Review Category


Monday, April 14, 2014


Over the years, I've tested quite a few knives from Cold Steel, and I've yet to be disappointed in any of them. We're going to take a closer look at the Cold Steel Recon Scout. This is one brute of a fixed blade knife, which is made In Taiwan, for those who ask. I've known Lynn Thompson, who owns Cold Steel, for at least 20 years or more, and he is one of these people who is dead serious about his knife designs and the final product. Lynn has, on more than one occasion, sent back an entire run of knives after he received them and inspected them. He won't settle for shoddy workmanship with the Cold Steel name stamped on his products. To be sure, once in a while a "second" will slip through or a customer returns a knife for "whatever" reason. He won't sell those knives as new; he sells them as "seconds" so you don't ever have to worry about buying someone else's used knife when you buy a new knife from Cold Steel. Once a year, Cold Steel holds a yard sale at their offices, where you can buy discontinued, "seconds", or returned knives at a huge discount.

The name of this website is SurvivalBlog, so many of the knives (and other products) we test and report on are designed for survival, not just wilderness survival but survival on the mean streets. We also cover products suitable for camping and hunting needs and products that you can use around your home all the time. However, the Cold Steel Recon Scout is without a doubt one of the absolute best all-around survival knives you will ever find. It is designed to take whatever you can throw at it and come back for more, again and again!

Just a quick run down on the specs from the Cold Steel website on the Recon Scout is in order. We are looking at a fixed blade knife with a blade that is 7 1/2 inches long and made out of SK-5 High Carbon, NOT stainless steel. However, there is a black powder coating on the blade to help ward-off rust. One of the things I like best about carbon steel blades is that they hold an edge for the longest time, and when they do dull they are easy to bring back to scary sharp in a couple of minutes. The overall length of the Recon Scout is 12 1/2 inches, and it weighs a hefty 15 ounces. The blade thickness is 5/16-inches. Read that again; it is more than a quarter of an inch thick. The handle material is Long Kray-Ex, and I'm not sure what it is exactly, other than it feels like rubber, hard rubber. It has cross checkers for a good hold, and there is a lanyard hold in the butt of the handle. The sheath is made out of Secure-Ex, and it is a polymer material.

I've tested a lot of Cold Steel fixed blade knives, as well as folding knives over the years, and I believe that the Recon Scout is my favorite of the lot for camping, hunting, military use, and survival use. If you can break this knife, you should join the U.S. Marine Corps. They can break just about anything. I've tried to do some serious damage to the Recon Scout, all to no avail.

First off, the Recon Scout came as sharp as sharp can be. I would have been disappointed if it wasn't up to my expectations. Then again, I've said it many times, I honestly believe that Cold Steel set the gold standard when it comes to sharp factory knives. I could take a piece of copy paper and slice off a piece from the top of the paper that was ever so thin. Try that with another knife that is 5/16th of an inch thick. It can't be done.

This knife was made for chopping, too. It has just the right blade length and amount of heft to it to enable you to really chop. I have a lot of timber on my small homestead, so I never lack for a tree or branch to chop on. The Recon Scout is like a hatchet, when it comes to chopping. I also took some free-hanging poly rope, which is tough to cut because it is so slick. I could easily cut right through it, with one swing of the blade. Try that with many other fixed blades knives.

One test I don't normally do with many knives is trying to break off the blade's tip. It's easier done that you think. How many times have you taken your pocket knife and used it for prying on something,only to have the tip snap right off? Yeah, that's what I thought. I pounded the Recon Scout's blade into a tree, about half an inch or maybe a little deeper with a hammer, and I "snapped" the knife out sideways numerous times trying to break the tip of the blade off. It didn't happen! It won't happen, either!

I took an old used car tire with steel belts and went to work on it with the Recon Scout. It easily cut through the rubber and the steel belts. Try that with many other knives and see what happens. I chopped on 2X4 wood, cut through cardboard boxes, and even used the knife in the kitchen a few times. It came through with flying colors. I threw the knife at a big pine tree, trying to make it stick. It never did. I did manage to finally scuff the black coating on the blade but just a little bit. I also did some digging in my yard, and we have a lot of rocks in our soil. I finally, at long last, managed to dull the blade. A few minutes on the croc stix had the blade scary-sharp all over again.

The Recon Scout used to come with a Nylon-type sheath, and while it was ok, I always wanted something more. Current knives come with the Secure-Ex sheath, and it is really a dandy one. You don't have to worry about the sheath getting wet, staying wet, and causing the knife to rust. Nor do you have to worry about the tip of the knife poking through the sheath, if you're not careful putting it back into the sheath.

The Recon Scout retails for $199.99, but you can sometimes find it discounted a bit, if you check around. Yeah, it's not cheap, but quality never comes cheap. Now, for the bad news. If you go out and get a Recon Scout for your survival purposes or camping/hunting use, it might just be the last fixed blade knife you'll ever need. I can't recommend this knife highly enough. It is impressive and will handle many jobs that lesser fixed blade knives can't handle. So, be advised, this might be the last fixed blade knife you will ever buy.


Monday, April 7, 2014


I often get asked, "Why would you want to carry a gun?" My answer is usually a little different from other people's. For me, it comes down to the experiences I had when I was younger. I grew up in Southern California. As a white kid, I was the minority at my elementary school. Maybe I was too young or just didn't pay attention to the news, but I wasn't concerned with my safety too much. There was a drive-by on my grandma's street, and a stray bullet hit her house. Luckily no one was harmed, and having a gun wouldn't have made much difference in that situation. Besides that, there was the occasional robbery in our apartment complex. It's a scary situation when someone runs by your door with a gun and T.V. when you are only 4 years old.

We found out my grandpa had terminal cancer and was given one year to live. So to get him and the rest of my family out of the bad living situation, my family decided to move to Salt Lake City, Utah. We had driven through there many times and heard such good things about the city. Again, it might be that I am older or the media exaggerates bad situations, but I still have not felt safe here. It seems like there are more drug and shooting related issues here than there were where I lived in California.

The one specific situation that led me to feel the need to conceal carry happened when I was 14. My friend and I went on a double date to the Fun Dome close by a TRAX station. (TRAX is a trolley system out here.) We left around 9pm and started the two block walk to the station. About halfway there, a gentleman across the street started yelling at us. It sounded like he was trying to scare us, so being the stupid teens we were, we started yelling back. He then started threatening us with physical danger, and we could tell he was intoxicated. Being the oldest of the group, I told everyone to keep walking, and I stayed at the back of the group to make sure he didn't follow us. Unfortunately, we had somehow offended this guy, and he started walking across the street. While he was walking, he pulled something shiny out from behind his jacket. He threatened me specifically to stop or he would hurt me. I couldn't make out what the object was in the dim light, until he got about ten feet away from me. At that point I saw that it was a large stainless steel revolver. He had a hard time standing straight, let alone holding the gun straight, which made me even more worried that he would do something reckless. I spoke with him for about 15 minutes apologizing and begging him not to shoot me. He was finally satisfied and turned around to go back to the other guy he was with. I caught up with my friends to find that my friend had wet his pants and the girls had tried to call 911, only to get hung up on because the operators didn't believe them. We called my mom, and she picked us up and took everyone home.

We were not under the influence of anything. We were not aggressive or anything, just some kids walking to the TRAX station after a night of fun. My friends tried to do the right thing and call the police for help, yet were ignored. Fortunately, everyone was okay, but no one helped us. That was when I decided that I don't want to rely on someone else to protect me. I need to protect myself and the ones I love. Years and years later, I think back to that incident and how differently it would be if it happened now. I would now have a way to protect myself and those I care about. I would now not have to chance something bad happening or begging for my life. I could choose to fight for my life. Even though I think about that situation a lot, I hope I never have a situation like that again. Just because I carry does not mean I want to ever have to use it. It does not mean I am asking for trouble. It is strictly a tool I will use to protect myself and those around me from harm. It is a tool that I know inside out and I practice with frequently. I share my experience with others when they ask and thought that your blog would be a great place to share it with many more. I feel that if more people share their reasons for carrying, those that do not will understand and not judge.

Thank you for reading.



The nice folks at Infidel Body Armor are always coming out with new products— products that can save your life, too. I happen to have a little bit of insight of the behind-the-scenes, and I know where their roots came from. They have continued to grow and grow.

Back when I was in 5th or 6th grade, I remember the very first pepper spray that came out. I had an uncle who was with the Chicago Police Department, and he was selling pepper spray on the side. I also remember getting in on the business, even at that young age. I sold pepper spray to the neighbors, as well as the teaching staff at my school. If I recall, a small can of pepper spray sold for 50 cents. Needless to say, in very short order, the City Of Chicago outlawed pepper spray. so, once again, the good citizens of Chicago were not allowed to defend themselves against attackers.

I remember, as a young boy, testing the pepper spray on myself. It burned my eyes, and it felt like my face was on fire. Hey, I never said I was the smartest kid on the block, but as young as I was, I didn't quite understand how something that sprayed out of a can could stop an attacker. So, I tested it on myself, once and only once. The stuff worked!

Over the years, many different types of pepper sprays have come and gone. Remember "Mace"? It was the do all, end all, self-defense spray. I happen to know that the late Col. Rex Applegate, who I worked for over the course of 3-years, was instrumental in the development of Mace. He gave it all away to Smith & Wesson firearms. Well, needless to say, Mace didn't always work, Sometimes, if a person were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the spray didn't effect them in the least. Different formulas have come and gone, and there still is no sure method for stopping everyone with any kind of a self-defense spray. However, it works on most people, so keep that in mind.

One of the drawbacks to pepper sprays is the fact that it is a "spray" and can be affected by the wind, and it could spray back in your own face. They came out with pepper "spray" that dispensed in more of a stream than spray that was much better in the wind. Another thing people don't realize is that any type of self-defense spray has a shelf-life. Most only live a couple of years before it starts to lose potency. You should discard it and buy a new can. This is something to think about.

Now we come to the use of lethal force. Not all attacks directed against you call for the use of lethal force. If you use lethal force, where a lot lesser force would have stopped the attack, you could be brought up on criminal charges. You might even go to prison for the rest of your life. So, don't be so fast to draw your gun, when threatened.

Infidel Body Armor is selling their Pepper GEL device. It's a bit different than anything else on the market. It is designed, first and foremost, to be used by law enforcement. The Infidel Body Armor Pepper GEL device attaches to the Picatinny rail on a shotgun, AR-15, or other similar long guns. It only takes a few minutes to attach this device to the Picatinny rail. What we have is a canister of the pepper GEL (not a spray), and you insert it into the carrier that fits on your Picatinny rail. You seal up the canister in the carrier and place the device on "safe". Now, you are ready to go.

Now, let's suppose you are a police officer, and you are called to the site of a domestic disturbance, where the husband is the aggressor. Your efforts to talk him down have failed, and he comes at you, bare handed or perhaps with an empty beer bottle in his hand. Are you justified in using deadly force? Maybe or maybe not! Now, if you have your police issued shotgun, with the Infidel Body Armor pepper GEL device loaded on the Picatinny rail, you simply have to push the button from "safe" to "fire" and pull back on the carrier. The gel will spray into the face of the attacker. Should you need deadly force, you don't have to change your hand position on your shotgun or AR-15 in order to fire the weapon.

I received the Infidel Body Armor pepper GEL discharge device, along with an inert training canister, so I could see how well it worked, without having to actually deploy it against someone, or for that matter, to just shoot it out of the device. I could easily hit my intended target with the inert gel at 15-20 feet, and I'm assuming that the pepper gel will spray that far, too.

So, let's stop and think about this for a moment, you have an AR-15 type of firearm for your house gun. When you hear something go "bump" or "bang" in the night, you reach for your trusty AR, knowing you can stop any attacker. However, let's say what you heard was your drunken neighbor, who had broken in your front door, thinking he was at his own house. He's now in your living room. Are you justified, in your own mind, firing live ammo at a harmless drunk? I don't think so. If you have the Infidel Body Armor pepper gel device mounted on your AR, and your neighbor won't leave, and you feel threatened, you can just "shoot" him with the pepper gel device.

I can easily think of a lot of different scenarios where lethal force may not be justified, and you would wish that you had something other than your firearm in your hand. Well, with the pepper gel device mounted on your AR-15, you have two choice– the gel or, if necessary, the firearm as a last resort. While I believe this device was probably designed for law enforcement, security, and even the military, it's a good thing to have on-hand in your own home. Just because something goes "bump" in the night, doesn't mean you have to resort to deadly force. Think about it.

Right now, Infidel Body Armor has their pepper gel device on-sale for $94.99. Refill pepper gel canisters are $29.99 each. I didn't see anything on their website about the inert training canister, but you can ask. I'm sure they have them for sale, as an accessory. If you have an AR that is your "house gun" with Picatinny rails, then I would strongly suggest you purchase this pepper gel device and mount it on your AR. Needless to say, any police department would greatly benefit from this device, if you issue an AR-15 to your officers. It could save lives and stop lawsuits, too, When there is no need to use lethal force, when lesser force is called for in effecting an arrest, you have this option. Also, you don't have to worry about holding a pepper spray canister in one hand and your firearm in the other. With this device, you have it all on your firearm and ready to go. In a split second, you can choose to use less lethal force or you can use deadly force.



Zero Tolerance knives Model 0560BW is the latest in the line up, at their plant in Wilsonville, OR from the mind of custom knife maker Rick Hinderer. I've reviewed several other Hinderer designed folders, all along the same line as this current folder under review for SurvivalBlog readers. Rick Hinderer is probably best known for the "Hinderer Lockbar Stabilizer" that is incorporated into the Titanium frame-lock style on his folding knives, which others are starting to copy (with or without license from Hinderer). What we have with the lockbar stabilizer is a simple two-piece special bolt/screw (for lack of a better term) that only allows the locking side of the frame lock to open to a certain point and no further. I've seen many frame-lock style locks that weren't properly heat-treated or the bend wasn't quite right, so the end user could over-extend the frame lock and ruin it. This is especially true with many of the cheap knock-offs from China. With the Hinderer lockbar stabilizer, you can NOT over-extend the locking bar on a folding knife.

One of the first things you will notice on the 0560BW is that the blade looks, for all the world, as being very well used. It is NOT! Zero Tolerance has blackened the blade, with Tungsten DLC Black Wash, and then given it a special "wash" or tumble, so the blade looks used. It's still very tactical looking, but it looks well used. This is the first comment many people said to me when I showed them the 0560BW. The Titanium locking frame has the same treatment, too. The knife still has a non-reflective look to it, but it just looks used. On the opposite side handle, we have a stainless steel liner with a checkered black G10 handle scale covering it. There is also an oblong-shaped lanyard hole, but no lanyard is included. The entire frame is an open-post design and allows lint and dirt to slip through instead of building-up inside the frame.

For those who aren't aware, Zero Tolerance Knives is a division of Kershaw Knives, and the ZT line-up is made-up of tactical knives and other tools for professional use. The ZT folders are a huge favorite of our men and women in the military, as well as those in law enforcement. ZT knives are built to withstand the harshest use you can put them through and come back for more. If you want a simple "Gentleman's" folder, this isn't the knife for you. Take a look at the Kershaw line-up for that type of folder. ZT knives are meant for very rough use, plain and simple.

The 3.75-inch long blade on the 0560BW is made out of ELMAX, one of the new powdered stainless steels, and it is super-tough, to be sure. ELMAX retains a sharp edge a good long time and is tough enough for all your needs. I believe that this line of folders is sincerely designed and manufactured for self-defense use, as well as limited survival use. Keep in mind that this is a folding knife and not a fixed blade knife, so it can't take all the abuse that a fixed blade can. If you need a fixed blade folder, then check out some of ZT line-up for your needs.

The blade has ambidextrous thumb studs for easy opening. However, for even faster and easier opening, I prefer to use the "Flipper" on the blade. When the knife is closed, part of the blade protrudes from the blade. It's actually on the top of the handle scales, when the knife blade is closed. You simply press on the Flipper with your index finger, and the blades comes right out of the handle scales. This is aided by the KVT ball-bearing opening system– a very smooth opening. Yet the blade is retained in the handle scales until you purposely open it. The blade's opening is smooth as butter, maybe smoother, I kid you not.

On the Titanium frame-lock, there are "pockets" machined into it to actually lighten the entire knife, for easier carry. For carrying in your pocket, there is a pocket clip, and it is a quad-mounted design. You can carry the 0560BW tip up or tip down in your right of left pocket. It only takes a few minutes to move the clip to your desired position. My sample came set-up for right pocket carry, with the tip up. I saw no need to change it.

When closed, the length of the knife is 5-inches; opened, it is 8.8-inches. It weighs in at 5.8-ounces– not too heavy and not too light. The knife balances extremely well and is slightly handle-heavy. There are also friction grooves on the top front of the handle. These are deeply cut grooves as well as grooves cut into the bottom back of the handle and on the locking liner– all placed exactly where they need to be. The knife can easily be used in the fencing grip or the reverse (ice pick) grip, for self-defense use. The ice pick grip has a lot of limitations for use in self-defense, whereas, the fencing grip is probably the most used grip and one taught to me by my late mentor, Col. Rex Applegate, who is known throughout the world for his knife and gun fighting skills.

I also like the fact that when the 0560BW is opened, the "Flipper" then acts a lower guard, so your fingers can't slip up onto the blade in the fencing position. Many folding knives do not have any sort of "stop" on them, and if you encounter something a bit tough, when "stabbing," your fingers could easily slide forward onto the blade and cut you deeply, very deeply.

I have one minor complaint, which is a first for Zero Tolerance. While the ELMAX powdered stainless steel blade was plenty sharp, it wasn't "scary sharp", like ever other knife I've tested from ZT. There was nothing "wrong" with the edge, but I wanted it a little sharper. Every ZT knife I've tested before came scary sharp. It only took about 30 seconds on the croc stix to get the edge where I wanted it to be though. Perhaps I'm just getting too picky in my old age, but I like all my knives scary sharp.

The 0560BW was used all over my homestead for several days– in the kitchen and outside for various cutting chores. The blade remained sharp...very sharp. Still, I wanted to touch-up the edge, and it only took me a minute or two to bring the edge back to scary sharp. I claim no special skills when it comes to sharpening knives, either. So, it was nice to get the edge back where I wanted it to be.

Now, if the 0560BW isn't quite what you're looking for, then take a close look at the other Hinderer folders on the ZT website, and I'm betting you'll find one to suit your needs. This is just one in a line-up of similar Hinderer folders from ZT.

The Hinderer ZT 0560BW doesn't come cheap. Then again, QUALITY knives never do. I refuse to settle for second best when it comes to knives. The 0560BW retails for $325.00. Yep, that's a lot of change. However, to get a similar, custom made folder from Rick Hinderer, you will easily pay twice that much. I know some SurvivalBlog readers complain about some of the knives I write about with regard to the prices. Well, if you want to buy a ten dollar knife for your survival, whether for the wilderness or on the streets, then please do so. However, if you want the best you can get for your survival needs, then take a close look at the ZT 0560BW. Is it worth the money? It sure is, in my book. Plus, you have the lifetime warranty from Zero Tolerance, too. They stand behind their products. When a knife is returned for warranty work, it is quickly repaired or replaced and shipped right back to you, too. I've toured the Kershaw plant several times over the years, and I'm here to tell you, that all their employees take great pride in producing the best knives they can, period, end of story!!!


Monday, March 31, 2014


The DIVVY 250 emergency water filtration station, designed in conjunction with Clearly Filtered and www.aquamira.com and manufactured in Logan, Utah, is one of the best water purification/filtration systems to come along for large group use in a long, long time. As SurvivalBlog readers know, from my previous articles on safe drinking water, my family and I are obsessed with having different methods available to provide us with affordable and safe drinking water, on a daily basis or in an emergency.

You can have all the guns, ammo, and food stored away for a SHTF scenario that you can afford. However, without a source of safe drinking water, you will die in a very short time. I know quite a few folks who are Preppers; for many, their main objective is to have a lot of guns and ammo, some food, and perhaps a little bit of bottled drinking water. They never once stopping to think that the bottled water will run out in short order, nor do they even consider that bottled water has an expiration date. Some bottled water expires in as little as six months. Plus, bottled water is expensive, to be sure!

I've seen gun owners, without giving it a thought, drop hundreds of dollars (sometimes thousands of dollars) on ammo, without blinking an eye. However, these same gun owners question investing in a simple water purification bottle that might cost as little as $25.00 - $30.00. When they are presented with a more expensive water filtering system that might set them back a couple of hundred bucks, they'll head for the hills before they'll open their wallets to buy one. Quite frankly, I just don't understand this mentality. You WILL die inside of a few days without a source of clean and safe drinking water. I can't state it differently. Still, there are people (some that I know personally), who just won't let that sink in for some reason.

A close look at the DIVVY 250 is in order. This is a joint project between Clearly Filtered and Aquamira– two of the best names in water filtering/purification products. I've tested many of their products and found them to be just as advertised. The DIVVY 250 will produce 2,500 gallons of safe drinking water per day, but you need to obtain your water from a fresh water source, not from a septic tank, so let's be clear on this. A pond, fresh water lake, stream, or other similar water supply is where you need to get your water from prior to treating it. What is sweet about the DIVVY 250 is that it requires NO electricity to operate, making it ideal for where (a Third World Country) or when (TEOTWAWKI) you have no electricity. Using it, you can filter up to 250 gallons of safe drinking water every hour. However, with added water holding containers, you can pump as much as 6,000 gallons of water per day.

The DIVVY 250 removes water-borne bacteria, particulates, Protozoa, Crypto, Giardia, E. Coli, Cholera, and Salmonella, plus bad tastes and odors, too. It meets EPA requirements for biological water purification, as well. The entire unit weighs about 177 pounds and can even be air-dropped into rural areas, for immediate use. Its setup takes about 20 minutes, and inside of 90 minutes you can be pumping safe drinking water. The process involves setting up the soft water storage container, connecting the pump and water lines, assembling the filter support and distribution pod, adding the pre-dosed calcium chloride, and waiting a short time. Then, you can start pumping safe drinking water from the four hose attachments, so that multiple people can fill their water containers simultaneously. The entire unit can be assembled by one person, too. I've seen the DIVVY 250 in operation, and it really is that simple to get it up and running.

Aquamira has a proven chlorine disinfection technology that is even used by the U.S. military, and their system works, and it works well. So, if the U.S. military has so much faith in the Aquarmira chlorine disinfection system, then I know it works.

The DIVVY 250 is designed for use by large groups of people, like a church group, a like-minded prepper group, small towns, and many other groups. Of course, the DIVVY 250 isn't designed for use by a large city. Remember, you can pump and purify up to 2,500 gallons of water per day, and with added storage containers you can pump up to 6,000 gallons of purified water each day. Clearly, this won't fill the needs of large cities with tens of thousands of people or millions of people. However, for small towns or large groups of people, this system will easily provide more than enough safe drinking water in an emergency.

I can see the DIVVY 250 being used in rural areas or in Third World countries, where there is no safe source of drinking water to start with. This system is being used at a rural Honduras clinic and the number of cases of residents suffering from water-borne diseases has all but disappeared, so long as the residents obtain their drinking water from the DIVVY 250. In earthquake ravaged areas, where the municipal water supply has been broken, the DIVVY 250 can be air dropped, and residents can pump safe drinking water from nearby streams, lakes, or even swimming pools. Multiple units can be used to service even larger groups, too.

The good news is that Clearly Filtered and Aquamira have the DIVVY in-stock and ready to ship just about any place in the world inside of a few days. Now, this type of system doesn't come cheap, as you can imagine. Full-retail for the DIVVY 250 is $9,995.00. Yes, you read that right; it's almost ten grand. However, when you stop to think about the life-saving qualities of such a unit, it really isn't all that expensive. If you have a church group, the congregation could all pitch in and get one. Not only could they save the lives of church members, they could help the community in general, keeping in mind the gallons of water each unit can put out each day. A rural fire department could have a DIVVY 250 on-hand, so that when a natural disaster strikes they can set the unit up and provide survivors with safe drinking water. As mentioned before, a survival group or prepper group could combine their money to purchase a unit. The possibilities are there, if you'll stop and think about the usefulness of such a water filtering system.

If I were in better financial circumstances, I would without a doubt purchase a DIVVY 250 for my family to have and then never have to worry about having a safe source of drinking water again. Sadly, we can't afford such a unit. However, we do have other water filtration products from Clearly Filtered and Aquamira that we use daily for our safe drinking water.

I'm sure many SurvivalBlog readers have different types of water filtering/purification systems on hand. Most units are designed for use by one person or a couple of people and can only provide a limited, often very limited, amount of safe drinking water each day. What if there is a major disaster and you have extended family that comes to you for help? Sure, you might have extra food for them, but do you have a source of safe drinking water that you can provide them? There are a lot of things to consider BEFORE a major disaster strikes, and most people just don't give any thought to having a source of safe drinking water. Look, a trunk load of bottled water will only last you a few days for your family. Then what? If you have a fresh water source, such as a stream, creek, or lake nearby, you can have all the safe drinking water you'll need, if you have the DIVVY 250. It would be a great blessing to you, your extended family, neighbors, and your small community to have a way of providing them with fresh and safe drinking water during a disaster.

For more information, be sure to check out the Aquamira and Clearly Filtered websites. If you have the means of purchasing one, do so, before a disaster! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



The Blackhawk Products MOD SFK folding knife has a very "tactical" look to it. It appears, at first glance, to be a double-edge folding knife, but the top edge isn't sharpened. Made in Italy from N690Co stainless steel, it's quite the folder for backup to your main self-defense weapon. I understand that this is a very popular folder with law enforcement and military personnel. I've reviewed several knives over the years that were manufactured out of N690Co stainless steel, and I don't know exactly the chemical formula for this steel, but it holds an edge a long, long time and is easy to re-sharpen, too.

The Blackhawk website gives credit where credit is due, and it states that the design of this knife was inspired by the late Col. Rex Applege, who I worked under for several years. The good Colonel taught me to ALWAYS give credit where credit is due, especially in your writings. So, it was nice to see Blackhawk say the design is somewhat inspired by Applegate.

With a blade length of 3.94 inches long, it fits right in my own personal preference for a self-defense folding knife. I like a folder with a blade 3.50 inches to 4.0 inches in length. These just seems to balance better in my hand when a blade is this length. The overall length of the MOD SFK with the blade open is 9.06 inches. The blade's edge is plain (not serrated), and serrations are not offered as an option either. The blade is black color coated in BlackIDroglider. I have no idea what this material is, but it has a slick, almost Teflon, feel to it.

Textured G10 black handle scales that are very thin complement the MOD SFK, along with a pocket clip, stainless steel liners, and an ambidextrous pocket clip for easy opening. The blade locks-up via liner-lock. The blade can be opened using the thumb stud or using the cross guard! Yes, this folder has a minimal cross guard at the base of the blade to help protect your hand and fingers from sliding forward on the blade. With practice, the blade can be started open, by pressing on the cross guard with your index finger and at the same time giving it a little "flick" with your wrist; the blade locks open solidly!

The MOD SFK also has a nice lanyard hole in the butt of the handle scales. Many people don't realize a lanyard hole is there for a reason. When working over water with your knife, you don't want to drop it and have it sink to the bottom of the ocean, lake, or river. By placing a piece of 550 Paracord in the lanyard hole, tying it off, and then wrapping it around your wrist, should you lose control of the knife, it will still be attached to your wrist.

Some knife makers call this "jimping"; I simply call it "friction grooves" on the handle of a knife. These are areas on the handle that are cut or milled in just the right areas for thumb placement or finger placement, and these friction grooves give your hand and fingers a little something more to bite into, giving you a very firm hold on the knife. The MOD SFK has friction grooves in all the right places, in my humble opinion.

The N690Co blade has a Rockwell hardness of 58-60, and it gives the blade's edge just the right hardness to hold that razor-sharp edge for a long time, yet the knife is fairly easy to re-sharpen once it gets dull. It took me forever to get the blade halfway dull. It arrived over the Christmas holidays. The knife got a good work out in the kitchen, and it didn't dull in the least. I resorted to taking the knife outside on several trips at my small homestead to do some chopping. This knife isn't meant to be a "chopper"; it's a folder and not big enough for chopping chores. However, as is my wont, I test knife blades for sharpness against tough blackberry vines. It easily cut them in half with one single swipe of the blade.

One sure way to dull a knife is to cut cardboard. The fibers in cardboard tend to really dull a knife's edge. I also stabbed the blade into stacked cardboard and could easily stab it up to the cross guard hilt. Now, as much as I hate this part of my testing, I threw the knife at some trees to see if it would stick; it never could do it. This knife took a beating. There were some scratches on the blade's coating and the handle scales, but the knife stayed together. Sometimes, a liner-lock will "give" with constant throwing against any object, but the MOD SFK never gave a hint of loosening the liner lock.

There are some states and locales that do not allow a double-edge knife of any kind. So, take note of what I'm about to tell you. With a little skill and time, you can place a cutting edge on the top of the MOD SFK blade. Or, if you know a custom knife maker in your area, they could do the job in a minute or two on their belt grinder, and you would have a true double-edge folding knife. The blade completely goes into the handle, so no fears of it cutting you when the knife is closed and in your pocket. However, if a double-edge knife is illegal in your area, don't do it! I believe the idea behind a true double-edge knife is for ease of stabbing into a body. The MOD SFK has a thin enough profile on the top of the blade, that you really don't need to sharpen it. It penetrated to the cross guards when stabbed into stacked cardboard.

Coming from Blackhawk Products, the MOD SFK seems to cry out "tactical" in my mind. Like just about everything Blackhawk manufactures, I like it. Plus, the pocket clip allows the knife to ride low when clipped inside your pocket, unlike some folders that stick up way too high. A person wouldn't pay much attention to the fact that you're carrying a folding knife, without a close look and knowing what that clip is attached to.

The MOD SFK retails for $199.99, and they seem to be in short supply most of the time. If you have some extra money to spend, you can get their limited edition MOD SFK for $519.99. It has a Damascus stainless steel blade and fancy wooden handle scales. However, for your self-defense needs, the plain model will suffice just fine. So, if you're in the market for a new folding knife that really appears "tactical", take a close look at the Blackhawk Products MOD SFK folder. It might be just want you're in the market for. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


This is a review of the most amazing product I have purchased. It is called the Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker. It is truly amazing. I wanted another form of cooking with very little energy usage. I have in my provisions a solar oven that is fantastic in the summer. I also have butane cook stoves and I have ways to cook by fire and a wonder oven, but I needed a winter time way to cook.

I found this product by chance. It comes in three sizes with many different cook pots and accessories.The one I chose was the medium. The inner pot, which comes with it, holds about a gallon measurement, and I chose to buy a smaller pot, which holds over a quart of liquid, as well as a trivet. My investment was a bit over a hundred dollars. When it arrived, I set it up on my counter and found it took very little room and went right under my cabinet.

My first cooking session was Bear Creek Potato Soup. I followed directions on the package and added the required amount of water, which was eight cups. This was added to the large pot. I put this on my stove and brought the pot of water and soup mix to a rolling boil which took about eight minutes. Then I took it off the stove and put on the top. I walked it over to the thermal cooker, opened the lid, inserted the pot, and then closed it. After three hours I opened my pot and raised the lid. I found thick soup base and tender dehydrated potatoes; it was very hot.

The next meal was cornbread that I mixed from scratch. I sprayed the smaller pot with Pam and added cornbread batter. Then I put the lid on. Meanwhile I brought a pot of water to boil in the larger pot. I put the large pot inside the thermal cooker, put the smaller pot with lid on top of water, and closed cover. After a few hours, I opened it and found baked cornbread– not brown cornbread, like from an oven but firm to the touch. It tasted just like I had done it in my oven.

My most impressive thing to cook in it was rice. As a southerner, rice is a staple. I use only Zatarain's rice. On my stove or rice cooker, it comes out fine except you have to fluff it up. I put my large pot of water on to boil, while the small pot holds the water and rice. (It takes more water, like four cups of water to 1 1/2 cups of rice.) Then I put the large pot in, then the smaller pot with lid on top, and then closed it all up. After a couple of hours I opened it, and my rice grains did not need to be fluffed. All I had to do was shake the pot, and it was fluffed. The rice grain size was doubled from the dried stage.

I truly love this idea and wanted to pass this on. It uses a fraction of fuel, which saves money and fuel, which was my goal. - P.N.


Monday, March 24, 2014


I must say that, in all my years of testing products, the Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker has been one of my most challenging products to test. Made in the U.S., in Bountiful, Utah, this cooker proved a handful. No, not the product itself, rather the weather in my part of Oregon. For the better part of almost a month, we had very heavy, low-hanging fog. It's been totally frustrating, to say the least!

Anyone who is a prepper, survivalist, camper, or hunter, should understand the “Rule Of Three”, and that is you should always have three ways of accomplishing a task. It's sort of a back-up plan, with a secondary back-up plan, should plan one or plan two fail you. When it comes to cooking, we have several methods available to us at our homestead. We have our electric cook stove in the kitchen. We also have a propane camp stove that is used a lot when the power goes out. We have a BBQ grill that also has a propane burner on it. We also have a solar oven, and we have several "rocket-type" stoves as well. So, we have a lot of bases covered.

We had more than two solid weeks of heavy fog with no sunshine at all. So, it was impossible to test the Solar Flare Parabolic Cooker during this time. This is an example of why you need back-up plans for your preparedness items. You can't always count on perfect weather or fuel supplies. I even took the Solar Flare up on a mountain near my home, hoping the fog wouldn't be up that high. Wrong! On several occasions, the sun did break through late in the day. However, it wasn't out long enough to get anything cooked in the Solar Flare. No sooner would I get everything set-up, which only takes a few minutes, the sun would disappear behind some heavy clouds or more fog would roll in. It was totally frustrating, to say the least.

A close look at the Solar Flare is in order, and it is one of those "why didn't I think of that" inventions. First, we have the cooking vessel, which is a large Mason canning jar that has a special coating that helps it retain the heat, so the food cooks inside the jar. The temperature inside the jar can reach 350-400 degrees inside of a few minutes. With the special black colored coating, unlike other solar cookers, there are no hot or cold spots inside the jar, and you don't have to stir your food as it cooks. In most cases, your food will cook in about 45 minutes to an hour. The cooking jar works similar to a pressure cooker.

We also have the reflector, which catches the sun's rays. Unlike some solar ovens, this flexible reflector allows the sun's rays to fully circle the Mason jar– 360 degrees. I'm not sure what material the solar reflector is made out of, but it is familiar to me, and there isn't any information on the Solar Flare website as to what this material is. You can roll it up and place a rubber band around it, and place it in your backpack for easy transport. Just don't fold it or wrinkle it, or you'll lose a lot of the “reflectivity” of the reflector, so be advised!

You also get a plastic bucket with a lid on it to transport the special Mason jar. There is also a cooking bag, similar to what you might find at your local grocery store, that you can place the cooking vessel in on winter days; this helps retain the heat and cook your meal faster. I examined the plastic bag, and it looks for all the world like the bag my wife uses to cook our Thanksgiving turkey in. It helps retain the heat and moisture of the turkey, and it helps to cook it faster.

Here is how the Solar Flare set-up works. You take the reflector and put it together using the easy-to-use fasteners, so you have a parabolic shape to the reflector. You then place the cooking vessel (Mason jar) on top of the plastic bucket, with the lid on the bucket, and place the parabolic reflector around the cooking vessel. On colder days and in the winter, you should place the cooking vessel inside of the plastic cooking bag to help retain the heat and promote faster cooking. You also get two plastic "riser" cups, if you feel the need to raise the cooking vessel a little higher. It depends on the weather and the angle of the sun whether you need the riser cups or not. Experiment! You need to adjust the parabolic reflector so that it is catching the sun's rays.

Okay, that's it! There isn't anything complicated about setting up the Solar Flare cooker. It really is "that" simple. The only problem I encountered, once we finally got around to actually being able to do some cooking with this product, was wind! A few times the reflector blew off the cooking jar. I did some checking on the Internet and have found numerous people who have used the Solar Flare cooker, and everyone loved it and said it was the best-of-the-best, in regards to this type of set-up. I can't find much to fault. The thing works and works as advertised, so long as you have access to a solid hour or more of sunshine, and one of the best things is, you can't overcook your meal.

I did find that it is best to let the cooking vessel cool down a bit before handling it; it gets VERY hot. You don't have to put the lid on tight; just finger tight, in order for it to work as a pressure cooker. You can also use it to pasteurize water, too. Another thing worth noting is that, if you are on the run, you sure don't want to make a campfire and have smoke giving away your position. On the other hand, you want to make sure that the solar reflector doesn't give away your position either, with the sun reflecting off your cooker and giving the bad guys your exact location. However, with a little experimentation, you can safely hide the reflector with a little bit of camo, yet still allow it to cook your meal.

I'd like to see the Solar Flare come with two of the specially-coated Mason jars. Once one is filled and the food inside is cooked, you could place the second one inside the Solar Flare for a second person's meal to start cooking. As an aside, I'd like to see Solar Zenith include some kind of carrier for the reflector, so after you roll it up, you can place it inside of the carrier and not worry about it getting bent or crinkled. A mailing tube that you could get at any post office of office supply store would work. Still, I think it would be a dandy item to include in the kit as it comes from the factory. That's just my two-cents worth.

A single Solar Flare cooker sells for $69.99, and you can get two of them for $99.99. To be sure, they are a lot of fun to cook with, and they work as advertised, when you have some sunshine for more than an hour or so. I was totally frustrated with the lack of sunshine we had in our area, but I was determined that this product would work. Once the sun came out, at long last, I put it to the test and cooked several meals over several days. A person can cook a couple days worth of meals at one time, if they had more than one cooking vessel. You can purchase additional accessories from the company, so be sure to check out their website for more information.

Once again, this product proved that you really need to follow the “Rule Of Three”and have three different ways to accomplish any task, including cooking. Remember, no single method of doing anything is something you want to depend on. If you want to start a campfire, you should have matches, a flint and steel, a butane lighter, et cetera. Don't just depend on the matches, and don't depend on just one method of cooking. Explore other avenues, and the Solar Flare is one great method for flameless cooking in an emergency or even just cooking out in the great outdoors, as an alternate way of doing your cooking. It's a worthwhile investment to your emergency preps. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



Buck Knives, www.buckknives.com , has been around for about 100 years, depending on who you talk to. Their most popular folding knife is still their Model 110 lock-back folding knife that is made in their plant in Post Falls, Idaho. Many people say that imitation is the sincerest form or flattery. If that's the case, then the Buck Model 110 lock-back folding knife is probably one of the most copied folding knives in the world, if not "the" most copied folding lock-back knife.

The Model 110 is now celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, and every model will have "50" stamped on the tang of the blade, as well as a medallion in the handle. The sample I received must be one that slipped through because it doesn't have the medallion in the handle. It is only stamped "50" on the blade. Perhaps I have a one-of-a-kind; we shall see.

For as long as I can remember, and even today when someone sees a large, lock-back folding knife, they often call it a "Buck", regardless of who made it. However, let's be clear on this, there is only one Buck Model 110. Everyone else is copying the design. Some make minor changes so as to not infringe on the design. Others simply outright copy the design made famous by Buck. To be sure, they are all copies or clones– some well-made and some junk, with the pure junk being made overseas and imported into the U.S. There is only one Buck Model 110, and it's the real deal!

The blade on the Buck Model 110 is 3 3/4 inches long, but it seems longer, for some reason. The material is 420HC (High Carbon) stainless steel. There is one thing Buck is famous for, and that is that their knives are made out of 420HC and known to hold an edge on the blade for an extremely long time. Therein lies the one minor complaint. The steel is very hard to re-sharpen. For those who aren't aware, Buck changed their edge geometry a few years back, and now all their knives are much easier to re-sharpen. Before this change, it took a real knack with a sharpening stone to get a dulled Buck knife's edge back to “hair-popping” sharp– the way it came from the factory. So, if you haven't purchased a Buck Knife lately because they were hard to re-sharpen, fear not; the task is much easier, thanks to the new edge geometry Buck is putting on all their knives.

The 110 has Macassar ebony Dymondwood handle scales, and this is very dense material– almost indestructible, to be sure. Plus, it is a very attractive deep brown color. Brass bolsters are on either end of the handle, and they are real brass (not brass coated or colored aluminum or steel, like many of the fake 110s have). For all you tactical knife fans, you'll be sad to know that the 110 does not have thumb studs for rapid opening. It has the old fashion nail nick, so you need two hands to open the blade. As already mentioned, it is a lock-back design with the lock midway down the spine of the handle, and the blade locks-up extremely tight. A black leather belt sheath is included with each 110, too.

Here's a bit of trivia, and many of you Vietnam Vets will already know this. The Buck Model 110 was the most popular folding knife carried by our troops in Vietnam, and all the base PX outlets sold the 110. If memory serves me correctly, the Buck Model 119 Special was probably the most popular privately-purchased fixed blade knife bought by our troops in the later years of the Vietnam War, too. Buck Knives has a long history with our fighting men and women in the military.

I have an older (not real old, though) Buck Model 110, and I carry it every now and then. Comparing it to the new 50th anniversary edition, side-by-side, I can see the different edge geometry because I know what I'm looking for. Aside from the "50" stamped on the blade's tang, there is no discernible difference between the older model 110 and the new 110.

A very wise sage, at a major knife company, once told me that a really good knife design will have about a 3-year life. After that, people lose interest in the design and sales decline. Eventually, the design is dropped from the line-up. We are looking at steady sales of the Buck Model 110 for 50 years now, and I don't see it disappearing from the Buck Knives line-up any time soon, either. The design is as popular as ever. If it wasn't, then all these copy cat companies wouldn't be copying the Buck Model 110's design.

I know that, these days, everyone has to have the latest "tactical" folding knife with thumb studs for fast opening and a pocket clip for easy carry in the pants pocket, and it needs to have a liner-type lock or other similar features. However, for a pure hunting folder, an everyday carry folder, or one for camping and survival purposes, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better folding knife with a longer history than the Buck Model 110 has going for it. So, if you're in the market for a new folding knife and might just want a little nostalgia to go along with it, take a close look at the Buck 110. Its full retail is only $73.00, and it comes with Buck's lifetime warranty against defects in materials, too. Just make sure you are purchasing a genuine Buck and not a copy because not every large, lock-back folding knife that looks like a Buck is a Buck. Buy the real deal, and you won't ever be disappointed. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



Pat Cascio product review on the Magnum Research 1911C generated an interesting conversation with a SurvivalBlog reader:

There are a plethora of 1911s on the market, many of them suitable for combat. If I am going to own a gun from Magnum Research, it would have to be a Desert Eagle. - B.P.

o o o

Ben,

I have owned a Desert Eagle in .50AE. It wasn't one of the plated weapons but just a plain parkerized version. I will have to admit that the "fun" factor was second to none on that handgun. However, the reality is that it was the most impractical hand gun I have ever owned. I eventually sold it as fodder to standardize the weapons and calibers that I had.

My complaints with the Desert Eagle are many, but include:

  1. It has a rotary bolt. The torque of the bolt unlocking meant that there was significant rotation of the weapon in your hand. The more rotation you allowed through your grip, the more energy was absorbed in the recoil and resulted in less reliable slide lock-up. I'm not a small guy (220 pounds), and I couldn't reliably fire it one-handed. One-handed drills resulted in about a 50% failure rate. I experienced either incomplete return to battery, extraction failures, or failure to strip a new round from the magazine. (These problems occurred even with off-the-shelf IMI gold/black box ammo.)
  2. The safety level has the worst design... EVER! The thumb-activated safety (not a decocking lever) was a slide mounted, push forward design. This meant that to carry it for combat, you have to carry it in condition one. Drawing, safety-off, and firing was not a smooth progression, as it is for 1911 types. You had to deliberately push the safety forward and get your thumb out of the way before firing, which is not a natural action, I assure you. The extended nature of the safety (due to the size of the slide) meant that if you accidentally fired the weapon before consciously removing your thumb, you were going to lose part of your hand (as the safety would grab your thumb, and the slide would then rip your thumb backward). If your hand is big enough, you get sore. If you have a small hand, you get damage to your thumb and webbing of the hand. In both cases, the gun rips itself out of your grip and falls to the floor. (Hopefully, it has a failure to return to battery at this point.) The only way around this was to carry in condition three. There were so many sharp edges on the model I had, you would rip your hands apart trying to do an Israeli draw with it. The sharp edges could probably be remedied, but I was reluctant to add to the already ridiculously high cost.
  3. The thing was massive and tiring to shoot and hold. A large thigh holster is the only reasonable way to carry it.
  4. While take-down was simple and easy, cleaning was not. Also, the powders used in commercial ammo tended to be shotgun powders and burned extremely dirty. Due to the gas-operated design, powder residue is all through the weapon. Plan on an hour or two of cleaning it after shooting.
  5. .50AE might as well be a custom caliber. It's expensive to purchase new and expensive to reload. Brass is relatively rare and pricey. The rebated rim means no usage in a Dillon RL650 or similar progressive with auto case feeder. $2.00/pop is a bit much for plinking. (Can you really call a .50 plinking?)

Those negatives aside, there is no replacement for the fun factor. I hate indoor shooting ranges, but I used to take my boys to one with this pistol, just for the fun factor. You could line up on the firing line with the other shooters. (The ones that have dividers between them are the best.) You could pretty much tell what the other shooters were shooting. The "pops" were the 9mm. The "booms" were the .45s. The "Bangs" were things like .40S&W or .357sig. You get set up and pull the trigger. My Desert Eagle made a "KA-BOOM!!" with a 5-foot flame. Suddenly, the range falls quite. You're not sure if there is no other shooting or if you just damaged your hearing, because even double hearing protection (foam plugs and ear muffs) is woefully inadequate. "KA-BOOM!!!" again. Now, lean back in your shooting area to see around the divider, and every eye in the place will be looking at you :-) Like I said, the fun factor is off the charts.

I had my fun. Sold it. Now, I wouldn't go back there. Good memories are enough for me. :-) - Hugh

o o o

Yes, I have to agree with you (Hugh) on pretty much all counts. I prefer the DE in 44 mag, as too many broken bones in my hands preclude anything more powerful these days.

The DE is not an effective combat gun. I would never want to tote one on patrol. That said, it could make a suitable platform for handgun hunting, especially with the extended barrel length. In speaking to like-minded engineer types (also big shooters), one could compensate for torque by porting the barrel to counter the twist, with moderately good results and decreased FTF problems.

The fun factor is definitely the primary reason to have/shoot one of these cannons, but it is a niche gun, expensive, and the only production semi-auto I know that truly shoots magnum power. I do not have one in my arsenal because, like you, I have standardized most of what I own (although I can't seem to let go of my Super Redhawk). Up here in Big Bear country (Alaska), I feel more at ease having a six gun in a chest rig over my waders loaded with "Buffalo Bore" 340 grain flat tops pushing 1,400 fps. That's still wimpy when facing a big grizzly, but better than throwing rocks or swatting at it with my fly pole. LOL.

Otherwise, I carry one of my Glocks in either 45 or 40 S&W. I got the 45 because I am from the old school on stopping power, wanted something more than seven rounds to a magazine, and the Glock sits in my hand better than a 1911 frame. I have two of the 40 S&W because that is what LE carries around here, and if I need to scrounge or scavenge that is the best bet for re-equipping, should things go very bad, and the wife can grasp that grip better than the 45. I could afford to have both. Plus I scored a Kel Tech Sub 2000 that uses the same mags as the model 22 Glocks, so it makes an interesting tuck away platform for me. I would prefer my AR 15 or better still my AR 10, but as a civilian neither are as portable or convenient. - B.P.


Monday, March 17, 2014


Today, we're taking a close look at the CMMG Mk4LE M4-style carbine rifle. It is made in the U.S.A. Over the past 30 years or longer, I've had the opportunity to test a lot of AR-15-style rifles; some were excellent, some good, and some were just so-so, not eliciting any real surprises. I know a lot of folks love the Colt line of ARs, and I don't have a problem with that at all, but I work hard for my money, and I look to get the most for my money. I've only owned a few Colt ARs over the years because they are so expensive. I'm not saying they aren't worth it. I'm just saying I want the most I can get for my money.

There are companies who claim to be "manufacturers" of AR-style rifles, when they are nothing more than an assembly line. They buy the parts from other makers and have their name stamped on the lower receiver and barrel, and just throw the parts together. Some are decent guns, and some are real bargain basement guns, looking like something they really aren't. Corners are cut, and you aren't really getting what you think you're getting in many respects. CMMG is NOT one of those companies.

The good folks at CMMG are producing some outstanding firearms these days. Some time back, I reviewed their new Mk9 T, 9mm AR. SurvivalBlog readers got a first look at it, long before any other gun writers, magazines, or blogs had a sample; I had the first one. I was very impressed with the 9mm from CMMG. However, I've owned several different variations of the standard "M4" over the years, and that is the gun we're looking at today.

A quick run down is in order, the Mk4LE is chambered in 5.56mm and will also shoot .223 Remington, and they are not the same round. The 4150 CrMo barrel is 16-inches long and has a Nitride coating on the inside. CMMG used to call this a WASP coating but no longer use the term, for whatever reason in their literature or on their website. However, the barrel is stamped "WASP" on it, and it has a 1:9 barrel twist. There is the standard A2 flash suppressor on the end of the barrel. The hand guards are M4 type with an aluminum heat shield. The pistol grip is the standard A2 configuration as well. The upper and lower receiver is forged 7075-T6 aluminum– the industry standard. The trigger pull is mil-spec; it is not the greatest but not the worst I've run across. There is a mil-spec 6-position telescoping butt stock. The front sight is the "F" height and forged, and the rear is a flip-up/fold down MagPul back-up polymer sight. The gun weighs in at a little over six pounds without the magazine, and you get a 30-round aluminum magazine with each gun, plus a lifetime warranty. No sling was included, and I wish AR makers would at least include a plain old GI Nylon or web sling with their guns. The upper receiver is a flat top version. I took off the MagPul poly rear sight and installed a detachable carry handle on my gun. This is a personally owned gun rather than a sample from CMMG.

There is an on-going debate over AR barrels. Many insist that they need a chrome-lined chamber and barrel. I'm not one of them. I can take or leave chromed barrels. The military mandates that all their M4s have chrome-lined barrels for longer life and easier care. However, many experts say that chrome-lined barrels are not as accurate as barrel that are not chromed. In my experience, and I've owned both chromed and non-chromed barrels, the difference in accuracy isn't all that different. I own ARs with chromed barrels and chambers, some with the Nitride coating, and some with no coating, and I honestly don't see any difference in combat accuracy between the barrels.

There is a bayonet lug under the front sight for all you deer hunters, who insist on a bayonet on their ARs. The only time I used a bayonet on an AR was in my Infantry School for stabbing stuffed dummies. However, I know a lot of folks insist on having a bayonet lug; to each his own. I don't have a dog in this fight.

I like the heat shields in the two-piece hand guards on the CMMG AR. Many, many makers or assemblers of ARs elect to use much cheaper hand guards with no heat shields. I prefer mine with the heat shields. During rapid-fire, the hand guards can get hot. The hand guards are the M4 style– oval and not the smaller "carbine" hand guards.

I've been cutting back on how many rounds I put down range during my firearms testing. To be sure, I lose money on firearms articles. I receive some gun samples from the gun companies, but by the time I've done the paperwork, calculated my gas going to get the guns and doing the testing, and added the cost of the ammo I expend (I get some ammo free but not all), I actually lose money on each and every gun article I write. So, I've cut back to about 200 rounds of ammo for my testing. However, sometimes a gun is a just a lot of fun to shoot, and I get carried away. During my testing for the Mk4LE, I fired more than 400 rounds over several shooting sessions. No one ever accused me of being a good businessman!

When I first bought this rifle for my personal use, I fired it with the MagPul poly rear sight, and the gun's zero was dead-on for a 300-yard zero. I've only run across this, having the sights zeroes when I took the gun out of the box, a very few times over the years. When I replaced the MagPul rear sight with a carry handle rear sight, I had to adjust the windage a bit to get my zero back.

