, and a good day to buy this book. Happy Birthday to us all.

I have literally lost count of the number of SurvivalBlog readers I've heard  from, who asked "what is the best camo pattern..." Well, there is no easy or absolute right answer to this questions. It depends on the terrain, that you'll be operating in, as to what camo pattern works best. I have always been fond of the old Woodland camo pattern - but it's getting harder and harder to find this surplus clothing.

Without a doubt, I believe the US Army's ACU gray digital camouflage pattern is one of the worst camo designs to come along. It doesn't matter what terrain you might be in, if you are wearing ACU, you stick out like a sore thumb. The US Army has finally realized this, and are switching to other camo patterns.

The old US military woodland camo pattern is a really decent design and works pretty well, when you're in the woods or grassy areas. However, it's not the best camo pattern. Enter the new Propper Clothing blended  A-TACS foliage green blended pattern, that is really outstanding. First of all, the Propper uniforms are sewn to US mil-specs, and vat-dyed 50% Nylon/50% cotton rip stop fabric. There is hook and loop face for attaching rank insignia and unit patches, as well as name tags. The Mandarin collar can be worn up or down, and the hook and loop sleeve cuff closure provides positive closure and adjustments. There is a 3-slot pen pocket on the left sleeve and shoulder pockets are designed to fit optimally with the OTV.

Propper's matching blended camo pattern pants  are made of the same material, and feature leg cuffs with front closure ties. Also featured are knee pouches with hook and loop closure for internal knee pad inserts. Button fly with a drawstring bellowed calf storage pocket and forward-tilted cargo pockets. Now, without a doubt, both of these clothing items are super-strong - we're talking seriously tough material, that will give you years of service. Ok, so what's the big deal, you ask? Mil spec ACU clothing is built strong as well.

The "blended" A-TACS foliage green camo pattern on the Propper clothing is unlike any other camo pattern you've seen. It's really hard to describe, but the colors aren't "printed" - instead, the colors are actually "blended" - kinda like working with different water-based colors on a piece of paper, where you get the different colors to blend together. I'm not sure how Propper pulled this off, but I'm blown away at how well this camo can blend into the woods in the Pacific Northwest here in Oregon. I did a test, I walked across the road to my neighbors property, and placed the Propper shirt and pants on some blackberry bushes - this is only about 50-yards from my front door. Keep in mind, I knew where I placed the clothing. When I walked back to my front door, I turned around and it literally took me a few seconds to find where the clothing was on the blackberry bushes. I asked my wife and oldest daughter to come outside and find the "hidden" clothing - they couldn't find it - even when I was pointing at it. That, my friends, is an outstanding camo pattern for the woods. It is perhaps the best camo pattern I've run across for staying hidden in the woods.

There are many SurvivalBlog readers who are hunters, and the Propper Foliage Green blended camo, would make an outstanding clothing for still or stalk hunting. It would be great for bow hunters who use tree stands - you just blend into the background with this foliage green camo pattern. I wish I knew how Propper was able to make this camo pattern, it's very unique, to say the least. But very effective, to be sure. Check out the web sites above for a close look at the camo pattern, however, keep in mind, the photos don't do justice to the camo - you can't do this clothing justice, until you see (or not see it) in the woods. When I go hunting this coming Fall, this is what I'll be wearing. And, if I ever have to bug out for the boonies, this will be my camo clothing of choice.

These Propper camo clothing items are made in The Dominican Republic. The jacket/shirt and trousers retail for $59.99 each. However, you won't be wearing this clothing out anytime soon, so if you are in the market for some of the best woodland pattern camo clothing, that will hide you, take a close look at the Propper line-up.

Okay, on to my "uniform" of the day. I don't honestly recall when I last wore a pair of jeans, or a suit - I believe the last time I had a suit on, was about 11-12 years ago, when my oldest daughter graduated from college. My "uniform" of the day usually consists of cargo pants, a t-shirt and hiking boots. During the summer months, I wear some kind of button-down shirt over my t-shirt, to conceal my handgun. I've been wearing cargo pants, long before they ever became popular, like they are today.

Along with the A-TACS Foliage Green blended camo clothing above, that I received for test and evaluation, I also received Propper's Lightweight Tactical Pants. These are a step-up from my usual cargo pants, in that, they are designed for "tactical" use - plenty of pockets and other added features that you will find of use when carrying concealed. You'll see SWAT teams wearing these pants (they come in various colors) as well as street cops wearing these pants. However, you'll also be able to wear these pants off-duty as well...and "no" you don't have to be a cop to wear these pants - they are great for everyday wear.

Okay, bear with me, there are a lot of features on the Propper Lightweight Tactical Pants. Fade, shrink and wrinkle resistant, DuPont Teflon fabric protector repels stains and liquids, low profile appearance for use on and off duty, includes a D-ring for keys or tools, extra-large belt loops, action-stretch waistband for enhanced comfort, reinforced seat and knees,zipper fly, nine-pocket design, two cargo pockets with hook and loop closure, two hook and loop closure back pockets with wallet (pocket in a pocket), two front pockets with reinforced opening for folding knife or multi-tool, internal openings for knee pads, cell phone pocket, two hidden coin pockets and they also come with a free matching belt. That's a lot of features, to be sure.

The Propper Lightweight Tactical Pants are 65/35 poly cotton ripstop DuPont Teflon fabric. And, the fabric is coated to repel stains. In my case, this really comes in handy, especially when I'm in the yard playing with some of my German Shepherds and they are playing rough with me - I'm always getting my pants (and everything else) dirty - I often wonder why I bother to have my wife wash my pants, 'cause next time I put 'em on, and play with the dogs, they are dirty all over again.

Over the years, I've tried quite a few different cargo-type pants, some are good, some are really good, and some I wore one-time and gave them away. These new lightweight tactical pants, are really a cut above most of the rest. When I tried the pants on, they actually fit like they were supposed to. This isn't as easy as you might think - some pants, just don't feel right when I put them on. I almost felt like I was "dressed-up" in these pants. As comfortable as they were, they were even more comfortable after they were washed. For me, if my pants aren't comfortable, I won't wear them - simple as that. Additionally, the belt loops are spaced properly so when you wear a gun on your belt, the gun is just in the right position.

I've purchased similar tactical cargo pants for a lot more money, than these Propper pants retail for $39.99. I'm sure you'll find a good color selection, as well as size selection. For me, these are the only tactical/cargo style pants that I'll be purchasing in the future. Yeah, I really liked 'em that much.

If you're looking for some other type of tactical/survival/military clothing, be sure and visit and check out some of the other excellent clothing products they have. Every time I visit the walk-in store at US Tactical Supply, they always have something new and exciting there, that I find I must have.

Now, I know this article won't end the debate over which camo pattern is "best" for concealment. However, if you find yourself operating in a wooded area, or the mountains, with lots of trees and shrubs, I think this A-TACS foliage Green camo clothing will be hard to beat - it really is amazing how well you blend into the woods when wearing this clothing. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, September 10, 2012

It is called Revolution. The pilot episode of the new post-power grid collapse television series is now available at the NBC web site, and on The series will begin airing on September 17, 2012. It will air on Monday evenings at 10 PM in most time zones and 9 PM Central Time.
Missing a huge opportunity to instruct preparedness, self-sufficiency, and survival skills, the show skips over the first 15 years of the blackout. And like a Kevin Costner flashback, they of course portray militias as bad guys... From the little that I've seen of it, I can predict that those who carry guns will be portrayed as the Bad Guys, while those with archery gear will be the Good Guys. (It is noteworthy that the leftward-leaning mass media rarely misses an opportunity to belittle or even demonize conservatives, gun owners, Christians, advocates of secure borders, and those who hold to a moral code and traditional values.) At first glance, Revolution looks like it will be a network television "Lite" drama re-mix of familiar memes from movies like The Postman, The Patriot, The Book of Eli, The Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games, but without the edginess of a television series like Lost. One oddity is that this show mirrors the Dies the Fire sci-fi novel series by S.M. Stirling, in that an underlying premise is that the very physics of the world seem to have changed. Not only do the power grids go down, but even batteries no longer function.

The series will have plenty of the disappointments and inaccuracies that we are accustomed to with American network television, such as: sloppy gun handling, tactical ineptitude, unrealistic lighting, guns that never need to be reloaded, inexplicable coincidences, and death by various trauma but without much blood. Predictably, the distaff members of the cast seem to have discovered a secret cache of L'Oreal, Maybelline, Revlon, and Max Factor, some 15 years into a complete societal collapse. And at night-time houses are lit with dozens of candles. Another aggravating thing about the show is typical of television screenwriting: the Good Guys leave behind a trail of useful weapons after subduing or slaying Bad Guys. I can't count the times in my life when I have urged (without any effect, of course): "Pick up the gun, you idiot!"

The show may yet surprise us and display some redeeming value. But regardless of what I (your Neanderthal Editor) think of it, the show's chances for multi-season renewal success are good, given the high "perky teenage girl with compound crossbow" quotient.

I have literally lost count of the number and different types of backpacks I have owned and tried over the years. And, to be sure, there is no one backpack that suits everyone the same. I believe backpacks are a very personal thing, and you can't select one for someone else. Everyone in my family has a different type of Bug Out Bag - always have! At one point, when I was quite a bit younger, I used a US military CFP 90 pack - and that thing could hold something like 6,500 cubic inches of stuff. Fully loaded, it was more than 60 pounds, and that wasn't counting an extreme cold weather sleeping bag - which added a lot more weight. My CFP 90 is in the closet of my office now - retired!
Take a look at any sporting goods store backpack section, or in any sporting goods catalog, like Cabela's or any other similar store, and you'll be overwhelmed with the number and different styles of backpacks they carry - so much so, that your head will spin. It's no easy task choosing a backpack. You have several considerations to think about - how much stuff do you want to carry? How much stuff can you carry - for any distance or length of time? Are you looking at long-term camping or bugging out? Or, are you looking at a 3-day BOB? Are you gonna carry extra clothing (always a good idea) and how much food are you going to carry? How much survival and camping gear are you taking with you? The questions are about as endless as the backpack selection is. My family and I have decided on a 3-day BOB - but we usually have more than 3-days worth of food in our BOB - and plenty of survival and live-off-the-land gear, for extended periods of time, if need be.
Ready Made Resources recently sent me a sample of an amazing backpack, made by Eberlestock - and if you know anything about name brand backpacks, you will readily recognize the Eberlestock name - Special Forces military guys know the name - well! Ready Made Resources sent me the "Gunslinger II" (G2) pack, and it is quite a pack, to be sure. The Gunslinger II is the hunting version of the G2M tactical pack - and be sure to check out the Ready Made Resources web site - they have a good varieties of Eberlestock backpacks to choose from. The G2M is the pack of choice for the US Navy SEALs - that says a lot about Eberlestock packs in my book. The SEALs don't use junk.
Originally developed from the GS05 Gunslinger pack, the Gunslinger II pack has a slightly larger gun scabbard. What's that you said, Pat? Yeah, the Gunslinger II backpack, actually has a long gun scabbard build into the pack, for carrying your favorite high-powered hunting rifle - even those with the biggest optics, can fit into this scabbard. I also tried an AR-15 and an AK-47, and they both fit (not at the same time) into the scabbard - without the magazines inserted in the rifles. The Gunslinger II scabbard is wide at the bottom, for carrying your rifle butt down, or alternatively butt up.
So, you don't need to pack a high-powered rifle all the time, when you're just out camping? Great, the scabbard on the G2 folds into the bottom of the pack, and is secured by a buckle. This configuration is good for not only shorter rifles, but other gear as well. You can fit a lot of extra gear into the rifle scabbard, if you're not packing a rifle. There are also side handles on the G2, that make it easy to load and unload it from your rig - nice touch. Heavy duty compression straps always allow the G2 to ride quiet and tight. How many packs don't allow you to snug things up inside, so they don't rattle or move around? Not many!
There are so many pockets on the G2, that you won't know what to do with 'em all. I never did manage to fill all the space on my G2 sample. To be honest, you can probably pack more gear in the G2 than you'd want to carry for any length of time or distance. The empty G2 pack weighs-in at 8.5-lbs. Yeah, it's a bit heavy empty - but you have to look at the material and construction of the pack, to really appreciate how well-made it is. The bag is totally waterproof to start with...and the 1000d Cordura Nylon material is polyurethane coated. I've never, in my life, seen a bag that was this well-made! I actually took my gunsmith magnifying goggles out, to closely examine the construction of the G2 - and I couldn't find a flaw in the material, workmanship or stitching - just that simple!! Impressed? You bet I was - never saw any packs this well-made.
The Gunslinger II has a sophisticated, ventilated, highly adjustable frame system - not a "hard" frame, but a "soft" frame system - you can keep hard-frame systems if you ask me - they are uncomfortable for any distance of length of time. If a pack bounces around while you're carrying it - that's not a good thing - ever! You need a pack that you can adjust to your body shape, and one that you can adjust so it fits "just" snug enough - but not too snug, or too loose, either. The G2 comes through in this respect.
Oh yes before I forget, there is a "butt cover" for your rifle - so you can completely enclose your long-gun from the elements - something mighty important, if you are in bad weather conditions for any length of time. There are also PALS webbing on the pack interior and exterior, to help you mount PALS designed additional packs to your G2 - I didn't see any need to attach any exterior packs to the G2 - it held more than enough gear for my taste. However, if packing an AR-15 the top pocket assembly features a handy internal organizer, with several small pockets, pen holders and a padded pocket with effectively serves equally well for packing extra AR-15 mags.
You aren't gonna be able to haul a Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle in the G2, but you can sure pack a full-sized high-powered hunting rifle, or some smaller .22 rifles in the carrying scabbard. And, what amazed me was that, the long gun was comfortable to carry when it was in the scabbard. I've tried a few other packs, that supposedly allowed you to slip your rifle into a scabbard that was built into it - nope!!! They didn't work very well - in short order, I could fell the rifle rubbing against my back bone - not a good thing!
While hunting season was still quite a way off, I did take the G2 out on a number of hikes - with a high-powered rifle in the scabbard, and a full 3-day load of food and other survival gear. The pack, with the rifle and gear weighed-in at about 35 pounds, and that's about all I want to carry these days. There isn't any room for a sleeping bag with this pack - but you pack accordingly and appropriately. I'm very fortunate, in that, I live out in the boonies - I'm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, and there are numerous logging roads and hiking trails all over the place. I only have to walk about 150-yards to the nearest closed (to traffic) logging road. I'm always taking my German Shepherds out for walks, and this afforded me the perfect opportunity to put the Gunslinger II to the test - fully loaded, and hit the gravel logging roads for a nice hike with one of my trusted companions.
I've had a lot of packs over the years, really cut into my shoulders in very short order, because there really wasn't any padding in the straps to protect the muscles on my shoulders. That made for a short and aching hike - no doubt about it. The G2 is well-padded, and I never once felt the pack's straps cutting into my shoulders, like so many other packs have over the years.
The Eberlestock line of backpacks, are available in a number of different camouflage patterns, too - and I'm sure you'll find one to suit your taste and terrain. Without a doubt, the G2 will literally give you a lifetime of service, and not fail you in any way. The workmanship and material is second to none in my humble opinion. I just don't see this pack failing you - ever! Sure, you can go to the big box stores, and find some "okay" looking packs, that won't last you through a week of camping or hiking, and they'll cut into your shoulders, and they are not very well designed or thought out, They are just plain junk, and you don't want junk when your survival depends on your gear.
The Gunslinger II retails for $289. Yes, it is a lot of money, but it's not a lot of money when you closely examine the pack, the design and the material and workmanship. You are getting what you pay for in this pack. And, if the G2 doesn't fit what you're looking for in a BOB, check out the other packs on the Ready Made Resources web site - they carry quite a few of the Eberlestock packs and they are very pleased with this company's products. Ready Made Resources has been around for a lot of years - they provide outstanding products for survival.
If I had the money I've wasted over many years, buying and testing other backpacks, I could have easily purchased several G2 packs...and none of the other packs I've tested and owned over the years can even begin to come close to the Eberlestock Gunslinger II pack. And, like I said, if this model isn't to your liking, I'm betting you'll find a model that will fit your lifestyle and survival needs at Ready Made Resources web site. If there is a better-made backpack out there, I'd like to see it. Nothing I've seen even attempts to come close to the G2 for quality materials, workmanship and design - is it any wonder, that the US Navy SEALs use Eberlestock backpacks?
Be sure to check out all the other survival related products that Ready Made Resources carries - and they will be happy to answer any questions you might have about their products. This is a great company to do business with.

We all benefit from the wisdom and experience of those around us. For someone with a beginning passion for a subject, a mentor is extremely valuable; and for those that have achieved a reasonable amount of competence, a respected peer can be a great sounding board for exploring issues and alternatives. For those with a general interest in self sufficiency or a specific interest in food independence, the new book from Jason Akers comes very close in replicating those relationships. His book, Hunt Gather Grow Eat: Your Guide to Food Independence, is a very readable and useful survey of self sufficiency techniques and experiences. As I was reading the book, I could picture in my mind the author sitting on my deck with me. I would say “Hey Jason, what do think about (name a subject)”—then the book responds with the author’s thoughts and personal experiences about that subject. Sounds unusual, huh; well, it was a new experience for me as well—but in a good way. I haven’t enjoyed reading a non-fiction book like this in a long time. (The book was published in 2012 by The Self-Sufficient Gardener, ISBN 1475275412.)

According to the author, the book was written for people who want to get back to the land and to pure living-- whether they have never grown anything and don’t know where to start, or for those that have “lost their way along the path”. The book provides solutions to avoid the food safety hazards using sustainable techniques and demonstrates that it is not terribly difficult to begin to implement them into ones everyday life.

The book contains sections on permaculture, food safety, hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, gardening, animal husbandry, harvesting, preservation, and diet. By far, the largest and most informative section is the chapter on gardening. There were a few minor topics absent in the book that I expected e.g.  fish farming; and some topics were discussed at an absolute beginners level e.g. hunting. The author does not claim to have firsthand experience with every subject covered; but from the style of writing and the inclusion of anecdotes, I expect that he has had experience with the great majority of them. I would hazard to guess that any omissions are a result of the author’s personal experience and a natural avoidance of talking about things that he was not knowledgeable of – a healthy habit that many could benefit from. The authors writing style is very clear and exceedingly concise. The book addresses many subjects in a direct and informal manner with little emphasis on introductions and transitions. Occasionally this abrupt shift in subject narration is somewhat distracting. There are numerous figures—primarily black and white photographs. Unfortunately, the quality of many of the photographs is inadequate to illustrate the author’s points e.g. edible plant identification is really not feasible and may not even be safe using the photographs included. The utility of the book would increase if there was an index and list of references. Although the writing is generally good, there are occasional editing and minor formatting issues. If the issues identified are corrected within a second edition, this title would be a valuable and enjoyable contribution to a self-sufficiency library.

A unique aspect of the book is its discussion of permaculture. The book begins with an overview of permaculture and its application to the books subject. Permaculturalists, in particular, should be very interested in the manner that the book’s author has integrated permaculture principles into his approach. The author points out that the permaculture community has not really addressed or included hunting and fishing, and has not stressed wild crafting within their body of practice. The book, however, does address this integration of permaculture theory and, for the lack of a better term, “country boy skills”. It seems natural for me to imagine that the author grew up in a family that practiced many of these skills as a general way of life; and that when he was introduced to permaculture, its principles and practices provided him an underling theory that was consistent with his own background and experience, and it then in turn provided a basis for extension of his adult philosophy and practice.

The author, Jason Akers, is an active, practicing homesteader. He grew up on a farm and as an adult has practiced and developed his self-sufficient skills. He has received training in permaculture design; and now hosts the Self-Sufficient Gardener Podcast.

Jason’s book has struck a great balance in providing a very healthy amount of content without becoming dry and encyclopedic--not to say that there aren’t some drawbacks to this form. Because of the breadth of coverage undertaken in the book, there are not many subjects covered in great depth. In other words, for those of us that enjoy reading in great detail about a subject; it does not replace books that cover very specific subjects. Generally, it is a survey of techniques with an emphasis on successful and practical approaches. The great value of the book is that it efficiently and naturally provides general descriptions of many practices to achieve food independence, with the very useful words of experience from someone that is practicing what he preaches.
Buy Read Learn Enjoy

Monday, September 3, 2012

It is no secret in my family that my all-time favorite handgun is the good ol' 1911 - in some shape or form. A 1911 was one of the first (not the first) handguns I ever owned, and my love affair only grew over the years. I have lost count of the number of 1911s I've owned in my lifetime, but I'm sure its a safe bet, that I've probably owned a couple hundred 1911s. I've had everything from plain old Mil-Spec 1911s, to custom made guns from big-name makers, and well as building a good number of custom 1911s for my own use over the years.
John Moses Browning, the designer of the 1911, was truly a gifted man, when it came to firearms. However, I believe, his crowning accomplishment was (is) the 1911 - no other handgun is as famous, or as copied, or customized as the 1911 is. The 1911 was one of the longest-serving firearms in US military history, and it was the longest-serving handgun, until it was replaced in the mid 1980s. And, to this day, I believe it was a mistake to replace the 1911 with a double-stack, 9mm handgun - when it comes to using Full Metal Jacket ammo - that the military is restricted to using - the .45ACP round is far superior to the 9mm when it comes to stopping power. I don't care to get into a debate over which handgun round is a better stopper. It all comes down to shot placement, no matter what caliber you use. However, handgun rounds have benefited greatly over the years, when good Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) rounds were introduced. The early JHP rounds didn't always expand, however, today's JHP rounds do the job, no doubt about it. But the military is restricted to FMJ ammo, and that is a shame if you ask me. We always play by the rules, and the bad guys don't.
For several months, I've been testing and evaluating the Springfield Armory "Loaded" 1911 .45ACP in stainless steel. I've owned several "Loaded" Springfield Armory 1911s over the years, but this is the first stainless steel model with fixed sights. Let's take a look at the "Loaded" model, it includes all the modern-day improvements that used to be performed by custom gunsmiths - and it could easily cost you $500 to $1,000 to have all these improvements done - depending on which gunsmith you selected to work on your box-stock, Mil-Spec 1911. And, there was no guarantee that your gun would be returned any better than it was before you sent it off, depending on the gunsmith you sent it to. And, you could easily have been without your 1911 for six months to a year - I kid you not 'cause some of the better-known gunsmiths were (and are) backed-up that long.
Some of the features on the "Loaded" model include; a precision fit forged frame, slide and barrel, lowered and flared ejection port, delta light-weight hammer, loaded chamber indicator, titanium firing pin for faster lock-time, carry bevel package, dovetail front sight and premium fixed rear sight with white dots in the front and rear sights, Torx head grip screws and light-weight, adjustable speed trigger. The trigger is set at the factory 5-to-6 pounds - my sample was dead-on at 5 pounds and very crisp, with no slop.
Did you pay attention when I said this gun comes with a forged slide, frame and barrel? Yes, a lot of 1911s are cast - and in my very humble opinion, some of these cast 1911s don't hold up very well. And, the reason is, some aren't cast properly or heat-treated, though when done properly, cast frames and slides are very acceptable. Also, no matter how great the materials are, that any firearm is made out of, if they aren't properly fit, they won't be reliable or as accurate as they should be. My Springfield Armory "Loaded" sample is, without a doubt, the tightest fitted 1911 to pass through my hands - and I've owned a couple custom 1911s from big-name custom shops, that weren't this tightly fit. And, the barrel-to-slide-to-frame were expertly fit, to be sure. Springfield Armory has been doing 1911s for a lot of years, and they do 'em up "right" if you ask me.
One thing I can take or leave, is the  two-piece full length guide rod on a 1911. There was a time, when I thought they improved accuracy and function, and I no longer believe that to be a true statement. So, if you're like me, and don't care for a full-length guide rod, you can easily replace it with a Mil-Spec guide rod. I left the full-length guide rod in place. I made two changes in my sample, and I didn't "need" to make the changes. First I applied some skate board tape to the front strap on the frame for a secure grip on the gun under any weather conditions. Secondly, I took off the beautiful Cocobolo hardwood grips, and replaced them with a pair of "Code Zero" 1911 grips, from Mil-Tac Knives and Tools. I designed these grips myself, and I prefer them to any other design. My good friend, Craig Sword, who owns and operates Mil-Tac, worked with me for a year, to perfect this design, and get it absolutely perfect. Be sure to check 'em out on their web site, they really are great feeling 1911 grips - and no I don't make any money off of sales to the public - but Craig keeps me supplied with "Code Zero" 1911 grips whenever I need them. So, don't think I'm hawking my own design to make money - I'm not!
The "Loaded" model also comes with an ambidextrous safety - these were all the rage at one time - and I confess I put them on more than a few of my own 1911s. Today, I can take 'em or leave - and many people still want ambi-safeties on their 1911s, so Springfield Armory fits them to the "Loaded" model - and the safety snicks on and off with authority. I couldn't tell you how many factory, out-of-the-box 1911s I've owned that had mushy safeties - they just weren't fitted - they were "installed" and there's no reason for that. Springfield Armory gunsmiths know how to properly fit a safety, no doubt about it. We also have a beavertail grip safety, with a speed bump on the bottom edge - this ensures that the grip safety is properly depressed, and it helps spread out recoil, too. Again, this part was expertly fit - no slop, and it released about one-third of the way in when depressed - outstanding! The Delta speed hammer (skeletonized for fast lock-time), make the gun more accurate. Another nice touch.
The barrel on my "Loaded" sample was perfectly fitted, which contributed to the outstanding accuracy I obtained from this sample. We also have a throated and polished chamber on the barrel, as well as a polished feed ramp on the frame - there were no feeding problems at all - no matter what type or brand of ammo I put though this pistol. The slide has grasping grooves fore and aft - another nice touch. The low-profile combat sights are some of the best in the business - designed by custom gunsmith Wayne Novak - one of the top 1911 builders in the world! The sights are fast and easy to pick-up, too - made for a great sight picture. The sides of the frame and slide were highly polished, and the remainder of the gun was subdued - very kool looking.
The "Loaded" 1911 comes in a great carry case, that includes two 7 round magazines, as well as a holster and a magazine pouch. The gun is ready for carry, as it comes out of the box - just clean-off the packing oils, properly lube the gun and take it out to the range for a test-drive. The 5" stainless steel barrel gave me the best accuracy I've ever had, out of ANY 1911 that I've owned - bar none, period, end of story!
I had a good assortment of .45 ACP ammo to test in this gun, from Black Hills Ammunition I had their 185 grain TAC-XP Barnes all-copper hollow point +P load, and their 185 grain JHP steel-cased ammo - which is fast becoming a favorite with many shooters on a budget. From Winchester, I had their 230 grain FMJ USA-brand load - always a good load for target shooting and function testing. From Buffalo Bore I had their 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P load, their 185 grain JHP +P load, and their 255 grain Hard Cast +P load. I've had great success with the 185 grain TAC-XP +P loads from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore - the Buffalo Bore load is a bit hotter than the Black Hills load, however, the Springfield Armory "Loaded" 1911 handled 'em both with ease - either one would be a great carry load on the street for self-defense. I was getting 1.75" groups, at 25-yards with either one of these loads, if I did my part - using a rest, over the hood of my SUV. The Winchester 230 grain FMJ load was giving me 2 1/2" groups - always a good load. The steel-cased JHP load from Black Hills was giving me 2" groups - and the recoil was very easy on the gun and myself - I like the savings using this ammo over brass-cased ammo - and this is newly-manufactured ammo - not reloads. Black Hills was having a difficult time getting high-quality once-fired .45ACP brass for making their reloads, so they started using steel-cased ammo - and this is brand-new ammo! It's a bargain. The Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P load - it was also in the 2 to 2 1/2" range and would be an excellent self-defense load.
The winner in the accuracy department was the Buffalo Bore 255 grain Hard Cast +P load - if I hunkered down, I could get 1" groups - and that is outstanding accuracy from a custom 1911 - but this "Loaded" 1911 is a factory gun. While not my first choice for a self-defense round against two-legged critters, this is my load of choice, for stoking in my 1911s, if I'm out in the mountains, where I might run into 4-legged critters like black bear! Now, with that said, this would be a good load to carry as your back-up load - if you engaged in a gunfight, and the bad guy took cover - behind something "heavy" - you want some serious penetration - and this 255 grain Hard Cast +P load will do it for you. Still, for street work, I'd opt for either the Black Hills 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P or the Buffalo Bore 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P load - same bullet from Barnes that Black Hills and Buffalo Bore are using, except Buffalo Bore is sending their load down-range with more velocity. But nothing is free in this world, and the Buffalo Bore load recoils more than the Black Hills load does. To be honest, the Black Hills load recoiled less than the Winchester 230 grain FMJ load did - and I've found this to be true in all the .45ACP handguns I've tried this load in - I like it!
I'd have no problem carrying the Black Hills 185 grain JHP steel-cased ammo in any of my 1911s for self-defense - even those that recommend that you don't shoot steel-cased ammo through their guns - it's an excellent load and penetrates and expands nicely - plus you're saving money. The Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P load - again, no problem carrying that one for self-defense. What it comes down to, with any caliber or loading is, you have to pick the caliber and load for the job. There isn't a one load do-all round - at least not yet. If you're looking at facing down two-legged critters, the Barnes load from either maker will get the job done. If you're looking at being out in the boonies, and you might face four-legged critters, the Buffalo Bore 255 grain Hard Cast load would take care of things. Everything is a compromise, to some extent, so pick your loading according to you needs. For plain ol' target practice and "killing" rocks and tin cans - the Winchester 230 grain FMJ load is economical and always a great shooting round.
In all, I fired more than 1,000 rounds through my "Loaded" sample, without a hint of a bobble or malfunction. Most of the ammo run through this gun was the Black Hills 185 grain JHP load - Jeff Hoffman made sure I had a good supply of this great shooting ammo on-hand for testing in several .45ACP handguns I've been testing for SurvivalBlog. In 20 years of writing about guns, I've probably fired well over 100,000 rounds of various Black Hills ammo through my guns - and I've never once had a problem with any rounds - not once!  I've been shooting Buffalo Bore ammo for about a year and a half, and they are producing some premium ammo - it's not for plinking - this ammo is for serious self-defense and hunting purposes - they are an up and coming company, and I'm seeing signs of growth there. Winchester? What's not to say about them? Great ammo - always has been. And, the USA-branded stuff is economical and good shooting. I like running this stuff through new guns to help get them broken-in.
I don't believe my Springfield Armory Loaded Stainless Steel sample is a fluke - Springfield Armory is producing some outstanding 1911s - and they know how to build them right. I don't ever recall having a 1911 from Springfield Armory that wasn't a really great shooter - this one was better, and I think Springfield Armory is just doing an even better job than ever fitting their 1911s. If you want a full-loaded 1911, with all the stuff you'd pay a custom gunsmith to add, at a great expense over this "Loaded" sample, then check one out at your local gun shop. Why purchase a Mil-Spec, bare bones 1911, then spend a small fortune having it customized like the Springfield Armory "Loaded" model? I'm sure you won't have anything better than this "Loaded" model, and you will probably spend a lot more money, too.
The retail price on thee Springfield Armory Loaded sample is $1,039 but you can oftentimes find these same guns for $100 to $200 less, if you shop around. You could spend a lot more, and get a similar 1911 from some of the well-known custom 1911 makers - you could spend twice this amount, or three times this amount, but I don't know if you'd be getting two or three times better 1911. Check out a Springfield Armory "Loaded" 1911, and I think you'll be impressed - they are not only a great handgun for self-defense on the street, but also an outstanding survival weapon - they rarely break, and when they do, they are easy to repair.

Castigo Cay, by Matt Bracken
Copyright Date: 2011
Publisher: Steelcutter Publishing
ISBN: 0-9728310-4-5
Kindle edition available.
Suitable for children? No. Probably not for most of the ladies either.

Castigo Cay is an intense novel, as evidenced by the fact that I managed to find the time to devour all 537 pages in only 36 hours, while also living the rest of my life. Once you get into this one there is no good time to put it down.

At its core it is reminiscent of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game and not just in the plot twist, but also the aristocrat, the tough brute and the small remote Caribbean island, but it is much more developed, and much more sinister than Connell’s short story.

Spoilers Ahead!

The protagonist is Dan Kilmer, a relatively young man who served a stint in the sandbox as a USMC sniper, came home to go to college but had to drop out quickly when he snubbed the advances of a gay professor. From there he went to help an uncle rebuild an old steel schooner, and Dan inherited the schooner when his uncle died in an accident in the rebuilding process. Dan names the boat “Rebel Yell” and finds himself enjoying a life of freedom on the water. His only problem is that he can’t come back to America because he hasn’t been paying his health care tax and thus his boat would be subject to confiscation by the IRS if he were to bring it into American waters. Yes, this novel is set in the future, but it’s just a short jaunt forward. No fancy, new science fiction technologies, just the logical progression of current policy.

Dan’s life is fine until Cori Vargas gets impatient with him over her desire to get to Miami. Dan had picked her up in Venezuela. Her dream was to bring her “newly impoverished family” to America, and she was willing to be Dan’s girlfriend in order to achieve that. Dan got her to the Bahamas, but she wasn’t willing to wait for Dan to figure out how to get the rest of the way to Miami. She jumped ship and found herself in with the wrong crowd.

This particular “wrong crowd” is probably worse than anything anyone’s mother ever warned them about. There is a lot of power and influence in play, and some seriously sick minds. Matt Bracken is judiciously sparing of details, but it is clear that the young women who fall into the hands of these guys would be much better off dead. Not that these girls won’t end up there, but what happens to them on the route they take is the product of pure evil.

Dan finds himself trying to rescue the girl who snubbed him, spending his life’s savings and risking his life in the process. He is helped by Nick Galloway, a one-time Army Ranger, also in his early thirties, a fellow ex-pat, and by Kelly Urbanzik, a college co-ed who is a friend and neighbor of Mike and Sharon Delaney who Dan met when he rescued Mike from some local thugs when the Delaneys were vacationing in Cozumel, Mexico.

On account of the fact that Nick also recently served in the Sandbox, even though he and Dan were in different branches of the military, the two of them are able to work together effectively and efficiently. Their training and discipline is similar. A chain of command is immediately established with Dan as “Chu-tau” (Vietnamese for Captain).

Kelly is a hip college student who still lives in America and is able to help Dan and Nick navigate the new landscape which is Matt Bracken’s take on where America is headed. Kelly knows how to create fake IDs, how to acquire gasoline on the black market and how to sweet talk the police-gone-militia who now control a deeply depressed America.

Once the story gets moving (about sixty pages) the action and suspense are non-stop. There is risk in every move. Nowhere is there safety, nor is there any way to call for justice from any authority. Dan goes from Captain of Rebel Yell to Captain of his impromptu team and has to work through everyone’s personality challenges on the fly. Resources are scarce and there are few people who can be trusted, even when you are paying them. It makes for a very exciting read.

As survival literature this book has plenty of merit. I have seen several articles in which SurvivalBlog readers have suggested the water as a means of escaping the collapse. This novel addresses that strategy head-on, showing what it would look like and where some of the challenges lay. Boats are high maintenance items, and even with sail power available they have their limitations. Castigo Cay shows how to cope with some of those challenges and the lengths to which one must be able and willing to go.

There are some excellent parts dealing with camouflage, particularly of the types needed in the concrete jungle of society. A great deal of effort is put into what it takes to blend in and not show up as a target to either law enforcement or the criminal element, and how to change one’s identity in a matter of moments.
Going from the concrete jungle to the natural world there is a matter of finding and creating weapons, the value of that para-cord bracelet, plus what it takes to deal with a serious psychopath, who, by the way, is also prepping for the collapse of society and has plans to thrive when it happens.

Just for good measure, there is a bit of intrigue regarding politics, blackmail and just where all that money poured into environmentalism actually goes.

Provisos: Be advised that this is a book for a mature audience. While Matt Bracken will leave a sentence unfinished in order to avoid stating the graphic horror, it is still quite clear just how low and depraved some men can get in the abuse and torture of women. There is material in this book which can leave you awake at night.
Profanity is present, but it is used sparingly and for dramatic realism.
There are no sex scenes, but there are times of reminiscing for when there had been.
There are several fairly graphic deaths.

Again, this is a book for the mature, and at that, I would not hand it to my wife to read, but it is well written and offers some very practical considerations for the prepper. It is absolutely a page turner.

JWR Adds: SurvivalBlog readers will of course recognize Matt Bracken as the former U.S. Navy SEAL who authored the well-known novels: Enemies Foreign and Domestic, Domestic Enemies, Foreign Enemies and Traitors.

Rohan Nation: Reinventing America after the 2020 Collapse. A Novel by Drew Miller; 583 pages. I read the book’s introduction and was immediately drawn to this story not unlike how Katniss drew me to The Hunger Games.

“ACE continued her slow, careful sweep of the valley with the night vision scope of her rifle. The first rays were oozing over Cuchara Pass, starting to reach the western, upper mountains of Forbes Park. Dark or light, anyone foolish enough to walk out in the open meadow valley would be easily spotted..............She lifted the assault rifle up to her left ear and gazed through the scope at the dull green images. The low light scope was on maximum magnification. A soda straw view, but since ACE knew exactly where the threats would be, a narrow field of vision worked....”

