Survival Gear Review: Back Packer’s Pantry Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes

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2_shtfblog-survival-cache-best-survival-backpackers-pantry-multigrain-buttermilk-hotcakes-pancakes-spatula-organic-lodge-cast-ironThis past weekend, I had a bit of cabin fever – I needed to get out of the house, tromp around in the woods, start a fire in the snow. So I bundled up my 3-year-old boy, filled a backpack with a thermos of hot chocolate, a small container of olive oil, a Lodge 12” cast iron skillet, a liter bottle of water, a spatula, a bit of Maine real maple syrup, and the coup de grace – a package of Backpacker’s Pantry Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes. We gathered up the dog and stomped out into the woods, leaving Mrs. Drew to enjoy a few minutes of precious peace and quiet, sipping her coffee.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

I’ve been starting my lil’ dude on making fires in the woods (never too early!) so I had him find a birch tree and peel some bark while I collected dry twigs and branches from the myriad white pine trees in the area; I scored and found a recently fallen small sugar maple to get some nice hardwood coals in the fire for cooking.

We set up the birch bark and dry twigs, and I showed my son how to scrape a firesteel for a small pile of ferrocerium shavings, and with one healthy blast on the Firesteel GobSpark Armageddon, we had a toasty little fire going. Once the fire was healthy and happy, I let him poke around in the coals with a long stick – an irresistible fireside hobby that comes to us while we’re young, apparently. The fire danced and snapped, my son slurped hot chocolate, my dog searched for squirrels, and I started looking into breakfast.

Pancakes in a bag?

I dug the package of Backpacker’s Pantry Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes out of my pack, and set to reading the instructions. Pretty simple: open the pouch, dump in ¾ cup of cold water, seal the bag up, shake until mixed. I could handle that. Probably.

3_shtfblog-survival-cache-best-survival-backpackers-pantry-multigrain-buttermilk-hotcakes-pancakes-organic-hemp-add-waterI opened the resealable bag of mix, and looked inside. First order of business was to locate the little oxygen absorber packet so it didn’t accidentally become hotcake ingredients and then remove all the oxygen from my stomach through a probably very unappealing chemical process. I dug around through the mix and located the errant hitchhiker, then poured my approximation of ¾ cup of cold water in the bag. I sealed the bag up, folded it over, and shook the shit out of the package. For good measure, I let my son shake it up, too. You can never be too careful.

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I opened up the bag and peered inside at its goopy contents. It looked pretty runny to me even after a couple good hearty shakings, so I used my spatula to mix things up a bit, scraping the sides of the bag to make sure I got all the mix. No improvement: I came to the conclusion that either my water-measurement eyeballing skills were far below par, or the mix was a little on the soupy side when properly made. No worries, though – I was committed at this point, and lil’ dude was giving me toddler hell about not having pancakes, so I oiled up the cast iron skillet and let it sit over the two wrist-sized hardwood logs I’d placed atop the campfire cooking coals we’d cultivated and poked at. In a few minutes, a sprinkle of water danced on the surface of the skillet, so I knew it was game time.

The Magic Of Campfire Cooking

Ahh, the beauty of a fire in the woods – pine smoke, crackling branches, clothes that retain that sweet smoky eau de campfire scent that drives the women crazy. However, when it comes to cooking pancakes on cast iron, that campfire becomes an evil beast that makes one jump to grab the spatula like a man who just sat on a rattlesnake that’s having a bad day.

4_shtfblog-survival-cache-best-survival-backpackers-pantry-multigrain-buttermilk-hotcakes-pancakes-spatula-organic-lodge-cast-ironI poured the batter from the pouch onto the oiled, heated cast iron skillet, and the batter practically baked on the spot; bubbles (a sure sign that pancakes are done) burst from below in seconds, shocking the hell out of me and ensuring that breakfast would be a bit quicker than intended. I lunged for the spatula, shook off the residual batter left from stirring, and hastily scraped the poor scorched hotcakes from the pan. A quick flip for the two pancakes I’d made, and I let the pancakes sit another fifteen seconds or so before popping them off the skillet onto a paper plate. Round one went to the skillet.

I pulled the skillet back off the volcano to let it cool, and thankfully the next round of pancakes was a little bit easier on me. I was a nice dad and gave the better-looking pair of hotcakes to my son, lest he hate campfire cooking for the rest of his life. I’m sure he’ll thank me for it later when he’s burning bacon and eggs over campfires for years to come.

I drizzled on some real maple syrup (that fake Mrs. Butterworth stuff is for commies) and gave the Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes a whirl.

The Verdict Is In

I know it’s hard to make something taste bad when it’s covered in the delectable nectar that is Maine maple syrup, but these Hotcakes were actually pretty damned good. They tasted very similar to whole wheat or buckwheat pancakes (if any of you have ventured into that territory), very rich and a little dense. These hotcakes were meant to provide a bunch of protein for the backpacker or camper, and they taste the part. They weren’t like scratch-made griddle cakes like grandma used to make, but considering they will give you honest long-lasting energy (plus a nice sugar boost if you put syrup, honey, or jam on them), with four 4-inch pancakes providing 15 grams of protein.

Related: Making Maple Syrup

My three-year-old son requested seconds, so I happily obliged. The hotcakes were pretty filling, and we sat in the sun next to the fire, recovering happily from the unexpected need to make fast food and sipping hot chocolate. The hotcakes were winners.

The Company

5_backpackers_pantry_logo_smBackpacker’s Pantry – just so you know – pride themselves in offering organic foods to their customers, and these hotcakes were no different. The ingredient list is comprised of all food, no preservatives or chemicals. The spelt flour, evaporated cane juice, baking powder, and cornstarch are all listed as being from organic sources. A good FYI for people with allergies: These hotcakes include milk,  eggs, wheat, and gluten – so keep an eye out. Nobody likes dealing with food allergies, especially out on the trail.

I wouldn’t throw this hotcake mix in a Bug-Out Bag or emergency bag – the hassle of needing large cookware and a spatula would be too much. However, keeping a couple packages of Backpacker’s Pantry Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes in a Bug-out camper, or in your house pantry in case you need a just-add-water breakfast, would be a great idea, especially if you have kids and need some calming comfort food. While I didn’t try it, the addition of berries or nuts would be a fantastic locally-sourced addition. Baking this mix in a dutch oven probably wouldn’t yield bad results either…I’ll have to try it out, now that I think about it. The Backpacker’s Pantry Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes are definitely a welcome addition to anyone who might want a kick-start to their day but not carry around the whole refrigerator.

Survival Gear Review: SIG Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder

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Cutting to the chase, the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder works as advertised. So now that’s of the way, let’s consider the philosophy behind owning and using such an advanced handheld ballistics computer. And just to get it out of the way, the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder retails for $1700 and has a street price in bad breath distance of $1500.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache.com

1_SIG_Kilo2400_laser_Rangefinder_Business_endAs a lifelong hunter and one who was shooting iron sights out a hundred yards, and bringing down big game at two and three hundred yards with 4x scopes, I do find it interesting that the AR15 has enlightened many folks to the capabilities of shooting long distance. The weird thing is that our simple bolt action rifles in .270, .308 and my favorite 30-06 have been around for almost forever and have been capable of hitting targets well beyond 500 yards with minimal skill and out to 1000 yards with considerable skill. Of course, extreme long range, or ELR as the extreme long rangers like to say, has better options including the .338 Lapua and the .50 BMG, but regular old hunting cartridges can easily outshoot most shooters. Well, unless they are using the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder.

Spell Check for Long Range Shooting

A ballistics solution is the information you need to place your bullet on your target regardless of distance. angle, or atmospheric conditions. It is an adjustment in aiming that takes into consideration every realtime consideration worth taking into consideration. And when the ballistics solution is dialed into the profiled rifle, a scary degree of long range accuracy can be achieved by someone with more brains than skill. Kind of like spell-check for long range shooting.

2_SIG_Kilo2400_laser_Rangefinder_App_screenshot_2The Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder really is a computer surrounded by a 7x optic and a laser rangefinder. If you pair your Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder to your phone using Bluetooth and the Sig App, you can view and enter data via the phone providing the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder all pertinent info to put your specific bullet on your specific target.

Where the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder deviates from traditional laser rangefinders, even the good ones, is that the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder has capabilities well beyond what most shooters expect from their rangefinders. By entering all necessary information into the onboard Applied Ballistics Solutions calculator, the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder will spit out the exact adjustments necessary to hit the target. If you miss, then bad info entered the equation because the equation is perfect.

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The Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder is a complete kit that includes a wind speed meter, a tripod mounting frame, an over-engineered case, three batteries, and tactical pen. Oh, and an App available for both iOS and Android. The Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder can easily work without the App, but the App allows an easier input of data, and the ability to upload rifle profiles into the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder.

So where’s the magic? It is in the ballistic solutions the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder provides to anyone who asks. I’ve long been a proponent for upgrading a firearm as much for the added performance as to learn how it works. After a few teardowns and rebuilds, you will have an intimate knowledge of the gun and feel comfortable tearing into it for whatever reason, or even fabricating your own parts if something goes south. So using or even just playing with the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder, you will gain important insights into ELR shooting whether or not you ever pull a trigger on a 1km shot.

3_SIG_Kilo2400_laser_Rangefinder_in_handI know it sounds like ELR blasphemy, but dropping a grand and a half on a ballistics computer with range finder is something you will not have a second chance at when the EMP hits, or the store shelves go bare. For those who don’t think much beyond their apartment hallways, or even the end of the block, shooting long distance is low on the preparedness checklist. The problem is that in a real SHTF situation, the environment changes. Flinging lead down the street or from rooftop to rooftop is not just for the movies. It is something that urban combat across the world has taught us is a realistic skill. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but in a real SHTF WROL, you just might want to have some ELR shooting skills whether by practice or by electronics; the target doesn’t know or care.

One of the odd things about extremely long range shooting is that that the firearms community believe that it requires specialized equipment and near superhuman skill. In reality, anyone who wants to lob bullets an eighth of a mile can do so. But to hit something requires just a little bit more. If you have an endless number of shots, you can walk something in even at five miles, but human threats are of human size and realistic encounters are at the limits of vision, optics, and even the curvature of the earth. But protecting one’s bug out location with a thousand yard shot is not out of the question, but certainly might be out of your plan.

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The Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder provides near-instantaneous adjustment suggestions that when dialed into your scope or DOPE will do wonders even you have never ever attempted a shot over 500 yards. I know that’s a scary thought for traditional hunters who wander the woods with their 200 yard guns that can actually shoot a thousand yards, but the reality is that with the right information and understanding, few long guns are short range tools.

The Brass Tacks

Where the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder really impresses is with it’s ability to quickly provide accurate distances out to thousands of yards. Depending on the reflectiveness of the target, the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder can push the two mile limit with no problem, and exceed that where the physics allow. As if that kind of accuracy and precision isn’t enough, the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder has a hyperscan mode that gives a distance value every quarter second. The moment I first tried it, I thought of Jason Bourne.  The optically absurd rangefinding monocular he scans with in multiple movies has a fast reaction output zapping range values as fast as he can move the monocular.

4_SIG_Kilo2400_laser_Rangefinder_user_endThe Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder is powered by a single CR123 battery which is a welcome change (upgrade?) over the CR2 battery that many other high-end rangefinders use. Not only is the CR123 more powerful in advanced size, but is also a common battery size in many other quality field electronics including holographic gun sights, gun lights, flashlights, and night vision scopes. The battery life of the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder is an interesting question. The Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder ships with three batteries which can be taken several ways. It might be that the Sig Kilo2400 ABS Laser Rangefinder eats batteries, but I haven’t found that to be the case. However, if extended use of the Hyperscan mode is used, I would suspect that the battery will be exhausted rather quickly. This guess is based on a tidbit in my Leica rangerfinder instruction book that mentions that when the low battery indicator comes on, about 200 ranges are left. The Hyperscan mode would blast through 200 ranges in less than a minute of use. The Hyperscan mode ranges at four times a second but for no more than 20 seconds of continious use.

In real life, even if your training and shooting adventures don’t allow the long range stuff, you can count on the SIG Kilo2400 to take you to the next step when it really matters.

Specialized Bug Out Bags (And What’s Inside Them)

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bug_out_essentials_stuff‘Bug out bags’ are put together to be grabbed in a hurry. Their use stems from the bags issued by militaries to their soldiers in field situations, and it should contain everything you need to sustain yourself in an emergency situation for at least 72 hours. Ideally, every member of your group or family should have their own bug out bag with their own supplies: The more you have as a group, the better your chances of survival will be.

By Alex Coyne, a contributing author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog.com

Most bug out bags are aimed at meeting the most basic survival needs: That is, they contain a bit of everything for when you need to grab and go, but what if you have some more specialized needs, for example access to technology or your family’s important documents stored separately?

Here’s a look at some specialized bug out bags to go with your main kit, customized for more specific needs. (Note: Most of these are just as useful for camping or hiking as they are for grabbing in an emergency.)

Oh, yeah, and take a look at this link on YouTube for what Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory keeps in his

#1: The Medic Bag

1_med_bagThe medic bag contains your group or family’s medical supplies. Include a laminated card with each member’s details and medical history; be sure to list their full name, blood type, next-of-kin with the most recent contact details and their allergies. Your kit should also contain antibiotics, painkillers, alcohol, bandages, stitches, burn gel and/or cream, clean wipes, surgical scissors, a scalpel, cotton wool, a syringe (and the knowledge to use it!) and any other medical supplies you would normally keep in your first aid kit or might come in handy where you’re going.  Prescription medication (for chronic conditions) can be arranged in advance with your doctor or pharmacist.

#2: The Bag of Documents

Your family’s important documents can include birth certificates, passports, doctor’s reports, financial information and wills; this is by no means an exhaustive list. We highly recommend that documents like these are always kept organized neatly in the same place, with several digital backups. Consider backing up your information on DVD or Blu-Ray to keep in your bag of documents. Store hard copy documents in plastic sleeves. Make sure your bag can withstand elements like water, and make sure you don’t store your documents with (or next to) anything that can catch fire or explode.

Related: Building a Natural Emergency Shelter With No Tools

#3: The Chef’s Bag

fallkniven_phk_professional_hunting_knife_gutting-birdThere’s likely someone in your group or family who’s been appointed the head chef, and a chef – especially one on the road – could do with some decent tools. The chef’s bag is customized to hold all the tools a chef might need in the field, and this will be up to personal preference. Be sure to ask them what tools they simply can’t do without. Many tools have a portable version. Take a look at the Glamping Fold Up Pan and the Camp Chef Knife Set. The chef’s bag should also contain other chef’s essentials like their most used spices and utensils.

#4: The Hiker’s Bag

The hiker’s bag should be taken if you’re planning on going on a hiking trip. Practicality is your main goal here, and you’re looking to cover all of the bases. Take enough food to sustain yourself on the walk and for a while after should you get stuck, take along your first-aid basics, a knife, a fold-up walking stick, plenty of water and purification tablets, a map and compass and a fire-starter kit. Again, this is not an exhaustive list, just the basics.

#5: The Mechanic’s Kit

The mechanic’s kit is great for keeping in your car by default, and it’s essential if you’re going to be stuck somewhere for a while. Put simply, it’s for fixing things. A wide variety of things. The mechanic’s kit should contain the most portable tools you can find – a simple online search on Amazon will give you hundreds of options for portable tools – and odds-and-ends like wire, cable ties, glue, duct tape, rope, nails, screws, nuts and bolts. Keep documents like your car’s repair handbook (or, say, a general book on DIY and car repair) with this too: Digital backups are available, will take up much less space and can be handy should anyone else who isn’t as handy end up with the mechanic’s kit.

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#6: The Herbal Healer

Waterford_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_berries_closeAncient human groups consisted of hunter-gatherers, and modern humans are no different. The herbal healer’s bag is for the gatherer or natural healer, and should contain everything they need to gather, preserve and prepare herbs. Take this along for a hiking trip or when you go out to gather herbs, plants or fruits. A sharp, versatile knife is essential; some cords and clothespins (useful for drying), containers and bags for collecting samples; gloves; a fold-up camping shovel; seeds for starting a garden; plant nutrients; an empty spray bottle; sanitized water and wipes (for various and fairly obvious reasons); alcohol (for tinctures and sanitization). The herbal bag will likely also contain a collection of common herbs that have already been collected: These are up to you. Again, a disc with your library of plant books (with pictures for identification) should go with your kit.

#7: The Tech Junkie’s Kit

Don’t discount the usefulness of technology in a survival situation: As a journalist working online, I realize the value of connectivity. The tech junkie’s kit should be exceptionally well-padded and contain a laptop that can withstand some damage (laptops like the Sony Vaio are small yet durable), replacement cables, an additional camera (of higher quality), blank DVD’s, spare parts, an operating system on DVD (should you need to re-install your system on the go), a power bank or solar power kit, a screwdriver kit, a USB dongle (yes, even if you have a router), a mouse, backup batteries, a backup celllphone and a signal strengthener. (At the very least.)

What do you have in your bug out bag? Have you learned to add anything from yours by reading this article? Use the comments to let us know your thoughts.

Survival Gear Review: Nite Ize Combo Mini Maglite LED Upgrade Kit

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1_featured_SHTFblog_Survival-cache-tactical-mini-maglite-aa-LED-upgrade-nite-ize

1_light-bulb-current-light-glow-40889Make no mistake about it: flashlight technology has improved leaps and bounds in these past few years, with the availability of powerful lithium-ion batteries, small circuits, and LED bulbs that last tens of thousands of hours and produce ridiculous amounts of bright white light, all while sipping juice from the power supply.  Halogen and krypton incandescent bulbs, while still absolutely functional, have fallen by the wayside: they just don’t perform as well or last as long as modern LED bulbs.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

However, some older flashlight designs are timeless and soldier on.  For the purposes of this article, we’re looking squarely at the stalwart Mini Maglite, a tough, reliable little aluminum beast of a flashlight.  At just 5 ¾” long and normally powered by a tiny incandescent bulb and a pair of AA batteries, you can still find these wonderfully rugged flashlights new in most hardware stores and Wal-Marts, soldiering on without any upgrades – the Mini Maglite you purchase at the store today is the exact same design you would have bought 20 years ago.  Maglite has since upgraded the design with a modern LED bulb that has obvious benefits, but they cost almost four times as much as the krypton-running Mini-Maglite: at my most recent visit to a Target store, the incandescent Mini-Maglite (with two new AA Energizers and the nylon open topped belt holster we all know and love) was $7.98.  The new Mini-Maglite PRO, with a modern 226 lumen output LED illumination system, ran $26.99.

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1_tool_boxHowever, I don’t know any outdoorsman worth his salt who doesn’t have at least one or two of the original Mini Maglites kicking around in a glove compartment, tacklebox, or the junk drawer of the kitchen – the flashlights might even still have the spare bulb in the tailcap if they’re lucky.  Personally, I have four of them kicking around the house, mostly with the batteries long gone to power remote controls or a kid’s toys.  My veteran Mini Maglites have kind of fallen to secondary use after the adoption of more modern flashlights – I now usually carry a Streamlight Microstream with me everywhere I go instead of the older Maglites.  But my tackleboxes still have Mini Maglites rolling around the bottom (they’re wonderfully waterproof) with a couple spare batteries, and my wife’s car has one in the center console.  These Mini-Maglites are all old friends that I’ve had and used forever – and I was delighted to find out I could upgrade them.

Betterment by Nite Ize

1_BouldercoloradoNite Ize, a company that hails from Boulder, Colorado, pays its bills by producing a wide array of products, ranging from magnetic dashboard cell phone holders to full-blown LED flashlights and glowsticks.  Via some online surfing, I stumbled across Nite Ize and their Mini Maglite LED combo upgrade kit.  Being the flashlight lover I am, I immediately geeked out over the prospect of pulling my beloved old Mini Maglites back into the daily use herd.

I searched on Amazon for the kits, and lo and behold, they were available, for dirt cheap. $7.57 per kit, to be exact.  I figured for the price, I’d still be OK if I ordered one and found out they were less than stellar.  I ordered a couple (my father wanted to try one out as well), and the pair of kits arrived on my doorstep a couple days later.

Initial impressions were pretty good; the packaging was nice, and the pictorial instructions were printed on a miniscule piece of orange paper.  Included in the packaging were three items: a new LED lamp with two prongs on the back, a new revised reflector, and a push-button tailcap, made from plastic and machined anodized aluminum.

What The Nite Ize LED Upgrade Offers

2_SHTFblog_Survival-cache-tactical-mini-maglite-aa-LED-upgrade-nite-izeThe Nite Ize LED Combo upgrade offers a few benefits over the original dual AA-powered Mini Maglite.  Per the company’s website, the original incandescent bulb Mini Maglite offered a low-but-still-useful 14 lumens of yellow-tinted light.  Run time with fresh batteries is about 5 hours. The only method of turning the flashlight on and off was to unscrew the head bezel slightly to activate the light; the beam could then be focused to the desired intensity – from flood to spotlight.

The Nite Ize LED Combo kit boosts the light output to a comparatively impressive 30 lumens – over double the output – and boosts battery life to 25 hours from the same pair of AA batteries.  The white light beam can still be focused – a nice feature – and the flashlight can be activated one-handed via the thumb-activated tailcap switch.

An important note to consider: installation of this Nite Ize product WILL void the limited lifetime warranty offered by Maglite.

Upgrading the Mini Maglite: How It’s Done DIY

1_SHTFblog_Survival-cache-tactical-mini-maglite-aa-LED-upgrade-nite-ize-kit-combo-contents-instructionsAfter a quick perusal of the brief smiley-face emblazoned instructions (also available online here), I attacked my old Mini Maglite.  The Mini Maglite is a very simple flashlight; very few parts and all very straightforward to work with…I’ve made repairs on them in the past and had them completely apart; so rest assured – the upgrade is quite easy. First, I unscrewed the original tailcap (the back end, where the batteries are installed) and set it aside. You’ll want to hang onto the original tailcap; you’ll see why later.  I replaced the original part with the new Nite Ize unit that sports a button switch: it’s a simple screw-in replacement.  Easy enough. Next, I removed the front bezel (the end the light comes out) by unscrewing counterclockwise completely off the flashlight body.  This exposes, at the front of the flashlight body, the tiny krypton bulb that comes standard in Mini Maglites.  I grasped the bulb with my fingers, and pulled it forward, straight out of the two tiny holes it lives in.

The new Nite Ize LED bulb has the similar two small contact wires like the krypton bulb; however, it also has a small black plastic disc that it lives on.  This disc, which has the Nite Ize logo printed on it, along with “LRB2 3.0v AA LED” contains the circuitry needed to convert the power supplied from the batteries into retina-scorching white light.  To install the LED bulb, carefully line the contact wires up with the holes you took the original incandescent bulb out of, and gently push the LED bulb into the barrel of the flashlight.  It should sit all the way down; if the batteries are installed, it may have a tiny bit of “bounce” since the batteries it contacts ride on a spring in the tailcap.

1_SHTFblog_Survival-cache-tactical-mini-maglite-aa-LED-upgrade-nite-ize-reflectorOnce the bulb is installed, you can move to changing out the third piece of the puzzle: the reflector.  The reflector is a small, brightly polished or coated piece of plastic that focuses the light of the flashlight into a beam.  The reflector lives under a face cap at the outside (all the way forward) edge of the bezel.  Muckle onto the front face cap with one hand, while holding onto the tapering back half of the bezel with the other.  Unscrew the front face cap off the back end of the removed bezel.  It should come right off (be careful not to lose the clear polycarbonate outer lens!), and you will be able to pop the original reflector out, and install the new Nite Ize unit right in its place.  Screw the lens cap back onto the bezel, then re-install the bezel head unit onto the body of the flashlight.  You’re (likely) done – it’s maybe a three-minute process if you’ve ever had a Mini-Maglite apart before.

Troubleshooting

2_SHTFblog_Survival-cache-tactical-mini-maglite-aa-LED-upgrade-nite-ize-tailcap-switch-optionOkay, so you converted your old Mini-Maglite to this newfangled Nite Ize LED bulb setup and it doesn’t work.  What now?  Well, before you assume that it’s junk and broken and go kicking and screaming to Nite-Ize, there are a couple things you can try.  First, and most obvious – put fresh batteries in the damn thing.  Still not working?  Okay, onwards to diagnostics!

First off, just like the original bulb, the bezel assembly needs to be unscrewed somewhat to actually activate the flashlight – just like every other AA Maglite.  Give that a whirl.  With the bezel at a position where the light would normally be on, try hitting the tailcap switch again.  The unit should turn on.

If not, try removing the bezel assembly and checking the bulb installation.  The LED bulb needs to have the two little contact wires installed in the proper holes; it does not work if it’s in backwards.  Remove the bulb, spin it 180 degrees, and re-install the bulb and bezel.  This should cure what ails your little flashlight – I had the same issue with one of my installs.  You have a 50/50 shot – it’s a pretty good chance it’s backwards.

If your light STILL doesn’t work, try removing the tailcap switch and replacing it with the original Mini-Maglite fixed tailcap.  Delightfully, the Nite Ize conversion is compatible with the original tailcap, meaning that you’re not required to use the push-button tailcap. If you have the original tailcap on, fresh batteries in the unit, and you’ve tried the bulb both ways, the culprit is quite likely the tailcap switch – if the old cap makes the flashlight work, you’ve got it narrowed down.  This situation occurred with one of my kits.  I emailed Nite Ize customer service, explained the situation and what I’d done to narrow down the possibilities, and a couple days later I had a new one in the mail that worked beautifully, no hassle or BS.

Wrapping It Up

1_SHTFblog_Survival-cache-tactical-mini-maglite-aa-LED-upgrade-nite-ize-incandescent-beamAll in all, this is a really great upgrade for your aging (or new) incandescent bulb AA Mini Maglite collection.  The improvement is more than worth the few dollars you’ll spend on the combo kit; and the kit will save itself in battery expenditure along in short order.  I like that the kit retains the focus capability of the beam and removes some “dead” spots that the incandescent bulb configurations was famous for – but it does not completely remove the spots.  The upgrade also retains the water resistance and shock impact ratings, which was always a selling point to me – the Mini Maglite is a rugged little flashlight for sure.

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The ability to “tailstand” – unscrewing the lens bezel completely, placing it lens-down on a flat surface, and inserting the operating flashlight tail-end into the back of the bezel like a candle – is also retained with this Nite Ize LED Combo kit.  This has always been one of my favorite features of the Mini Maglite; you can use the flashlight to illuminate a whole area like a lantern, as opposed to just a directed beam.  This feature is a Godsend when the power goes out and you don’t have candles – you can illuminate a room to play board games, read a book, etc.  It’s a great capability to have, and makes the lights worth their weight in gold once the power grid is down.

The one thing I don’t like about this kit – the loss of the lanyard loop when you replace the original tailcap with the push-button switch – can be negated simply by replacing the original end cap; so don’t throw out the original parts!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost lost my flashlight while nighttime fishing on railroad trestles – the simple addition of a leather cord lanyard through the tailcap hole has saved my bacon more than once, so you can bet your behind I’ll be changing out the push button tailcap on most of my outdoor adventures.  The choice and ability to function in either configuration sure is great, though.

If you’re starting from scratch and are looking for a quality, tough-as-hell LED flashlight for under or around $20 (if you buy those cheapo gas station register multi-LED lights you’re asking for trouble), a great way to go would be to buy a regular AA Mini-Maglite at your local Wal-Mart or on Amazon, then purchase one of these Nite Ize kits.

For those possessing the bigger “C” and “D” cell full-sized Maglites, Nite Ize makes upgrade LED bulbs for those lights as well.

3_SHTFblog_Survival-cache-tactical-mini-maglite-aa-LED-upgrade-nite-ize-white-beam-focus (1)The brighter, white LED beam is much more useful than the order yellow incandescent beam, and this kit delivers the goods for a very small hit on the wallet.  It’s a great upgrade to combat the unplanned obsolescence of a truly great, functional flashlight design. The company’s customer service is outstanding as well, and was a true delight to deal with.  This upgrade to my old beloved Mini Maglites was worth every penny, and I’ll be buying more to upgrade the rest of the Maglite fleet. I can’t give you a better testimonial than that.

 

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Handling Medical Emergencies

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1_med_bagMedical emergencies go far beyond straightforward fractures, sprains and breaks; would you know what to do in the case of an asthma attack, fever or dehydration? These things can happen to anyone and at any time, and when they do strike you might find yourself far away from emergency medical care. Then what?

By Alex Coyne, a contributing author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog.com

Here are some common (and not so common) medical emergencies you should be prepared for and what to do…

#1: An asthma attack.

Chronic asthma sufferers should always have their medication on hand or within reach, especially when they plan on travelling. When they don’t, the first step is to keep the person calm and breathing deeply. Panic only causes the airways to close up further. Caffeinated beverages – coffee and energy drinks – are good in an emergency and can stop an asthma attack in its tracks; they’re always part of the emergency kit for good reason.

#2: Handling a fever.

1_thermometer-temperature-fever-fluA fever is the body’s way of altering its temperature to kill any pathogens in the body. Symptoms include shivering, sweating and the sensation of feeling hot or cold – sometimes both interchangeably. The worst thing you can possibly do with someone who has a fever is to throw them into an ice bath. Yes, it’s one of those things you saw in the movies that can kill someone. A fever puts way too much strain on the heart, and your best bet for cooling down someone with a fever is to keep them hydrated, cool them down slowly with a cold cloth and try medication like paracetamol before seeking medical attention.

#3: Seeing (and stopping) advanced hypothermia.

Hypothermia is what happens when the body’s core temperature drops below 35°C; frostbite and hypothermia go hand in hand. The symptoms of hypothermia starts with shivering, then goes on to worse symptoms like drowsiness and confusion, which eventually leads to coma and death. With hypothermia, do not resort to alcohol or quickly warming the person: Both will do more damage. Remove the person from the cold environment, get them into dry, warm clothes and warm them up slowly.

#5: Dehydration.

1_splashing-splash-aqua-water-67843By the time your body tells you you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated: It pays to remember this fact on a daily basis and when camping or hiking. Make sure you drink plenty of (clean) water. Replace the fluid your body puts out (through sweat, for example) and then some more. Also pack drinks specifically for treating dehydration, which contain much-needed salts and electrolytes. In an emergency, a mixture of water, sugar and salt replaces the most necessary minerals. Remember that sugar, salt and alcohol all have dehydrating effects on the body.

Keep in mind that coconut water, intravenously, will also replace electrolytes.

#6: How to stop bleeding.

Maybe it’s a small cut, or maybe the emergency is a little more severe – and spurting blood. You’ll encounter both in your lifetime, and it’s vital that you know how to handle it. For severe bleeding, apply firm pressure with a compress. Remember to wear gloves, and do not use a tourniquet. This cuts off blood circulation and will lead to tissue damage pretty quickly. For slight bleeding, both salt and sugar have antibacterial  properties and will help the blood to clot sooner.

#7: Slowing an infection.

The biggest danger with most wounds, even small ones, is often not the wound itself but the resulting infection that can occur. When an injury occurs, the first priority after stopping the bleeding should be cleaning the wound with sterilized water or alcohol – trace amounts of dirt can be enough to cause a serious infection and should be removed. Sugar and salt, as mentioned above, have fantastic antibacterial properties. Yes, this will hurt, but what would you rather have in this situation?

If severe infection has already set in and medical help is not available for a long time (say, if you are stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean), learn to look upon maggots as a good sign: They clean dead and infected skin out of the wounds, and should be allowed to do their thing before being removed – carefully, of course.

#8: Demystifying fainting spells.

The technical term for fainting, if you’ve ever wondered, is syncope. It can happen for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) blood pressure or lack of oxygen to the brain. Fainting at the site of blood we now know is a neurological condition. It’s never anything less than a medical emergency, and should always be treated with care – and examined on a case-by-case basis. First, check if the person is breathing and their heart is beating the way it should. Make sure that their airways are not obstructed and that they are away from danger. Then, try to revive them. Fluids – sugar water or fruit juice – should be given immediately.

#9: Spotting a stroke.

The cause of most strokes are a lack of blood supply to the brain.

1_stroke_blurry_lights-night-unsharp-bluredThe symptoms of a stroke are varied and can include the feeling of pins and needles, fatigue, a loss of balance, paralysis – especially on one side of the body, double vision and difficulty speaking or slurred speech. Look for signs of confusion, and ask the patient to lift their arms above their head or touch their tongue to the roof of their mouth: If they can’t, you might be dealing with the symptoms of a stroke.

Like most other emergencies, keep the patient calm and stay calm yourself. Check their responses by asking some simple questions and seeing how they respond to physical stimuli. (Someone who has just had a stroke might be unconscious. In this case, resort to checking eyelid response.) If they are unconscious, you want to check their airways and heart rate and administer CPR before seeking help.

It is not recommended to give someone having a stroke something to eat or drink.

Share your medical emergency tips or stories with our readers in the comments.

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Survival Gear Review: The SOG Banner USA Made Knife

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1_featured_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_blade_profile

1_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_folded_in_hand_grip_billboardSOG knives in general need no introduction, but there are three new players in the SOG folder lineup that do deserve some special attention. All three are solid black. All three lean heavily towards the tactical side. All three use springs to deploy the blade. And all three are made in America. There is a lone fixed blade in the American made SOG line and it is an outstanding knife named the Pillar and featured here.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache.com

Of the three American made SOG folders, the Banner is the only assisted opening knife, while the Tac Ops and the Strat Ops are both auto opening at the push of a button. The SOG Banner requires a nudge to fire the blade to attention, but after  quarter-inch of movement, the blade fires out of the grip with force and determination all the way to it’s positive lock in the fully open position.

Full Assistance

2_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_pivot_S35VNMany assisted opening folding knives have a spring mechanism in the grips that launches the blade from the handle but once the initial impulse is over, it is pure momentum that carries the blade the rest of the way. In fact some assists are more like a baseball bat whacking the ball. The punch is short and half-hearted leaving the blade to its own for more than half its journey. With the Banner, the mainspring is around the blade pivot point so there is a near-uniform amount of deployment force on the blade to the very end of its rotation.

Read Also: Let’s Talk Knives: 12 Things You Should Know

To wander in the weeds a little more, SOG calls this feature it’s SAT or SOG Assisted Technology. SOG describes it as a, “balance of opposing high-tension coil springs.” What this means in real life is that the blade only has two natural positions; fully seated in the grip and fully deployed. There is no in-between. Even when fully deployed, the blade remains under tension. The SOG SAT is a solid deployment mechanism that has proven itself more than enough times in other SOG blades including the famous SOG Flash.

Comparing the SOG Banner to the Zero Tolerance 0770CF I reviewed here, the ZT spring applies force to the blade for only one-half of its intended journey while my Benchmade assists are spring loaded to about three-fourths of their rotation. What this all translates to in terms of knife-feel at deployment is the SOG Banner doesn’t just have a satisfying click as the blade rolls to a stop. Instead the SOG Banner’s blade slams home more like the bolt on an AR15 or the slide on a Glock. There is absolutely no ambiguity about where the blade is on the deployment spectrum.

The SOG Banner has a pair of beautifully machined flat-black anodized aluminum scales with non-skeletonized stainless steel inserts. In another break from traditional conformity, the SOG Banner’s inserts appear to be screwed to the scales from inside the knife, and then the scales are screwed together with three torx bolts on the rear, and with the oversized pivot covers on the frontend of the grip. It’s almost as if the SOG Banner was built from the inside out. Perhaps it has to do with the dual-spring action of the knife, but the design is a welcome change from convention. And don’t worry, SOG hasn’t forgotten that the user may want to adjust the play in the blade so a T8 Torx driver will make any desired adjustments in the pivot. But like all auto and semi auto knives, do not disassemble them without eye protection and full knowledge that you will have to send in a bag of whatever parts you can find back to the company for service since there are often special knife-specific tools used in the assembly and reassembly of the knives as well as intimate knowledge of how they all go together and in what order.

Running the Numbers

4_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_overall_onrockAll that aluminium and steel gives the SOG Banner a weight that SOG lists as between 4.5 and 4.6 ounces, but my scale says is actually 4.370 ounces. Not that anyone could tell the difference. Regardless of the weight, the SOG Banner has an open-spine design meaning you can look right through the grip. This design avoids the pocket lint scoop shape that collects all manner of debris into the blade shell. And should detritus find its way into the handle, the open action gives plenty of cleaning access. Additionally, the external strength of the handle does not require a standoff in the middle of the spine. A standoff is the fancy name for those little internal pillars that give support and structure to the grips. Instead the spine standoff in the SOG Banner is far back in the open spine.

The overall length of the SOG Banner is seven and three-quarters inches from blade tip to outside curve of the pocket clip. The usable blade length is about three inches, and the overall closed length is four-and-three-quarters inches, again to the far end of the pocket clip.

5_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folded_MOLLEThe average thickness of the handle is about three-eighths of an inch making this as svelte as the ZT in carbon fiber. Adding to the low-profile pocket carry stature of the SOG Banner is a deep-carry pocket clip. In fact, the catch loop at the far end of the pocket clip is a full eighth-inch beyond the nearest handle scale meaning not just the bulk of the knife rides below the pocket line, but the entire SOG Banner can disappear into the pocket while still securely hooked onto the fabric seam. Pocket clip depth varies, but many knives including Benchmade can leave up to half an inch of knife above the pocket clip. While having the knife ride high can speed deployment, it also makes it more noticeable, and even a little top heavy allowing for unintentional extraction from the pocket whether by active drift or inverted momentum (also known as falling down).

Full Clip

6_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_pocket_clipAlso unlike most other blade makers, SOG has chosen a more complex reversible pocket clip design for the Banner that actually bolts on the clip to the inside of the knife rather than to the outside of a scale the same way a flagpole is bolted onto the side of a building. While certainly making the engineering of the knife more complex, the payback is substantial. So not only does the pocket clip lower the knife deeper, but it also takes itself out of the thickness equation leaving absolutely nothing between the knife handle and the inside of the pocket. Further, the SOG’s SOG logo is a prominent metal stencil machined into the clip providing just the right amount of texture on the clip to aid in retention as time and deployments smooth out the clip. But, of course, that same SOG logo announces to the world that you have a SOG in your pocket.

The anodized aluminum handle scales are smooth but not slippery. I own a handful of aluminum scaled knives and like to joke that the manufacturers should have applied a coat of teflon to really make the handle slick. I can see the need for a slick housing when the knife will spend almost all of its waking hours deep in the smooth lines of a gentleman’s slacks, but the SOG Banner is no gentleman and certainly won’t be happy in a pair of office trousers. I’d guess blue denim and Carhartt cotton canvas are about as soft a pocket life as this particular SOG Banner will ever have in my world.

A lanyard hole is on the spine-side of the grips base, but it emerges half under the pocket clip. As far as I can tell, the SOG Banner will run well with either the pocket clip or a lanyard, but not necessarily both.

Maximum Lockup

The locking mechanism is single round button on the left side of the frame just above the pivot. The single button on the left is a for a right-handed thumb activation. So while the assist feature is activated from either right or left thumb-stud on the blade spine, the unlocking is natural in the right hand and a touch awkward in the left hand using the index finger to compress the button.

3_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_lock_button_lockOn the knife’s spine directly above the locking button is a secondary locking slider that will keep the blade from deploying. It will not keep the blade from retracting like many other lock locks do. This lock lock moves out of the lock position when the blade is being closed. But if the lock lock is activated while the blade is closed, the entire system is on hold until the lock slider is pushed forward. And like a gun safety, there is a red indicator painted on the slider giving a visual sign which way the lever is positioned. Red means unlocked.

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One minor irritation I have with the lock slider is that it is a thin metal nub with three aggressive jimps for traction. However, due to the thinness of the metal, it is much easier and safer to manipulate with a fingernail rather than rubbing precious thumb skin over it. Add the fact that the switch rises a thirty-second of an inch above the spine proper, you will notice the lever under your thumb during normal blade use.

Bladewerk

7_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_thumbstudThe blade on the SOG Banner is a lightly drop pointed and lightly reverse curved razor sharp slicer. A minor unsharpened swedge or false edge rides the top of the blade two-thirds of the way back to the handle. The blade had no thumb ramp to speak of, but does have some aggressive jimping just beyond the handle. The aggressiveness in not in size, but in sharpness and amount. The jimps are almost like mini saw teeth rather than ridges or notches.

The blade is a hair over one-sixteenth of an inch thick which is a fairly common size. But with the flat-black CeraKote finish, you could say that black is slimming because the blade looks thin. The flat grind gives plenty of wide open featureless space on the blade adding to the blackness, and it’s not until you reach the final business side of the edge that any shiny metal is exposed with nothing but a millimeter of secondary bevel reflecting light.

The mild reverse curve of the blade provides more cutting edge and workpiece focusing compared to a straight or convex belly. Which is exactly why reverse curves are used. They also come in handy when fighting by maintaining more contact with meat and bone during the slice. Yes, ouch.

The tip of the blade is a paper-thin surgical instrument that would have no trouble puncturing any softer material or getting the attention of anyone needing some encouragement to focus. However, the tip would not last long if used as a prybar or screwdriver, two common blade tip uses that really should be at the very top of your Knife Do-Nots.

8_SOG_Banner_Knife_assist_folder_rope_cuttingAll this blade goodness is made with a supersteel named CPM S35VN. In addition to all the bigger, better, and badder qualities of the supersteel, it is an American made product of exceptional performance. According to Crucible Industries, the steel’s maker, S35VN was designed to improve one of my favorite steels, the S30V by substituting niobium carbides for some of the vanadium carbides creating a tougher steel yet one that is easier to machine and polish. If all this chemical rebalancing and letter/number steel names makes your head spin, then just remember that like ammo performance, optics technology, cell phones, and flashlight LEDs, knives might look like their ancestors, but that’s pretty much where the similarities begin and end.

The blade is not designed for woodworking although the handle is exceedingly comfortable in almost all positions. Except for the locking slider on the spine, the smooth handle slabs and melted corners make the SOG Banner a joy to hold. The flat grind is a good choice for food prep, wood shaving, and general use. Plus it is one of the easier edges to sharpen especially in the field with minimal tools. Like nothing but a rock.

The single index finger groove in the handle profile has a stout forward lean providing added slip protection for when this knife is wet or your hands are cold. Aluminium is an excellent conductor of hot and cold so if using this outdoors in freezing weather with bare hands, you will notice its. Additionally the density of the grips with its steel and aluminum shells will hold the cold longer than more gentlemanly pocket knives. But in my freezer tests, the assist mechanism worked the same even when the knife was below zero.

The SOG Banner retails for $254 and street prices will of course be less. But it and its auto siblings are running with the other American big boys now so expect to pay for American made quality and American made performance.

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Survival Gear Review: Leupold LTO Tracker Thermal Imager

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1_Featured_Leupold_LTO_Tracker_thermal_imager_truck_engine

2_Leupold_LTO_Tracker_thermal_imager_bird_in_treeAlternate universes live just outside the wavelengths of light we can see with our eyes. Doctors use X-rays, astronomers use radio waves, and the more prepared folks can use infrared. IR, or infrared, comes in two flavors, reflected and emitted. Gen 1 night vision uses reflected infrared light to supplement any ambient light. By using an IR emitter or IR flashlight, a scene can be lit up when viewed with night vision optics, yet remain completely dark and invisible to the naked eye.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache.com

Thermal, on the other hand, uses a special camera to view the heat signature of objects, people, and animals. Those new to Thermal Optics or TO, are in for a surprise. Thermal imaging is like magic when needing to see inside, through, or across the wide open. And now Leupold has put a durable, versatile, and powerful thermal imager onto the market and into the hands of hunters, preparers, and anyone who wants or needs visual superpowers.

Thermal Dynomite

3_Leupold_LTO_Tracker_thermal_imager_battery_housingThe Leupold LTO offers a six viewing choices, and a 1x-6x zoom. The LTO runs for 10 hours on a single CR123 battery, and is built like a tank. At a hair over five and a half inches, and a dense 10 ounces, the LTO (presumably Leupold Thermal Optic) is precision machined out of aluminium and has that rock solid Leupold scope feel. The uses for the Leupold LTO are infinite, and range from those anticipated and necessary tasks such as tracking injured game, or peering through brush for critters or people. And I do mean “peering through”. The Leupold LTO can see beyond and through brush that blocks normal vision, and it makes no difference if it’s full daylight or the pitch blackness of night.

Instead of a photograph, a thermal camera creates a thermogram by focusing the emitted infrared light (think heat or temperature) of objects in the field of view, and then digitally processes them. The end result is a image you can see on a monitor or display that converted the invisible (to us) temperature differences in the scene into a set of shapes and colors that we can see and understand. The set of options in the Leupold LTO’s color pallet provide various ways to interpret the heat signatures of objects. Some pallets work better than others with specific subjects.

A fun idea to consider is that rattlesnakes and other animals that use infrared information in their hunting could be viewing the world the same way you might with the Leupold LTO. It doesn’t take an excessive amount of mental gymnastics to imagine seeing temperature, and it certainly didn’t escape Hollywood with such movies as Predator. And whether or not a layer of mud would be enough to hide Arnold from the Predator’s thermal imaging is a discussion for later.

4_Leupold_LTO_Tracker_thermal_imager_case_closedThe Leupold LTO is ripe for a good padded case. I don’t know if Leupold has plans for one, but I found a Nitecore flashlight case to be on the right track. It holds the Leupold LTO in a way that it can be used while in the case, as well as being able to wear the Leupold LTO around my neck or belt, and deploy instantly and as necessary. The case uses a Velcro closure flap that covers the eyepiece, but also allows the thermal camera on the opposite side open for business like an old-school holster. If I were Leupold, I would consider a single Fastex buckle cover system that in one-buckle release flips open the two end covers and frees the optics for viewing. Given the hard-use environments that this Leupold LTO will thrive in, and the potential life-and-death situations that the Leupold LTO could find itself in, a dedicated padded case might be more than a good idea.

Now You See It

In the field, the Leupold LTO is nothing short of amazing. The Leupold LTO is simple to use. Hold down the on-button for a few seconds and the Leupold LTO springs to life. The LTO remembers its last thermal color setting, and fires up at 1x. The Leupold LTO can zoom to a higher digital magnification either by steps when clicking the zoom button, or holding the zoom button down and zipping up in magnification level at tiny increments from one to six then dropping back to one again in an infinite circle.

5_Leupold_LTO_Tracker_thermal_imager_green_forestAn odd feature that asks more questions than it answers is that when the on/off buttons is toggled, a set of crosshairs appears. Since the Leupold LTO is not recommended for mounting on a rifle even though it’s an obvious one-inch tube that would have not trouble mating with conventional optics mounts. The crosshairs are a helpful addition if you have the Leupold LTO in a tripod mount, or other fixed container, but unlike the FLIR Thermal Optic Cameras, placing the crosshairs on a target does not provide any specific imaging info. However, there is something known as software creep where extra coded and features appear on something not yet designed for the capability of the code. So if I had to guess, it’s only a matter of time before the hardware is durable enough to sit in front of a red dot like the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro giving the shooter a $10,000 experience through a $800 (street price) thermal optic.

And Why?

Here are dozen uses for the Leupold LTO that will make a difference when it matters.

  1. When things go bump in the night. While night vision might be a go-to solution, but when the “bump” is hiding, thermal imaging may be able to see through the concealment. Remember when the Boston Marathon Bomber was found hiding in a sailboat? It was thermal imaging that give away his position.
  2. Locating dangerous heat sources, fires, and overheated electrical components.
  3. Finding people and animals in thick smoke.
  4. Identifying recently driven vehicles.
  5. Detecting heat leaks in your home or camp.
  6. Comparing body temperatures, fevers, and injury hot spots.
  7. Looking back in time to where someone or some animal might have been hiding.
  8. Looking through walls for hidden compartments and doors.
  9. Looking through clothes for the outline of a concealed weapon.
  10. Stalking game while hunting, especially when animals are bedded down.
  11. Tracking an injured animal or person by following the thermal signature of the blood trail.
  12. Identifying the living from the dead.

The Leupold LTO has six different viewing modes or color palettes as Leupold calls them: Red, Green, White-hot, Black-hot, Black-highlight, and White-highlight. Its field of view is about 21 degrees and it has a 6x continuous digital zoom. There is no focus on the Leupold LTO, nor is there a need for one.

Behind the Curtain

The single CR123 battery provides about 10 hours of continuous use, or 20 minutes per day for a month. To access the battery compartment, a knurled ring in the center of the Leupold LTO is spun unscrewing the two halves of the unit. A flexible circuit spans the gap and access to a battery pocket.

6_Leupold_LTO_Tracker_thermal_imager_with_fireplaceThe operating temperature for the Leupold LTO is from -4 F to 140F, and it has a range of 600 yards according to Leupold, but I’m not sure what limits it. Likely it is that the resolution of the screen won’t provide much useful information about objects far away because the tiny screen is only 240 by 204 pixels. For reference, an Apple Watch is 312 by 390 pixels and an iPhone 7 screen is 1334 by 740 pixels. So out at a hundred yards, a human is only a few pixels wide and a few more than that tall on the LTO screen.  Another technical consideration when presenting imagery on a screen is the refresh rate or frame rate. The  Leupold LTO runs at 30hz. The human eye can detect the pauses in video if the frame rate drops below 20. So at 30, the Leupold LTO produces an image that mimics real world movement without jerks or jumps.

As mentioned, the aluminium shell is wonderfully strong, but the housing is also water resistant to IP67 standards which in English means IP=Ingress Protection, 6=total dust protection on a scale of 0-6, and the 7= “waterproof” to water immersion up to one meter. The IP67 is also the same rating of the iPhone 7.

The Magic Golden Ring

7_Leupold_LTO_Tracker_thermal_imager_in_handAs a Leupold Gold Ring product, Leupold will stand behind the  Leupold LTO with its excellent warranty for up to five years on the electronics. And frankly I’m not sure what else would need service except for the electronics.  I know there will be blowback when suggesting battery powered devices for survival situations. Of course the electronics can break and the batteries can die, but if it doesn’t and they don’t you have some incredible superpowers in the meantime. And the way I look at it is that many survival situations are short term and you can use all the help you can get. But if things really go bad, possibly for a long time, the first few hours, days or weeks are a critical time where you need as many superpowers as you can get. The  Leupold LTO really will give you superpowers.

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The SW22 Victory: A Project Squirrel Pistol (Part 1)

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1_Featured_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_magazines_Tandemkross_followers_baseplates

Back when I was working on Project Squirrel Gun, I was playing with the small game hunting concept, which unfortunately is the likely best case scenario if things go dark big time. So why not a Project Squirrel Pistol?

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache.com

2_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_Tandemkross-magazine_release_Victory_triggerRather than trying to find an inexpensive bolt action pistol to match the rifle, I decided to look for a semi-auto solution since a quality long-range shooting .22 revolver is as elusive as it is expensive. So once in the .22 long rifle auto pistol market, I only had about two dozen guns to choose from. But when looking for a real long distance tack driver over a concealed carry format along with some desired characteristics included a target weight barrel, a threaded muzzle, optics mountable, and a friendly aftermarket community, the selection rapidly narrowed to Ruger, Browning, and Smith and Wesson. Of the three brands, the S&W was the least expensive with street prices beginning at $350 and it had a fast-growing pile of aftermarket upgrades of both pistol parts, barrels, mag enhancements, and grips. Although the Victory was only a couple years old, and I’d never even shot one, the collection of companies supporting the Victory was enough to convince me that this thing was really a Thing.

The Road to Victory

The Ruger is an excellent choice and one I chose for my B.O.L.T pistol. And with the new easy-takedown Ruger Mark IV, it’s hard to ignore that as the go-to option. The problem is that the Ruger is still expensive, still without a threaded barrel, still without a healthy appetite for anything stuffed in it’s mouth, and finally, while running well when dirty, the Mark series of Ruger .22s are not known for being the most friendly when digging deeper than cracking open the case.

Check Out: B.O.L.T Pistol

The Browning Buckmark is a fine firearm, but lacks heavily in the aftermarket arena. If the pistol were perfect, than that would not be an issue, but like about everything except the Colt Python, is there definitely room for improvement. Bolt-on options are available for the Buckmark, but tweaking the innards is still left for the professional gunsmith.

3_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_Magpul_DAKA_carry_OptionOne standout that is relatively new to the Ruger/Luger looking autopistol is the SW22 Victory from Smith and Wesson. Currently there are three versions. All have in common a heavy steel receiver and five-and-a-half inch target bull barrel, plastic grips on a mostly plastic grip frame. The only real differences between the three models is one has a Kryptek and blacked-out color scheme, and the other two are mostly satin stainless steel, one with a threaded muzzle, one without. So if you were blindfolded, all three would feel and operate the same.

With all the excitement about the new Ruger Mark IV with it’s one-button takedown, the one-screw takedown of the SW22 Victory seems mundane. An excessive amount of work in fact. But either way, the SW22 Victory almost falls apart once the single receiver bolt is removed using a ⅛ inch hex wrench. Unscrew one more hex bolt next door and you can remove the barrel from the receiver. So simple and quick that the SW22 Victory is just asking to be tinkered with.

Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

5_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_TandemKross_magazine_disconnect_leverThe S&W Victory is plenty good straight out of the box. But like a base model AR15, the Victory is begging for customization. Smith and Wesson loaded up the Victory with an excellent trigger action, a target barrel, and fabulous fiber optic hard sights. But the grips, the mag release button, the magazine disconnect safety feature, and a few other things are ripe for upgrade. Some more seriously than others. And even the barrel has not escaped the option to upgrade. In fact, the ease of swapping the barrel and even some other components makes one wonder if this is what the boys at S&W had in mind from the beginning since the gun is rock solid from a foundational standpoint. So let’s get to work.

