Friday, December 31, 2010

And the Winner Is...


Well, I went to Cabelas this evening to have a look at some reloading supplies, but the lack of human bombardment at the gun counter allowed me to check out a few things.  Of these, I found the two Ruger Super Redhawks I've been considering, both chambered for 454 Casull and both wrapped in the same grips and stainless steel finish.  These were perfect conditions for a tabletop comparison of the two guns.  I admire both for their particular strengths and acknowledge each gun's weaknesses.  After considering the matter, and speaking with the man behind the counter (a seemingly knowledgeable gun salesman for a change), I have concluded that the best one of these [for me] will be the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan. 

The Alaskan's balance of weight and feel just felt right to me.  It is reminiscent of my snub nose Ruger SP101 as far as dimensional characteristics go, but a lot lot bigger!  Make no mistake about it.  This gun is HUGE!  The first thing I said to myself when I picked it up was, "This is a big bitch."  Surprisingly, however, the weight isn't so much that it would be annoying to carry.  Empty weight is similar to a Ruger GP100 with a 6" barrel.  I imagine that loading up the cylinder with some 454 will make it decidedly heavier, but the comfort it will afford me when in the backwoods makes up for it. 

When I pointed the 7 1/2" barreled Super Redhawk, it felt very front heavy.  All that metal hanging out there leveraged against my hand and wrists to the point where I had to consciously correct for it.  That's all fine and good on the range, but when it counts, that barrel leverage could spell disaster should I find myself point-shooting the ground in front of a bear's paws.  True, the long barrel makes it more accurate, and it does look really cool (Lindsay likes it better as well), but for practical carry, it just doesn't fit me.  Holster options would be somewhat limited as well because a long barrel like that would make it hard to draw from a hip holster, let alone carrying all that weight down there off my belt.  No, a good cross draw style shoulder holster is a must with a weapon that large.  I just can't see myself getting used to that.  The more familiar and practiced draw from the hip is ideal for me, therefore I must sacrifice some velocity and power to achieve compactness and portability.  Besides, the 2 1/2" 454 is still more powerful than a 6" 44 magnum any day, and many a hunter find the 44 mag sufficient for bears.

At this point, the only way I could see getting the longer gun would be if I could have the barrel turned down to a more compact 5" or so.  Knocking off 2 1/2" would net me a lot better holster options as well as maintain some of that velocity of the full size version.  Hmm...

-James

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reload! Reload!

It had to come to this.  I'm 30 years old, and after 25 years of shooting, I'm finally going to do what used to be scary for me to think about: reloading.  I've been stewing over it for the last year or so and have been doing my homework.  From what I've read about, watched, and talked about, it really isn't hard at all, as long as you make sure you are doing it correctly.  Load too much charge, and you might blow your gun to pieces.  Load too little and you might get a round hung in the barrel, which is a quick way to ruin your afternoon.  Like any other hobby, job, or past time, you need to make sure you do it right.  If you follow the simple rules, everything should be fine.

These days, ammo is as expensive as it's ever been.  I remember some years ago, you could go in a buy Winchester SXT (now Ranger) ammunition for $13 for 50 rounds.  Nowadays, you can't touch a 20 round box for less than $25.  The price has effectively more than doubled.  Not only do you pay in excess of $10 more per box, but you get less than half of what you used to get.  I still have over 300 Black Talon (SXT) rounds with the black coating on the bullets.  I bought them almost a decade ago.  Nowadays, I could sell them all and make a small fortune (hmm, not a bad idea).  The fact of the matter is that when all things are considered, reloading makes economic sense.  In this economy, I can't afford to through money away on expensive range ammo.  It is time to start loading my own for a fraction of the price.

Reloading used brass has always been less expensive than buying new rounds.  Unfortunately, for me, I've always been a little hesitant to get into reloading because the "good" brands (like RCBS and Redding) are just so expensive.  I couldn't justify tripping over dollars to save cents.  There are less expensive sets on the market, but I've always had this myopic vision that less expensive = less quality.  This might still be the case, but in my old age, I've come to understand that just because you don't have the best does not automatically mean you have the worst.  In fact, I've spoken with people who use the bargain reloading presses and supplies and they are nothing but satisfied with them.  Of course, there are a few quirks to these tools, but I've read reports about quirky expensive tools ad nauseum.

For the beginning reloader, the most expensive is not really the best idea.  Say, for instance, I suck at it or lose interest in a month?  Well then what?  Sure, I'd have the best of the best, but it'd all be collecting dust.  What an investment!  No, for me, starting out with something good, but at a really good price is what I want to do.  For that, I've turned to Lee Precision.  Their Breech Lock Challenger Press kit has almost all the components I will need to get into Reloading.  Of course, I still need dies, case resizer, other small tools, and the stuff to make cartridges, but the kit will get me most of everything for just over $100.  That's a value to me.  I've read a lot of good things about the Challenger press.  It's not just for beginners like me, but some really experienced guys use it for their really special range loads, where accuracy and precision are paramount.  Of course, as I grow in the hobby, I can always upgrade.  I just want to get my feet wet for now and see how it goes.

Regarding price, this won't be some instant pay off thing.  The equipment investment is considerable and so are some of the things I need to do to make ready.  The area in my basement needs to have wiring run to it as well as a bench installed (no, I don't have an old desk or counter top lying around).  The payoff is long term.  But there will be some short term savings.  I have 100+ spent 45/70 cases sitting in my house.  Reloading just those will pay for the kit.  I also have a small cache of spent 357 and 38 special rounds and my dad has interest in getting some 30-30 stuff done.  This is not a bad way to go with these expensive cartridges.  If I make my weight loss goal and get a 454 casull handgun, reloading will really start to show the savings.  Over time, it could save me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.  Consider that I've probably got about 40 or so useful years left in my life, this could be a big thing for me.

-James 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eye On The Prize

You are probably thinking to yourself, "Those are really big guns" and you'd be right.  These are the Ruger Super Redhawk revolvers, and they aren't built for people who have recoil-phobia.  These guns are so big that the venerable 44 magnum is considered the lightweight cartridge offered for this lineup.  Offered in this line is the aforementioned 44 magnum and the completely insane 454 Casull cartridge.  The 454 is the mack daddy of Ruger's Super Redhawk lineup. 

At the end of the Century Club Challenge awaits one of these guns.  I have already decided on the cartridge I want - the 454 Casull.  The question is which gun do I really want, the 7.5" Super Redhawk or the 2.5" Super Redhawk Alaskan?

Looking at the reloading tables makes me immediately think to myself "Go for the 7.5" barrel!"  Just look at these numbers!

300 Grain XTP Bullet, loaded with 27.6gr of charge will travel at 1168 feet per second.  At the max of 28gr of powder, it could possibly hit 1700 fps.  Going with something more conservative, like a 250 grain Barnes X bullet will net you 1725 fps with 27.5gr of charge.  Loading it up hot can get it over 1785 fps.  That's one fast moving, really heavy bullet!  Even the lightweight 185gr XTP will go 2001 fps with a starting charge of 26.6gr.  Loaded up to its max, the potential is an out of this world 2159 feet per second... from a pistol!  At this speed, it's knocking on the back door of a 150 grain 30-30 round.  Yes, a 185gr 454 from a pistol can get going as fast as a 150 grain 30-30... from a rifle!  Amazing!

The shorter, 2.5" barrel on the Alaskan won't be able to match the speed and power from its longer barreled cousin, but consider that there is only a 10% reduction in speed (and 20% reduction in energy) from a gun that has had its barrel cut down by over 60%.  That's not a bad trade for a gun that is a bit more convenient to carry than the long barrel version.

And this gun will be for carry.  The Redhawk Alaskan was designed for the exact purpose I want; carry.  I'm not planning on concealed carrying this firearm.  This is for the outdoors, when I'm in the deep woods, where my chances of running into large wild critters is more likely than running into another human.  This fact, however, does not dissuade me, however, from getting the 7.5" barreled version of the gun, as anything can be carried if you plan it right.  Holster choice makes a huge difference and will play a large role in determining which gun I decide on.

All in all, either one of these guns is a worthy prize, worthy of the Century Club Challenge.  As I continue to research these firearms, I will eventually come to a conclusion as to which will be best suited for me.