The story opens with Ace, the seventeen-year old heroine  is standing sentry duty next to her horse, Prismatic. And it is their story, woven through the disaster of a post-apocalyptic world in which the horse is fundamental to the survival of the community. Your heart cannot help but be affected; this story of a community determined to survive will endear those wonderful creatures to you even more.. If I found any drawbacks, it was too much of the author’s input couched as “lessons” over meals and campfires about political / historical and governmental useless and tedious policies and regulations. Happily, much like some of the overly long monologues in Atlas Shrugged, these “lessons” can be skimmed at the reader’s discretion in order to get back to the story line, a story strong enough for me to overlook much of this.

The story’s battle to remain and stay free reinforces our instinctive knowledge that freedom will never, ever be free and that the price is substantial. All members of Rohan Nation’s community have a reborn daily purpose to produce, protect and live active lives. If marauders, murderers and thieves were not enough to constantly worry about, a tyrannical, post-apocalyptic government rears its ugly head and eventually, Rohan Nation must confront it. As the story draws down, life goes on, living in a new rebuilding world. Hero's continue to teach for survival, a life worth living and planning against continued distant threats.

I would recommend this book. The author, Drew Miller, is a good story teller. If you are interested in learning of how life might realistically unfold in varying communities after a collapse, you will find this a believable story and gain insights into life now versus then.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Book of Blacksmithing (Setting Up Shop, Essential Skills, and Easy Projects to Get You Started), by Michael Cardiff.
ISBN-13: 978-1610045773

I've known Mike Cardiff for a couple of decades, and can vouch for his competencies as a smith.  He moves surely, wastes no effort, and turns out functional tools, blades and accoutrements in short order.  I helped him find a publisher for this work, and am very glad to see it in print.
I'm quite impressed by the outcome.  Mike's writing style is simple, clear and straightforward, and the illustrations by his brother are likewise very easy to understand and follow.  This slim but surprisingly dense book first addresses safety, setup of a smith including choices of forge types, anvils and tools.  It then does a detailed breakdown of various types of hammers, tongs, punches and chisels, shaping tools, and accessories like drills and grinders.  Each major tool is accorded a description on how to select and use it, across a panoply of striking, gripping, bending, punching and abrading tools.

He covers buying and scrounging material for different purposes, and finding tools, or items that can be converted into tools, from various sources.

Then it's on to how to build a fire (coal, gas, and charcoal, possibly the most versatile and available fuel for grid down or economic crisis scenarios), maintain it, heat and work steel.  How to control the hammer, the shape, how to heat treat and temper for tools, and how to weld ferrous metals with a forge.  He does not cover horse shoeing, which is the specialty of a farrier. He does cover the manufacture of basic hand tools.

Next, there is an entire chapter on problems and how to troubleshoot them—misshapen metal, split, cracked or twisted stock, and problems judging metal mass.

The last part of the book is devoted to very clear, beautifully illustrated instructions on making various items, including shop tools (hammers, punches, hardies, tongs, nail forming tools) and several small household items that will give the beginning smith a good workout in the essentials of shaping metal.

The Book of Blacksmithing is available from Paladin Press, from and and other outlets.
Disclosure and Disclaimer (per FTC File No. P034520): I was furnished a free (damaged) copy for review.

7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century by Andres F. Krepinevich
Bantam Dell, New York, 2009. 334 pages including a thorough index.
ISBN 978-0-553-80539-0
The author of this book is the president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and a former US Army officer with a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
In this book, he asks the hard questions most people choose to ignore. Being prepared is an ongoing task based on anticipation of something bad occurring. Planning for those occurrences is best done by utilizing scenarios to figure out your response, and what supplies are needed to insure your survival.

Although published three years ago, this book is still timely in the disasters it anticipates in Iraq, Pakistan, China, Israel, the global economy, and a pandemic.
The author explains how to create disaster or crisis scenarios for anyone from the military, civil authorities, and private citizens. He explains the dangers of not believing the results you may achieve from acting out your scenarios. The author explains the importance of keeping an open mind and remaining flexible during a crisis. If your plan is too rigid, you will probably fail. Have a plan B, C, and D for each eventuality. Share your plan with a trusted prepper and let them look for ways to improve your options. Return the favor with an open mind.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was war gamed by the US Navy in 1932 and filed away. The second and successful attack on the World Trade Towers was forewarned before the first attack by a security officer. The messenger was ignored. The French Army possessed a copy of the German Army plan of attack years before WWI began in 1914. They bought it from a German turncoat and filed it away.

The scenarios in this book include a collapse of Pakistan. Al Qaeda is actively working today to destabilize that nation both militarily and politically. What happens if they succeed?
A pandemic on the scale of the 1918 Flu will create havoc as our health facilities are overloaded, millions will die, and the global economy devastated in the process. Scientists and medical experts have told us for years that this monster is not a question of if, but a question of when. A pandemic can be seen coming, so do you have your flu shot, yet?
What happens if China decides to flex its’ military muscles in the South China Sea or the Pacific Ocean? Does our military and its’ allies have the power to win the struggle?
What happens in the event of an EMP? The favorite scenario is the collapse of the USA from terrorists or a rogue nation, but how about the case of a solar caused EMP in Europe or Asia? The economic devastation to the global economy will affect all of us.

What happens if the record setting drought of 2012 continues for another two to three years? Are you prepared for further food shortages and higher prices?
This book is well written, thought provoking, and will hopefully spur you to action to turn your disasters into inconveniences.

I've always been a big fan, of little guns - that pack some serious knock down power. I remember first reading about the (then) new Kahr Arms 9mm pistol, and whoever wrote about it claimed the double-action only trigger was butter smooth. Well, it wasn't until about five years ago, that I actually saw my first Kahr in a gun shop. For some reason, all the gun shops I regularly haunted, never had a Kahr in-stock - new or used. As soon as I felt how good the Kahr K9 felt in my hands, and the super-smooth trigger pull on it was, I was sold - I walked out with the gun and a holster for it that very hour.

There has been a big tread the past half dozen years or so, for very small concealed carry guns. While I seriously applaud this, and the gun companies are finally listening to the consumers, most of these guns in the past few years have been in .380 ACP. Anyone who follows my writings know that, I'm not a big fan of the .380 ACP cartridge as my first-line of defense - as a back-up, yeah! However, over the past couple of years, ammo makers have been giving the little .380 ACP a real boost in power, and with JHP ammo that actually expands, and penetrates. However, I still, personally only carry a .380 ACP as a back-up to my main handgun. A lot of folks think that it's over-kill, to carry two handguns, I don't! You never know when your main gun might malfunction, run out of ammo, or actually break - when you need it the most. And, I believe this comes from years of being a PI and a cop - I always carried a second gun - never know what kind of trouble you might run into, and need the second gun, or to arm a loved one or friend, who might be able to aid you.

Well, since purchasing my very first Kahr Arms pistol several years ago, a number of their outstanding firearms has passed through my hands, some in .380 ACP, some in 9mm, some in .40 S&W and the winner is, the grand ol' .45 ACP. A couple years ago, I got my hands on the Kahr CW45 - and it was (and is) and outstanding handgun for concealed carry - with 6+1 rounds on-tap, and a spare mag on my belt. However, it just wasn't exactly what I was looking for, for some strange reason. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the Kahr CW45 - nothing! Several months ago, I contacted Frank Harris, who is Kahr's head honcho in the Marketing department, and requested a Kahr PM45. And, as usual, Kahr was backed-up with orders, and I had to wait a month for my sample PM45 to arrive - but the wait was well worth it.

The PM45 is what I was looking for in a Kahr, for a concealed carry handgun. At only slightly more than 19-oz unloaded, with an empty mag, the PM45 feels like the gun will float out of your hand. The CW45 carries 6+1 rounds, the PM45 is 5+1 rounds, but in my humble opinion, it's worth sacrificing that one round for the added concealability and compactness the PM45 affords. With a stainless steel slide, and a 3.24" Bbl, and black polymer frame, we are talking about a super-small .45 ACP handgun. The polymer frame is heavily textured, so much so, that I took some extra-fine sandpaper to it, to get the "points" off the texturing - they were sharp, to be sure. I'm sure, over time, the points would have wore down a bit, but I planned on doing a lot of shooting, and didn't want the sharp texturing abrading my hand.

The PM45 comes with bar-dot sights - and the sights are steel, on the CW45, the front sight is polymer and pinned in place. On the PM45, the front and rear sight can be moved for windage adjustments - no adjustments were required - and I've never had to adjust the sights on any Kahr handgun - they are dead-on from the box. The PM45 also comes with a spare magazine - the CW45 doesn't. The PM45 also has nicer contours to the slide than the CW45 does - I like the look and feel of the PM45 a lot.

We have an overall length of only 5.79" and a height of only 4.49" and width of only 1.01" - so we're talking about a very compact .45ACP carry gun, to be sure. You can also order your PM45 with night sights, too - I elected to just go with the standard sights for some reason. The barrel on the PM45 is a bit better than the barrel on the CW45 - not that there is a lot of difference when it comes to accuracy, but it is slightly better in the accuracy department than the CW45 is. You can read all the differences between the various .45ACP models on the Kahr web site, and they make quite a few variations in all calibers.

First thing I did with my Kahr PM45 was mount a Crimson Trace (CT) laser on the gun, and in my humble opinion, there isn't a better laser for the Kahr line of handguns than the Crimson Trace line. I've been using their lasers almost since day one, and they are top-notch in all respects. The CT laser for the PM45 fits onto the trigger guard, and when properly attached, the CT laser looks just like it was actually a part of the PM45. And, the best part is, CT lasers are easy-on, and easy-off. Just take a proper grip on the gun, and the laser is activated - just that simple. And, CT has a new policy, in that, they will supply you with batteries for your CT laser, for life. How can you beat that deal? And, in my opinion, the CT laser is a worthy investment for the PM45. I've used CT lasers forever, and I've only had a problem with one, and returned it to the factory and it was repaired and returned inside of a week - how's that for customer service? To be sure, CT manufactures their lasers for many of the Kahr handguns - as well as most popular handguns, check out their web site.

Now, most people will be led to believe, that a .45ACP pistol, as small as the Kahr PM45 is, will "kick" a lot - well, to be honest, there is some recoil there, but not nearly as much as you might think. I had my usual assortment of .45ACP ammo on-hand for testing. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition. I had their 185 grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point +P, 200 grain JHP +P, 230 grain JHP +P and their 255 grain Hard Cast FN load - also +P. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 230 grain FMJ, 185 grain JHP, 185 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P load. And, a couple fairly new loads, their 185 grain JHP steel-cased load, and their 230 grain FMJ steel-cased load. Now, don't get these steel-cased confused with the dirty-shooting Russian-made steel cased loads - they are worlds apart. Black Hills started using steel-cased ammo because they couldn't find enough of once-fired .45 ACP brass cases for making reloaded ammo. Their steel-cased new ammo is priced right, and there is no comparison between this steel-cased ammo and the Russian stuff - Black Hills wins, hands-down. From Winchester, I used their white box USA-brand 230 grain FMJ ammo - always a good shooter for plinking or target practice - as well as self-defense.

Okay, so how did the little Kahr PM45 shoot? Well, I had no problems with any of the ammo - the PM45 never missed a beat. Kahr recommends that you shoot at least 200 rounds through their guns before you can consider them reliable enough for self-defense. My PM45 never skipped a beat - with any of the ammo. I put well over 500 rounds through the little Kahr, and there wasn't a hint of a functioning problem. I kept my shooting at 15-yards or closer - which is what this little pistol was meant for - close-up and dirty self-defense work. However, it is capable of really good accuracy out to 25-yards if you do your part. As for accuracy - the winner was the Buffalo Bore 200 grain JHP+P load - if I did my part, I could keep the groups at 2-1/2 inches at 15-yards. However, the Black Hills 230 grain FMJ load was right on the heels of the Buffalo Bore load. I've found that the Black Hills 230 grain FMJ load usually provides me with match-grade accuracy - and it is not a match load!

Kahr recommends that you steer clear of steel-cased ammo, but I didn't have any problems with feeding or extraction, using the Black Hills 185 grain JHP or 230 grain FMJ steel-cased loads - no problems at all. And, I was really surprised at the accuracy from these steel-cased loads. The Buffalo Bore 255 grain Hard Cast FN +P load - needless to say, that hummer really "kicked" the most. This is a round you load-up, when you're out hiking in the boonies, and you might encounter some serious threat from a 4-legged critter, like a black bear. This round will make that black bear wish they were some place else, to be sure. I didn't do any penetration tests with this load, using the Kahr PM45, but I've tested this load in other .45 ACP chambered handguns, and it penetrates like your wouldn't believe.

I burned-up a lot of Winchester USA white box 230 grain FMJ ammo in my testing. I've always liked this load, for target practice and just plain ol' plinking fun. It's affordable and very accurate. I probably put 200 rounds of this ammo through the little Kahr, with no problems. I liked the 185 grain Barnes all-copper +P load from Buffalo Bore and the same Barnes load from Black Hills for self-defense, but neither one of these loads proved to be the accuracy winner - and I was surprised. However, my wife wanted a Kahr PM45 of her own - so she "borrowed" my sample...and I had to request a second PM45 from Kahr for myself - this one with the black finish on the slide. And, this sample really loved the 185 grain Barnes all-copper hollow point +P load from Buffalo Bore and Black Hills. Just goes to show, that not all guns are alike - even two identical guns, from the same maker - only difference was the finish on the slide - other than that, they were identical. But the black slide sample preferred the Barnes loads from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore for best accuracy - and they were in a dead-tied for accuracy in my second sample. Go figure? It really does pay to test different types and brands of ammo, if you are looking for the most accurate load for your guns. And, it pays to test different ammo for different tasks, too.

The trigger-pull on the PM45 samples I had, were the best I've ever encountered on any DAO pistol - even better than some of the other Kahr handguns I've tested. To be sure, and without a doubt, the trigger-pulls were like driving a high performance sports car - and I've driven a few in my life. While the trigger-pull is a little long on the Kahr, there isn't a glitch in it - just pulls like cutting through melted butter - I kid you not! I think what I really liked about the PM45 is that, the grip circumference - it's the smallest around than any other .45 ACP handgun that I'm aware of - and this includes some 2-shot derringers, too. I'm not sure how Kahr was able to pull this wife, who is like most women, has small hands, and she found the grip circumference to her liking - she couldn't believe how great the PM45 felt in her hand. I believe that, the grip circumference on the PM45 also helped tame the recoil. While shooting the Buffalo Bore +P loads (that are hot) were attention getters, it wasn't nearly as bad as one would expect from such a tiny pistol. That's saying a lot in my book.

While I like the Kahr CW45, the PM45 is all that much better. Yes, the PM45 retails for a lot more than the CW45 does - the PM45 is $855 for the stainless steel slide version. However, if you ask me, I believe the PM45 is all that much more gun than the CW45. Now, don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the CW45 - but Kahr spoiled me with the PM45. So, if you're in the market, for one of the smallest .45 ACP semiauto pistols on the market, take a close look at the Kahr PM45. It will serve your survival needs quite well - be it street survival or hiking out in the boonies - with the right load, this gun will take care of the job at hand. And, I'm betting you'll also want to add a Crimson Trace laser to your Kahr, too. It is hard to beat this combo in my humble opinion. Be sure to check out Kahr's webs site, they have a lot of accessories, clothing, holsters, spare mags, etc., for their handguns.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I learned to cook out of necessity - I was raised by my grandmother, and she was one of the worse cooks, ever! However, she managed to raise 9 children and myself, but her cooking ability was lacking. So when I was quite young I started experimenting in the kitchen and learned to cook on my own. Of course, over the years, I learned a lot from other folks along the way. And, being from Chicago, and being Sicilian, I learned to cook some great Sicilian style Italian meals. My pasta sauce is next to none. Now, with that said, I can't bake for diddly! That's my wife's department. So, when I received the Family Grain Mill from Internet Prepper,  I turned to my lovely wife for her assistance. She was raised on a ranch, and knows quite a bit about baking and cooking from scratch.
The Family Grain Mill can be had in different configurations - you can have a complete "system" with the right attachments. You can set-up your Family Grain Mill as a stand alone set-up, using the hand-crank for those times when the power is out. Or, you can use the optional stand alone electric motor attachment. If you have some other kitchen appliances, like the Bosch or Kitchen Aid mixers, you can attach your Family Grain Mill to those for faster wheat grinding with an adapter attachment.  And, it's very easy to alternate between using the hand-crank or the electric motor. What my wife really liked about the whole thing was that it was extremely quick and easy to set-up. She's not mechanically minded, and doesn't enjoy having to read through a long list of steps to put something together.
The quality of the Family Grain Mill is outstanding - made by Messerschmidt in Germany, for the past 27 years. This is top-notch in all respects. However, this mill isn't nearly as expensive as some other mills on the market, in fact, it is quite a bit less expensive - and I enjoy saving a buck whenever I can, while still getting the best quality I can afford. These days, we all need to spend our hard-earned money wisely. Any more, if something isn't a "deal" in my book - I'll just pass on it. I've got to get the most and best I can afford. Made from premium Lexan and hardened surgical steel burrs, and BPA free, the mill is capable of a lifetime of dependable service.
Fast, light, and easy to use, this was important to my wife (and, "no" I still don't know how to use it-- I just watched my wife). A cup of fine flour is produced in approximately one minute from wheat grain, with the electric base installed and just two minutes with the hand-crank installed. More importantly, the hand-crank base turns easily, even a child can turn it. The large 5-cup open-top hopper allows for continuous grinding, too. Another feature the wife liked is that clean-up is fast and easy, and dust-free. Everything removes easily and quickly for cleaning. The Family Grain Mill is one of the quietest mills on the market, too.
Some of the things the Family Grain Mill is capable of grinding are: wheat, oats, corn (not popcorn), rye, spelt, barley, rice, most beans, coffee, flax seed, sesame seeds, dried herbs, dried peppers, dried peas and other foods. My wife ground coffee beans and  lots and lots of wheat. This was a "difficult" test and evaluation period for me,  for the past month and a half - hey, someone had to test and evaluate all the different types of freshly baked breads that my wife made - yeah, a "dirty" job, but I was up to the task. And, other than pizza cooking in the oven, there isn't anything better smell in my kitchen, than fresh bread baking. I made a lot of "sacrifices" for Survival Blog readers, doing all these taste-testing, but I was up to the task. There is also a meat grinder attachment, and that would be great for grinding-up some venison during hunting season.
Oh yes, you can also get a variety of additional food processing drums for the Family Grain Mill, that will allow you to grind nuts and larger seeds such as pumpkins seeds, sunflower seeds, hard cheese and baby food. There is another drum for Julienne for soups, one for slicing for dehydrating veggies, one for grating, and yet one more drum for making mash potatoes, squash and pumpkins - great for souffles.
There is also a flaker attachment for the mill, that will roll and flake: oats, wheat, rye, spelt and flax seeds. You can make your own oatmeal at home or even cream of wheat. My wife experimented with quite a few different recipes and dishes, and came up with some very cool things for us to eat. One of my favorite breads she made was a wheat bread, almost flattened, with Jalepeno peppers cut-up small, inside the bread itself, and in the final few minutes of baking, she added sliced Jalepenos on top the bread with cheddar cheese - mouth-watering good!
Quite frankly, I never once gave any thought, to storing buckets of whole wheat - I just figured that we could use white flour - and we have hundreds of pounds of it stored-up, for making bread, pancakes and other things during hard times. However, to be sure, pre-ground white flour won't last nearly as long as whole wheat will. On average, if whole wheat is properly stored, and the buckets left unopened, the whole wheat can last 25 years or longer. Try that with a bag of white flour - ain't gonna happen. We found some great buys on whole hard white wheat and hard red winter wheat at the local Wal-Mart. We only rarely shop at Wal-Mart for a number of reasons, one is, we don't especially enjoy supporting the Red Chinese economy in the least. We have found, that Wal-Mart is carrying a small section of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods in #10 cans, as well as 26 pound buckets of wheat - priced under $15 per bucket - and that's a deal. Needless to say, we have a good number of buckets of wheat in our stores now - and as soon as the local Wal-Mart restocks their shelves with more wheat, we plan on buying more. However, for the most part, we prefer to take our business to other local stores, whenever possible - just a personal thing with us.
Now that we have the Family Grain Mill, I'm wondering, how we ever got along without it for all these years? Any more, in the local grocery stores, the cheapest white or wheat bread is $1.50 on-sale, and there really isn't any nutrition in this bread, and for the most part, it is pretty tasteless. My wife hasn't hardly made a dent in one bucket of whole wheat, and she has baked quite a few loaves of bread and other things. Now, if you could buy this same bread in the local grocery stores, it would easily cost you $5 per loaf. For less than $15 for a 26 pounds of whole wheat, we will make dozens and dozens of loaves of bread - fresh-baked bread, with nutritional value as well. For the little bit of time it takes to grind-up your wheat, and put it in a bread-maker, and let it bake, it's hard to find any fault at all with the Family Grain Mill, and the ease to use it. Of course, during the times when there isn't any electricity available, you can still bake bread a number of different ways, and you can still use your Family Grain Mill with the hand-crank attachment, to grind-up your wheat or other foods.
Notes from my wife:  Finding a recipe for 100% whole wheat bread was difficult.  Most recipes called for regular flour with just a small amount of whole wheat.  This is a basic recipe she found that is light and easily adapted for variations; and can be kneaded by hand and baked in the oven or done in a breadmaker. It is for one loaf of 100% whole wheat bread.
     1 1/2 cups warm water
     2 Tbsp. powdered milk
     2 Tbsp. margarine or oil
     2 Tbsp. honey
     2 Tbsp. molasses
     1 1/2 tsp. salt
     3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
     1 1/2 tsp yeast or l pkg.
Some optional variations to the recipe:
1. 1 1/2 cups water and powder milk can be replaced with all water, all milk, or a combination of milk and water.
2. 2 Tbsp. honey & 2 Tbsp. molasses (total 1/4 cup) can be replaced with all honey, 1/4 c. brown or white sugar, 1/4 c. maple syrup, or reduced to about half the amount of sweeteners for variations in tastes.
3. I also understand part of the whole wheat flour can be replaced with other flours like rye, bulgar, cracked wheat, etc.
She also found some tricks that make 100% whole wheat bread lighter.
1. Run the grain through the mill twice for a finer, lighter flour.
2. To minimize gluten with the same effect for light bread, shake whole wheat flour through a wire mesh strainer and even dump in the bran or coarser pieces that don't sift through.  It does NOT work if you sift through a crank sifter. (for whatever reason this works -I can't explain.  I tried it and got nice light bread.)
3. Knead bread for 20-30 minutes.
There are various options you can add to your Family Grain Mill. However, the basic mill starts at only $139.95 with free shipping - making it one of the least expensive grain mills on the market. However, I highly recommend adding some options to your grain mill. If you have any questions, contact the Internet Prepper, and they will be more than happy to help you in your decision making, or answer any questions you might have. They are selling a quality product, at a great price and the free-shipping only makes the deal that much better if you ask me.
If you're serious about long-term survival, then you need to look at the Family Grain Mill, and start turning out some of the best home-made breads you'll ever taste. Store bought breads just don't cut it for us any longer.
Note: This article was co-authored by Mary Cascio

Rhodes: The Race for Africa, by Anthony Thomas
Copyright: 1996 St. Martin's Press
ISBN 0-312-16982-5
(This book was the basis for a Masterpiece Theater mini-series.)

Cecil John Rhodes may be the most important man you never heard about if you were educated in the United States of America. His death in 1902 at the age of 48 was followed by the largest memorial every recorded on the continent of Africa. He expanded the British Empire more than any other man; adding almost 1 million square miles (2.6 million square kilometers). His achievement was so great a country larger than most of Europe was named after him. Yet, less than one hundred years later many came to vilify him. His namesake countries has become Zambia and Zimbabwe.

How does a sickly preacher's son rise to his levels in politics and business? His legacy at de Beers still controls world diamond prices. Rhodes: The Race for Africa looks into these issues with one of the most objective views possible.

Rhodes: The Race for Africa can be a challenging book to read. Most people will be looking up definitions on a regular basis. In addition to the challenging vocabulary, the differences between an American writer and one of British decent are awkward at times.

The book uses many citations in its 352 pages. The bibliography is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to delve more deeply into Cecil Rhodes and the events around his life. Thankfully the citations are just a superscript number and not a longer traditional author/title, page format. This helps the flow for those not immediately concerned about the source material.

The author Anthony Thomas gives us a very well researched and unbiased look at Rhodes. He points out clearly where his information comes from, mostly first hand accounts (primary sources), and what bias the source may have had. On occasion he will look at the opinions of other bibliographers who wrote about Cecil Rhodes. This was interesting to see how attitudes and opinions changed based on the time period and how more was found out about Rhodes. After reading this book you will feel like you have an honest look at Rhodes and what transpired around him.

Nicely dispersed throughout the book are many pictures and a few sketches. It's a pleasant surprise to turn the page and see a picture of the mining camp or what Jameson's Raiders looked like at the time. What would have been nice it to have more maps showing the different stages of his expansion. This would be especially helpful for those not intimately familiar with southern African geography.

Chapters are divided into themes or events. Generally easy to follow but a departure from the normal timeline based history (chronological). To Thomas's credit, where important events overlap in different parts of the book his gives you page references. Also, he writes a brief sentence or two to refresh your memory that is very helpful.

"Every man has his Price," as Cecil Rhodes was fond of saying. This is something he proved time and again in his quest. Money alone did not put him in a position where he could dictate to the British Crown. No, it was his ability to talk with anyone regardless of class, race, or religion and get that person to see things his way. The book covers several examples where he would engage with people for days. Upon his leaving they saw things Rhodes's way.

Rhodes, despite his great successes, said on his deathbed, "So little done. So much to do." Over the years he came to believe in the expansion of the British Empire. In his mind and that of many other people of the period British rule was good for the "savages". It is easy to see why in their minds. They would educate, convert to Christianity, give them a common language, and show them modern ways of production and trade. As the reader progresses through the book they will be presented with events that question the magnanimity of the empire builders.

Rhodes' South Africa evolved into what was known for as apartheid. A small minority of whites ruled over the indigenous black population. As common sense will tell you, the few cannot control the many without the threat or use of force. Understanding the series of "harmless" injuries to freedom can turn into near slavery is not the theme of the book. It will be what many patriot readers can take away from reading this book. No, the bigger ideas that should worry the SurvivalBlog reader are the corrupting influences of power and the world will turn out another like Cecil Rhodes.

Emergency Preparedness The Right Way, by Howard Godfrey
ISBN:  1-4392-4478-2

When the author set out to write this book on emergency preparedness skills, he wanted it to be “not overly complicated”.  He has had many years experience in fire skills, law enforcement and the military, has taught preparedness skills and helped organize preparedness shows. With this background, he found that many of the books available were either incomplete, or attempted to be too comprehensive. He elected not to write about firearms, self-defense, nuclear, biological or chemical warfare, or medical care in detail—not because these were not valid and important subjects, but because he felt there were numerous books dedicated to these subjects already available.  Instead, his purpose was to prioritize basic emergency items needed, suggest ways to improvise whenever possible and provide a healthy resource list of suggested reading/web sites/suppliers, etc.  In other words, this is a great book for those new-to-the world of emergency prepping!

His chapter on water is an excellent overview of all things that need to be addressed when planning for this important need.  He distinguishes between environments---suburban vs. rural, desert vs. mountains, etc.  He delves into different sources for water, such as wells, springs, swimming pools, rainwater, hot water tanks, etc. He addresses the contamination and water-borne diseases issue, along with many different types of disinfecting processes, including chlorine dioxide and iodide tablets, solar water disinfection (SODIS) and various types of filters. One thing I found to be very helpful is that he frequently discusses some “reputable brand names”, which serves as a good jumping off point for a newbie looking into these types of purchases.

He discusses the question we have all asked; “how much food do you store”? His answer, while emphasizing that the final decision has to be based on individual needs, is three months of food you would normally eat every day, backed up by enough “long term food” for a year. He discusses the pros and cons of purchasing the “one-size-fits-all” food packages, and, in addition, writes at some length about the basic grains, legumes, oils, salts, sugars, honey, etc.  He explains the basic difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, and the processes used to make them.  This should help someone new decide how they wish to store their food.

In the chapter on “Cooking, Lights and Fuel”, the author is assuming there is a non-functioning electrical grid and the reader is dependent on their own resources.  Generators, solar ovens, and different types of stoves and fuels are discussed.  He includes pictures and diagrams along with some comparison charts, which I found to be very helpful.

While he does not go into any great detail in his chapter on “Medical and Sanitation”, he does provide a basic first aid list, along with important over-the-counter medications to have available. He especially stresses the importance of good sanitation and hygiene practices. He addresses how to improvise sewage facilities and properly dispose of garbage and rubbish.

One of the last chapters is devoted to the “72 Hour Kit”.  He feels each member of the family should have their own kit, and it should be individualized accordingly. He is a big believer in improvising whenever possible and buying from garage sales, thrift shops etc, if necessary.  The bottom line, he says, is that the kit must meet your 3 most important needs:  food, water and warmth.  Food choices vary from MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) to canned tuna and protein bars.  Water choices depend on many personal factors, including ability to carry at least 2 quarts of water and have a method to purify more.  Different types of fire starters, including how to simply make your own is also explained.  Multiple types of back packs and sleeping bags along with pros and cons to different styles are discussed.

The chapter on Miscellaneous Recipes was most interesting.  I never knew, for example that there was an actual recipe for hard tack, or a use for acorn flour!  But, the last chapter, which focuses on how to make or improvise equipment could prove to be extremely helpful.  Included are the plans for an iceless refrigerator, solar oven and rocket stoves.

Threaded throughout the book are many observations, “random thoughts” and tips from the author.  All are useful and thought-provoking.  For example, I have never thought of using a now non-functioning car as a place to dry vegetables—but, it would work!  His tip about “keeping a pair of shoes by your bedside, as one of the most common injuries in an earthquake is cut feet” also makes a great deal of sense.  The author has emphasized that preparedness is paramount for any number of potential disasters, from nuclear explosions and Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs) to floods and other disasters.  His list of recommended reading and web sites will prove invaluable for anyone, either a newbie or a seasoned survivalist.  At 141 pages, the book is concise, and very readable, and, as Mr. Godfrey wanted “not overly complicated.”  Anyone who is a serious prepper will obviously have a more complete library, but this is a great jumping off point for someone just starting out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I thought I'd take a minute and recommend an Army Field Manual (FM) that I don't see referenced too often here. It's FM 7-92 ("The infantry reconnaissance platoon and squad; airborne, air assault, light infantry") with Chapter 9 for MOUT/urban operations. This version is a little hard to find, so here's the link.  Just don't ask why I had to go to to find it.

This version dates back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, so the emphasis less on mechanized reconnaissance, technology, and general eye candy - unlike a majority of the scout FMs in current publication. It covers water movement, tracking, dismounted infiltration, etc. It's also interesting to see the parallels between these older scout FMs and the newer six-man sniper teams. Having been in the scout platoon of the 187th Infantry Brigade, I'm sure that I'm a little biased, But from my perspective this is one of the most valuable FMs out there for WTSHTF.  Of course it should be read after the general infantry FMs, but the focus here is on small group operations, and helps to develop the skills needed to extend your area of influence well beyond your own personal camp-de-resistance.

Enjoy, - Robert in North Carolina

Monday, August 13, 2012

I don't care how many times I tell students who are coming to take a firearms class from me to bring hearing protection and eye protection. And, more often than not, at least half the students don't bring either eye or hearing protection. I keep a box of soft foam ear plugs and safety glasses on-hand at all times, for those forgetful, or maybe they are neglectful students.
My eye doctor tells me, there is no cure for blindness. And, for hearing loss - well, it's something a lot of people learn to live with, with either hearing aids, or they are always saying "what did you say?" because they didn't hear what you said. I know I'm guilty of having a hearing loss. When I was young and dumb, I often didn't wear hearing protection when I was shooting, and I'm paying for it now.
I used to ride motorcycles a lot, matter of fact, it wasn't until six year ago, that I sold my last two motorcycles. When I got my first bike back in 1970, I did wear sunglasses during the day, and no eye protection at all, when I rode at night. I can't tell you how many pairs of sunglasses got broke or the lenses cracked, when a rock or other road debris came flying at my eyes. Luckily, I never had a foreign object actually penetrate the sunglasses and hit my eyes. However, more than a few bugs hit my eyes, and if you ride bikes, you know about bugs in your teeth. It wasn't until about 10-12 years ago, that I started wearing safety glasses when riding my bikes, as well as wearing a helmet - as required by law in my state. Anyone who rides a bike without an approved DOT safety helmet is only asking for a serious injury. My regular UPS driver recently wrecked his bike. As a matter of fact, he was almost clinically dead on the scene. A nurse who witnessed the accident actually performed CPR on him until an ambulance arrived. Luckily, my UPS driver was wearing a helmet - and after two months, he's finally back at work.
I recently received a pair of BTB sunglasses, and you really need to check out their web site to see the wide selection of sunglasses they carry. I guess what I like most about their sunglasses is that, they don't have a one-size fits all - they actually come in different sizes, for different size heads. I received the BTB 800 series polarized sunglasses for testing. And, needless to say, they are polarized, which comes in mighty handy when you're out in the bright sunlight or fishing over water - they really cut the glare down. You even receive a micro-fiber pouch to carry your sunglasses in - this helps prevent unwanted scratches on the lenses.
A little background on BTB Sport Optics is in order. For more than a year, BTB were test marketed at professional events, trade shows and retail establishments, gaining valuable insights and feedback from the marketplace. The market message was clear and consistent. Due to the economic times and increasing education of the consumer, high priced sunglasses were not selling. High priced sunglasses retailing between $75 to $200 plummeted and inventory levels of the perceived "high quality" industry leaders steadily rose in the retail sector. Understanding this trend, BTB wanted to introduce a line of sport and recreational sunglasses that provided, superior optic quality, complete UVA and UVB protection, frame construction materials of the highest quality and durability, complimentary styles and formed fit for comfort and aggressive and an affordable price point. And, as SB readers know, I like to spend my money wisely, getting the most out of every penny.
Some of the features of the BTB sunglasses are: lenses provide 100% optic clarity, frames are made from Grilamid TR-90 and designed using an 8 to 10 base curve, the sunglasses are "formed fit" for comfort, temples and nosepieces are made from hypo-allergenic material and coated with an anti-bacterial agent for heavy perspiration environments. They also exceed ANSI, OSHA and military impact specs, and the lenses are "ballistic" rated. Okay, that last one "ballistic rated" caught my attention. Watch the short video and see how these sunglasses were tested. Very impressive - they took a hit from 30-feet away, with birdshot and there was no penetration. Now, don't go thinking these sunglasses will stop a 9mm round - they won't. No sunglasses will. However, where these sunglasses shine would be, for our military personnel, who might get hit in the face with shrapnel or other debris - it can make the different between saving your sight, or losing it because you didn't wear any eye protection. Take note!
I've been wearing my sample BTB 800 sunglasses for two weeks now - fishing, shooting and driving, and they actually do fit like a glove - very comfortable. I like the wrap-around fit, too - if you've ever been hit in the face or eyes with flying brass, from a shooter next to you, then you'll appreciate the wrap-around design - that empty brass can't hit your eyes from the side, unlike other sunglasses that only provide frontal eye protection.
I counted no less than 16 different styles of sunglasses on the BTB web site - so they will have a style for just about anyone. And, as I mentioned, they comes in different sizes, too. So, it's not like you are forced to wear a pair of sunglasses that fit your wife, but are too small for you, or a pair that fits your husband, but are too big for your face. I've easily spent $50+ for Foster Grant sunglasses, and while they looked super-cool, they didn't afford my eyes protection from flying objects that would hit them - especially when riding a motorcycle. The BTB sunglasses afford you not only ballistic eye protection, they also are very stylish and afford full UVA and UVB protection from the sun.
The BTB web site described their product as "the best $100 sunglasses for $50 and under..." and I can't find any fault in that. My sample 800 series retail for $49.95, and easily worth double that price. BTB also offers free shipping  on orders over $40.00. And, I'm betting you'll find a couple pair of BTB sunglasses that you'll want, for yourself and your spouse.
I can't tell you how important it is, to wear some type of eye protection when your out shooting, or riding a bike down the highway. You only have one set of eyes, and you need to protect them as much as possible. If you're in the military, or you have a loved one who is serving, get them a pair of BTB sunglasses - they'll thank you. They really will. You could spend a lot more for sunglasses of this quality, but you simply won't get any more for your money, nor will you get better protection. Spend your dollars wisely, and check out the BTB web site. I'm betting you'll find a style that will catch your attention, and you'll be doing your eyes a favor, too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Since my review article on the new Springfield Armory XDs was posted I've heard from no less than a dozen SurvivalBlog readers, who were having "problems" with their XDs .45s - most of the problems were related to light firing pin strikes. I've also had two SurvivalBlog readers live nearby come to me for this problem, and I was able to get the problem "fixed."
Here's what you're looking at with the XDs: First of all, we have a sub-compact .45 ACP pistol. It is very small and light-weight - only 21.5 ounces empty. And, it has a polymer frame. So, as it is with all polymer frame handguns, you have to have a firm grip on the gun - NO limp-wristing it. If you limp-wrist the XDs, the slide doesn't go fully into battery - it will be out of battery by a few thousandths of an inch - which means, the barrel isn't fully locked-up, and when you pull the trigger, the striker hits high on the primer - 'causing a misfire because it is not hitting the primer dead center - it will be hitting too high on the primer. [JWR Adds: And if the slide is not fully in the battery position, then the firing pin will not impart all of the intended energy on the primer.]
Additionally, the XDs is a very tight handgun - this contributes to the match-grade accuracy of the little pistols. So, when you first get your factory-new XDs, make sure you clean-off the rust-preventative oil. This is not intended as daily use lubrication, as many suspect. Then, properly oil the mating surfaces on the frame and the slide with a good lube like Break Free CLP, and be a little bit generous, initially. The XDs needs a little bit of a break-in period with some of the guns because they are so tightly fit - again this contributes to the outstanding, match-grade accuracy.
So, you have two things to address: One is, no limp-wristing the XDs - it's a sub-compact, polymer frame handgun, that needs a tight grip on it, in order to properly function and feed rounds into the chamber. Secondly, add enough lube to the contact areas, this means the slide rail recesses and the small contact areas on the frame, that holds the slide onto the frame.
Dave Williams, the head of Springfield Armory's Custom Shop, says he tells people who call, until he is blue in the face, that you have to follow the above steps, if you want your XDs to function 100% of the time. And, like many new handguns, that are tightly fit, a little bit of a break-in period might be required as well. I've mentioned this in numerous articles, that you should run at least 100-rds through a new handgun (and preferably 200-rds) to make sure the gun will function 100% of the time.
The folks I heard from, who were having problems with "light" strikes on the primers, didn't contact me again, after I explained the above procedures to them - their guns are working 100%. And, the two SB readers, who came to me for assistance - their guns are working 100% of the time.  So, don't think you have a "defective" XDs if you are getting light hits on the primers - you're not! Get a good grip on the XDs and make sure you have lubed it properly, and your XDs will just keep perking along. To date, I now have well over 1,000 rounds through my XDs and only one failure to fire - a Winchester USA-brand 230-gr FMJ round - and I put it back in the magazine and tried to fire it several times - it wouldn't go off. It was just a dud round - it happens with the best ammo, every now and then.

