Survival Gear Review: Best Glide Survival Fishing Kit

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Best Glide Fishing Kit

It better be an emergency if you use this thing, because this is not your Daddy’s tackle box.  best_glide_emergency_survival-fishing-kitAll 3 versions of the Best Glide Survival Fishing Kits (Standard, Basic, Compact) are pretty sparse but that is why they are called emergency fishing kits.  If you are building your own Bug Out Bag, I think you could do better with a few hours at the local fishing store creating a small tackle box for you and your family.  But, if you are lazy or just want a cheap insurance policy to throw in your emergency kit, the Best Glide kits will cover your basics.

By Murphy

I would not stake my life on this product but for the size and the weight, it is worth having with you if you don’t have any other options.  Out of the 3 choices, I personally like the Standard version (which you can buy on Amazon for around $20).  Take a look, we tried to fish with the standard version using just a stick, no luck catching a fish but we only tried for about an hour before giving up.  In a survival situation, you might be there a while.  Watch the video below, see what you think.  Like I said, I built my own but I am old school.

Video – Best Glide Emergency Fishing Kit

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

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Edible_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_ground_unfolded

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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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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Survival Gear Review: The Smart Bungee System

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smart_bungee_featured

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_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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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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Survival Gear Review: The Timahawk Part 2

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Timahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_axe_chopping-2

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: Springfield Armory XD-S 9mm

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Best Concealed Carry Pistol

A few years back, Springfield Armory came out with a single stack 9mm to much fanfare and then as quickly as concealed carry pistol review XD-Sthe pistol launched, they promptly recalled the pistol due to a possible unsafe condition. The recall read as follows (from manufacturer): “Springfield Armory is initiating this voluntary safety recall to upgrade 3.3 XD-S 9mm and 3.3 XD-S .45ACP pistols with new components, which eliminate the possibility of a potentially dangerous condition. We want to emphasize that no injuries have been reported to date. Springfield has determined that under exceptionally rare circumstances, some 3.3 XD-S™ 9mm and .45ACP caliber pistols could experience an unintended discharge during the loading process when the slide is released, or could experience a double-fire when the trigger is pulled once. The chance of these conditions existing is exceptionally rare, but if they happen, serious injury or death could occur.”

By Mark, a contributing author to Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

Springfield Armory apparently learned the lessons of Remington and as soon as this unsafe condition was brought to their attention, they leaned into getting back every XD-S 3.3″ barrel pistol that they sold.  They then repaired the pistols and returned them to the customers.  They also changed the manufacturing process on all future pistols from the factory.  Now every XD-S 3.3″ off the line has the new improvements.

Related: The Katrina Pistol

If you are looking to buy a used XD-S 9mm 3.3″ pistol, you can tell very quickly if the pistol has been upgraded by looking at the outside grip safety without disassembling the pistol.  XD-S 9mm 3.3″ that have been upgraded have a visible roll pin on the left and right side of the grip safety.  See below.

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With the new upgrades and the bugs worked out, we loved the XD-S 9mm.  As promised, it shot great.  The stock fiber optic sights were better than average and the slim profile of the pistol is very appealing to concealed carry customers and under cover police.  The downside of the single stack is a magazine that carries 7 rounds in the flush fitting mag and 8 rounds in the extended magazine.  Like I always say, I have never heard someone say “I wish I had less rounds in a gun fight.”

Specs

Caliber: 9mm
Recoil System: Dual Spring w/ Full Length Guide Rod
Sights: Fiber Optic Front & Dovetail Rear (Steel)
Weight: (with Empty Magazine) 23 ozs.   Height: 4.4″ w/ Compact Mag, 5″ w/ Mid-Mag X-Tension™
Slide: Forged Steel, Melonite Finish
Barrel: 3.3″ Hammer Forged, Steel, Melonite® / 1:10 Twist
Length: 6.3″
Grip Width: .9″
Frame: Black Polymer
Magazines: 1 – 7 Round Flush Fitting, 1 – 8 Round With Mid-Mag X-Tension™, Stainless Steel

Field Test

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The Unappreciated 10mm Auto

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glock_29_sf_10mm_bug_out_survival_hunting_gun_pistol_2

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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Survival Gear Review: Hybridlight Journey 160 Flashlight

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hybridlight_flashlight_featured

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!

 

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.

 

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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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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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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The Fallkniven Professional Hunting Knife: When Quality Really Matters

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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’s scalpel, but anything done in the field or elements is risky. And the more blood and sweat in the mix, the more likely the game won’t be the only one skinned. However, on the Fällkniven Professional Hunting Knife the upswept drop point allows fairly precise driving even from the back seat. The thick spine provides firm control and the added length in front of the fingertip is user friendly.

Iron Maiden

The iron coursing through the veins of the Fällkniven Professional Hunting Knife blade is a 3G laminated steel scoring a 62 on the Rockwell hardness scale (HRC). The tang is a broad protruding one that, like Fällkniven’s survival blades, pops out the back of the grip completing the solidity of this package. A single grommeted hole graces the far end of the kraton grip allowing a lanyard to be attached.

Related: Fallkniven A1 Survival Knife

fallkniven_phk_professional_hunting_knife_archeryBut with change comes controversy. If mildly noticeable deviations from the blade norm raise eyebrows, then drawing your PHK from the sheath will leave mouths agape. Without knowing it, most survivalist and hunters are carrying on a tradition that began long ago. The camo-clad crowd spouts “two is one, and one is none.” Big blades and little blades have been complementing each other for millennia. Big jobs are for the big knife and small jobs are for the small knife. A further refinement of this concept did develop further prejudice and that is with the sacrificial blade and the primary blade, or the Pawn and the King, if you will. In hunting circles, there is the hunting knife that is cared for, babied, and often rides safe and warm in the hunting pack instead of on the belt. Then, there is the working knife that does all the daily maintenance and dirty jobs far below the noble duties of the king. I admit that I practice this bit of favoritism, but in terms of survival, the OO knife (double-oh knife), or Only One knife concept is very real when the hunting gear must be high speed, low drag.

Traditions Change

I think hunting knives began to evolve when hunting moved from an out-the-backdoor activity to a pseudo-military expedition into the untamed wilderness. There’s not a lot of hardware to carry when popping a Bambi off the back porch. You gut the beast right there donating the innards to the predators that keep the place clean and tidy. Afterwards, you drag the carcass back home and string it up on a tree to cool. When ready, you head to your  kitchen for some meat and bone-specific cutlery. 

All is fine and dandy until you are miles into the woods and your quarry might not go down willingly like the whitetail snacking on your hedges. Enter the big hunting knife. When money and carry-weight is tight, items seem to gain more uses. Military knives moved from BDU belt accessory to top-tier hunting wardrobe. The knife needed to run triple-duty as a camp knife for those lifetime adventures in the national parks, off-grid hunting expeditions, and self-defense.

Like all evolutionary change, as one critter specializes, another pops up to capitalize on the available niche. So as the hip-hugging hunting knife moved away from the detailed work and more towards bigger cruder jobs, little knives moved in like tiny mammals taking over the mini-landscape left behind as the dinosaurs grew bigger. Then, when the mighty asteroid dirtied up the place 65 million years ago, the little furry warmbloods made their move. And here we are, more or less.

fallkniven_phk_professional_hunting_knife_gutting-birdSpecialized knives started to weigh down the hunter who might actually carry a combat blade for general outdoor use, a razor-sharp cutting knife, a skinning knife, a bone saw, and perhaps even a hunting hatchet to split open those pesky big game rib cages and detach bony limbs. What drove this equipment frenzy was the search for exactly the right tool for the job, and not the best tool for many jobs. While at home, you can have all the specialized tools and blades you want. Carrying them on your back and belt is a different story. Especially when you know you will need to use the knife for many other non-hunting chores and rarely for the chore it was designed for.

Small is Big

In a strange twist on a perpetual theme, there was a movement that started out with good intentions but ended up causing a mess. That movement was fueled by the belief that the better a hunter you were, the smaller the knife you needed. This was the opposite of the Bowie and Tennessee Toothpick persona. Imagine Rambo whipping out his Spyderco Ladybug. Maybe let’s not. The issue rose to epic proportions when a hunting knife could be mistaken for a scalpel complete. Of course, another knife was needed for regular camp tasks, and an even larger blade was carried for the traditional forest duties. So add to the growing pile of knives the sharpening tools and extra blades necessary to keep the knives in the fight.

Further Reading: Three Excellent Survival Knives for Under $100

But the same evolutionary rules that lead to the population explosion of knives can also lead to extinction. Blades were staying home and hunters were squeezing more performance and specialized jobs out of knives obviously not designed for such work. As the proverbial pendulum began a healthy swing back towards center, so started another renaissance of sorts with hunting knives. The short ones got a little longer, thin ones got a little thicker, the pointy ones got a little more dropped, and knives of all kinds implemented the full belly of the skinner.

fallkniven_phk_professional_hunting_knife_carvingTaking advantage of this enlightenment in hunting knives was none other than Fällkniven. By creating an obviously unique take on the philosophical concept of a hunting knife, the Fällkniven PHK has hints of many different blades from Samurai Sword, to Tanto fighting knife, to skinning blade, to wilderness knife, to survival blade. In fact, the PHK is like a piece of contemporary art that assumes the preferences of the viewer as much as standing on its own. In other words, the PHK does it all, and most things well. At five millimeters thick, the PHK blade shares a level of strength uncommon to traditional hunting knives. And its blade length exceeds the hunting industry standard by about an inch. Further, the attention Fällkniven gave to hygiene is something more in line with the butcher shop than the killing field. The stainless steel and kraton grip clean up nicely and provide few homes for bacteria.

In general, the PHK guts like a gutter, skins like a skinner, chops like a chopper and slices like a slicer. It does none of these things quite as good as a blade specifically designed and dedicated to such tasks, but the PHK is well within the margin of error for modern task-specific cutlery. Adding to this list, the Fällkniven PHK also worked great as a minor clever as it crunched through upland game bird wings and legs with skill and finesse. The full belly rolls smoothly through all things aviary, and breaks the bones of any fish you can lift. But big game is another story. Processing hundreds of pounds of animal requires some seriously edged firepower so pushing eight inches of blade length around a carcass is a task well within the Fällkniven Professional Hunting Knife skill set.

Photos Courtesy Of:

Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: Epic Ultimate Travel Bottle

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While everybody else is storing gold and silver, I am finding the best ways to invest in what I believe is going to be the currency ofepic_water_straw_standing the future: clean water.  I highly recommend assessing your own situation and finding ways to store and purify as much water as you can. For home situations, purifying water isn’t too difficult. Sometimes though, we are forced to move from our base of operations. In this case, you need a way of purifying dirty water while on the move. The Epic Ultimate Travel Bottle claims to provide a solution to this issue so we checked it out.

By Tinderwolf, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Thorough Filtration System

Systems for cleaning water can range from a few dollars for water purification tablets to hundreds of dollars for stand-alone systems. While the more expensive systems might be nice to have, I wanted to find a reasonably priced, mobile system. I found the Epic Ultimate Travel Bottle for $59; right in the range of how much I want to spend. The Epic Filter can produce up to one hundred gallons of drinkable water. On a per gallon basis, this is a solid investment. Moreover, the Epic Filter has been EPA certified to remove the following:

  • 99% of unpleasant taste, odors cloudiness, silt sediment and chlorine.
  • 99% of heavy metals, Aluminum, Asbestos, Cadmium, Chromium 6, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Radiological Radon 222
  • 99% Toxic chemicals, Arsenic, Trihalomethanes, Chloroform, PCB, PCE, Detergents, and Pesticides( DDT)

Seems impressive, doesn’t it? According to the product materials, the bottle kills contaminants with an ‘iodinator’.  From what I’ve gathered, the iodinator dilutes just enough iodine to kill bacteria without affecting taste.  Just remember to read the instructions and follow all steps. A water-born disease is a heavy price to pay for negligence.

Also Read: Weighing the Options For Drinking Water

There are four parts to this water bottle. The plastic bottle body, the straw, top, and the filter. The Epic Filter can be unscrewed and fitted with new, affordable filters. When the filter is new, there is a sticker on the bottom of the filter that must be removed before use. I took the filter out and tripled rinsed the bottle before getting the filter wet. The instructions say to fill the bottle up and squeeze water through the filter and out of the top. It recommends to carry out this step two times.

Testing It Out

The bottle itself is somewhat soft and easy to squeeze. Initially you have to squeeze the bottle a few times as the filter is soaking upepic_water_filter the water and traveling up the straw section. The first time that I filled up the bottle I used tap water. Some reviews I read stated that there was a terrible iodine after-taste and that the bottle leaked water from the top. I shook the bottle vigorously and squeezed while the flip top was closed. No water escaped from the bottle. I then opened the flip top and shook the bottle. Only a few drops escaped from the flip straw.

Finally, I squeezed the bottle and sucked up a mouthful of water. In order to better judge the quality, I spit the water out after swishing for ten seconds.  I detected no iodine taste. People are concerned with taste so I wanted to be sure about this taste test. I allowed the water to sit in the bottle and filter for one hour and took another drink. Again, I detected no level of iodine or any other substance.

Related: The Platypus Collapsible Water Bottle 

I next wanted to test how well the filter filtered out chlorine. I used non-scented bleach. When purifying water with bleach, use five drops of bleach per liter of water. I decided to add four drops of bleach to the bottle. After taking the screw top off, it was easy to detect the smell of bleach. I screwed the lid back on and squeezed the bottle.  I could not detect a bleach smell or taste.

Extra Features and Final Verdict

The bottle comes with a koozie wrapped around the middle of the bottle with stats on the effectiveness of the bottle. I think this is a nice touch for those unfamiliar with the product. On the neck of the bottle is an adjustable wrist strap so that you don’t lose your bottle while dipping it into water sources.

I have been using this bottle for about a week now and I am extremely happy with this system. I found it interesting that there is a noticeable taste difference between unfiltered tap water and Epic filtered water.  For the price of the bottle, gallons filtered, filter refills, and ease of use, I am happy with my Epic Ultimate Travel Bottle.

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Survival Gear Review: Kelly Kettle Ultimate Camp Kit

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kelly_kettle_openedThe Kelly Kettle was developed by the Kelly family in Ireland and has been in use for over one hundred years. The kettle has a simple yet very effective design for boiling water.  The body of the kettle is a doubled wall construction with a hollow core.  When the kettle is placed over the hobo stove, the heat is directed up the center, hollow portion of the kettle and out of the top.  Since there is a much larger surface area being heated, the water boil time is greatly reduced.  The excess heat coming out of the top of the kettle can then be used as a cooking source while your water is being boiled.

By Tinderwolf, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

The stove uses biomass for its fuel, meaning that any natural source of combustible material can be used. The more I talk about the Kelly Kettle to folks the more I am amazed that people have not heard of it.