-James

The Century Club Challenge

For 2011, I have a lot of agenda items that I want to address; things like beginning reloading, bulking up food storage, updating camping gear, and storing away more ammo just to name a few.  However, all of these pale in comparison to the single most important agenda item on my 2011 list of things to do: The Century Club Challenge.  What is The Century Club Challenge, you ask?  It's a club that my friend Amy and I came up with for losing 100 lbs in one year.

How's it work?

It's simple.  Lose 100 lbs in 2011 and you will be rewarded with something expensive that your spouse will buy for you.  It is a motivational club dedicated for getting us fat kids to lose weight with the prospect of obtaining something we really really want, but wouldn't normally be able to get.  It's sort of like hanging a carrot on a string in front of a turtle to make it walk the direction you want.  When all else fails to motivate this chubby hubby to lose weight, dangle something I really want in front of me.  In this case, a really nice and very expensive, not entirely practical, but equally cool firearm.

The rules are simple, and there aren't that many.

1. Weigh in on January 1, 2011.  This is your start weight.
2. Lose 100 lbs throughout the year of 2011.  How you choose is up to you, but surgery doesn't count.
3. If by January 1, 2012, you have lost 100 lbs, you get your reward.  If you do not succeed, you don't get your reward.

Losing 100 lbs in one year is a tall order.  It will be very difficult to do so and a lot of motivation, fortitude, perserverance, determination, patience, discipline, healthy eating habits, and exercise are the only ways to achieve this huge goal.  But consider this is called THE CENTURY CLUB CHALLENGE.  We wouldn't call it a challenge if it was going to be easy.  It is supposed to be hard and seemingly insurmountable.  Otherwise, what is the point?  Go big or go home!  I've never aimed for a goal I could easily reach.  I've always aimed high.  I'd rather aim high and miss by a margin than aim low and hit everytime.

My friend Amy and I are already on board.  If anyone wants to join us, let us know and we will include your stake in the running for the big prize.  Remember, you have to lose 100 lbs in one year.  No cheating.

Good luck!

-James

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

From ours to yours, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas... even if the hour is somewhat late.

-James

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gun Is Civilization

The Gun Is Civilization
by Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret)

Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.

In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.

The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we'd be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a [armed] mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger's potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat--it has no validity when most of a mugger's potential marks are armed.

People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

Then there's the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser.

People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don't constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker If both are armed, the field is level.

The gun is the only weapon that's as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weight lifter. It simply wouldn't work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn't both lethal and easily employable.

When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation... and that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

By Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Winter Shootout



Welcome to the 2010 Winter Shootout! This is an annual tradition that Lindsay and I started a few years ago with some college friends. The goal is two fold: to get friends together to have some fun and to identify weaknesses in firearms from shooting in not-so-ideal conditions. Most years, it is snowing and cold. This year, it was cold and a ton of rain with some mud mixed in.

Aside from the obvious fun we were having with some good friends, I have some good news to report on for a few of my guns. These are described in the following order: Ruger SR9 drop test, Ruger SR9c CCW, Rock River Arms AR15, and the Beretta M9A1.

The controversial Ruger SR9 drop test: If you read my previous blog, and watched the video, you can see the gut-wrenching shot of me dropping a perfectly good gun into the mud and then without so much as a quick wipe down, I load it and fire 10 flawless rounds out of it. Rather than worry about the reasons why I dropped it, I will focus on the aftermath. After shooting the SR9 with mud caked onto it, the group continued to shoot it that day, dumping more than 100 rounds out of it without a single problem. Accuracy was dead on and I was hitting every water bottle and clay pigeon I aimed for. The gun handled the cold, rain, and mud without a single problem. I'm also happy to report that after 1 1/2 hours of detail stripping and intense cleaning, the gun is now 100% cleaned and lubed up, ready for the next adventure.

The Ruger SR9c CCW: This is my primary carry weapon. I carry it around on my person 99% of the time I am lawfully able to do so. As such, I normally give it a wipe down once a week with a good cleaning each month, just to get the lint that accumulates off of the trigger and internal components. This time, rather than cleaning it, I just left all that stuff on the gun and shot it as is, linty trigger and all. This gun performed flawlessly as well and was as accurate as the full size SR9. Unlike the full size, this gun did not get dropped in the mud, however, I was sure to carry it around in my hand a lot in order to let the rain water get all over it. This torture test was hardly enough to make the gun give in. On the contrary, the SR9c handled 100+ rounds without issue.

The Rock River Arms AR15: Rock River got somewhat of a bad reputation on one of the gun forums a while back from so-called purists who obviously know a lot less about AR15's than they would lead you to believe. According to these Internet "eggspurts," any Rock River Arms AR15 would jam every other round and blow up in your face. Additionally, these "eggspurts," refuse to take their reportedly superior rifles out to the deep woods and subject them to the elements, preferring instead to shoot from covered ranges, protected from the rain and dirt. Well, my AR15 is no range bitch! I bought my AR15 to be a mud gun. The whole idea was to have this gun riding shotgun with me when I'm out in the woods. Well, we put over 150 rounds through this gun, in the rain and dirt without a single malfunction. The only preparation this gun had for this abuse was a thorough cleaning after the last time it was out in September. Other than that, this gun was not prepped for action in any way. It shot and shot and would not stop shooting because a bunch of rain and debris got all over it. And believe me when I tell you that last night, when we were cleaning this gun, it was really nasty looking and very dirty. Water was everywhere and even though you wouldn't think debris could get into a gun that wasn't dropped on the ground, there was. This trip out confirmed what I already know: if you buy a Rock River Arms AR15, you won't be disappointed.

My newest, the Beretta M9A1: What can I say? It shoots! The Beretta cannot be trifled with a little torrential downpour. It laughs in the face of rainfall on biblical scales. Sadly, this gun did not see as much use as the SR9's but then again, a Beretta handgun has nothing to prove. The gun was accurate, predictable, and wrap-around grips I installed really helped out in the cold weather. One of our friends, a former Marine, commented that he really liked how the Streamlight TLR-1s made the balance of the gun better when shooting, as it helped with recoil. I have to concur with that. The Beretta M9A1 is a powder puff to shoot and it is deadly accurate out of the box with the standard 3-dot sights.

Overall, the paces I ran my guns through were sufficient for me and my training. Most people will not subject their guns to the crap I do simply because they think that water will make their guns rust shut immediately. Not so. It is good to note that after the shooting trip was over, everyone gathered at my house to help clean the 11 weapons that were subjected to the soggy stuff in an effort lessen the amount of cleaning I had to do as well as ensure that the guns were put back into order before being put up. I really have to hand it to my friends for that; they are a class act and I would not hesitate to take them shooting again.

-James

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Update To The Ruger SR9 Dropped In The Mud

After dropping the Ruger SR9 in the mud, and then firing it for the camera, the group I was shooting with continued to fire the weapon over the course of the morning. I did not do anything to clean the gun after dropping it. I wanted to get it home and crack it open for the still camera.

When I got the weapon apart, the real story began to be told. From the video, it looked as though the gun just landed in some muddy water and that was it. What the video camera didn't pick up was the mud, grit, and plant debris that found their way into the guts of the weapon.

Yes, that is organic plant material, mud, and a lot of grit buildup. If the SR9 was going to malfunction, it was being very stubborn. The gun continued through another 100 rounds of 124gr 9mm FMJ without a single hiccup. That's not bad for a gun that was taken right out of it's case and dropped into the mud and fired.

I'd trust my life with it.

-James

Ruger SR9 Dropped in the Mud



First, before you think to yourself, "this guy must be insane," allow me to explain.

This idea came about from reading some bad press about the Ruger SR9 in the forums and some websites. There was a video or two about the Ruger SR9 not being able to function properly in the real world, and would malfunction. The videos I watched were not cut and dry and showed a lot of operator error, which was probably the cause of every malfunction. To that end, I decided that I'd find a nice raining day in which to drop my SR9 in the mud and fire it without so much as wiping it off. This video shows a Ruger SR9 with the slide locked open, dropped into a mud puddle with a magazine (loaded with 10 rounds) dropped in right after. As you can see in the video, the only thing I did to the gun after I picked it up was shake it off a bit before loading the filthy magazine in and firing all the catridges without a single hiccup. Think a little dust can stop a SR9? Try mud!

Oh yeah, the woman screaming at me was my wife, who was none too happy about me dropping my gun into the mud like that. If you listen closely, you can hear her say, "If you have to spend a dollar to make that thing work again, you're sleeping outside."