JWR Adds: I witnessed a the same problem first hand with a XD(M) .45 Compact. In this case it was one of the models that has a two-column magazine. This was a brand new gun, shooting 230 grain ball factory duplication handloads. As with the other pistols that Pat mentioned, the problem turned out to be insufficient lubrication. Just a squirt of Break Free CLP on the slide rails and barrel assembly immediately solved the problem. In the event of a light primer strike, your "tap-rack-ready" clearance drill should be executed. If you are a well-trained pistol shooter, this drill should become so ingrained so that you do it hardly without thinking, to get you pistol back "up and running."

Tomorrow, When the War Began
(by John Marsden) ISBN 0-419-82910-0
This young adult ("YA') novel of adventure, romance and survival is a modern classic. The setting is in rural Australia, with lush and descriptive backdrops. The vision Marsden paints of Australia is wondrous and pictorial. A group of unsupervised teens set off on a high adventure camping expedition, alone for a week in the wilderness. (Yes, my eyebrows rose on that one, too.) Upon returning from the holiday they find their homes empty, pets and livestock dying or dead and communications down. Most of the town has been captured and is being detained in a make-shift camp. Sounds like a facsimile of the film, Red Dawn, Aussie style, but not quite.

This is a coming of age novel with all of the expectations of that phrase. It is a survival story of teens that are jerked from the normalcy of a comfortable home and high-school life to living and surviving in an occupied country. They are forced to evade the occupiers, provide food, shelter and security for themselves.  Romance blooms while sorting through life changing decisions. This book will definitely open a YA mind to “What if’s”. The young reader is positioned to reflect, “What would I have done?”  Throughout the book there is a growing maturity in discussions as well as logical choices and survival skills. The lessons of loyalty and family bonds are presented in a non-sermonizing manner.  

Overall, Marsden has the depiction of the average seventeen-year-old spot on. The language and interaction is genuine. The early banter is a little bawdy at times although not explicit. Profanity is not an issue. I know the preoccupation with infatuations in this age group. (Contrary to the opinions of my children, I was not cloned in a tube and emerged as a mid-life adult.) Even so, I felt I was chin deep in teenage, moon-eyed angst.  Early in the story romantic fantasies abound. However, there is a fruition of a developing perspective leading the YA to a more mature view. This is a clever device, making the YA reader relate with the YA characters as they evolve. As an adult reader I found glimpse into the developing YA psyche interesting.

John Marsden is an award winning author, published in over nine languages and has written over 40 books.  Being an educator he has the ‘voice’ of the young adult characters to perfection. Tomorrow is the first of a series of seven YA books following Ellie and her friends. This saga remains one of the most popular YA reads today, recommended for middle school and older. The original publication was 1993 by Pan MacMillan. I am reviewing the First Point paperback edition, a Scholastic book, published in 2006.

Two caveats about this book. I feel several of the sexually oriented topics are inappropriate for a middle school age child. As I implied in the first paragraph, I am not sure what you think about an entire week of unchaperoned, hormonal teenagers in the wilderness, but in my home that’s not an option. There are no actual depictions of sexual acts, but a lot of heavy petting and one dream scene of nude fondling. In particular, sharing sleeping arrangements and co-ed naptime are presented as to sound customary. Later in the book (page 237) is a discussion of virginity. Admittedly, my impression is that these are older, more experienced teens with graduation around the corner. Compared to the books, movies, music popular today, Tomorrow is restrained. But for a fourteen year old, I prefer to not present the notion that snuggling together in a tent alone overnight is banal and virginity optional. It is not okay to play with fire. Yes, I know. They are thinking about it. But, you don’t have to cultivate the thoughts and water them with assurances that this type of careless behavior is the norm. Teens under fifteen or less mature teens do not need that meme advocated.
Marsden has sold more than 3 million books because he writes books that the kids want to read. I can see some validity in that concept, but I wonder if he would feel the same casual regard for exposing young minds to sexual elements if he were a parent. 
My other dissent is the author’s apparent slant to the left in discussions justifying the actions of the invaders. Of course, the teens are concerned, even oppressed with worry for family and friends. They do not condone the occupiers’ actions; however, at least a faction does understand why the unnamed enemy has occupied their land. Paraphrasing here: ‘We have-they do not-therefore it is our fault. No wonder we were invaded’. Well, now, that explains everything.

Tomorrow, When the War Began
is an international bestseller. Rave reviews universally laud this book. Scholastic consortiums extol Marsden. This book (and series) is included as reading list in schools around the world. I recommend Tomorrow noting the two caveats listed above. This book should stay on the shelf until the adolescent child reaches a strong sense of self and has the ability to critically discern and then evaluate the viewpoints presented within the writing.  Given the diversity of beliefs and values among parents, you may disagree with my view. Obviously, thousands of middle-school libraries do. My perspectives reflect my stance as conservative Christian. The novel does exhibit significant moral evolution albeit through stuttering teen reasoning. A more mature YA with a strong sense of identity could deal with the topics handily and benefit from the read. I would not put this book into the hands of an eighth-grader. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why by Amanda Ripley
Crown Publishers, New York, 2008.
266 pages including eight pages of color photos, source notes, bibliography, and a thorough index.
ISBN 978-0-307-35289-7
Paperback edition is available at and other booksellers.

This is not a psychobabble volume readable by a few academics. The author writes in plain English about a complicated subject that she makes easily understandable. She has interviewed hundreds of survivors, scholars, and scientists to obtain her information.
The book is divided into three parts: Denial, Deliberation, and The Decisive Moment. Inside the three parts are eight chapters.
Using case studies and first person accounts from survivors of a variety of disasters, the author explains why some people survive while many are dying all around them. Our natural instincts in a disaster are fear, shock, and flight or fight.
Scientists have studied why some people gather into groups, some freeze in place, others flee the scene, while others respond calmly. Case histories of each response are given ranging from Hurricane Katrina, the Twin Towers, the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, a plane crash in Washington DC, the Virginia Tech shootings, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, ferry sinking in the Baltic Sea, and many more.

There are numerous lessons for the reader, especially those who want to be prepared for any emergency.

First, disasters are predictable – outcomes are not. I live in tornado country and not having a shelter is gambling with lives, so I have a shelter close to an exit door of my home and emergency radios to keep me informed. Earthquakes are number two so I have insurance. Forest fires are next and I have a quick exit plan. What disaster zone do you live in? Are you prepared for the inevitable?

Second, fear can be overcome with a little work. Practice your skills to make them subconsciously automatic. Have a plan in your mind to deal with a particular crisis. Lay in the necessary supplies to deal with that crisis. Do your family members know their part?

Practice your response to convert the emergency into an inconvenience. Practicing gives you deeper understanding of what is occurring, which in turn decreases your fear. Less fear equates to more confidence, which gives you a better probability of survival. Fire drills are not stupid.

Third, do not rely on anyone to rescue you. That is your job and yours alone. FEMA and the Red Cross will show up in a few days, if at all, so you’re on your own during the crisis.

These examples just skim the surface of this book. There are more in-depth discussions of ways to prepare yourself and your family for any emergency coming your way based on the experiences of people who survived their disasters.

I recommend this book for your home library. Keep it handy for refresher reading and to share with your family. You will all be safer.

About the Reviewer: "T.M." is SurvivalBlog's History Book Review Editor. He is a retired academician who now enjoys gardening, hunting, prepping and reading a good book.

About this time last year, I did a review for a print publication on the Masterpiece Arms MPA10T - a semiauto only .45ACP MAC-style pistol. The gun was fun to shoot, and worked 100% of the time. The only thing I didn't care for was the weight of the gun - it was heavy, and a little bit bulky, especially with the 30 round magazine in-place and fully loaded. If you're interested in a short history of the MAC-style of submachine guns, check out this web page.
When I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado some years ago, a friend and I ran a gun shop out of his gas station, and we sold a lot of SWD M-11/9 pistols. This was the semiauto version of the MAC-style pistol in 9mm. Matter of fact, we sold more SWD M-11/9s than any other type of gun. Back then, you could get an SWD for about $189 with a 32 round magazine, magazine loader and barrel extension (read: false suppressor). It was a great deal. Only problem was, it was a hit or miss - if you got a gun that would function all the time. More often than not though, the guns worked. The biggest problem was the Zytel 32 round magazines that came with the guns. They were poorly made and the feed-lips would often break, or the,  magazine would split, making it totally useless. Still, we sold hundreds of those SWD M-11/9s.
Enter Masterpiece Arms and they are doing the MAC-style semiauto-only guns the right way these days. Everything about the MPA line of guns is being done right. The welds on the stamped sheet lower and upper receivers are expertly done, and the tolerances are extremely tight - tighter than you can imagine on this type of gun.  What amazed me more than anything on my MPA930T-GR sample was the trigger pull, it was outstanding - breaking at about 4.5 lbs. There is also an easily reached safety on the right side of the lower receiver, that turns 180-degrees for "safe" and 180-dgrees back for "fire."
My sample MPA 9mm pistol is a new version called the "Grim Reaper" and it got this name from the Grim Reaper finish on the gun and barrel extension. There are skulls and bones all over the gun. This may or not appeal to you. I like the look. Now, does this gun differ from the standard MPA 9mm mini-pistol? No, only the Grim Reaper finish on the gun is different from the other 9mm minipistol that MPA manufactures. However, the kool-factor is there, and everyone who saw, handled and fired my sample loved the look of the gun with the Grim Reaper finish on it.
The MPA930T-GR is what MPA likes to call a "Mini" 9mm pistol - and compared to the full-sized version, it really is mini in size. The Grim Reaper comes with a top cocker - some of the other MPA guns can be had with a side cocking handle if you want to mount some sort of red dot sight on top of the gun. I prefer the top cocking versions - seems more natural to me, more like other semiauto pistols, where you chamber a round by pulling back on the slide. With the Grim Reaper, you grab and retract the cocking handle on top of the upper receiver.
The sights are improved, in that, the front sight is adjustable for elevation by screwing it up or down. I didn't like how easily the front sight screwed up and down, and once I had it adjusted for the proper elevation, I used some Loc-Tite on it and it stayed put. The rear sight is crude, "U"shaped, open type, but functional, and gives a fast sight picture. There is no windage adjustment on the rear sight - however, I found it to be dead-on for windage. Right off the bat, I'll tell you, this little Grim Reaper was accurate - I honestly wasn't expecting this type of accuracy - I was getting about 4" groups at 25-yards, and that was hand-held. With the 32 round magazine in place, I couldn't bench rest the gun 'cause it was too tall.
The MPA web site states that the Grim Reaper comes with a 30 round magazine - in fact, they are 32 round magazines. The magazines are made by TAPCO, and are some type of poly material - much better made than the SWD Zytel magazines - I don't see these magazines falling apart or breaking like the old Zytel magazines did that SWD provided with their guns. The magazines were fairly easy to load by hand, but some of the many folks who shot my sample could only load about 25 rounds into the mag, then they had to use the supplied magazine loading tool to top-off the magazine. I found, as I have with Glock magazines, is that you fully load the magazines, and let 'em sit for a couple of weeks, then they can easily be fully loaded by hand, without use of the loading tool. The spring just needs to be worked in order to make the magazine easier to load by hand.
What you get with the Grim Reaper package is a very nice polymer carrying case, the Grim Reaper mini 9mm pistol, a magazine loading tool, long barrel extension that looks like a sound suppressor, and a short barrel extension that acts more like a flash suppressor, and a very complete instruction manual that is easy to read and understand. There is also a limited lifetime guarantee on this gun. The 3 1/2 barrel is threaded 1/2X28" so if you want to jump through the FedGov red tape and pay the $200 transfer tax to get a real sound suppressor for it - the gun will take a real suppressor. If you live in Kalifornia, you can get a non-threaded version - that comes with the mandated 10 round magazine. Of course, this kinda defeats the purpose of this style of gun - limiting yourself to only 10 rounds. The real fun-factor of this gun is the 32 round capacity magazine.
I fired Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition as well as Winchester 9mm through this gun, and the accuracy results were all just about the same...most loads shot right around a 4" groups at 25-yards if I did my part. There honestly wasn't a winner with any of the above ammo tested...the gun didn't seem to prefer one brand of ammo over another in the accuracy department. MPA recommends that you only use factory new FMJ 9mm ammo in their guns. However, I found that my Grim Reaper would fire all manner of JHP ammo without any problems, as well as +P and +P+ fodder. Black Hills provided me with their 9mm +P 115-gr Barnes all-copper hollow ammo, as well as their 115-gr FMJ and 124-gr FMJ reloaded ammo for testing, and every round went "bang" when the trigger was pulled. Buffalo Bore supplied me with their 115-gr +P+ Barnes all-copper hollow point ammo, as well as their 95-gr +P+ all-copper hollow point ammo - no problems with this hotter ammo - the Grim Reaper just continued to perk along. Winchester provided me with their USA brand, white box 115-gr FMJ ammo - again, no problems were encountered with their ammo. No matter what I fed the Grim Reaper, it continued to  function perfectly. I will say though, that the Grim Reaper seemed to like the +P and +P+ loads a little better - nothing scientific that I can point to, but the gun just ate this stuff up like it was candy.
I fire more of the Black Hills 115 grain and 124 grain FMJ reloads through the Grim Reaper than any other ammo, and as with all Black Hills reloads, I encountered no malfunctions. I've stated before, that I'd have no problems loading and carrying Black Hills reloaded ammo in my guns for self-defense, and that still rings true. I'd trust the Black Hills reloads before I'd trust some other brand-new ammo from some other big name ammo makers.
Other folks who shot my Grim Reaper sample provided their own ammo, which was usually a mix of all types of ammo and different brands. And, not one of us had any problems - well, that's not exactly true - the problems they all encountered was that, they didn't bring enough ammo with 'em...they all complained "I should have brought more ammo with me.." was commonly heard. It wasn't unusual for one of the shooters to burn through 300 rounds of ammo in half an hour - I kid you not. In all, more than 2,000 rounds of various types of ammo went through the Grim Reaper - and during that time, the gun was not cleaned or lubricated once. I lubed the gun when I first took it out of the box, and I didn't lube it during the testing - and the gun still hasn't seen a cleaning or any lube. What's nice about the MPA Grim Reaper is that, it runs very well, with very little lube.
I don't care for the fact that the Grim Reaper only comes with one 32 round magazine - I'd like to see a second mag included, even if MPA has to charge a little more for it. The gun weighs in, empty, at just slightly under 3 pounds - so it's fast and easy to shoot. The recoil? No one said the gun "kicked" at all. One person said there was some trigger slap - but no one else complained about this. There is a poly trigger cover on the trigger to prevent trigger slap or at least reduce the felt trigger slap. Personally, I didn't feel any trigger slap. Without a doubt, you need to shoot the Grim Reaper with the longer barrel extension attached - it gives you something to hold onto, with your off-hand in rapid fire. And, burning through a couple of mags, rapid fire, the barrel extension did feel warm to the touch, but it never got hot. I didn't like the flash suppressor barrel extension, though - nothing to really grab on to. The longer barrel extension would work itself loose after a magazine or two, and I'd have to tighten it down. I found a quick and easy fix for this. I applied some plumbers Nylon tape wrapped around the threaded barrel took care of things. I wrapped the plumbers tape around the threads a couple times, then screwed the long barrel extension on, and it stayed put and didn't unscrew itself. You could also apply some blue Loc-Tite and it would probably accomplish the same thing.
I ordered some spare 32 round magazines for my Grim Reaper, they are available from Masterpiece Arms, or any number of other sources. When I go out and shoot my Grim Reaper, I want plenty of loaded spare magazines on-hand. And, everyone else who shot my sample also loaded-up plenty of extra mags before heading to the range, rather than loading the mags at the range.
Okay, so where does the MPA Grim Reaper fit in? Well, I already mentioned the fun-factor - and this gun is lot of fun to shoot. We have 32 rounds in the mag ready to go. The Grim Reaper would make an excellent home defense gun, loaded with JHP ammo. What's not to like about having a lot of hot-stepping JHP 9mm ammo on-tap, when the bad guys break down your front door? If I were caught out in my rig, when the SHTF, and the bad guys were coming at me...the Grim Reaper would make them wish they had picked an easier target. The gun could easily fit in a backpack or briefcase, too - if you were out hiking, or trying to get home from work after a disaster - a couple spare 32 round mags - and you're ready to defend yourself and those you love. Now, the politicians would call the MPA Grim Reaper an "assault gun" - but they are fools, plain and simple. The Grim Reaper is a semiauto only pistol - it just happens to look "bad" to the ill-informed.
I guess what surprised me the most with the Grim Reaper was the accuracy - it's as accurate as many other 9mm factory pistols. And, the reliability factor - more than 2,000 rounds down range, with zero malfunctions, and it fed every type of ammo we put through it. If you're in the market for a new "fun factor" toy, then check out the new Grim Reaper, it retails for $537.95, but in my humble opinion, it is well worth the money. Just be sure to stock-up on plenty of spare magazines - I have 10-spare mags right now and plan on getting some more, before election day in November. I'd also recommend that you stock-up on some spare parts for the Grim Reaper, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive spare parts are. I'd sure get a spare firing pin, extractor and recoil spring - just to have on-hand for the bad times that are sure to come. And, replacing any broken parts would be a piece of cake on the Grim Reaper, too. The gun is very well made, and not complicated at all, and simpler is better - less things to break or go wrong.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I had long been interested in buying Mr. Ballou's book Long-Term Survival In The Coming Dark Age: Preparing to Live after Society Crumbles. He has several compelling titles out there about survival skills. I selected  this one because the cover caught my eye: a Foreword by Ragnar Benson. For those who don't know this author, he has written many excellent books on the subject of Survival and Preparedness. He is considered one of the originals along with Mel Tappan, and Kurt Saxon who were among the main Survivalist writers  in the 1970s.  Benson also often disagrees with his contemporaries, making him even more interesting to read. The political and economic situation in the present day reminds me of that  time when the word Survivalist was first invented.  Benson, to me, is my favorite author on this subject. He combines a unique writing style with real world experience in Survival and Preparedness.  I often re-read Mr. Benson's work for entertainment and review of essential skills and philosophy. I figured anyone of his caliber who would put his name on a recent book was worth buying.

Ballou starts out with the usual “Why Prepare?” argument citing possibilities of what could happen if society collapses. Unless the book is for beginners or entry level readers, a chapter like this  should be omitted. Most Preparedness-Minded folks don't need to be convinced. If they do need to be convinced there are plenty of publications out there for free. Personally I just go to work in the Emergency Room and observe modern American society in all it's glory.

Mr. Ballou lists the need for the usual: Wood Stoves, Tools, Water Purification Filters etc. Again, an entry-level discussion would be good  for the completely clueless, but not for more advanced Preparedness people.  He lists many survival items,  but the problem is he always qualifies with “Could be useful” or “Could Possibly” or “Might Be”. Unlike Benson, he indicates little or no real-world experience with the supplies he writes about. Often they are just basic common sense. Do people really need to read that a bathtub could be filled with water for emergency use? That's FEMA stuff, not Dark Ages stuff. Still,  the illustrations are a fun reminder of some tools and equipment to have. You may just want to take a picture of your own stock-up items for later reference. Or keep and read  those free tool catalogs. If you want pictures, don't buy this book.   

The chapter on underground caches is interesting, but there is nothing new here either. Advise such as making sure no one sees what you are doing, cover your tracks, etc. also goes without being said (or written). One interesting note on the subject of burial of survival items p. 27:
Survival author Ragnar Benson has written about using a post auger for boring deeper holes. Keep in mind, however that a full size . . . auger will be more difficult to conceal if you travel on foot to your cache site and you might draw unwanted attention to your activities . . .

That' is quite a thing to say: contradict a survival expert with more than four decades of real-world experience-who endorsed your own book! Especially since  Benson's own book on Caching is a great, informative read. Did Mr. Ballou consider a post-hole is faster to dig, or disturbs the ground less thus offsetting other disadvantages? What about breaking down the digger into component parts to be re-assembled at the dig site? A post hole digger handle looks a lot like a hiking staff. Mr. Ballou does not discuss advantages, disadvantages or alternatives to this, other than he does not think  it's a good idea. Before I would go toe-to-toe with an writer and survivalist like Ragnar Benson, I would make sure I had some solid points to make other than what seems to be vague speculation.
He also said to be sure to carry some water with you when you go digging. Thank you Mr. Ballou for the sage survival advise.

Chapter 3 was worth the price of the book. The Survival Workshop. I could tell that this is the area where Mr. Ballou has experience and expertise. The basic metalworking, riveting and shop set-up ideas are well presented, with less “could-be” or “might be useful” and more “normally very effective”. I like to read “is” instead of “might” when it comes to life-or-death analysis of what I may have to do in a societal collapse. I am not a hobbyist.  I really like the idea of making a thread cutting die from a file, or a vise from 2 x 4s.  Now those examples are  something that could be potentially used in the Dark Ages! This chapter, like quality survival books, really got me thinking. He has a book dedicated to this subject I want to buy.

Chapter 4 is also very good, a  review and reminder of the countless things that are thrown away of potential use in a later time when they may not be able to be manufactured on a large scale. Still, it's not survival in the Dark Ages, it's things one can do now, while there are dumpsters to dive. I scavenge in cities I visit. I find this  fun and sometimes of financial benefit. I share the writer's inclination to look for wheel weights and other small items in parking lots. This is a skill common in Third World countries.  All preparedness-minded people should at least think about routine scavenging. Forget about the image of the homeless degenerate culling for food in a back-alley garbage can like an animal. Be discreet. Dress with durable clothing.  I have found climbing rope, drills, hardware, electrical supplies new-in-box among other things too numerous to detail here. I do it while jogging while carrying a cloth shopping bag. I even sometimes wear a silk mask if the dumpster is under surveillance. One has to keep warm,  right? Good points are made by Ballou, but this could have been a separate article or included in another book. It's not post-dark-ages survival guidelines.

The rest of the book covers the subjects of fire making, cordage and what trade goods to store. Again, this is very basic information. The Bushcraft skills would be better reviewed by reading  Ray Mears. Ragnar Benson also covers trade goods in his writings including the specific need for spare tool handles. No one can argue against the possibility that,  in a Dark Age, things like matches and other high tech manufactured items be scarce or unavailable.  Ballou directed the reader to more complete, already published works, rather than attempt to re-introduce the entire subject in a few pages. If he has direct experience, maybe just discuss his first-hand problems with bushcraft techniques and his own personal solutions, if any.  This is what another important bushcraft writer John McPherson does.

Mr. Ballou has written a pretty good introduction to the world of preparedness with two strong idea-based chapters on survival metalworking and improvisation from found objects. Other than metalworking ideas, it has little to do with post-dark age survival.  It's a basic primer  about getting ready. Again, other than metalworking his first-hand experience is not apparent to me in this book. If he does indeed have some experience in survival, then tell me.  I would buy the book for the chapters on metalworking and scavenger hunting.  Otherwise,  read the books by the man who wrote the forward: Ragnar Benson. Writers from the early Survivalist Movement are also what I consider essential and even fun to read. If you want to learn more about bushcraft then read Ray Mears and watch his videos. John McPherson is also an excellent bushcraft writer on the subject along with Bradford Angier who started in the 1960s and  earlier. These folks have done it.  Don't forget that basic books about survival  have been written about in great detail before, sometimes more than 40 years ago.  However, nothing is a substitute for personal skill-building. That means put the books away and start doing it yourself.

The World Radio TV Handbook ("WRTH") is a large annual handbook that contains a comprehensive directory of radio and television broadcasting stations worldwide. It also includes articles, technical reviews and commentaries about many aspects of shortwave listening, DX (long distance) chasing, and selection of suitable radio receivers.

Revised and published annually, the reader is assured that the information contained therein is fresh and accurate. (I did my review based on the 2011 edition.) Anyone who has listened to a shortwave radio will know that it is often difficult to determine the identity of the station as it is being heard. Moreover, many stations operate concurrently on the same frequency. The vagaries of HF propagation normally insure that the targeted audience receives the signal beamed toward them, but many times the signal from a station may be heard where not normally expected. Enter the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH), which will give the identity of all stations operating on a specific frequency, the times of the transmission, the language being spoken, and an indication of the scheduled content. Not only does this allow the listener to more accurately determine what he is hearing, but the times and audience targeting will enable the listener to schedule and record it unattended.

The information in this book is gathered year-round by the publisher, as well as being directly provided by the broadcasters themselves. Shortwave listeners (SWLs) also contribute station reports, which are of particular value in listing and monitoring clandestine and very small local stations. The listings include virtually all commercial broadcasters, their frequencies ranging from long wave (below 535 KHz), medium wave (535 to 1705 KHz), shortwave (1.8 - 30 MHz), FM (76 to 108 MHz) and terrestrial television.

WRTH has five sections; Editorial, Contributors, Reviews, Features, and Information. The Editorial section consists of a general overview of commercial broadcasting, anticipated changes and so on; a review of the state of the broadcasting industry in general. The Contributors section names those individuals who have been instrumental in providing fresh reception information, especially the rare and hard to find stations. It is notable that the contributors are global, indicating a healthy interest in broadcast listening worldwide. The Review section has reviews of current shortwave-capable receivers in all price ranges, from a few dollars to many thousands. These reviews are concise and very useful for the targeted audience, the hobbyist shortwave listener, but are less technical than reviews in more focused publications, like the amateur radio publication QST. However, the lack of detailed technical measurements seldom make any real difference to the typical shortwave or medium wave listener. A wide selection of articles populate the Features section, ranging from classic radio receivers to digital reception to a preview of anticipated propagation for the coming year.

The majority of the content of WRTH is in the Information section, which contains all the frequency listings. This section is further broken down into several categories, each designed to be helpful as the listener scans the bands. The listings serve both types of listener; schedulers and cruisers. A scheduler will locate the country and language of choice, pick the most appropriate frequency for the current level of propagation, then tune to that frequency at the appointed time and hopefully hear or record the selected broadcast. A cruiser typically finds a band where propagation and reception is good, then tunes about until finding a station of interest. By determining the language and content of the program, the listener can then use the listings to find the most likely candidate(s) for the station being heard. This can be confirmed by hearing the station ID on the hour.

The listings themselves are broken down several ways, each given its own place in the book. National radio listings consists of stations whose broadcasts are targeted within the station's home country boundaries. These are your typical local MW broadcast stations, but also include FM and ground-based TV stations. International radio listings contain stations that specifically target and beam toward other regions of the world. Typically these are very high powered shortwave transmitters, operating on multiple frequencies, many times with identical broadcast content. These stations generally provide cultural content, music, and a healthy dose of propaganda. Most of these high-power stations are government owned and operated, which will define the program content. Frequency listings contain frequencies and the stations to be found on them, in increasing order of frequency. This list is most useful when hearing a station that you want to ID quickly. By looking at the entry you can get the station power, country of origin and call sign with location. If you are a cruiser you will find this to be the place most useful to you.

Terrestrial television is covered thoroughly in the USA as well as abroad. Due to the nature of UHF propagation, foreign TV stations will seldom, if ever, be detected outside of the station's immediate locale. The movement toward digital television has also limited the usefulness of these listings as digital transmissions are ineffective beyond line of sight. The TV listings are interesting but will be of very limited usefulness to the prepper.

The final part of the book is the Reference section, which gives miscellaneous related information for using the guide. Examples are Main Country Index,Geographical Area Codes, Abbreviations and Symbols, and so forth. These entries are helpful in understanding and getting the full information from the foregoing frequency and station sections of the book. Of particular interest is the Standard Time and Frequency listings, which give the frequencies, times and locations of these stations. Time and frequency stations are handy for calibrating your receiver tuning, and getting an accurate time setting when other methods are unavailable, and checking propagation from a specific area of the world.

WRTH covers all licensed and many clandestine radio and TV frequencies worldwide. For its intended purpose and audience it fulfills expectations very well. It is complex on first viewing but with a modest effort anyone can learn to use this handbook quickly. The listings will never be 100 percent accurate because of continual changes in transmitter frequencies, locations, power levels and the inevitable political issues prevalent in some countries. Some readers may have trouble initially understanding the acronyms and technical abbreviations. There is a bit of a learning curve to a beginning user. However, the Features and Reviews section includes a page on how to use the listings as well as a detailed set of world maps which help orient the reader to the locations of the listed stations. The Reference section also covers abbreviations used throughout the book.

This handbook is of great usefulness to shortwave listeners, radio hobbyists, preppers and anyone interested in the variety and geographical locations of transmitters throughout the world. I have used this book as an aid in my radio monitoring for over thirty years. The accuracy of the publication is such that I usually keep my copy for two years before getting a new one. However, if you want to have the absolute latest printed compendium of frequencies, then purchasing a copy annually is your best choice.

Sean Gilbert, George Jacobs, Bengt Ericson. Dave Kenny, Mauno Ritola, Bernd Trutenau, and Torgeir Woxen

Copyright Date 2010

Published by Nicholas Hardyman - WRTH Publications Ltd.

ISBN 978-0-9555481-3-0 is now selling the 2012 edition of the World Radio TV Handbook


Monday, July 23, 2012

One of the most anticipated handguns to come along, is the new Springfield Armory XDs, single-stack, 5+1 shot, .45ACP pistol. This gun was due to be released in March of this year, but there were production  delays that had to be worked out. And, I am grateful for a company like Springfield Armory, who won't release a gun until it is what it is supposed to be, instead of releasing the gun sooner, and then facing a recall of thousands of guns down the road because of some kind of glitch. Still, people want what they can't have - and the demand for the all-new XDs was there - people were placing orders with their local gun shops for the gun, long before they were due to come out. Some people always must have the newest guns, or be the first on their block to own a new gun model. I have to admit, I was always hounding Deb Williams, at Springfield Armory for my sample. I know that she got sick and tired of the weekly e-mails, asking when the XDs was coming out. She has a job I don't want!
Okay, the new XDs arrived, and to be honest with you, it was more than I expected - the gun was nicer in all respects than I anticipated from the press releases and the web site. I like it when I'm pleasantly surprised in a good way. Since Springfield Armory first came out with the XD line of handguns, it has been a real hit for them and the consumer. And, along the way, there were improvements made, as well as smaller compact and sub-compact models, and even newer models, like the XDm - which has also been a big hit. So, I was expecting something super-kool with the XDs, and I wasn't disappointed in the least.
With so many folks getting their concealed carry licenses, there is a vast market for small, concealable handguns that can stop an attack. If you've read any of my articles on SurvivalBlog for any length of time, you know I don't like the .380ACP as my main concealed carry gun - I think, at best, the .380 ACP is a marginal manstopper. I prefer something in 9mm or .38 Special an larger. And I think the .40 S&W and .45ACP are even better manstoppers. The market is flooded with itty-bitty .380 ACP handguns, and to be sure, they are really nice guns, well-made and very small for concealed carry. I carry a Ruger LCP .380 ACP in an ankle holster. But I carry that as a back-up to whatever my main carry gun is.
Make no mistake, I love the .45ACP as a manstopper, so I knew the new Springfield Armory XDs was gonna find a new home in my meager firearm collection, even before it arrived. Okay, what we have with the XDs is a 5+1 shot sub-compact .45ACP pistol. The gun only weighs 21.5 oz, and that's light for such a powerful round. Part of the lightness comes from the polymer frame. The frame has aggressive checkering on it, for a secure grip. The barrel is only 3.3" long - about as small as you can get, and still have a gun work reliably in this caliber. Overall height of the gun is only 4.4", with an overall length of 6.3", and the width is only 1" - we're talking a VERY concealable, and powerful handgun here, folks. The slide is Melonite coated, for a long-lasting and durable finish - and a bi-tone model is also available, with bare stainless steel slide.
I like the sights on the XDs, the front sight is a red, fiber optic one, and it really stands out, even under low-light. The rear sight is a combat-style, with two white dots - the front and rear sight are very fast to pick-up when you raise the gun to eye level to shoot it. The barrel is Melonite coated and it has a fully supported ramp, too - for easy of chambering a round from the magazine. The slide is forged stainless steel, too. The gun comes with two, 5 round mags, but there is an optional 7 round mag you can get, too. For carry, I'll go with the 5 round mag, and use the 7 round magazine as my spare, in a pouch on my belt.
The USA trigger system is on the XDs - this is what Springfield Armory calls their Ultra Safety Assurance trigger system. There is a little lever in the face of the trigger, that acts as a safety - the gun won't fire if you don't have your finger on the trigger. There is also a grip-safety - and you have to have a firm grip on the gun, that allows the grip safety to be depressed before the gun will fire, too. There is also a striker safety, that locks the striker in place - so the gun won't fire if dropped. There's a loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide, too. A fail-safe disassembly procedure makes certain that you can't disassemble the gun with a round in the chamber. As already mentioned, there is aggressive checkering on the polymer frame - it was so popular on the XDm line-up, that Springfield Armory made it even more aggressive on the XDs for a sure purchase on the gun when firing.
One thing I'm really big on is, how does a gun feel in my hand? If it doesn't feel right or fit my hand, I'm simply not gonna shoot it as well as I could shoot it. The XDs comes with two backstraps - that allows you to customize the frame of the gun to fit your hand best. This is a great idea, and more gun companies are following suit in this regard. The XDs just feels "natural" in my hand. I mean, this baby really feels good - I don't know how else to spell this out. There is also a Picatinny rail on the frame of the gun, for mounting a laser or light - most sub-compact handguns don't have this feature. Another plus in my book for the XDs.
The XDs is really small, and when laying in my hand, it's hard to believe that this is a .45ACP handgun - I have sub-compact 9mm and .40 S&W handguns that are bigger than this - and many .380 ACP full-sized pistols are even bigger than the XDs is. The XDs is made in Croatia, and they are doing this gun up right for Springfield Armory. Being made in eastern Europe helps keep the cost of the gun down.
So, how does the XDs shoot? Glad you asked, bet you thought I was never gonna get around to that, didn't you? Well, with all the super-kool features on this gun, I wanted to point some of 'em out to you. I had a good selection of .45ACP on-hand for testing, this included the Winchester 230 grain FMJ white box USA load - which is always a good round for target practice and function testing. I also had Black Hills Ammunition's new steel cased 185 grain JHP ammo, as well as their steel case 230 grain FMJ load. Also from Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 185 grain all-copper Barnes TAC-XP hollow round, which is rated +P. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP load, that is also +P rated, and their 230 grain JHP +P load, and their 255 grain Hard Cast FN +P load. So, I had a good variety of .45ACP to test in the next XDs. Deb Williams, at Springfield Armory asked her husband Dave, who heads-up their Custom Shop, and Robbie Leatham, who is their Ace competition shooter, how well the XDs would handle +P loads. They both said it wouldn't be a problem, but they told Deb to tell me, that I wouldn't enjoy shooting +P loads in the little XDs.
I did my accuracy shooting from 15-yards, which is a fair distance, for such a small pistol. And, all the loads mentioned above kept my rounds inside of 3" or less - and more often than not, most of the rounds were always in the 2" to 2 1/2" range. So, how did the XDs like the +P loads? Well, there were no problems with any of the +P loads - the gun functioned 100% of the time - not a hint of a bobble. The Black Hills Ammunition 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP load that is +P rated didn't feel bad at all, nor did the 185-gr JHP steel cased load, or their 230-gr FMJ steel cased load. The Winchester 230-gr FMJ load felt like it "kicked" a little more than the Black Hills 23-gr FMJ did - could just be my imagination, though. The Buffalo Bore +P loads - they just weren't any fun to shoot in this little gun. Of course, I was getting tired, after firing more than 200 rounds in my first shooting session, and my hand was getting a little sore. The Buffalo Bore 255-gr Hard Cast FN load - that one was a real killer in the little XDs - you don't want to fire more than one 5 round mag of this stuff. Still, the little XDs just perked along without any problems. Buffalo Bore ammo isn't for wimps, and their 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP +P load really caught my attention, as did their 230-gr JHP +P load. I think I'll reserve these loads for larger guns. While the XDs devoured everything I put through it - the Buffalo Bore loads were just too much for me to shoot a lot. I've fired these loads through full-sized 1911s, and didn't feel the recoil I felt in the XDs - then again, we're talking a 21.5-oz sub-compact pistol here.
To be honest, I was surprised the XDs handled such a wide variety of ammo, from standard pressure loads, to the hotter +P loads, without any problems. I thought for sure, that the hot +P loads, especially those from Buffalo Bore, would cause the gun to burp a little bit - it didn't! This is not an indication that you can't or shouldn't use Buffalo Bore +P loads in your XDs - just be advised, these loads are really gonna get your attention in short order. My preferred load in the XDs would be, hands down, for everyday carry, the Black Hills Ammunition, 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP +P load. This load didn't "kick" as hard as the 230-gr FMJ load from Winchester in my humble opinion - and keep in mind, this IS a +P load. The Buffalo Bore 185-gr Barnes +P load is loaded hotter than the Black Hills 185-gr Barnes load - that's why it recoiled a lot more. If I were out hiking in the boonies, I'd stoke the XDs with a full mag of the Buffalo Bore 255-gr Hard Cast FN +P - to take care of large critters that I might encounter. You probably wouldn't feel the excessive recoil of this heavy and hot round, when your life depended on it.
I really liked the short trigger pull on the XDs, as well as the very short trigger re-set after your fire a round. I can't think of any other double-action type pistol, that has such a short re-set on the trigger than the XDs has - unless you compare it to the XDm - which is the same trigger design. Of course, the XDs comes in a very nice, foam-lined carrying case, along with a holster and double mag pouch. Why other gun companies aren't doing this is beyond me. One of the hardest things about new gun models, is finding a suitable holster - other than going with a cheap generic type soft-side ballistic Nylon holster. Holster makers take a wait and see attitude - they want to want and see if a new gun model is gonna be popular and stay around, before committing to making holsters for new guns - I can't blame 'em, either. However, Springfield Armory has taken care of that for you by providing a polymer holster and double mag pouch for you in the carry case.
In three shooting sessions with the XDs, I managed to put slightly more than 400 rounds down range, with not a hint of a problem. I will say though, that in my last shooting session, I restricted myself to mostly Winchester's USA white box 230-gr FMJ ammo. I didn't want to burn-up all my JHP ammo. I did fire more than enough rounds of JHP ammo, to ensure the XDs wouldn't choke on these rounds. And, you should always put enough rounds through you gun, of the particular brand and type of ammo, that you are going to carry for self-defense, to make sure the gun will function 100% of the time with that ammo.
So, what was my overall impressions of the new XDs? Well, as I stated at the start of this article, the gun was actually more that I thought it would be. I really liked the way it felt in the hand. I like the look of the gun, too - just imagine you are a bad guy, looking down the business end of this little gun - all you are seeing is that great big ol' .45 caliber hole in the end of the barrel. I loved the sights on the XDs, too - they were fast to pick-up, even for my aged eyes. The safety system - what's not to like - they are all passive, you simply have to hold the gun in a proper shooting hold, and all the safeties take care of themselves - nothing to think about.
I could get 2-3/4 of my fingers around the grip when firing - and this was more than enough for a sure grip on the gun. However, I'm sure Pearce Grip will come out with one of their dandy magazine floor plates, that will allow all three fingers to get a purchase on the frame of the gun. I don't need to add an extra round - like some of the Pearce Grip adaptors allow - like on the Glocks. But I'd like just an itty-bitty more to hold onto when I grip the XDs. My wife shot the XDs and the smile on her face said it all - I had to beg for a second sample for her - which she will pay for, out of her own pocket.
One thing I don't like seeing is, some gun dealers are selling the XDs for more than retail right now. (I see the guns on Gun Broker for more than retail.) And, I think this is shameless if you ask me. They are taking advantage of people who want this gun right now, instead of waiting a month or so, for supply to catch-up with demand. I believe that if your local gun shop is doing this that you should take your business someplace else. If they are willing to take advantage of you in this respect, they will take advantage of you some place else in their business dealings.