My Experience

I filled the kettle up with water and set it off to the side while I started my fire in the hobo stove base.  I always carry a few pieces of Fatwood with me as they are filled with resin and hold a flame very well. I used the Fatwood and other biomass that I found to get the fire going.  Once I was satisfied with my base fire, I placed the kettle filled with water on top of the hobo stove.  It is important to note that when you are boiling water you must keep the silicone stopper out of the kettle.  If you have the stopper inserted, too much pressure can build up inside the kettle and you will experience a nasty side effect.

Related: Weighing The Options For Drinking Water

Once I had the kettle on top of the heat source, I began my stopwatch.  I then placed the cooking top accessories in the chimney opening so that I could cook a pot of soup.  Within five minutes the water was at a rolling boil and my soup was hot enough to eat.  The small pot grabber accessory came in handy when the pot was ready to be taken off of the heat source.

kelly_kettle_cookingI took the kettle off of the hobo stove base and equipped the grill top. It was the perfect size to cook a sausage link.  Five minutes later I had a great grill tasting sausage.  With the grill accessory still in place, I decided to try using the pot cover, which can also be used as a small frying pan, to cook an egg. The size of the pan is just right for a single egg to be cooked.  Cooking directly above the hobo stove worked well, though I’m sure the cook time is diminished. There are two ways in which to feed fuel into this system.  You can feed fuel from the bottom directly into the hobo stove or you can feed the fuel directly into the chimney of the kettle. Feeding the fuel from the top and into the chimney is the recommend way in which to feed your base fire.

Pros & Cons

As the list is very short, let’s begin with the negative aspects of this system.  Since the Kelly Kettle uses biomass as fuel, there is no real good way in which to adjust your heat output like you can with a fuel canister system. The only way to do so is to stop feeding the fire and let it die down on its own.  With a fuel canister system you have much more control over the heat output.  When comparing this to a fuel canister system, starting the fire and keeping the fire fed is going to be more work with the Kelly Kettle.  It’s also going to be more difficult if you want to have a smokeless fire depending on the fuel available. The Kelly Kettle is also much larger and weighs more than a small fuel canister accompanied by a grill base.

See Also: Water Purification and Survival

kelly_kettle_water_pouringFor me, the pros of the Kelly Kettle system far outweigh the cons. If you are traveling long distance or off the grid for an extended time, you will always be able to use the Kelly Kettle provided you have fuel. You have the option of the kit being made out of aluminum or stainless steel.  Aluminum will obviously be lighter but more difficult to clean. The stainless steel will add more weight to the kit but it will be much more durable and easier to clean. The entire base camp kit which includes a kettle, a hobo stove, two plates, two cups, a pot with lid, pot base, pot grabber and a grill all fit into an easy carry bag.

Conclusion

Some might look at the price for the Large Base Camp kit in stainless steel as a bit pricey, coming in at $170.  I try to save money on gear when I can but when it comes to main items in my kit, I believe you get what you pay for.  The Kelly Kettle is a good investment. This particular model is the largest that Kelly Kettle offers and works wonderfully if you are going to be setting up camp in a location for a couple of days. Because of its size, it is probably not something you are going to want to be packing and unpacking several times a day through your travels.  I have placed this model in my large pack that I use for longer outings. For smaller, quick day trips I plan on later purchasing one of their smaller models.

Photos Courtesy of:
KellyKettleUSA

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Survival Gear Review: The Mora Camp Axe

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mora_orange_cutting_axe

Mora knives are the paracord of survival blades. Their utility is unquestioned, but not so much is their reliability as a true survival mora_axe_riverinstrument. Having a partial tang, thin blade, plastic sheath, and average steel, the Mora Knife is more of an inexpensive convenience, but by no means the last word in survival blades.  However, the Mora Knife is just the beginning of the Morakniv tool offerings to those with a survival bend. Among other things, Morakniv carries axes.  One particular axe caught my eye for review, the compact Mora Camp Axe.

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

The Morakniv company began its journey in Mora, Sweden in 1891, with knives being little more than a product diversification to their lineup of timber sleds. That’s almost a century-long head start in front of Fallkniven, another well known Swedish blade maker. After 125 years of changing names and products, the formal company of Morakniv was born on January 1, 2016. No more timber sleds, no more ice drills, just knives, hatchets, and a few other things.

Small Bites

Speaking of Mora Hatchets, I thought it a good time to take one for a SurvivalCache spin. The Mora Camp Axe has much of the flavor of the famous Mora Knife with a plastic handle, thin blade, and utilitarian steel. One of the packaging options is a combination box that includes both the axe and a matching Mora knife.

Also Read: Why the Tomahawk?

The hatchet-sized axe is 12.5 inches long with a 3.5 inch blade face. The quarter-inch flat steel axe head does some things well, while others not so much.  Lacking the wedge head of classic hatchets, wood is only mechanically forced a sixteenth of an inch in either direction off center. This makes for better slicing. The remedy is to vary the pitch of the blade during strikes.

Featherweight Fighter

Another variable here is that this hatchet weighs in its entirety just an ounce over one pound. That certainly makes for easy carry, but also severely limits its multiplied force as a tool. So of course, there are tradeoffs. For smaller camp and survival chores, the Mora Camp Axe is a fine little worker.

The plastic handle of the Mora Camp Axe is described as “reinforced” but I have no idea what that really means in this case. mora_orange_hatchet_and_knifeModern reinforced plastics are polymers with low modulus strands and high grade plastics. At the moment, I will just have to take Mora’s word since the handle of the Mora Camp Axe feels and looks like basic plastic to me. When I hold the handle up to a bright light, I cannot see any enlargement of the metal head within the plastic so the plastic’s grip on the head as is is all she wrote. However, I do see a couple quarter-inch holes in the metal where light gets through, along with a half-inch notch at the top. I assume that these holes and the notch are filled with plastic infill securing the head to the handle.The hatchet head is painted with a black epoxy that protects the steel from rust. It seems fairly durable, but you will need to touch up the exposed steel blade.

Related: Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe

The steel is listed as a boron steel which I find unusual for a common camp hatchet. Boron steels are special purpose steels found mostly in automotive applications. This steel can be incredibly strong, but also quite susceptible to heat tempering. Mora seems to have done this boron steel well since it remained quite sharp even after repeated chopping events. The poll or back end of the axe head is a quarter-inch by two-and-a-half-inch rectangle; hardly enough to do much work. This is worth consideration since the Mora Camp Axe costs about twice that of the $25 Fiskers X7 hatchet.

Test Driving

Two of my many field trips with the Mora Camp Axe were eventful. One was an outing with some high school boys, one of whom was infatuated with hatchets. When a ten-inch thick tree crossed our path, he was initially happy to clear the trail. What would have been a two-minute job with a full sized forest axe (something in in the 20-inch handle range and a two pound head) took more than 10 minutes with the Mora Camp Axe. And as fatigue set in, the number of misstrikes increased to the point I had to intervene on his technique for safety reasons.

Related: Good, Cheap Knives

Another trip had the Mora Camp Axe tucked into my belt while fly fishing. A small creek I like to wander up has some great little holes with cutthroat and brook trout. High winds in the area had created plenty of trees we call “widowmakers.” They are the dead or dying trees that lean at obscene angles just waiting for an unsuspecting hunter, hiker or fisherman to pause under it, then crash. Wind, rain, and time will bring down the tree. So, when a leaner was shading a fine looking Brook Trout hole, I decided to assist the tree in its suicide. Slipping the Mora Camp Axe from my belt, I surveyed the hazards of felling this tree and went to work.

With a larger axe, the job would have been much faster, so with the tiny bites the Mora Camp Axe took out of the tree’s base, I could sense the will of the tree giving in as it lost circumference. So much so that I was able to step away and film the trees last moments.  Here it is on my first of many Youtube videos for Survival Cache and SHTFBlog.

The Final Chop

The Mora Camp Axe has a place in the survival pack primarily in that it can be in a kit that would normally exclude a larger, heavier hatchet. The simplicity of this tool is that it takes up little space and never complains. It chops wood better than a knife, and does lighter blade work duties much better than a larger axe. Another area where the Mora Camp Axe excels is with smaller hands helping out. Larger tools take larger muscle and larger hands to work with them safely. So smaller tools can shave weight, open opportunities, and be darn handy around camp.

All Photos Courtesy of:
Doc Montana

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Book Review: Air Rifles: A Buyer’s and Shooter’s Guide

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air_rife_great_quality_prep

I’ll say from the outset that I’m less familiar with air guns than “traditional” guns. Air rifles, to me, have always fallen into the christmas_story_markwith_airrifle_bbguncategory of a BB gun, the “Red Rider” type that Ralphie wished for in the classic movie, A Christmas Story. A “rifle” that kids use as a precursor to getting a rimfire rifle, something they can use to understand the principles of gun safety while knocking soda cans over with an air-powered BB.  This book, along with some independent research, shattered my preconceptions of the air rifle. As it turns out, the air rifle has a rich history and a variety of applications. As much as it hurts to admit, the air rifle may be a valuable tool in skirting gun control laws.  As bleak as it may sound, plinking around with an air rifle may be the only option in the future.

By Mark Puhaly, a contributing author to Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

In any event, let’s dispense with the gloom and doom and get into the world of air rifles. Exploring the details of miscellaneous weapons types is always fun.  It’s even more fun when it brings you back to the days of plinking around the backyard as a kid.

Overview 

The modern air rifle, in case you’re unaware, is vastly different from its predecessor. The first air rifle, it seems, dates back to around 1580 air_rife_book_markwith_survivaland now sits in a museum in Stockholm.  After a bit of cursory research, I learned early, advanced air rifles were used for hunting wild boar and deer.  Of course, these rifles were a bit more hardcore than your traditional BB Gun.  In fact, old air rifles were used in military applications as well.  Today’s more modern air rifle can do just that in a survival situation.  And with what seems like ever-increasing risks of additional gun control measures and expensive ammunition, the air rifle makes sense to add to anyone’s collection of survival firearms.   The book covers air rifles from start to finish. All types are covered: CO2 powered guns, spring guns, multi-pump pneumatics, single-stroke pneumatics, and pre-charged pneumatics. The book then moves into the many types of projectiles (more than a novice might think).  For preppers, there’s even an entire chapter devoted to “The Survival Springer”.  These include models of all types and price ranges.  The book also covers sights, scopes, velocity, accuracy, range, targets, training tips, and accessories. Truly, this book seems to cover everything on air rifles.

Related: Back to Basics – Rifle Accuracy 

After reading “Air Rifles: A Buyers and Shooter’s Guide” by Steve Markwith, I’m much more familiar with the versatility of the air rifle and have a newfound respect for them. I’m even itching to buy one (or two) now.  The modern air rifle could serve as an excellent, low-cost training tool for people that live in more suburban environments where shooting bullets off your back deck is less of a… neighborly thing to do.

Likes & Dislikes 

Rich in photos and description, Markwith’s conversational yet informative writing style from his Survival Guns – A Beginner’s Guide holds true here, too. This should be a go-to book for, as the title suggests, anyone thinking about buying an air rifle or anyone that shoots one. I don’t care if you’re a beginner or an expert air rifleman, there’s something in this book that will help.

Also Read: The Evolution of the Black Rifle 

My biggest complaint is that, like Survival Guns, the images are informative but are presented in black and white. The book would be richer if they were in color. The writing is better than the image presentation. $12.95 seems fair for the paperback, but $7.95 for a Kindle version feels a bit high. I generally prefer paperback anyway, particularly where this one is in 8×10” size, but Kindle buyers should be able to get this book for something more like $5.95.

The Verdict 

If you’re new to air rifles, or are even a moderate user, there’s something of use for you here, I’m certain of it. This book would, however, best serve the individual that’s thinking about getting an air rifle, because the money spent on the book up front would save you money many times over by both helping you choose the right air rifle to suit your needs from the outset, and also help you get the most out of it.

Photos by:
Christmas StoryPrepper Press

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Survival Gear Review: Backpacker’s Pantry Persian Peach Stew With Chicken

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I recently got a few samples of Backpacker’s Pantry freeze-dried meals to review, and I was very excited to try them FM0   FC000111000:zzzzzz0 914b 078043874441663838014c0 bac1c8104 fe1 b40 e6 da5 889 f2 b30 4c3 fb bc3 59f104 c24 63c10d d40 856116 ef5 bbc11f112d104b11610a4 deeout, because Backpacker’s Pantry is one of the few large-scale freeze-dried meal producers to not just feature, but promote and develop a large variety of gluten-free and/or organic ingredient options.  Backpacker’s Pantry, based out of Boulder, Colorado, offers a huge selection of meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks.  Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, no nuts, no soy, low sodium – it’s all there.  A huge selection of different meals is available for people or families with dietary restrictions, or selective diet through personal choice.  I was particularly excited to try these out, because my wife is viciously gluten-intolerant.  This makes life tough not only for her concerning her daily diet, but also for the guy who gets to try to stockpile and save long-term food supplies.

By Drew, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Trying to find a variety of foods that can keep over the long haul is definitely a challenge, and I’ll take all the help I can get; so color me tickled pink to see some decent gluten-free options available.

Oh, Garceau…

When rooting around in the box of sample meals, the first Backpacker’s Pantry meal I came upon that was gluten-free was the Persian Peach Stew With Chicken.  The combination of flavors sounded interesting – definitely different – so  I pulled it out of the box and read the package.  The ingredient list was straightforward, with no 26-letter-long names of made-up ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, no preservatives, no “other natural flavors”.  There are two servings per package, each 290 calories, with 9 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, 47 grams of carbohydrates, and – the Achilles heel of freeze dried food – a heavy dose of sodium at 660mg.  Everything looked on the level and up to snuff, so I decided to take the meal for a test drive.

Related: The Survival Food Pyramid

Upon opening the package, you’ll find the standard-issue oxygen/moisture absorbing package, as well as a small package of organic extra virgin olive oil (a new one to me), and the dried contents of the meal. When you’re ready to whip up the meal, be sure to pull out the oxygen absorbing package out of the meal before installing the olive oil and 2 cups of boiling hot water, right in the packaging the meal comes in.  Reseal the package and set aside for 13 minutes.

There is a note on the package that states “rehydration time doubles every 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Our directions are set for 5,000 feet.”  Since my homestead elevation is about 400 feet above sea level, I went with the standard 13 minute cook time.  If you live/bug out at above 5,000 feet elevation, you’ll want to adjust the cook time accordingly, lest you have crunchy rice.

peach_persian_stewRelated: Role of Freeze Dried Food in your Food Storage

Once the timer went off, I opened the package to find that the long grain white rice actually looked like rice, and all the rest of the food had nicely reconstituted from nondescript-looking chopped matter into a delectable-appearing meal.  The aroma was promising as I dumped some of the contents into a bowl for its taste-bud audition.

And you know what? Backpacker’s Pantry Persian Peach Stew With Chicken was surprisingly good!  The peach flavor hits quickly, along with a hint of cumin.  But the flavor medley plays nice with the rice and chicken, and the meal is really not bad considering 13 minutes ago it had been completely dried out and sealed in a package meant for long-term storage.  Granted, it’s not homecooked, but it’s every bit as good as any off-the-shelf seasoned rice meals you can pick off the shelves at your local grocery store.  The rice was a bit mushy and the small cubes of chicken were rather devoid of taste – to be expected, but all things considered, I was pleasantly impressed, especially compared to other freeze-dried meal packets I’ve tried.