I used Winchester's www.winchester.com 55-grain FMJ USA-brand white box for function testing. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition www.buffalobore.com I had their 69-grain JHP Sniper load, and from Black Hills Ammunition www.black-hills.com I had their 55-grain FMJ reloads, 52-grain HP reloads, and their 68-grain Heavy Match HP fodder. I also fired the Winchester 55-grain FMJ for accuracy; I was getting 3.5-inch groups, if I did my part. The Black Hills 68-grain Heavy Match HP load gave me a 2 3/4-inch group, and the Buffalo Bore 69-grain JHP Sniper load tied the Black Hills 68-grain Heavy Match HP load. I mean it was a dead-heat time between those two roads. All this firing was done using open sights, too, over a rest. However, I thought the Mk4LE was capable of better accuracy. So, I mounted a cheap 3-9X40 scope on the gun and didn't zero it. I just wanted to see what the gun was capable of. The Black Hills 68-grain Heavy Match HP load gave me several groups right at 1 1/2 inches and the Buffalo Bore 69-grain JHP Sniper gave me groups just a hair bigger, and I mean it was just ever so slightly bigger. On another day, the accuracy test could have gone the opposite with the Buffalo Bore load beating the Black Hills load. Needless to say, my groups weren't centered on the target since I didn't zero the scope, but it was still on paper.

There were zero malfunctions during my testing, and I fired not only 400 rounds during my testing, I've also fired this gun numerous times since I purchased it, and I've yet to encounter anything resembling a malfunction of any kind. I've gotten the gun hot, very hot, firing four 30-round magazines through the gun, as fast as I could pull the trigger. What a waste of precious ammo, but I like to know what a gun is capable of, and it just perked along.

I like to save the best for last. The Mk4LE has a full-retail price of $849.95. However, you can usually find them discounted quite a bit at your local gun shop. I purchased mine for $799.00, and I'm extremely pleased with it. You can find lesser-priced ARs on the market, and you can find more expensive ARs as well. With the CMMG Mk4LE, you are getting a solidly-built gun with all the features you want in an M4-style rifle. You can check out the CMMG website and find quite a few different variations of M4-style rifles. I'm willing to bet you'll find exactly what you're needs require. For survival, law enforcement, small game hunting, personal/home protection, and just plinking fun, I love my CMMG Mk4LE and have all the confidence in the world that it won't let me down under the harshest conditions– survival or combat.

I don't like to compare one gun against another. However, if your local dealer has other AR-style guns in-stock, compare them to the CMMG. If they happen to have a Colt AR, compare that side-by-side to the CMMG. Then make your decision on which you want to spend your hard-earned money on. I'm betting most would pick the CMMG over the Colt. Also, please, all you Colt fans, save the hate e-mails. I'm NOT putting the Colt AR down. I'm just alerting SurvivalBlog readers to some other options when it comes to an AR for self-defense, survival, or whatever your intended purpose is in wanting an AR. The Mk4LE is a lot of AR-style gun for the money. I have to carefully watch how I spend my money these days, just like everyone else. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio Pat Cascio



I like big knives, especially for camping and survival purposes. They can handle most chores with ease, whereas, smaller knives usually require more work. The Cold Steel Espada line-up for folding knives are awesome, to say the least. While they are made in Taiwan, you get as good as you want from that country. We live in a global economy, and we'd all better get used to products from other countries.

We're taking a close look at the G10 Espada, large size folder. They also have a medium and an extra-large, as well as the polished G10 series. However, I'm only covering the G10 "economy" model, which is not quite the right term for this massive folder. Where the G10 polished series is a little bit higher in price, the handles are polished, and the bolsters are also polished, the G10 Espadas have a simple, checkered G10 handle scales with no bolsters and partial stainless steel liner, but still 90% of the strength of the polished G10 model.

The large G10 Espada has a 5 1/2-inch blade, made out of AUS 8 stainless steel– one of my all-time favorite steels because it holds an edge a good long time, and it's fairly easy to touch-up the edge. Plus, we have the added advantage of the steel being a stainless steel. Keep in mind, no steel is really "stainless". It just means that it stains less; you still have to care for it or it can rust. The 5 1/2-inch blade is 4mm thick. With the blade open, it is 12 1/4 inches long. Oh yeah! This is a handful of a folding knife. However, the knife only weighs in at 8.2 ounces. I've had smaller folders to test that weighed more.

The large G10 Espada has a large bowie-style clip blade, and it is meant for serious cutting, too. With the belly of the blade, you can cut, slice, dice, and slash through just about anything. As I've mentioned before, many knife fights involved slashing moves. However, with the long 5 1/2-inch blade, you can stab and stab deeply. The Espada gets its name and design origins from Spain. Cold Steel's owner, Lynn Thompson, is a very serious student of history and cutlery. For my two cents worth, he got the Espada right. It just looks like something from Spanish cutlery.

The Espada has the Tri-Ad Lock, and this is one of the strongest, if not the strongest lock I've encountered on any folding knife. To prove how strong the Tri-Ad Lock is, be sure to check out the video on the Cold Steel website. You'll be amazed at the demonstrated strength of the lock. Thompson puts his products through some serious testing, to be sure. While the Tri-Ad Lock "appears" to be nothing more than a simply lock-back lock, it is NOT!

The checkered and nicely configured handle scales have been designed to put your fingers on the handle, where they belong in a fencing grip. I also like the gracefully curved butt end of the handle scales. You get two pocket clips– one for right pocket carry and one for left pocket carry. They are on the butt end for a tip-up blade carry. The curved handle sticks out of the pocket, so it is easy to grasp in order to draw the knife, which is easy. There is a "disc" on the top rear of the blade. As you draw the knife from your pocket, if you apply a little pressure to the side of your pocket as you pull the knife out of your pocket, the disc will catch on the top of your pocket, and as the knife comes out, the blade will "automatically" open and be fully opened when it comes completely out of your pocket. It's faster than any "automatic" folder. It only takes a few minutes of practice to learn how to deploy the knife, with the blade open, as it comes out of your pocket.

One of the methods I use for testing a knife blade is chopping down blackberry vines. They are extremely tough, and many knife blades simply don't have what it takes. The large Espada sample I had didn't take much effort at all to slice a blackberry vine in two. A light swing of the blade and the vine was easily sliced in half.

For survival purposes, the large or extra large Espada can replace a fixed blade knife. You can chop with the large Espada, and it chops quite well. No, you can't chop down a tree with one, but it can chop all out of proportion to what any folding knife should be able to do in the chopping department. I also used the knife around the kitchen. I do a lot of the cooking in our house, simply because I'm a very good cook and find it relaxing. Meat, frozen or thawed, was no patch for the large Espada. Veggies and fruits were no challenge at all; the knife just zipped through it all.

Now, I honestly thought that the large Espada was gong to be too big for my pockets. However, I wear one brand of cargo pants and one brand only, and they have extremely DEEP pockets. Once the Espada was put in the pocket, I didn't notice the knife in my pocket at all, not even when seated. My friend, Lynn Thompson, at Cold Steel, carries two of the polished extra-large Espada, one in each pocket.

The Espada reminds me of the original Crocodile Dundee movies, where a mugger is attempting to rob Dundee and pulls out an automatic folder. Dundee reaches behind his back, pulls out a huge fixed-blade Bowie knife, and tells that mugger, "That's not a knife (referring to the mugger's knife), now, this is a knife". I'm sure the mugger peed his pants. Well, the Espada reminds me of just such a knife. You'd better believe that if someone pulled out the large or extra large Espada and threatened me with it, I'd sure remember an appointment I had across town and get there, in a hurry. The Espada is not for the faint of heart. It's an awe inspiring folder, and when you pull it out of your pocket, anyone standing nearby, will wonder where you had that big folder hidden.

I'm sure the large and extra large Espada won't be legal for pocket carry in a lot of jurisdictions, so please check your local and state laws before carrying this folder. Like all Cold Steel knives, the Espada is always in demand, and they might be a little hard to find, but they are well worth it. Full retail on the large G10 model is $167.99; it's worth every red cent of it, too. If you're in the market for a folder than can act as a fixed blade knife and a new knife for your survival gear or BOB, take a close look at the large or extra large Espada. I think you are going to be quite impressed. The knife is awesome, to say the least. Some folks have just described it as "scary", and I can't argue with them on it. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat CascioPat Cascio


Saturday, March 15, 2014


This is a pretty basic review. Containers are a necessary accessory for firearms, and hard cases are required for flying. MTM's cases are reasonably priced, sturdy, have two locking points for airline travel, and come in several sizes.

My daughter received the model 805-40, which fits most standard frame autos and 4" revolvers. New, and just coming available now, this one is in shocking pink. It doesn't make it a better case, but it does make it stand out.

We tried several drop tests, and it worked fine with several guns. There was no damage to the case being dropped on a concrete floor from bench height. http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/images/reviews/mtm9.jpg

We're going to need to get her a bigger version for her .45 Long Colt and her .44 Magnum.

Retail prices run from $6 to $12. And if you don't like pink, they have basic black. It's worth getting one for every handgun. - Mike Williamson, SurvivalBlog Editor At Large.


Monday, March 10, 2014


Some months ago, I tested and reviewed the portable WorkStar 2000 floodlight from Maxxeon for SurvivalBlog readers, and it was a huge hit. I heard from a number of readers about how pleased they were with the product. Today, we're looking at the new and improved Hunter's http://www.maxxeon.com/led_hunters_worklight_workstar_2030.html floodlight from Maxxeon. Some SurvivalBlog readers have requested that I list the country of origin– where the products are manufactured– in all of my articles. Maxxeon products are made in China. Like it or not, we now live in a global economy, and in order for many companies to compete or even introduce a new product at an affordable price point, they are having their products manufactured in other countries.

The new Workstar 2030 Hunter's Floodlight from Maxxeon has all the same tough features of the original WorksStar 2000, with some improvements, to make it even better. Maxxeon listened to suggestions from folks who purchase their products and went to work to improve an already excellent product. I personally know this to be a fact, because I suggested some improvements to one of their products, and they jumped right on it. The Hunter's 2030 model still has a high 270 Out The Front lumens and on low, 90 Out The Front lumens. It also has the easy-to-adjust brightness level, at the touch of a button. The entire unit can be fully recharged in about three hours and has it's own charging unit.

The unit can run on high for about two hours and on low for about eight hours. The Fresnel-like lens creates a huge floodlight beam. It can light up my entire huge front yard at night, and it has all the same uses that the original 2000 WorkStar had, with some new additions and changes that make it more suitable for hunters.

First of all, the unit is covered in REALTREE Camo that is topped with a rubberized soft-touch grip coating, making for a secure grip in all weather conditions. I've had to track game after the sun went down. As any hunter can tell you, you need a good, bright light. The 2030 gives you a real advantage in this area. There is an unbreakable LED "bulb" that never needs replacing, too. Ever drop your flashlight at night and the bulb breaks? Yeah, me too. With the 2030 Hunter's model, you don't have to worry about the bulb breaking.

You can also carry the 2030 model on your belt, with the detachable belt clip. That's handy! Also, Maxxeon has added indents to the 180-degree tilting action of the neck, so the light stays where you shine or aim it. No more having to adjust where the light is aimed; it's super cool! If you've ever had to dress-out game in the dark or under low-light conditions, you'll certainly appreciate the titling action of the neck on the 2030 Hunter's model. In the dark, I once had to search for a large buck that I had taken. When I found it, I then had to dress it out, in the dark. It was a total pain to dress out the deer while trying to hold my small flashlight in one hand and dress-out the buck with my knife in the other hand. Oh, how I wish I had owned the Maxxeon 2030 Hunter's model back then.

The rubberized coating is a nice touch that keeps your hand from getting cold holding the light, which happens with aluminum flashlight barrels. Additionally, the REALTREE camo is just a nice touch for hunters. The 2030 is very attractive.

If you work on cars all the time, you know how hard it is to get the light just where you need it. I have no problems with the original WorkStar 2000, but the new and improved 2030 Hunter's model is just a little bit better in my humble opinion. So, if you haven't already purchased the WorkStar 2000, then take a close look at the 2030 Hunter's model. It might be just what you're looking for, whether for working on cars, tracking lost game at night, or lighting up your yard at night when something goes "bump". Full-retail on the new and improved 2030 model is $155.00. It's a light that will serve all your needs.

SurvivalBlog isn't going to review products that aren't up to our highest expectations, so don't look for those reviews on our website. However, from time-to-time, we will review a product that doesn't quite measure up to our high standards, and we'll alert our readers that they might just be wasting their money on that product. Sometimes products arrive in our hands that are a good idea, however, it is poorly executed when the final product is manufactured. I've worked with some companies lately to help them improve on their products BEFORE bringing them out on the market. I enjoy when a company listens to an outsider, instead of having the NIH (Not Invented Here) attitude, and not interested in hearing from an outsider on how one of their products might be improved. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



Today, we're looking at the Rift, automatic folder from Benchmade knives. The Rift is proudly made in the United States of America and is from the black box line– a working line of knives for professionals. I remember when I first started writing about knives. I was a freelance field editor for Knives Illustrated magazine. I contacted Les d'Asis at Benchmade and requested a sample to do an article on. This was more than 22 years ago, and Benchmade has continued to keep me supplied with samples for articles.

Benchmade knives are always in demand. A good number of our military personnel use Benchmade knives, as well as many folks in law enforcement. Benchmade Knife Company is a leading manufacturer of automatic folding knives. Even though Benchmade has been producing automatic folders for a number of years right here in Oregon, there are large numbers of law enforcement officers who do not know they are legal to own in Oregon.

The Benchmade Rift model number 9555S is a reversed Tanto blade for toughness. It also has a large belly blade for utility cutting, and its textured G10 handle scales help you get a firm grip in any situation. There is also a manual safety on top of the handle scales, for locking the blade in the open or the closed position. The blade is manufactured out of 154 CM stainless steel with a Rockwell hardness of 58-61. The knife can be carried in the pocket with the reversible pocket clip for a tip up carry only.

The blade length is ideal at 3.67 inches; the blade thicknesses is 0.114 inches. Its handle thickness is 0.556 inches. What is unique about the Rift is that it has the Axis locking system, which releases the blade with either hand by simply sliding the axis pivot point to the rear. Overall, the length of the knife is a 8.27 inches; closed its length is 4.60 inches.

The model 9555, Rift, can be had in several different versions. You can get it either satin finished blade or a black coated blade with a plain blade or partial serrations and a blade. The sample I received is the satin finished blade with partial serrations, which are very handy when cutting wet rope, rubber, or cardboard and many other tough materials.

The textured G10 handle scales are black, and the texturing is just in the right places on both sides of the handle to assure you a firm and secure grip in all kinds of weather conditions. At the top of the handle scales, there are friction grooves for proper thumb placement in the fencing grip. Additionally, on the bottom of the handle there are also friction grooves, once again, for a sure grip in any position that you hold the knife. G10 is one of toughest materials you can use for handle scales on a knife or handgun grips.

During my testing of the Rift, I used it for chores around the house, including chores in the kitchen as well as outdoors on my small homestead. The blade came shaving sharp out-of-the-box, which is typical of all Benchmade knives. During my testing, over a period of several weeks, I did not have to touch up the blade one time. It held the edge.

For the past several years, I've carried an older model Benchmade folder that has long been discontinued, yet is one of my favorite folders. However, the new Rift is making headway and fast becoming a favorite. It may replace my old discontinued model that I've carried for so many years.

The Rift is one of those knives that you will have a hard time putting down, once you pick it up. It just feels like a natural extension of your hand, no matter which position you hold the knife in– fencing, reverse, hammer, et cetera. The Rift just feels great in the hand. I also like the fact that the Axis locking mechanism is self-adjusting. As the blade/handle wear over the years, the Axis will keep the blade firmly locked when opened, without any wiggle.

I've toured the Benchmade plant several times over the years, and I'm always amazed at the growth they have experienced and how much the product line has expanded. To be sure, Benchmade, during my last tour, was working two shifts, and they would work three shifts if they could find enough qualified people. Benchmade takes pride in hiring the best of the best. Also, it is of interest that Benchmade doesn't have many knives in-stock. They go out the door just as fast as they can produce them, which says a lot. Another reason why Benchmade knives are always in short-supply is that we keep buying them as fast as they are made.

Now, for those who don't live in areas where automatic folding knives are legal, Benchmade also produces a manual opening version of the Rift, and it opens pretty fast with the thumb stud. The Rift 9555S sample I tested retails for $250. Remember, you are getting a near custom, if not custom knife from Benchmade.

I really like the Rift, and if you are looking for a new EDC (Every Day Carry) folder, take a close look at the Rift. Shortly before this article was done, I somehow lost or misplaced my Rift sample. So, when funds permit, I'm going to get another one, and it will more than likely replace my well-worn and abused older Benchmade folder that I've been carrying in my right front pocket for about six years. That says a lot, in my book. I test a lot of knives, but for my everyday carry folder, I've stuck to my older Benchmade folder, which may just get replaced...soon! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, March 3, 2014


I'm asked, all the time by readers, and students who take some of my handgun training, what is my "favorite gun." Well, I think most of the time, they mean "handgun" and not just "gun." Well, I honestly can't give a pat answer to that question...usually, whatever I have strapped on my hip is my "favorite" gun - at the moment. And, what's right for me, may not be right for you. I can't pick a gun for you, it's a pretty subjective issue as far as I'm concerned.

Folks also ask me what kind of handgun they should get for "survival" - and once again, I can't give a simple answer to that question. When you say "survival" what do you mean? Are you planning on surviving on the Plains of Africa, where there are lots of dangerous game? What about surviving in the big city? Or surviving out in the country? Or surviving an end of the world event? Once again, I'm not trying to dodge the question, there simply isn't just one handgun for all purposes.

Now, given a choice, I always fall back on the good ol' 1911 .45ACP - made by any number of gun companies, and in any number of configurations. Now, my favorite 1911 is a "Commander" sized 1911 - with a 4.25-inch barrel - this model just seems to balance better for me, and I can shoot it faster than I can a full-sized Government model or one of the Officers-sized compact models. I carried a Colt Combat Commander in 1976, when I was in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and never once felt undergunned - it was my constant companion in a Safariland vertical shoulder holster. And, I've owned a lot of "Commander" sized 1911s over the years.

Enter the Magnum Research, Desert Eagle 1911C and their entry into the "Commander" sized 1911 field. A few notes on the Desert Eagle 1911C - it is made in Israel, by BUL, and they have been making 1911s for some time now, for different companies...and they manufacture some really great 1911s in my humble opinion. The Desert Eagle 1911C has a 4.33-inch long barrel - so it's a tad longer than the Colt 4.25-inch barrel - and other makers have Commanders with barrels a little shorter and some longer...so, Desert Eagle is right in the ball park when it comes to barrel length. The 1911C has a bull barrel on it - it flares out so it is thicker on the receiving end of the gun...and it has no barrel bushing, either - nor does it need it. It has a one-piece recoil spring guide rod - and I can take or leave them, but without a barrel bushing, you have to have this type of recoil spring guide rod.

Weight of the 1911C is 33.9-ounces, a slight bit heavier than similar sized guns, but that comes from the bull barrel. On the slide we have hi-profile sights, and this is one of my minor complaints. Us old guys need three dot sights on our combat or self-defense handguns. Still, the sights are very useable, and I like the rear sight - very non-drag in nature. I applied some white paint to the front sight, and placed a dot of orange paint in the center of the white paint on the front sight. On the rear sight, I applied two drops of orange paint to the rear of the sight - on either side of the rear sight notch - and it works just great for me. The rear sight is adjustable for windage only, but I didn't have to make any adjustments. However, when I get a few bucks ahead, I'm going to have either 3-dot white sights installed on this gun, or night sights. The slide also has slanted and deeply grooved grasping grooves on the rear of the slide. The ejection port is also flared and lowered, for sure ejection of empty brass, as well as loaded rounds. Make sure you carry gun will cleanly eject a loaded round - don't wait to test it when you "need" to remove a round that didn't fire and find out, the round won't eject cleanly - it happens.

On the frame, you'll find a skeletonized combat type trigger, and my sample broke cleanly at 3.5-pounds. In the past, you'd pay a gunsmith $100+ to put a trigger job on your 1911 as nice as this trigger pull was. We also have a skeletonized speed hammer, and beavertail grip safety, that is stainless steel - the balance of the gun is matte blue in color. The main spring housing is metal and checked. The magazine release is slightly extended compared to standarned buttons, but I'm going to replace it with one a little bit longer. The 1911C also came with a beautifully checkered pair of wood grips. And, once again, one minor complaint here, while I loved the beautiful wood grips, there were just a little bit too thick for my liking. I replaced them with a pair of my designed "Code Zero" 1911 grips from www.mil-tac.com - which I prefer to all other 1911 grips.

The thumb safety is an extended combat style and it clicked on and off with authority - fitted perfectly. The slide release is standard, and I like it that way. Folks who put on extended slide releases are only asking for their slide to lock open during a gun fight - avoid them!

The slide to frame fit was exacting on my sample, no up and down play between the slide and frame, and no side-to-side play. However, after more than 500-rds testing, there is ever so slightly a little movement between the slide and frame. Yes, I shot this gun a lot...it was addicting, to say the least. Right out of the box, the gun functioned without a hitch, and no matter what ammo I fed it, or if I mixed the ammo in different brands of magazines, the gun just ran without any problems at all. The 1911C also comes with two magazines, too - made in Israel. The magazine well is ever so slightly beveled to aid in reloading those empty magazines faster, too.

During the on-going ammo shortages, and higher prices, I've been trying to limit my firearms testing to about 200-rds. However, this Desert Eagle just keeps calling out to me, wanting me to shoot it. So, I fired more than 500-rds of ammo through it in my testing. From Black Hills Ammunition www.black-hills.com I only had their 230-grain FMJ and their 200-gr SWC loads - which were outstanding in the accuracy department. From Buffalo Bore Ammuniton www.buffalobore.com I had a good assortment of ammo to test. I had their fairly new 160-gr standard velocity Barnes All-Copper hollow point load, as well as their 160-grain load in +P - same Barnes All-Copper hollow point bullet. I had their 200-grain JHP +P load, their 185-grain JHP +P load, and their 230-grain FMJ FN +P load. I'm growing very fond of the Buffalo Bore 160-grain standard velocity Barnes loading...it gets you back on-target fast, and it will penetrate deeply and it stays together and will expand at velocities as low as 750-FPS. Of course, Tim Sundles, at Buffalo Bore, had to come out with the same bullet, at +P velocities, so I'm still playing around with this load, but I'm starting to lean towards it - heavily - as my carry load. From Winchester Ammunition www.winchester.com I had their USA brand 230-gr FMJ load, and I've found this load to be a great range, or target load, and use a lot of it for my function testing or when breaking-in a new 1911 in .45ACP.

My accuracy testing was done from 25-yards, with a sleeping bag rolled-up, and resting on the hood of my SUV... With most loads, I was getting 3-4 inches - about average. However, the Black Hills 200-grain SWC load was giving me 2-inch groups, and I believe the gun is capable of even better accuracy than that - with that load. During a good number of range sessions, we had rain and fog, and the weather was not the best for getting the most accuracy out of the 1911C. The Buffalo Bore 230-gr FMJ FN +P load broke the 3-inch group mark a few times for me, if I did my part.

I carried the Desert Eagle 1911C for more than a month, during my testing. And, "yes" I really do carry the handguns that I test-fire, to see how they ride and conceal. I was using a Blackhawk Products http://www.blackhawk.com/product/SERPA-CQC-wMatte-Finish,1145,1410.htm SERPA concealment holster. I like this product, because it not only allows the gun to ride high and close to your body, it also has the SERPA locking mechanism. This allows the gun to automatically lock in the holster, every time you holster the gun. And, to release the gun, during a natural draw, your index finger automatically slides right on the release button, and a simple push, on the button, releases the gun as your draw it. I place a small tab of skate board tape on the release button, so I know my finger is right on the button. I also carried the 1911C with a spare mag, in a Blackhawk Products spare mag carrier on my left side - if you carry for self-defense, PLEASE carry a spare magazine!

Magnum Research teamed with BUL in Israel, to come up with a full-featured 1911, with many of the features you'd want on a carry gun, and nothing you don't want. Some of these features would easily cost you $500+ if you had a gunsmith fit and install them on a basic plain Jane 1911. The Desert Eagle 1911C has a full-retail of $874 and it can often be found for quite a bit less than that. As always, I try to get the most for my hard-earn bucks...and if you're in the market for a new 1911, or you're a first-time buyer looking for a 1911, take a close look at the Desert Eagle 1911C and if you want a full-sized model, check out their 1911G model. Now, as usual, I have to justify keeping this sample...which means coming up with the money to buy it - but buy it I will - it's not going back to the company...it's a great buy, in a full-featured 1911 "Commander" sized gun in my book. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



I get contacted by SurvivalBlog readers daily, and I take the time to answer each e-mail, and I have to keep my replies short, because my time is limited. I'm often asked, "what should I carry in my BOB?" and I can't really give a definitive answer to that. It depends on where you live, you age, your own personal requirements, when do you plan to bug out to, and other factors. Many readers send me a list of all the things they have packed in their BOB, and most are pretty well equipped for many different emergencies. One item that is often missing, is Paracord - and I'm using this in a generic term.

There are many different types of Paracord, some better than others, and some really cheaply made - so to be clear, not all Paracord is the same in quality. And, if you don't have a good 25 or 50 foot hank of Paracord in your BOB, shame on you! This is one of the handiest items you can pack in your BOB, and it doesn't take up much room, either.

I received some different types of Paracord from 5Col Survival Supply for testing, and to put it bluntly, they aren't making junk - like you might find at the big box stores. As I said, not all Paracord is the same. First of all, 5Col Survival Supply sells only military grade Paracord, conforming to Mil-C5040H and the newer pia-c-5040 specifications. Now, while this might not mean anything to you, but if your about to make a jump from a plane, you want to know that, your parachute has the best Paracord you can get attached to the canopy. Additionally, all their Paracord is manufactured in the USA!

The folks at 5Col Survival Supply, are a family run business, and I like to send business the way of small companies like this, for some reason. They keep extremely busy, and I understand they are growing, too. They sent me Type IV 750 and Type III 550 Paracord samples for testing, along with hanks of different colored Paracord - and they have a nice selection, so you don't have to settle for OD green or black when you place an order. Needless to say, the Type IV 750 Paracord is thicker and capable of holding more weight than the Type III 550 Paracord - so you have to decide which one you want to carry - personally, I'd just go with the Type IV 750 for my needs. The Type IV has 11 core strands, and all core strands are 3-ply - heavy duty! And, as the name suggests, it has a minimum breaking strength of 750 pounds. The outside diameter is 3/16th of an inch, and a pound of it is about 165 feet in length, so it doesn't weigh much at all.

So, what are the uses for Paracord? Well, there are many, and this is just a partial list of suggestions. You can use it to help build a shelter, traps for small game, snares, rigging, trot lines, gill nets, wraps, braids and many other survival purposes. I've tried Paracord in the past as fishing line - you have to take it apart, and use the thin inner strands, but it works quite well - very strong. It's great for lashing gear to your body or your pack, too. I have a friend, who is a former US Army Ranger, and he said whenever he went on a jump, he took inner strands of the Paracord and used them to lash down his gear, so it wouldn't go flying off his body - and hit him in the face, good idea if you ask me. You can also use it to fasten a knife to a pole, for an improvised weapon or for spearing fish. The uses are almost unlimited when it comes to Paracord. I've used Paracord on more than one occasion when a shoe lace broke - and there is no better substitute for a shoe or boot lace, than Paracord.

I used some of the Paracord samples sent to me, and tied the ends together, and let my big ol' German Shepherds play tug-o-war with it, and it never broke - and my dogs are very strong, to say the least. I even let my dogs chew on the Paracord, until the outer cover was chewed through, and then let them play tug-o-war some more and the cord still didn't break. I keep some in my e-box in my car, and on more than one occasion I've used it for some sort of emergency. Recently, I went to the dog groomer, and forgot a leash, well, I used a piece of Paracord for an improvised leash - my main male German Shepherd hates having his nails done and won't get out of the car - so a leash is needed to "motivate" him at times.

5Col Survival Supply 750 and 550 Paracord is certified, and that's why it is rated for military use - and if you've ever done any business with any government agency, you know what a hassle it is, meeting specifications, especially military specs! I know I wouldn't want our troops using anything but the best of the best. And, if I were jumping out of a plane, I'd want to be assured that the Paracord holding my chute on, wasn't going to break because it was some cheap commercial grade stuff - that hasn't been tested and certified.

If you're serious about Prepping, or you're in the military, you honestly have to have some Paracord in your kit or BOB. And, it doesn't take-up much room at all - heck you can even lash it to the outside of your pack, if you don't have room inside the pack. And, as an aside, make sure you have matches or some way of burning the ends of your Paracord when you cut it to the length you need it - you don't want it coming apart - so burning the ends is a must do.

So, go through your kit or BOB, and if you don't have some Paracord in there, give the nice folks at 5Col Survival Supply a call and order-up some genuine mil-spec certified Paracord, and it's not that expensive, so there's no excuse for not having some in your emergency supplies. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, February 24, 2014


There are many stupid knife (and gun) laws on the books, all over this country. Many are archaic in nature and aren't enforced; however, they are still on the books just the same. There are some states, like Texas, that prohibit "daggers" or double edge knives. Believe it or not, some areas forbid the ownership of anything called a "Bowie" knife. Insane!

My late friend and mentor, Col. Rex Applegate, co-designed the Applegate/Fairbairn (A/F) double-edge fighting knife during WWII. It was a vastly improved Fairbairn/Sykes double edge knife. However, WWII came to a close before the A/F came into production. It wasn't until the early 1990s, if I recall, that Applegate finally had the A/F produced commercially by Blackjack Knives. There were some serious problems with the first few production runs, and the center line of the knife didn't meet at the tip of the blade. They were off-centered, to be sure. Since then, several companies have been licensed to produce the A/F double edge fighting knife. Gerber Legendary Blades also produced a folding version of the A/F fighting knife, and I had an early pre-production version. Gerber placed the pocket clip on the wrong side of the knife for right-handed use, with no option to move the clip. Stupid!

This is a review of the Cold Steel Counter Point Series line of folders that for all the world appear to be partially double-edged knives, dagger-esque, or spear point in design. However, the upper edge of the blade is NOT sharpened. The design allows for deeper penetration than many other folding knives, if the knife is used in a self-defense situation. I've said many times that most knife fights consists of slashing moves instead of stabbing moves, but if the opportunity presented itself, you can sure stab instead of slash. That's for another article on self-defense with a knife.

We have three different-sized Counter Point folders in the series. The Counter Point I has a blade length of 4-inches; the Counter Point II has a 3-inch blade; and the Counter Point XL has a 6-inch blade. My test sample was the 4-inch blade version, and it was a good balance in size between the three folders. All are identical in that the blades are made out of AUS 8 stainless steel-- one of my favorites, and the handle material is manufactured out of something called Griv-Ex-- a super-strong polymer material pioneered by Cold Steel that is tough, very tough.

All three of the Counter Point folders have the famous Tri-Ad Lock, and it is one of the strongest, if not the strongest lock you can get on a folding knife. Cold Steel isn't afraid to demonstrate the strength of the Tri-Ad Lock in their "Proof" video or on their website. There is also a reversible pocket clip for right or left pocket carry, with the tip up. (There is no option for tip down carry.) There is also a thumb stud on the blade for easy deployment, too.

The Counter Point I sample has an overall length of 9-inches, when opened. It weighs a mere 4.7-ounces and is 3.5mm thick. Seriously, you don't even know you have the Counter Point clipped inside your pants pocket. Needless to say, but I'll repeat it again: I believe Lynn Thompson, the owner of Cold Steel, set the gold standard when it comes to sharp knives. All of his knives come shaving sharp from the box. Everyone else has had to jump on-board with manufacturing sharp knives, or fall by the wayside. Thompson did us all a service, and it is a rare thing to find a major name knife company that doesn't have hair-popping edges on their blades these days. Well, that's just my take on it all.

The Griv-Ex black polymer handle scales have several holes on both sides of the handles, which lightens the weight of the knife as well as gives it a sleek appearance. The handle also has heat-treated aluminum liners to add more strength to the Counter Point's Griv-Ex handle scales.

I did my usual testing of the Counter Point. It was used around the kitchen and out on my small homestead. I stabbed it into stacked cardboard, and I really abused the knife by throwing it a lot against trees. I got it to stick a few times, but this is not a throwing knife. I wanted to really abuse this folder. The Tri-Ad Lock never failed. It's stout and, aside from a few small scratches, the Counter Point was good as new.

With many folding knives, I can draw them from my pocket and "flick" them open. It took some serious wrist-action to flick the Counter Point open, but I was able to do it. The Tri-Ad Lock really holds the blade closed, as well as locked open when deployed.

I recently had one SurvivalBlog reader take me to task on the Cold Steel AUS 8 blade steel and their serrated blades. This reader told me that he could bend the serrated portion of the blade he had with his finger nail. Uh, no!!! I tried this on several of my older Cold Steel folders, and I couldn't bend the blade at the serrations. I'm not quite sure if this reader was taking me to task for serrated blades, AUS 8 stainless steel, or was against Cold Steel knives. I referred this reader to Lynn Thompson, if he felt he had a defective knife or whatever his complaint was. I have used AUS 8 stainless steel bladed knives for years, and I have never had it fail me. It's a great compromise stainless steel that is affordable, holds an edge a good long time, and is easy to re-sharpen (and I'm not a wizard when it comes to sharpening knives).

Now, for the good news. The Counter Point I-- the knife I tested-- has a retail price of only $71.99. Additionally, it can be found discounted on many websites. The Counter Point II is retailing for $55.99, and the Counter Point XL is $99.99. All are made in Taiwan, where many high quality knives are being manufactured these days. You get as good as you want. If you want a 50-cent knife, you can have one made. If you want a thousand dollar knife made, you can get that too, and the quality will be exactly what you want. So, don't let “Made In Taiwan” scare you away. You are getting a great deal. If you purchased the same knife made in the USA, you'd pay a lot more.

If you're in the market for a new folder, check out the Counter Point Series. I bet you'll find one that will fit you "just right," as Goldilocks once said, and, it won't drain your checkbook either. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



One thing I've learned over the years is that it doesn't pay to purchase cheap shoes or boots. You only have one pair of feet, so treat them nicely by buying the best you can get!

In 1969, when we were on our first day of Basic Training in the U.S. Army, there was one thing the drill sergeants told us (and I've never forgotten it) was to "not wear your boots into the shower, get them wet, and wear them until they dry on your feet." We were told we'd get an Article 15, which is a military reprimand/punishment. Now, we might have been young and dumb back in those days, but we all understood it to mean that we should get our boots nice and wet, and wear them until they dry so they will mold to our feet, but don't get caught doing it. Back in the day, it sure worked with all-leather combat boots. A good soaking in the shower and allowing those boots to dry on your feet, actually molded them to your feet, thus bypassing a break-in period. Some soldiers didn't do this, and they had blisters on their feet in short order. It took weeks to break-in those all-leather combat boots, otherwise.

With many of today's artificial fabrics used in the manufacture of boots and shoes, it's almost impossible to get your shoes or boots to mold to your feet by soaking them in water and wearing the footwear until they dried on your feet. If you have plans on bugging out on foot, for whatever reason, you must (and I repeat MUST) have a good-fitting and comfortable pair of boots or hikers. Shoes just don't cut it, especially if you are in the boonies, on rocky or rough terrain. So, boots or hikers are the order of the day if you plan on bugging out on foot.

Sure, go ahead, and purchase that nice "looking" pair of boots or hikers from one of the big box stores. Then see how long they last, how comfortable they are, or what kind of material they are made out of. In the end, you'll regret purchasing bargain basement boots or hikers. To be sure, I've done some research over the years and learned that approximately 90% - 95% of our footwear is made in China. Heaven help us if we ever go to war against China. Inside of a couple months, we'll all be barefoot.

I have a couple pair of books and hikers that I've designated for hunting and bug out purposes, and they are well broken-in, too. Some took a few days, but most took a few weeks or a month to break-in properly, so they were comfortable on my feet and wouldn't raise blisters. Some are made in the USA; some are made oversea. You get as good as you want when having products made overseas.

I recently received a pair of Altia MF Tactical Boots for testing for this article. They are made in Vietnam, if it matters to you. That war is long ago over with, and we weren't allowed to win it. It's not the fault of the military who fought and died there. It was the politicians who wouldn't allow us to win, but that's for another time. The very first thing I noticed about the Altai MF Tactical Boot is how super light-weight they are. We are talking about a 9" high boot that weighs only about 23-ounces for the pair!

Some other specs on the Altair boots is that the upper is made out of something called "SuperFabric," and I'm not privy to what the material is, other than I can tell it is light-weight and very strong. The SuperFabric is meant to withstand harsh environments and rough applications. If you look closely at the material, it is covered with evenly-placed "armor plates," according to the Altai website. They are little tiny "nubs," and they protect the SuperFabric. This SuperFabric allows for fast-drying; the boots are waterproof and breathable. In my neck of the woods, where it rains for eight months out of the year, I prefer waterproof footwear most of the time.

The SuperFabric is also stain-resistant, and the outer sole is made out of Vibram-- one of my favorite materials for hiking and trekking. The laces are a figure 8 style for speed-lacing, which makes the boots easy to get on and off. The eyelets are metal rather than plastic, which breaks easily. The tongue is padded nylon, and the leather toe is waterproof and polishable.

I will readily admit that the Altai boots were comfortable right out of the box, and needed no break-in period at all. The one thing that "bothered" me more than anything was that the boots are light-weight. They might be the lightest boots I've ever worn; if they aren't the lightest boots I've ever worn, they sure feel like it. I have light-weight hikers that aren't this light-feeling, and I do a lot of walking, so I like boots and hikers that are light-weight and durable. I hike some of the logging roads in my area, and they can be rough with big rocks that are used for paving the roads for the log trucks. Those big rocks are really tough to walk on and tough on footwear. The Altai boots had no problems on the logging roads or the asphalt roads when I was wearing the boots. It just doesn't seem right that boots this light-weight are so rugged. Go figure! In spite of their light weight, they are tough boots, to be sure!

I like the speed-lacing system, as I mentioned, that makes them easy on/easy off. In a bug out situation, you may not have all the time in the world to get properly dressed. You don't want to waste time trying to lace-up a pair of boots. It can take time, especially with some other boots, to get them on and laced-up. Did I happen to mention, how light-weight these boots are? Yeah, I did. I wanted to mention it once again! I was totally blown away with how comfortable the boots were right out of the box and how nice they felt on my feet . I've had tennis shoes that weren't this comfortable, seriously!

Right now, Altai is having a special on their boots. They are normally $180, but for a limited time, they are on-sale for $160. They are one heck of a bargain, in a light-weight, super-tough boot. One last word, the ONLY product that Altai sells are the Altai MF Tactical Boots. Altai has to have a LOT of faith in their product to make a living selling just one product. I can easily see these boots for law enforcement and security officers. I'm not sure what some of the regulations are in the militaries in other countries, but if troops are given some leeway in the types of boots they can wear, these Altai MF Tactical Boots would be a wise choice. One more note: I'm told the boots run a little bit on the big side, so order half a size smaller than you'd normally wear. I take a 10.5 in shoes and boots, and they sent me a size 10. It fit nicely, very nicely! So, if you're in the market for a new pairs of boots for hiking, hunting, or bugging out, take a close look at the Altai MF Tactical Boots. You'll be impressed, very impressed. -- SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, February 17, 2014


I love working on guns, and I've tinkered with them since I was a teenager. Later on, I was trained by a military armorer to work on M1s, M14s, and M1911s, and I took several gunsmithing courses over the years. I've repaired many guns; however, the two firearms I enjoy working on the most are the grand old 1911 and the AR-15 family of rifles. More than anything, I usually can't leave a 1911 alone, especially as it comes from the factory. So, I keep a decent supply of spare parts on-hand. The AR-15 doesn't usually require a lot of repairs, which is a testament to the Stoner-design. However, when something breaks or needs replacing, it often calls for specialized tools. If I don't have that tool, I make do with another tool that is not intended for the job but gets the job done. I also keep a small supply of the most often broken or misplaced AR parts.

Some of the most broken or misplaced/lost parts are small springs and pins, so I keep plenty of those little parts on-hand. My local gun shop often calls me to see if I have "this" part or "that" part for an AR. Most of the time I can help them out. If you own an AR of any make or model, you really need to have some spare parts for a SHTF scenario, when a gunsmith not be available and parts are scarce. Plus, you should, at the very least, have a good working knowledge of how your gun operates and have an armorer's manual on-hand. Honestly, most work done on an AR is fairly easy to do, and most parts don't require precision fitting; they just need replacing, in most cases.

I have three tool boxes full of spare parts and various types of gunsmithing tools. I'm always searching in the boxes for just the right tool to get a job done properly. Yes, you can make do with a tool that's not specifically designed for a certain job, but it's nice to have the right tool and have all the tools you need in one place.

That's exactly the great benefit of the Deployable Compact Armorers Tool, also known as D-CAT. The D-CAT is designed and sold by Spaceage Weaponry , and it can also be found at my favorite gunsmith supply house, such as Brownell's http://www.brownells.com/ (where I do much of my tool and spare parts shopping). The D-CAT is just about every tool you'll need for working on the AR-15/M16 family of firearms, all in one nice little package.

A quick run down on the D-CAT is in order. First of all, the D-CAT was designed to fit into the butt stock of a standard, full-sized AR-15. It also weighs only 6-ounces. The tool (made of 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum, 303 stainless steel, and H13 tool steel) is designed to give you a lifetime of service. The D-CAT comes supplied with all the bits, punches, and other small parts located in the tool's "magazine"and accessed by rotating the magazine gate to expose the individual storage compartments. You will find a 1/8-inch punch, a flat blade screw driver, front sight adjustment tool, and both 3/16-inch and 9/64-inch hex drivers. There is also a spare punch pocket and a hammer/trigger pin pocket. You can also use the D-CAT as a screw driver. Okay, I can already hear someone complaining, "How do I remove the barrel or the butt stock on my AR?" Glad you asked. You can buy additional tools for the D-CAT for that job. If you need to replace a barrel, you really should be trained in how to do it properly. Torquing it to the right poundage and aligning everything just perfectly is usually a job best left to someone properly trained to work on an AR. An adaptor is available from Spaceage Weaponry, so you can use the D-CAT for butt stock removal. For the majority of us, the D-CAT (as it comes from the factory) will take care of 95% of your needs, and is an all-in-one tool in one nice little package.

One of the AR-15/M16 tools I'm always using and breaking is the front sight adjustment tool. Most ARs that I've run across usually need the front sight pin moved up or down to get the proper zero, and I've lost count of the number of front sight adjustment tools that I've broken because of a stubborn or frozen in place (rusted) front sight pin. Well, with the D-CAT tool, I don't worry about having to buy another front sight adjustment tool. Springs and pins break, wear out, or get lost if you are really serious about taking an AR apart. The D-CAT tool makes it soooo much easier and faster, plus it's nice to have just the right punch on-hand. Some folks can't quite figure out how to remove some of the little pins on an AR (not that they need replacing), but gun buffs get curious. Well, the D-CAT can nicely handle the job on all of the pins. Brownell's has a short video on the D-CAT, and the Spaceage Weaponry website also has several videos you can watch and see the tool in action.

Have you ever tried replacing the factory trigger guard on an AR? You might want a larger one or an oval-shaped one. Well, it's easier said than done, since you have to depress the little pin to get the trigger guard to release. However, with the D-CAT, the job is much easier to do. Do you need to remove the trigger assembly for replacement or a broken disconnector, or just want a match-grade trigger group in your AR? Once again, the D-CAT can handle the job.

Are you a military armorer? Just think how nice it would be to have a complete AR-15 "tool box" full of tools, all in one, that you can carry in your pants pocket? To be sure, you could also put some of the most often broken or replacement parts in a plastic baggie to keep in your pocket. This way, when an M4 or M16 goes down and a soldier needs it repaired "right now," you can do the job, without having to take the rifle back to the arms room or armory to work on it.

Are you a police armorer? Once again, you will find how handy it is to have the D-CAT on-hand. If out on the range with your officers qualifying or just getting in some target practice when something breaks or a part gets lost, you can repair it right there with the D-CAT and a few of the most-needed, spare parts in your pocket. No need to go digging through your tool box to find the right tool; you'll have it in your pocket.

If you are a serious Prepper, you absolutely should have a D-CAT on-hand, along with spare parts for your ARs plus a working knowledge on how an AR type of rifle operates and functions. They really aren't all that hard to work on, if you have the right tool and the right parts.

The D-CAT is one of those "why didn't I think of that" inventions. While it's not a KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) idea, it took a lot of time, effort, and design know-how to come up with it. Still, you wonder why you didn't come up with the idea for all the tools you'll need to work on an AR-style rifle in one compact little package that fits in your pocket. The D-CAT retails for $149.99. It may sound like a steep price, but if you went out and purchased all the tools you'd really need to work on an AR, you'd probably spend that much or more, and they wouldn't be in one nice, tidy little self-contained package, like the D-CAT.

Remember, though, all the tools in the world are useless if you don't have the spare parts needed to do a gun repair on an AR, or any firearm for that matter. At the very least, get a D-CAT and then get one of the AR spare parts kits (or a couple of spare parts kits), so you'll have it all on-hand when it's needed. If you take your survival seriously, and you should, then take weapon maintenance/repair just as seriously. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat CascioPat Cascio



Don't you just hate it when someone comes up with one of those "oh-so-simple" ideas, and it is an immediate hit or success. I don't begrudge anyone success in their lives, but how come it's always someone else who invents a better application of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle? I've been around long enough to know that keeping things simple is usually the right and smart way to go. I recently heard from one of my former martial arts students, who I hadn't heard from in 25 years. He now holds Black Belt rank himself in several different styles of martial arts. He said he always remembered what I taught him-- the "basics" are what work in a fight rather than all the fancy kicks and jumping around. If you did nothing except learn and instill the basic fighting techniques, you'd be a force to be reckoned with.

Now, as most SurvivalBlog readers will know, I prefer big knives. They seem to get the job done better than smaller knives, in many situations. Consider the Columbia River Knife and Tool Original K.I.S.S folder from the creative mind of Ed Halligan-- a well-known custom knife maker and designer. It's one of those simple designs that I wish I had come up with while designing knives over the years. Now, while the design is simple in context, everything had to fit together precisely for the design to function properly. This K.I.S.S. design has to have everything perfectly in balance, and CRKT and Halligan did an outstanding job.

By the way, the K.I.S.S. design actually stands for “Keep It Super Simple”, according to Halligan. I can't find fault. The design is super simple. The K.I.S.S. is a unique two-piece construction, featuring an integral frame lock, and the design allows the cutting edge of the blade to seat against the handle rather than inside of it. It's easier to see on the CRKT website, than it is to explain.

I first saw the K.I.S.S. during a visit to the CRKT offices many years ago and was amazed at the design. The closed length of the knife is 3.5 inches, and opened it is 5.75 inches. The blade is only 2.25-inches long and can be had partially serrated or plain edged. Both the blade and handle material is 420J2 stainless steel. The blade shape is a Tanto with the grind being chisel point and only sharpened on one side, like a wood-working chisel blade.

There is a thumb stud for one hand opening. However, I must confess that on smaller blades I simply can't use the thumb stud to open blades. This is not unique to this knife. It's the same on all smaller-sized folders; I just can't open them with my thumb. My thumbs kind of work opposite of most folks' thumbs; they easily bend backwards but not very far forward.

When you close the blade on the K.I.S.S., it folds onto the handle, NOT into it. My first impression was that a person is going to get cut or the point of the blade will stab them, when it is closed. Such is not the case. I've tried to intentionally cut myself with the K.I.S.S. folded and couldn't do it. The blade is securely locked against the handle and you can't cut yourself when the blade is closed. AMAZING!

Now, there are several ways you can carry the K.I.S.S. on your person. It can be clipped to your pocket with the pocket clip (my preferred way to carry it) or clipped to a shirt pocket. Since I only wear t-shirts, the idea of clipping to a shirt pocket wouldn't work for me. You can also use it as a money clip, and it doesn't draw unwanted attention when you pull the paper money out of your pocket with the knife clipped to it. I have to assume it works that way because I never have any paper money in my pocket. I only carry change, so my pennies and dimes kept slipping off the pocket clip. LOL! You can even use the knife as a keyring knife, and you won't even know it's there until you need it.

The K.I.S.S. came with a hair-popping edge on the blade. You can also get one with a partially serrated blade as well. Given a choice, I'd go with the partially serrated blade for opening mail and boxes . The serrations just rip through cardboard boxes with ease. I've also found that a small knife, like the K.I.S.S., doesn't cause someone to express "that" look when you pull it out of your pocket in public. Whereas, a larger knife draws glares, and people wonder why you need such a big knife. The K.I.S.S. is a fun knife. When you show it to someone, they immediately comment on how simple the design is. I'm not sure how long this design has been in the CRKT line-up, but I'm sure it is probably their longest-selling design. It comes in many different flavors, too, so check out the website. You'll be amazed at all the different ways they came up with this same basic design. Unlike many smaller folders, this is one stout, very well-made, little folder.

If you have a birthday coming up, either for yourself or a loved one, the Original K.I.S.S. would make a wonderful addition to your knife collection. You'll find yourself using it all the time for those smaller chores that call for a knife. Now, while I wouldn't dare call this knife a "survival knife" by any stretch of the imagination, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. Which reminds me, I just gave my K.I.S.S. sample to someone who couldn't stop talking about it. So, I need to replace it because I miss it already.

The K.I.S.S. retails for $39.95, but can usually be found deeply discounted at many of the big box stores or online at knife dealers. Since the K.I.S.S. came along, there have been many, many imitators, but there is only one original. The imitators are all junk and have violated a patented design. Pick-up a K.I.S.S. for your loved ones, and I'm betting you'll get a kiss in return. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat CascioPat Cascio


Monday, February 10, 2014


I've stressed, in previous articles, the importance of having safe drinking water for your survival. Also, you have to have some type of food to feed your calorie-burning body. We can go a long time without food, but let's be honest, we'd rather have a good hot meal to eat.

I've reviewed several different types of small, compact camp stoves that easily fold up and fit inside your bug out bag (BOB). I reviewed a rocket stove, and was impressed with how easy it was to cook on. I've made a few "hobo" stoves in the past; this is a really poor man's rocket stove of sorts. Now, while you can cook your food a number of different ways, some methods of cooking are easier than others. Cooking a meal on your stove in your kitchen is the way to go. However, in a SHTF scenario, we might not have access to our kitchen stove. The power could be out, your gas line broke, or the gas cut off for whatever reason. When this happens, you have to kick into a survival mindset and figure out a way to cook your meals. Sure, lots of foods can be eaten cold, but that's no fun, to be sure.

Today we are looking at thh Silver Fire line of stoves. They manufacture many different models. Silver Fire's founder, Todd Albi, provided me with their Silver Fire "Survivor" rocket stove model for testing, for SurvivalBlog readers. I'm here to tell you, right off the bat, if the "Survivor" model is any indication of the outstanding quality of the rest of their stoves, I'm totally blown away. The quality, manufacture, and materials used in this stove is the best of the best. It's simple as that.

Just a short note about Albi is in order. He was the former founder of StoveTec rocket stoves, and (for reasons that I won't go into) left StoveTec and worked to refine his rocket stove idea into a high-quality rocket cook stove. Silver Fire cook stoves require minimum fuel and produce little emissions or smoke. His stoves are designed for improved durability and efficiency, too. He challenges anyone to compare his line of rocket stoves to any other brand and draw your own conclusions. A very brave statement and challenge to be sure. The man has every confidence in his products!

When you take the "Survivor" rocket stove out of the box, you will immediately notice the fine workmanship. The round stove is covered with a polished stainless steel body, and the cook top is cast iron, with five spacers on the top, so your pot or pan will sit nicely and evenly distribute heat. The insulation isn't clay, as is found in many commercially manufactured rocket stoves; instead, fiber insulation is used to reduce the weight. Some rocket stoves are heavy, real heavy. Not this one.

With the new designs incorporated into the "Survivor" rocket stove, in an emergency, very little fuel is required to bring a large volume of water to a boil or cook a pot of food. I like that this rocket stove only weighs 12.5 pounds-- about half of what other commercially made rocket stoves weigh. The rectangle shape combustion chamber allows for uniform insertion of a wide variety of fuel, and the stove's door improves efficiency in burning the biomass or wood fuel. Unlike other rocket stoves, this one is designed to operate with the fuel door closed. Yes, there is a feed "ramp" that attaches to the front of the stove, and you can keep your fuel loaded on it and ready to slide it in, as it is needed. There is also a fuel "gauge" on the front of the black fuel door. This gauge lets you know the size of wood that is best inserted and burned in the stove. Neat! Just keep in mind that this stove operates best with the fuel door closed!