Looks like I'm sleeping inside tonight.

-James

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

-FDR, speech given December 8, 1941

Monday, December 6, 2010

Progress

We have finally laid down the first in many coats of paint in the upstairs portion of our house.  No, the salmon orange paint is not what we are putting on.  That's what I'm glad to say is going away.  What you really see in this picture is the white ceiling paint applied just this morning to cover up the sockeye orange that someone once thought was a good idea. 

It's taken just over 3 years to get here.  After painting all the rooms downstairs, adding and taking away appliances, fixtures, moving electrical sockets around and fixing the problems left by the previous owners, we are moving our remodel upstairs.

Ironically, The upstairs project is going to jump start the rest of the house.  To date, most of the work has been paint and trim, but after the beginning of the new year, we will lay new floors down upstairs and it will steadily work it's way downstairs.  We are tired of looking at the old floor.  Oh, it is so gaudy to look at.  Just the carpet removal in the room pictured was an adventure.  We tore through two more layers of floor to get to the original.  It was worth it though.  Years of animal stained, urine soaked carpet are gone and the upstairs has taken on a fresh new feel as a result.  For too long, I thought this room was a lost cause and would be the last frontier of our home make-over.  Well, with changing plans, new ideas, and a little outside-of-the-box thinking, the room has leaped from the back burner and has become the new front in this endeavor to make the home more useful.  Just wait till you see what color Lindsay has in mind.

-James

5 Ridiculous Gun Myth Everyone Believes Thanks to Movies

Anyone not familiar with guns... and even some who think they are... should read this article.

http://www.cracked.com/article_18576_5-ridiculous-gun-myths-everyone-believes-thanks-to-movies.html

-James

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Carrying In Your Home

A few weeks ago, I was watching the movie, "Law Abiding Citizen."  The first scene starts out innocent enough.  Dad is in his home office tinkering with something, as most dads do.  The kids are close at hand, and the wife is somewhere else in the house, possibly cooking dinner or reading a book.  Suddenly, an unexpected knock is heard at the door.  The husband goes to answer.  When he opens the door, a stranger immediately lunges forward and punches Dad in the face.  Unexpected as this is, Dad is immediately overtaken and thrown to the ground.  A shiv is jabbed into his rib cage to ensure he can't easily move.  His wife is thrown to the ground, her clothes ripped off, and raped while Dad is helpless to do anything to the attackers.  The child is murdered and the killers get away without so much as a scratch.

All too often, home invasions occur when the occupants are inside.  Most crooks looking for some quick and easy grab won't risk invading a home when the owners are there, but some people aren't looking for jewelry to sell.  Some are looking for a thrill, or seeking revenge for something you may have done or said to them.  Some invaders may indeed be looking for loot to steal, but they are so drugged out of their minds that common sense is all but lost and they desperately need something to steal.

Contrary to popular belief, door locks won't slow a determined criminal down.  Glass windows, garage doors, and sliding patio doors are just a few weaknesses in the home.  Where you live may matter, but burglaries happen in nice neighborhoods more than the local governments will admit. 

Home invasions do occur in the United States on a frequent basis.  If you are lucky, it happens when you are out to the store, on vacation, or some other instance when you are not at home.  If you are unlucky, it will happen while you are inside the house.  If you should be home when someone breaks in, what is your recourse?

Fortunately, in the state of Washington, we have a "stand your ground" law that says that you do not have to retreat if attacked.  This is similar to "Castle Doctrine", but extends to everywhere you are allowed to be legally.  For the purposes of this entry, I'm focusing on the home. 

Let's just say that you are in a similar situation to the movie, "Law Abiding Citizen."  You're at home on a Tuesday night.  Your kid is in the dining room doing homework at the table, your wife is putting laundry in the dryer, and you are cleaning up after dinner.  Suddenly, you hear a knock on the door.  You go to answer it, and when you open the door, you are met by someone with a gun to your face.  Now what?  From the looks of it, you are fucked.

As a concealed pistol license holder, I carry a gun wherever I can legally do so.  This means that if I'm going to the mall, the grocery store, the park, the zoo, traveling to see relatives, or doing anything that I can do with my liberty, I'm armed.  Most importantly, I carry a concealed weapon inside my home.

Why carry in your home?  Don't you feel safe in your house?  Sure.  I feel completely safe inside these walls.  My family and I have worked hard to leave the world outside the house and make it a haven for us to gather and grow closer.  Home is a source of comfort and strength.  At the end of a long day at work, all I want to do is go home and be with my family.

I also understand that the world can be a very dangerous place.  With homes being burglarized everyday in America, it's only a matter of statistics that my house may be intruded at some point in my life.  The question is, should someone decide come to my house when I'm there, will I be the one with a gun pointed at my head, or will the intruder soon learn that my house is the wrong one to invade?

One thing that people need to understand is that most people who carry a legally concealed firearm don't just carry in places they think they might need it.  If I thought to myself, "I think the place I'm going to go to may require me to be armed," I might not go there.  Why would I go looking for trouble?  The thing is that you never know if you will need your firearm, so you take it everywhere.  In my mind, that means you carry in the home too.  And why not?  100% of home invasions happen in the home.  Whether or not you are there is up to a million other variables that you cannot always account for.

So, the setting is again put forth.  Your family and you are at home on Tuesday evening and you hear someone knock at the door.  Not expecting company, you go to see who it is.  WAIT!!!  Just because you have a gun doesn't mean you just open the door to anybody.  You need to understand yet another facet of concealed carry.  It is a thing we in the firearms community refer to as "condition yellow."

Yes, long before the federal government came out with a fancy color code to indicate terrorist threat levels, the concealed carry community was already implementing a color code for personal defense.  Condition yellow is a state of mind where you are always aware of your surroundings.  You are noticing people, cars, buildings, types of clothing, behaviors, etc that help keep you aware of everything going on in your immediate vicinity.  Sounds paranoid, doesn't it?  Try telling that to the father of a household who was killed because someone came to his house to supposedly buy a diamond ring he had for sale.  Was he at condition yellow?  Was he aware?  No, he let his guard down because the people sounded friendly.  I went over this story in a previous blog.  Suffice it to say, he made the mistake of not being completely aware of what was going on, and in the end, it cost him his life.  A few life saving measures would have benefited him that day, but he chose to ignore them.

Not so paranoid now, huh?  I didn't think so.  Besides, let's look at another example.  When you drive your car, are you just completely relaxed and not paying attention?  Or are you focused on driving and making sure that you know where all the vehicles, pedestrians, roads and street signs are?  Are you not paying attention?  That is what condition yellow for concealed carry is.  When you carry a concealed firearm, you have a responsibility to pay attention to those around you.  Otherwise, why the hell are you armed?

In my house, we pay attention.  We know when our friends are supposed to come over, and we know if we are expecting company, and we watch for it.  Even if the knock is expected, we don't just open the door.  We make a quick check to see that the person on the other side of the peep hole is who they are.  Only a fool answers a blind door to someone, especially if they are not expecting company. 

Now, replay the scene.  You are doing the dishes, your wife is in the basement doing laundry, and your kid is at the dining room table finishing up their homework.  Suddenly, you hear a knock on the door.  Not expecting company, you immediately give pause and move toward the front door cautiously.  You first check the peep hole or use another room window to see who is at the door or what car is in the driveway.  You see that the person has a gun in his hand.  Now what?  Well, that's all up to you and your training.  Personally, I'd call the police and tell them an armed person is at your home and that you are about to defend your family, but that's me.

The point is that you didn't just open the door and put yourself into a bad situation.  You have the advantage if you control the access points.  This also means keeping your doors locked even when you are home.  How bad would it be if you came downstairs and found a person in your front room?  You lose control when you lose the access points.  The reason medieval soldiers were protected in fortresses was because they controlled the access points and directed where the attacking army would have to go.  The situation is not all that different in your house.  No, I'm not saying to barricade yourself in so that the outside world is completely shut out.  I'm simply saying that a few small measures to ensure that you, the head of the house, remain in control of your house at all times.

-James

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It appears that Crossbreed has brought back their IWB mag carrier in either single or dual configuration. They are also offering a OWB version in single or dual. The question is which to get?