Perhaps the greatest compliment that I can give to the Persian Peach Stew With Chicken is that my uber-picky 16-year-old son tried the meal and approved.  Normally you couldn’t get him to eat rice if his life depended on it, but he actually said that he would eat this anytime as a side dish to a main meal.  He was surprised when I told him it could be considered to be survival food, and said we should keep some on hand for camping chow.  My wife wasn’t available for the sampling, but I’ll make sure she tries the next gluten-free sample from Backpacker’s Pantry.

Further Reading: Mountain House Freeze Dried Food Review

Overnight gastrointestinal implications were nil – while everyone has different gastrointestinal reactions to freeze-dried foods, I did not suffer any “morning-after” races to the toilet like some preservative-sodden offerings do to me.  The high sodium levels (probably combined with the tasty Narragansett Lager I had with the meal) made me a little parched the next morning, but otherwise there were no personal ugly side effects.  Always a bonus, especially when toilets are a long ways from camp or the tree stand.

All things considered…

The Backpacker’s Pantry Persian Peach Stew With Chicken definitely would be a great addition to a bug-out bag, or your long-term storage plans.  It isn’t available in #10 cans (yet), just 5.1 ounce freeze-dried vacuum-sealed foil packages.  The food quality was very good (say 4 out of 5 stars compared to other freeze-dried foods), uniquely tasty with its peach flavor, and has good amounts of protein to help keep you moving when you’re on the trail. The one-half package serving size was acceptable, but if you’re on the move or expecting lots of sustained movement for the day, you might want to chow down on the whole package. The price tag per pouch is a touch higher than other freeze-dried offerings, but I’d rather pay a couple more bucks and know that I’m not getting lambasted with preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients.

I’m looking forward to trying a couple of the other packages in the sample box; maybe the Multigrain Buttermilk Hotcakes for breakfast? Keep an eye out for further reviews of Backpacker’s Pantry products by the SHTFBlog/Survival Cache crew.

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Good, Cheap Knives

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The prepper survivalist can never really have too many knives. And of course, there are more knives to be knives_cheap_good_average_bargainhad than the Clinton Foundation has mysterious dollars in their bank account. By the way, just curious, but where exactly is that bank account? But, then again, your everyday bug in or out blades do not have to bear such names as Loveless, Randall, Dozier, Morseth, Randy Lee or so many other well recognized blade masters with retail pricing to match, not to mention waiting times for their products. Average, good knives can serve you well.

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

Nope, us everyday folks can obtain and use a slew of good quality, multi-purpose blades and tools at the fraction of the cost of a custom fabricated knife from a named maker.  Right now I bet you can search your kitchen drawers, workbench, tool bags, and cases and probably find a dozen decent knives that will serve you well and do all the cutting jobs you need done.

A Blade Goldmine

So, to prove it, I did just that. I started opening drawers around my man cave, plastic storage boxes, and other hidey places just to see what would turn up. Like most preppers, I tend to horde and, from time to time, I have to do a reassessment inventory just to see what I have picked up since the last accounting.

Related: Three Excellent Survival Knives For Under $100

And, yo ho, what a treasure trove.  Category wise I found pocket knives, hunting blades, multi-tools with cutting blades, a box cutter, an electricians blade, a kitchen paring knife, a cook prep/garden harvesting knife and a handmade knife I got on a fishing trip to Homer, Alaska.

These few do not even scratch the surface of my odd collection of blades. Any and all of these suit me fine as a prepper. You just have to dig around to see what you have on hand now, then fill in the gaps if something in particular is really needed for specific projects or jobs.

Blade Investments

As I hinted early on you don’t really need a $500+ Randall knife to do the majority of prepper work. If you have one or want one, fine, but all it will give you is an elitist edge, which doesn’t really cut cheese. That pun was not intended, but it did work out well.

Common propriety brand knives work well, too, but shop around and make sure they are not the low end, foreign made junk. That stuff is creeping into what was once fine lines of knives, so be careful. Blade brands like Remington, Browning, Kershaw, Ruger, Schrade, Gerber and many others are still selling some decent knives even though they may be made in China. Not everything from China is junk. Remember what Japanese-made used to mean?good_cheap_knife_budget_prepper

All of the blades shown in the accompanying photos cost under $100, most of them well under $50. The most expensive was probably the IISAKKI Puukko knife I bought at a hunting and fishing shop off the main square in Helsinki, Finland years ago on a moose hunt with Sako firearms. The Puukko is a classic Scandinavian blade of high quality, and fine workmanship. That company has been making such knives since 1879.

Also Read: Cold Steel Pocket Bushman Knife Review

The common tools like a box cutter, a very useful and necessary cutting implement, can be bought at any hardware or building supply store for under $10. Buy several of the disposable ones for just a couple bucks apiece. These blades are razor sharp so don’t take them for granted.  Same can be said of the electrician’s blade used to trim insulation off wiring. I talked an electrician out of that one at a trade show job fair. It has turned out to be a very handy little knife for many jobs around the house and campsite.

Other Blade Applications

Again, this is just a sampling but a good cross section of what every prepper ought to consider having in their Bug Out Bag, EDC, SHTF tool box, house, camp or escape hideout.  A multi-tool like this little Gerber is a must.  This one was on sale for $25 at a big box store during hunting season.  It has a couple cutting blades, small tools like screwdrivers, and when folded out, it is a set of pliers.  I use these all the time for a variety of jobs.  Preppers should have several of these in different sizes, and one to carry on their belt at bug out camp.

See Also: DMT Diamond Sharpener Review

The pocket knives are just that.  They are useful for cutting nearly anything from gutting small game, to cutting rope, twine, string, tape, rubber tubing, gasket material, you name it.  I suppose a good pocketknife is just about the quintessential cutting tool that every prepper must own.  In fact, it’s a good idea to own several of different sizes with different blade configurations, shapes, and locking mechanisms. Small ones can easily be carried.  After all, one should always be at hand.

The hunting-camp curved skinning blade by garage knife maker Maynard Linder of Homer, Alaska is a multi-use caribou_knife_good_cheap_budget_toolblade.  I went to Linder’s house years ago to watch him make knives with his trademark native Alaskan animal bone handles, mostly Caribou but other types as well.  He makes all types of hunting, camp, cooking, kitchen and utility knives.  They are reasonable in price, durable, and well made.  His wife made the leather sheaths.  The whole point here is that there are a lot of good, decent quality knives out there for a wide spectrum of uses for preppers, and survivalists. Whether it is for food foraging, repair work, building projects, general cutting and trimming, food preparation, or whatever, you need to assemble a good selection of knives for multi-tasking around your bug in residence, a bug out tent camp, or an SHTF escape domicile. There are plenty of good, cheaper blades available that do not have to slice up your prepper budget. Take care of them and they will take care of you for a long, long, time.

All Photos Courtesy of Dr. John J Woods

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Daltech Force Bullbelt & IndestructiBelt Gun Belt Review

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Let me start by saying that my primary objective in buying a new belt was not to get a belt for carrying a gun. No, I needed a new belt because the leather belt I’ve been wearing the past few years gets that inevitable sag where it doesn’t look right any more. I mean look at the curve that developed in these things. old_belts_indestructibelt_bullbelt_daltech

By Derrick of Prepper Press

That sag is without carrying the weight of a handgun attached to the side, it’s just normal, day-to-day work and leisure wear. Those are not cheap belts mind you. I don’t remember where I bought them, but probably a place like Bass Shoe. They’re genuine leather belts, but if you’ve been in the market for a belt, and head to many department or even “quality” name brand stores, you’ll notice that, like most things made these days, they’re all… weak. Can I complain about getting a few years use out of two belts for the probably $20-$25 each that they cost? I guess not, but… I’m happy paying a bit extra for something rugged that’s made in the U.S.A.

Related: External Belt Gear Rigs

A Durable Alternative

Enter the Daltech Force gun belts.  So, why a gun belt if you don’t carry every day?  Because they’re better built, that’s why. They’re built to carry extra weight, to stay stiff, to stand up. So unable to find anything decent for my normal office and leisure attire, I reached out to my firearms instructor homeboy, Steve Markwith.  He informed me the Department of Corrections have a lot of positive things to say about the Daltech Force. I do a quick search and like what I see: free shipping, lifetime warranty, hand crafted, and American made. bull_belt_brown_review_ccw

I ordered the “Double Stitched Bull Hide Bullbelt” in “Rich Brown” color. There are a few options you can choose from (you won’t be able to select options on a belt at any department store). I opted for a belt width of 1.5”, standard thickness, 9 holes at ¾” spacing, and a solid brass “squire” buckle. Shipping was free and fast, and the belt came with a spare screw.

Putting it beside my old belt, it’s easy to see the difference in quality. The leather is better, the stitching is significantly better (double stitched with better material). My old belt is stitched to hold the buckle on, whereas the Daltech Force belt is held with screws (hence the spare). The buckles themselves are comparable. I don’t know what forces all of my belts to inevitably sag, whether it’s poor stitching or inferior leather, or because they’re too thin, but the Daltech simply has to end up lasting longer just by design (though this is not a longitudinal review covering years’ of use, it’s my suspicion that the belt will last much longer). In fact, I was so happy with the belt I contacted the company and got another!

A Different Kind of Belt

Enter the second belt, their “IndestructiBelt SuperBIO” belt. This one, not of leather, is “unbelievably tough” they claim, “absolutely no stretch or sag.” The strongest belt you’ll ever ow, they say, which is probably true. You can feel the difference in it. “Made of thermopolymer polyurethane leather-like textured material with internal integrated daltech_force_belts_indestructibelt_bullbelt_reviewpolyester webbing, making it durable, waterproof, easy to clean and stronger than natural leather,” according to their website. Daltech Force really pitches this belt for CCS concealed carry. It’s scratch resistant and comes in either black or brown. While I think it could use a different name, there’s no denying that their “IndestructiBelt” is a well-built belt. I like it, I use it, but good ole leather is still my favorite.  Both of these belts are fashionable and rugged.

Read Also: Escape & Evasion Gun Belt Review 

On a scale of one to five, I give the leather Bullbelt a 4.5. It would have made it to a full 5 if it was just a tad less costly. I’d rate the IndestructiBelt a 4.5 as well. I like the feel of the leather better, but the IndestructiBelt fits a particular need very well and it’s a tad less costly than the Bullbelt.  

All Photos by Derrick

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Survival Gear Review: Vargo Titanium Wood Stove

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Most quality bug out kits give a hefty nod to a petroleum powered stove. Whether white gas, vargo_titanium_folding_wood_stove_ultralight_sticks_hot-2compressed gas or fuel tablets, the common thread is the need for man-made fuel. Even the multi-fuel stoves are at risk when there is nothing to eat. Enter the mini-wood stove.  Vargo makes an impressive line of titanium products including the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove. Folding flat and weighing just 4.3 ounces, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove does the same things a conventional stove does without the need for extra help. Add another half ounce for the hexagon-shaped velcro-closure pouch and two dozen wooden matches, and the kit still doesn’t break five ounces. 

By Doc Montana, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Fuel Load out

Using sticks, bark, and the essentially unlimited supply of fuel found in any forest, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove will boil water and cook food better and faster than a small campfire. The shape and design of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove makes for concentrated heat and focused energy all in a tiny package. The stove has a five-inch diameter base that focuses the energy out of a three-inch chimney. The area of a circle is pi times the radius squared. So a five-inch base has about 19.6 inches of surface area, and the chimney has about seven inches of area. This means that almost three times the amount of burnable real estate heat is concentrated into the business end of this little wood furnace. Since pure titanium has a melting temperature of over 3000 degrees F, there is little chance that this alloy of Ti will ever soften during use.

Also Read: 15 Ways To Start A Fire

The Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is a set of seven hinged panels all folding flat into a quarter inch high plane. One panel is the hexagonal base, and the others are the six triangular walls. Piano hinges connect all the panels, and one simple notch on the base provides support and alignment with a wall panel, and another spring clip on the base holds the whole thing together. A single panel remains movable as the door.

Black Pots Matter

Unlike other folding stoves, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is ultralight and folds together in mere seconds. The folding mechanism creates a solid furnace that supports pots and has a door to open when feeding is necessary, which, by the way, is very often. I’ve used other flat-folding wood stoves and was impressed with their efficiency, but not their assembly. This becomes especially important when it’s cold, dark, wet, and there is no flat surface in sight. Further, the stove will be caked with black carbon so the less it must be handled, the cleaner your fingers will remain.

Gas stoves are great when they have gas. Otherwise they are dead weight. Campfires are a vargo_titanium_folding_wood_stove_ultralight_screws_cross_barswonderful morale building tool, but heavy on the smoke, smell, and evidence. Plus, most folks new to campfire cooking build way too big a fire and make a mess of things. Part of the dramatic efficiency of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is that it has a raised base with 19 hexagonal-shaped ventilation holes in it. The flow of oxygen into the base of this stove makes for a much hotter burn than wood sitting on the ground. This also means you must keep the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove sitting on its base feet in order for air to freely circulate under the stove. As the holes fill with ash or the stove sinks into the ground or snow, the efficiency will suffer tremendously. As such, keeping the base above ground is critical to a healthy fire. 

Wood Fired Afterburner

Up at the hot end of the stove, five of the six panels have a V-shaped notch about a half-inch wide and ¾-inch deep that allows flame to escape the stove and wrap up and around the pot. A sixth but smaller V-shaped notch is on the door. Since the top of the door is half an inch below the plane, the smaller door V actually corresponds to the bottom portion of all the other panel Vs. This makes for a level mount for wire or stakes but would prevent the door from opening. The top of the door is the largest vent. All these vents provide plenty access for pot-blackening carbon to coat the sides of your cookware.

The V-shaped notches also have another purpose. By placing small metal rods, tent stakes, or four-vargo_titanium_folding_wood_stove_ultralight_cut_hatchetinch steel grabber screws across the top of the stove, you create a grill-like cap on the top allowing small containers to sit above the flames. Stainless steel water bottles may require this mod. If you prefer, you could just add a four or five-inch square of screen to use a grill surface. I don’t recommend a circle of screen due to all the exposed wires ends from cutting that shape. The more you add to this kit, the more you deviate from the lightweight simplicity you paid for.

Related: 5 Dollar Preps: DIY Fire Starter

If you’re adventurous, you could put the stove upside down inside a pot to make a small grill. You can cook meat and veggies right on the stove-top.  With the proper mods, this stove has the potential to be a very versatile addition to your survival kit. 

Feed Me Seymour

The success of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is dependent on a steady and endless supply of small lumber. The Vargo eats pencil-sized sticks like there’s no tomorrow so have a pile on hand before lighting up this hungry monster.