Full retail on the XDs, all black model is $599 and even at that price, this is a great bargain, for so much gun. If you carry concealed, and want big-bore power, the XDs might be just what you're looking for.
I don't usually make predictions, however, I dare say that, Springfield Armory will sell tens of thousands of the XDs - if not hundreds of thousands of these dandy little guns.  The price point is right where it should be, and the quality is there, too. You could buy a lot less gun, for a lot more money - but why? Check out the new XDs at your local dealer - I think you're gonna really like it - I know it was more than I was expecting. Make sure to visit the Springfield Armory web site, for full details and photos of the XDs - you're gonna agree, that this little gun has a lot going for it.

Author: David Nash
Copyright Date: January 2011
Publisher: Looseleaf Law Publications
ISBN: 978-1608850259

I was contacted by David Nash, who wrote "Understanding the Use of Handguns for Self-Defense" and I did a little checking around, to see what his credentials were, before deciding to review his book.
One of the first things that caught my attention, was the Foreword - written by SurvivalBlog's own Editor At Large, Michael Z. Williamson, and he gives Nash a good review for his efforts. Secondly, and this really caught my attention was the Introduction, written by Nash. Here's part of what Nash humbly says about himself: "I'm not a policeman. I wasn't a special operations warrior, and I don't compete in national level shooting competitions. What I am is a student of the art and science of firearm usage. I am by no means a self-proclaimed or self-important gun guru. I learn from every class I teach. I like teaching, and I particularly like teaching firearm usage..." I like that in a teacher - I couldn't tell you how many firearms "instructors" I've run across in my life, who were all some sort of SpecOps types - when in reality, there were nothing more than armchair commandos or mall ninjas, and didn't know which end of the weapon a bullet came out of - and they surely didn't know anything about firearm safety.
In the "Mindset" chapter, Nash talks about the color code, and this is simply your own state of mind. White means you are totally unaware of your surroundings - and you should never be in this mindset. Yellow means you are at least aware of your surroundings and what is going on all around you. Orange means you have shifted into an alert state of mind - something isn't quite right, and you are preparing your mind for what might come your way. Lastly, is red, and you are engaged! Some instructors use a different color code, or add another color or lesser colors but it is important that you have some sort of code in your mind if you are going to carry a firearm. Nash also talks about "it takes longer to react than to act" - this is a simple fact, and I taught this to my martial arts students over the years, as well as in my own firearms classes. If you have to react, you are already behind the eight-ball.
The "Legal" chapter starts right off, where I start with my own students. David Nash starts right out with "The average cost of defending a justified use-of-force shootings is $40,000..." I tell my students, that no matter how justified a self-defense shooting might be, that they are still a suspect in a homicide - that catches their attention. Nash also talks about different right to carry state laws - and these laws are every changing, so be advised of the laws in your own state. And, you need to be aware of the consequences of buying and selling guns for a profit - if you are in the "business" of selling guns, you'd better get a federal firearms license - be advised!
Chapter three talks about safety, and I constantly stress safety in my firearms classes, and thankfully, I've never had a student have an negligent discharge (ND) in one of my classes. If I see a student not performing safe gun-handling, I ask them to remove themselves from the firing-line and think about what they are doing wrong. If I have an assistant instructor with me, I hand that student over to them for further safety instruction. Nash touches on many of the common-sense safety issues - that aren't so common-sense to a lot of folks who own firearms. I applaud him for bringing this up in his book.
What Happens In a Gunfight is what Chapter four is all about. Gunfights are very dynamic according to Nash, and they are ever-changing - starts out this chapter. And, I couldn't agree more with this. I've been involved in a couple shootings - as a civilian - not as a police officer. And, these things are over almost as fast as they started. This is why your training is important - if you train hard, and train properly, you will react as your trained! If you believe that all gunfights are over in 2.5 seconds, as many stats claim, you might be in for a surprise, if you are engaged in a gunfight that lasts for minutes, or if there are multiple armed attackers - Nash covers this, too. A lot of things happen to you mentally as well as physically in a gunfight, and this book will help you realize what to expect and how to overcome it - as best you can.
In Chapter Five, Nash talks about the use-of-force. And, to be sure, this does vary from state-to-state, and locale-to-locale. You have to understand what actually justifies the use of deadly force against another human, and Nash does a great job discussing this in his book. I used to recommend that my firearms students sit down with a criminal defense lawyer - and you will pay them for their time - and discuss the use of deadly force against another person. However, if you talk to ten different lawyers, you'll get ten different opinions on this. And, I steer my students clear of talking to law enforcement officers for the same reason - you'll get ten different answers from ten different cops on this subject. As an example, in Oregon, you are allowed to own and use automatic knives - however, most police officers are ignorant of this fact - this law! And, they arrest people all the time for this "offense" - only to have the case tossed once it goes to court. In the meantime, the person arrested then has an arrest record because the police officer was ignorant of the law. Nash covers the use of force nicely in this book, and it is just good, common-sense in most cases, where you can use deadly force.
Choosing A Gun is Chapter six, and this is always a real subjective thing in my book. David Nash does an excellent job in this chapter discussing choosing the right gun for you! Don't expect some clerk behind the counter at the local gun shop to choose a gun for you. Sure, the Glock 19, 9mm handgun might be right for 9 our of 10 people, but that doesn't mean the gun is right for you. You have to have a gun that fits your hand, and a caliber you can handle. Choosing a 6" .44 Magnum revolver isn't a good choice for a woman who is 5" tall and has petite hands. Spend some time researching various firearms on-line, or in gun magazines before going to the local gun shop. Don't let the clerk sell you something that they want to sell you. Do you need a revolver or a semiauto pistol? Nash covers the differences in this chapter, as well as choosing the right caliber, too. Most people don't understand the importance of picking the right firearm for themselves - and many just go with whatever the gun store clerk recommends to them. Whenever possible, I bring out a variety of different handguns for my students to test on the range - so they have a good feel for what feels right for them. About a year ago, I did several handgun classes, in which all of the students shot best with the Ruger SR9, 9mm pistol. In another class, several students picked a Glock 23, .40 S&W handgun for themselves. So, there is no one-size fits all when it comes to handguns. If you live in an area that has an indoor shooting range, and rents guns, test several different guns before deciding on one.
I've watched this hundreds of times on the television show "Cops" - when they take a firearm from a suspect, and they have no idea how the gun operates - they don't know how to unload the gun or safely handle it. Sure, they know about the handgun they are carrying, but they are totally lost when it comes to a different handgun - they look stupid, on television, not knowing how to properly check to see if a gun is loaded, or how to unload it. David Nash covers this in Chapter Seven "Operating A Handgun" and this is more important than most people think it is. You need to know the different parts on a gun: barrel, cylinder, safety, etc. You also need to understand what happens when a gun fires, or when it fails to fire, as in a misfire, hangfire or squib-load. You need to know about malfunctions, too - and how to handle them. Again, Nash covers this, in layman's language, that you can understand, if you are a new shooter, or an old hand. Do you know how and when to clean your handgun? Many people don't - a lot of folks never clean and maintain their firearms, nor do they have any idea how the guns actually function, because they didn't bother to read the owner's manual.
My local gun shop gave me a Ruger LCP .380 ACP pistol to check out for them - I repair a lot of their firearms for them, as they carry me as an employee on their books, so I can do some minor gunsmithing. A customer purchased this Ruger LCP, 9 months ago - and never fired it. Then decided to see how the gun operated after 9-months. The customer brought the gun in and said it "jammed" all the time. Well, that doesn't tell me anything. I took the gun out and test-fired it - it worked every time, for 75 rounds. I took the gun back to the shop and the owner picked it up. He brought it back in and said it still "jammed." Well, I figured out what the problem was. This fellow would load the magazine, insert it into the gun, and he would retract the slide and "ride" the slide forward (keeping his hand on the slide as it went forward) - and rounds weren't feeding into the chamber. This is not the way to chamber a round in an semiauto pistol. You retract the slide fully rearward, and release it - a round chambers properly. When this was explained to the customer, he didn't have any more "jams" after that. Nash covers properly gun handling very nicely in this chapter.
Carrying A Gun is Chapter 8, and this is a important subject for all of us. Do you want to carry openly or concealed? Know the laws of your state and locale. In my area, it's not uncommon to see folks carrying a handgun openly - we just don't give it a second notice. In some areas, it will result in the police getting called - even if you are carrying openly, legally. Nash talks about the different methods of carry - inside the waistband, on the belt, in the pocket, in a shoulder holster, on the ankle, etc. And, you need to find what works best for you and your firearm. I carry on the belt, on my right side, and I carry a back-up in an ankle holster - this works best for me, but it might not work best for you. Experiment with different methods of carry, and find a good holster that works best. Don't get a cheap, one-size fits many, ballistic Nylon holster - save your money and purchase a good holster - you'll thank yourself later on. Many firearms books don't even touch on this subject for some reason, Nash does a fine job!
Shooting Techniques is Chapter Nine, and Nash isn't dogmatic here, like many instructors are. Some instructors believe that their way is the only way, and that simply isn't true, and I don't care who the instructor is. While their technique might work for 99 students, it won't and can't work for student number 100 for some reason. There are different ways to grip a gun, different firing techniques like the Weaver or Isoceles stance. You also need to learn how to properly draw a handgun and re-holster it. Sight alingment is important, as well as the proper sight picture - again, Nash does a fine job covering these topics. Proper trigger-pull is important, too - no matter how well you have a perfect sight picture, if you don't have proper trigger control, you'll blow the shot, You should also know how to "read" your target, so you know what you are doing right or doing wrong - it's covered in this chapter, and most books don't cover this topic.
I talked about "tactics" and Chapter ten covers this react the way your train, and this is covered in Nash's book, too. You'll learn the difference between cover and concealment - and they are not the same, You'll learn about low-light shooting, and this is a very important topic, as most shootings take place in low-light conditions.
Many common myths are explored in Chapter Eleven. I'm sure many of you have been told by someone who is totally ignorant, that if you shoot someone outside of your house, to drag them inside, and claim they broke in - don't do this, you are only inviting legal trouble, Nash discusses the "one-shot stop" myth. Sure, it happens, but not all the time - if someone is high on drugs, it may take many shots to stop them from harming you or a loved one. And, shot placement comes into play here - it doesn't matter what caliber you have in your handgun, if you don't place the shots where they need to go, it may not stop an attacker. Nash discusses the Mozambique Drill - that's two shots in the chest and one in the head - it's a good thing to practice on the range, and it can sure help under real-life circumstances.
Chapter Tweleve deals with the criticism that you might get from your loved ones, friends and co-workers, because you made the decision to carry a handgun. I don't recall any other publication dealing with this topic, but Nash covers it. It's important to know how to deal with this subject. And, one of the best ways is to not get into a debate over it - it's your decision to carry a firearm, and you know the reasons for carrying. So, don't get into a heated debate with anyone - the less people who know you are carrying the less problems you'll have.
The last chapter covers additional training. No book will teach you how to shoot - you actually have to get out there and do some shooting, and you should pick an instructor who's credentials you can varify. I'm an NRA Certified instructor in several different disciplines, but that doesn't mean that I'm the world's best instructor. However, it does let my students know that I am a trained and certified instructor. Some of the best instructors I know aren't NRA Certified. My good friend, John Farnam, is one of the most underated instructors I know, for some reason, but he is also one of the VERY best instructors in the world in my humble opinion. Seek out qualified training instructors for advanced training, and don't be afraid to ask them to show you their creditials or letters of recommendation. Be a little leery of someone who claims they are an ex SpecOps person - more than likely, they are NOT!
I've been around firearms for 45-years now, and I learned a lot from this book. Nash did a great job covering some common-sense topics, that we all should be aware of when understanding the use of handguns for self-defense. If I can learn something from this book, than you can, too. You can find this book on and you can contact David Nash at his school's web site - The Shepherd School. You'll really get a lot out of this book - I know I did.

Author: Keith McCafferty
Copyright Date: February 2012
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0-670-02326-4

Audio, e-book or foreign translation avail? Yes--Kindle
Suitable for children? No, and probably not for the ladies either.

When I received my stack of fiction books to review for SurvivalBlog, the novel The Royal Wulff Murders caught my eye right away.  From the description of the murder victim and of Sean Stranahan's studio I knew this book would have an element of humor worked into the mystery.  In fact, given the author's day job (Survival Editor of Field & Stream) and the setting for the novel I seriously wondered if there might not be a cameo appearance by a Patrick F. McManus' character such as Sheriff Bo Tully.  In the end, no such luck on that count, but the book was a fun read, and there was indeed a bit of humor worked in where possible.

One order of business which I should mention up front for the SurvivalBlog audience is that this book is not written to the same standards that are required for SurvivalBlog.  There is a bit of profanity and and quite a number of sexual references such as you could expect of a men's locker room.  The profanity is primarily a matter of the character of Rainbow Sam Meslik, a colorful fishing guide, who is pretty rough around the edges.  Given he is the first character the reader meets might be a bit disturbing to some readers, but he is followed by some slightly more civilized characters and the language is toned down substantially with most of them.  The sexual references are fairly constant throughout the novel.  Pretty much any sexual analogy that can be made is made, all the way to considering a trout to be a phallic symbol.  Additionally, all the important characters are divorced and they all seem to be looking for some action with the opposite sex.  There are several times when they find it, however, McCafferty leaves the story with the closing of the door and then picks up again the next morning.  There is nothing graphic about any of these encounters, but it represents a lifestyle of lower standards than those of SurvivalBlog readers.

Introduction to characters and the build-up of the story line takes the first fifty pages.  After that the story moves along fairly quickly.  There are several characters for the reader to wonder about as suspects in the murder, as well as holes to fill in with regard to the motive.  The important elements of a good "whodunit" are all present.  The reader will not be disappointed in that regard. Keith McCafferty has done a great job of developing his characters for this story.

Most important is Sean Stranahan, a recently divorced, somewhat self-employed water color artist and one-time private investigator who lives out of his studio, marked ôBlue Ribbon Watercolors (and Private Investigations)ö and drives a battered Toyota Land Cruiser.  He seems to be better at fly-fishing than anything else, but he's a good looking, likeable guy with a reasonable head on his shoulders.

Miss Velvet Lafayette, in the words of Doris Sizemore (you have to love McCafferty's ability to come up with names for these characters) is T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  But nice trouble, and a mystery herself.  It takes Sean a while to find out that her real name is Vareda Beaudreux, and this a good time after she shows up at his studio to hire him to find the fish her father had caught in the Madison River precisely one year prior.  As with everything else about Miss Beaudreux, there's more to the story than first meets the eye.

Martha Ettinger is the elected sheriff of Hyalite county.  Though tough and capable, she is continually pushing to prove herself to anyone who might doubt whether or not she is fit for her position on account of her gender.  Her teammates areb't exactly the best and brightest, so she is playing make-up for them as well as for any perceived inadequacies on her own part.

Throughout the story the characters are plausible and consistent.  There are dramatic scenes and narrow escapes, mysterious shooters and figures who vanish into thin air.  Being that this is a mystery I don't want to offer anything that would spoil it for the reader.  I will simply say that McCafferty does a good job of wrapping up all the loose ends nicely by the conclusion of the story.  The reader is neither left hanging, nor disappointed in the outcome.

The story also includes an education on the topic of "whirling disease", a serious threat to the populations of rainbow trout.  According to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from January 1997, the disease has wiped out an estimate 90% of the native population of wild rainbow trout in Montana's upper Madison River.  It is possible for anglers to unwittingly spread the disease from one river to another.  This is a real issue and the education this book offers is worthwhile.

As a SurvivalBlog Fiction Book Review Editor I would be remiss if I did not mention this book's value as survival fiction.  In that regard there is not a substantial amount of material present.  There are some details about tracking and some creative thinking for the sake of an escape, but that's about it.  Perhaps of most value is simply an understanding of the setting and lifestyle of the American Redoubt.  The novel includes characters from three different cultures in that region:  the native American Indians, the year-round locals and the fair weather vacationing wealthy.  Understanding those and how they interact is an important matter for any who are considering life in the American Redoubt.

In short, The Royal Wulff Murders is a good read, but most definitely a "guy" book.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Off-Grid Origins

Residential power systems - particularly the inverters that provide more popular Alternating Current (AC) voltages, standards and connections - are a far cry from their primitive ancestors of only a few decades ago, when hobbyists and off-grid home or cabin owners needed a fair amount of electrical expertise, as well as tolerance for not-quite-ready-for-mainstream technology and performance. Increased world-wide demand, dramatic improvements in the semiconductor and microprocessor industries, economies of scale, improved safety standards, regulations, plus diligent and competitive engineering have all contributed to the superb home inverter offerings available today. From it's infancy as an inferior, pioneering substitute to grid power systems, usually chosen only out of necessity for off-grid installations, the technology has matured to the point where pure sine inverters can typically offer cleaner, better regulated, and more stable power solutions than utility grid power companies can offer. An added benefit of the precise sinusoidal waveforms is the extra longevity that most computers, consumer electronics, motors and other electrical devices with inductive loads gain as a result of lowered internal friction from surges, spikes, blackouts, brownouts and other voltage irregularities in utility-supplied power.

On-grid Evolution

The lure of a potential market many orders of magnitude larger than strictly off-grid customers encouraged inverter manufacturers to address the technical hurdles of allowing inverters to use both local - e.g. photovoltaic (PV) solar, wind, small hydro, etc. - sources and imported grid-supplied AC to power both consumer loads and backup batteries. An on-grid inverter must synchronize the AC output of the inverter with the incoming AC power from the grid, be able to immediately supplement any outages or drops in grid power with power from the batteries, solar panels, wind generator, etc., and adjust its phase instantaneously when outside utility power is restored. Today's class of pure sine wave, synchronous inverters do all this and more, while meeting and/or exceeding all the needed safety and regulatory requirements such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the National Electric Code (NEC). These 'best of both worlds' inverters can often dramatically reduce the need for backup generators, fuel and having to oversize collection (such as PV panels, wind turbines) and storage (battery) components. The caveat with this approach is that it presumes that extended utility outages lasting many days or weeks will be very rare. However, if one wishes to build a self-sufficient home energy system in stages, this is often a good compromise. Backup generators and fuel can be added as budgets allow, with grid-tied systems still providing immediate benefits for both new construction and retrofitted homes. Since the vast majority of inverter applications have access to grid power, this article will focus on these modern grid-tie pure-sine inverters.

Power Buy-back

Because grid-tie inverter systems can frequently generate more electricity than is being used, utility meters will actually run backwards or sometimes a second meter is installed to measure the power delivered back to the utility company. The home becomes (at least in those moments when household supply exceeds demand) a net energy producer rather than a consumer. Some more progressive states and municipalities allow home-generated power to be sold back to the utility company at their retail power rates; Ashland, Oregon, for example, even pays a 25% premium (1.25 times the highest residential rate) for home-generated power for the first 1,000 kiloWatt-hour (kWh). Here is a net metering map for USA locations which shows how 42 states, at the time this article was written, support some form of net metering. Check with your local utility. In some cases, power is bought back at wholesale rather than retail rates, reducing the cost-effectiveness of an alternative energy system for those locations. In either case, there are self-sufficiency and ecological gains, and often economical gains, with effective break-even strategies.

Self-sufficient ideals for any home

One important benefit of looking objectively at home energy consumption, in addition to reducing ongoing monthly utility costs and the corresponding environmental benefits, is the potential for scaling down the size, cost and complexity of an inverter-based power system. Typically, the largest energy 'gluttons' include space heating (and cooling), water heating, cooking, clothes drying, and refrigeration. If you can, find non-electric or high-efficiency options for these needs, such as wood-fired cookstoves, gravity-fed water supplies (since well pumps often draw significant current) ceiling and exhaust fans, solar water heating, clotheslines and drying racks. Judicious use of these technologies can reduce ongoing power needs and system design costs to a fraction of what they might be otherwise. Plus, these strategies work equally well for both grid-tied and non-grid homes. This is most easily done with new home construction, taking advantage of microclimate factors, daylighting, prevailing breezes, site location for PV panels, wind generators, small hydro stream/penstock siting, etc. However, even retrofits can gain considerable benefits by careful planning and appliance selection. It behooves one not to overlook the benefits of a conservation-oriented lifestyle. Unplugging not-in-use phantom loads like battery chargers, and turning off unused lights, computer peripherals, etc. can make a significant difference. Energy Star appliances, high-efficiency LED and/or occupancy-sensed lighting, timers and a vast assortment of other energy-saving devices can simplify the effort for this lifestyle. Another 'elephant in the room' - specifically the garage - is the enormous potential (fuel) energy savings of a home-based business instead of a commute-intensive and fossil-fuel dependent livelihood and community. Here's a list of some energy conserving ideas and resources that might be helpful in scaling down your inverter, battery and power source needs. The Department of Energy (DOE) tip web site for Money and Energy Savings is another useful resource.

Older inverters paired with a UPS (off-grid only)

If you have access to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) that meets your power needs and can handle less than pure sine wave inputs you might be able to economize by using an older, second-hand non-sine-wave inverter with modified sine wave or other coarsely stepped output waveforms. Just make sure to carefully check the manufacturers specifications and then make an explicit inquiry to both vendors about the specific combination to avoid any safety or device/system longevity issues.

Small Inverters

There are numerous small wattage inverters for automotive or small load applications with outputs of 1 kW (kiloWatt) or less. When selecting inverters of this type, make sure both the nominal (rated) and peak or surge wattage ratings are a good fit for both the intended load and the inverter being considered. Keep in mind that these less expensive inverters often use a modified sine wave output that is a poorer approximation to 'pure sine wave' inverters. This may work fine for incandescent bulbs and other purely resistive loads (although an audible buzz is a classic artifact), but efficiency, performance and device lifespan may suffer with computers and home electronics that require cleaner power. Consider using a UPS as noted above. Anything with reactive (capacitive or inductive loads) such as transformers and motors tend to 'fight' dirtier power and waste more energy in heat with correspondingly compromised life spans and reduced efficiency.

Vulnerabilities of the On-grid Only Approach

Aside from the smaller (typically for mobile or portable application) inverters, there are three main inverter configurations: On-grid only, off-grid only, or systems designed to work either way. The 'on-grid only' option, while becoming the most common, is the most vulnerable, due to complete dependency on the grid. To be fair, there are a few advantages to this approach, but these don't do much for a preparedness-oriented home. Most of the long term cost pay back calculations are based on grid-tied systems without batteries. Most tax credit and tax rebate plans apply only to grid-tied systems. However, after two years, the owner can usually reconfigure their systems legally, to make them truly off-grid, but only if the inverter is designed to work off-grid also. This is a must to keep in mind when choosing an inverter, which is one of the most expensive system components. An "Achilles Heel" design flaw of many grid-only systems prevents them from operating in the absence of grid power. There are plenty of mechanisms for grid failure. You have probably experienced your share of blackouts and brownouts. There are also probabilistic mechanisms that threaten the grid as well as the more common situations that trigger these events. The utility grid - in some respects analogous to a giant antenna - could be knocked out by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) from massive solar flares or high-altitude nuclear detonations. The resonant wavelengths needed to disable power systems are minimized by relatively tiny wiring runs from PV panels to inverters and batteries in typical home power systems, compared with miles or thousands of miles of grid wiring. The longer the cable runs, the longer the unintentional antennas for EMP resonance. Rather than wait for the next power failure, try (with advance preparation) living without utility power for a day - or a week - and make careful note of what you will provision yourself with if/when this becomes a permanent (or even semi-permanent) situation.

The 'Total Off-grid' or 'Best of Both Worlds' Decision

The other two inverter topologies that mitigate grid frailties are the 'total off-grid' approach and the 'best of both worlds' configuration that allows for grid-tie benefits and complete functionality when the grid is down. Both approaches use batteries or some form of energy storage. The cost of off-grid systems are substantially higher, and the pay-back period is much longer. Despite some encouraging developments in battery technology, sulfation and other intrinsic longevity issues with lead-acid batteries (the most commonly chosen type) require purchase of new battery banks at roughly 6 to 8 year intervals. Other battery types tend to be more expensive, which outweighs typical lifetime advantages.

Some inverters are designed to work strictly on-grid, which ties the system to the grid's vulnerabilities; for the 'both' approach, make sure explicitly that the inverter you select keeps on running regardless of whether the grid is up or down. The automatic grid power detection circuitry should disconnect the inverter from the grid and switch over to batteries within a few milliseconds, and then reverse that automatically when (if) grid power is restored. Caveats and cons for this "both" approach include the extra expense for a system that handles both grid and home-generated power; the synchronous part of the inverter and the switching logic and circuitry. Advantages of the 'both' approach include the greatest flexibility and source versatility, and possibly lower initial cost, since batteries (and additional panels and/or turbines) could be added later after budgets allow. Check with your inverter/PV consultant to make sure a staged approach like this is designed optimally for future expansion.

The advantages of the total off-grid approach include lower inverter costs, lack of expense and regulatory involvement needed for the synchronous circuitry and disconnect switching. Disadvantages include the considerably larger system size, complexity and expense of a system that must rely on strictly on-site power, which usually must be purchased at installation, rather than added later in stages. If the local supply fails (no wind or sun for extended periods or component failure), often equally unsustainable fossil-fuel based backups require additional expense and design considerations. The psychological benefits in terms of self-sufficiency may outweigh these issues.

Sizing, Options and Selection

Regardless of the type of system selected, proper sizing is always important. Buying more wattage (and complexity) than you need is often a result of not being thorough in a realistic, yet vigilant review of conservation lifestyle and appliance changes noted above. If you have the luxury of designing a new home, carefully plan to include primary non-electric (preferably on-site generated) alternatives for space heating/cooling, water heating, cooking, clothes drying, and refrigeration (such as a SunFrost brand refrigerator). This might make the difference between a system that uses 4 dozen pricey PV panels or half that. With a very frugal lifestyle, design and carefully solar orientation, etc. it's sometimes possible to cut the needed system size - source, storage and conversion components (e.g. PV collectors, batteries, and inverter) in half again. While retrofits are usually more challenging to realize savings of this magnitude, there are still many opportunities to explore and an abundance of energy conservation resources online. Keep in mind that the idle current draw (a.k.a. wasted 'phantom load' power) is proportional to the size of the inverter. This is yet another reason to think through the big picture, all major power loads and size the inverter (and panels, batteries, etc.) for an optimal match between sources and loads.

Despite the tremendous advances in inverter technology, simplifying installation tremendously, there are still a number of choices to be made for a given power system installation. These often include (but aren't limited to):

  • Rated output power in Volt-Amps (VA) which is related to Watts (W); here's an article on the difference between VA and W ratings. Rated output power is often different for different output voltages, such as 240VAC or 208VAC output.
  • Output voltage(s); typically 240VAC.
  • Input voltages; AC (grid) and DC (PV panels, wind generator, etc.) input voltages.
  • Peak efficiency; typically 90% or higher. The lost efficiency is converted to heat.
  • California Energy Commission (CEC) weighted efficiency; a measure of average efficiency.
  • Maximum input current
  • Maximum output current

Online Comparison Chart

Once you have defined your power needs and selected the parameters above, here is a handy interactive comparison chart tool that allows comparison of these vendors (at the time this article was written): Advanced Energy, APS, Blue Frog Solar, Carbon Management, Chint Power, Delta Energy, Diehl AKO, Emerson Network Power, Enasolar, Enecsys, Enphase, Eversolar, ExelTech, Fronius, Growatt New Energy, KACO, KLNE, Kostal, Motech, Power-One, PVPowered, Refusol, Samil Power, Samlex America, Satcon, Siemens, SMA, Solar Bridge Tech, Solar Edge, Solar Energy Australia, Solectria, Sunpower, and Xantrex. You can group inverter comparisons by size (Wattage ranges in kW brackets) to make selection easier. This chart tool has a wide range of inverters for both off-grid and on-grid applications.


Both off-line and grid-tied inverter systems generally require licensed electrical contractors as well as applicable inspectors from your local jurisdiction(s). Always check all pertinent requirements, net metering regulations, and use UL, CSA and NEC certified components to pass safety, inspection, insurance, and other requirements before beginning an inverter-based power system project. When in doubt, consult a professional solar/inverter installer. It's also a good idea when you're not in doubt, too! Electrical equipment has safety as well as economic considerations, so always play it safe. Often solar/wind/inverter/alternative energy professionals can eliminate significant research time investment and quickly guide you to a suitable system tailored to your location, budget and specific needs.

Vendor Contact Info

Here are some of the more popular grid-tie inverter (GTI) manufacturers (click on the links to visit their web sites):

- L.K.O. (SurvivalBlog's Central Rockies Regional Editor)

In just the first few hours after I posted my Volunteer Book Reviewer solicitation a week ago, I received more than 150 e-mails. The response was so overwhelming that I had to take down the post to avoid being deluged with additional volunteers. There were so many well-qualified candidates that it was difficult making the selection. I chose the new editors based primarily upon their education, experience, and time available to devote to editing. My sincere thanks to everyone who responded!

I anticipate that the new editors will periodically post detailed book and movie reviews. Most of them will probably post three of four per year.

For the privacy of the editors, I am announcing neither their names nor their street addresses. Each of them will select a nom de plume for their reviews.

Publishers and self-published authors should send review copies directly to the following addresses:

Farming, Ranching and Apiary Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 280
Briggs, TX 78608

Gardening, Aquaponics and Permaculture Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 408
Pomeroy, WA 99347

Food Storage Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 781546
San Antonio, TX  78278

Cooking and Recipe Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 140602
Garden City, ID 83714-0602

Economics and Investing Book Review Editor
Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 44
Hollidaysburg, PA  16648

Libertarian Book Review Editor

Selected, but P.O. Box not yet established

Firearms, Optics, and Retreat Security Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 264
Marengo IA 52301

Medical, Health and Wellness Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 101
Germantown, Ohio 45327

Outdoor Survival Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 378
McLouth, KS 66054

History Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
Boxholder 431 Kera Drive
Mountain View AR 72560-8761

Biography Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 10
Ponce de Leon, MO 65728

Military Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
223 West Bulldog Blvd.
Box 556
Provo, UT  84604

Amateur Radio Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 118223
Carrollton, TX  75011

Computing Technology and Encryption Book Review Editor

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 970
Fortuna CA 95540

We also now have five new Fiction Book Review Editors. Fiction publishers should select any of the following addresses at random:

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 134
Dupont, Indiana 47231

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 26
Ravensdale, WA  98051

Book Review Editor
P.O.Box 872
Bethel, Alaska 99559

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 9671
San Diego, CA 92169-0671

Book Review Editor
P.O. Box 659
Warner, NH 03278

Note: For e-book reviews, you can e-mail me a PDF of the book, or a link to the book's web address. I will then forward it to the appropriate book review editor.

Apache Tactics 1830-86 by Robert H. Watt. ISBN: 978-1849086301 

Battles between Europeans and Native Americans in North America started with the first landfall and continued until the late 19th Century. Typically, the wars were limited in duration as the mass of European immigrants expanded into and pacified new areas.  Tribes decimated by war and disease had few alternatives.  In most parts of what is now the United States, peace followed settlement by not too many years.

The deserts of the West were another story. Vast distances and non-arable land meant that for many years more people transited the land than settled in it. What the land lacked in agricultural potential, it made up for with mineral wealth. That is what brought first the Spanish, then the Mexicans, and finally the Americans to the land of the Apache. Their range extended from Arizona to West Texas and from Southern Colorado to Northern Mexico.

The Apache may have remained in active conflict with European settlers longer than any other family of tribes. Coronado visited the area in 1540 and subsequent parties of Spaniards in that century reported raiding back and forth with the Apache. This continued after Mexican independence in 1821 and the eventual arrival of the Americans. It’s generally recognized that 1890 was the end of the Apache Wars, but there were certainly incidents past that time.

An Apache warrior was minimalist and efficient.  Reflecting the harshness of their land, the Apaches had none of the splendid head dresses, painted tepees, or beaded parfletches of the Plains Tribes. Additionally, there was no cult of the horse; Apache saw horses as tools first and food when necessary. Even on foot, an Apache warrior could travel 70 miles per day in the harsh terrain they called home.  Given their numbers, they were arguably the most effective guerrilla warriors in history. At the time of the Geronimo campaign, one-quarter of the U.S. Army (5000 men) were deployed looking for 50 Apache warriors.

Apache Tactics
by Robert N. Watt is a thorough introduction to the strategies and tactics of the Apaches in the final stages of their wars. Although there are many scholarly books about the Apaches and their battles, few readers find the time to devote to an in-depth study. The virtue of this volume is the author’s distillation and categorizing of the various engagements, enriched by abundant maps, illustrations, and period pictures that lend a feel for the combatants.