I experimented with my supertuck and minituck, inserting the minituck on my weakside hip and holstering my SR9c in the supertuck on the strong side. My pants weren't overly tight and the belt held and secured both IWB holsters well without any discomfort or weirdness. The minituck was there to kind of simulate what a IWB mag carrier would feel like.

I have a dual mag carrier made of Kydex. I don't like it for concealed carry because it locates the magazines too far away from my body for proper concealment. Plus, having two magazines that stick out that far tend to get in the way and poke & scratch at my arm. I can only imagine the kind of havoc they would wreak on my shirts.

But Crossbreed seems to have hit it on the head with their OWB design. The mags seem like they would be pulled in tight against the belt and would ride close to the body without scratching (due to the leather that goes up and over the magazine.

However, the real big difference appears to be where the magazines would ride with each carrier. The OWB seems to make the magazines ride high so as to make concealment while OWB possible. The IWB carrier, on the other hand, appears to make the magazine(s) ride lower since they are covered by the pants. It seems to me that the only part of the magazine visible would be the part that is not covered by the kydex. With the OWB carrier, a good 2/3 of the magazine(s) would ride above the belt line.

While having the magazine(s) ride high is good for tactical use, it doesn't lend itself to concealed carry as well as the lower riding IWB setup. I know from experience that the high riding magazines can jab into the kidney area or ribs, depending on your body type. They don't always lend themselves to comfort in a vehicle or in a situation where you might be sitting down for prolonged periods (say, at a movie theater).

On the other hand, a lower riding magazine may not be as easily pulled from the carrier, which could add critical seconds to a reload, and could potentially cost you your life. Then again, when I think about it, the whole act of concealed carry tends to slow you down a bit anyway, and 99% of the time, comfort and concealment win over tactical ergonomics and ultimate speed. In reality, with enough training, one can become fast with concealed weapons and carriers, so speed might be a moot point.

The other question would be this: go single or dual? There isn't much of a cost difference between the two, so money really shouldn't a factor in the decision. The decision comes down to whether or not I really need two extra magazines for my concealed carry gun. Do I need to carry all that extra ammunition with me just to go to the grocery store or the mall? Maybe... maybe not. Perhaps one could order the dual and just use one of the mag holders available? Good question.
 
I'm still torn. Go IWB or OWB? Go dual or go single?  I used to carry dual mags weak side with my Beretta 92 FS riding IWB strong side - no joke. It was 46 rounds of ammunition carried on my person when I went out like that. That's a lot of lead. With a SR9c, 10rd mag in the gun, and two 17rd backups, there are 44 rounds available. Decisions decisions.
 
-James

Monday, November 29, 2010

Crossbreed Supertuck Deluxe: Update

On October 8, 2010, I received my Crossbreed Supertuck Deluxe inside-the-waistband holster in the mail.  Now, nearly two months later, I have worn this holster everyday with my Ruger SR9c.  Since I enjoy reading feedback on different products that others have purchased, I decided to input some of my own for this most excellent holster.

As I said above, I bought this for use with my Ruger SR9c as a concealed carry setup.  The combination of the SR9c and the Crossbreed Supertuck are a match made in Heaven.  The Crossbreed supports this 1 lb 12 oz gun very well with the two widely spaced metal belt clips.  They distribute the load of the weapon over a broad area, which helps to keep the gun in place and not move.  Trust me when I say that this gun does not shift position at all when I'm carrying it.  The large patch of leather provides structural rigidity for the kydex to hold onto and helps to retain the pistol against the body without sacrificing comfort. 

The kydex on my holster had good retention from the factory, but I wanted just a bit more.  So, armed with a hair dryer, and a lot of patience, I was able mold it to better suit my retention preference.  When I draw the pistol, I just give it a firm tug and the gun releases completely and draws very smoothly.  Yet when it is retained within the confines of the holster, it does not drop out.  I can shake the snot out of it and it won't drop, even fully loaded.

Now, before you think that messing with the kydex is a bad thing, understand that Crossbreed actually sends you instructions on how to adjust the retention yourself, or you can send it back to them and they will adjust it for you.  Kydex is really easy to work with and to mold with nothing more than a folded towel against the firearm.  The only reason I adjusted mine is because I wanted more retention so the gun would not fall out when sitting in seats, getting into or out of a car, etc etc.  I have no doubt it would stay put the way it came, but Crossbreed understands that people have different retention preferences and it is nice to have the ability to alter it without affecting the return policy.

I've experimented with different locations of carry, from 3 o'clock to about 4:30.  I've found that hiding it behind my kidney at 4:30 works the best for this particular gun.  Your mileage may vary, as mine does with my LCP in a Crossbreed minituck.  a quarter after 3 o'clock works best for that gun.  Either way, each weapon is different, so your carry method will vary with each design.

My holster came with horsehide leather, but dyed cowhide is available.  I chose horsehide because it is more durable than cowhide and will hold up against the perspiration of my body more effectively.  Plus, I like the natural look of the horsehide with this holster.  Over time, the leather conforms to the shape of the individual wearing it and the leather tends to hold the shape, even after the holster is removed and stored.  This conformity adds to the overall comfort of the rig and also helps keep it in place.  Lastly, on the leather, it provides a good cushion between the firearm and the user.  This is a key benefit because I have owned holsters that allowed the barrel, cylinder, and frame of my Ruger SP101 to dig into my body.  This does not happen with the Crossbreed holster.

The Crossbreed holster is adjustable too.  While I have not experimented with adjustment for my SR9c, I have done so with the Crossbreed Minituck for my LCP.  The Supertuck comes with the clips in the middle position on the holster, but you can unscrew them and move the clips up and down in predrilled holes or even offset them for different cant.  The neutral position for the Supertuck is more or less a FBI cant, which positions the gun so that the barrel and slide face backward slightly.  This is beneficial because the grip doesn't stick out the back as far as it would if the barrel and slide were oriented straight down.  If you desire more or less forward/backward cant, you can adjust it easily. 

As far as comfort goes, if I was to rate this on a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a solid 9 1/2 up to a 10, ten of course being extremely comfortable.  When I'm out and about, the holster provides the comfort and support needed to keep the gun in place and I'm not constantly fidgeting with the rig.  Occasionally, I need to hike the gun and holster up, but I also need a better belt.  The belt I have is sturdy, but I'd like something a bit thicker and stronger.  But pulling up on the belt is just something guys do.  We tend to adjust ourselves, so pulling up on the belt doesn't attract unwanted attention.  I've also found that the tighter you keep the belt, the better the rig stays in place. 

All in all, I'm a huge fan of these holsters.  They aren't the prettiest things in the world, but then again, they aren't designed to be shown off.  They are designed for concealment and they do a good job at that.  For more information on Crossbreed holsters, go to http://www.crossbreedholsters.com/.

-James

Uninsured? Warrant? Drunk? Either way, YOU SUCK!

To the individual who backed their car into my Dodge Ramcharger, YOU SUCK!

I know it's not in the spirit of Christmas to tell someone they suck, but bashing your car into my truck and then driving off isn't exactly the thing an honorable person would do.  There were witnesses, you know.  In fact, you might have seen them as they were running out to you to try to stop you from fleeing the scene.  Thank God for my neighbors.  We have a good description of your vehicle, part of your your license plate number, and yourself.  From what I hear, your car didn't fair too well either.  My neighbor across the street told me that your trunk was curled up and your bumper was dragging on the ground.  You must have hit my truck pretty hard when you were backing up because part of your tail light lens ended up on top of the hood of my truck.  Fortunately, my truck didn't receive much in the way of real damage; just a bent bumper, a scratch of paint on the fender, some damage to the grill surround and a cracked headlight bezel is all my truck endured.  I've done worse damage on the trail.

Now, as inconvenient as it is to have some superficial damage done to my truck, I'm glad to know your car is most likely a total loss.  Serves you right for being a douchebag!  You probably didn't have insurance anyway, or you might have stopped and left a note, or tried to find the owner (me).  Or maybe you have a warrant for your arrest and didn't want to get caught because you knew that I would call the police and you'd be making your acquaintence with Bubba right about now.  Maybe you were drunk.  Either way, you're a piece of shit and you are very lucky I didn't see you do this.  Otherwise I'd be all over you like white on rice. 