In reality, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove does not burn wood much faster than a campfire, instead it feeds on a diet purely of high-surface area kindling. The interior of the stove is rather small so the fire burns hot and fast. The first time I took my Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove for a spin, it kept coming close to going out. I thought I could take a break from stoking it, but I was wrong. You only get a few minutes of downtime between feedings. And you cannot put a nice juicy log into the fire to make a big glowing ember. To put it simply, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is more like a blender where you keep adding sticks and they keep disappearing in flames.

Phase Changing

I was equally surprised at how fast a half-quart of water came to a boil on the Vargo Hexagon vargo_titanium_folding_wood_stove_ultralight_centimeter_thinTitanium wood stove. The concentrated heat literally firing out of the titanium tipi went directly into the pot. Time-to-boil depends on your wood, starting water temperature, outside temperature, and the shape of your cooking pot or cup. Something in the 10-15 minute range is a normal boiling time. Other variables include altitude, quality of fire, lid use, and wind. If you double the amount of water, it seems to triple the amount of cook time.

This titanium stove gets sooty quickly. That’s one big difference between a clean-burning gas stove and a primitive tree-burning one. In fact, the stove becomes a pretty dirty thing to handle. Thankfully the black nylon pouch included with the stove keeps soot contained. 

Check Out: Gear Portable Military Wood Stove

Of course, this stove should burn about any fuel you can fit inside it. So fuel tablets, alcohol, and other dedicated burnables will work. However the opposite cannot be said for tiny tablet and alcohol stoves which have trouble digesting wood. If alcohol is a preferred cooking medium, Vargo does make a titanium alcohol stove that fits inside their wood stove creating an efficient windscreen and additional stove. 

Tinytanium

The downside of a small stove is that it is small. A small stove supports small pots with small water capacities. vargo_titanium_folding_wood_stove_ultralight_quart_cupUnder ideal conditions, you could balance a quart of water on Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove, but that’s pretty gutsy. Instead, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove works great with small pots and large metal cups. I use both stainless steel and titanium cookware, but always single-wall. The double-walled cups can explode if heated, so keep that factoid in mind.

The price of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is around sixty bucks or roughly three times the price of its stainless steel counterpart. So if weight is not an issue, you could buy three iron versions for the same price of one titanium one. The stainless version of the Vargo Hexagon wood stove weighs almost twice as much as the Ti version but both are considered light weight by reasonable standards. Well, actually the steel one is just lightweight. The titanium one is ridiculously lightweight.

Stained for Life

One use and the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove will have permanent blackened walls and lightly rainbow patina. Live with it. You can get some of the carbon off by scrubbing the stove with sand or dirt after it cools. I’ve wire-brushed mine but it’s usually not worth the effort. The next time you fire up your stove, you will re-blackening it.

The simplicity of a campfire has always been its main attraction. So, adding a little titanium tech to the campfire concept is hardly a big step. The Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove should be a welcome addition to any bug out bag or survival kit. The stove probably won’t make the difference between life and death, but it will do important cooking and boiling tasks much better than when in the open air. If time is critical and you need to keep a low profile, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is worth it’s minuscule weight in gold.

Vargo Hexagon Titanium Wood Stove is available on Amazon (Click Here)

Photos By:
Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: SIG SAUER MPX-C 9mm REVIEW

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I was fortunate enough to be able to have some trigger time recently with a Sig Sauer MPX-C 9mmsig_sauer_mpx_firearms_9mm_modular carbine.  It wasn’t nearly enough time – probably 200 rounds over a couple of days – but it was enough to form an opinion on Sig Sauer’s next-generation pistol caliber carbine.  It was also enough to help me learn about the limitations and viability of the 9mm carbine as a tool in a SHTF-type environment.  I wasn’t able to run any drills or courses, unfortunately.  However, I was able to collect some ballistics information and run a few different types of ammo through ‘er, and found some interesting tidbits of information along the way.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

A Quick Overview of the MPX

The Sig Sauer MPX family of guns is a modern take on the submachine gun class of firearms that started with the Best submachine gunThompson “Tommy” gun, and has since evolved into well-known guns such as the German WW2 issue MP40, the Israeli Uzi, and the ubiquitous Heckler & Koch MP5.  These pistol-caliber carbines are defined by smaller frames than their rifle-caliber counterparts, light, quick-handling characteristics, fast rates of fire in full-auto versions, and mild, controllable recoil.

The Sig Sauer MPX, on first glance, appears to be a conglomeration of an AR-15 and an MP5.  Take the upper/lower receiver design of an AR, along with the AR’s charging handle, control placement, and general order of operations, then combine with a short magazine well and collapsible stock from an MP5, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what an MPX looks and feels like.  All of the MPX’s controls are fully ambidextrous – including the magazine release, charging handle, and bolt stop – usually rarities from the factory on an AR platform.

Read More: AR-15 Magazine Management Strategies 

The operating system is still gas-operated, even with the comparatively low-intensity 9mm round.  It’s a short-stroke best home defense gunsgas piston system that sports an auto-regulating gas valve that allows the MPX to theoretically run all weights of projectiles, from target subsonic ammo to full-tilt +P loads without a hitch…and should also allow the use of a suppressor with minimal hassle.  A nice design feature – especially since many of those who purchase 9mm carbines will do so to run them with a suppressor.

The Sig Sauer MPX platform sports an innovative free-floating rail with keymod attachment points, that interfaces into the upper receiver with a slick groove setup – and it is completely removable with no tools required.  Once one pushes out the forward takedown pin, the rail is unlocked and is free to slide forward and off the gun.  ost AR type handguard rails are clamped on the barrel nut with set screws in some fashion or another; the MPX’s system is slick and clean with no extra hardware needed.  Rest assured that it is solid enough for a sighting system to be mounted; at the range I pulled the rail off the gun and reinstalled several times between magazines, and the sights’ point of impact remained unaffected.

Speaking of the sights, The Sig Sauer MPX comes standard with Sig Sauer’s line of folding iron sights, but the full-length picatinny rail in the top of the rifle, combined with the keymod accessory mounting points, allow you to mount your choice of optics, red dots, lasers, flashlights…you know the drill.  Overall, the Sig Sauer MPX-C that I tried did not leave the user wanting or needing to modify the gun with aftermarket go-fast gadgets; the gun already comes ready to rumble once you add your accessories.  It ought to; the MSRP of this little beast is just a bit over $2,000.  Luckily, if you can find them on the open market, they usually bring between $1,600-$1,800.

The Sig Sauer MPX-C model I was able to test had a 16-inch overall barrel length, the last 2 inches or so of which was 9mm Submachine Gun Reviewa three-pronged flash hider.  The stock was a metal-framed collapsible unit that retracted fully to the back of the receiver, as well as having an intermediate length and a fully-extended length, for a total of three positions.  However, one quickly notes that this is not a collapsible in the fashion of an AR-15, where the length of the buffer tube dictates overall shortest length. The MPX-C’s stock rails slide forward to nest in grooves built into the upper receiver, and the buttplate rests solidly against the back of the receiver when collapsed fully; this makes for a very short resulting 28.5 inch overall length on a full 16-inch-barrelled rifle.  With the stock extended, the MPX-C measures in around 33 inches long.

The MPX also comes in much shorter and alternate configurations, some of which you’d need tax stamps for.  For further information on other MPX setups, you can visit their MPX site here. The rumor is that the MPX platform is made to be modular, with easy-to-change barrel/bolt setups, so one can swap the 9mm barrel out for a higher-horsepower .40 S&W or .357 Sig setup.  I didn’t test this personally, but it makes sense, with the increasing demand for modularity in the firearms world today.

Shooting The MPX-C

I only had the Sig Sauer MPX for a couple of quick range visits, so like I said, I can’t give you a full, strong overview of the system, with multiple different loads including handloads, across a spectrum of distances.  I was able to run three different loads through the MPX: Federal American Eagle 115 grain FMJ, PMC “Bronze” 115 grain JHP, and Sig Sauer’s own Elite V-Crown 124 grain JHP, the defense round I use in my carry guns.

Once I got to the range, I deployed my gear and let the others at the range “ooh” and “aah” all over the MPX.  The rifle does draw a crowd, and when handling the gun and admiring the fit, finish and the overall quality the gun exudes, well, I must say it deserves every bit of drool and coveting that is a consequence of its very presence.

Also Read: Survival Gear Review Talon Grips

Once show and tell was over, I stuffed one of the two 30-round translucent polymer magazines full with the little Best 9mm Home Defensecartridges, seated the magazine, and pulled back the charging handle to find my first surprise: the charging handle only pulls back maybe two inches before it stops, fully extended.  Of course, because of the short length of the 9mm cartridge, this makes sense once one subjects a few brain cells of thought to the matter.  However, when one is used to a 5.56/.223 AR platform and the much-longer charging stroke, the short MPX charging handle yank catches you off guard at first.  This short charging stroke is just one of the ways Sig Sauer reminds you that they engineered this platform from the ground up to be made for pistol calibers.

I shouldered the rifle, and happily peered through the standard flip-up sight picture.  And I squeezed the trigger.  And squeezed.  And pulled.  The second surprise of the day came from the vicious, gritty trigger pull of a $2,000 rifle.  What the hell?  Expecting a fine-tuned machine and discovering a heavy, ugly trigger pull wasn’t what I’d come to expect from Sig Sauer – especially at this price point.  I ended up inadvertently yanking the trigger and the round nose-dived into the lower edge of the target, 25 yards away.

Surprise number three came as soon as the trigger decided it would actually go off: BRIIINNNGGGGGG.  The Sig Sauer MPX fired the round and cycled as it should, but the cool-looking, probably-maybe-effective three-pronged muzzle brake rang like a tuning fork that had been tapped on a steel plate.  And it didn’t stop immediately; I had to reach out and physically grab the muzzle device to make it cease and desist the F sharp or whatever the hell note it rang.  I pulled the magazine, jacked the round out of the chamber, so I could safely inspect the muzzle brake – and I noticed that just cycling the action of the MPX made hell’s bells ring again.  Interesting – and I was rather taken aback that this was a feature that Sig Sauer let roll out the door.  I checked the brake – it was pinned and welded properly and legally.  I don’t know if this is the way all factory MPX muzzle brakes work, but I know this one did – and damn, was it annoying.

I ripped off the rest of that one magazine just to have some fun, but then put the MPX away for the afternoon to focus on the guns I brought with me that had nice trigger pulls, and the only noise they made was “bang”.

Nurse, SCALPEL!

At day’s end, the owner of the MPX met back up with me, and we retired to my man cave to see what we could do best 9mm gunabout the trigger pull.  He’d agreed it was pretty miserable; but he just wanted it smoothed out – no reduction in weight of pull.  We stripped the gun into its main components – upper receiver, bolt and spring assembly, lower receiver, and rail.  I dived into the lower to see what made it tick…

…and I was tickled pink to find out that the innards of the MPX’s fire control group are identical to an AR-15.  That was a shrewd move on Sig’s part – if you want to drop in a Timney or Geiselle other such aftermarket trigger group, you just need to find the standard AR-15 parts…no proprietary parts searching, or waiting for the aftermarket to adopt the particular platform…if the aftermarket adopts it at all.  Probably helps with inventory on Sig’s end, too, since Sig Sauer offers a full line of AR type rifles, as well as their new MCX rifle.

I pulled the basic fire control group out of the MPX’s lower, and treated the appropriate parts and areas to a nice loving 2500-grit polish.  A liberal coating of bearing surfaces with TW-25B grease (I love that stuff) completed the package.  About 45 minutes and an adult beverage later, I re-assembled the MPX’s lower and was pleased to find a nice, smooth trigger pull that weighed, by my guess, about 6-7 pounds.  There was zero grittiness, and the pull was acceptable and useful for a MILSPEC type trigger.  I didn’t touch any springs or remove any metal other than what was polished, so the trigger pull weight was largely unaffected.

Second Time’s a Charm

We hit the range again a few days later to finish sighting in the MPX and to do some more testing. I couldn’t do Best 9mm Rifleanything about the musical muzzle device (he will be swapping it out down the road for something that will interface with a suppressor) but with the trigger straightened out, we felt we could try our hand at some accuracy testing.  I brought my chronograph and EDC Sig P320 Compact along too, because I was very curious to see how much velocity the 16” barrel of the MPX was worth over the 3.9” barrel of the P320 compact.

We dialed the gun in using the American Eagle 115 FMJ ammunition, since he has a readily available supply of this fodder.  We sighted the rifle in at 50 yards per the owner’s wishes.  The windage was spot-on from the factory, with just the front sight needing to be adjusted.  My Real Avid AR tool came in handy to get the front sight to the desired elevation, and we were soon in business.  Offhand, we were consistently getting 2” five-shot groups at 50 yards with the American Eagle ammunition.  From the bench, we were able to tighten it up and pull in regular 1 ½” groups with the stock iron sights.  Accuracy was very good; I’m sure if one was to run several ammunition makes with varying bullet weights, you could find a load that performed better.  But the owner was very happy, and that’s what counted in this particular instance.  100-yard offhand fun shots at milk jugs were a hoot, with every shot connecting offhand once we got the “Kentucky windage” dialed in for the added distance.

We ran a few PMC “Bronze” 115 JHPs (I only had one box with me) to test function, group size, and velocity.  The MPX fed the more open hollowpoint with nary a burp, though group sizes opened up to about 2 ½”  at 50 yards, benched.  I borrowed a few Sig V-Crown Elite 124 grain JHP rounds from my Sig P320 carry magazines for function, group, and velocity as well.  These turned in the best group (just over 1 inch across, a ragged 5-shot hole) and functioned beautifully as well.

Overall, my time spent behind the trigger of the SIg Sauer MPX-C was thoroughly enjoyable. The gun shot quite well with open sights, and we had zero malfunctions over about 200 rounds.  Not much of a long-term test, but one hell of a promising start.

Check Out: Buying SHTF ammo

Is a 9mm Carbine Worth It?

So, after having run a full-sized 9mm Sig Sauer MPX-C for a little while and having crunched some performance numbers out of the ammunition to compare a 9mm carbine to a 9mm pistol, I personally have to wonder if the 9mm carbine is worth the added bulk.  The performance gains over the handgun just weren’t as high as I’d thought they would be.  I’ll get into this further in another article – but for those of you like myself, who geek out over such things, I present the following data:

Federal American Eagle 115 grn FMJ:

Sig MPX average muzzle velocity: 1,321 fps

Sig MPX average muzzle energy: 446 ft. lbs.

Sig P320 average muzzle velocity: 1,113.3 fps

Sig P320 average muzzle energy: 317 ft. lbs.

Difference: 208.31 fps / 129 ft. lbs.

Difference per inch of barrel length: 19.65 fps/12.17 ft. lbs per inch of barrel

PMC Bronze 115-grain JHP

Sig MPX average muzzle velocity: 1,238 fps

Sig MPX average muzzle energy: 392 ft. lbs.

Sig P320 average muzzle velocity: 1,052 fps

Sig P320 average muzzle energy: 283 ft. lbs.