Ours go to 11

1_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_TandemKross_Magazine_pouchStarting on the magazine side, there are two mag upgrades worth noting. The first is a new baseplate. Why, you might ask. Because the tiny base plate on the factory magazines is small, smooth, and not the most talkative when it comes to answering the question if it is fully seated or not. The TandemKross VictoryPro extended baseplate. adds a little more bulk and a gripping surface, the VictoryPro makes seating and unseating mags ever more positive.

The factory mag only holds the standard state compliant 10 rounds, but an 11th round option is available with a shorter follower. TandemKross makes one of those too and it’s called the Maximus Plus1. By shortening up the follower an eleventh round fits in the magazine body just fine. Plus they made the follower bright red instead of basic black so it is vastly more obvious where the bullets stop and the follower begins.

Supporting magazines during activity involves roll pouches of some sort. TandemKross makes a modular mag pouch option called the Quick Grip pouch. Made of durable Zytel, and with adjustable retention the Quick Grips work with all major .22 mag options from Ruger to Browning to Smith and Wesson, and even Colt. So since a Squirrel Pistol is going to live in the field, magazine management is of consideration.

Get Schooled

These upgrades are so easy, a nine-year old girl could do them. And that’s because a nine-year old girl shows you how in the TandemKross installation videos. And that same fourth grade girl probably has a faster tactical reload than you do. In fact the video of the install of TandemKross’s Titan Extended Magazine Release for the SW22 is a pleasure to watch and far more entertaining than most other dry monotone gunsmithing videos. Speaking of the Extended mag release, it is another go-to part. The factory release is both too big and too small. It’s too big for not having a secondary use as a rest, and too small to easily be reached by a smaller hand, say that of a nine-year old girl.

Disconnected

Another pistol-side upgrade regarding magazines is the magazine disconnect safety feature. This is a metal strip that runs underneath the left side grip panel. It detects the presence of a mag and prevents the gun from being fired without a magazine fully seated. The problem in a survival situation is that you may want to shoot the gun without a magazine in place. For instance if you lost your mags somehow and you loaded a directly into the breech. Or the magazine inadvertently was ejected in the heat of the battle or the hunt. You could push up on the magazine disconnect lever with your fingernail and the gun will fire just fine, but that’s pretty awkward. Or you could remove the disconnect lever all together, but then you also loose the spring that launches the mag out of the Victory with more satisfaction than most pistols offer. So a better solution is the TandemKross Magazine Disconnect replacement. This thin metal strip replaces the factor disconnect keeping the spring action intact, but eliminates the need for a mag to be present in order to fire the weapon.

He Bit Me

1_Smith_and_Wesson_SW22_Victory_Trigger_magazine_eject_buttonPulling the slide back on the Victory can be a challenge. First of all, it takes a surprising amount of effort to begin the cycle. Second, if you don’t slingshot the bolt, you may get a bit of a bite from where the slide mates with the frame. Only a small triangular portion of the back of the receiver moves. More than a Ruger, but less than a Browning. And that little amount is enough to pinch your fingers if you let the slide down rather than just letting go of it. TandemKross addressed this with their Halo Charging Handle. The Halo is a thumb-sized loop that clamps to the existing jimping on the slide’s walls. Not only does the Halo make it easy to cycle the bolt, but it gives you additional options for grabbing and charging the pistol under conditions where it might be impossible otherwise such as, one handed, cold hands, wet or slick fingers, and weak muscles. Surprisingly, a full cycle of the Victory’s bolt actually takes quite a bit of effort. Yes, it is just a .22 but something about the leverage cocking hammer back requires a surprising amount of effort. A few times I’ve even thought something was jammed, but no, just in need of a healthy tug.

Related: The Ruger Alaskan

The SW22 Victory is known for having an excellent out-of-the-box trigger. Unlike most other sub-custom .22 auto pistols, the Victory has smooth take up, a clean break, and acceptable overtravel and reset. However the trigger shoe is old school and a little sloppy side to side. The Victory Trigger from TandemKross is an excellent upgrade providing a heavily textured flat face and micro adjustments allowing a drop in pull poundage, reduced and adjustable takeup and overtravel, and a second color option. While installing the Victory trigger requires a bit more surgery than the other upgraded parts, it is also a great time to learn how your gun works. And don’t worry, TandemKross also sells an extra trigger-side spring and detent kit for three bucks for when your factory one goes flying across the room. TandemKross does suggest, however, doing some of the gun work inside a plastic bag or box, and always wear safety glasses. I concur.

Same Bat Channel

In part 2 of this themed build, we will take the Victory outside with a choice of optics, carry options, and things to screw onto the muzzle.

 

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Survival Gun Review: The Ruger Alaskan

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1_Featured_Ruger_Super_Redhawk_Alaskan_44_Magnum_Buffalo_Bore_bear_ammo

2_Ruger_Super_Redhawk_Alaskan_44_Magnum_.There has been an explosion of carry pistols and what I call “city variants” of guns over the past couple decades. From a Glock in every home, to more concealed carry permits that ever, to a wide choice of magazines about the topic in the grocery store. It’s no wonder that notable wheel guns seem a bit of an oddity these days. Especially the larger caliber “hand cannons.”

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

While I won’t completely dismiss the “Dirty Harry effect” on big muzzle wheel guns, I do find the .44 magnum a proper load when follow up shots might not be an option. Like with bears for instance. Now I’ll admit I am a fan of bear spray. I hear endless city folk and even plenty of suburbanites complain that pepper spray is ineffective, full of drawbacks, and nowhere near as good as a firearm. Basically that tells me that there are some holes in their knowledge about bears, bear spray, and firearms.

2_nice_bear_pondFirst of all, pepper spray is effective on bears. I find it a little funny that there seems to be plenty of survivors (mauled maybe, but living to tell the story) who sing the praises of pepper spray, and plenty that don’t. The one thing they all have in common is they lived. I’ve drawn down on bears with both pepper spray and rifle. Luckily I never had to fire the pepper spray, but I have the gun. One black bear took two 30-06 shots to the gut, and three more 30-30s to its midsection and hindquarter before I got a clear view to put a fourth 30-30 into its head. Bear and moose hunting is probably the closest to African dangerous big game hunting as you can get in North America. Hogs might fit there too in the cheetah/lion category.

Bear spray is a deterrent to an attack. I might not thwart it entirely, but the painful sting of cayenne in the bear’s eyes and nostrils is a pretty good start. And accuracy, while helpful, is not required. Just aim in the general direction and let the cloud do the talking. However, wind, distance, expiration date, and duration of the spray all set limits on the experience for the bear. And, of course, when the spray can in empty, it might be game over unless you have a backup plan.

A Little Big

4_Ruger_Super_Redhawk_Alaskan_44_Magnum_barrel_billboardEnter the Ruger Alaskan. A massive handgun stuffed into a small package. The Alaskan, or Super Redhawk “Alaskan” as its billboarded on the right side of the barrel, is an overbuilt stainless steel six-shot revolver of excessive proportions except in barrel length. At only two-a-half inches, the barrel is frightening from the shooter’s side. When Dirty Harry was bragging about the power of his magnum, he had about six inches more out in front to weigh down the recoil and keep the muzzle somewhat in the same direction as the target after the bang. But surprisingly, the Ruger Alaskan is quite manageable, and due to its weight, balance, and heavy rubber Hogue grip, the Alaskan is nowhere near the squirreliness of snub nosed .357’s.

Related: The Unappreciated 10mm Auto

When shooting .44 shorts, you can double-action all six cylinders in a row grinning all the way. .44 magnum rounds certainly remind you that they are not for the weak or fainthearted, but again nothing to be scared of. However, the +P+ Buffalo Bore heavy loads do send a tingle up your arm. It’s not that the muzzle flips, but more like swinging an aluminium baseball bat into a brick wall. It takes a second or two for the recoil jolt to transform into a sharp sting. But if you ever do “need” to fire the Alaskan, you won’t notice the recoil. I guarantee it.

When talking blunt force trauma, the .44 is an ideal cartridge. But unlike hollow point bullets popular for those unfriendly human encounters where you want to disrupt organs and bleed out the foe, the idea behind a hard cast flat nosed bullet is pure bone-breaking concussion. If a bullet fragments early in its journey through an angry bear, it will have little to no effect in any timeframe that matters.

As Isaac Newton penned 300 years ago, force equals mass times acceleration. That means that the force of a .44 magnum can approach that of a 30-06 rifle bullet if the .44 bullet weighs twice as much, say 340 grains compared to 165 grains, but only traveling half as fast, say 1400 fps compared to 2700 fps. So when playing at the upper tiers of pistol power, you are treading far into the realm of rifles.

And More

6_Ruger_Super_Redhawk_Alaskan_44_Magnum_cylindersThe Ruger Alaskan is more overbuilt than the other Redhawks in a couple ways. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Ruger Alaskan is that the entire main frame is one solid piece of stainless steel that completely surrounds the cylinder and extends to the muzzle. Traditional revolver designs have the barrel screwed into the main frame. Not the Ruger Alaskan. Another visible feature is the thickness of the top strap that runs from rear sight to barrel. So beefy is the top strap, among other parts, that it is one of the very few listed handguns that Buffalo Bore suggests can handle it’s most powerful solid cast bullet +P+ cartridges. Don’t bother looking for a Smith & Wesson on the list. There isn’t one.

Packing the Heat

For Alaskan carry in bear country, I have three solutions. The first is the standard Galco Dual Action Outdoorsman belt holster made specifically for the Ruger Alaskan. It is a beautiful piece of gunleather and the first choice of most Ruger Alaskan owners.

8_Ruger_Super_Redhawk_Alaskan_44_Magnum_Galco_chest_holsterMy second carry solution is for more specific activities including hunting, backpacking, and fly fishing. It is the Galco Great Alaskan Shoulder System chest holster right for the Ruger Alaskan. A nearly identical holster to the belt version but with a trio of straps that snug the holster to your chest, belly or sternum depending on need. Often the belt space is hidden inside waders or under a backpack waistbelt, or occupied with other kit. And there is risk that you might not be able to reach your belt area depending on the turn of events. Plus with a belt holster you have to commit to a carry side, in my case on the right hip. Drawing the Ruger Alaskan with the left hand from a right hip is not easy under the best of circumstances, and if you “need” to do it, the circumstances are certainly not best.

Check Out: How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

Drawing from a chest holster with support hand is still not the quickest but much easier. The final solution I use is to plop the pistol into the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag. This critter is like a thin fanny pack that rides securely on your chest. I prefer this method of carry when on cross-country skis, snowshoes, or mountainbiking.

For extra ammo (being optimistic) I use the Galco 2x2x2 ammo pouchUnlike auto pistols, carrying a handy 18 rounds of .44 magnum is quite a bit. Of course, if out in the sticks for  more than a week, I would up the round count to at least a couple dozen bangs depending on my other guns. If rifle hunting, not so much. If my only carry, then very much yes.

Home on the Range

8_Ruger_Super_Redhawk_Alaskan_44_Magnum_Primos_shooting_stickOnce you get the hang of the sights, the Ruger Alaskan will shoot all day long making a hockey puck-sized group. That’s from a rest, of course. On a bench or table, anything works. But for the open field, I prefer the Primos Gen 2 Bipod Trigger Stick. It allows me to hold the Ruger Alaskan at eye level, and I can quickly put all six rounds into a five dollar bill at 25 yards which is plenty good for hunting. Of course, if I take my time, I can keep those shots around Abe. With a little work, you could probably feel comfortable deer hunting out to 50 yards with the Ruger Alaskan. And in a survival situation, the ethics of fair chase take a back seat allowing you to push your luck. There are plenty of reports of Ruger Alaskan owners keeping everything inside a dinner plate at 150 feet.

For bears, however, there is a different equation at work. But first a joke: Do you know how to tell if a bear is really charging you or bluffing? Answer: If it’s a bluff, the bear will stop. And within that joke lies the problem. You have very little time to decide if how you will respond. If the bear gets too close, it won’t matter how many shots you get off. If the bear is bluffing, or just curious but not an immediate threat, well then you can quickly mess that up. And having an injured bear running around is all kinds of bad.

Looking for Action

The trigger on the Ruger Alaskan is fine. Quite fine, in fact. In single action the trigger trips around five pounds. Expect a dozen or more pounds of pull to snap off a round in double action. But if you can hold this gun safely, you can pull a 12 pound trigger.

The cylinder on the Ruger Alaskan spins counter-clockwise so keep that in mind if you need to load one more round. I also played around with three different Ruger Alaskans in .44 before deciding on the one I liked. The cylinder play was a hair too much for my taste in the first two. Well one was quite a few hairs off. But the third locked up like a rock. When dropping almost a grand on a narrow use pistol, perfection is part of the deal.

1_Ruger_Super_Redhawk_Alaskan_44_Magnum_muzzle_cylindersShould the need arise to have a handgun with this kind of power be needed for chores other than dispatching pesky four-leggers, the Ruger Alaskan is up to the job. The list of guns for survival is as deep as it is wide. But there is a popular convergence around those calibers of the .22 variety and millimeters in the nine to ten range. Most lists would put the Ruger Alaskan outside the top ten so I would have suggest that this particular gun is more on the experienced preperation list, or for those living in the proper geography. Ruger’s naming this the Alaskan is no accident. But it works fine in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Wyoming. For those states whose bears are smaller than my dog, I would suggest something else. A 10mm perhaps. But when it comes to sheer firepower for close quarters combat in the wilderness, the Alaskan is in a class by itself.

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The New Remington 1911R1 10MM Hunter

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1_1911R1_10mm_hunter_featured

2_remington_10mmThe Remington Arms Company began making firearms in 1816.  Specifically, the founder Eliphalet Remington made his first handgun in that year.  Later, in 1830, the original factory armory building was constructed in Ilion, New York.  Other buildings were added in 1854 and again in 1875. As you can well imagine with an arms company that grew to be such a comprehensive manufacturer of firearms, the total history is complex and multi-faceted.  It would take a book to outline it all, and in fact there are many books on the Remington Arms Company for those interested in such things as firearms history.  The study of Remington is a good one.  

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Remington Arms just celebrated their 200th Anniversary last year.  The company remains in a strong market position, though arms making these days is in a constant mode of flux as the markets and politics constantly changes.  And Remington has changed with the times, too.

Perhaps Remington is best known for their long guns including their benchmark bolt action rifle, the Model 700, as well as the 1100 Shotgun which became the 11-87 with enhancements, and their quintessential pump action shotgun, the 870.  But since 1816, Remington has manufactured countless models of handguns, rifles, and shotguns, not to mention ammunition, their famous Bullet knives, and other trademarked accessories.  

Remington was also a huge manufacturer of military arms from the Civil War’s 1861 revolver, various Derringers, pocket pistols, Calvary 1875 Army Revolvers, Rolling Block pistols and rifles, numerous percussion rifles, the US 1911 Remington UMC pistol, and rifles for World Wars I and II.  Their production of sporting arms is likewise legendary.  Their imagination and engineering creativity continues today.  

Recent Remington Renditions

3_remington_10mmRemington Arms Company has never been an industrial firearms manufacturing company to be satisfied with sitting on their laurels.  In just the past few years, Remington has gotten back into the pocket pistol, self-defense, personal protection and concealed handgun weapons business despite how crowded that marketplace is these days.  

First, Remington brought out their new .380 ACP semi-auto pocket pistol dubbed the RM380.  Next, they produced a pocket sized 9mm labeled the R51.  Finally, is their newest rendition, the RP9, a full sized personal protection 9mm that holds a fully stocked 18-round magazine.  

Check Out: Hiding Home Guns in Plain Sight

But along the way and besides these pistol introductions, Remington has stormed the classic 1911 pistol market with numerous variations on the 1911 frame theme including government models, commander models, enhanced versions, threaded barrel models, and more.  The 1911s come in blued steel and stainless versions in .45 ACP with limited models offered in 9mm and 40 S&W.

One of Remington’s latest 1911 renditions is the 1911R1 10mm Hunter Long Slide.  It is their first entry with a fully dedicated hunting 1911 version as well as a first semi-auto pistol chambered for the awesome 10mm round.  It’s not only handsome, it is totally purposeful for hunting, prepping, survival, and protection.

The Remington 1911R1 Long Slide

4_remington_10mmLong slide?  Yep.  Out of the box, the very first thing you notice if you are a true 1911 aficionado is that the muzzle tips over a little quicker than usual in the grip of your hand.  Why, you may ask?  Well, because this slide is six inches long, one inch more than a standard 1911 slide.  This extra inch of barrel and slide contributes to a number of enhancement performance features for the 1911R1.  Catalog specifications for this new 1911 besides the obvious six inch tube and slide includes the chambering of the 10mm Auto round.  The pistol’s magazine capacity is 8+1 rounds.  The barrel itself is stainless steel, six grooves with a 1:16 inch left hand twist.  Trigger weight pull is set at around 4.75 pounds.  Some say too heavy but it is completely manageable.

The trigger is a 3-hole design.  There is a beavertail grip and ambidextrous thumb safeties, a very nice feature.  The extractor is of the HD heavy duty type.  The pistol’s grips are the VZ Operator II type for durability, long lasting wear with aggressive checkering for firm gripping.  

The overall length of the pistol is 9.5 inches.  The gun’s carry weight is 41 ounces.  That is slightly over 2.5 pounds, so it is no lightweight.  The sights are fully adjustable, a match type with a serrated rear sight panel to reduce glare.  The front sight is a post type with an orange-red fiber optic insert.  They are highly visible and easy to line up.  The accessory rail under the frame can handle mounting a light or laser.

The gun itself is stainless steel, but it is factory finished in a black matte PVD-DLC coating.  PVD is a “physical vapor deposition” coating and the DLC is a “diamond like carbon” coating that provides a low friction factor plus a high micro-hardness feature.  So what does all that mean?  It means the metal or pistol itself is virtually impervious to moisture sink impact.  The DLC coating makes the moving parts of the pistol slick running.  

Though the factory guns are black matte as mentioned, there is a special version available now through Davidson’s Gallery of Guns.  This 1911R1 model comes with a special PVD oil rubbed bronze finish.  The VZ Operator II grips on this special pistol are a bronze reddish brown color.  It is not only unique but particularly beautiful.  These pistols should become collector’s models, but still with every bit of utility as the black versions.  Davidson’s also offers a full lifetime replacement warranty on guns bought from them.  Good deal, Lucille, as BB used to say.  

Factory delivery accessories includes a cool collectable Remington green box.  In the box is a fitted foam insert for the pistol, two silver chrome magazines, a cable gun lock with two keys, a hard plastic barrel bushing wrench, a 200th year Remington sticker, and a factory owner’s manual.  

The 10mm Auto Story

5_remington_10mmIn 1983 the earth shook.  The 10mm Auto and its first pistol, Crockett’s Miami Vice Bren Ten was introduced.  The initial load used a 200 grain fully jacketed truncated cone bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1200 fps.  The energy rating was set at 635 foot-pounds.  This meant it was more powerful than the .357 Magnum and the rather lackluster .41 Magnum police load.  

Related: How Much Ammo is Enough for SHTF? 

The Bren pistol and the 10mm came from development work by Jeff Cooper and his buddies trying to produce a new cartridge being touted as the ideal combat weapon’s load.  Some federal agencies adapted the 10mm, but in rather short order, users began to complain of recoil and training issues.  Ironically, the 10mm case was later shortened to create the .40 S&W, which is now nearly defunct in its own right.

The 10mm remains a good choice for defensive work and small game hunting up to deer sized game at reasonable ranges.  Colt, Glock, and Kimber still offer pistols chambered for the 10mm in addition to Remington’s new 1911R1 Hunter Long Slide.  

Factory ammunition is available from Hornady, Remington, Sig-Sauer, American Eagle, Armscor, Buffalo Bore, Cor-Bon, Double Tap, PMC, Prvi Partizan and Sellier & Bellot.  Bullet weights vary from 135 to 220 grains.  The standard is a 180 grain jacketed hollow point bullet.  Plenty of reloading supplies are also offered for home brewed 10mm loads.  

The Remington 1911R1 Hunter’s Purpose

6_remington_10mmSo, what is this new Remington pistol and the powerful 10mm Auto round to be used for?  There is no denying that the 10mm is a hummer, but having worked with a 10mm pistol for a couple years, I find it no more difficult to control than a full powered load in a .45 ACP.  If the .45 Auto is not for you, then the 10mm may not be either.  But try it before you dismiss it wholesale.  

In this Remington 1911R1 long slide delivery platform package, the 10mm is even more tamed with the extra inch of slide and barrel.  The increased sighting radius of this handgun also makes getting on and staying on target much easier.  The weight of this pistol dissipates both excessive recoil and muzzle blast.  

I look forward to further testing.  The bronze model came too late for my fall hunting seasons to get the new pistol into the white-tailed deer hunting stands.  Next year will not come soon enough for me.  

I have experience with the 10mm and feel confident it is suitable for hunting and gathering at stalking ranges under 100 yards.  I am not a proponent of long range shooting with a handgun or a rifle.  In a hidden ground blind, or up in a tree stand over a woods lane or food plot, I fully expect the 10mm to perform well, and the new Remington 1911R1 Long Slide even better.  

Personal defense?  Once the shooter-gun handler gets accustomed to firing the 10mm and targeting with a 10mm handgun of any brand, then for sure this combination will deter threats with authority.  So far, the edge in this regard fully goes to this new Remington.  

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Fortifying Your Home

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featured_home_safety

2_house_safety_robberyIf a burglar, kidnapper, or home invasion robbing crew targeted your home, it would be good if your home were a hard target, like a castle for fortress of the ancient days, but the reasonableness of your security measures must take into account the likelihood and severity of the risks you might face. Let’s go over some ways to make your home more secure, focusing on hardware and structural changes, not skills or techniques to learn.

By Kurt Martin, a Contributing Author to SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Most people have already considered moderately-effective security improvements such as getting an alarm system, installing deadbolt locks on exterior doors, installing exterior lighting all around your home, trimming trees and shrubs around windows, and getting a dog.  Almost everybody reading this article will already own one or more “home defense” firearms.  These are all good steps, but so much more can be done.

For the purposes of this article, let us acknowledge that unless your home is built from the foundation up as a fortress, you cannot expect any security measures to stop a determined team of burglars who are willing to take some time and make noise to get inside. If they come when you are home, your security precautions can give you a warning, so that you can put your defensive plan into effect.   If you are not home, your alarm and other security measures could give cops or your neighbors time to respond.

First Objective: Know They’re Coming

In order to defend your home and/or quickly send other people to defend your home in your absence, the first thing you need to know is that an attack on your home is beginning. It would be desirable to see the arrival of the criminals on your property.  For this, you want windows or cameras looking out into your yard from every direction– the street, the sides, and the back yard.

3_high_window_securityWindows and cameras. Every side of your home should have windows from which you can see out. Upper floor windows make for safer viewing out and are less vulnerable to being entry points for intruders. Windows are also potential defensive positions for you and your family to try to drive off or repel the attackers. Virtually all security-sensitive businesses, government offices, and the homes of VIPs, have a camera surveillance system as part of the security plan. Today’s security cameras often come with infrared lights to workwith limited rangeeven in total darkness. We would all be safer if we had them for our homes. A peephole can be more useful than a window sometimes. All your exterior doors should have one-way peepholes in them, preferably with wide-angle lenses so you can see people standing to the side of the door.

Exterior lighting.  Motion detector activated lighting is important, as are floodlights that you can also turn on with a switch.  They should be positioned to shine away from your home, so that you can see out without getting any glare, and without the lights making you visible from the outside. If one side of your home has no windows, consider mounting a camera there.  Studies show that good lighting of your home and yard at night is one of the most cost-effective methods of home security to discourage burglars.

Perimeter motion detectors.  Another way of knowing when somebody is coming onto your property is to use a perimeter warning circuit in your home alarm system. Most home alarm systems will accommodate this kind of addition, but most homeowners do not upgrade to this level of protection.  Perimeter detection can be either of two popular types: wide area motion detectors or beam-break detectors.  Both kinds are available with two kinds of underlying technologies: passive infrared light, or microwave signals.  

Related: Handling an Active Shooter Situation

3_perimeter_safetyPerimeter warning units mount outdoors around your home and yard, on posts, tree trunks, or the side of your home.  Wide area motion detectors will alert to a human or large animal’s movement in your yard, within a cone-shaped zone. Beam-break type detectors come in sets of two units, and one projects a beam toward the other, and the line between the sending unit and receiving / reflecting unit is the “beam” that is being monitored. If anything crosses that line, its body will temporarily block the beam of infra-red light, and the alarm is triggered.  The more common models that you might buy at a big box home improvement store use IR light, and they have a range of about 50-75 feet. The commercial models used by businesses are more expensive, but reach out to over 300 feet.

Perimeter alarm systems work best in conjunction with physical barriers around your property, such as fences, and a gate across your driveway to slow the approach of unwelcome vehicles. These barriers serve to give you more of a warning, as the criminals approach will be slower and noiser.

Second Objective: Block Their Entry

If criminals attack your home, you want them to find all your doors and windows closed and locked. They may try to break through one of these points of entry, probably a back door, where they cannot be seen from the street or may not be visible to the neighbors. You want your doors to resist being pried-open or kicked-in.  Here is how you can make your exterior doors stronger:

2_castle_securityStrong exterior doors.  Not all doors are equal when it comes to construction. Some are thin molded plastic glued to a wooden frame. Others have steel sheet metal over a wooden frame.  Wood is weaker than fiberglass and undesirable in a high-security door.  Even solid wood doors, though strong across the middle, are weak where they are drilled-out for the lock components. Commercial fire-rated steel doors are stronger than ones made for residential applications, but they’re a lot more expensive. Choose a door that does not have windows in it, especially if that glass is located close enough to the lock mechanism that a criminal could smash the glass and reach through to the lock.

The weakest link of the door itself is where it has been hollowed-out for the lock sets– the door material here is pencil-thin and easy to rip away from the metal lock components.

High-security locks and door-mounting hardware.  A standard exterior door lock has a short bolt that only engages a tiny bit into a recess in the door frame. A deadbolt, mounted several inches above the standard doorknob, gives you a second bolt with a much longer range of motion; it will often reach over an inch into the door frame. Make sure the fit of the door to the door frame and strike plate is good, with a very small gap. Many locking doors have a lockset that is supposed to prevent easy opening with a stiff plastic like a driver’s license, but in the real world sloppy installation or the loosening of the door frame over cause misalignment that will allow anybody to “jimmy” the lock.

To address the inherent weakness in doors and door frames due to flimsy and thin wood components that surround the lock parts themselves, buy door security hardware that lets you screw steel reinforcing plates or “wrap-arounds” over the part of the door that has the lock mechanism. You can also reinforce your strike plate, which is the rectangular metal piece surrounding the hole in the door frame into which the bolt of the lock will enter.

In addition to bolting steel plates to your door around the lock mechanism, as reinforcements to the door itself, you should use bigger, longer screws in and around your door. Replace the short, skinny nails and screws that your door was installed with. Use deck screws, which come in lengths of over 3.5 inches.  

Augment your door’s locks with an external bar.  Remember, no matter how good your door’s locks are, the bolts can be cut with modern cordless power tools. Criminals have been known to use such battery-powered tools to cut chains and locks. Another way to prevent a door from being forced open is to use a locking bar that is propped against the door at a 45 degree angle. Some such bars require a slot or stud hole in your floor, but others use a rubber-coated end and friction to prop the bar in place.

1_burglar_barsReinforce your windows.  As for windows, the most obvious problem is that a criminal can break the glass, reach in, unlock the window sash, open the window, and climb in.  To make your windows stronger, consider putting up another layer of barrier in addition to the glass panes. Some people use rigid panes or sheets of clear plastic, and this is good if the type of plastic is polycarbonate, such as the brand Lexan. Do not use cheap acrylic plastic, it is not particularly strong nor shatter-resistant. There are also “security film” window treatments on the market. They are tough but flexible wraps of clear (or tinted) plastic that apply to glass doors and windows just as one would apply tint film to car windows. This security film will hold the window together even when the glass underneath is broken. It is tough enough and energy-absorbing enough that it can’t easily be ripped away to create a big opening for an intruder to climb through.

However, a window’s sashes or frame can be smashed-through, just like a door. That’s why some people in high crime areas fortify their windows (and sometimes doors) with burglar bars. These bars cover the entire window opening with a cage or screen. They are much less attractive than clear plastic. Although they look “ghetto,” they are high security.  One risk that comes from covering your windows with burglar bars is that it will often prevent the window from opening.  You should consider whether you might need to use that window for ventilation or for an emergency escape, such as in case of a fire. Some burglar bar sets have a quick-release system, accessible only from the inside of the home.

Third Objective: Have Hard Cover in Your Home

If intruders made it through your doors and windows and get into your home, while you and your family are there, one or more of you may want to fight off the intruders, while others escape, either by leaving the home or locking themselves in a safe room.

Safe room.  A safe room is a place inside your home for you to stay out of sight and out of reach of intruders, even if that means the intruders can steal anything they want from the rest of your home. It should be a room that is very hard to break-into, and one that is equipped for you to comfortably stay there for a long time. The door to the safe room should be an exterior grade door, or a fire-rated door suitable for commercial construction. It should have good locks and lock-reinforcing hardware installed as described previously in this article. The door should have a one-way, wide-angle peephole.

If you were building or remodeling your home, I would suggest making the walls of one of the smaller rooms in your home (a guest bedroom, big bathroom, or a large walk-in closet) extra strong for future use as a safe room. For this room, you may want to put steel mesh screen across the studs before you enclose them with sheetrock (drywall). A good type of screen for this purpose is “remesh” made for reinforcing poured concrete driveways. You may want to have the studs placed at 8” center to center instead of the normal 16” spacing, to make it impossible for an intruder to rip through the flimsy sheetrock and step into that room by passing his body in between the 2×4 studs. Or you could use sheets of plywood to cover those walls first, and then use drywall.  

Check Out: Estwing Axe

The safe room should also have weapons inside it to deal with the intruders should they manage to break into that room. You should also have an axe and pry bar in that room so that you can break OUT of it, if necessary, if for some reason that strong door was blocked or its lock jammed so that you could not open it.

KISS_SHTFblog-survival-cache-tactical-magpul-aimpoint-comp-ml3-fenix-pd35-troy-magpul-dissipator-stramlight-tlr-1Consider what is “cover” inside your home. If you had to grab a gun and fight intruders, would it be to your advantage to position yourself behind bullet-resistant cover? Of course it would. Every tactical shooting course and every instructor on the topic of combat arms shows you how to make use of cover while engaging your adversary. Inside your home, think of what you have, or could that would serve as cover. Keep in mind that cover is not the same as concealment. Concealment just hides you from sight. Doors are concealment. Even the interior walls of your home only “conceal” you from the bad guys, but interior walls will not stop incoming bullets. Cover is defined as something that effectively blocks or deflects bullets.  

With your knowledge of the layout of your home, you should anticipate the likely point of entry for intruders, and you should choose a few defensive positions in your home.  Don’t count on the corners of walls, or doorways, as reliable cover. All popular handgun and rifle bullets, as well as buckshot or slugs from a shotgun, will go right through interior walls easily, with lethal velocity as they emerge on the other side.  The only parts of an interior wall that can stop or significantly slow down handgun bullets are the wooden wall studs– and there is only one stud per 16 inches of wall length in most walls. If the bullet hits any of the other 15 inches along that section of wall, it encounters only a couple layers of drywall. Bullets go through drywall like a knife through butter.

A bookcase whose shelves are filled with books and other paperwork can stop bullets. A refrigerator full of food and beverages will stop handgun bullets and buckshot from a shotgun, and some small, high velocity rifle bullets. The same applies to ovens, washers, and dryers– consider them “cover” as to most common handguns, but not for rifle rounds. Furniture is no good as cover. Wooden chairs and tables don’t usually stop even pistol bullets, and upholstered furniture like sofas and reclining chairs are only “concealment” if you duck behind them, not cover. Your bedroom dresser, with the drawers full of clothes, makes better cover than the mattress and box spring of your bed.

Conclusion

In times of peace and relative safety, certain security measures are more “worth it” than others. It all depends on the risks you and your home face, and how much peace of mind you would attain from having a fortified home with a good security system. Because conditions in our society could change rapidly, it may not be unreasonable to beef up your home now, when you have easy access to all the hardware at the local shopping center. In times of trouble, the roads may be more hazardous for travel and the hardware and home supply stores could be closed or sold out of the products you need. It’s better to prepare now.

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Survival Gear Review: Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag

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1_featured_Hill_People_Gear_Recon_Kit_Bag_SW-Victory

3_Hill_People_Gear_Recon_Kit_Bag_with_backpackHill People Gear is a unique company nestled in Grand Junction, Colorado. It is not just the exceptional quality of their bags, but Hill People puts a modern and even tactical twist on ancient solutions for humping gear in real-world situations. So practical and effective are their solutions, that Most Mall Ninjas would shy away from the more convenient kits because they would be unsure what their friends would think.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Hill People Gear has a line of what they call Kit Bags. In a nutshell, a Hill People Gear or HPG Kit Bag, is a sophisticated pouch you wear on your chest. It rides solidly with four 1.5 inch straps snugging the bag to your sternum, only of which one has a fastex buckle while the other three straps in the “H-harness” have adjustment sliders. All the straps reconnect on a mesh backside panel that can comfortably ride under a backpack if needed.

Rugged Versatility

I’ve grown to love the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag. Whether walking the dog in the mountains, or hunting, or doing some recon around the bug out location, the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag is my go-to go-bag.

I’ve carried the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag with a .22 revolver and auto, with 9mm and 10mm Glocks, and even my anti-bear Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in .44 Magnum. While you feel some handguns more than others, none are too much.

Related: Birksun Backpack Review

4_Hill_People_Gear_Recon_Kit_Bag_wearingIt’s hard to underestimate the efficiency and convenience of a Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag right in the middle of your two hands. If your lifestyle runs heavy on adventure, you might discover that there are few places on your body that are not occupied already by essential gear. When fly fishing in the cold rivers, my waders go to my belly. The Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag works fine in the available space. When skiing with a pack that just might not be accessible depending on the situation, the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag works fine. When mountain biking and unlikely to want a daypack, let alone a backpack, the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag is an excellent choice. And when backpacking with 65 pounds and 6000 cubic inches of gear, the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag provides a convenient source of gun, survival gear, or navigation instrumentation. Or in my case, all of the above.

Hill People Features

The Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag strap system places a mesh panel square on your back with all buckles and adjustment sliders on the front side. Wearing the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag under a backpack is truly a non issue. Even under a coat is a fine choice.

On the forward facing side, no less than eight columns of three rows deep of PALs webbing gives you near-unlimited accessory options. And even if not PALing the PALS, you can can use the webbing ladders for knife pocket clips, pens, and anything else that needs a nylon shelf to secure it.

When carrying a handgun in the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag, you can either drop it in the main pocket, or use a velcro holster or barrel securing accessory. The Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag has  a 1.5 inch velcro strip running vertically up the center of the bag. There are plenty of options including my favorite, the  Maxpedition Universal CCW Holster.

5_Hill_People_Gear_Recon_Kit_Bag_Ruger_Alaskan_homeFor larger guns like the .44 Ruger Alaskan, I prefer to to have it floating in the main compartment of the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag so it’s easily accessible with a pull from either the right or left hand. I also want the gun to be something that could fall out into my hand in the off chance I am upside down when the bear moves in for the kill. This is not so far fetched when skiing, fishing, or mountain biking. Having to navigate a holster might take too long, or demand too much effort.

Check Out: How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

6_Hill_People_Gear_Recon_Kit_Bag_adminstration_pocketOn the administrative side, the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag has a thin front-end zippered pocket with two 4.5 inch organizational slots in addition to the overall pocket space. The first thing you might notice when handling the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag is that it is not big nor thick. It lacks the depth of heavy fanny packs, which is a good thing. To be an effective chest rig, the gear cannot be big. I’ve had overbuilt and oversized front-end storage options, but they interfere with the very activities that keep us limber and nimble when it matters. Heck, if you are just a pack mule than you can strap on a backpack as easily on your front-end as your back.

The Verdict

7_Hill_People_Gear_Recon_Kit_Bag_overallWhen wearing a Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag, it is noticeable…for about five minutes. Then the Kit Bag blends into the background. So much so that the first time out with one, you will likely think that everyone should have one of these. They are really that good. In fact the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag literally melts into your wardrobe quickly becoming and absolutely essential part of your outdoor routine.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that the price of the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag limits it to the serious. Weighing less than 14 ounces but costing over a hundred dollars, the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag can only be indispensable if you can afford it.

 

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Survival Gear Review: The Council Tools Apocalaxe

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Featured_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_ulu_grip

First of all, regardless of the name, this Council Tool ApocalAxe has uses well before the apocalypse arrives. And while it would certainly make a formidable and handy zombie stopping weapon (seems killing a zombie is redundant), the ApocalAxe will work fine on those that haven’t had the privilege of dying the first time.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

1_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_blade_handgripMade of hammer-forged steel, the ApocalAxe is far stronger than stamped steel that would save costs and simplify manufacturing. The ApocalAxe on the other hand has its iron grain aligned through being smashed with 20 tons of force while glowing red hot. Although the forging process might produce superior strength, it is a little rough around the edges from a finishing standpoint. But as a fan of hand-forged Swedish axes, the spit and polish of modern high speed manufacturing is easily overshadowed by performance and durability.

Thor’s Hammer

3_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_leather_sheath-caseCouncil Tools has been forging American-made cutting, digging and striking tools since 1886 when John Pickett Council founded the company. Based in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, Council Tool has been instrumental in not only forging some of the best US-made traditional tools, but also in the design of new lines of tools for specific purposes. For instance, when the US Forest Service approached Council Tool in the 1930s to create forest fire fighting implements, one outcome was the Fire Rake, or catalog number LW-12 in case you want to order one.

Read Also: Estwing Survival Tomahawk 

The ApocalAxe contains a set of essential tools and grip choices, and one not-so essential bottle opener. However, the near-six-inch cutting blade, the hammer head, gut hook, and the pry bar end are truly go-to essentials of any large survival multi-tool.

Home Front

6_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_forged_gut_hookThe domestic chores the ApocalAxe can handle need little introduction, but the survival elements of the ApocalAxe cannot be underestimated. On the domestic side, the blade is both a hatchet and a knife. An Ulu knife to be more specific. With a gripping surface above the blade edge, it is a direct and complete transfer of precise force from the hand to the cutting surface. Traditional knives have the blade leveraged from a distance, but the Ulu is more like brass knuckles.

9_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_compared_Estwing_hatchetAs a hatchet, the ApocalAxe behaves itself quite well. The head weight of the ApocalAxe is low compared to axes with edge lengths this side. Well, actually, I don’t have a traditional axe let alone hatchet that has an edge anywhere near this size. In fact the only edge close to this is the Timahawk, another tool with tremendous survival leanings. Even my 35” Gransfors Bruks Felling Axe has a blade a full inch shorter than the ApocalAxe.  On the far end of the main blade is a smaller blade in the form of a guthook/seatbelt cutter. Due to the placement of the grip handle forged into the main blade area, this gives great purchase and tremendous leverage when using the gut hook. The grip also provides the same advantage but in the opposite direction when applied to the main blade. This is much like the classic Ulu Knife that has provided Eskimos and vintage hunters a fabulous knife design for meat slicing, light chopping, and skinning.

A hammerhead is found opposite the main blade. It is smaller than a traditional framing hammer face. In fact, one would have to drop down to something in the 12 ounce claw hammer range before finding a similar hammerhead size. Notably, the head is also quite smooth, and could use some texture if pounding nails is a major use of the ApocalAxe. But for general pounding, breeching, and occasional self defense, the hammer head works quite well as-is.

Another feature of the hammerhead is as handguard keeping a secure fist on the forward grip. When using the blade as an Ulu, or yanking on the gut hook, the web of your hand butts up against the neck of the hammerhead.

Pry Me

10_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_bottle_openerThe southern end of the ApocalAxe features a lightly tapered prybar edge, a bottle opener, and a lanyard hole. In between the main edge and the pry bar is a rubberized grip almost five inches long. And hidden under the grip are a series of holes that will make excellent paracord anchor points should the apocalypse outlast the rubber-covered handle.  This would be a good time to address the overbuilt and uber functional sheath. Similar to many full-cover axe sheaths, the ApocalAxe cover is a full leather, fully stitched complete cover with no less than eight steel rivets. Belt slots outfit the back of the sheath along with a single D-ring to use in a dangling configuration. But the real advantage is that with the blade cover on,  full access to the hammer head and pry bar features are accessible and encouraged. A fold-over flap with a single snap secures the cover.

In the field, the ApocalAxe chops very well. Not quite a dedicated axe, but plenty good enough. In fact, for general chopping chores, the ApocalAxe could easily be a go-to hatchet, no questions asked. Even though the blade is on the larger side, it chops like a smaller edge in average sized workpieces. If you put the entire blade to work such as on a larger diameter branch or trunk, you would quickly hit the end of the leverage of this tool. But again, these are not intended functions of the ApocalAxe.

When choking up on the blade using the Ulu-like handle, the axe behaves better when punched or swiped. Pounding straight down into wood does little since the small amount of force is distributed over too large an area.

As a hammer, the ApocalAxe pounds with more force than you usually need with a head this size. Common outdoor hammer uses are nails and tent stakes, but as a weapon, this is pretty good choice. It is also the ApocalAxe surface of choice for breaking glass, windshields, and lightweight breeching. The axe blade is for chopping. The hammer is for pounding and breaking.

As mentioned, the gut hook does an admirable job especially after a touch up with file and ceramic rod. Council Tool knows that those serious about their edged tools often prefer to do the final detail sharpening. While the blade of the ApocalAxe comes sharp enough to get the adventure going, power users will want to hone the edge to their preference. However the gut hook could use a polish no matter who uses it. Out of the box, the gut hook had a tough time with elk hide. But a few minutes with a file, stone, and ceramic, the ApocalAxe could be yanked through thick hide and seat belts alike.

11_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_gut_hook_elk_hideSince hunting season is still a ways off, I went to work on a roadkill to see how the ApocalAxe worked processing game. Well, gamey game, that is. Like the guthook, the main blade would do well for a customized sharpening for specific tasks whether wood or meat. Not that the factory edge wasn’t sharp, but it was not at the level of sharp that I am used to handling.

The prybar aspect is as functional as any quality forged 16 inch straight pry bar. And “forged” is the key word here. According to James Elkins, a vice president at the company, “Council Tool Designed this tool to be a highly reliable, tough, and multi-functional tool that does quite a few jobs efficiently and well and it is again the only tool in its category that is drop forged out of a single 4140 high carbon steel billet, heat treated and tempered so that it will not break or bend.”

Stamps are for Licking

12_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_on backpackCompared to some of my other stamped steel options, this Council Tools ApocalAxe is vastly stronger, and you can easily feel it when in use. In fact, I would like to reference Snap On again. Tools might look the same, but the forging, heat treating, and especially the very iron from which it was birthed, makes all the difference in the world. And there are plenty of YouTube videos of catastrophic failure to backup my personal experiences. A human under an adrenaline rush due to escape, evasion, defense, or panic can easily deliver enough force to fail a foot-and-a-half pry bar. Heck, even without adrenaline I’ve bent spud bars that are inch-thick circular steel about five feet long. I bent Estwing axes, bent large screwdrivers, bent crowbars, and snapped sockets. I’ve broken pipes with a wrench, crushed oil filters, and snapped off lug nuts. So unless your survival tool has that final 10% stronger everything, you literally won’t know it’s limitation until you actually need it. I mean really need it.

Likewise, if your intended needs may include some precision in your prybaring then the somewhat coarse taper on the pry bar tip could use some thinning. Now I am comparing the ApocalAxe to my go-to pry bars made by Snap On. But those are dedicated pry bars and have little use elsewhere. Council Tools thoughtfully ships the ApocalAxe with the option to remove some material if desired which is infinitely easier than to add missing iron.

Check Out: Building an Emergency Shelter With no Tools

4_Council_Tools_ApocalAxe_multi-too-axe_bottle_opener_Magpul_beerFinally there is the bottle opener. The one on the ApocalAxe is fun to use simply because it has such a brute force lever arm behind it. It opens bottles as well as any good bottle opener, and just might displace my favorite opener namely the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench. But opening bottles is not the only use for this tool. The prying feature of a bottle opener can be applied to anything else that needs prying and has a similar lip geometry as a bottlecap.

Don’t Wait

While the ApocalAxe will certainly be an exceptional heavyweight multitool for darker times, the ApocalAxe is also a necessary car, truck, or bug out tool for both escape and rescue. And should the zombies attack, the ApocalAxe will make a fine defensive and evasion tool. But seriously, zombies are little more than a metaphor, and EMPs are (hopefully) a fictional vehicle for prepper fiction. But non-fiction vehicles often need a little assistance when bent or rolled over. Glass needs breaking. And wood needs chopping. So while the ApocalAxe might have some heavy overtones in its name, you don’t need an apocalypse to put this essential tool to work.

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Survival Gear Review: Estwing Survival Tomahawk and Double Bit Axe

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1_featured_Estwing_EBTA_Tomahawk_EBDBA_Double_BIt_Axe_stump

2_Estwing_EBTA_Tomahawk_EBDBA_Double_BIt_Axe_head_compare_3The company Estwing makes some of the most ubiquitous and diversified hammers, camp axes and hatchets ever to roll around the bed of a pickup. Ernest Estwing’s steel tools are the industry standard from framing hammers to camp axes, and the ones we grew up with and loved for their simplicity and durability since 1923. But tomahawks? Well, let’s take a closer look. The Estwing brand is an American made all-steel uber-strong set of striking tools from pry bars to drilling hammers, to camp hatchets, to full-sized axes. And two diversions from the traditional line of swinging tools includes some even more traditional tomahawk-like tools.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

These are single-bladed, pick iron variants of the same tools the Algonquian Indians used to crack skulls and carve up meat before the Europeans came to North America. Jumping into the 21st century, the tomahawk, and even “tactical tomahawk,” have entered the mainstream bug out vernacular with a vengeance. To the point that any major knife or axe maker worth his or her survival salt makes a tomahawk or tomahawk-ish hand tool. I included the “ish” because one of the earth’s premier axe maker failed to market a “tomahawk” but does have an excessively expensive “Outdoor Axe” that easily mimics a tomahawk for most practical purposes. But enough of the Sweed.

Related: 12 Things You Should Know About Knives

In Estwing’s lineup of tools that fall under the axe/hatchet variety are a series of tomahawks that two head designs and a series of colors and handle options. Actually, Estwing only lists one head as a tomahawk but I am lumping their double-bit axe into the tomahawk category due to it’s size. I consider double-bit axes as those twice-as-big lumber tools that Paul Bunyan would have slung over his shoulder, not a two-pound 17-inch double-headed hatchet. So I’ll take the liberty and consider them together and both in the tomahawk family.

Two Bits

3_Estwing_EBTA_Tomahawk_EBDBA_Double_BIt_Axe_chopping_doubleThe double bit axe has two of the same edges. Often double bits are ground at different angles for two distinct chopping experiences. But this is more of a case of redundancy than duality. For throwing, camp chores, and general small-scale slicing, a double-edged axe like this works great. Very great, in fact. This is certainly not a felling axe, but it would easily be a go-to camp axe, or bug out tool. Like all Estwing tools I’ve had the privilege to use, the double bit axe preforms like a champ. Maybe not the world champion, but certainly a national champion.

The thin-thickness of the Estwing double bit places this tool outside the common axe/hatchet/wood splitting duties where lateral forces are as important as downward chopping forces. So more angled chopping is needed if using the Estwing double-edged axe for traditional firewood preparation. Throwing, on the other hand is truly a forte compared to those wood chopping tools with little personality.

Tom-A-Hawk

The Estwing Tomahawk is a precision chopper. The balance is wonderful, and the grip to blade ratio leans heavily toward small work. Small accurate work to be more specific. The proportions of this tomahawk’s design supports a fine woodworking talent that make the Estwing Tomahawk a great piece of camp gear for minor woodworking, kindling chores, and even some kitchen duties.

5_Estwing_EBTA_Tomahawk_EBDBA_Double_BIt_Axe_choppingUnlike the Double Bit axe, the Estwing Tomahawk has a vastly different back end. Protruding opposite the Estwing Tomahawk’s main feature is a powerful spike that is as deadly as is it is functional. When you need a hole in something fast, the Estwing Tomahawk will deliver with the speed and force of a quality geology hammer. The pick is not sharp like a blade, but more of a blunt sharp, to coin an oxymoron. But anything organic that gets in its way is history. Between the two, I really like the precision chopping of the Estwing Tomahawk over the double bit axe. But if I was to carry one in my truck for camping duties, it would be a toss up with a leaning towards the double bit. Luckily I don’t have to choose. And given the relatively low street prices, you might not need to either. But no matter which Estwing you carry, you will be able to push it to your limit before reaching it’s limit.

Check Out: How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

Overall, both tools are in the thinish metal Estwing tradition with excellent rubberized shock-absorbing grips. They lean more towards value than brute strength or selective steel. But for 95% of users, those potential limitations are not limitations. So when it comes to outfitting your bug out bag or bug out vehicle, I can whole-heartedly suggest either of these Estwing tools. And even another one. But that is for later review. Stay tuned.

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Let’s Talk Knives: 12 Things You Should Know

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featured_survival_knife

kk_skeleton_review_fallkniven_survival_knifeNo survivalist’s kit is complete without at least one knife, and there’s always an open space in the collection for just one more perfect specimen. (I know many who refuse to leave the house without theirs: When going hiking or camping, you’ll almost always have a use for one.) A knife is the one thing you’d rather have and not need.

By Alex Coyne, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

Here’s what you should know about buying, using, maintaining and owning your knives…

1. You should never buy cheap.

Aron Ralston, better known as the subject of ‘127 Hours’, was forced to amputate his own arm after getting trapped in a canyon. After the event, he stated that the knife he had bought was nothing more than a standard cheap gas-station pocket knife – dull, at that. Don’t buy cheap knives. Always buy the best you can possibly afford: Something that’s going to last you a long time, something that’s not going to rust, bend or break. You never know what you’re going to need it for, and that’s a perfect example.

2. Know what to look at for quality.

Article_SOG_PIllar_Knife_USA_Made_hand_choil_full_viewJust what makes a quality knife, then? Consider brand-name manufacturers rather than something you’ve never heard of that costs half the price – sadly, that is a good rule of thumb if you’re going to need your knife for life-and-death. Generally, buy something that comes recommended: Ask around. Try several in your hand before you buy one. You want to purchase a knife that feels right – something that’s too small or too big for your hands is going to be more of a danger and annoyance to you in the long-run.

Read Also: The SOG Pillar

3. Flashy is not always better.

A lot of people pick a flashy blade for their first (or carry-on) for no other reason than… It looks flashy. Don’t do this. Buying a knife because it looks flashy and cool assumes you’re going to have a situation come up where you’re going to want to flash it. (That, if you’ve seen anyone come out of a knife fight recently, is a terrible idea.) Buy a knife for practicality, never for show. (If you want to buy a piece simply for its beauty, that’s fine, but in the case it goes!)

4. Know the laws about knives in your state.

Laws on knives (and the concealment thereof) vary by state and country: Familiarize yourself with what you’re legally allowed to carry (especially in terms of blade length) and how you’re allowed to carry it before you take your knife out on the road. It can land you in far more trouble than it’s worth.

5. Always handle your knife with care.

Zero Tolerance EDC KnifeKnives are sharp; if not, they should be sharpened accordingly. Handle your knife with care (always!) and teach anyone you give a knife to as a gift to do the same. There have been far too many accidents involving knives, and we don’t want to be responsible for any more. (Note: When storing knives in your pocket, make sure that it’s one that won’t fly open and stab you in the leg by accident.)

6. Knives can be an heirloom; consider a customized piece.

Customized pieces are available online from many excellent, specialized knifemakers. Consider this as a long-term goal, especially if you’re a keen collector or would like to pass something like this down.

7. There’s a knife for almost everything.

knives_cheap_good_average_bargainAsk yourself what you’re going to need from your knife: Is it something exclusively for preparing food when camping? Is it something for taking plant samples? Are you going diving and need a good diving knife to take along? Do you need a knife with a built-in flashlight or compass? (At this point, you might have realized that there’s a knife for almost everything and that you might need to get several to fit your needs.)

8. Learn how to sharpen a knife properly.

Fallkniven_A1-Pro_survival knife_batonSharpening your own knives is a skill that both comes with time and is best practiced on one of the cheaper knives (trust us on that!). If you don’t yet trust your own hands, have your knives sharpened professionally – it’s not as expensive as you’d imagine and it’s much better than ruining your grandad’s favourite hunting knife. For those who want to learn how to do it themselves, there are great guides on YouTube, like How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives and How to Sharpen a Knife with a Flat Stone, or you can take a look on Amazon.com for knife sharpeners.

9. What knives can and can’t do.

Never over-exert a knife: Know what kind of pressure your knife can handle. I’ve seen people try to do excessively stupid things with their knives, and well, put simply… You really shouldn’t.

10. The danger with knife-fighting.

Knife-fighting is an art unto itself, and not one that should be practiced lightly. Ever. (Open up your search engine and look up “injuries from a knife fight” if you’ve got the stomach for it; your entire perspective on knife-fighting should change right about there). If you want to learn how to fight with a knife (or take a knife off of someone in self-defense), your best bet is to take classes from a professional in the field. (Anything, and we mean anything else is bound to lead to serious injury.)