The "Survivor" rocket stove also comes with two carry handles, which you must attach once you unpack the stove. They are easy enough to install with a screw driver. Complete instructions come with each stove. (Some other stoves come with NO instructions at all, and you are left on your own to figure out how to best utilize the stove.)

There is a lot of technical information on the Silver Fire website, and I won't bore readers with it. You can go to their website and read it all for yourselves. Also, there are several videos on the website. Please take the time to watch them; they are educational and very useful. As mentioned, Silver Fire makes several different types of cook stoves, so check them all out before deciding which model is best for your needs. I personally like the "Survivor" model sent to me for testing, and it would be my first choice from all their different products for use in a SHTF scenario. I really like that very little fuel is needed to cook a meal, and the stove is very efficient in burning the fuel, leaving very little ash and very little smoke when you are cooking. As any outdoorsman can attest to, smoke can be seen for miles; in a SHTF scenario you may not want someone knowing your location.

Another feature worth mentioning is that this stove has a temperature-reducing baffle plate on the bottom of the stove for safer handling and to decrease temperature on the cooking surface. Silver Fire claims their stove has the coolest surface temperature below the stove of any product on the market.

I tested the Silver Fire Survivor rocket stove and was totally blown away with how nicely it worked. It worked as advertised-- something nice in this day and age of so much hype. I have a very small homestead, but it is heavily timbered. Using the "Survivor" for my cooking needs, I'd have more than enough fuel from my trees and shrubs to last me for a lifetime of cooking on the "Survivor." It takes very little fuel, and this stove certainly does remind one of the fire that comes out of the back of a rocket engine. It gets hot, and it gets hot fast.

Boiling water was no chore, and cooking burgers in a pan was a piece of cake. I think I can cook a burger faster on the rocket stove than I can on my kitchen stove, which happens to be electric. Clean-up is fast and easy; just wipe the outside of the stainless steel body off with a rag, dump what little ash has accumulated, and you're ready to go.

Silver Fire also sells some accessories for their stove that you might want to take a close look at, too. Once again, check them out on the website for complete information and pricing.

Seriously, I don't care if you live in the city, on a farm, out in the boonies, or you are dead serious about your survival, you simply should have a rocket stove in your survival supplies. A city dweller could use the "Survivor" on their back porch, in their yard, or on their front deck. Of course, you shouldn't use this stove inside your house for safety sake. However, you CAN find a place to do your cooking, no matter where you live. Silver Fire also sells a very nice carrying case for their rocket stove, and I would suggest buying one. It makes transport easier, and the padded carrying case helps prevent your stove from getting dented and dinged up.

The "Survivor" retails for $124.95 and is worth every penny of it. I was actually surprised it didn't cost a lot more than that. Please, once again, take the time to check out their website at http://www.silverfire.us/ for complete information. There is a wealth of material there. Also, you will note that Todd Albi isn't just selling these stoves to make a profit, he wants to get these stoves into the hands of folks in Third World countries, too. He has special pricing for that. He also has wholesale pricing, if your group wants to make a large purchase.

I test a lot of products each month but nothing quite like the Silver Fire Survivor rocket stove. It is everything Todd Albi claims it to be and more. It's nice when I'm blown away by a product. This may well be the Rolls Royce of rocket stoves at Chevy prices! Silver Fire products are made right here in my neck of the woods-- Eugene, OR. If you're in the area, stop by their showroom and check out all their various stoves. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



When we were all children and Christmas rolled around or our birthday, we would normally reach for the biggest present with our name on it. Of course, everyone just knew that the bigger the package, the better the present. Right? Well, not so fast

Did you ever hear that good things come in small packages? Well, quite often, the smaller the package, the better the item inside. I'm a big knife fan, and I don't mean that I'm a big "knife" fan (although I am rather big). Instead, I like knives that are big. More often than not, a bigger knife can do more things better and quicker than a smaller knife. Not always, but most of the time that's true.

Enter the Ultimate Knife and their interpretation of the folding Karmabit (pronounced "ka-rahm-bit") self-defense knife. The Karmabit is based on an Indonesian fighting knife design. It is not a big knife; far from it. I received the 599 and 599 TK set from Lad Mandiola, who owns and operates The Ultimate Knife website and company. I'll share more on Lad shortly. What we have is a Talon-style blade that is VERY wicked, but it's only 2.25-inches long. That's not big at all for a knife designed for self-defense. However, because of the curved talon-style blade, it is meant to rip, claw, and trap just about any part of a person's body. Once again, these are designed for self-defense, not for opening letters or other utility chores.

The blade material on the Karambit is N690 Cobalt stainless steel, and it is black Teflon coated for that tactical/subdued look. The entire knife only weighs in at 3.5-ounces. Handle scales are super-tough G10 black composite material that's almost bullet-proof! The blade locks open via liner locks-- a proven locking design. You also get an orange handle "training" Karambit in this package; the blade is NOT sharpened and has a blunt point and holes in the blade, so you can't confuse it with the sharpened version. I strongly suggest you buy the two-knife package, instead of just the sharpened Karambit alone.

There is a pocket clip that can be reversed from one side of the handle to the other for Southpaw users, and depending on how you carry the knife in your pocket, it will dictate which side of the handle scales you place the pocket clip. That's something you have to decide for yourself. I choose strong side (right) pocket carry.

There is also a large ring on the butt of the handle scales. The ring aids not only in drawing the knife from your pocket, but is a place to put your pinky finger inside for a more secure grip, or (if using the knife in the reverse or ice pick-style hold) is a place for your index finger. The ring can be used several ways, depending upon how you hold a knife for self-defense. We also have an oblong hole in the blade for manually opening the blade, if you choose to do it that way. However, you'll miss out on the neat little trick to the fastest opening folding knife in the world, and it's NOT a "switchblade" either.

The Italian-made Karambit is made by FOX in Italy, and they produce some outstanding knives at great prices. FOX is something of a secret to many knife owners for some reason, but I've owned several of their knives and have not been disappointed in any of them. What the Ultimate Knife Karambit has is the Ernest Emerson, patented "Wave" feature on the top rear of the blade. Basically, when you start to draw the knife from your pocket, pull back slightly towards the side of your pocket and, when you have cleared your pocket, the blade will be open. Much easier done that said. There are several videos on the Ultimate Knife website that I strongly suggest you take the time to watch. If you're not familiar with Ernest Emerson, Google his name. He's a well-known custom knife maker and designer, who was in such demand that he opened his own shop, where his knives are carefully manufactured and precisely fitted by a highly skilled staff. I've written several articles in the past about some of Emerson's knives.

I've talked to Lad Mandiola a couple times on the phone, and I'm here to tell you, Lad is totally excited about the Ultimate Knife Karambit that he is selling. He doesn't hold back his excitement when you are talking to him, and for good reason; he has a great product that performs out of proportion to its size. I tested one of the Emerson Knives Karambits some years ago, and these Italian-made knives that Mandiola is selling are every bit as good. Mandiola went the extra mile and got Ernie Emerson's approval to use his patented "Wave" feature.

What we have with the “wave” is a part of the knife blade that is machined in the shape of, well, a wave coming off the ocean. When you pull back on the knife a little bit, as you are drawing it, the "wave" catches the edge of your pocket and pulls the blade out of the handle scales. Once again, easier done than said. It opens just "that" fast, and there is no worry about the blade cutting you as it opens, either. In speaking with Lad Mandiola (in a long conversation the first time we talked), he directed me to his website where he has comments from a number of very happy customers. Everyone loves the "wave" feature. It doesn't take any real training to whip the Karambit out of your pocket, and it is open. I know. I know that a lot of people think that an automatic folder is fast opening, and they are, sorta! First, you have to draw the automatic folder from your pocket, and then find the release button to open the blade. On the Karambit, you simply draw the knife out of your pocket, and when it has cleared the pocket, the blade is open. You do it with one smooth motion; it's almost like magic!

Now, you might say, "What good is a 2.25-inch knife blade for self-defense?" Glad you asked. Let's go back to the Talon blade design, and I've mentioned a number of times in my knife articles that most knife fights involve slashing rather than stabbing moves. If you slash at a person's arms, legs, or wrists and cut a tendon, that body part is useless. If you slash at someone's face and the Talon catches an eye, they can't see you to continue their attack. If you happen to catch an artery in the neck, a person will bleed out in very short order. The Talon designed blade, although short, can reach tendons, arteries, eyes, and many other body parts. The Talon's claw shape not only cuts, it also tends to pull the body part into the blade, doing more damage. Think of an Eagle's claw. That is what the Karambit's Talon blade is shaped like. It's very, very wicked!

Also, if you are forced to use the Karambit for self-defense, the police would look at the short blade and wouldn't think of this knife as a wicked self-defense weapon in the least. It would look better for you when you used this little bladed knife for self-defense as opposed to a larger knife or something that screams "tactical" because of it's large shape or design.

The orange-handled training knife can be used for practicing your attack/self-defense moves against a cardboard dummy (or whatever you want to use as a training aid) without fear of harming yourself with a sharp blade. Also, the training knife can be used, quite effectively, as a pressure point weapon-- a non-lethal weapon that can cause a person to break-off an attack. I originally trained in Judo as my first martial art, and then I moved on to Karate and Kung-Fu. We learned the importance of using pressure points and strikes to break-off an attack. Believe me, if you struck someone on a pressure point with the blunted blade of the training knife, they would break-off the attack. If an attacker has you in a deadly hold of some type, you could rapidly draw the training knife and apply pressure to cause them to release you. I honestly don't know any place, other than an airport security check point, where the blunted tip training knife would be illegal to own and carry in your pocket. To be sure, it's not a "knife" per se. It can't stab or cut anything. However, with a little practice, it could easily be used as a self-defense weapon against an attacker. Think about it.

The Karambit comes in two sizes-- medium and large. For most of us, the medium size will fit our hands nicely. If you have bear paws for hands, then you'd want to look at the large Karambit. Mandiola is running a special; if you buy the sharpened Karambit with the training knife, it is only $244.95, even though the regular price is $319.90. That's almost a $75 savings. You can also purchase a Kramabit by itself or even a training knife separately. Check out the website for the various packages and prices. Be sure to take the time to watch the education videos before you decide which Karambit you want to purchase. There is a lot of information there that will help you. Also, if you have any questions about the Ultimate Knife Karambit, give Lad a call. His number is on the website, and he will be more than happy to help you any way he can. I honestly don't recall when I've last talked to someone like Lad Mandiola, who was so "up" about his products. It was a pleasure talking to someone who has such faith in his products. He's “good people”, too. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, February 3, 2014


It seems the older I get the more I think about being young and all the things I did in my life. Now, if you were to ask my daughters how old I am, they'd probably tell you that when I was younger I hunted dinosaurs with spears. Well, I'm not quite that old, but I am getting there. I spent a great deal of time in law enforcement and private security and I still remember old fashioned flashlights. You know the ones I'm talking about. They held two large "D" sized batteries that didn't last long, and the light they threw was yellow and didn't help you see very far at night. For the life of me, I don't know why they are still be manufactured and sold when there are much better LED alternatives, which use smaller, much longer lasting batteries and throw a bright beam of light a long distance.

Living out in the “boonies”, like I do, we don't have street lights. When the sun goes down, it gets real dark outside my homestead. During Fall and Winter, it gets very dark much earlier, too. Sure, I keep the front porch light on, but it only lights up my front deck. Iit does nothing to light my large front yard and driveway. So, when my German Shepherds hear something, they start barking, alerting me something is on our property. Because of my poor hearing, I don't ignore their barking because they rarely bark without good reason. Just the other night, all four of the big German Shepherds in my house started barking. I looked outside, but couldn't see anything; it was too darn dark.

I reached for the LED LENSER M7RX flashlight I had received to test for SurvivalBlog. I turned off the front porch light, opened my front door, and turned on the M7RX. I saw four does grazing on the plush grass in my front yard, only 30 feet from me. I stood and watched them for several minutes, until they decided the light might be a threat and left my yard; they walked out rather than running. I often sit on my front deck, where I watch deer feed in my front yard, sometimes only 15 or 20 feet from me. They know that I'm not a threat to them, so they'll feed until they are full, and then leave my yard.

The LED LENSER M7RX is one of the newest small flashlights from LED LENSER. For the record, they are owned by Leatherman-- the multi-tool company. I've tested several of their flashlights in the past and have been impressed with them all. I carry a small (now discontinued) flashlight in my right front pocket. It is "only" 70-lumens, but it throws a lot of light for a flashlight requiring only one lone "AAA" battery. Comparing my little pocket flashlight to any of the old-style "D" cell battery flashlights, it, literally, outshines them in all respects.

I always have one or two small flashlights in my pockets, always! If you carry a firearm for self-defense and you don't carry a light source, you are making a big mistake. It is estimated that most shootings take place in low-light or no-light conditions , about 80% of the time. So, if you don't have a light source when the shooting starts, where are you going to shoot? Are you going to shoot at the muzzle flash or a noise you hear? Not a smart situation. So, you need some kind of light source in order to identify any potential threats that might be out there or in your house. I think we all remember the shooter in the movie theater in Colorado who opened-fire on innocent movie-goers. The only light in the theater was from the screen. If there had been a legally-armed civilian in the theater with a bright flashlight, they might have been able to take down that shooter, or at the very least, temporarily blind him with a bright light.

The M7RX is just such a bright light. It is advertised as having 600-lumens, and that is more than enough to temporarily blind an attacker. What's that you say? The shooter will see the light and fire at it? Not likely. He'll be temporarily blinded with 600-lumens. At best, a shooter would only be able to fire wildly, giving you the chance to return fire or escape the deadly threat. Trust me, I know what that kind of bright light can do. While visiting my local gun shop one morning, one of the employees was playing with a 300-lumen flashlight and shinned it into my eyes. I lost sight immediately, and it was several days before the dark spot in the center of my vision cleared up. Not a smart thing for that kid to do; super-bright flashlights come with a warning to not look into the light because it can temporarily blind a person and potentially cause long-term vision damage.

So, we are looking at 600-lumens coming out of the M7RX.. This particular model is rechargeable, too, so you don't have to purchase any batteries. It has a very clever magnetic charging system; you simply attach the charging device to the bottom of the flashlight. The charging device and flashlight are held in place with a magnet, and the charger is plugged into the wall outlet. If you let the flightlight battery go completely dead, it takes about 6 1/2 hours to fully charge. Still, it beats having to buy batteries all the time.

The M7RX has a maximum output of 600-lumens as mentioned above, and it will run for approximately 1-hour 30-min on high beam. At the reduced power of 85-lumens, it will run for 8.5 hours. Did you read that? At the lower lumen power, it will run for more than 8-hours. Try that with your 99-cent double "D" cell flashlight that might throw 15-lumens of yellow light. The M7RX can throw a fairly bright, white light on the reduced power setting of 85-lumens all night long.

The M7RX is fairly small. It is only slightly more than six inches long, and it weighs a mere 7.16-ounces It is about as fat as a large cigar. It also comes with a lanyard, a pocket clip, and also a holster that you can easily clip onto your pants. We also are looking at the "Advanced Focus System" that LED LENSER has. This allows you to rapidly change the focus of the light from a small, narrow beam to a floodlight. The floodlight focus easily lights up my huge front yard.When I focus down, I can see several hundred yards across the road from me onto my neighbor's property. I can see just about all of his 40+ acres of land. It cuts through the dark. Without going into all the details of the Advanced Focus System, it basically allows you to use your thumb to slide the lens forward or backward. When you slide it forward, it gives you a narrow focused light beam. When you slide the lens back, it gives you a floodlight effect. Of course, you can't see nearly as far with the floodlight focus, but it lights up my front yard, which is several hundred feet wide.

Whether you live in the city or out in the country, like I do, you simply must have a good flashlight at night. On top of the power settings on the M7RX and the focus system, it also has several other features that can come in handy. You'll need to read the detailed instructions that come with this light. You have a strobe light feature; this is a great thing for self-defense use, inside or outside. A strobe will readily disorient an attacker or someone who breaks into you house. In short order, we're talking a second; the person will break-off an attack once the strobe feature is used and you flash it into their eyes. Yes, you can temporarily blind them, but that's their problem, not yours. You were defending yourself. If you are one who takes walks at night in the city park (a foolish action, in my opinion), you need this non-lethal weapon in your hands. The strobe light feature will make an attacker or rapist blind, so you can run away. There is also an SOS feature that enablesthe light to flash an SOS signal. The list of features goes on. For such a small flashlight, it has a lot to offer. Check out the website for more information.

I know some people aren't into firearms, and that's their choice; they carry pepper spray or a knife, but carrying the M7RX is just a darn good idea if you are worried about your well-being. Pepper sprays don't always work against drugged-up attackers, and you really need to be skilled in knife fighting or the knife can be taken from you. However, if you use the M7RX to temporarily blind an attacker, it gives you time to run. Even in bright sunlight, the 600-lumens of powerful white light will still blind an attacker. So don't think it is only a night-time, self-defense weapon.

The M7RX has a full retail price of $300. It is a bit steep, but this light will last you many years; it comes with a five year warranty. You can find the M7RX at lower costs, if you shop the Internet. It is a great investment, not only for the lighting capabilities it offers you but also for the self-defense use as well. Additionally, the M7RX isn't just a "flashlight"; it is a computerized, multi-function lighting system that might just save your life some day. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



In another life, I worked as a truck driver. I drove different types of trucks-- dump trucks, "straight jobs", and even pick-up trucks-- delivering all manner of cargo. Today, my deliveries are made using an SUV. If I have to haul something, it's usually on the luggage rack on top or inside. If I have anything bigger to haul, I'll call a friend with a pick-up truck.

There's one thread common in hauling anything, and that is that you have to secure it to keep it from moving around. For hauling anything on top of my SUV, I keep some rope in my emergency box as well as several bungee cords of different lengths. The rope is a real pain-in-the-butt, as it is either too long or I have to cut it into pieces and then replace it down the road. More often than not, I forget to replace a length of rope until I actually need it. How many times has that happened to you? Bungee cords are a very useful thing to have around. The only problem is they never seem to fit anything without wrapping them around your cargo several times, and I've broken more than my share of bungee cords trying to stretch them too far. The weather takes a toll on them, too.

Several years ago, I sold my two motorcycles because of my bad back; I just can't ride any more. However, back when I was riding I would often strap something to the rear seat or someplace on the bikes, and that stuff would shift around. I used bungee cords for attaching things to my bikes. It was a decent solution, but not a good one, to be sure.

Titan Straps , sold by Lawson-USA are made in the USA, and are headquartered out of Bozeman, Montana. I received several different color Titan Straps-- bright orange, light gray, and tan. Their website shows blue straps, too. I'll be honest in that I just tossed the plastic bag with the straps in it on my filing cabinet until close to time for me to test them. I always have a long que of products awaiting to be tested. I thought, just by glancing at the straps in the plastic bag, that they were cheap-- real cheap plastic straps with plastic buckles. WRONG!

I like to give products I write about a good test. Sometimes products are tested for days, weeks, and months at a time. Some products can be tested right away. So, I figured I'd get around to testing the Titan Straps shortly before their turn in the queue came up. Okay, I was wrong, wrong, wrong! The Titan Straps are NOT manufactured out of cheap plastic with cheap plastic buckles! Don't you hate it, when you're wrong?

Titan Straps are made out of polyurethane injected with a UV protectant for an extra long lifespan. The buckles are aircraft grade aluminum, heat treated with polished edges, so they don't cut into you when you tightening down a load. On the end of the Titan Straps are a very aggressive pull tab, that you can easily pull to tighten a load with gloves on in cold temperature. Each Titan Strap is 25 inches long, and you can attach two or more together, if you need longer lengths. Each strap has 24 holes in it, so you can get the straps nice and tight on any load, too.

I didn't have anything to haul. So I simply put my 6-foot aluminum ladder on the roof-top luggage rack of my SUV and tied it down with several of the Titan Straps. Then, I drove up the mountain to my usual shooting spot. This was a good enough reason to do some shooting while I was up there. Part of the road is paved and part is gravel. The county recently laid down some more gravel, and they put it down much too thick. It was a total washboard-- rough enough to loosen a bad filling in a tooth, if you had one. The ladder stayed firmly attached to the roof rack up and down the gravel road.

Some of the benefits of the Titan Straps are that they are very supple in cold temps, non-marring, cut and tear resistant, chemical resistant, and won't absorb water. There are hundreds of uses for them, too. If you need to haul anything on your SUV's luggage rack, tie something down in your pick-up truck, or bind a load, you really should have some Titan Straps handy.

After my incorrect initial, first glance opinion of the plastic bagged Titan Straps, I'm happy to report that these straps are an outstanding product. Get some and keep them in the emergency box in your rig or under the seat of your pick-up truck. You'll be amazed at how handy this simply invention is, and it makes your job of securing things a lot easier and much faster, too. They have a break strength of over 200-lbs, so you can strap down cargo without fear of it breaking the straps.

The Titan Straps website shows them, in different colors, for $7.99 each. I suggest getting at least four or more of them. You'll wonder how you ever got along without them. Keep in mind, these are NOT a cheap plastic strap with a plastic buckle. These are heavy-duty, American-made products, well-designed and manufactured out of first-class materials. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, January 20, 2014


When I'm out hunting, and a lot of hunting in my neck of the woods is via logging roads that you drive on, or out for a hike, I like to have a little something to munch on. Quite often, I'll take some beef jerky or granola bars, as well as high-protein bars. It's just a good pick-me-up to have something to eat - instead of running home, when I'm a little hungry. Only problem I have with beef jerky is that, while it is quite tasty, it promotes thirst - a lot of thirst. Granola bars and high-protein bars are okay, but they really aren't a substitute for real protein, that the body needs, especially during activities like hunting, hiking or if you're in the military, out on a patrol, or even engaged in combat. The body needs protein - simple as that. [JWR Adds: Another problem with most compact high-protein foods--such as jerky, canned meats, and peanut butter--is that after a few days of an exclusive diet they tend to induce constipation, which could be potentially life-threatening if in the field for an extended period.]
 
I make no claims to being a scientist, in any way, shape or form. But I do a lot of research - as does my wife - on topics of nutrition, and what helps keep us alive. While I really enjoy a good piece or two of beef jerky, it is a bit hard to digest, unless you drink a lot of water, and you chew it - a lot - before swallowing it. Granola bars - well, I can take or leave 'em - but I have some when out and about in the boonies - I've always found their taste a bit lacking. And, I keep high-energy protein bars in my BOB, just in case.
 
A lot of hunters will carry a Thermos of coffee, for a quick pick-me-up, and that's fine - but it wears off almost as fast as the "high" it brings on. And, coffee really doesn't serve as a beverage that one needs in a high-stress situation - as in survival or combat. Yeah, I know, many folks are almost addicted to coffee - or more properly, the caffeine in coffee. I stopped drinking coffee more than a dozen years ago - and I only drank a cup or two each day...it did nothing for my acid reflux. However, I will say that, when you're out and about, in a combat situation, out hiking or camping, a nice hot cup of coffee is a nice thing to have. Still, it does nothing to aid in your survival for the most part.

Consider Vitality Sciences, and their new SurvivAMINO tablets. SurvivAMINO tablets are a 100% replacement for amino acids - and any protein in the world can be broken down into a combination of the 20 amino acids. Of these, 8 are considered essential because without any one of them, body functions start to shut down in a few weeks. Any protein source without all 8 essential amino acids is not a complete source and is setting you up for a deficiency. This is not good in s serious survival situation, or even in combat. Let's face facts, when your in a survival situation, you are under a lot of stress, and your body is burning calories - a lot of calories, and that means you need protein to keep going. And, you sure can't carry a BOB full of sirloin steaks, and while beef jerky is nice to have, it still won't supply all the amino acids your body needs to keep going, and going and going.
 
You probably have the best backpack money can buy, and tough boots - that are water proof, and that Gore-Tex jacket will keep you warm when it's 30 below zero. You've made a study and have the best M4 type of rifle, that will see you through any fire-fight, and plenty of ammo to go along with that rifle. You have some MREs in your BOB, too - but as you know, MREs are heavy, and you can't possibly carry all the MREs you want or need. You also have the best camo clothing, for the area you'll be operating in, too. But have you really taken into consideration what your body really needs - to keep going and going? Probably not! We keep multi-vitamins in our BOB, and while it's a great supplement, it still isn't a substitute for eating right, and as already mentioned, your body needs protein if you want to keep going. Yes, I know, a lot of folks are Vegans or Vegetarians - and that's fine, but the human body, needs protein if you expect it to keep function 100% - especially in stressful situation - and a survival situation, no matter what brings it on, causes a lot of stress and your body craves protein - it needs protein.
 
Yeah, I know, you are better skilled than "John Rambo," and you can hunt wild game and get your protein that way. Well, believe it or not, Rambo is a fictional character, and to be honest, if you believe you can hunt all the wild game you'll need to survive in the wilderness, you're going to die in short order. I'm not Rambo, never was...and the older I get, the wiser I get (I think?) and I want to pack smarter and lighter for my BOB - and that means carrying less weight, and the weight I do carry, I want it to count - to provide me with the best of everything, to ensure my survival.
 
SurvivAMINO tablets take up very little room in a BOB, and weight only a few ounces. A 100-count bottle of SurvivAMINO tablets is enough to last a person for 7-days, if they have no other source of protein. And, "no" SurvivAMINO is NOT a substitute for food per se, it is a supplement for protein that our diets call for. And, taking a SurvivAMINO tablet will not give you an instant boost in power and energy - just like a good steak won't give you that boost, either. However, your body will notice that it is getting what it needs in the protein department.
 
One again, I'm no scientist, but I know a good thing, in the nutrition department, when I find it, and if you're serious about your survival - in whatever form, you honestly should have a bottle or two of SurvivAMINO in your BOB - it will only help your overall health and well-being, when under stress. My youngest daughter was recently discharged from the US Army, after serving a 4-year hitch. And, by the time this article appears on SurvivalBlog, she will be in New Zealand, making a trek, on foot, across 2,000 miles of that country, and she will have SurvivAMINO in her backpack - there will be some parts of the trek, where she will be at least, several days between rural towns, and the SurvivAMINO will help her keep her protein level up there, for the trek.
 
A 100-count bottle of SurvivAMINO is $45. - and it's worth it, if you're serious about aiding your survival. If you're a military troop, stationed in some hell hole of a place, you'll really appreciate the benefits of SurvivAMINO - it will help keep those protein levels up where they should be - in addition to the MREs you are eating. If you're a hunter or camper, these tablets will help you...if you're into long distance running or walking, the benefits of SurvivAMINO tablets will come into play. And, best of all, they come with a 100% money back guarantee, too. My family and I will be stocking-up on SurvivAMINO as funds permit - it's a small investment insuring your long-term and even short-term survival - whatever brings on that emergency, that requires your survival. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



Many years ago, when I worked for the late Col. Rex Applegate. We worked with Paladin Press, on the very first video they produced, titled "Manstoppers." In this video a large selection of semiauto handguns were tested and fired by Tom Campbell, who at one time was Smith and Wesson's top shooter. I acted as range officer and a consultant on the video, that was shot at the old Applegate pioneer homestead outside of Yoncolla, Oregon. For this video, Col. Applegate obtained a prototype Glock 23 handgun, and we were all impressed with it, albeit there were many malfunctions, due to the fact, that the magazine sent with the gun was a modified Glock 19 magazine, and it caused feeding malfunctions. As I recall, well-known gun writer, Wiley Clapp, who was also on board for this video, suggested that Glock come out with a sub-compact version of the Glock 23 - I don't know if Clapp's idea ever reached the ears of Glock or not. However, a few short years later, Glock came out with two sub-compact handguns, the Model 26 in 9mm and the Model 27 in .40 S&W.
 
Today, the Glock Model 27 is the top choice for a back-up or off-duty for police officers and police departments that issue the full-sized Glock 22, which is in .40 S&W caliber. I don't have the exact stats on-hand, however nearly 80% of police departments in USA issue the Glock 22 as their duty sidearm these days. That speaks volumes of the popularity of the Glock handguns in general. However, lately some police departments have been switching back to the 9mm round - they've found that qualifying scores have taken a serious hit because of the recoil of the .40 S&W round. Additionally, there have been a lot of advancements in the 9mm caliber, which is easier to shoot - less recoil - and the stopping power is right up there with the .40 S&W when modern JHP rounds are use. (This is a different story, and best reserved for another article.)
 
The sub-compact Glock 27 is a chunky little brute of a pistol, it's only 6.49-inches long, 4.17-inches tall, and 1.18-inche wide. The barrel is 3.42-inches long, and the gun weighs in at 19.75-ounces empty. Trigger pull is 5.5 pounds and the gun is classified as a D/A (double action) only by the BATF, however many experts call it a S/A (single action) trigger pull - to each his own. I own a third generation Glock 27, and it came with two 9-shot magazines. Current models are called Gen 4 and come with three magazines and backstraps that can be changed for a better grip feel. I honestly can't feel much difference between the Gen 3 and Gen 4 models. However, I understand that the Gen 4 models are a bit stronger, to handle some hotter .40 S&W loads - like those produced by Buffalo Bore Ammunition. More about their loads shortly. I'll admit that, the trigger pull on Glocks takes a little getting used to, they are a bit "mushy" compared to say, a 1911 handgun, that has a very short and crisp S/A trigger pull. However, with practice, the Glock trigger can be mastered in short order. Another plus for the Glock line-up is that, they only contain 34-parts - less things to break, and parts interchange between many models, too.
 
I owned a Glock 26, 9mm sub-compact before the Model 27, and I found that my pinky was always left dangling under the magazine, because of the short frame on  the gun. In short order, a couple companies came out with a pinky extension. You simply replaced the magazine floorplate, for the after-market version, and there was plenty of room for your pinky to get a better grip on the gun. After that, some makers came out with a +2 floor plate - that not only give your pinky a place to go, it also added two additional rounds to the Glock 26, 9mm magazine. The same aftermarket magazine floor plates fit the Glock 27 - with the exception being, the +2 floor plate only allows one extra round in the magazine instead of two rounds. Yes, there are some no-name after-market +2 floor plates that will allow two extra rounds to fit in the Glock 27, 9-round magazine. However, I have found them lacking in reliability - yes, you can squeeze two extra rounds in that Glock 27 magazine, but at what cost? I'd rather have just one extra round that I know will feed, instead of two extra rounds that may not feed. In my humble opinion, and in my own use, I immediately replace the standard floor plate on a Glock 26 or 27, with a +2 floor plate - giving my pinky some place to go, instead of dangling under the magazine - and it gives me a very secure grip on these little powerhouse Glocks. And, the length of the +2 floor plates don't detract much from the concealability of these little handguns.
 
Right up front I'll voice my two-cents worth on the advantages and disadvantages of the Glock 26 and 27. If you are new to handgunning, and want a powerful, yet concealable handgun, it's hard to beat the little Glock 26. The reason I recommend the 26 over the 27 to new shooters is that, the 9mm round is more controllable than the .40 S&W round in the Model 27. Recoil is noticeably less in the 26, and follow-up shots are easier and faster. The Model 27 has some pretty violent recoil, and new shooters are a bit intimidated by the recoil of the .40 S&W round in the Model 27. If you start flinching, you start missing - and I've run this test a good number of times - having shooters fire a Glock 26 first, then fire the Glock 27 - and the shooters scored better with the 9mm Glock 26 and found it more enjoyable to shoot - even with +P loads.
 
I'm voicing my opinion, and from my experience, in shooting both the Glock 26 and Glock 27, and that of other shooters. With today's modern JHP ammo, most shooters will pick the Glock 26 over the Glock 27 - because the recoil is less, and they find it much easier to shooter compared to the Glock 27. I've been shooting for a lot of years, and I'm really not bothered much by recoil, so I could live with either the 26 or the 27. It is worth taking into consideration though, that all things considered, if you can hit better and faster with identical guns - other than the caliber difference - it's worth going with the gun you can shoot better and faster. Another factor to take into consideration is that, 9mm ammo is still less expensive than .40 S&W ammo is.
 
Now, with all the above stated, I prefer to carry the Glock 27 over the Glock 26 - I just like bigger bullets, because I still believe in my own mind that, they are more effective in stopping a threat. I know, the stats say there is virtually little difference when using comparable modern expanding ammo...but I'm old school! That's not to say I don't carry my Model 26 - I do - often! And, when I do, it is stoked with +P 9mm expanding ammo!
 
The front sight on the Model 27 is plastic, and it has a white dot - the rear sight is also plastic, and it has a white outline. I find these sights extremely fast to pick-up for combat shooting. For precision or target shooting, I prefer a different type of sight. However, we are discussing self-defense, so the sights that come on the Model 27 work just great. I know some folks replace the plastic sights with steel sights - and that's fine. There have been reports of the plastic front sight breaking on Glocks - I've yet to have that happen to any Glock handguns I've owned. The only two parts I've ever had break on a Glock, is the trigger spring - and this is a problem in my opinion, and I had an extractor break on an older Glock 27 I owned - both the spring and extractor are easy to replace - Glocks are extremely easy to work on if you know much about handguns in general. I keep a small supply of spare parts on-hand for Glocks, and the most often replaced part is the trigger spring.
 
On the new, Gen 4 Glocks, you can move the magazine release from one side to the other if, you're a left-hander. That's a quick and easy thing. On older Glocks, you can't do this - nor will the older Gen 3 magazines work in a Gen 4 pistol, if you swapped the magazine release to the opposite side of the gun. And, the magazine releases are much larger on Gen 4 Glocks - easier to hit for a fast reload. Tim Sundles, who owns and operates Buffalo Bore Ammo, tells me that, the Gen 4 Glocks are a bit stronger, and he doesn't see any problems shooting his +P .40 S&W ammo in the newer Glocks. And, he hasn't heard of any problems with older Model 27s shooting his +P ammo, either. Sundles said the barrels are the Gen 4 models seem to have more of a fully supported chamber. In any event, I've shot a lot of his +P .40 S&W ammo in my Gen 3 Model 27 without any problems at all. The recoil spring set-up is a bit stouter on the Gen 4 line-up of Glocks, too - and they are not interchangeable between earlier Glock generation pistols.
 
Out to the range, with a good assortment of .40 S&W ammo, and a lot of shooting was in order. These days, I'm trying to keep my firing down to about 200 rounds because of the great ammo shortage, we are still in. However, I fired more than 300 rounds of ammo through my Glock 27 for this test because of the wide assortment of ammo I had on-hand. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 140-grain Barnes Tac-XP all-copper hollow point load - and I only had a partial box, also, from Black Hills, I had their 180-grain FMJ remanufactured load - again, only half a box. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had quite an assortment to fire. First up was their standard pressure (non +P) 125-grain Barnes Tac-XP all-copper bullet and the same in a 140-grain load. I also had their fairly new 200-grain Hard Cast FN standard pressure load. In the +P loadings from Buffalo Bore, I had their 155-grain JHP, 180-grain JHP and their 180 grain FMJ loadings.
 
I enjoyed the Black Hills 180-grain FMJ remanufactured load the most - the recoil wasn't bad at all. I have to beg Black Hills for some more of this loading. It is a great range and target load. The 140-grain Barnes Tac-XP all-copper hollow point was a pleasant load, too - and would make an outstanding street load for self-defense, I'm really sold on the Barnes all-copper hollow points - they expand nicely and penetrate deeply. The Buffalo Bore 155-grain and 180-grain JHP +P loads had about the same felt-recoil in my opinion. And, for quite some time, I carried their 155-grain JHP load in various .40 S&W chambered handguns. The Buffalo Bore 140-grain and 125-grain standard pressure loads, with the Barnes Tac-XP all-copper bullets really got my attention in the little Glock 27. They seemed hotter, and had more recoil than the +P loadings from Buffalo Bore - so I mixed these loads in the magazine, and found that, in my humble opinion, the standard pressure loads had a bit more recoil - the slide was moving pretty fast during recoil - but there were no malfunctions. The last load I tested, is the Buffalo Bore 200-grain Hard Cast flat nose (FN) round, and this is the round I'd carry in the little Glock 27, if I was out in the boonies, and worried about larger 4-legged critters - it really penetrated. I placed four one-gallon milk jugs with water in them, and fired this load - it completely penetrated all four jugs of water. And, felt recoil wasn't bad at all. So, again this would be in my Glock 27 if I were out in the boonies.
 
I was really torn between the Buffalo Bore 140-grain and 125-grain standard pressure Barnes Tax-XP loads - as to which one would be the better street load for self-defense. The 125-grain load actually had a bit more recoil if my humble opinion compared to the slightly heavier 140-grain load. Nothing I couldn't handle, but the felt-recoil seemed to be a bit more in the lighter load, compared to the heavier load. In the end, I selected the 125-grain Barnes Tac-XP all-copper load for my street self-defense load. I compared this loading, to the Buffalo Bore .357 SIG 125-grain Barnes Tac-XP all-copper load, and they are identical in ballistics (on paper) and the .357 SIG is making a real name for itself, as a man stopping load. So, in reality, if you look at the ballistics, the 125-grain .40 S&W Barnes Tac-XP all-copper load is doing the same job as the .357 SIG load - with the exception being, you are firing a .40 caliber bullet - compared to the 9mm bullet that the .357 SIG load is throwing - and once again, it comes down to, bigger is better, if you ask me.
 
I fired the little Glock 27 across the hood of my SUV, using a rolled-up sleeping bag as a rest. Distance was 25 yards - and the Model 27 easily hit where I aimed it. Most loads were in the 3-inch to 3 1/2-inch range - good enough for head shots if you had to take one. The winner in the accuracy department was the Buffalo Bore 200-grain Hard Cast FN load - and I was able to just slightly break that 3-inch mark with 5-shots - if I did my part. Firing so many rounds through the little Glock 27 was tiring, and it was all done over the course of several hours. I honestly believe the gun might be capable of even slightly better accuracy than what I was getting. I've found that some of the sub-compact Glock's actually give me slightly better accuracy than their mid and full sized brothers do.
 
I carry the little Model 27 in a Glock sport holster - they are only about $12 and they hold the gun high and extremely close to the body - I like this holster a lot ! I have several leather holsters for this Glock, but the plastic Glock sport holster seems to work best for my concealed carry needs. Go figure!
 
If you are in the market, for what might just be, the epitome, in a concealed carry .40 S&W caliber handgun, the Glock 27 might fill the bill for you. With the +2 floor plate on the magazine, that gives you 10 rounds, and one more in the chamber, and you should always carry at least one spare magazine with you. That will give you 10 more spare rounds of ammo. If you can't get the job done with the rounds in the gun and a spare magazine then you should have been carrying your AR-15 or AK-47. And, if the .40 S&W has too much recoil for you, then you can go with it's little brother, the Glock 26 in 9mm, loaded with quality, JHP loads. If I had to pick the ultimate concealed carry .40 S&W handgun, it would probably be the Glock 27. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, January 13, 2014


I still recall the days when most folks owned and used some type of D-cell flashlights, that held 2 of the big D sized batteries. And, while they were better than walking around in the dark, they didn't throw a very bright light, nor was the light bright white - at best, they were yellow in color. And, to be sure, those old flashlight - that are still sold today - really used up the battery power in short order. I remember working as a cop, and using the Mag-Lite "police" flashlight, and the model I used (and I still own it) took 3 of the big D batteries, and it had a Krypton light bulb, which threw a whiter light than a regular bulb did. Still, it was lacking in many areas - especially size - it was big, and heavy.

Over the past few years, I've tested quite a few hi-tech flashlights, and continue to walk away amazed, at the small size of these flashlights, and the amount of light they put out, and the run-time of the batteries. One of the smallest lights I received recently for testing is the Maxxeon 330 Pocket Floodlight. Now, while this isn't exactly a flashlight, it is considered a penlight, but not just any old ordinary penlight. I've owned quite a few little penlights, that fit in a shirt or pants pocket, via a clip, but none lasted very long, they were cheaply made, and they didn't throw much light at all.

The Maxxeon 330 is quite a bit different than the run-of-the-mill penlights. First of all, it has 140 OTF (out the front) lumens, and it will temporarily blind a person if you point it at their eyes. Secondly, it takes three AAA batteries - many penlights take one or two AA batteries. Third, this thing is built like a tank, really tough. I also like the Realtree camo coating on the entire penlight - and it has a soft rubber coating and really allows you to keep a good grip on the light. And, we have a pocket clip, that can be slid up or down to adjust it to fit different pocket depths. The end cap is green and it glows in the dark, so this light is easy to find.

The light bulb inside of the Maxxeon 330 is a Cree XP-E, cool white, 3-watt bulb, and it is very bight, as already noted. The custom designed flood reflector creates a huge floodlight beam - no rings, no shadows, no hot spots. The lens is AR coated glass, and is easy to replace if broken - however it is fairly well protected in that, it is recessed back a little from the end of the penlight. The body of the 330 is T6 aluminum - strong stuff. Run time with 3 AAA alkaline batteries is 2 hours to half brightness, and 4 hours of useable light with typical intermittent use - impressive, to say the least.

Overall length of the Maxxeon 330 is 6 1/2 inches - just slightly longer than most pens and pencils and it only weighs 1 ounce - you will readily forget you're carrying it. It has a click on click off button, and a half-press momentary on. And, it comes complete with three AAA batteries, too.

I've been using the 330 for two months, in my backyard - when I let my dogs out for their final "business" run - and my backyard isn't nearly as big as my huge front yard is - still, it is about 50 feet across and 20 feet wide, whereas my front yard is 25 yards wide and about 200 feet long. My backyard is fenced-in, for a dog kennel. When I let the dogs out - and I have four German Shepherds - it is dark at night - can't see the dogs without a light source of some kind. The Maxxeon 330 completely lights up my backyard - just like a real floodlight does. Of course, it isn't super bright at the far end of my yard, still, I can easily see all my dogs, and my guest house that is next door. I can also see through the dense brush and trees behind my house, too.

I work on firearms all the time, either cleaning, repairing or doing "whatever" and I've found the 330 to be very useful for seeing inside of  guns - it helps my aging eyes see things they might have ordinarily missed. Quite frankly, this little penlight is a real blessing to me, when working on firearms.

The Maxxeon 330 comes with a one year warranty against manufacturers defects, and it retails for $43.95 - a bit spendy you say might say, for a "mere" penlight? Well, once you get a 330 in your hands, and see how bright it is, you'll want one...this is no ordinary penlight - this little penlight throws a floodlight of light, and does so for quite a distance. It easily lights up an entire room in my house, too. Be sure to check out the Maxxeon web site for full details and ordering information on the 330 - you'll be as impressed as I was, and I'm thinking about getting another one or two - for around the house and for the wife's purse, too. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



These days, many people are concerned about their privacy, and I admit to being somewhat concerned myself. I recently took down my Facebook page - after it was hacked three times this year. So, if anyone sees a Facebook page with my name on it - it's not my Facebook page - someone hacked my original page, and made one false Facebook page that looks similar to the real one, and the second one doesn't even come close to being like my original. Additionally, I found that it was too time-consuming keeping up with everyone's newest Facebook page posts.

Also, folks are more than a little concerned about the recent news of the National Security Agency (NSA) spying on our phone calls, e-mails and conversations - and with good cause. While I have nothing to hide in my e-mails, conversations and phone calls, I still don't like the idea of the FedGov spying on my privacy. And, as everyone knows, anything you say, no matter how innocent it might be, can and will be taken out of context if the FedGov is determined to arrest you for something - it happens all the time.

In the past, I know that my e-mails were clumsily looked at by someone - I'm fairly certain it was the FedGov. Anytime I mentioned the words AR-15 or AK-47 in my e-mails, it took those e-mails several days to reach the intended party they were meant for. However, without those "catch" words, e-mails went right through - with those words, it sometimes took as long as 3 or 4 days for the e-mails to reach whoever I sent them to. I also ran a company, many, many years ago, called Rescue One - and we were registered with InterPol as a private intelligence and investigations agency, and I had offices in Athens, Greece and Cape Town, South Africa - as well as in the US. And we know mail between offices had been opened and read - it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that our mail had been opened and read. Funny thing was, a lot of the work we did was contract work for one of our own intelligence agencies. Whatever!

These days, I'm almost to the point of just tossing my cell phone away, it gets annoying at times, especially with text messages. Whatever happened to good ol' fashioned phone conversations between friends? Conversation is a dying art, it would appear. And, everyone is probably aware of the continuing news of the NSA spying on our phone calls - it's in the news daily. And, until now, it was hard to stop anyone from listening to your phone calls.

Signal Armor's new zip-lock portable Faraday cage design. Anyone not familiar with Michael Faraday's design, can research it. Just a short mention here, Faraday invented a "cage" that protects  an implement from static electricity. It can also protect electrical appliances from an EMP attack, too.

The Signal Armor bags consists of four layers, one is a heavy duty outer layer, another is an additional protective layer under the first, and an anti-static protective layer and the zip lock closure. It's all pretty simple when you exam it. And, it also protects your cell phone by making it waterproof when you place your cell phone inside the bag and zip it closed.

I was intrigued by the Signal Armor concept, and wanted a way to test it. Lacking an EMP attack, I placed a Family Radio Service (FRS) two-way radio in the bag, and zipped it closed. I then tried to take my second FRS radio and attempt to communicate with the first radio - no luck, the signal didn't get through. I then took my cell phone, placed it in the Signal Armor bag, zipped it closed, and had one of my family members try to call my cell phone - several times - and each time, their calls were immediately sent to my voice mail - no signal got through to my cell phone, when it was inside the Signal Armor bag.

Now, the Signal Armor bag won't protect all your cell phone calls - because you have to take your cell phone out of the bag to make or receive calls. However, when your cell phone is inside the bag, and it is zipped closed, no one can activate your cell phone and listen in on any conversations you might be having in your home or car. Not a bad start, to assuming some of your privacy back. Of course, when your cell phone is out of the bag, the NSA or whatever government agency will be able to listen-in on your phone calls, or even turn on your speaker, and they can listen to conversations in your room. Still, the Signal Armor bag isn't a bad idea if you have concerns about your cell phone privacy.

We've all probably heard the saying "just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you..." and these days, privacy seems to be a thing of the past for the most part. So, if you want to regain a tiny bit of your privacy via your cell phone, the Signal Armor is a good first step. Someone asked me how well the bags would work against an EMP attack. Well, to be quite honest, I don't think it matters. If there is an EMP attack, and everyone's cell phones, cell towers, computers and all electrical products are fried - then what difference would it make if you cell phone still worked? You wouldn't have anyone you could call. Stop and think about it!

The Signal Armor bags sell for $8.49 and the company is designing larger bags for other purposes and uses. So, if you have some concerns about your cell phone privacy or an EMP attack, then pick-up a couple of these neat little bags. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, January 6, 2014


I love pocket knives! I carry one or two on my person every single day. A pocket knife gets used almost daily, whereas, my handgun on my right hip, is there for when really bad things happen. I couldn't get along with some kind of folding knife in my pocket - UPS, FedEx and USPS bring packages to me almost daily, and a good sharp knife does the job of opening the boxes in short order. I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't carry some kind of pocket knife - even as a kid back in Chicago, as early as third or fourth grade. Just think, the police weren't called, and you weren't expelled when you carried a pocket knife to school - unlike today, with the PC crowd, expelling students for having a butter knife, or pointing a finger and pretending it's a gun - the insanity in our public schools never ceases to amaze me these days.

I've been writing about Benchmade knives for about 20 years now, maybe even longer. I'm a long-time friend of Les d'Asis, who owns Benchmade - and he's a real down-to-earth type of guy, too - no suit and ties for him. And, he's never too busy to get on the manufacturing floor, to see how everything is running - he has his hand in everything - as busy as he is. So, I'm a big fan of Benchmade knives - and one thing that always catches my attention is, that no matter who designs a Benchmade knife, the designs just seem to flow - a graceful flow to their designs.

Today we consider the new 810BK Contego folder. I waited for this folder for more than three months because they were always out-of-stock, due to the popularity of this folder. And, the wait was worth it, too. A quick look at the Contego is in order. It has a 3.98-inch long blade made out of CPM-M4, one of the new powdered stainless steel blade materials, and this one is very impressive, to say the least - more on this shortly. Blade thickness is 0.156-inches, and the blade is tactical black - super cool looking, with a reverse Tanto-style blade shape that I really liked.

I was a bit concerned with the Rockwell hardness of the CPM-M4 blade, at 62-62, because when you start getting up that high on the Rockwell scale, the blade tends to get a little brittle in my experience, as well as hard to re-sharpen. My fears were for nothing, as when the blade finally did dull - and it took a good long time, it was easy enough to re-sharpen.

Weight of the knife is only 5.92-ounces - not too heavy, and not too light - a really good balance to the Contego. The handle scales are G-10 and have a bi-directional pattern on the scales, that really grip you back - I like a knife that stays in my hand, under all types of weather conditions - and the 810 does that. I had the 810BK, that has the blackened blade and a plain edge, however, you can have a partially serrated blade, or glades that are shinny instead of black - for me, the way to go is with the blackened blade - looks very tactical.

The clothing/pocket clip allow for a tip-up carry of the blade, and the clip is reversible from one side of the handle to the other if you're a Southpaw.  Also, the clip allows for a very deep carry in your pocket, yet allows the knife to be easily drawn, too. The locking mechanism is the now famous AXIS lock, and it is super-strong and self-adjusting as the knife wears in over the years. It also allows for a VERY smooth opening of the blade, using the ambidextrous thumb stud for opening the blade. On the butt end of the handle is a carbide glass breaker, and unlike some other glass breakers, this one is almost hidden, but it works - I tested it on an old piece of window glass.

Overall length of the Contego is 9.28-inches and closed it is 5.30-inches - once again, not too big and not too small. I like a folder, with a blade of 3.5-inches to 4-inches - when used for self-defense purposes - and this blade length just works best for me, under most conditions - be it for self-defense or utility work around the homestead.

Now, in case you were wondering where the name "Contego" came from, it's actually Latin - a language not used much these days, and it means "Protect" or "Shield" and the Contego 810 can sure serve as a last ditch self-defense weapon if needed.

I did my usual testing, and that is I used the knife in the kitchen, and it worked great slicing veggies and even meat at the table - I don't know how many knife writers use a pocket knife at the table when eating, but I do. I also stabbed and slashed cardboard boxes, and the Contego really grabbed and did it's job. I even threw the Contego at a tree several times, never got it to stick, then again, it isn't a throwing knife - but it was fun just the same.

I will say that, the CPM-M4 blade took forever to finally dull to where it needed to be re-sharpened. And, as I mentioned, I thought it would be tough to get that hair-popping edge back on the 810, but it didn't take long at all to get it back to factory sharp! I'm not privy to the science behind the new CPM-M4 stainless steel, other than it's a compressed powder, but I was totally impressed with the performance of the blade material.

I liked the way the Contego felt in my hand, and it has friction grooves on the top of the handle for a secure thumb placement in the fencing position. And, even in the reverse grip, with the carbide glass breaker, with my thumb placed on the glass breaker, it didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable and it didn't hurt my thumb. There is also a lanyard hole in the butt of the handle, and if you work over water, you'll appreciate a lanyard - it will help keep your knife from going deep in the water, where you'll never find it again.

All-in-all, I was pretty much blown away by this newest offering from Benchmade, and as I've said many times, quality never comes cheap, and the full-retail for the Contego is $210. Is is worth it? You bet it is, because you only buy quality tools once. But the junk, you have to keep replacing, and junk will fail you...the Contego won't. So, if you're looking for something just a little bit different for your next EDC folder, take a close look at the Contego.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



If you don't know about Leatherman multi-tools, you must have had your head in the sand for a lot of years. Today, we're taking a look at the improved Surge  multi-tool. To be sure, if you are serious about Prepping, Survival, hunting or working around your homestead - you absolutely, should have a multi-tool on-hand. My "Blast" Leatherman (sadly, now discontinued) is on my belt every single day, right there, next to my spare magazine, for whatever handgun I'm packing. And, it goes without saying, the multi-tool is used a lot more than my handgun is.

The Leatherman "Surge" is one of the two largest multi-tools, that Leatherman manufactures - and that's not to say they are overly large, they are not! I've seen some pretty huge multi-tools over the years, and while they were workhorses, they were just too big to carry on my belt or in a pocket. Closed length of the new Surge is 4.5-inches, and it weighs in at 12.5-ounces. Yes, it's a little bit on the heavy side, however, for all it does, it really isn't too heavy in my humble opinion.