Difference: 187.67 fps / 109 ft. lbs

Difference per inch of barrel length: 17.61 fps/ 10.2 ft. lbs per inch of barrel

Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown 124-grain JHP

Sig MPX average muzzle velocity: 1,315 fps

Sig MPX average muzzle energy: 476 ft. lbs.

Sig P320 average muzzle velocity: 1,105 fps

Sig P320 average muzzle energy: 336 ft. lbs.

Difference: 210 fps / 140 ft. lbs

Difference per inch of barrel length: 17.35 fps/ 11.6 ft. lbs per inch of barrel

For comparison’s sake, a 62-grain M855 5.56mm bullet, traveling at 2,900 feet per second out of an M4 carbine, Best 9mm SMGgenerates 1,158 foot pounds of energy.  There are other factors to consider (muzzle blast/volume, magazine size, ammunition availability/expense, controllability under rapid fire, weight/added size of an AR or similar carbine), but this is something to consider when weighing the purchase and consequent utilization of a 9mm carbine vs. a 5.56mm carbine for a SHTF gun.

The other issue a potential purchaser would run up against is cost and accessories: When a new Sig Sauer MPX will run you $1,800, and then use proprietary magazines, you have to look long and hard at the system.  If the MPX ran with P226 or c, I could see some definite appeal and justification on the price – you could stock one type of magazine for your carbine and your sidearm.  But it doesn’t, so you can’t.  This is a logistics conundrum you would have to figure out for your own SHTF/survival setup if you want to integrate a 9mm carbine into “the plan”.

For yuks ‘n’ giggles, I priced out a build using a Palmetto State Armory 9mm billet lower that accepts Glock 17/19 magazines.  If you want to buy a pre-assembled upper and a pre-assembled lower through PSA, you can have a bare-bones 9mm carbine that feeds from Glock magazines for between $650-$900, depending on the configuration you like.  You could upgrade to a couple Magpul accessories and throw an Aimpoint T-2 on top of it, and still have enough money left over from your Sig Sauer MPX fund to take the wife out someplace nice for dinner.

If you wanted to go higher-end than PSA and you have the ability to assemble an AR from parts, you could do a ground-up build using the PSA billet lower and high-end aftermarket parts to the tune of $1,200, no optics.  Just something to consider, especially if you’re running a Glock.

I’m not trying to downplay the Sig Sauer MPX, but rather show that there are other options out there that will to the same thing for less money.  However, what you will not have is Sig Sauer’s stellar customer service, unreal build quality, superb reliability, and the smug satisfaction that you have the best of the best protecting you.  Your call.

Wrapping It Up

I thoroughly enjoyed every second I spent with the Sig Sauer MPX-C.  It is a thoroughly thought-out platform, Best SMGdesigned to be the very best at what it does within its envelope.  And the gun certainly does that; the MPX is beautifully made, very accurate, and from what I could tell from my experience, flawlessly reliable, even with gaping hollowpoint ammunition.  If I decided I needed a 9mm carbine for my arsenal and I had the money to buy and support it (extra magazines, spare springs/parts/bolt) I wouldn’t think twice before reaching for my wallet.

Where the Sig Sauer MPX-C would really shine is running with a suppressor and subsonic ammunition.  A fast, light, quick-handling carbine that is quiet is definitely an arm that would be the pride and joy of any survivalist/prepper’s arsenal.  This would go doubly if you lived in an environment where you would be indoors much of the time or clearing houses/apartments or other similar tight spaces.  Even without a suppressor, the blast of a 9mm carbine is timid compared to a 5.56mm carbine or shotgun if you have to pull the trigger indoors.

However, even for a high-end system that will run you towards $2,000, it does have a couple caveats – that miserable trigger and the singing muzzle brake.  Replacing these parts with items that are equal to what SHOULD have come on a firearm with this price tag could set you back another $300 or more – then you add in the price of a few extra magazines ($60 a copy) a high quality optic (at least $300 before mounts), and suddenly you’re sneaking up on 3 grand without even blinking.  Considering that you could build/purchase two extremely badass AR-15s for that price tag, you have to think long and hard about your situation and whether or not the Sig Sauer MPX is the perfect fit for your situation.  If it is the perfect fit and money is no object, you can truly do no better.  It’s worth every penny if you have the niche to fill and the dough to spend.

Questions or Comments – please make them below!!!

All Photos By Drew

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Survival Gear Review: The Tactical Timahawk

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Crovel Tim Ralston

Few things turn on a survivalist like a new piece of kit that has tremendous potential. And two oftimahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_tree_punching them just landed in my bug out loadout. Cutting to the chase, they are Timahawks. ‘Timahawk’, you ask? Yes Tim-a-Hawk. The designer Tim Ralston got to choose the name so it only makes sense. Had I created the tool, it would be the Docahawk. You’ve got to admit that Timahawk sounds better.

 

By Doc Montana, from Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

The Modern Middle Age

Although the Timahawk is a modern take on a multipurpose survival tool, it traces its roots to medieval times when survival really did depend on skill and edged weapons. Ripping a page from the battle axe manual, the Timahawk put a contemporary twist on a bearded battleaxe.

Like a hornet, the bright orange color is a warning that messing with this axe will cause injury or death in every state including California. But seriously, there is so much more to this tool than it’s overt muscle. The Timahawk is an everyday survival tool that moonlights as a weapon.

timahawk_tomahawk_survival_hatceht_bugoutAs a war axe, the Timahawk contains the necessary features to fight old-school as well as provide a platform for necessary day-to-day survival tasks. I have to admit that I was skeptical about yet another heavyweight survival implement, but this turned out to be different. In the past, combination tools from the Leatherman forward have given those with a survival bend more of an advantage than the sum of their parts, but as the tools got larger, the differences got smaller. Axes, hammers, pry bars, and breeching tools were somewhat the same so a combination of those similar metal ends was useful but not exciting. Enter the Timahawk.

By combining a powerful curved battle axe with a bearded edge, with a heavy steel handle with a welded adz, the Timahawk quickly rose to the top of my heap of multipurpose heavy tools. Philosophically speaking, the Timahawk can replace many of the big tools freeing you up to carry more smaller, more precise tools. This is an important consideration since with a Timahawk and a neck knife, you could rule the world…or at least your little bug out slice of it.

Check Out: Survival Gear Review: Cold Steel Pocket Bushman Knife

Blunt Force Precision

I won’t sugarcoat this and say the Timahawk is a precision device for fire starting and minor defense. No, the Timahawk is a brute force weapon that has plenty of gross motor skill options for breaching, pounding, chopping, stabbing, and digging. In a nutshell, the Timahawk is the big stuff that you can carry while running.

As a battle axe, the beard or extended lower blade aspect, forms a hook that in ancient times was used to yank away the shields of foes during hand-to-hand combat. By latching onto the unfortunate foe’s defensive tools, the bearded axe would pull down and expose the fleshier parts of the adversary. As a deadly side note, the beard also made a wonderful horizontal impalement tool complete with a knife edge.

There are two versions of the Timahawk, a 27” 4lb version that steps on the toes of axes, and a  15.5” “Tactical” version that weighs three pounds. The heads on both versions are exactly the same but the handles and grip ends are different. Part 1 of this review will focus on the Tactical Timahawk, or the shorter version.

At three pounds, the Tactical Timahawk weighs about 1.2 pounds more than the industry standard hatchet, namely the leather-handled Estwing Sportsman’s Hatchet. That’s about one-and-a-half times as much, meaning the Tactical Timahawk is a formidable tool that is only two inches longer than the Estwing.

The Tactical Timahawk and it’s big brother the Timahawk proper are both made of pre-hardened 4130 steel. Compared to many of the knives I review, 4130 is an uneventful metal in the 41xx family of steels. It is a workhorse steel that wears the moniker “aircraft steel” when used for such things. It is a strong, dependable alloy with great properties for big jobs including crankshafts and roll cages, two things that when when I think about it might make a heck of a survival tool somehow. Maybe Tim has some ideas? Anything for preppers with the name “Crank Cage” has potential in my book. For reference, a similar steel known as 4150 (with just a little more carbon) is one of the few steels cleared for duty by the US Military in M16 and M4 carbine barrels.

It Adz Up

The Tactical Timahawk has a six inch curved cutting blade that chops, slices, and dices like any good battleaxe. A two-inch adz blade runs perpendicular to the grip and primary blade. An adz is a carving tool that dates back to the stone age. It also happens to be a formidable digging and breaching tool, but I doubt there was much to breach 8700 years ago, let alone structures to breach into.

My experience with an adz, or adze as Tim likes to spell it (both are correct), comes from mountaineering and ice climbing. Today the adz is a working tool for digging and carving when things are calm. For those with forestry timahawk_tomahawk_little_small_tacticalbends, an overgrown adz is found on the famous Pulaski Tool named after the great Edward Crockett “Ed” Pulaski who is a US Forest Service Ranger credited with saving all but five of his 45-man team during the Great Idaho Fire of 1910. Taking no crap, Pulaski held his men face down in a mine tunnel at gunpoint until the fire passed. Five souls and two horses were lost, but it was a major credit to Polaski to restrain panic while applying his knowledge and science of forest fires. The “Pulaski Tunnel” still exists and is listed on the Registry of Historic Places for those who would like to vacation into my neck of the woods but over in Idaho just a few clicks west of my bug out usual stomping ground. And as far as Pulaski tools go, yes I have one as does anyone else around here who dabbles with living off the land.

The far end of the Tactical Timahawk contains a pointed butt with a sharpness angle of 70 degrees. The unhoned 5/16” thick steel is a blunt instrument at best. But blunt is exactly the personality you want when you need to call to action the base of the Tactical Timahawk. And given the grip and handle of the Tactical Timahawk for just such a butt-end announcement, there is little to argue about when push comes to breach.

Barehanded the 5/16” steel fights both directions so wearing a glove is a good idea. However, if you are in a life or death situation, a comfortable grip is for sissies. The same holds true for the punching grip of the bearded main Timahawk blade.

Bug Out Loadout

The never ending quest for the perfect bug out loadout just got easier. The Tactical Timahawk, at only three-and-a-half inches more than a foot makes for a serious contender for title of best bug out battle axe.

Also Read: 2o Things You Need In Your Get Home Bag 

One of Tim Ralston’s missions in life is to combine multiple tools in one. The Tactical Timahawk is brought to you by the creator of the Crovel (crowbar and shovel), a Nax (knife + axe), the X-Caliber (multi-caliber gun), and many timahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_glock_26others from firearms to aggressive tools to watches. So the Tactical Timahawk was a natural progression, and tip of the survival iceberg, so to speak. Or perhaps the tip of the survival spear.

Real World

Using trees as aggressors, the Tactical Timahawk put a serious dent into any and all foes that got too close to me. It removed limbs, gouged holes, and punched debilitating slices into any bark that invaded my space.

The battleaxe is an evolved tool that provides both offensive and defensive aggression. When on the attack, the Tactical Timahawk force multiplies through mass, sharpness, and blade size. Rolston even sells the Tactical Timahawk as something you can throw. As one who has spent much time throwing conventional metal tomahawks, I’m not sure I could find the balance of the Tactical Timahawk without practice so if you intend on using Tactical Timahawk as a projectile, practice first since the disproportionately shaped head will throw off (pun intended) your usual rotation, and the adz is not much of a sticker. But at three times the blade size than a regular “hawk” you will have more rotation angle to consider a successful hit.

Related: 10 Tips For When You Get Lost In The Woods 

The adz is a two-inch horizontal blade that runs perpendicular to the main blade. Adzes are great at carving, precision chopping, and digging. In winter, the adz on an ice axe is used to chop steps, carve ice ledges, and flatten the tent space. Opposite the adz on an ice axe is a pick used to support weight or arrest a fall. But it should be obvious that the pick has little use during a bug out except for those who also pack zombie fantasies in their BOB.

As a digging tool the Tactical Timahawk lacks the volume to make a major dent in soil anytime soon, but if that soil is filled with rocks and debris, the Tactical Timahawk’s adz garners the same advantage the made the Pulaski tool rock the fire lines.

The scales (handle covers) on the Tactical Timahawk are recycled plastic. They are too smooth for my taste but that is easily remedied with a little rough sandpaper.  I also added a paracord lanyard through the thankfully included quarter-inch hole in the base.

Something included on the larger Timahawk but not on this one is blade cover.  When the  Tactical Timahawk is timahawk_tomahawk_axe_pry_bar_estwing_sportsman_axe_comparewaiting for use, like an angry rattlesnake or a bored kitten, it’s six-inch blade sits ready to attack anything that comes close to it. So a leather or Kydex sheath would be a welcome feature. And a place to start designing would be to pay attention to Pulanski covers which have endured years of trial and abuse. My Pulaski has a simple vertical/horizontal strap that covers the blades with mundane effectiveness.

The Tactical Timahawk’s beard has functions beyond those of the fighting kind. The balance point on the Tactical Timahawk’s handle is at the lowest point of the beard. This means the Tactical Timahawk will hang just fine on its beard hook. Whether on branch or rope, the Tactical Timahawk will grab on to anything that fits in the one-and-a-quarter inch channel between handle and blade with little chance of falling off.

The Tactical Timahawk aggressively attacks the single handtool space in the bug out bag. Classic hatchets like the Estwing and my favorite, the Gransfors Bruks, provide an effective bushcraft-level tool, but fall short when addressing the downside of mankind. For those darker events, tools such as the Tactical Timahawk are the best option. Maybe the only option.

Stay tuned for part 2, the full-sized Timahawk: An Epic Tool for good and bad times.

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Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: Mountain House Freeze Dried Food

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mountain_house_freeze_dried_food_packaging

The blockbuster movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day was released in 1991. That was 25 years ago. mountain_house_freeze_dried_food_packaging_survivalWhy that’s important is that even though T2 is like ancient history to many folks these days, there was a scene in the movie (at 1:25:20 to be exact) where the young John Connor and the T2 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are digging around a weapons cache buried in the desert. There is a clear shot of the old Mountain House logo on a large box in the background just before the good Terminator discovers a Gattling Gun and delivers a priceless smerk to the camera.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author to SHTFBlogSurvival Cache

That particular Mountain House freeze dried food that I’m sure was real, would have just hit its “Best By” date today. That’s right, Mountain House freeze dried food has a recommended Mountain House freeze dried food since before T2 hit the big screen. Some Mountain House freeze dried food today has a 30-year shelf life, but likely it’s way more than that. In fact that triple-decade number is more a “Taste Guarantee” than anything else. For details about determining the actual age and “best by” date of Mountain House freeze dried food can be found here.

Check Out: Quick Tips for Dehydrating Food

Memory Lane

Mountain House answered the call to provide better-tasting longer-lasting military rations for Special Forces fighting in the Vietnam Conflict. They won the contract and the rest, as they say, is history. Back then Mountain House was known as Oregon Freeze Dry and moved into the consumer market in 1968, and thus Mountain House proper was born.