11. Knife-throwing: The cool stuff.

You might want to learn knife-throwing as a way to show off your skills, improve your dexterity or simply demonstrate that you can be bad-ass with a knife. It goes without saying that safety applies (never practice this near children, animals, other humans; anything you can hit that you shouldn’t, basically), never indoors (no matter what you’ve seen on tv) and always with proper knives (not all knives are throwing knives). There are some great lessons available on YouTube, check out these from Tim Rosanelli for starters.

Check Out: Mora Knife

12. Using knives in the kitchen, too.

chef_knifeKitchen knives deserve a special mention, as you’re going to want special knives for food preparation. Chef’s knives can be expensive, but they are guaranteed to last a lifetime if taken care of properly. Again, there are several varieties so you should shop around: From stainless steel to ceramic. There are also paring knives, scaling knives and a range of others, each suiting your individual needs.

Use the comments to tell us about your favourite knife or some handy skills you’ve picked up over the years.

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The Ruger 10-22 Rifle: The Quintessential Survival Rifle

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featured_ruger_22

rifle_ruger_22The number designation 10-22 has universally become synonymous with America’s most popular rimfire rifle.  It is perhaps the most prolific semi-auto rifle firing the venerable .22 long rifle rimmed cartridge ever to be manufactured in this country.  There is little doubt this very capable .22 rifle is a perennial favorite among shooters.  This admiration, too, is carried on by many preppers and survivalists as a most basic firearm for a SHTF arsenal.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

The gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger and Company first introduced the 10-22 Ruger rifle in 1964.  Since then, it has sold literally millions in its same basic configuration, though it has seen some upgrade modifications, and has been offered in a wide variety of models and versions.

The 10-22 is ideal for every rimfire application including informal plinking at tin cans, safe targets of opportunity, small game hunting, and even formal rimfire related action shooting events.  Survivalists even argue its use for close quarter’s defensive work if needed.  

The Basic Specifications

ruger_magazineThe initial model 10-22 for which the base model remains essentially the same includes Ruger’s legendary semi-auto rifle action.  Fed from a detachable 10-round rotary magazine that drops from below the action out of the stock, its reliability in feeding is renowned.  The rifle just simply, rarely, ever fails to feed and function when using quality ammunition.  It can function virtually indefinitely even when black dirty with powder and bullet fowling. The cold hammer-forged barrel comes standard in an 18.5 inch length with a gold bead front sight and a simple adjustable rear in the base model.  The barrel is locked into the receiver via a Ruger designed 2-screw V-block system.  The rifle’s overall length is 37-inches with a weight of only 5 pounds.  

It is indeed lightweight, easy to handle, and shoulder for firing.  The length of pull from trigger to buttstock end is 13.5 inches, so the rifle fits nearly every shooter from adult veterans to youth shooters, and lady’s alike.  It is a highly adaptable rifle, easy to tote and quick into action.  

Read Also: Ruger 10/22 Upgrades

ruger_stockThe standard stock is hardwood finished in a handsome walnut color.  Black synthetic stocks are now available as well.  Ruger 10-22’s come in either alloy steel in a black satin finish or stainless steel with a clear satin finish.  The rifle’s safety is a positive push-button cross bolt manual safety positioned just ahead of the trigger guard. Also ahead of the trigger guard is a bolt hold open slide lever as well as an extended magazine release for easy removal of the flush mounted rotary magazine.  Many “banana” type 25-round magazines are available as well including Ruger’s own fine BX-25 magazine.

Ruger 10-22 rifles come standard with an included scope base adapter that handles both Weaver-type and .22 tip-off scope mounts.  The Ruger can handle a wide variety of conventional optics from glass scopes to battery powered red dot sights, to more sophisticated electronic tactical type sights.  This makes the 10-22 very adaptable to a variety of missions.  

The standard hardwood stocked model with blued steel retails for about $210.  The stainless version with a black synthetic stock goes for roughly $260.  They could be less when sales are shopped a various outlets and used ones occasionally come up for sale at gun shows.  

Ruger 10-22 Model Variations

The Ruger factory now produces 11 model variations of the 10-22 rifle.  By model name these include the Carbine, Sporter, Compact, Tactical with flash suppressor, Tactical with target trigger, heavy contour barrel and bipod, Target with target trigger and heavy contour barrel, and the Takedown.  Several sub-models exist within these main model categories.  For full details, model variations and exact specifications, consult Ruger’s web site www.ruger.com.

The Ruger 10-22 Charger

Newly designed in 2015 from the original 2007 model, Ruger re-introduced a very unique 10-22 model trade named the Charger.  This is a short-barreled pistol version using the same 10-22 action with a new BX-15 magazine with 15 round capacity.  This pistol version has a 10-inch barrel.  The rear of the pistol sports an AR-15 type A-2 pistol grip.  The overall length of the Charger is 19.25 inches and weighs just over three pounds.  

The receiver top comes standard with a factory installed Picatinny rail for optics mounting.  The barrel’s muzzle is pre-threaded and security capped for the simple screw on installation of a suppressor.  The cap serves as a thread protector.  The stock of this model is a brown laminate.  

ruger_compactBrand new for 2015 came the takedown version of the Charger.  This makes for a super compact and concealable pistol package with the Ruger quick take apart design that permits the pistol sections to be quickly taken apart or as quickly assembled.  The laminate stock of the takedown version is a handsome, cool, green mountain coloration. Both the regular and takedown Chargers come supplied with a bipod that affixes to the front sling swivel stud.  The bipod legs are adjustable for height.  This permits steady shooting off the bench or other stationary platforms.  The Charger comes with either a soft carry case or a hard plastic carry case.  

The Ruger SR-22

I have only seen one of these and the dealer sold it in fifteen minutes before I could secure it.  Eventually the supply lines with fill up, I hope.  The SR-22 is an AR-15 type configured rifle, but built on the 10-22 receiver action.  At a distance you would swear or think this rifle was truly an AR-15.  

Check Out: The Walking Around Rifle

rifle_sr_22_rugerSpecs on the SR-22 include a 36-inch overall length, 6.9 pounds, matte black (Or other colors.  I have seen coyote tan.), a flash hider, M-4 type collapsible stock, and front and rear flip up adjustable open sights atop a short front Picatinny rail riser, and a rear Picatinny rail riser.  The rifle retails for roughly $550 if or when you can find one at a gun shop dealer.  

A Plethora of 10- 22 Aftermarket Accessories

If you thought the world of accessories and goodies was crazy for the AR-15 breed of rifles, just check into what is available for the Ruger 10-22s.  If you’re curious, then check out Cheaper Than Dirt as just one example.  

The list of add-ons is long but it includes for the standard rifles many types of replacement stocks including popular pistol grip tactical type black synthetic stocks as well as the new Magpul Hunter stock.  All kinds of replacement stocks of wood, colored laminates, thumbhole stocks and other configurations are available.  

ruger_clear_magazineOther accessories for the 10-22 includes laser sights, all kinds of magazines including 50-round drums, butt pad extensions, extended magazine releases, hard and soft cases, custom barrels, muzzle brakes, flash hiders, triggers, recoil buffers, magazine speed loaders, scope mounts, rings, and armorers component bench mats.  For example CTD lists 273 separate items for the 10-22.  Let the shopping begin.  One other minor sidebar here.  It has been reported, but perhaps just a rumor, that the Takedown standard rifle, and the Takedown Charger’s components can be interchanged creating an impromptu SBR or short barreled rifle, but it could be just a rumor.  

The Ruger 10-22 in any configuration demands to be included in any prepper or survivalist weapons cache.  There are few other firearms so universally adaptable to multi-tasking for SHTF purposes.  It may just be a meager .22 long rifle shooter, but its applications are just too suitable to be passed over.  In fact, a prepper ought to have several of them.  

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Survival Gear Review: Surefire FirePak

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1_Surefire_FirePak_Smartphone_Camera_1500_Lumen_mobile_lighting_solution_on_phone

2_Surefire_FirePak_Smartphone_Camera_1500_Lumen_mobile_lighting_solution_on_case_boxSince smartphones are often considered almost as important as knives, guns, and flashlights as part of a personal EDC, it’s time to consider other technologies beyond the usual stuff. Surefire is always full of bright surprises just as they are loaded with cutting edge technology to serve our lighting needs whether reading a map or clearing a cave.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Surefire is well known as the maker of some of the world’s best flashlights, but recently they have let some of their lighting magic seep into the world of smartphones. With Surefire’s new “FirePak Smartphone Video Illuminator + Charger” lighting system, you can carry a blinding light, a cell phone charger, and a lower lumen general lighting solution. By blasting up to 1500 lumens of light onto a questionable subject. That’s like flicking on a 100 watt light bulb in their face!

Sunburn in a Can

3_Surefire_FirePak_Smartphone_Camera_1500_Lumen_mobile_lighting_solution_box_case_FirePakThe Surefire FirePak was designed for the “millennial” smartphone user so their videos and selfies can continue its madness into the deep night. The lightly rectangular block named the “FirePak” contains a large rechargeable battery, two USB ports (one for charging itself, one for charging other devices), a sliding multi-position switch, a battery indicator light, and most of all two forward-facing LED lights. What’s unusual about the pair of LED lights is they have asymmetrical 10mm reflectors. with one offset in one direction and the other offset 180 degrees. This combination of lights produces full-frame illumination specifically designed for a smartphone’s 16:9 HD aspect ratio. In other words, the FirePak lights up a rough rectangle that is proportioned to what the cell phone camera sees. No wasted light, no dark spots or vignetting. So blasting bad guys or questionable scenes is a simple job for the FirePak.

Smooth Lighting

A side advantage of the FirePak is found when it is actually used for making cell phone videos. Slo-mo can take advantage of the clean flicker-free lighting that is modulated so it does not interfere with the shutter speed of a digital camera or cell phone camera.

Read Also: Bug Out Flashlight Wisdom

The Surefire FirePak has a six position switch, off—on (but no-light)—low—med low—med high—high.  When on but no-light, the light output can be controlled by the App up to 10 meters away (which has it’s own set of advantages).

The runtime for the FirePak on high output is about five hours. You might get about one and a half complete iPhone 7 recharges if the FirePak’s battery is used only for that purpose. And running on the lowest light output of 100 lumens, the FirePak should give about 10 hours of useful light off a full starting charge. Obviously there are many combinations of the above, but you can always head off to school with a full charge if you plug the FirePak into a wall outlet or computer overnight. And you can even charge the Firepak with a traditional external recharging cell phone battery such as any of those so popular today.

Photons don’t lie

5_Surefire_FirePak_Smartphone_Camera_1500_Lumen_mobile_lighting_solution_Case_railsThe Surefire FirePak produces a bright stream of light that can easily reach out 20 yards or more when needed, or shine a spotlight on a local scene making closer subject stand out from the background. Light output is affected by the inverse square law meaning that the light’s intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source. Double the distance between the light and subject and you have one fourth the quantity of photons of light falling on the subject. So brightness is relative. It takes a substantial amount more lumens of light to significantly change the scene brightness. The scale of lumens from 100-1500 of the FirePak is about four doublings of lumens. That’s a pretty good range from reading a book to putting a pretty big dent in the darkness around a campsite.

Related: Surefire Defender Flashlights

The FirePak is designed to be mounted to the smartphone using a slide-on docking attachment system that begins with a custom Surefire phone case. The dual-rail yoke on the back of the FirePak slides into a pair of slots on the back of the svelte phone case Surefire makes. It’s mostly held in place by friction, but there is a mild stopping block that locks the sliding. But overcoming the block and following friction to separate the two is done by just sliding them apart.

Get the App

4_Surefire_FirePak_Smartphone_Camera_1500_Lumen_mobile_lighting_solution_App_screenThe Surefire FirePak has an accompanying App called the Surefire FIrePak Illuminator that can be downloaded onto your phone. The App can talk to the FirePak via Bluetooth allowing some on-screen light control and customization. Additional features of the App include grid overlays for photo composition, tools for white balance, a self-timer, output levels, exposure brightness (ISO), and Bluetooth controls including battery percentage. But consider this option: you can place the FirePak about 30 feet from the phone and control its light output from off to 100 lumens to 1500 lumens. And because the connection is Bluetooth, you can do this kind of remote lighting anywhere in the world.

For example, you are camping your bugout location. Before dark, you place your FirePak in to the side of your camp about 10 yards from your tent or bivy sacks. In the middle of the night, you hear a noise. Not a forest noise, but a predator noise. The two-legged kind. In the dark of your sleeping bag, you open the Surefire FirePak App and fire up your FirePak. Suddenly it’s daylight in your camp and even if the disoriented and now frightened intruder attacked the source of the light, you would be safely off to the side ready to take action. A more domestic use would be to run roughly the same scenario in your house. Night. Intruder. Blazing light anywhere. You, the hero.

Being prepared means taking advantage of every advantage. The Surefire FirePak makes for a seriously new tangent in portable lighting. And I’m sure there are many more advantages that have yet to be problems. Surefire has proven itself over and over, so while the FirePak is only a relative of the flashlight, the light it spills is all the same. Just more of it.

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Survival Gear Review: Magpul X-22 Hunter Stock for Ruger 10/22 Takedown and TANDEMKROSS Upgrades

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Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_snowbank

1_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_boxThe Tree Trunk of a rifle is the “stoc” or as we say today, stock. In a nutshell the stock holds the important gun parts and is placed against one’s shoulder when shooting. I think tree trunk is an apt description since until recently, gun stocks have evolved about as fast as trees. But today there is little sacred ground with rifle stocks to the point they have jumped species and the thing we used to call a stock might now be called a chassis and could be confused for an alien visiting from another planet.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

I decided I was done with wood stocks back in the 1980s and have never looked back. Sure I enjoy the beauty of a artistically carved and finished gunstock, but for real world applications in my life, tree trunks are out. So with my loyalty to the woodstock in the rear view mirror, I am quick to adopt new designs and new technology especially when it comes to interface points between me and the machine. So optics, triggers and stocks are are always on my radar.

Magpul Magic

2_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_apart_sunlightFew companies in the history of the world have revolutionized the rifle stock as fast Magpul. And given that the stock has been referred to as such since 1571, Magpul’s ability to shake up an almost 450 year old technology really says something. Of course, others have dabbled in the buttstock but none with the same vim and vigor as Magpul and its polymer wizards. Beginning with the AR-15 platform, Magpul quickly diversified our appreciation for choice and customization. And then just as fast, Magpul moved beyond the AR and just recently entered the glorious 10/22 marketplace.

See also: 10/22 Takedown Review

Magpul’s first 10/22 stock was the Hunter X-22. An overbuilt chassis with fabulous ergonomics and features. Frankly, my first thought when I held an X-22 Hunter was that Magpul cares more about the 10/22 than Ruger does. My feeling was an outgrowth of something I’ve noticed in the past, and that is that often aftermarket builders of gun parts put quality into their designs proportional to the initial cost of a gun or by its cartridge. And thus the lowly .22 Long Rifle was not worth a full-on stock. Just plastics, lookalikes, and underbuilt experiments. Sure, some were much better than others, but it seemed any major upgrade in .22 stock was as special order.

Compared to the base model Ruger 10/22 Takedown’s black plastic factory stock, the Magpul takes all of the “toy” feel out of original and moves the gun into a whole new rifle experience. There are two primary pieces to a takedown stock, the buttstock with grip and the forend which in the case of the Magpul also contains a separate barrel tray. The weight of the Magpul buttstock is 29.6 ounces while the factory Ruger buttstock weighs 16.7. The Magpul forend weighs in at 8.6 ounces, and the factory Ruger forend is 5.7 ounces. So overall, the Magpul X-22 Hunter stock adds about one pound more than an out-of-the-box Ruger 10/22. The price in weight of the X-22 Hunter is more than made up in performance and off-hand accuracy.

There are two ways to look at the 10/22 Takedown. One way leans heavily towards minimalism. And the other is to overcome the limitations or shortcomings of a light rifle that breaks in two. The Magpul X-22 Hunter Stock clearly bends towards making the 10/22 a better shooter regardless of adding some additional size and weight. But don’t fear, Magpul is working on bending the otherway as well. Stay tuned on that.

3_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_buttstock_mounting_pointThe Magpul X-22 Hunter stock has an M-Lok friendly forend, and a sling-ready back stock. There are also several points to screw in Quick-Detach receptacles. To adjust the length of pull, the Magpul X-22 Hunter comes with additional buttplate spacers. Two spacers are installed at point of purchase, and two more are included in the box allowing the shooter to dial in the perfect length of pull to fit their needs. Additionally, Magpul sells cheek risers that fit the X-22 Hunter. So you can really customize this chassis for serious precision shooting and hunting.

4_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_stock_slingIn my case, I installed a M-Lok AFG or Angled Fore Grip on the underside of the X-22 Hunter’s forend. On the right side of the forend I M-Loked (there is no noun I can’t verb) a QD Sling Mount. So of course I put on a Magpul MS1 Padded Sling. I’ve been using Magpul slings since they first appeared in the homeland, but this is the first padded Magpul sling I’ve used. First of all, the MS1 works as great as the other Magpul slings but the padding really takes the bite out of a long carry over the shoulder or across the back. And for those high-speed situations, the I attacked an Magpul MS1/MS4 Adapter to add a QD or Quick Detach option to the top end of the sling. The Adapter snaps into the M-Lok QD attachment point on the forend

Read also: Leatherman MUT Gun Tool Review

The forend of the Magpul X-22 Hunter stock has a reversible barrel tray that accommodates the so-called “pencil barrel” of base model 10/22s as well as the 0.920 diameter bull barrels. And proving that Magpul really loves us, adjustable shims are included that allow the shooter to adjust the barrel harmonics through a set screw directly under the shim.

The Next Level

5_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_Tandemkross_bolt_leupoldTo trick out my 10/22 Takedown Hunter X-22, I first swapped out some internals of Bill Ruger’s 10/22 clockwork. There are obvious upgrades that 10/22s need right out of the chute. The first is a bolt buffer pin and the second is a bolt release plate. To soften the bolt’s equal and opposite motion backward when a shot is fired, I replaced the metal pin from the Ruger factory with a TANDEMKROSS “Shock Block” Bolt Buffer. The Shock Block is a polymer cylinder that works like a drift pin, but is softer and absorbs the shock of a cycling bolt. The Shock Block also reduces the wear on the bolt from repeatedly slamming into a metal stop. I’ve struggled to insert a softer pin into the 10/22 receiver on many occasions so I usually put a mild taper onto the far end of the buffer pin, a TANDEMKROSS Shock Block in this case. To install a subtle taper on the polymer pin to aid in seating without risk of mushrooming either end, I first insert the polymer pin into the jaws of my drill’s chuck. Then I spin it with a piece of sandpaper pinched around the the tip. Ten seconds later I have just the hint of taper to make the pin behave just like a metal one. Better in fact.

See Also: Survival Rifle Debate

In order to sling-shot the bolt closed, I used the TANDEMKROSS “Guardian” Bolt Release Plate. Rather than the “tired but true” clunky bolt release plate of the factory 10/22, a quick swap of the plate makes the 10/22 behave like one would expect this far into the 21st century.

Another important TANDEMKROSS upgrade I made to my X-22 Hunter 10/22 Takedown included swapping out the factory bolt for hardened tool steel CNC-machined “KrossFire Bolt. The KrossFIre is a thing of beauty and has a vertical movement restricted firing pin for more reliable and predictable .22 ignition reducing misfires.

Since I was replacing the bolt, I also swapped out the small but dense factory charging handle with a longer Spartan Skeletonized Charging lever. The TANDEMKROSS Spartan is easier to grab thorough its larger and more ergonomic human interface. But the low mass of the skeletonized grip keeps the bolt cycling at the proper speed.

Check Out: How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

6_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_Tandemkross_slide_LeupoldThe final receiver upgrade I made, well almost the final one, was to replace the factory bolt-on scope rail with the TANDEMKROSS “Advantage” Charging Handle and Picatinny Scope Base. While providing a slightly elevated scope platform, the real advantage of the “Advantage” is that you can easily cycle or charge the 10/22 bolt from both the left and the right side of the rifle. Rather than being a total rework of the bolt, the Advantage charging handle is component that engages the existing charging handle but offers an ambidextrous option. When I first saw a picture of the Advantage charging handle, I was skeptical that it would offer the fluid and smooth charging of the factory bolt. But at the 2015 SHOT Show I got some hands-on time with one and was impressed. It worked beautifully.

Shooting the Dream

In the field, the Ruger 10/22 Takedown with Magpul X-22 Hunter stock was like a whole new level of 10/22. The feel of the stock in hand felt so much more precise and natural compared to the classic but ancient lines of the traditional stock.
The Ruger rotary magazines are legendary for their durability and reliability. But there is still some room for improvement and I thought I would take a few mag upgrades for a spin. First is a TANDEMKROSS “Companion” magazine bumper. The Ruger magazines are known are smooth and fairly featureless which makes them difficult to extract when they don’t pop out on their own. The Companion bumper adds a rigid base with wings onto the factory magazine.

7_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_Tandemkross_magazine_enhancementsAnother TANDEMKROSS adventure is the “Double Kross” dual magazine body. The Double Kross is a transparent housing that combines two magazines into one piece with a two 10-rounds mags 180 degrees apart but in one housing. The Double Kross works great, just like the original. However, it uses the internal parts of two existing magazines so one must swap out the guts, twice. And that is where the adventure is. If you’ve never disassembled a Ruger rotary magazine, you are in for a treat. So much so that TANDEMKROSS makes a “10/22 Rotary Magazine Tune-up Tool which I can attest is worth it’s weight in gold when the springs start flying.

With all this 10/22 magazine goodness, I went ahead and installed a TANDEMKROSS “Fireswitch” extended mag release lever. Using a cantilevered design, the Fireswitch will release the magazine with either a push or a pull on the lever. The Fireswitch is also much easier to use while wearing gloves compared to the stock mag release.

9_Magpul_X-22_Hunter_Stock_Ruger_1022_backpack_slotsRuger packaged the 10/22 Takedown with an oversized backpack. I was not thrilled with the pack, and considered it far too large for the svelte Takedown. But a 10/22 Takedown wearing the Magpul X-22 furniture fits wonderfully into the Ruger backpack. So I put it back into service again.

Big Boy Pants

The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is finally maturing into the rifle I knew it would be someday. But wait, there’s more. But you will have to wait. So stay tuned right here.

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BMS Custom Made Rifles

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bms_rifle_customJust the idea of having a custom rifle built to your own specifications is enticing.  In fact, having anything created on our own behalf for personal use is rather satisfying.  For the prepper looking for something a little more special than a stock weapon, a firearm from a custom machine and gun manufacturing build shop is the way to go. Sure you can pull completely utilitarian products right off the shelf and in most cases they perform well.  Sometimes not.  

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Ever bought a new pair of tactical pants or a jacket at the store or mail order, then after a few times of wearing it, the garment just does not feel exactly right?  Back in the closet it goes. Maybe later, you’ll sell it at a garage sale.  In fact, how many pieces of gear do you have collecting dust right now that just did not work out as expected?

The Custom Concept

bms_custom_builds_riflesEver attended a really big knife show?  Looking at all the blades hand shaped and hewn by small shop custom steel smiths is exhilarating.  Then examine those individualized handle panels of exotic woods, or high strength synthetics, all shapes, all colors, palm swells, fits and finishes.  Owning a new custom made knife is special.  Using them is even more special.  

Read Also: The SOG Pillar Knife

It is the same with having a custom firearm built to your own specifications.  There is usually a general platform, design, configurations, and materials, but many of the final details are left to the customer.  Options are the element of customizing the firearm to the customer.  That is the purpose after all of having a custom made gun.  It is tailored to just you and virtually nobody else.  

BMS’s Custom Manufactured Rifles

bms_rifle_top_profileBryant’s Machine Shop in Jackson, Mississippi creates specialized rifles from solid billets of aluminum or other materials.   This is not a factory assembly line rifle by any means of the imagination.  It is not a back room sweat shop either where assorted export parts are assembled in dim light to produce a finished rifle.  Quite the contrary as a matter of fact. BMS’s equipment is the best state-of-the-art CNC machines available on the market today.  They design and manufacture a lot of custom parts and pieces for a lot of different industries and purposes all in house.  For our interest, they also manufacture some of the finest AR platform rifles made as well as other rifles, rimfires, and now suppressors.  

They offer the complete package for sport shooting, hunting, and defensive work.  All of these purposes should appeal to preppers and survivalists of all survival core values.  

BMS has been manufacturing custom AR-15 type rifles for several years and can offer an amazing array of customer specific demands for that one-of-a-kind special rifle.  They can also custom build a more standard rifle built in the precision care mode for an exceptional firearm.  

BMS AR-15s can be customized with any number of features including different barrel types, styles, and lengths, various types of forearms, flattop rail configurations, pistol grips and stocks, and other hardware accessories.  Custom colors and coating finishes are also a trademark of BMS.  I suspect if you can think of it, they can figure out a way to do it.  

Related: How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

BMS can even supply optical options from conventional optical scopes, red dots, electronic sights as well as night vision and thermal units for night hunting operations.  You just have to contact BMS to explore all the varieties of customizations they can do with an AR rifle.  

BMS’s New Build

bms_rifle_custom_excellenceFor survivalists wanting to add a substantial increase in firepower to their prepping arsenal, BMS is now building AR-10 units chambered for the .308 Winchester or the 7.62 NATO.  The .308 of course amps up considerably more terminal ballistics on target, thus allowing shooters to reach out to touch longer range targets with greater target impact.  Bryant’s new AR-10 is configured from 7075 billet aluminum for both the upper and lower units.  

The set up includes a 556 barrel, a Velocity 3 pound trigger, a Strike Industries stock, Magpul pistol grip, and an extended charging handle for easier reach and operation.  The slim line type handguard can be offered with either M-Lok or KeyMod accessories attachment modes.  

If the idea of having a custom AR-15 or AR-10 built for you sounds intriguing, then contact BMS for details.  Pricing depends on which rifle is ordered and the features specified.  All you need on your end is a licensed FFL for the local transfer shipment.

 

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The Mighty Oak: Survival Food and More

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mighty_oak_treeOak is a favorite tree of survivalists.  It’s strong, dense wood is favored for utility and for firewood.  Acorns, though most species need to be prepared by leaching, are an important survival food.  Plus the acorns, bark, roots, and leaves provide important herbal medicines. Native Americans used many species of Oak for medicine and food.  Mainly the part used for medicine is the inner bark. With this being said, the acorns have been considered medicinal food as well as staple food.

By Nathaniel Whitmore, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Oak is a far more versatile survival example than many realize. The uses of Oak are not limited to simple acorn consumption. For example, in The Way of Herbs Michael Tierra discusses acorn porridge as a common food for the treatment of tuberculosis and other wasting diseases.

Oak & Mankind

Acorns were a principal staple of our ancestors.  Talk of the Paleolithic diet has persisted long enough for real Paleolithic snacks to emerge among the over-priced, plastic-wrapped Paleo bars.  Yet in spite of the increase in grain-free snacks, cookbooks, and diet practices, I have not seen any increase in acorn use.  Though, a quick google search did turn up a few sites selling acorn flour.

The acorn was quite possibly one of the major foods that allowed our Paleolithic ancestors to start building agricultural society from hunting and gathering.  Largely, acorns are edible, though most species need to be leached and some are so astringent and bitter that they are considered inedible.  

food_acornsGenerally, acorns are leached of their tannic acid with cold water soaks or through slow cooking (while changing the water).  Some are sweet enough to be eaten raw or with relatively little cooking.  Early man learned to bury astringent acorns in bodies of water or to anchor in streams so that they could return later to the leached acorns and prepare food from them.  Enough acorns and our distant ancestors managed to hunker down for a winter… and the rest is history… until current times.  I don’t know how long it has been the case, but I just checked online and found a few companies selling acorn flour.  For years I had been saying that I hadn’t seen any for sale or in commercial products.  Until just the other day nobody ever responded saying they knew of acorns in mainstream commercial foods.

Acorns are one of my favorite foods, though I often don’t get around to them.  You have to find them at the right time (others are looking too and some of them, like the squirrels, take it more serious than me).  Once found they still need to be processed and leached.  Then cooked.  They can be eaten just like that, cooked into rice, mashed into pancakes, or dried and ground into flour.  The mash or flour can be used in just about anything.  It is very tasty.

Acorns as Survival Food

Although many animals eat acorns as they find them, a good number of the Oaks produce acorns too bitter and astringent for humans to eat without leaching.  The most efficient way to leach acorns if you are home or at a long-term camp is with cold water.  You’ll want to cook them (if possible) eventually, but you can save on fuel by doing the bulk of the leaching with cold water.

Related: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food

If you want to or need to speed up the leaching of acorns, you can do so by applying heat.  Just as with cold water leaching, when the water turns dark you should dump it and add clean water.  You might find it best to heat up a large vessel of water so that after you dump the tannin-rich water you can add hot water.  This will be quicker and will avoid any fixing of the bitterness from alternating between hot and cold.

Mushrooms that Grow with Oak

mushroom_Maitake_oakBesides the acorns as a potential staple food or nutritional side dish, Oak forests prove hospitable because of the large selection of edible mushrooms that grow with Oaks.  (Of course, the warning stands that there are non-edible and fatally poisonous mushrooms that grow with them as well.)  There are basically three different kinds of mushrooms: decomposers, parasites, and symbionts.  The subject is complicated by the various forms within these three categories and in that many mushrooms belong to more than one of the three.  Nonetheless, these basic groups are important to learning mushroom identification.  Decomposers break down dead material, such as a downed Oak or one that was killed by a parasite, so they are found on such material.  Parasites attack their host.  In the case of Oaks, they can take a while to succumb to the parasite and in many cases can grow for years before dying from the attack.  Parasites are therefore found on live, dying, and recently dead hosts.  Symbiotic species grow in association with their host.  In the case of mushrooms and Oaks, the fungus is attached to the tree roots underground so the mushrooms grow from the ground near the tree.

Edible species of mushrooms associated with Oak include all three of these types of mushrooms.  Two of the most abundant and well-known edible species are common in the autumn on Oaks – Maitake (Grifola frondosa, Hen-of-the-Woods, Sheep’s Head, etc.) and Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria spp.).  Chicken-of-the-Woods (Laetiporus spp.) is another abundant and delicious Oak parasite.  These three mushrooms (two of them are identified only by genus above because there are groups of closely related species known by the same name) are prolific enough to provide surprisingly large amounts of food.  Indeed, many mushroom hunters content themselves with only one of the three as a foraged ingredient for the table.  But they also miss out on many of the other fungal offerings under Oak.

Mycorrhizal (symbiotic) species include delicious edibles like Boletes, Chantarelles, and Milk Mushrooms (Lactarius spp.).  Chantarelles (Cantharellus spp.) are pretty well known and pretty easy to identify.  Also, closely related is the Black Trumpet (Craterellus spp.).  Boletes (Boletus spp. and other related genera) are perhaps more difficult to identify than Chanterelles.  Although there are many species of Chanterelle, there are a few obvious species that stand out.  The Boletes, however, are a very large group.  Although it is not really true, some people consider all Boletes to be edible (at least those without a strong bitter or spicy flavor).  Certainly, some are very prized.  Lactarius is a group with many non-edible and poisonous species, and many people avoid them.  However, there are some delicious species that grow with Oak, like the Voluminous Milky (L. volemus).

You might want to check out Macrofungi Associated with Oaks by Binion, Burdsall, Stephenson, Miller, Roody, and Vasilyeva.  It is over 400 pages on mushrooms associated with Oaks and includes information on edibility.  

Chicken-of-the-Woods

mushroom_chicken_of_the_woodsChicken-of-the-Woods (not to be confused with Hen-of-the-Woods, Grifola frondosa) is also known as Sulphur Shelf and Chicken Mushroom.  I avoid the name Chicken Mushroom because it also refers to another, and Sulphur Shelf is really only good for certain varieties.  It is called Chicken-of-the-Woods because it tastes like chicken and has a similar texture.  I have served it to folks who thought it was chicken, though I wouldn’t have done so intentionally – as some people do react to even the thoroughly cooked mushroom (she helped herself to the pan of leftovers).  As with most mushrooms, Chicken-of-the-Woods should be cooked, and with this one in particular it should be done thoroughly and with plenty of oil.  It has mixed reviews, but I think it is mostly due to it being harvested past its prime (which is common) or cooked improperly (it really does suck up the oil – be libral).  Many people love this mushroom, even if they generally don’t like mushrooms.  Plus, it often grows in abundance.  This is a very significant survival food.

Hen-of-the-Woods

mushroom_maitake_hen_of_the_woodsHen-of-the-Woods is another mushroom that can grow very large and in abundance.  It is also known as Maitake, Sheep’s Head, Ram’s Head, and more.  In this case “Hen” refers to the appearance more than the taste and texture.  When found young (they can still be young and be quite large) they are quite delicious.  Hen-of-the-Woods should be cooked thoroughly to avoid digestive troubles.  It is revered as a medicinal as well as an edible, being used for the immune system to help with infections and cancer.

Mighty Materials

Although the modern world has largely forgot Oak as a source of food, its wood is still commonly recognized as a superior building material.  Used for hardwood flooring, furniture, and more.

Read More: The Survival Staff

Oak is also still used as an ideal material for martial arts weapons like the bo staff and for the handles of nunchaku.  It is very strong and makes a good choice when a superior and strong material is desired, such as for tool handles and sturdy furnature.

Oak as Fuel

fire_flame_facts_top_tenThough there is significant variety among the many species of Oak, it is generally a superior firewood.  It is dense and hard and has a high heating rating.  It does burn a little slow, which is one of its benefits, but it also doesn’t put out light as well as some other choices of wood (Hickory, for example, is also very hard but burns bright.  Lighter woods that burn quick will often put out more light.).  It can easily become smoky when not dried well or not tended to in the fireplace.  Of course, being dense means that it dries slow.  In my mind the classic “all-nighter” is a nice, large, dry Oak log placed on a hot bed of coals.

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Survival Gear Review: The SOG Pillar – A USA Made Knife

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Article_SOG_PIllar_Knife_USA_Made_hand_choil_full_viewSOG Knives in general need no introduction, but a few SOG blades in particular do require a few minutes of your attention. And one such knife is The SOG Pillar.  The SOG Knives company takes its name from a Vietnam-era covert US Special Ops unit known as Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group or MACV-SOG. But the real story here is that the SOG part of the MACV-SOG was a cover name to hide the real nature of the entity. Soon SOG began to be shorthand for “Special Operations Group” which was a little more descriptive and honest given the nature of SOG work.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Many know SOG knives to be of good value and often of excellent performance. The Washington-based company named SOG began in 1986, but can trace its inspirational roots to special operations during the Vietnam War. The SOG Speciality Knives company began as the dream of Spencer Frazer who, as a UCLA math/science graduate, worked in the aerospace defense industry. The first SOG knife was the SOG Bowie, a commemorative nod to a fighting blade Frazer could feel was magical when he held one.

The SOG Bowie was the extent of the entire SOG knife line for a while and retailed for $200. And that was over 30 years ago. Sometimes events in a corporation’s history are not so much circular but spiral in quality and design while maintaining a familiar form. And thus is the case of The Pillar.

SOG began its journey into our hands with fixed blade knives and USA-based manufacturing. As time went on their designs diversified, so did their manufacturing options. In 2016, SOG had its blades and multitools manufactured in forges and tool factories in Asia. But 2017 brings some of that knife forging and construction home. So in a twist of inevitability, SOG presents a USA-made fixed blade of exceptional steel and design.

A Pillar of Society

The Pillar is the single fixed blade in the USA-made release of knives. There are three folders, all automatics, that also carry the USA pedigree. But the Pillar represents a homecoming of sorts, to the point it first caught my fancy, and then my desire, and finally my loyalty.

Related: The Fallkniven Professional Hunting Knife

As many readers know, I have a fondness for super steels and cutting edge designs. And I am happy to say that the SOG Pillar is a knife worthy of the respect any top-shelf knife deserves, whether custom or off the assembly line.

The Pillar, and note that I choose to capitalize “The” out of respect, is a blade of the highest performance and sharpness. The Pillar is a 7.4 ounce, 10-inch masterpiece of stonewashed S35VN steel. The five and a half inch blade is all business, and the canvas Micarta scales form a near-perfect union between human hand and tool.

Downstream

Article_SOG_PIllar_Knife_USA_Made_choil_close_jimpingOn the blade-side, the clip point is classic SOG with a traditional edge belly, but an embellished spine carrying forth three transitions from aggressive jimping at the grip end, to a graceful dip in the spine-flow, to a classic focus to the tip. While SOG does get creative with its spins including full rasps, the treat The Pillar shares with us is what I believe to be the sharpest 90 degree spine bevel in recent memory. Corner turning on the spine of The Pillar will strike fear in firerods the world over. In fact, you can just wave The Pillar close to a fire steel and sparks will fly. It’s that sharp.

The choil just forward of the index finger guard (where all choils are found) is pronounced enough for functional use, but not so deep to interfere with full blade-length cutting tasks, or large enough to impede with precision grip-close bladework. Some knives have a chasm between grip and blade causing trimming and paring work to suffer due to the leverage distance between hand and true edge. This is exactly why the sharp edge most kitchen knives begins immediately where the handle ends, and even sometimes flows back under under the grip to get a headstart on the slicing chores.

Upstream

The balance point of The Pillar is distinctly within the handle. The fore-aft flow of the knife centers just behind the index finger in a regular forehand grip. Many blades of this stature have skeletonize steel under the scales that moves the balance forward. Not The Pillar. The only absent steel out of sight under the grips are the two small holes where the fasteners bolt the Micarta scales to the blade. A balance behind the index finger makes for a very solid feel in-hand. The tradeoff of a balance-back design is found in a decreased chop force for a knife of this weight. Batoning with the The Pillar is a real treat however, especially with the plentiful flat shelf running from the midsection of the spine to the tip. But using The Pillar for such crude tasks could be viewed as an insult to the intelligence of this blade. However, that did not stop me from splitting some pine rounds with a diameter three-fourths the length of the blade.

The overall grip size of The Pillar falls somewhere between medium and small. Unlike Gerber’s blocky LMF or KaBar’s Becker series that leans on the circular, the greying canvas Micarta scales on The Pillar provide a firm handshake without making themselves the life of the party. This means they do not attract undue attention during use. Some blades have grips that consider themselves more important than the overall knife. Grips and scale must know their place in the knife dynamic. For grips and scales, serving the human hand is, as Ford says, job one.

Popular handle materials for fixed blade knives these days include good old wood and a pile of synthetics and composites including various plastics, G10, and Micarta. For the record, Micarta is a layered composite that could contain linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, carbon fiber or other fabric which is then pressed and heated into a strong plastic that feels great in the hand. Micarta can trace its roots back to 1910 when its properties of electrical non-conductivity, temperature insensitivity, and disregard for moisture were new in such a strong material.

Rounding out the back end of The Pillar is a protruding tang with both pronounced jimping and a large diamond-shaped lanyard hole. The curved steel on the back end of The Pillar presents a viable surface upon which pressure can be applied, and even blows if absolutely necessary. But pounding on the knife might constitute abuse under the SOG Lifetime warranty, as it should.

Steel Valor

Article_SOG_PIllar_Knife_USA_Made_Scales_removedSo what’s up with the fancy steel? S35VN is a powder steel from Crucible Industries (CPM) that abbreviates stainless (S), Vanadium (V) and Niobium (N). This precision mix of elements including carbon, chromium, and molybdenum makes of a blade of exceptional durability, sharpenability, and resistance to chipping and folding. The S35VN steel is tougher than even the famed S30V that I’ve sung the praises of in other reviews. Furthermore, The SOG Pillar’s Rockwell hardness of 59-61, and a glorious mix of metallurgical alchemy in the steel, The SOG Pillar is about as stain resistant and corrosion resistant as a fine knife steel can be given our current mixes of earthly elements.

Read Also: Swedish Steel Mora Knife

The SOG Pillar leans more towards the tactical/combat side over a survival/bushcraft blade. The Pillar has hints of that mean look we love about the SOG Seal Pup but with better steel, a more refined finish with less of the black special ops persona, and a vastly stronger handle design using scales above a solid steel frame over the Seal Pup’s glass-reinforced nylon handle. Fully enclosed handles are necessary to reduce the chance of electrocution if the blade encounters a hot wire, and also to reduce the thermal conductivity to a bare hand of hot or cold, but mostly cold.

A Sheath Done Right

Sheath_Article_SOG_PIllar_Knife_USA_Made_sheath_tech_lock_pmagThe Pillar comes with an outstandingly well engineered friction blade cover complete with locking mount that will clamp securely to a belt up to 1.5 inches wide and a quarter inch thick. In the field, The Pillar is as fast to deploy as to stow, all one-handed. And about the only way to knock The Pillar free from its sheath would be to fall about six feet landing on your head. Needless to say, that would likely negate your need for a knife, possibly forever.

Removing The Pillar from the sheath is a real treat. The highest grommet hole on the spine-side of the sheath has jimping on it and is an excellent thumb ramp allowing, the extraction of The Pillar in one clean safe move.

The Pillar and I have made several trips now and it’s still dangerously sharp. I’ve come to appreciate the handle size even more, and enjoy The Pillar’s fluid ability to slice with precision. Despite its tactical leanings, The Pillar works wood very well and shaves fire sticks with ease. The Pillar is just as comfortable working in the kitchen slicing meat and veggies as it would be, and this is just a guess, separating life from a bad guy during government sanctioned wet work.

On a more domestic tone, The Pillar is presented well in its box at point of sale. When you open the cardboard, The Pillar is floating in space centered in the rectangle. In actuality, The Pillar is secured in transparent plastic. Compare this to being stuffed in a sheath and wrapped in a piece of paper, then stuffed again in a box. Presentation of the knife might end the moment the knife goes into service, but the pride of workmanship comes across even before you touch the knife.

When it Matters

Article_SOG_PIllar_Knife_USA_Made_baton_woodAlthough the tactical edginess of The Pillar might scare some hunters and outdoorsmen away, I can say with confidence that the classic lines and proven clip point are more than capable of cutting up whatever needs cutting up whether bush or beast. Those folks with survival bends might find The Pillar alluring as a bug out knife or primary resident in the Go Bag. And I would certainly agree. In fact, The Pillar is like a stick of cutting dynamite that can sit quietly on belt or pack, and does basic work without complaint. At a moment’s notice, The Pillar can step up to be the most aggressive and angry knife in the room. Instead of pushing a lesser knife to work above its pay grade, The Pillar hedges your bets towards the Big Survival side, which is exactly where they should if you’re serious. Mall ninjas need not apply.

The SOG Pillar is not an ordinary knife. The Pillar can play well with the little jobs yet jump to the front line and charge into battle when things go bad. Spencer Fraser, the founder of SOG has said about his company, “We don’t settle for ordinary. “We never did, and we never will.” And The SOG Pillar proves that. Again.

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Your Survival Library

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wilderness_book_survival_educateWe all know that knowledge is power; but when it really comes down to an emergency, the right kind of knowledge could be the difference between life and death. We take a look at some of the best survival books for your library or Kindle. The books in this collection were chosen because they truly make life easier. Why make stupid mistakes when you can learn from the mistakes from others?

By Alex Coyne, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

The books on this list serve as a cornerstone of good survival habits and practices. Any competent survivalist will understand the information conveyed in these materials.

The Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living

Also known as the Naked Wilderness Survival Guide, this book’s slightly longer title tells you every you need to know about it: Surviving with nothing but your bare hands and what you find in the woods. John and Geri McPherson are well-known in survivalist circles, and have been instructing people in the art of wilderness survival for decades.

Read Also: Survival Books for Your Bunker

Fire Skills: Methods for Starting Fires Without Matches

A collaborative project by David and Victoria Aman, this book teaches you more about how to make fire in the field – fire is one of the most primitive human skills, and in a situation where you’re fighting for survival, knowing how to make, use, and control fire will be one of your most critical skills.

A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs

This one’s part of the Peterson Field Guide series; check out the rest if you want to broaden your nature library. This one applies to western medicinal plants and herbs: What you’ll encounter in the wild and what to do with it. Knowledge of plants, it goes without saying, is essential if you don’t want to die from eating or applying the wrong thing.

The Complete Book of Knots

By Geoffrey Budworth, this book really is the complete book of knots. Knot-making can get you out of a lot of tight situations: You might need to tie together a knot to keep your gear or shelter in one place, and that’s just two examples. Knots are useful. Learn how.

First-Aid WikiBooks

WikiBooks is a great resource for information, and this one is specifically geared towards basic First-Aid. You won’t find much of survival info in here, but at the end of reading this one you should know what to do in a medical emergency at the very least, which makes it worth a look.

Related: 3 Types of Books you Should Read and Why

The American Red Cross First-Aid and Safety Handbook

First-Aid is vital, so here’s another take on the First-Aid straight from the American Red Cross. You know the information you’re getting in here is accurate, so make sure you’ve got this one standing on your bookshelf, or hanging around on your Kindle device.

US Air Force Survival Handbook

Also known as The Portable and Essential Guide to Staying Alive, the US Air Force Survival Handbook is surprisingly available for order off of Amazon. Get your copy and learn how to stay alive from the experts.

The Complete Survival Shelters Handbook

survival_book_complete_survival_shelters_handbookBy Anthonio Akkermans, The Complete Survival Shelters Handbook contains guides on how to build shelters for almost any environment and climate using materials you’ll find around you in such a situation.  According to the book’s description, you can expect to find out more about everything from a Yurt to a Debris Hut and Scandinavian Lavvu. In any survival situation, crafting adequate shelter is crucial. Having multiple ways to construct shelter is A worthy inclusion to anyone’s library!

The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering and Cooking in the Wild

Food: Even outside of a survival situation, you’re screwed without it. Here’s the field guide to trapping, gathering and cooking in the wild. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t take this one on the road if you’re just planning a camping trip at a nearby game reserve; that being said, it’s essential info for the serious survivalist.

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America

This one is also part of the Peterson Field Guide series – see, we told you to go look! This one is geared towards Eastern and Central North America. Even if travelling there isn’t in your plans, familiarize yourself with the area’s plants and their uses. As we all know, survival situations rarely stick to a plan.

Survive! Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere – Alive

Written by the guy behind the TV show Survivalman, this book comes highly recommended by many survival experts. The book promises a no-BS look at survival, and that’s pretty much exactly what you get. It covers everything from shelters to survival kits as well as “why the notion of hunting and tracking large game is largely a pipe dream” in a wilderness situation.

The Ultimate Survival Manual: 333 Skills That Will Get You Out Alive

The Ultimate Survival Manual is certainly comprehensive; the book offers a run-down of skills that you absolutely cannot afford to be without.

The US Army Survival Manual

Know the ins and outs of survival like a real soldier: It could be the difference between life and death.  This one goes well with the US Air Force Manual (recommended further up), and it teaches you not only what to do in a survival situation, but how to prepare yourself for anything you might encounter mentally. Things like first-aid and health are also covered at length.

Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival

Dave Canterbury is well-known in survival circles, and there are a couple books that add to the Bushcraft series: This is only one of them, and focuses purely on the art of survival in the wilderness. Also take a look at Advanced Bush Craft once you’ve read your way through the rest.

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Back to Basics: The KISS AR-15

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KISS_SHTFblog-survival-cache-tactical-magpul-aimpoint-comp-ml3-fenix-pd35-troy-magpul-dissipator-stramlight-tlr-1I admit it – like most gun culture involved individuals in America, I also got way too caught up in building an “ultimate” AR-15.  While I didn’t go as wild as some, I definitely spent way more money buying and trying different setups until I settled on my current “Goldilocks”configuration. I use and shoot the hell out of that AR – it’s my SHTF “gotta go!” rifle – but I’ve figured out with actual use that the rifle just has a lot going on for occasional range use, training, and scouting/small game hunting.  It’s heavy for an AR, to boot.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

The basic rifle uses a Windham Weaponry 16” heavy barrel SRC upper, modified with a Troy low-profile gas block, 13” Troy Alpha rail and aluminum Sig Sauer flip-up BUIS.  The lower has a Magpul MOE grip and a Magpul ACS stock, both stuffed to the gills with extra springs and pins, small sample tube of CLP, a spare firing pin, and a full complement of CR123 batteries for the 1000-lumen Fenix PD35 TAC light.  With the rubber-armored Aimpoint Comp ML3 red dot optic and steel LaRue M68 QD mount, the rifle weighs over nine pounds with a full 30 round magazine and BDS sling.  It’s set to go for a SHTF event and is a very capable, reliable, great-shooting rifle.  You could ask almost anyone and probably get the reply that it has everything one might need on an out-the-door grab-and-go SHTF AR platform.

But does this AR have things I don’t absolutely need (besides weight)?  Since building that SHTF rifle, my mind has been drifting occasionally to a “KISS” (Keep It Simple, Stupid!), rifle that is lighter, has no frills, and just works for a variety of uses and missions.  I recently assisted my father with assembling a rifle that he dubbed his “ULWC” (Ultra LightWeight Carbine) that utilized a lot of really high-end lightweight parts and a dash of simplicity to create a nice, functional AR that tips the scales at under 7 pounds with a micro red dot optic and 20-round P-Mag.  I wanted to straddle the line between the weight of my father’s ULWC, the utility and mission of Doc Montana’s “Katrina Rifle”, and what I had built already.  Nothing battery-powered, (though retaining the capability of mounting a light)  just tried and true simplicity.

Opportunity Provided By Colt

I’ve had a Colt Match Target Sporter HBAR for years, and I never really shoot the rifle anymore due to its competition-designed setup: it is a standard AR-15A2 configuration, with a 20” very heavy barrel, non-removable rear “carrying handle” adjustable sight, and fixed rear stock with added weights. The rifle shoots great, but its 1:7 rifling rate of twist means that it doesn’t group my preferred 55-grain bullet handloads very well – the 1:7 twist spins the fast-moving little pills too quickly, and the rifle grouped badly with 55-grainers as a consequence.  I didn’t want to stockpile another bullet in the 69-75 grain range and develop another handload for a rifle that didn’t have the capability to mount an optic optimally, so the rifle sat in the safe and gathered dust for a long time.

However, one day I was talking with my brother about possible upcoming AR builds, and he said, “why don’t you just throw a collapsible stock on your Colt?”  A light bulb went off.  I have built up a cadre of friends and local shops who were very capable of excellent AR builds and had all the tools I hadn’t accrued yet….so indeed, why not modify the Colt?  It possesses all the basic upper and lower receiver ingredients for a great KISS rifle – it just needed a different barrel and stock configuration.  I rooted through the couch cushions for extra change and set to work once I had the funds.

The configuration I knew I’d go to was one I’d had in mind for years: Dissipator, baby.

Dissa-whaaaaat?

KISS_SHTFblog-tactical-survival-cache-dissipator-colt-ar15-streamlight-TLR-1sI remember being quite young – probably before my teens – and perusing through the many stacks and stacks of gun magazines my father had accrued: my earliest firearms education.  I remember seeing an a picture of an AR-15 that still sticks with me – it looked like a mean-looking chopped-off standard AR-15A2; and really, that’s what it was.  Later in life, I found that the then-Maine-based company, Bushmaster Firearms, had put a name to the design that Colt had pioneered years ago: The “Dissipator.” A classic Dissipator is a standard AR-15A1/A2 with the barrel –  usually 20” on a standard A1/A2 – lopped off to a handier 16” length.  The flash suppressor sat just beyond the fixed tower front sight and full-length rifle handguards, giving a stubby, businesslike appearance.  But even in my now long-gone younger ages, I knew that the rifle had a longer sighting radius for better accuracy, while boasting the handier CAR-15 shorter overall length.

Original Dissipators had issues with reliability; they had a full-length rifle gas system on a carbine-length barrel.  Gas impulses and resulting short dwell time were funky and the guns had a habit of not cycling properly unless the gas ports were opened up significantly.  Modern Dissipators usually utilize M4-pattern barrels and carbine-length low-profile gas systems under full-length rifle handguards, with the fixed tower front sight not being utilized as a gas block, as per the usual.

Today, things have come full circle.  After the A3/M4 AR variant reared its head, sprouting its myriad spawn and video game experts, shooters started to realize that the extra handguard length meant more rail room for more goodies and sling mounts.  It also lead to a longer sight radius for any attached sights, and with the modern arm-extended “C” clamp method of holding the rifle, more space to muckle onto the forward end of the rifle and not get your phalanges cooked medium rare.  You’ll see many modern builds are actually de facto Dissipators – short barrels with full-length handguards/rails growing around them, and sights that are placed almost to the muzzle.  Hey, if it works, people will figure it out eventually, right?

But I’d figured out long ago that it looked purposeful and damned cool.  And I was gonna get one, dammit. Or, y’know, in this case I’d build one.

Putting the Puzzle Together

Okay, so I had a Colt rifle and the entire interwebs to help me figure the best way to modify it.  Really all I needed was a barrel, appropriately-lengthed gas tube, and a collapsible buttstock.  I’d had the receiver extension, end plate, buffer spring, and carbine buffer kicking around already, waiting for a build.  I sourced a black milspec Magpul CTR stock from the local Cabela’s, and converted the lower from a fixed A2 stock to a 6-position telescoping rear stock one evening after dinner.  Mission one complete.