The improved Surge is only slightly more beefy than the original, and it has all locking features on it - every tool that is in the handles, locks open tightly. Several of the tools can be opened while the Surge is still closed, too - you simply pull the Surge out of its included sheath, and you don't have to bother opening the two handles, to access some of the tools, you can open the tools with the handles closed.

Here's a quick run down on the 21 tools that are contained in the Surge: needle nose pliers, regular pliers, 154CM replaceable wire cutters, 154 CM replaceable hard-wire cutters, stranded wire cutters, electrical crimp, wire stripper, 420HC knife, 420 serrated knife, saw, spring-action scissors, awl with threaded loop, ruler (8-inches), can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, diamond coated file, blade exchanger, large bit driver, large screwdriver and a small screwdriver. And, there is a lanyard ring, for attaching the Surge to your pants or around your wrist, if working around water or any other place where you don't want to drop your Surge.

I have found that, the wood saw on Leatherman multi-tools, to be the best of the best, they can really cut wood all out of proportion to the size of the saw, and the teeth really do fast work on tree branches - I use the wood saw around my small homestead all the time, for cutting low-hanging tree branches.

The 420HC stainless steel knife blade and serrated knife blade come with a good edge on them - unlike many knife blades on other multi-tools, that are dull and useless. I like a serrated knife blade when cutting through cardboard or wet rope, or rubber hoses. The folding scissors are really cool - they cut better than a lot of other scissors I've used - and we're talking full-sized scissors, too.

I'm forever breaking a fingernail and it might not sound like the end of the world, however, I hate having a jagged fingernail. The folding scissors can trim the nail, and the diamond file does a great job of smoothing the nail, too.

The large and small screw drivers come in handy, for all kinds of minor repairs. Just a couple weeks ago, my mechanic and friend, was working on my youngest daughter's car, she had a coolant leak, and he pressurized the cooling system, and in short order, found that a brand-new upper radiator hose was leaking at the clamp. He didn't have a screw driver handy - he was working in my driveway, and I handed him my Leatherman, with the large screwdriver opened and a few seconds later - no more coolant leak. I know, I know - you're all wondering how I can get my mechanic to come and make a house call, right? Well, he's been out of work for a year - due to two cancer surgeries, and he is going stir-crazy sitting at home all the time, and is always looking for something to do - so he came to my digs and worked on a couple of our cars.

When my youngest daughter was in the US Army, and going through Combat Medic training, my wife and I gave her a Surge, and she, and many of her fellow soldiers were always using her older model Surge for various chores...she was glad to have it with her all the time. At some point, the army issued Combat Medics a Gerber multi-tool, and I have one myself, but I don't carry it with me any longer. I like the way you can flick the pliers out of the handles, however, one major problem showed itself in short order. If you are using the pliers, and squeezing hard on a nut or whatever you need the pliers for, and the pliers slip, we are talking major hurt. What happens is, the meat of your hand gets caught (squeezed) between the pliers handles - I bruised the meat of my hand several times with a Gerber. In contrast, with the Leatherman multi-tools, you don't have this worry, because you have to unfold the handles, to expose and use the pliers, and if the pliers slip, the handles can't close on the meat of your hand. Maybe I'm the only person this happened to with a Gerber multi-tool, but it happened one too many times, and I don't use it any longer.

One of the best things I like with the Leatherman line-up of multi-tools (and other products) is they all come with a  25-year warranty. If something breaks, they will repair or replace it - down to their smallest multi-tools. And, some tools can be user replaced, like the saw blade - it can be replaced if worn out or broken.

The new and improved Surge can be had in stainless steel, or blackened stainless - it's still stainless steel. And, it can be had with a standard sheath or a MOLLE compatible sheath for use on MOLLE vests. Tim Leatherman was the inventor of the true multi-tool. While the Swiss Army Knife has been around forever, I've yet to find one I'd be willing to bet my life on,since they break rather easily under a load. Not so with the Leatherman multi-tools. So, if you are serious about Prepping, and you don't have a good multi-tool, check out the new and improved Surge from Leatherman. The price is approximately $135, but shop around and you might find them a little cheaper on the Internet.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, December 30, 2013


Many firearms instructors, myself included, have a saying that goes something like this "train the way you fight." Meaning that, if you're training isn't related to real-life scenarios, you're
doing something wrong. Outside of my basic NRA handgun classes, my other (limited) firearms training classes are geared to real-life training. When on the range, we don't train you to stand there, squared off to a target, at a pre-determined range, and just stand there and shoot. No! Instead, my training consists of on-the-move training, as well as firing at a 180-degree area. We shoot right to left, and front to back. We shoot on the move, too - as well as from behind cover, and in the prone and kneeling position. In a real-life active shooter situation, you can't just stand there and square-off, and keep shooting - if you don't move, you'll die - simple as that.
 
After the first shots are exchanged, you should be seeking cover, or changing your plane, and reloading and looking for other threats. While there's nothing wrong with learning basic Marksmanship skills; sight picture, trigger control and follow-through, in a real-life deadly shooting, you need to be on the move, and make good use of cover and concealment if possible. Look, this isn't the Old West, where you and an opponent stand face-to-face, and see who can draw their weapon the fastest. That will get you killed. You have to train the way you'll fight - be it in the military, law enforcement or as a civilian gun owner. This also means using the weapon and equipment that you'd be using on the streets or on the battlefield.
 
Uncle Sam issues hard body armor to our troops, and it's really good armor - it's made out of ceramic and compressed aluminum (I believe), and it is designed to trap the rounds fired into it - thus, breaking-up the ceramic/aluminum plates - they are meant to be some what fragile - it's the way they absorb the rounds - by breaking apart. However, one serious drawback to this type of hard body is that, when worn in training, these plates take a beating, and they can break or fracture when you go prone, or for that matter, if you accidentally drop you body armor carrier on the ground. Some law enforcement agencies actually have their had body armor (ceramic-style) x-rayed yearly or an CT scan used - very expensive procedures for ensuring that you hard body armor plates haven't been damaged.
 
Today we consider Warrior Trail, a company manufacturing a patented type of hard body armor training armor - please read that again, this isn't hard body armor, instead it is TRAINING body armor. It is designed and manufactured to the same size, shape and weight as ceramic-type hard body armor plates. If you're on a SWAT team, for instance, you will be training the way you'll fight - and that means wearing your hard body armor - if your department issues it. Only problem is, if your training is real-life training, your very expensive hard body armor plates can and will get damaged. You may not see the damage visibly, but the damage might be there, and if you take a hit during a call-out, from a high-powered rifle, your plate might fail - causing serious injury or death.  Training can get very expensive, if your department has to keep inspecting your body armor plates, via x-rays, CT scans or ultrasounds, and in this day and age of budget shortfalls and restraints, it can cut down on your equipment budget rapidly.
 
I received several training plates from Warrior Trail - and once again, keep in mind, that these are not actual hard body armor plates, they afford you NO ballistic protection - they are designed to be inserted into your body armor carriers - after you've taken out your real body armor plates. Then you can proceed with real-life training scenarios, where you can go prone, and just totally train the way things would happen in real life - without the fear of damaging your real body armor. Warrior Trail training body armor plates, are the same size and approximately the same weight as ceramic type hard body armor plates are - I know, I have hard body armor plates, and I compared them to the Warrior Trail plates - they are almost identical. Keep in mind that, different companies who manufacture hard body armor plates will have slightly different variations from one company's plates to another company's plates. However, all things considered, the Warrior Trail plates will feel just like your real hard body armor plates when you insert them into your vest.
 
Now, just to remind the purchaser, the Warrior Trail training plates come with a warning on them, alerting you, that you have no ballistic protection, and there is a hole drilled in the plate - this should be enough to alert the wearer that this is not real body armor - even though it looks like and feels like the genuine article.
 
Warrior Trail training body armor plates are manufactured out of a proprietary polymer material, and it is tough stuff. I did place it in a carrier, after removing the real body armor plates, and I couldn't tell or feel any difference between the real body armor and the training body armor plates - felt the same. I also totally abused the training plates, threw them on a concrete walk, threw them down my gravel driveway - and even skidded them down my driveway, as well as throwing them against trees. While the training plates took a beating, they didn't fail. In a "train as you fight" training exercise, you'll think you're wearing your real body armor plates in your carrier. Now, as an aside, make sure you switch out the training body armor plates for your real plates when you are done training. Might be a good idea for your unit or buddies, to do it all at the same time, and inspect one another's carriers - to make sure you have put the real body armor plates back inside your vest, instead of the training plates. You can also place a Velcro patch - supplied by Warrior Trail - on your carrier, right on the front of it - to alert you that, you still have their training plates inside your carrier. PLEASE! This is important, don't forget to switch the training plates out for your real plates!
 
If you're a Prepper, out training with some friends, it's a great idea to have these training plates inside your vest, instead  of the real plates - you don't want to have the added expense of having to have your real plates inspected yearly, to know they will still provide the ballistic protection you want. Also, these training plates are a good idea if you are in a ROTC college training program, basic military training, Military Academy, National Guard unit, police, sheriff, FedGov law enforcement agent, etc. Also, they are a good idea to have when making an airborne jump, practicing water survival with your gear on, land navigation - just about any place where you'd be training wearing your real hard body armor, is where you can wear the Warrior Trail training plates in your vest.
 
Warrior Wear has a motto of their own, and it is "train as your fight - at a fraction of the cost" - and that's something to keep in mind. Hard body armor doesn't come cheap, and you don't want to damage your real body armor, while out training - and not even realize you've damaged it. Warrior Trail training plates start at $59 per plate, and goes up from there, depending on the size. Still, this is a worthwhile investment - save your real hard body armor, for a call out or military operation - and use the Warrior Trail training plates for all of your training purposes. Don't take a chance, you have a lot of money invested in hard body armor ceramic plates, spend a little money now, for some training plates. 


Monday, December 23, 2013


Back in the 1980s it seemed like every knife company was producing some sort of hollow handle "survival" knife, and the truth is, most were just junk - plain and simple. Oh sure, there were some good ones, however if you wanted a really good hollow handle survival knife, you had to go to one of the custom knife makers - and at that, there weren't that many really producing this type of knife. I remember being at an auction one time in Colorado Springs, Colorado - and there was all manner of stuff up for auction. There was one lot of the very cheapest, and poorly made hollow handle survival knives that were just junk. You could have purchased these knives any place in town for a couple bucks. When the bidding started on this lot of a dozen knives, a couple bidders just went crazy, and the winning bidder had purchased the knives for $20 each. My friend and I just stood there in shock - as did almost everyone else. You would have had a difficult task slicing warm butter with those knives, and the saw on the back of the blade - it wouldn't saw anything. To each his own. And, I'm glad the "Rambo" hollow handle survival knife craze has passed. You can easily pack all the survival gear that was in a hollow handle survival knife in a 35mm film container to put in your pocket, in a pouch built into a sheath, or in your pack.
 
Today, most Preppers tend to lean towards smaller fixed blade knives as their first choice for operating in the boonies. However, while a smaller 4 or 5 inch blade fixed blade knife can handle many chores, there's nothing like a bigger/longer blade for the hard tasks. Ever try chopping a small tree down with a smallish fixed blade knife? I didn't think so! How about breaking through bones on a big game animal? You need some heft behind your blade, and smaller blades won't get the job done!
 
I recently tested the Columbia River Knife & Tool "Redemption" survival knife, a design from the creative mind of custom knife maker and knife designer, Ken Onion. Onion is very well-known for his folding knife designs, but a lot of folks don't know about his fixed blade knife designs, and there are quite a few of them on the market being produced by various knife companies. Onion collaborated with CRKT to come up with one of the biggest and baddest fixed blade survival knives I've ever run across. And, if you've ever looked at any Onion-designed knives, you'll readily recognize the graceful flowing lines of the blade - all are a bit different from one another, but all have the same "Onion" design behind them.
 
The Redemption has a 9.50-inch long blade made out of 01 tool steel, that has a black powder coating on the entire blade - nice subdued look to the knife. The blade is recurved, and this actually extends the cutting edge over the overall length of the blade - in reality, you are getting more than 9.50-inches of cutting power. Blade thickness is .26-inches, so just a touch over a quarter inch in thickness. Overall length of the Redemption is 15-inches with the bulbous handle shape with finger grooves placed right where you need them. The handle material is G10 and this is super-tough stuff. At one time, only custom knife makers used G10 handle scales because the material was so expensive. The top front of the handle has what I like to call "friction" grooves, for sure thumb placement, giving you tremendous control and gripping power when using the blade in slashing and stabbing moves.
 
The 01 tool steel blade has a Rockwell hardness of 56-58 and that's about perfect for tool steel - you don't want it too hard, or it becomes brittle and hard to re-sharpen. And, 01 tool steel has been around as a blade material for a lot of years, and the only drawback is that it will rust if not properly cared for - thus the black powder coating on the blade to help protect it from the elements. For such a large blade, it only weighs 20.8 ounces - not too heavy, and not too light for the tasks you'll use it for. And, speaking of tasks, the Redemption can be used as a self-defense blade, as well as a mini-machete, and it can replace a hand axe, too - it can chop better than many small hand axes I've used over the years. And, in my neck of the woods, we have blackberries vines all over the place, and the Redemption sliced right through them without much effort and blackberry vines are quite tough.
 
Truth be told, I don't normally like a fixed blade knife for survival purposes, with a blade much more than 7 or 8 inches. However, the balance on the Redemption is such that the blade doesn't feel that big - although it is. And, I believe you can get a blade that is too long for self-defense use - however the Redemption seems to work when I put it through its paces slashing and stabbing it into stacked cardboard in my car port.  While I couldn't stab it the complete length of the blade into the stacked cardboard, I have no doubts at all, that this blade would easily penetrate its length into warm flesh and bone. There is also a lanyard hole, with a 550 paracord lanyard attached, a great thing to have and use.
 
The sheath that the Redemption comes in is worthy of mention, too. Not too many years ago, you would have paid $100 or more for this type of sheath from a custom sheath maker - I know from experience! The sheath is made out of high-strength Nylon, with a formed and fitted thermal plastic insert, so when you are putting the Redemption back into the sheath, there is no fear of the blade piercing the sheath - I've seen it happen numerous times on leather sheaths and unlined Nylon sheaths - not a good thing. There is also a leg strap on the sheath, for securing the knife so it doesn't flop around on your leg - and the sheath is easy on/off, too, so you don't have to remove gear to put it on your web belt. There is an additional paracord length of material on the bottom of the sheath, so you can further secure it to you leg - as in making a parachute jump - you don't want your gear flapping in the wind at 120 MPH, nor do you want to lose your gear in a jump. The knife is further secured in the sheath with a Nylon retaining strap with a firm one-way snap.
 
If you're in the market for a large fixed blade knife that can serve as not only a large camp knife, but one well-suited for self-defense as well as serving as a small hand axe, then be sure to check out the CRKT Redemption. I think you'll be surprised at how well it handles, for such a large blade. Full-retail is $300. However, like many CRKT products, you can find them discounted at many big box stores and on the Internet. And, don't forget, all CRKT knives come with a lifetime limited warranty, and I've used it once or twice, excellent service. The Redemption has all the quality of a hand-made custom knife, but without the high price tag.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, December 16, 2013


Every once in a while, I'm fortunate, in that, I get a gun sample, that no one else has, and when that happens, I jump on testing it, and follow-up with an article. Such is the case with the new CMMG Mk9 T - and you won't find this one on their web site yet, it's not due to be released until the SHOT Show at the end of January 2014.

I've owned a couple of the CMMG M4gery carbines over the years, and I still have one, and found them to be great shooters, and priced below what other similar set-ups would cost. I've also owned a couple 9mm M4gery carbines over the years, and some were good, some were ok, and some were just bad! I always thought, owning a 9mm handgun, and a rifle or carbine chambered in 9mm made good sense. Back in the old west, many gun owners owned a 44-40 revolver and a 44-40 lever-action rifle or carbine - just made good sense to have guns chambered in the same caliber back then, and it still makes sense today.

A quick run down on the specs of the Mk9 T is in order. First of all, it appears to be very similar to most other AR-type M4 carbines, at first glance. However, as already mentioned, it is chambered in 9mm, it comes with a 16" medium weight barrel, and has an A2 flash suppressor on the end of the barrel - not that it's needed, but it completes "the" look. The upper and lower receivers are forged 7075 T-6 aluminum, and the trigger is mil-spec single stage. The gun weighs in a 6.3-lbs and is 32-inches long, with the 6-position telescoping stock collapsed. The barrel twist is 1:10 to help stabilize the 9mm rounds.

The lower receiver is a dedicated 9mm type, in that, it isn't modified to take a Colt-style 32-rd 9mm magazine...it will ONLY take the 9mm magazine - there is NO adapter inside the magazine well, like so many other 9mm M4 carbines have. The upper has been modified a bit, in that, the ejection port door has been trimmed and shortened, and there is an added brass deflector, in front of the standard one you'll find on 5.56mm models. 

When you break-open the Mk9 T and pull the bolt out for cleaning and lube, you will readily notice that the bolt carrier is quite a bit different than you find on the standard M4 - the bolt carrier doesn't have a separate bolt - instead, the bolt has a recessed face, with an extractor in it, and the firing pin...and the back of the bolt carrier (which really isn't a bolt "carrier" on this gun) has added weights installed in the back of it - this gun is a straight blow-back operation, not gas recoil operated like many M4s are. The barrel doesn't have locking recesses in it, either...the rounds feed right into the gun's chamber.

Okay, so far, we have a pretty basic 9mm M4 on our hands, right? Well, not so fast! The Mk9 T has the KeyMod hand guard, in place of a standard two-piece poly hand guard that is found on most M4s.The Key Mod, is a one-piece affair, that attaches via two hex screws, and the barrel is free-floated, for the most accuracy you can wring out of the gun. The top of the KeyMod has the standard Picatinny-style rail for mounting optics or sighs - the Mk9 T doesn't comes with any sights at all - a minor complaint in my book. The 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions on the Key Mod have specially designed holes, for mounting other Picatinny-type rails, that can be had from CMMG - should you choose to add something on the KeyMod. The only thing I plan on adding is an adapter so I can put a forward sling swivel on the Mk9 T. I have the accessories coming, however, in the meantime, I modified an old 6-inch Picatinny-style rail, and bolted it to the KeyMod hand guard at the 6 o'clock position - it works!

When I first received the Mk9 T sample, I loaded-up two 32-rd magazines - the gun comes with one magazine, however, I requested a couple spare mags. I had a mix of Tulammo 9mm in FMJ and Black Hills 9mm, some of their 100-grain frangible TN ammo. To be sure, the magazines are a bear to load the first few times, the spring is stout - fully load your magazines and let them sit for a few days, to take a set, and after that, they are much easier to load by hand. Most of the time, during this quick function test, the Black Hills 9mm ammo functioned - but every once in a while, I had a stove pipe malfunction, with a round coming out of the magazine about halfway and sticking straight up - causing a stoppage. With the Tulammo, I had untold malfunctions, with the rounds coming halfway out of the magazine, and once again, sticking straight up.

CMMG, like many AR makers specifically states to not use steel cased ammo in any of their guns. If you do, you will void the warranty. Now, a word on Russian-made, steel cased 9mm ammo. I have found that, when loading this steel cased ammo in many double-stack 9mm magazines, that there are similar malfunctions. What is happening is, the rounds don't rotate inside the magazine, as the rounds move upwards...they tend to "stick" a little bit, and it doesn't matter if the cases are poly coated or lacquer coated, the just don't feed smoothing up the magazine tube. So, I attribute the problems with the stove pipe malfunctions to the steel cased ammo. The Black Hills 100-grain frangible truncated ammo - most of the time it fed just fine. However, the few malfunctions I had, I believe are due to the rough bullet surface, they are compressed powdered copper - not nice and smooth bullets, and some guns won't function all the time with this bullet shape or bullets made out of compressed powdered copper.

Before I could do any accuracy testing, I had to wait on some folding sights for the Mk9 T. I ordered a set of polymer sights from CDNN Sports  and even though they are only $29.99 - I've used them before, I've found them to be pretty rugged for the price. I attempted to mount a brand-new BSA red dot sight on the upper receiver of the Mk9 T, however, right out of the package, the scope was broken - not good. So, I was forced to wait several days for the USPS to deliver the sights from CDNN Sports, and the package was several days late in coming.

In the meantime, I took the Mk9 T out several more times, with different ammo, and had absolutely no malfunctions at all. While some might think the Mk9 T is picky about the ammo it will shoot, it is not! I've had problems with Russian-made steel cased ammo in a lot of double stack magazines. And, the Black Hills 100-grain frangible truncated ammo - again, I've had problems with this bullet design and material - for the most part, this Black Hills ammo has run in all my other 9mm handguns, it just wasn't quite 100% reliable in the Mk9 T - it was probably 95% reliable.

When my sights arrived from CDNN Sports, I got out there and zeroed them, using Winchester USA brand white box 115-grain FMJ ammo - at 25-yards. During my accuracy testing, I had miserable weather, high winds, and heavy fog. I used Black Hills 115-grain FMJ, Buffalo Bore 147-grain JHP subsonic ammo, and their 147-grain FMJ FN subsonic ammo, plus their 115-grain Barnes all-copper hollow point, TAC-XP +P+ ammo, 124-grain Penetrator FMJ FN +P+, 115-grain JHP +P and their 124-grain JHP +P+ ammo.

The Mk9 T really ran smoothly with +P and +P+ ammo - you could just feel that the gun operated a little bit smoother for some reason, then again, many 9mm carbines thrive on +P and +P+ ammo. At 25-yards, most of my groups were coming in right at 1.50 and 1.75 inches - really great accuracy, but I knew the gun could do better - but with lousy weather conditions, it was hard to keep the gun on target, and my target box kept falling over after every couple of shots, too. Frustrating! However, there wasn't a lot of time for testing, as SurvivalBlog wanted to get this article and report, on this new model out to our readers as soon as possible.

Was there a winner in the accuracy department? You bet, but it was a tie! Surprisingly, the Winchester USA white box range load came in at 1.25-inches at 25-yards - I shoot a lot of Winchester white box ammo in my articles, and I usually use it for function testing. As did the Black Hills 115-grain FMJ and the Buffalo Bore 124-grain JHP +P+ load. Honestly, in all my shooting, and all the different types and brands of ammo I shot, they were all accurate. However, I believe, given better weather conditions, the Mk9 T will shoot 1-inch groups with ammo is really loves. Still, how do you argue with groups in the 1.25 - 1.75 inch range, in lousy weather?

My one minor complaint, that I already addressed is that, the gun comes with no sights - and it is an easy fix. I installed the inexpensive polymer sights from CDNN Sports, and they work great, and were easy to adjust for windage and elevation. I'd like to see CMMG include these sights with the gun...not all of want to install optics - and to be sure, I don't see any need to install a magnifying scope on a 9mm carbine. A red dot sight? Yes! Still, it's nice to have back-up, fold-down/pop-up sights on the gun, for when (not if) your red dot sight quits on you, and the poly sights from CDNN will serve you well. I like the Troy sights for an ARs, but they are spendy, and maybe one day, I'll install a set on this Mk9 T - but for the time being, I'm content with the poly sights. They fold down easily and pop-up at the push of a lever.

The Mk9 T has a full-retail price of $1.149.95 - not cheap, to be sure. However, I've seen dedicated 9mm uppers costing $700.00 - $900.00 alone...and you are getting a complete AR carbine in 9mm, that is dedicated to the 9mm round - not adapted. And, like most CMMG products, you can usually find them discounted a bit - and now is the time to purchase one, while prices on ARs are down once again. Don't wait for the next mass shooting, because prices will go up, and the guns will, once again, be in very short supply. I love the Mk9 T - it's fun to shoot, and no recoil to speak of, and all things considered, 9mm is cheaper to shoot than .223 is...and it would make a great house gun - to keep next to your bed.

I'm impressed with the Mk9 T so much so, that I'm going to keep the sample and pay for it after the testing period. I don't buy a lot of firearms these days, I have all I "need" - not all I "want" - so it's rare for me to want to purchase a gun sample after testing. But I fell in love with this little 9mm from CMMG, and I like the KeyMod free-floating hand guard, too. Don't discount a 9mm AR, until you've tried one.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, December 9, 2013


One of the best pieces of kit for law enforcement, military and civilians, in the 20th century, has been, in my humble opinion, body armor. While many believe body armor to be a fairly recent invention, it is not! I know body armor - the type that stops bullets, has been around since the 1920s - armor for stopping swords and arrows has been around for centuries. I had my first experience with soft body armor in 1980, when I owned a gun shop, and bid on a contract to provide soft body armor to a fairly large police department in 1980. I won the bid!
 
Some months back, I reviewed Infidel Body Armor and I came away quite impressed with their hard body armor - it easily defeated many high-powered rifle rounds, including .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, 7.62x39 and even an armor piercing round of .30-06 - it took more than 100 rounds from an AK - and all handgun rounds and 00 buckshot were no match for this hard armor. However, with many things in life, there are always compromises - in this case, AR500 steel body armor plates and a carrier weighed about 20 pounds - and toss in your gear, and we are packing some serious weight around.
 
Enter Infidel Body Armor's new Trauma Max Level IIIA soft body armor panels. Over the years, in my law enforcement and security career, I've worn soft body armor while on the job - while is was comfortable, and gave me the confidence I needed on the job, it was bulky and one had to purchase uniform shirts one or two sizes bigger in order to wear the soft armor under your shirt. Still, it was worth the extra effort. Soft body armor has continued to evolved over the years, and what Infidel Body Armor has come out with is the lightest and thinnest soft body armor I've yet to see.
 
Each soft armor panel weighs about a pound - yes, you read that right - one pound, so a set of two panels is a mere 2 pounds in weight. Additionally, they are approximately 1/4 inch think (thin?) - again, you read that right - soft body armor, that is rated and certified at threat Level IIIA is only about a quarter inch thick. Each panel is 10x12 inches in size, and taper towards the top of the panel. This is stand alone soft body armor. I know that some manufactures who produce ceramic hard body armor, provide soft panels to wear behind their ceramic panels, to soften the blow from a high-powered rifle round - not a bad idea at all. The Infidel Body Armor - this new Trauma Max is designed to be stand-alone level IIIA soft armor.
 
Threat Level IIIA is a step down from the protection of Level III. It designed to stop most common handgun rounds, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .45ACP, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and even .44 Magnum rounds. Additionally, these soft armor panels are certified to Military Standards to stop fragmentation from grenades. I know what Kevlar is, it's been used for many years and was, at one time, the only type of material used in soft body armor - and it works quite well, however it is bulky and it takes many layers to stop handgun rounds - it's thick! The Trauma Max is manufactured out of Kevlar KM2 and Goldflex - a combination that makes this body armor thin and lightweight, and effective enough to stop all of the above handgun rounds.
 
I'll be the first to admit that, I'm not an expert when it comes to body armor. Different types of materials have been used over the years to produce soft body armor - some works better than others - some are more expensive - a lot more expensive - than other vests, while some are reasonably priced. The Trauma Max provides up to 40% blunt force reduction, too.
 
I'll relate a story, at one time, I was a distributor for some soft body armor, that was one of the lightest weight body armors around at the time - it didn't fit into a traditional soft body armor carrier, instead a special, heavy-duty t-shirt was designed with pockets inside the T-shirt - front and back - that the soft armor panels fit into. Now, according to the maker of this armor, it was rated to stop a Winchester 9mm Silvertip JHP round. I was training a small, rural police department in SWAT methods, and I decided to see if they were interested in purchasing this body armor. I took a soft armor panel, taped it to a phone book, and placed a 1-inch wooden board behind it - and at 25 yards, I had one of the officers fire at the body armor panel. The 9mm Silvertip JHP round not only complete penetrated the soft armor, it penetrated the phone book and the wooden board behind it. Needless to say, I didn't get a sale that day - and I cut ties with that company in short order. Their armor didn't even come close to stopping one single round that they claimed it would stop! Was my testing scientific? Of course not, and any testing I've done since then, hasn't been scientific - but neither is getting shot on the street a scientific test. What happens - happens!
 
I received two Trauma Max soft armor panels, and a carrier from Infidel Body Armor - the Trauma Max Threat Level IIIA panels do not come with a carrier - however, you can purchase outside the shirt carriers from them - they have many different styles, or you can purchase under the shirt soft body armor carriers from any number of sources. I'm hoping, in the very near future that, Infidel Body Armor will offer concealable under the shirt carriers for this armor.
 
Not everyone needs to wear their soft armor under a shirt, and they choose to use a carrier that fits over their clothing, where they can have MOLLE webbing for attaching other gear, like spare magazine pouches. Not all SWAT teams wear hard body armor - they can be seen wearing an outer vest, that has soft armor panels inside of them - just like Infidel is offering. In any event, you have a couple choices here, you can purchase an over the clothing vest from Infidel or just purchase the soft armor panels from them, and look for an under the shirt armor carrier from one of many suppliers. And, if you purchased any of the Infidel hard body armor from them, these panels will fit right behind the steel plates - giving you additional blunt force trauma protection from taking a hit from a high-powered rifle round - a darn good idea if you ask me.
 
On to my non-scientific testing of the Trauma Max soft body armor - and I've used this same method for many years, when testing soft body armor. I placed one panel in the front pocket of the carrier, and put a phone book behind the carrier. And, at 25 feet, I fired different types of handgun rounds into the carrier with the soft panel inside of it. I fired 9mm FMJ as well as JHP rounds, and .357 Magnum rounds, as well as FMJ and JHP .45ACP rounds into the test panel. I didn't fire all the rounds into the same spot - I fired at different areas of the panel, in all, I fired six rounds into the test soft armor, and there was no penetration. Now, without a doubt, you are going to get some serious bruising and possibly a broke rib when you take a hit from something like a .357 Magnum round, but it beats the alternative - penetration of your body! Some pages in the phone book were "broken" from the impact of the rounds - but once again, your body wouldn't have been penetrated, as the rounds were all stuck in the Infidel Body Armor Trauma Max panel.
 
Due to the FedGov shutdown, I wasn't able to access the NIJ web site, in order to see how many rounds are used to test the various types and threat levels of body armor hits they will take during testing. I don't think they fire more than a few rounds into soft body armor panels in their testing, though. I was very impressed with the way the Trauma Max IIIA panel stood-up. I know I could defeat this armor - and I will get out for some more testing, to see just how many more rounds of handgun ammo this panel will take before it fails - and all body armor will fail if you shoot it enough times. But just for fun........
 
Now for the good news, if you purchase one Trauma Max panel from Infidel, it's only $160 and if you purchase two panels they are $305 and this is a special right now - they normally cost more. And, you can find outside the shirt armor carriers for as low as $100 from Infidel, too. Check out the various carriers they have, they are all slightly different from one another. And, if you already have an armor carrier/vest, you'll only need the Trauma Max panels by themselves. If you've purchase the Infidel hard armor with a carrier, then the soft panels are really a good thing to add - to no only reduce blunt force trauma, but for those call outs where you might only need protection from common handgun rounds. There will be times when hard armor might be too heavy, or too confining, and soft body armor will get the job done alone!
 
Infidel Body Armor started with an idea and concept, and that was to produce affordable hard body armor, for the Prepper and the Survivalist - and they accomplished that goal. And, their armor was not NIJ certified when they first came out with it - it's a very expensive testing procedure to get body armor certified by NIJ. However, they had numerous requests from police officers, who wanted the hard body armor, but couldn't use it on-duty, if it wasn't certified by NIJ. So, Infidel went through the expensive process of getting their hard armor plates certified - and then they set about to produce soft body armor panels, and once again, they are certified to NIJ standards, and Infidel is living up to their goal, of producing affordable body armor - soft and hard - that is NIJ certified for civilians as well as law enforcement. So, before you lay down a thousand dollars for a big-name soft body armor set-up, do yourself a favor, and check out the Infidel Trauma Max Threat Level IIIA line.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, December 2, 2013


I can't remember a time when I didn't carry some kind of folding knife in my pocket - and I'm now eligible to collect social security benefits. I do know that back when I was a kid, there weren't any lock-back folding knives that I ever recall seeing. I carried a folder for everyday chores, as well as self-defense. And, more importantly, at least when I was around 6-10 years old, I had a folding knife for whittling - a long lost pastime that was sure a lot of fun when I was a kid. A person could spend all day long, just whittling on a tree branch and making a little pile of wood shavings in front of them. Believe it or not, it was fun for a kid - today's youth have missed out on that wonderful pastime - all they know are video games.
 
These days, I rarely, and I mean rarely carry a folding knife that doesn't have some kind of blade locking mechanism, and for good reason, a folding knife that locks the blade open is just a lot safer than one that doesn't lock the blade. And, if you carry a knife for self-defense, a locking folder is a must in my humble opinion. Also, if a knife - any knife - doesn't feel good in my hand,then I'm not interested in it.
 
Consider the Cold Steel Talwar folder. There are four different Talwar variant models. I received their 4-inch plain edge model for testing, but you can also have one with a serrated blade or in the 5 1/2-in blade length. The Talwar is just one of those folders that once you pick it up, you can't put it down. It just fits my hand perfectly and feels "oh-so-right" to me. The G-10 handle scales are shaped in such a way, that the knife almost grips you back - hard to explain, but the darn thing just feels great. And, to be sure, I'm rather picky about how a folder fits and fills my hand, and the Talwar just feels like it belongs in my hand. And, it has plenty of handle to hold on to as well - many folders are a bit skimpy when it comes to having enough handle for me to grab. The handle is shaped in a sort of Scimitar shape, with the butt of the handle curving downward, which aids in a strong grip on the folder.
 
Steel on the Talwar is AUS 8A - one of my favorite stainless steels, it's a very affordable stainless steel, holds an edge a good long time and it's easy to re-sharpen. Some have taken me to task, when I claim a blade steel is easy to re-sharpen, and I claim no special skills in sharpening knives, but I've found this steel much easier to re-sharpen than some of the other harder stainless steels out there. Weighing only 5-ounces, the Talwar isn't too heavy, nor is it too light - you don't even know you have the knife clipped inside your pocket. Overall open length is 9-1/4-inches - so you can really reach out there and touch someone - if you have to, in a self-defense situation. Make not mistake, I believe the Talwar was designed and is best used as a self-defense folder. Not that it can't be used for everyday chores, but there are better designs for chores - the Talwar is best reserved for use against two-legged attackers. BTW, the front of the handle also slopes downward, affording you some protection against your hand slipping forward onto the blade.
 
The locking mechanism is Cold Steel's Tri-Ad lock,  and although it appears to be a basic lock back design, it is not - it is much stronger than the ordinary lock back folding knife design. Additionally, it is placed in such a position on the back top of the blade, as to alleviate it from accidentally opening when grasped in your hand in the fencing grip. And, it is certainly a very stout lock. The pocket/clothing clip can also be reversed from one side of the handle to the other, for a blade tip up carry.
 
One thing that I like on the Talwar is the Andrew Demko designed ambidextrous thumb plate - not a thumb stud - on the blade. And, with a very little practice, the Talwar can be drawn from the pocket, and it opens faster than any automatic folder does. When drawing the Talwar, you simply give it a little backwards pressure, towards the rear of your pocket, while drawing the knife upwards - you do this with one swift and fluid move, and the blade pops open when the knife is completely drawn out of your pocket. The little thumb plate actually "catches" on the back of your pocket, causing the blade to start to deploy as you draw the knife out of your pocket. Check the Cold Steel web site, and you'll see Cold Steel's owner, Lynn Thompson demonstrating this...it's actually easier done than explained.
 
Needless to say, and I've said this hundreds of times, I believe Cold Steel set the Gold Standard for sharp blades many years ago. Prior to Cold Steel coming on the cutlery scene, it was pretty much a hit or miss proposition when it came to getting a super-sharp knife blade. Cold Steel knives are wicked sharp, right out of the box. Thompson wouldn't have it any other way.
 
I also like that the Talwar is designed not only for slashing moves, in self-defense, but the blade is designed to stab deeply. Having spent 35 years in the martial arts, I taught knife fighting skills to my advanced, Black Belt students. I've also designed several knives over the years, that are still being produced. My heart is in knives meant for self defense - even more so, than for survival. The Talwar is one great folder for self defense use if you ask me. And, the best part is, full-retail is $131.99 - a great buy, in my opinion. So, if you're in the market for a new folder - one designed for self-defense use, check out the Cold Steel Talwar - I give it my 100% endorsement. The Talwar is just one wicked blade.    - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, November 25, 2013


Since 1980 I've had a real interest in body armor. Back then, I ran a gun business and I was contacted by a fairly large Oregon police department to bid on a request--they wanted for some soft body armor. I placed a bid, and much to my surprise, I won it! At that time, the biggest name around in soft body armor was Second Chance. I contacted Rich Davis at Second Chance, and told him I had won a bid to supply a fairly large police department with soft body armor. However, I didn't have the funds to purchase the armor from Second Chance. No problem! Davis simply had me add the name of Second Chance to the bid, and he sent me the armor, and he received a check, and sent me my share.

EnGarde Body Armor contacted me, and wanted to send me one of their hard body armor carriers, complete with hard body armor panels to test for SurvivalBlog readers. Over the years, I've tested many different types of soft and hard body armor, some failed my testing, while some more than lived up to their claims. While I make no claim of expertise' in the area of testing body armor, I have walked away with some interesting results over the years. One company, that is no longer in business - wonder why? - is because their armor failed miserably in my testing - simply placing their soft armor panel in front of a phone book, and firing a 9mm round, that the company claimed their armor would stop. Unfortunately, I was performing this test in front of a police department, that was interested in purchasing this T-shirt style soft body armor. Not only did the 9mm round in question completely penetrate the vest, it also completely penetrated the phone book behind it. I didn't win an order for body armor that day. However, I'm glad I performed the test, seeing as how I was a retail dealer for that particular brand of body armor - it opened my eyes!
 
EnGarde Body Armor is located in The Netherlands, however, they have offices all over the world. So, if you live in a country outside of the USA, and wish to purchase their body armor, please contact them, for a location near you. The USA has very strict laws regarding the export of body armor - you simply can't live in another country, and if you happen to see body armor for sale in the USA and want a dealer to ship it to you - they can't! It's against several Federal laws!
 
A little background on EnGarde is in order. They are a leading manufacturer of high quality armor products, utilized by law enforcement, military and civilians all over the world. They also take great pride in the performance, comfort and durability of their products. Their vests outperform the standards set down by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) which is recognized the world over for testing and setting the standards in body armor protection levels. To be sure, you can't just purchase any old body armor - you have to understand the threat-level you will be facing, and act accordingly in picking the right threat level for your needs. Over the years, in law enforcement and in private security work, I only felt the need for soft body armor - designed to stop most common handgun rounds. However today, I might look at things differently if I were still involved in those lines of work.
 
I received the EnGarde T.R.U.S.T.  plate carrier that is normally offered with a Level IV level. Mine came with two Level IIIA soft panels. The Level IV plates are for stopping high-powered rifle rounds, like those you'd encounter on a battlefield: 5.56mm 7.62x39 and .308 Win. I believe that many SurvivalBlog readers are more interested in hard body armor, than they are the soft panels, if it came down to a TEOTWAWKI scenario - then again, I could be wrong. However, the set-up I received was Level IIIA and it will also stop many common handgun rounds, as well as some rifle rounds.
 
You will find two different types of hard body armor on the market, one is from steel plates that are called AR-500 steel, and the other are ceramic plates, which is what EnGarde sells for their hard armor needs. Of course, there are endless debates as to which is better, the AR-500 steel plates or the ceramic plates? And, I have no intention of getting into that debate here, or through e-mails. Both types of hard body armor have their pluses and minuses. The AR-500 steel plates are heavier than ceramic plate. The AR-500 steel plates can take many multiple hits without failing. The ceramic plates are lighter - quite a bit lighter and more comfortable. However, they aren't rated to take as many multiple hits. I believe NIJ tests armored plates - for hard body armor - to withstand 6 or 7 hits without failing. And, if you are in a place where you have been hit 6 or 7 times by high-powered rifle rounds, you should be in a different place - simple as that. Some claim that ceramic hard armor plates are a bit fragile, and you shouldn't drop them or they'll crack or break in short order. And, to be sure, the plates aren't just manufactured out of ceramic material - Aluminum is added to the ceramic plates - and some companies closely guard their secret formulas for good cause. Again, I'm no expert in this field, so keep that in mind.
 
According to the NIJ standard, a Level IV plate should be able to stop one (only) round of .30 Caliber (7.62 NATO) armor piercing round (AP M2 ball) at 2,880 FPS. Most level IV ceramic plates in the market tend to fall apart after one hit from an AP round - the EnGarde can take several rounds of fire. Unfortunately, my precious few rounds of 7.62 NATO AP ammo had been used for testing another hard body armor, so I didn't have any AP rounds to test on the EnGarde ceramic plates.
 
Before testing the EnGarde hard body armor, I placed the two hard ceramic plates, along with the two soft armor panels in the plate carrier that was sent to me - it was easy to insert the plates and the soft panel, however it took a little bit of time to get the carrier all adjusted so that it was comfortable. I wore the carrier and plates around my homestead for several hours, and made a few more small adjustments. And, as time goes by, you will probably make a few more adjustments, so it all fits and feels just perfect on your body. I will say though, that the ceramic plates with the soft armor panels in the T.R.U.S.T. carrier were very comfortable to wear. And, if something isn't comfortable, you're not going to wear it - period! A lot has to do with the plate carrier you select, and how many adjustments are available on the carrier.
 
Now, while the NIJ testing facility has their scientific methods for testing body armor, I prefer to just do it out at my usual shooting spot, and I simply placed the hard armor against a tree and fired at it from 25 yards away, with a Springfield Armory M1A rifle, loaded with military surplus ammo - ball ammo. I don't know what the ballistic were, as my chrony long ago gave-up the ghost. I fired at the EnGarde hard plate 10-times, and not in the same area - I fired at various areas of the vest, and there was no failure - however, I was getting close. Another 10 rounds and the ceramic plate had failed. Now, that's not to say ceramic plates "failed" my test - far from it. It outperformed NIJ hits by quite a bit. The ceramic plates are meant to break apart - that's the way they are designed - they captured the bullet fragments as the bullet hits.
 
I still had one ceramic plate left for testing. On another outing, I took a bolt-action .30-06 rifle, with some FMJ ammo, and once again, at 25 yards, I began firing at the plate. To my surprise, the plate held-up for the first four rounds. I reloaded and began firing again, and this time, between rounds, I went downrange and checked the plate for penetration. It was on the 8th round, that there was a failure of the plate. Again, while I use the word "failure" the plate performed as expected - it actually performed better than expected.
 
I also tested the soft armor panels, that are rated to withstand 9mm and similar handgun rounds, not rounds fired from a rifle. And, to be honest, I lost track of the number of hits the two soft panels took from a 9mm and .45 ACP handgun rounds - without failure. But both panels were starting to look pretty ragged - but they didn't fail! Now, the idea of having the soft panels behind the hard ceramic armor is to absorb some of the blunt force trauma - and that's a good thing. And, you can also wear the soft panels as a stand alone set-up, if you  feel you will only be facing common handgun rounds. You actually have the best of both worlds with this set-up from EnGarde Body Armor.
 
The two ceramic hard armor plates are rated at threat Level IV, and the two soft armor panels are rated at Level IIIA - you are actually getting two different vests, for the price of one - if you use the T.R.U.S.T. carrier by itself, or you can purchase another carrier for use with the soft panels - a carrier that is more appropriate for soft body armor panels.
 
My testing wasn't scientific. Then again, if someone is shooting at you in the field, you're not concerned with how well the armor stands up under controlled scientific conditions - you only care that the armor does what it's supposed to do - stop the bullets from penetrating your body - and that's what it's all about, isn't it?
 
I've looked around and found hard body armor, with ceramic plates (only) in a carrier, for as much as $2,000+ now keep in mind that, that is just for two ceramic plates and a carrier. I've also seen ceramic plates with a carrier for under $1,000 and everywhere in between. And, in many cases the seller was a private individual, so you have no idea how well the armor was cared for. Buyer beware!
 
Now, math wasn't my best subject in school, however I did learn to add and subtract, if nothing else. I'm told by Iwan Luiten, at EnGarde Body Armor, that his product manager informed him that the EnGarde T.R.U.S.T. plate carrier, is normally offered with the Level IV and Level IIIA panels, and the entire set-up is priced at $599 USD plus shipping. Now, in my book, that's one heck of a deal, on not just the plate carrier with the Level IV hard armor plates, but you are also getting two 9mm soft armor panels. That is a deal you don't want to miss out on, if you're in the market for hard body armor. I've seen soft body armor cost a lot more than this - and with this EnGarde set-up, you are getting a carrier, plus hard plates and two soft panels!   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, November 18, 2013


I cut my teeth on the military M14, way back in 1969, during my basic training at (now closed) Fort Ord, California. I learned to love it, and I qualified "Expert" with it - loved shooting that rifle. Later on, while working full-time for the Illinois National Guard, I joined the Illinois State Rifle & Pistol Team, and was issued a match-grade M14 (and 1911A1) along with all the ammo I wanted - those were the days. I shot in many competitions, and always winning in my classification with that M14. I always wanted an M14 of my own, however, they were, and still are a hard-come-by rifle, and are an NFA weapon - and I don't care to jump through the legal red tape to own a select-fire weapon.
 
Over the years, I've owned a few Chinese-made M14 clone rifles, they were okay, some better than others, and they all functioned just fine. [JWR Adds: See the warnings on soft Chinese M14 bolts posted by walt at Fulton Armory.] But they still weren't an M14. Almost three decades ago, Springfield Armory came out with their semi-auto (only) version of the M14 and dubbed it the M1A - it was, and still is a big hit for Springfield Armory. I've owned several over the years, and found them to be outstanding shooters. Well over a year ago, I reviewed a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II, that was set-up in a very compact bullpup configuration, that rifle -- loaned to me by the good folks at US Tactical Supply -- is called the Juggernaut. I was totally blown away by how compact this set-up was. However, for my own personal use, I decided I just wanted a SOCOM II as it came from the factory. Prior to testing the Juggernaut set-up, I had actually been searching for a SOCOM II at my local gun shop. They had a couple brand-new ones come in the shop, but I couldn't afford the price.
 
About a month after testing the US Tactical supplied M1A SOCOM II Juggernaut set-up, my local gun show picked-up a like-new SOCOM II in a trade at a gun show. I was able to work a deal on a trade to get it - and cost me two M4-style rifles to get it! My sample was probably 98% as-new, too - but with no box, and the fellow who traded the gun, forgot the magazine. A quick trip to US Tactical Supply, and I was in business - they carry the outstanding, and mil-spec Checkmate Industries ("CMI") brand of M14/M1A magazines - both 20 and 30 rounders - and the Checkmate 30 round mags are the only 30 round mags that I've found that will function 100% of the time. Over the years, I've tried some no-name 30 round mags, and there was a reason the maker didn't stamp their names on the magazines - they didn't work!
 
A quick rundown on the M1A SOCOM II is in order. It has a 16-inch barrel, compared to the full-sized M1A that comes with a 21-inch barrel. It is also capped with a muzzle brake, a very effective one, at keeping the muzzle down for faster follow-up shots. The rifle fires either .308 Winchester or 7.62x51 NATO rounds. The trigger is a 2-stage military set-up, with a trigger break between 5-6 pounds, but it feels lighter than that. Springfield Armory supplies one 10 round magazine with new guns. The front sight is the XS Sights post with a Tritium insert for night or lo- light shooting. The rear sight is an enlarged military aperture (Ghost Ring) adjustable for windage and elevation. The gun weighs 8.8 pounds and the overall length is 37-25-inches - every so slightly longer than an M4 with the telescoping stock fully extended. And, the 8.8 pounds - well, that's actually lighter than many M4s I've handled - with so many added-on accessories - the guns were weighing in at a lot more than the SOCOM II's 8.8 pounds. There is also an accessory rail on the top of the SOCOM II - should you want to mount some type of red dot sight up there - I didn't!
 
When I got home from picking-up some magazines for this little beast, it was pouring down rain, and I didn't go to my usual shooting spot, but I was determined to at least function-test this rifle. All I had on-hand, were a couple boxes of Russian-made .308 ammo - I loaded-up two magazines, and cut loose in my back yard - no functioning problems at all. Ah, one of the joys of living in the country - I can shoot my guns on my own property. However, I rarely do that, as I don't like disturbing the neighbors - so I usually make a 5-6 minute drive up a mountain, to a couple shooting spots that everyone uses.
 
I contacted Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition for some .308 ammo - some GOOD .308 ammo, to run through the SOCOM II. In short order, I received from Black Hills, their outstanding 168-grain Match Hollow Point load - that keeps on winning long-range shooting matches all over the country, and their 168-grain Hornady A-Max load, which is a great hunting round. From Buffalo Bore, I received their 175-grain JHP Sniper loading, and that one is known as a great long-range, flat-shooting load.
 
With my targets set-up at 100 yards, and using the a sleeping bag as a rest, over the hood of my car, I set out to see what the M1A SOCOM II could do - with open sights. Okay, for long-range, precision shooting, the XS front sight isn't my first choice - it's a bit large. And, no matter what I did, I couldn't break 1 inch on the target, with 3-shots. I came close, very close a few times, but no matter what, that large front sight wouldn't allow me to break 1 MOA. I believe the rifle is capable of sub MOA with a scope or a smaller front sight. The Black Hills loads tied each other - neither one was better than the other. The Buffalo Bore load shot a tad higher, which I expected, with the slightly  heavier bullet, and even with this load, I simply couldn't break one inch no matter how many times I tried, and I went out several times over a month and just couldn't do it - I believe the rifle can do it - with a smaller front sight, though.
 
I also fired several hundred rounds, rapid-fire, through the SOCOM II with a mixed variety of various foreign-made military surplus ammo - and the gun functioned 100% of the time - never had a failure of any sort, with any ammo, nor any problems with the Checkmate 20 or 30 round magazines. My local gun shop once gave me a no-name 30 round magazines - it was junk, I couldn't fire more than a few rounds without rounds getting hung-up in the magazine.
 
Okay, one of the first things I learned was, do not shoot the SOCOM II over the hood of my car, without a blanket under the muzzle of the rifle. The very effective muzzle brake, has horrendous muzzle blast, that was magnified off the steel hood of the car. I placed a blanket on the hood, and that absorbed a lot of the muzzle blast. While I appreciate the effectiveness of the muzzle brake in keeping the felt recoil down, I didn't much care for the muzzle blast. I checked around, and at some point, I'm going to replace the muzzle brake with a flash suppressor, and that will take care of the terrible muzzle blast. It was strong enough that I could feel it on my face.
 
So, where does the SOCOM II fit into the scheme of things? Good question! The SOCOM II could easily be used as a big game rifle, with a 5 round magazine - Oregon requires a semiautomatic rifle to hold no more than 5 rounds in the magazine - not a problem. It is a fast-handling rifle, no doubt about it. I can easily see the SOCOM II being used by law enforcement - especially rural sheriff departments, when back-up is a long time coming, and you might have a suspect firing on you, from behind heavy cover. A short, fast-handling "carbine" like the SOCOM II, firing powerful .308 Win rounds, will get the job done. I don't see the SOCOM II being used in a building clearing scenario - not with the muzzle brake attached - if you fired it in a room - heck, in a big house, the muzzle blast would be too much, and there is the chance of over-penetration with the .308 round, too. In a survival situation, I can see the SOCOM II being an outstanding weapon to have, especially in the wilderness. And, needless to say, in a combat situation, I would love to have this rifle - short and easy to handle, but it still is shooting a powerful round, that can easily take out an enemy soldier beyond 500 yards or farther.
 
Now, while I like the XS front sight post with the Tritium insert, I would replace it with a standard GI front sight, or an M14 match-grade front sight - if I knew I had to make some long-range shots - the XD front sight is too big for precision shooting beyond 100 yards. And, as mentioned, the muzzle brake would be replaced with a flash suppressor of some type. Other than that, I wouldn't make any changes. The SOCOM II also comes with a poly stock, so there's no worries about it swelling in wet weather - and that is always a concern in the western part of Oregon, where we get a lot of rain! Wood stocks can (and do) swell, and that can affect the accuracy of your rifle, especially at long-range shooting distances.
 