Just south of Portland, Oregon is the town of Albany nestled in the Willamette Valley. That’s Will-am-it, not Will-a-met. Get that right and you will be almost golden. Pronounce it Or’-ah-gun and not Ore-E-gun, and you will be thought a native. Even better would be to drop an entire syllable making it “ore-gun” but that takes practice to avoid sounding confused. Similar to New Orleans truncated into Nor-leans. 

No matter how you pronounce it, Mountain House freeze dried food is made in Oregon and comes in foil packets that double as “food bags,” and #10 steel cans that are the most stable for long-term storage. Of the main factors that can affect food over the years, only temperature and time are the big ones. The other factors including humidity, light, oxygen level, and noisy critters are 

Freeze Out

Freeze drying is a simple process that combines Freezing and Drying. It basically an energy intensivemountain_house_freeze_dried_food_vacuum_package process where food is frozen solid and then placed in a heated vacuum where the water sublimates away. Sublimation is a process where a substance changes from a solid to a gas and essentially skipping the liquid phase. Dry ice is a popular example of sublimation where carbon dioxide goes from a solid to a gas. A common example of water doing the same thing is when wet clothes actually dry out even in sub-zero temperatures. Hang some wet mittens out on the line in the middle of winter. They will dry, but it will take a while and the temperature never has to rise above freezing.

A highly primitive but effective form of freeze drying was practiced by Peruvian Incas as long ago as 1250 BCE. Attempts at modern freeze drying were worked on during World War I, and the first freeze dried coffee appeared in 1938. NASA raised the bar further ultimately creating what might be the first freeze dried food most of us tried: freeze dried ice cream. As I recall from my childhood, strawberry was the first one I tasted.

Breakfast of Champions

In an nutshell, the freeze drying process removes 80% of the weight yet retains 98% of the nutritional value of the original food. And reversing the process is easy, just add water. The prefered method is to add a precise amount boiling water to the food, but in practice, you can be extraordinarily sloppy with your measurements and temperatures as long as your culinary expectations are somewhat forgiving.

Freeze drying might be simple in its process, but modern freeze drying requires about twice the amount of energy as canning. That’s a far cry from when the Inca’s laid out potatoes and meat on stones at high elevations where the food froze overnight and then heated up in the morning sunshine evaporating off its water and becoming loosely frozen-then-dried. 

Also Read: Survival Gear Review: Richmoor Hash Browns O’Brien

It seem little is immune these days from the freeze dryer. The list of foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert is astounding. Even more so is the fact that much of the nutritional content of freeze dried food is essentially unchanged. According to the Livestrong website.

Gary Stoner, Ph.D., and the American Institute for Cancer Research have found that the antioxidant phytochemicals found in fresh fruits is about the same as in their freeze-dried versions. However, mountain_house_freeze_dried_food_box_packagesboth Stoner’s research and the Chilean blueberry study found that ascorbic acid levels and the amount of polyphenol, a cell-protecting chemical in berries, were measurably reduced by freeze drying.”

The issue with ascorbic acid, however, is an issue. Ascorbic acid is a form of vitamin C which is an important chemical that humans need and cannot produce on their own. As you all know, scurvy is a disease that results from a deficiency of vitamin C, and made famous by sailors and others who ventured away from land for extended periods of time. Luckily James Lind, a Royal Navy surgeon proved in 1753 that some simple citrus fruit would prevent scurvy. Case closed. But the jury is still out when it comes to protein activation in freeze dried food. Likely it’s a non-issue, but there are concerns about freeze drying medical products.

Freeze drying does not eliminate ascorbic acid from fruit, but it does reduce it by a statistically measurable level. That does not mean that there is no ascorbic acid left behind, but rather the noted decrease is not random.

Everyone Freeze!

Mountain House freeze dried food comes in two main package options; pouches and cans. The pouches and Pro Pouches are single meals that can be eaten straight out of the package. The regular Mountain House freeze dried pouches have nitrogen gas in them that causes the pouch to expand and contract in size depending on elevation. The higher the altitude, the lower the ambient pressure meaning the internal pressure inside the pouch causes the package to bulge out like a balloon. The Mountain House Pro Pouches are vacuum sealed meaning any extraneous gas is removed so the pouch volume is unchanged as the barometric pressure changes. And for those who might have forgotten their atmospheric chemistry, the nitrogen in the non-Pro Pouches is just nitrogen, and nitrogen, or N in chemical symbology, is 78% of the air we breathe every day so there are zero health effects from eating nitrogen, or breathing it.

Bug Out in 2047

At the time of this writing, any new #10 cans of Mountain House freeze food will still taste great until the year 2047 or 30 years from now. A #10 tin can contains 110 ounces and is about the size of a mountain_house_freeze_dried_food_number_10_cancoffee can because it is a coffee can. Tin cans got their start in France around 1810, but the USA didn’t jump on board with tin canning until about 1901 which was a good thing since some early canning methods introduced health hazards including sealing the lid with lead solder. The tin cans of today are marvels of storage. The metal, sealing methods and any can linings are specific to the contents of the can. And since Mountain House freeze dried food is nowhere near spicy salsa with extra jalapenos, so the very dry Mountain House contents don’t fight with the metal prison while serving its 30-year incarceration.

Related: Choosing The Best Survival Food For Your Bug Out Bag

Of course the cans do have a downside. A couple of them actually. First of all, they are large by mobile-standards. The volume of a #10 can is by definition fixed meaning it takes up the same amount of space whether empty or full, heavy or light, opened or not. Which leads to the second size issue: all or none. Once you open the can, the clock is ticking much faster on when the food will go bad. Just how fast is the clock ticking? About 1500 times faster! Mountain House recommends consuming the contents of an opened #10 can within a week, and that includes resealing the can with the included plastic lid.

A way to deal with the short life of an opened can is to either share the food and expect the same in return, or look for ways to supplement the canned food to limit its repetition as you consume a dozen meals in a row of Chicken Teriyaki.

Stay tuned for part 2 where calories, food choices, cooking techniques, can breeching, and storage suggestions will be addressed.

Photos By:
Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet

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Survival Axe

In addition to building some of the world’s best chainsaws, the Stihl company also makes…or at least brands some Survival Axewonderful axes and in particular a tremendous splitting hatchet. At less than 20” long but with a 2.75 pound head, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet and it’s monstrous Ash handle with thick neck make short work of splitting tasks and pile up the campfire-sized kindling like crazy.

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

The Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is known as the PA20 and retails for about $55 which feels like a screaming deal given my preference for handmade Swedish axes and hatchets that cost two to four times more than the Stihl. Of course large Stihl Splitting Mauls do command three-digit prices, but that just makes the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet seem a better deal.

First Principles

The first time you get your hands on a Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet you will know this is not your grandpa’s hatchet. Best Camp HatchetI’m not sure which you will notice first. It will eight be massive head or massive neck on the handle. My guess is the neck will give it away. As a splitting hatchet, the Stihl Pro is designed for little big jobs. From the head’s bit to butt, the giant iron triangle makes short order of the cellulose bonds of wood.

Related: Gränsfors Bruks Hand Hatchet Review

The physics of using the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is two-fold. The first is that aggressive wedge that pushes apart any wood that comes in contact with the sharp bit. And second, the excessive weight of the head in motion (force = mass x acceleration) compared to a common hatchet makes plowing the head into the workpiece a decisive and final action. Unless working with a hardwood or trying to blast your way through a tough knot, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet will send wood flying east and west when you have the sun to your back.

History Lesson

Stihl builds chainsaws.  It does not manufacture its own axes.  Instead it uses the services of the oldest axe forge in Survival HatchetGermany, the Ochsenkopf Corporation.  Had Ochsenkopf branded this Splitting Axe itself, it would easily have entered the rarified pricing of the handmade Swedish variety. But instead the Stihl marketing makes this a highly affordable forestry tool that anyone planning to live off fire for a while should own.

Related: Survival Axes

The Stihl Company traces its roots to the shallow side of the last century. The year 1926 marks the beginning of the Stihl chainsaw, an electric model of all things, and a mere 30 years before Andreas Stihl was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1896. Prior saw machines such as those crazy bicycle/rowing machine contraptions appeared earlier than 1900, but had few recognizable features in common with even the most primitive of chainsaws.

In 1929, a gas-powered tree felling machine appeared with the Stihl name. The 101 pound six-horsepower monster marked a turning point in wood cutting tools, and is considered Stihl’s first chainsaw. Do note however, that even though considered massive by today’s two-handed standards, the tree felling machine was a good five pounds lighter than its electricity-powered older brother.

Can You Handle It?

Hickory is the go-to wood for most high end axes and hatchets.  So why would the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet have a Survival Axegrip made of Ash? Simple.  Ash is a less-brittle choice for harder hitting axes and special purpose hatchets such as the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet.  For comparison, baseball bats often use ash over hickory due to the violence of their use. Perhaps if the baseball bat was wrapped in padding it would then make sense to use hickory. But when it comes to axes and hatchets, while hickory is king, ash is the General of the military.  Either works fine, but when splitting the hairs of a splitting axe, both will work, and ash is less expensive.  Due note that the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet has been found for $49 and change in local hardware stores so arguing the nuances between hickory and ash is purely for fun.

But while we discuss the handle of the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet, there is no arguing about how overbuilt it is. From Hunting Axethe moment your hands wrap around it (assuming they can), to your first swing into wood, you will be amazed at the brute force the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet brings to the campfire. I’ve used plenty of camp axes and hatchets, but the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is in a class by itself. It’s like bringing a tank to a gunfight, or a machine gun to a knife fight.  The way the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet blasts through western pinewoods is so fast and so fun that your pile of kindling will grow to epic proportions as you share it around camp.

Also Read: CRKT Chogan T-Hawk Review

Some features to note besides the thick neck are the accented toe of the handle (the lower portion of the grip on the cutting edge side, and the heel (the grip part opposite of the toe). There is a definitive swell on the toe side and plenty of rise on the heel side to keep the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet in your hand even after a powerful single handed swing. Stihl brands the Pro Splitting Hatchet with characteristic Stihl orange paint on the lower portion of the handle, and on the majority of the axe head from cheek to butt. And if that weren’t enough Stihl for you, in large bold black capital letters 3/4ths of an inch tall is STIHL prominently printed on the left side of the handle.

Kindling the Amazon

There are two highly functional ways to use the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet including slamming the Stihl into the Best Camp Hatchetworkpiece, and holding the Stihl still and pounding the workpiece onto the bit similar to many modern hydraulic wood splitters that keep the wedge stationary and move the wood. So effective is the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet that I’ve let some younger users apply their trade with the hatchet even though they were both barefoot and not of the skill level I would want swinging an axe. And given the fun of reverse splitting, kids around the campfire will be fighting over who gets to baton the  firewood next.

Related: Crovel Elite Review

Compared to a full-sized forest axe or a 30” four-pound splitting maul, this Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is a lightweight, but the same way an armored Hummer is a lightweight compared to an MRAT or Bradley. It’s all a matter of perspective and nimbleness. The biggest difference between the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet and it’s full-sized relatives is that the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet works fine in one hand or two. But running a bigger tool in one hand is dangerous at best. Way too much can go wrong when doing medium and small tasks with a large, long, unbalanced tool.

On softer woods, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet can literally be dropped onto the work piece slicing it down the Survival Camp Axemiddle. And since there is so much mass in the equation, a little added force is all that’s needed if the bit fails to cut all the way through on a drop. For bigger or tougher jobs, a mild swing vastly amplifies the splitting force and one must be careful to avoid driving the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet into the ground after the wood goes flying apart. Most often, when a new user of the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet takes it for a test drive, they overpower it instantly splitting wood and then doing a little gardening on the side. I suggest using a horizontally grained backstop to keep the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet from dulling in the dirt.

When not in use, a fairly feeble bit cover is included that barely hangs onto the head with a touch of velcro. The blade Camp Hatchetcover works, but has no class or panache. It is a vinyl-like material with a single patch of velcro to snug it to the tool. It will stay on, but hardly provide any confidence while sitting there. On my list today is a new cover for this splitter. There are some aftermarket leather axe sheaths that will fit this Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet, but I’m stumbling over the idea of spending more on a blade cover than for the hatchet in the first place. We’ll have to see.

Many splitting hatchets and axes have a metal collar that protects the handle neck just below the head. The steel ringing the wood will take blows much better than the wood alone. It’s understandable that this Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet would not have the added cost of the collar, but if I can find an aftermarket solution I might try it out. Sure, perfect accuracy during chopping would be the perfect solution, but other than that, a metal collar is the next best thing.

Also Read: 11.5 Bug Out Bag Mistakes That Aren’t

One other small negative is that the finish work on the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is not to the highest of standards. Plenty good for anything this hatchet is used for, but a close inspection will detect very minor imperfections on the head that indicate a few cut corners during manufacture. Additionally, the grain pattern is many degrees off ideal although the “massivity” of the handle more than makes up for any grain rotation. But again, at fifty bucks, this is a good deal from any angle.

Plus Size

The Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is on my Bug In list since unless I can make a couple trips to my bug out location, or Best Hunting Hatchetin my case, one Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet already lives in my bug out cabin next to my emergency freeze dried food storage stock pile and another lives at my city house.  That said, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet at the top of my grab-and-go list. It has a very limited but very important duties that will keep it handy but not absolutely essential. While it does make short order of larger rounds, and churns out the kindling like no tomorrow, it won’t fell trees efficiently, nor will it do fine work without significant muscle fatigue due to the its aggressive mass.

In the end, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is an amazing camp tool that certainly earns its keep due to the efficiency it reduces the size of wood rounds and quarters. And it quickly becomes the go-to tool when maintaining the fuel supply for your campfire. In its reverse configuration, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is a safe tool for even the youngest of the fire maintainers, and when launched at wood with the speed and control of adult arm muscles, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet blasts its way through with the precision of a squad of Marines. In other words, when you need your rounds blown apart and kindling piled up right now, the Stihl Pro Splitting Hatchet is your best friend.

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Survival Gear Review: DMT Diamond Sharpener

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dmt_knife_sharpener_fwfc_review

A person is only as good as the tools they use and the tools they use are only good if you take care of them.  My dad Best Knife Sharpenersaid this a lot to me when I was growing, especially if he caught me not properly taking care of a tool. The circle has come around as I now find myself saying this to my kids.  In the case of knives, taking care of them means keeping them sharp and ready to do work at a moments notice.  I found the DMT Diamond Sharpener to be up to the task of keeping almost any knife ready for the fight.

By Tinderwolf, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

My Experience

Hands down, the most important tool that I have on my person at all times is a knife. I like to keep my knives as best knife sharpenersharp as possible at all times. There are two reasons why you want a sharp knife. Reason number one, a sharp knife cuts better, a no brainer I know.  Reason number two, a sharp knife lowers the chance of a person hurting themselves.  This might seem backwards but just think about it for a minute. A sharp knife cuts items easily and smoothly.  A knife that is dull takes more work for you to cut the same item which means you are pressing harder and are more likely to lose control of the blade. I have experienced this many times in my life and have the scars to prove I know what I’m talking about.