Related: Theory and Practical Application of the Walking Around Rifle

KISS_SHTFblog-survival-cache-best-ar-15-colt-dissipator-streamlight-magpul-MOE-tlr-1SNow for the upper receiver modifications, which were going to require more digging to make sure I did things right.  I searched the catacombs of online sources for a couple days, looking for the proper barrel for my build.  I definitely did not desire another heavy barrel; nor did I want a flyweight barrel and its walking groups.  Finally, I found that my local boys at Windham Weaponry do indeed offer Dissipator setups – I could have bought an entire completed Dissipator upper receiver, but settled on just the barrel and gas tube to replace the 20” heavy barrel that was on the Colt.  In the Dissipator models, Windham Weaponry offers a heavy barrel setup, as well as a stepped, lighter M4-pattern barrel.  I opted for the latter, and was 100% confident I’d have a great barrel; I’ve personally toured the Windham Weaponry facility, and their quality control is second to none.  Every person who works there is fiercely proud of their product and what they represent.  As stated before, my other AR build has a W-W upper, and with a good field rest, that rifle will keep 4-5” groups at 200 yards with no issues if I do my part behind the Aimpoint.

Windham Weaponry offers the ability to purchase directly through their website and I could have installed all the hardware, but I wanted to support another local business.  I called on an old schoolmate, Jeff Furlong at Furlong Custom Creations in Raymond, Maine, to order the parts and assemble them to my upper.  I’d had a custom kydex holster made by Jeff years ago, but had never had any rifle work performed.  He has a stellar reputation for his builds here in the area, so I called on him to help with the build.  Jeff helped me sort out what I wanted and needed, and he got to ordering the barrel and necessary accoutrements from Windham Weaponry.  While he was at it, I asked him to source a set of black rifle-length MOE MLOK handguards from Magpul, and a new charging handle.  He had a BCM Mod 4 charging handle in stock, so we threw that on the pile of parts.

I dropped the upper off at Furlong Custom Creations, and less than a week later, I got the message that the parts had arrived and the new parts were assembled on the upper.

And the Survey Says….

Huzzah! I buzzed up to Furlong Custom Creations to collect my upper.  Jeff remarked that it looked “badass” with the Magpul handguards, and I was inclined to agree.  Though aesthetics aren’t exactly the only thing we aim for with our ARs, you know we all smirk inwardly with unabashed satisfaction when another gun guy tells us our rifle looks “badass”, or some variation thereof. I probably would have skipped back to my truck if it wasn’t for the icy driveway.

Once home, I reunited the old receiver mates and assembled the newly transformed upper onto the Match Sporter lower.  The end result was, in my eyes and hands, delightful.  The weight sits just a bit further forward than a standard M4, and the handling qualities are excellent.  The initial handling time I got with the rifle, comparing it to its fully decked-out brother, made me like the Dissipator more and more – maybe there really was something to this simple, lightweight thing.

The first range trip was short – I barely got it on paper at 50 yards before the Maine 4th Keyboard Commando Brigade showed up at the pit with their AKs and .45 Glocks and started performing breathtaking 7.62 drum dumps and even occasionally hitting their Bin Laden targets.  I packed up and headed home before the cops showed up.

I finally got a few minutes to do some accuracy work while on my lunch last week, and the results were very good.  With Federal 55-grain FMJBT ammunition, I was able to keep 5-shot groups to 1” or so at 50 yards offhand.  Benched groups at 100 yards with the same Federal load hovered in the 2”-3” range – adequate for the purposes I need. I’ll try a few different factory loads and also try a handload – but for all intents and purposes, I’m happy with groups this size from an open-sighted rifle.  My old Winchester Model 54 in .30-06 shoots 2-3” groups at 100 yards with open sights, but will cloverleaf three rounds at the same range when scoped – so I know that the larger groups at long range are due to my aging Mark 1 eyeball’s capability, and I’m fine with that.  I accept it, anyway.

Though I’ve only run about 300 rounds through the rifle thus far, I have been very happy with the package and the performance.  Reliability has been flawless – though one really can’t gauge long-term results from just a few rounds downrange.

A Couple Additions

I didn’t want – or really, need – to add a bunch of crap to this rifle; I wanted to maintain the KISS principle to the best of my abilities.  Light weight and no-frills are the core concepts in this build. In my mind’s eye, I only needed two accessories: a good sling, and the ability to mount (and dismount) a light.

For the sling, I ordered a Magpul MLOK-compatible QD sling mount, and attached the circular mount at the 10 o’clock position, as far forward as I could place it.  The Magpul CTR stock already had a quick-detach sling swivel mount built in, so I sourced a pair of Midwest Industries Heavy Duty QD sling swivels from Amazon.  The space in between the swivels was filled with an adjustable Wolf Grey Blue Force Gear Vickers Combat Application sling to keep the whole rig in place on my body.  For those of you who haven’t tried a Blue Force Gear Vickers sling, they are phenomenal and highly recommended.

For illumination, I obtained a 3-slot MLOK picatinny rail attachment point, which I mounted at the 2 o’clock position, also as far forward as was allowable.  The small, simple rail is just the right size to mount a Streamlight TLR-1, which can be activated by my support hand fingers without adjusting my grip.  Simple, easy, tough…and with enough illumination power for what I expect to use the rifle for.

Possible future upgrades that are not necessary for this rifle to complete is mission, but are desireable to help improve user-friendliness:

  • a three-dot tritium sight set to replace to stock A2 adjustable sights, as budget allows – but with the Streamlight mounted, the need for the illuminated sights is negated mostly.  If I don’t go with tritium sights, a finer post front sight will find its way on the rifle.
  • An Odin Works extended magazine release is definitely on the list; they are a vast improvement over the stock magazine release, and I install them on all of my AR platform rifles.
  • A Magpul MOE Enhanced Trigger Guard will also be installed in the future to allow for improved access to the trigger with gloved hands.  They are more smoothly contoured as well, and don’t have a tendency to shave skin on my fingers as badly as the stock sharp-edged metal one.  I saw a screaming deal for a BCM extended trigger guard, so that was ordered and installed on the rifle instead of the Magpul part.

Defining the Mission for my KISS Rifle

While some may say the need for this rifle may be vague or non-existent, it fills a very vacant hole in my lineup.  I’m very fond of running guns that are sans optics unless I need them; I like the lighter weight and better handling qualities…a good aperture sight setup is all I need for 90% of my rifle use.  I’m comfortable and pretty quick on target using the built-in, non-removable sights.  For a few bucks, I can always drop some cake on a new flat top upper and have the Dissipator parts swapped on, once my eyes finally give out (I’m fighting it as long as I can, dammit) and I require an optic to keep my rounds heading in the right direction with anything resembling a modicum of precision.

KISS_shtfblog-tactical-survival-cache-KISS-rifle-dissipator-blue-force-gear-vickers-snowBut, what will I do with this rifle?  I’m glad you asked.  Like the aforementioned Katrina Rifle engineered by Doc Montana (check out his article here for a similar rifle concept that is different in execution), I built a rifle around an idea that requires a simple, light, rugged, and above all, reliable rifle that is capable of security detail/protection, hunting, and scouting.  Light weight is essential so that the rifle can be on my person perpetually if the situation demands it.  In a true disaster or SHTF event, having a lightweight rifle as a force multiplier may be the difference between life and death – and if the rifle is so heavy or obtrusive that you leave it at home standing in the corner, it is of no benefit.  This KISS rifle is also a second primary rifle, so that I may outfit my teenaged-but-larger-than-me son with an effective rifle in case of severe emergency and extra security is required.

I also wanted a platform for my KISS rifle that was easily serviceable, with parts readily available, either aftermarket or from salvaging “found” guns if needed – the Colt fit the bill flawlessly in that department.  However, since the Colt is an older “pre-ban” (is that still a bragging point anymore?) rifle, it has larger .169” trigger/hammer pins, not the Milspec standard .154” pins.  This necessitates a couple spares taped to the inside of the Magpul MOE grip….just in case.  A complement of easily-lost detents, springs, and pins also reside in the grip cavity along with a shortened 1/16” hardened steel pin punch and a small sample tube of CLP.  I like being able to effect small repairs and lubrication in the field if necessary, but big parts replacement, if required, and deep cleaning can be carried out at the home/BOL armorer’s bench.

Read Also: The AR-15 Bolt Carrier Group

The rifle will likely stay at the homestead, but remain ready to fulfill its duties with a ready complement of four loaded (and regularly rotated) and ready-to-rumble Magpul P-mags for immediate danger work, or a couple five-round magazines with a small-game/varmint handload in case I don’t feel like taking my Walking Around Rifle for a jaunt in the woods.

This KISS Dissipator (KISSipator?) fulfills all the basic requirements I was looking for when I started building the gun in my head.  I got the Dissipator I’d been dreaming of for 20 years, and was able to tailor the long lusted-after rifle and its few accessories to fill a hole in the SHTF arsenal, all while not overloading the rifle with gadgets and battery-powered weights. Mission accomplished.

The Sum of its Parts

The Dissipator configuration is a great choice if you’d like the longer handguards for mounting and grasping real estate, but without the added cost and/or hassle of free-floating rails.  Really, if I didn’t want to retain the capability of mounting a light to the gun, I could have left the standard A2-style handguards on the rifle, mounted the sling to the standard swivels, and had a great rifle for even less money.  As it stands, the cost for the barrel and gas tube assembled to the Colt upper, BCM charging handle, Magpul MOE rifle-length handguards, Magpul CTR rear stock, Blue Force sling and mounts, and the MLOK attachments is $407.00 – much less than the cost of a new, high-quality rifle (with no accessories!), even in this heyday of the AR rifle and aftermarket parts glut.

Check Out: Windham Weaponry

And keeping it simple?  That’s a personal choice.  I like having a rifle that is 100% effective at its intended job without any additional tactical detritus that weighs the rifle down and requires a larger stockpile of batteries.  I was pleasantly surprised at the utility of this rifle, even without all the gadgetry installed.  The fixed rear sight A2 platform is the ultimate in platform simplicity and ruggedness, and may even be the direction you want to go in if you’re looking for these same qualities in a SHTF rifle.

What are your thoughts on this setup?  A waste of a good Colt, or the right direction to go in? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts if you have a minute to share.

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Basic Essentials for Cooking Fish Off the Grid

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survival_bucket_of_fishFish are a nutritional powerhouse; with lots of protein, healthy fats, and a potent cocktail of nutrients that influence human brain function, optimize hormonal production, and even prevent aging! They’re also a camper or survivalist’s dream come true. Why, you may ask?  Fish go fin-in-stream with the most important resource – water! Whether you love the outdoors, want to be a little greener, or need to eat to survive, learning to cook fish using traditional “off-the-grid” methods is a useful addition to any culinary arsenal. There are a many techniques available to catch wild fish, ranging from building your own rod to catching with your bare hands, but this article is going to discuss how to best cook up your catch.

By John S., a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog & SurvivalCache

First, let us discuss the different types of fish meat. “Oily” or “fatty” fish are fish that are over five percent fat by weight, while lean fish are under five percent. Oily fish include anchovies, carp, herring, salmon and sardines. They are generally known for their moist texture and richer flavors. Lean fish include bass, cod, catfish, and perch. They’re known for being a little tougher and a little less flavorful. Your location will be a big factor in determining what types of fish are available to you. Study up on your local species to be best prepared to feed yourself, for fun or survival.

Baking on Smoldering Coals

survival_coals_fishOne of the best, and most basic, off the grid cooking techniques is baking on smoldering coals. While this method is useful for any kind of meat, it adds a certain smoky edge to fish that’s extremely delicious. Oilier fish are especially good when cooked with this method, since the hearty fats seal in a moist texture. Salt is a staple in every kitchen, and you may often hear people talking about bringing salt on outdoor excursions. This isn’t only for the taste, but it’s also especially useful in preserving food, so you should take care to keep some with you on all outdoor cooking excursions and during your survival practice.

Read Also: Best Glide Survival Fishing Kit

As for leaner fish, they’ll bake best wrapped in foil or, in an emergency situation, large leaves will do the trick. The wrapping helps trap moisture in and steams the fish. Feel free to dress a coal-baked fish up with some lemon juice and butter if you’re cooking for leisure! It’s probably safe to say you won’t have these items handy during a survival situation, but in that situation, anything edible, and especially nutritious, will be delicious.

Pan Frying (if possible)

fish_survival_pan_fryingFrying the fresh catch in a large cast iron pan is also an option, if you came prepared with the pan and a little oil. If you’re frying for fun, a simple mix of flour, breadcrumbs and your favorite seasonings will keep well in a zip lock bag, is easy to transport, and makes for yummy treat. Even without the mix, the fish will be a great meal on it’s own; especially if you’re eating for survival. The biggest key is to make sure the oil is hot enough, a spit test should do the trick. Simply wet your fingers with some water and flick the moisture into the pan, if the oil “spits”, or jumps and bubbles, on contact, then you’re ready to cook.

You will need long tongs or a durable cooking spoon to flip and “fish” out the filets once they’ve fried to a light golden color. This method tastes great, even with only light salting, and works well for both types of fish. If no tongs or cooking spoons are in your repertoire, you can use a multi-tool or knife so long as you’re careful not to damage it, as you will need it for other important tasks as well. Worst case, there should be twigs and sticks around for you to use as cooking tools.

Building Your Own Smoker

Last, but not least, fish meat is fabulous fresh out of a smoker. Not only is it fresh, but smoking fish, or any meat for that manner, is optimal for survival-based situations because prolonged smoking results in dehydrated, well-preserved food that can be saved and stored for several days. Building, or finding, a smoker can be tricky, you just need to create a small space where a rack can hang above a fire and a ventilation system to bring the smoke up through the fish meat.

Related: Teach Them to Fish

Stacking appropriately-sized rocks is a good and, usually, convenient method of construction. Covering the vents with foliage can help trap in smoke and improve the cooking process, and burning clean, dry logs will provide the best smoky flavor for the food. While this process does take longer than the other two, the preservation effects of smoking could mean the difference between life and death, so it’s definitely worth learning about and practicing. For example, if you are in a survival situation and are having luck catching some fish, you may want to use a lot of that meat in the smoker simply for preservation, and then consume the meat at a later time when you may be running low on food.

Conclusion

survival_fish_filetLuckily, there are a lot of options when it comes to preparing fish off the grid using very little materials. Salt is perhaps one of the most underrated items in a survival situation, as it offers a convenient method of preservation. Adding other herbs, spices and extras will provide a welcome kick to your next camping meal, but of course, this may be out of the question in a survival situation. Lastly, Always make sure any fish you consume is thoroughly cleaned and cooked before consuming. This, combined with thorough cooking, will ensure you have a nice edible fish packed with nutrients to keep you going. Practice makes perfect, so next time you’re out in the backcountry or doing some camping, try cooking some fish with as little materials as possible, ideally using natural objects around you. Good luck!

 

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Hiding Home Guns in Plain Sight

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hiding_guns_dog_couchThe idea of packing iron around the house at home every day does not appeal to everyone.  So, what are some alternatives to toting your favorite personal defense gun from room to room all the time?  It may sound problematic to hide multiple guns around the house all day or night, but some other approaches can put defense guns within reach as needed.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

First of all, if you want a hide gun in every room of the house, then there is nothing wrong with that “overkill” concept as it were, but just be certain that your domicile is secure inside and that everyone residing there knows guns are hidden around the place and where exactly they reside.  Ideally they will be trained in quick response actions as you cannot be home all the time.

If you have young children at home or school children in and out, then extra caution is needed to avoid accidents or misuse.  One idea is to place firearms up in higher places not easily accessed by young prowling eyes and fingers.  

In reverse, if you are retired and at home a lot, then you can pick your own strategies for placing easy to reach firearms so long as you can remember where they are.  That is not as funny as it might seem.  Us older folks often go to the garage, freezer or work room and forget why we are there.  Deal with it.  

The Home Scenarios

city_dangerous-2An investigation of national crime statistics does reveal an increase in home invasions over the past decade especially in certain high crime areas of America.  Think also in terms of such crimes that could just as well impact your bug out location during a SHTF event.  Wherever you reside at any given time is under the same potential threat.  This extends to travel. Whether you stay in a motel, an RV camping area, an interstate highway rest area, a national park, or at any bug out location, the threat potential remains the same.  

So, what is defined as a home invasion?   We typically think of this crime as somebody breaking in our house while we are at work, school, shopping, or just gone.  They steal easy to grab valuables or stuff to hock at a pawn shop or on the street, then are gone in a flash.  Don’t ever discount securing your home against these crimes in the first place by installing extra locks, hardened secure doors, and monitored security systems.  

Read Also: Handling an Active Shooter Situation

Such break ins are one thing, but an invasion implies that somebody is at home at the time and therefore subject to the active threat.  Often these threats can turn violent. Sexual assault, battery, and even death can result from such home invasions.  “Leave no witnesses” is the standard mantra of scummier home invaders.

So, there you sit watching television in the den, office, or man cave, your wife is in the kitchen, or sewing room, and the kids are playing on their Wii.  In such a scenario, you have little precious time or none to unlock a safe, open a locked gun closet, or other security practice to grab a gun to defend yourself in order to confront the threat that crashes violently into your house.  Multiple Hornady gun vaults might be an option.   

What you need is a defensive gun you can grip as you dash from your chair to the breeched entryway.  It has to be conveniently placed and easy to grab virtually without thinking about it.  It is a mindset for sure, that should be practiced.  

hidden_gun_bathroomSee just how long it takes you to get out of your repose, grab a gun across the room, or in the TV controller console or off the top of a bookcase.  Practice also lying on your bed, as though awakened at night, reading your favorite magazine in the restroom, or other common in home activities.  Become comfortable in your movements, time response, and skills at getting into a defensive mode.  It might stop an invasion and save lives.

Selecting Home Guns

browning_hi_power_close_upPicking just the right home hiding gun is about as difficult as selecting ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins.  There are a lot of flavors to choose from and a whole bunch of them are really good.  This is a decision you have to make for yourself and other family members in terms of what you are comfortable with using, handling, loading, charging, aiming and shooting well especially in tight, pseudo-confined spaces such as down a hallway, or foyer, or room doorway.

The best probable choice would likely be a handgun, revolver or pistol in the category of a universal concealed weapon.  That means small, easy to grip, handle, and to hide.  Sure, I like a big Smith .44 Magnum with a 4-inch barrel, but it would not be the ideal handgun for this task.  For this purpose, look at the 9mm or perhaps a .380 ACP with proper specialized defensive ammunition.  

Related: The Unappreciated 10mm Auto

If you like and can handle a 1911 semi-auto in the .45 ACP, then more power (literally) to you.  These are not choices anybody else can make for you.  The same principle stands if your choice, or a secondary hide gun would be a shotgun in 12 or 20 gauge.  Some even might be thinking a defensive rifle such as an AR-15 as a selection, but these could become problematic once a threat is already inside the house.  

In this discussion, one also has to consider the issue of bullet penetration when shooting inside a dwelling.  There is ammunition available now that is intended for interior defensive use.  The penetration and bullet expansion is controlled so as not to overpower the construction materials of a typical house, therefore not creating a threat to innocents in other parts of the dwelling.  If you question this, practice your ammo choices on some sheetrock, 2×4 lumber, and plywood, so you’ll know its capabilities.  

Also consider now whether to reply on one gun model with multiples placed in the house, or a one or two gun approach.  Whatever route you choose, make certain every participant in the family is fully versed and practiced with your in home hidden defensive gun(s) defensive plan.  

Hiding Home Guns

guns_hidden_doorWhere to hide an easy to grab defensive weapon?  Walk the house, tour every room, including the kitchen and bathrooms.  Where do you spend the majority of your time in the house?  Scan each room with the singular goal in mind to identify secure locations to place or hide a firearm.  Maybe among the books in a bookshelf, on a fireplace mantle, down beside the cushion of a couch, next to the television or stereo system.  

Nearby every entry door, maybe on an umbrella stand, or next to a flower vase on a table.  Perhaps there is a foyer piece of furniture to hide it.  At other entries, maybe hangers mounted above the doors, or a window sill.  They may be placed visible inside, but never allow them to be spotted from the outside.  

Be creative where you hide home guns, but always with safety in mind.  Propping a shotgun in the corner of a room may be convenient, but not secure.  Place them with care, and practice moving to those locations, and drawing the weapon into a defensive position.  And then hope it never comes to that.  But, if it should, you’ll be ready.  

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Survival Gear Review: Survival Guides to Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountains

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Waterford_Edible-Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_in_handSurvival Guides are a dime-a-dozen, but good ones, the real save-your-life guides are as rare as hens teeth. Luckily the two new plastic-covered foldouts from Jason Schwartz are an outstanding and necessary contribution to your survival kit that literally could save your life. For less than the cost of a box of American made ammo, you could outfit your survival gear with some to-the-point literature can make a difference when on an afternoon hike, or when the S really hits the fan.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Published in 2016 by the ultimate pocket guide company, the Waterford Press, these guides join an ever growing list of speciality reference booklets. “Putting the World in your Pocket” is Waterford’s motto, and it could be true given they’ve had over 500 publications with over five million sales.

Fast Food

Waterford_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_knife_berriesThe two water-resistant guides under discussion are Edible Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains, and Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Both guides are in the classic Waterford six-fold design leading to 12 individual vertically oriented pages. The full-color guides are printed on white paper and laminated heavily with factory-installed bends between pages.

The pictures are a godsend and make for fast field ID of plants. The brief descriptions confirm the identity and instructions follow for applying the part of the plant in the most useful form. Some are used as tea, some as topical, and some eaten outright.

The philosophy behind the guides according to their author is to, “provide a set of handy, yet realistic reference guides that will help hikers and backpackers lost in the Rocky Mountains forage for food, or treat injuries and ailments using wild plants and trees.” An assumption the author makes is that most survival situation are from three days to a week. This is reflected in the use of often low-calorie plants to get you to a better place and keep your spirits up.

Walkabout

Waterford_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_berries_closeIn my own testing of the guides, I wandered my million acre backyard and looked for both plants listed in the guides and to see if a plant was in the guide. In most cases the obvious plants were covered, while locating specific plants took some time. A suggestion, if space permitted, would be to mention common locations of plants if they exist. Like kinnikinnick, dandelion, and thistle on old roads where the soil had been compacted decades earlier.

Knowledge is Power and Power Corrupts

Waterford_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press__neck_knifePoaching plants is easily as abundant as poaching animals. While the hunting laws don’t often address North American medicinal plants, there is the concern that someone with a little knowledge and a bunch of free time might pillage the local area of important plants. And in one rare case with the Curly-Cup Gumweed, there is a plant “species of concern” because it resembles a medicinal plant mentioned in the guide known as the Howell’s Gumweed. There is a very slim chance in a small region of the west that the more rare related species (Howell’s Gumweed) will be over harvested by an overzealous collector, but human nature is anything but predictable.

Related: Bushcraft Mushrooms

According to Schwartz, the highlighted plants were chosen for the wide distribution, easily identifiable traits, and ubiquitous presence across landscape and seasons. So with that said, you can take Rocky Mountains with a grain of salt. You will encounter most of the plants in these guides well outside the rugged terrain of the west, but not so much on the plains, east coast, or desert America, of course.

The Saguache County Colorado Sheriff’s Department found the guides so particularly helpful that they adopted them as essential equipment to have when backcountry survival might be an issue.

The Doctor Is In

Half the pages of the Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains IDs 18 plants of which seven are trees. The other half of the guide explains treatment options, medicinal preparations including infusions, tea, decoction, juicing as well as plant feature identification and author bio.

Half the Edible Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains IDs 19 plants of which three are trees. And the reverse six pages of the over half include survival basics, 16 images of types of edible plants, the steps of the Universal Edibility Test, general plant preparation and eating practices, and a note on edible plant myths.

Read Also: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food

Each entry for a plant across both guides includes a description, the habitat, harvesting tips, preparation (in the Survival guide), and comments and cautions. I had to smile when reading about the Ponderosa Pine in the Survival guide. Jason Schwartz is a bushcrafter through and through. In the middle of the description Jason uses 15 words to explain baton. The baton, by the way and in Jason’s words is, “an arm’s length branch used as a mallet to pound the back of the knife.” Once a teacher, always a teacher.

waterford_tetons_wyomingHere’s the deal with these guides. They cost little and weigh almost nothing. They are filled with lifesaving options for when you really need them, and you don’t even need to read them ahead of time (but I would suggest it). And anyone living within 200 miles east or west of the Continental Divide should spring for the $8 apiece and put a set in every bug out bag and car or truck glove box. Better yet, head outdoors and familiarize yourself with the local edible and medicinal flora. You’ll thank me and Jason later.

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Five Emergency Toothache Remedies From Wild Plants

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tooth_ache_painThe crippling pain of a toothache can occur at inconvenient times – perhaps when far from your dentist or even your emergency first aid kit.  Because of the potentially intense pain and potentially critical health concerns associated with a tooth infection, wild herbs to treat toothache is an important category of medicinals to become familiar with in preparation for emergencies in the bush.

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

In my previous article Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies I mentioned three herbal remedies (the other two were oil pulling and shiatsu / acupressure).  Of the three, only one related to herbs common in the wild in North America.  I chose to focus on Barberry (Berberis spp.),  though it is a representative of the group – the berberine-containing antimicrobials.  Others include Goldthread (Coptis spp.) and Oregon Grape Root (formerly Berberis but now Mahonia aquifolium).  These and the other berberine-containing antimicrobials are great toothache remedies, and will be discussed in detail below.  The other two remedies in that article, though “natural”, won’t be easily found in the North American forests.  Clove is from Indonesia, and besides it is typically the essential oil that is used for toothaches.  Toothache Plant (Spilanthes spp.) is largely of the tropics.  It can be grown here (quite easily, actually), but I do not know it in the wild of even the warm locations I have been to in North America.  So, what other toothache remedies do we have around?

Berberine-Containing Antimicrobials

Lately, I have been focusing on Barberry (Berberis spp.) in regards to this group.  It is a common invasive where I live (I harvest it regularly as part of maintaining my property in New York state).  It also has the genus name that is the source of the name “berberine” – for the constituent that gives the roots of these plants a yellow color and strong medicinal properties.  Plus, for many years Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has been in the spotlight to the point that this native plant has been overharvested.  There are different virtues to the various berberine-containing species.  For instance, Goldenseal roots are fleshy and are therefore easier to harvest and process than the woody roots of the prickly shrub Barberry.  For this reason, Goldenseal is a good herb to grow if you don’t have it locally abundant in the wild.  In the bush, it is basically a matter of finding whatever species you can.

Related: Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies

oregon_grape_forageBarberry species are common in some areas (often invasive).  Once harvested, the inner bark can be scraped off the root.  It can be packed directly onto the tooth or into the cavity.  Oregon Grape Root, also being shrubby (though small), is similar (See image – the root bark is scraped, showing the yellow inner bark.  Also take note of the bowl full of edible berries.  These pictures were taken in Montana.)  Goldthread is so-named because the rhizomes are thin and string-like.  The Chinese species used in medicine is much more fleshy.  Goldenseal is fleshy and can be easily chopped for making tinctures or chewed on for direct treatment of toothache.  Chinese medicine also utilizes a species of Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) with berberine-containing roots.

Phellodendron is another berberine-containing herb commonly used in Chinese medicine.  Often the three Phellodendron (Huang Bai), Goldthread (Huang Lian), and Skullcap (Huang Qin) are used together, perhaps with other non-berberine-containing “yellows” like Astragalus.  Many websites claim that the medicinal actions of berberine are unverified.  (Who knows if it is really berberine that is the main active constituent anyway?  And certainly each herb has countless active chemical constituents.)  However, the berberine-containing herbs from all over the world make up one of the best examples of verification in herbal medicine from different parts of the world.  To the best of my knowledge, all cultures that had access to yellow, berberine-containing roots figured out their medicinal uses.

barberry_tooth_ache_remedyIn addition to a distinct and very useful antimicrobial activity, Barberry and these other herbs are very good for stimulating the liver and gallbladder (take note, for gallbladder attacks are another medical emergency worth preparing for and herbal remedies can be very useful).  They are the quintessential bitter, “heat-clearing” herbs.  The bitter taste indicates cooling, cleansing actions.  “Heat-clearing” refers to the antimicrobial and antiinflammatory properties.  These herbs are often the best antibiotics around.  However, because of their strong bitter taste people generally don’t want to use them.  Plus, as with all herbs of powerful effect, there are some cautions and contraindications.

Regarding products available for sale, tincture can be quite useful to treat toothaches.  Perhaps, ideal is powder.  Powdered Goldenseal is often available.  Because of overharvest of native wild stands it is generally best to buy powder made from (organically) cultivated roots rather than from wildcrafted stock.  I would discourage it altogether, except that it really does work like a charm.  Very good to know about.  The powder can be applied directly to the trouble area.  It is also possible to tuck dried material into the gums near the affected tooth.  For instance, a Chinatown apothecary would likely have slices of Huang Lian that could be placed right between the cheek and gum.  Whether from the wild or from the store “chewing” these roots (like tobacco – chewed a little and tucked into the cheek) is a great way to keep the medicine local.

Echinacea

echinacea_cone_flowerConeflower (Echinacea spp. – the genus name is also used as the common name) is one of the best-known herbal remedies, made famous right alongside Goldenseal in the simple American formula Echinacea / Goldenseal that used to be the quintessential herbal antibiotic formula.  Unfortunately, many of the Echinacea products on the market are basically worthless due to the fact that Echinacea has a short shelf life as a dried herb.  Best products, in general, are tinctures made from the fresh root, flower, or seed (the leaf and stem are less potent).  The dried material does hold up for a little while, but not long.  

If you happen to live in an area where Echinacea grows wild, or if you find some in a flower garden, you can simply pick it fresh to chew on it.  If the cone part of the flower is still fresh, you can cut into it to and remove the center for use.  You can also unearth a piece of the root.  It is easy to figure out which part is most potent by chewing on it.  Echinacea, like Toothache Plant (Spilanthes spp.), creates a distinct tingling sensation on the lips, tongue, or whatever part of your mouth it touches.  It also encourages saliva production.  The more you tingle and salvate, the better.  It indicates medicinal potency.  It also numbs the ache.  You can also compare different species by taste.  

Prickly Ash

zanthoxylum_americanumSpecies of Zanthoxylum also have a tendency to produce saliva and a sensation that helps relieve pain.  In this way, it is very much like Echinacea and Toothache Plant.  Sometimes, Zanthoxylum is known at “Toothache Tree”.  The name Prickly Ash is in reference to the pinnately compound leaves, which are similar to Ash (Fraxinus spp.).  Prickly Ash and Ash are not very closely related. There are many species.  I am not sure how all their medicinal properties compare,  If you live near them or are travelling through an area where they grow.  It is worth getting to know them.  You might even find a toothpick, as the name Prickly is not in vain!  The bark is the main part used.  It is available through herb shops as well as in the wild.

Calamus

acorus_calamus_sweet_flagCalamus, or Sweet Flag, (Acorus spp.) is another very interesting medicinal plant.  Like the berberine-containing herbs, the medicinal virtues of Calamus have been verified by many cultures all over the world.  It has been a major medicinal of European and Chinese herbal traditions and has been among the most revered herbs of Ayurveda (the ancient healing tradition of India) and Native American medicine.  Several Native tribes have used Calamus for toothaches.  Moerman (Native American Ethnobotany) lists that the Blackfoot, Chippewa, Cree, Creek, Mahuna, Okanagan, Paiute, Saanich, Shoshoni, and Thomson used Calamus as a toothache remedy.

Read Also: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food 

Unfortunately, one of the main side-effects of Calamus that is relatively common is that it can cause or exacerbate heartburn.  This clashes a bit with the chewing method of administration I have been promoting for the treatment of toothache.  Perhaps, for mild toothaches a small amount of Calamus would be beneficial and tolerated by most.  But with higher doses, such as one with an intense toothache might be driven towards, there will be a higher rate of intolerance.  Try a little first.

Calamus has many benefits, mostly relating to its pungent, aromatic, and somewhat bitter flavor.  It stimulates digestion, opens the lungs, and benefits the mind.  Native people have traditionally used it to help with concentration and as a stimulant when travelling or for ceremonial dance.  Likewise, yogic and Taoist traditions have used Calamus for the mind.  It is a primary remedy for lung congestion.

The name Sweet Flag is because it looks similar to Iris (the leaves- not the flower), which can be called Blue Flag or Yellow Flag, etc. (according to the flower color).  “Sweet” because it smells nice (such as when walked on), not because it tastes sweet.  If you happen to walk on it, there is a good chance your feet will be wet, as it mostly grows in swampy conditions.  It is also called “Swamp Root”.

Spruce

spruce_tree_tooth_acheSpruce (Picea spp.) and its evergreen relatives are readily available toothache remedies.  I mention Spruce as the representative genus here because they tend to be pitchy and seemed to have been favored by Natives for toothaches.  The pitch is antimicrobial, pain relieving, and can be applied directly to the trouble area.  It can also be used to pack a cavity to fight infection and close the hole.  Cedar, Pine, Hemlock, Fir, and Juniper can likewise be used.  The needles and inner bark are also medicinal.     

Barberry Photo Courtesy of:

anneheathen

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Big Bore Single-Action Auto Shootout, Part One

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sig_sauer_hi_point_1911

gun_store_1911_sig_sauer_browning_hi_pointWhile we are surely in the age of the striker-fired pistol ascendancy, the single-action (SA) pistol still has a strong, iron-headed, devoted following.  The siren song of crisp, short trigger pulls and positive external safeties, coupled with (usually) stellar accuracy and rugged dependability is a sweet song indeed – and when one throws in the romanticism of big bore, slab-sided pistols defending our country and ideals, well…it’s hard not to look at a high-end 1911 or Browning Hi-Power in the gun shop’s glass display case and wipe away just a smidgen of salivation.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

marines_saipan_american_ass_kickingHolding an early military contract 1911 makes me think of our WWI doughboys, knuckle-duster trench spike in one fist, cocked .45 retained with a lanyard in the other, fighting for their lives in damp, brutal trench warfare.  Or maybe it invokes  Alvin York on Hill 223, running out of .30-06 ammo for his rifle, then fending off a six-man German bayonet charge and capturing 132 of the enemy single-handedly – with a 1911 and one round of ammunition remaining.  Perhaps we remember the legend of Sergeant Thomas Baker fending off a Japanese assault on Saipan, with a 1911 and his unit’s last eight rounds of ammunition – he was found dead, with a slide-locked pistol and eight dead Japanese before him; his men were able to withdraw and fight another day.  (York and Baker both won the Medal Of Honor for their actions.) You see, the single-action auto is a symbol – some say THE symbol – of defiance, competence, ingenuity, and good old American ass-kicking, ensuring that no matter how many Glocks are made, the single-action auto will always have a strong place in our hearts.

And so it was inevitable, I suppose.  All three of these magnificent handguns happened to be available at the same time, so I had to compare them – and definitely shoot them, right?  Two of John Moses Browning’s most beloved and war-tested pinnacle designs from the early 20th century, and an example of Swiss ingenuity applied to the combat pistol concept – all three highly sought-after single action semi-automatic handguns, all three pistol perfection in their own right.

The Subjects

The three pistols we will be examining are lustworthy indeed: A well cared-for Colt Series 70 1911 Government Model in the classic .45 ACP chambering, a mint Browning Hi-Power Practical in .40 S&W, and a serious-looking Sig Sauer P220SAO, also in .45ACP.  The 1911 and Hi-Power are loaners; I wanted to compare them to my single-action Sig Sauer P220 to see if the more modern design eclipses – or falls short of – the vaunted John Moses Browning designs.

The Colt 1911A1 MK. IV Series 70 .45 ACP

SHTFblog-tactical-survival-cache-colt-1911-series-70-45-acp-40-big-bore-1911A1-MKIV-2The Colt 1911 is, without a doubt, America’s pistol.  Designed by the illustrious John Moses Browning in the early 20th century as an answer to the U.S. Military’s call for a new semi-automatic service pistol that “should not be of less than .45 caliber”, the 1911 was the final evolution of a series of pistols and calibers that started with the framing-square-profiled .38 caliber Colt M1900 and the improved Colt 1902.  After the U.S. Military fought drug-addled knife-wielding Moro guerillas in brutal close-in jungle warfare and found that their issued .38 Special revolvers did not provide the needed stopping power, a request was issued for a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol design after the US military found that the stop-gap older 1873 “Peacemaker” .45 Colt revolvers stopped Moro charges with authority and saved our boys from being hacked to bits at bad breath distance by fanatics.  After a gestation and trial period that lasted from 1906 to 1910, Browning’s new pistol – built by Colt –  and its purpose-designed caliber, the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (or ACP for short) won a military competition handily, beating offerings from Webley, Savage Arms, Bergmann, and others.  The new service pistol was formally adopted by the US Army in March 1911, leading to the year moniker all gun enthusiasts know and love. The Marine Corps and Navy followed suit two years later, and adopted the “Model of 1911” in 1913.

Related: 1911 or Glock

The 1911 went to war a few years later in 1917 when the United States entered The Great War, now known to us as World War One.  The 1911’s most famous feat was the aforementioned capture of Hill 223 during the Meuse-Argonne offensive on October 8, 1918 by then-Corporal Alvin C. York: a story that captured the imagination of every American who heard it.  York’s bravery and skill with his firearms – a GI .45 included – made the hearts of every patriot swell with pride and astonishment for the feat of arms and marksmanship that was Alvin York’s story.

Wartime experience with the 1911 ushered in several improvements on the initial design, and these minor changes were implemented in 1924 with the introduction of the M1911A1 variant.  The easiest modifications to spot are the cutouts in the frame immediately behind the trigger, a shorter trigger, and arched mainspring housing.  Other modifications included simpler-to-manufacture grips, a shorter hammer and longer upper tang on the grip safety – these latter two modifications adopted to prevent “hammer bite”: the painful pinching of the web of the hand by the hammer coming back to the cocking position when the slide reciprocated.  Better, more solid sights rounded out the list of changes between a 1911 and a 1911A1….and since then, the basic design really hasn’t changed much.  Sights may be improved, ambidextrous safeties and beavertail grip safeties may be installed, but today’s production 1911 differs very little mechanically from a 1911A1 produced in 1924 – and if you had the two of them side by side, it’s a safe bet that almost all the parts would interchange.

SHTFblog-tactical-survival-cache-colt-1911-series-70-45-acp-40-big-bore-1911A1-MKIV (1)The 1911 loaned to me for this evaluation is a box-stock, near-mint Colt MK IV Series 70 Government model, meaning it sports the 5” barrel and full-sized grip; the largest 1911 model aside from any “longslide” variant.  This particular Colt has the standard small plain black sights with no white dots or tritium inserts.  The Series 70 is a highly desirable collector’s item, since it was the last model made before the introduction of the integral firing pin safety that came with the following Series 80 guns.  Many 1911 purists eschew the now-standard firing pin safety of the later 1911 models, claiming that the added moving parts affect the trigger pull quality and offer one more place for the gun to malfunction – it’s also contended that John Browning didn’t put the safety there in the first place, so therefore it clearly wasn’t needed!  Original Series 70 1911s were made from 1970 to 1983 (though Colt has brought them back into production), and are beautiful pieces of machinery, with high-polished flawless bluing and tight manufacturing tolerances. This particular Series 70 is no exception, with deep lustrous bluing that is only slightly worn, and nary a wiggle between the frame and the slide.  It’s beautiful and businesslike….and it has a big damn hole in the dangerous end.

The Browning Hi-Power Practical .40 S&W

browning_hi_power_close_upIf I had to choose one semi-automatic handgun to be crowned “The classiest pistol of all time”, the Browning Hi-Power would be it.  Any firearms enthusiast who has spent an extended period of time with a Hi-Power would likely agree; Hi-Powers are svelte, trim, and fill the hand perfectly, with graceful lines and a purposeful form.  Hi-Powers – also known as P-35s or BHPs – were one of the 20th century’s most prolific combat handguns, serving in almost 100 different nation’s armies as the primary sidearm.  In fact, many countries still issue the BHP: the Belgian Army, Australian Defense Force, and Israeli Police – amongst others – issue and carry the venerable design to this day.

The Browning Hi-Power (BHP from here on in this article) was John Moses Browning’s final design – one that was not completed upon his death in 1926.  However, when the French Army issued a call to the Belgian arms company Fabrique Nationale (FN) for a pistol to meet stringent requirements, FN called upon the genius of John Browning to design it.  Some of the requirements for the pistol seem yawn-inducing now, but were quite forward-thinking in the early 1920’s.  The French wanted a compact gun that held at least 10 rounds in a removable magazine, have a manual thumb safety, external hammer, and magazine safety that denied the gun firing without a magazine inserted.  They also issued the need for the gun to be able to kill a man a 50 meters and be easy to disassemble.

Read Also: The Katrina Pistol 

FN commissioned Browning to work around these requirements, but there was a caveat – initially, he could not impede upon his own patents that worked so successfully with the Colt 1911. Browning started from the ground up, and created the framework for the innovative pistol we know today as the Browning High Power.  There were several industry firsts introduced with the BHP, including the staggered double-stack magazine (holding 13 rounds of 9mm Luger), and the short recoil camming tilt-barrel locked breech design that almost all modern recoil-operated semi-automatic pistols employ today.  Though Browning would not live to see the fruits of his labor completed, Fabrique Nationale ran the natural evolution of the design and completed Browning’s work, along with the help of a few design tweaks that were available after the Colt 1911 patents expired in 1928.

The reliability, high capacity, and inherent accuracy of the BHP during wartime exploits earned the pistol a hushed, subdued respect that still soldiers on to this day.  Today, people who use Hi-Powers regularly are pistol connoisseurs – users of the world’s greatest firearms designer’s penultimate handgun design.

SHTFblog-tactical-survival-cache-sig-sauer-p220-sao-p220sao-browing-hi-power-high-power-practical-40-big-bore-cocked-and-lockedThe Browning Hi-Power tested for this article is a two-tone HP Practical variant, in .40 S&W. The slide has been beefed up very slightly to help compensate for the sturdier high-pressure caliber, but other than that, the pistol feels very similar and works identically to a standard 9mm Hi-Power.  The safety is ambidextrous, and the sights are fixed – but improved over the standard MKIII version with a higher profile and white contrast bars.  A neat upgrade to these later-production Hi Powers is an external magazine spring that ejects the magazines out of the grip with the utmost haste once the magazine release has been pressed.

Yes, I could have, maybe even should have, obtained a “classic” 9mm Browning Hi-Power to shoot and write up – but I wanted big bores, dammit – so I borrowed the .40 over the 9mm. It’s a choice I’m okay with.

The Sig Sauer P220SAO (Single Action Only)

sig_sauer_p220The Sig Sauer P220 is the first design in a long and highly-respected series of pistols, the Sig Sauer “Classic” line of handguns.  This series includes the models P220, P224, P225, P226, P227, P228, P229, P239, and P245.  This family of pistols – especially the P220 and P226 – are the rock upon which Sig Sauer built its current reputation of “To Hell and Back Reliability”.  Though the design was introduced in 1975 as a replacement for the highly vaunted P210, the P220 ushered in a new era of reliability, accuracy, and utter quality that still runs strong – and other manufacturers are still trying to match today.

A single-stack DA/SA (double action/single action) design traditionally, the P220 was redesigned in the early 2000’s to offer a SAO (Single Action Only) configuration.  The familiar Sig Sauer thumb-operated decocker lever was eradicated, and an ambidextrous thumb safety, a la 1911, was installed at the rear of the frame.  Other than these simple modifications, the internal mechanisms and external ergonomics remain mostly unchanged, and the P220SAO is as supreme a fighting and target pistol as its vaunted DA/SA brethren.

I’ve often said that the P220 will do everything a 1911 can do, but better (a phrase that has gotten me in some heated arguments over the years) but I stand by the proclamation – and now that the P220SAO is on the books, Sig Sauer has made my argument that much easier.  The P220SAO is a marvel of modern engineering – beautifully made, reliable to a fault, and just ridiculously accurate.

SHTFblog-tactical-survival-cache-sig-sauer-p220-sao-p220sao-45-acp-streamlight-tlr-1s-racen-concelament-vanguard-tritiumThis particular P220SAO was obtained by yours truly after a long and heartfelt desire was churned up in my innards – this emotion struck me the second I heard that SIG Sauer was offering a single-action auto version of the P220.  It was one of those “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY” moments that we all experience at some point or another, and it’s a special feeling. My P220SAO is bone stock, with Siglite tritium three-dot night sights and a factory two-tone finish, with the slide natural stainless steel, and the earlier German-manufactured aluminum frame (all current P220SAOs are made in Exeter, NH) in black anodized and blued controls.  The P220SAO is the only pistol of the trio to sport a dust cover mounted accessory rail for lights and lasers, and it is the only pistol of the three to have an aluminum frame – the 1911 and Hi-Power are all steel.

The Big-Bore Nitty Gritty

All three of these pieces of weaponry art are what I would consider full-sized guns. Here is a basic run-down of the pistols’ particulars:

COLT 1911 SERIES 70 GOVERNMENT MODEL

Caliber: .45ACP, also available in 9mm, .38 Super (current production Series 70 guns are .45ACP only)

Length: 8.5”

Width:1.25”

Height: 5.5”

Barrel Length: 5”

Weight Unloaded: 37.5 ounces

Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds standard in .45ACP, higher capacity magazines available

BROWNING HI-POWER HP PRACTICAL

Caliber: .40 S&W, 9mm

Length: 7.75”

Width: 1.4”

Height: 5.02”

Barrel Length: 4.6”

Weight Unloaded: 32 ounces

Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds in .40 S&W, 13 rounds in 9mm

SIG SAUER P220SAO

Caliber: .45ACP, 10mm

Length: 7.7”

Width: 1.5”

Height: 5.5”

Barrel Length: 4.4”

Weight Unloaded: 30.4 ounces

Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds standard in .45ACP

As you can see, the basic pistols are all very close in size: less than an inch in length, a quarter inch in width, a half inch in height, and a third of a pound separate the three platforms. However, specifications alone don’t tell it all; each of these pistols has its own legion of heartfelt, ardent fans. In part two of this article, we’ll line them up at the shooting bench and dig into why each of these pistols is so successful, and popular – over a century after the single-action semi-automatic pistol came into its own.  Stand by!

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Survival Gear Review: Surefire E2D and E1D Defender Flashlights

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Surefire_E2D_E1D_Defender_CR123_Flashlight_.outdoors

Surefire_E2D_E1D_Defender_CR123_Flashlight_.paracord_Falkniven_A1When I run out the door at night, I alway grab a light. Whether to a store, a walk around the block, or out for the evening, an electric torch rides in my left pocket, a knife always in my right. And both are always of the highest quality.  Two torches that have the most pocket time are a pair of Surefires, one the dual cell E2D, and the single cell E1D. Both lights are the latest generation but I carried earlier generations earlier. There are many similarities between the lights, both good and bad, but there are some significant differences as well.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

The things these two lights have in common beyond their maker include extreme brightness, two light intensity levels, tail click switches, crenelated bezels, dual-direction pocket clips, CR123 lithium batteries, aircraft aluminium, glass lenses, LED technology, O-ring sealed housings, and astronomically high MSRPs. The differences include the number of CR123 cells used, the sharpness of the bezel crenelations, the size of the pocket clip, the runtimes (close, however), the max brightness, the weight, and of course the length (but not by as much as you would think).

One For The Road

The single battery E1D is still a handful at four-and-a-quarter inches long, or more than three times the length of a CR123 battery. The E1D has a twin brother with deliberately subdued features to slide in and out of pockets without snagging. It is called the Surefire EB1 Backup.

Surefire_E2D_E1D_Defender_CR123_Flashlight_.in_handThe E1D’s 300 lumen output is more than enough for big tasks, but the true measure of a survival light is how low it can go and five lumens is an excellent choice. Carrying the light in a pants pocket is noticeable. Not because of the weight but because the bezel shares the same diameter as a quarter. The type of tail-cap switch is an option on the E1D. I chose the traditional two-click with shroud, however even with the shroud the light is still unstable when standing on its tail. But then again, it was never designed for such uses. While the shroud does protect from unintentional lighting, there is still ample room to deploy the switch with almost any bump or corner that is smaller than the shroud. The harsh form of the E1D easily slides in and out of clothing with very little chance of snagging. Four potential lanyard holes cover the tail switch shroud, and the pocket clip prefers a lens-down deep carry.

Related: Milwaukee Work Lights

The E1D weighs about three ounces with battery which doesn’t add much swing weight to the fight, but if the flashlight weighed much more, you wouldn’t carry it. So light is good for a light.

Make Mine A Double

Surefire_E2D_E1D_Defender_CR123_Flashlight_.511_Battery_caseThe E2D Ultra Defender is a full 123 battery longer than the E1D and just under two times brighter at 500 lumens compared to 300. The bodies of both Defenders are textured with a rougher but still comfortable gripping surface. Much better than most other lights that offer little more than a teflon-slick surface that is dangerous under the best of conditions. At 5.6 inches long, the Surefire E2D fits wonderfully in the hand with both primary and secondary striking surfaces peaking out from your fist. The shape of the light housing fits great in the hand with increased diameters at both ends keeping it centered. At a hair over an inch thick at its widest diameter, the E2D is strongly grippable by even small hands.

One of the defensive aspects of these lights include their ability to behave as a club, and a sharp one at that. It’s a mild force multiplier at best, but a multiplier it is with six sharp scalloped crenelations ready to dig into flesh. Although the smooth surface won’t likely capture much skin DNA, the blood that will be drawn can certainly provide evidence should it be needed.

Related: Bug Out Flashlight Wisdom

The E2D should provide a little over two hours of maximum lighting beginning at 500 lumens and tapering down over time. Or, with a second button click, it will give you almost three solid days of five lumens of output. Of course all runtimes assume starting the burn with fresh quality batteries. The Surefire E2D with two onboard Surefire batteries weighs only 4.2 ounces.

Photons from a Phirehose

Surefire_E2D_E1D_Defender_CR123_Flashlight_.HeadsDon’t get me wrong. I am a fan of massive amounts of lumens. Nothing is a cool as lighting up the side of a mountain with something that easily fits into your pocket. Or illuminating the trail at night out a few hundred yards. But turning on a 500 lumen light in a dark place is like a flashbang going off without the noise. Anything within five feet of the light is too bright to look at, and if you were hoping to read a map or find your keys, good luck. Most indoor lighting chores are close up and require no more than a dozen lumens, often much less than that. Surefire offers a five lumen low gear which is plenty for personal tasks and affords enough light to walk briskly over uneven terrain. But don’t take off running with five lumens or you will quickly outrun your stopping distance.

Spilling Light

Firing off hundreds of lumens might sound like a good idea, but the contrast difference between a fully illuminated surface, areas within the light’s spill, and those regions still in shadows is so great that your eye cannot adjust fast enough to see anything but a brilliant dot surrounded by utter blackness. About the only way to use a 500 lumen light inside a car is to cover the lens with your fingers allowing only a few photons to sneak out. But that won’t work well or for long. With each movement, the light intensity changes, usually towards the too much light side, and the horsepower of such lights generates enough hot aluminium to burn your hands. Finally, if your other hand is busy, you cannot turn the light off without opening the floodgate for a few seconds. Although your car’s interior won’t quite be visible to the astronauts on the International Space Station, it will show up from miles away.

This Ain’t Burger King

Surefire_E2D_E1D_Defender_CR123_Flashlight_tailcapsMany high-end flashlights have a user interface that allows more than one choice of brightness level along with a few other outputs including strobe, SOS signal, and moonlight level. But with half a dozen brightness choices comes complexity and unpredictableness. The idea for many choices is a good one…on paper. But in real life, the multitude of choices in a defensive light can be worse than an empty mag or unfamiliar safety. In the case of the Surefires, the two choices, all or just a little, are plenty. And “all” must always be the first option when pushing the switch.

So in a nutshell, the Surefire Defender Flashlights are excellent at providing blinding light, long low-level runtime, and a sharp circle of crenelations to add some spice if things go all hand-to-hand on you.

Having carried and extensively used Surefire flashlights for decades, and the E2D series for years, I am confident that it is one of the very best choices. It is at the top of my Bug Out list, and I travel with it without hesitation. My only concern with the Surefire Defender Flashlight is that some uber-efficient TSA agent will consider it a banned item and keep it for himself. To avoid this violation of my constitutional rights, I often wrap a ring of electricians tape around the business-end neutering the look of the bezel’s crenelations. I’ve also been known to black out the name of items like this with tape in order to prevent easy identification by thieves, and to keep the security-curious from wondering why a flashlight is called a “Defender”.

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Deadly Poisons, Wild Edibles, and Magic Medicinals of The Carrot Family

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carrots_foragingApiaceae, is known as the Carrot Family, the Hemlock Family, and the Umbel Family (after the old name “Umbelliferae”).  It is one of the most important botanical families for the survivalist to become familiar with.  Its diversity and importance are implied with common names for the family ranging from one of the world’s most important vegetables, the Carrot (Daucus carota), to one of the most famous and deadly poisons, Hemlock (Conium maculatum).  With medicinals like Angelica (Angelica spp.) and Osha (Bear Root, Ligusticum spp.), which have been revered around the world since the earliest records of herbal medicine, this plant family seems to have it all.  

By Nathaniel Whitmore, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

This article follows Wild Edibles & Poisonous Plants of the Poison Ivy Family in a blog series on poisonous plants that began with 5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know.  The initial article outlined some basics of five major plant families with poisonous plants.  The article on Poison Ivy included some basics on botany and plant names, in addition to the discussion of the Poison Ivy family.  Here we will focus on Apiaceae.