I doubt I will ever see you, but rest assured that if I do, your ass is going to jail!  Should the police find your car (yes, I filed a report and they were able to get a sample of your car's paint, which you left on my bumper), you can be certain that I will press charges against you for the inconvenience you caused me.  Your life is probably already in shambles, so I won't feel guilty about cramming the full extent of the law right up your ass!

-James

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Second Wave in the Christmas Season Trifecta



Actually, it starts on Halloween for us because we go all out decorating our house in spookiness for the kids on October 31st. Then comes Thanksgiving and that's always a great time to be with family and friends. Plus, the fall decorations and colors adorning the front porch help elevate our family into the "Tis the season" mode. Now, the day after Thanksgiving, while others are running around like chickens with their heads cut off (celebrating the commercialism that has become Christmas), I woke up at 8ish and slowly made my way out of bed by say 9ish. Then the wife and I get the kids ready and take a leisurely drive down to our favorite place to buy Christmas trees. Each year that we've bought trees at this particular location, we've always gotten a picture-perfect Noble fir tree with which to cram 1200+ lights and buckets of random, fun ornaments.

While the wifenator is busy stuffing strands of lights into the tree, I'm busy outside hanging lights from the porch and getting lights strung around the window frames and doors. We top it off with a couple of festive looking lighted penguins to greet well wishers at the front porch. The decorations then spill into the rest of the living room, kitchen, and eventually find their way into the dining room. The sounds of Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols can be heard in the home and the smell of sweet sugar cookies (via a scented candle) waft into every room of the home, mixing with the smells of Cinnamon from the gigantic pine cones that make up part of our table centerpiece.

The Christmas Season is officially here, at least in our house.

-James

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Man Shoots a .45 With His Feet!

I know what you're thinking. This is some sort of publicity stunt. Nope. My friends, this is Michael and he has overcome some obvious disadvantages in his life. He not only shoots his .45 with his feet, but he loads the catridges into the magazines and loads his own gun. Now, if this man can get out there and shoot a fullsize semi-auto pistol without the advantage of having arms and hands, what is stopping you? Get out there and shoot!



-James

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Where's Your Vault?

First, before I begin, let me be clear.  I am no stranger to owning a high quality gun safe.  The safe pictured to the left is one that I used to own, but is still in the family.  It is an American Eagle AE-35 safe, made by Cannon.  It is a very good and sturdy safe, loaded with all the goodies to keep my guns and valuables safe (pun intended). 

However, after moving twice, I soon realized that there was no good place to put this behemoth in the home I had bought.  So, I sold it to someone near to me and it is in his possession for "safe" keeping.

However, after itemizing all the guns in my house, and reading about how someones guns were stolen by a burglar, I have decided to get a new safe.  When someone breaks into your house and steals nothing but your guns (not even your ammo), you know what they were looking for, and it is a pain in the butt to track your guns down.  In many cases, you will never get them back.  Then there is the possibility that the guns you rescued from the street will end up back on the street to commit crimes and possibly murder someone.  That is not a reassuring feeling.

But what about other valuables, like laptop computers or jewelry?  What about important documents like social security cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, family pictures, etc?  How do you protect those from fire or theft?  The above safe is ideal for all that and more.  When I owned it, I kept the guns on the side, the bottom lined with ammo, and the top shelves contained sensitive electronics and papers that I was interested in holding onto. 

Now, as I am on the hunt for a new safe, I will expound on what you may be looking at if you decide that it is a good idea for you to invest your hard-earned money in something that will save your other investments, and your ass, if the worst should ever happen to you. 

Of course, you have the entry level safe.  This is one that will usually withstand 1200-1400 degrees F for 30-45 minutes.  The locking mechanisms are pretty strong and will stand up to your run of the mill burglar looking for easy cash for drugs.  Additionally, this safe will be an insurance best bet against fire or other types of destruction that may occur.  Remember, you don't need to store guns in a safe - just the things that are valuable to you (for me, that is guns).  Most safes have a seal that expands when exposed to high heat to basically turn it into a monster sized cooler for your valuables.  They normally have a substantial amount of heavy pins around the door to keep the bad guys out.  These safes cost between $600 and $1400.

To be honest, this is exactly the type of safe I'm looking for at this time.  Yes, I know, I can spend more money elsewhere and get something that is more durable, theft-resistant, fire-resistant, and heavy, but I need a safe fast and on the cheap.  Keeping the guns in the closet just isn't cutting it anymore.

The next level up in safes (where most people buy if they are buying just one) has larger door pins, more door pins, better sealing, thicker steel, more fire protection, and the locks are usually larger and stronger.  Safes like this can run between $1500-$2000 depending on the quality, company, and size.  Plus, you usually buy into a larger safe to store more stuff.  If you buy just one safe, then this is for you.  Buy as big as you can afford, but make sure it will fit in the desired place in your house.

See, I don't plan to buy just one safe.  I plan on buying two.  Why?  Simple, I will have one for documents and valuables and one for guns.  The gun collection in my house grows almost monthly these days.  I need a dedicated safe for them, and it will be a big one.  But until then, I can get away with something a little less expensive that will do the job until something like a tax return comes in or I refinance my house.  Additionally, I can move smaller safes by myself rather than having to hire a safe moving company to do the job.  When you live in an area that isn't always ideal, it's best to invest your money into something that will save you should the time ever come that the burglar decides it's your turn to get robbed.

-James

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finally! The Bug Out Bag!

The last time I left off, I wrote about the need for a smaller bag that holds your absolute essentials. Things like a few band-aids, a small bottle of water, granola bars, etc comprise this little bag.

Today, it's all about BOB. A bug out bag, by any other name is a bag. It can be anything you want it to be. It can be a simple backpack costing just $20 all the way to an elaborate system costing more than $250. Either way, it will perform one basic function: gear storage.

What kind of bag you decide to use will depend on your situation and what you intend to use it for. If you are an urban dweller, and only need something to get a few miles, you could probably get away with a lot less than the guy who might have to walk a few days to get home. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on the guy who needs more gear. You may or may not need all of this, but it will cover nearly everything.

The setting: You travel more than 50 miles away from home everyday. You live in an area that is at higher risk for earthquakes and volcanoes than some places. You have a lot of bridges between you and your house, and traffic ranks in the top 5 worst in the nation. You're going to need a bag, but you can't just have any bag. You need something that will have a few extras that your high school Jansport backpack didn't.

Requirements for a Bug Out Bag:

1. Durable! Durability needs will vary per user, but try to buy the most durable bag you can afford. Military style bags will probably get you the most bang for your buck because they use simple materials and are built for combat.

2. Roomy. Get something that will have enough room for your 72 hour kit.

3. Comfortable. This is where bags can get very expensive, so be careful. You will need something that has a good suspension system. Padded shoulder straps, sternum straps, and a good hip belt are a must. Get a padded hip belt to make your life better. Having rigidity in the pack helps distribute load between the shoulders and hips.

4. Low profile. Don't get an outrageous "LOOK AT ME" pack. I have one of those for camping and backpacking. It has Osprey embroidered proudly across the back so everyone following me can see it. That pack was expensive, it's rugged, and it's not for survival. Get something that gives you a lower profile.

5. External Attachment points. More of a "would like to have" item, external attachment points on your pack will allow you to bring along things that may not fit inside, like a sleeping bag or tent.

Now, if you know that you will never be more than a day's walk from home, you probably won't need anything more than a basic backpacking pack, and that's okay. You can buy them used all over the place and they are in really good condition. I would avoid external frame packs because, even though they can be comfortable, they are cumbersome and take up a lot of space in the trunk of your car.

The particular pack I have my eyes on has all the required things for my 50+ mile from home activities and none of the fancy crap that would make me stand out. It is the BUGOUT GEAR Tac Ruc E&E bag.


I chose this design based on all the 5 requirements that I wrote above. It has a nice comfy suspension system, it's large (5900 cu in), it has attachment points all over it, it is hydration bladder compatible (3 liters), it is made of rugged canvas, and to anyone seeing me with it, it looks like a humdrum army surplus bag. But this is a lot more.

Now, I'm not suggesting you go out and buy THIS particular pack. This is simply what I'm looking at for my uses. This pack comes in a tan, camo, and black. For emergency use, the tan one might work the best simply because it will blend in to the surrounding environment. Camoflauge will as well, but in an urban setting, camo will actually attract attention. Black isn't found in nature much, so even at night, it could stand out.