Watt gives a good background of the Apaches and their milieu before getting to the meat of the book. One anecdote from 1876 is informative. In 1876 the Chiricahua reservation was to be closed and the tribe was divided on whether they should peacefully go to a new reservation, or leave in armed rebellion. Lacking agreement, it escalated to an armed battle and the “peace faction” literally shot down the more militant tribesmen. All members of the tribe had to be tough and capable of hard travel in austere conditions. Men were warriors and Apache boys were trained from an early age to fight and apprenticed in war as adolescents. Apache society was a meritocracy. Leaders were successful guerrilla fighters who exhibited and inspired toughness and patience. For that reason, many renowned Apache chiefs were in their 50s or older. Success was valued, but risk taking was not.  

Categorizing Apache tactics and presenting each area as case studies, Watt first covers raids. A raid is simply a surprise attack against an immobile target. The attacker chooses the time, and the location is fixed. Apache raiding was largely to procure livestock and other booty. This was not warfare for the Apache. Raiding was to gain property and warfare was to take life. Studying their engagements show this clearly. Northern Mexico suffered more from Apache raiding than did the Americans. Inevitably, on both sides of the border, Apache raids caused pursuit and attempts at reprisal. In response, the Apaches would seek to evade or ambush their pursuers.

In an ambush, the attacker chooses the location, and the time is whenever the target enters the kill zone. It is in describing the ambush tactics of the Apache that this book excels. Watt breaks Apache ambushes into several categories. The planned ambush required real-time intelligence to establish patterns and find “exploitable weaknesses.” Many of these attacks were to capture livestock. Other categories of ambushes are:  the killing ambush, seeking retribution against the enemy; ambush by decoy, using false trails/simulating panic/etc.; and ad hoc ambushes (or what Watt calls the Apache “roadside bomb”). These quick ambushes relied on Apache tradecraft to hide where there seemed to be no concealment and spring a deadly trap at close range. Often these would be set before or after a perceived danger area when the enemy was less alert. Watt makes the case that the Apaches understood psychological operations and used it to their advantage. In one instance an Apache war party was particularly brutal. This incensed responding miners and the Apaches goaded them on with distant gunfire. Thinking another attack was taking place; the miners ran pell-mell into an ambush and were killed.

Like all great guerrilla warriors Apaches avoided direct attacks and were famously risk adverse. Disparity of numbers and technology led to the inevitable failure of the Apache resistance, but students of guerrilla war can learn much from their efforts.

The author of Apache Tactics 1830-86, Robert N. Watt, is a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in the UK and this book is published by Osprey Publishing of Oxford, UK. They have a great list of books at Apache Tactics was published in 2012 and is available through Amazon,com,, and other major Internet booksellers.

About The Reviewer: John Hawkwood (a pseudonym) is SurvivalBlog's new Military Book Review Editor. He is a former U.S. Army Infantry officer who also served as a paramilitary officer with the CIA.

If there's one thing I stress in my firearms classes, it is safety! Any instructor who doesn't stress safety in their classes or on the range, isn't doing his job. Students are always asking me about different ways they can practice without going to the range. Of course, one of the best things you can do is dry-firing. Needless to say, you have to make absolutely sure your firearm is unloaded, before undertaking dry-fire practice. More than one person has shot a hole in their wall with an "unloaded" gun.

When you dry-fire, you are accomplishing a couple of things. First off, you are learning trigger control and sight picture, as well as many other aspects of gun handling. A lot of folks are hanging lasers on their guns, for dry-fire practice, while this is a nice idea, it still isn't quite up-to-par, if you ask me. Now comes the SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt. The SIRT is a great idea, and the concept is not restricted to ARs. Next Level Training manufactures several different SIRT lasers. They sent me the SIRT for an AR-style of rifle.

One of the first things I thought, when I opened the package containing the SIRT-AR Bolt was, "this is gonna be complicated to install..." Well, I hate to admit when I'm wrong, but I was. The SIRT-AR Bolt replaces the bolt/bolt carrier in your AR rifle. You simply remove your bolt/bolt carrier and place the SIRT-AR Bolt in the upper receiver. Okay, there is one other little thing you have to do, and it's also easy. You have to place a little "filler" in the lower receiver, and this activates the laser when you pull the trigger on your AR. The instructions said it was easy, and you can also find a video on the Next Level Training web site that shows how simple it is to install the SIRT-AR Bolt and adjust it.

So, where does the SIRT-AR Bolt come into play? Well, you can safely train, with an unloaded weapon, with the SIRT installed. There is no way to introduce a live round into your AR - even if you mistakenly inserted a loaded magazine into the rifle. The SIRT-AR Bolt won't allow this to happen. You can't operate the charging handle on your AR, because you removed it when you installed the SIRT. However, what you can do is practice weapons manipulation, mag changes, presentation shots, etc. You can also practice trigger control. When you pull the trigger on your AR, the SIRT laser is activated, "firing" a red beam of light down the barrel, onto your target, so you know where you "hit" on the target. And, when you release the trigger, to "fire" the gun again, you simply release the trigger, just as you'd do with a live AR, and pull the trigger once again, and another last bean fires down your barrel, onto the target.

When using the SIRT, you safely train in the fundamentals of grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture, target transition, reloads, and above all, trigger control - all while handling a totally unloaded firearm. According to the Next Level Training web site, the red lasers (and you can get the laser in green, too) are safe to the eyes, so role players can realistically train without cumbersome safety gear. This is a good thing, if you ask me.

I have to admit, I was a little leery about how well the SIRT-AR Bolt would operate. It really only took me a few minutes to adjust the linkage between the bolt and the trigger that allows a trigger pull to activate the laser. I tried the SIRT in several different ARs, and it only took a slight adjustment to make it operate in different ARs - maybe a minute or two - that's it! With each pull of the trigger, the red laser "fired" down the barrel, hitting my target, so I knew if my sight alignment and trigger control were working. I must have "fired" my AR at least a thousand times, and each time I pulled the trigger with the SIRT installed, the gun "fired" without fail. It was just a lot of fun, and it helps with your dry-fire practice.

More than anything, what I liked about the SIRT-AR Bolt was the fact, that you could safely operate the gun - and as I mentioned, there is no way to introduce a live round into the chamber of your AR with the SIRT installed. When lasers first came out for use on firearms, they were big and bulky, and there really wasn't a good way to install them on your firearms and carry the guns - holsters weren't made for handguns with lasers. Of course, a lot of that has changed over the years, and many holster makers are making holsters that will allow you to carry a laser installed on your handgun.

With the SIRT installed in your AR, you can set-up a target across the room, or from one end of your house to the other, and dry-fire all day long, without worry of a negligent discharge (NDs) into your wall, or through the wall, into a neighboring apartment or home, and wounding someone. If you look at the web site, you'll also notice that Next Level Training, is also producing a Glock form factor SIRT pistol. This is a great idea, and it allows you to practice your handgun skills without worry of accidentally loading a pistol with live rounds.

More than anything, what really excited me about the SIRT was the safety factor. Any students who have trained with me will probably tell you how sick and tired they got hearing me preaching safety. As the saying goes, "safety is no accident" and we don't want any accidents when we are handling firearms, on the range or in our homes. The fact that you can repeatedly pull the trigger on your AR with a SIRT-Bolt installed is great - just keep on "firing" with each pull of the trigger, without the need to charge the gun with the charging handle. Just pull the trigger, and a laser beam fires down the barrel. It can't be any easier than that.

The SIRT-AR Bolt sample I received seemed very well made, and it should last you many years. I liked being able to watch how quick and easy it was to install the SIRT-Bolt on their web site. I believe that if you install a SIRT AR-Bolt in your rifle, and do lots of dry-fire practice with it, your next range visit will show that you improved your skills when you pull the trigger on a live-round, really! With the price of ammo these days, the SIRT is a darn good idea. And, it sure beats the heck out of having an accidental discharge in your home - none of us want that to happen.

So, if you're looking to improve your trigger time, without the benefit of going out to the range a couple times per week, check out the SIRT from Next Level Training - I think you'll be as impressed as I was, with the quality, and more importantly, at least to me, the simplicity of how the SIRT worked. I like it when something works as advertised. How many times have your saw something advertised on television or the 'net, and when you got your own sample, the darn thing didn't work as advertised? Yeah, I've had that happen way too many times myself.

Check out the Next Level Training web site, and watch the video on how easy the SIRT is to install, and then think about all the benefits of installing a SIRT in your AR, or buying the SIRT Glock, and doing some serious dry-fire practice. I think you'll see the benefits of having a SIRT, and you'll see the benefits on the range, from all that reactive dry-fire practice in your living room.

Retail on the SIRT-AR Bolt red laser is $150 and the green laser is a hundred bucks more. The savings in dry-fire practice alone is worth the investment. You also can't put a price tag on the safety aspect of "firing" an eye safe laser, without fear of introducing a live round into your dry-fire practice. We can never be too safe, when we're around firearms, and using a SIRT assures you that you have an unloaded firearm when performing dry-fire practice.

I'd like to share a great resource with your readers: The site does two things: first, it tracks the price of ebooks on Amazon so if folks have a book list they want to purchase they can add that list and purchase them when they go on sale. The second advantage (and this is what I primarily use it for) is that it tracks all of the ebooks that have gone from a paid price to free. I check it every morning and normally pick up about fifteen books a week. Many of these I'll get ten pages in and discover that the book isn't worth reading and delete it, but all of that is worth it when I pick up 2-3 absolute jewels per week, for free.

You can apply a number of filters to it; in the scenario above I normally put in a filter to only see books that have gone free in the past 24 hours, then exclude all of the genres I'm uninterested in (e.g., romance, horror, science fiction, etc). Just now I searched for medical ebooks that were free and found 106, including a number on trauma medicine.

These books will be "purchased" (for the high price of $0.00) by your readers from and will be delivered to their Kindle book store. Don't have a Kindle? No worries; I don't either. You can download a Kindle app on your tablet or smart phone, or computer.

Store up a library of free books. Sometimes, you will get what you paid for it; in those cases, you not even have to feel bad about wasting paper - you're throwing away nothing. But when you get those jewels it will all be worth it.

All the best, - Josh

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Back when I thought the world was perfect and would go on in its present state forever, I was an avid reader of fiction novels. I still am. From reading the Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid to the works of Stephen King and Tom Clancy as an adult, I have always loved to read. In fact, I give credit to this love of reading as the single factor in what will probably save my life one day. If I had not been totally hooked on reading great stories and hadn’t curved my reading interest towards post-apocalyptic types of books (Stephen King’s “The Stand” got me started in that direction), I would probably not have gotten started in my survivalist activities. One book led to another and to another and after a path of hundreds of books that led me to reading “Patriots” and “One Second After”, my course was set. A prepper was born.

Now, this article is neither to sing the praises of any single novel nor to tell my story on how I came to believe what I now believe today. It is strictly designed to talk about the incredible importance of fiction novels to the modern day survivalist or prepper.

As I go through my day to day journey getting ready for some interesting times to come, I am lucky enough to have the opportunity, through my job, to talk to lots of people. I have met several “Like Minded” people in my journey, and the conversation subject generally turns to what we are each doing to prepare. I love to discuss this subject with others and enjoy having them try to throw monkey wrenches in my plans as I try to throw the same wicked tool at theirs. This helps us look at scenarios we might not have thought of and make the appropriate changes or additions to our plans or materials. The main objective of preparation is to have plans and materials available for an unknown situation or series of events. This can, and usually is, a major undertaking. Having someone throw different “what ifs” at you helps you improve those plans and lists of materials.
As these conversations took place, I noticed that I was very good at throwing curve balls at people’s plans that they had not previously thought of and I really didn’t understand why. One day, a friend of mine asked me why I always seemed to be able to throw a scenario at him that he hadn’t previously thought of and it finally dawned on me why that was so. It was because of the massive number of fiction novels I had and continue to read. Most survivalist and preppers can read you off a long list of non-fiction books they have read and collected. Everything from urban combat manuals to food preservation books seems to be a staple for the modern day survivalist. While they recite this list of non-fiction books they own, I rarely hear them mention books like Patriots, Lights Out , Lucifer's Hammer, and One Second After.

They can tell me about the struggle they had reading a book, cover to cover, about canning vegetables but they never mention the wonderful (and educational) hours spent reading “One Second After”, a great work of fiction. Or, maybe they read one or two novels and that got them interested in this movement but after that, it was strictly non-fiction from then on. That is a mistake I am afraid many people are making.

While I am by no means undercutting the importance of non-fiction books, I am simply stating that the importance of fiction novels of pre and post society collapse is typically being forgotten. I believe many preppers get so caught up in reading the non-fiction works to gain the knowledge that they lack that they somehow miss the fact that a good work of fiction will take that knowledge and let the characters show how and when they used it. In other words, it takes the knowledge from the non-fiction and puts it in a storyline that is easy to absorb, wonderful to follow and hard to put down.

I have read some incredible works of fiction that told the stories of groups of survivors after a society collapse. These stories kept me totally captivated as I followed them through their failures and their triumphs. Each of these novels allowed me to learn the same lessons the book’s characters learned without having to actually experience the hardships they went through. Each author created scenarios for his or her characters to go through that gave me an insight as to how the non-fiction knowledge they acquired worked out. Yes, I have read some bad novels right along with the greats, but I can honestly say that I have never read a single work of post-apocalyptic fiction that I did not at least learn something from. I have always managed to take some tidbit of information away that I could use to either modify a plan or a list of materials. The good novels may actually cause you to make several changes as you see what did and did not work for the book’s characters. This is because while we may think of ourselves as awesome preppers, having thought of everything, there is no way we have actually thought of everything. Reading these novels gives us the insight of not only the author’s education but also each character’s. As someone who has done some writing, I know that when writing, a story can take on a mind of its own and when the author suddenly sees his characters in a situation he actually hadn’t thought they would end up in, he or she has to stop typing and go do some additional research on how to get them out of it. This increases his knowledge, while he increases his character’s knowledge, thus increasing your knowledge through reading it.

For example, I had always thought my preparedness plan was pretty good. While I have still not acquired everything that is on my list, I felt pretty good about what was on the list. Then I read a novel about a group of survivors that had to deal with a member of their group suffering from some problems with a mental illness. While this illness was temporary and due to PTSD, it still posed some problems and challenges for the group. They needed to restrain this person to keep them from hurting themselves and others but all they had available was rope. This caused some abrasion problems that led to other medical problems due to the lack of medical care and a clean environment. What the main character wished he had added to their stockpile was a couple of sets of handcuffs. After reading that, guess what I added to my list? That’s right, a set of handcuffs! I do believe that a big part of preparing for an uncertain future involves thinking about the mental state you or others may or may not be in during times like that. The best way I have found to examine these different mental states (without actually creating a scenario to cause them which my wife forbids) is in these works of fiction. You get to live the life of the characters, go through what they are going through, and ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation.

This article may seem like I am putting a higher importance on fiction than I am non-fiction but that isn’t the case. We all need more knowledge than we have and non-fiction books are that source. However, a good work of fiction can point you towards the right non-fiction book to read by showing you areas you are weak in as you follow the trials and tribulations of the book’s characters. Several of the “How-to” books I own came as a direct result of being shown an area in a novel that I was unfamiliar with and learned from the character’s problems that I had better get familiar with it.

If you have never been a reader of novels, you may be asking yourself what novels you should read. In my experience, most preppers have a general opinion on what will be the catalyst of society’s downfall. Things like nuclear war, plague, famine, economical and natural disaster are just some examples of what people are preparing for and while they believe strongly in one of those events taking place, they still tend to do a little “Side Prepping” into one of the other scenarios. For example, someone who strongly believes that an asteroid is going to be our end may still keep a few surgical masks and gas masks in their stockpile just in case it turns out to be plague. Someone who believes a massive case of the flu will bring us down may still do some financial preps in case it turns out to be an economical collapse. I tell you that to tell you this. Don’t limit your fiction reading to only those books whose storyline follows your belief. Personally, I am a follower of the economical crisis leading to a long-term grid collapse theory. While that is a strong belief for me, I still took away many “tips and tricks” from the novel Lucifer’s Hammer which dealt with an asteroid strike. While books that have storylines dealing with the effects of an EMP did not exactly follow my belief in what will happen, the trials and triumphs the characters went through were similar to what I think will happen. In other words, I learned a lot from books like “One Second After” even though my thoughts are more in line with books like Patriots. You can learn something from everything so read it all! This web site has a great list of novels that will give you a great place to start. Will you think every book is great? No. Of course not. Will you learn something from every book you read? Well, that is strictly up to you. Keep a notepad and pen alongside your book and make notes when you run across something you haven’t thought of before. I promise you that you will make some notes and may be very glad you did one day.

As a final note, I want to add that a good novel has one more very valuable attribute. All of us have friends and family that we would like to see become more in line with our way of thinking. I have converted more friends to the prepper way of life by handing them my copy of “Lights Out” to read than I have by giving them my copy of “Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook”. Before one’s mind can be converted to a survivalist’s mindset, they have to be able to imagine a future where that will be needed. Nothing stokes the fire of the imagination like a good novel.

Read on, my friends, and keep on learning.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rainy Day Root Cellars in Castle Rock, Colorado offers a variety of sizes of root and combination storage cellars using pre-cast concrete components. I had the chance to inspect one of their installed cellars, and I was quite impressed. Their rugged designs are optimized for safe food and water storage, self-sufficiency, security and other 'backyard' or remote site access. In addition to food and water storage, these shelters provide excellent climate-controlled safe-keeping for important papers and sensitive files, firearms, ammunition, batteries, emergency medical supplies, and much more. Standard sizes range from 8′ x 8′ Single Room to 8′ x 24′ Three Room.

Uses and Advantages

The backfill depth of a typical cellar installation minimizes threat from fire, tornados or other strong storms. This depth also provides smaller annual temperature swings than those typical of basements, garages or attics. A typical year-round temperature range for the prescribed installation of a Rainy Day Root Cellar is 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (Depending on your latitude.) Grains, canned goods, water, medicines, gunpowder and ammunition all store well in a 33 to 70 degree range environment. In addition to an ideal temperature, these root cellars provide optimum sealed, dry and dark conditions without dependence on power. A year's food storage for a family of four may cost around $15,000, which warrants an appropriate investment in a suitable enclosure to prevent or minimize shortened shelf-life, pillage from vermin or other intrusions.


The Rainy Day web site touts their enclosures as a "safety deposit box" in your backyard. Their heavy duty steel exterior cellar doors provide the first line of defense. At the bottom of the thick tread wooden staircase, the cast-in-place steel opening frames a second lockable steel door for excellent security. Ceiling, floor and walls are all reinforced concrete with all seams waterproof sealed inside and out. Pipe penetrations (typically two 4" vents) are also sealed inside and out. These can be fitted with forced-air HEPA air filters, to make you cellar double as a fallout shelter. Each room has an adjustable air intake vent, allowing independent temperature control. For models with two or more rooms, a room can be kept warmer or cooler than the others by adjusting the air intake vents. American made, cast aluminum, self-cleaning Lawler Manufacturing blast gates regulate temperature and air exchange. Turn the non-glued, screened intake ninety-degree fitting in the direction of the prevailing wind to adjust air intake. During extreme below zero conditions, a supplied cap over the air intake (in lieu of the ninety) keeps the temperature at desired minimums.


Rainy Day pre-engineers and designs all root cellars to customer specifications, including individual excavation plans tailored to each location. If desired, they will find a local excavation contractor to further reduce the involvement required from the buyer. In either case, they supply a custom excavation plan to provide a secure, level foundation. They work with a nationwide firm that has numerous concrete pre-cast concrete facilities around the country, which optimizes delivery of primary components and scheduling of on-site work. Delivery is often less than four weeks after receipt of deposit. They also provide other pour-in-place options (less preferable) if the site (e.g. too tight for crane access) or other considerations warrant an alternative to pre-cast components. After assembly, sealing, lock installation and testing, the Rainy Day staff can then install any optional items such as shelving or water tanks. Soil backfilling can be performed by the Rainy Day staff, a local contractor, or the owner. Grass seed and bushes are suggested to hide the protruding stand pipes, the tops of which should be unobstructed and above the anticipated high snow levels of the local elevation. Completion time from crew arrival on the excavated site to key hand-off is a maximum of two days.


Standard lengths for single room 8' wide root cellars include 8', 10', 12' 14' and 16'. Standard lengths for double room 8' wide root cellars include 20', 22' and 24'. There is a 24' long 3-room standard option, with other custom configurations available. For hillside installations, wing walls (for sloped ground retention) can replace the stairwell. Interior options include custom wooden shelves, pre-made steel shelves, specialized food storage units (such as ShelfReliance shelving), or owner provided storage units. Rainy Day Root Cellars recommends either 225 gallon or 525 gallon 2-valve top-filled water tank options. The valve two feet above the floor is optimal for bucket filling, while the bottom valve is for periodic draining. Battery-powered lights or solar lights are lighting options they can provide. Rainy Day staff recommends acquiring two or more D-cell powered LED lanterns which can be suspended on their supplied ceiling hooks.

Rainy Day Root Cellars' web site provides more details and photos. They can be reached at: 303-660-6461.

- L.K.O. (SurvivalBlog's Central Rockies Regional Editor)

I still recall when I saw the first Ruger P85, 9mm pistol. I was living in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the time. Only one gun shop in town had a P85 sample, and people were literally lining-up all week long to see this new pistol. There were several reasons for this, first of all, this was the first center fire semiauto handgun from Ruger. Secondly, the design of the P85 and appearance was rather radical at the time. And, I believe lastly, was the retail price of the P85 - which was $295.00 - well below what other similar 9mm pistols were selling for. Of course, for the first few months, you couldn't purchase a P85 for the retail price - whoever had them in-stock, were selling them above the retail price, and people were paying the price, too.
The P85 didn't actually appear on the handgun market until 1987 because of design and manufacturing problems. And, there were very low production numbers to start with. (Ruger was just getting their new factory in Arizona up and running, and the P85 was hard to come by.) I owned two of the first P85s to come on the market. One was flawless, the second sample had a strange problem, where the slide would lock open for no particular reason, while firing the gun. I never was able to figure out what the problem was - the slide would lock open during recoil, and it wasn't retracting to the fullest rear position - the slide would lock open about halfway through the recoil process. I traded that gun off after a couple weeks. The other P85 sample worked perfectly, but the accuracy was lacking. Ruger resolved the accuracy problem in short order. However, there were some reports of the P85 causing accidental discharges when the slide mounted decocker was applied - the firing pin would hit a loaded round in the chamber and the gun would fire.  These things happen, even with the best gun designs - there are teething problems. However, Ruger was quick to recall guns and make the needed improvements on the P85. I had enough confidence in the then new P85, that I carried one on-duty when I was the chief of police, in a small town. The sheriff in the county where I worked - he also carried a P85.
Through the years, Ruger updated the P85, with improved models, like the P89, which was cosmetically the same gun, but there were big improvements in the barrel making process and the safety aspects of the gun. There were a number of other improvements over the years, and each time, the P-series of guns got better and better. And, if you've followed my articles for any length of time, you know I consider Ruger firearms, to be real "meat and potato" firearms - they are rugged firearms, and priced for the average person. That's not to say that Ruger doesn't make some spendy firearms - they do! However, most of the guns in the Ruger line-up are meat and potato guns in my humble opinion. And, if you're like me, you want the most value for your money as you can possibly get - and Ruger provides this.
I had quite a few SurvivalBlog readers e-mail, and ask me why I haven't featured a Ruger P95 in my articles. Some asked me what I had against Ruger firearms? Well, I answered each and every e-mail I received. First of all, I didn't have a Ruger P95 in my meager gun collection. Secondly, I have nothing against Ruger firearms. They are always a best-buy in my book, and some of the strongest firearms on the market. If anything, Ruger over-engineers their guns - they are made strong. [JWR Adds: While I formerly shied away from Rugers for political reasons, I now fully endorse the company. To explain, the Late William B. Ruger, Sr. had cozied up to anti-gun politicians, in the hopes that they would slow their legislative onslaught. Among other things, Ruger actually endorsed a ban on magazines over 10 round capacity for citizens. I found that reprehensible. A few years after the passing of Bill Ruger in 2002, the company resumed selling 20 and 30 round magazines to mere mortals. I'm glad that they saw the light.]
I e-mailed Ruger and requested a P95 sample for this article. And, my timing couldn't have been worse - I made my request when we were in a real buying frenzy, especially with Ruger firearms - they were backordered several months on firearms - they weren't even taking any orders from distributors - they were making firearms as fast as they could, and still couldn't keep up with supply and demand. Happily, Ruger is back on-track, but some Ruger firearms are still a little bit hard to find. Beth McAllister, who is my super-contact at Ruger, got me a P95 sample inside of a couple 2-3 weeks - thanks, Beth!
This isn't my first P95 sample - I owned a used P95 some years ago, and there have been some subtle changes in the design. And, the current P95 is the best in the P-series if you ask me. What we have is a polymer frame, with a light texturing on it, for a sure purchase on the gun. We also have an ambi mag release, and the mag release isn't pushed "in" - instead, it is pushed forward. The slide is made out of stainless steel, with a decocker, and manual safety in one. On top of the slide, we have nice, 3-dot combat sights, that are adjustable for windage with the rear sight. The stainless steel barrel is 3.90" long - so the P95 is a bit compact in my humble opinion. Honestly, I've owned quite a few Ruger P-series guns over the years, and I've NEVER once had to make any adjustments to the rear sights - they were always dead-on. There is also a massive external extractor on the P95. A rounded combat-style hammer is also a nice feature.
The P95 comes in, of course, 9mm - and I still live in a fairly "free state" and can have full-capacity mags - the P95 holds 15 rounds in the mag, and one in the chamber, for 16 rounds on-tap. And Ruger also provides a second mag with their guns. I wish more gun companies would do this - some, like Kimber, only provide 1 mag with their 1911 handguns - why? The P95 only weighs-in at 27-oz, quite a bit lighter than the original P85 that weighed 33-oz empty, with it's aluminum frame. One thing I really like on the P95 is the trigger pull - in double-action, as well as single action. With the hammer forward, the first shot will be double-action, and the trigger pull is super smooth, at about 10-11 pounds. The single-action trigger pull is about 4-5 lbs and just as smooth...the pull is long, but smooth - what's not to like here? There is also a Picatinny rail on the frame, if you want to mount a light or a laser on your P95. The trigger guard is rounded, too - not like the squared trigger guard on the original P85 was - I like it!
Take-down on the P95 is a bit different than some similar guns, however, it's quick and easy, and described in the instruction manual - read it before your attempt to take your P95 apart for cleaning.
I was anxious to get this new P95 out to the range for some fun shooting. I found half a box of Blazer FMJ 115 grain ammo in my ammo box in my car, and headed right to the range, instead of heading home for more ammo - yeah, I was "that" anxious to shoot this hummer. I loaded-up the mag with 15 rounds of this Blazer 9mm ammo - and I had numerous problems - empty brass wouldn't cleanly eject, and some wouldn't even feed from the mag. Could I have gotten a lemon from Ruger? Not a chance! I've had a lot of problems with this Blazer brass-cased 9mm in the past. It's not very powerful, and doesn't always have enough power to fully operate the slide in recoil. So, rounds don't eject cleanly, and rounds don't get picked-up from the mag during recoil. I knew it wasn't the P95 having problems - it was an ammo problem.
I headed home, and got some Black Hills Ammunition ( 115 grain +P Barnes TAC-XP hollow point ammo, and some of the Buffalo Bore (  95 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ hollow point ammo to test. There were zero malfunctions with either of these ammo brands - which proved, to my mind, that it was the Blazer ammo, and not the P95 - just as I surmised. I fired more than a hundred rounds of the +P+ Buffalo Bore Barnes ammo through the Ruger P95 - the gun ran extremely smooth with this round. And, seeing as how this is only a 95 grain bullet, and even though it is +P+ rated, there wasn't any noticeable difference in recoil from standard velocity loads. This would prove to be an excellent load for stoking in your house gun - where you might worry about over-penetration of a 9mm through walls. The load is easy to handle...and Buffalo Bore uses a flash retardant power, so your night vision won't get ruined if you fire the gun in low-light conditions. I was getting 4-5 inch groups, at 25-yards with the Buffalo Bore load - more than "combat" acceptable. I fired over a rolled-up sleeping bag, over the hood of my car.
The Black Hills 115 grain TAC-XP +P Barnes hollow point proved to be the accuracy winner in the P95 - I was getting 3 to 3 1/2-inch groups if I did my part. And, the Black Hills 115 grain +P Barnes load was also a pussycat in the P95 - anyone can handle this load - anyone! I didn't do any penetration tests with either the Buffalo Bore or Black Hills loads, but I know that the 95 grain Barnes load won't penetrate as deeply as the 115 grain bullet will - that's just common sense. However, both rounds will penetrate deep enough to get the job done in a self-defense situation. And, remember - please remember - there is no such thing as a magic bullet - shot placement is still what matters.
Just before doing this article, Buffalo Bore sent me some of their new 9mm 115 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ ammo - and I only had a limited supply, so I didn't get to do a lot of testing with this round. The recoil was on-par with the 95 grain +P+ load and the Black Hills load - I could hardly tell the difference between the bullet weights. Then again, I don't find the 9mm punishing in any way. It is a caliber that you can shoot all day long. I also fired 100 rounds of Black Hills 115 grain FMJ reloads through the P95, and every round functioned perfectly - unlike the Blazer new ammo, that caused a lot of problems. I would have zero problems carrying Black Hills reloaded ammo in any of my carry guns - I'm that "sure" of their reloads!
Picking a brand of ammo is important to a lot of people. And, let's be honest here, some guns shoot certain brands or styles of ammo better than other guns do. I have never fired any Buffalo Bore or Black Hills ammo that was more than accurate for the task at hand. The Buffalo Bore 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ shot groups a little bigger than the Black Hills 115 grain Barnes TAC-XP +P rounds did. For this particular Ruger P95, I'd pick the Black Hills 115 grain +P load for my daily carry use because it was a bit more accurate. For a bedside load, I'd take the Barnes 95 grain +P+ load if I were worried about over-penetration. For my money, you can't go wrong with any of the Black Hills or Buffalo Bore loads in the P95.
In more than 500 rounds of testing the P95, the only problems I encountered were with the Blazer 115 grain loads - then again, most 9mm guns I've fired this under-powered ammo in, I've had problems! The only "good" thing I can say about this Blazer ammo is, it's cheap, and it's good if you want to practice malfunction drills. The P95 just perked along without any problems with the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore ammo - as expected!
In summary, I like the way the P95 fills my hand, the grip angle feels good - real good! The gun balances nicely, and the texturing on the polymer grip helps secure the gun in your hand when firing. The trigger pull is outstanding, in double-action, as well as single-action. Years ago, you'd pay a gunsmith at least $150 to give you a trigger pull like this, but the Ruger P95 is a production gun - seriously!
And, like all Ruger firearms, you get value for your hard-earned dollars. The P95 has a full retail price of $429 - but you can usually find Ruger handguns deeply discounted. My local gun shop usually sells the P95 for around $359. As a matter of fact, they had a used P95 decocker model, now discontinued by Ruger for $299 a week ago - I bought (traded into) it - it was like-new! I sure didn't "need" this P95 decocker model, not since I had the brand-new current P95, but I couldn't pass it up.'
Ruger firearms are still "meat and potato" firearms if you ask me - at least many of their guns are. I believe you get added value for your hard-earned money when you buy a Ruger, than you do with many other brands of firearms. Are Ruger handguns "pretty?" Well, it's all in the eye of the beholder - I thought the old P85 was "sexy" to my mind...and the current P95 is very stylish if you ask me. It has a polymer frame like many of today's handguns do, and a stainless steel slide...and you get a second mag, combat sights, super-smooth trigger pulls, and total reliability - with good ammo. What's not to like here? If you're in the market for a new 9mm pistol, give the Ruger P95 a close look - you're gonna like the value there, as well as the gun. It's a gun you can bet your life on!

I was privileged to meet Hank several times, and participate in one of his lectures on knife fighting.  At the time, the man was 30 years my senior and I would not have wanted to rumble with him.

His Book of Knives was written largely in the 1970s, compiled and published after his death, with assistance from his widow and friends.  It follows his Book of Swords.

The first half, in Hank's voice, is entertaining, anecdotal and informative.  It covers various lessons learned from fights he observed or was involved in, in some seedier areas of the country.  In very honest language, Hank informs us 1:  Not to get into a knife fight.  2:  If you must, bring a gun by choice.  3:  If you must use a knife, be fast, brutal and effective.  There are no Queensberry rules in a knife brawl.  The winner is likely to go to the ER.  The loser will likely be going to the morgue.  The stories are accompanied by clear drawings of how to engage each tactic.

With advances in knife design, some of the recommendations on knife choice are a bit dated, but all the advice on how to fight remains vital and current.  All revolve around engaging fast, disabling the opponent, with attention to his knife hand and vital areas, rendering him incapable of pursuit, and evacuating the area.  This is not a book for the squeamish.

There is an interlude with comments from Hank's friends and students, including Massad Ayoob and Michael Janich.

The second half, compiled from his notes by Greg Phillips, one of Hank's students, continues on with information on more modern knives, and some very excellent exercises on how to practice deploying a knife, accurately striking a still or moving target, and cutting effectively, with inexpensive practice targets of rope, water bottles and cardboard tubes.  Practicing these drills will most certainly improve one's handling of a knife as either tool or weapon.  There are instructions on how to make foam and plastic practice knives for sparring.

I have two criticisms with this section.  First, Phillips has strong opinions on knife choice, voiced almost as universal facts.  However, knives are a personal item, and choices and effectiveness will vary from person to person, just as with guns. 

Second, he advocates carrying a knife specifically for fighting, never to be used as your working knife.  The problems I have with this are that one is far more likely to need a tool than a weapon; that one should be avoiding a fight; that if a fight is inevitable, one should be using a gun if at all possible; and if one is in a jurisdiction where guns are restricted, the authorities are unlikely to look more favorably on a knife.  A knife with tape residue, gum and grease on it, as a tool pressed into emergency use, is far more defensible to the authorities [or a jury] than a custom knife carried specifically for fighting.  I also disagree that a dagger is a good choice, since its non-weapon utility is low and it's very clearly intended as a weapon, once you wind up in court.  The same cuts and thrusts can be accomplished with a variety of more useful knives.

However, opinions do vary, and this book is an excellent introduction to developing skills with hand held blades.  The fighting and practice techniques are simple, straightforward, and recommended for improving one's tactical knife use.

Hank's preferred book dealer was The Missing Volume.  Glennis LeBlanc offers excellent service.  The book can be ordered through her site.

Hank's Book of Swords (referenced above) covers design, development, crafting and use of swords, while debunking a great many myths about them.  I recommend it for those interested in longer blades. 

Note; I received a free review copy of the book from the publisher. - (SurvivalBlog Editor at Large)

Have you ever wondered how you will react if your children are starving and light-headed from malnutrition and you have no food left?

Have you questioned your resilience to life’s opportunities if you are continually beat down by nature and circumstances?

Want to know how to make a smokehouse out of a hollow tree? How to provide heat when there is no wood left to burn?  Crop failure?  Wild bees?

When I was a child, Laura Ingalls Wilder had already published her saga which included practical homesteading information wrapped inside a series of books. Her books for children were the story of her growing-up years in America 145 years ago.  She began this autobiography when she was over 60 years old. She realized a pioneer and frontier way of life had ended, and she could tell the story.  Laura’s life spanned the era from post-Civil War to the modern age. She serialized her story in the third person, told through the eyes of a little girl named Laura. As a child, it took me several books before I understood that the author was the Laura of the books. (My parents also had to tell me that Alice fell asleep and was only dreaming when she saw a rabbit run past her tree proclaiming that he was late, late for a very important date and then pop into the rabbit hole. I got smarter and more practical as the years passed.) Laura was a tiny bit naughty  --  occasionally slapping mean children on the face -- and had, in her own mind, ugly brown hair instead of her sister’s lovely blond curls. My father would go to out-of-town conventions from time to time and my present, upon his return, was a new “Laura” book.

If you only know Laura through the television series, “Little House on the Prairie,” then you don’t know Laura. That family program only faintly resembles the Laura books by the use of the title of her second book, Little House on the Prairie . Eventually, people called the book series the “Little House on the Prairie” books.  Characters were even invented for the television series. While television is entertaining, the book series and the television series are two different creatures.

Ma and Pa Ingalls had four daughters, and these girls worked! They were not entertained to keep out of mischief. A leaf, a stick, a hanky, a corncob, and plenty of imagination could provide hours of enjoyment on a tree stump. And they obeyed when given orders, which could make the difference between life and death (encounter with a bear, fording a flooding river, fighting a chimney fire or wildfire).  The girls watched over each younger child everyday while the parents did farm work. Each daughter had daily jobs called chores and they were expected to be a part of the family and do her part to help the family survive during treacherous times.  For us, "treacherous times" translate as their "daily life."