Umbels & Aromatic Roots

umbel_flower_forageA characteristic of Apiaceae is the flowers being arranged in umbels, which is the source of an older name for the family- Umbelliferae.  The umbel flower is umbrella shaped, or bowl shaped, partially due to the divisions of the flower-top (the pedicels) arising from a single point.  The pedicels therefore, are like the ribs of an (upside-down) umbrella.  Many other flower-tops appear to be umbels, but are supported by a branching structure that does not stem from a single point (Yarrow of the Daisy Family, Elder and Viburnum of the Muskroot Family, and others).  Another distinct tendency in Apiaceae is aromatic roots.  Sometimes people will attempt to explain that Wild Carrot roots can be distinguished from Poison Hemlock and others because they smell like Carrots, but this is far too subjective.  Because it is standard that members of this family have aromatic roots, including poisonous species, many of them could be said to “smell like Carrots” in that they are similarly aromatic.

Read Also: Medicinal Uses of Pine Trees 

Apiaceae members also tend to have divided leaves.  There are many technical terms used to describe leaves and their arrangements on plants.  Plants in the Carrot Family tend to have leaves that are lacey or otherwise finely or not so finely divided.  The leaves of Carrots and Parsley (another genus that is used to name the family) are characteristic. Celery is also in Apiaceae.  It is a good example of another tendency in the family to have the visible vascular strands (“strings”) in the stem.

Categories of Plants in Apiaceae

As usual with nature, it is difficult organize Apiaceae by category since in reality there is much more of a spectrum (from delicious and nourishing to extremely toxic).  Our human minds, however, like categories,

The primary categories of plants in Apiaceae are:

Edibles

Medicinals

Toxic Medicinals

Fatally Poisonous

These oversimplified categories are complicated by plants like Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), which is a well-known edible (at least used to be), but also known to cause rashes in sensitive people upon contacting the leaves of the wild plants.

Edible Members of the Carrot Family

One of the world’s best-known vegetables is the Carrot, Daucus carota, which is the domestic variety of the Wild Carrot, which is also known as Queen-Anne’s-Lace.  The root is usually much smaller than the domestic version, white in color, and quite fibrous, but it is indeed a Carrot.

Biscuit Roots (Lomatium spp.) were top foods of the northwest Natives.  I have never tried them, but apparently their starchy roots are good food.  The genus is certainly worth learning about for those living in the Northwest or travelling through (there are notable medicinal species as well), but there are concerns regarding population decline so learning about Biscuit Roots is more in preparation for emergency survival than for expanding your regular diet.

Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria) is also known as Goutweed, for its medicinal effect.  It is a common groundcover that was introduced from Europe.  It often spreads “uncontrollably” in landscapes and can be found persisting on old home sites.  It is cooked as a spring green, or potherb, when it can help rid the body of the uric acid build-up after a heavy meat diet in winter.

Though so many edibles and many culinary herbs belong to the Carrot (or Parsley) Family, you should approach this group with caution.  As there are many poisonous species.  Culinary herbs in the group include Parsley (Petroselenium crispum), Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum – the seed is Coriander), and Dill (Anethum graveolens).  

Medicinal Members of the Carrot Family

carrots_stackedOf course, all members of the Carrot family are medicinal, just as it can be argued that every plant is medicinal.  There are many home-remedies that utilize Carrots.  Plus the greens and seeds have medicinal uses.  (While you could argue that it is not “medicinal” one of the best-known uses for Wild Carrot is as a morning after contraceptive).  There are also the toxic medicinals, which are described below, that are too poisonous for home-care use.  Here, we will look at the well-known remedies from the Carrot family.  It is an all-star line up.  

Osha and its relatives (Ligusticum spp.) are top medicinals.  A couple species are known to Chinese medicine and used extensively.  Garden Lovage is well-known to the western world, though somewhat forgotten.  And the Osha of the Rocky Mountains it one of our Nation’s most famous medicinals.  In fact, Osha is one of the few herbs that I have come to depend on that is not available in the wild or even in the garden of my area.  Osha grows in high elevations, usually over 9,000 feet.  It has many medicinal uses but is best known as an antimicrobial for lung and respiratory infections.  The Navajo call it Bear Root and consider it a cure-all for lung ailments.  It works remarkably fast, especially if used at the onset of a cold.  I like to chew the root or hold it in my cheek like chewing tobacco.  Once, when harvesting Osha with a friend in Colorado just after he had harvested his honey, we filled jars with roots and topped them with the fresh honey.  A very delicious way to take Osha indeed!  The roots softened in the honey and were then easy to chew.  Plus, the honey was infused with Osha.

dong_quiAngelica is a very important genus of medicinal herbs and worthy of its own article.  In fact, I have already written a paper on AngelicaBut that too only scratches the surface.  With a name like Angelica, its got to be good – or at least it was revered at some point.  Angelica archangelica is the main European species known to medicine.  It has been used for respiratory, digestive, and circulatory disorders, among others.  It is a common ingredient in “digestive bitters” as it is a quintessential aromatic bitter.  Bitter herbs are bitter (not just bad tasting, but bitter, like Dandelion).  Aromatic bitters are also pungent or are predominantly pungent but are similar medicinally to bitter herbs, particularly in that they benefit digestion.  The pungent aromatics are also generally good for moving mucus and blood, which is largely how Angelica species are employed in medicine.  The famous Dong Quai (A. sinensis) is a top herb in Chinese medicine for moving blood (treating blood stagnation) and nourishing blood (treating anemia and similar deficiencies).  It is especially used to treat menstrual disorders and injuries.   

Rattlesnake Masters (Eryngium spp.) have been used for snake bites and as an antidote to poisons.  

Toxic Medicinals in the Carrot Family

Angelica_venenosaMany Angelica species belong in this category, as they are far too toxic to use for the uninitiated.  In fact, even those species above can have properties that are too strong and inappropriate at times, such as because of blood-thinning properties.  Most, if not all, Angelica species are blood thinning, especially when fresh.  However, they are most commonly used dried and because they are so commonly known and used I included them above. (The point about plants being more toxic when fresh is important.  Especially since many herbs in common use are mostly or only available dried, but when you are lost in the bush or otherwise seeking out herbs in an outdoors or end-times emergency you might only have access to fresh plant material.)

Deadly Angelica (A. venenosa) has poisonous properties (as you might expect from the name), yet the Iroquois employed it in poultices in the treatment of injuries.  Another, Poison Angelica (A. lineariloba) was used by the Paiute for pneumonia and spitting up of blood.  

See Also: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food

Sanicle species (Sanicula spp.) have some toxic properties, or some toxic species belong to the genus.  On the other hand, they were also used as poison antidote and for snake bites.  They are also known as Snakeroots (like Echinacea and Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga or Actaea).  It is not uncommon that snake bite remedies have some toxic properties.

Fatally Poisonous Members of the Carrot Family

david_-_the_death_of_socratesOne of the most famous poisonous plants and perhaps the most famous of Apiaceae is Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum).  It is the plant that killed Socrates.  Water Hemlocks (Cicuta spp.) are also very poisonous.  Cicuta douglasii has been called the most deadly plant in North America. Though they too undoubtedly have medicinal uses, they should be considered far too toxic to mess with.  It is said that a single bite of Poison Hemlock is enough to kill an adult man.  It is these deadly poisonous species that make this family dangerous.  Study carefully.

The common name Hemlock is shared with the basically non-toxic member of the Pine Family.  Herein lies the importance of scientific names.  Mentioning Hemlock often causes eyes to open wide in surprise, so well known is Hemlock as a poison.  When scientific names are used alongside the common, we can easily avoid confusion.  Conium and Cicuta belong to Apiaceae, while Tsuga belongs to Pinaceae.

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Survival Gear Review: The Smart Bungee System

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smart_bungee_set_outIt’s extra sweet when you open a shiny wrapped present from under the Christmas tree and it is a super gear gadget any prepper could use.  It is even more special when that gift comes to you from your own daughter.  My daughter Allison got it right. The Smart Bungee System is a storable sack of various bungee cords with universal attachment ends to accept a host of connections for a wide variety of applications.  If you want or need to lash down boxes, equipment, gear, bags, or tools in the back of an SUV, pickup truck, ATV, or UTV then this is the perfect kit adaptable to many uses for securing stuff.  

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

The Smart Bungee kit comes with eight different cords in four different lengths, two each.  Included are 4-foot, 3-foot, 2-foot, and 1-foot lengths.  The bungee cord material itself is composed of a steel core for added strength, durability, and long lasting use.  The base rubber cords are weather resistant and wrapped in a material that is easy to grip and is long wearing.

The Bungee Cords

red_orange_couplings_bungeeThe ends of each cord are affixed with a universal connection point.  This is a red-orange colored coupling that allows the installation of the many connection devices included in the kit that are adaptable to a wide range of applications.  The variations of how the cords could be configured are nearly endless.  There are also connector sleeves that allow two cords to be connected together to make an even much longer cord to span wider/taller pieces of gear to strap down.  Again, the connection options are left up to the creativity of the user.

Read Also: The Survival Staff 

All of the cords with their connection points accept the attachments in the same manner.  Simply insert the connection point component by pushing it into the receptacle.  Then just twist and turn the connector to lock it in place.  The twist and lock is secure and will not simply pop loose even under the stress of pulling the cords tight to strap something down.

Standard Attachment Points

bungee_hooksIn this kit are four of the most basic connection points.  These are standard “J” hook type attachments that affix to a selected cord length, then simply hook over a hook up point.  This could be the usual bungee cord or net attachment points found in the beds of many pickup trucks, but also inside the rear “trunk” area of an SUV auto or other hatch back type vehicle.  The racks on ATVs are also common tie down locations.  These hooks are made of a super strength ABS type polymer plastic.  The pieces are then sealed in a plastic coating to protect the part adding durability, strength and long use.  

Specialty Connections

The Smart Bungee System includes a number of connection points that I have not seen on conventional bungee cords before.  I mentioned the connector sleeves before of which there are four so cords can be linked together.  This is a nice, functional feature.

There are two “Y” connectors in the set so that cords can be configured in such a way to build a sort of spider net or cords reaching to four end points for wider items like prepper gear or supply boxes, crates, or such.   The “Y” ends could use two shorter cords then connect to a long cord over to the other “Y” point.  

See Also: Pandemic is an Inevitability

There are two connection points that have attached carabiner type snap on hooks.  These are standard functioning carabiners, but without a screw down lock.  These are not intended at all for climbing or climbing support.  They are just a quick connection as like the “J” hooks, but with a closed spring activated latch on a totally enclosed loop.  

bungee_system_connectorsFinally there are four connectors that are termed “loop connectors.”  These are made to be attached to a cord end first.  Then the other end of the cord can be looped around a hold point like on an ATV rack frame, a pipe, tree limb, or other point to either be an attachment point or to suspend something overhead as the cord is looped back through the connector hole loop and wedged into the cord gripper. You have to get creative with these connectors, as the more I work with them the more I discover new uses.  Once you loop the cord back through the connector hole, the cord then locks into the “vise” teeth in the loop.  I just call this the cord gripper.  

By now you’re thinking this is a lot of parts and pieces to keep track of.  For sure, but the whole Smart Bungee System fits into a nylon bag with a pull string that has a push button lock to cinch the string down to lock the bag closed.  All in all, this is a neat bungee cord system that is buildable into an infinite number of configurations.  These can be ordered via Amazon or likely many outdoor-camping supply outlets.  The set retails for about $30.00.  

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The Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe: A Civilized Battle Axe

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Stihl_Pro_Universal_Forestry_Axe__chopping

Stihl_Pro_Universal_Forestry_Axe_head_profileWood and zombies have a lot in common besides their acting abilities; an axe easily splits them in two. And surprisingly, both zombies and iron battle axes share a similar timeline more than a dozen centuries long. Sure, stone axes were chopping coconuts and skulls as far back as 6000 BCE, but metal ones took longer to develop. Gunpowder displaced the battle axe as a primary weapon in the 1600s, but the modern zombie craze has caused a resurgence of interest in the swinging heavy blade.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Battle axe evolution followed technology improvements as well as battlefield tactics. The early wood handles were often the target of the enemy combatant’s own axe since axes cut wood and a broken handle makes the weapon as useless as an empty magazine. Seems every weapon can be reduced to a club.

Stihl_Pro_Universal_Forestry_Axe__precision_choppingMetal handles were the natural outgrowth of adding metal reinforcement to the traditional wood handle. But metal adds weight and if of sufficient strength, the wrought iron handles of battle axes relegated them to two-handed use except by those humans of the heavily muscular variety. A six-pound head on a battle axe was huge with single-pound heads not uncommon. Since battle axes were more for chopping flesh than chopping wood, the blade could be narrowed and have a longer, more curved presentation. They could also be thinner overall prior to where handle mounts. If a wood axe was designed as such, it would chop much like a machete meaning it would stick into wood and provide little splay.

Recommended Daily Allowance

Stihl_Pro_Universal_Forestry_Axe_glovesA distinct advantage of the axe as a tool is that it really is a tool. Nobody doubts the utility of a good axe to the point that even the U.S. Government’s National Forest Service lists the axe as an essential part of the “Responsible Recreation” kit. But not all axes are the same. While a steel head is uniform across the axe platform, it all ends there. And even steel has a host of variations: from overseas iron that is soft and rusty to finely crafted German blades polished and sharpened, to hand-forged Swedish steel that preserves the old ways of doing things. Handles range from Ash, to Hickory, to fiberglass, to plastic, to nylon, to a continuous steel extension of the head. All have their disadvantages, but a few materials and designs have very distinct and important advantages. And Hickory is one of them.

Related: Stihl Splitting Hatchet

In the case of the Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe, a high quality Hickory handle is used for durability, strength, power transfer, and shock reduction. However, wood is easily damaged by water, impacts, and time. Stihl addressed the impacts issue by adding a heavy steel collar around the neck of the axe to prevent overstrikes damaging the handle. And even more, the collar protects a super-thick neck that is a third more robust than traditional axe designs. And that’s on top of already being exceptionally hard Hickory with proper grain orientation.

With a length of just over 27 inches and a head weight of just under three pounds the Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe lands in the middle range of battleaxe demographics. And it looks the part. Compared to traditional axes you are likely to find around the woodpile, the Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe stands out as something different. And it is different.

Hang Your Head

Stihl_Pro_Universal_Forestry_Axe_in_handIn addition to the overbuilt handle and steel sleeve, the head of the Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe is manufactured by Germany’s oldest axe forge, the Ochsenkopf company. So with all this brute strength in components, Ochsenkopf designed a system to hang the head on the handle with more than the the usual flat or round wedges. The Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe head is literally bolted onto the handle with a long screw and additional metal wedge plug and steel endcap all securely attaching the axe head and collar to a fitted handle. Ochsenkopf calls this their Rotband-Plus system. So not only are the pieces ready for battle, but the entire mechanism is assembled to outlast axe traditions that usually outlast their owners anyway.

Check Out: Granfors Bruks Hand Hatchet

Stihl_Pro_Universal_Forestry_Axe_posing_logThe head of the Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe is forged with the German equivalent of 1060 steel they call C60. The “C” stands for carbon, but a 1060 steel is on the low end of high carbon steels. Not low in quality, but in carbon content. This minimal amount of carbon is fine as long as the heat treatment is correct for the tool. Axe heads are often of variable heat treatment with a different hardness at the bit (cutting edge) end compared to the eye (handle hole). Ochsenkopf axes are known for moving the hardened heat treatment further back than the usual half-inch or so from the sharp end. The 1060 steel in the Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe bit area appears to have been heat treated a full inch-and-a-half from the edge as noted by the change in light reflection off the blade. The variability in hardness of an axe head is a dance between sharp and brittle. Too much and things chip and crack. Too little and they bend and deform. Further, shallow heat treatments are often ground off during the axe’s short life of sharpening. A downward sharpening spiral begins when softer metal becomes the blade.

…But Prepare for the Worst

It wasn’t just gunpowder that sent battle axes to the back of the line, but also their overall durability especially when encountering an armor-clad foe. Battle axes were fearsome but fragile. In proper hands, they were nothing short of harbingers of death and dismemberment. But swung wildly and with disregard for the landing zone, the axes broke with unnerving predictability. And the same can be said about today’s modern forest axes.

See Also: Why the Tomahawk? 

Double-duty is name of the preparedness game. Just as the ancient grindstone handle can be found in modern configuration as a side-handle police baton, the battle axe could be hiding in the woodpile or by the campfire. While any axe can be dangerous (even to the user), not all axes are the same. Survival requires an unbroken chain of good decisions, and with the Stihl Pro Universal Forestry Axe, we have an exceptional hard-use tool for the homestead, and a dangerously strong striking weapon for breaching, rescue, and self defense.

 

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Epic Pure Filtered Water Pitcher vs. Brita Slim Water Filtration System

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epic_brita_side_by_sideI’ve been a long-time user of pitcher-type water filters; my old Brita filter has had probably hundreds of gallons put through it. The filtered water it produces tastes better, and I like the fact that it pulls a few nasty items out of the water my family and I drink every day.  Without a doubt, I am a big proponent of filtered water. After using my Brita, I feel uncomfortable drinking unfiltered water. Call me pretentious, but I would rather not consume strange heavy metals in my water. 

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

However, I recently received an EPIC Pure Water Filter pitcher-type filter in the mail for a review.  It was a great opportunity to do a little research, and see if the newer, more impressive-appearing EPIC offering was a better product than the tried-and-true Brita product that I’d been using for years.

Why use a water filter every day?

river_filtration_water_thinkIn a SHTF/survival-type situation, water filtration is a no-brainer.  Assuming the power grid is down, any water you can source that isn’t bottled can be assumed to be contaminated with some sort of offending nastiness, and absolutely should be filtered and purified.  However, in day-to-day life, it’s easy to become complacent about the water that flows from your faucets.  We take it for granted that the water has been made safe for us to drink by the unknown people at the water treatment plants.  We turn the tap on, and we blindly think that what comes out MUST be okay. But that “okay” water was processed with additives such as chlorine and aluminum sulfate, fluoride was probably added, and then it ran through miles and miles of metallic pipes underground, where it then makes the trip to your domicile, through the iron or copper plumbing that’s probably joined with lead solder, coursing out through the faucet that has bacteria living happily inside.  Most people don’t think about it, and I’ll admit I never did until I started doing research for this article.

Related: Trace Pharmaceuticals and Water

My house has city water supplied to it, and though the water company sends out yearly reports on water quality, the list of agents listed on the report definitely makes me take pause.  Yes, at the time of the report, the water quality is hunky dory – but how quickly can this balance be upset?  If something goes awry at the water treatment facility, how much water will run through my house and my family before the problem is caught and addressed?  Will the powers-that-be even let me know there is/was an issue with my water?

Environmental_Protection_Agency_logo.svgNow, I know that the people who are employed by the city to maintain the water supply used by thousands are highly qualified and trained to ensure that I have safe water that flows out of my faucets.  I also know that the Safe Water Drinking Act means that there are federal standards, regulated by the EPA, so that my water meets quality standards.  The EPA monitors the water for many organisms, bacteria, metals, chemicals, and other contaminants that can make you sick, give you cancer, or make life generally completely unpleasant in a multitude of ways.  However, the EPA doesn’t regulate many water-borne items, such as aluminum, chloride, and copper. In large enough quantities, these items and others that may still be in your water can do funky stuff to your systems.

Wells aren’t immune to contaminants either; pesticide runoff, petroleums, MTBE, metals that occur in the ground, bacteria, and other nasties can find your way into your dug or drilled well.  Again, most people don’t consider these issues once they have their well installed and tested – if everything is reported as fine, people run on automatic and think the water will always be fine.

All this being said, here in the USA and other developed countries, it’s safe to say that usually your water meets minimum standards for safe drinking water.  However, it’s also safe to say that you’re getting some additional unhealthy contaminant passengers along for the ride – no matter what the yearly water reports from the city water department say.

The Ins and Outs of Water Pitcher Filters

pitcher_inside_filterSo, me being the slight alarmist that I am (you have to be to run with this crowd, right?), I try to play it safe and drink filtered water, if it comes from my tap.  I don’t have the space or funding to really hook up a high-end in-line pre-faucet water filter, so I choose to run a pitcher-type filter for my drinking water needs.  It’s an easy, inexpensive way to keep clean water available.  Fill the pitcher, stick it in the fridge, and let it do its thing.  It’s easy for the whole family to do (provided the teenagers remember to fill the pitcher back up after they use the last of the water), so it’s a nice, simple, foolproof way to keep a half gallon or so of clear, clean-tasting water ready to go.

Basically, the way a pitcher-type filter works is simple: open the lid, located at the top of the pitcher.  Pour your to-be-filtered water in the top, straight from the faucet if you’d like. Put the lid back on, and let the pitcher work its magic.  Water is pulled from the reservoir at the top of the pitcher by gravity, coursing the H2O through the filter(s) located underneath the reservoir.  The inside of the filters contain any number of elements – almost always activated carbon is involved; Brita uses coconut shell-derived carbon.  Activated carbon, if viewed through a microscope, is porous and covered in lots of crevices that attract and hold impurities and contaminants through a process called adsorption.  

brita_and_boxActivated carbon works pretty well to eliminate a number of nasties in your water, such as chlorine, and some pesticides and some solvents – this is why activated carbon is commonly used in fish tank filters.  However, activated carbon eventually reaches its holding capacity and no longer can be used to reliably filter water eventually, so the filter must be replaced at periodic intervals. Other elements can be added to attract and reduce or eliminate other contaminants – but after quite some time searching the web for research on what these elements might be, it seems that most water filter manufacturers play their cards pretty close to the vest, leaving us to wonder at the magic of proprietary water filtration processes.

Since water pitchers function by pulling water through filters via gravity, there is generally not enough pressure to purify via reverse osmosis, and many bacteria can still get by – so it’s not recommended that you use pitcher-type home filters to cleanse water from streams, lakes, rivers, mud puddles, or the like.  Sediments and contaminants will be filtered for sure, but you can still get sick through bacteria infestation.  Dedicated outdoor-type water filters are recommended for naturally-sourced water filtration.

The EPIC Pure Water Pitcher Filter System

I, for a while, thought I just had a standard pitcher type filter.  However, upon digging about, I was excited to find that I had been sent the new EPIC Pure Pitcher  The Pure is like a Brita only for survivalists or preppers.

epic_filter_largeMy EPIC Pure pitcher filter features a large, replaceable filter and a pitcher that holds, by rough estimate, three quarters of a gallon or so of water.  The filter supports about 200 gallons of water filtration (my Brita does 40).  The filter elements and pitchers are 100% BPA free, and the filters themselves are 100% recyclable, which means that over the lifetime of the filter, you have potentially saved using 1,500 plastic water bottles – a definitive environmental impact.  EPIC boasts that their filters will remove up to 99.99% of contaminants that can be found in tap water.  I investigated their website to see what they actually remove, and the list is ridiculous: most are contaminants, and pesticides are things I’d never heard of but sound awful, and the metals removed list includes chromium 6, aluminum, mercury, lead, arsenic, TTHM, and Radon 222, among other things.  I won’t throw the full impressive list on this post, but definitely check out the list of what the EPIC Pure filter keep out of your body.

The Pure’s  Competition

I’ve used a Brita pitcher filter for years, as I stated at the beginning of this article.  Mine is a Brita Water Filtration System, the same model you can get online or at Target or Wal-Mart.  Brita has the market cornered on accessible, household name pitcher filters.  The Brita is an affordable pitcher filtration for the masses and 100% made in China.

brita_topThe Brita features replaceable filter cartridges, and they last approximately 40 gallons per filter, according to Brita’s website.  However, the Brita offering really concentrates on improving the taste of the water, instead of actually doing a really thorough job purifying.  According to Brita, the pitcher filters they offer just remove or reduce chlorine, copper, cadmium, and mercury.  There is no mention of filtering out pesticides like DDT, or other common contaminants and metals such as lead.  Brita does offer products that remove more contaminants, but not in the pitcher format we are analyzing here.

Battle Royale: EPIC Pure VS. Brita Water Filtration

brita_epic_head_to_headSo in the interests of doing a straight apples-to-apples test, I bought a brand new Brita filter cartridge from Amazon, and performed the standard pre-soak that Brita requires.  I loaded up the new filter in the Brita, and filled both up with straight tap water.  The larger EPIC reservoir took almost 15 minutes to filter. The Brita was much faster to process, probably just five or six minutes.  But in both cases, the water that was produced was crystal clear, and devoid of any of the slight chlorine smell that my city water usually has.

I went all Mythbusters on my taste test, and filled three glasses with water: one glass with tap water, one with water from the Brita pitcher, and one with water from the EPIC pitcher. I had my wife and son each try out the water, and report which glass they thought was from each aquatic offering. I then asked them to do the same for me. The results? The tap water was a gimme; its taste and smell was very distinct, with the rather not-great metallic chlorine taste. All three of us nailed which glass held the city-fed tap water.

As for the filtered water, my wife and I both were able to distinguish the EPIC filtered water, but I can personally tell you that the taste from both the EPIC and Brita products were quite close: clear, with no metallic or chlorine tastes – and very, very good. There was no smell from either glass.

Video

Where the EPIC filter really made a marked difference in taste was in coffee, believe it or not. The EPIC filtered water definitively produced much smoother, rich-tasting coffee from my home coffee maker. I have no science to back me up, but I am theorizing that the pH-modified alkaline EPIC water knocked back on the acid produced from the coffee, and the resulting beloved caffeinated product was far superior as a result.

Read Also: Epic Travel Bottle Review

So, Brita or EPIC? The Brita absolutely produces excellent-tasting water, and filters out a few undesirables in the water stream. But, if you can afford it, the EPIC offering is certainly a better product for the environment – its filters last 2 ½ times longer than the Brita offerings and are recyclable. The EPIC filter is certainly better for you and your family. If you buy bottled water to drink around the house because your well or tap water is unpalatable or unsafe, the EPIC will pay for itself in very little time. The EPIC pitcher is more expensive, and the replacement filter cartridges are also pricier (Made in the USA – yes, they will be more expensive). Yes, it’s pretty expensive – but the EPIC has something else going for it that makes it worth every penny, in my humble opinion.

Health Benefits

I mentioned earlier that I had perceived health benefits from my switch to drinking water from the EPIC Pure pitcher, and it’s true. I have a condition known as GERD (Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease) where the muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach relaxes, allowing built-up acid to splash up into my windpipe and lungs, causing severe heartburn and general chest discomfort, along with irritated lungs. GERD’s onset for me is usually stress-related and is exactly as much fun as it sounds.

coffee_waterOnce I received the EPIC Pure water pitcher, I immediately started using it for all the water I drink. Within a couple days, I noticed a huge difference in the amount of heartburn and windpipe discomfort I was experiencing. At first I attributed it to a switch in coffee brands I made at the same time I received the EPIC filter; I did not know that the EPIC was a Pure pitcher with pH benefits because they use activated coconut carbon filters which are alkaline.  When I brought some of the new coffee (from Main Gun Coffee Company – DEFINITELY check them out if you’re a coffee aficionado) to work for use at my coffeemaker there, I had acid issues kick in again. There went the coffee theory. 

However, when I started doing research for this review, I realized what which product had been sent to me, and the gears turned. The GERD symptoms definitely lessened right when I started using the filter, and when I drink water from other sources, sometimes I’ll have issues. So, it is my personal postulation (that is purely my own conjecture and could be completely wrong) that the alkaline pH levels that the EPIC Pure water pitcher introduces reduces acids that the body produces, driving down my heartburn symptoms. Take it for what it’s worth to you, but I believe the EPIC Pure product to really work, and has positive health benefits that go beyond eliminating contaminants and nastiness from the tap water I drink. It tastes great, makes bitchin’ coffee, and I feel better. Winning.

Wrapping It Up

epic_water_pitcher_pourThe EPIC Pure water pitcher is great, whether you just want clear safe water, or you’re looking to try health solutions that go beyond pumping pills in your face. The initial sticker shock is a definite turn-off,and I’ll admit to you that when I got the filter and I looked into what using it would cost me, I rolled my eyes and uttered a “yeah right.” But I’ve used the pitcher extensively, comparing it to a very common competitive filter, and I’m now a true believer in this filter.

For those of you who don’t want to take the hit on the Pure system, EPIC also offers a full line of other outdoors-rated filters, including the Stainless Steel Travel Bottle that allows you to drink from almost any water source you can find. If you’re looking to try the next level of personal home water filtration, and don’t want to invest in under-sink in-line plumbing filters or clunky faucet add-on filters, be sure to look at the EPIC Pure pitcher filter system. It’s head and shoulders above the competition, and you’ll feel better for it as a result.

What are your thoughts? Is the 70 dollars for a home tap water filter too much, even if there are health benefits besides hydration? Do you use something different? Sound off in the comments below!

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The Survival Staff

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survival_staff_inhandIn this “back-to-basics” article, we will look at a basic building material, tool, and weapon- one that can be used for shelter, a tool handle, walking stick, and the most basic and primitive weapon.  As a weapon, the more-or-less six foot staff is one of the most universal among many martial arts traditions, and often the first taught.  Shaolin, Wing Chun, Kobudo and other schools of martial arts teach staff “forms”, or choreographed practice sequences that have been passed down through the ages.  For basic utility, the staff can be used to carry firewood and water (by hanging bundles or buckets at the ends and carrying over one’s shoulders), and for other forms of transport (such as game, strung up between two people; or to craft a sled or skid).  Sturdy poles can be used to build tripods, lean-tos, and other structures you might need around camp.  A staff can also be used to make a spear or whittled down for a tool handle.

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

There are many articles online regarding various types of survival staffs that are basically types of walking sticks, perhaps of lightweight material, that have chambers to hold objects for survival.  There are many clever designs.  I do like the idea of such staffs, but wonder how well they will hold up.  For this article, we are discussing the primitive staff.  It might seem a very simple subject, but there are many considerations worth becoming familiar with, including wood selection, crafting tools and handles, building possibilities, self defense, and weapon-crafting possibilities.

Gathering Resources

survival_staffs_hemlock_and_white_pineAt my campsite in the Catskills there were White Pines (Pinus strobus) and Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) saplings about 10 years or so in age and thick enough to block visibility and make walking difficult.  Besides other considerations regarding location, it seemed fitting for a campsite to clear the thick trees that were already shading each other out.  Small trees a few inches in diameter can be easily cut with a hatchet, camp saw, or machete.  They provide material for building structures and for other craft.  The unused material dries relatively quickly to provide future kindling and firewood.  Plus, depending on the species of trees being felled, food and medicine can also be gleaned.  In the case of White Pine and Hemlock the needles and bark can be used to make “tea” for medicinal use, pleasure, or as a nutritional supplement.  Many tree barks have medicinal uses and sometimes leaves or other parts are also useful as food or medicine.  

Related: Medicinal Uses of Pine Trees 

Once felled, the branches can be removed from the saplings with a machete or hatchet.  A small saw can be useful.  I also like to have pruners in my pocket and some loppers nearby.  Though more time consuming to use, such tools can more cleanly remove branches if desired.  I like to leave interesting branches and crotches in case they are useful for some project later.  But for the most part the idea is to work the sapling down to a relatively uniform building material.  After the branches are removed the poles can be organized by size.  This process gives you lots of material to work with for shelter building and the like.

survival_staffs_red_cedarYou might consider removing the bark while the saplings are still green.  For one thing it is easier to remove than when it dries to the trunk.  You also may want to use it for making rope, baskets, and the like.  It can be used as lashing for certain things right away.  You probably can’t get nice sheets of bark from small trees such as you would want for bark baskets, but the possibilities with even small strips of bark are many.  In some cases you will be able to find a stand of smaller trees that died from being shaded out.  The wood might still be good quality.  The Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) pictured is good quality even though it died as taller trees outgrew it.

Use as a Walking Stick  

survival_staffs_cabinA primary use of a staff is as a walking stick.  My first mentor in the world of wild edibles and survival skills, Taterbug Tyler, used to walk with a garden hoe that had been cut down to just a small triangle left of the blade.  He claimed that he once saved himself from falling over a ledge by grabbing onto a tree root with the hoe.  Mostly he used it as a walking stick in the rugged territory we hiked through looking for Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).  The blade came in handy for unearthing roots and flipping over rocks.  It is a good tool and could be reproduced with the natural form of a hardwood staff.  

Another use for a staff as a walking stick is for crossing streams.  In certain territory you might have many streams weaving around, or you might need to repeatedly cross a stream that you are traveling along.  Even if you find logs and rocks to help you cross, a staff can help you maintain balance.  Without rocks to cross on a staff can be used like a pole vault to help you jump across what you otherwise could not.  For these reasons, it is useful to carry a staff.

As a Weapon

survival_staffs_cut_woodI am fascinated with the bo staff and like to go with just over six feet as a standard cutting length.  Particularly when Hickory (Carya spp.) or some other hard wood is found, it is an ideal size for a weapon as well as to begin making a bow or spear.  When cutting the trees down and into length, look for nice straight six-foot sections.  It is generally good to cut the trees where they bend in order to preserve straight sections and removed the crooks.

The staff has been a most basic striking implement since ancient times.  Needing to use a weapon against wildlife is an unlikely scenario, but not impossible.  Certainly, it could make you feel better to have some protection in hand.  There has been more than once when the sound of coyotes or something unknown has prompted me to pick up a stick.  Better yet is the feeling of knowing how to use it.  Most people should be able to wield a staff should an emergency arise and be able to perform basic strikes to protect themselves.  With training, the staff becomes an increasingly useful weapon, with several distinct benefits: there are reasons otherwise to keep it at hand, it is superb blocking instrument, any part can be used as the handle, and it can be used for a variety of strikes to virtually any part of the body.  It can be swung with great momentum.  It can strike low or high, as well as both in relatively rapid succession, and one can thrust with the end of the staff with the potential for damaging penetration.  For these reasons, the staff is a primary weapon of many styles of martial art.

Read Also: Low Profile Survival Weaponry

bruce_lee_bo_staffKobudo – the martial art of the Okinawan weapons (which is often integrated with Karate), Shaolin Kung Fu, Wing Chun Kung Fu, Ninjitsu and many others have their study of the staff.  Learning the forms, or kata, of these arts is a way to learn special combat moves.  Becoming proficient with these moves not only makes the weapon more effective, but provides a healthful exercise that improves balance, coordination, circulation, immunity, and awareness, all of which are important in a survival situation.  Plus, study of the forms could provide a pastime during life in the wilderness.

Shelter and Selecting Wood

survival_staff_witch_hazel_shrubWhen selecting a location to set up camp one should consider finding a nice stand of relatively young trees or saplings that can serve as a source of materials.  Your lean-to could be positioned centrally to reduce expenditure of time and energy.  Of course, you also want to consider exposure to sun and other elements.  In the part of the world where I live you generally want your lean-to opening toward the south to increase sun exposure in cold seasons.  If there is a strong prevailing wind you will want to put the back of the lean-to toward it.  You can also look for suitable trees to support a lean-to before you chop them down.  

Of course, when gathering trees for utility, one should consider the various types of wood and their pros and cons.  Generally, hardwoods are prefered.  “Hardwood” usually refers to deciduous trees, even the softer ones.  And “softwood” refers to conifers, which are usually softer than hardwoods (though soft hardwoods are softer than hard softwoods).  Hemlock and Pine are both softwoods.  Particularly White Pine is soft.  Although both softwoods, Hemlock is much harder than White Pine.  The White Pine saplings that are staff size (naturally or whittled down) are quite weak.  They have certain uses, but would break far too easily under any significant weight or force.

White Ash (Fraxinus americanus)  has a low moisture level, even when green.  My freshly cut staff looked stouter than it felt, compared to the heavier woods (Witch Hazel, Iron Wood, Hickory…) I had been working with.  Regarding bushcraft, one advantage of a lower moisture percentage wood is that building materials have less time to rot.  If you are planning to turn the bush into a campsite there is a good chance you’ll be using some green wood.  If you are building with green wood, there is a good chance for mold to develop as the wood dries out.  Thick, heavy, damp wood will dry out much slower than something light like Ash.  In fact, Ash has so little moisture that it can be burned green.  As we all know, the drier the better.  The survivalist, however, should be aware of the low moisture content of Ash in the event of finding no dead wood.  Perhaps green would might be a better choice than soggy logs from the ground.  Regarding a staff, Ash has the interesting benefit of being lighter.  So, the strength of a green stick with the weight more of a dry one.  Ash is the primary wood for baseball bats as it has strength but receives the vibration.  Although not nearly the strength of Hickory, Ash is used in much the same way for bows and tools handles.

The bushcrafter should be aware of the various kinds of woods, including their benefits and weak points.  Although the basic staff (or bo) seems simple, it’s uses are many.

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Survival Gear Review: LaCrosse NOAA Weather Radio

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NOAA_Weather_Radio_2There are pieces of emergency gear that preppers and survivalists simply have to have.  A multi-functional, multi-powered weather radio is one of them.  One of these radios should be extremely high on your “to buy” list if you do not have one now.  It needs to be kept easy to access and ready to go out the door, too. Undoubtedly there are numerous such weather radios on the market and I have had two or three over the years that all eventually died.  I have an old model sold by L.L.Bean that still works but the station dial is so crude it is difficult to zero in on a station with clear reception.  It also eats batteries like popcorn. Enter an intuitive, energy efficient rebuttal to older inefficient radios: the LaCrosse Model 810.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

This LaCrosse model has it all.  In fact its features are darn near too many to mention, but here is a rundown on the essentials. First of all, the radio is small and compact.  Out of the package it appears to be well made in a black matte finish in ABS plastic.  The grill or speaker front is silver matte chromed.  Had it been bright chrome, it could have been used as a signal function.  The ‘control’ panel is centered on the front with simple, intuitive buttons to manage all the radio’s functions.

The LaCrosse Model 810

NOAA_Weather_RadioTo begin activation of the LaCrosse 810, pull the battery seal out of the back to activate the LIR123A recharge battery to initially power up the unit.  Backup power sources also include a built-in solar panel on top that can recharge the radio in 10-12 hours of sunlight.  Also available is a hand crank on the back to recharge the unit.  About one minute of cranking gives 30 minutes of radio juice to hear anything that is being broadcasted.

Related: Surviving Alone

A red charging crank rate light will shine as you crank.  It will turn green when fully charged.  As you crank, you can get into a sort of rhythm, but one minute of cranking seems an eternity.  It occurred to me during the process what a great job for the kids to do.  

The radio itself can be set to AM-FM for standard stations for music, news, and local weather.  One more button push switches the radio to the NOAA weather bands for fully detailed weather reports from an official government weather source.  The LaCrosse 810 picks up seven weather band frequencies, so something should be available and live no matter where you are.  

Other Features

NOAA_Weather_Radio_4Besides the more or less regular features of a weather radio, the 810 unit also has a built-in LED flashlight with focused fresnal lens, a blue back light flashes red during weather alerts around the digital read out panel, a digital station tuner, volume buttons, and a digital clock reading AM-PM time readouts. There are two stainless steel bars on the ends of the front panel which go through the case to reinforce the internal framework of the radio to make it more durable.  On the side is a telescoping antenna that can be pulled out and rotated to isolate the best radio reception.  There is also a 3.5 mm earphone jack if you want to listen via headphones.  

Read Also: Survival Radio: What Will Work 

Also built into this unit is a mini-USB port that can be used to charge the radio via a computer or any other USB power source.  Users can also utilize the hand crank feature to charge a phone or other external mobile device. The LaCrosse NOAA Weather Radio is very simple to self-use, but directions are printed on the bottom of the radio in case the paper instructions become lost.  The included directions come printed in three languages, English, Spanish, and French.  I guess the Russians will have to hack in.  

As a final footnote, I plan to find some kind of soft-sided slip case or bag to store the LaCrosse radio to offer extra shock protection and safety from any outside elements.  For now the radio sits on my work desk ready for the next weather event or to listen to talk radio or music.  The LaCrosse 810 retails for just under $50 and is well worth the investment.

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Survival Gear Review: Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope

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Celestron_Hummingbird_7-22x50mm_ED_Micro_Spotting_Scope_Camelbak_caseAs you build out your optics kit, the spotting scope is a necessary component for longer-term, higher-magnification observing. Unfortunately most quality spotting scopes are larger, heavier, and more expensive. Luckily there is a new spotting scope space that rivals binoculars in size, but offers the performance and magnification of of a quality spotting scope. A new kid on the rather small block of micro spotting scopes is the Celestron Hummingbird ED Spotting Scope. Where the Hummingbird differs from the others in its space is with ED glass, 45 degree eyepiece, and affordable price.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Spotting scopes provide a much more powerful viewing option compared to binoculars and are used for surveillance, target spotting, and, of course, enjoying wildlife. Unless your viewing leans towards astronomy, a 10x bino is on the high side, with 8x a normal power for those who anticipate scoping subjects during or after exertion. Seven power is reserved for use on boats, and anything below that is for the opera or when something small enough to slip into a shirt pocket is needed. But spotting scopes, while rarely starting their magnification in the single digits, quickly move into the 20s, 40s, and higher powers. In the case of the Celestron Hummingbird ED Spotting Scope, two options are available with a 7-22×50 and a 9-27×55.

Mini High Power

Celestron_Hummingbird_7-22x50mm_ED_Micro_Spotting_Scope_posingSpotting scopes bridge the gap between binoculars and telescopes. They range in power from about 10x to 60x. Above 60x and you are well into telescope territory. Spotting scopes are also identified by their objective lens (the target-facing end of the scope) diameter measured in millimeters. A small objective is about 30mm while an average scope might be around 60mm. Large spotting scopes have 80mm or larger diameter objective lenses. As the objective grows in size, so to0 does the rest of the scope that houses the scope’s internals.

Related: Opmod Optics 

The numbers of a scope describe the optics but not the optical quality. Many spotting scopes have variable power (zoom) eyepieces that change the magnification through a rotation of a collar on the eyepiece. The difference between zoom and variable power is that a true zoom will retain focus throughout the magnification range while a variable power requires refocusing when the power changes. The light gathering of the scope is noted by the diameter of the outer objective, and the bigger the number, the more light enters the system. Celestron’s Hummingbirds are 50mm and 56mm respectively. Fifty millimeters is not an unusual rifle scope size so for perspective, 60mm is a common starting diameter in a spotting scope company’s product line with the numbers going up from there. Binoculars also use objective diameter numbers as in 10×50 or 4×32. In these cases, the 50 and 32 represent the objective size in millimeters. So, you can see that even a small scope like the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro is on the big size for binocular and rifle scope objectives.

On the other side, telescopes transcend millimeters pretty quickly when above 90mm. Inches are the preferred unit of measure where eight inches (203mm), 10 inches (254mm) and 12 inch (305mm) scopes are common telescope objective/mirror sizes.

Less is More

Celestron_Hummingbird_7-22x50mm_ED_Micro_Spotting_Scope_HandOne major way to save weight is to limit the diameter of the optics. The Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope was tested because it was the smaller of the two small scopes and small was the objective, both figuratively and literally. There are plenty of larger scopes on the market, but quality mini spotting scopes are still fairly rare. Possibly because they can be viewed as a contradiction. The smaller the lenses, the less light the scope gathers leading to lower performance as daylight diminishes, or with dawn still in the future. But once there is enough light which happens to be the majority of the day, the limitations of larger heavier objective lenses are lessened. However, if you don’t or won’t carry your spotting scope into the field due to its size and/or weight, then that huge objective lens that likely cost a bundle now distracts from usefulness. So everything is a tradeoff. No point in owning the best if you won’t or can’t carry it, and no point in miniaturization if it loses its usefulness.

Other features of spotting scopes include interchangeable eyepieces, zoom eyepieces, ED glass, mounting options, water and shock proofing, nitrogen or argon filled, rubberized or armored exteriors, fine and coarse focusing, straight or angled eyepieces, integrated shades, transport cases and camouflage covers, and even integrated rangefinders for those with more tactical needs.

Other considerations of spotting scopes include the weight, size, and brand reputation. In the case of the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope, the weight is a touch over a pound, the size is about a pistol, and the brand is known for building world-class optics especially those of the high-powered telescope variety.

Through The Looking Glass

Celestron_Hummingbird_7-22x50mm_ED_Micro_Spotting_Scope_window_mountThe ED glass, or Extra-low dispersion glass helps to compensate for the difference in how colors of light bend when moving through lenses. The size of the wavelengths of visible light (well, all light for that matter) causes it to have a unique refraction when “bent” with a lens. Objects, especially lighter colored ones, when viewed through a higher magnification (think more bending) optic can cause the light waves to separate into colors causing “fringes” of color to appear especially where there are light-dark boundaries. To combat the so-called chromatic aberrations, rare earth elements are mixed with the silicon when making the glass. In many ways, glass making is like knife blade making. There is silicon and steel, and then there are a multitude of additional elements that can be added in proprietary quantities creating a lens or knife with unique properties and best suited for its tasks.

Out in the field, the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope is a winner for wildlife and bird watching, general observation of the greater outdoors, and a fine close-work mini-telescope. With a minimum focus distance of under 10 feet and over half-an-inch of eye relief, this Hummingbird can sing. Its lightweight and compact size allow for quick and easy handheld use, but bolted to a tripod or truck window mount using its integrated tripod socket locks in a viable viewing platform you can use for hours with little or no eye fatigue.

Soiled

Celestron_Hummingbird_7-22x50mm_ED_Micro_Spotting_Scope_Dirt_EyepieceI did notice one thing that hopefully other users won’t encounter and that is it’s hard to clean dirt out of the eyepiece. The dirt was not inside the eyepiece, but I did manage to fill the eyepiece cup with a fine powdered soil. It all started while using the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope in Yellowstone National Park. It was a particularly windy day and while birdwatching at the edge of a open field, the wind caught the light scope and even lighter carbon fiber tripod and tossed them gently to the ground. Fortunately the scope’s fall was broken by grass and silky soft powdered dirt. Unfortunately the scope landed user-side down in the soil effectively plugging the eyecup area with dirt. Most of it fell out and much more blew off with little effort. However the coarse threads of the screw-out eyecup remained filled with dirt as did the rim of the eyepiece lens. The eyecup was glued in place and required forced removal to get at the stubborn dirt. In the end, it was no big deal, and I’m sure the rubber armor covering of the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope would have easily protected the scope had the ground arrived sooner.

Prior to the fall of the scope, I got the opinion of a volunteer park ranger and professional bird watcher. He was impressed with the little scope and was surprised not only with the size, but the quality of the optics. I too have used many spotting scopes and owned a Leica for a while and got some heavy use of a Swarovski. My previous carry prior to field testing the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope was a Gold Ring Leupold (American made, not a Chinese budget Leupold-branded one).

Anchorpoint

Celestron_Hummingbird_7-22x50mm_ED_Micro_Spotting_Scope_RangerThe Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope has a 7-22x eyepiece that is a functional power given the small objective and desire to be held in the hand. The angled eyepiece is particularly effective for wildlife but can cause issues if used on a bench to view targets. Your eye must be above the scope so if the Hummingbird is on a small tripod that in turn is on the bench, you might have to stand up to see it. When at the range with this scope, I use it on a ground tripod so I can lower it. But that is a case I prefer my straight-sighting Leupold.

Read Also: The Katrina Pistol 

The scope is packaged with a snug padded nylon case with strap and zipper closure, but I prefer an easier drop-in container from which I can one-handed deploy and stow the Hummingbird. So instead of the included case, I use an insulated Camelbak waterbottle case complete with MOLLE attachments and a little additional storage.

Almost Perfect

Celestron_Hummingbird_7-22x50mm_ED_Micro_Spotting_Scope_in_handThe optical performance of the Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope is exceptional except for the final bit of magnification. Above about 18x, I can notice some loss of image quality, and at the full 22x I cannot see near as well as on lower power. Certainly not a deal breaker, but I am spoiled by world class optics with Nikon, Leica, Leupold, and Swarovski. But those brands command impressive prices where a thousand dollars is often the cover charge to get into play. Accessories will follow and, of course, a tripod of equal quality will cost another handful of Benjis. And what usually happens at this point is that a second, less expensive scope is acquired which will get carried, shared, and especially used. So money and the quality it can buy might also be a barrier to practicality and deployment.

Celestron broke new ground with its Hummingbird spotting scopes because ED glass is usually reserved for the larger higher-end scopes. Further, they are affordable, portable, and seem plenty rugged for their intended use. So yes, my new feathered friend and travel partner is a Celestron Hummingbird 7-22x50mm ED Micro Spotting Scope.

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Bushcraft Mushrooms: 5 Uses of Polypores and Other Mushrooms

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otzi_ice_man_mushrooms-2Mushrooms were among the earliest survival essentials of man.  Otzi, the Ice Man, had two mushrooms with him.  One, the Tinder Polypore (Fomes fomentarius), used for firestarting and the other, the Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), was quite possibly being carried for medicinal reasons.  The fire-starting and fire-carrying properties of Tinder Polypore and others like Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) have been well known since ancient times.  

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

As punk, dried Polypores can be lit and hold the ember very well.  It is for this reason that their benefits begin with the first spark of the fire, which will stay aglow easily on good punk.  Tinder Polypore, Artist Conk (Ganoderma applanatum), and others have a felty interior when the hard fruiting bodies are broken open.  These mushrooms are also called conks, shelf mushrooms, and bracket fungi and are perennial, developing layer upon layer, year after year.  This type of mushroom is very good for tinder.  The felt can be teased with your knife.  There are other types of shelf mushrooms that are not perennial.  Often, they will be more moist and fleshing, or otherwise maybe not the best for tinder… perhaps because of their texture.  Also, there are Polypores that aren’t shelf mushrooms.

polypores_bushcraft_1Polypores (many-pored, or many-little-holes) produce their spores in tubes that are usually under the “shelf” of the mushroom, though many species take on more of the form of the “cap & stem” mushroom.  They are common, seen even in winter because of the persistence of the perennial species and of the dried remains of the tougher annual species.  Even as I write this, I can count several species of Polypore on my eclectic assortment of firewood piled by the wood stove – dried, so even though the wood is punkier than desired the mushrooms will burn with it quite fine.  Earlier today I noticed a Polypore I am not used to seeing on a Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), along with several other species of Polypore that I see regularly.  I also saw the crumbled remains of an annual species that was edible in the fall.  In fact, now that I stop to think about it, that’s a lot of Polypores for a short walk along the road and through the woods!

Related: Emergency Storage of Wild Plant Foods

It is especially the Polypores that are of interest to the bushcrafter and survivalist.  They are a pretty safe group for edibles.  Many are not considered edible because of toughness or taste, but the majority of poisoning is relatively mild.  Of course, many well-known “choice edibles” and some of the most sought after mushroom delicacies are Polypores.  They have medicinal uses.  Many of the most important herbal medicines come from Polypores.  They can be used to start fire.  Because they keep lit well and burn slow they can also be used to carry fire (potentially very useful without matches or a lighter on hand), and can also be burned for insect repellant.  The dried fruit bodies, or slices of them, can be used to maintain an ember when not feeding wood to the fire.  Polypores can also be used to make torches.  They can be made into charcoal.  They can be pounded into felt (another trait the Tinder Polypore is particularly known for).  They are great for storing fish hooks.  And I am sure there are countless other uses.  

Edible Mushrooms

edible_mushrooms_mycophilic-2Mushrooms are sometimes abundant and are very important survival foods.  It is an interesting thing that mycologists consider cultures to generally be either mycophobic or mycophilic – mushroom fearing or mushroom loving.  Some cultures favor mushrooms that most others avoid.  I have often wondered if this and the deep appreciation some cultures have for mushrooms is due to ancestors being repeatedly saved from famine by mushrooms, which has certainly happened throughout the ages.  

I myself have eaten massive amounts of mushrooms, especially Polypores like Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus spp.), Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa, Maitake, Sheep’s Head, etc.), and others that grow very large and are delicious.  Many times I have eaten more than one meal a day that consisted primarily of mushrooms.  I have often felt very revitalized when doing so, particularly during Morel (Morchella spp.) season when eating lots of Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus), Morels, and wild vegetables.  Mushrooms are very nutritious foods.  Since ancient times they have been revered for their rejuvenating properties.

The all too well known problem with mushrooms as edibles is that some are deadly.  Coupled with the fact that mushrooms in general are difficult to identify, eating mushrooms can  clearly be risky.  Do your research before starving to death so that you can be certain to take the time to seek out knowledgeable people as well as good books.  There are many excellent mushroom websites.

Mushrooms can be dried.  Though, it is a funny trick of nature that they tend to grow when there is more humidity and can be difficult to dry.  Those in the Rocky Mountains will have a much easier time of it than I do down in the Delaware River Valley between New York and Pennsylvania.  For off-grid sites, consider a solar dehydrator, such as passive solar using glass to trap heat.  For sites with electricity consider one of the many commercially manufactured dehydrators, or make one with a simple heating unit such as a light bulb.

Medicinal Mushrooms

polypores_bushcraft_3The medicinal properties of mushrooms have been getting increased attention lately, though they were well-known before the modern world.  Many of the medicinal uses of mushrooms pertain to first-aid care, so this subject is well worth learning for the survivalist.  If the notion of medicinal mushrooms seems strange, consider that out first antibiotic drug, penicillin, is fungal.  