Before this article was complete, US Tactical Supply, sent me an X-Products magazine, 50 round M1A/M14 magazine for testing. This is a very compact 50 round drum magazine. All internal parts are machined out of steel and aluminum, for a sure-fire magazine that won't fail you. It also loads easily and it is designed to work in semiauto and full auto rifles. (It is capable of cycling 950 rounds per minute without failing.) Best of all, it is the same length as a 20 round box magazine - yes, it's much wider, needless to say, but it doesn't stick out from under your M1A or M14 any more than a standard 20 round magazine does. I fired a good number of 7.62 NATO rounds through the X-Products 50 round magazine, and I also mixed in some Russian-made poly coated .308 rounds, and some of the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore ammo - and the magazine never once stuttered - it just kept firing - and I'm telling you, I put hundreds and hundreds of rounds down range, as fast as I could pull the trigger and reload the magazine - the SOCOM II got hot - VERY hot, but it never missed a beat. Of course, the loaded 50 round drum magazine added some serious weight to the SOCOM II. However, if I were in a combat or survival situation, this is the magazine to have locked and loaded in your gun - for some serious, initial fire-power down range when lead is flying your way. The X-Products M1A/M14 magazine runs $275 from US Tactical Supply - and it's worth every penny, too.
 
The Springfield Armory SOCOM II is a real winner in my book, and I know it has sub MOA accuracy there, if that front sight is replaced - and that's easy to do. And, in my humble opinion, the muzzle brake needs to go. (Yes, it does what it is supposed to do, but the muzzle blast was just too much for me, especially during a long shooting session.) I'd like to see Springfield Armory offer the SOCOM II with either a muzzle brake or a flash-suppressor to give the buyer a choice, and I'm betting a lot will prefer the flash-suppressor over the muzzle brake.
 
I won't even attempt to give a price on the SOCOM II - as they are a hot-seller, and always in demand. And, we still have a buying frenzy going on these days, which only adds more to the cost of military-style rifles. Check around on Gun Broker and see if you can find a SOCOM II of your own. If you see one, then snap it up. They are one super-nice little .308 carbine.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, November 11, 2013


When I was young - quite young - I had a serious thirst for adventure, and I was always undertaking something dangerous - many called it "stupid" or "foolhardy" as I recall. I was very independent (still am) and many also used the term "hard-headed" to describe me and some of my exploits. It's okay, I believe everyone should follow their heart and their dreams, when possible. Which leads me to my youngest daughter, who just got out of the US Army - where she served as a Combat Medic. Now, those who know me, especially from the past, know how hard-headed I was back in the day. However, my youngest daughter easily has me beat in the "hard-headed" department.
 
As I write this article, on Nov. 7, 2013, my youngest daughter is in New Zealand, and is undertaking a 2,000-mile trek across that country - on foot - all alone! She wants to experience life, and not just live it. Okay, I can understand that, I really can! But being a parent, one naturally worries about their children - no matter how old they are - and want them to be safe and protected - if anyone ever wonders why a father has so many gray hairs - like I do - look no further - our kids give us gray hairs! My youngest daughter has been planning this trek for about 5 months, and even though I was (still am) against it - especially by herself - I promised her I'd help get the best gear available for such an undertaking.
 
Much of the equipment and gear she purchased was very good, still it was (is?) meant for weekend camping in my humble opinion - not for an extended 4-6 months trek in the boonies of New Zealand. The pack she had, while a nice commercial one, simply wouldn't hold up for that kind of long-term use and abuse. I mentioned this to the nice folks at US Tactical Supply http://www.ustacticalsupply.com/ and they insisted that my daughter come in and pick out any backpack she wanted for her adventure. And, to be sure, US Tactical Supply only carries the best of the best when it comes to all the products they sell. After visiting the US Tactical Supply walk-in store, and checking out their backpacks, my daughter decided on one made by Eberlestock called the F4M Terminator backpack - go to that web site for a video of the features of this backpack. And, here is a link to the pack, that is sold at US Tactical Supply. Now, to be quite honest, I couldn't have picked a better backpack myself - I'm proud my daughter took the time to exam all the packs, for the best features, to help serve her needs for this trek. BTW, in New Zealand, they call what she is doing "tramping" around the country.
 
I was totally impressed with the F4M Terminator backpack when I checked it out at US Tactical Supply. However, I didn't get a chance to fully exam all the features of this pack, until we came home. To say I was totally blown away with all the features this pack offers, is putting in mildly. To start with, the pack is called dry earth in color - a very clay-like color that blends in no matter where you take it - it also comes in other colors, too.  And, I honestly lost count of the number of pockets this pack has, but if my public school math is correct, there are 12 different pockets for carrying your gear. Plus, what I really liked was that this pack has a top opening and front opening pocket - with heavy-duty zippers for getting to the main compartment - really sweet!
 
The carrying capacity of the F4M Terminator is 5,000 cubic inches, and the empty pack weighs in at a little over 8 pounds if our bathroom scale is correct. All loaded-up, with the gear my daughter will be carrying, the pack weight about 35-pounds - a bit much, however, she has it down to the absolute bare essentials she'll need on her trek - and she will be adding some freeze-dried foods - which will add a little bit more weight to the bag. The carrying straps/system is worth mentioning, too. There is a heavily padded lumbar support on the back of the pack, as well as several more padded areas, to help keep the load from cutting into your back. Also, the adjustment straps - there are several - allows you to carry the F4M Terminator higher or lower on your back - super cool - as well as being able to adjust the main shoulder straps for the size of your body - moving the straps inward or outward with Velcro adjustments, and my daughter spent a lot of time getting the pack just right - however, once out on the trail, more adjustment will probably be made to keep the pack just where she wants it on her back.
 
On each side of the Terminator, there is a long side pocket - one on each side - for carrying more gear. My daughter placed her walking sticks on one side and they fit nicely. There are several other pockets on the outside of the pack, the bottom pocket held her tent, sleeping bag (a light-weight one - wish she had gotten a heavier-duty one) and her inflatable mattress and inflatable pillow - they all fit in there like this pocket was made especially for them. Again, the pockets are secured by heavy-duty zippers so nothing will fall out.
 
The top of the pack deserves mention, as it is a small pack itself, that you can remove from the pack. My daughter is using it as a fanny pack, during her flight, for carrying her ID and other stuff she'll need. And, while in Auckland, New Zealand, for several days before her trek, she will use it as a purse of sorts. The pack can be fastened around your waist like a regular fanny pack, or used across the front of your body like a courier pack. And, in an emergency, if you had to bug out and run like the wind, and the F4M Terminator was too heavy and/or bulky to carry, you could place survival items in the removable top pack and run with just the gear you have in there.
 
The F4M Terminator is manufactured out of 1000 Denier Nylon - super heavy-duty material. All pockets on the pack have tensioning straps, for snugging down each pocket - if you've ever gone hiking or on a long range patrol, you know the importance of having your pack and everything in it, nice and tight, so nothing rattles around, and nothing moves around causing a hot spot on your body. There is a waist belt, and it can be removed if you don't need it - I suggest you always use the waist belt of a more secure fit - and there is a chest strap there if you need it - once again, I'd use it. All straps attaching the F4M Terminator to your body are nicely padded and thick - heavy-duty in all respects. On top of it all, the Terminator also comes with a rain cover - for nasty weather.
 
There is PALS webbing all over the outside of the Terminator, for attaching more pouches if you feel the need for carrying more gear. And, there is also PALS webbing on the inside of some of the pockets - for carrying even more gear. You can also add a hydration bladder to the pack. And, to top it off, you can purchase rifle scabbards if you desire to carrying rifles/shotguns in the Terminator. And, depending on the size of your rifle, if it's a folding stock model, you can actually fit the rifle inside the pack and no one would be the wiser that you were carrying a rifle.
 
I tested the Terminator for comfort myself, and found it to fit nicely, after a few pulls on the carrying straps to make it fit my body - large! My daughter also tested the pack, fully loaded, on her back, and the fit was just great for her. She was against getting another pack, she liked the one she had, but I explained the benefits of a military-grade backpack, over any commercial hiking backpack, and she is glad she visited US Tactical Supply with me and found this pack. I wanted my daughter to have the best of the best for this trek, and without a doubt, I think she has some great gear, and I have no worries that this pack will ever fail her. And, as I've mentioned before, about the nice folks at US Tactical Supply, they are great to do business with - they donated this pack to my daughter (no charge) for her trek - asking nothing in return - they just wanted her to have the best pack available. After checking out this pack, I wanted to let SurvivalBlog readers know about it. I've mentioned before, that some Preppers feel they need the biggest pack they can find - and then stuff it with everything they can - including the kitchen sink - only to discover, that they can't walk even a mile with those monster packs.
 
The Terminator isn't too big, nor is it too small - you can easily make this your BOB and never look back, knowing you have a pack that will last you a lifetime. And, just before my daughter left for New Zealand, US Tactical Supply got word from Eberlestock, that the New Zealand Defence Forces, adopted the Terminator backpack in an open competition. What's the odds, of my daughter picking a backpack that she will carry in New Zealand, that the New Zealand Defence Forces will be using?
 
As I've said many times, quality never comes cheap - you can buy all the junk you want - and you will be buying it over and over again. If you buy quality, you only have to buy it once. The F4M Terminator retails for $399 as it comes from US Tactical Supply - however, you can add rifle scabbards if you wish, and other smaller pouches to the pack, too. If you are looking for the best pack around, then save your money and get the Terminator - it will be money well-spent, and you wont' have to worry about this pack failing you. Then load the pack up with the gear you need - and just remember, you don't have to fill the pack completely - take what you need for bugging out purposes...
 
If I were looking at getting a new BOB, I would, without a doubt, save my money, and get the F4M Terminator and never give it a second thought - I was "that" impressed with this pack.

If SurvivalBlog readers are interested in following my daughter's trek, you can do so at her blog site. Of course we are all hoping she can make the 2,000-mile walk. But one never knows what may happen along the way, injuries and illnesses can stop a trek like this, as can severe weather - luckily, in the Southern Hemisphere, it is Spring right now, and as I write this, it is Fall in the USA. However, I've been told that a person can experience all four seasons in one day on certain parts of New Zealand. So, I ask all SurvivalBlog readers to keep my little girl in your prayers, as she undertakes this adventure. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, November 4, 2013


Back in the day, when I was in the military, we had C Rations or "C-Rats" as they were called, when we were out in the field. And, quite honestly, they were really pretty bad tasting, and lacking in much of anything. I served in the Illinois National Guard, as well as the US Army, and have quite a bit of experience with C-Rats. While in the National Guard, when we went on weekend maneuvers, a bunch of us would bring our own food along. And, we'd bring, cheeses, pepperoni, olives - gourmet foods, instead of eating C-Rats, or on occasion, whatever the cooks might have prepared. During my years in the National Guard, I never once ate in the mess hall, during weekend drill meetings. Having worked full-time for the National Guard, I was tasked with going to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois every month, to pick-up the grocery items that our cooks were to prepare for the weekend meals - while we were in the armory. And, I wouldn't have fed that stuff to a dog - and most soldiers didn't eat that food either...someone would head to one of the many local food places and bring back something to eat.
 
In 1975, MREs were first introduced, but they weren't widely used in the field until 1983. Still, MREs were a vast improvement over the old C-Rat MCI meals. In 1992 MREs included a flameless ration heater, and that allowed you to have a warm meal, instead of a cold one - a vast improvement when in the field.
 
In 1983, we saw the first use of MREs - Meals, Ready to Eat. The they were a huge improvement over C-Rats to be sure - the nutrition value was higher, and the taste was much improved. My understanding is that, every 90-days the menu for MREs change, so military personnel weren't eating the same old thing all the time. Today's MREs come as a complete meal. Sitting on my desk is an MRE with the flameless heater - more on that in a moment - and this MRE has chili with beans, fried rice, crackers and strawberry jam, a lemon/lime electrolyte beverage powder, a strawberry dairy shake powder, instant coffee, creamer and sugar condiments and a spoon, most towelette, napkin and hot sauce. It all adds-up to about a 1,300 calorie meal.
 
When MREs came with the first flameless heater, you had to add some water to the heater pouch, and place your entrée into the bag and seal it up, and leave it for a few minutes. Today's flameless heater is a bit different, in that you add water to it, and wrap it around your entrée and in about 10-minutes, your entrée is nice and warm.
 
There are several companies providing MREs to our military these days. I received a case of 12-MREs for testing from Meal Kit Supply and I'll tell you, the samples they sent me were all quite good - honestly! I received breakfast MREs as well as MREs that would be considered lunch or dinner. Of course, in the military, you usually don't have a choice - whatever is given to you, is what you have - so if you happen to get an MRE for dinner, that has scrambled eggs as the entrée, well it's the luck of the draw. While there are quite a few companies who offer "MREs" - not all MREs are the same - some are packaged to look like the real-deal - that the US military uses, but the calorie content is extremely low. On average, the MREs from Meal Kit Supply have around 1,300 calories per meal - that's good eating - not starvation pseudo-MREs from some other companies. Meal Kit Supply says their MREs have the highest calorie count of any commercially available MREs, too!
 
MREs can be safely stored and eaten even when they are more than 8-yrs old. If you keep MREs stored at 50-degrees, they are good for 96-months, at 60-degrees, they are good for 84-months, at 70-degrees, they are good for 66-months, and at 120-degrees, they are only good for a month. Now, we all know that the FDA requires packaged foods to have an expiration date on them - and so it is with MREs, too - however, I have eaten MREs that were more than 10-yrs old, stored under a variety of temperature conditions and they were fine. Only thing is, I'm sure some of the nutritional value was reduced.
 
MREs are stored in a retort pouch that is made of a strong layered combination of polyester, aluminum foil and polypropylene, allowing the commercially sterilized food rations to be safe to eat for long periods of time. It's like most medications - not all - that can safely be used for many years past their expiration date. However, if the sealed pouched have been punctured, then bacteria will grow, and your MRE won't be safe to eat - throw it away!
 
I know a lot of today's military personnel hate MREs, however, if they ever had C-Rats, they would think that MREs are gourmet eating. As I stated at the start of this article, me and my family actually enjoy MREs. Some years ago, we ran across a deal on MRE entrees only, and we purchased several cases of the entrees, and quite often, that would be our dinner or lunch. And, we've introduced many people to MREs and no one ever complained about the taste of them, either. They are a great thing for hunters to carry in their rigs and/or backpacks, too. And, needless to say, if you are reading SurvivalBlog, you are a Prepper, and always looking for survival-type foods.
 
My family also carries a couple complete MRE meals in our BOBs as well as some entrees, so if the SHTF, and all we have time to grab are our BOBs and weapons, at least we won't be hungry for several days. Additionally, the flames heaters can be used to help warm your body - just add the required water amount, seal the bag up, and put it under you jacket, and they'll warm you right up.
 
The menus are always changing on MREs, and that's a good thing. Besides the chili MRE, we also received apple and maple flavored oatmeal, spaghetti and beef sauce, a breakfast sausage patty, vegetarian ratatouille, beef ravioli in meat sauce, and several other tasty meals.
 
It should be noted too that, Meal Kit Supply purchases their MREs directly from a DoD MRE supplier, and is trucked directly to their warehouse, and then shipped to you. Some other MRE supplies have a much longer route, before they arrive in your hands. And, although you can purchase MREs on eBay or other sources, you really don't know what you're getting - how old are they, how were they stored, etc. And, it is now against the law for anyone to sell MREs that are marked "US Property. (Formerly, a lot of military personnel would take the MREs they didn't eat in the field, to a local army/navy store and sell them - while it isn't against the law for you and I to have their military MREs, it is now against the law for them to be sold. ) A bit of a tangled web, and I've seen MREs being sold in stores - genuine military MREs, and when I told the store's owner that they were doing something illegal, they insisted they weren't, and that there were no laws against them selling the "surplus" MREs!
 
MREs are relatvely expensive to purchase, but if you want a complete meal, a three course meal, that is tasty and nutritious, then it's really hard to beat MREs. My family and I also keep some freeze-dried packages of food in our BOB and our rigs, but there's nothing like having a good three course meal, out in the boonies, when you cold, tired and hungry.
 
Meal Supply Kit sells their MREs by the case - and there are 12 complete MREs in every case. Cost is $129.95. That might seem high, but consider that includes shipping, so that's not a bad deal. My entire family really liked the various MREs that were sent to me for testing - didn't find any meals we didn't like. And, I believe if you served someone one of these MREs, without them knowing they were MREs, they would think you made the meal fresh yourself. Yes, they are "that" good. Now all I have to do, is replenish my Meal Kit Supply of MREs one of these days.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, October 28, 2013


I need to review several products from the Nitecore company, as they're accumulating around my office and seem to be multiplying.

First, the Nitecore Intellicharger i4. We've been using this at the house for a year now, and it's excellent.

Unlike many battery chargers, this doesn't require them to be charged in pairs.  Singles of different amp hour ratings, and even different types, can all be charged at once.  It handles Ni-Cd, NiMH, Li-ion, and various types and sizes up to C.  If you have a battery that needs charged, stick it in and let the charger have at it.

Every cell has come out topped off to peak voltage and power, with no issues.  There's not much more need be said.

While D cells don't fit, I found I was able to use a metal shim to get one between the poles and charge it that way.  This is not recommended by the manufacturer, and I offer it as an emergency option only. 

MSRP is $30, and I highly recommend it.

Next is the SRT7 light, which I'm carrying in my car for business use.  960 lumens is a lot of light, and useful when setting up or unloading in the dark.  For tactical purposes, it's blindingly bright, uncomfortable even with eyelids closed.

The SRT7 is a rheostat controlled light that starts with a rescue strobe, dials through flashing blue/red LED setting for emergencies and police use, red, green and blue LEDs for signaling, maritime, aircraft or night illumination, to a white setting that is very white, the brightness dialing from a spark all the way up to full intensity, then to two different strobe speeds.  The tail cap is momentary or on/off, and the light remembers its last setting because the rheostat ring is a physical switch. 

With the color settings, I can foresee someone taping one to their craft in an emergency. 
Battery life and toughness are excellent.  It's a bit large for carry in business wear, but still compact enough for a tool or gun belt, or a box or console.  The large reflector increases beam throw and range over the smaller lights.

The light comes with a holster, lanyard, clip and spare switch and gasket assembly. 

The SRT7 retails at $129 and is often available cheaper.

Last is their MH25 Hunting Kit that comes with the light, a USB cable (the battery can be charged in the unit via USB), the Li-ion battery, two filters (red and green), a remote switch and rail mount for weapon mounting, holster, lanyard, clip, spare switch, all in a hardshell case that would also double as a small handgun case.  The MH25, in "turbo" mode, goes straight to 860 lumens, and lowers it after three minutes to conserve batteries.  This is for spotlighting game (where legal) or threats, or to disorient an opponent. The user defined settings involve loosening the head slightly, then pressing the tail switch to select mode.  I found this awkward and non-intuitive.  It will take practice to learn.  The available settings are dim, medium, bright, strobe and SOS.

The significant advantage on this model is the onboard USB charging, and I'd like to see them expand it to more models.

Despite the awkward controls, the unit is tough and well built.  If you're familiar with modern tactical lights and have a use for this, it's a good value.  If you are not familiar with modern tactical light controls, or need more flexibility, I would recommend against it, and suggest the SRT7 instead.

Retail for the MH25 kit is $144, for the light by itself, $99.

The company offers lights from 12 lumens to 3,500 lumens in a variety of compact sizes. Their accessories are well thought out.  Quality is top notch so far.  I highly recommend the Intellicharger for anyone with rechargeable batteries. It has both simplified the task and brought all batteries to peak performance.

All these, and most of my other light purchases, have been made through FlashlightOutlet.com.  Larry, the owner, is very knowledgeable of all brands, well-versed in the physics of illumination, and provides top notch customer service.  He can recommend lights for any function and purpose, and offers very competitive prices.

All products in this review were purchased.  I have no financial interest in the companies. - Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog Editor at Large)



I've been out of the military for a long, long time now. However, I still remember many of the things that were taught to me back then. Those Drill Sergeants, bless their hearts, really knew how to drive home the lessons they were teaching us. Looking back over the years, I can see they were teaching us lessons that would save our lives in combat. I can still remember our map reading and compass orientation course, and the drill sergeant told us "a good soldier never gets lost, they just get disoriented." At the time, I wasn't sure what that actually meant, I mean, "lost" is "lost" isn't it - no matter what you might call it? And, map reading was a very important skill to learn, not just for a means of finding you way back to the base camp, but for calling in artillery on an enemy position, if needed.
 
I love the outdoors, and don't get out there as much as I'd like to these days. However, I'm happy to say, I've never been lost - not in the wilderness, nor in the big city. I have an uncanny sense of direction - always have. However, I've run across some hunters, who were "misoriented" and couldn't remember where they parked their vehicles or where their hunting camp was located. Before heading out to go hunting, in terrain that I'm not familiar with, I'll take the time to study a topo map of the area - all the various road in the area, as well as sources of water, too. It's just good sense, to have an idea of where you're going in the wilderness - and the big cities. I don't know how many people I've run across, who can't even read a compass, and if they can read a compass, they haven't set it for the declination in the area they're in. When my girls were younger, I taught them how to use a map and compass, and how to learn which direction was north, south, east or west, too.
 
Many people die each year, because they lost their sense of direction and get lost in the wilderness. Also, boaters who might have a problem out on the ocean or a large lake, can get lost, and they have no means of finding their way back home. Here in Oregon, we have several people each year die while attempting to climb Mount Hood. It looks like an easy mountain to scale, but it's not. And, more often than not, those who get killed climbing Mount Hood are "experienced" climber - they take unnecessary risks - where an amateur won't take those same risks. Climbers get caught in snow storms - and they can't get rescued because no one knows exactly where they are at. Sad!
 
Today I'm reviewing the Rescue Me PLB1 (Personal Locator Beacon) from Datrex. Now, a lot of people think I'm pretty smart - while that may be true, I'm just not smart all the time. It took me a while to put two and two together, to come up with four - Datrex makes those tasty life boat rations. And, for the life of me, I don't know why most folks consider these survival rations just for use on boats. My wife and I carry them in our emergency boxes in our SUVs - so they are good for helping your survive on land and sea.
 
Datrex was kind enough to send me one of their PLB1 units for testing - well, I didn't actually want to test it, and have the local sheriff's department Search And Rescue (SAR) team coming knocking on my door, when I activated the PLB1. They also sent me a dummy unit to play with, and the entire set-up is so very simple to operate, no practice is needed! A quick run down on the specs of the PLB1 are in order.  The PLB1 is the world's smallest Personal Locator Beacon - it's 30% smaller than other similar units. It has a 7-year battery life, with a 7-year warranty - the longest in the industry, and it provides fast and accurate positioning information to a SAR team. Best of all, unlike other similar units, there is NO subscription fee. Other places may charge you by the month, or by the year, to have a subscription - which means, once you purchase one of their units, you can't use it, unless you've paid the fee - which can get expensive over the years.
 
The PLB1 operates on the COSPAS/SARAT System which uses two satellites to provide distress alert and location data to SAR authorities. The GEOSR system can provide immediate alerting within the coverage of the receiving satellite. To put it simply is to say, once you activate your PLB1, the distress signal goes out immediately and help will be on the way to you. And, needless to say, you only activate the PLB1 in a dire emergency - not when you can't find your way home from the local McDonald's restaurant!
 
The unit only weighs 4-ounces, and is 3"x2"x1.3" and it safely fits inside inflatable life jackets, small pockets on trousers, on a belt or strap - just about any place. The PLB1 also comes with all the accessories you need, flotation belt pouch, snap in clip with universal mounting strap and high tensile lanyard. Of course, you can stuff it in your backpack, too, or even a shirt pocket.
 
Now pay attention here, this is the "complicated" method for operating the PLB1 in an emergency. Pull out the retractable antenna, push button down for one second to activate the unit, and.........well, that's it! Can't be easier to operate if you ask me. And, one nice thing about the PLB1 is, the retractable antenna - you can roll it back up into the unit - much like a tape measure. Other units have to be returned to the factory to have their antennas replaced - and they charge you for it, too. Datrex recommends that, if you have used the unit, that you should replace the small battery - just in case. I mean, the battery is good for 7-years, but it's just smart to replace the battery if you've activated the unit.
 
The PLB1  is waterproof, per se, down to 15-feet so they recommend that once you activate the unit, you keep it above the water - if you're out to sea. And, ensure that the antenna is held vertically while operating the unit. The unit will send out a signal for at least 24-hours, and there is also a small strobe light that will start flashing to indicate that the unit is activated. The high brightness, low profile strobe light has 1 candela - it is bright and can be seen from quite a distance, especially at night - aiding the SAR in finding your location, once they get close to you.
 
Now, in order to use your PLB1 properly, you are required by law to register it - there is no fee for this - just a simple form you can fill out - that's supplied with each unit - or you can do it on-line. The SAR would like to know who they're looking for and can also alert family that you've activated the unit, too. Oh, one other thing, once you press the button to activate the unit, it takes about 50-seconds before the unit actually starts sending out a signal - in case you hit the button by mistake. Good idea. The PLB1 will operate in temps from -4 degrees, up to 131-degrees.
 
I know a lot of Survivalist or Preppers, have the idea of heading to the mountains, when the SHTF - and I wish them well, and hope they have pre-positioned supplies there. Many folks just want to disappear off the grid, which is harder to do than they think. I've had times in my own life, where I just wanted to "go" and disappear - and not be found. However, what if you were out on a boat, and the engine quit on you, or you're out hunting, and something happens to you - you get lost, or break a leg? These are situation where you will want to be found. And, cell phones don't work every place - here in Oregon, where I live, we have quite a few areas in our state where you can't get a signal to use your cell phone.
 
My youngest daughter is in the US Army right now, however, by the time this review appears in print, she'll be out. She has a plan to fly down to New Zealand, and she wants to trek 2,000 miles across that country. Quite a feat, and one I wouldn't willingly want to do, and she plans on doing it alone, too - ever wonder why dads have so many gray hairs? Enough said! Well, I told my youngest daughter that she will get a PLB1 and take it with her on her trek. This will give me quite a bit of peace of mind - knowing that, if something happens along the trek, she can just push a button, and help will be coming her way. I can't think of a better endorsement, than wanting my little girl, to carry a PLB1 with her when she's on that long trek. It probably won't stop the few remaining hairs from turning gray, but it might slow them down on my head.
 
If you're a hunter, boater, hiker or even in the military, having a PLB1 with you is a great idea if you ask me. the PLB1 can be purchased directly from Datrex, at the web address given above, or from any of their retail walk-in stores, for $369 - you might think the price is a bit high - I don't! What is your life worth, or the life of your loved ones? When you can't help yourself - for whatever reason, the PLB1 can direct help to your location. To me, I don't think you can put a price tag on this! And, if my youngest daughter doesn't purchase a PLB1 for her 2,000 mile trek, then I'll purchase one for her - that's how strongly I feel about having this means of being rescued. If you spend any amount of time in the outdoors - especially hiking, camping or hunting - you absolutely must have a PLB1 with you - it can make the difference between life and death! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, October 21, 2013


I actually got started writing back in 1983, when I reviewed books for a Christian bookselling company. These were soon-to-be-released books. My "pay" for reviewing the books, was that, I got to keep the books. I built-up quite a library of Youth Ministry books over a couple years. I had help along the way, with my meager writing efforts, and I still don't consider myself any sort of writer, per see - but I hopefully can communicate with my readers, so they understand what I'm trying to convey to them.
 
It was 1992, before I started writing firearms articles, and it was as the insistence of the late Col. Rex Applegate - I worked for the good Colonel for three years and I will be forever grateful to him, for all he taught me. Now, when Applegate told you to do something - you did it - not out of fear, but rather, out of respect. Applegate told me to start writing firearms articles, and he opened a lot of doors for me in this respect. I met the late Chuck Karwan, who was a fantastic writer, and for quite some time, Chuck was my personal editor - checking over my articles before I submitted them. It was Karwan, who told me to just write the way I speak - easy-going. When I first started out, I was overly technical in my articles. "Thanks" Chuck - for all you did for me - you are missed! I met the great Wiley Clapp, who I had admired for years - we worked together on the very first video that Paladin Press put out. I also worked with Tommy Campbell, on this same video, and he was the top shooter, at one time, for Smith & Wesson. Peder Lund, who owns and operates Paladin Press - he published one of my books, "SWAT Battle Tactics" that I co-authored with my late friend, and Hall of Fame martial artist, Master John McSweeney.
 
Col. Applegate always taught me to give credit where credit is due. Don't take credit for someone else's works - acknowledge when someone has helped you along life's road. So, it is with this attitude, that I would like to introduce SurvivalBlog readers to Jeff Hoffman, who owns and operates Black Hills Ammunition with his wife, Kristi. It was actually Chuck Karwan, who introduced me to Black Hills ammo back in 1992, and to Jeff Hoffman. If you've followed my firearms articles on SurvivalBlog, or in the gun magazines over the past 20 years (I no longer write for gun magazines) you'll be familiar with the brand-name of Black Hills Ammunition. I use the ammo in just about every firearms article I write.
 
I believe it would be safe to say, that in more than 20 years of writing about firearms, I've easily fired at least a hundred thousand rounds of Black Hills ammo - maybe twice that amount - I've lost track. Jeff Hoffman told me, when I first start using his ammo, to never let my ammo locker run dry - and he's been supplying me with his outstanding ammo for all these years. Without his help, I wouldn't have been writing as many firearms articles as I have - I simply wouldn't have been able to afford to purchase all the ammo I've shot while writing those articles. Black Hills is now one of the big names in the ammo industry, too.
 
One thing that Black Hills Ammunition does, that no other big name ammo company does, is that, they hand inspect each and every round of ammo before it is packed. No other big name ammo company does this! I have never had a bad round of ammo from Black Hills in all my years of shooting their ammo. I wish I could say the same of some other big name ammo makers - in particular, Remington. I've found numerous bad rounds of ammo from their boxes - many times primers were upside down or even sideways in a shell - and many dead primers, too. Jeff Hoffman assures us of the best quality control out there - if you want lesser quality ammo, you can find it, but you won't find lesser quality ammo from Black Hills.
 
Jeff Hoffman, isn't just an ammo maker, he's also a part-time cop, a sniper on a SWAT team, too - and he's authored a few magazine articles on the topic of long-rang shooting, too - he knows his stuff. He won't settle for anything except the best ammo money can buy. Hoffman takes his job very seriously - he and Kristi are Black Hills Ammunition - along with all their knowledgeable and capable employees and staff.
 
I can't possible cover all the different ammo that Black Hills Ammunition manufactures in this article, however, I wanted to touch on a few calibers in particular. First up is their .223 Remington and 5.56mm calibers - and no one, that I'm aware of, makes a wider assortment of .223 Rem ammo than Black Hills does. They have the bases covered from their 36-grain Varmint Grenade loading, to their heavy 77-grain Sierra Matchking Hollow Point - and everything in between. And, most folks aren't aware that, Hoffman makes a proprietary round for ALL of our US Special Forces units - it's a 77 grain 5.56mm round, that is proven very effective for longer shots on the enemy. I've only, in the past year, have been able to get my hands on some of this ammo for testing in my AR articles - it's always in demand by our troops, so I didn't mind waiting, until there was a few rounds that could be shipped to me - I prefer our SF guys get it before I did! If you can't find a Black Hills loading in .223 Rem or 5.56mm rounds that shoots well in your AR rifles, then it's the gun - not the ammo! Simple as that! You should also be aware that, Black Hills has a pretty extensive line-up of remanufactured ammo, too - not just their red box new ammo. We all have our favorite loads, and if I were to pick one .223 Rem round from Black Hills, it would be their 68-grain Heavy Match Hollow Point loading - it shoots great in any AR I've run it through.
 
In the 9mm department, I have two favorites, and I don't know if I could nail it down to just one of these rounds as my favorite. I like the 124-grain JHP +P load, that is coming out of full-sized duty guns at about 1,250 per second. I like the 124-grain bullet because they penetrate a little deeper and expand well. It's a great load. I also love the 115-grain Barnes all-copper Tac XP +P load - this load is coming at about 1,200 feet per second, and it penetrates deeply and stays together - no matter what it might hit. Many years back, we didn't  have such a variety of 9mm self-defense ammo - the few JHP loads we had, just didn't perform all that well, that's why the FBI and many police departments switched the .40 S&W load - they wanted a load that would penetrate deeply enough to do some damage, and a round that held together, too. An interesting turn of events is now taking place with many police departments in that, they are dropping the .40 S&W round and going back to the 9mm with high performance JHP ammo. Many police officers aren't into shooting, and don't practice on their own, and they have a lot of misses and low qualifying scores with the .40 S&W round. When they went back to the 9mm - their qualification scores really shot up there, and they are getting the same manstopping results on the streets in real life, that they were getting with the .40 S&W rounds. What's old, is now "new" - all over again.
 
Black Hills has a 140-grain Barnes all-copper Tax XP .40S&W round that I really like. It is coming out of the barrel at around 1,100 feet per second, and once again, the Barnes all-copper, hollow point bullets penetrate deeply and stay together. If I had to pick one Black Hills .40 loading to carrying in my handguns in .40S&W, this is "the" load of my liking! It is controllable, and will get the job done. 'Nuff said!
 
When it comes to the grand ol' .45ACP, Black Hills has a good selection, but once again, I have my preferences. For self-defense, I like their 185-grain Barnes, all-copper, hollow point, TAC XP load that is rated at +P. However, I've found this load to be very controllable, too. It will penetrate deeply, and the bullets stay together - this is important! This round is coming out of a 5" Bbl 1911 at about 1,100 feet per second. For everyday shooting, I like the Black Hills .45ACP 230-grain FMJ load - while not advertised as a "match" load, I've always had match-grade results with this loading, and wouldn't hesitate to use in in a competition - it's "that" accurate. And, don't forget, Black Hills also manufactures reloaded handgun ammo for all your paper-punching needs.
 
In the .308 Winchester round, I love the 168-grain Hornady A-Max loading - this is just a great all around big game loading, as well as being an outstanding "sniper" load, for those long range shots. If I had to pick one .308 Win loading for my big game hunting needs, this would be it. They also produce a 180-grain Nosler Accubond loading, and this is great for long-range shooting at big game, like elk or moose.
 
I don't do much reloading these days, I simply don't have the time any longer. However, when I do reload, I only reload .300 Win Mag rounds, and I'm very proud of a load I came up with. Enter the Black Hills .300 Win Mag 190-grain Match Hollow Point load - this load is used by snipers all over the world, and it is, without a doubt, the most accurate .300 Win Mag load I've ever fired - in any rifle chambered in .300 Win Mag. Given a good rifle, and a good shooter, it will do all you ask of it, and routinely shoots sub MOA. My own .300 Win Mag reloads equal this load, but I can't beat it - not matter how hard I've tried - I've tweaked my .300 Win Mag loads every which way I can, but I can't beat this Black Hills loading - I can only match it!
 
So, these are only a few of my favorite Black Hills Ammunition loadings. I'm betting you'll find something to your liking, if you take the time to go through their web site. Just be advised, the great ammo drought is still going fairly strong, and you may not find everything you want at Black Hills these days. Jeff Hoffman, has worked very hard at keeping me supplied with his outstanding ammo for my articles, and even so, he's out of certain calibers and types of ammo these days. I'm dying to get my hands on some of the .45ACP 185-grain Barnes all-copper TAC XP +P loads, but they are out-of-stock right now - but Jeff has me on his list, to send me some, as soon as they get more made.
 
Look, if you want a lesser ammo, then go to one of the big box stores and buy it. You'll be getting good ammo - but you won't be getting ammo better than what Black Hills Ammunition is making these days. If you want some of the best ammo on the planet, then check out what Black Hills has to offer. One word of advice, though - you'll be spoiled, and the ammo from the other big name ammo makers won't be up to your expectations, after using Jeff and Kristi Hoffman's ammo. You've been warned! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, October 14, 2013


I receive products weekly, to test for SurvivalBlog, so much so, that as of this writing, I'm still about four months out on trying to catch-up. And, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is that, I receive a product in the mail or UPS or FedEx, and when I open the box up, there is no letter or anything included with the product. So please, in the future, if you are going to send me a product to test, be so kind as to include some literature and a letter, with the products you send to me. And, perhaps a contact person, if I have questions!
 
The product under review today is simply called the 4 Person Emergency Preparation Kit  - and I had to spend some time on the Internet tracking down this company, or at least, the company that is selling this product. What we have is a sealed, red-colored, five gallon bucket, that is supposed to have survival supplies or preparations for 4 people, presumably, to help survive a disaster. The kit is advertised for 4 people - they also make a kit for one person. What I received was a kit clearly labeled for 4 people, however, it was missing a few items.
 
The bucket is supposed to contain  "A Centralized all in one, preparation kit designed by a team of U.S. Military and Homeland Security experts who consult on chemical, biological and nuclear risk management. This kit will help you prepare and protect for Catastrophic Weather Events. Epidemics and Terrorist, Protect your family from an emergency before it's an emergency." That is what is says on the web site.
 
The contents of the red bucket are supposed to be: a hand crank emergency radio with flashlight with hand crank cell phone charger, bio-hazard bag, four thermal emergency blankets, 4 rain ponchos, 10 function tool kit, 2 whistles, 4 dust masks, towelettes, work gloves and a roll of duct tape. There is also a hard cover, 224 page "Prepare For Disaster" guidebook. That's it! Only problem was, my 4-person kit only came with one emergency blanket, one dust mask, one pack of moist towelettes, and a small first aid kit. Whoever packed this kit, didn't pay attention to its intended use and what was supposed to go inside of it. And, as already mentioned, the red bucket is clearly marked that it is a 4 person emergency prep kit. And, there was no mention of a first-aid kit on the web site, but it came with one - a very small first-aid kit.
 
 
The 224-page "Prepare For Disaster" book is a good starter book, so this was a worthy addition to the kit. The hand crank radio/cell phone charger was also a nice touch, as is the bucket it all comes in. The dust masks work gloves, duct tape are also handy things to have around, too. Rain ponchos - also a good thing to include, as was the little tool kit and the emergency blankets - if they had actually included 4 of them, instead of one. I believe the idea behind this little red bucket kit, is to have this stuff on-hand, and ready for an emergency - only problem is, what if you had not opened this bucket beforehand, and when you actually needed it, opened to only to find, you were missing items - items that your family needed in an emergency? Not good!
 
I would also have added some freeze-dried foods to this bucket, if only enough for one or two days for a family of four! Of course, this is something you can add yourself. I think a water filter of some sort would be nice to have, too. You could use the bucket for collecting water, but you'd have no way of making the water safe to drink, without a water filter of some type. Like I said, this could be a starter kit, if everything that was in the bucket, was actually in the bucket - it wasn't!
 
I'm not often disappointed by a product I receive for testing, and if something isn't up to SurvivalBlog expectations, I don't usually review it - I send it back - at my own expense. SurvivalBlog readers deserve only the best of the best, in my humble opinion. Now, while this all-in-one prep kit, isn't a bad starter kit, I don't believe it justifies the $89.95 asking price. And, what if there had been a genuine emergency, and my family needed the items that were suppose to have come in the bucket - and I opened it, only to find I was shorted some of the items? That would be disastrous if you ask me.
 
I didn't know who to return this prep kit to, when I received it, the return address was torn-off the shipping box. And, as I mentioned at the onset of this review, I had a hard time finding out who sold this kit - the web address on the bucket didn't exist - or else it was misprinted...I had to do a search to find this product. I'm not sure if "Whitman" is the manufacturer or just a company who bought this kit and resells it.
 
If you want a kit - a starter kit - I guess you could start with this one, but don't believe this red bucket has all you need for your survival - it doesn't! You need to add to it - add a lot of things to it. So, that's my take on the 4 Person Emergency Preparation Kit. I'm not sure I believe this kit was developed  by U.S. Military and Homeland Security experts - just sounds like hype to my thinking. Then again, knowing our FedGov, it might well have been designed by those folks. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


James,
[Regarding Pat's recent product review,] as a licensed Class III dealer, I have extensive experience using the X Products 50 round drum for the HK91/G3 under full auto fire. My G3s, HK91s and even semi-auto PTR-91s eat NATO standard ammo flawlessly from them. I also have used the M14 version successfully though I don't have as much time with that rifle. I heartily suggest their use. I have no monetary interest in their company. I and my company own and use dozens of them.

I also strongly suggest the PTR-91 platform for standardization in any survival group. As long as you use NATO spec ammo and good mags, they function flawlessly. Service is easy, only takes a few specialized tools and mags are quite cheap. they are a great value versus the classic collectors pre-ban HK-91.

Thanks for what you do. - B.F.


Monday, October 7, 2013


What is "fire power?" That has been a source of debate with many gun writers and shooters for a lot of years. Now, while I'll readily agree that, no handgun can really give you "firepower" - I believe a semiauto rifle, like an AR, AK, M1A and many other similar rifles can lay down a deadly stream of bullets towards the bad guys. Some gun writers believe that only a select-fire or full auto rifle or light machine gun can lay down some firepower, while others believe an Apache attack helicopter or jet fighter equipped with 20 or 30mm automatic cannons can truly lay down "some serious firepower. " I guess it depends on where you're standing at the time - on the giving end or the receiving end of the gun.
 
I know I can empty a 30 round magazine from an AR or AK in a few seconds, while that isn't automatic fire, it is sure enough fire power to make the person on the receiving end, wish they were some place else. Ask the person who is getting shot at, with a 30 round magazine, if that isn't fire power - bet they'll say it is.
 
There are some magazine makers, who just flat out manufacture poorly made magazines, and people continue to buy them, for some strange reason. Without  high-quality magazines in your firearms, you may only be left with a single-shot firearm because the money you think you saved, by purchasing a cheaply made magazine, won't function in your firearm - and that is not a good thing in my book. I rarely purchase any aftermarket magazines for my firearms - there are a few exceptions - but for the most part, I like to stick to factory-made magazines. Now, that isn't the case when it comes to magazines for ARs, AKs, M1As and many other modern sporting rifles - most of those magazines are indeed what are called "aftermarket" they are made by a vendor who isn't actually manufacturing the rifles.
 
I've also found that, when it comes to AR-15 magazines, many makers who manufacture magazines that hold more than 30 rounds are just marketing a gimmick. Most of those magazines simply won't function properly - even if you only load 30 rounds into a 45 round magazine. There are also some drum-style magazines that are actually two drums that feed into your AR, that hold 100 rounds of ammo. I've tried several over the years, and I haven't found one that I'd be willing to be my life on, and neither should you. [JWR Adds: In my experience, Beta C-MAG 100 round drums do function as advertised, but they rattle like a maraca when loaded, so they they should mot be considered for any sort of dismounted patrolling. ]
 
The good folks at US Tactical Supply told me about some 50 round drum magazines that they are selling, and if you've followed my articles over the past few years, you know I think very highly of the products that US Tactical Supply sells - they only carry the best-of-the-best in my humble opinion. And, they have customer service that is second to none, too. I made a trip to US Tactical Supply and was provided two "X Products" 50-round drum magazines for testing for SurvivalBlog readers. One of the X Products magazines is for an M14 or Springfield Armory M1A .308 rifle, the other is a 50-round drum magazine for the AR-15 style of rifle. X Products magazines are completely made in the USA, which is always a selling point in my book. We can compete against foreign-made companies and produce better products, too.
 
First up is the X Product 50 round drum for the M1A - this magazine is actually shorter in length than a standard 20 round .308 magazine is, and it is much shorter than the 30 round magazines - most of which don't work. However, US Tactical Supply does carry the Checkmate Industries (CMI) brand of 20 and 30 round magazines for the M1A that do work. (Most no-name 30-rd mags simply are junk. In contrast, the Checkmate 20 and 30 rd mags are the best you can buy in my humble opinion. However, if you want more than 20 or 30 rounds of "firepower" for your M1A or M14, then you have got to check out the X Products drum mag.
 
Granted, any .308 semiauto rifle is going to be a bit heavy to start with, then throw-in a drum magazine, with 50 rounds of .308 ammo in it, and you are adding close to another 5-pounds of weight to the rifle. There are always some trade-offs in this sort of situation, and only you can decide how much weight you are willing to pack in your long gun. For me, this is a no-brainer - 50 rounds of .308 without having to reload is the way to go when a fire-fight breaks out. The X Product drum magazines are manufactured out of steel and Aluminum - no plastic parts at all. And, as already noted, these M1A magazines are not as long as 20 round magazines are. Plus, you can actually carry your M1A sling-arms without the drum interfering with your body.
 
There is also a spring-loaded "winding key" on the front of the magazine, as you place a round and are ready to push it into the magazine, you simply turn the "key" so the round drops right in - do this 49 more times, and you are ready to rock 'n roll. I will admit, the winding key is a bit stout, then again, the spring that pushes the rounds up, so the drum magazine can smoothly AND reliably feed those rounds into the M1A must, out of necessity be strong. The X Products 50 round drum magazine is rated to feed 950-rounds per minute - if you can pull the trigger that fast, and reload the gun that fast. I tested this magazine in a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM, and the magazine fit perfectly and fed every round without any problems at all. Okay, we are talking very serious firepower here, and I don't care what your definition of "firepower" might be - 50 rounds of .308 on-tap, without having to reload is mighty impressive in my book.
 
I tested .308 Win/7.62 NATO FMJ military surplus ammo, as well as from Black Hills Ammunition 168 grain Match Hollow Point and their 175 grain Match Hollow Point, and from Buffalo Bore Ammunition their Sniper 175 grain JHP and their 150 grain Barnes TTSX poly tip load. I had zero feeding malfunctions using any of this ammo. I was a bit concerned about the JHP and poly tipped ammo feeding through the X Products mag, but every round fed without fail. I reloaded the 50-round drum magazine four times, for a total of 200 rounds down range - this wasn't a test of accuracy - it was only to test the reliability of the magazine. I will readily admit, but the time I was loading the magazine for the third time, my hand was getting tired from winding the magazine to load it.
 
Enter the X Products 50 round drum magazine designed for AR-15 style rifles, this one is quite a bit smaller than the mag for the M1A type of rifles, and the spring on the "winding key" wasn't nearly as stout - but still stout enough to push those rounds up as fast as you could pull the trigger. During my testing, I used Winchester 55 grain FMJ ammo, and from Buffalo Bore I used their 69 grain JHP Sniper round. From Black Hills I had a wide assortment of ammo to shoot, including their 55 grain FMJ reloads, 55 grain FMJ brand-new ammo, 52 grain Hornady V-Max, 52 grain Match Hollow Point, 55 grain Soft Point, 60 grain Soft Point and their 68 grain Heavy Match Hollow Point. And, I mixed this ammo when loading the drum magazines, and once again, no surprises, every single round fed perfectly.
 
During the time of the great ammo drought of 2013, I'm having a difficult time getting all the ammo samples I want for my shooting articles, and I have been restricting myself to only shooting about 200 rounds during a firearms test. However, I got completely carried away with my DPMS "AR" and fired more than 400 rounds though the gun, using the X Products 50 round drum magazine - it was a total blast, literally, being able to lay down that kind of fire power, without having to reload. You can fire up to 1,100 rounds per minute using the 50 round drum magazine - that is fast enough to keep up with just about any full-auto M4 rifle in my humble opinion.
 
The X Products drum magazines are coated inside and out with Cerakote for friction reduction, and to provide the reliability you demand, without using any lube, that can cause problems. The X Products drum mag is also 4-5 inches shorter than the Surefire quad stack magazine. Honestly, with this mag loaded in your AR-style rifle, it is really compact. This is "the" magazine you want stuffed in your AR, if you are using it for a house gun - if you can repel attackers with 50 rounds available, then you are in deep, deep trouble, and probably can't save yourself. BTW, the AR mag is built entirely of aluminum with no plastic parts to break.
 
The only negative I could find with either of these X Products drum magazines is that, you are having so much fun, you are burning-up a lot of ammo in a short period of time...I don't care what other gun writer's or armchair experts might say, 50 rounds of ammo on tap, without a reload is firepower in my book, and if you are on the receiving end of that many rounds flying at you, I'm sure you'll agree with this finding as well.
 
Now, quality never comes cheap, and the price for the M1A/M14 X Products drum magazine is $275 and for the AR drum magazine the price is $210 Now, I'm not advocating that you purchase half a dozen each of these magazines. However, what I would suggest is that, you purchase one or maybe even two of these magazines. If you are a police officer, in the military or a Prepper, load one of these 50 round drum magazines in your rifle, and then use other "standard" magazines for your reloads. If I got into a fire-fight, it would be VERY reassuring to have 50 rounds of ammo available during that crucial initial engagement, without having to reload. Laying down a lot of bullets at the bad guys at the start of a gunfight can make a big difference in my book. Keep their heads down, while you move from one position to another. Fire and movement!
 
These are the magazines you want in your gun - at the start of a fire fight! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, September 30, 2013


It appears, at least for the time being, that AR-15 style rifle manufacturers are starting to catch-up with demand. Not all makers are caught-up, but a few are - the companies that specialize in making AR-15 style rifles only, appear to be the ones catching-up with supply to meet demand. Although some ammo makers are making some progress in manufacturing more .223 Rem and 5.56mm ammo, the great ammo drought of 2013 is far from over. As I mentioned before, my inside sources - at ammo companies - not gun shop clerks, or Internet warriors - tell me that it will still be at least another 18 months before they catch-up with supply and demand - for orders that they already have. There is some hype ammo makers are trying to sell you more ammo, they have not created intentional ammo shortages. And, to be sure, the ammo companies have not inflated their prices during this drought. Those companies that have raised their prices ever so slight, have done so, because they are paying more for the raw products to produce the ammo - in some cases, their costs have only gone up 5% - 8%  and it is many companies who sell to gun shops or to individuals on the Internet, who have taken advantage of having a large supply of ammo in-stock and they are just ripping customers off, it's not the ammo makers doing this! (I'll now step off my soap box.)
 
I have steadily observed AR-style rifles getting more and more accurate these days. I believe there are several reasons for this, one is better barrels, and another is better triggers, and of course tighter tolerances, too. And, we also have a wide selection of ammo to pick from, and if you haven't experimented with different types, brands and weights of bullets in your AR, you are doing yourself and your AR a disservice. Some guns shoot certain types and brands of ammo better than other types and brands of ammo. If you take the time to experiment, you'll find one or two types of ammo that shoots extremely well in your AR - most of the time. I will say, I had a Bushmaster AR-style carbine, with the poly upper and lower receivers, and it wouldn't shoot anything well at all - at 25 yards, it "patterned" like a shotgun - it wouldn't group any ammo. I traded it back to the gun shop the next day. So, there are exceptions - every now and then a lemon slips through, no matter who the  maker might be.
 
I ran across the CORE15 M4 rifle at my local gun shop, some time back. And, to be honest, I had never heard of the CORE Rifle Systems brand rifles. It appeared to be a very well-made specimen of the M4gery type of rifle, and it had a flat-top upper receiver with no carry handle or rear sight - not a problem, I had a carry handle with rear sight to attach to it.
 
I won't bore SurvivalBlog readers with all of the specs on the CORE15 M4, but I wanted to cover a few of them. The upper and lower receivers are mil-spec forged 7075-T6 aluminum, hard coat anodized with a beveled magazine well for improved and faster reloads - I didn't notice this when I first looked at the gun - nice touch. It also has M4 feed ramps - not all M4rgeries have this feature, and it aids in feeding rounds from the mag to the chamber. There is also a 1:9 barrel twist, which is pretty common on civilian M4s. The gun is chambered in .223/5.56mm too - and there is a difference between these calibers - regardless of what the clerk behind the counter at your local gun shop tells you. The stainless steel bolt carrier group is also chromed - making it easier to clean. The M4 handguards are Thermoset molded with dual heat shields - some makers don't provide heat shields at all. The 6-positon retractable stock is also mil-spec. For the rest of the particulars, you can check out the CORE15 web site - and they are currently manufacturing a lot of different versions of the M4, including a gas piston model. (When I got my sample at my local gun shop, they were only making a couple of versions.)
 
The M4-style of AR is the most popular selling black gun on the market today, and some gun magazines have come up with a new title for these rifles, "Modern Sporting Rifles" and I have no problem with that, if that's what they want to call these guns. However, aren't all rifles, to a certain extent, "modern sporting rifles?" Let's think about that - anyway, I guess they can call these guns whatever they want to help appease anti-gunners. I still hear folks calling anything that is an AR version an "assault rifle" and needless to say, that is the wrong nomenclature for these rifles, too. And, we need to help our fellow gun owners to stop calling these rifles "assault rifles" as it only adds fuel to the gun debate. True assault rifles are select-fire - all the M4s and ARs we purchase over the counter are just semi-automatic rifles - one pull of the trigger, one shot is fired!
 