The family was responsible for their own food, and they had to work for almost every bite. Their diet included a lot of corn, using sacks of cornmeal traded for furs that Pa had trapped, but occasionally fresh ears and hulled corn.  During The Long Winter, my favorite book, the family and the whole town is malnourished, out of food, and starving to death. No trains can get through in order to deliver needed food supplies to the prairie town due to an extremely harsh winter and snow that blocks the tracks. Particularly read this book if you are considering moving to the American Redoubt and have never lived in the northern tier, i.e. snow country.

Laura and her family worked hard and they were not afraid of work. Laura lived from 1867-1957, ninety years. The childhood privations made her into the survivor she became and did not destroy her spirit or health.

These books were written for children. I read them as a child, I read them to my children, my grandchildren have begun the series, and now I reread them often. I teach in an urban elementary public school and introduce my class to Laura by reading one of her books aloud each year. Laura’s lifestyle is completely foreign to my students. However, in light of the world situation now in 2012, the books are more relevant than ever. I encourage you to acquire the set of books and cherish it. The Laura books are written in the style of our mentor, Jim Rawles. His book Patriots has been described as a handbook encased in a novel. The Laura books are how-to books for living in a primitive world without our ready access to modern conveniences and Wal-Mart.

Laura’s life spanned the period from right after the Civil War when panthers roamed the northern Big Woods and her mother cooked over a campfire on the open prairie, through the Great Depression, both World Wars, construction of the Interstate Highway system, invention of the automobile, and atomic bombs. She lived long enough to experience modern life such as running water, indoor plumbing, rapid transportation, antibiotics, washing machines, clothes dryers, and air conditioning. Her life was the essence of adaptability.

How did the Ingalls family spend their days? They were almost completely independent of a monetary system; they bartered and traded their way along life. A single penny was almost a fortune. They simply lived and lived simply, existed, and thrived, finding happiness and contentment on the life road they chose with faith, among family and a few friends in virgin land. These true pioneers had itchy feet, yearning for new, less crowded horizons with neighbors miles apart and sufficient wild game to hunt. They stopped moving west when Ma finally put her foot down and said, “No more.”

Laura proved to be made with great resilience and the ability to adapt to a changing world. These books are an incredible resource for individuals with interest in prepping for a changing future. Laura survived malaria, scarlet fever, and starvation.

I’ve listed her books with some of the crucial information bulleted that can be found embedded in each book. When you read the series, your outlook will be changed.  These books should be cherished and passed down. You will find the same themes running through each book: family as the basis for existence, importance of community and faith, simple recipes for simple foods, the joy that music brings to life, and an appreciation for the natural world.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to purchase the Laura series, read them to yourself, your family, and learn from the practical lessons. The descriptions of flora and fauna in the untamed Midwest take your breath away.  Many, many people, both children and adults, have grown to love Laura and her writings. Vacationing families still visit her homesteads and home sites throughout the Midwest in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Missouri. She has had fan clubs since she began writing. Her inspiring story is classic and enduring.

There are dozens of other books written about Laura’s life and family by various authors, but they were not written by her, simply about her. The “Little House” books number only nine. Some other books about Laura and her growing up that round out her story that I have read and can recommend are: The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker; Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter; A Little House Sampler by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane; Laura’s Album compiled by William Anderson; and On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Enjoy!

Little House in the Big Woods

• ·       How to keep needles from rusting
• ·       Collecting maple sap
• ·       Making maple sugar
• ·       Gathering honey from wild bees
• ·       Making butter
• ·       Cheese-making with a calf’s stomach lining (rennet)
• ·       Pouring and molding lead bullets
• ·       Gun cleaning
• ·       Building a smokehouse from a hollow tree trunk
• ·       Harvesting and stacking oat sheaves
• ·       Making straw hats
• ·       Treating massive numbers of wasp stings
• ·       Gathering wild nuts
• ·       Nixtamalization of corn (preparing hulled corn)
• ·       Making a salt lick
• ·       Cooking varieties of squash and vegetables
• ·       Preserving various foods for cellar and attic
• ·       Insulating a house and barn with stones, dead leaves, and straw
• ·       Family and community entertainment and recreation
• ·       Personal hygiene and grooming
• ·       Housekeeping practices
• ·       Salting fish in barrels
• ·       Root cellaring
• ·       Braiding onions
• ·       Pig butchering
• ·       Making sausage and head cheese
• ·       Using a kerosene lamp

Little House on the Prairie

• ·       Fording a rising river with a team of horses
• ·       Outdoor cooking with cast iron cookware
• ·       Traveling cross-country in a covered wagon
• ·       Where to position a homestead in relation to a creek
• ·       Hand tools essential to homesteading
• ·       Building a notched-log cabin
• ·       Picket lines for horses
• ·       Importance of music for happiness and contentment
• ·       Importance of a good, faithful dog (watchdog/guard dog)
• ·       Why not to camp in creek bottoms (malaria)
• ·       Latch string to open/close a door
• ·       Importance of neighbors
• ·       Reusing bent nails
• ·       Chinking cracks in a log cabin wall
• ·       Building a stone fireplace with river rock
• ·       Constructing a stick and daub chimney
• ·       Log splitting for floors, roof, furniture
• ·       Preparing rabbit fur for clothing
• ·       Digging a well, testing for natural gas in the ground
• ·       Milking a wild cow
• ·       Drying wild blackberries
• ·       Recipes for various cornmeal dishes
• ·       Treating malaria
• ·       Chimney fire
• ·       Making a willow rocking chair
• ·       Fighting a prairie fire
• ·       When government makes rules

Farmer Boy

• ·       Abundance of food and simple recipes

On the Banks of Plum Creek

• ·       Grasshopper plague
• ·       When crops fail
• ·       Life cycle of a grasshopper
• ·       Minnesota blizzard
• ·       Getting caught out in a blizzard and surviving
• ·       Haying

By the Shores of Silver Lake

• ·       Effects of Scarlet Fever
• ·       Feeding livestock during a blizzard
• ·       Grading and scraping plowed land
• ·       Making a road cut
• ·       Mob psychology
• ·       Which water birds are fit to eat
• ·       Lyrics to many old-timey, long-lost songs
• ·       Making a homemade checkers game
• ·       Living on salt pork and wild game
• ·       Family working together to succeed at life
• ·       Taking in boarders to earn money
• ·       Fighting mosquitoes with smoking fires

The Long Winter

• ·       Saving seed for spring planting vs. eating the seed to survive
• ·       Braiding hay to burn for heat
• ·       Grinding wheat in a coffee mill daily to make bread
• ·       Surviving starvation
• ·       Isolation in winter
• ·       How starvation and malnutrition affects the body
• ·       Taking extreme life-threatening steps to survive

Little Town on the Prairie

• ·       Skimming cream
• ·       Teaching a calf to drink from a pail
• ·       Plowing prairie sod
• ·       Hand-feeding a tiny kitten
• ·       Sewing on a treadle machine
• ·       Hand-basting seams, buttonholes
• ·       Using a chicken tractor
• ·       Saving a corn crop from blackbirds
• ·       Entertainment in a small community
• ·       Public schools/education in the 1880’s

These Happy Golden Years

• ·       Severe winter in South Dakota
• ·       Breaking horses to buggy and wagon
• ·       Tornado season on the Great Plains
• ·       How to dress in bitter winter weather

The First Four Years

• ·       Pros and cons of farming as a career choice
• ·       When a homestead is invaded by thieves
• ·       Folksy sayings about the weather
• ·       Getting from house to barn in a blizzard to feed livestock
• ·       Stacking hay
• ·       Home birth
• ·       Diphtheria with complications
• ·       Prairie blizzard
• ·       Prairie fire
• ·       Prairie tornado
• ·       Youthful optimism


Monday, June 25, 2012

The past several months, I have been buried in products to test and evaluate for SurvivalBlog readers. While this is a good thing, it's also a "bad" thing - some products take quite a bit of time to test. My time is limited each day, and I do my best to give all the products a fair and honest evaluation for SurvivalBlog readers. And what you read in my articles, are findings based on my testing and my final opinion of the products. No one pays me to feature their products in my SurvivalBlog articles. I know a lot of folks believe that gun and knife companies pay magazine writers to write about their products, and that simply isn't true, at least in my case. I've been writing magazine articles for 20 years, and I've never once had any company offer to pay me to write favorable things about their products, and I don't know of any other reputable writer who has been offered money to write favorable things about anyone's products.

Chad, who runs the Internet Prepper web store contacted me about a month or so ago, and wanted to send me one of his Ceramic Drip Water Filter System, made by the Just Water Company. Chad e-mailed and asked: "Pat, I'd really appreciate an honest review of the filter system..." That's refreshing to hear from someone. I've had a few companies contact me, and asked me if I would give their products a favorable review and asked what I was going to say about their products - before they even sent me their products. I make no promises to anyone, other than I'll give their products a fair shake and write an article. I've also been asked if I can guarantee them that the article will appear on SurvivalBlog. I refer them to Jim Rawles, he is the editor of Survival Blog for that answer. (Be advised that the editorial calendar is packed, so there are often delays.)

Chad told me that he is a USAF veteran, and he picks and packs each filter order personally. They ship from Dallas, Texas, usually the next business day via Priority Mail. True to his word, my sample filter arrived in short order, via Priority Mail.

Some water filtration systems can cost hundreds of dollars. Some are as little as $15 - but they don't all filter well, and they don't filter a large volume of water, either. There are many products on the market these days, and you are only limited by your imagination and funds, when it comes to water filtration systems. Like most folks, my funds are limited, and I carefully shop around for the best products for my budget.

The Just Water Company had their Ceramic Filter Drip System tested by Johns Hopkins University and a number of other independent labs, and they all concluded that it exceeds FDA and NSF standards for filtering water. Cooper was kind enough to send me a copy of some of these reports along with the sample filtration system. Keep in mind that this filtration system does not remove viruses - so if you are concerned about this in your water, it's best to add a bit of chlorine to the water. However, most water filtration needs are easily met by this system, including the removal of Giardia and Cryptosporidium - two of the really nasty bugs in water, that can kill you.

Johns Hopkins noted in their letter that the treated water should be protected from recontamination in a safe storage vessel - which is part of this filtration system.

Okay, what I received from Chad was the filtration system, which consists of the silver-impregnated ceramic water filter, with a "sock" pre-filter that goes over the filter for keeping out larger particles that could clog the ceramic filter. The system also comes with a spigot and other neat things for getting this filtration system up and running. What this system does not come with are two standard 5-gallon plastic buckets. Those you must purchase yourself. No big deal here, the local big box store had food grade buckets for under $10 each. You will also need a drill and a couple drill bits in order to make the two buckets into a complete filtration system. It doesn't take any special handyman skills to drill a couple holes in the buckets to connect the upper bucket to the lower, and install the spigot. You'll also need a rubber band or two. I won't go into the details of how to get this system up and running. You can read it on their web site - but it only took about 10-minutes of time to get it all up and running . It was a piece of cake!

The biggest concern you have to be aware of it that, you make sure there are no leaks between the two buckets - or the water will get re-contaminated - as pointed out by Johns Hopkins. And, if you've installed everything correctly, there won't be any problems.

Okay, I'm the first to admit, that I'm not the most patient person in the world - far from it. In the instructions that came with the filtration system, it talks about the flow rate you can expect from this simple system, which is about 3/4 to 1 gallon per hour. The flow rate increases as the ceramic shell and mixed media inside the ceramic shell become saturated with water - this can take a couple of days for the flow rate to really get going. So, don't try to rush it - there's nothing you can do to make the filtration system flow faster to start with - a couple days is what it took in my case - just as advertised.

With daily use, you can expect a year's worth of filtered water with this system. When the flow rate decreases, this indicates that the "sock" and the filter might need to be cleaned. All that is needed is a pair of rubber gloves to remove the sock and rinse it in clean water, and a green Scotch-Brite pad to gently rub the surface of the ceramic filter. Rinse with clean (filtered) water and you're good to go for another year - or whenever you see the flow rate decreasing. You should be good for another year or so, depending on the turbidity of your water source.

The two 5-gallon buckets that you stack on top of one another takes up considerable counter space,. However, anyone can find a suitable place for this simply filtration system in their home. And, if the filter is only going to be used in a SHTF scenario, then who cares if it takes-up some counter space? Clean water is vital to your survival.

My water well has a large filter between the well and my house, and I have to have the media replaced every couple of years. We have what is commonly called "rust bacteria" in our water - and it comes out of the well brownish and it doesn't taste very good at times. Still, even with the big filter installed, we used a water filtration pitcher for our drinking water that removes the taste from this rust bacteria. So, I had a little something to compare thise Ceramic Filter Drip System to. I ran this system for couple weeks, and found that our drinking water actually did taste much better, that the water from the filtered water pitcher.

And, as mentioned above, if I were concerned about viruses in my drinking water, I'd add the appropriate amount of plain hypochlorite bleach to the water before drinking it. That is no big deal in my book.

You can get all the information you need about the nasty stuff that this filtration system removes from the water you run through it from the web site. The one important thing to remember is to never use any kind of soap when cleaning the filter, pre-filter sock and buckets, as it will ruin the filter.

I like to save the good news for last, and in this case, the selling price for this water filtration system is only $29.97 - and no matter how you look at it, that's one of the best bargains around. Why would you spend hundreds of dollars or more, each year, for that bottled water, that isn't nearly as clean as most people think it is? Personally, I think you are throwing your hard-earned money away when you purchase bottled water - and a lot of this is water from the same tap water you already drink - it's just placed in a plastic bottle - and you'll spend a buck apiece for this water - that you can already get out of your own tap. If you feel the need to drink bottled water, then buy a couple of bottles, and after you've emptied them, fill 'em up with filtered water from this filtration system. You'll find the water taste better than what you spent a buck for at the big box store. Just think of the savings on not buying bottled water alone. And, think of how much you're going to appreciate this filtration system when the SHTF and your only source of water might be a puddle of dirty rain water in your back yard?

The bottom line is the quality of the filtered water that comes out of this simple and inexpensive system. I don't care how stretched your finances are, you can pull together $29.97 plus shipping for this system and another $20 or less for a couple 5-gallon food grade plastic buckets, to assure your family of clean drinking water for a year or two. It's a great investment, especially for those on a tight budget, as many are today.

Amid the huge selection of autopistols these days, it's nice to see there are still some basic, reliable revolvers for those who prefer them.

The Taurus 445 is not a deep concealment gun, but is a good carry gun that fits easily in a pocket or hides well on a belt.  It's light weight (at 22 ounces), has a 2" barrel, and a 5-round cylinder.  It's comfortable to handle in adult hands, and pleasant to shoot, recoil being heavy but well-dispersed and not sharp, despite the gun's low weight.  It has Taurus' proprietary "Ribber" grips that offer great purchase and retention, and help damp the recoil.  .44 Special is an easy to find, reliable stopper, that doesn't sacrifice controllability.

The trigger broke cleanly at 11 pounds double action, 4 pounds single, and was quite crisp.  Release and ejection were positive and easy.

Accuracy is respectable.  Weather was about 60F, humidity about 45%, altitude 300 feet, no wind.  I found it easy to shoot 2" groups at 10 yards standing.  The sights picture was easy to get, and the gun shot right to point of aim laterally, a little low vertically.  Since this is a snub revolver for close defense, I didn't test longer ranges.   

It shot reliably and easily, and I burned through a box of 50 rounds in very short order.  A gun that's fun and easy to practice with is always a benefit.

The stainless alloy is very weather-resistant.  Even after a wet range trip with no cleaning for two days, the gun was untarnished and cleaned easily.

Speedloaders are available. 

The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $539, but is available from about $450 at many retailers.  Taurus offers a free one year NRA membership with purchase.

Disclaimer Note From JWR (per FTC File No. P034520): Michael Z. Williamson received a test gun for 90 day trial, which was returned at the end of the test period. SurvivalBlog accepts cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of my advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. I am not a stock holder in any company. I do, however, benefit from sales through the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store. If you click on one of our Amazon links and then "click through" to order ANY product from (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'll start this review by mentioning that I've never really cared for the vertical fore-grips on my ARs or AKs, and for good reason: Many of them are just plain junk! I've tried several fore-grips on rifles over the years, and they all had one thing in common - they would either break or get so loose that they were of no use to me. I had several of the fore-grips completely break off the rail on ARs over the years, and I attempted to repair them with epoxy, all to no avail. While I believe a fore-grip is a good idea on tactical-type rifles, I had all but given up on finding one worth the money.
Enter US Tactical Supply and their Mil-Spec Grip Pod System. I've written about some of the products that US Tactical Supply offers, and I can assure you, everything that they sell is the best-of-the-best when it comes to quality. They don't sell junk - plain and simple. About 90% of their customers are government agencies, and they have pretty strict guidelines as to what they are looking to purchase. As an example, the State Of California, their Dept. Of Corrections, has something like a 7 or 8 page list of attributes that certain products must have, if you want to sell anything to them.  And, most state and federal government agencies also have similar guidelines - as does the US military. We can't afford to have our troops buying inferior products - not when their lives might depend on their gear - we don't want that gear to fail them when they need it most. So, while it may seem like a real hassle selling anything to government agencies, there is logic to it all.
The Grip Pod System is a revolutionary vertical fore-grip, integrated with a very strong and stable bipod that is hidden inside the fore-grip. Now, I've tried cheap Chinese knock-offs of the Grip Pod System, and they were junk - I should have known, because they were inexpensive to start with. US Tactical Supply told me that one of the selling points of the Mil-Spec Grip Pod System is that, when they take it to trade shows and gun shows, they deploy the hidden bipod legs from the fore-grip, and proceed to place a full-sized man on the top of the gun - with the gun resting on the ground - and the legs do NOT fail in the least. Well, I honestly didn't believe this test - until I tried it myself. Now, while I've recently lost 40 pounds of unwanted extra weight, let's just say that I'm still well over 200-lbs. I was sure the bipod legs would fail when I stood on my M&M 762 AK-47, with the Grip Pod System attached to it's quad-rail. Nope! Nothing happened - the bipod did not fail, nor did the Grip Pod System fore-grip break or come loose - I was impressed, to say the least. I tried the same test with a Chinese knock-off, and it broke the bipod legs as well as the fore-grip breaking right off the quad-rail.
I guess what I really liked about the Grip Pod System is that the bipod readily deploys if you need it, when going prone to do some long-range shooting, or if you just want a more stable shooting platform to work from - I like that. And, the bipod also readily slips right back up inside the Grip Pod System fore-grip when you don't need it.  Honestly, the system doesn't look to be as stout and well-made as it is - but it's actually stronger than it appears, which is obvious from my standing on the AK with the bipod legs extended. I can't think of a better test than this.
US Tactical also sent me a Light Rail Module (LRM) for the Grip Pod System fore-grip .bipod. The light rail module adds a single or double rail system (I was sent the single rail model for this article)  to the Grip Pod System and allows the user to have a tactical light or laser at their finger tips - securely attached to the Grip Pod System. It only takes a minute to attach the LRM to the Grip Pod System Grip Pod, too. I like simple - simple doesn't fail, compared to some more complicated products.
Both the Grip Pod and the LRM are made of reinforced polymers - not cheap plastic like the knock-offs are made out of. Both the Grip Pod and LRM are available in black or tan. The GPS02 is the military model, and it sells for $149 and the GPS-LE is the law enforcement model, and it sells for $95. Personally, I'd go with the Mil-Spec model. Yes, it's a lot of money, but you won't have to replace it because it won't break on you. The LRM is $29.95 for the single rail model and $31.95 for the dual rail model - very affordable if you ask me.
I've mentioned many times in my SurvivalBlog articles, that if you buy junk, you'll have to buy it again. If you buy top-of-the-line products, you normally only have to buy once. I don't claim to be any sort of expert. I like to call myself a serious student of lots of things. And, I've learned a lot over the years when it comes to buying the best I can afford. In the long run, when I buy the best I can afford, I don't have to buy a replacement for it, because it didn't fail me. I hope I've been able to save SurvivalBlog readers a few bucks, and some headaches by doing these articles. I'm learning, and  hope you all learn a little something from my articles. I hear from SurvivalBlog readers daily, and if there is one thing I have learned from you all, its that, you are all a very intelligent bunch of readers.
I have no vested interest in US Tactical Supply, but I do enjoy doing business with them. They are a small, American-owned company, that sincerely cares about their customers and their customer service is second to none. If their customers aren't happy, then they aren't happy. If you're looking for cheap, poorly-made products, then don't bother looking at the US Tactical Supply web site, you're not going to find what you're looking for there.
If you own an M14 or Springfield Armory M1A rifle, then you need to check out some of the newest and high-tech stocks they carry for these rifles - you are going find something you'll want .I haven't tested any of their M14 stocks, but I've sure checked them out at the US Tactical Supply store - and I was absolutely blown away by what they carry. Give them a call if you have a special need in this area - bet they'll have exactly what you're looking for.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In early January 2012, I began thoroughly testing the Pocket Panel: 6 Watt Portable Solar USB Phone Charger and the Cinch Power: CP505S Power Pack (USB Battery). These two products team up to make a compact, lightweight, portable power solution for USB powered devices such as cell phones, GPSes, digital cameras, bluetooth headsets, games, PDAs, MP3/MP4 players or small LED lamps. After a review of the individual components, I'll summarize some quick system tests.

Pocket Panel: 6 Watt Portable Solar USB Phone Charger

The PocketPanel photovoltaic solar charger is rated at 6 Watts and 1.2 Amps. Reviews on the company's web site suggest a typical full sun current around 0.9 Amps which suffices for many typical cell phones. In peak sunlight, the array produces enough power to charge a typical load device while actively using it. Modern smart phones require significant charging current, particularly at first, when significantly discharged. In use, the four 3" x 5.5" PV panels fold out to about 21.5" x 7"; four corner grommets with 1/4" holes provide flexible attachment or tie-down possibilities to maximize solar exposure. A velcro closure simplifies transport, and the unit folds to 7" x 4.5" x 1.25" approximately. The high-efficiency mono-crystalline (17% efficient) require about half the size of earlier poly-crystalline designs and also deliver a higher percentage of rated power over a longer lifetime. (Wikipedia has an in-depth article on photovoltaic technologies, efficiencies, the history of solar cells, etc. They are laminated to a rugged fiberglass substrate, which mitigates some of the weight and fragility of glass. The weather-resistant unit weighs 0.83 pounds. The output is a standard (female) USB port making interconnection easy and versatile. Combined with the adapters in the Cinch Power CP505S, a wide variety of devices can be charged.

Cinch Power: CP505S Power Pack (USB Battery)

The Cinch Power CP505S Power Pack is high capacity, USB-connected battery system with multiple connection adaptors. The power capacity is rated at 5000 mAh (milliAmpHours at 3.7Volts). Output voltage and current are rated at 5.4VDC and 950mA, respectively, with a 500 charging cycle rated lifetime. This unit easily fits in a shirt or pants pocket, at 3.9" x 2.8" x 0.7" It's lightweight Lithium-polymer cell design brings it's heft to a mere 5.1 ounces. Simple operation consists of bringing power in (e.g. via a USB-fitted solar charger) using the supplied USB to DC cable. The cable has a convenient self-retracting cord, collapsing to under 5" and expanding to about 30". The 3-level power indicator system (Low <20%, Med 20-80%, High >80%) indicates amount of stored charge via 3 LEDs. The On/Off toggle switches output power to the USB connector. A "Use" LED is lit when power is being supplied from the battery. When charged, the charging cable becomes the output cable by using the USB output connector, which then interfaces with a variety of supplied adaptors. Adaptors include: Sony Ericsson-K750, Mini USB/Motorola V3, iPod/iPhone, Micro USB, and Nokia-DC 2.0; this should allow a generous variety of Apple, Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, MP3, MP4, etc. devices access to the battery power. The device features over-current and over-charge/discharge protection. It shuts off automatically when the connected device completes charging. An optional AC power supply is available as a backup for extended cloudy weather.

Testing of Paired Products

For pocket transport, the panel array will probably fit best in a coat pocket, whereas the battery (smaller) can easily fit in a typical shirt or pants pocket. The rugged PV array works nicely in a south-facing window, with the attached battery charging next to it on a windowsill. I initially started charging the battery with the PV array around noon on a Friday in January at about 6600' elevation. After an overcast and snowy Saturday, the full charge completed mid-morning on Sunday. The combo of panel, battery and adapter works well. The blue "Use" LED on the battery blinks to indicate power delivery. The charged battery powered my iPhone (normal sporadic usage for me) on this single charge for about a week. I then fully recharged the battery using the PV system which took about another day. A Vococal 3-LED adjustable clip-on reading lamp with a USB connector made a good constant load test in addition to my iPhone. Running constantly, this bright (more-than-adequate) 3-LED reading lamp ran for about 32 hours continuously.

A full five months later (after a full re-charge), the battery pack had 2 LEDs (somewhere between 20-80% charge) remaining, so the standby leakage current is fairly low. All in all, about the only minor drawback might be the suitability of this system for more extreme weather environments. Other portable PV systems (such as the Joos Orange Solar Charger) offer a bit more ruggedness for severe environments, but this combination is likely to be a good solar solution for many remote, backup and portable applications.

More information about the three referenced products is on their respective web sites: Pocket Panel, Cinch Power, and Vococal.

- L.K.O. (SurvivalBlog's Central Rockies Regional Editor)

For the past several months, Tim Sundles, who runs Buffalo Bore Ammunition has buried me in some of his newest ammunition offerings. Somehow, I think he doesn't like me. He just keeps coming up with more and more new loads for hunters and for self-defense use, for me to test. Seriously, I don't know of any ammunition company, that is as innovative as Buffalo Bore is. Some of the big name ammo companies might come up with a couple new loads each year - if that. Most are content to sit back on their past accomplishments - not Tim Sundles!
If any ammo company is coming out with more newly developed loads than Buffalo Bore is, I'd sure like to know who it is. I like that a small, American-owned ammo company is taking the initiative, and taking the time and effort to come out with so many new caliber loadings. And Buffalo Bore doesn't produce "plinking" ammo - all that they produce is top-of-the-line premium hunting and self-defense loads. On top of that, Sundles adds a flash suppressant to his self-defense loads to help maintain your night vision, if you are forced to shoot at an attacker in low-light. (Which of course is when many self-defense shootings take place.) Are there many other ammo companies doing this yet?
One of the newest loadings I tested from Buffalo Bore is their .380 ACP +P 80 grain Barnes TAC-XP load - for those not familiar with the Barnes bullets, they are an all-copper hollow point design. These Barnes bullets retain 100% of their weight, as well as penetrating deeper than other conventional JHP bullets do. This is my carry load in my Ruger LCP .380 ACP back-up pistol. Tim Sundles tests all his loads in actual firearms - he doesn't use test barrels to hype the velocities. I'm getting about 1,050 FPS from my little LCP with this load. It's a bit stout in this little Ruger, but it can handle it. I believe the .380 ACP caliber is best reserved for use in a back-up gun capacity. However, with this load, I think it really boost your power factor quite a bit. So, with that said, it might be acceptable to use this round by Buffalo Bore if this is going to be your main concealed carry gun.
Next up are the new 9mm loadings, and these are both +P+ rounds, one is a 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP load at around 1,550 FPS and the other is a 115 grain Barnes TAX-XP load, at 1,400 FPS. Screaming? You bet! Once again, the Barnes all-copper bullets will get the job done, in either caliber. As a rule, I don't like going below a 115 grain bullet in a 9mm round. However , the 95 grain Barnes bullet will get the job done because it will penetrate a bit deeper than a conventional bullet of this weight will do, and stay together. What I really like about this load is that even though it's a +P+ load, it doesn't feel much different than a conventional standard velocity load does. For me, this is a no-brainer, this is the load to put in your "house gun" that you have in your nightstand - it's easy to control and will take care of the bad guys - and the recoil isn't what you'd expect from a +P+ 9mm loading - it's very controllable. The 115 grain Barnes loading is great for your carry gun - it will penetrate, hold together and get the job done. There is a bit more recoil with this +P+ loading, but nothing you can't control in the least. My new Ruger P95 loves this load for some reason. Make sure you test any +P or +P+ loads in your guns to make sure they will function 100% of the time with 'em - in this case, I tested both of these loads in numerous 9mm handguns, and had no problems at all. Great loads!
Back when I lived in Chicago, and worked as a private investigator, I usually carried either a S&W .38 Special snubby or a Colt .38 Special snubby of some sort, as a back-up gun - one of these guns was usually carried in an ankle holster. There were times, when I (only) carried a .38 Special snubby of some sort. One time, when working for an alarm company - I installed alarms on the day-shift, and answered alarms at night - I carried a .38 Special snubby. While this wasn't a big problem working the day shift - it wasn't the smartest thing to do when answering alarms at night - all alone. This became a reality to me one night, when I answered an alarm and was confronted with searching a huge warehouse by myself. I realized if someone was too far away and started shooting at me, that little .38 Special snubby wasn't gonna be of much use - I went out the next day and purchased a 4" barrel .357 Magnum Colt Trooper Mk III revolver. Okay, back to the snubbies in .38 Special:
Most people don't understand how much velocity (thus "power") you lose when loading a 2" .38 Special snubby revolver compared to the power you get from a 4" barrel or 6" barrel .38 Special revolver. It is very significant - so much so, that more often than not, a JHP round won't expand when it hits an attacker - which then makes that bullet nothing more than a solid - passing through the body and not doing as much damage as you'd expect. Enter the Buffalo Bore "Standard Pressure" short-barrel, low-flash 110 grain Barnes TAC-XP round - and this baby will give you about 1,000 FPS velocity from your snubby .38 Special revolver - enough velocity to make that bullet expand. Best of all, this round is very controllable. This is "the" round you want if you carry a .38 Special snubby revolver for self defense. And, I believe, the .38 Special needs all the help it can get.
Also, in the .38 Special line-up from Buffalo Bore is their .38 Outdoorsman +P round. If you carry any kind of .38 Special out in the boonies for self-defense against critters - this is the round you want. The 158 grain Hard Cast Keith bullet, at 1,250 FPS from a 6" barrel or 1,150 FPS from a 4" barrel revolver will give you plenty of penetration - which is what you want and need when facing critters in the wild. If you look at those velocities, you'll note that they are right on the heels of many other makers .357 Mag rounds - what's not to like here? While I would personally look at carrying a .357 Mag revolver if I were in dangerous country, if all I had was a .38 Special of some sort, this is the round to carry.
Not to be left out, if you carry a snubby .357 Mag revolver, and you're out in the boonies, take a close look at the Buffalo Bore .357 Mag Barnes 140 grain XPB round - this is a different bullet than the TAC-XP - the XPB bullet is designed for control expansion, and it will penetrate deeper than the TAC-XP round will against wild animals. This is the round you want in your .357 Mag snubby if you are carrying it for self-defense against critters out in the wild. Once again, a very controllable round, at around 1,150 FPS. I really liked this one.
Are you a big bore fan? Yes, me too! I really love shooting the .44 Magnum revolvers - and I can sometimes be "caught" using a .44 Mag when I'm out deer or black bear hunting. The .44 Mag is really quite a caliber - you can load it up, to super-charge it, or load it down to .44 Special velocities for plinking fun or self-defense. If forced to own one revolver, this would be the caliber I'd choose over all others. Tim Sundles does a lot of handgun hunting - he does this for several reasons, one is because he loves to hunt, and secondly, he gets to test his new round that he comes up with against real critters in the wild. How many big name ammo companies get out there and actually tests their ammo? Not many.
A new .44 Mag loading that Buffalo just came out with - and I've only limited testing with - is their 200 grain Barnes XPB load, which should be an excellent load to use against deer and  most black bear. I usually prefer a heavier load to use against black bear, but this load will get the job done with the XPB bullet because it penetrates a bit deeper and stays together. Coming out a 4" barrel revolver, you can expect over 1,500 FPS from this round. And, best of all, even though this is a .44 Mag round, it is more controllable than you think - this is because of the 200 grain bullet. Most folks stick with 240 grain bullets for much of their .44 Mag shooting - and they "kick" a lot more than this 200 grain Barnes bullet does. From an 18" barrel rifle, you can expect over 1,800 FPS - that's screaming! If you look down at this Barnes XPB bullet, you'll get lost in it because it looks sooooo deep. If you are hunting bigger game, check out some of the heavy .44 Mag from Buffalo Bore - they have something there you're gonna love!
These next two calibers that Sundles sent me - I didn't have firearms for - so I had to borrow a couple of guns. The new buffalo Bore  .357 SIG, 125 grain Barnes TAC-XP low-flash round will be, in my humble opinion, "the" round to carry if you depend on a .357 SIG for self-defense.  If you want a .357 SIG load, that uses an expanding bullet, that penetrates very deeply, this is the round for you. I admit, I've only had limited experience with the .357 SIG round, and I've never actually personally owned a gun in this caliber. There's several good reasons for this, first of all, for some reason, this round just hasn't caught on - at least, not in my neck of the woods. Secondly, .357 SIG ammo is hard to find - once again, in my neck of the woods. Lastly, .357 SIG ammo is more expensive than other calibers - like the .40S&W is. This is slowly changing, as I've noted that prices are coming down a bit - especially for FMJ practice ammo.
What we are looking at, with the .357 SIG round is a .40 caliber case, that is necked-down to take a 9mm bullet. One thing I like about these types of rounds is that, they are very reliable when it comes to feeding from the magazine to the chamber.  Tim Sundles tells me that, his .357 SIG round, will roughly penetrate 20+ inches of flesh and bone, and expand to about .55 caliber! Yes! During testing, this round is coming out of a SIG Sauer P229 at about 1,300 FPS - screaming! What I've found, is that, the .357 SIG is just about the same as a +P+ 9mm round in power and velocity, but without the excessive recoil that you expect from a +P+ loading - and it's easier on the gun - it doesn't get battered as much, as a 9mm +P+ round would do to a pistol.
What I'd like to see Buffalo Bore come up with, is a super-deep penetrator round (FMJ) in .357 SIG - this would be an outstanding round to carry out in the boonies - it would give you all the deep(er) penetration you'd need against critters. And, knowing Sundles, I'm sure he'll be coming out with this type of round - he's done it with the 9mm, with his "Penetrator" round, and he'll do it with the .357 SIG round - watch and see. I'm really impressed with the .357 SIG - from my limited shooting of this caliber over the past year or two, and one of these days, I'm gonna lay-down some hard-earned cash and actually purchase a handgun in this caliber.
I almost "hate" Tim Sundles, for coming up with this next round for me to test. I've been a fan of the .41 Magnum round for about 25 years. My late friend, Tim Caruso, from Colorado Springs, Colorado actually turned me onto this caliber. While not quite the power of a .44 Mag, the 41 Mag round will take care of many of the same tasks that a .44 Mag will, and with less punishing recoil. On top of that, I've always thought the .41 Mag would make an excellent self-defense round with the 175 grain bullets instead of the 210 grain bullets. Well, Tim Sundles just came out with a 180 grain .41 Mag Barnes all-copper hollow point load, and this bullet is coming out of a revolver at around 1,500 FPS - depending on barrel length.
I had to borrow a .41 Mag revolver from a friend to test this load, and it makes me "hate" Tim Sundles all that much more - I haven't owned a .41 Mag revolver in several years. Why? I have no idea! I love the S&W Model 57 .41 Mag revolver - and I guess I'm now gonna have to get another one - one of these days. Of course, Tim Sundles is on my wife's "I'm gonna kill him list..." since he is "forcing" me to go out and find a new .41 Mag S&W Model 57 or 657 revolver one of these days. I keep telling my wife "I only need one more gun..." and she keeps reminding me: "You said that last time...." to which I reply "it's still true...I only need one more gun."
This Buffalo Bore 180 grain Barnes bullet is the XPB style - great for hunting medium to medium-large game - it will penetrate deeply and has controlled expansion as well. It would prove a great deer round, if you ask me. If you've never fired a .41 Mag handgun, you owe it to yourself to at least try it - you'll find just as I did, that the round is a lot more controllable than the .44 Mag is, and it can do "most" of what a .44 Mag round can do. The .41 Mag has always been a bit of a red-headed step-child if you ask me - never getting the credit it deserves. If you have a .41 Mag of some type, you really need to lay claim to a box or two of this new Buffalo Bore .41 Mag ammo.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, Tim Sundles, has been burying me in new ammo to test. Yes, shooting new rounds is always fun and challenging, and quite often, I'm one of the first to get these new loadings - I appreciate this. And, SurvivalBlog readers are often the first to get real-life, first-hand test results on new Buffalo Bore Ammunition. I've heard from several SurvivalBlog readers, asking me if any of the ammo or gun companies pay me to promote their products. Never happened - never will! If anything, I should be billing Tim Sundles for my time and effort in shooting all the ammo he sends me! LOL!!
Seriously, if you are into handgun hunting and take your self-defense needs to heart, you want the best-of-the-best, when it comes to ammo. You're not gonna find any cheap plinking ammo from Buffalo Bore - they only make hi-quality, self-defense and hunting loads. Sure, Buffalo Bore ammo is a bit more expensive than ammo from the big name ammo companies. However, what Tim Sundles is offering - you can't find from any of the big name ammo companies, period. Sundles puts in a lot of time and effort to come up with these new loadings, and he also tests all these new loadings himself, too.
Like I said, Buffalo Bore is an American-owned company (in Montana), and it's a small company, that is rapidly carving itself a real niche in the self-defense and hunting calibers scheme of things. You won't find another ammo company, of this size that is producing and developing a more vast line-up than Tim Sundles is doing. There are lots of "good guys" in the firearms and ammo fields - I've been doing business with them for more than 20 years as a writer. However, Tim Sundles is, without a doubt, one of the really good guys and he's working hard to give us something no one else is giving us. He deserves your business, checkout his web site - and I'll be reporting on even more new rounds he's working on for us all.
Now, I'm waiting for the spring monsoon rains to stop in my area, so I can get out there and test the new Buffalo Bore, .40 S&W, 140 grain Barnes TAC-XP "standard pressure" rounds in my Glock 27 That .should make a great combo - with this round coming out at approximately 1,300 FPS in a slightly longer barreled gun. But I'm thinking, this will be a controllable round in this pocket rocket pistol from Glock. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