Also Read: Primal Gear Unlimited Bow

Recently I came across the DMT Diamond Sharpener.  It has a very unique design that I wasn’t sure if I was going to like.  The shape of it, is rectangular but the sharpener sits in between two pieces of plastic that act as a cover.  On one end the two pieces of plastic are secured to the sharpening stone by two rivets.  When you want to use the sharpener the plastic folds out to one end of the sharpener, just like a butterfly knife, and they become the handle. I was afraid this was going to be flimsy but so far it has proven quite sturdy. Having extra length with the handle also helps in sharpening the blade at any particular angle that you want.

Options

What is nice about this system is that you  are not stuck with just two levels of coarseness as there are four different Best way to sharpen a knifesharpeners that you can purchase giving you a total of eight different levels for sharpening.  There are four different configurations that the sharpener comes in that you can purchase for your two sharpening sides. They are, Coarse/extra coarse, extra extra fine/extra fine, fine/coarse and fine/extra fine. There are two different sides to the sharpener which allows you to have two different levels of sharpening for your blade.

Also Read: Food Storage With Food Saver

Given its compact size the DMT Sharpener tucks away nicely in my front shirt pocket just behind the notebook I always carry. The instructions on the box inform you that you can use the sharpening block either dry or wet by simply using water. I have been using it dry to sharpen my knife and I clean the block afterwards with plain water and a paper towel. The company also says that there is an initial break in period for the sharpener though they don’t say exactly what that entails other than the surface of the sharpener may seem rough until used for a period of time.

Also Read: Smith’s Pocket Pal Knife Sharpener

I have been using the DMT sharpener for about one month now and I would say that the surface of the sharpener smoothed out within about five uses. The most frustrating thing about sharpening knives is how many strokes it can take to get a good edge. Thus far in my experience it takes significantly less strokes on the DMT sharpener to obtain a good edge versus any other pocket sharpener I have used.

Conclusion

Due to its convenient size, affordability, ease of use, sharpening ability and ease of clean up, I would highly recommend the DMT sharpener to anyone who is serious about maintaining the edge on their knives.  Put this on your prepper check list next to your emergency food storage and bug out bag.  The DMT sharpener can be found on amazon.com ranging in price from $26-35 depending the coarseness you choose.

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Survival Gear Review: Zero Tolerance 0770CF Knife

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Zero_Tolerance_0770CF_pivot_edc_knife

Most who consider themselves prepared would rank the humble pocket knife as a survival essential of the highest Survival Knifedegree.  In fact, the sharp blade often exceeds even fire and water in immediate importance.  So having a sharp edge ready to go no matter the situation means carrying a quality blade with you 24/7 or at least whatever part of 24 fits your lifestyle.

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

Therefore the place to cut costs is certainly not with your EDC blade.  Everyday Carry is code for that which we have on us as much as possible. Not a tent or sheath knife, or even water bottle, EDC means right here, right now, and everything you have with you when you take off running.

A Lightweight Heavyweight

Zero Tolerance has generated a reputation on above average knives that not only vastly exceed traditional quality Best EDC Knifeand performance, but actually set the bar high for everyone else. In other words, unlike many other brands, Zero Tolerance, or ZT, starts at the high end of knives and goes up from there.  The problem, however, was pretty much the entire line of Zero Tolerance knives were huge and heavy, not to mention expensive. Now while ZT did address the huge and heavy with their 0770CF knife, they kept it expensive if you consider ~$200 for a factory folder.

Also Read: 6 Tools To Survive Anything

ZT began its journey back 2006 when, as they say, “We saw a place in the market for a Made-in-the-USA line of Best EDC Survival Knifehard-use knives that would meet the needs of professionals in the military and law enforcement, as well as other first responders, such as firefighters and emergency medical personnel.”  Considering themselves “Proudly Overbuilt,” I just had to see for myself with their lightest, smallest, thinnest offering.

Of the Zero Tolerance knife lineup, most of them overlapped what was already in my EDC stable. For a new ride to tickle my fancy, it must occupy a empty space in my knife quiver. The ZT I chose was a carbon fiber scaled assisted opening flipper with great steel and a most importantly a blade profile that I can really use for the ED part of EDC.

The USA, well Tualatin, Oregon to be specific is where ZT knives are born. American manufacturing by American workers is a significant selling point of ZT. For me, I have to wonder what is it with Oregon? Not only are there a couple dozen popular custom knife makers inside the Oregon borders, but also a company named Benchmade. Heard of them?

Although ZT traces its roots to its 2006 KAI Cutlery spinoff, many consider it a premium brand of Kershaw knives. But it’s more like the smarter better looking sister of Kershaw.  Kai USA Ltd. is the parent company and in turn the Kai Group is the grandparent. Regardless of the Japanese connection, Zero Tolerance claims all its knives are built in Tualatin, Oregon which happens to be the headquarters of Kershaw. So you can see how some confusion could arise.

Crash and Burn

The Zero Tolerance 0770CF is a super tough lightweight assisted flipper with ELMAX steel and carbon fiber scales. Zero Tolerance vs BenchmadeThe 0770CF is essentially the new and improved version of the short lived and ultimately doomed Zero Tolerance 0777 which was an amazing folder of mythical features. So much so that when the “Triple Seven”  went from computer screen to factory floor, there were just too many design obstacles and engineering overlaps to overcome. Hype turned to horror and the knife disappeared almost as fast as the Remington R51.  Or in Zero Tolerance parlance the 0777 was a “very limited-run.” And to further hide the past, ZT released the 0770CF with the added feature of being, “much more generally available.” Either way, the 0777 was a $475 unicorn, and the 0770CF is a glass of icewater in the face at less than half the price.

Phoenix This

The shape of the 3.25 inch blade on the 0770CF combines several useful design elements including a slightly full Survival Knifebelly, a gentle interpretation of a Wharncliffe tip, aggressive jimping for thumb purchase on the back spine, and an effective swedge riding the spine before expanding to full thickness just prior to tapering to the tip.

Related: Survival Knife vs. Hatchet

A Wharncliffe blade, as described in Wikipedia, is “similar in profile to a sheep’s foot but the curve of the back edge starts closer to the handle and is more gradual. Its blade is much thicker than a knife of comparable size.  Wharncliffes were used by sailors, as the shape of the tip prevented accidental penetration of the work or the user’s hand with the sudden motion of a ship.” I’ve also read that the Wharncliffe shape makes for better penetration into an opponent’s muscle behaving more like a can opener than a slicer. But the 0770CF, not quite so much. Instead the 0770CF blade profile scores high in daily slicing, but benefits from a precision tip while maintaining Wharncliffe strength.  The overall length of a deployed 0770CF is 7.5 inches, and when in the pocket, the handle alone takes up 4.3 inches of space. The thickness of the knife is a hair over 3/8ths of an inch, and the blade at its thickest is 1/8th inch thick.

Flipping Out

As with most flippers, the deployment lever of the Zero Tolerance 0770CF doubles as a finger guard which in my Zero Tolerance EDC Knifeopinion is over half the reason to carry a flipper. The SpeedSafe® assisted opening spring assist mechanism rockets out the blade with minimal effort, and the inset-liner lock snaps into place with a satisfying click. A added bonus with the 0770CF is that the assisted opening mechanism is completely isolated from the locking bar. Some assisted blade designs package the deployment and locking as one unit meaning that if the spring fails, so might the lockup. In the case of the 0770CF, complete failure of the spring assist would not render this useless as a locking knife. I do notice, however, that the longer the time between blade deployments, the more force needed on the flipper lever. Sometimes I am quite thankful for the heavy duty jimping on the lever as it digs into my index finger when trying to wake up the knife after a long sleep.

Related: Neck Knives For The Masses

The oversized and overbuilt pivot is the only obvious ornamentation on the naked carbon fiber scales. Three small  Good EDC Knife black screw heads grace each side of the scales on the in a row along the palm-side of the handle connecting the scales to a steel spacer that occupies the rear portion of the grip spine. The foremost portion of the grip spine is fully open completely free from obstructions making the removal of debris painless whether dried blood, bone fragments, or more likely pocket lint.

The deep carry pocket clip is reversible, but only in the tip-up (when folded) configuration.  Out of the box I found the pocket clip to be a little weak.  After removing it and rebending the clip to my specifications, I now find the clip worthy of the rest of the knife.  The blade is billboarded with the ZT logo on one side, and four lines of info on the other including a serial number.

Related: Fallkniven Jarl Knife Review

With a weight of three ounces soaking wet, the 0770CF fights much harder than it’s weight class. By using ELMAX Zero Tolerance Knife Thicknesssteel, Zero Tolerance provides an in-house super steel choice that claims the best of all options. In my experience, the edge retention is on par with Benchmades house iron 154CM.  The ELMAX seems not quite as durable as S30V steel but resharpens more easily.  But we are splitting hairs here.

The balance point of the 0770CF is just where it should be, right at the index finger point behind the guard.  Because the balance is where you hold the knife for precision work keeps the blade on task with little fight from gravity.  Heavier blades can drop or twist when lightening or adjusting your grip.

A Knife in the Hand

The Zero Tolerance 0770CF is decidedly angular with pool table-flat scales that turn corners just barely slower than Zero_Tolerance_0770CF_Benchmade_Volie_EDC_Knife90 degrees with one flat bevel splitting the difference between across and down. But that’s a good thing.  The platform that houses the blade leans more towards the carry side of the EDC equation.  The 0770CF disappears into your pocket barely printing even in dress pants.  Considering that nearly 100% of the knife’s service life will be awaiting orders while tucked discreetly along a pocket seam, it is easy to overlook the lack of ergonomic elements when drawing, deploying and dissecting with the blade.

Better Than Two in the Bush

Any EDC blade worth its salt is a knife you can count on for daily hard use, as well as being worthy as a survival tool. EDC is as entertainingly controversial as is the contents of one’s bug out bag.  Everyone has an opinion based on some fantasy of what will be needed when you really need something.  As card-carrying EDC aficionado, I have carried folding knives from the lightweight Fallkniven PC, to the heavyweight Benchmade Adamas 275. So for me, the Zero Tolerance 0770CF is truly a lightweight heavyweight.

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Survival Gear Review: Barricade Fire Blocking Gel

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Firegel Saves House

Looked at the news lately?  Hot, dry and windy.  Fire season is upon us again.  It is starting to really Home fire protectiondry out up here in the high country of Rocky Mountains where wildfires are our biggest nemesis.  My paranoia level is around a 5 on a scale of 10.  Statistically the chances of your house going up in flames, due to wildfire,  is less than 1%.  Where did I get that number?  I made it up after reading a bunch of sites.  I really couldn’t find a real factual number, but if you take into account the number of homes in the danger zone and how many homes are lost, it isn’t hard to think that it is a realistic starting point.

By Pineslayer, a contributing author to Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

So why worry?  Because it will happen to someone everyday somewhere.  There is an additional risk SHTF Survival(while more remote) of a fire caused by nuclear war.  If you really want to scare yourself, you can read this creepy theory put forward by Jerald E. Hill of the Rand Corporation called “Problems of Fire in a Nuclear War” from 1961 (click here).  But hey, even if the chances of fire by mother nature, careless campers, or nuclear war are remote, isn’t that why we prepare?  I don’t know about you, but my home is more than just a shelter.  It is filled with memories, dreams, food storage, and survival gear.  :)  Losing my bug in location is not a good option.  So obviously no one wants to lose their home to fire and fighting a wildfire is a dangerous activity, so let’s improve our chances.

Options

Many of you have read about foaming systems that can be installed to suppress fires.  I have talked to Best Firegel for home protectionlocal firefighters who have witnessed their effectiveness.  The downside is cost, thousands.  So for the average homeowner it seems a daunting project.  Enter Barricade FireGel.  If you can operate a hose or power washer, you can give home a fighting chance. Their site is packed with information, so go there and start reading.

Also Read: 6 Steps To Harden Your Home Against Wildfire

I cut trees all summer long.  It might be for forest health, new building sites, or defensible space.  Most people think that if they move the trees back away from their house they will be OK, but they are missing many key components of how a fire devours homes.  Flammable materials stacked next to the home, bad.  Wood decks, tall grasses, and shake roofs, all very bad.  The ember storm from a fire will find any chink in your armor.  Push all potential combustible items away from the structure.  The next step is Barricade Firegel.

So I was getting ready to make some mini-decks out of old cedar wood from my deck replacement project.  Take a blow torch to them and see how they fare with and without Barricade Firegel.  I spent some time on their website about an hour, and realized that would be a waste of time.  Their site has plenty of video’s and info, the stuff works.  Spraying the whole house might be your best option, but maybe a couple of sides would work too.  Consider general wind direction, slope, and where any flammable items are your property.   Fire likes to race uphill with the wind at its back.  Generally the wind is coming from the West, generally.  So consider how much gel you would need to spray that side down, any decks, vehicles, and out buildings.  If you have a wood sided home, consider buying a few gallons more.

Barricade FireGel Hard Use Video

How Much Do I Need?

This will require a little calculating on your part. Each 1 gallon container of Barricade concentrate best wildfire protectionwill coat 500-700 square feet of area. The area you cover depends on how thickly you apply the product. A ¼ inch covering is recommended. The average home will take between three and five 1 gallon containers of Barricade concentrate.  Their FAQ section is packed with info.

Related: Gransfors Axe Review

We recently had a fire up by my house in the mountains.  Within a week it was 100% contained and completely put out.  2 firefighters lost their homes and I know one young couple who lost theirs as well.  The 2 that were arrested are…habitual losers and criminals from out of state who forgot to put out their campfire.  The forest is crawling with these types, leaving their fires unattended, feces everywhere, begging in parking lots.  Sorry to get off track here, but it does go to the need of protection/security.  I see pitchforks and torches in the near future.

Have A Plan

Now back to our story.  It is hard to imagine a prep more important than one that keeps a roof over your head.  Whether it be during good times or bad, when the balloon goes up and the fire is raging, you are the first line of defense.  If you do the grunt work ahead of time, your stress level will be exponentially lower.  Wait until the last minute and be prepared to suffer.  You don’t want to be that person who looks back and wishes they had spent that few hundred bucks to save what was.  Harsh?  Yep.  Mother Nature has a take no prisoners attitude, respect her, understand her and be prepared to fight under her terms, with a little help.  Here is a quote that I love when I think about fighting a larger opponent, “Like a reed in the wind, I will bend , but will not break.”  Name that movie.

Related: Understanding Axe Types

After writing this and doing my homework, I can think of no better product to fight wildfire.  If you surround your home with bales of hay and firewood, this might not save you, if it does I bet FireGel would love to hear your story.  Clean up your property, be smart and get some Barricade FireGel.  I have a couple gallons and I’m buying more for my outbuildings, cars, (insert here what you want to save).

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Survival Gear Review: Fällkniven A1 Pro

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Best Survival Knife

Being a restless survivalist, I find the endless pursuit of the best single knife to be both a noble Fallkniven_A1-Pro_survival knife_river-work_teotwawkione and and endless one.  Or so I thought.  The Fällkniven A1 Pro may have brought an end to my quest for the perfect survival knife, and become the life-long quest of other like minds.  Could the Fallkniven A1 Pro be the best survival knife?  The knife to end all survival knives?  Let’s consider it.