Indeed, primary traits among the medicinal mushrooms are antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties.  Polypores in particular, like Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) and Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis), are known for benefiting immunity and fighting off pathogens.  They are used for lung ailments, respiratory infections, systemic infections, cancer, and even auto-immune diseases.  As in the case with Otzi, ancient people all over the world have probably recognized the medicinal benefits of mushrooms.  Today they remain primary ingredients in herbal medicine.  Many cultures have long-held reverence for medicinal mushrooms.  China, for instance, has an extensive and ancient lore surrounding Ganoderma spp., called Lingzi, which means “Longevity Mushroom” or “Spiritual Mushroom” just as the Japanese name, Reishi, does.  For a well-researched reference on many species of medicinal mushrooms see The Fungal Pharmacy by Robert Rogers.

While Reishi is too tough and strong tasting to be eaten (rather, it is decocted into a “tea” or broth), many medicinals are good food.  Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is another name that seems to reflect a long-found reverence.  In Japanese it means “Dancing Mushroom”, which some say is because it was worth so much (so revered were such medicinal mushrooms) in ancient Japan that you would dance for joy upon finding one.  Or, perhaps if you were suffering from a life threatening illness that Maitake was known to cure you would have even more reason to dance.  Locally, Grifola is one of the most commonly picked mushrooms, known as Sheep’s Head or Ram’s Head – largely an Appalachian name.  American field guides and grocery stores (this one is also cultivated) usually call it Hen-of-the-Woods.  It is so abundant in certain Oak forests that people will often eat more than their fill and still have plenty to dry, can, or freeze.

Mushrooms even have antifungal properties.  If this seems strange, consider that you are protected by pathogens by your skin.  Fungus has no such barrier, but must still protect itself against pathogens… including fungus!  Fungus tends to prefer dark, damp, dirty areas where other fungus also likes to grow.  Much of the immune-boosting potential of mushrooms is explained in this way.

Many mushrooms, especially certain Polypores and the Luminescent Panellus (Panellus stipticus) can be used to stop bleeding.  The species name stipticus is from styptic, meaning that it is used to stop bleeding.  And yes, the common name is because it glows in the dark- at least the North American variety.

Fire-Starting with Fungus

polypores_bushcraft_6As already mentioned, mushrooms can be very good for “catching the spark” when starting fire with flint or maintaining the ember when starting with the bow drill and the like.  A nice dry piece of Polypore can be used in the middle of your tinder bundle.  Species with a felting interior, like the Tinder Polypore, can be fluffed into very nice tinder by scraping them with your knife to tease the fibers into fluff.  While it can obviously be very helpful to have nice downy tinder, it is not always necessary as even chunks of dried Polypore can stay lit with just a spark.

Transferring a “coal” from bow or hand drill methods is simply done by contacting the mushroom with the ember so that it keeps lit.  One might even use larger flat polypores underneath the fireboard so that the hot wood dust falls directly on the mushroom.

Polypores are like punk, meaning that they stay lit easy.  Punky wood (dry and rotten) might very well stay lit for hours from only a spark or ember, but generally wood requires sufficient heat to keep burning or it goes out.  Polypores can stay lit for many hours, often slowly burning from just a small ember until all the mushroom is burned up.  This has several uses.  Such as in primitive times, lit Polypores can be bound in leaves and bark so that the fire could be carried to the next spot.  I have also maintained embers in the firepit by setting in them a piece of Polypore during times when I did not desire to build up the fire by adding more wood.  Obviously, the standard rule is to keep watch on a fire at all times, but we are talking survival here.  Perhaps, you are lost in the woods with no fire-starting implements and need to spend the day hunting, fishing, or gathering mushrooms.  You certainly don’t want to lose your fire, but you don’t want to build it up either right before leaving.  It could be much safer to feed the embers with mushrooms than to pile on firewood.  

Also Read: How to Start a Fire With Your EDC Knife and a Shoelace

Mushrooms don’t have the tendency to burst into flame, even though they stay lit well.  In order to produce flame, hot pitch can be poured on the Polypore and then lit to produce a torch.  Alternately, clumps of pitch can be set or stuck (depending on consistency) on a Polypore and then lit.  The pitch will melt down into the mushroom and this makes good fuel.  

Polypores can also be made into charcoal in the same manner as making char cloth.  I have used the leathery Polypores, like Turkey Tail, as well as slices of thicker species like Tinder Polypore and Reishi.  I usually use tins, such as old Altoids tins, to fill with the mushrooms and then place on the hot coals until smoking ceases.  Then remove, let cool, and add to your tinder box for later fire-starting.

Fiber from Polypores

tinder_polypore-2Tinder Polypore can be made into felt.  This can be done by boiling and pounding the interior portion (which looks felty even when fresh).  A friend of mine has hats made of the felt, similar to that worn by the famous mycologist Paul Stamets.  I have also seen purses and other crafts from the felt.  It might be a stretch to consider making an outfit out of Tinder Polypores in a survival scenario.  Small pouches and such, on the other hand, could be very realistic and handy.

At the New Jersey Mycological Association’s yearly Fungus Fest they set up a paper-making station.  Violet Tooth Polypores (Trichaptum biforme) and other similar mushrooms are blended in water in order to produce a fibrous mush that is strained, pressed, and dried to produce a sturdy craft paper.  Violet Tooth Polypores work well for fiber extraction because they are thin, like the well-known medicinal Turkey Tail and other mushrooms that comprise the “leathery” group of Polypores.  

Taking Care of Tools with Polypores

polypores_bushcraft_2Pieces of dried Polypores can work great for storing fish hooks.  I like to slice the fresh mushroom into thick strips before drying them.  This makes them handy for decocting into medicine, for stashing in tinder boxes, and for piercing a selection of fish hooks into in attempt to keep a tackle box orderly.  It also makes them ready for making charcoal if, for instance, they are cut so that they fit into an Altoids box or some other vessel that can be used to make charcoal.  Have a line-up of fish hooks in a small rectangle of Polypore makes it easy to grab a few hooks to throw in your pocket or in your sack.  If it keeps dry, you’ll even have fire-starting material with you.  If it gets wet, just toss it – you have plenty more stashed away.

Apparently Birch Polypore can be used for stropping.  An alternate name commonly cited for the Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) is Razor Strop.  I have never tried it, but the dried fruiting bodies certainly seem to be the correct consistency (usually leather is used for stropping).  

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Survival Gear Review: The Timahawk Part 2

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Timahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_pry_bar_on_log-3A handful of edge is a beautiful thing. The convergence of steel is one of the most useful things in a survivalist’s kit. It is the tool that builds all other tools. It is the tool that makes shelter, prepares food, and provides defense. So it’s no surprise that a variety of steel edges are in the bug out loadout. But within that variety are found the problems of weight, of cost, of space, and of necessary performance. With smaller tools the problems are minor, but with bigger heavier tools, carrying more than one is usually out of the question.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Enter the Timahawk. By combining several tools into one heavily evolved design, Tim Ralston has made a bit of survival history with his pair of self-named Timahawks. The shorter version called the Tactical Timahawk has made an appearance here, but the longer handled full-size Timahawk still needs an introduction.

Ralston’s Masterpiece

Timahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_pry_bar_hanging_on_tree-2At 64 ounces, the Timahawk is a formidable piece of hardware on its own. Four pounds of striking steel with every end a business end makes for a highly adaptable tool. But let’s take a closer look at the edges of the Timahawk. The most obvious feature is the broadhead axe face with full beard. A bearded axe was a popular design back in the medieval era when an axe was the Colt Peacemaker of the time.

Related: The Tactical Timahawk

Having a beard on an axe pushes the tool more more towards being a weapon. The beard provided a protected handgrip as well as a hook that was used to strip away a foe’s shield or weapon. I find the beard works as advertised as well as making for a strong hook for various camp duties like holding up a lantern and remaining accessible but out of reach of the little ones. The beard also generates a much larger cutting surface without the extra weight of a fully cheeked axe head.

Face Plant

Timahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_pry_wood_chopping_closeup-2The overall cutting surface of the axe is about six inches in a straight line. Three and a half of those inches are the beard leaving plenty of strength onboard for serious chopping. Bending or breaking quarter-inch thick 4130 steel not only exceeds normal use of the Timahawk, but also exceeds normal human strength.  Opposite the sharp crescent and beard is an adz which is nothing more than a stone-age carving tool that is simply a short blade turned sideways. It works great for digging, scraping, and a lever for breaching. The two-inch wide adz is not much of a weapon compared an axe proper, but it will certainly do damage. The adz can also be somewhat sacrificial surface when you need to strike steel-dulling materials like rocks, brick and metal.

Read Also: Fail to Prepare Fail to Live

Two well-defined hand placement points with finger grooves are forged into the design. A vertical grip is found behind the axe-face beard, and another similar handhold is on the top of the axe head halfway between the bit and the adz. Basically the two grips are 90 degrees rotated from each other, while the traditional main handle grip of the Timahawk is just downstream from the beard grip.

The main gripping surface on the Timahawk is actually two scales of 18-inch long recycled hard black plastic held in place by four evenly spaced stainless steel screws. The scales ovalize the flat metal backbone of the Timahawk making the handle about 1.25 inches wide, by about one inch thick.

Pry Baby

Timahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_pry_bar_delimbing-2Rounding out the southern end of the Timahawk is a two-and-a-quarter inch wide combination prybar face/nail puller. The tailend of the Timahawk flairs out an additional half-inch on each side looking similar to a chisel or moulding pry bar. As a weapon, this far end has some advantages over the adz even though they are of similar size. Remember those gripping handles? Well with one fist wrapped around the top handle and the other on the plastic scales, you can operate the sharpened nail puller with precision and the full force of your body. Like a pry bar from hell.  I actually have a prybar I carry on some wheeled adventures. It is a 24 inch Snap On pry bar. It works for for opening and moving stuck or heavy things, and some rough engine mechanicing. Having a serious pry bar along for ride is always a good thing, but a single dedicated pry bar is a another heavy piece of gear. So combining tools, while a violation of “two is one and one is none,” you can also look at it as “one is two and two is good.”

Here To Help

Luckily the bright orange powder coat gives the impression that the Timahawk is here to do good. No skulls, or barbed wire, or lightening bolts. Just good old American made EMS camouflage. Nothing to see here so move along.

With three sharp ends, the Timahawk ships in a completely encasing padded nylon case. A full-length zipper opens and closes the works, while three different sized pockets cover one entire face of the case. The opposite side contains an 11-inch MOLLE ladder with four included snap attachment strips of webbing. Two carry-strap attachment D-loops are sewn in at the top and bottom of the case separated by about 22 inches. Of course, a 1.5 inch shoulder strap is included.

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Survival Gear Review: Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10

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Celestron_Elements_Thermotorch_10_overall_viewMany folks these days are not interested in single-function devices whether a watch that just tells time, a phone that just makes calls, or a flashlight that just, well, flashes light. So enter Celestron, a company known for telescopes and innovation. Celestron is now exploring the market of creative tools that improve your chances of survival. Or at least make the situation more convenient and comfortable.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

The Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 is a newer offering that combines a 300 lumen rechargeable flashlight with a pair of 5000 milliamp-hour (totaling 10,000 mAh) USB outputs of external backup power for phones, tablets, and cameras, combined with an electric hand warmer that pumps out enough micro-BTUs to take the edge off cold fingers when it matters most.

A Pound of Light

This set of valuable features does come at a cost. Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 weighs in at 17 ounces (486 grams). That’s a handful, about the same as a fully loaded Glock 42. But given that there is a pair of USB outputs (a one amp and a two amp) this light is more than meets the eye.

Related: Bug Out Flashlight Wisdom

Celestron_Elements_Thermotorch_10_Charging_iPhone_USB_PortsThe input jack to charge up this beast requires a standard mini-USB port, not the ubiquitous micro-USB that powers almost all non-Apple cell phones and other portable electronic devices on earth. I’m not sure what’s behind the continued use of the mini-USB since I don’t see any real advantages over the micro-USB that is the global industry standard for cell phones, and properly known as the Common External Power Supply or Common EPS.

Remember This

The operation of the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10, or its smaller brother, the Thermotorch 5, is pretty simple but must be memorized. The single large button on the upper side toggles through the low-medium-high flashlight settings. If depressed and held for three seconds, the hand warming capabilities are initiated. Another three seconds of constant button-down and the feature is turned off. It does take minutes before you will notice much of a temperature change in the flashlight’s shaft, and five minutes later you will be enjoying this feature.

Celestron_Elements_Thermotorch_10_charging_iPhoneCelestron calculates that you can charge your iPhone four times, your iPad once, and GoPro or music player about seven times. The dual 10000mAh (combined) battery power can also be routed to 48 hours of 60 lumen light (low), 30 hours of 100 lumen light (medium), and eight hours of 300 lumen light (high). However, to the human eye, there is not a dramatic difference between 100 and 300 lumens, and between 100 and 60 lumens. So for most use, the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 will be used at it’s highest or lowest flashlight setting. As a big fan of Surefire’s decision of a five lumen minimum, I think that amount is a useful low end cutoff when you really do need low light or a wildly long runtime.

An added feature under the tailcap of the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 is a four-LED battery level indicator that shows how much juice is left, or how far along the recharging is progressing. The LED indicator is activated with a push of the flashlight button and they stay lit for about 10 seconds.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

The Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 can also give you up to 10 hours of hand warmer heat between 103-114 degrees F. Or, if doing a little cold weather nighttime E&E, you can get about six hours of 60 lumen light while the handwarmer is chugging away. The handwarmer feature is a welcome addition to cold night use with bare hands. But I found that if it’s cold enough to need a hand warmer, it’s cold enough to use gloves. However, the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 can warm up other things besides hands including batteries, electronics, and gloves and mittens. The Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 does not blast out heat but it does take the sting out of your cold hands. Right now it’s about 2 degrees above zero F outside, and I suspect that using the handwarmer might actually improve internal battery life, or at least maintain it at a higher output. Just a guess, but why not test it?

Pushing the Limits

Celestron_Elements_Thermotorch_10_voltmeterSetting the flashlight outside, I let it cool off to about 8 degrees F as measured by my infrared noncontact temperature sensor. I plugged in my USB tester that measures voltage. When cold, the USB voltmeter recorded about 4.90 volts. After 20 minutes of the handwarmer function turned on with the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 sitting in the almost-zero outdoors, it warmed itself up to about 60 degrees F. The USB voltage output was measured at a maximum of 5.02 volts. I learned three things. First, the handwarmer function will not work at the same time as the USB charging ports. Second, the ambient temperature plays a big role in how warm the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 can get. And third, the heavy aluminum Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 can get dangerously cold to the touch and requires either gloves or use of the hand warmer for any sustained bare hand holding. Smaller lights like the Surefire are also cold when left outside, but have a much lower overall density and thus smaller heat capacity allowing their smaller profile to warm up in the hand much faster. The Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 is like holding a billet of aluminium which in a defensive situation could be a good thing. In fact it is reminiscent of the 2-D Maglite flashlight/club/boat anchor.

Read Also: Milwaukee Work Lights

I don’t see backpacking with the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10. But not because of it’s weight or size. But because I like to travel in the wilds with a supply of batteries. Unless I also carried a solar panel charger with mini-USB cable and some sunny weather, I would get one use from the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10, although that is really three uses in one.

Where the Celestron Elements Thermotorch 10 does shine is car travel, off roading, and base camping. Having a rock-solid light/charger/hand warmer is a good thing if you don’t have to carry it far even though it does ship with a nice belt holster with velcro closure.  Considering the Celestron’s long-life light and external battery pack, this flashlight will always be on my shortlist of electronics when heading out on a domestic adventure or for camping near my truck.

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Wild Edibles & Poisonous Plants of the Poison Ivy Family

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poison_ivy_treesThe Poison Ivy plant family, Anacardiaceae, is well known to those who spend time outdoors. Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is one of the most notorious weeds of the wild, feared by campers and other outdoorsy folk because of the nasty rash it can produce with contact. While poison ivy is largely reviled, Anacardiaceae yields enormous benefits for humanity. The family, often known as the Cashew Family, also produces several well-known edibles like Cashews, Mangos, and Pistachios. Moreover, poison ivy itself has a number of medicinal uses.

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Anacardiaceae (Ending with -eae indicates a family name. The Cashew genus is Anacardium.) is more a tropical family and in the north we only really have the Sumacs (Rhus spp.) as edibles. Since the family produces potentially irritating oils, even in species producing edible portions, it is good to learn to recognize the various species in the Poison Ivy Family. In “5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know” I discussed some details regarding identification of plant families and general information regarding toxicity. Here, we will explore species of Anacardiaceae, starting with the two genera of my area – that of Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron, and that of the Sumacs, Rhus. (1)

On Botany & Plant Names

journal_binomial_nomenclatureSince this is the first article to expand on the above-mentioned blog regarding major families of poisonous plants, we should review basic taxonomy for field identification and discussion of plants. Species are named through binomial nomenclature, which consists of the genus name and the species name. Together, these two give each plant its formal name. Since species names, like names of people, are often used for different plants and the genus name represents a collective of species, only the two together identify a certain individual species. (Similar to the first and last name for people, except human names are often repeated while each species, in theory, has its own unique name formed by combining genus and species names.)

Related: 5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know

For instance, there is a Blue Sumac called Rhus glauca. “Rhus” refers to the genus for Sumac and “glauca” means blue. (“Glaucous” plants are those with a powdery or waxy bloom, often bluish in color.) The species name is applied to other genera. Festuca glauca is Blue Fescue and Echeveria glauca is Blue Hen-and-Chicks, for example. Picea glauca is White Spruce, but it is not uncommon to have scientific and common names include names of different colors, which can be confusing. To add to the confusion, Blue Spruce is Picea pungens. This is the case too with Birches. Black Birch is Betula lenta while River Birch is Betula nigra (since “nigra” means “black” you might assume the scientific name for River Birch would be applied to Black Birch). (To further the confusion even more, many colors in names don’t correspond to popular perspective, like in the case of Red Clover and Purple Loosestrife, which might both be considered pink.)

kiowaSmooth Sumac is Rhus glabra. The genus name is Rhus, which is capitalized. The species name is glabra, which means smooth. This is an example of the scientific name and a common name having the same meaning. Of course, common names are highly variable. Rhus glabra, for instance, which was known as an edible to many Native tribes, has many names in various languages. The Kiowa name refers to “smoking mixture” (similar, I assume, to the well-known name “Kinnickinnick” that is used for both a mixture of herbs for smoking and to name specific ingredients.), “Maw-kho-la”. “Chan-zi” (“Yellow Wood”) is used by Dakota, Omaha, and Ponca, while the Pawnee say “Nuppikt”, meaning “Sour Top”. (2) Because common names are so variable their use in literature is often followed by the scientific name, which is italicised.

A genus is a group of species. Rhus is a collective of species mostly known as Sumacs. Toxicodendron includes Poison Ivy and related species.   There has been significant discussion of Toxicodendron related to the differentiation of Poison Ivy species, including that Poison Oaks (usually Toxicodendron pubescens in the east and Toxicodendron diversilobum in the west) are variations rather than a distinct species. Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix (notice not Rhus)) is quite distinct.

Usually when species of a common genus are listed or written about the genus is abbreviated with an initial after the first mention. So, if we were to list the species of Toxicodendron in North America, rather than write out the genus name each time as in the previous paragraph we would list them as: Toxicodendron diversilobum, T. pubescens, T. radicans, T. rydbergii, T. succedaneum, T. vernicifluum, and T. vernix.

If several species of a genus are lumped together for discussion, “spp.” might be used for plural tense, as in Toxicodendron spp. If the species name is unknown in reference to one plant (singular tense), “sp.” is used.

Poison Ivy

poison_ivyAlthough Poison Ivy and its relatives have distinct medicinal uses, the genus should be regarded as poisonous and not consumed nor even contacted. Most people will react to Poison Ivy if they come in contact with the plant’s oils (which often is not the case by merely brushing up against the leaf). Some people lose sensitivity to the plant through desensitising protocols that use gradual contact. Some methods include eating the plant, though this is often strongly encouraged as a dangerous practice. Usually to desensitise the young buds and leaves are consumed. One man who attended a plant walk I was leading insisted that the trick was “white bread and mayonnaise sandwiches” per the Appalachia tradition he knew of through his uncle and others. It is also important to keep in mind that people who have never reacted to Poison Ivy can suddenly react with the typical red, itchy, and blistering rash. Such a change is often the result of a potent exposure.

Be careful cutting firewood that has Poison Ivy growing on it. Or even that had, as the toxic properties are quite persistent in dried plant material. It is also important to know that one can be poisoned through the smoke of burning Poison Ivy. Also take care when digging near Poison Ivy to avoid getting juice from the roots on your skin.

Treating Poison Ivy Rash

jewelweedBy far the most impressive Poison Ivy rash remedy in my experience is Jewelweed (Impatiens spp.), or Touch-me-not. It is best when fresh. The plant can be crushed and rubbed onto the affected parts. If timely, such use of the plant’s juice can stop a Poison Ivy reaction with one application. The Iroquois (who believed the rash was sure to occur if one jumped when they touched Poison Ivy) used Jewelweed. I have met countless people who depend on Jewelweed. As a child I got a pretty bad Poison Ivy rash pretty regularly. Fortunately, I learned to recognize the plant in order to avoid it and learned to apply Jewelweed if I did contact it or begin to experience the itching, redness, or blistering of the rash. Although I occasionally get a small skin reaction, it has been many years since I have experienced a severe Poison Ivy reaction.

There are many other remedies, though often not as seemingly miraculous as Jewelweed. Herbs like Plantain (Plantago spp.) and Yellow Dock (Rumex spp.) are used to sooth irritated Poison Ivy rashes. Astringents, which are indicated for redness and inflammation as well as watery discharges, are used for the rash. Such herbs include Oak (Quercus spp.), Pine (Pinus spp.), Raspberry and Blackberry leaves (Rubus spp.), and many others.

The Iroquois used White Pine (Pinus strobus), particularly the boiled knots, for Poison Ivy. They also used Black Locust leaves (Robinia pseudoacacia) and a formula with Cleavers (Galium aparine). The powerfully medicinal (and potentially toxic) Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was also applied by the Iroquois to Poison Ivy rash. (3)

Medicinal Uses of Poison Ivy

Although mostly regarded as a toxic plant, Poison Ivy does have medicinal uses. It is especially used to “ripen” skin disorders, such as for sores and rashes. Iroquois, Delaware, Meskwaki, Potawatomi, Kiowa, and Cherokee used Poison Ivy in this way. Interestingly, the Cherokee also used Poison Ivy internally used as an emetic (induces vomiting); and they used Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) to treat fevers, asthma, and other diseases.

Pacific Poison Oak (T. diversilobum) was used for eye problems by the Diegueno. Mendocino Natives used it for warts and ringworm, and the Yuki applied it to rattlesnake bites. (4)

Sumac-Ade

sumac_poison_ivy_usesIt seems that the best-known use of Sumac (Rhus) as a wild edible is to make Sumac-ade, which is so-called because its sour taste allows it to be used to make a beverage like lemonade. The berries of various species can be soaked in water and then squeezed and strained. A sweetener is then added to the liquid. I prefer maple syrup. People often worry about Poison Sumac, but it has white berries instead of the red berries of Rhus species. Poison Sumac was once classified in the genus, but is now in Toxicodendron. Plus, Poison Sumac typically grows in bogs not near species of “true” Sumacs.

Technically, the fruits of Sumacs are not berries, but drupes. Drupes are fruits with a hard inner seed surrounded by the fleshy fruit. In common language, such as in the previous paragraph, Sumacs fruits and others that are not technically berries are still referred to as berries. In many cases the flesh of drupes, or stone fruits, are quite edible, like Peaches and Plums. With Sumac, however, the flesh is rather insignificant compared to the seed and we generally squeeze the juice from them rather than eating the fruits. With Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) the hairs on the fruit are also quite flavorful. So, by soaking the fruit clusters in water (cold infusion) you can extract the flavor from the hairs and then crush for full flavor from the juice.

The hairs should be carefully removed from the beverage because they can be quite irritating to the back of the throat. This can be accomplished by straining well or by letting the hairs settle to the bottom of the vessel before carefully pouring the clarified liquid off. It can then be heated in order to mix in the sweetener. However, if it is heated with the plant material still in the liquid you will extract more of the astringent properties. Much of the medicinal use of Sumac is from these astringents, but it will be particularly drying because of the astringents and the sour flavor of the fruits will be tainted with the bitterness of the astringents.

If the fruit clusters are picked before they are ripe (although they may be quite red and appear ripe), they will be too astringent to make Sumac-ade. The taste is so water soluble that you can collect drops of red rain water with your finger from drupe clusters that is pleasantly sour. If collected too late the sourness will be faded and washed from the fruits. With a little practice, you will learn just when to harvest for Sumac-ade. And you will become familiar with the medicinally important astringency of Sumac. Astringents are used for rashes, diarrhea, and other damp, inflamed conditions requiring a cooling, drying remedy that restores tissue tone.

Additional Foods from Sumac and Bushcraft Uses

euell_gibbonsYoung shoots of Sumac species can be peeled to reveal a tender core that serves as a delicious raw or cooked vegetable. Though seasonal, this is an important vegetable. It can be eaten raw, which is not true of many wild edibles. Plus, it might be found in abundant populations in the wild. Like the fruits, the “shoots” can be astringent if not harvested at the right time. Learn to recognize the more tender edible portions. Euell Gibbons, in his classic book Stalking the Wild Asparagus discussed using Sumac-ade to make Elderberry (Sambucus) jelly. (5) The fruits are a well-known culinary spice in the Middle East. “Wildman” Steve Brill gives a recipe for a Sumac Hollandaise sauce (7).

Also Read: Survival Books for Your Bunker

Another important trait of Sumac is that the wood is relatively soft and has a low moisture content, which enables it to be burned green. Because of its size, it is often easy to cut firewood size pieces. Sumac also has a central pith, which allows branches to be hollowed out easily. The bark and wood can be used to make baskets.

A beekeeper friend of mine uses the hairy Staghorn Sumac fruits to smoke her bees to sedate them while working in the hives. In this way, like punk, the smoke can be used as an insect repellant. Stinkbush Sumac (Rhus trilobata) leaves can rubbed on the skin as an insect repellant, as done by the Hualapai.

A Range of Benefits from Anacardiaceae

It is clear that the survivalist has much to learn about Anacardiaceae, the Poison Ivy family. From knowing how to avoid Poison Ivy and its relatives that can cause a terribly itchy, blistering rash… to knowing that even with these poisons are obscure medicinal benefits. Maybe forgotten by the modern man, but there is a reason Native people knew the plants so well and how to use them.

The survivalist can enjoy many benefits by becoming familiar with Sumac species, from vegetables and beverages, many craft applications, fire-starting potential, to medicinal uses. These plants are within reach for the prepper, because of their size and their common occurrence.

Sources

Photos Courtesy of:

Normanack
Suzanne Schroeter
Vlad Podvorny

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The Unappreciated 10mm Auto

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glock_29_sf_10mm_bug_out_survival_hunting_gun_pistol_buffalo_boreThe 10mm auto is a fine cartridge that was created as a very real solution to a very real problem. Unfortunately the 10mm performed exactly as designed while predictable humans went and messed it all up. But before we start, if you are quite familiar with the 10mm auto and perhaps even happily own one, you likely live in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska or Texas. According to a contact at Smith & Wesson, the vast majority of 10s are sold in those states and thusly the vast majority of appreciation for the 10mm is found on those vast states. By the way, if you add up the entire populations of MT, WY, ID and AK, it is still less than one-sixth that of Texas.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Revolvers these days seem to jump from .22 to .357 without so much as changing shelves in the gun store. And then they go up from there to .41, .44 Mag, and onto the wrist-snapping .454, .460, .480, and a choice of .500s. While pistol cartridges, on the other hand, look like a bunch of inbreeds sharing the same clothes and bald heads. In fact it can be comical debating the differences between the .380 through the .40 like little kids acting tough in the sandbox. The .45 struts around like the big man on campus, but is actually just an old guy driving a sportscar. And then there is the 10mm looking like the giant blond Russian villain in a Bond movie. A huge side of beef that can throw a man across the room.

You’re The Man

glock_29_sf_10mm_bug_out_survival_hunting_gun_pistol_cooper_bookJeff Cooper was instrumental in the design of the 10mm and as a .45 fanatic, Cooper’s standards, while socially abrasive, were high, and the 10mm reflects that quest for handgun perfection (yes, that’s a not-so-subtle nod to Glock). The original 10mm produced over 600 pounds of energy by firing a 170 grain jacketed hollow point at 1300 feet per second. For reference, a Buffalo Bore +P+ 9mm can generate about 500 ft-lbs of energy with a 115 grain bullet at 1400 fps (if your gun can handle it), while regular 9mm loads often carry less than 300 ft-lbs of energy. But for further reference, stuff some Buffalo Bore 155 grain into your 10mm and you can easily get 774 ft-lbs of energy. Even the 220 grain hard-cast bullet bear loads I use in my 10mm scream along at 1200 feet per second and still exceed 700 ft-lbs of energy. And that’s out of a gun not much bigger than my subcompact Glock 26!

Related: The Katrina Pistol

To handle a real 10mm cartridge (not that watered down FBI stuff) a new gun was needed and the Bren Ten was born. Unfortunately health problems prevented the Bren Ten from reaching puberty, heck it didn’t even reach kindergarten before going bankrupt, but in it’s short life it did become a meme for Miami cops just like the 24-hour five-O’clock shadow. However, the genie of autopistol power was out of the bottle. On a side note, the actual Bren Ten used on the Miami Vice TV show shot .45 blanks and was heavily chromed to show up better in low light scenes.

The generally accepted demise of the 10mm’s popularity is from a recoil level that is certainly more than the 9mm that many LEOs were qualifying with. The FBI was all hot and heavy for the 10mm when it arrived on the scene, and it is easy to imagine why the serious government shooters would be excited about what the 10mm offered. But for the vast majority of special agents and desk jockeys who draw down on paper as rarely as possible, the 10mm felt like Dirty Harry’s hand cannon. And don’t get them started on follow-up shots.

There was also another issue at work to shove the FBI in the direction of the .40 S&W and that was flat-out pistol durability. The 10mm is a much hotter load and all that bang takes it’s toll on hardware. Machining and metallurgy at the time was about as good as the music from the 1980s. But there were some winners in that decade with Guns N Roses and Glock among them. Unfortunately Smith & Wesson was not one of them. Smith produced a pistol named the 1076 and nicknamed the “FBI Pistol” after the bureau placed an order for 10,000 of them. But it only took 2400 of the pistols to arrive before the FBI canceled the order and moved on.

Tap Twice, They’re Small

glock_29_sf_10mm_bug_out_survival_hunting_gun_pistol_compare_9mmThe initial attempts to dilute the 10mm cartridge into something you could drink all day long punched a hole in the auto-cartridge lineup. And the .40 S&W stepped in and saved the day. Or so we thought. Today the difference between a 9mm and a .40 is minor in the big picture, but the difference between a 10mm and everything less than a 10mm is significant. Not only does the 10mm punch much harder, but also carries that energy far down range. So much so that a real 10mm (not that wimpy FBI stuff in the white box) has more umph at 100 yards than a .45 has at the muzzle. Even more, if you walked into a bar, the 10mm would be drinking beer with the .357/.44 magnum crowd rather than with the parabellum and its friends sipping cocktails. In fact, the 10mm routinely beats the .357 in arm wrestling, and often ties with the .41 Mag.

Is That Real?

If you saw a foot-and-a-half long auto pistol with a bore big enough to plug with your finger sitting in the display case at the gun store, you’d probably think it was a fake handgun, or at least a one-off custom job. And it’s true that autopistol designs present very real limits on cartridge size and design, but that’s no reason to throw out a perfectly good caliber just because the Feds found it a little too snappy for their manicured hands.

Related: Project Squirrel Gun

The two things the 10mm has over the smaller rimless cartridges is a longer case and a bigger bullet. The larger case holds enough powder to launch 200 grains of lead over 1200 feet per second, and light rounds at over 2400 FPS! That’s rifle territory. So with the right driver behind the wheel, er I mean slide, the 10mm is a serious deer hunting round coming out the chute of an auto-pistol that some choose to carry inside their waistband.

For decades, the .357 was the minimum gun in black bear country and the .44 Mag at the bottom of the list for trespassing on grizzly land, especially in Alaska where everything really is bigger. So when you reduce bullets to numbers, the 10mm puts some outstanding points on the board. Delivering over 600 foot pounds of energy was Cooper’s goal for his super cartridge. You can always downshift the powder load or bullet weight for lesser tasks, but you cannot put more power where it won’t fit. History recorded that the 10mm was uncomfortable to shoot by the average G-men and G-women. So while the 10s were being emasculated leading to the so-called “FBI Load,” the .40 S&W jumped in bed with the Fibs. Before we knew it, the 10mm auto was a footnote and if it wasn’t for a rabid constituency of 10-lovers, it would have died. Luckily Colt Firearms was one of those 10-lovers and produced the Delta Elite in 1987. The Delta Elite was a 1911-esque design that surely pleased Jeff Cooper who probably appreciated the 1911 in .45 more than Browning himself.

Colt to the Rescue

glock_29_sf_10mm_bug_out_survival_hunting_gun_pistol_billboardThe Delta Elite is considered the first successful 10mm pistol but slow sales stopped production in 1996. Then at the 2008 SHOT Show, Colt announced the Delta Elite in 10mm would return. Overlapping the Colt timeline, Glock produced its first 10mm in 1990, a large frame named the Glock 20. But in a twist of fate, the Glock 22 (.40 S&W) was released first because the FBI flip-flop from 10mm to .40 S&W thus back-burnering the 20 for a few months. Six years later in 1996, the subcompact 10mm named the Glock 29 was released into the wild. And today there are two 29s (Gen4 and SF) along with a new long-slide MOS version named the G40. So in case you lost count, your local gun store could four distinct versions of Glocks in 10mm. And there are at least half-a-dozen other major manufactures producing 10mm pistols as well.

Ten is the New Ten

bear_countryToday, the cult-like following of the 10mm is being replaced by the mature appreciation of the cartridge that Colonel Cooper wanted. 10mm ammo is plentiful with bullets for self-defense, big game hunting, and even hard-cast bullets for the most dangerous animals in North America including grizzly and polar bears. It should be obvious that if your stable of survival-oriented handguns has increased beyond the traditions, them give serious consideration to the 10mm auto. In fact, think long and hard about the 10mm as a single solution for both defense and hunting when the World goes all ROL on you. And for the record, I think of Glocks like food storage; more is better and I don’t get rid of the old just because I got something newer.

Related: Glock 42 Review

Being essentially a .40 Magnum, the 10mm auto has changed from a choice between pain or power, into a fighting man’s cartridge that has the respectable knockdown energy and flat trajectory that lesser rounds can only dream of. So like the rattlesnake, yes it bites, but those new to the 10mm most likely just misunderstand it. And that is all about to change…again.

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Prepper Planning Tips for 2017

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new_year_prepThe coming of any new year starts out of the gate brimming with a plethora of opportunities to achieve many things.  This includes wrapping up goals, projects, and missions from the previous year and a new chance to sit down to lay out the priorities for the year ahead.  All of this should be approached with a fresh breath of air.  You know how it feels and smells just after a big storm has passed, especially a lightning storm that charges the air with fresh ozone.  You can smell it.  Take it in, breath deep, chin up and embrace the coming 12 months with a positive attitude to keep plugging away at your prepper initiatives.  

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

The virtual plague of the past eight years is ending.  Pro or con, this country has slipped into an international quagmire of disrespect and disregard.  We hope this status can be regained in short order. Domestically, the economy is beyond flat.  Regardless of what the administration peeps say, nearly 8 million Americans are out of work and countless more are underemployed.  All of this is seasoning for a SHTF recipe.

The New Political Climate

irs_logoFive generations of citizens have been on welfare now to the point that it is considered the entitlements of all entitlements.  This needs to end, too.  And the “government” still does not get it.  The IRS just rolled back the per diem expense allowance for vehicle business travel for 2017, ostensibly because they say fuel costs are down.  Today at home, unleaded gasoline is $2.19 a gallon.  Up over twenty cents in a month.  An executive order just cancelled more offshore drilling and the huge new oil field in Texas cannot be tapped even if we had the pipelines to transport it to refineries.  All this adds stress to an economic recovery.

Related: Prepper Guns on a Budget

Health care for the working class is in crisis.  My wife and child pay $1100 a month for basic care with a huge deductible.  It is only good for a catastrophic health incident or accident.  Doctor and hospital costs are totally out of control.  My GP’s office charges $65 for a flu shot, while a local pharmacy charges only $25.  Go figure.  And on and on it goes.  

Taking Care of No. 1

money_budget_gunsNot to be purely selfish, but this is the age of taking care of you and your family first, then help others as you can.  This includes the entire realm of personal attentions to health and welfare for you and family, then taking care of business in preparation against any potential threats that might develop this year and beyond. Once you have your own affairs relatively in order, then you can reach out if you choose or then direct your efforts or attention to other projects.  This is a tall order, so there is no better time to take it all on than right now.  Nothing happens all at once.  It’s like a huge marble statue that you chip away at day after day.  You may never see the final product, but you can take pride and honor in the constant effort toward the final goal.  

Review the Current Plan

This is assuming you have a plan or sort of directional guide in hand and that it is written down to pass around, invite comments, add to, take away, alter, shift, redirect, adapt, adopt, and then initiate.  If not, do this first, now.  Perhaps reconsider bugging in or out. For existing plans, review them now, item by item.  If you have achieved some of the steps, check them off and or add comments about parts that need to be rechecked, revised, or completed.  Try to add completion dates so that some achievement schedule can be established.  Otherwise, everything is just floating out there undone or half done.  

Things change all the time.  Adjust your plan according to changes that you anticipate or not.  For example, maybe you plan to acquire a new bug out property or perhaps an RV, camping trailer or other major purchase to give you options during a SHTF event.  Such changes can produce a number of new tasks to accomplish.  Plan accordingly.  

2017 To Do Tips

bug_out_essentials_stuffDefensive security should be reviewed and shored up if lax.  Add new supplies, weapons, ammo, accessories, and gear to fulfill your security needs.  Again, review what you have and then move forward.  Perhaps it is time to beef up your home security with heavier locks, window storm covers or other precautions. This first initiative includes inspection, maintenance, repairs, or replacements of weapons, gear, and equipment already in hand.  Add to this additional time for training, shooting practice, formal shooting course training, and then more practice for everyone.  This should include reactionary drills at the bug in or out location.  Have everybody comfortable to respond as necessary.  If needed, buy an extra firearm and add to ammo supplies.  

Unpack your bug out bags, inspect everything, recycle old out of date supplies and repack.  Inspect the bag, too for wear and tear, zipper function, clean it up.  Refresh the entire kit bag.  Same for other quick grab bags full of gear for a bug out.  Do the same for your EDC satchel, bag, or backpack.  Clean guns, oil knives, refresh batteries in everything, and get the everyday carry squared away again.  

Read Also: Survival Books for Your Bunker

Check out your entire bug in food stocks and supplies both at the bug in locale and the secondary bug out site, camper, trailer or whatever.  Recycle dated foods, snacks, staples like beans, rice, flour, sugar, etc.  Add new canned goods, and other foods you eat regularly. Restock or recycle water stores and add more as space allows.  

batteries_prepReplace batteries in everything you own including house smoke alarms, security system backups, communication radios, AM-FM-Weather radios, flashlights, electronic or regular illuminated gun scopes, rangefinders, bore lights, lanterns, cameras, hearing aids, and such.  Charge or replace vehicle batteries, ATV or SUV batteries.  Replace old batteries in storage with fresh ones.  

Revisit all medical supplies, personal medicines, aid devices, CPAP, and OTC med stocks.  Check first aid kits, refresh as needed.  Add new boxes of band aides, gauze, wraps, bandages, and other medical supplies.  Check stocks on antiseptic ointments, creams, Vaseline, lotions, and other supplies to support health care and injury recovery.  

Do an inventory on all other kinds of consumable supplies.  The list could include all types of paper products from paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates, a variety of tapes, glues, oils and lubricants, grease, chainsaw oil, and anything else other than cooking materials that you use up on a regular basis.  Inventory all types of parts for plumbing, HVAC, motor parts, etc.  

Refresh fuel supplies from regular gasolines, diesel, white gas for lanterns or camp stoves, bottled propane, and charcoal lighter if used.  Ditto on charcoal for outdoor cooking, newspaper supplies for charcoal chimneys, and stock up plenty of matches and butane lighters.  

Now is the time to take advantage of New Year sales, too.  Watch newspaper ad flyers, visit the big box outdoor stores, gun shops, and gun shows to stock up or shop for advantageous price points on gear and stuff you need or want to add.  

A bright horizon comes with 2017 but that is no reason to let our guards down.  Natural disasters cannot be controlled.  Terrorism is still viable and a threat.  Our borders remain open for now.  Crime is still rampant.  There is plenty to be considered about to remain vigilant.  

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Emergency Storage of Wild Plant Foods

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hickory_nuts_acorns_food_storageWild foods are largely known as survival foods for emergencies or as novel delicacies to spice up normal kitchen fare.  In either case long term storage is not a primary concern.  In the event of a long-term survival situation you would want to store surplus food away as soon as you were feeling well-fed enough to have it.  If you were faced with fending for yourself for unknown duration while far removed from electricity and the globalized food network, you would want plenty of time to enjoy the beauty and quiet of your surroundings.  I figure the luxury would come only after many daily chores and activities, and only alongside a nice storage cache of food.   How could this be accomplished without electricity?

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Today’s food is riddled with preservatives.  Such chemicals are so commonplace that the average person might think nothing of it.  Certain items, like bread that remains soft longer than natural, have become everyday foods.  If you have made bread at home or purchase it from a bakery you know that bread begins to get stale very quickly.  For countless generations making bread was a daily or weekly task.  Even storage of flour would have been relatively difficult – bugs, mold, and rancidity were all very real problems, as they still are today.  Grains, however, in their whole form (better yet, unhulled form) will store rather well.  Once cracked or ground, seeds are dead and won’t germinate.  In their whole form, seeds are “designed to last”.  Of course, many do have short shelf-lives.  Gardeners often know which veggie seeds can be saved for years and which should be all planted rather than saved for a later season.  Some seeds have been proven viable after thousands of years.

Related: Choosing the Best Survival Food for Your Bug Out Bag

The storable properties of seeds is a major reason grains and beans became primary staple foods around the globe.  Likewise, roots, which also have the capacity to store energy, have been primary storage foods around the world.  Many roots will sprout leaves even after sitting in a root cellar through a whole winter, or in the fridge for longer than you intended.  This is a clear indication that the root still has life.  Once the root has died, however, it will begin to rot.

apples_food_storage_rotMany plant parts do not store away energy in the manner of a seed or perennial root.  Perhaps this is most obvious in fruits. Fruits are, in a certain way of looking at them, designed to rot.  The fruit carries the seeds and “wants” to be eaten in order to assist seed dispersal.  Consider the various berries, for instance.  When birds eat the fruits the seeds pass through their digestive system and get deposited, with a nice bit of fertilizer, in a different location.  (It should be noted that the term “fruit” has different uses.  In some context “fruit” might refer to the seed itself.  Here we are talking about the fleshy fruits that surround seeds, such as what is commonly thought of as fruit when considering the food groups, including things like Apples and Cherries.)  The nature of fruit is such that at the peak of ripeness it has already begun to rot.  So, while certain hearty fruits, like Apples, are well-known storage foods, many fruits are difficult to keep around.  Of course, as will be discussed later in this article, there are many ways to prepare fruits for storage.

If we consider the vegetative (the green, leafy) portions of plants we can see that they also do not have the same storage properties as the roots and seeds.  The nature of the stems and leaves is to grow, not so much to store energy for later use.  We know that cuttings can take root, which indicates that the living aspect of the plant remains even in the part that is removed.  (Compare this to the animal organism.  If you lost your arm, it wouldn’t so easily grow another person.)  But it doesn’t take long before the leaf or stem cannot survive after it has been removed.  The leaf quickly perishes.  With drying we can save much of the nutritive properties of vegetative plant parts.

Methods of Storing Wild Foods

There are few basic methods of storing wild foods.  As with most things, there are pros and cons of each storage method.

Root Cellar Storage – If lost in the wild, you may not have a root cellar per se – here we refer to the simple storage of whole roots and similar plant parts in some form of insulated chamber.  Just as a proper root cellar puts the plants below the ground for insulation, you might do the same with a hole or natural structure like a rock ledge.  The idea here is to get the food away from the freezing temperatures that could destroy them.  The same idea applies to high temperature in which the insulation prevents spoilage by keeping the food cooler than the outside air.  

Drying – This is one of the oldest food storage methods.  It can be easy with electricity.  Without modern electricity, drying foods well poses many potential problems.

Pickling – Though another ancient and relatively simple preservation method, pickling does pose distinct problems in a survival situation.  The challenges mostly related to having the appropriate materials like vessels and plenty of salt or vinegar.  

Pemmican – This preparation is a mixture of protein, fat, and fruit.  The ingredients are preserved through drying and preservation is assisted by the fat content.  

Submersion in Water – This method came to mind mostly in relation to acorns, which are submersed in order to leach the tannins and render edible.  It is a traditional method of storage to leave them underwater, besides that it is a method of leaching.  It might be worth considering such a method for other foods as well.  

Root “Cellar” Storage / The Cache

squirrel_food_eatingStoring foods in a root cellar or similar structure is one of the oldest and most time-proven methods.  Even animals like squirrels store foods in a cache.  Just recently I turned over a sort of compost pile that was composed of weeds and cuttings from the yard and garden and included a large number of sticks and twigs.  The thicker, woody branches provided a certain structure to the heap that the local red squirrels (not knowing my intentions to flip the pile) thought perfect for storing the Black Walnuts in, which were growing nearby.  The entire heap was full of Black Walnuts.

Caches of nuts and acorns that were stowed away by wildlife could be important survival foods.  One method of storage is to simply let the animals do their thing and make a note of where they have done so.  I suppose a main problem with such a method is that you might not be able to predict when the squirrels will return to their cache and remove the nuts.

It is possible to imitate the squirrels and store your own harvest of Hickory nuts, Black Walnuts, or acorns by mounding them up with leaves and other forest debris.  However, you might then find that your cache has been raided by some critter when you go to uncover it.  This could be very disappointing.

Native Americans regularly stored food by burying it in the ground.  I imagine this was often the only method available because of the nature of the camp and travelling needs.  As is often depicted in tales and stories of the semi-nomadic days of the Native, such caches would spoil relatively easily.  Mold would have been a common problem.

Much of the benefit of the root cellar is related to the ground remaining around 55 degrees at a certain depth.  That constant is generally not attained with the depth of a root cellar, but any depth provides more consistency than the outside air.  For this reason foods can also be kept cooler in the summer with this kind of storage just as they are kept from getting too cold in winter.

In the wild there are far too many variables for us to exhaust here.  Depth and insulation requirements depend on the conditions, timeline, and more.  The main point is that through burying or covering material various storage requirements can be attained.  One can consider natural rock forms and other natural formations that might lend themselves to cold storage.  Rocks and logs can be used to build up sides.  There are many possibilities.  The principle is that the earth is the insulation, potentially with the help of rocks and wood.

The cardinal directions apply (one should always have a good compass and pay attention to the movement of the sun and moon in relation to north, east, south, and west).  A north-facing slope, which receives less sun, will generally be cooler than the south-facing slope.  Water also affects the temperature changes of the area.  Such things are all taken into consideration of site and design.

One method of winter storage is to bury things in layers so that an assortment of foods are available each time you dig up a layer.  Leaves or straw can be used to keep your goods from direct contact with the earth and to provide insulation and marking for each layer.  Roots, certain fruits, and other storage foods can do surprisingly well if put away properly with consideration of temperature and humidity.

Drying

russula_food_storageDrying is one of the oldest methods of food preservation.  I have even seen squirrels drying mushrooms for storage (Russula spp.)  It is quite natural.  However, it can also be difficult.  Without proper airflow, temperature, and humidity, drying can be quite difficult.  In many cases drying of certain mushrooms, perhaps aging as well, could help remove mild toxins and help transform something usually avoided to an edible.

Air drying is easiest in dry climates and seasons.  Sufficient airflow is often an issue.  With increased humidity is an increased need for airflow.  If electricity is available, a simple fan can help.  Exposure to sun can help.  Certainly it is good to avoid areas so cut off from the sun that they remain constantly moist.  Too much sunlight, however, could be damaging and foods should be removed from exposure when they are dry enough.

A great way to utilize the sun is to construct a solar dehydrator.  There are many possible ways to do so, though I like the idea of the heat-trap channelling to a container with shelves and vents.  A simple design is like that of a small children’s slide.  The heat-trap is like a slide painted black with glass or plexiglass covering it.  As it heats up in the sun, the hot air is allowed to rise into the area with racks of plant material.  Vents can be adjusted to regulate the temperature.

Another method that might prove useful in a survival situation is to use fire to assist in drying.  Perhaps nice flat rocks used for the fire-ring can act as drying plates as they heat up by the fire.  Another possibility is to construct racks near a fire.

Of course, today many people simply use an electric dehydrator.  They come in several varieties.  They work quite well and can be used for preparing many different foods for storage.

Pickling

pickles_food_storagePickling requires salt or vinegar.  Some methods also require pressure.  Pressure is obtained through the old-fashioned plate and rock method, which is just that – a plate and a rock placed on top of the contents of the crock to provide weight, or by the mechanics of a pickle press. A major nutritional consideration of pickles and other fermented food is probiotics.  Probiotics help with digestion in general, which is particularly a concern during nutritional imbalances that might occur in a survival situation.  Probiotics also help recovery from certain illnesses, especially diarrhea and other imbalances that can affect the gut flora.

Pemmican

Pemmican is a method of storing protein, fat, and berries.  Animal meat and fat, such as from buffalo or deer, is mashed up with berries.  The items are dried to some degree before being ground together.  Then patties are formed and allowed to dry appropriately for storage.  Pemmican is considered to be an ideal survival food and was a staple food of North American Natives of cold areas.

Submersion in Water

acorns_food_storageOne time I held an acorn-shelling party.  Well, I like to call it a party, but more of a gathering set on shelling significant quantities of acorns.  In spite of protests from friends who had helped with the tedious task, I wanted to test out the primitive method of leaching the astringent tannins out of the acorns by leaving them in a stream.  My comrades we sure something would go wrong, and they were right.  Because of the time that it takes for the tannins to leach out of the acorns I had left them in the stream for quite a while.  Then, the stream froze and this enabled the squirrels to use the ice bridge as a trail to my stash of acorns.

Read Also: Emergency Foods From Wild Plants

Another traditional method was to dig the acorns into the mud below a body of water.  I have never tried it.  It would certainly help to avoid the problem I just described, and would avoid leaving them somewhere to get frozen in the ice. Though I have mostly regarded submersion as a method for acorns, I wonder about other potential.

An additional form of submersion is to submerse food in the snow or ice.  This has been practiced by arctic people and through winters since ancient times.  I imagine the drawbacks are similar to leaving acorns in the stream.  Though I wonder who might come around to find meat submersed in wintery insulation.  Freezing damages root crops and you would not want to subject your stored seed to that much above-ground moisture.

Preparation

Maybe this is all seeming a little nuts.  I did, after all, mention squirrels at least twice.  (Strange how similar we could be to the little critters.)  It has become my work, as an herbalist and educator, to learn the traditional practices of foraging for wild foods and I have spend a lot of time off the grid wondering how these things might be done, if food and electricity were suddenly unavailable.  In my opinion this knowledge should be kept alive as a matter of general responsibility.

While some of the above discussion relates directly to being separated from the civilized world, much of it can be adapted to the common kitchen.  Drying and pickling can take place right on the counter, and it should not be difficult to create a root cellar in even the modern kitchen or just outside one’s home.  Learning these things can reduce your reliance on electricity while increasing your food storage space at home.

 

5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know

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dogbane_2The subject of poisonous plants is complex.  Conditioned by the grocery store, modern man often considers it a black and white subject, with things being either edible or poisonous.  Realistically, toxicity in plants is much more like a spectrum.  Some things are very toxic and some very safe, while most are along a spectrum of the in-between.  The subject is further complicated by variables such as dose and preparation.  Hence, the saying “the dose makes the poison”, as even water proves fatal in excess. (See “Water Intoxication”.)

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Often people ask, “Why are there poisonous plants?” or “Why would God create poisons?”.  While this could prove another very complex discussion, it’s sufficient here to point out that even the most poisonous plants have medicinal uses.  In fact, it is precisely the poisonous plants that have provided the most powerful and dramatic medicines- they are poisonous or medicinal because their chemical constituents are so strong.  So, everything has its place.  The survivalist should get to know the most toxic plant families to avoid accidental poisoning and to become familiar with the myriad uses of such plants.

There are certain generalizations that the botanist can make regarding the identification of plant families.  Likewise, there are generalizations that the forager and herbalist can make about the edible, medicinal, and toxic properties of plant families.  This is very useful for plant identification and use of plants for food and medicine.  However, while generalizing is useful for learning – it is not the full story and one must also learn the details.  The Carrot Family (Apiaceae), for instance, is one of the most poisonous plant families that also gives us Carrots, Parsley, and other well-known edibles.  The forager should know that the family in general is quite toxic.  But they must also learn which species are good edibles, which have medicinal properties that are also somewhat toxic, and which are fatally poisonous.  Learn the ends of the spectrum first- the most edible and the most poisonous.

One could argue that the safest method to learning about wild edibles is to learn the most deadly poisons first.  Then, one would know what to avoid to avoid death.  All other mistakes would be mild in comparison.  This is good theory, but in reality it is much more common and natural to learn a little bit here-and-there about edibles, medicinals, and poisons.  Still, the point has been made.