I'm a big fan of AK-47 style rifles. But I must mention that all the AK-47 style rifles presently sold in the US, are not genuine AK-47 assault rifles. Rather, they are semiautomatic versions of the famed Russian AK-47. Properly, an AK-47 is a select-fire (full auto) battle weapon. Still, no matter how I try to educate people on this, even gun shop owners, they still continue to call semi-auto versions an "AK-47." So, to concede to the new terminology norm, we'll just call these rifles AK-47s.
I still remember the first semi-auto AK-47that I I purchased, it was back in 1987 (if memory serves me correctly.) I then lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a friend and I operated a gun business out of his gas station, as well as selling at gun shows. I purchased a folding stock, Chinese-made AK-47 with a bayonet, three magazines, magazine pouch, cleaning kit and some other neat stuff, for the princely sum of $189. Yes, try and find that same kind of a deal today. While I really liked that gun, ammo hadn't yet started pouring into the US at affordable prices. So, I soon sold the gun.
Today, there is all manner of AK-47s on the market, and to be sure, some are better made than others. And,, there is a good supply of Russian-made 7.62 x 39 ammo available for AKs and SKS rifles. I'd suggest that you "buy it cheap and stack it deep" while you still can. About six years ago, you could buy a case of AK ammo for abut $90. Today, this same ammo will cost you from $210 to $250! Even so, this ammo is still a bargain in my book, so get it before prices go up (again) and certainly before the November elections. (After that, watch ammo dry up and prices soar, once again.)
The AK under review today is from M&M, Inc. which also operates under the umbrella of Colorado Gun Sales. They are producing what they call the M10-762. I've had my sample for about three three months now, and I really wanted to wring it out, before reporting to SurvivalBlog readers. I've written about several AKs in the past, and they were good guns. However, this newest version from M&M Inc is, in my humble opinion, the finest AK-47 you can buy for the money, period!
M&M claims that the M10-762 is manufactured out of brand-new high quality parts - everything is newly manufactured to be US Section 922(r) compliant, though the receiver is made in Romania.. Some people have a "problem" with AK receivers made in Romania - take it for what it's worth, but I don't put much stock in those complaints. The M10-762 has a brand-new, chrome-lined 16.25" barrel, with a 1:10 twist rate, with four lands and grooves, with a right-hand twist, if this stuff is important you. The overall length of this gun is 26" with the fixed stock, and they are coming out with folding stock versions, if you want a more compact carry gun. The rifle weighs-in at 7.3 pounds, but their web site says the gun weighs 6-lbs. I contacted Colorado Gun Sales on this, and they said they were going to correct their web page.
The M10-762 takes all standard AK-47 magazines, and the rifle is supplied with one magazine. It has a TAPCO RAZR muzzle brake/flash suppressor on the end of the barrel. The RAZR can also be used as a "compliance" device because of the super-sharp cut to the brake. The pistol grip is outstanding. This rubber covered pistol grip is not only larger than the standard AK pistol grip, but it is perfectly configured to fit the hand if you ask me. If there is a better pistol grip out there for an AK, then I haven't found it. The stock is USA-made (by TAPCO) and is black synthetic of some sort. The fore end on the M10-762 is an aluminum quad-rail type, firmly attached, so you can mount lasers, lights and red dot optics on it if you choose - and this is a really nice quad-rail, to be sure. My only complaint is that the rail covers that came with the quad-rail are thick and make the foreend feel too thick. A quick call to Brownell's solves my problem with a set of "ladder" rails - these cover and protect the rails but don't add any girth. These are a "must have", in my humble opinion.
The front sight is mounted on the gas block, instead of on the end of the barrel. This gives you a slightly shorter sighting radius, but I didn't find it to be any sort of a handicap in my shooting. The rear sight is an RPK graduated fully adjustable for windage and elevation sight that adjusts all the way up to 1,000 meters. That is a bit of a stretch to be sure, for the 7.62 x 39 round. While the sight is easy to adjust, I found it a little bit bulky for my tastes, and I may replace it with the standard elevation (only) rear sight. (We'll see.)
A TAPCO single-hook trigger is installed in the M10-762, and I think this is the best after-market AK trigger you can have in an AK. The let-off was right at 4 pounds on my sample and it was very smooth, too. A TAPCO AK retaining plate is used to keep the trigger pin and safety pin in place - a much better set-up than the simple bent spring that comes with most AKs these days. The lower receiver is stamped and heat-treated to military specs. No cleaning rod was included, and because of the design of the gun, you can't slide a cleaning rod under the barrel - no big deal in my book. I suppose a person could adapt some kind of set-up to the M10-762 to install a cleaning rod, if you were determined to have one on your rifle. There is also a quick-detachable scope mount base on the left side of the receiver if you want to mount a scope.
Take-down was a piece of cake with the M10-762, not that I expected anything less from an AK-style of rifle. I did think the parts fit together just a little bit better (closer tolerances) on this gun, than many other AKs I've owned and used over the years. And, I believe this accounted for the superb accuracy I got out of this gun - with a mixed bag of Russian-made ammo, this gun is capable of shooting 2" groups all day long, if you do you part. You can't get much better than that from an AK, as most AKs will shoot in the 4" - 5" group size at 100 yards. With US-made AK ammo, you will be able to tighten-up those groups.
I had only one failure to fire in more than firing 1,000-rds of ammo. I found an old box of Chinese-made AK ammo, that someone had given me. This ammo hasn't been imported into the US for about 25 years now - and I have no idea how this lone box of ammo was stored. One round from the box wouldn't fire - and I tried this round several times - the primer was pierced on the third attempt to fire this round, so it wasn't the gun - it was a dud round, plain and simple.
There wasn't any sling included in the cardboard box the M10-762 came in - I thought that was a little bit "cheap" on the part of M&M - but you can pick-up an AK/SKS sling for around $5.00 - $6.00 these days - used to be a buck or two, but everything is going up in price.
When I first fired the M10-762 sample, the sights were "off" just a little bit. It took a complete turn on the front sight to get the elevation dead-on, and two clicks on the RPK rear sight to get the windage where it needed to be. And, if you own and AK or plan on getting one, you must get an AK front sight adjusting tool. You can use a brass punch and hammer all day long on the front sight if you want to move if for windage, and all you'll do is mar-up the front sight. Get the tool, as they are only about $6 and it'll save a lot of headaches.
The only thing I didn't like about the M10-762 were the rubber covers on the quad-rail, as already mentioned. The magazine release was a little bit rough, and it only took me a minute to smooth it out with a Dremel Tool. (Go slowly with any power tools!) An AK that shoots 2" groups all day long, with Russian-made 7.62 x 39 ammo is a keeper in my book. As much as I love my AR-15 style rifles, and my FAL, if I only had time to grab one rifle and run to the hills with it, or I'd only be allowed to own one rifle (heaven help us, if that ever happens) the M10-762 is "the" gun I'd grab. I will buy a spare firing pin and extractor for this gun - just to have - not that I've ever broken one of these parts - but just in-case I ever need them, I'll have 'em.
Now, for me to pick an AK over an AR or my FAL, for an end of the world scenario is saying a lot of a rifle.  I've owned a lot of AKs over the years, as well as an untold number of ARs. But the M10-762 is the gun I'd pick if I had to go into the boonies, where maintenance would be difficult, and parts impossible to find.  Yes, you can spend a lot more on an AK, and you can spend less for an AK - but you won't get a better AK than the M10-762 if you ask me. Full retail is $650 on this gun - I got mine for $599 because it was the first one my local gun shop got in the store. They've had several more since then, and they usually sell the same day they get them. When you handle one, you're going to want it - so take the checkbook or credit card with you, when you check out one of these AKs.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dear Friends,
My wife and I attended the opening-day showing of the new movie For Greater Glory, about the Cristiada Rebellion at a theater in Spokane last night. It is the amazing and stirring story of the 1920s Mexican civil war fomented by a revolutionary government against Catholic churches, leaders, and worshipers.

The attendance was what you would expect with this movie competing against several summer blockbusters. The movie's production values are not as high as the tens-of-millions-of-dollars CGI extravaganzas, but still an A-quality production. The actors are convincing, the movie engrossing, no slow or boring parts, and it tells the story clearly and forcefully without, I might add, being preachy.

I've read a half-dozen reviews of the movie, including one in a Christian news magazine and one in the local newspaper that were infuriatingly critical, shallow, or missed the point of the movie altogether. There is no comparison between "For Greater Glory" and "The Avengers" - that would be like comparing a pickup truck to fireworks and asking which one was better. One has a purpose and is useful, the other merely great entertainment, but empty.

"For Greater Glory" means something. It will make you think. It will move you. It will make you wonder how come we never knew about this conflict with 90,000 dead, even though the daughter of the General (who is the central figure of the movie) only passed away in 2010. Who knew?

This movie will make you appreciate the wisdom on Reverend Martin Niemoeller's famous quote "First they came...", how that gradual process could have happened in Mexico, and how it could happen in the United States. It will make you appreciate how destructive and awful civil war is, but that war is not the worst thing imaginable.

Most of all it will make you realize that there is a price for loving liberty, for putting God first, for choosing truth, for taking a stand for justice. And that simply because your cause is right is no guarantee that you personally will not give your life for it. This movie will help you consider what IS worth living and dying for, and to make your peace with all of the possibilities should conflict ever come to our shores.

Don't let people tell you this movie is some kind of Catholic propaganda piece. It's production was begun before the current controversy over ObamaCare. If anything it's timing is providential. Along with movies like the highly-recommended Defiance, it is a powerful and moving visual antidote to the modern passivity and tolerance of growing tyranny.

Just be warned, the film has an "R" rating because of its graphic images (not gory, but definitely disturbing), and the theater chain decided it would be appropriate to show trailers for several other "R" movies that are wholly inappropriate for conservative audiences, including an upcoming movie that appears to directly trash Christianity!

I'd like to encourage everyone to sit through the main body of the credits because the movie's close shows actual pictures from that war. To look at the faces of the actual persons whose story was told in the movie was powerful.

Hollywood production companies shunned this story. I'm hoping preppers, Christians and conservatives alike will all support this movie and ponder what it means to us in our day.

Trust God. Be Prepared. The time is now! - ShepherdFarmerGeek

Friday, June 1, 2012

Author's Notes: Founders is scheduled to be released in September, 2012. Please wait until the release date ("Book Bomb Day") to order your copy. That same day, there will be simultaneous releases of the e-book and audio book editions.

The cover art was created by Tony Mauro, Jr., who also created the cover for "Survivors." The Founders cover depicts Ken and Terry Layton on their cross-country journey.

Spoiler Alert: This chapter includes passages of the novel that you may not want to know about before reading the book from beginning to end. So skip reading this sample chapter if you are the sort that dislikes spoilers.


"There are certain principles that are inherent in man, that belong to man, and that were enunciated in an early day, before the United States government was formed, and they are principles that rightfully belong to all men everywhere. They are described in the Declaration of Independence as inalienable rights, one of which is that men have a right to live; another is that they have a right to pursue happiness; and another is that they have a right to be free and no man has authority to deprive them of those God-given rights, and none but tyrants would do it. "These principles, I say, are inalienable in man; they belong to him; they existed before any constitutions were framed or any laws made. Men have in various ages striven to strip their fellow-men of these rights, and dispossess them of them. And hence the wars, the bloodshed and carnage that have spread over the earth. We, therefore, are not indebted to the United States for these rights; we were free as men born into the world, having the right to do as we please, to act as we please, as long as we do not transgress constitutional law nor violate the rights of others... "Another thing God expects us to do, and that is to maintain the principle of human rights... We owe it to all liberty-loving men, to stand up for human rights and to protect human freedom, and in the name of God we will do it, and let the congregation say Amen." - John Taylor, 1882, Journal of Discourses, Volume 23, p. 263.

Muddy Pond, Tennessee – July, The Second Year

            Life in Overton County was just starting to get back to normal when the first Provisional Government units passed though. Since the town was within the four-hour drive-time local security radius of Fort Knox, Muddy Pond was in one of the first areas to be pacified by the ProvGov.  The new administration at first seemed well intentioned and benevolent, but people soon saw its sinister side.
             The nationalization programs and the Controls began gradually.  At first, the ProvGov seized only key industries and utilities.  But later, smaller companies were taken over, some seemingly on a whim. People wondered why would a padlock manufacturing company be nationalized?  And why would a silver refinery have to be nationalized?
             Likewise, the wage, price, currency, and credit controls started small, but gradually grew to gargantuan proportions.  Just a month after the ProvGov troops arrived, there was a dusk-to-dawn curfew, with shoot-on-sight orders for violators.  But even daylight hours weren’t safe, as Ben Fielding discovered.
            Early one afternoon, all of Ben’s family except Joseph was at home listening to some Messianic music on Rebecca’s iPod dock. They often gathered in the living room to do so, on the days that the power was on. The children liked to hear the music played loudly, and they sang along, and danced.  Their fun was interrupted when they heard some long bursts of automatic weapons fire, close by their house. They looked out their living room window and saw a convoy of UNPROFOR coalition vehicles strung out for a quarter mile on the county road.  The trucks and APCs had stopped and turned out onto either side of the road in a herringbone pattern.  The wild firing continued for thirty seconds. They heard a few shots hit the roof of their house. The firing finally stopped when the convoy commander in the lead Marder APC repeatedly honked his horn.
             Ben and his family fearfully watched as men ran back and forth between the vehicles.  They expected more trouble, so Ben took the precaution of running all the pages of his address book through his crosscut paper shredder.
            Five minutes later, a UNPROFOR patrol approached the front door. A German soldier shouted with a heavy accent, “Man of the house, come out!”
            Ben walked out with his hands on top of his head, and said, “The only others here are my wife and children.  Please leave them alone.”
            The patrol leader unslung a rifle from his shoulder and held it out.  Ben recognized it as his son’s .22, now missing its bolt.  The soldat asked, “Your gun, is this?”
            “Yes, I believe that is my rifle, but I’m not certain.  If that is mine, then it is registered in my name, in full accordance with the law.  Where did you find it?”
            “It was being carried by a young, err, man, now dead.”
            Rebecca began wailing.
             “Have you any other guns in the house?”
             The soldiers spent an hour noisily ransacking the house, while others held Ben and his terrified family at gunpoint, outside.  Their youngest daughter, just recently out of diapers, wet herself as they waited.  One team searched the house, while another searched the barn and outbuildings.  Ben alternated between intense feelings of fear and anger at the situation. They watched helplessly as the soldiers carried off Rebecca’s jewelry box, her iPod and dock, and many other small possessions.  This included nearly 200 rounds of .22 hollowpoints that were taken as “evidence.”
            Finding nothing actionable, the soldiers left without explanation or apology.
            Ben and Rebecca went inside to find the house was a shambles.  Several stretches of sheetrock in the hall and master bedroom had been kicked in and the upholstery on their couches and two of the mattresses had been slashed open. Two cabinets had been pried completely off the walls, and were left dumped on the floor, coated in sheetrock dust.  There were shattered dishes and plates littering the kitchen and dining room floors.  A broken pipe was spraying the front bathroom cabinet with water.  Ben soon turned off the well pump and shut the valve for the service line to the house. That stopped the water from further flooding the bathroom and hall.
             After a pair of honks, the UNPROFOR convoy left in a cloud of dust and diesel smoke.
             Ben and Rebecca walked out to the north end of their property, to look for Joseph.  After ten minutes of searching, they found his body 80 yards from the county road, and about 300 yards from the house.  He had been shot six times in the back and buttocks. Two gutted quail were still in his game bag. His white t-shirt was entirely stained red with blood, and his blue jeans were stained red down to the knees.
            For a half hour, Ben sat cradling the lifeless form of his eldest son, crying and rocking. Tears ran down his face. Nearby, Rebecca and their three surviving children sat hugging each other in a huddle, crying, moaning, and praying aloud.  Finally Ben stood up.  He looked down at his son’s corpse and said, “You wait here, I’m going to get a shovel, a sheet, some water, towels, and olive oil.”
            He was back a few minutes later and almost immediately began to dig.  As Ben dug just a few feet from his son’s body, he said forthrightly, “We’ll find no remedy or recourse in the courts, Rebecca.  These are tyrants, tyrants. I need to fight them.”
            He then continued working quietly, digging into the soil and small rocks with fervor. He didn’t stop until the grave was head-height deep.  Blisters were forming on his palms, but he hardly noticed.  As Ben dug the grave, Rebecca washed her son’s body, and rubbed olive oil onto his skin.
             They gently lowered Joseph’s body into the grave and Ben folded the boy’s arms across his chest.  They shrouded the body with a sheet. Rebecca helped Ben back up out of the grave. After saying prayers, each member of the family poured in a shovelful of earth. Rebecca then did most of the shoveling as they re-filled the grave, weeping yet again.
             After the grave was re-filled and mounded, each family member selected a stone to mark the site. Ben found one beside Joseph’s favorite fishing hole.
            They recited the Kaddish, a mourning ritual in Judaism, found in the Siddur, the Jewish liturgy book read in Jewish temples on the Sabbath and High Holy Days.
            Yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba. Be'alma di vra khir'uteh veyamlikh malkhuteh veyatzma purqaneh viqarev qetz meshiheh behayekhon uvyomekhon uvhaye dekhol bet yisrael be'agala uvizman qariv ve'imru amen. Yehe shmeh rabba mevarakh le'alam ul'alme 'almaya Yitbarakh veyishtabbah veyitpaar veyitromam veyitnasse veyithaddar veyit?alleh veyithallal shmeh dequdsha, brikh hu. Le'ella lella mikkol min kol birkhata veshirata tushbehata venehemata daamiran be'alma ve'imru amen.
            (May His great name be exalted and sanctified is God's great name in the world, which He created according to His will! May He establish His kingdom and may His salvation blossom and His anointed be near. During your lifetime and during your days and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel, speedily and very soon! And say, Amen. May His great name be blessed forever, and to all eternity! Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, above and beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world! And say, Amen.)
As they walked away from the grave and back toward the house, Rebecca carried the shovel. With both sadness and anger, she spat, “Yes, go.  Fight them! You have my blessing. Don’t worry about us.  We will be safe and waiting here. The Lord will protect all of us, and provide for all of us.”
            That evening, with aching hands, Ben dug up the length of 8” diameter PVC pipe buried beneath their pair of grated trash-burning barrels.  The PVC cache tube contained Ben’s heavily-greased guns: a Galil .308 rifle, a Browning A-5 semi-auto 12 gauge shotgun, and a HK USP .45 Compact pistol. All three guns were considered contraband, so they hadn’t been registered under the recent edicts. Packed along with guns there were seven Galil magazines, three 200-round battle packs of Portuguese 7.62mm ball ammunition, and seven boxes of shotgun shells, each wrapped in separate Ziploc bags.  After he had cleaned and loaded the guns, Ben organized his backpacking gear. He put the Galil and magazines in a guitar case, padded by extra clothes.
            As Ben organized and packed his gear, Rebecca served the children some leftovers. They had to eat sitting on the couch, because the kitchen was still littered with broken glass. After they had eaten, Ben gave each of his children lengthy hugs. He told them to be brave and reverent, and to obey their mother.  He tucked them in bed and said prayers with each of them.
             Back in the living room, Ben spoke with Rebecca, who was busy sweeping up glass. “The chances that they’ll return our .22 rifle are about .001 percent, so I’ll leave you silver that you can use to buy another .22 rifle, for small game. And I’ll be leaving you the 12 gauge, for anything bigger, man or beast.  I think under the old chest freezer would be a good hiding place for it.  Did you notice that the soldiers didn’t touch that?  You can ask some of the neighbor men to help you patch up the house.”
            She set down the dustpan and came into the living room with Ben.  As he continued packing, he said, “I need to be on my way, tonight. It is easier to fight from outside of barbed wire, than from inside it. We’re lucky that I didn’t get arrested today.  I don’t want to give them another chance.  Now listen carefully: I want you to tell people that I was arrested and taken away tonight.  Otherwise, they’ll ask questions when they see that I’ve gone.  In addition to the Army, there are at least three agencies of the ProvGov and four security contracting companies that are independently arresting people and hauling them off to camps, or I suppose for immediate liquidation.  The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.  So by blaming them for my disappearance, you’ll put yourself in the clear.”
            “And also make the Hutchings government look even worse,” Rebecca added.
            Ben nodded and said, “That’s right. It’s a ‘win-win.’ They use psychological warfare on us, so it’s only fair that we return the favor.”
He let out a breath and went on, “Now I’ll be going to Nashville, to see some old friends.  Its safer for both of us if I don’t tell you exactly who.”
            Ben finished strapping his sleeping bag onto his pack. “I’m leaving you most of our silver.  I can’t be sure, but I’ll do my best to send you money from time to time.  Whenever I enclose a letter, you have to promise me that you’ll burn it, right after you read it.”
            “I promise.”
            Then he shouldered his pack and gave his wife a two-minute hug, and a kiss. Ben touched the Mezuzah on his way out the door.  On the porch he snapped closed his backpack’s bellyband clasp, and picked up his guitar case. He turned to face his wife again in the doorway.  “Trust in Adonai and May His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) comfort you during the days you sit Shivah for Joseph.  I will remember Joseph with you and will pray the Kaddish for him every day.  I will pray every day for peace, safety and that you would be comforted by the Lord, despite my absence from your side.  Remember that Joseph is ‘asleep’. He loved the Lord Yeshua and is with Him, at this very moment.  Ani meohev otach yoter Midai!”
            “I love you without measure, as well,’ she said, as he turned, and walked out into the darkness.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I still remember the very first Benchmade Knives folding knife I ever owned. I don't remember which model it was, but I still remember at how "shocked" I was at the super high-quality of the knife. Without a doubt, it was every bit as well-made, if not, better made than custom folding knives I had seen. It continues to this day, Benchmade Knives are of the highest quality you'll find. This comes as no accident, as I've toured the Benchmade factory a couple times, and I've seen what is involved in making their knives. To be sure, Benchmade even has a machine to make their own screws, believe it or not.
I had a sit-down with Les d'Asis, the owner of Benchmade some years ago - this was a great meeting. First thing you'll notice about Less is that, he's not a suit and tie type of guy - I really like that. Les takes knife making seriously, and it shows in his products, too. Last I heard, Benchmade was running two, full-time shifts, trying to keep up with supply and demand. And, they would run a third shift, if they already aren't, if they could find enough QUALIFIED people to perform the tasks involved in knife making. Benchmade Knives are always in demand, and its not unusual for them to be out-of-stock, at any given time, on many of their models. Several of Benchmade's knives are sold to the Department if Defense - they met the high standards required of the DOD, to be issued to our military personnel.
The knife under review today is the Adamas Model 275 folder and this is, without a doubt, the stoutest and strongest folding knife that Benchmade has come out with - bar none! Adamas is Latin for "diamond hard" or "invincible" - so the name aptly fits this new folder. If you are fortunate enough to live in a "free" state, the Adamas folder can also be had in an automatic version Model 2750.
I had to wait more than a month to get my sample - my contact, Alicia Hunt, who handles these things at Benchmade, is a great person to work with. If samples are available, she gets 'em right out to us.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the box the Adamas came in is, how stout this folder is - I like a lot of handle to hold onto on a knife, especially one that might be used for self-defense or survival use. The handle scales are desert tan, made out of lightly textured G10 handle scales, with stainless steel liners. There are lightening holes drilled in the handles, too, as well as a lanyard hole in the butt of the handle. Friction grooves are places in just the right spots on the top of the handle, as well as the butt - really nice, really nice! A sheath is included with this folder, and it is compatible with all military gear. I liked the handle shape, too - it fit my hand perfectly!
The blade is made out of super-tough D2, tool steel. This stuff is hard, real hard - it takes an edge and it holds it a long, long time. The only problem I've ever encountered with knives made out of D2 is that if the edge is properly applied to start with, they are hard to re-sharpen. Needless to say, Benchmade put a great grind on the edge of the Adamas. Rockwell hardness on the Adamas is 60-62, so you know the edge will last a good long time. The blade style is a drop-point, and is TiNi coated black, for a non-reflective finish. There is a dual thumb stud for quick opening, and I found I could also just flick the blade open, too. The Axis locking mechanism keeps the blade firmed locked open. Best thing about the Axis lock is that, over time, as the blade wears a little bit at the locking point, the Axis lock automatically adjust for this, and the blade stays firmly locked just as it was from the first day you opened the knife.
The pocket/clothing clip allows for deep-carry in the pocket, in the tip-up position, and it is reversible for right or left pocket carry, too. Overall length of the blade is 3.82" and it's about perfect if you ask me. I like a folder with a blade between 3.5" and 4.0" in length, and this one fits the ticket just fine in my book. Overall length of the Adamas in the open position is 8.70" and weight is 7.68 oz - a tad on the heavy side for some folks, but when you see how stout this hummer is, you'll appreciate the weight. Blade thickness is 0.160 and the handle thickness is 0.73" - like I said - stout!
The Adamas was designed by Shane Sibert, who resides right here in my home state of Oregon, and this knife was designed to honor the courage and commitment exhibited by our fighting heroes. A portion of the sale of each Adamas will be donated to the Ranger Assistance Foundation, too. Sibert has been a custom knife maker since 1994, so he's been around quite a while. 
I showed the Adamas to quite a few folks, and needless to say, the first thing they commented on was how stout the folder was - most really liked it, only one said it was too thick and heavy - we all have opinions on guns and knives! I really like the Axis locking mechanism not only for the way it locks a blade open, but for the already mentioned self-adjusting feature. I also like that the Axis lock can be releases from either side of the knife's handle, too - makes it nice for southpaws, as well as us righties!
The Adamas can also be had with a partially serrated blade, as well as in a fixed blade version, which has a slightly longer blade, and skeletonized handle - that you can wrap with 550 paracord if you desire.
I've often said that if you want to see if a gun or knife will break, give it to a US Marine - they will give products a test and evaluation like you wouldn't believe. I honestly believe that the Benchmade "Adamas" is US Marine-proof! If you manage to break this baby, you were probably trying to use the knife as a lever to lift a Hummer. As with all Benchmade knives, the Adamas comes with a lifetime warranty against materials and defects. Benchmade also has a lifesharp service policy - if you send a knife back to them, they will re-sharpen it for free - they only request a $5.00 fee to offset return shipping, and these days, that's a bargain in my book.
I've been writing about Benchmade Knives, for probably close to 20-years now, and I've never had one pass through my hands that I didn't like, or one that had any sort of defects. To be sure, I've had several prototypes that I did articles on, and not one of those babies had any problems, either...and if there is a problem, it usually shows-up in a prototype.
Quality never comes cheap, and the full retail price for the Adamas Model 275 is $195. Believe me, this knife is worth every penny - and then some. I wouldn't hesitate spending more for this folder, if they were asking more for it. What didn't I like about the Adamas? Nothing! This folder falls under "perfection" in my book for a self-defense or survival knife - it's that good - honestly!
I could rant and rave all day long about the Adamas, but nothing is a substitute for getting one in your hands. Once you do get your hands on an Adamas 275 folder, you won't want to put it down. So check the balance in your checking account before you pick-up this knife. You're gonna want to buy it, on the spot.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Some months ago, I alerted Survival Blog readers to a small company, in my neck of the woods, called US Tactical Supply that has customer service second to none, as well as having top-notch products, most made in the good ol' USA. As I stated before, if you are looking for cheap knock-off merchandise, or just "cheap" anything - then don't do business with US Tactical Supply - they don't carry junk - simple as that. However, if you are looking for the best-of-the-best in high-quality products, with friendly folks, who are sincerely happy to help you, and appreciate your business, then US Tactical Supply is the place to go.
Anyone who is familiar with doing business with the Department of Defense knows that, you have to carry merchandise that meets or exceeds DOD specifications. US Tactical Supply is a DOD supplier - enough said, eh? Military and law enforcement personnel strive for the best products they can get - they can't afford to have their gear fail them, when they need it the most. So, a lot of the customers who deal with US Tactical Supply are military and law enforcement. As well as savvy survival-minded folks, too.
Kevin Swanson, the President of US Tactical contacted me, and wanted my honest test and evaluation on a new product they are now carrying called the "Stove Tec" - it's a "rocket stove." You can get the skinny on the Stove Tec at their web site as well as being able to watch a short video describing how the Stove Tec works. Now, anyone familiar with survival gear, will readily recognize the Stove Tec emergency stove as a "rocket stove" - there are various makes and models on the rocket stove on the market, as well as detailed videos out there, on how to make a rocket stove yourself. However, all rocket stoves are NOT the same!
The Stove Tec rocket stove is probably the best-made of the bunch if you ask me. Stove Tec (located in Oregon) manufactures several different versions of this little emergency stove, and Kevin Swanson sent me the top-of-the-line model for test and evaluation. And, I'm here to tell you, this baby should last you many, many years of hard use. This is "the" emergency stove you want when the power goes out, trust me!
I received the two-door Stove Tec model, which is the deluxe model. This baby has a metal-lined ceramic door that burns any available wood or flammable biomass material. The combustion chamber isn't just lined with "fire brick" like other rocket stoves - nope, this baby is also metal lined, to help retain the heat for a good long time, as well as to protect the fire brick (ceramic). The deluxe two-door model is the one you want to purchase - the main upper door allows you to feed your fuel into the fire chamber, and the smaller, lower door, allows you to adjust the heat - neat idea, when you want a hotter or cooler fire for cooking, and it allows you to cook longer, too.
The stove top surface - it's double thick cast iron, with six pot supports - you're not gonna have to worry about this part of the stove failing you. You can either place a frying pan or pot right on top the cast iron stove top, or use the include galvanized steel pot skirt to keep your pan or pot slightly above the stove top surface. I found that I liked just cooking on the stove top surface - as did my wife.
The body of the Stove Tec is painted green, and is sheet metal - but there's no need to worry about the sheet metal "melting" on you or a hot fire burning through it - the double layered kiln-fired combustion chamber protects the outside sheet metal. There is always plenty of small tree branches and twigs around our homestead, so finding fuel for the Stove Tec rocket stove was an easy chore, to be sure. We also found that, we could use wadded-up paper to start and burn a pretty hot fire, too. There are heat resistant plastic and steel carry handles on the Stove Tec.
There's a nice metal support that you place in front of the upper door on the Stove Tec, for feeding your small pieces of wood into the fire chamber, so you don't have to sit there and hold the wood - you simply slide it into the fire chamber as it burns, to keep the fire going. It honestly doesn't take much wood at all, to get a super-hot fire going to cook a meal. We have enough wood on our small homestead to last through a lifetime of use cooking on the Stove Tec - honestly!
If you are serious about long-term survival, under harsh conditions, then you need to take a serious look at the Stove Tec rocket stove from US Tactical Supply. When your propane tanks run dry, and you can't get 'em refilled, you'll sure be glad you have the Stove Tec standing by. And, if you're out camping or hunting, you don't need to have a huge cooking fire - that wastes a lot of wood - in order to cook a meal. A mere handful of wood will provide more than enough fuel for cooking a meal, or to fire-up the stove to warm yourself. I don't care if you live in the big city or out in the boonies like I do, you will find the Stove Tec rocket stove to be a blessing when the power goes off, and you need to cook a hot meal. As I stated, it takes very little wood or other material (even charcoal can be used) to get a good, hot fire going in this rocket stove.
Sure, you can find rocket stoves all over the place, but trust me, I've seen a lot of 'em, and they don't even come close to the Stove Tec in quality and features. The Stove Tec sells for $124.95 at US Tactical Supply, and they do have a less expensive model. However, I'd spend a few bucks more and get the deluxe version - you'll appreciate it more.
Whenever I shop around for any survival gear or supplies, I not only look at the best prices I can get, I also look at the quality of the products I'm thinking about purchasing. Cheap is never good! Another thing I look at is the company I'm going to do business with. I can tell you horror stories about some big name companies, that simply have some of the worse customer service you can imagine - even some of the big-name gun companies have customer service that sucks! If you want to do business with a small company, that really cares about customer service, and carries mostly US-made products, then take a look at US Tactical Supply - they are growing, and deserve your business. Don't always think you are getting something cheaper some place else - don't shop around on "price" only - take a look at the company. I enjoy doing business with the little guy, especially when they carry so many US-made products....that's why you'll hardly ever find me in the big box stores - I don't like contributing to the economy in China. I'd rather shop the small, independent stores, that want my business, and are there to stand behind the products they sell. Ever try returning something to one of the big box stores? Yes, it's a pain-in-the-rear at times - an you sure get the impression that they are doing you a favor by allowing you to shop their stores - when it should be the other way around.
In all honesty, I don't know why I hadn't laid claim to a rocket stove before now. Yes, I have a propane cook stove that I use several times per year when the power goes out. But I can't possibly stock enough propane tanks or bottles to last me many years. With the Stove Tec rocket stove, having enough fuel isn't a problem - especially when it burns all manner of fuel. You see, sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks...and I learned just how much I'm gonna need the Stove Tec rocket stove when the power goes out. I've got mine, now you need to contact US Tactical Supply and get one of your own. You're gonna wonder how you got along without it. And, you'll be surprised at the friendly, helpful folks that answer the phone, too. - Pat Cascio (SurvivalBlog's Field Gear Editor)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Several readers have written me to mention the trailer for the upcoming NBC (US television network) post grid-collapse TEOTWAWKI series: Revolution. ("After 15 years of darkness, an unlikely group sets out to save the world.") The four-minute trailer was interesting. Watching it felt like a count the memes and homages contest. Predictably, "militias" are made out to be the bad guys. There are far too many reminders of both S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire sci-fi novel series and the movie The Postman in the trailer for me to think that NBC's screen writers hadn't been influenced by them.

The editors of io9 describe the show:

"In this footage, a mysterious blackout knocks out the world's power grid and renders all of civilization's car batteries completely kaput. Some sort of über-electromagnetic pulse, perhaps? Anyway, the scenes then fast-forward 15 years. The globe has taken a turn for The Postman, but at least we have Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo Fring, Wasteland Warlord. NBC executives, you really should be calling this show Gustavo Fring: Wasteland Warlord, as I would panel every surface of my house with flat-screen televisions to watch that. (The title Revolution sort of evokes a new brand of antiperspirant or low-calorie carbonated limeade.) Quibbles with nomenclature aside, this could be fun, not unlike The Road [except] with no cannibals and more swashbuckling. "

And here's a synopsis from NBC's web site:

"Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working? Well, one day, like a switch turned off, the world is suddenly thrust back into the dark ages. Planes fall from the sky, hospitals shut down, and communication is impossible. And without any modern technology, who can tell us why? Now, 15 years later, life is back to what it once was long before the industrial revolution: families living in quiet cul-de-sacs, and when the sun goes down lanterns and candles are lit. Life is slower and sweeter. Or is it? On the fringes of small farming communities, danger lurks. And a young woman's life is dramatically changed when a local militia arrives and kills her father, who mysteriously – and unbeknownst to her – had something to do with the blackout. This brutal encounter sets her and two unlikely companions off on a daring coming-of-age journey to find answers about the past in the hopes of reclaiming the future."

Well, at least they got our dependency on electricity right.

So how would The Hollywood Reporter sum up this show? Perhaps: "Fifteen years in the future, Dies The Fire meets The Postman, gets Lost on The Road, engages in some Hunger Games short range archery and some Crouching Dragon swordplay." Bows and swords, are de rigueur you see, because combat up close and personal seems quasi-chivalrous and it has a higher quotient for drama than getting drilled through the chest at 300 meters. I assume that the scriptwriters will employ either the premise that cartridge ammunition has been expended or that 15 year old ammunition is no longer reliable. (For the record, I'm presently in the middle of a batch of .30-06 from the Lake City Arsenal, vintage 1942. Every round still goes bang, and it is still quite accurate.)

One thing is almost certain: With the combined effects of Revolution and The Hunger Games, there is bound to be a nationwide shortage of light draw-weight archery equipment before next Christmas, as nearly every teenage girl in the country sets aside her iBook and picks up a recurve bow.