To be sure, I don't believe most gun buyers are buying the M4 or any type of AR as a "sporting rifle" in my humble opinion. They are purchasing these guns for self-defense of life and property. They are buying these guns to prevent an out-of-control FedGov from taking our Freedoms and Rights away. Folks are also purchasing these types of guns for the simple fact that, the FedGov and local and state governments are attempting to ban them, and confiscate them. So they are purchasing these firearms simply because they still can and because they want to own them! Off my soap box, again!
 
Without any further ado, I will report that, the CORE15 M4, is without a doubt, the most consistently accurate M4 I've ever owned. Not, the most accurate, but the most consistently accurate M4 I've owned - hands down, it holds this title! I had the opportunity to fire a wide assortment of ammo through my CORE15 M4 - and this was when .223 and 5.56mm ammo was still in great supply and prices were very affordable. Today, I rarely shoot any of my firearms just for fun - I can't afford to purchase all the ammo I want, and my suppliers, out of necessity, can't supply me with all the ammo I need - I understand this. So, when I first purchased this gun, from my local gun shop, I fired well over 1,000 rounds through it over a period of a couple months. I had from Black Hills Ammunition, a huge assortment of .223 ammo - to include: 40 grain Hornady V-Max, 50 grain Hornady V-Max, 52 grain Match Hollow Point, 55 grain FMJ both new and remanufactured, 55 grain SP, 60 grain Hornady V-Max and 68-gr Heavy Match Hollow Point. From the kind folks at Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their Sniper 55 grain Ballistic Tip and their 69 grain Jacketed Hollow Point.
 
For my long range accuracy testing, I removed the carry handle with rear sight, and put on an inexpensive 3-9x40 scope because I wanted to really wring out the most accuracy I could out of this rifle. At 25-yards, I was easily getting three shot, one hole groups - boring! No matter which brand of ammo, or which bullet weight or any other factor, I consistently was getting 1 1/2 inch groups - of course, some groups were higher on the target, and some lower - depending on the bullet weights. But no matter what ammo I used, I still got 1 1/2 inch groups, so long as I did my part. Amazing, to say the least. As I said, this is the most consistently accurate M4 I've ever shot, bar none. I did try some of the Black Hills 77 grain 5.56mm ammo - and as expected, because of the 1:9 inch barrel twist, the rounds were all over the place - not the fault of the ammo - it was the barrel twist - for these heavier rounds you need a 1:7 inch barrel twist to help stabilize the heavier bullets. I've used the Black hills 77 grain 5.56mm round in ARs with 1:7 inch barrel twists and had outstanding accuracy.
 
I fired a good amount of Black Hills 55 grain FMJ remanufactured ammo through the CORE15 M4 - and I had the barrel smoking and extremely hot. Still, the gun never missed a beat - in all my testing, the gun never had a failure of any sort. I was impressed, very impressed, with the performance and reliability of this M4-style carbine. The CORE15 M4 is well-made, and many of the specs are made to military specifications - not all, but many! I couldn't find anything to fault in the sample that I purchased over-the-counter, and it was a used gun at that - not brand-new!
 
As already noted, CORE15 is now manufacturing a huge assortment of M4s these days - so you have quite a selection to pick from - assuming you can find one at your local dealer - I haven't seen another one since I made my purchase, but they are on GunBroker.com if you care to check around for the best prices. I have no vested interest in CORE15 rifles, and I didn't request a sample from the company, so this gun is the same gun you can buy, and I believe CORE15 is doing their guns up "right" in my book - everything was fitted, and not just "assembled" if you ask me. And the barrel was doing what it was supposed to do. It put all my rounds where I wanted them to go. You can't ask for more than that.
 
So, if you are in the  market for an AR-15 style rifle, and in particular, an M4 type, you'd do well to take a look at the CORE15 M4 line-up - and they seem to be priced reasonable these days - all things considered I was totally impressed with my sample, and I'm sure you'll be just as impressed as I was, if you get one for your shooting needs. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, September 23, 2013


Every now and then I run across one of those, "Gee, why didn't I think of that..." products - and kick myself for not thinking of it. Anyone who has been around knives at all, probably know who Ken Onion is. He's not only a very talented custom knife maker, but he has collaborated on a number of different knife designs, with various knife companies. I once did an article about Ken Onion, and one of his designs for Knives Illustrated magazine, when I was the West Cost Field Editor. Ken and I had a great talk on the phone - me in Oregon and he was in Hawaii - and to say he is a wild man is putting it mildly - but a lot of fun to talk to.
 
So, it was quite a surprise to me, to learn that, Onion designed a new Paracord bracelet. Anyone who is a Prepper or Survivalist, are aware of the popularity of the Paracord bracelets that folks have been wearing for a year or two, on their wrists. And, it's a good idea, if you're out camping, in combat or just out for a hike, to have some type of cord, you never know when you might need to lash something down, use it to replace a broken shoe lace - or any number of other emergencies that come along when you are out in the boonies or in a combat situation. So, I like the idea of the Paracord bracelet - and I own several!
 
Ken Onion collaborated with Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) and created the new Parasaw bracelet. What they've done is, besides the woven Paracord bracelet, that you can find in many stores, Onion devised a way to place a small wire survival saw inside of the bracelet. And, the saw isn't one of those cheap ones, either. Instead, it is a tungsten carbide coated wire saw - one that can actually cut, and it cuts quite well. The saw is encased in a plastic wrapper inside of the Paracord, and you have to unravel the bracelet to get the saw out.
 
So, you have 8 or 9 feet of Paracord - depending on the size of the bracelet - it comes in small and large, and you have that cleverly hidden wire saw, for cutting down small (very small) trees, or branches. I used the Parasaw around my homestead, to cut small tree limbs and other material, and it actually works quite well. Now, I wouldn't be foolish enough to attempt to saw down one of the large pine trees on my place - it's not going to happen. But you'd be surprised at the number of uses this little saw is good for.
 
I've always said that simple is better - and in this case, I don't see how you can make anything more simple, than having some Paracord on your wrist, and a small wire saw hidden inside of it for emergency use. If you get outdoors a lot, you need to be prepared! Everyone in my family has the new CRKT Parasaw, and I have a few extras around - just in case.
 
One note, don't take the Parasaw apart just to see the wire saw inside - you more than likely won't get the bracelet back together - this is for emergency situations - not for playing around. At $24.99 each, they are a darn good thing to have - and they come in different colors, and as already noted, two sizes to fit just about any wrist. The Parasaw is very hot-seller for CRKT, and don't be surprised if they are out-of-stock on some colors and sizes - get one now! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio



Most SurvivalBlog readers have heard of Brad Thor. He is a contemporary novelist who is a master of the techno-thriller genre. Several of his books have become bestsellers, and one of them reached #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Brad recently teamed up with the clothing maker Scottevest, to design a quite versatile concealment jacket that they call the Alpha Jacket. Brad arranged to have them send me one of these for test and evaluation.

When the jacket arrived I was impressed from the start. The only disappointment was seeing "Made in China" on the tag. Like so many other manufacturers, Scottevest has found that offshore production is the only way to stay cost competitive. Seeing any product from an American company that is produced in China chafes me. But in this case, I can see why it was a necessity. This jacket has a very complex design (with an amazing 35 pockets!) that is very labor-intensive to produce. If it were produced in the U.S., I suspect that the high production cost would necessitate a retail price near $350. Even with offshore production it is priced at $200.

This jacket's design is so advanced that it has an operator manual. The pockets and special features are so diverse that for the sake of brevity, I'll just refer you to the maker's web site for details. Even a large handgun can "disappear" in this jacket's voluminous pockets. (In my tests, using a Glock 21 and a Glock 30, I found that it was best to use a holster clipped to a larger rectangular piece of sheet hard plastic to eliminate any "printing" of the pistol's outline or any telltale sagging of the jacket. (I used a "roto" paddle-style holster clipped to a piece of plexiglas.) Even someone physically groping the jacket from the outside would just think that it was a large paperback book or perhaps a Kindle or a similar-size electronic device.

The jacket's exterior is a quiet and nonreflecting charcoal gray fabric with an unusual texture. The maker claims that this fabric has a reduced IR signature. (I didn't have a chance to verify that with my PVS-14 night vision scope.) It should be great at night, in shaded forests, or in urban environments, but black is a color not often seen in nature (except in shadows), so it would stand out in high contrast in most natural environments, during daylight.

The jacket that I received is a size Large, and it fit me well, although it was a bit baggy in the midsection. (I'm 6'2" and a fairly muscular 193 pounds.) I suppose that once you loaded up the jacket with a pistol, extra magazines, a cell phone, a Surefire light, a Kindle (or Netbook) and assorted do-dads, that all of that extra roominess would be appreciated. And I've been told that some of the roominess is intentional, for an "armor cut," meaning that it allows room for body armor to be worn underneath.

The jacket's main zipper is quite stout, but most of the others seemed a bit lightweight, for my preference. Time will tell if they have sufficient durability.

One interesting feature is an RFID-blocking pocket, designed to protect your passport or "smart" credit cards from scanners.

Another neat feature is a cell phone pocket with a clear plastic window that allows you to operate the phone while it is still in the pocket. (Or if you have an iPhone or MP3 player with a display, you can read the details on the music track that is being played.)

One other feature that deserves special mention is a pair of short vertical zippers in roughly kidney position at the waist. These can be zipped up to allow fast access to a pistol carried on the belt over the buttocks, for either right-handers or left-handers. For those who carry concealed, this feature alone makes the jacket worth buying!

All in all, I was impressed with the Alpha Jacket. Brad Thor came up with an exceptionally good design, and it was well executed by Scottevest. For serious preppers, this would be a great jacket to acquire for everyday wear, since the 35 pockets could be loaded up as a veritable "wearable bug out bag" that would not attract any suspicion.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


James,
I have a short comment on today’s article for “Pat's Product Review: All American Sun Oven”.
 
My wife and I bought the $399 model at a Dallas Prepper show a couple years ago and used it in order to make sure we knew how to operate it.
After several weeks of use, my job took me to a long overseas visit and the oven went onto a shelf in the garage. It sat for six months without anyone using it. Yes I cleaned and dried it out.
Upon returning from my trip I got it back out to use it again and found that the cheap bolts holding the leveling shelf in place were completely rusted up. I quickly disassembled the oven and removed the rusty bolts and went to hardware store and bought same size Stainless Steel bolts, washers and nuts. Put it all back together and went back to using it.
 
It is a fantastic unit and I agree with Pat’s description. My only complaint is for nearly $400 they could spent the extra dollar and go with Stainless Steel [hardware] to reduce the corrosion.
 
My two cents (solid copper of course). God Bless, - Edward A.


Monday, September 16, 2013


It goes something like this, "one is none, two is one, and three is two!" No, that's not new math - although these days, it could be with all the insane things they are now teaching in public schools. What I'm talking about relates to survival. If you have one of "something" and it breaks, you lose it, or whatever happens to it, you have none. If you have two of "something" and one goes south, then you still have one. If you have three of "something" then if one stops working, you still have two to fall back on. Makes a lot of sense if you stop and think about it.
 
I thankfully, don't have just one firearm, I have several - not nearly as many folks believe I have. I'm not a gun collector, I'm a habitual gun trader. So, if one of my firearms breaks, is stolen, gets lost - whatever - I still have a few to fall back on. If you're a Prepper, you need to have something to fall back on, be it firearms, extra food, extra water, or just about anything - you need to have a Plan B and a Plan C, if you want to survive. When it comes to cooking, my family and I have several methods with which to cook our foods. We of course, have our electric range in the kitchen. We also have a rocket stove, we have a propane BBQ grill, we have a propane camp stove, and we have some small compact little camp stoves that fit in our backpacks, so we pretty much have things covered when it comes to cooking, one is none, two is one and three is two, right?
 
I received the All-American Sun Oven for testing some months back, and it is a must have as far as I'm concerned if you're into prepping for the bad times that are coming - the bad times that are already here. Sure, there's a lot of foods you can eat cold - but not much fun. However, many foods need to be cooked before you can eat them. For many years, I read about home made solar ovens or cookers, and I always meant to get around to building one - never did! Just seemed like a good idea to have the sun do my cooking for me, and it can also help save on your power bills, by allowing the sun to do your cooking - for free!
 
Now, you can not only cook in the Sun Oven, you can also bake, dehydrate, steam foods or boil water - for making it safe to drink - have I caught your attention, yet? Good! The Sun Oven can reach temperatures from between 460 and 500 degrees, without fear of burning your foods, like a conventional oven can. I like the idea of being able to dehydrate foods - without having to plug-in our food dehydrators, they are noisy and take a long time to dehydrate at times, depends on what you are trying to dehydrate.
 
For the past 28-years of so, Sun Ovens have been widely used around the world in more than 126-countries, and have become the world's most well respected cooking appliance, especially in third world countries, where, well, to put it quite simply, they have no electricity or gas for cooking - they cook over open fires, while not a bad way to cook, it's not controllable and you are dependent on a fuel source. With the Sun Oven, your fuel is the sun!
 
Now, that's not say that the Sun Oven if perfect, and you can cook on it 365-days per year, you can't! You are dependent upon the sun, and in my part of Oregon - the wet side, we have about 8-months of rain and overcast days - that's not to say, we don't see the sun for 8-months, we do - but not on a daily basis. So, we come back to one is none, two is one and three is two - when it comes to sources for cooking meals. On days when the sun isn't out, we can cook on our electric stove, or if the power is out, we can cook on our little propane cook stove - which we do when the power goes out. Or we can cook using our rocket stove, that takes very little fuel - and we have plenty of trees on our homestead to use for fuel. So, we have a back-up plan, to our back-up plan when it comes to having a means to cook our food. In many areas of the country, you might have sunshine 365-days per year, and you can use your Sun Oven for many of your cooking needs.
 
The Sun Oven in American-made weighs about 22 pounds, and is large enough for most of your baking and cooking needs, and it is fairly compact. The E-Z Sun-track indicators - big term for a little device that allows you to set-up the Sun Oven to take advantage of the proper placement and alignment of the sun's rays. The front cover on the Sun Oven is 25% thicker than the glass on previous models, for increased shatter resistance and it also improves the insulation properties of the oven. The body of the Sun Oven appears to be made out of fiberglass, and it is sturdy, it should give you a lifetime of cooking use, assuming you don't abuse your oven - as in dropping it on a hard surface, where it might crack. The reflectors, and there are four of them, that surround the over, are designed to direct the sunlight directly into the Sun Oven. There are also wind resistant alignment legs with ground stakes, that allows you to raise or lower the oven's orientation to meet the sun on the horizon - really, it takes a minute to set it up, easy to do!
 
The model of Sun Oven I received is the basic model, and it only came with a dual purpose leveling rack, which hangs inside the oven and swings freely to prevent spilling food in a pot on the rack. It can also be set on the floor of the oven to increase the usable area inside the Sun Oven - again, easier done than explained.
 
Okay, enough of the "technical" stuff, so how does the Sun Oven work in practice? Well, I'm not a baker, my wife does all the baking around our place, but I am a cook, and a good one, at that. I do a lot of the cooking at our home, I enjoy it! Over the period of several months, we used the Sun Oven for baking breads and pies, and it works just as advertised, and the outside temps do not have to be hot at all - all you need is the sunlight being reflected into the oven to do your cooking. It doesn't matter if the temps are freezing or super hot - the oven will still cook for you, so long as the sun is able to hit the reflectors. Yes, in cooler temps, your cooking time takes a little bit longer, but not much, and on hotter days, your cooking time is less. We also boiled water - the Sun Oven web site says you can boil water to purify it, but we wanted to test it ourselves, and in short order, a pot of cold water was boiling.
 
I love pizza - it's my favorite food - followed by a good Chicago-style hot dog, then a good burger. Yeah, my eating needs are rather simple compared to most folks, I guess I'm easy to please. We baked pizzas in our oven, as well as "roasting" hot dogs and "frying" burgers. And, one thing you will notice is that, you foods are much more moist when cooked in the Sun Oven, compared to other cooking methods - especially breads and cakes.
 
There is a wealth of information on the Sun Oven, on their web site, be sure to check it out - you'll literally spend hours there watching videos and reading all the cool stuff about the oven. What is most amazing is, the simplicity of the Sun Oven, the darn thing works and works and works as advertised - so long as you have sunlight, you can cook. In a SHTF scenario, you have a way of cooking when the power goes down, and one of the nice things about the oven is, with much of the foods you cook inside the oven enclosure, it won't give away to the neighbors or the bad guys that you are cooking. They aren't going to smell the burgers cooking on a barbeque - little or no smoke or aroma to drift from your location. And, best of all, you are cooking for free - no other source of fuel is required, only the sun! Right now, we are just getting to the end of a heat wave in our part of Oregon, and we honestly didn't want to do any cooking or baking inside the house, it was hot enough. So, the wife placed the Sun Oven in the front yard and we did most of our cooking there - keeping the house a little bit cooler.
 
The only drawback I can see is that, as already mentioned, you can't cook in the Sun Oven all the time - if you don't have sunny days. That is where we revert back to our one is none, two is one and three is two rule - you have different methods for cooking your meals, just in case the sun isn't out on a particular day, you can still cook by another means - if you have prepared and have other means available for cooking and baking.  I like the idea of being able to cook and bake in one device. On my little propane camp stove, I can cook - yeah, they make an attachment for baking, but it's so small, I don't honestly know what I can bake in it. With the Sun Oven, you can bake and cook.
 
I received the base model Sun Oven, and it only came with the leveling rack - nothing more, and it sells for $349 - a bit steep you might say? No, not if you look at all the benefits you get by using the sun to do your cooking, and in a SHTF scenario, you'd give anything to have a Sun Oven to do you cooking and baking. And, if you stop and think about all the money you'll save by allowing the sun to do your cooking, you will recoup the investment in the Sun Oven. However, I would pop for the $399 Sun Oven model, as you get an entire host of accessories with it. Yes, you can purchase the accessories separately, but it is a huge savings if you purchase the $399 model over the basic one - well worth the extra $50 if you ask me.
 
If you're planning on cooking or baking when the power grid goes down - for whatever reason - you absolutely, must get your hands on the Sun Oven. And, as an added benefit, it's just a lot of plain ol' fun cooking in the Sun Oven, and it's fun to experiment - we haven't gotten around to doing any dehydrating with out Sun Oven, but we will. Honestly, this is a worth while investment to add if you are a Prepper, or just someone who wants to save money by not using your kitchen stove all the time. Simple - get one! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, September 9, 2013


I'll reach social security age later this year - time has flown by in my life. However, my mind is still sharp, and I can remember so much of my childhood, it amazes me at times. If you were a guy, and grew-up in the 1950s and 1960s, you'll appreciate this memory. I don't know of any kid on my block, back in Chicago, who didn't make a "spear" of some sort - usually, we got in big trouble, because we took the kitchen broom and broke the handle off and sharpened (using that term loosely) into a point, and we all had spears to toss at targets. Even back then, as kids, we knew better than to throw the spears at each other - but usually found cardboard boxes to use as targets. And, when it was discovered that we "requisitioned" the kitchen broom - and we all did it - for our spears....well, let's just say we paid for our evil deeds.
 
Cold Steel's owner, Lynn Thompson, has a fascination, with all manner of sharp objects, not just knives. He also has developed many useful self-defense products, that are used daily. When I was running three martial arts schools, at one time - in different locations - I made a large purchase of Irish Blackthorn Walking Sticks, from Cold Steel - and my students snapped them in up short order. These were the genuine Irish Blackthorn Walking Sticks, not the synthetic ones, which Cold Steel is now offering. I can't think of any place in the world, were a walking stick is illegal to own. You can even carry one onto a plane - just "limp" a little bit while walking with your "cane."  So, it came as no surprise to me, that Lynn Thompson developed the Assegai Long shaft  and Assegai Short Shaft spears. Thompson never ceases to amaze me, the way he searches history, to come out with improved and modern renditions of ancient weapons.
 
The Assegai Spears were first on the scene in the early 1800s and were the result of Zulu King Shaka, and if you've ever watched some old movies, in which some tribes in Africa were depicted, you usually saw the warriors carrying some type of spear, with the most common one being some sort of long shaft Assegai Spear. Thompson is a real student of ancient and modern weaponry, and don't kind yourself, he isn't just into things that cut or can smash a skull, he's also into firearms and big game hunting as well. And, he can shoot, and shoot very well, too.
 
The Assegai Long Shaft spear is 6-foot 9 1/2 inches long - it is definitely on the long side. The short shaft model is 38 inches in length - quite a bit shorter than the longer version. The SK-5 mild carbon steel heads are 13 1/3 inches long on both models. And the shafts are made out of American Ash wood - with the shorter shaft being dyed a darker color - for some reason. I waited a year for my samples to arrive, these spears are always in great demand, and more often than not, you'll find them on back-order on the Cold Steel web site. However, if you search around on the Internet, you can usually find them for sale some place...and they are well worth the wait or the search, trust me.
 
Now, the Long Shaft Assegai Spear is meant to be thrown in target practice, the mild carbon steel heads will bend if you hit something hard, though - like a large tree - been there, done that - on my own homestead. However, you can set-up a bale of straw, or hay. or an archery target, or very thickly-stacked cardboard and practice your throwing skills that way - just be close enough to the target, so the spear doesn't smash into the ground. And, without a doubt, the long shaft Assegai is much better suited for throwing purposes, while the short shaft model is better suited for close-in combat against an attacker. [JWR Adds: Shaka, King of the Zulus was right: Except for a few circumstances, stabbing with a spear is the best way to use them in combat. That is why he ordered that all spear shafts be shortened.)] And the spears aren't designed for slicing and dicing, they are designed to penetrate an attacker, and with the 13-1/3 inch head, it can do the job. However, in a pinch, if you can get close enough to a game animal, and have practiced your throwing skills, I can see you taking game in a survival situation, I really can!
 
Now, I'm not advocating that anyone head out to the wilderness, with only an Assegai Spear, and live off the land and hunt with it - that is not what this spear is designed for, and you'll die in short order if you believe you can live off the land with a spear and a loin clothe as your only clothing.  Nor am I'm saying that the Assegai spears are the perfect weapon for self-defense, either. What I'm saying is that, these spears are a lot of fun to own, and they would look great hanging on the office wall at home or at work, and they are a great conversation piece as well, not to mention the history behind them.
 
We are simply looking at, a couple of very well made spears, that can, in a pinch, save your butt, let's say, if someone was breaking into your home - "yes" you can defend yourself with a spear - but let's not be foolish here - I'm sure you've all heard to never bring a knife to a gun fight - well, the same holds true here, don't bring a spear to a gun fight, either. Believe me, if someone had one of these spears flailing it around in front of me and I had nothing but empty hands, I believe I would remember an appointment I had on the other side of town and get to it.
 
Survival comes in many guises, and unfortunately, many armchair survivalist, believe that survival means heading out to the wilderness and playing Rambo with a knife, or in this case, just a spear. Yes, you can, in a pinch, take game with a spear, if you've practiced and have a quality product to start with. However, a spear wouldn't be my first choice in a hunting weapon, but it also wouldn't be my last choice, either - I believe I'd take a spear over a David and Goliath sling shot. And, I'd sure take a spear over throwing stones, or being empty-handed, too. So, there is a place for a spear, especially if you are into more than just guns and knives, as a collector, Survivalist or Prepper.
 
Both the Long and Short Assegai Spears come with a polymer sheath to cover the spear's head when not in use, too. And, the spears come in two parts, the head and the shaft, that you have to put together - just a couple screws, takes a few minutes. The Long Assegai retails for $76.99 and the Short Assegai retails for $65.99 - and in my humble opinion, you'll want both models - if for no other reason than to hang them on the wall in your office or den. When I worked for the late Col. Rex Applegate, he had several spears and other weapons from Africa in his Annex building - that was next to his house - where he kept all his guns, knives, books, and other weapons, and we had many conversations about the spears, that once belonged to a relative of his, who was a professional big game hunter in Africa.
 
So, if you want to add a little something a little bit different to your weapons battery, or just have one of these Assegai Spears as a conversation piece, or have some fun, throwing them into a hay bale, or as a last ditch weapon, place your order for one or both - and I'm betting you'll want both of them - they are a lot of fun, and they do start conversations when someone comes to your home or office. Lynn Thompson never ceases to amaze me, with the variety and different types of weapons he comes out with at Cold Steel. And, one comment I have heard over and over again, by folks when they saw my Assegai Spears was "awesome!"  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, August 26, 2013


Many years ago I worked as an EMT - part of my training was to work on a Chicago Fire Department rescue ambulance. It was exciting  and demanding. Also, in the course of working as a police officer, I had many occasions where I had to cut someone out of a seat belt that had become stuck, or cut people out of their clothing so we could attend to their injuries. While I've always carried a pocket knife, it was not the perfect tool for the job.
 
There are several different types of cutting tools on the market today, that are geared toward EMS, rescue and police officers, that are designed for helping them cut injured people out of a stuck seat belt or their clothing. However, one rescue tool really caught my attention a couple months ago, and that is the T3 Tactical Triage and Auto Rescue Tool sold by StatGearTools.com. For the sake of brevity, we'll just call it the T3.
 
The T3 is a folding knife, but it doesn't end there. It also has a seat belt cutter, that can double as a cutter to remove clothing from an injured person - and this is important, as many times, I've had to cut away clothing on an injured person to properly treat them and dress their wounds. There is also a hardened glass breaker on the butt of the T3 - this is used for easily breaking out automobile windows, and you can do it safely and quickly, instead of pounding on a window with a night stick, rock or even your hands - I've done all three in the past - not fun! On top of that, there is also a flashlight built into the T3 - and it isn't used for navigating at night, instead, if is used to check pupil dilation on an injured patient. That is a very important tool to have if you are working in EMS!
 
The 440C stainless steel blade is 3-1/4 inch long, but it looks longer for some reason - not a bad thing, just an observation. The overall length of the T3 is 5 inches in the close position and it weighs in at 6.4 ounces. It is a hefty beast, but needed in a rescue tool - you don't want some lightweight tool, that might fail you at the worse time - you want heavy-duty, and the T3 is that! Half the 440C blade is serrated, another good idea, in case you have to cut through wet rope, clothing, etc., just makes it easier with those serrations, trust me - been there, done that - and serrations make the job easier when dealing with wet material. you also get a heavy-duty Nylon belt sheath, if you prefer to carry the T3 on your belt, and there is a stainless steel clothing/pocket clip, for carry inside a pocket, for faster deployment.
 
Over the  years, I've tested seat belt cutters and serrated knife blades on actual seat belt material, so I had some on-hand for testing. The seat belt cutter easily cut right through the seat belt material with ease! It really grabbed the material and fed it into the cutter, too. The serrated blade worked almost as well, but it tended to snag a bit - ever so slightly. For my money, the seat belt cutter is the tool for - well, cutting through seat belt material. But the serrated folding blade worked 98% as well as the seat belt cutter did - no surprise there. However, I had to apply more force with the serrated blade, than I did with the cutter. Again, no surprise there!
 
The flashlight - it worked as advertised...I checked the pupils on my wife and the light wasn't blinding, like so many of today's hi-tech super bright flashlights are, that can not only destroy one's vision temporarily, but actually do serious harm, maybe permanent harm to a patient's eyes. Additionally, the battery is easy to get to when time comes to replace it.
 
The spring loaded, steel-tipped window punch tool: I was interested in this one, for sure. However, I wasn't about to break out my own car windows to test it. I had an old picture frame that was cracked, so I used that as a test media. I placed the tip of the window punch tool against the glass, and applied pressure and the glass shattered into hundreds of pieces. I know this will easily punch out the window of an auto or truck. I even tested the power of the window punch tool against a 2X4 and it made a nice little dent in it. No doubt this will easily break windows in vehicles!
 
The 440C stainless steel knife blade held a good edge, and to be sure, not all 440 stainless steel is the same. There is 440A, 440B and others, but 440C is the toughest in my humble opinion. Normally 440C is tough to re-sharpen, but the T3's blade wasn't that hard - maybe a lower Rockwell hardness? I don't know...the blade held an edge for a long time - I did a lot of cutting with the T3 - and when time came to re-sharpen it, it didn't take but a couple minutes on some crock sticks to get the blade hair-popping sharp again! The handle scales on the folder are G10 - or they at least appear to be...I didn't see any information on the web site to tell me differently. There is also a thumb stud on the folding blade, and it easily snapped the blade in-place. Friction grooves are on the top back of the blade, for perfect thumb placement in the fencing grip!
 
If you are an EMS responder, police officer, or just about anyone - you can benefit from the T3. While not designed as a survival knife per se, it fills in that role - if a person is trapped in a burning vehicle, and you need to get them out ASAP, the T3 is a survival knife - trust me! If you have family or friends in the EMS or law enforcement fields, then buy a T3 for them as a gift, they'll really appreciate it - and so will injured people. Best of all is, the T3 is only $39.99 right  now -- discounted $20 -- and orders over $100 are shipped free. I think anyone in the EMS or rescue line of work would benefit greatly by the T3. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, August 19, 2013


Sometimes, I'm just beating my head against the wall, when it comes to trying to explain to some folks, how important it is to have a source of clean, pure drinking water. I have an old friend back in Chicago - we've known each other since 1975, and it is just impossible to make her understand that, in due time, the water from her faucets will stop running, and what will she do when that happens? I've tried to get her to store a couple of the large blue water containers, that the big box stores carry, all to no avail. I have, at the least though, convinced her to get some freeze-dried/dehydrated foods for storage - so that's a step in the right direction. However, with a source of clean, safe water, he freeze-dried foods won't rehydrate...I'm still working on her!
 
There are a lot of different water purifiers/filters on the market, and not all are the same. The local Big Box stores and many sporting goods stores sell some really cheap water filters - and they are not the same as a water purifier - and they are okay, so long as the water source you are using isn't extremely dirty or contaminated - but how do you know? Over the years, I've tried a lot of different water filters/purifiers, and some work better than others. Just don't go thinking that the water pitcher, like Brita or Pur are actually water purifiers - all they do, for the most part is make you water taste a little better - water from the faucet. I wouldn't dare put water in my Pur from a small stream on my property, and then think that water is safe to drink - it isn't!
 
I've used the water purification tablets, the type the military issues, or used to issue - any more, they spend millions of dollars to fly-in bottled water to our troops in combat zones. For the life of me, I don't understand this, doesn't the military have the capabilities to treat and purify water any longer. Sad! The bad thing with water purification tablets is, the treated water often has a "funny" after-taste. You really need to pour that water back and forth from one canteen to another, to get some air into that water, and make it taste a little better. Still, it's better than drinking contaminated water.
 
I recently received, from Pantry Paratus an item called the SolarBag water purifier  and to be honest, I was a bit skeptical as to how well this simply little water purifier would work, so I did some research on it, before using it. I learned that it is made right in my home state of Oregon - just outside of Portland. What we have with the SolarBag is a simple, clear plastic bag, that can hold up to three litters of water. There is a specially treated "mesh" membrane on the inside of the plastic bag, that helps purifier the untreated water. The bag also has an attached pre-filter, for use, if the water source you are using, is murky - you don't want to have sediment or dirt in your drinking water - even though the water has been effectively purified. So, you pour the water through the pre-filer, into the bag, first!
 
The SolarBag water purifier comes with a little bottle of blue liquid. When you fill your bag with water, you add but one drop of this liquid, and when the water is clear, you know your water has been purified. You simply hang the water bag in direct sunlight and in 2-3 hours, your water is purified - on slightly cloudy days, it may take 4-6 hours - still, your water will be purified and safe to drink. The maker says you can treat up to 9 litters of water per day - that is sufficient for a family of 3 or 4 to drink each day. Plan you day accordingly, and don't wait until the sun is ready to set, to start purifying your water - start early in the day.
 
Here's the simple breakdown on how to use this set-up. Rinse your SolarBag before using it the first time - that means, rinse it in a clean, safe water source - your home tap, for instance. Now, put your pre-filter over the mouth of the heavy-duty plastic water bag, before pouring the water in. This will remove any sediment, then add one drop of the blue liquid that the company calls Pur-Blue, put the cap on the bag, and hang it in the sun for the required amount of time - and you'll know when the water has changed from a blue color to clear - then drink the water - can't be much easier than that in my book.
 
Here's a list of the harmful contaminants that this set-up will treat: bacteria, viruses, protozoa, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, arsenic, lead and mercury. It will remove 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses, and 99.9% of giardia and crypto - not too shabby there if you ask me.
 
You can reuse the SolarBag up to 500 times. Now, if the timing process is taking too long, and your water isn't clear, it will be time to replace your SolarBag. I'd also suggest that, if you are using a really dirty source of water, that you collect it in another container, like a bucket, and let it sit, until the sediment settles to the bottom - then dip that water into the pre-filer - and into your Solar Bag - this way, you won't be clogging-up your pre-filter all the time.
 
I'm not privy to what the mesh pad has on it, that is inside the SolarBag, but it obviously is the "magic" to purifying the water - along with the sunlight. Also, if your pre-filter gets too dirty, gently wash it by hand. The SolarBag has a dry shelf-life of 7-years. Don't crush or fold it during storage, either. And, if you're not going to use the bag right away, after initially using it, drain the bag and allow it to dry then replace the cap - this may take several hours, depending on weather conditions and temperature.
 
The SolarBag is yet another device for helping your purify your water before drinking it. And, there is a rule of three, that many Preppers and Survivalists go by, and that is one is nothing, two is one and three is two. In other words, make sure you have more than one way to treat your water source - don't depend on just one. If that fails you, then you are "up the creek." So, the SolarBag is yet another method you can have on-hand, for treating your suspect water source, and it isn't much easier that to just fill the bag, let it sit, and then drink the purified water.
 
Retail on the SolarBag is $77.99 and when you consider you can reuse it up to 500-times, that's a cheap source of pure, clean drinking water. I've reviewed other products that Pantry Paratus sells, and they only carry top-of-the-line products. Check out the SolarBag, and I think you'll be impressed, like I was...the darn thing works as advertised. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, August 12, 2013


I have to confess, at one time, I had a huge CFP-90 pack, that was my own personal BOB, and I had so much stuff in it that I could hardly get it on, much less hike any distance - it probably weighed in at 50-pounds or more. But I was good to go, for a week or two without having to resupply, except for a source of water. What was I thinking? My only excuse was, I was young and dumb, and I was actually a lot younger, but a lot stronger back then, too. Today, I have a more sensible BOB for my own use - still working on the wife - she has a pack that is too big, but change comes hard to her.
 
I live out in the boonies - I'm six miles from one town, and ten miles from another town, with the main road about 3-miles from my digs. We don't have many people who live on our rural road, so whenever I see something a bit out of the ordinary, it catches my attention. For the past several months, I've been seeing a young man, probably in his early to mid twenties, hiking up and down our road, several times per week, with a HUGE backpack on his back. And, you can tell the bag isn't heavy, but it is stuffed - to make it look heavy. Just by the way the backpack carries on him, you know there isn't anything very heavy in there - oftentimes, he has a young teenage boy behind him. I don't know, maybe he his trying to impress the young teen with the monster pack, but it is probably full of clothing - to make it look full and heavy. To each his own, I guess.
 
If you think you can carry everything you need to bug out, in a backpack, you are only dreaming and kidding yourself. A BOB is meant for the bare essentials, to keep you alive for a few days - nothing more. It's not meant to be a bag that is packed for a two week vacation. You only need the basics, food, water, a change of clothing, a first-aid kit, a knife, perhaps a firearm with spare ammo - things like that. You honestly don't need the kitchen sink, and the bigger and heavier your bag is, the shorter the distance you will cover if you are on foot. I admit I'm getting older - later this year, I'll collect my first social security check, and I know my limitations. And, bugging out with a huge backpack isn't going to work for me - nor will it work for most folks, either.
 
The good folks at US Tactical Supply recently provided me with one of their Removable Operator Packs for testing. This isn't a big pack, it only has about 1,178 cubic inches of room inside of it - however, it does have bungee cord on the outside, for attaching other things, perhaps a jacket, poncho, or things like that. The sample I received is in Multicam camo, however, it is available in several other colors and camo patterns. The concept behind the Removable Operator Pack is that, you can attach it to you tactical assault vest, so it is part of it - or you can carry it solo, on your back. Attachment hardware is included for attaching the pack to your tactical vest. And, with the popularity of tactical assault vests, and vests that carry body armor, this is a great pack to add. I know that US Tactical Supply is now selling Infidel Body Armor, and I did an article on this outstanding and very affordable hard body armor on SurvivalBlog some time back, and US Tactical was so impressed with this armor, they are now a dealer. US Tactical Supply thought this pack would be the perfect accessory to this body armor vest, it is easy to attach and even easier to remove the pack, if you need to get it off in a hurry.
 
I know a lot of law enforcement personnel don't give much thought - and I should know, I was a cop - several times - as to down time on a call out. What happens if you are a SWAT cop, and you are on-scene for hours or even days - what do you do for food and water. What if you are holding an sniper position on a roof top, and you can't leave to get a drink of water or you need an energy bar or an MRE to eat? You don't have that with you - just your weapon and hard body armor vest. Well, with this Removable Operator Pack, you can have it attached to your tactical vest, and when you don't need it, just drop it - easy as that. And, as already mentioned, you don't need to be wearing a tactical vest to enjoy this pack, it works just fine on it's own - as a BOB - that you can keep in your vehicle or near your front door - just grab it and run.
 
There is a large main compartment, as well as a front compartment, that has side entry, and it is easy to get to the gear you have packed inside of it. There is also modular webbing for attaching additional pouches on the outside of the pack - then again, you are starting to add more weight - just how much can you carry for any distance or length of time? The zippers are heavy duty, and there is a grab/pull handle that won't pull off or rip, if you have to grab it and actually pull someone who is down - try that with many lesser packs! There is Velcro material for putting on unit patches on the back of the pack, too. There is a packet for carrying a 2 litter water bladder inside the pack as well - and you can never have enough water on any mission of bug-out scenario. And, if you are younger and stronger than me, like a Spec Ops guy, you can attach this little pack to an Extended Range Operator Pack (such as those made by Tactical Tailor,) for carrying additional gear, besides whatever is in your main pack.
 
Many Spec Ops guys might go out on a mission for weeks at a time, and resupply is difficult, if not impossible at times - they don't want to give away their positions, by having an air drop of supplies, or having a helicopter landing near them - that could spell disaster. So, these guys might hump out of base camp with a pack weighing a hundred pounds or more - and the DoD is talking about cutting military pay and benefits? I think not!!!!! Anyone in the military earns every red cent then are paid - so why are we even talking about cutting their pay and benefits? Don't even get me started...
 
For a BOB, the Removable Operator Pack, is an out standing choice - if you pack it wisely. We simply aren't talking about carrying everything you "think" you need to survive in the wilderness for weeks at a time, or forever. Those with a mind set like that, aren't going to survive for long at all. You simply have to pack wisely, and train smarter - only take the things you absolutely need. And, not all bug out situations means that you have to bug out to the wilderness. Maybe you just need to bug out for a day or two - and head to a motel or to Aunt Martha's house because of a nearby fire or flooding. Just don't go thinking that every time you bug out, you have to head to the wilderness and survive like a caveman - such is not the case. More often than not, you just have to leave your dwelling for a day or two, three at most. If you honestly believe you have to bug out to the mountains, you had better have pre-positioned a lot of supplies ahead of time.
 
Think smart and pack even smarter. Everyone should have some kind of BOB, and for some, it might just be a suitcase, for others an overnight bag, for some, it might mean a small backpack, and the Removable Operator Pack will sure fill the bill nicely. It is made from 1000 denier Cordura Nylon construction - many lesser packs are made from 600 denier - and they rip easily.
 
I've tested several products from US Tactical Supply over the years, and they only carry the best of the best. To put it bluntly, and in poor English, "they don't carry no junk." If you want junk, go to Wal-Mart or your big box store and buy junk, but you'll be buying junk again and again because it won't last you. The Removable Operator Pack is $95. That is not cheap, but not too bad - we are talking high-quality here - not junk! Check it out on the US Tactical web site for more information. You could do a lot worse, or get a bigger pack, that you won't be able to hum for very long. Pack smart, buy smart! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, August 5, 2013


I've had a fondness for the FAL and L1A1 rifles for many years, even before I carried one in Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe) back in 1976. Even before that, I still remember the first FAL I ever saw. It was a select-fire version, hanging on the wall of my local gun shop outside of Chicago. I asked to handle it, and it was love at first sight and touch. There's just "something" about this style of rifle that calls out to me - and thousands (or millions) of other gun owners, and for good reason, they are time-tested battle rifle, that at one time, served in approximately 90 militaries around the world, and it is still serving - a testament to the design and the .308 Win (7.62 NATO) round - when you want to reach out there and touch someone - the .308 can get the job done.
 
There are a few scope mounts out there for the FAL (generic term) of rifles these days, and I've tried a few - albeit, they are very expensive and a bit bulky and heavy. I like saving a few bucks whenever I can. B&T Enterprises produces a very lightweight and very affordable set-up for your FAL if you want to mount a scope or red/green dot scope on your rifle, without adding a lot of weight.
 
Brian, at B&T Enterprises, sent me an FAL top cover, with a light-weight aluminum scope mount attached to it. My first thought was, "this looks a little flimsy..." and as is often the case, first impressions are not always the right ones. I have a Century Arms "FrankenFAL" - meaning, it isn't quite an FAL nor is it an L1A1, either - it has parts from both designs, one being metric, and one inch pattern. Many parts will interchange between the inch and metric guns, and Century Arms did a good job on my sample - however, they have had some bad guns get out there, that didn't work. The good news is, Century stands behind their products and will make it right if you have a defective gun. Only thing is, Century doesn't run many batches of these guns, they aren't exactly easy to assemble and make work. So, when they do a run, they usually sell out very fast - be advised. You can find these guns on Gun Broker and Guns America, if you take the time to search their web sites.
 
My biggest complaint with the FAL is that, the rear sight isn't the most stable - no matter what you do, many of them will have some play in them - and that is NOT a good thing, especially if you are looking at any long-range shots. What might be ok at a hundred yards, won't work at 600-yards if that rear sight isn't tight and it is moving around on you. So, a lot of folks want to mount a magnifying scope or a red/green dot scope of some sort on their FALs. Well, now you can do it, and do it for a lot less money, too.
 
B&T has several options for you. You can send them your FAL top cover, if it fits tightly on your FAL, and have them attach their mount to your cover. Or, you can request one of their covers with their mount attached, and fit it to you own rifle. Most of the time, this isn't a problem, it doesn't take much to fit a top cover so there isn't any play in them. The sample B&T sent me, with their mount already
attached, fit my FAL tightly - perfect!
 
I had a couple cheap red/green dot scopes around, and I tried them on the top cover with the mount attached, and they all fit nicely - no problems at all. I also tried a 3x9 scope on the top cover, and it, too, fit nicely - no movement of the top cover when it was installed on the rifle. I don't know that I would install a great big scope on the top cover with the mount, though. Seems like the red/green dot scopes or a light-weight magnifying scope would work best.
 
When I went out to the range to test the mount, I had one of the red/green dot scopes installed, and I had a good supply of Black Hills Ammunition .308  168-grain Match ammo, along with their .308 Hornady A-Max 168-grain load - which is for hunting purposes, and it is also match-grade in my book. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their Sniper load which is a 175-grain JHP bullet, that is really screaming out of the barrel of your rifle. In all my testing, I fired about 100 rounds of ammo, through my FAL, with the red/green dot scope, and a cheap 3X9 scope. I removed the FALs top cover several times and replaced it, and there wasn't any noticeable change in my zero - I was shooting at 100-yards. B&T Enterprises shows on their web site a video of similar testing and there wasn't much change in the zero. This is a good thing!
 
Additionally, my German Shepherds knocked my FAL over at least a dozen times while the gun was sitting in a corner in my office, and the aluminum mount on the top cover didn't come loose. I was impressed! B&T has the aluminum mount, attached to the steel top cover with some sort of adhesive, and as I said as the start, I was a bit concerned that, this mount might work itself loose under recoil. While I know that firing 100 rounds through my FAL isn't a real torture test, I believe my German Shepherds gave it a good work out by knocking the gun onto the floor numerous times, and the scope that was mounted on the top cover never caused the mount to come loose in the least. In B&T's own testing they said the mount should stay attached to the top cover from -40 temps up to 190-dgrees - and I see no reason to doubt this claim.
 
The mount only weighs 1.2 ounces, so you aren't adding any appreciable weight to the FAL...and most red/green dot scopes don't weight all that much, either. It's when you add a magnifying scope, is where the added weight comes in. I think I would just leave a red/green dot scope on the mount myself. And, one nice thing is, if you want to take the dot scope off, you don't have to actually take it off the top cover. (You can still see through the iron sights.) If it were me, I'd purchase another top cover - they are usually under ten bucks. Then take your top cover off, with the mount and scope attached, and put on your spare top cover - only takes a few seconds to do so, and you don't have to worry about re-zeroing your optic.
 
I like saving money whenever I can, I'm not rich, not by any stretch of the imagination, and when I can save money, and find a quality product, that will do all I ask it to do, for less money than a more expensive product, I'm going to jump on it. If you send B&T your FAL top cover--one that fits tightly--they can install their aluminum mount for $69.99 and return it to you - plus shipping. And, if you want one of their mounts with a top cover that they supply, contact them for full information on prices - it depends on what type of FAL you have, as to what it will cost you. But I believe the most you'll be paying is under $90 for their top cover with the mount installed.
 
The B&T Enterprises brings the FAL and it's clones into the 21st Century with a top cover with a mount on there, especially if you want to add a red/green dot scope, and they are providing a top quality product, at a great price, too. A lot of work and testing went into this mount - and it isn't as easy as you may think, to come up with the mount and a way of attaching it to the top cover. Check out their web site for complete information before ordering. I think that you'll be impressed with the light-weight set-up for your FAL.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, July 29, 2013


There's not a week that goes past, that I don't hear from someone asking me "what's the best gun for home defense..." and I can't give a pat answer to that question. First of all, what does a person mean by "home defense?" Secondly, what are your physical abilities - or disabilities - when it comes to handling a firearm? What is your budget? What is your skill level with any firearm? And, the list goes on and on. So, as you can see, there is no single or easy answer to what is the best gun for home defense. And, no matter how I try, I can't convince most people that there is no one answer to this question - there is no "best" gun for home defense. And, if I recommend this gun or that gun, I'll enter into an endless debate with someone, and I don't have the time to do this. We are all entitled to our opinions and views on this subject.
 
I often recommend some type of "riot" shotgun for home defense, and we are talking about a 12 gauge shotgun with a barrel length of around 18-inches to 18.5-inches - something that is a bit easier to handle in the close confines of your home or a hallway. Sporting shotguns with long barrels aren't recommended because you can maneuver them easily in close quarters. I own several "riot" shotguns, and I enjoy shooting them all. I live in a very rural area, and if someone is breaking into my home, the local sheriff might be a long time in arriving, so I take the safety of myself and my family as my own responsibility. And, "yes" I do keep a handgun as my "bedroom" gun, however, within easy reach is a shotgun.
 
Many shotguns made today come with an aluminum receiver, and I own several like this. However, my favorite shotgun is my Stevens Model 350 for several reasons. First of all, it has an all-steel receiver - which means it's heavier and can take a lot more abuse. Secondly, the 350 is very close to the famed Ithaca Model 37 shotgun, that has a bottom eject feature, unlike other shotguns, that eject from the side of the receiver. Nothing "wrong" with a side ejection shotgun, I just like the bottom ejection feature of the 350. Yes, this makes the 350 a bit heavier than some other shotguns - it weighs in around 8-pounds unloaded, this is good and bad. The good part is, it helps tame recoil, the bad is, well....the gun is heavier to carry. However, I don't plan on an extended romp in the boonies with this shotgun - it is reserved for home defense. Also, the 350 is a pump-action shotgun, and they are very reliable, and not complicated, like some semi-auto shotguns are to get that first round chambered.
 
The 350 is parkerized in a nice gray/black finish - tough stuff. The furniture is black synthetic polymer, which makes if ideal for my area, where wood stocks can swell from all the rain and moisture in the air. There is also a rifle-style front sight and ghost ring rear sight, and if you've never used a ghost ring rear sight on a shotgun, you are missing out on how fast and how much more accurate you can shoot - all things considered - with a shotgun... What a ghost ring rear sight does is, it allows you to focus on the front sight, while the ghost ring rear sight is "ghostly" in appearance - it is a bit fuzzy is maybe a better way to describe it. Still, it is VERY fast to acquire a good sight picture. The safety is easy to reach, and so is the slide release - on some shotguns, you have to change your hold on the gun to push on the slide release - not good! I keep my 350 magazine tube loaded with 5-rounds of 00 buckshot, and the chamber is empty. I also keep the slide closed (locked) so I either have to pull the trigger to unlock the slide (not good) or I can simply push on the slide release to pump the slide and chamber the first round - the smart way to do it.
 
I also keep a side-saddle magazine holder on the left side of the receiver, and it holds 6 extra rounds of 00 buckshot for me. I'm going to add another side-saddle magazine holder on the right side of the polymer butt stock. I could add another on the right side of the receiver, but that will just add more weight that I don't need. With 5 rounds in the magazine tube, and 6 more rounds on the receiver, and when I add the other carrier on the right side of the butt stock, that will give me 17-rounds on-hand, with reloads. If that doesn't get me out of trouble, then I'm in deeper than I can possibly be.
 
The 350 is easy to load and shoot, although the trigger pull is a bit heavy, then again, we are talking about a shotgun, and not a long-range precision high-power rifle, where pin-point accuracy is called for. So, the heavy trigger isn't a handicap as far as I'm concerned. I can fire 5-rounds in about 2.5-seconds from the 350, and that's fast shooting, and I can hit my target out to 25-yards...no trick to this, other than to practice.
 
I have had zero failures to feed, function and eject with the 350, and the action is fairly easy to operate, too - some pump-action shotguns require a pretty aggressive "pump" to load and ejection rounds and when you tie-up a pump-action shotgun, you are in serious trouble, it takes time - a lot of time - to clear a double-feed. And, I keep the 350 loaded with only 00 buckshot - I live in a rural area, so I don't worry too much about over penetration - my guest house is next door, however, should I have a break-in, it will come from a direction opposite of my guest house. If you live in a big city or have neighbors next door, you might want to consider using bird shot, or a #4 shot for self-defense - in the confines of your house, this will get the job done - as most shootings take place at very close distances - yes, 00 buck is better, but you have to balance all things, and take into account where you live and the danger of over penetration. Just something to think about - now you see why I can't give anyone a pat answer, as to what is the "best" gun or ammo for home defense?
 
I recently received the Alpha Tech Shotgun Flashlight Mount, for testing for an article, and I thought it would make a perfect product to add to my Stevens Model 350 shotgun. Without going into the details, on how easy it is to install this flashlight shotgun mount on your shotgun, you can find complete information on their web site. Now, I've tried some other flashlight mounts on my shotguns, and while they worked, they weren't to my satisfaction - not durable enough, and many simply clamp onto the barrel. The Alpha Tech Shotgun Mount is a bit different, in that, it attaches to the magazine tube - again, I'm not going into details - you can find complete info on their web site, but it only takes a couple minutes to install this mount. And, it is made out of steel, and black in color, with a sling adaptor on it, too. There is a "ring" for installing your flashlight, and you need a tactical flashlight that has a barrel of 1-inch - and that is easy to find. It only takes a few minutes to get this whole thing up and running.
 
Now, this particular Alpha flashlight mount wasn't designed for the Stevens 350, because of the set-up in relationship to the barrel/magazine/disassembly tube set-up, I was able to tinker with it, and make it fit on the 350, with a shim. While not the perfect set-up, it works. I could have put the mount on my Maverick shotgun - and it fits - however, I wanted it on my 350. Alpha Tech is in the process of developing mounts for other shotguns. Contact them for details to see if they have a mount that will fit your shotgun.
 
If you are planning on using a shotgun for home defense, I highly recommend you  have some type of flashlight mounted on it for several reasons. Firs of all, it helps you ID an intruder, secondly it can blind the intruder, and it helps you get on target in the dark - since you can't see your front sight in the dark. Right now, the Alpha Tech Shotgun Flashlight Mount is made to fit many shotguns, including the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 and many others. They are in the process of making one that will fit on the Winchester line-up of shotguns, too - check with them to see if they have a mount for your particular shotgun.
 
I found the Alpha Tech mount to be well-built, and very solid. I fired several boxes of ammo through my Stevens Model 350, and the mount showed no signs of coming loose. Full retail for the mount is $48.50 and a worthy accessory to complement your shotgun for home defense. It's also a great mount for law enforcement officers to have on their shotgun they have in their patrol cars.
 