Do some research. Check out uscav.com, or just google bug out bag and see what you get. Visit an army surplus store, or a backpacking store. Don't be disappointed if a bag you thought you liked doesn't work out in the end.  It is going to take some research and footwork on your end, but when you find what works for you, then your hardwork has paid off.

-James

Self Defense for Survival

Recent world events have brought about the subject of self-defense in a critical situation. Now, you may think me crazy, or you may have already, but the latest earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have vindicated my position on the importance of a good, well stocked 72-hour kit. If you think you are immune to mother nature, think again!

Self-defense is important to survival because when people are hungry and scared, they will often act irrationally. Being prepared is a double-edged sword. On one side, you are prepared to ride out the storm, as it were. On the other hand, you may very well become a target of opportunity to those who are desperate. Since a stash of equipment doesn't do you any gun if it is stolen, you need to be able to defend yourself and your supplies. Your supplies may be all you have left after a major catastrophe. When FEMA becomes a four-letter word, and riots break out, your supplies become your life-blood. To keep your blood from being spilled over your supplies, you will need a few things.

First, let me get you on the same page; come to an understanding. Nobody wants to hurt or kill anybody. We all wish to just live our lives as we want to and go in peace. However, the world doesn't always work that way. Hunger, lack of shelter, stoppage of basic social services, inability to travel, paranoia, etc can lead anyone to doing something that is completely out of character. The nicest person you know could turn evil simply due to the human need to eat. Your best friend can turn into your worst nightmare. We need to understand this and also understand that we need to do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our families, and those things which keep us alive in time of great need. How you come to grips with this reality is completely up to you, but you must be willing to make the hard choice when all of your options have been used up.

If you are able to do so, it is advisable that you keep a gun in your 72-hour kit, or at least have one that is available for it. Not only should you have a gun, but if you go that route, it is your responsibility to train with it, get proficient with it, and come to know it well. With that, you must learn the laws of the land regarding use of deadly force and when it is and isn't acceptable to use a gun in a self-defense situation. A good resource is Washington Gun Rights and Responsibilities, by Dave Workman. It is not a difficult read, and it will unlock the laws regarding gun rights and your responsibilities in the state of Washington.

For most cases, a small pistol, like a .38 revolver, or compact automatic will suffice. This is ideal for a pack style 72-hour kit because it won't weight a lot and will provide sufficient protection against a random passerby that just happens to want what you have. Carrying an extra couple of magazines or keeping speedloaders (for your revolver) is a must!

In some cases, your 72-hour kit may be less mobile, or maybe you aren't restricted to just keeping a pistol. Say, for instance, your kit is in the trunk of your personal vehicle or at home. There is nothing wrong with keeping a shotgun or rifle in there either. Just know that walking around with a loaded rifle or shotgun in plain sight might get you some unwanted attention. The main goal is to avoid confrontation, not to attract it.

If carrying a gun is not for you, or if you are restricted from doing so (either legally or because of work), then carrying other forms of defense might work. For instance, a strong folding knife can be easily deployed to save your butt. Be careful with the knife you choose, however, because some types are illegal. Carrying a fixed blade knife might cause you to come under scrutiny by law enforcement. The knife itself might not be illegal, but law enforcement can always call into question your intent. In a critical situation, law enforcement can become as powerful as it is powerless.

Other improvised weapons can be made or used from tools. Carrying a hammer, or baseball bat, a club of some kind, a crow bar, pipe, axe, etc are all weapons that will give an upper hand in a situation where a thug might not be so well armed.

More important than the weapon you carry is how you present yourself. You don't want to appear as a victim or look weak. To avoid confrontation, you will want to make it so that any person won't want to confront you. Make them seek out easier prey. This isn't always possible, but carrying an air of strong presence about you helps. Additionally, avoid areas that are completely isolated when possible. If no one is around to hear you scream, then someone might take advantage of you. At the same time, it is wise to avoid areas that have widespread panic. In the aftermath of an earthquake, urban centers with dense populations are probably best avoided completely. If that means adding another few miles to save your butt, then that is what needs to be done. Remember, the goal is to keep YOU safe so that you can return to your family and then keep THEM safe. You cannot do that if you are incapacitated.

Now, it can't be clearly said when panic about food and supplies might set in. It depends on the severity of the situation at hand. It also depends on the logistics of relief efforts in your area. The first day or two might go without much of a problem. The problem begins at the third day because most households only have enough food in them for 3-7 days. If you happen to be walking around with a pack full of food, people might confront you. At first, it may be to barter for something of value (and if you can spare the food, by all means go for it). But when a situation degrades to a point where people are hungry (and Americans hate being hungry), it could get violent really fast.

Avoid slums and high crime neighborhoods, period! These places are the first to go apeshit in the wake of a catastrophe. If you don't believe me, then recall the L.A. riots. If you happen to be in a questionable area during the event, GET OUT FAST!!!

Try to keep your vehicle as long as possible. I know I've covered the vehicle before, but it is important. The vehicle moves faster than people and can provide some measure of protection. Remember, it's not bullet-proof and it can be immobilized really fast if you end up in a crowd of people. Be ready to ditch it if necessary. Just don't make the decision lightly. Driving an extra five miles can shave 2-3 hours off a hike. Drive 30 miles and you've coverd a day and a half on foot; you also avoided any foot-born confrontations in that distance.

Remember, the best self defense is to avoid confrontation completely. But should avoiding confrontation become impossible, you fight to win. I don't believe in a fair fight. I believe in winning. I fight for my family and my safety. Keep that mindset with regards to self defense. People who get desperate have most likely lost a reason to exist. We exist for our families and that is worth fighting for.
 
-James

Bare Bones Bag - Optional Augmentation

Okay, let's assume now that you have all your gear assembled in your vehicle, and ready to go. You went through the effort to pack everything as neatly and tightly as you could, but somewhere along the way home, the unexpected happened: you lost your backpack, or someone stole it while you were sleeping. It could happen.

For this you need what I call a "bare bones bag." It is basically a small pouch that holds your most desperate of survival equipment. It should contain the following:

1. Energy bars. You won't be cooking this food. This food should require no preparation and should be loaded with calories, carbs, sugars, protein, and and other essential nutrients. No points for taste either.

2. Unopened water bottle. I packed one of those 16.9 ounce water bottles in mine and it fits without taking up all the room. It's not much water, but it is at least something.

3. First-Aid kit. Make it practical, yet small. Keep some pain relievers in there, anti-biotics if you can find em, imodium, slings, bandages, ointments, etc. I'll write more on first-aid kits in the next installment.

4. Flashlight with extra batteries/bulb.

5. Map of the area and a compass. They don't have to be fancy. They just have to work.

6. Thermal emergency blanket and an emergency poncho. Both will keep you dry. One will keep you warm. Carry both.

7. Small knife. Mine will be packed with a solid steel knife that I can wrap some para-cord around the skeletal handle with.

8. Fire starter and waterproof matches in a waterproof container.

9. Sunscreen (and sunglasses if you can fit them).

10. Wipes of some kind (baby wipes, anti-sceptic wipes, alcohol pads).

11. Survival Kit in a Can. It's redundant in a few ways, but it can be a life saver for when you are absolutely desperate. Plus, it will hold all the other little things that you may have never thought to pack, but will have when you need them.

This pouch should be large enough to hold all of this gear, yet be small enough to be carried on your hip if need be. I purchased one that has snap belt loops for either vertical wearing from the hip or horizontal across the small of my back. It's a used army surplus bag in nearly new condition. The webbing is very strong and the material will repel water to a degree.

The bag itself is part of your bug out bag, but it should be kept as close to or on your person at all times. Never lose sight of it. Should your main pack get destroyed, stolen, lost, or need to be abandoned, you still have this survival kit, and it may save your life.
 
Now, don't get me wrong here.  The items above aren't duplicates of anything that you would normally take along.  This pouch is just a place to assemble the stuff you will use the most to make it easy and convenient.  Plus, you can remove this from the main pack to keep it safe with you, should you need to rest or ditch your main bag.
 
-James

Bug Out Bag - Small Tools and Equipment

I love this part. I'm going to talk about nifty little bits of gear that you might want to keep in your 72-hour kit, or "bug out bag." Note that I'm only going to list the bare essentials because realistically, you don't need a whole lot of "gear" to survive. You'd be amazing at just what you can live without.