Because of the “spectrum of edibility” an exhaustive article on plant poisons would be very long.  For this post we will focus on five plant families of common occurrence and some of the most deadly plants.  This will be a good starting place for the subject.  The five families covered are the Poison Ivy Family (Anacardiaceae), the Carrot Family (Apiaceae), the Milkweed Family (Apocynaceae), the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae), and the Nightshade Family (Solanaceae).

Anacardiaceae – The Poison Ivy Family

poison_ivyAnacardiaceae is also known as the Cashew Family.  Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a complex species group that may or may not include what is otherwise known as Poison Oak.  They deserve mention here not only due to “poison” in their name but because these plants are among the most trouble to people spending time outdoors, some people anyway.  A decent percentage of people can react to the Poison Ivy oils and experience a troublesome, blistering rash.  Some people do not react, but must still maintain some respect for the plants as sensitivity can develop at any age.  People also lose sensitivity spontaneously or through desensitising protocols.  The best remedy for the Poison Ivy rash is fresh Jewelweed (Impatiens spp. or Touch-Me-Not).  The juicy plants can be crushed and rubbed on the exposed area.  You should learn Poison Ivy and its relatives as well as Jewelweed.

Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is another in the genus.  Sometimes when people get a bad Toxicodendron rash they will say it is Poison Sumac because of how bad the rash is.  However, because Poison Sumac grows in swamps and bogs it is much more rare to come in contact with.

Mangos (Mangifera indica) and Cashews (Anacardium occidentale) belong to Anacardiaceae, as do our Sumacs (Rhus spp.).  It is believed that eating these foods can help against Poison Ivy reactiveness.  People sometimes worry about consuming Sumacs because of Poison Sumac.  But Poison Sumac belongs to Toxicodendron and Staghorn Sumac and its close relatives belong to Rhus.  They are different plants.  Rhus species provide several edible and medicinal parts.

Apiaceae – The Carrot Family

Apiaceae is also known as the Poison Hemlock Family, the Parsley Family, and by its old name, the Umbel Family or Umbelliferae.  This latter designation has persisted since Apiaceae became official largely because it describes the flower type, the umble, which is characteristic.  To describe it here is slightly too technical (will save it for an article focused on this family alone), but perhaps you already know it.  Carrots (Daucus carrota), Angelica (Angelica spp.), Parsnips (Pastinica sativa), Dill (Anethum graveolens), Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), and Water Hemlock (Cicuta spp.) all have umble (umbrella-shaped) flowerheads.  Yarrow (Achellea millefollium of the Aster Family) and Elderberry (Sambucus spp. of the Elder Family, Adoxaceae) look at first to have umbels, but when inspected closely the stalks supporting the flowering parts arise in a branching pattern from the main stem while true umbles branch from a single node of the main stem.  That is, umbels come from one point.  

david_-_the_death_of_socratesPoison Hemlock, Water Hemlock, and the related species are very deadly.  Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii) has been considered the most poisonous plant in North America.  Poison Hemlock is infamous as the plant that killed Socrates, as it was used in ancient times as a euthanizing agent.  Umbel flower-heads should be a warning.  Eat and use such plants carefully to avoid confusing a desired species with a fatally poisonous one.  Even those that are edible can produce toxic parts.  For instance, Parsnip has been cultivated for generations as a delicious vegetable, but the above-ground portions of Wild Parsnip are well known to produce rashes in some people.

Like Parsnip, Wild Carrot is the wild version of the domestic vegetable (same species).  It is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables around the world.  Some people cook with the greens as well.  However, it is not considered safe to freely eat the greens or seeds in that there are some toxic properties.

Apocynaceae – the Milkweed Family

dogbaneApocynaceae is also known as the Dogbane Family, especially since Milkweed was formerly classified in Asclepiadaceae (the families have been merged).  I call it the Milkweed family because Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) is a much more commonly known plant and because I often teach about the edible properties of it.  Dogbane (Apocynum spp.) is commonly known as the poisonous relative of Milkweed.  Besides the toxic properties of Dogbane, the survivalist should get to know the plant as an important source of fiber for cordage.  A common species A. cannabinum is sometimes known as Indian Hemp (which is referenced in the species name that refers to Cannabis) because it was a primary fiber plant.  

Ranunculaceae – the Buttercup Family

marsh_marigold_buttercup_familyIn spite of being named after a food, Buttercups (Ranunculus spp. ) are generally toxic.  One species, Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustrus) is a well-known edible (must be cooked properly), but the family should be treated with caution.  It would be another whole article (or should I say will be another blog) to discuss the range of toxic plants of the Buttercup Family, from the Common Buttercup (Ranunculus spp.) to the “most deadly plant” in the world – Aconite (Aconitum spp. ).  If you live in an area where Aconite or poisonous relatives like Larkspur (Delphinium spp.) grow, you should learn these plants.  Aconite is also known as Monkshood and Wolf’s Bane.  

Another member of the family is known as Baneberry (Actaea spp.)  In my area we have Red Baneberry (A. rubra) and White Baneberry, or Doll’s Eyes, (A. pachypoda).  It has created some confusion since Black Cohosh, formerly Cimicifuga, was included in the genus, and some concern since the common medicinal is not as toxic as the Baneberries.  

Ranunculaceae is also known as the Crowfoot Family.  Members of the family are quite common, especially in wet areas.  Often, they go unnoticed when not in flower.  It is worth learning the leaves, by which they get the name Crowfoot.  Even Ranunculus species can blister your mouth if chewed on.  There are also important medicinals in Ranunculaceae, like the famous antibiotic herb Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).

Solanaceae – the Nightshade Family

This is one of the most famous and controversial plant families.  While there are still many more families to discuss (such as the Lily Family, Liliaceae) in our exploration of poisonous plant groups, it is fitting to close with such an interesting group.

Solanaceae produces deadly poisons (hence the name “Deadly Nightshades”), hallucinogens (like Jimson Weed and Belladonna), food crops (like Potatoes and Tomatoes), and other exceptionally interesting plants (such as Tobacco).

daturaJimson Weed (Datura spp.), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), and other similar plants are very toxic.  They have been associated with Witchcraft, crime, and other dark and deadly affairs.  They are also important medicinals.  Before asthma inhalers these plants were often used in the same fashion, though inhaled as smoke.  Still today, we get crucial medications from these plants like atropine and scopolamine.

Although widely associate with Italian food, Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) first came from South America.  It is widely believed that they were first cultivated as an exotic ornamental and thought to be poisonous before they became a staple cooking ingredient and primary garden “vegetable” (it is the fruit, technically, that we eat from the Tomato).  Wood Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara, also known as Bittersweet) helps to show why Tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous, as it has small, poisonous, red fruits that look very much like Tomatoes.  Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) is still believed by many to be deadly poisonous, though it was once promoted as “Wonderberry” in seed catalogues.  Common knowledge of the plant has been growing due to the popularity of Samual Thayers’ Nature’s Garden in which he discusses Black Nightshade and similar writings.  But still, edibility is not always clear and many diets (such as macrobiotics and anti-arthritis diets) recommending the near complete avoidance of Nightshades.     

Knowledge is Power

So, understanding poisonous plants will take some time and study.  The investment comes with the reward of knowledge that could save a life through prevention.  So start small, with the study of plant families and the identifying characteristics of the most poisonous species.

Maybe you noticed the word “Bane” in the names of plants in these families.  That is an indication of poison.  Apocynaceae has Dogbane.  Runuculaceae has Baneberry, Bugbane, and Wolf’s Bane.  Asteraceae (the Aster Family) has Fleabane (Erigeron spp.) and the list goes on.  Throughout the lore of plants, include in their names, has been woven the knowledge of toxicity.  Such is its importance.    

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Prepper Guns on a Budget

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money_budget_gunsIf you were charged with putting together a basic 3-gun set of weapons for prepping and survival use, how much money would you need to spend to get the job done.  If you are new to this game, then this may be a perplexing question.  It is one I highly recommend for some judicious research, reading, inquiry and shopping. After all, in a tight situation, your life may depend on the answer. There are a multitude of choices. Think of this guide as a baseline for your budget picks.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Let’s suppose we gave you $1000.  Could you assemble a weapon’s set including a basic handgun, a rifle, and a shotgun with that amount?  We’re talking good, serviceable guns, too, not rusted junk either.  Let’s explore the options.

A Presumptive Assumption

shotgun_prep_budgetBefore we wrestle with the suggestion of a mere three gun weapons set, know we are simply laying out the most basic defensive weapons deployment for personal and property security, hunting, and other prepper uses.  We know full well that most preppers will have many more options, but we have to start somewhere, then build on it.  For the purposes of these recommendations, we are limiting our selection to one handgun, one rifle, and one shotgun.  The idea is to suggest that such a cache could be acquired for at least $1000, possibly less.   And we are not necessarily talking used guns either, but that option should be left open.  There is nothing wrong with used guns in great condition.  

Our choices may not be your choices, as there are many, many options in today’s gun market.  Enough so as to be rather confusing to those just getting into prepping and deciding that some form of personal protection in the manner of firearms may be needed.  To that end, our suggestions are focused to fit these restrictive budgetary limitations.  

The Basic Prepper Handgun

For practical purposes here, we are not going to engage in a full or detailed dissertation on all the potential choices as to handgun type, brand, model or caliber.  Thus we are not going to mince words either.  

Read Also: The Katrina Pistol

handgun_bug_outThe recommended choice for a first prepper handgun or rather pistol to be used primarily for self-defense is a semi-automatic pistol chambered for the highly common and widely available 9mm.  Sure there are other choices, but this is a solid middle of the road choice between the .380 ACP and a .45 ACP.  Sorry, but the .22 rimfire is not on the list for defensive purposes.  

Why a pistol and not a revolver?  For a one gun choice, the capacity to quickly change out loaded magazines is paramount.  Indeed, revolvers may be easier to learn to handle and shoot, but they are too slow to reload under most conditions.  A pistol is a better choice when used correctly.  

With very careful shopping, a consumer can find a 9mm pistol in the $300-400 range, $500 tops.  Among the list to inspect would be the SCCY (pronounced sky), Beretta Nano, Glock 43 (used), Hi-Point, Kel-Tec, Ruger LC9 (used), Ruger P-Series, Smith and Wesson (used), Stoeger, Taurus and perhaps some others.  There is no evaluation of these models here, just cost considerations.  

As with all gun purchases, a trustworthy gun dealer can steer you to a quality gun either new or used to suit your purposes.  Just do your research, inquire of other shooters, and go into any gun deal with eyes and ears wide open.  

The Survivalist Rifle

ar_15_budget_rifleNow it gets a bit tougher.  It would be easy to simply suggest getting an AR-15 platform rifle in 5.56/223 or even perhaps the .300 Blackout or 6.8 SPC for a bit more power.  You make that choice, but know the AR-15 would be a good choice.  For some, a bolt action rifle would be good, too.  An AR could be used with basic open sights, but likely a bolt action will need a scope for an extra cost.  Optics could be added later of course.  Either can be used for hunting.

Right now AR prices have moderated especially since the election and the 2nd Amendment scare is over for now, we hope. Dealers overstocked thinking Hillary would win.  Now they are trying to sell off their inventories.  Right now is a good time to buy an AR.

Working gun shows regularly, I have seen new, in the box ARs selling for slightly under $500, $600 tops depending on the exact model.  Check out these brands: DPMS or Bushmaster.  They offer utility bare bones models.  Used ARs can be found, but inspect them thoroughly before buying or get a return guarantee if possible.  Avoid buying somebody else’s trouble.  

As with the pistol, the AR rifle offers quick change magazines that can be pre-loaded and ready.  Under dire circumstances sustained fire can be critical.  The AR accessory aftermarket is loaded with options.  For a basic first prepper rifle, the AR is hard to beat.  

The Elementary Smoothbore

shotgun_stock_ammoBuying a decent shotgun is probably the easiest of the triple threat.  Recommendations are easier, too.  Buy a pump action shotgun, either a classic Remington 870, a Mossberg 500 or Savage in 12 gauge.  Get serious and forget the 20 gauge.  Stick with a basic hardwood stock, but synthetic is OK if the price point is right.  An ideal defense shotgun would have a barrel of 26-inches or less.  The 20-inch tactical barrel is easier to handle indoors and around barriers.  Make sure the barrel accepts screw in choke tubes so the shotgun can be used for multiple purposes such as hunting.

Related: Survival Shotgun Selection

Good, serviceable used pump shotguns can be found for less than $200.  New ones can be found for $269-329 with some companies offering rebates as well.  I just saw an H&R Partner Protection model at Academy for $179, new.  There may be additional sales after the New Year begins.

If you work hard, shop smart, and have some luck, this 3-gun set can be bought for $1000 or close to it.  Next as appropriations become available start stocking ammo.  How much?  At least 1000 rounds each of pistol and rifle ammo and 500 shotshell rounds.  Again, these are starting places.  

Undoubtedly, these recommendations will spark debate, criticism, and opinions.  We welcome that.  The ultimate goal here is to outfit new preppers with the basic gear they need to survive a host of SHTF scenarios.  

Medicinal Uses of Pine Trees and Their Relatives in the Northeast

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nature-tree-green-pine

forest-trees-fog-foggyEvergreens are also known as conifers.  They make up the bulk of a group of plants called gymnosperms.  In my home area we have one conifer that is not evergreen: Larch or Tamarack (Larix).  You can also find the deciduous Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) under cultivation.  The broadleaf gymnosperm Ginkgo biloba is often planted, but this article will stick to the conifers (Pinophyta).  “Gymnosperm” means “naked-seed,” which means that the female part is exposed so that it can be directly pollinated by the male pollen that blows to it on the wind.  The angiosperms that are responsible for all the beautiful flowers like Tulips and Roses have female parts that are enclosed and must be reached by the male pollen through the complexity of the flower.

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Recognizing a gymnosperm is relatively easy.  Look for the “Pine Trees” (or, more properly, the conifers).  But take note that while many refer to any conifer, or evergreen, as a Pine Tree there are really three botanical families represented in our area: the Pine, Cypress, and Yew families.  So, “Pine” means “Pinus” and “Pine family” means “Pinaceae.”  As this is my first SurvivalCache article on the subject, I am focusing on the area I know best- the Northeast (particularly that which is centralized in the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania tri-state area, or the Delaware River valley) to discuss some species and introduce some basic botany and survival considerations.  For future posts I will discuss other regions of the country.

pine_varietiesThe Pine family contains several genera.  Pinus (Pine), Picea (Spruce), Abies (Fir), Tsuga (Hemlock), and Larix (Larch) are found in our area.  Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir) and some others (including non-indigenous Pine) can be found in cultivation.  I regularly use White Pine, which is partially due to it being more common in my area than the other Pines.  I also commonly make use of Hemlock, which is a primary tree of certain forests and the host of one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms, Ganoderma tsugae (Reishi).  This is a very useful plant family for the survivalist to get to know.

The Cypress family has Taxodium (Bald Cypress), Thuja (Arbor-vitae), Chamaecyparis (Atlantic White-cedar), and Juniperus (Juniper and Red Cedar).  There are many medicinal uses of species in Cupressaseae, but it should be regarded as less edible in general than the Pine family.  Thuja essential oil, for instance, is considered quite toxic.

Read Also: Natural Headache Remedies

The Yew family is mostly found in landscapes as our native Taxus (Yew) is over-browsed by deer.  English and Japanese domestic varieties are quite common under cultivation and sometimes naturalize (spread into the wild from cultivation).  Yews are toxic.  So, to avoid poisoning, the beginner should quickly learn the difference between Yews and the others, especially the Hemlock and Fir that superficially resemble Taxus because of the leaf (needle) arrangement.  The red “berry” of Taxus is edible, but not the seed (which is actually visible, indicating it is a gymnosperm, in the cup-shaped “berry”).  It is very common for poisonous plants to concentrate toxins in the seeds while producing an innocuous fruit.

The Pines and Yews have needles while the Cypress family has scale-like leaves.  (One exception to this generalization is Bald Cypress, which has needle-like leaves that alternate on deciduous terminal twigs.)  They are all needle-like in a way, but you will notice the scale quality in the Cypress family, such as with Juniperus or Thuja.  If you then learn to recognize the Yew needles (which are rare in the wild anyway), the remainder varieties of needles can be known as belonging to members of the Pine family.  

Pinaceae – Pine Family

pitch_pine_conePinaceae is the representative family of the gymnosperms, as the group consists of the most quintessential evergreen trees.  They tend to be pitchy (they have thick, sticky, aromatic sap), with a piney or citrus-like scent.  Their leaves are needles.  And they have the most quintessential cones (often called “pine cones” no matter what genus they occur on, even if the genus is of another family), compared to the berry-like cones of Juniperus and Taxus (Yew), for instance.  The cones have spirally arranged scales and the seeds have wings.

One of the easiest ways to get to know this family of trees is to get to know the individual genera: Pinus, Tsuga, Picea, Larix, and Abies of our area.  Cedrus and Pseudotsuga are native to other parts of the country.  Cathaya, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, and Nothotsuga are native to China.                      

scotch_pinePinus sylvestris (Scotch Pine or Scot’s Pine) is the most widely distributed Pine.  It was brought here from Europe and can normally be found along driveways and cultivated lands.  It can be easily distinguished from the other common species by its orange-shaded upper bark and the light blue-green of its needles.  It has been used extensively in traditional European medicine and has also been used for pharmaceutical preparations.

The Ojibwa used Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) to to revive consciousness.  Arthritis, muscle pains, sores, wounds, and pains associated with colds and febrile illnesses have all been treated with various Pinaceae species.  Our most common native species, White Pine (Pinus strobus) and Pitch Pine (P. rigida) have been used extensively as wild food and medicine.  Pines were a primary dietary supplement for winter as a source of vitamin C and to treat coughs, colds, and fevers.

tsuga_canadensis_adelgesHemlock (Tsuga canadensis) has horizontally arranged needles with white stripes (giving a pale appearance on the underside) that are dark green above and have been important for survival in the Northeast similar to Pinus.  Hemlock is a common tree of stream gorges.  It hosts a species of Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) and is being attacked by a devastating insect, the Wooly Adelgid.  The cones are quite small and persist so that they are often found dried but still on the tree.  The genus name is from Japanese.  The common name is shared with Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), which causes a deal of confusion in some circumstances.  Poison Hemlock, being in the Carrot Family (Apiaceae) is not very closely related at all.

Balsam Fir (Abies ballsamea) is used for coughs, colds, cuts, and sores.  Its taste and aroma is quite pleasant.  I would use Fir species much more commonly, except they are not abundant locally.  Those in the Western states might readily fine useful and interesting Abies species nearby.  

Tamarack (Larix laricina) is used for stomach, colds, coughs, fatigue, sores, soreness, and infections; and as a tonic for general health, laxative, and diuretic.  Chippewa used infusion of bark for anemic conditions and poultice of inner bark for burns.

The various species of Spruce (Picea) have been used like others from the Pine Family for colds and other general uses.  The pitch in particular is favored as fire-starting material and for topical medicinal application, such as in the case of boils, infections, and cuts.

Cupressaceae  – Cypress Family

red_cedar_saplingRed Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) This is by far the most common representative of this family and genus in our area.  Common Juniper (J. communis) can also be found, but is not so common (despite its name) due to habitat loss and deer browse and is easily differentiated from Red Cedar in that it is a low-growing, spreading shrub.  Red Cedar is much more tree-like, though it can’t compete in our peak forests.  Sometimes you will find significant numbers dying in the shade of taller trees.  Healthy stands are found in old fields and similar locations.  They have dark blue berry-like cones.  

A Red Cedar sapling that died after getting shaded out by taller-growing trees.  The small, dead twigs are easy to remove to turn the tree  into a staff , handle, or utility pole.

TAXACEAE  –  Yew Family

yew_cross_sectionTaxaceae includes only three genera worldwide, only one of which, Taxus, which occurs in this country.  Of the nine (estimated) species of Taxus in the world, three can be found wild in the region- one of which is native: T. canadensis.  It is the only species found wild in the immediate area, but is suffering from deer overbrowse.  The most common place to find Yew is in hedgerows where it is commonly planted.  A friend cut down a hedge in Hawley, PA.  A slice of one trunk that I have here on the table has 47 growth rings and is only four finger-widths thick (see image below).  Particularly in the Northwest, Yew is a favorite wood for bows.  

Related: 10 Tips for When You Get Lost in the Woods

It is easy to recognize Yew by the bright red berries (arils), which (as it is a gymnosperm) are open on the end, exposing the seed.  The flesh of the fruit is the only edible part of the plant, but the seeds are highly toxic.  T. canadensis and Pacific Yew (T. brevifolia) are used to make a pharmaceutical drug Taxol that is used to treat cancer.  Natives used Yew to treat numbness in the fingers.  Yew species can be recognized by their lack of aromatic properties that are present in Pinaceae and Cupressaceae.

Bibliography 

The Plants of Pennsylvania by Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy A. Block

Iroquois Medical Botany  by James W. Herrick

Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada  by Henry A. Gleason & Arthur Cronquist

Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman

 

Natural Headache Remedies

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headache_human_normal_remediesHeadaches are a part of being human. Some people get them regularly, and others get headaches only rarely. Severity varies from person to person, as does the cause of the headache. Even when only mildly annoying, a headache can affect your ability to function fully and alertly.  If you’re in a situation where Tylenol, aspirin, or prescription pain medication isn’t an option, nor is doing nothing because you have to be focused on taking care of yourself and others, you need to know how to keep a headache at bay.

By Derrick of Prepper Press

Thankfully, there are quite a few natural remedies that can alleviate the pain of a headache. There are also many natural ways to keep headaches from becoming an issue at all, or at least to minimize your risk of being stricken with one. By employing preventative and natural measures, you can successfully reign in the annoyance of headaches without drugs.

Preventative Measures and Action 

hydrated_water_headacheFirst and foremost, stay hydrated. Water is the cure for so many ills, and headaches are no exception. Should you find yourself in a situation where water is scarce, be mindful of what else you are putting in your body to ensure it is not using up valuable water. Salt, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine will dehydrate you. While all of those can initially ease the pain of a headache, they can also put you in danger of further headaches after the initial easing of pain. If water is plentiful, it is the easiest remedy for a headache – and if it’s curing your headache, you’ll likely notice you have more energy and feel more alert as well.

Related: Emergency Foods From Wild Plants

Lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to headaches, as well. In an emergency situation, sleep may be hard to come by, but you should always get as much as you are able to. In fact, studies show that poor sleep contributes to migraines. Even if you don’t end up with a full-blown migraine, lack of sleep and the dull pain of a tension headache are a poor combination that no one wants to deal with. Forcing yourself to be awake does nobody any favors – go to bed early when you are able.

stretching_headache_reliefMild headaches can also be relieved with stretching. Stretching doesn’t require any resources, simply your own energy and a little bit of space. The first section of your body you’ll want to focus on is your shoulders. Are they lifted up and tight? Let them drop and let out a deep breath. You may notice a difference from just this as your muscles loosen up. A stretch nearly as simple is to straighten up your neck, look straight ahead, and then put your chin down. Look back up, then go left, right, then back, finally returning your chin to the front. Put your chin down on your chest again, and gently roll left to right, keeping your child down while doing this. Repeat until you feel loosened up. Doing these stretches relieves headache-causing pressure from your nerves.

Another way to relieve tension that requires no medicine and simple household objects is to bite down on something – a pen or pencil, for example. Doing so will cause you to use certain muscles that become tight, leading to tension headaches. You might feel silly trying this out, but that won’t matter if you can get rid of a tension headache without worrying about how to find pain relief medication.

Many common herbs and spices can also ease the pain of a headache. However, if you are planning on storing these be aware of how long they have been stored for. Many herbs and essential oils do have somewhat short shelf lives and may lose their efficacy. Be sure to store them properly to get as much use out of them as possible, too.

What herbs can help alleviate a headache?

chocolate_mint_headachesPeppermint is an herb with soothing qualities, and its scent can help to calm nerves and relieve tension, thus lessening your headache. You can boil some water with peppermint leaves and make a peppermint tea to drink (or, if you have them available, use ready-made peppermint teabags). You may also notice that the tea has a strong scent – that’s good, and you should breath it in as you drink the tea. Or, simply breathe in the scent of the steam from your hot tea without even drinking the tea. The strong scent of peppermint alone can relieve tension and ease headaches. You can also use peppermint essential oil to soothe a headache; just rub a small amount on your temples. Dried peppermint has a fairly long shelf life – up to three years, and the essential oil lasts about four years if kept in a cool, dry space.

Feverfew is a famous and oft-cited herb for combatting migraines. It can not only help to lessen the intensity of a migraine once it starts, but has also been credited with preventing the headaches before they start. If you are a regular sufferer of migraines, you might find it worth your while to get a supply of feverfew supplements to keep on hand in case you are in a situation where you don’t have access to your prescription migraine medicine anymore. Additionally, you can grow feverfew either inside (if you have a grow light or a very sunny window) or outside. It’s fairly easy to grow, so if you or someone in your family gets regular migraines it is certainly worth trying to keep a plant. It’s a perennial, so you won’t have to replant every single year, and you’ll have a regular supply of fresh feverfew leaves to help with headache relief. The fresh leaves from the plants can be chewed, about two at a time, to relieve and/or prevent headaches. Some people even include the leaves with their regular meals, in a salad or on a sandwich. Be cautious, though, as if you are new to using feverfew you will want to ensure you are not one of those who experiences swelling of the mouth area from chewing the leaves. Some people also have gastrointestinal issues associated with use of the herb, so try it out cautiously as you first begin using this remedy.

Read Also: Easier Gardening

Cayenne is a spice that you can put to good use as a headache remedy. Commonly available, this spice works to relieve headaches because it contains capsaicin, a pain inhibitor. Using cayenne as a natural remedy is easy enough – just mix a bit (about 1/2 teaspoon or so) with water to dilute the spice, then take a cotton swab, dip it in the mixture, and very gently dab the inside of your nostril with the swab. It’ll be uncomfortable, but as the slight burning sensation subsides, so will your headache. Like most other herbs and spices, dry cayenne pepper has a shelf life of about three years, and should be stored in a dry, cool place. If you have cayenne pepper older than three years, just test it out by giving it a quick sniff – if it doesn’t smell of anything, it’s lost its effectiveness, but if it still has a strong scent, go ahead and use it. You’ll be able to tell pretty easily if it’s still potent.

ginger_plant_headachesGinger is another go-to spice for pain relief. Using ginger to relieve your headaches is pretty simple – steep some fresh ginger root to make a tea, either by itself or with lemon juice. Chewing on some ginger might also help ease side effects of more severe headaches like nausea. You can also grow ginger at home, either outdoors if you live in a warm climate, or indoors in a pot or tub. Doing so will provide you with a supply of fresh ginger root to use not only for headaches, but for a variety of other ailments as well.

Like ginger, apple cider vinegar is can provide relief from many aches, pains, and ills. It has a longer effective shelf life than dry herbs and spices, as it lasts about five years at full potency. After that time, it’s still probably safe, just not as effective. Be sure when you’re storing it that the cap is always screwed on tightly and it’s in a cool, dry place. To use apple cider vinegar as a remedy for headaches, you have a couple of options. You can boil it with water, at about a 1:1 ratio, then breath in the steam from the concoction. If you want to trap the steam as you do this, drape a towel over your head to fully immerse yourself in the scent. You can also mix a small amount of apple cider vinegar with water and drink the mixture. Be cautious of how much apple cider vinegar you are using, as it is very strong and as little as two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with a cup of water can be effective. To temper the taste of the vinegar, you can also add lemon, honey, or both to the mixture. Lemon has its own therapeutic properties that you might find to be beneficial, and if the headache is accompanied by a head cold, honey can help to soothe your throat.

Adapting to Your Situation

aspirin_old_ad_headachesIn the modern world, it is very easy to reach for an aspirin to cure your headache. If none is available, though, there is a plant found in nature that is nearly equivalent to aspirin in how it treats headaches – the bark of a willow tree. It’s active ingredient is salicin, and the bark is also useful in treating pains other than headaches, including lower back pain. If you live in an area where willow trees grow, identify one, cut a square of bark, and boil it to make a tea. But of course, as with any other herb or plant, if you are not completely sure, don’t ingest anything from it! You can also simply, but carefully, chew on the bark. Be aware that you are not swallowing any splinters of the bark, though – just the saliva that now has the salicin from the bark in it.

As you can see, nature is bountiful when it comes to headache remedies. While those who suffer from the most severe of migraines may not be able to fully feel the relief of modern prescription pain medications, there are ways to mediate the pain should there be no such medication available. For the more mild headaches that everyone gets, but that still interfere with the ability to fully function, simple steps like drinking more water, getting more sleep, and stretching can help to prevent and relieve the pain. Herbs and plants that are commonly available are highly effective in relieving headaches, and make a valuable addition to any medical storage and preparing you may be doing. While modern medicine has its perks, there are other options and with the right supplies and knowledge you won’t have to suffer even if you don’t have access to prescriptions and technologically-enhanced medical facilities.

Derrick Grant is the founder of Prepper Press, a publisher of post-apocalyptic fiction and survival nonfiction. Follow his Facebook writer page for all things dystopian and apocalyptic.

10 Bug Out Bag Essentials

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bug_out_essentials_stuffCall this back to basics, or getting started from the get-go, but there are as many varieties of opinions on bug out bag contents as cats have lives.  And then some.  Then there are the definitions of exactly what constitutes a bug out bag, but no two preppers or survivalists bags are the same much less their contents. So, up front, let’s politely agree to disagree if this suggested list varies from yours.  After all, my bug out bag is not your bug out bag.  Your circumstances are not the same as mine. 

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

You may live in a congested mega-city.  Others live in rural areas or in the suburbs.  All of these conditions allow for differences in what we put in a bag to grab on the way out of the house, office, or vehicle.

Bag for Bugging Out or a Body Bag?

My idea of a Bug Out Bag is a single source medium sized bag with the bare minimum of supplies to last 24-48 hours with some potential stretch.  This bag was created to last long enough to get out of Dodge to an alternative secure location or to a pre-determined supply cache or a more permanent pre-supplied bug out location.

Related: More Tips for your Bug Out Bag 

This Bug Out Bag is not intended to be a long-term supply resource.  It will not weigh a hundred pounds or contain long range subsistence or gear for a camp out in the wilderness.  Your bag may be designed for other types of missions or alternative plans.  That is fine.

Bug Out Bag Priorities

handgun_bug_outThis is where the fight of opinions usually starts.  What to pack first and what items are most likely to be needed initially with other bag items being needed or available as the bug out ensues.  It is easy to argue that the choice of any self-protection defensive weapon, most likely a handgun and ammo should be readily available for access or as appropriate worn in a weapon ready condition.   Let’s accept this as the first item in a bug out bag.  

Sure, when you grab your bag to jump in your escape vehicle or head down a long flight of stairs to evacuate a work site or other location, you may be darn thirsty or maybe even needing a boost of energy from a bar, but first, you’re going to want to secure your mode of personal protection.  From there the other items in the bag don’t matter in terms of priorities until they are needed.  So, grab a drink, but go slow on it.  Some of the items in your BOB you may not end up using at all, but it is nice to have them along just in case.  

Read Also: Knee Deep in Bug Out Vehicles

So, here are the ten items of basic need or utility I place in a BOB.  Other than the pistol, no particular order of priority.  Also, note, there is no suggestion of which specific item or brand to get or have, just the categories are listed here.  You figure out what you want on your own.  

The Other Nine Essentials

Meds or OTC.  If you have to have certain medications to live, then you best have them.  This goes for diabetic supplies, heart meds, or any other life essential medicines.  Support that with over the counter pain medications, antacids, antiseptics, etc.   You can keep these in the original bottles or boxes, or get a little personal med kit to store them.  Just organize them so you can find what you need quickly.  This could include a small, basic first aid kit, too.  

Water.  Have several bottles of water or a canteen.  Have more in your vehicle, but always carry some along.  Make the judgement on how much to carry balancing weight and volume in the bag with your hydration habits.  

Food Items.  Pack energy bars, not candy bars.  These should provide carbs, but some real nutrients as well.  Small bags of nuts, trail mix or other snacks that are not junk food.  Check the contents and calories ahead of time so you know how much to take along.  Again, you can store additional food in your vehicle, assuming you get to it.  

knife_handgun_bug_outKnife.  Have some sort of cutting instrument.  You choose, but be practical.  Remember, reliability and function are absolutely crucial. You may not need that huge Bowie knife on a bug out.  A good, solid, sharp folding knife that locks for safety works.  Multiple blades are great, but not the 87-blade-tool version.  I could be talked into a multi-tool that has a good cutting blade.  

Flashlight.  Gotta have one or two.  Pick a light that is super durable, extra bright, uses standard batteries, and has shock resistance in case you drop it, which is likely.  Some like to add a red or green lens cover for clandestine hiding or in vehicle use at night to reduce drawing attention to your location.  

Cell Phone/communications or News Radio.  A way to call or get calls is important, so long as the towers function.  Add to that a good basic emergency radio even a hand crank variety.  You need to get news and government broadcasts if there are any.  Ironically, even being able to get a music channel can add some comfort factor during a stressful situation.  

Firestarter.  If your travel plans get waylaid for any multitude of reasons, you may have to stop over and spend the night somewhere.  A fire can be a great comfort and under some conditions a lifesaver.  So, have a selection of ways to ignite a fire from simple matches, butane lighter, or a strike stick.  Pack a tiny bag of wax soaked cotton balls, too.  

bug_out_clothingSeasonal Clothing.  Pack a jacket, preferably a rain jacket that doubles with some insulation with a hood.  Depending on the season, add items like a warm hat and gloves, or a lightweight shirt, jeans or shorts, hiking shoes-boots and socks.  Of course, pack according to your environment. If you are in more northern environments, be sure to have warmer clothing. Additionally, more clothes should be kept in your vehicle.  

Cover Tarp and Cord.  Finally, if you have to camp out, have a temp-tarp.  Staying in the vehicle may or may not be comfortable.  A good cover will give you extra options.  

There, that’s one BOB equipped and ready to run.  Is it perfect?  Hardly.  Some can do with less, others will admittedly want to add more.  That is why we are all individuals.  Regardless, have one, supplied, packed, and ready to grab.  

Photos Courtesy of:

Dr. John Woods

Survival Gear Review: Hybridlight Journey 160 Flashlight

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I was listening to The Survivalist Podcast a couple weeks ago while driving to work, and the featured guest was a well-spoken survivalist gentleman by the name of Tim Ralston (inventor of the “Timahawk” survival tool), and he was discussing bug-out gear. When the conversation turned to flashlights and illumination, Mr. Ralston verbally swooned over a flashlight product by a company called HybridLight. The product he’d mentioned was the Journey 250, and the description and testimonial was compelling enough for me to track down the company and see what they were all about. So I looked ‘em up and shot ‘em an email.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

solar_panel_hybridlightWhile performing the initial research on the Journey 250, I quickly found my way to HybridLight’s website and started scanning. The “About” link filled me in on the basics: HybridLight offers solar-powered illumination (yes, you read that right) products across a variety of platforms. That’s the basis of the product design – but there’s more to it than just a flashlight with a solar panel. HybridLight goes one step further: the majority of their products boast standard USB ports to act as charging stations for your cellphone, tablet, MP3 player, GPS, you name it. If your electronic gadget utilizes a USB cable to charge, chances are a HybridLight will play nice with it. The company found its roots in 2006 when Terry Peterson started toying with solar-powered technology. Solar panels were becoming smaller, more dependable, and able to be used in a multitude of applications. Terry has since developed hybrid solar power into an immensely useful tool – not just to capture and store solar energy, but tailor it to be used to charge cellphones or tablets. All this works – extremely well.

The HybridLight Journey 160 Rundown

After some jovial communications with the incredibly nice HybridLight team, they sent me a Journey 160 model flashlight to use, abuse, and evaluate. The Journey 160 flashlight is a tidy little number, 6 inches in length. 1.75” wide across the lens bezel, and 4.5 ounces. The handle profile features a solar panel, about 1” wide by 4” long, inset into the polymer casing. The only control on the Journey 160 is a single rubber push-button mounted just ahead of the solar panel. This button tells the enclosed 2,400 mAh lithium-ion to send power to the LED bulb in low or high intensities, and features a strobe function if held for a moment. The bezel and lens are fixed; no Maglite-type focusing beam here. Nice and simple; simple things don’t break as easily. The Journey 160 blasts out 160 lumens of useful light at its highest setting.

Read Also: Streamlight Stylus Pro Pen Flashlight Review 

hybridlight_usbUnder the waterproof O-ring sealed tail cap at the rear of the Journey 160, you’ll find two ports: one is a “power-in” Micro-USB port; the other is “power-out”, a standard USB dock. You can use a standard micro-USB cable to charge via a standard outlet-mounted wall charger (such as the one that comes with your smartphone – not included with the Journey 160.); all you need to do is plug the Journey 160 in just as if you were charging your phone – just plug the Micro USB end of the cord right into the port on the flashlight. A red LED, mounted just forward of the power switch, will illuminate to show that you are charging the sealed battery. Once the battery is full, the LED turns green.

To charge the Journey 160 via the integral solar panel, all you need to do is put the flashlight in direct sunlight with the panel towards the sun. Foolproof. The Journey will still charge if there is cloud cover, albeit at a much slower rate. Charging via USB from your home outlet is substantially faster than the solar method.

To use the HybridLight Journey 160 as a device charger, all you need to do is insert your standard USB cable into the larger port, and the other end to your device that needs a charge. The Journey 160 works with micro-USB, Older Apple cords as well as Apple Lightning chargers, mini-USB…you name it. It will charge Android as well as Apple devices with equal aplomb; but the included USB cable will not work on Apple products, so you’ll have to supply your own.

As reported by HybridLight, the Journey 160 is waterproof to 1 meter and floats, and can  withstand drops from one meter. One full charge will supply 25 hours of continuous light at the low brightness setting, and 8 hours at the brightest 160 lumen setting. The battery will, according to the manufacturer, hold a charge for years if not used.

How The Journey 160 Holds Up Under Daily (Ab)use

Website-issued specifications are all well and good, but how does an item such as this flashlight – a life-saving tool for sure – stand up when used and abused on a semi-daily basis? Well, I’ve been beating my specific Journey up for a couple months now, in all sorts of weather and varying conditions, and I’m happy to report my findings.

hybridlight_durable_snowMy three-year-old son LOVES flashlights, so the very first thing I did after taking the Journey 160 out of the packaging was to turn it on and hand it over to him for his version of QC inspection. Over the course of the next twenty minutes, he subjected it to far more abuse than I usually punish my gear with over the course of a year. The flashlight got thrown across the room, ricocheted off a pellet stove, rolled over floors, bounced off end tables, dropped about a hundred times, rolled around on hardwood floors, crashed into by Hot Wheels cars, and, of course, found its way into the toilet after lil’ dude overheard me telling my wife the flashlight floats (it does). I took back ownership after the initial abuse testing, and there was nary a scratch or dent in the casing of the Journey 160, and the bezel lens was pristine. As a matter of fact, all photos shown in this review are of the flashlight AFTER it’s been used for quite some time, toddler torture included.

I also did some testing of my own. I performed some waist-high drops onto our kitchen tile floor, including one gentle toss of about eight feet. The HybridLight bounced a couple times, and that was about it. Pretty anticlimactic; the Journey 160 earns high marks for ruggedness in my book. Honestly; most light sources ride in glove compartments, kitchen drawers, pockets, or packs until they are needed, so they can lead a pretty pampered life under normal use. Provided the Journey 160 doesn’t take a tumble off a cliff or get run over by a tracked vehicle, I’m confident it can withstand all ordinary, and some extraordinary abuse most users will subject it to. It can’t be used as a hammer or anything like that, but it’s quite sturdy for a moulded plastic casing that weighs 4.5 ounces.

Charge!

Oh yeah, the Journey 160 is a portable charging station as well as a splendid torch. The onboard 2,400mAh battery can be used to charge portable devices. If one leaves the flashlight plugged into a device via USB cable and leaves the light in the direct sun, the solar panel will continuously charge the flashlight’s battery, which will then charge the device’s battery.

hybridlight_charging_androidHowever, solar power is not needed to charge devices – assuming a fully-charged battery, 80% of the 2,400 mAH battery is on tap to charge devices; the remaining 20% is always saved on reserve to allow the Journey 160 to soldier on for a time in its primary illuminating mission. Most modern large-screen smartphones have batteries in the 2,500-3,000 mAH range; an iPhone 6S has a 2,750 mAH battery, and an LG G4 and Samsung Galaxy S7 both boast 3,000 mAH batteries, so the Journey 160 won’t provide a complete battery charge in one sitting for most cellphones – but it’ll get you about halfway there. My personal LG G4 smartphone went from 12% to 64% before the Journey cut the power, with a charging time of probably 20 minutes – faster than expected.

Charging via a wall-mounted charger takes an hour or so from a depleted battery to full. Charging the Journey to full charge via solar power alone takes a while – like 18-20 hours in direct sunlight. So, unless you’re in Alaska in July, you’re not going to get enough direct sunlight during the course of one day for a full battery charge. And if you’re counting on fully charging a smartphone and the flashlight in that period of time, you’ll probably be pretty disappointed. However, I was able to charge both of my Motorola MJ270R walkie-talkies in one day of bright sunshine – so results will vary based on equipment you use and ambient daylight levels.

Wrapping It Up

In the usefulness department, the Journey 160 is aces. Not too big and not too small, the flashlight fits in a hand beautifully, with the kinda-rubbery feeling polymer being contoured to provide adequate grip without being obtrusive (think an old 4 “D”-cell Maglight) I’ve been keeping the flashlight by my bedside for night duty, in my jacket pocket when I go outside or to work, and have just made a point to make sure that it is readily available for when I require illumination. While it’s a bit big for an EDC (every day carry) pocket flashlight, the Journey 160 is a wonderful size for general-purpose flashlight use, and it has supplanted my old similarly-sized rechargeable Streamlight Scion as my favorite go-to flashlight. The HybridLight Journey 160 is just a killer flashlight that throws a useful amount of illumination- and that’s even before you consider that you can charge devices from it.

Related: Bug Out Flashlight Wisdom

The price on one of these bad boys is lower than expected – just $34.95 via their website. And when I tell you you should run right out and get one, you should. Get two. Or Three. This is the best general-purpose flashlight I have in my house: it keeps a full charge, I never have to worry about the kids stealing the batteries to put in the TV remote control, and it can bounce around in the “miscellaneous stuff” drawer along with paperweights and your spare hammer and it’ll be ready when you need it. Same goes for the Journey 160 being a stellar Bug-Out-Bag light – it weighs almost nothing, is sturdy, and charges itself – emergency perfection. Really, the only improvement I could envision to this flashlight

More Journey 160s – one for my truck box and one for my tacklebox – are on my Christmas list; I’m hoping Santa is nice to me this year. But seriously: go get a Journey 160. Right now. I am without doubt that you’ll positively love it. Questions? Got something that does the same thing but better? Sound off in the comments below!

 

Emergency Foods from Wild Plants

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dandelion_edible_forageMany people start learning about wild foods from common field guides focused on the subject.  There are often plants mentioned as wild foods that are not abundant enough to supply much of a harvest (such as Spring Beauties, or Fairy Potatoes), not nutritionally rich enough to offer much to survival situations (such as the many greens, which have few calories), are not very tasty (such as bitters like Dandelion), or are difficult to harvest and prepare (such as tree bark).  Further, the limited season of many nutritious edibles (like Cattail pollen and acorns) keeps them unavailable for much of the year.  The forager naturally sorts through plants as he learns about them, more-or-less forgetting many while focusing on the “choice” edibles.  (Mushroom hunters in particular refer to the best edibles as “choice”.)

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

For those who are learning about wild edibles to add to their daily diet or to harvest for restaurants, it only makes sense to focus on the best.  For the sake of preparing for end times, survival situations, and emergencies in the woods, however, one should learn as many edible plants as possible.  Perhaps many are not tasty or are time-consuming to harvest and/or prepare, but while these are very legitimate obstacles for every-day life in the “normal” world, you will likely enjoy even strange flavors when you are starving. The gathering of calories might turn into your top priority when there are none at hand.  In order to prepare for emergencies, it is well worth learning about the wild plants that the field guides deem “trailside nibbles” or “survival foods”.

Tree Bark

elm_treeA very important survival food is the inner bark of trees.  It is a common belief that the work “Adirondack” means “tree eaters”.  Maybe this is originally from the Mohawk word for porcupine, or maybe it was mostly derogatory referring to bad hunters (who had to, therefore, eat tree bark) but the truth is that Natives of the woodlands ate many tree barks.  My favorite is Slippery Elm.  I have prepared much of the powdered bark available through commercial herb distributors.  Cooked with Maple syrup it is a delightful breakfast “cereal” from the trees.  It is worth considering the powdered bark for emergency storage as an edible and medicinal.  Learn to recognize Elm trees and learn where they grow for emergency use and because they host the famous Morel mushroom. In my area they are found mostly along rivers.

Another tree I have consumed a bit of is White Pine.  While I was stripping bark from the logs for my log cabin, I chewed on the inner bark and prepared it as a “tea” (decoction- material is simmered, not just steeped).  I did not get around to grinding it to prepare as meal, as the Native Americans did with many of the barks they used as food.  It was enough work for my spare time to drag logs through the snow and carve notches in them.  Plus, I am still trying to figure out just how much of the evergreen trees are safe to consume.  Pines and their relatives have been important survival foods as well as winter foods, providing many medicinal and nutritional benefits.  However, there is concern regarding ingesting too many of the thick, resinous compounds in the pitch.  These agents give the evergreens many of their medicinal properties, but can gum up the kidneys if over-consumed.  Perhaps Native Americans knew things about preparing these barks that have been lost to the modern world.  When the end times come, however, we might be wishing we did our research.

Many other trees have edible inner bark, such as Poplar (though it was probably more often used to feed horses so that more desirable food could be hunted) and Ash.

Additional Foods From Trees

It is much more common today to consume the needles and small twigs of the evergreens by preparing as a tea, than to strip the bark and prepare as gruel.  By steeping the needles we can extract the vitamin C and many of the aromatic constituents.  For survival situations, I am sure thicker inner bark has more to offer nutritionally.

Read Also: Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies 

black_walnutMany other parts of trees can be used as food and should be mentioned here, such as the leaves of Basswood (American Linden).  Of course, one of the most important wild foods from trees is nuts, such as from Hickory and Black Walnut (which is another important medicinal, being used for parasites and fungal infections).  We also have acorns from Oak and many lesser-known seeds such as Beechnuts from Beech.  Many don’t realize that sap can be made into syrup from more than just Sugar Maple, including other Maples as well as other trees like Hickory.  It is clear that the survivalist has much to learn about trees in preparation for emergency.

A major consideration for emergency food, are the winter caches of wildlife.  Squirrels and other critters store piles of acorns, nuts, and seeds, which can be found by digging through leafy brush piles and other areas conducive to storage of such foods.  

Roots

evening_primrosePlants store energy in two distinct places- roots and seeds.  There are many roots that are generally overlooked as edibles, but could prove life-saving in emergencies.  Evening Primrose, for instance, was once a staple vegetable of Natives.  Today, it is common to find along roadsides and is worth getting to know for roadside emergencies.  Like many edible roots (including Burdock and Wild Carrot), Evening Primrose is biennial and best harvested in the fall of the first season or the spring of the second.  During the second year the plants develop their flower stalks and the roots become tough in order to support the stalk and because they are on their way out (they will die after seed is produced, while the autumn of the first year they store energy for the next).  

Garlic Mustard, because of its pungency, is usually used as a condiment (like Horseradish) more than a vegetable.  When push comes to shove, however, you might overcome the bitter, pungent flavor, or figure out how to reduce it through cooking.  Yellow Dock is similar in that it is avoided largely because of its intense bitter taste, and because being perennial it will get tougher with age.  Yellow Dock species are quite common and I am very often told by budding wild food foragers that they began eating the greens.  Usually I assume that if someone is eating Yellow Dock they have not learned about the other, more palatable options, and I tell them so.  Often, when seeing them at a later time I am informed that they moved on from Yellow Dock to tastier greens.  However, concerning survival, Yellow Dock might be an option.

Strong flavors generally indicate that the plant is not suitable for consumption in large amounts.  Bitter, pungent, and sour flavors are commonly indicative of constituents that shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts.  There is a reason we appreciate these flavors in relatively small doses.  Likewise, there is a reason we like the sweet flavor – it is the mark of calories (food energy).  All our macronutrients are sweet, which includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fat.  Roots that are relatively bland or sweet, such as Evening Primrose and Burdock, are generally more edible.  Wild Carrot also has a bit of pungency, and although Carrots are staple food, many members of the Carrot Family (Apiaceae) are quite toxic.  It should not be assumed that because something tastes good it is edible.  It is said that Poison Hemlock tasted quite good to those who were able to tell us so before they died.  Cattails produce very starchy roots (rhizomes) along with many other edible portions.  

Cattail

Cattails were called “Nature’s Pantry” by Euell Gibbons, one of our nation’s first famous wild food experts.  The rhizomes store much starch, which can be easily extracted to used for porridge or baking.  The young shoots are edible as are the bases of younger leaves.  The best vegetable portion is the young flower stalk, including flower, while it is tender and still wrapped inside the leaves.  The pollen can also be gathered, which is very nutritious.

Because starch is very water soluble and due to the structure of Cattail rhizomes the rhizomes can be pounded in a bucket of water.  The starch is then suspended in the water making it possible to strain out the fibrous strands, joints, and peel.  It can then be left to sit so that the starch settles to the  bottom.  Maybe not the ideal form of carbohydrates to the modern man, but an abundant source of nutrition in a survival situation.  

The vegetable portion can be nibbled off the bottoms of leaves that are young enough to have a tender portion intact.  The young shoots at the end of the rhizomes can also be harvested.  In my opinion, one of the best wild vegetables is the flower stalk.  Many old books refer to treating it like corn on the cob.  This has led to the misunderstanding that one should eat the flower (the “cat tail”) off of the stalk.  However, it is the stalk itself, when tender, that is the delicious vegetable.  It can be found by peeling the coarser material away to reveal the tender part.  You can develop an eye for the ones with flower stalks developing by the way the plant elongates upward during growth.  It resembles corn on the cob because it can be cooked in the same way, which is also why it is a very convenient camping or survival food.  Simply pick the whole above-ground/water plant by pulling straight up so that it separates from the rhizome.  You can confirm that is has a flower stalk by observing the base.  If there is no stalk, you will only see the crescent-shaped overlapping leaf bases.  If it has a flower stalk you will see it’s round base.  Then throw the plants, green leaves and all, directly onto some hot coals.  Turn them until thoroughly cooked.  When done, simply peel back the tough parts to reveal a tender, cooked vegetable within.  

The pollen is gathered after the flowers emerge above the leafy portions by shaking the yellow powder from the plants into some kind of container.  It is very nutritious and should be considered an important emergency food and nutritional supplement.  Many other pollens, such as Pine, can be harvested as well.

Seeds

I have already mentioned seeds from trees above (in the section “Additonal Foods from Trees”).  Here we will consider seeds from shrubs and herbaceous plants.  Perhaps the best-known staple of our Northeastern woods is the Hazelnut.  Although, because wildlife love it Hazelnuts are often hard to come by.  Still, the survivalist should learn to identify the shrub.

Amaranth seeds, though small and covered by a tough outer layer, are edible and very nutritious.  Plus, the young plants are good as cooked greens.  Likewise, Lambsquarters, one of the best cooked greens from the wild, can also provide nutritious seeds.  

Jewelweed, which is well-known as the poison ivy remedy, has edible seeds.  They pop from the ballistic seed pods when ripe and disturbed (by wind or animal).  Pinched just right, the seeds can be released into your hand.  Small, but they taste just like Walnuts.  The young shoots of Jewelweed have raised concerns regarding their edibility.  I used to eat them when a few inches tall and after cooked, but I have not done so in years.

Vegetables

There are many wild vegetables.  It is worth learning the lesser-desirable species as well as those commonly sought after.  However, vegetables are not the focus of this article because in emergency survival situations we are often more focused on calories.  Although greens are nutritious, they are not calorie rich.  Still, in survival situations there might be need to focus on certain nutrients that are available from vegetative plant parts.  Many greens are high in nutrients that would be cooked out of other plant foods.  For this reason, it is important to include some lightly cooked or raw vegetables in the diet.

Related: Choosing the Best Survival Tools for Your Bug Out Bag

Dandelion, in spite of its strong bitter flavor, is a safe source of edible leaves.  They are high in calcium, iron, and many other nutrients.  The flowers are also eaten.  The root is too bitter to be a common vegetable, but is often dried and/or roasted for tea. Sorrel, including both Wood Sorrels and Sheep Sorrel, are edible and tasty, but shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts because of the oxalic acid content.  Oxalic acid binds easily with calcium making the calcium unabsorbable and potentially leading to other problems, like kidney stones.  Lambsquarters (mentioned above) is also quite high in oxalic acid, as is Purslane.  One should be aware of these things, as it very well may come into consideration in a survival situation.  Purslane has many nutritional benefits, most notably that it is high in essential fatty acids for a vegetable.  

milk_weedMany of the important vegetables must be cooked before consumption.  Those mentioned above with oxalic acid can be cooked to reduce the acid content.  (The old fashioned parboiling that is looked down upon today as destroying nutrition has its place here.)  Plants like Pokeweed and Milkweed are put through a couple changes of water to render edible because of their toxic properties.  Ironically, when this is done they become two of the best wild foods.  Some greens need to be cooked to a lesser degree, such as Winter Cress (Yellow Rocket or Wild Mustard).  It doesn’t require changing water, but it should be cooked thoroughly.  