So, with the Stevens Model 350 and the Alpha Tech mount, and a good tactical (bright) flashlight, I'm pretty confident that should I have to use my shotgun at night, I can ID my attacker(s) and I have a shotgun that is totally reliable. The Stevens Model 350 is hard to pin down as far as price goes - so many sporting goods shops and gun shops discount Stevens shotguns, it's hard to come up with a price. I believe you can find a brand-new one for around $300 give or take a few bucks, and it's a great deal, on a shotgun that will give you a lifetime without problems. And, just because this shotgun is made in China doesn't take anything away from the quality - you can get as good as you want from China. I don't especially enjoy contributing to the Red Chinese government, however in this case, I'll make an exception. So, if you're in the market for a good affordable pump-action 12-gauge shotgun for home defense, take a close look at the Stevens Model 350 for your next purchase. If all you can afford is one gun - then a good shotgun for home defense is hard to beat! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, July 22, 2013


No mistake about it! The .45ACP is still one of America's favorite cartridges, and there are many different handgun platforms that shoot this popular round, and for good reason, it is a proven man stopper. I recently reviewed the Ruger SR1911C hand, and I love the 1911 platform, however, it is not the only one that catches my attention these days. One problem I run across with .45 ACP handguns that carry a lot of rounds is that, they are too fat for my hand and trigger reach is a bit of a stretch for me - which means I can't properly grip the pistol the way I want to.
 
Several years ago, Sturm, Ruger and Co., Inc. came out with their first striker-fired handguns, the SR9 and it was an immediate hit. Only problem was, there were a few glitches with the first ones. Ruger was very fast in issuing a recall, and made some upgrades to the SR9 and there have been no other problems. I had one of the first SR9 samples and I sent mine in and it was returned in less than two weeks. Ruger is to be applauded for doing the right thing - and doing it fast! However, the SR was "only" a 9mm and people wanted more - so Ruger came out with the SR40 - another great step, because it was in .40S&W caliber. But handgunners still were satisfied - they wanted an SR in .45 ACP and Ruger listened! I received the SR45 several months ago for testing and it is an outstanding pistol in all respects.
 
Let's get the boring stuff out of the way, the SR45 is a full-sized service pistol, not a small concealed carry piece, although I've carried my sample undetected under light clothing - amazing what the right holster and cover garment can do. My SR45 sample has the stainless steel slide - and another model has a blackened alloy slide. I prefer the stainless slide because of the wet climate I live in, in Western Oregon. The frame is manufactured out of black, high performance, glass-filled Nylon, and is finely checkered for a good grip. The barrel is 4.50-inches long. Height is 5.75-inches and the gun weighs-in at slightly over 30-ounces empty with a 10 round magazine - and you get two with each gun. However, my sample was shipped with only one mag, and I contacted the Ruger Customer Service Department and a second mag was shipped right out to me. (Ruger has some of the best customer service staff around.) The overall length of the SR45 is 8-inches, and width is 1.27-inches. I compared the SR45 to a full-sized 1911 and a Commander-sized 1911 and it is closer in size to the Commander-sized 1911s. Three dot adjustable front/rear sights adorn the slide and they are fast to pick-up and pretty much snag-free, too. Sights were dead on for my shooting and needed no adjustments. There is also a Picatinny rail under the dust cover, for attaching lights or lasers to the SR45.
 
The SR45 has a massive extractor, and there is a loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide, so you can tell if there is a round in the chamber. An ambidextrous safety lever is there, and the trigger has a little safety lever in the face. The magazine release is also ambidextrous as well - nice touch. Additionally, the checkered rubber backstrap can be reversed from the arched to the flat side - I changed mine to the flat side and it only takes a minute to do, simply push out the retaining pin, slide the backstrap off and reverse it and slide it back on and replace the retaining pin. The front sides of the grip frame are also dishes out, making it easier to get a proper grip on the SR45 - again, super-nice touch, Ruger!
 
I was fortunate in that, during this great ammo drought, I still had a good selection of various .45ACP loads on-hand, from Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Black Hills Ammunition for testing in the SR45. Still, I was a bit conservative with my ammo supply, as getting resupplied these days is tough - even for gun writers - ammo companies are making ammo as fast as they can, but they still can't keep up with supply and demand. In many of my gun articles, I fire at least 500 rounds, and in some tests, I've fired more than a thousand rounds, however, for the time being, those days are over, until I can get a steady ammo supply coming in to replace the ammo I shoot-up in my articles. Still, I had a great selection of ammo on-hand for testing over several months and I fired-up more than 300 rounds in my testing - I wanted to give this SR45 a good work out.
 
From Black Hills, I had their outstanding, and almost match-grade 230-grain FMJ load, and this one has always been a fine performer for me. I also had their steel-cased 230-grain FMJ load. In the 185-grain bullet weight, I had their JHP brass-cased and steel-cased ammo. And, my favorite Black Hills .45 ACP load is their 185-grain Barnes all-copper hollow point, TAC-XP +P load. From Buffalo Bore, I had a wide assortment of .45ACP to run through the SR45. I had their brand-new 160-grain Barnes all-copper hollow point, TAC-XP low recoil, standard pressure load, their 185-grain FMJ FN low-recoil, standard pressure load. The 185-grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P load - I like this one - a lot! A 200-grain JHP +P load, and this is fast becoming my favorite .45 ACP loading from Buffalo Bore. Their 230-grain FMJ FN +P load and their outstanding 255-grain Hard Cast +P load. So, as you can see, I had a wide assortment of .45 ACP ammo to test in my sample SR45.
 
First thing I noticed with the SR45 is how crisp the trigger pull was, and how short the pull was. And unlike the very first SR9 samples, there was no grittiness at all in the trigger pull - great job, Ruger! Accuracy - everyone wants to know about accuracy! First of all, I look at "combat" accuracy - this means, will a handgun, at least a full-sized service-style handgun, hold 5-rounds inside of 4-inches at 25-yards. The SR45 easily did this and better. All my accuracy testing was conducted at 25-yards, over the hood of my SUV with a padded rest. I will say, I was very surprised at how accurate the SR45 was - and it was consistently accurate with all loads. I could easily contain most of my 5 round groups in 3-inches if I did my part, on my various outings over several months. Was there a winner in the accuracy department? Well, sorta! The Black Hills 230-grain FMJ would give me groups just slightly under 3-inches and I mean, ever so slightly under 3-inches and the Buffalo Bore 230-grain FMJ FN +P load did the same for me - as did the 185-grain low recoil, standard pressure load. So, in reality, there wasn't a clear winner in the accuracy department - the SR45 was a pretty consistent shooter in the accuracy department. I did have some bad days on the range, and some of my groups opened-up to more than 4-inches, but it was me, and not the gun and ammo - even gun writers have bad days!
 
I will admit, I had some misgivings with the new Buffalo Bore 160-grain low recoil, standard pressure TAC-XP all-copper hollow point Barnes load. It is, very low recoiling, and I didn't think this load would give the slide enough "umph" to load the next round from the magazine into the chamber - but it never failed me. And, this is the load I keep in the SR45 as my bedside gun. And, there are no fears that this very light 160-grain bullet will over-penetrate, but it will still get the job down - even at velocities below 800 FPS - I was impressed with this load, and I also carry it in my Kahr CW45 and it is a pussycat to shoot...low recoil means low recoil with this round.
 
At the opposite end of my ammo was the Buffalo Bore 230-grain FMJ FN +P and their 255-grain Hard Cast +P loads, and both of those loads get your attention - no doubt about it. These are the loads you want if you are out hiking in the boonies - they can easily penetrate the skull of a black bear, and make other large dangerous game wish they had picked an easier meal.
 
Now for street carry with the SR45, I loaded it with the Black Hills 185-grain TAC-XP all copper Barnes hollow point +P load. I just like this load and like it a lot and have confidence in it - I've tested it extensively in water-filled milk jugs, and into wet newspaper and it reliably expands and stays together - I've tested this load more than any other Black Hills .45ACP loads. I'm sorry to say, at this writing, Black Hills is out of this loading, but I'm on the waiting list. I have half a box of this ammo left, and it won't be used for any more handgun articles - it is being saved for my carry guns in .45ACP. I also like the Black Hills steel-cased loads, the steel cases come from Russia, but this is not dirty-shooting Russian ammo - it is made in the Black Hills factory. The reason Black Hills went to the steel-cased loads was because they couldn't get enough once-fired .45 ACP brass - so they went with steel-cased loads to save the consumer some money, and there is nothing wrong with these loads. I'd carry the JHP load without hesitation.
 
So, how did the SR45 stack-up in my testing? There were no malfunctions of any sort to speak of. The only problem I encountered was one of the magazines wouldn't consistently lock-open after the last round was fired, and it happened with a variety of loads, not just one particular load. The other magazine had no problems, and I suspect the problem magazine will work better after it gets broke-in - I've had this problem with other handgun magazines - sometimes they just need to get broken-in a bit. So, when I carry the SR45, that magazine is my spare. The SR45 was a pleasure to shoot, and the recoil wasn't nearly as bad as you think it would be for a polymer-type framed handgun. The low bore to axis lets the gun sit low in your hand, and that helps tame the recoil.
 
As an aside, there is one thing worth note, and that is, the SR45 just grows on your. I can't put my finger on any single thing about the SR45, but there is just "something" about the SR45 that makes you want to shoot, and shoot, and shoot it!!! The darn gun just kept calling out to me. Even when I was testing guns for other articles, I'd toss the SR45 in my bag and shoot a magazine or two through it - and I still do it. I think Ruger was smart to only go with a 10 round magazine, too. It gives you more rounds than a standard 1911 does, and it gives you a full grip you can get on the gun - it doesn't feel like a larger capacity .45ACP handgun for some reason. Ruger did the SR45 up right if you ask me. The gun just keeps on perking along, and it keeps on calling out to me, to be shot more and more. There's nothing not to like about the SR45, and full-retail is only $529.
 
Now for the "bad" news! As many SurvivalBlog readers may know, Ruger is backlogged about two million guns these days. (We have the crowd in DC to thank for this latest run on guns and ammo.) If you can find an SR45 in your local gun shop, don't put it down, start the paperwork and take it home. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, July 15, 2013


I spent more than half my life involved in the martial arts - and not just one style, either. I started out in Judo, and earned my Black Belt in this style. I went on to study several different styles of Karate, as well as Kung Fu. I hold Black Belt rank in five different styles of martial arts, with my highest Black Belt ranking a 6th Degree. Not bragging, not in the least, as I honestly believe that when you get your Black Belt, you are then a very serious student of the martial arts. I have adapted what I learned over 35 years and developed a street style of martial arts, for real-life self-defense, not for winning trophies. Whenever someone came to me, for training, I asked them why they wanted to learn martial arts techniques. If they said they wanted to win trophies, I directed them to another school. At one time, I ran four different schools, and all we taught were self-defense fighting techniques.
 
My advanced students - Black Belts - were afforded the opportunity to train in knife and gun fighting techniques, as well as unarmed techniques they learned from me. Having been around knives all my life, and tested them and written about them for a lot of years, I think I have a pretty good grasp on what makes a good fighting knife. I've also designed several fighting knives over the years, with my latest design sitting here on my desk - trying to decide which knife company I should send it to, for a possible collaboration, and get it into customer's hands, as an affordable fixed blade fighter - custom handmade versions are available, but I want to get factory made versions out there, at affordable prices.
 
I received several requests from SurvivalBlog readers to test the new Columbia River Knife & Tool Otanashi noh Ken Model 2906  - and this is a new model for 2013, and I spent two weeks pouring over the new CRKT 2013 catalog and completely missed requesting one of these knives for testing. I contacted Rod Bremer, the owner of CRKT and requested a sample, and Rod always comes through - they were sold out, but they managed to find one in the warehouse for me...this knife is in great demand right now, so be advised.
 
The 2906 was designed by James Williams, who has designed several knives for CRKT over the past several years. Williams is a military veteran and a current martial arts practitioner/instructor. So, it comes as no surprise that he knows cutlery. His Hissatsu knife designs have become a favorite with military Special Forces around the world. I like his Hissatsu designs and own most or all of them, but the Model 2906 really added something to his already famous design - it's one of those things that is hard to explain, but easy to understand, once you get the knife in your hand. the 2906 is a further design refinement on the Hissatsu line-up from Williams.
 
Many knives are designed for several tasks, and that's not a bad thing. However, the 2906 is purpose-driven, and it was designed for one thing, and one thing only - to be used as a weapon . The 2906 was designed for SOCOM (Special Operations Command) as a primary or a secondary weapon to augment the handgun in the hands of well-trained professionals. Again, this knife is purpose-driven - it is a weapon, not a hunting knife, or a knife to be used around the kitchen - although it could be. However, it was not designed for these purposes.
 
The Otanashi noh Ken has an AUS 8 stainless steel blade, one of my favorites because it is affordable and easy to re-sharpen, and it will do all you ask of it. The Rockwell hardness is 58-59 - which is just right. The blade is 4.52-inches long - so this is a blade that can reach out there and touch someone. CRKT describes this blade style as a Clip Point - I guess it could be called that - albeit a very modified Clip Point design. The grind in hollow and the edge is plain. The finish is bead blasted, with a black corrosion resistant finish - very tactical looking. The lock-up is from the CRKT Frame Lock design, a very strong one - where one side of the handle actually locks the blade open ,and the other side of the handle is G10 scales - tough stuff. There is also the LAWKS manually operated locking device, that turns this folder into a virtual fixed  blade knife. The pocket clip allows for very deep carry in the pocket and it is NOT reversible - it is a one position clip. Opened the 2906 is 10.13-inches and the it weighs in a 6.4-ounces. There is a thumb disk on the top of the blade, however I found I can easily flick the blade open with my wrist for faster deployment.
 
I've often mentioned that, most knife fights are designed around slashing moves - and they are. However, you might be required to do some penetrating moves, and the 2906 thin blade, with a needle point on the blade has exceptional penetrating ability. I used some stacked cardboard and the knife VERY easily stabbed to the handle without much effort on my part - this knife can penetrate. I also had some thin sheet metal, and I used the LAWKS manual lock to further lock the blade open and I was able to easily penetrate the sheet metal without much effort at all. I can see the 2906 penetrating soft body armor, too.
 
The long curved blade is also designed for slashing moves, and the actual cutting area of the blade is longer than the measured length of the blade because it is curved upwards from the hilt to the point. Again, hard to explain, however if you check out the CRKT web site, you'll see how the long curve is on this blade. I can see this blade easily slicing down to the bone on an arm or leg. If a Special Forces Operator were to use this knife to take out an enemy sentry, I could see if easily slicing through the front of the throat all the way to the back of the neck - not a pretty picture, but I believe this folder can do it with ease. Again, this knife was designed to be purpose-driven, and that is as a weapon - primary or secondary. I wouldn't willingly take a knife to a gun fight, however, I wouldn't feel the least bit under armed against several attackers if I had this knife in my hand. This knife instills a lot of confidence because of the design of the blade.
 
The Otanashi noh Ken is one of those knives that has to be experienced, to fully understand it. It's one of those knives that is hard to explain in words, but easy to understand, if you are involved in the martial arts, or in a high-risk military MOS, that may require you to use a knife against an enemy combatant. I like knives that are hard to explain, but easy to understand, once you hold it in your hand - it has to be experienced to fully appreciate it.
 
It's not very often that a knife comes along that is totally purpose-driven. If you are looking for a knife that was specifically designed as a weapon, then take a close look at the CRKT Model 2906 for your next purchase. And, be sure to check out the other James Williams designs, I'm betting you'll find a few more in the Hissatsu line-up that you'll want. Currently - (I'm writing this on May 4, 2013) - this knife is still sold out on the CRKT web site. I told you they are popular. However, I'm hoping that they will have more in-stock when this article comes out in print. The Otanashi noh Ken doesn't come cheap. It retails for $150. However this folder is well worth the asking price. So, take a close look at the 2906, and see if it might be something you want to add to your battery of weapons for self-defense and survival use. I plan on getting a second 2906 when they become available again - that's how much I like this design! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Friday, July 12, 2013


Several readers sent suggested additions to my recently-posted list of field gear makers that have all American-made products:

MollyMacGear - MOLLE panel backpacks, extreme cold weather gear, hammocks, hammock insulation...

Urban ERT Slings - Single point, two-point and three-point slings. Made in Indiana by a former NCO and father of an active duty USAF Pararescue Jumper. They also take payment in silver.

Go Ruck - Military packs made by a Special Forces veteran.

Fight and Flight Tactical - Products hand made in Kentucky. They have a particularly good solution for field transport of AA, AAA, and CR123 batteries.

Holland's of Oregon - Makers of the Lighting Strike fire starter, a great tactical shooter's pouch, excellent muzzle brakes, and more. Their instructional DVDs are also highly recommended.

High Speed Gear - Magazine pouches, packs, hydration carriers, plate carriers etc. Their TACO magazine pouches are a great design.


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 MadeInUSA.org, AmericansWorking.com, or www.usab2c.com

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!

 



I've put this article off for the longest time, however I've had so many requests from SurvivalBlog readers, to give my honest opinion on the Beretta M92 9mm pistol that I decided to finally sit down and give my two cents worth. I honestly thought everyone was sick and tired of hearing about the M92FS - seeing as how it has been our military handgun for close to 30 years - but apparently, more folks want to hear about this handgun.
 
First off all, let's get the boring stuff out of the way. The Model 92FS 9mm pistol is a DA/SA (Double Action/Single Action) handgun - the first shot, is fired from the super-smooth double-action, and the following shots are fired from the single-action mode. If there is a break in your firing, you simple use the frame mounted, ambidextrous decocker to safely lower the hammer. (Do not try to hold the hammer with your thumb and pull the trigger - you are inviting a negligent discharge when the hammer slips and the gun fires.) Overall length of the 92FS is 8.5-inches, with a height of 5.4-inches. The barrel is 4.9-inches, and unloaded weight, of the aluminum framed handgun is 33.3-ounces. The standard magazine holds 15 rounds of 9mm ammo - however, optional factory and aftermarket magazines can hold 17, 20 and 30 rounds. But note that most of the aftermarket high capacity magazines cannot be trusted. (And while the factory high capacity magazines work well, they are both scarce and expensive.)
 
The chrome-lined barrel provides extra corrosion resistance, and that's a good thing, and it doesn't really affect accuracy in a negative way - like some chrome-lined rifle barrels do. One thing about the 92FS that greatly aids the reliability of this fine handgun is the open slide design that virtually does away with stove pipe malfunctions, and it also makes it easier to load one round at a time into the chamber should you lose or damage the magazine.
 
Take-down of the 92FS is a piece of cake, thanks to the take-down latch on the side of the frame - reassembly is just as easy - but make sure you read the owner's manual. The rear sight has two white dots and the fixed front sight has one white dot - they are fast to pick-up, but I'd like to see the sights a tad larger - just my take on it. I've yet to run across a Beretta Model 92FS that needed the rear sight adjusted for windage - they are dead-on from the factory. I had two police trade-in 92FS pistols on-hand for testing - my local gun shop got a great buy on a lot of these guns and priced them right - so I forced myself to take two of them - I couldn't pass up the deal. Both guns only had some holster wear, other than that, they were like-new.
 
Beretta uses a proprietary finish on their 92FS called Bruniton, and it a non-reflective black coating that can really take a beating from the elements. The magazine release button can easily be changed over to left-handed use, too - great idea. The black poly grips take a real beating, too - however on one of my samples, the grips were rough, so I replaced them with a brand-new pair from Brownell's.
 
None of my own testing can even come close to what our military put the M92FS through - it is actually the most tested handgun in US military history. The military version is dubbed the M9 and they recently adopted the M9A1 - which has a rail on the frame for attaching a light or laser. On another M92FS that have, I installed a Crimson Trace set of replacement grips on the gun - it does make the already slightly chunky 92FS a little bit thicker, but nothing you can't adapt to. I love all Crimson Trace products - I've toured their plant a few times, and you can't believe the work that goes into making their laser grips.
 
Okay, the average reliability of all M9 pistols tested at Beretta USA is 17,500 rounds without a stoppage - in other words, the guns just don't malfunction - unless it is an ammo or magazine problem. I've yet to have a M92FS malfunction - even with questionable ammo and after-market magazines - the guns are "that" good. During one test of twelve pistols fired at Beretta USA before U.S. Army supervision, the M9 pistols shot 168,000 rounds without a single malfunction. I can't even begin to duplicate that kind of testing - and it isn't necessary, either.
 
At the beginning of the military contract, there was one or two instances, where the slide broke during live-fire, and came off the pistol, hitting the operator in the face. [JWR Adds: Beretta soon added a secondary slide stop, as redundant safety measure. Hence the "S" in the M92FS model desognation.] This was widely reported in the gun press, however one thing they failed to mention was that the rounds being fired were hot rounds - beyond even +P+ loads - we're talking proof loads the rounds were so hot. Beretta, like other gun makers say you can safely fire +P 9mm ammo in their guns, and I honestly don't know of any maker that says you can fire +P+ 9mm loads in their guns - just a lawyer/liability thing. I've fired thousands of rounds of +P+ 9mm loads through handguns and never had any problems - but be advised!
 
I'm sure most SurvivalBlog readers are aware of the severe ammo drought we are in - have been - for about six months now. The hottest selling rounds are .22LR and 9mm - both are very hard to find, and when you do find them, you pay dearly for them. Last year, I could purchase a brick of 500 rounds of .22LR hollow point ammo for about $16. But today, if you can find it, that same brick will set you back about $70. I usually run about 500 rounds through guns for my articles, but these days, I've really cut back - I'm having a difficult time getting quantities of 9mm from my ammo sources for articles - not because they don't want to supply me, because they just don't have much 9mm ammo to spare. So my testing was limited t only 200 rounds of various 9mm for this article.
 
I did have quite an assortment from Buffalo Bore Ammunition for this article, and here's what I had on-hand. 147-grain JHP Subsonic and their same FMJ FN load - both were easy-shooting and no problems were encountered - some subsonic loads I've tested in the past didn't have enough power to make the guns function 100% of the time. Also from Buffalo Bore I had their 95-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper +P+ load, and their 115-grain load with the same Barnes bullet - again this is a +P+ load. I had their 124-grain Penetrator load, this is a +P+ loading with a FMJ FN bullet, that Buffalo Bore owner, Tim Sundles carries for deep penetration when needed - Tim will load the first few rounds to be fired in his 9mm handguns with JHP and then the rest will be his Penetrator load. His thinking is, and I can't argue with him is that, if an attacked fails to go down after the first few shots, then they will be behind cover and this Penetrator load will help penetrate that cover. I also has their 147-grain JHP +P+ load and the same load in 124-grain - +P+ of course. With the current severe ammo shortage, the only load I could get from Black Hills Ammunition was their 100-grain Frangible load, that has a bullet that is made from compressed copper - and this is used mainly on indoor firing ranges - when the bullet hits the steel backstop or steel target, the compressed copper bullet fragments and doesn't bounce back at you. This load is rated at 1,200 FPS and it seemed hotter than that - but I liked it. I like the Black Hills 115-grai Barnes TAC-XP load in +P but alas, they didn't have any, and I only had enough on-hand for two full magazines for carrying purposes, so I didn't shoot that ammo up - it has always been a great load in any 9mm handguns I've fired it through.
 
In all my testing, I had no malfunctions, and I even mixed-up different types and shapes of ammo in magazines - and this usually can induce a malfunction in many guns, but not so in the Beretta M92FS samples - and I used both of my guns for this article. The Buffalo Bore 95-grain Barnes TAC-XP and the Black Hills 100-grain Frangible ammo shot a bit lower than the other rounds - which I expected, seeing as how they are both lighter weight loads. Nothing to worry about at close-up distances, but something to keep in mind at long-range shooting.
 
If I did my part, with the gun over a rest, over the hood of my car, at 25-yards, my 92s would keep all the hits right about the 3-inch group. There was one stand out, and that was the 147-grain FMJ FN subsonic load from Buffalo Bore, and that would consistently do better than the 3-inch mark if I did my part and held tight. During my testing, I used some genuine Beretta magazines and some after-market magazines and all worked perfectly.
 
I'm thinking, I'd probably carry the Buffalo Bore 115-grain Barnes TAC-XP +P+ load in the gun, and then my spare magazine - and you should always carry at least one spare magazine - would be loaded with the Buffalo Bore 124-grain +P+ Penetrator load - like Tim Sundles carries - just in case I have to shoot through some light cover. Sundles also tells me this load will penetrate the skull of a black bear - something to keep in mind if you're in beat country with a 9mm handgun. Now, keep in mind, that all handgun makers tell you to not shoot +P+ 9mm loads in their guns - again this is a lawyer and liability thing. I just wouldn't shoot a steady diet of +P+ through any 9mm handgun - it accelerates wear and tear. And, Tim Sundles told me that he does not recommend +P+ loads in any 9mm handgun with a barrel shorter than 4-inches that the slide is moving so fast, you might have some feeding problems. I've fired +P+ 9mm loads in a Glock 26 and never had any problems - but that was that gun!
 
I wish there was something negative to report about the Beretta Model 92FS, but nothing went wrong, if I had one minor complaint, it would be the gun seems overly engineered and too big for the little 9mm round - but that's my personal opinion.  There's a good reason to own a Model 92FS or the military M9 - and that is, in a SHTF scenario, you can probably scrounge some spare mags - a lot of police departments still issue the Beretta 92FS, and the US military has tens of millions of spare magazines and parts - something to think about if you need some repairs or parts - just thinking out loud! Shop around, and I'm betting you can find a police trade-in Model 92FS at a really good price - and when you do, add it to your collection - you'll really like it, I like mine! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, June 24, 2013


Back when I was in the military I would have loved to have had a way to heat-up my C Rations - yeah, I'm "that" old - that we were issued C Rations in the military, when out in the field. MREs (Meals, Read to Eat) were still only just a concept in the mid to late 1960s. Nothing beats a hot meal in the field, even if it was just C Rats - a cold meal just doesn't seem nearly as comforting or filling, as opposed to a hot meal. My late friend, Chris Janowsky, who ran the World Survival Institute, up in Tok, Alaska used to say Fire is magic" and it sure is - very comforting, mesmerizing and warm. A fire can make a difference when you're out in the boonies or in the field, especially when time comes for a meal.
 
Over the past year, I've tested several survival-type stoves for SurvivalBlog readers, all had their good points, and I especially like the light-weight they afforded me, and some folded-up for ease-of-carrying in a backpack or buttpack. Best of all is, they burned "whatever" combustible materials you could find; twigs, paper, wood chips, straw - whatever was laying around! You didn't have to pack fuel, which is expensive and cumbersome to say the least.
 
When I received the Vitalgrill stove I couldn't wait to get this one out and test it. Right now, I'm buried with products to test for SurvivalBlog - so much so, that testing one product each week - which is the pace I try to maintain - I have enough products to keep me busy for the next 4 or 5 months now. I make every effort to test products in the order I receive them - I want to be fair to everyone who takes the time to send me their products for testing. Thanks for your patience!
 
So, what do we have with the VitalGrill, that sets it apart from some other small survival stoves? Well, first of all, you can't fold it up, but the compact size isn't all that big - you can still fit it inside of a small backpack, and it only weights 1.5-pounds. Secondly, the VitalGrill will burn most combustible materials, and I found it works well with small twigs - they burn long enough that you won't have to keep feeding the fire. I also used wadded-up pieces of paper, but they burn rather fast, and you have to keep feeding the fire while you're cooking. You can also use heat tabs if you want to pack them along. What really sets the VitalGrill apart from the other small survival stoves I've tested is that it comes with a blower. Yes, you read that right, a small blower is attached and it operates from two AA batteries - that last from 35-40 hours - and that's a lot of fires for cooking, and it's not a big deal to carry a pack of extra AA batteries in your gear for replacement when the time comes.
 
The little VitalGrill can hold up to 50-pounds of weight on the cooking surface. However, I don't see how you could put that much in a pot or frying pan, still the little stove will hold a lot of weight - I put some concrete slabs on the cooking surface, and the stove held them just fine. There are "diffuser" plates, that fit on top of the cooking surface, and this reflects the heat upwards, from the tiny holes in the bottom of the stove - where the forced-air blows, to produce as much as 20,000 BTUs - again, you read that right - 20,000 BTUs of heat. I had no way of measuring this statistics, but I do know this little stove really got extremely hot. There are also rods that are attached to the diffuser plates, that you can adjust inwards or outwards, to hold the pot or pan you are using - be it a big pot or pan or smaller ones, the rods did their job.
 
The diffuser plates, with the rods, store easily under the stove, and inside of a minute of less, you can have the diffuser plates installed on the cooking surface, install your batteries into the battery pack, and plug it in, and you are ready to start adding some fuel. Like I said, I found that small twigs worked the best for me, and in my neck of the wood, Western Oregon, we have no lack of trees with plenty of small twigs you can use for fuel. To make my job easier, I wadded-up some paper to get the twigs started, and in a matter of a minute or two, I had a very hot fire going. The VitalGrill web site said temps can reach as much as 1,200-degrees - and I have no reason to doubt this - just depends on the fuel you are using. I used some cardboard for some testing because I know how very hot cardboard gets when it burns. You can even use charcoal, if that is on-hand.
 
There is also a mechanical shutter you can use, to adjust the air-flow, making your fire hotter or cooler if you so desire - neat idea! It works similar to a flu on a wood stove - adjust it up or down for more air-flow. The air intake is also split to prevent smoke or small particles for entering the fan, too.
 
The height of the VitalGrill is only 1.8-inches when folded, width is 4.9-inches and when in use, the height is 4.9-inches, so you can see, this stove is pretty compact. To make your camping or survival a bit more "comfortable" I would suggest carrying some kind of fire starter material, either cotton balls with Vaseline rubbed into, or even some commercial fire starter material. By doing this, you can have your fire up and running in a couple of minutes, and once the fire is going, get ready to cook because the stove heats-up fast - no waiting!
 
I played around with the VitalGrill for a couple of weeks, and really found it to be all it was advertised to be. I was able to cook soups, fry burgers, and even roast marshmallows over the twigs that were burning. A few times, I had to add a few more twigs to keep the fire hot, but it wasn't any problem - and you should always keep extra fuel on-hand - make sure you have enough to get through your cooking needs.
 
I really liked the little VitalGrill, and I had some concerns about how the stove would work without the blower - so I tried cooking without it. While it still worked, it didn't cook nearly as fast - I actually got spoiled using the blower motor. And, as I mentioned at the start of this, a pair of AA batteries will last 35-40 hours - that's a lot of cooking. My batteries didn't show any signs of quitting on me during my testing, and you can easily pack some spare batteries with the stove in your pack.
 
While cooking over a camp fire is a lot of fun, especially when out camping, you have to build a fire in a safe area, and more than likely, any camp fire you build will bring unwanted attention to you, and in a SHTF scenario, you may not want others knowing where you are at. With the VitalGrill, there wasn't much smoke to be seen at all - and that's a good thing. And, you burn a lot less fuel with this stove, than you would with a camp fire. I honestly couldn't find anything to fault with this little stove - it worked as advertised and you can cook on it faster than you can with some other small survival stoves. Only slight drawback is, this stove doesn't fold-up, but it is still a very compact stove and you can fit one in your backpack, or the trunk of your care with your bug out gear.
 
Now for the good news, and I expected this little VitalGrill to cost a whole lot more than the $69.99 retail price. I honestly thought, that because of the blower motor (fan) that this little stove would have cost at least a hundred bucks. So, I was pleasantly surprised at the $69.99 price. The VitalGrill is made in Canada, but can be found at retailers all over the place, or you can order direct from them, and they can ship this super-cool little survival stove directly to you.  Be sure to check out their web site because they also have a barbeque grill accessory that transforms your VitalGrill stove into a barbeque grill. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, June 17, 2013


When I was younger I didn't give much thought to a sling on a rifle or shotgun. When hunting afield, I simply carried my rifle or shotgun at the "ready" position - ready to shoulder it and fire on game. When I went into the military in 1969, I sure appreciated a sling on my M14 in Basic Training. In Infantry School, we were issued M16s, and while quite a bit lighter than the M14, I still appreciated a sling on the gun for long road marches. Over the years, I've tried all manner of sling on long guns, and to this day, I still can't say there is one particular brand or style of sling I prefer over another. I've tried single-point, two-point and three-point slings and they all have the good and bad points.
 
To be sure, not all slings are made the same - some are made out of leather, some canvas and some Nylon - again, I'm not sure which I prefer. I know for long-distance high-powered rifle competition, I preferred the leather competition sling, it really locked the rifle into my shoulder and with the arm loop, made it all that much more secure.
 
I recently received the Echo Sling for testing for SurvivalBlog readers. My first impression, upon opening the package was "gee, nothing special here..." What we have with the Echo Sling is a heavy-duty, 1-inch wide Nylon sling - made in the USA - and that always tends to swing my opinion on many things. I still think we can manufacture better products in this country than most other countries can produce. Sure, we pay a bit more, but we get better products. I don't mind paying more for something better made.
 
The Echo Sling has durable stitching, and an easy to adjust polymer buckles - no worries about them rusting. The sample I received is the Dark Earth color, but they also have Safety Orange, Neon Pink, Hazmat Green, Autumn Orange, Salmon/Princess Pink and Desert Tan. They also claim that the Echo Sling will fit any rifle - guaranteed. I tried it on a variety of different sling swivels and attachments, and it fit them all. I would like to see Echo Sling offer their products in a 1.25-inch width too, in the future - for slinging heavier rifles - that little bit of extra width really helps out if you're carrying a rifle or shotgun at sling arms for any distance.
 
Okay, I have a box full of slings, some are leather, some Nylon some canvas, and a few made of other synthetics. I did note that the Echo Sling is much better made than many of the nylon slings in my collection - it is heavier stitched and the Nylon is a bit thicker in my humble opinion - hard to measure, I tried. I do like the simply two-point attachment system - some slings take a PhD in engineering to figure out how to attach them to a rifle or shotgun - you all know what I'm talking about, too. And, to make things easier, the Echo Sling comes with printed instructions and photos to show you the proper way to attach it. And, on the reverse side of the instructions, are photos and an explanation, as to how to use the Echo Sling as a belt - don't laugh, a belt can and does break, when you least expect it - this is an outstanding idea and secondary use for the Echo Sling.
 
One thing I don't much care for with most Nylon slings is that, they tend to slip and slid on the shoulder. The Echo Sling stayed in place, and I believe this is because if is a heavier grade of Nylon, and the tighter stitching that the material has. Okay, so how does one go about testing a sling, other than to put it on a rifle or shotgun and carry the gun at sling arms? Well, I knew there had to be a better method for testing this sling - other than to just carry a long gun around the house - we're in the rainy season in this part of Oregon - and I didn't feel much like hiking the logging roads in the monsoon rains to test the sling - I know it works, but there had to be a better way to test this sling's durability.
 
It hit me! Or should I say, one of my German Shepherds, "Sarge" showed me a method for testing the sling. Sarge isn't quite a year and a half old, and he loves to chew-up cardboard boxes that FedEx and UPS bring me almost daily - he honestly believes UPS and FedEx come to bring him new toys to destroy - and destroy them he does. While examining the sling, Sarge decided it looked like a new chew toy and grabbed an end, and the tug-o-war was on - he loves playing this game with "Arro" one of my other German Shepherds. (We have four in our house right now, but we've had more than that in the past.)
 
Sarge and Arro - and even Fanja, our little female, got into a three-way tug-o-war with the Echo Sling - my older main male doesn't much get into this game - he's Schutzhund 1 trained and certified, and he likes to bite - not play tug-o-war. So, over the course of a month, I let Sarge and Arro play with the Echo Sling - and these boys can really pull - they've destroyed a number of pull tug ropes in the past year. Over the course of this "test" the polymer buckles were chewed on pretty well - but still functioned, though they had teeth marks on them. The Echo Sling was looking worse for wear, but the dogs never did break it - and these boys can really pull and pull hard against each other. There was some fraying, on the ends of the sling, where the boys usually grabbed it in their mouths, but the sling didn't fail. Now, if a high-quality Nylon sling can take this kind of abuse, over a month, and still function - I'm impressed. I never let the boys chew on the sling - I know it wouldn't last but a day if they did - but I let them play tug-o-war several times a day with the Echo Sling.
 
I have lesser-quality Nylon slings and I know, if I had given them to my German Shepherds, they would have made quick work of them - they'd be destroyed inside of a day or two. So, all Nylon slings aren't the same quality, or made out of the same high-quality and thicker material. What started out as a "ho-hum" product to test for SurvivalBlog readers, turned into a lot of fun testing - and I didn't have to do much of the testing - my dogs helped me out quite a bit. A slightly different way of doing an endurance test, but it was a lot of fun - for the dogs - and for me - watching them. The sling held-up to the testing and a close examination of it, shows it is better made than most other nylon slings. A simple product, that works and stands-up to abuse! I like that! The Echo Sling retails for $18.99 each and as mentioned at the beginning of this article, it comes in a variety of colors, too. I've paid this much for lesser quality Nylon slings, so I think the Echo Sling is a good investment, if you are looking for something simple and durable - something that will stand-up a lot of abuse, and still safely carry your rifle or shotgun. Check it out. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, June 10, 2013


I'm reviewing the Brite Strike LED Tactical Balls® RID-3, Rolling Illuminated Distraction and Disorientation Device. Awkward name aside, these are an interesting item.

The LED balls come as a set of three, in a black nylon pouch with a MOLLE-compatible belt loop and Velcro closure.  They activate with a push button on the back, which is readily locatable by touch.  Once lit, you roll them into an area and they tumble, sending bright light in several directions each.

RID-3 are a low-level substitute for a flash bang device, being less distracting, but much safer.  Brite Strike publicizes this fact; they are honest about the capabilities.  However, for situations where flash bangs are unsafe, or for civilians who can't get them, these are still a useful device.
 
In a dark room with a hard floor, there is both a rattling noise and the shifting lights.  They roll for about 5 seconds, then steady out, lights facing up, to provide steady illumination of the threat.

I performed several tests.  These are fairly durable, but they are made for rolling, not throwing or dropping.  A three foot drop caused the case of one to burst open.  However, it did reassemble and function again.  In extremis, consider that a bright, spinning LED hurled at a threat would certainly make them focus on it, not other people.

The rear of the RID-3 case unscrews easily to replace batteries (Which are included.)  They take two CR2032 batteries each.  Brightness seems to be about 20 lumens (13,000 MCD with a 90º beam), and they are rated for 20 hours.

A military/police variant with infrared (IR) LEDs is available as a set of 5 with no pouch.

Especially if you have a house with a hallway with a hard surface, these would make a nice adjunct to your defensive kit.  If you have stairs, the effect should be even more pronounced, understanding that the RID-3 may be damaged from the fall.

When not being used as distractions, these are still useful little lights that can be lowered into toolboxes, sumps, crates or other containers to illuminate contents.  They can be set on the ground cloth, cot or end table while camping.  They would work under the hood of a car or in a foot well. Anywhere a compact, up-facing light would be useful, they can be deployed. And, of course, they can be held in hand, or in a closed fist, with the closed fingers as an aperture for low level illumination for maps or gear.

The MSRP for the RID-3 set is $55.99.  This works out to about $16 per unit, plus a little for the pouch.  They can be found less expensively at various outlets. - SurvivalBlog Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson
 
Disclaimer
(per FTC File No. P034520): The author was furnished one set of Brite Strike LED Tactical Balls for evaluation. SurvivalBlog accepts cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of our advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited SurvivalBlog or our staff to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. JWR is 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 Amazon.com (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission.



Over the years I've probably handled and tested well over a thousand different knife designs. I know a lot about knives. I look for quality materials in knives, then I look at their intended purpose, as well as the carry system - be they folders with pocket clips, or fixed blade knives with sheaths. I also look at the design of a knife, and I look at the price point, too. I test knives for sharpness and durability - do they do what they are supposed to do?
 
Some time ago, I wrote an article on the Montie Gear sling shot, and in my humble opinion, I believe it is the best sling shot on the market - albeit a little expensive - but it certainly is high quality. Montie Gear also came out with an attachment for their sling shot, that allows you to shoot arrows - for hunting small game. And, they also produced a folding arrow, to use with their sling shot. Be sure to check it out on their web site for more information. I've learned that Montie Gear produces high-quality everything. No short cuts, and only the best materials are used in the things they produce.
 
When Montie Gear sent me their new Ultra-lightweight fixed blade knife, I was a little anxious to get my hands on it. The first thing that catches your attention is the quick draw aluminum sheath that the knife is in. Yes, that's right, in this day and age of Kydex sheaths, Montie Gear, came up with a sheath - a skeletonized aluminum sheath - that carries their neat little fixed blade knife. And, it has a quick draw release - you simply place your thumb on top of the lever and press down and draw the knife - simple - and I like simple, less things to go wrong. The sheath also has different mounting attachments, for belt carry, or you can even place it on your gear.
 
The blade steel is listed simply as "Chrome Vanadium Steel" on their web site, with a blade that is approximately 3-inches long, with a Rockwell hardness of 58-62 and an overall length of just under 7-inches. The handle of the knife is covered with wrapped Paracord, and you can get it in different colors, my sample had a black Paracord wrapped handle. The knife only weighs in a 3.7-ounces, too - so it is lightweight to be sure. You can also get the knife without a 550 Paracord wrapped handle, too.
 
However, there is one distinct difference in the knife, compared to most others, and that is, the blade is replaceable - that's right, if you damage the blade or break it, you can simply unscrew it from the main part of the knife and replace it with another blade. Montie Gear guarantees their knives with a lifetime warranty. So, if you happen to break the blade, you send it back to them with a small fee for shipping and handling and they will replace the blade. They also have a sharpening service, but I don't know what the fee is for re-sharpening the knife. If you keep your knife sharp, you shouldn't have to send it back to the company to have their re-sharpen it - that's my thoughts. I don't like a dull knife - they are dangerous and can't get the job done when you need it.
 
The design of the blade is akin to a reverse (upside-down) Tanto-style blade, and it is very easy to re-sharpen, too. I found this small little knife very easy to use and because of the blade design you can do some extra-fine detail cutting if need be. In a survival situation, you must have a blade that is easy to re-sharpen in my opinion. I will say this, without a doubt, this knife was the sharpest I've even tested - bar none! The blade is hand-sharpened, and I don't know if the final edge was done on a buffing wheel, but mine had the literal razor-edge on it - you could easily shave with it, if you had to. The blade's edge really gripped into anything you want to cut - I liked it - a lot!
 
As a rule, I like bigger knives - fixed blade or folders, because I think they are a bit more useful for different tasks. However, the Montie Gear Ultra-lightweight fixed blade, did everything I asked of it. I didn't try to chop through any tree branches - the knife isn't designed for this. However, if you want a constant companion, in a fixed blade knife, that you can wear on your belt all day long - and forget it is there, and a knife that can handle any chores around the house and kitchen, this is a worthy contender in this regard. Almost daily, I have deliveries for UPS or FedEx - and the USPS, and these are boxes that need to be opened, and this little Ultra-lightweight folder not only zipped through opening the boxes, it also made quick work of cutting the boxes down for easy disposal in the trash - that is, when I can get a box away from one of my German Shepherds. (My dog Sarge believes that UPS and FedEx only come to bring him cardboard boxes to tear apart. He often grabs a box out of my hand, before I've had a chance to open it and remove the contents.)
 
I think, more than anything that I liked the quick-draw sheath that the knife is housed in - it is very secure, and you don't have to worry about the knife falling out of it. However, it only takes a split second to press down on the release lever, to get the knife in your hand and into action. Now, while this knife, because of it's small blade length, isn't particularly designed as a self-defense blade, it can be used as one in a last ditch effort. I've noted many times, that most knife fights or self-defense situations call for slashing moves, instead of a stabbing wound...and this knife can easily slice through heavy clothing - even a leather jacket - and get to flesh and bone, if need be. However, I think this knife is more suited for everyday use around the house or on the job - and would make a neat little trail knife for your wilderness hikes. It would also serve to dress out big game, too.
 
Now, to the nitty-gritty, the price of the knife. Like all Montie Gear, their products are expensive. Then again they use the finest materials and their workmanship is outstanding. There is no junk from Montie Gear. The retail price of the Ultra-lightweight fixed blade knife is $249.99. And be advised that it usually takes a couple weeks to get one of these neat little knives - they are always on back-order. If you're looking for a new fixed blade companion, check out this knife on the Montie Gear web site, and I believe you'll be impressed. You could do a lot worse, and pay more, but I don't think you'll find many knives like this one, with the design of the blade, to be replaced if damaged or broken, and the super-cool sheath that houses it. This is just one of those knives, that when you pick it up, you can't put it down! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, June 3, 2013


While I've always loved the Government Model 1911, in .45ACP, it isn't my first choice - in a 1911. I've lost count of the number of 1911s I've owned over the years, and traded or sold, for some stupid reason, but I suspect, I've owned well over a hundred different types of 1911s in my lifetime. However, given my druthers, I'd druther have a Commander-sized 1911 - one with a 4.25-inch barrel, instead of the 5-inch barrel found on the Government Model. The 4.25-inch barrel 1911s just seem to balance better in my hand, and they are quicker on-target. Additionally, they seem to pack better for me on my hip, especially when seated in a car - that 3/4 of an inch, when seated can be a bit uncomfortable when in a car all day long - it digs into my hip!
 
I've been fortunate in that, when I was a police officer over the years, I was able, for the most part, to pick whatever type of firearm I wanted to carry on-duty - one of the perks when working for a small department, or if you're the chief of police - as I was, of a small department. When I was the police chief of a small town in Eastern Oregon, the county sheriff at that time, frowned upon me packing a cocked 'n locked 1911 on my hip. He never directly said anything to me about it, however several deputies mentioned to me that the sheriff would prefer I not carry my gun cocked! Well, to be quite honest, that is the way you carry a 1911 handgun - with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked, and the safety on! I've seen many other folks, who carried 1911s carry them with a round in the chamber and the hammer down - which meant, in order to fire the gun, they had to manually cocked the hammer - which is dangerous itself because you might allow the hammer to slip 'causing an ND (Negligent Discharge). It is much safer and easier to carry the gun with a round in the chamber, and the hammer cocked, with the safety on. It only takes a mere fraction of a second to snick the safety off, as you draw the gun, and ready it to fire.
 
Okay, I'll get off my soapbox when it comes to the proper method of carrying a good ol' 1911 handgun. What we have under review in this article is the Ruger SR1911 CMD which has the Commander-sized barrel and slide length of 4.25-inches. Some other gun companies have similar models, with barrels slightly shorter, but for all intents and purposes, they are all basically "Commander-esque" in size when it comes to barrel and slide length. And, to be sure, only Colt can use the term "Commander" as they have it copyrighted and trademarked!  So, Ruger simply calls their Commander-size the SR1911 CMD and I don't have a clue as to what the CMD stands for, other than perhaps being short for Commander. Over a year ago, I did a review on the full-sized Government Model SR1911 from Ruger and I was very pleased with the performance, but I longed for a "Commander-sized" SR1911. Ruger delivered!
 
The Ruger SR1911 CMD, as mentioned, has a 4.25-inch slide and barrel, and the slide and frame are manufactured out of stainless steel. And, I still remember the first stainless steel auto that came on the scene many years ago. There were a lot of problems with "galling" - when the guns got a little bit hot, the slides wouldn't move easily on the frames - they sometimes "froze" and wouldn't move at all, no matter how much lube you put on the gun. This problem has been solved by using a slightly different type of stainless steel in the slide and the frame - they are not exactly the same type of stainless steel.
 
The Ruger SR1911 CMD also comes with everything you need, and nothing you don't really need. There is a skeletonized trigger, with an over travel adjustment - my sample was perfectly adjusted as it came from the box. There is a combat-style hammer, and black, flat mainspring housing, which I prefer over the arched mainspring housing. And, the mainspring housing is also black - as is the extended single-sided thumb safety - it makes for an attractive set-up with the rest of the gun being a satin finished stainless steel. And, the mainspring housing isn't plastic, it's steel. The slightly extended magazine release is also black - and I really appreciate the slightly extended magazine release on 1911s, makes for a fast magazine change. The black front sight has a white dot, and the Novak combat rear sight has two dots, and in my humble opinion, the Novak rear sight is still the one all others long to be - it's the best on the market!
 
Inside the white cardboard box the SR1911 SMC came in, is a second magazine - stainless steel, and a soft carrying case, too. Nice touch, Ruger! The magazines appear to me, to be made by Checkmate Industries, but I could be wrong, and they are both flat bottomed 7-round magazines. The full-sized SR1911 comes with a flat bottomed 7 round magazine and an extended 8 round round magazine. I'm not quite sure why Ruger decided to go with two 7-round magazines with the SR1911 CMD model. And, speaking of the magazines they are VERY well made, and they have a stout spring, which makes for getting those rounds fed reliably. The gun weighs is at 36.40-ounces. Trigger pull was slightly under 5 pounds with no creep - the left-off was nice - nothing I would do to the trigger at all - and I usually tinker with trigger-pulls on most 1911s. Also, there is no full-length guide rod - many makers are going to the longer full-length guide rods, but I've long ago decided they don't add anything to accuracy or function to a 1911 - they only complicate the take-down for cleaning. Congrats, Ruger! The SR1911 CMD also has some beautiful hardwood checkered grips with the Ruger trademark in the center of them.
 
During the ammo drought, I was fortunate in that, I had a good selection of .45ACP ammo to run through my SR1911 CMD. From Black Hills Ammunition I had their 185-grain Barnes Tac-XP +P all-copper hollow point, their 230-grain JHP and their 230-grain FMJ loads. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 185-grain Barnes Tac-XP +P load, their 200-grain JHP +P, their 255-grain Hard Cast +P load, their 230-grain FMJ FN +P loading, and their new standard pressure 185-grain FMJ FN load. So, I had plenty of different types of ammo to run through the SR1911 CMD.
 
I headed out to the range, with high expectations, the gun is solidly built, no play between the slide and frame to speak of, and the barrel was expertly fitted, I was expecting outstanding accuracy. Sad to say, I had numerous failures to feed in the first 50 rounds. About every other round and oftentimes, every round, wouldn't fully chamber. I knew the problem - an extractor that was too tight. Luckily, where I shoot is only about 5-6 minutes from where I live. So, I headed home and broke the SR1911 CMD down, and sure enough, the tension on the extractor was high - I'm guessing it took about 20 pounds of pressure to slide a round under the extractor - with the frame off the slide. I  took the extractor out and adjusted the tension - it was still pretty tight though. Back to the range, and the feeding problems were better, but not quite right, yet. I used to take my gunsmithing tools and parts box with me to the range, but more often than not, a spring or small part would go flying, never to be found again. In all, I made a total of 4-trips home, to readjust the tension on the extractor before it would feed properly. However, I still had problems with one round - the Buffalo Bore 255 grain Hard Cast rounds, and this round has fed in every .45ACP pistol I've put it through. One more trip home.
 
I took the SR1911 CMD apart again, and examined the barrel - the top of the chamber, the hood - had some serious gouges in it - and I know it wasn't from the ammo I had been shooting through the gun. I can only surmise that, this barrel wasn't properly finished before being put into the gun. I got the Dremel Tool out and polished the barrel hood. Back to the range, one more time. However, the gun still had problems feeding the Buffalo Bore 255-grain Hard Cast rounds - I finally gave-up, and decided, for whatever reason, this round won't be one I can use in this gun. Too bad, this is my preferred round for out in the boonies - where I might run into a black bear.
 
Okay, with the feeding problems resolved - for the most part - I proceeded to my accuracy part of my testing. I'm happy to report that this gun can shoot, and shoot with the best of them. No groups exceeded 3-inches at 25-yards, firing over the hood of my SUV, supported. This gun is a consistent shooter in the accuracy department. However, there was one real stand-out, and it was the Black Hills 185-grain Tax-XP +P load, which is one of my favorite street self-defense loads. I was getting groups right around 2-inches with this load, and hot on it's heels was the Buffalo Bore 185-grain FMJ FN Standard Pressure load. Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore came up with this load from customer requests - they wanted a load that was low-recoil, but that could offer some serious penetration on dangerous game or if someone is behind cover - this load delivers!
 