Knowledge
First off, get a survival book. Read it, and then stow it away in your kit. I chose to buy the pocket-sized SAS Survival Guide, ISBN: 0060849827. It's a little larger than a standard deck of cards, but has a vast array of information in it, like how to spot edible plants, accident survival, shelter building, survival in various climates, etc.  Let's face it.  If you are not humping it in the bush every day, then you might forget a few things, so having a handy reference in the field is a good thing.

Good Knife
I spoke about this in the introduction, but it is important enough for me to repeat here. I'm just going to reiterate some of the important parts. Invest in a knife you will use often. Don't buy some exotic thing that you will toss in your bag and forget about. Purchase a good lockback knife in the $40-$60 price range. Kershaw is my favorite knife maker in this range. You don't need an overly expensive knife. You need a good knife. More money does not always mean better. Better does not always mean more money. Of course, many have their preferences, but my way of looking at it is this: If it works, then it is better. A good, inexpensive knife in your pocket that you use and abuse on a daily basis is better than an awesome expensive knife left in your nightstand drawer. Don't be timid with your knife either. USE IT! Learn its strengths and weaknesses. Experiment with different types and find what works best for you. I go through a good knife about every 2-3 years because as good as they are, I beat the piss out of them. I have my knife that I like a lot and will be replacing it with the same kind when mine finally gets destroyed. Keep your blade sharp. I recommend getting a simple two-part knife sharpener that has a coarse carbide end for sharpening and a fine ceramic end for honing. The sharpener doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Mine only cost me $4.00 and it keeps my blade sharp enough to do some serious cutting with.

Cordage
You should carry a small section of cordage. This could be simple nylon rope, or my preferred para-cord.  While you won't be hanging from this cord any time soon, it is strong enough to lash gear to your pack, or secure a tarp so it won't blow away in the wind, or keep your gear secure. I would probably carry about 20 feet of the stuff minimum, but not to exceed 50 feet. I also carry bootlaces that get wrapped around plastic knife sheaths or axe handles. If you need the cordage, you can use it, but until it is needed, it makes a great handle for things. One thing a friend did was buy an all metal knife and he wrapped para-cord around the handle very tightly. This way, he had his cordage, but it wasn't in the way when not needed. I've seen para-cord wrapped around gun fore ends, axe handles, walking sticks, you name it.

Tarp
Why not a tent? Tents weigh more. Plus, a tent is about 10 times as expensive as a tarp. With a tarp, you can make many types of shelters. From an a-frame tent to a simple lean-to against a tree or car bumper, a tarp can make quick shelter out of anything. It is also easy to setup and tear down because you don't have poles to pack. Simply fold the tarp down, roll it up, and wrap with para-cord for storage.

Fire Starter
You will probably want to invest in a good flint. You will also want some waterproof matches for lighting your camp stove (talked about above). You will also want to keep small parafin wax fire starters to help you get a fire going if you need it. Fire does more than keep you warm. It lifts your spirits and can be used for cooking food and making water safe to drink. It can also keep predators at bay as well as be used to signal rescue. Just be sure to put it out completely before you leave and DO NOT attempt to light a fire if you smell gas.

Multi-tool
You would do well to invest in a good leatherman style multi-tool. You never know when you will need a good set of pliers, a screwdriver, file, or small saw. I carry a Leatherman Wave with me on my backwoods adventures. It can be used to make repairs to your gear or adjustments to things like compass declination screws, rifle scopes, or just making repairs to your glasses.  I also use the saw to notch wood so it will fit together to make my shelter strong without needing very much cordage.

Map and Compass
At the very least, you should carry a map of the area you are in. That's obvious. But you need a compass too. If you find yourself in an area that is unfamiliar to you, a compass will help you quickly locate magnetic north, and will help you orientate your map. If you do not know how to do this, pick up a Boy Scout Handbook and start reading. A compass can be used for a buttload of navigational strategies, such as following a bearing, or being used to make sure you are traveling in a straight line (and not in circles). This is especially important in wilderness survival. Now, in urban settings, this doesn't seem as important because you will have roadsigns to help tell you where to go.  But, if you believe that for what it is, then you have been deceived. The signs give directions that the road takes to get to the destination, and the distance IT takes. However, you don't need to stick to main roads when you are on foot. However, if you were walking near I-5, then you'd probably want to stay close because it is a well known landmark.

Flashlight or Headlamp
Have you ever tried to do something in pitch black darkness? It sucks, huh? Put a good aluminum flashlight in your pack with spare batteries and bulbs. An LED 3-watt Maglite works well. I have small ones that take 3 double-A batteries and they are nice and bright. They have carry cases too, and don't weigh much. I also have a head lamp that I use for backpacking at night. It frees up your hands and allows you to look directly at what you want to see. This can come in handy if you are doing stuff like tying a knot, erecting shelter, cooking, reading, or even for going for a weapon to use in self defense.

Mess Kit
Essentially, it's a pot that fits in another pot and has a fork, spoon, and knife in it. You will need one if you intend to boil water and prepare food.

Survival Kit
Huh? It's called a Survival Kit in a Can, or SKIC for short.

It fits into a sardine sized can and should be in every 72 hour kit. It has all the really small things like thread, needles, fish hook, etc. Some of the stuff may be redundant to my list, but the stuff I listed separately needs to be in its own case. For instance, there are matches in the SKIC. The waterproof matches I suggest should go in their own waterproof match case. This way, you may use your matches without breaking the seal on your SKIC. Your first aid kit will be separate too, but some things are included in the SKIC. Think of SKIC as a last ditch survival aid. You probably won't use most of the stuff in there unless you are really desperate. But that's what it is for. At less than $10 in most places, it's a good idea to keep one in any vehicle, pack, or kit you have.

That's it?
Not quite. Bring toilet paper. Yes, you will be squatting when you are out surviving, and you don't want to run around wiping your backside with whatever you can find. T.P. will help keep you sanitary and healthy. Also, you can buy small packages of baby wipes, which are amazing! The wipes can be used on any part of your body. From cleaning your hands to washing your face, to just removing some of the "funk" that occurs from going days without showers, baby wipes are worth the extra weight in gold. Your nose will thank you too.

Of course, you can assemble more or less gear into your pack, based on your preferences.  There is no 1-way to do it - just a way to do it.  Find what works for you and figure out what gear you can live without and what gear you must have.

-James

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Aid Kit - Bug Out Bag Style

There is a big controversy over what types of gear you should stow in your first aid kit. Some people believe you should stock an entire operating room, where others believe all you need are a few bandages and some pain relievers. Each side of the aisle will make valid points for each method, and that is okay. I personally believe that your personal first aid kit should contain enough stuff for you to help yourself in an emergency. Carrying around a bunch of surgical equipment will do you no good if you cannot get easy access to the wound. Plus, carrying an excessively heavy first aid kit will be cumbersome. First aid kits take up a lot of space in your pack. True, they are quite possibly the most important items to have... right next to water... but like water, you don't want to carry so much that you drop dead from exhaustion.

Below is a list of the things I have in my light and fast first aid kit. Note, this kit is my personal kit for backpacking. It's not a kit designed for anyone else to use because I have tailor-made this kit to my specifications. Yours may be different, but this will get you pointed in the right direction:

10 adhesive bandages (regular band-aids)
2 adhesive pads, 3"x3"
3 sterile gauze pads, 3"x3"
4 butterfly bandages
1 roll of adhesive medical tape
1 roll of cohesive bandage wrap (better than elastic)
1 moleskin pad, 3"x6"
1 small bar of soap or small pack of cleansing (alcohol) pads
1 tube of antiseptic (I used Neosporin w/ pain reliever)
3 small packets of basic first aid creme
3 small packets of burn gel
1 pair of Scissors
2 pairs of non-latex gloves
1 mouth/protection barrier for CPR
1 pencil and paper
1 small baggy of medications I take
Iodine and neutralizer tablets (for treating questionable water)

This kit fits into a small bag that is then stuffed into the bare bones bag (will be covered later), which will never leave my side in an emergency situation. In my backpacking pack, this kit resides in the top compartment, easily accessed in an emergency.

Your first aid kit should be the last thing you pack into your bag. The reason is because if you need it, it will be the first thing you see when you open the flap. Other bags, which have pockets on the outside, should have the first aid kit located toward the center pocket, where it will be protected from impacts on the sides (say, from brushing up against stuff). It also makes it easy to tell someone else, "Hey, in the middle pocket, there is a first aid kit..." instead of saying, "...the one on my right... no your left, yeah, the one on your left... no I meant right." Basically, you want your first aid kit easily accessible and protected from impacts.