According to the NBC network's official web site for the series, it will begin airing in the Fall Season of 2012, on Monday evenings at 10 p.m. ET/PT.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Back in the day, when I lived in Chicago, I worked as a Private Investigator for a lot of years. I usually carried either my S&W Model 686 4" barrel revolver, or my Ruger Security Six 4" barrel revolver - both .357 Magnum guns, plus a couple spare speed loaders. I found that I could more easily conceal those big revolvers in shoulder holsters instead of belt holsters under my suit jacket. I also packed some kind of .38 Special snubby revolver in an ankle holster as a back-up. Unlike the police, I couldn't call for back-up if something went south, so having a back-up gun was reassuring, to say the least.
Whenever I worked late night stake-outs, I'd wear one of my big revolvers in a belt holster when I was in casual dress - it worked well for me. Still, concealing big revolvers was a challenge back then - in the 1970s and 1980s - we didn't have the great holster selections back then, that we have today, so we made due as best we could with what we had.
Today, I rarely wear a shoulder holster for some reason. I don't know why, I always found them comfortable - after a two-week break-in period - just like it is with most new holster - you're body has to get used to 'em. These days, I can usually be found wearing my main gun on some sort of belt holster and my back-up gun, still resides in an ankle holster.
I received a "shoulder" holster from Deep Conceal, LLC for test and evaluation, and to report my findings to SurvivalBlog readers. Now, the Deep Conceal carry holster isn't your typical shoulder holster, as I found out when I opened the brown envelope it was mailed to me in. I didn't think there was a holster of any sort in this mailing envelope. I was more than a little surprised when I found a neatly packaged concealed carry shoulder holster inside.
My Deep Concealed holster is a light-weight (to be sure) shoulder holster, but this isn't the type of shoulder holster that you wear on top of your clothing. Instead, it is worn under your dress shirt, or even under a loose-fitting T-shirt. The gun is carried comfortably under one arm, at slightly below chest level, and on the other side, there is room for spare mags - and you should always pack a spare magazine or two for any gun you carry. The shoulder straps and belly band straps (there are two for the belly) are made out of elastic for a very comfortable fit. Plus, the holster comes in either white or black, and in various sizes to fit you and various handguns.
My usual attire these days consists of a T-shirt, cargo pants and hiking shoes. I think the last time I wore a suit was when my oldest daughter graduated from college 10 or 11 years ago. Hey, what can I say? I live in the boonies, and most folks around here wear T-shirts and jeans - I like cargo pants - it's a very casual area when it comes to wearing whatever clothes you want. During the summer months, I wear an outer, button-down shirt (never buttoned) over my T-shirt, with my concealed handgun on my belt, covered by the buttoned-down shirt. I used to wear a photographer's vest, but it became well known that folks who wear those are packing heat, so I stopped wearing mine and switched to a button-down shirt in the summer months. In the cooler months, I, of course, wear a jacket to cover my handgun.
There are times, when I wish I didn't have to wear a button-down shirt over my T-shirt, enter the Deep Concealed Carry Holster. With a loose fitting T-shirt (mine are), I can wear this holster under my T-shirt, next to my skin (and it is comfortable and didn't chafe my skin), and no one would be the wiser that I was packing a handgun under my un-tucked T-shirt.
Now, one thing about the Deep Concealed Carry Holster is, you can't do a fast-draw from it. It's gonna either be under your shirt or under your T-shirt, and you can't get to the gun as rapidly as you'd like. Now, don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - if trouble is coming, you should always be at least, in Condition Yellow, and be prepared for it. So, you should have gun in-hand if at all possible. I've only had to pull my gun a few times when trouble presented itself, and every time, I didn't have to fast-draw my gun was already in-hand.  At one point in my life, I worked for an alarm company - on the day shift, I installed alarms. On the night shift, I answered alarms. Hundreds of times, there were verifiable break-ins, and we had to go into the buildings to see if someone was in there. Needless to say, I went in, gun in hand . Sometimes the Chicago PD officers would go in with me, other times, they said they would stay outside "to catch anyone coming out..." Yeah, right!!! So, my gun was already in my hand whenever I entered a building that was broken into. And, quite often, due to the nature of silent alarms, I caught burglars. I wouldn't go into one of those buildings with my gun still holstered. I knew there was possible trouble and hence I was prepared for it.
Many women carry their firearms off-body, my wife and oldest daughter included, and I think that is a big mistake. It's too easy to lay your purse down, forget it in the car or "whatever" and your firearm won't be nearby when you need it. The Deep Concealed Carry Holster is a great option for women - you can carry your handgun on your body, under a blouse or T-shirt, and no one would be none the wiser, that you were packing - neat idea. I know, there have been several similar holsters on the market, but the Deep Concealed Carry Holster is probably the best of the breed - especially when it comes to comfort.
You need to give any holster a good two-week wear time, for your body to get used to it. I've found, that even when I replace an older holster with a newer one, of the same make and model, I still need a break-in period of a couple weeks for the holster to become a better fit for my gun and against my body. And, so it is with the Deep Concealed Carry Holster - give it a try, and give it a fair two-week trial period, and you'll really enjoy it. I can usually be "caught" carrying one of my Glock 23 handguns these days, simply because I like the light-weight, total reliability, and the power of the .40 S&W round - I find it a great compromise for my needs, with a spare magazine. The test holster worked perfectly for my Glock 23. I don't think I'd care to carry a 6" barrel large-framed .44 Magnum in this holster, and it wasn't designed for this. This holster is designed for everyday carry guns that most people chose to carry - not big hunting handguns.
The price varies on the Deep Concealed line, depending on holster size and body size. But you can get them between $43.95 and $46.95 to fit many guns. Check out their web site for a complete listing of holsters for guns to fit you and your handgun. It's a good (deep concealed carry) holster - perfected!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Here are some updates on my upcoming book release dates from Atria Books and its subsidiary Pocket Books division:

Founders Cover


To explain: "Founders" is the second sequel to "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse". It is set contemporaneously to the first two novels, but in different geography, with some crossover characters. This novel details the epic cross-country trek of Ken and Terry Layton that was just briefly described in "Patriots". There are also storylines at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and in the vicinity of Fort Knox, Kentucky.

I am presently drafting the non-fiction book "Rawles on Guns and Other Tools for Survival" for Penguin Books as well as two more novels in the "Patriots" series that will be published by E.P. Dutton. (Penguin is a subsidiary of E.P. Dutton.)

Special Note: Please wait until the actual release dates of each book to order, to give them the best position in the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sales rankings as well as on the New York Times bestsellers lists.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Over the past month or so, I've received quite a few requests from folks who want me to test and evaluate their products. I enjoy testing products for SurvivalBlog, and reporting back my findings to SurvivalBlog readers. Some of the companies that contact me, have a lot of questions, and I'm happy to answer them. Some companies ask me if I can guarantee that I'll write an article on their products - and the answer is "yes." Then, they ask me if I can guarantee them that the article will appear on SurvivalBlog - I refer them to Jim Rawles, as he's the editor, and gives the final yea or nay on if or when a piece runs. And, lastly, some folks ask me if I am going to give their products a "positive" review in my article. My answer to them is "no!" I will never guarantee anyone that I will give their products a positive review - I report my findings as fairly and honestly as I can. If those products aren't up to par, or as advertised, that's the way I will report my findings.
When I was publishing and editing a little newsletter called "Police Hot Sheet" many years ago, I was contacted by a fellow who made an impact device, and he told me if was more effective than a hit from a 12 gauge shotgun. Needless to say, I was more than a little skeptical of those claims. Still, I promised to have one of my writers, a well-known martial artist test and evaluate this product. Of course, his findings were that this impact device wasn't as effective at stopping an attacker as a hit from a 12 gauge would be, and the product took quite a bit of training and practice to use properly and effectively. The fellow who sent me that product threatened to sue me if I ran the review, but I ran it! And, in fact he didn't sue me. So, please, if you want me to give you a guarantee that I will give you products a positive review on SurvivalBlog, then don't bother contacting me or Jim Rawles - that's not the way we do business. SurvivalBlog readers deserve a fair and honest review of products.
The newest product under review today is called the "Original AR-Rest" and is being produced by Montie Gear. The folks at this company contacted me several weeks ago, and asked me to review some of their products, one was their new sling-shot, they were out of stock, but promised one would be coming in a few weeks. The other product is their AR-Rest, which arrived quickly, as promised. I've got to admit, I've never heard of Montie Gear before they contacted me, however, they have quite a few products on their web site, that should be of interest to SurvivalBlog readers - check them out.
Okay, the AR-Rest, gee, let's see, what's "new" about a rifle rest, that hasn't already been done? Well, the Montie Gear AR-Rest is portable. It comes apart and goes back together in a matter of seconds, and it can be carried in your shooting box or your AR rifle case. The AR-Rest only weighs about 19-oz, so it's very lightweight, you won't even know you have it in your shooting box or AR rifle case. The AR-Rest is made out of sturdy aluminum, that is industrial-grade black powder coated. There is a spring-loaded stainless-steel (wire attached)pin that holds this tri-pod together, too. The "rest" portion of the AR-Rest has soft rubber covers in the "V" of the rest, so your rifle won't be damaged or scratched. The legs on the rest have grooves machined into - so when shooting over a bench rest or going prone, the rest really digs in and remains stable. There are also additional rubber covers for the bottom of the legs - for using the rest over the hood of a car - so you don't scratch the paint on the car.
When shooting rifles for accuracy, I try to wring out as much accuracy as I can - without resorting to a "mechanical" rest of some sort. I usually shoot over the hood of my car, using a sleeping bag, rolled-up jacket, a soft, padded rest of some sort - or whatever I have on-hand. It gives me better results than just using an elbow to steady a rifle. The Montie Gear AR-Rest will give you a  more stable and secure rest, for those of you who want the most accuracy you can squeeze out of an AR-15 style rifle. And, this rest isn't just designed for use with an AR, I also tested it with an AK-47, and even with it's longer 30-rd mag, the rifle was still not touching the hood of the car. The idea behind the AR-Rest is that, you can use it with long magazines in your rifles, without the rifle "mono-podding" on the magazine - and the AR-Rest delivers in this respect. You can also use the rest for benching other rifles as well. Montie Gear makes several other models of rests, but I think the AR-Rest will meet most of your needs.
I did find that, my groups did tighten-up more with the AR-Rest, than with my AR over a rolled-up sleeping bag, so the rest delivered as promised, and the height of the AR with a 30-rd mag in it, didn't allow the magazine to touch the ground - and as already mentioned, the same goes for an AK-47 with a 30-rd mag installed.
My one minor complaint with the Montie Gear AR-Rest are the rubber covers that are included, for installing on the bottom of the legs of the tripod. The rubber caps are a bit too small and don't completely cover the bottom of the legs, nor do they stay in place when shooting. An instruction sheet is included, that states you can use Super-Glue to secure the rubber covers on the legs. You shouldn't have to do that! The rubber covers that came with the AR-Rest appear to be an after-thought, and maybe purchased from an outside source - as an a quick fix to a minor problem. After firing several rounds through my AR on the AR-Rest, the rubber covers would slip off the bottom of the legs. And, "yes" I did try to Super-Glue the rubber covers on - and it didn't work. I would suggest using rubber cement - that would hold the rubber covers on better. Of course, you only need to use the rubber covers if you're shooting over the hood of a car and don't want to scratch the paint job. When shooting over a bench, or going prone, you don't need the little rubber covers. I'm not alone in my one minor complaint about the AR-Rest. You can view similar complaints on the Montie Gear web site - and I do applaud Montie Gear, for posting those comments from customers - most companies wouldn't post negative comments. Thank you, Montie Gear, for your honesty!
I believe that Montie Gear should replace the little rubber covers, with something that is specifically made for their rest - it shouldn't cost them very much. Another alternative would be to use some of that "plastic" dip - that you can get from most hardware stores. You dip the end of your pliers, or other tools into it, and it gives you a firm gripping surface. You can do the same thing with the AR-Rest, just dip the bottom of the three legs of the tripod into this solution, and it will work beautifully.
A lot of people shoot their rifles, over a bench, when shooting for accuracy at a target, so the little rubber covers won't be needed, same goes for going prone on the ground. All-in-all, I was very pleased with the Montie Gear AR-Rest, it performed as advertised - it provided a solid rest for a rifle, so a person can wring the most accuracy out of their long guns when shooting long-range. I don't see the AR-Rest falling apart - it's very well-built, and it should last you through a lifetime of target practice. The rest retails for $59.95, and the price seems more than fair - especially for an American-made product. Pick one up, and watch your long-range shooting scores improve.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I know a little something about being a first responder to an accident scene. In another life, I was a paramedic, and later in life, I was a police officer. So, I've been to more than my share of accidents, and one thing that was usually needed in many traffic accidents, was a good sharp knife, that could cut a person out of their seat belt, or cut some of their clothes off for urgent medical care. So, I appreciate a good sharp knife, more so than most folks do.
Buck Knives ( has been around since 1902. No matter how you look at it, that's a long, long time for any company to stay in business. I can't remember exactly when I saw my first Buck knife, but I remember it was one of their fixed blade hunting knives in the 1960s, and later on the famous Buck 110 folding knife, which is widely copied by many. It says a lot when other companies copy your products - it also cuts into the profits of the company that originated with a knife design, too. Imitated, but never duplicated!
Some months ago, I received the Buck Knives Responder CSAR-T folder. This is a collaboration between Buck Knives and TOPS Knives - two very well-known knife companies, to be sure. I was immediately impressed with how stout the CSAR-T folder was. It struck me as being US Marine-proof. A lot of folks say, if you want to see how well a product is made, give it to a US Marine - if there is a way to destroy it - they'll figure it out. If a US Marine can destroy the CSAR-T folder, in the course of their duties, I'd be surprised!
This rugged folder has a heavy duty blade that is 0.120" thick - it's a modified tanto shaped blade, too - one of my favorite designs for a number of reasons. The stainless steel blade is made out of Buck's time-tested 420HC, with a soft satin finish, that Buck calls a Zirblast finish. The knife is 5-1/4" closed and weighs in at 7.0 oz (9.3 oz carry weight in the  included heavy-duty Nylon MOLLE-compatible sheath). There is also a pocket/clothing clip on the handle for carrying in a pants pocket, too. There is also a reversible tip-up carry option for carrying in the right or left front pocket of your pants. The handle scales are textured black G10 - some of the toughest stuff around for a handle material - it's nearly indestructible! The lock on the folder is a liner-type lock, pretty strong, too!
In Buck's press release, it says the CSAR-T is "tough enough to use for prying..." Okay, almost every knife company that I'm aware of, says to not use a folding knife (or even a fixed blade knife) for prying purposes. On a folder, the blade can easily separate for the handle - and it could cause serious injury to the user - on fixed blade knives, the blade can break. So, I've always been of the opinion that knives should be used for cutting purposes, and not as pry bars. Stupid me! Well, I here to tell you, I did some prying with the CSAR-T sample, and it worked, too. No, I didn't attempt to lift my SUV with it, but I did do some pretty heavy prying and twisting into wood and while doing other chores, and the CSAR-T wasn't damaged. I showed the sample around to a lot of folks, including a police officer, and they all commented on how stout the knife was, and that it would probably never break - I concur!
Of course, like all Buck Knives, my sample was very sharp right out of the box - I would have been surprised if it wasn't. So, the knife is capable of cutting just about anything you run across. Now, that's a good thing - however, I'd hesitate to use a knife this sharp for cutting away clothing on an injured person or cutting a seat belt - I wouldn't want to lose control of the blade and cause more injury to the person. Well, Buck and TOPS thought about this. At the butt end of the handle there is an integrated glass breaker for tempered glass, and a very efficient seat belt/clothing cutter - that you don't have to worry about losing control of the knife and cutting yourself or the person you're trying to aid. You can't get your finger into the seat belt cutter, either - its practically fool-proof. What's nice about the glass breaker tip on the butt of the knife, and the seat belt cutter is that, you don't have to deploy the main blade to use either of their extra tools - kool!
Buck and TOPS wasn't content with all of the above, and wanted to add a little something more to the CSAR-T, so they added a bit-compatible handle cut-out, and you can use various hex tools - Buck offers this tool set as an option to match it all. So, you can do something other than just cut or break tempered glass with this folder.
I wasn't about to attempt to break the tempered glass on any of my vehicles, and I couldn't get anyone to volunteer their rig's glass either. So, I found an old broken window in my carport - don't know why I still had it there, but it was there. I took the CSAR-T sample by the handle and only lightly tapped on the glass, and it shattered into several pieces. So, I have zero doubts the glass breaker feature will break a tempered windshield on a vehicle. As to the seat belt cutter - I wasn't about to cut any seat belts, either. But I did have some Nylon material laying around, that is almost identical to seat belt material. I'm here to tell you, this seat belt cutter simply zoomed right through this material like a hot knife through butter. So, this would be a great tool to have at an accident scene, where a person is trapped by their seat belt - and I've seen this happen numerous times, too. For some reason, the seat belt release won't release - and you have no choice but to cut it to free the person.
I know, a folding knife isn't meant or designed to be a throwing knife, but I just had to try my hand at it. The CSAR-T failed as a throwing knife...well, I just had to do "something" to prove this folder couldn't do it all.  The knife is handle-heavy, and no matter how many times I threw the knife, I couldn't make it stick - the handle always hit first. Ok, ok, it wasn't a fair test as the knife wasn't designed for this chore - but I still had fun and there was no damage to the knife either - that's a good thing.
As a self-defense tool, the CSAR-T would really shine, too. There is enough blade length there to do some serious damage in slashing or stabbing techniques and the blade is super sharp. And, should you choose to not use the blade against someone, you can still use the knife as an impact weapon - striking first with the front of the handle - and if that doesn't discourage an attacker, then strike with the butt end of the handle, where the glass breaker is - that will make a person wish they had chosen another person to attack.
Like many Buck Knives, the CSAR-T folder is a bit hard to find. Buck sells them as fast as they make them. And, to top it all off, there are a couple other CSAR models you can choose from, too. They even have some fixed blade models. Full-retail on the CSAR-T (Model 091) is $147 and you get a lot of knife for that money, and it has the Buck/TOPS name on it, too. Check one out, you'll like it! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
I feel compelled to comment on Pat's latest review for the Cold Steel "Bushman" line of knives. I have been a Cold Steel fan for years and like Pat, am completely sold on their products, and I have owned/own a lot of their line. I have owned approximately 15 Bushman knives over the years, some I gave away to friends and family and some I still own...and some I've broke. Yes, it broke.

Towards the end of Pat's review, he talks about attaching the hollow handle of the Bushman to a good wood shaft.  I wanted to try this, and already knowing I needed more than a broomhandle to make myself a spear, I went ahead and ordered three spare shafts that usually are made for Cold Steels' assegai spears. I know that the spear shafts are excellent shafts since I've owned several over the years and have used and abused them and only ever managed to break one...but that was more my fault than the product failure. Anyway, I attached two of my Bushman knives to these new spear shafts and began to throw. On the second throw of the first spear I made, it stuck into the target just fine, but the weight of the shaft pulling downward was to much for the Bushman and broke the blade completely in half. I was more than a little upset. The second spear I had made broke on the first throw! Once again, the weight of the shaft pulling down was too much, and broke about 3/4" off the tip.

Now, is this product failure? I don't think so. I highly doubt I would have broken them if I had used a shorter spear shaft. BTW, I had ordered the longer shafts that are about 6' long. I was simply using these knives in the way they are not meant to be used. The Bushman knives do have a hollow handle to make a spear, but it doesn't mean you should do it. In my opinion, if you make a long shaft Bushman spear, it should be made for thrusting only (not throwing), or to keep distance between yourself and a predator.

All this being said, I love my Bushman knives. They are solid products that are worth way more than you will pay for them. Just thought I'd share. - Joseph J.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I have received many requests to test and evaluate the Cold Steel "Bushman" line of knives that Cold Steel is producing. I've been a big fan of Cold Steel products since the very beginning - I'm sold on their products. However, for some strange reason, I never requested anything from the Bushman series of knives.
My friend, Lynn Thompson, who owns and operates Cold Steel, isn't afraid to back up his products, and does so, in a series of videos on his company web site. On the web site, you will see all manner of Cold Steel products being put through a variety of torture tests, that would make other knife makers shudder. Thompson isn't afraid to show you how his knives are tested - sharpness is only one of the tests - and to be sure, Cold Steel set the standard in my humble opinion for super-sharp knives many years ago. Lynn puts all his cutlery through things that you and I wouldn't even think of - to prove to his customers just how strong and well-built his cutlery is. You really need to watch the various videos on the web site to appreciate the torture Cold Steel knives go through - no one else in the cutlery field are doing this. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time on the computer watching all the videos - its worth it.
First up for test and evaluation is the Pocket Bushman - and right up front, I'll tell you, this is a spartan-looking folder - it's not going to win any beauty contests. Nor was it designed to. The 4116 German stainless steel blade, is razor-sharp out of the box, so be aware of that. Also, be sure to read the warning that comes with this knife before opening it. The blade length is 4-1/2", so there's plenty of blade to get most jobs done from survival to self-defense. Now, the handle is manufactured out of one piece of 420 stainless steel and it's bead blasted to cut down on reflectivity. You have to closely examine the one piece handle to sincerely appreciate how it's made - it's one flat piece of stainless steel, that is cut to the right dimensions and then folded over onto itself, to form the handle. We are talking super strong. I tried bending it with my bare hands - didn't happen.
The weight of the Pocket Bushman is 6.1 ounces, so it's not exactly light - nor is it too heavy, either. overall length of the knife, in the open position is 10-1/4" - it's a handful, no doubt about it. The blade is of the clip point design, and hollow ground from top to bottom, with just enough belly to be useful for all sorts of tasks, too. A dual thumb stud is there for opening the knife one-handed - more on this in a moment. There is also a pocket/clothing clip, which can be moved from one side to the other for ambi pocket carry for right or left handed carry, too. There is a 550 Paracord lanyard in the butt of the handle as well.
The overall appearance of the Pocket Bushman is very sleek and smooth as well. Now, for the thumb studs for one-handed opening. Yeah, you can open the Pocket Bushman with one hand, but you can't really open it "fast" - there is a lot of resistance from the locking mechanism. So, don't think you are gonna whip the Pocket Bushman out of your pocket and flick it open fast with one hand. Now, that's not a bad thing, either. The patented internal Ram-Safe locking mechanism is the strongest I've ever run across - this knife is a virtual fixed blade when fully opened and locked. On the Cold Steel video of the testing of this knife, they place 250 pounds of dead weight on the lock and it doesn't fail - and I believe the lock can take even more weight before failing. That is very impressive.
Now comes the "trick" to closing the blade, once you open it. I showed the Pocket Bushman to several people, and they couldn't figure it out - until I showed them. You must pull on the lanyard cord, which then releases the lock and you can close the blade. It takes quite a bit of effort to pull on the lanyard to get the lock to release, too. If you're a petite woman, this folder probably isn't for you - and I'm not a sexist, either - just being realistic about the strength and effort required to unlock the blade.
As a rule, I don't recommend any folding knife for chopping chores. However, with the 4-1/2" blade and long handle, you can actually do some light chopping chores with the Pocket Bushman. I chopped some fairly large branches off a dead apple tree in my front yard without a lot of effort. I was impressed, to say the least. The blade never loosened, nor did the lock show signs of giving way, either.
The Pocket Bushman isn't gonna win any beauty contests, but it wasn't designed to. This knife is designed to save your butt when the chips are down - using it for survival, or self-defense - this hummer won't let you down. You would think that a folding knife that is this strong, and super-sharp, that can take anything you can throw at it, would cost a lot - it doesn't! I was more than a little surprised to see that full-retail is only $42.99, and you can find it for less than that on the 'net if you shop around. To be sure, if this knife were a hundred bucks, it would be worth the asking price. This may just be the last folding knife you'll ever need - this baby isn't gonna fail you, under the harshest of conditions. With that said, "beauty" is in the eye of the beholder, and I find the Pocket Bushman a real "beauty" in my book. There's no reason this knife shouldn't be high on your list of cutlery for survival purposes.
Next up are the Bushman and Bowie Bushman, fixed blade knives. The original Bushman has been around for a decade now - and that says a lot about the design and strengths of the knife. To underscore this: I was once told by the owner of a major knifemaking company that a really good knife design typically has about a three year market life. After that, the design doesn't sell well any longer. Think about it...
Okay, we once again come to a knife that won't win any beauty contests, and once again, it wasn't designed to. It was mean to be a very affordable and nearly indestructible fixed blade do-it-all knife. There are a few differences between the two fixed blade Bushman knives, and needless to say, one has a Bowie-style blade and the other is more conventional. The original Bushman weighs in at 9.8-oz, and the Bowie 10.1-oz. both have a 7" blade made out of SK-5 High Carbon steel, that has a protective black coating the help retard rust - and Carbon Steel knives will rust if you don't take care of them. The overall length of both knives is 12 1/4" from tip to butt.
Unlike conventional hollow handle knives - which the Bushman is - the hollow handle isn't a separate part of the knife - the hollow handle and blade are all once piece. The blade and handle are expertly forged out of one piece of SK-5 Carbon Steel - as you will readily see once you handle a Bushman. There isn't any screw-in cap on the hollow handle of the Bushman, instead you can pack whatever survival supplies you want in the handle and then close it off with some duct tape, or whatever you have on-hand - even stuffing it with clothing or mud would work.
Both fixed blade Bushman knives come complete with a Cor-Ex sheath as well, and there's a pocket on the front of the sheath for carrying other things, like a multi-tool, sharpening stone or whatever you might feel you need - even fishing line and tackle. I was honestly surprised, that the Bushman came with a sheath, especially considering the full-retail price of only $37.99 for your choice of blade styles.
The Bushman have been torture-tested by Cold Steel. Be sure to watch their video. You'll be amazed, by what these knives can do. One test included putting over two tons of weight at the handle/blade junction and it didn't fail. Wow!
While not designed as a throwing knife, the fixed blade Bushman can be used for throwing. I don't recommend you use the knife as a throwing knife in a self-defense situation, but you can have a lot of fun in your backyard just throwing the Bushman and watching 'em stick in the target. It doesn't take a lot of practice to get the blades to stick in a target, either. And, like all Cold Steel cutlery, the Bushman were shaving sharp right out of the box, and held an edge a good long time - even after doing some serious chopping on some dead trees on my small homestead.
You can also attach a pole/shaft to the hollow handle, and use the knives for self-defense that way, or even use 'em for hunting small game by taking careful aim and launching the Bushman at your game. To be honest, it didn't take a lot of practice to consistently hit a makeshift target I set up in my yard - but the old broomhandle I was using broke - it was already broke from the broom head - but it broke again after several throwing sessions. You can find a good wood shaft to attach to the Bushman, making it into a virtual spear - and it's lots of fun, too.
So, once again, we have a couple Bushman knives that won't win any beauty contests, and they weren't designed for that. Lynn Thompson, designs his knives for hard use. That's not to say Cold Steel doesn't have some beautiful knives in their catalog - about 95% of their knives are a thing of beauty in my eye. But the Bushman series of fixed blade and the folder, weren't designed as beauty queens, they were designed for the worst conditions you can submit any blade to, and they will hold-up to all you throw at 'em. What's not to like here?
As already mentioned, either of the fixed blade Bushman knives retail for $37.99 each - and there is no reason you can't get one or two of these babies and toss 'em in your e-box in your car, or your bug out bag. I can't think of any other knives, in this price range, that can stand-up to the same torture - it's just that simple in my book.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I've received more requests for me to test and evaluate the Cold Steel Bushman series of knives, than any other products. I've got to admit, I'm sorry I didn't request a Bushman many years ago. I kind of put it off, since the Bushman series are  inexpensive knives, assuming that they were more of a gimmick than anything. I hate admitting I'm wrong - but I was. The Bushman series are knives that won't let you down, and you can certainly afford them on just about any budget. Get one or two, or all three - and you'll thank me. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, April 9, 2012

I hear from SurvivalBlog readers daily. I enjoy hearing from you all, and many of you want me to do test and evaluation on "Whatever" firearms, knives or other survival gear. I wish I could test everything you all want me to test, but it is impossible for a number of reasons. First of all is the expense involved, and secondly, the time involved in doing a round of test and evaluation - there's not enough hours in the day. I constantly get SurvivalBlog readers asking me to test various AR-15 style rifles on the market. Honestly, there are so many different manufacturers and makes of guns, it's impossible. If I have first-hand experience with a certain gun, I'll certainly let the readers know if they have some questions. However, I can't test all the various ARs on the market.
Now, if you're like me, you probably never heard about a "new" company called Windham Weaponry. I wasn't aware of them until the manager at my local gun shop told me about them. I use the term "new" only because the name of the company as an entity is new, but the folks who run it aren't new. Several years ago, Bushmaster Firearms was bought out, and the previous owner had to sign a non-competition agreement for five years. This meant that he couldn't make any AR-15 style rifles.
I don't know about some of you, but in my humble opinion, and based on some of the recent Bushmaster ARs I've run across, I'm not very happy with the way the guns are turning out. I had a polymer Bushmaster AR, and it wouldn't group - it "patterned" like a shotgun at 25 yards. And, once again, in my humble opinion, the overall quality of Bushmaster ARs have gone down, and it's not just me - the manager at my local gun shop, and some of the employees feel the same way that I do.
Enter Windham Weaponry. This is the old Bushmaster AR maker, except they are making the guns even better than they were originally mad. These guns are a lot better than the old Bushmaster ARs were. A large number of those involved in Windham Weaponry are prior Bushmaster staff-- including the owner -- who used to own Bushmaster. I'm here to tell you, these folks are putting a lot of pride in their new ARs. Their new web site says their goal is to build finest AR type rifle in the country - a lofty goal, to be sure.
I traded into a Windham Weaponry Model R16M4A4T "MPC" - don't even ask what all the numbers mean, I don't have a clue. Basically what I have is an M4-type AR, with a removable carry handle, and standard front sight/gas block. Okay, so I'm a bit ol' fashioned, I have a soft spot for a plain ol' M4 style of AR. I can remove the carry handle, should I desire to put a scope or red dot sight on the upper receiver - it's there if I want to do it. We also have the M4 style oval handguards, with excellent double heat shields.
The "MPC" is in 5.56mm NATO and, of course, it will also handle standard .223 Remington rounds up to 62 grain bullet weight.  The barrel is 16" long, with a 1 turn in 9" right hand twist, pretty standard on this type of civilian AR. The barrel is also 4150 Chrome Moly Vanadium steel, and the barrel is chrome-line for easy care and extra long life, too. The bolt is Carpenter 158 Steel - MP/HP tested - another nice touch. There is also a 6-position telescoping butt stock. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation - once you set the front sight post during zeroing - and the adjustments on the rear sight go from 300 to 600 meters. There is the standard flash suppressor on the end of the M4-style barrel, too.
The "MPC" has a very rich, dark black anodized coating on the upper and lower receivers - much nicer than is seen on most ARs, and much nicer than the old Bushmaster ARs had, too. The barrel coating almost perfectly matches the coating on the upper and lower receivers, too - again, a nice touch. The upper and lower receivers are anodized - the barrel is parkerized. The rifle weighs in at only 6.9-lbs - just about perfect for an M4 style AR. The gun comes in a hard plastic carrying case, with one magazine, instruction manual and sling. There is also a lifetime warranty on all Windham Weaponry firearms - the the warranty can be transferred to a new owner, should you sell or trade the gun.
Any more, I'm not impressed with many of the new ARs that come on the market. Sure, some are better built than others, some shoot a tad more accurate than others, some have more accessories and features than other similar guns have. Some ARs cost an arm and a leg, some are dirt cheap - and paying a lot more doesn't always mean you are getting a lot more, either. The Windham Weaponry AR I have, is one of the best built ARs I've ever run across - bar none! And, I will tell you that this is probably the most accurate AR I've ever shot, and it is also the most consistently accurate AR I've shot with all the various ammo I tested in it - and I tested a lot of rounds in a month through this baby. I know, many firearms will be more accurate with certain brands of ammo than others - that's usually the way it is with most firearms. However, the sample Windham Weaponry AR I have, had very consistent accuracy with all the loads I tested - there simply wasn't a stand out - and that, my friends, is very rare. If I did my part, I was getting 100 yard groups in the 1.25" range - with open sights. I'm sure I can do better with a scope mounted on this gun.
Okay, speaking of ammo, I tested the Buffalo Bore Ammunition 69 grain Sniper load - which has proven very accurate in my testing over the past year or so. Buffalo Bore also produces three other bullet weights in their Sniper load, too. I highly recommend you test their Sniper loads, and find one that shoots to your liking. Tim Sundles, who owns and operates Buffalo Bore takes a lot of pride in developing his various loads, and it shows. I also tested Winchester's USA brand .223 55 grain FMJ load - which is always a good shooting round for me - and I use this load a lot for function testing. Winchester also sent me their new PDX1 Defender 60 grain HP load - which was designed for personal defense, as well as law enforcement use. I only had two boxes of this new ammo, so I couldn't do a lot of testing with it - but I was impressed with the accuracy as well as the destructive power when fired into water-filled milk jugs. Long-time buddy, Jeff Hoffman, who runs Black Hills Ammunition sent me a variety of .223 Remington loads for testing. Jeff always manages to bury me in ammo when I ask for it for testing in various firearms - he's kept my ammo locker full for 20+ years now.  From Black Hills I had their 55 grain FMJ load - in both new, first quality and factory seconds. I also had their 55 grain soft point, as well as their 60 grain soft point loads. The really new 62 grain Barnes TSX bullet - all copper hollow point, was a real eye opener in the "destroying" department and penetration testing. I also had Black Hills 60 grain Hornady V-MAX load - great varmint round - and I'm gonna nail that coyote across the road from my place one of these days. I also had the 68 grain Heavy Match HP and 69 grain Sierra Match King loads from Black Hills. Like I said, Jeff Hoffman keeps me well-supplied...and this isn't all the loads that Black Hills produces for the .223 Remington caliber - check out their web site.
I wish I could report that one load shot worse, or better, than another. However, as I mentioned, this Windham Weaponry "MPC" is the most consistently accurate AR I've ever fired. There were no bad loads - they were all outstanding loads, with most printing groups in the 1.25" neighborhood. Of course, some loads shot higher than others, and other loads shot lower - but they all grouped in a nice little three-shot cluster if I did my part. I fired more than 1,000 rounds in my testing - very little of the testing was in the functioning area - the gun always went "bang" when I pulled the trigger - no hiccups of any type. Most of my shooting was in the accuracy area - I just kept going out and doing more and more shooting because I didn't believe this AR could shoot groups like it was shooting. Maybe I'm just getting to be a better shot in my old age, or maybe it's the gun making me a better shot.
Right now, Windham Weaponry firearms are a bit hard to come by. (But for that matter, most AR and AK style rifles are hard to come by). My local gun shop sells ARs and AKs as fast as they come in the door - ditto for their respective ammo. Folks see the handwriting on the wall, and know that the President is gonna lower the hammer on guns and ammo in very short order - gun and ammo sales are soaring these days. However, Windham Weaponry ARs are even a bit harder to find - they are just getting up and running. They are now producing nine different models - when I got my sample a little over a month ago, they only listed four different models. So, they are already expanding and growing.
I like the "forever" warranty - that says a lot in my book, when a gun company is so sure of their products, that they are willing to back them up forever against defects in materials and workmanship. I also like that they have taken the old Bushmaster AR, and made it even better than it was before. Full retail on the sample I have is $1,086, and it would be a bargain at that price if you ask me - considering the high-quality of the parts and care in fitting - not to mention  the accuracy. My local gun shop had my sample marked at $829 - and I didn't complain one bit about their asking price. They have since received several more Windham Weaponry rifles, and sold 'em right away. I was standing in the gun shop one morning, when a fellow was looking at a Windham Weaponry AR - and the manager was pointing out all the nice features - the manager asked me to tell this customer my findings and opinion. I flat out told him that my sample is the most consistently accurate AR I've ever owned. He soon bought the sample he was holding. And, no I don't get a commission when I help sell a gun.
I certainly hope that Windham Weaponry keeps up the high-quality build, and continue using the best materials possible to build their ARs - if they do, they are gonna have a hard time keeping up with supply and demand. I like to see a company rise from the ashes, and the old Bushmaster Firearms is back, and better than ever in my humble opinion. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, April 6, 2012

After being raised on my grandfather’s farm, spending time in the military and being a first responder for the last 15 years, it is strange to find myself being a Newbie in the daunting task of creating an emergency preparedness cache for my family.  I now find myself living in a suburban/rural area of a major metropolitan city and a long way from where I grew up and started learning about some of the skills needed to survive.  I've always considered myself to be a prepared, self-sufficient individual.  I've hunted small and large game, I've backpacked in the backcountry for weeks at a time and I'm trained in emergency medical skills.  But when I started to delve into the world prepping, it became immediately clear how unprepared I am.

For the last five years I have been consumed by the post-apocalyptic genre.  I've read The Road, the Dies the Fire series, One Second After, and Patriots.  Recently I've read The Jakarta Pandemic and Lights Out and Survivors.   I've watched movies like The Road Warrior series, I Am Legend, The Book of Eli and Contagion.  All of these allow you to insert yourself into survival situations both in the science fiction sense and in the all too real possibilities.  I've also attended briefings and taught classes on surge capacity events and pandemic flu scenarios.  But for some reason, I awoke one day to realize that I do not have the resources to provide for my family during a natural disaster or when the grid goes down much less the three days that the federal government recommends.

So where to start?  That is the million dollar question.  Actually for my family of four it is probably the $10,000 dollar question.  But for someone who is going through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program, that expense really isn't in the budget.  So again I ask the question, where do I start to prepare my family to be self-sufficient on a budget yet obtain all the necessary items?

Well, I have turned to books like, How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It,