I had no failures to extract - only the failures to feed, at the start of my testing. The +P loads really threw the empty cases far from the gun. The standard loads threw the empties only a few feet away. After my testing, I came home and took the SR1911 CMD apart for cleaning, and I polished the breech face while I had the gun apart - there were a few rough spots on it, but nothing that was causing the feeding problems. I'm happy to report, that I had the gun out several more times since my testing for this article, and there were no malfunctions of any type - but I steered clear of the Buffalo Bore 255-grain Hard Cast +P loads - this gun just won't feed this round for some strange reason.
 
I'm confident in the reliability of the SR1911 CMD these days, and it is riding on my hip daily - I actually do carry the handguns I test. I've only had two "bad" guns from Ruger in all the years I've been shooting, the first was the P85, and I had an early production run model, and the slide would just lock open halfway during shooting - never could figure that one out. The other is this SR 1911 CMD. Whoever fitted the extractor to my sample didn't "fit" it - they just installed it, and never checked the tension on it, the gun wasn't test-fired at the factory, had it been, they would have found out in the first couple of rounds that the extractor was too tight to allow the rounds to easily slide under the extractor as they came out of the magazine.
 
Now, this isn't a knock against Ruger - I've had "bad" guns from the best gun companies, a bad one slips through every now and then. Ruger has outstanding customer service, and as a rule, has a turn round of a week or two if there is a problem and you send your gun to them for service. I could have easily returned my SR1911 CMD to Ruger for service, but I honestly enjoy working on 1911s, so I took care of the problem myself. If you have a problem with any Ruger product, return it to them, and they will make it right, in very short order. I'm confident in my SR1911 CMD sample, and expect many years of service from it. And, it is plenty accurate, too.
 
Right now, all guns are in great demand, I read in an article the other day that 37 guns per minute are being sold in this country. And, Ruger firearms are always in demand. So, it might be a little hard to find an SR1911 CMD right now. Full retail is $829 on this gun, and traditionally you could find Ruger firearms discounted a bit - but these days, all bets are off. I know some dealers are selling this gun for more than retail, and people are paying the price, too. So, if you're in the market for a Commander-sized 1911, take a close look at the Ruger SR1911 CMD for your next purchase.


Monday, May 27, 2013


I hear from SurvivalBlog readers on a daily basis. I hear from a lot of you. I take the time to answer each e-mail I receive, too. I don't want anyone thinking I'm ignoring them. Many times, I hear from readers, just thanking me for a particular product I reviewed, and they purchased, and found it to be exactly as I said it was. A lot of e-mails are "fan" letters of a sort, and I've made some new friends because of these e-mails. Although I don't consider myself as any sort of celebrity, and I'm certainly no expert - in anything. I consider myself a serious student in a lot of different areas. While I hold Black Belt ranks in several different styles of martial arts, I don't consider myself an expert in the martial arts. If anything, when I earned Black Belt rankings, I considered it a jumping-off point, to really start to get serious about serious defense.

For more than 45 years I've been shooting firearms, and while I consider myself an excellent shot with a rifle, and a better than average shot with a handgun. Once again, I'm not expert. And, many folks believe that just because you are a gun writer - and I've been writing about guns for more than 20 years now - that I'm an expert. Once again, I'm a serious student. There are some gun writers out there who would lead you to believe they are the best shot who ever lived - however, when you actually see them shoot, it's quite a different story. But their magazine articles would lead you to believe they are a legend - well, they are - in their own minds. There's only a few out there like that, though.

The only thing I ever earned the moniker "Expert" in, is when I took the US Army Jungle Survival School training, in Panama in 1971. And I received a badge that proclaimed me a "Jungle Expert." However, I didn't feel like any sort of expert at all - I considered it another jumping-off point in another field of interest. Many folks believe I'm some sort of survival expert, because I write for SurvivalBlog, and nothing could be further from the truth. While I enjoy the outdoors and spend a lot of time in various activities, I'm not an expert. My late friend, Chris Janowsky, who ran the World Survival Institute, in Tok, Alaska was an expert in fieldcraft and especially in cold weather and rural survival. 

So, it puzzles folks when I respond to their e-mails, with questions about "survival" in general. Sometimes the questions I get simply don't have a correct answer - some things are not black and white, as some believe. I'll get a question like "what is the best handgun for survival?" Well, I can't honestly give a pat answer to that, without having more information, and then, I'm only expressing my humble opinion on the topic. And, I've received questions as to "what is the best 4-wheel drive rig for a BOV?" Again, I can't give you a firm answer on that - it depends on many different things. Are you looking for a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck, or an SUV? Will you be towing a trailer, and how much gear do you intend to haul, and how many people? You see, I can't give a firm answer to some questions. It's impossible from my point of view.

I get questions all the time about "What should I put in a 3-day BOB?" And, this is a fairly easy one - just pack some food and water, maybe a knife, a small tent, a flashlight, a firearm - things like that. And, we all have different needs, so you pack accordingly. Which leads me to a great little package of survival gear called the B.A.S.E. Ultimate Survival Series 3.0 Kit - which is sold through US Tactical Supply. And, no, this isn't the do-all of survival gear. However, it is a very good starter kit - and this is the complete one of the ones they sell - they sell smaller kits - not that this one is very big. It depends on your needs and requirements and how much money you want to spend. Again, this is a great little kit to toss into your day pack, a butt pack, a BOB, in your car, or in your hunting pack.
 
Speaking of hunters, I couldn't tell you the number of hunters I've run into, who had no survival gear with them at all - and I mean, nothing, zip, nada - not even a bottle of water. And, I've run into some hunters who had their 4-wheel drive rigs bogged-down in mud, and I've helped pull them out of their mess - they didn't even have a tow strap - and were miles and miles from the nearest road. Never ceases to amaze me, how stupid and unprepared many hunters can be.
 
The B.A.S.E. 3.0 survival kit is just some very basic gear that can help save your life if you are out in the wilderness and can't get home, or are lost. First up is the Sparkie Fire Starter, and my friend Chris Janowsky, used to teach that "fire is magic" and it is. It provides light, warmth and sense of tranquility - things can will save you if you are stuck overnight in the wilderness. Even the summer months, you need a fire at night to keep you warm - many people have died from hypothermia when the air temperature was 60 degrees F. at night - it draws your body warmth away and it can and will kill you. You need to learn how to build a fire using a flint/steel method, and I've taught my wife and daughters how to do this. I won't go into that here, as there are a number of resources you can find that will teach you this important skill - it's not as hard as you think, once you practice it. The Sparkie Fire Starter is compact, one-handed operation and will last through 300 strikes, and even more if you rotate the flint.
 
WetFire Tinder Cubes are included in this survival gear. And, you only get a few, so use them wisely - like if you are in a driving rain or snow - where starting a fire is more than a little difficult with tinder, a fire starter tinder cube will get a fire going for you in short order. You can even float one on water and it will burn!
 
Next is the JetScream Floating Signal Whistle. And, if you've ever been out in the boonies and wanted someone to hear you, this is the way to do it - yelling all day long will only lead to you losing your voice. A whistle can be heard farther away and you can blow it all day long. At 122 decibels, this whistle can be heard over most natural and made-made noises. And, it is a "pea-less" design, so there is no pea inside to freeze-up. I could be completely out of sight, and when I'd blow this whistle, my dogs took note of where it was coming from.
 
You need something to carry your survival gear in, and a backpack or fanny pack is nice, but a lot of people just don't think it's important enough to carry some type of pack. Well, the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit comes with a waterproof storage bag, in which, you can actually pack all the important survival gear you get in this package. And, if you need the waterproof bag for actually carrying water, you can put the gear in your pants pocket. Or, if you are crossing a stream, you can put your gear inside the waterproof bag to keep it safe and dry. A plastic bag can also be used for gathering berries and other food you might find along the way. A good waterproof bag, and this is a good one, is a very important piece of survival great to have, and this one is waterproof to 60-meters.
 
You get two Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification tablets, and these are also a great lifesaver. If you drink from any surface water source, you are sure to get sick - and perhaps even die, from some of the little bugs that are in surface water. Remember this, no surface water is safe to drink without first treating it in some way! These tablets will treat one liter of water - that you can put in your waterproof plastic bag - see, I told you a good waterproof bag comes in handy. It kills at least 99.9% of bacteria and viruses and 99.9% of cysts within 4-hours. Now, if it were me, I'd add a few more water purification tablets to this kit - just in case you are stranded more than a day or two. I don't want to die because I drank some contaminated water and some microscopic bugs got in my stomach and intestines - making me too sick to move or even die. I've said this many times in my articles, that you must have a safe source of drinking water - period!
 
A small, liquid-filled compass is included in the 3.0 kit, and don't knock it because it is so small, and a bit crude. It beats wetting your finger, and sticking it up in the air, to see which direction the wind is blowing - usually west to east in North America- but not always. You can attach this little compass to your equipment straps or a watchband. However, to my way of thinking, if I'm going to depend on a compass, I want it safe and sound, so it would be in my pants pocket - so I don't have to worry about it getting broken or falling off my gear and getting lost. And, if you go out hiking, camping or hunting - you should have a map and some idea which direction "home" is - then even this little compass can help you find the right direction to take.
 
A small Tag-It Signal Light is part of this neat little survival kit, and you can use it with a steady "on" or a flashing mode - which is great if you are lost at night - if there is a search and rescue unit out there looking for you, a flashing light catches their attention quicker. However, the steady "on" position is helpful if you are walking at night (not advised) and trying to stay on a trail or road. This also has a built-in carabiner for attaching to your gear or clothing.
 
Last up is a SaberCut Razor Saw. To be honest with you, at first I didn't think this piece of kit was all that great. Outwardly, it appeared to be cheaply made. I was wrong. It does have it's place. The SaberCut Razor Saw has 24 teeth per inch, and they claim you can cut through a 3/8 inch rebar in just 25 minutes. Okay, I didn't  have any rebar around to test it on, and I wasn't interested in getting thrown in the local jail, to see if I could cut through the cell bars. However, I did test it on some sheet metal and other metal scraps around the homestead, and that little saw cuts very well.
 
I went to my local big box store, and checked out their camping section, and they have similar products, that are included in the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit, and if you purchased them separately, they would cost you a lot more than what you'd pay for in this kit. And, some of the products at my big box store appeared to be identical to the products in this kit. Again, you'd pay more.
 
No, this is not a long-use survival kit, as some of the products are only meant to be used once or twice - like the fire tinder cubes, and the water purification tablets - one you use them, you need to replace them. For those looking for a basic start-up survival kit, that they can carry in a fanny pack, or in your pocket, or a BOB - or even your vehicle, this is a great piece of kit to start with, and you can build on it. It would make an excellent piece of kit for a military troop to carry, especially if you are behind enemy lines, working covert ops, or a helicopter or jet fighter pilot - if you had to land your aircraft in an emergency - this little kit could help save your bacon and get you home safe and sound to friendly territory.
 
One thing I would include in this kit, is some type of emergency food - and you can decide what to pack yourself, be military-style MREs, freeze-dried foods or just some trail mix - but I'd add some sort of food to the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit - you don't need a lot to help you survive for a day or two, but I'd pack something. Once again, I've run across hunters who were out all day long, and they had no food or water with them - and they were miles from their vehicles, and they were grateful for a drink of water from me, and some directions on how to get from where they were to where they wanted to be - back to their rig or back to a main road.
 
US Tactical Supply has the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit in-stock, as well as some smaller kits, if you don't need everything that the 3.0 kit offers. However, for my money, I'd go with the 3.0 kit and then build on it. Price on the 3.0 kit is $49.95. Check out the link I provided above, and see if the 3.0 kit isn't something you should consider for your BOB, or for carrying in your vehicle.

If you are new to prepping, then this is about as basic of a kit as you should start with - and like I said, build on it, add more stuff - a good folding knife would be my choice for one of the first things I'd add to this kit. I've seen other ready-made survival kits, and they weren't nearly as well thought out as the 3.0 B.A.S.E. kit. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, May 20, 2013


Some time ago, I did a review on SurvivalBlog about the Ruger 10/22 Takedown (TD) .22 LR rifle. I fell in love with my sample. I liked the idea of a .22 LR rifle, that could easily be taken apart, and put back together in a few seconds. I also liked the case that Ruger ships the rifle in - very nice, and you can carry the 10/22 Takedown rifle, with a brick or two of .22 LR ammo, half a dozen magazines, a scope and some clothes for the weekend. Not a bad combination, and whenever I travel more than 25-miles from home, I toss the 10/22 Takedown in my rig - just in case something happens and I have to hoof it home in an emergency.
 
However, I don't always need the heavy-duty case that the 10/22 Takedown comes in. And, I looked around, but there really wasn't anything available, other than a full-sized long gun case - which defeats the purpose of having a rifle that you can take apart, making it into a smaller package. SurvivalBlog reader Wayne W. e-mailed me and told me about the Skinner Sights TD Case that Andy Larsson, the owner of Skinner Sights, is producing for the 10/22 Takedown. And the Skinner gun case is much thinner, trimmer and doesn't take-up much room at all, yet it still protects the 10/22 Takedown rifle. Wayne W. told me that I'd better not get my sample, before he got the one he ordered - not to worry, Wayne W. got his order before I got mine.
 
The Skinner Sights 10/22 TD case is flat and compact. However, when I got my sample, I saw that it opened from both ends, with a secure clasp. I was more than a bit concerned that, when I took the 10/22 down into two-pieces, that they would rub against one another, causing scratches on my sample. Not to fear, Andy Larsson, very cleverly designed a method wherein, when you place the barrel assembly in one end of the bag, and the receiver in the other end of the bag, they do not touch - they are in separate compartments - although it appeared to me, that they were one in the same compartments. Neat idea, Andy - job well-done!
 
I used to own a standard cab pickup truck and found if I filled-up an overnight bag, and tried to stuff it behind the seat in my pick-up, it wouldn't fit - too fat. Such is the case with the factory bag that the 10/22 comes in - you can't fit it behind the seat of your pick-up truck - too fat! With the Skinner Sights 10/22 TD Case, you can easily store your 10/22 Take Down rifle behind the front seat of your pick-up truck - out of sight, so no one sees it. You can also toss a brick or two of .22 LR ammo - assuming you can find any these days, because of this ammo drought - in your glove box, or under the front seat of your pick-up, along with some extra 25-magazines - again, assuming you can find any - Ruger 10/22 25-round magazines are hard to come by these days.
 
Also, in a previous article, I reported on the Skinner Sights front and rear sight combination that Andy Larsson sells, as a replacement to the factory provided sights on a 10/22. While there is nothing "wrong" with the sights that come on a 10/22, there is always room for improvement, and with my aged eyes, I want every advantage I can get, and by replacing the factory sights on my 10/22 Takedown rifle, with the sights that Skinner Sights has, I greatly improved my hit ratio with the 10/22.
 
What Skinner Sights came up with is a shortened version of their standard rear hooded sight, that works nicely on the 10/22 Takedown rifle - it doesn't hang over the joint where the barrel and receiver join together - like the original Skinner Sight would do. I want to mention, too, that - all Skinner Sights are hand-made, you are not getting a cheap, mass-produced sight set-up. Andy Larsson takes great pride in designing and manufacturing his sights here in the USA.
 
Skinner Sights came out with the barrel mount sight that clears the take down mechanism, and does not contact the stock during assembly. The hooded rear sights is slick and provides an amazing sight picture - one that is much easier for me to see. And, others how shot my 10/22 Takedown rifle agreed with my findings. Additionally, the 10/22 Barrel Mount rear sight, ships with a .125-inch aperture installed - 5 different aperture sizes are available - and given the uniformity of common ammunition and barrel dimension, this aperture works great. A front comes bundled in the package, too.
 
By having both the front and rear sights mounted on the barrel, instead of one on the barrel and one on the receiver, insures repeatability when disassembling and re-assembling the 10/22 Takedown rifle. While I never had any problems with my factory sights staying zeroed on the 10/22 Takedown, things might loosen-up, if you took the rifle apart and put it back together hundreds of times, and you might have to make some sight adjustments. With the Skinner Sights Ruger 10/22 TD Sights, you have no worries about your zero changing, no matter how many times you might take your 10/22 Takedown apart and put it back together - the zero isn't going to change on you.
 
The Skinner Sights 10/22 sights are $62 in blue, $63 in brass and $65 in stainless steel. Not bad at all, considering these sights are hand-made and not mass-produced. The Skinner Sights 10/22 TD case is only $49 and comes in either black or dark green - your choice of colors. I want to thank SurvivalBlog reader, Wayne W. for alerting me to these products. As if often the case, I get alerted to a lot of new products by SurvivalBlog readers. You are a very intelligent bunch of folks. And, I appreciate all the help you give me in my quest for new products, or products I might have overlooked or not been aware of. I can't be all over the Internet and through factory catalogs each day, trying to find products to write about - not enough hours in the day.
 
So, if you're looking for a slimmer carrying case for your Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle, and you want some better sights to go on that gun, check out the Skinner Sights web site for more information. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Monday, May 13, 2013


For the life of me, ever since I was a little boy, who regularly carried some kind of folding knife, could I understand how a "switchblade" knife (read: automatic opening knife) is any more dangerous than any other knife. Somehow, I think we have Hollywood to thank for this nonsense going back many, many years, where they portrayed gang members using a switchblade to intimidate or kill someone. How on earth one can justify how a folding knife opens, to how lethal it is, is beyond my comprehension. I've said this many times in the past in my knife articles, and that is, I can draw my folding knife from my pocket, and open it faster, with a flick of my wrist, than I can an automatic folder. On an automatic folder, you have to index the knife and then find the sweet spot - the button - on the handle and then press it to open the knife. Still, I like automatic folders - and not because they open faster - they don't - at least not for me.
 
Many states ban the mere possession of an automatic opening knife - even if you keep it in your home. In my home state of Oregon, where automatic folders are made, and where they are legal to carry, many, many police officers mistakenly believe that an automatic opening folder is illegal. Ignorance is bliss!
 
Almost a year ago, I received the H&K Entourage automatic opening folder - a "switchblade" for testing. I never carried this knife, but kept it on my desk, and it was used almost daily for opening FedEx and UPS packages, as well as other chores around the house and homestead. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that I received this knife for testing for an article on SurvivalBlog - I just kept on using the knife daily, and it slipped my mind that I was to write this article about the knife - until I found the paperwork in a pile of papers on my desk from Benchmade Knives - who makes the H&K "Entourage." So, I figured I'd best get this article written.
 
First of all, it is a testament to how useful the Entourage was for daily chores around the house. Yes, it is faster opening, when I picked it up off my desk - as opposed to having to dig into my pants pocket to get my regular folding knife out to use all the time. The Entourage was just "there" all the time for me. What we have is a 3.74-inch 440C stainless steel blade, with a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 - and this is a bit hard, but the edge stays sharp a good long time - only problems I've ever encountered with 440C stainless steel is, it takes some work to get the edge back to hair-popping sharpness. However, I don't let my knife get very dull to start with. Unless I'm doing an intentionally destructive test, I keep a keen edge on my knives at all times.
 
The handle scales are made out of 6061-T6 anodized black aluminum. And, I should mention that, the blade on the Entourage is a Tanto style, which is one of my favorites. There is also a pocket clip on the handle scales, should you elect to carry the Entourage in your pants pocket. My sample had the plain edge, but you can also get a partially serrated edge, and those serrations really help out when cutting cardboard or rope.
 
There are friction points on the top and butt of the handle scales, that greatly aid in getting a secure grip on the knife in many different styles of knife fighting holds. And, there is a very slight upward angle on the front top of the handle scales for proper thumb placement in the fencing grip. On the bottom front of the handle scales, there are also friction points for proper placement of your index finger in the fencing grip. Closed length of the Entourage is 4.70-inches and opened it is 8.44-inches and it weighs-in at 4.50-ounces--not too heavy and not too light.
 
The button used for opening the Entourage is large enough that you can easily make contact with it with your right thumb, and there is an enhanced spring design for improved and faster opening times of the blade. I found my sample had the front pivot pin just a tad too tight, and it only took about half a turn with a Torx head driver, to get the tension a bit looser and more to my own liking. The blade seemed a bit slow springing out of the handle scales - but now it is perfect. And, during almost a year of testing and daily use, I never once had to re-adjust the tension on the front pivot pin.
 
I liked the black anodized handle scales, there were also grooves milled into the handle scales for a more secure grip. With the blackened blade, the knife has a very "tactical" look to it - very cool! On the top of the Entourage's handle scales, you will also find a sliding safety button - to lock the blade solidly open or closed - making this a virtual "fixed" blade folder in the locked open position.
 
I've mentioned this before, but thought I'd mention it again, for new SurvivalBlog readers. Some Preppers mistakenly believe that all survival situations call for bugging out to the boonies - such is not the case. If you live in the big city, you are more apt to need survival tools on a daily basis, and one tool I find useful on a daily basis is a folding knife. The Entourage isn't a wilderness survival knife - it's not designed or meant for that type of use, However, if you life in a big city, having a very well made Every Day Carry (EDC) folder is a handy thing to have. I just read a report this morning, about a group of more than 100 teens, who went on a rampage in downtown Chicago - my birth town, and people were attacked by this group. There is such a thing as disparity of force - which means basically, if you are outnumbered, you can use more force to fend off your attackers. In this case, when you are faced with multiple attackers, you would be justified in using a knife to defend yourself with.
 
The Entourage would make an outstanding EDC folder, it's well-made, strong, and it is priced at $170 - which is a very good price for a Benchmade produced knife. And, if you are into collecting logo knives, the H&K line is very collectible. I played with my Entourage for almost a year, and the blade was opened and closed thousands of times, and there wasn't a sign of the button or spring failing or working loose. Check out an Entourage, if you can legally own one in your locale or state. I think you'll be pleased with the Entourage. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


James,
After reading about the waterproof Bible, I went to the publishers web site, BardinMarsee.com and discovered that they also manufacture waterproof notebooks.  Many times during my military career I have needed to write something while in the rain.  These would have been great, but alas they were not available in the 1970s.

These notebooks are available in both top and side spiral, and in the most common sizes, all at an attractive price. Thanks, - Greg L.


Monday, May 6, 2013


Traditions Training Cartridges are weighted and built like real cartridges.  They include a rubber insert to function as snap caps. Unlike most aluminum snap caps, however, they are heavy and strong enough to properly cycle, without becoming damaged. I recently tested these in 12 gauge, .223 rifle and .45 ACP. 

The .45 ACP pack contained 5 cartridges with 6 rubber inserts.  They were "loaded" with 230 grain ball projectiles, and apart from their black coating, were almost indistinguishable from live ammo.  I cycled these through an Auto Ordnance 1911 clone, through a dozen different magazines with no problems with the cartridges. In fact, they helped me identify two problematic magazines.  They fed flawlessly.  The hammer drop felt noticeably different due to the rubber primer insert, but there were no issues with the action.  They ejected very positively, just like real cartridges.
I tested the pair of 12 gauge cartridges (two in the pack, inserts already in place) in both a side by side ERA coach gun and a Remington 870 riot gun.  They held up well to the mechanical ejection, and loaded perfectly.

The two-pack of .223 were tested in an M4 clone. Again, they cycled just like real ammo.  I randomly loaded both into a magazine of live ammo to practice stoppage drills.  There was no detectable difference in the load part of the cycle, and upon the hammer dropping, they extracted exactly as a dud round should.
These are a professionally made and tough test and training tool I recommend acquiring. 

They are available in gauges/calibers of 10 semiauto pistol, 7 revolver, 5 shotgun and an incredible 42 rifle calibers, including most common hunting calibers and several military surplus calibers. 
Manufacturer's suggested retail prices range from $9.98 for a dozen .22 long rifle caliber, to $15.98 for a single .50 BMG (which I very strongly recommend as part of your kit, given the power involved in these rifles).

These feel so realistic, I also strongly recommend paying extra attention to safety.  Do not keep them near your live ammo when performing function tests, and inspect carefully before loading. Always have the weapon pointed in a safe direction, and at a safe backstop. NOTE: I was furnished a pack each of .223, 12 gauge and .45 ACP free for evaluation.

Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large)


Monday, April 29, 2013


I've always been a big fan of Ruger firearms - all of them! There's many reasons for my liking Ruger firearms, first of all, I find their firearms robust, strong and well-designed. Ruger doesn't simply copy some other designs for the most part - instead, they are innovators in many ways. I still remember when the first Ruger P-85 9mm handguns came out, and everyone thought they wouldn't last because they were made from "investment casting" aluminum frames- Ruger proved everyone wrong.
 
A few years ago, I tested the Ruger SR556 piston-driven AR-style rifle, and loved it. Everyone was jumping on the piston-driven AR bandwagon, and Ruger was no different, they than they didn't copy anyone else's piston-driven design - they came up with their own, after a lot of research and development. The SR556 comes with all the bells and whistles you can ask for, and then some - including a nice padded carrying case, several MagPul PMags - which I personally believe are the best AR mags on the market, and top-of-the-line pop-up front and rear sights and many other accessories, that don't come on many AR-style rifles.
 
However, not everyone wanted or needed all that the SR556 came with as standard equipment, nor was everyone willing to pay the almost $2,000 price tag. Now comes the Ruger SR556E. Many people mistakenly believe that the "E" stands for an "Economy" model, but that is NOT the case. For the past several months, I have been testing the SR556E sample, and I have found nothing economical about this neat little rifle. What we have is a 5.56mm carbine, that can also fire .223 Remington ammo. The gun only weighs-in at a mere 7.36-pounds, a bit lighter and it balances better than the SR556 does in my humble opinion.  The SR556E also comes with a 16-inch cold hammer forged mil-spec 41V45 barrel with a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel. There is also a 6-position telescoping stock - closed the gun is 32.75-inches long and fully-open the gun is 36-inches in length. The flat top upper also has a forearm that has a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories at the 12:00 O'clock position and you can add other rails to the 3, 6 and 9 positions and these are sold separately. There is also a dust cover over the ejection port, and a forward assist - that I never recommend anyone use - it only leads to more problems, but it's there just the same.The SR556E also comes with a soft padded carrying case.
 
I like the MagPul (I believe that's the make) pop-up rapid deployment front and rear sights - they are outstanding. The front sight is adjustable for elevation and the rear sight is adjustable for windage. Where one would normally find the gas block for a direct impingement operating system, we have the patent-pending 4-position gas regulator. That's right, this is NOT a direct gas impingement gun, it has a two-stage piston system that is chrome plated for easier maintenance, and the hot gases vent out of the bottom on this two-stage piston, causing the gun to run cleaner and cooler, and that is a very good thing in my book. The direct gas impingement system vents dirty, hot gases directly into the bolt and bolt carrier - causing guns to run dirty and very hot - not a good thing in many instances - it can lead to malfunctions if the gun isn't properly cleaned and lubed on a regular basis - as in combat!
 
The 4-position gas regulator can also be completely closed off so the action doesn't cycle for using a suppressor, where you don't want any noise from the bolt cycling back and forth [or any sound of gasses escaping a gas port]. The other three positions are for running various types of ammo, and if your gun starts to run a bit dirty, you can adjust the gas regulator to a different position. Ruger ships the SR556E with the gas regulator set at the #2 position and suggests you do most of your shooting from this position. There is a complete tutorial video on the Ruger web site, that demonstrates the various settings. I left my sample on the #2 setting, and never looked back - although, I did play around with the different settings for just a bit - just to see how they function and how the gun ran - it ran fine in all but the closed position. However, for all my actual function testing and accuracy testing, the gun was left in the #2 position.
 
One thing you will readily notice with a piston-driven AR-style of rifle is the different recoil impulse. Hard to explain, but the gun runs a bit "differently" than a direct impingement operating system - it runs smoother, and it seems to run a tad quieter, too. Again, hard to explain, however if you shoot the SR556E next to a direct gas impingement rifle, you will hear and notice the difference in very short order. Now, some piston-driven AR-style rifles have had problems with "carrier tilt" - in that, the bolt carrier tends to tilt downward into the buffer tube, causing unnecessary wear and tear. Ruger overcame this problem by redesigning part of the bolt - removing some material here and there, and there isn't any problem with carrier tilt. You might notice a little bit or wear from the anodized coating inside the buffer tube, but no actual wear on the material. Ruger did their homework - as they always do!
 
During my initial testing of the SR556E, I ran 5, thirty round magazines through the gun as fast as I could pull the trigger. When I was done, there were zero malfunctions, and I broke the action open and pulled the bolt carrier out - it was cool to the touch. Try that with a direct impingement AR and you'll burn your fingers after just running one 30-rd mag through the gun. Additionally, the bolt carrier and bolt were still very clean - one mag through a direct impingement AR and the upper receiver and bolt carrier and bolt are dirty, very dirty - especially if you run some Russian-made .223 ammo through an AR.
 
I ran well over 500 rounds of various .223 Rem and 5.56mm ammo through the SR556E - however, in future testing, I won't burn-up that much ammo - not with the big ammo drought we are facing, and my inside sources tell me that, they expect ammo to be in short supply for about two more years - or even longer, depending on the political climate in DC and in some states. Be advised and act accordingly. In future firearms tests, I'm only going to run about 200 rounds through gun samples. Even with my several sources of ammo for use in my articles, ammo is still hard to come by these days. My sources want to give me more, but they don't have it - every round they make goes out the door each day - they don't have a warehouse full of ammo any longer.
 
From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their Sniper .223 ammo - a 55 grain Ballistic Tip bullet, a 69 grain JHP and their heavy 77 grain JHP - which is recommended for barrel twist of 1:8 or 1:7 - the SR556E comes with a 1:9 barrel twist - the most popular for civilian AR style rifles. From the good folks at Black Hills Ammunition, I had a wide assortment of .223 - a 52 grain Match HP, 55 grain FMJ - new and reloaded, 55 grain SP, 68 grain Heavy Match HP and their newly released to the public, 5.56mm 77 grain OTM ammo - this is almost the exact same ammo that Black Hills Ammunition - and Black Hills Ammunition alone - provides to all the US Special Forces - no other maker produces this ammo. I also had a couple boxes of Winchester 55 grain FMJ USA brand .223 on-hand, and I use a lot of this for simple function testing - its a great round and less expensive than burning-up some more expensive ammo for function testing.
 
Once I had the SR566E zeroed, I did all my shooting at the 100-yard mark for accuracy testing - although the gun was zeroed for 300-yards - just my zero mark with all my AR-style of rifles. The Buffalo Bore, Black Hills and even the Winchester 55 grain FMJ loads were all giving me 3-inch groups if I did my part, with open sights, at 100-yards. This is about average for many AR-style rifles - nothing to write home about in the accuracy department. The Black Hills new and reloaded 55 grain FMJ ammo gave me the same accuracy results, so don't go thinking you are getting slighted by using reloaded ammo instead of brand-new ammo all the time. The Black Hills 52 grain Match HP load gave me groups a little under 3-inches - better, but I knew the SR556E could do better - a lot better. I should note that the Black Hills 55 grain SP gave me 3-inch groups as well - and this would make a dandy load for varmints - even smaller dear, at close-in ranges. Although, I suggest using a larger caliber rifle round for deer - the .223 can still do the job if you place your shots where they need to go.
 
The Buffalo Bore 69 grain JHP was giving me groups right at the 2-inch mark, and I was starting to get impressed with the Ruger. The Black Hills Ammunition, 68 grain Heavy Match HP load was giving me groups around an inch and a half if I did my part - I've found this to be a very accurate load in all AR-style rifles I've tried it in. I ran out of the Buffalo Bore 69 grain JHP load, just as I was getting a good feel for it - and I believe it can match the Black Hills 68 grain Heavy Match HP load in the accuracy department.
 
Last up were the two heaviest loads, and you should be advised that, some rifles with a 1:9 barrel twist will only accurately shoot bullet weights up to about 68 or 69 grains - some will even shoot 75-grain bullets - but not all. Each gun's barrel is a little different, and as I've said before in my articles, experiment with your gun and various types, brand and weights of bullets, to see which one will shoot most accurately in your gun. The Buffalo Bore 77 grain JHP and the Black Hills 77 grain OTM 5.56mm loads were both giving me groups in the 3 to 3 1/2 inch range. I honestly didn't expect either one of those rounds to actually give me accuracy this good - considering the SR556 has the 1:9 inch barrel twist. I will admit though, that there were some groups that opened-up quite a bit more - however, I was advised by both Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore and Jeff Hoffman at Black Hills, that it might be a waste of good ammo, shooting these heavier loads in the 1:9 barrel twist. Well, not a waste of money, but it proved to me, that in a pinch, you can shoot these heavier bullets in the 1:9 inch barrels, just don't expect the accuracy you think you'll get. I have fired both of these loads in another AR-style rifle with a 1:7 inch barrel twist, and had outstanding accuracy in the one inch to an inch and half range if I did my part. So, I know both of these heavier loads can shoot a lot more accurately in the right barrels, than they did in the SR556E.
 
During all my testing, I had no malfunctions of any sort. When I tested the original SR556 when it first came out, I did have a couple failures to extract in the first magazine, but after that, the gun ran fine. So, I was very pleased with the performance of the SR556E over the course of more than 3-months of testing. I never cleaned the gun during all this time, nor did I give it any further lubrication, other than the day I got the gun and inspected and lubed it. The gun was extremely clean at the end of my testing - and I believe I could have easily shot several thousand more rounds without any problems or further cleaning or lube. The SR556E with the two-stage piston-driven system really proved it's worth and ran cleaner and cooler than direct impingement ARs do. There is no comparison between the two systems in my humble opinion. If you want a gun that runs smoother, cleaner and cooler, you need to take a close look at the SR556E, as opposed to a direct impingement operating system. Now, with that said, I'm not about to take my other ARs that are direct impingement and sell them or toss them in the trash - they all work just fine - I don't keep guns around that don't work - simple as that. I either make them run properly, or I get rid of them if I can't fix the problems.
 
Now for the good news and the bad news. The good news is, the Ruger SR556E has a full-retail of only $1,375 and that's a bargain in my book - for all that you get - there are other piston-driven ARs on the market that retail for a whole lot more, but they don't give you more. Now for the bad news, with the big drought on all AR-style guns these days, if you can find an SR556E, they are going for about $2,000 these days. No, Ruger did not raise their prices, it's just supply and demand, and all SR556 rifles are in great demand, ever since they came out, people have wanted them. If you're in the market for a gas-piston AR, then take a very close look at the SR556E from Ruger - I think you'll like what you see - just don't pay too much - shop around and spend your money carefully. Now, after my wife shot my sample SR556E, she wants one of her own - she owns a different brand of AR-style rifle - a direct impingement version and while she shoots it very accurately, and hasn't had any problems with it - other than a few hang-ups with some Russian-made .223 ammo - she just likes the way the SR556E handles, and she doesn't hear that "twang" inside the buffer tube, like you hear with many direct impingement ARs - I personally don't hear it - after so many years of shooting, I have some hearing loss. But now I have to find a way to not only pay for my own SR556E sample, I have to see if Ruger can ship me another one for the wife. I should have learned long ago, to not let my wife shoot any of my gun samples, she has fallen in love with more than one and ended up in her growing collection.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio


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


Thursday, April 15, 2010


This tiny knife is a very durable piece of hardware.

Construction is of steel, with a hard phosphate or oxide finish. The pivot is adjustable with a spanner wrench, very smooth and has slick bushings. The lock is of the rotating handle design, with strong pins to hold the blade rigid when open. The handles swing easily open or closed, and remain in place in the hand without slipping.

The finish survived being dropped on a tile floor unmarked. The handle did open a fraction—the detent is fairly light.

As can be seen from the photos of the knife, it’s very small open and closed, with a blade about an inch long. This model has one side serrated and one plain, in AUS8 steel. The serrations are surprisingly fine with good geometry to cut rather than drag.

The serrated side was able to saw through an electrical cord in few strokes, with no damage to the teeth. The plain edge cut a 3/8” bevel all the way around a firewood log and still shaved hair. I jabbed the point in and bent until it popped a small divot of wood out, without damaging the tip at all. This was a fairly brief test, but the knife still looks brand new after it.

The design is similar to the OSS Thumb Dagger, and that is the best and most comfortable grip to use to hold it (See photos). It excels at chores such as opening packages and cutting cord, and easily stabs containers open. A variety of tests were conducted and it was still new looking and sturdy, and still shaving sharp. No tests were conducted on metal containers yet.

The knife also has a lanyard/key ring, and when folded is about the size of most common keys and keychain tools, so is very discreet for carry.

For those who prefer other blade designs, the company offers a flat chisel and hooked cutter “CopTool” for seatbelts and such, the “WrightKnife” that is single edged with a contour for the thumb, the “RhinoKnife” with a caping blade with gut hook, the “TalonKnife” with what appear to be line and cord cutters built in, and the “Kirkidashi Knife” that is a miniature damascus tanto. Chinese manufacture is quite standard in the blade industry anymore, but all are designed by well-known American bladesmiths, built under American license. The workmanship seems quite sound.

These would make great small knives for pocket carry, or as emergency tools for the vehicle. They’re small enough to carry in shorts or even a swimsuit pocket, or to keep in a vehicle console with a lanyard for easy access.

Most models retail at $34.95 and will undoubtedly be less expensive through most retailers.


Thursday, July 9, 2009


In descending order of frequency, the 78 readers that responded to my latest survey recommended the following non-fiction books on preparedness, self-sufficiency, and practical skills:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (Far and away the most often-mentioned book. This book is an absolute "must" for every well-prepared family!)

The Foxfire Book series (in 11 volumes, but IMHO, the first five are the best)

Holy Bible

Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

"Rawles on Retreats and Relocation"

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

The "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Tappan on Survival by Mel Tappan

Boston's Gun Bible by Boston T. Party

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Survival Guns by Mel Tappan

Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911 (Most readers recommend getting pre-1970 editions.)

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein 

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Preparedness Now!: An Emergency Survival Guide (Expanded and Revised Edition) by Aton Edwards

Putting Food By by Janet Greene

First Aid (American Red Cross Handbook) Responding To Emergencies

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

Cookin' with Home Storage by Vicki Tate

SAS Survival Handbookby John "Lofty" Wiseman

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping

The American Boy's Handybook of Camp Lore and Woodcraft

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by Maurice G. Kains

Essential Bushcraft by Ray Mears

The Survivor book series by Kurt Saxon. Many are out of print in hard copy, but they are all available on DVD. Here, I must issue a caveat lector ("reader beware"): Mr. Saxon has some very controversial views that I do not agree with. Among other things he is a eugenicist.

How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman

Tom Brown Jr.'s series of books, especially:

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking

Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (Field Guide)  

Total Resistance by H. von Dach

Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies by Hugh Coffee

Living Well on Practically Nothing by Ed Romney

The Secure Home by Joel Skousen

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikesby Cody Lundin

The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO's Contribution to Warfareby John Poole.

Camping & Wilderness Survival: The Ultimate Outdoors Book by Paul Tawrell

Engineer Field Data (US Army FM 5-34) --Available online free of charge, with registration, but I recommend getting a hard copy. preferably with the heavy-duty plastic binding.

Great Livin' in Grubby Times by Don Paul

Just in Case by Kathy Harrison

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

How to Survive Anything, Anywhere: A Handbook of Survival Skills for Every Scenario and Environment by Chris McNab

Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance by John & Martha Storey

Adventure Medical Kits A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicineby Eric A. Weiss, M.D.

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener  

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook (superceded the very out-of-date ST 31-91B)

Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition by Paul S. Auerbach

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Longby Elliot Coleman

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Government By Emergency by Dr. Gary North

The Weed Cookbook: Naturally Nutritious - Yours Free for the Taking! by Adrienne Crowhurst

The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson

Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John McPherson

LDS Preparedness Manual, edited by Christopher M. Parrett

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James H. Kunstler

Principles of Personal Defense - Revised Edition by Jeff Cooper.

Survival Poaching by Ragnar Benson

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman


Thursday, January 8, 2009


James;
I just recently purchased a MURS band Dakota Alert and Radio setup from [MURS Radio] that advertises on your site. Needless to say I got a screaming deal! I live in the Pacific Northwest, literally in the middle of dense woods. My radios and sensors arrived during one of the best snowfalls we have had in a while. All of the trees were loaded [with snow]. The temperature was in the very low 20s. Our terrain is mountainous.

Here are my results (which may be helpful to your readers who may be thinking about purchasing them):

[Dakota Alert MAT] Sensors: Solid transmission to Base station (located in a metal building) at 3/4 mile. Longer range not tested (It was cold, and I did not require longer range.)
Hand held transceivers [handi-talkies (HTs), [also made by Dakota Alert] to and from base station, solid to 1/2 mile, sketchy at 3/4 mile.
Sensors to HT solid transmission to 1/2 mile sketchy at 3/4 mile.
HT to HT solid at 1/2 mile sketchy at 3/4 mile.

Problems:
The sensor does not have enough transmission time to finish the third [repetition of the] "Alert Zone 2" message due to [an error in] the speed of the person recording the message. I contacted the manufacturer about it, and they said that all their current units are all this way. No one wants to be #2. (All other alert messages are fine) This is not a problem, but one does have to chuckle.
A cold vehicle (just started) dose not always activate the sensors. This is not a tactical problem but is an annoyance.

Suggestions:
BNC connectors and pull up antennas are leaky. In addition to the manufactures suggestion to add a packet of desiccant inside the sensors, I highly suggest wrapping the BNC connection and each segment joint of the antenna with COAX-SEAL.(A hand moldable plastic.) This will insure total water proofing of the unit. I plan on disguising my [chromed, collapsible] antennas by covering them with gray heat shrink [tubing] and a little magic marker action, then sealing the BNC with coax seal.

Since I live off the grid It makes no sense to run the base station (which is 12 Volt DC) off my inverter. I wired it up to my 12V distribution network that I use for all my comm devices Ham, CB, etc. Just to play it safe I contacted the manufacturer about the maximum voltage the unit could handle as I charge my batteries at 14.4V. They recommended some sort of voltage regulation device. You could "fab"one up or as they suggested, use a [voltage] regulating cigarette lighter plug. They said the unit would function at the higher voltage but it would be hard on it, and reduce it's life expectancy.

The only drawback is that there are only four alert messages, limiting the number of sensors you can use at one time. If you need more than four sensors you will need a second receiver. I plan on calling the manufacturer and suggesting a "record your own message" modification. I am totally pleased with these units. Thanks for listing them. - John

JWR Replies:
Thanks for the review. Here at the Rawles Ranch, we also use MURS band Dakota Alert transmitters in conjunction with some gently-used Kenwood transceivers. We bought all of these components from MURS Radio. Programming the transmitters to match our MURS frequency was quick and easy. We have been very pleased with their sensitivity and reliability. These are great products that provide a low-cost solution for detecting anyone entering our property.


Tuesday, October 3, 2006


Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA) Appleseed Shoot. What in the world can that possibly be? Well if you don't know, you need to read on. What you can learn from those "Revolutionary War Vets" could save your life! The Appleseed Program is one that is dedicated to preserving our American heritage as a Nation of Rifleman.
So what is a Rifleman? The RWVA web site tells us that "The obvious answer is that a Rifleman is an individual with a rifle and the skill and experience to use it, presumably well." But let me tell you from experience it is oh so much more than that. I found the Appleseed program when I was researching what Main Battle Rifle (MBR) to purchase. There are plenty of opinions on which is the best one and why. I began to see that the folks that seemed to make the most reasoned arguments for any particular rifle always added that the buyer has a responsibility to learn whatever weapon they are carrying. Learn it well to be able to put it to its best use....that means training! I finally figured out that the great Boston T. Party, author of the work "Boston on Guns and Courage" seemed to endorse this fellow named Fred.....no last name just Fred, and that Fred was traveling all over the country putting on Appleseed Rifle clinics. As soon as I realized how easy, and inexpensive it was to train with Appleseed I was determined to go. Never mind that the closest one to me would be in Alabama, a nine hour one way trip, my future as a Rifleman was at stake, so I convinced my wife she needed to learn too. We loaded up the car and took off for steamy Birmingham in July.
Every Appleseed starts off with a bit of a history lesson, a reminder of why your there. Lets you know that you are about to take part in something that may be unique even among supposedly free peoples. The right to gather as free citizens, train with, and shoot small arms. Fred himself told the story of men like Isaac Davis. I don't recall ever hearing his name before that day, but its one we should all know. Isaac Davis left his home and his sick children early on April 19,1775. He was answering the call of the muster drum as colonist gathered to meet the British forces marching on Lexington and Concord. The British marched to seize citizens, guns, powder, and shot. Isaac Davis left the relative safety and certain comfort of his home to stand with his fellow countrymen against tyranny, and the oppressions of an unjust government. Before that day was over Isaac Davis would become one of the first Americans to die for the cause of independence. I'm ashamed that I did not know his name. We also heard the story of how much better the colonist used there rifles for positive effect against the mighty British Army. We were reminded of an old and dying heritage and the importance of spreading the word and the skills to others so that this nation can always be a nation of Riflemen. Then we got to the shooting.
The measure used in building a "Rifleman" is the Army Qualification Target (AQT). On the target are printed head and torso size targets that get progressively smaller as you move down the page. At a relatively short range you can simulate firing at man size targets 100 to 400 yards away. You get forty timed shots, ten for each stage. You shoot stage one standing or offhand at the largest target. Stage two is shot sitting or kneeling, simulated 200 yards away. The targets for stage three and simulating 300 yards are fired prone, as are the last stage teeny tiny targets at the very bottom representing a 400 yard distance. Its all timed and a rifleman's score is 210 points out of a possible 250. I was shocked to see my incredibly low score as I approached the target. According to Fred you are either a Rifleman or you are a cook! With my first AQT score I bet the cook wouldn't even have me. I shot a dismal 87 points!
Once you find out where your at, the learning process really begins. There are six steps to firing every shot and your reminded constantly by the instructors to follow the six steps.
Number 1 Sight Alignment, you simply line up the front and rear sights.
Number 2 Sight Picture, while keeping the sights aligned you bring your sights onto the target.
Number 3 Respiratory Pause, this one took me a bit to get through my head. Once you have accomplished #1 and #2 you use the natural act of breathing to set your proper elevation. With the sights aligned and on target take in a breath, watch your sights fall. As you exhale, watch those sights rise. When the target sits atop your front sight post like a pumpkin on a fence, hold your breath, that's the Respiratory Pause!
Number 4 (a) You focus your eye on the front sight. Let the target and your rear sight go a little fuzzy and let your eye focus only on the front sight.
4 (b) You focus your mind on keeping that sharp front sight on your target. This is the big one!
Number 5 squeeze the trigger. But do it while concentrating on #4. Your doing two things here. Keeping that front sight on your target and squeezing the trigger.
Number 6 When the shot fires you call it. Take a mental note of exactly where the front sight was the instance the hammer fell. With practice it becomes pretty easy. This gives you feedback so you can adjust the follow up shots.
Something that really surprised me was the use of the sling. I remember hearing Grandpa talk about using his to steady his shot, but he died when I was far to young to understand what he meant. The Appleseed instructors got me squared away quick. I used a hasty or expedient hold with my basic sling. Simply place your support arm through the space between the Rifle and the sling, reach way in. Get the sling up past you elbow, and above or just below your bicep. Now, bring your hand back under the sling, and then though the space between the Rifle and your sling again. Rest the rifle on your support hand. You will need to adjust things so that when you do this the sling tightens into a nice supportive triangle of sorts. In the different positions you may need to give yourself more or less slack, practice to get it right. Once I got the sling thing figured out I was a good deal more steady and I really began to see my shot groups shrink. A tighter sling is better and in any of the positions you may well have to place the gun into your shoulder with your shooting hand. Its downright uncomfortable at first but once you get the sling positioning right you should be able to hold the rifle up without any help from your shooting hand.
The first position to fire from is the standing or offhand position. Its the one I was most familiar with from hunting and my previous experiences. Offhand is the most unstable and inherently inaccurate position to fire from. Basically you fire from standing only when a quick responsive shot is required such as to a sudden attack or target of opportunity. Most are familiar with it, I found that the addition of the proper sling use made me a better shot from standing.
The next position is sitting. It was demonstrated with both elbows to the front of the knees, rifle slung up snug. Remarks where made that some military sniper types can even get their elbows all the way out and on the ground in a super solid sitting position. Well that may be true, but I'm a 35 year old fat guy and I can't breath when I try that fancy schmancy sitting stuff. The Instructors showed me some modifications. The main point of both sitting and prone is to support the weight of the Rifle with as little muscle use as possible. You want bone to bone support so that your muscles don't fatigue and throw off your shot. I sorta sit back on my bent right leg and put my left leg out, foot on the floor in front of me. My left support elbow goes just in front of my knee and the rifle, slung up, rests, but is not gripped by my left support hand. Its the best compromise for me. My 12 year old daughter can curl up like a pony tailed Carlos Hathcock (if you don't know he was a highly decorated Marine Sniper in Vietnam). But I have to shoot "sitting" like one of those stiff green plastic Army men. Nonetheless I tend to shoot quite well from my modified kneeling position. My situation is what Appleseed Shoots are all about. Experienced Riflemen taught me a great way to overcome my physical limitations and still be a good shot. I have heard of guys that shoot the sitting position from their wheelchairs, the Appleseed staff will help make it work for you.
Prone is where you make your best points on the AQT. The 300 and 400 yard portions are fired in this position. The 400 yard targets are in a word small! And they give double the points of the other portions. In Prone the shooter lies on his or her belly, sling tight around the support arm as described above. Both elbows on the ground. Try and get your support arm as much under the Rifle as possible, I shoot a PTR 91 [a HK91 clone] and the magazine gets in the way. Prone is where a rifle without and external magazine like the M1 Garand really shines. We purchased 20 round mags for my daughter's AR just so she could shoot from a better Prone position. With the 30 rounders she had been using the mag acted like a see-saw and it was destroying her accuracy. In Prone your shooting leg gets pulled up to help absorb recoil. The support leg stays straight and your support foot should lay as flat to the ground as possible so as not to profile too much to an adversary.
An Appleseed Shoot is doing all off the above over and again to build you into a better shooter. The courses of fire are just plain fun. In addition to the AQTs there are some team drills, some shoot out the star like you used to be able to do at the county fair, zeroing drills and a lot more. My wife and I shot about 300 rounds each in two days in Birmingham. When I took my daughter to a different shoot we each fired about 200 rounds in 1 and a half days. When I told a hunting buddy how much you shoot he swore that much shooting was gonna just about wear out the barrel.....some guys have more to learn than others. The things I learned about shooting where perhaps not the most important things I took away from the experience.
The fellowship with like minded folks was worth every dime it cost me to attend the shoots. The chance to meet people from all over the country who are concerned about our rights, our heritage, and our country just like I am was invaluable. As a young boy I remember our Preacher always chastising us to come to Church anytime the door was open, not just to hear the word but to see each other. To draw support and courage from each other. Appleseeds, at least both that I have attended, where like that for me. I had a chance to meet men women and children that think like I do about my country. It was a chance to be a part of a collective will bigger than myself, it was, encouraging! If you can't make it to an Appleseed get trained somewhere! If you have any chance at all to make an Appleseed be sure you do, its worth every moment of your time. Either way be a part of re-building a nation of riflemen!
In a TEOTWAWKI situation, knowing your equipment and how best to put it to use is fundamental. Perhaps no part of preparations are more widely heralded and more misapplied than Firearms. Get trained somewhere! An Appleseed can go a long way in making you and your family much better prepared. Coming together in places like an Appleseed Shoot goes a long way towards preventing a TEOTWAWKI scenario as we build a community bathed in experience and steeped in tradition. With proper training each of your bullets can be precise and effective. Should the time ever come, an endless supply of ammo may not be available. Learn now to make every shot count. Any article that calls upon the memory of the Revolutionary War must include at least one quote from the founding fathers so here it is: "The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us." - Patrick Henry. Good Shooting, - MKH


Monday, February 27, 2006


The Weapon is a science fiction novel by Michael Z. Williamson. (481 pages. ISBN 9-781416-508946  Published by BAEN Books.) This is sort of a "intra-quel" storyline to Williamson's novel Freehold, which I previously reviewed. (See my Sunday, February 12, 2006 post.) Like Freehold, this novel is a fast-paced Libertarian think piece. It is a tale of interplanetary colonization, set some 500 years in the future. The descriptions of the bureaucratic totalitarian central Earth government are contrasted with the "Freehold" colony planet, Grainne. The main character is a Grainne special operations soldier that is sent on a "deep cover" mission to Earth. The story heats up when Earth decides to invade Grainne, to "civilize" it. I enjoy Williamson's writing. I enjoyed this novel even more than I did Freehold. I highly recommend it. There is quite a bit of violence and some adult situations, so it is definitely not a book to let your kids read. I should also mention that Michael Z. Williamson is a SurvivalBlog reader.

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