If you can get your hands on anti-biotics, it might not be a bad idea to put them in your kit either. However, I have been unsuccessful at finding these because they are normally kept under lock and key at hospitals and clinics.

Remember, many of the items in a first aid kit do have a shelf life - especially medications and pain relievers. I would not trust a band-aid that is over 5 years old either. It would be best to rotate out your first aid stock with the one you use at home. Since you are most likely to use the first aid kit at your house, you should place your aging equipment into your home kit, and place the newer supply in your personal kit. This is not to say that you are placing old, outdated, or defective gear into your home kit. It's more like placing a new can of beans in the back of your pantry so you eat the old one first, before it expires. Otherwise, you will end up with old consumables that may or may not work when you need them to.

Rotate your medicines. I keep Ibuprofen in my first aid kit because not only is it a good pain reliever, but it also a muscle relaxer, which does wonders after a long day out hiking when your back, shoulder, and leg muscles are just aching. It is also that quality that makes Ibuprofen an anti-inflammatory medicine. I have a condition known as Sciatica, which causes the Sciatic nerve to flare up on occasion, especially when the muscles around the nerve are put under great strain. My doctor recommended the necessary dose for me to take to get the inflammation down when this happens. Therefore, I have plenty of Ibuprofen in my kit. It doesn't take up a lot of space, and pound for pound, it is quite possibly the most valuable consumable I carry. Other medicines you may need should also be organized and rotated frequently.

Also, remember to put a desiccant pack into your first aid kit. Moisture is the enemy of almost everything in there!

I also recently added Iodine and Neutralizer tablets to my first aid kit. The small bottles fit in there without a problem and also requires me to open the first aid kit to get to them. It is important to not let your kit just go unopened forever. I've seen what happens when people never crack open their kits. They assume something is there, only to find out that it isn't.

This brings me to my next point, and I want to reiterate the importance of customizing your kit to you. Don't buy the massive kit that has 144 million things in it that you won't use. You should keep a kit like that in your house. What I did was buy a basic $8.00 kit and added the stuff that I wanted. It's not the cheapest way to go, but in the end, it gives you the most bang for your buck. The only things in there are things that you may need and none of the things you don't.
 
-James

Food For Survival - Bug Out Bag

Since I left off on the subject of water, I figured I'd jump right into the next point: food.

Food is essential to the human body because it contains the things the body needs to stay alive. Nutrients are important, more specifically calories. Calories are the fuel that keeps the body moving. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. If you take in more than you burn, you gain weight. There is a bit more to it than that, but when it comes right down to it, simplicity will work.

Many people have a hard time finding the critical balance between their level of activity and their calorie intake. In my experience it is because if I'm not doing anything, my mouth can be working. However, I find that if I'm doing a lot of activities, I tend to forget to eat. This is an issue when it comes to survival. You need to eat.

It is true that the human body can live on for weeks without food. Would you want to try? No. You would be so weak that simply eating food could kill you.

Should you find yourself a good three day's walk away from your house, you will need to have enough food on hand to last those three days. How much food? Well, that depends greatly on your metabolism, dietary habits, what type of food, and whether or not you are going to walk over easy terrain or up and down some steep hills.

A simple rule of thumb is that for every mile walked, you burn X amount of calories. Weight x Distance = Calories burned. It should be noted that if you walk slow, you will burn more calories than if you walked a normal pace because each time you step, you have essentially no momentum to carry you forward. However, at faster speeds, you also burn more calories because you utilize more muscle groups to keep up the pace. Also note that the weight of your pack will greatly impact your calories burned per mile.

Why is all this important? Because in order to find out how much food you need, you first need to know how many miles you might have to walk. Let's use my minimum 25 miles. I weigh around 300lbs. So, if I walked at a steady rate of 3 miles per hour (which is actually kind of slow at only 1 mile every 20 minutes), I would burn +-159 calories. Take that 159 calories and multiply it by 25 miles and we have 3975 calories burned. That's enough to drop one lbs of weight, plus some. However, you also burn calories when you are at rest, when you sleep, and every time you inhale and exhale. Heck, your heart is just a muscle that burns calories just to pump blood.
Where did I get that 159 calorie number? I got if from a chart.


Yeah, so what if I found it on the Internet? These are all just estimations anyway, and your results will vary.

What is important to know is that your body uses your energy reserves in the form of fats first. But once you burn off fat, you start to burn off muscle. Doesn't sound so bad at first, but once your heart rate reaches a certain point, you burn both fat AND muscle at the same time. So be cautious.

So, what foods then? Well, my favorite trail meals are from Mountain House Foods. They come in freeze-dried pouches that you simply put boiling hot water into and presto! Instant meal! My absolute favorite, the Chicken and Mashed Potatoes has 250 calories and 32 grams of protein. Protein is ready to use fuel as well as the calories. There is also a lot of sodium in this meal, which may or may not help to replenish electrolytes lost due to dehydration.

Energy bars are another thing to keep in your kit. I always have a Clif Bar or two on my backpacking trips. They have a crap load of everything, and 230 calories to boot. Carbs are also fuel, and they are loaded with them.

Now, if you can't stand carbs, then stop reading. Honestly, in an emergency situation, are you really going to care about your carb intake? Heck, you may not know where or when you will get your next meal, so you'd better pack them in while you can.

Another thing you could carry is a Mayday Food bar. Each bar has 3600 or 2400 calories. Obviously not something you'd eat in one shot, but you could just munch on it as you walk or break off a piece when you rest.

Don't run around and eat three big squares a day. You want to eat as soon as you wake up, and just keep munching every hour or two while you are on the move. This keeps your energy levels elevated and tells your body to metabolize. If you wait too long before eating breakfast, your body goes into starvation mode and will not metabolize as quickly because it doesn't have anything to jump start it. This also means that all those calories you eat get turned into fat instead of burned off as energy.

Remember that energy bars, Mayday bars, Protein bars, or whatever they call them these days require that you be moving. The Mayday bar has 400 calories per 3 ounce serving! That same serving has 17 grams of fat and 55 carbs! Normally, this isn't something you want to eat right before you go to sleep. However, if it is really cold outside, you should eat something right before bed. The energy will help keep your core temperature up while you are sacked out for the night.

Pro tip: If you wake up cold, grab a handful of nuts and eat them. Eating Oreo cookies is okay in small servings too. The sugars, protein and other calories will actually help warm you up. I tested this in a snow cave on Mt Rainier. It was 15 degrees outside, and just barely above freezing inside.

Your food should be highly nutritious and loaded with fuel (calories, protein, carbs, and some sugars). It should be small enough to get into a small pack. Don't store boxed foods because they don't have a long shelf life and are comprised mostly of AIR. If you get something like the Mayday bar (five year shelf life) or the Mountain House meals (7-12 year shelf life), then you keep rotation of food to a minimum. Foods like energy bars, beef jerky, or dried fruits and nuts should be rotated twice yearly. DO NOT store any food that requires refrigeration. Stay away from fresh fruits, veggies, and meats. They will spoil FAST.

Storing freeze-dried and airtight packaged foods may not seem appealing, but neither does an earthquake or some other catastrophe. What I suggest is that you buy different types of rations, freeze-dried meals, and various energy bars and weigh the palatability vs. energy. Don't just buy something because it is loaded with calories. If you don't like it, you might not eat it. You may even put off eating until absolutely necessary because said monster bar tastes like dog doo. If you must make concessions of nutrition and energy for taste, then do so. Just don't store a butt-load of Snickers bars because they taste better than Clif Bars. Be realistic. Storing one or two candy bars isn't a bad idea, but don't load an entire pouch with them. They are basically pure sugar. And while sugar is good for a boost, sugar will also make you crash when taken in large amounts. Don't crash! If you eat a candy bar, save part of it and only eat a nibble. This way, you get the burst of energy without the side-effect of a crash in about, say... 30 minutes!

Any backpacker store, or outfitter will have these freeze-dried meals and other types of food designed specifically for hikers. Just date them with the day you bought them and the date of expiration. When the expiration date draws near, pull them and take them with you on your next hike. Just remember to replace what you take from your 72 hour kit.

-James