Conclusion

The plants listed above are only a few of the many options in the wild.  There are choice edibles – those few species we seek after as even superior to domestic veggies.  There are the deadly poisonous – some so much so that one bite can be fatal.  Then, there is a large spectrum in between.  The vast majority of plants are somewhere between choice and deadly, and the vast majority of them are not consumed.  In an emergency that includes a food shortage, it could be very useful to know obscure edible properties of plants.

The survivalist should learn to identify the two ends of the spectrum first.  Obviously, anybody at all interested in the subject wants to know about the best edibles.  It is perhaps even more important, however, to first learn the most poisonous (watch for another article).  If you know the handful of deadly plants to avoid, you can more safely explore your options in an emergency even if you don’t know everything about all the plants at hand.  Then, the survivalist can continue to explore the vast world of wild edibles in order to prepare for any situation.   

Warning

In this article many wild plants are mentioned that might be toxic if prepared improperly, might have toxic parts even if other parts are edible, or might produce very real problems if consumed as part of a dramatically imbalanced diet (such as what might occur in a survival situation).  I only mention them here.  If you want to eat wild plants, ensure that you are thoroughly educated beyond what can be gleaned from a short blog article.  Read books, attend walks, and seek out knowledgeable foragers.

jumpingrabbit_foodFurther, this article contains speculation regarding possible survival foods.  Details regarding the situation, including climate, health conditions, and other aspects of the diet might make certain foods more-or-less inappropriate.  Several plants have been mentioned with some toxic or possibly some toxic properties.  If over-consumed as part of a diet deficient in essentials, some of these plants might be harmful, even if they can be regularly enjoyed as part of your regular diet.  Consider rabbit starvation, during which what many consider to be good meat (rabbits, for instance) possibly becomes worse than not eating at all.  The ideas expressed above are done so in the spirit of researching for possible survival scenarios.  At the brink of starvation it might just make sense to wander into the gray area of wild edibles and to risk consuming things that are not usually consumed.  In everyday life, however, it is best to avoid eating in such risky territory.

Photos Courtesy of:

Rich Bradshaw  
Julie Falk  
All other photos are in the public domain. 

Survival Gear Review: Magpul Tejas Gun Belt

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magpul_tejas_gun_belt_packagingThe Magpul Tejas “El Original” Gun Belt is what happens when tradition falls into bed with technology. By combining the best leather with the best polymer for the purpose,  Magpul invented a whole new genera of gun belts. The top grain bullhide is taken only from the shoulders of the finest English speaking bulls, while the polymer is mixed from the finest carbon atoms harvested from dinosaurs buried deep in the earth.  The result is a belt that has all the style of a traditional belt with increased functionality and strength. 

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

At 1.5 inches wide and a quarter-inch thick, the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt would be a formidable weapon on its own. The belt’s true purpose in life is to carry your weapon with style, grace, and undying devotion. What makes the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt unique is that it successfully mates reinforced polymer with leather forming a cohesive and practical belt. The polymer lines the user of the belt ring while the bullhide rounds out the public side.

The strength of the polymer allows the adjustment holes to be closer together at about ¾” apart. This is closer than usually found on more fragile leather-only belts. The Original Tejas Gun Belt retails for about $85. For a hundred bucks more you can get one that substitutes sharkskin for the bullhide. Or for $25 less you can get the Tejas “El Burro” that lacks both the sharkskin and the bullhide leaving you with just a heavy duty polymer belt. Plenty functional, but less the fancied-up materials.

Open Carry

The human-facing side of the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt handles sweat like a champ. The polymer side of the belt is impervious to water, salted or not. In fact the polymer of the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt is impervious to just about everything. Modern synthetics are amazing.  The fact that they have incorporated synthetics into a leather belt is a game-changer.  

Related: Escape and Evasion Gun Belt 

magpul_tejas_gun_belt_ruger_super_blackhawk_alaskan_riding_perfectlyTo test the limits of the Magpul Tejas “El Original” Gun Belt, I packed a particular handgun all over the grizzly infested snow-covered backcountry of my neck of the woods. Strapped to my hip were 3.5 pounds. I carried a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan, Galco Leather Holster, and six rounds of Buffalo Bore 340 grain .44 Magnum ammo. That’s over 55 ounces of asymmetrical belt tugging gun weight! For reference, a fully loaded Glock 17 with 17 rounds weighs just a little more than one-half of the weight of the Alaskan. It’s like wearing a fully-loaded Glock 17 and a fully-loaded Glock 26 on the same side of the belt.

After hours of hiking through the snow on many occasions, I have to say that the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt is by far the best gun belt I’ve ever used. Not that my other gun belts don’t serve me well, but the overbuilt composite (leather and polymer) design is impressive. The weight of my holstered gun and big bladed sheath knife distributed all around the waist, and there was no twisting, sagging, or leaning off the hip. Honestly, at first i was aware of the heft of the gun on the belt, but not much later, even the heavy Alaskan melted into my stride as the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt carried the weight with no added attention. Contrary to some range reviews of the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt, the true merits of this belt begin to shine many hours into packing a heavy gun.

Buckle Up

magpul_tejas_gun_belt_skeleton_cowboyThe stiff Magpul Tejas Gun Belt requires a bit of patience when buckling up for the day. Unlike thin leather or nylon webbing belts, the Magpul Tejas can be difficult to adjust. Unlike others, the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt is a rock-solid platform to wear your gear. Sometimes I wonder if the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt is more of a gun belt than a pants belt, but I’ve not yet reached the level of bodily decay to need a belt to prevent dropping my “trou” unintentionally.

See Also: External Belt Gear Rigs 

And since the sales of the Glock 19 compare to the Ruger Alaskan at probably 10,000 to one if not more, I did plenty of “lightweight” testing carrying a G19 around. Compared to the Ruger Alaskan, the G19 was weightless and rode on the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt with invisibility.

Dress for Success

The Magpul Tejas Gun Belt, while an excellent gun carrier, is also a fine looking piece of your dress-up kit. You can rock this belt at the office, the night life scene, and of course the gun range. At no time does the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt feel like it doesn’t belong.

The Magpul Tejas Gun Belt is not your grandfather’s gun belt. It is a modern take on a historical weapons carrying trend. The combination of leather and polymer should satisfy the most discriminating belt wearers. Due to the balance between leather and polymer, I am 100% sold on the Magpul Tejas Gun Belt as the best dedicated gun belt.

 

Five Best Toothache Remedies

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syzygium_aromaticum_-_ko%cc%88hler-s_medizinal-pflanzen-030As is generally the case with any illness, we want to consider the cause of the illness as well as the most urgent manifest symptoms.  There are many possible causes of toothache.  Let us consider for this article one that is undoubtedly a major cause – infection.  Obviously, if infection is causing a toothache, we want to address the infection with antimicrobial agents.  Most of our toothache remedies have some antimicrobial properties.  Barberry (Berberis spp.) will be discussed in this article, though it represents others of the group that are also quite useful and most better-known; such as Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon Grape Root (Mahonia spp.), and Goldthread (Coptis spp.).  Spilanthes is also a stellar antimicrobial.  It will be discussed here additionally because it has numbing and sialagogue properties – a perfect toothache herb.  Another classic remedy that must be mentioned is Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), usually used as essential (distilled) oil.  Sesame (Sesamum indicum) oil, or another cooking oil, can be used in a remedy called oil-pulling.  And the fifth remedy is the technique of shiatsu (acupressure).

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

There are many additional remedies that can be found outside in various ecosystems.  It is well worth getting to know your local forests and camping areas in case the need arises to find a toothache remedy.  Toothache is some of the worst pain I have experienced.  It can keep a person awake at night and feeling very miserable.  If you are in the woods or otherwise away from medical care or even your home medicine cabinet, there will likely be many herbal remedies found at hand among the plant life. 

Trees in particular offer many toothache remedies.  Prickly Ash in certain areas is a helpful remedy.  More wide-spread are the conifers.  Pines, Spruce, Fir, and others produce resins that can be very helpful.  Myrrh is another tree resin well-known for treating toothache.  Willlows and Poplars as well are well-known pain relieving herbs.  Among the herbaceous plants there are things like the Mints, Yarrow, and other aromatic and/or antimicrobial plants.  A study in toothache remedies, however abundant they are, might best start with the five classic remedies mentioned above.

Barberry

japanese_barberryJapanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a common and hated invasive in my area.  Though not in every patch of woods, it is widespread and in many areas has taken over to the point that the growth of other vegetation is dramatically suppressed and walking is difficult to near impossible.  There are many other species as well.  Oregon Grape Root was formerly considered a member of the genus, but is now Mahonia.  The constituent credited for the antibiotic and other medicinal effects, as well as the yellow color of the roots and bark, is called “berberine” after these plants.  Goldenseal and Coptis (our native Goldthread as well as Huang Lian of Chinese herbal medicine and others – another name is Canker Root, which indicates use in mouth infections) are perhaps better known, but I focus on Barberry because it is invasive.  Barberry is also of interest as a wild edible.  The fruits are not highly sought after, but they are edible.  …

Toothache Plant

toothache_plantToothache plant is also commonly known by its genus name Spilanthes and by the name Eyeball Plant, for the flowerhead which lacks rays.  It is largely a tropical plant, where it often grows as a perennial.  In my part of the world, we grow Spilanthes as an annual.  I think of it as a quick-growing Echinacea analogue, as Echinacea takes several seasons to mature.  Like Echinacea, or Cone Flower, Toothache Plant produces a distinct tingling as well as an increased flow of saliva.  

If you are lucky enough to have fresh Toothache Plant growing (or smart enough to have planted it), simply pick a flower-head and chew it, or at least bite into it once or twice before stuffing it between your gum and cheek (or maybe under the tongue) near the troubled tooth.  

If you do grow Toothache Plant you can tincture it by chopping and soaking the plant (or just the flower heads) in high-proof alcohol.  After about four weeks (one moon cycle) you can strain the liquid off (perhaps by pouring through and then ringing out through cheesecloth) and store in a tightly sealed jar.  If dispensed from a one or two ounce bottle with a dropper lid, it is easy to drop from a few drops to half the dropper directly onto the trouble area.

Related: Survival Eating

The tingling effects from Toothache plant are quite immediate and strong in effect.  In fact, it can be overwhelming.  If you place too much tincture in your mouth or chew a bit too much of a flower-head, you might find your mouth producing almost more saliva than you can swallow.  Here-in lies some of the benefit, however.  Spilanthes helps to move the saliva and lymph and “wash out” the sick fluids around the tooth. Additionally, Toothache Plant is a distinct antimicrobial.  It quickly helps to resolve the infection that is at the root of the pain.   

Clove

cloveEven the Hagakure“The Book of the Samurai” mentions the protective and healing powers of clove.  Still today Clove is revered for its medicinal uses, and is known as a primary remedy for tooth pain.  Aromatherapists, herb shops, and distributors of essential oils have promoted especially the essential oil of Clove for toothache, and it is indeed a convenient remedy.  The distilled oil is liquid and usually sold in small bottles with a dropper.  Simply place a drop or two on your finger to apply or apply directly from the dropper onto the trouble area.  Clove is quite spicy and warming and will cause the tissue to burn.  Don’t use so much as to cause excessive irritation.  This burning sensation and warming of the tissue is in part what distracts one from the pain.  There is a numbing quality as well, and Clove has antimicrobial properties.

Clove essential oil can be mixed with other essential oils, like Tea Tree (Melaleuca).  Tea Tree is a wonderful antiseptic, though I am not real fond of putting it in my mouth.  It’s antiseptic properties are undeniable and for this reason I usually have some around, particularly for tick bites but also as a general antiseptic for cuts and the like.  Since you should have some around in your first-aid kit (I keep it in my truck, home, cabin, and even motorcycle saddlebags), it is well worth considering as a toothache remedy, especially mixed with Clove.

Clove oil or combination of oils can be mixed in with the oil used for oil pulling, described below.  It is also used in sword oils, for tending to the shinken or katana (sword).  So, depending on what type of survival situation you are preparing for, there are many possible reasons to have Clove oil around.  It can also be useful for digestive, respiratory, and circulatory problems, headaches, and in the treatment of injury.

Read Also: Eating All Your Veggies

Powdered Clove can easily be used by placing a pinch in the troubled area.  It can also be infused into oils, though you would want to allow more time for the oil to extract the medicine from the powder than when using the essential oil.  Even more time should be allowed if using whole Cloves.  Quite likely, you will want to grind them if you have only whole Cloves.  For storage purposes, whole Cloves might be prefered to the powder because of their longer shelf-life.  

Oil Pulling

oil_sesameOil pulling consists of swishing oil, such as Sesame oil, through the teeth and around the mouth in order to absorb the impurities of the mouth and gums.  Any oil will do.  Simply swish until your saliva has thoroughly been mixed with the oil and then some, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Then spit it out.  Repeat for acute toothaches.  Practice daily to avoid toothaches or for minor ones. Sesame oil is a commonly used oil, partially because Sesame has been used to strengthen the bones and teeth.  Of course today using Coconut oil is very popular.  In many areas Olive oil will be the most available.  Grapeseed oil is good too.  For an active infection, you can consider adding small amounts of clove oil, tea tree oil, or other antimicrobial oils.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu (Japanese for “finger pressure”), or acupressure, is also very good for toothache.  There are some points locally – some in the jaw for any toothache, and of course some might be of particular focus according to which tooth is affected.  There are also some points around the base of the skull, neck, and shoulders that help, partially by releasing the tension that often accompanies, and contributes to, tooth pain.  There are also distal points that are located elsewhere on the body.

A primary distal point for toothache is between the thumb knuckle and metatarsal bone of the index finger.  There is more-or-less a muscular mound that when pressed will usually be quite sore.  The point and general area can be pressed or massaged.  

Most of the other relevant points can be  simply felt out by massaging the area of the jaw, occiput, neck, and shoulders.  Especially the joint of the jaw, the muscle there, and the area around the teeth should be palpated for soreness and pressed or massaged.  Likewise, the base of the skull, the neck (especially the muscles and along the spine), and the tops of the shoulders should be rubbed and palpated.  There is one point in particular worth mentioning (the rest have to be saved for an article specifically on the subject).  It can be found by working one’s fingers along the base of the skull.  Although everyone is built a little different, there is usually a soft, and sore, spot between a mound behind the ear and a mound at the back of the neck.  By treating this point with pressure or massage it is possible to relax the whole neck, jaw, and shoulders and bring great relief to the pain.

Photos Courtesy of:

Anna Hesser
Sara Rall
mwms1916
Lynda_2008
Nattu
Yukoinsunshine

Interested in writing for us? Send a sample of your work and an introductory statement to joel@survivalcache.com. Please use subject line: ‘Write for SurvivalCache/SHTFBlog’. If you’re a good fit, we’ll publish your work and compensate you accordingly.

Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies

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syzygium_aromaticum_-_ko%cc%88hler-s_medizinal-pflanzen-030As is generally the case with any illness, we want to consider the cause of the illness as well as the most urgent manifest symptoms.  There are many possible causes of toothache.  Let us consider for this article one that is undoubtedly a major cause – infection.  Obviously, if infection is causing a toothache, we want to address the infection with antimicrobial agents.  Most of our DIY toothache remedies have some antimicrobial properties.  Barberry (Berberis spp.) will be discussed in this article, though it represents others of the group that are also quite useful and most better-known; such as Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon Grape Root (Mahonia spp.), and Goldthread (Coptis spp.).  Spilanthes is also a stellar antimicrobial.  It will be discussed here additionally because it has numbing and sialagogue properties – a perfect toothache herb.  Another classic remedy that must be mentioned is Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), usually used as essential (distilled) oil.  Sesame (Sesamum indicum) oil, or another cooking oil, can be used in a remedy called oil-pulling.  And the fifth remedy is the technique of shiatsu (acupressure).

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

There are many additional DIY remedies that can be found outside in various ecosystems.  It is well worth getting to know your local forests and camping areas in case the need arises to find a toothache remedy.  Toothache is some of the worst pain I have experienced.  It can keep a person awake at night and feeling very miserable.  If you are in the woods or otherwise away from medical care or even your home medicine cabinet, there will likely be many herbal remedies found at hand among the plant life. 

Trees in particular offer many toothache remedies.  Prickly Ash in certain areas is a helpful remedy.  More wide-spread are the conifers.  Pines, Spruce, Fir, and others produce resins that can be very helpful.  Myrrh is another tree resin well-known for treating toothache.  Willlows and Poplars as well are well-known pain relieving herbs.  Among the herbaceous plants there are things like the Mints, Yarrow, and other aromatic and/or antimicrobial plants.  A study in toothache remedies, however abundant they are, might best start with the five classic remedies mentioned above.

Barberry

japanese_barberryJapanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a common and hated invasive in my area.  Though not in every patch of woods, it is widespread and in many areas has taken over to the point that the growth of other vegetation is dramatically suppressed and walking is difficult to near impossible.  There are many other species as well.  Oregon Grape Root was formerly considered a member of the genus, but is now Mahonia.  The constituent credited for the antibiotic and other medicinal effects, as well as the yellow color of the roots and bark, is called “berberine” after these plants.  Goldenseal and Coptis (our native Goldthread as well as Huang Lian of Chinese herbal medicine and others – another name is Canker Root, which indicates use in mouth infections) are perhaps better known, but I focus on Barberry because it is invasive.  Barberry is also of interest as a wild edible.  The fruits are not highly sought after, but they are edible.  …

Toothache Plant

toothache_plantToothache plant is also commonly known by its genus name Spilanthes and by the name Eyeball Plant, for the flowerhead which lacks rays.  It is largely a tropical plant, where it often grows as a perennial.  In my part of the world, we grow Spilanthes as an annual.  I think of it as a quick-growing Echinacea analogue, as Echinacea takes several seasons to mature.  Like Echinacea, or Cone Flower, Toothache Plant produces a distinct tingling as well as an increased flow of saliva.  

If you are lucky enough to have fresh Toothache Plant growing (or smart enough to have planted it), simply pick a flower-head and chew it, or at least bite into it once or twice before stuffing it between your gum and cheek (or maybe under the tongue) near the troubled tooth.  

If you do grow Toothache Plant you can tincture it by chopping and soaking the plant (or just the flower heads) in high-proof alcohol.  After about four weeks (one moon cycle) you can strain the liquid off (perhaps by pouring through and then ringing out through cheesecloth) and store in a tightly sealed jar.  If dispensed from a one or two ounce bottle with a dropper lid, it is easy to drop from a few drops to half the dropper directly onto the trouble area.

Related: Survival Eating

The tingling effects from Toothache plant are quite immediate and strong in effect.  In fact, it can be overwhelming.  If you place too much tincture in your mouth or chew a bit too much of a flower-head, you might find your mouth producing almost more saliva than you can swallow.  Here-in lies some of the benefit, however.  Spilanthes helps to move the saliva and lymph and “wash out” the sick fluids around the tooth. Additionally, Toothache Plant is a distinct antimicrobial.  It quickly helps to resolve the infection that is at the root of the pain.   

Clove

cloveEven the Hagakure“The Book of the Samurai” mentions the protective and healing powers of clove.  Still today Clove is revered for its medicinal uses, and is known as a primary remedy for tooth pain.  Aromatherapists, herb shops, and distributors of essential oils have promoted especially the essential oil of Clove for toothache, and it is indeed a convenient remedy.  The distilled oil is liquid and usually sold in small bottles with a dropper.  Simply place a drop or two on your finger to apply or apply directly from the dropper onto the trouble area.  Clove is quite spicy and warming and will cause the tissue to burn.  Don’t use so much as to cause excessive irritation.  This burning sensation and warming of the tissue is in part what distracts one from the pain.  There is a numbing quality as well, and Clove has antimicrobial properties.

Clove essential oil can be mixed with other essential oils, like Tea Tree (Melaleuca).  Tea Tree is a wonderful antiseptic, though I am not real fond of putting it in my mouth.  It’s antiseptic properties are undeniable and for this reason I usually have some around, particularly for tick bites but also as a general antiseptic for cuts and the like.  Since you should have some around in your first-aid kit (I keep it in my truck, home, cabin, and even motorcycle saddlebags), it is well worth considering as a toothache remedy, especially mixed with Clove.

Clove oil or combination of oils can be mixed in with the oil used for oil pulling, described below.  It is also used in sword oils, for tending to the shinken or katana (sword).  So, depending on what type of survival situation you are preparing for, there are many possible reasons to have Clove oil around.  It can also be useful for digestive, respiratory, and circulatory problems, headaches, and in the treatment of injury.

Read Also: Eating All Your Veggies

Powdered Clove can easily be used by placing a pinch in the troubled area.  It can also be infused into oils, though you would want to allow more time for the oil to extract the medicine from the powder than when using the essential oil.  Even more time should be allowed if using whole Cloves.  Quite likely, you will want to grind them if you have only whole Cloves.  For storage purposes, whole Cloves might be prefered to the powder because of their longer shelf-life.  

Oil Pulling

oil_sesameOil pulling consists of swishing oil, such as Sesame oil, through the teeth and around the mouth in order to absorb the impurities of the mouth and gums.  Any oil will do.  Simply swish until your saliva has thoroughly been mixed with the oil and then some, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Then spit it out.  Repeat for acute toothaches.  Practice daily to avoid toothaches or for minor ones. Sesame oil is a commonly used oil, partially because Sesame has been used to strengthen the bones and teeth.  Of course today using Coconut oil is very popular.  In many areas Olive oil will be the most available.  Grapeseed oil is good too.  For an active infection, you can consider adding small amounts of clove oil, tea tree oil, or other antimicrobial oils.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu (Japanese for “finger pressure”), or acupressure, is also very good for toothache.  There are some points locally – some in the jaw for any toothache, and of course some might be of particular focus according to which tooth is affected.  There are also some points around the base of the skull, neck, and shoulders that help, partially by releasing the tension that often accompanies, and contributes to, tooth pain.  There are also distal points that are located elsewhere on the body.

A primary distal point for toothache is between the thumb knuckle and metatarsal bone of the index finger.  There is more-or-less a muscular mound that when pressed will usually be quite sore.  The point and general area can be pressed or massaged.  

Most of the other relevant points can be  simply felt out by massaging the area of the jaw, occiput, neck, and shoulders.  Especially the joint of the jaw, the muscle there, and the area around the teeth should be palpated for soreness and pressed or massaged.  Likewise, the base of the skull, the neck (especially the muscles and along the spine), and the tops of the shoulders should be rubbed and palpated.  There is one point in particular worth mentioning (the rest have to be saved for an article specifically on the subject).  It can be found by working one’s fingers along the base of the skull.  Although everyone is built a little different, there is usually a soft, and sore, spot between a mound behind the ear and a mound at the back of the neck.  By treating this point with pressure or massage it is possible to relax the whole neck, jaw, and shoulders and bring great relief to the pain.

This post is for informational purposes only.  Please consult your local physician if you have a real medical issue such as a toothache. The author is not a medical professional and does not make any claim to be one.

Photos Courtesy of:

Anna Hesser
Sara Rall
mwms1916
Lynda_2008
Nattu
Yukoinsunshine

Interested in writing for us? Send a sample of your work and an introductory statement to joel@survivalcache.com. Please use subject line: ‘Write for SurvivalCache/SHTFBlog’. If you’re a good fit, we’ll publish your work and compensate you accordingly.

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Building a Basic Defensive Arsenal

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oil_well_americaTimes are tough. The economy is rolling, but not like a freight train. The country is in heavy debt from social spending and the support of conflicts abroad that are not really our conflicts. The middle class is taxed to death. The oil industry is still dragging. Ironically, we continue to import oil from the Saudis just as we discover a huge new oil field in Texas. Families struggle to support themselves with two or more jobs. Medical care costs are out the roof and insurance is crazy expensive. The post-election turmoil continues. Who knows how that will turn out?

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

With all this going on, how can any person, family or team interested in prepping afford to supply themselves with essentials much less build a decent protective weapons cache? It can be done. It has to be done with consideration for a bare bones approach. Here are some suggestions to formulate a plan if you are just getting started.

Begin with the Basics

chevy_truck_articleA good Ford F-150 or Chevy pickup will get you to work, and to bug out camp just as well as a $100,000 Land Rover. Actually, the pickup is probably the better choice anyway. It is the same concept in putting together a starter kit for personal protection prepping weapons. You don’t need the top bill guns to start out. What you need to do is shop smart and buy wisely.  With all kinds of debates on this topic, everybody has their own thoughts and opinions on what to get. The bottom barrel scratch kit should include a basic defense handgun, a good pump shotgun, and a defensive rifle. Again, this is not a wish list, but a base set of guns to get the job done.

Handgun of Choice

In the realm of handheld weapons there are base choices: a 5-6 shot swing out cylinder, double action revolver, or a magazine fed semi-auto pistol. The choices for a newbie are overwhelming. If you are so new to this game that you know virtually nothing about guns, then do your homework. There are plenty of resources: shop a good prepper gun book, the internet,  and seek out advice from firearms professionals.

As for revolvers, I suggest you find a good .357 Magnum, six shot, 4-6 inch, double action. With this handgun you can also shoot less recoiling .38 Specials in the same gun. There are two bonus features to that. Learn to shoot with less powerful loads that are cheaper to shoot, then have the full power .357 when needed.

9mm_handgunsIf these revolvers are too large to be comfortable for your grip, then opt for a smaller .38 Special with a four or six inch barrel. This is a protective wheel gun, not a concealment firearm. Go with fixed sights such or quality adjustable sights.  If you want to tackle the more complicated semi-auto pistol that is magazine fed through the base of the grip, I highly recommend the 9mm. This is a widely available, mid-range power pistol cartridge.I also recommend professional shooting instruction. Pistols have various safety mechanisms and other factors that demand instruction. Reading the owner’s manual is not enough.

There are dozens of choices for this type of pistol on the market. Choose a high quality pistol brand such as a Beretta, Glock, Colt, Smith and Wesson, Ruger, SCCY, SIG, or CZ. Handle as many full-sized pistols as you can. Steer away from the pocket pistol for an initial handgun.

Handgun costs vary widely for new and used guns. Revolvers can be found from $300 to $1000. Pistols are the same pricing from $400 on the low end to $1000. If you shop carefully, I think you can find a good pistol for $500 or less. Add a couple extra factory magazines and at least 500 rounds of ammo.

Smoothbores

shotgun_stock_ammoLet’s go simple here. Buy a pump action, 12-gauge shotgun. The 26-inch barrel is good, but some can handle an 18-20 inch barrel. Get screw in chokes so you can hunt with the gun. Choose either plain hardwood or black synthetic stocks. These shotguns will only have a bead sight up front to align when looking down the barrel. I am biased toward the Remington 870, but other brands are available.

In regards to bird hunting, buy several boxes of hunting shells with shot load sizes in #6, 7 ½, and 8. For defense, get some loads in buckshot or high brass #2s or 4s. Add a box or two of shotgun slugs for heavy hunting or heavy threats.

A good used 870 can be bought for $150-250. A brand new one can be had for $289 at Academy or other outlets. Buy the base model with matte finish and wood stock at this price.

Prepper Rifles

There is plenty of content available on prepper rifles. Treat this purchase as mentioned above for handguns. Again, let’s cut to the chase. If you could only have one defensive prep rifle to start with, then it needs to be a basic AR-15, 5.56 Nato/.223. There are dozens of options to buy.

ar15_purchase_gun_storeThe basic AR that offers the most versatility is an “optics ready” version or a model with a flat top Picatinny rail for mounting open sights or an optical scope. The hand guard should offer an accessory mounting system, Picatinny rail, M-Loc, or KeyMod arrangement so you can add sling mounts, flashlight, or handstops as needed.  Don’t go wild with accessories on a first, primary rifle. Learn to handle it, shoot it, maintain it and carry it. Accessorize it later. A good AR should cost no more than $800. At present there are nearly 500 AR rifle makers. Stick with a well-known, common factory rifle. Buy a manual on its upkeep, running, and maintenance.

For basics, add at least 10 high quality polymer magazines. Build your ammo stock up to a minimum of 1000 rounds. Add some practice, hunting, and defensive rounds. Load all your mags and mark them accordingly.

This is your basic piecemeal prepper gun kit. At the very least, this is a good place to start: one handgun, shotgun, and a rifle. The options are many. Wade into the swamp as soon as possible, get instruction, and practice. Advance your strategic and tactical skills with time. Soon you’ll be ready.

Photos Courtesy of:

John Woods
Diane Webb 
Stokes-Snapshots

The Ubiquitous 30-30 Lever Gun

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lever_action_chamberDear survivalists and preppers, have we gone AR and AK nuts? Hey, you know what, there are viable alternatives to the multi-round, mag latch, muzzle flash black guns so often associated with the bug out movement. For one, this author contends a good ole reliable, lever action 30-30 has a role to play in our survivalist work. Sometimes the best choice is the most iconic one.

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

If you’re into such things, you can revisit the original lever action rifle developed in 1894.  The Henry “load once, shoot all day” rifles, among other efforts, pre-date the early Winchesters that ‘won the American west‘. The 30-30 came a year later as the first American centerfire smokeless powder load.

Even today, the so-called aged 30-30 Winchester remains the benchmark deer hunting cartridge mainly because it delivers ample killing power at reasonable ranges. Still widely available in factory ammo loads using 150-170 grain bullets, the 30-30 is no magnum, but is still effective.

The Outfit that Fits

lever_actions_saleA lever action 30-30 rifle is a versatile bug out rifle for woods, field, or ranch. It can be used for protection, patrol, varmint control, and hunting. These rifles are generally lightweight, handy to wield, and easy to shoot with low recoil. It is just as useful for protecting the bug in residence. The common variety 30-30 lever gun offers a 20-inch tube with some models sporting carbine, or compact rifled barrels. The under-barrel magazine tube holds 5-6 rounds with one additional loaded in the chamber. Sure, not a mag change, but cartridges are easily inserted into the side action loading gate. Lever action cycling is fast, effective, and accurate. What’s more, the lever action rifle is a reliable, well-tested choice. The lever gun is a good alternative fit for many preppers.

Related: Ruger Charger Takedown

As promoted, the typical lever action rifle is a handy tool. It is straight-forward in its use with no complicated buttons, switches, releases or other distractions. This rifle format is easy to load, operate, and chamber. The lever action is a positive camming action that rarely fails to work.

Normally, the external hammer is positioned in a half-cock safe position prior to fully cocking the hammer for firing. Many of today’s new factory lever guns also offer a slide bolt safety lock that is simple to manipulate. First time and experienced shooters will find the lever gun easy to operate. The mechanism becomes second nature.

Barrel lengths of lever guns vary from short carbine lengths of 16-inches to the factory standard barrel of 20-inches. There are some models that have longer tubes and some with intermediate barrel lengths. Shop for what you can handle best.

Lever guns most often come supplied with factory installed open sights, usually a simple buckhorn adjustable sight dovetailed into the barrel. The forward front sight can be a simple ramp or hooded ramp to reduce glare. Most current production lever guns have the upper receiver drilled and tapped for installing a scope mount for an optical riflescope.

lever_action_kid_rifleLever guns weigh in the neighborhood of 6-7 pounds, loaded. Many models have sling swivel studs to install a shoulder sling for ease of carry or for shooting support. They are not cumbersome to tote and can be pressed into service quickly and smoothly onto a distant target. A sling can be carried across the chest to free up both hands for other tasks, yet the rifle can be rolled out of the carry mode and easily shouldered for shooting.

Lever guns usually come with wood stocks but newer versions are now offering black synthetic buttstocks and forearms. Rifle finishes vary from a standard blued metal, matte finishes, or stainless steel models. Select the features that suit your needs and applications best.

The Lever Gun Market

Lever action rifle models are currently available from Winchester, Marlin, Rossi, Mossberg, and Henry Repeating Arms. These manufacturer’s offer models in 30-30, smaller handgun equivalent loads, and heavier loads like the 45-70. The 30-30 remains the moderate alternative.

See Also: The Theory and Practical Application of The Walking Around Rifle 

A new lever action rifle is going to set you back from $450 to upwards of $600, maybe slightly more. They are certainly cheaper than most AR rifles. Sales on lever guns can be found and shopped. Gun shows will have new and used rifles. If you go the used route, just be certain you are confident the rifle is in excellent condition. Stay clear of rifles with rust or an abusive appearance. You’ll know an overused gun when you see it.

Distractors?

lever_action_standingTo be honest, the typical lever action 30-30 rifle is no AR-15. But, let’s not get lost comparing apples to oranges. The obvious distractor could be the loaded ammunition capacity. However, load up the magazine, put one extra in the chamber and use a buttstock ammo holder to carry six more rounds on the rifle. That is plenty of ammo for hunting and deterring threats. Put twenty more rounds on belt loops or in an easy access pouch on your carry backpack. It sure beats lugging along a half dozen AR mags in a heavy, hot front carry vest. ARs definitely have their places, but not all the time. Preppers should always be open to alternatives; adopt them and adapt to them.  Is the 30-30 lever action rifle an ideal set up? Well, no. It probably isn’t ideal for every bug-out or bug-in application. But, it is another choice worthy of serious consideration. Easy to operate, carry, deploy, shoot, and maintain, the 30-30 lever gun has a lot going for it.

Photos Courtesy of:

John Woods

Interested in writing for us? Send a sample of your work and an introductory statement to joel@survivalcache.com. Please use subject line: ‘Write for SurvivalCache/SHTFBlog’. If you’re a good fit, we’ll publish your work and compensate you accordingly.

Quick Buyer’s Guide to Imported AK Market

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wasr_featured

ak-47The Presidential Election, mass shootings and terror attacks on our soil have touched off a “mini-panic”, not quite the size or scale we saw in 2013 after Sandy Hook.  This mini-panic has again focused the attention of would-be gun owners, and current owners of two type of firearms: handguns and semi-auto rifles.  The two most popular platforms of rifles right now flying off store shelves are of the course the AR-15 and it’s many variants, and the many AK type rifles.

By Zach Dunn a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

This is not an article debating the superiority of either of these rifles.  I’ve written this to provide a quick buyer’s guide for anyone looking to buy their first AK.  With several of these rifles available on the US market, I am going to focus on just a few “every man’s rifles”.  The criteria being a rifle must be affordable, reliable, well built, and reasonably accurate.

The Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK)

Mikhail Kalashnikov designed his world changing rifle during the closing days of World War II and it was adopted by the Soviet Military in 1947.  Since then, the number of AK-47s, AKMs, and AK-74 rifles and their many variants are estimated to be between 150-200 million throughout the world as of 2016.

viet_cong_ak47The AK first came to America in large numbers starting in the 1980s.  For 3 decades, it was the semi-auto rifle just about anyone could afford with prices under $400.  I bought my first Romanian AK, a WASR-10/63 in 2007 for $350.  Up until a few years ago, you could still get an AK for around $4-500, sadly those days are gone.  The AK’s reputation as being a reliable rifle has strongly resonated with millions of American shooters, who in turn own millions of AK type rifles.  Though not as popular in the US as the AR-15, the AK is not going anywhere. The AK rifles in America fall into 2 distinct groups: imports, and domestic built rifles. In This article, we will be discussing AK series rifles currently imported into the United States.   

Current Import Rifles

These are the rifles that I recommend for purchase.  The reason being they are made the way a Kalashnikov pattern rifle should be.  The trunnions are forged from solid hunks of steel as are the bolt carriers.  The barrels are cold hammer forged, and most of them are chrome lined.  CHF chrome lined barrels are known to last well over 50,000 rounds, with cases of over 100,000 rounds reported.  With the current geopolitical system, the AK import market in America is limited.  That said, there are still some very solid options available.  

The WASR-10: for years the WASR-10 was derided as just a cheap rifle.  Early versions were known for canted sights and even canted barrels.  But WASRs worked, didn’t jam and were affordable.  For the price of less than $400, you could have a solid semi-auto rifle, 2 magazines, and a bayonet.  American shooter bought them by the truckload.

century_arms_wasr-10After years of complaints, most of the WASRs problems have gone away and new canted rifles are rare.  The WASR is made by Cugir (pronounced Soo-gar) in Romania and is imported by Century Arms.  WASRs are in nearly every way a mil-spec AK built on the same production lines as AKMs for the Romanian military and exports.  The only noticeable differences are the lack of dimples on its stamped receiver and a single stack bolt.  The WASR-10 enter America in the single stack magazine configuration, the mag wells are widened to accept standard AK double stack magazines and some US parts added.  Beyond this, it is an AKM.  Reliability is very high, and most rifles that are now imported are very straight.  

Even with the better quality, when buying a WASR it is prudent to inspect the rifle and make sure the sights, barrel, and trunnions are straight, and the rivets look good.  Additionally, some rifles imported in 2015 had extractor issues, it is a very easy fix taking less than 10 minutes to replace the old extractor with a new one.  At the time of this writing expect to pay between $650 and $800 for a new WASR.  Cost:  Expect to pay between $600-720 on a new WASR, prices are coming down after the election cycle.

Romanian M10/RH10: Think of it as a WASR (which it is), with better fit and finish, and a front sight with integrated front sight.  Offered by M+M as the M10, and imported by Century as the RH10 both offerings are the same firearm.  Folding stocks, AR style flash hider, and polymer stock all are geared towards the tactical shooter or AR-15 owner.  Cost: Average price is hovering around $700-750.

7-6239_imageArsenal: has built a reputation as a solid AK builder, and it is often held up as the best imported AK in the US.  Arsenal imports rifles built at the Arsenal Factory in Bulgaria and before 2014, also imported rifles Russian-made rifles as well.  Their SLR and SAM rifles have built a solid reputation amongst US shooters and collectors as solid, battle ready rifles.  SLR rifles come with a stamped receiver chambered in 7.62x39mm, 5.45x39mm or 5.56x45mm.  SAM rifles are built in the original AK-47 style with a forged receiver.  

The only complaints that have gained any traction with Arsenal firearms are that the price tag is steep, and when compared to a new WASR, the reliability is about the same.  The fit and finish of the Arsenal are undoubtedly better, though there are reports of bubbling paint (does not affect rifles’ performance).  Cost: SLR Series will cost between $1000-1200, SAM will be north of $1200.

Zastava: Another extremely popular current import rifle is the N-Pap rifles made by Zastava in Serbia.  Zastava has been producing and exporting M70 series AK rifles to the US since the 1980s when American Arms and Mitchell Arms first started importing them in the late 1980s.  Zastava rifles are now, like WASRs, imported by Century Arms International.  Zastava rifles come with a cold hammer forged barrel and is built with forged trunnions. The barrel, however, is not chrome lined.  

New Zastava N-Paps have a mixed reputation.  Their predecessor, the O-Pap rifles had solid reputations. However, N-Pap rifles are known to have poor receivers that stress crack after several thousand rounds. Battlefield Las Vegas has pulled N-Paps off their rental lines after many of their rifles experienced stress cracks in their receivers.  Cost: $650-700.

atfVEPR: In 2014, Obama and the ATF banned the importation of certain arms and ammunition from the Russian Federation.  This included Saiga rifles which were based on the Russian AKM and AK-74.  Saiga rifles were commonly rebuilt and converted to near mil-spec configuration.  When the ban fell, the only remaining Russian-built AKM style rifle that was legal for import was the Vepr.  Veprs are known for their high quality, fit, and finish.  They are built with the same forged trunnions and cold hammer forged chrome lined barrels that AKs around the world are known for.

Veprs are a little different than other AKMs, in that they are RPK style rifles.  Meaning they have a thicker receiver and trunnions and are very close to the Russian RPK family of light machine guns.  

A Vepr can be purchased in both the uncovered sporting configuration or converted into an AKM style rifle.  If purchased in the imported sporting configuration, some work will need to be done to convert the rifle to handle double stack standard AK magazines.  Cost: An unconverted Vepr will run between $680-800, fully converted expect to pay $1100-1300.

Photos Courtesy of:

Rich Miller
Caio Morais’

MSR Whisperlite vs Esbit Pocket Stove

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msr_vs_pocketstove

katahdinOne recent fall weekend my wife and I went to hike Maine’s Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. It was a gorgeous hike, as you can see in the image. The hike wasn’t for sissies, however; that or we’re just old, but we hiked for about 8 miles and 8 hours before we were back at our campsite and ready to eat a little Mountain House for dinner. Yes, we could have packed a full grill and made a meal fit for royalty, but that means packing the grill and a whole lot of effort. After a full day of hiking? No thanks. Mountain House is fast, easy, and it tastes good. Besides, I wanted to test a new stove, the Esbit Pocket Stove, to see if it would have a place in our camping/emergency gear. Could a disposable, light, tiny stove heat the water we’d need for food and drink? It could be life changing! Well, not really, but it could certainly change our approach to some hiking/emergency situations.

msrflameJust in case it didn’t go well, I’d brought our standard hiking stove, the MSR Whisperlite. Most people are familiar with the MSR brand of stove, the Whisperlite being the most common. They’re solid, time-tested, with simple mechanics. They can be a little messy at times, particularly when starting them, and you have to carry liquid fuel, but they work. I’m not sure one brand in this style of stove is any better than another. Jetboil seems like another nice brand, particularly if you like using propane. Propane is cleaner and can be set to simmer. The Whisperlite-type stoves can burn multiple fuels, however, better for survival situations.

pocketstoveflameLet’s get back to the Esbit stove, though. I’d never heard of this thing, but it seemed to have potential. “Use for cooking, boiling water, making hot coffee or tea,” the package reads. It’s made in Germany, which has a reputation for producing decent products. The box contains a foldable “stove” (a foldable, metal frame to hold a small pot of water or pan) and 6 half-ounce fuel cubes. The burn time, it claims, is approximately 12 minutes per half-ounce cube. The fuel cubes are stable, non-toxic, and they light easily with a match or lighter. The manufacturer claims that, depending on conditions, one cube will bring one pint of water to a boil in approximately 8 minutes. Not bad! The exterior conditions on that weekend were nothing short of beautiful. Figuring how the package also says the stove works well at altitude, I figured we were all set with “depending on conditions.” We had ideal conditions.

If you’re sensing this is shaping up to be a David versus Goliath matchup, you’re probably right. I’m not so naïve as to think a ten dollar, solid fuel, disposable pocket stove has a fair shot against an eighty-five dollar, white gas-fueled camping stove. The difference in construction and power between the two stoves is obvious. It’s clearly not an apples-to-apples matchup. Still, it was an interesting experiment for me. If the Pocket Stove did what it said it could do, there would be a whole range of situations I’d prefer to have a Pocket Stove over an MSR Whisperlite or comparable stove. When, exactly? I’d use a Pocket Stove over an MSR in any of the following scenarios:

  • Flying overseas. We had a recent trip to Iceland. The airfare there was reasonably priced, but once you’re staying there, everything is expensive. Gas is expensive, beer is expensive, souvenirs are expensive, and dining out is very expensive. We packed our MSR Whisperlite with an empty fuel bottle that we filled there. The plan was to hit the grocery store and cook anything easy from the stove to save money. It’s the scenery you’re after in Iceland, after all. The first day there we searched Reykjavik for Coleman white gas, a bottle that we used little of by week’s end. A solid fuel Pocket Stove would have been much more convenient and we could have packed it on the plane.
  • Day hikes. Here in New England, it’s not uncommon for us to make a day trip to a local mountaintop. It’s nice to do it not bogged down with weight/gear. It’s also nice to have a hot cup of coffee or tea at the top, and maybe a hot lunch if it’s late season hiking. I don’t know how much the Pocket Stove weighs, but it’s barely anything. The MSR and its bottle of fuel have weight, weight I’d rather leave at home.
  • Emergency kits. The Pocket Stove is tiny and easy to slide into an emergency kit for your vehicle or backpack. No worries about liquid fuel, and less costly to purchase if you’re only buying a stove for just-in-case purposes. One of these Pocket Stoves, a small pot, a few Mountain House meals, and you’re in good shape.
  • Bug out bag. Theoretically, your bug out bag (BOB) only needs to get you from point A to point B. Hopefully that’s not a great distance to travel, and if you’ve got to do it on foot, the less weight and size your stove has the more weight and room you have for other items. The Pocket Stove seems more suitable to a BOB.

The more I think about it, the scenarios above are exactly the types of situations I use my Whisperlite in, so the Pocket Stove—if effective—could prove to get far more use than the Whisperlite.

So what are the Pocket Stove’s advantages?

  1. Lower cost
  2. Lighter weight
  3. Smaller size
  4. Stable, solid fuel
  5. Fewer moving parts

The MSR, of course, has its own advantages:

  1. Gas power
  2. Multi-fuel
  3. Larger, more stable cooking platform
  4. Made in the U.S.A.

stoves-on-tableSince 80% of my entire stove use is to boil water, either for drink or to add to dehydrated food, the test was simple: see how each compares when boiling one pint of water. I lit the stoves and they were off to the races!  I know, I know, the MSR fuel canister looks awfully close to the Pocket Stove flame. I just moved the can there for the pic… *ahem.* This Whisperlite always takes a little tinkering to get it going, but the Pocket Stove fuel was easily lit with a lighter. However, you can see the significant difference in the flame. The Whisperlite has a healthy roar to its sound. The Pocket Stove’s solid fuel is more like a dancing flame than the Whisperlite’s burner.

The Whisperlite’s bendable windscreen is a great benefit. Not only does it help reduce wind hitting the flame, but it reflects the heat back toward the burner and up the sides of the pot for greater efficiency. The Pocket Stove has no such screen, making it more susceptible to wind. There was another problem, however. The Pocket Stove’s flame is very low to the surface level. Needless to say, it caught the picnic table on fire in the process.  Sorry Baxter State Park officials!

boiling_stoves_msr_esbitBut soon we had reached full boil… well, the MSR did.  Your can see here the MSR was at a full, roiling boil. It took 4.5 minutes—fast! You can also see here where the Pocket Stove’s lack of windscreen left the flame blowing out the side resulting in poorer efficiency. Mind you, this was by no means a windy day. The air was quite still. Conditions were ideal.  That said, Esbit claims it takes 8 minutes to reach boil, which is still fast, so we kept it going. Except, the fuel cube burned out at 7.5 minutes, despite Esbit’s claim that each cube will burn for 12 minutes. I stuck my finger thermometer in the water and it read slightly warmer than lukewarm.

pocketstoveflameonsideI attributed the failure to burn to the flame blowing out the side rather than sitting fully under the pot. I moved the stove to the ground to save the picnic table, lit another cube, and surrounded it with the Whisperlite’s windscreen. That still didn’t seem to help.  The second cube eventually burned out and after 13 minutes and 20 seconds sitting over the Pocket Stove’s, flame the water was finally hot enough for tea, but still not boiling.

Sadly, this little stove failed to live up to the claims. The only purpose I can recommend it for… is… well I guess I can’t recommend it for any purpose. I took the remaining fuel cubes and tossed them into the campfire to watch them burn. The foldable stove I threw in the trash. I guess you could use the fuel cubes for emergency fire starters, then the unit goes from being a cheap stove to becoming an expensive set of fire starters. You can do better than that. Esbit could do better, too.

Don’t buy the Esbit Pocket Stove. Save your money and splurge on an MSR, Jetboil, or similar quality camping stove. You won’t be disappointed.

Derrick Grant is the founder of Prepper Press, a publisher of post-apocalyptic fiction and survival nonfiction. Follow his Facebook writer page for all things apocalyptic.

All Photos Courtesy of: Derrick Grant

Interested in writing for us? Send a sample of your work and an introductory statement to joel@survivalcache.com. If you’re a good fit, we’ll publish your work and compensate you accordingly.

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Cold Weather: The Great Equalizer

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forest_cold_winterFor preppers, cold weather has to be the worst of the elements.   In some parts of the country we are just entering the phase of the harshest part of winter. It has been pretty mild in most cold zones, but Mother Nature being as she is, I expect that to change.  Remember, if you saw the Seattle-Minnesota NFL playoff game last year, the air temp on the field was at or below zero not counting the -10-20 degree wind chill factor. How would you like to be outside during a SHTF in that?

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

How do you prepare for and survive a bug out with outside temperatures in the teens or worse? It is the ultimate challenge in my mind. Cold has a way of sinking into the soul. Can you remember photos of the German Army marching in to Russia in WWII?   How about Valley Forge with soldier’s feet wrapped in mere cloth because no boots were available? I shiver just thinking about it. Cold can zap your spirit and take your life.

Structural Preparation

But like any other part of preparing for a SHTF, preppers can prepare for cold weather, too. First and foremost some kind of shelter has to be paramount. You simply cannot sustain yourself in zero temps huddled under a tarp cover. Even a cloth or nylon tent is sketchy. One exception might be a high quality outfitters wall tent with a good wood, propane, or gas stove inside. Protection from cold, wet and wind is essential to survive the winter months.

Related: Tarp or Tent Debate 

Better yet some kind of a fixed house, barn or structure. Doors and windows can be sealed and walls insulated. A wood stove or even a fireplace would generate some heat to stave off the penetrating impact of the cold. Kerosene or propane gas heaters could also be deployed. If you live or escape to where it could be cold, then plan now.

Camping trailers are an option, too, as a bug out shelter in addition to being available for regular recreational use.   If considering a trailer to tow, shop for one with good wall and floor insulation and a good heating system. Most likely a heater and cook stove will be fueled by propane, so plan for ample supplies for a long term stay if needed. Try to park and anchor a trailer out of prevailing winds with a tree line screen or other protective block.

Clothing Matters 

Obviously proper clothing is an essential defense against cold.  That cotton hunting outfit will not do. Forget the blue jeans for driving winds and snow. And don’t be fooled by some highly marketed super fabrics either. Many of them fail in the cold. Go for well insulated outfits and or wool. Wool from head to toe will provide better body heat retention than just about anything else, even when wet.

Read Also: It’s Winter – Don’t Go Hiking Without Proper Clothing! 

Though you’ve heard it many times until you’re dizzy, layering is still the best strategy. Use wicking layers against the skin and work out from there. Then, just like a wall thermometer, as you heat up or cool down, you can adjust by taking off or putting on layers. Don’t forget a good hat or beanie to stop body heat from escaping through your head. Use a scarf for the neck.

Get proper boots, and gloves, too. If there is a driving wind, then a protective facemask adds warmth and skin protection as well. Cold weather boots such as Schnee’s or Kenetrek boots with the wool liner inserts provide exceptional foot protection from the cold. Your boots should be totally waterproof and well insulated.

frost_tree_pine_winterSupplemental heat can also be added to the exterior of the body by using the chemical heat up pads that can be placed in gloves, boots or as body wraps. The ones that stick on the bottom of socks add an extra measure of warmth for cold feet. Place them on top of the toes and the bottom for even longer heat generation. There are battery operated or rechargeable boot heaters, too, but these require extra batteries or access to a power source to recharge them.

During super cold you have to eat right and hydrate more than you might think. Internal ovens  fed with protein foods with a good mix of carbs.   Cold weather will drag on your mind and body. Prepare ahead to withstand it and you will survive it.

All Photos Courtesy of:
John Woods

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The Fallkniven Professional Hunting Knife: When Quality Really Matters

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fallkniven_phk_professional_hunting_knife_chopping

fallkniven_phk_professional_hunting_knife_closeAs knife designs evolve they have to overcome the traditions and stereotypes of the past. In an effort to drive knife sales, manufacturers have produced more versatile, creatively inspired blades. While this has yielded a multitude of blades, some manufacturers have missed the mark entirely with poorly designed, gimmicky knives. Others, like Fällkniven, produce modern blades that are just as useful as traditional blades. In 1984, Fällkniven opened its doors to the world and pushed blade technology to new limits. 

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

There seems to be very few constants in knife making these days. I can think of two constants: human strength and cutting capacity. The ideal blade isn’t too dull, flexible, or blunt. If you will, the ideal blade is a ‘Goldilocks Blade’. Beyond that, there are few rules. With this being said, there are many traditions and these must be properly navigated in order to innovate.

The Hunted

fallkniven_phk_professional_hunting_knife_blade_profileSince the mid-1980s the Fällkniven Knife Company has served the needs of those who might find themselves floating to earth under a parachute, or working their way back home after a crash landing. The Fällkniven F1, also known as the Swedish Pilots Knife, is a small package of cutting dynamite. With the F1, hunting is on the menu, but the menu is quite large with many vegetarian options. I carried the F1 in my hunting kit, but often found myself looking around for something better when it came to hunting tasks and game processing. Fällkniven, in usual fashion, answered the call.

Read Also: Survival Gear Review: Fällkniven A1 Pro

The Fällkniven Professional Hunting Knife, or PHK, is a gorgeous upswept-point blade of mildly larger proportions than dusty traditions would specify. Frankly, the moment I saw the design of this blade, I knew it would be good. There was just something so right about it. It carried forward the belly of a skinner with the rigidity of a wilderness blade while offering the user more control. The Fällkniven Professional Hunting Knife has an upsweep-drop point which seems like it could be an oxymoron, but in fact it’s the best of both worlds. Perhaps it is the best of all worlds.

The potentially contradictory blade shape of upswept-drop point is an irony of iron that really works. Traditionally upswept designs are elegant but small slicers are arguably more effective. When the blade exceeds the distance between palm and index finger, the whole hand must move beyond the grip. This motion compromises safety and is simply inefficient. It’s a dangerous move that requires practice especially when done quickly or blindly. On traditional larger drop point blades, the tip of the blade rides below the index fingernail meaning it’s easier to poke a hole into the skin or membrane during a slice. The pros can drag the tip precisely like a surgeon&rs