By Doc Montana, of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog 

Is the Fällkniven A1 Pro the Ultimate Survival Knife?

The Fällkniven knife company has decades of experience at the unique and effective intersection Top Survival Knifebetween necessary traditions and technological innovation. Some knife brands lean so far to the innovative side that they never quite fully bake an idea while others swing the pendulum too far the other way and hold a knife design to archaic steel and features that work well, but are far from what’s possible.  Not that I’m encouraging the use of performance enhancing chemicals, but I am thrilled that Fällkniven has put its indomitable and proven A1 knife on steroids. And the results are astonishing.

Department of Redundancy Department

What makes the A1 Pro survival knife so amazing is that Fällkniven took an already amazing knifeTop Survival Knife and made it even more amazing.  And as one who considers himself an aficionado of survival knives, I don’t say this lightly.  The Fällkniven A1 Pro is related to the A1, but kind of alike a tough kid that has a Navy SEAL for a big brother.  The A1 Pro  is a complete and total upgrade of already high performance option.

Taking a step back, let’s look at how the Fällkniven A1 Pro came to be, and why the A1 Pro will not have be a serious contender for the World’s Best Survival Knife for a long time.  Fällkniven began building on the Swedish blade traditions back in the early 1980’s.  It’s F1 knife was chosen as the singular survival blade for the Swedish Air Force.  And the F1 also gained respect and notoriety as an excellent solution when a smallish survival knife is needed.  What makes the F1, and later the A1 and now the A1 Pro such definitive blades is their steel technology.  And a few other things.

Now this is a Knife

Jumping ahead, the Fällkniven A1 quickly became a survival success story by providing the Best Bushcraft Knifeessentials and much more.  By laminating two supersteels, into a configuration that makes it not only outperform most other high end blades, but its combination of blended steels in a single blade puts the Fällknivens out of reach of other knives in overall strength, raw performance and technical prowess.

Also Read: Fällkniven F1 Survival Knife Review

But what happens when a purveyor of extremely high end blades takes a step back and assesses the performance of its own best edges, then turns up the volume on one of its best sellers and highest achievers.  Well, I guess you get the A1 Pro. So it’s official. Fällkniven goes to 11!

The Fällkniven A1, the original one, was a test bed for all things survival.  It pushed the limits of laminated steel giving the serious knife user a glimpse of what’s possible when performance outweighs tradition. From that point on, the world got a taste of things to come.  Now imagine Fällkniven taking everything good about the A1 and pumping it full of steroids.  The passing similarities between the A1 and the A1 Pro are only apparent from a distance.

While the grip size is the same, the material is different and the sometimes-debated finger guard Fallkniven_A1-Pro_survival knife_diamond-stone-DC4shape is reversed. And best of all, the already thick blade is even thicker and made of a ultra-high end cobalt-laminated steel.  The sheath is beefier and stronger.  The edge is a more refined convex shape. And the knife comes in a presentation box that doubles as a waterproof container complete with Fällkniven’s professional quality diamond sharpening stone, the DC4.

Brass Tacks

The A1 Pro contains a core of cobalt steel rather than the VG10 of its father.  Cobalt steel (CoS) Top Survival Knifecontains about 2.5% Co, along with a slightly higher chromium content. This magic mix of alchemy provides a better edge that stays sharp longer while hovering around 60 on the Rockwell (HRC) Scale.

Related: ESEE 6 Knife Review

Cobalt steel is not a recent phenomenon for Fällkniven. It was experimented with in prior Fällkniven knives including the KK and the PC.  As the results came in, it was clear that cobalt steel was the next go-to steel when the best was desired.  Add to that an “Improved Convex Edge” and you are on the literal and figurative bleeding edge of cutlery technology.  Cobalt steel blades truly are playing with sharpness at the molecular level of steel, not just the crystalian level.  In other words, sharp is a cousin, and cobalt steel is your filthy rich uncle.

Thick as a Brick

Seven is the new norm.  At seven millimeters thick the blade has added strength beyond the already ridiculous strength of the regular A1.  And that strength has extended into the grip with a thicker and wider tang that, like the A1, extends the all the way through and out the other end.

Consider the Bar Raised

Fällkniven admits that to claim something “professional” requires a corresponding and honest Best Survival Kniferaising of the bar. And Fällkniven delivered to an astronomically high level.  At the time of this writing, the Fällkniven website shows the A1 Pro as “sold out.”  Think about that for a moment.   In a world hip-deep in survival knives priced from the same as a couple gallons of gas to more than a car.  Then Fällkniven comes along and makes survival knife along with its dozen other survival knives already on their resume.  And this newcomer sells out before most folks even hear about it.

What’s in the Box?

The Fällkniven A1 Pro arrives inside a black watertight plastic box complete with foam liner and Top Bushcraft Knifeembossed lid.  Inside the box is the Fällkniven A1 Pro knife, it’s sheath, and Fällkniven’s DC4 diamond sharpening stone.  The box is a nice touch and Fällkniven encourages its use for storing other things like electronics. It’s not quite a Pelican but certainly more than a Plano.

The stone is an excellent choice. In addition to high end survival knives, Fällkniven also makes top notch kitchen cutlery and the tools to keep them razor sharp. The DC4, or Diamond/Ceramic 4-inch stone has a gold diamond surface of 25 micron grit on one side and a synthetic sapphire ceramic stone on the other. In addition to being able to sharpen the hard laminate supersteels, no lubrication is needed for smooth sailing.

Also Read: Smith’s Pocket Pal Knife Sharpener Review

The zytel sheath is an upgrade over the standard A1 model.  The Pro sheath is beefier with more Survival Knife Reviewpronounced strengthening fins. It also is more adaptable to MOLLE and other attachment systems with its inch-wide wings that will accept horizontal straps.  The Pro sheath uses the same riveted strap for a belt loop and friction retention.  In lieu of the thumb ramp present on the classic A1 sheath, the strap’s ear has the job now.

And the Knife

Even a cursory glance at the A1 Pro says this knife is all business.  From the grip to the guard to Best Survival Bladethe blade to the frighteningly thick spine, this knife demands respect.  At 11.2 inches overall length, the A1 Pro is not for the faint of heart or for those with low muscle tone.  The 6.3 inch blade, while not the longest tool in your bug out bag, is actually plenty for any confrontation with a human or larger critter outside those of the Grizzly variety.

Unlike the regular A1 knife that used a Kraton plastic for a grip material, the A1 Pro takes a cue from the Fällkniven F1 and runs Thermorun plastic on the handle of the A1 Pro. To quote myself in my review of the F1, Thermorun, “As an olefin thermoplastic material it is extremely durable, and has great properties for a survival knife grip. Thermorun is an electrical insulator, resistant to weathering, impervious to most chemicals that a knife would encounter, and pretty much ignores temperature changes. It feels great in the hand with just enough rubbery texture to keep the blade from sliding around, but still firm enough to avoid that tacky feeling of softer plastic grips.”

Also Read: Parry Blade Knife Review

Like the regular A1, the tang of the A1 Pro extends throughout the grip and out the top.  However, Fällkniven did upgrade the tang by making it larger, thicker and tapered.  But the real change is in the finger guard.  On the regular A1 the guard was covered in the same Kraton plastic as the grip, and leans just slightly back towards the hand.  The finger crossguard on the A1 Pro is polished, stainless steel, thicker welded to the frame, and opens out towards the blade.  Why this is important is due to some index finger strain when using the regular A1 for repetitive long-duration woodworking tasks.

Sorry About That

Fällkniven is apologetic about the price of the A1 Pro.  They defend the higher cost of the A1 Pro A1 Pro Knife Review(presumably compared to the regular A1) because of the more expensive steel, more expensive grip and guard, and more expensive containment and sharpening solutions included with the A1 Pro.  But frankly, if one compares the A1 Pro to anything custom, the A1 Pro seems mainstream in its pricing.  Either way, at the time of this writing, Fällkniven lists the A1 Pro as “sold out” so discussion about price are somewhat recreational.  Personally, I find the price of the A1 Pro completely reasonable, but like any pro-level piece of equipment, it only seems expensive if you don’t have the skills to extract the benefits from it.

Riding Into The Sunset

Like many preparing for SHTF events and the likely WROL that will follow, I’m always looking Best SHTF Knifefor the next big thing in bladeware.  Until now I was restless, always looking over my shoulder to see what else was out there.  But with the A1 Pro in hand, a calm settled over my quest for the ultimate survival knife.  Fällkniven’s Pro version of one of the world’s best survival knives, their own A1, as moved the bar so high that most general arguments are moot. With the Fällkniven A1 Pro on the scene, the quest for perfection is now simply a question of preference.

All Photos By Doc Montana

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Food Storage With Food Saver Vacuum Sealer

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Best Long Term Food Storage

One of the biggest obstacles we have to conquer as preppers is that of long term food storage and Best Long Term Food Storagepreservation.  While MREs and other long term food options that are purchased can be great, they can be expensive per serving and limiting in the options available.  A few years back I decided to research my options for Do It Yourself food storage and decided to purchase a Food Saver vacuum sealer and I have been very happy with the results and variety it has given me.

Why a Food Saver?

I decided on a Food Saver vacuum sealer because of all the good reviews and the quality of the best way to store foodproduct.  Air and water are the two main factors of why food goes bad.  Both of these can be greatly reduced when food is placed in a vacuum sealed bag.  Another reason I chose this method of food storage is because I wanted to be able to tailor my food options to what I like (DIY).  Sometimes MREs and other products like it, sit on the shelf until they go bad.  However, if you are able to create snacks and menus that you normally eat then you can use the sealed packages whenever you please.

Also Read: The Survival Food Pyramid

While shopping at the store one day I came across a deal on ribeye steaks, which are my favorite, so I bought more than I normally would.  The excess steaks I vacuumed sealed up, dated and placed in my deep freeze.  Over a year later I came back to take the last ribeye out and was amazed at how well the steak was preserved.  It looked and tasted like it had been put in the freezer just days before but it had been stored for over a year.

Not Just For Food

I have used the Food Saver to help preserve more than just Best way to store foodfood items.  I have placed entire boxes of ammunition into a bag for long term storage in order to decrease corrosion of the cartridges.  I have vacuumed sealed medical supplies.  The reason for this is that some supplies like bandages are wrapped in a paper like package that over time dry out and the packaging fails.  Once the packaging fails, the bandage is no longer sterile and can also become brittle.  Another great reason to use a vacuum sealer is that if the material that is in the bag is soft, the process of taking the air out of the bag will compress that item quite a bit.

Also Read: Survival Coffee

This can be a hug space saver.  I have taken entire bags of cotton balls and shrunk them down Best Prepper Food Storagetremendously in size.  Cotton balls have a wide variety of uses, most important to me is that they make great fire starters, which is why I choose to seal them up and have some in every pack that I own.  I have taken the cardboard centers out of toilet paper rolls and placed two rolls per bag, you don’t want to be stuck somewhere without toilet paper if you can help it!

Related: Tools For Food Storage

The Food Storage system that I use is the FoodSaver V2244 model which is a best seller on Amazon and can be picked up for around $75.  This model also has a side port which allows you to hook up a tube and vacuum seal hard containers.  I have not personally tried those containers but have heard good things about them.  I think the FoodSaver system is a great setup not only for food storage but the preservation of other materials and it can save you a ton of space when packing your bags for the trail.

Photos By:
Dan Perry
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Survival Gear Review: Glock 42

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EDC pistol

Does your carry pistol limit what you do? Do you worry about exposing your gun to the elements? Best EDC PistolIs your carry preference too much of a burden for many activities? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you should consider the Glock 42.  For me, I wanted a familiar handgun but in a small form factor that would be barely noticed when hiking, running, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, fishing, boating, and almost everything else.  Of course if you rarely do any of the above, then a .45 strapped to your leg is fine.  But for all those other activities, a Glock 42 is an excellent choice. And even more, the Glock 42 might just become your BBFF (Best Bugout Friends Forever).

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

Good News!

I remember clearly when I heard that the next new Glock was a .380 instead of the highly Survival Pistolanticipated single stack 9mm.  Frankly, the .380 should have been a predictable release given the global reach of Glock and the .380-sized hole in Glock’s public lineup.  I always figured that Glock could gut the 9mm market with a winning release just like Apple could dominate the tablet market if it dropped the price of an iPad Air to $199.  But not this time. That came later.

For years I had a Ruger LCP.  It’s a tiny polymer framed .380 of great reliability and limited accuracy.  Plus it’s what I like to call a singularity.  At the time it was alone in its detailed design meaning nothing else acted quite like it in both operation and takedown.  But still it was a great gun. Some were close like Kel-Tec and historical Colts, but price and performance allowed the LCP to become the meme of its tiny slice of the gun market.

Glock is Knocking

The Glock 42 is like a miniature Glock.  And when we say “Glock” we really mean the Glock 17, Survival Pistolthe 9mm that started it all.  In case you were confused by Glock’s odd naming conventions where a 17 is 9mm and so is an 18 and 19, but a 20 is a 10mm and a 21 is a .45.  But yet the Glock 40 is a 10mm, but there is no Glock 10 firearm.  The reason is actually quite simple.  Glaston Glock names each of his new patented inventions with a new ascending number.  His first invention was the 1. His first pistol was the 17. His next the 18. Next the 19, then 20 and so on.  And the next as-yet-unreleased Glock will be the 44.  But don’t expect it to be in .44 magnum. My hope, now that you asked, is a .22LR.  But I might be alone in that wish. Or not.

Also Read: Bug Out Gun Lights

Although I am quite pleased with the 42, I’ve long thought the 26 was an excellent bug out gun due to its small size and big performance.  And I still believe that.  The issue is that the 42 is just such an excellent gun at half the weight.  By following the playbook of the Glock 17, the 42 maintains all the forward thinking advantages of “Glock Perfection” but in a tiny (for Glock anyway) pistol.  The robust but simple aspects of every Glock are alive and well in the 42. Just smaller. Yes, I am well versed in the 43, Glock’s single stack 9mm.  It’s a great gun, but as one deeply involved with the G17, 19 and 26, the G43 is little more than a need for new 9mm mags. And if I’m going with new Glock mags, I am going with a new and smaller caliber.

Ballistics Mallistics

Decades or more ago, the ballistics of handgun cartridges seemed to solidify in the collective Bug Out Pistolconscious of mainstream gun-owning Americans, turning to concrete and changing at the pace of gun writer retirements and funerals.  Unfortunately, all that old info is old news rivaled only its speed of obsolescence as are books about Windows software and Apple hardware.  New gunpowder, new bullets, new primers, and new guns all have tipped the playing field in the direction of smaller cartridges.  Even the flip-flopping FBI is sniffing around the 9mm again. No longer is there a search for rifle power in a EDC handgun.  Sure in the old days where you needed a four-barrel carbed big-block 427 engine to be Boss Hog on the road, but now a Subaru STI could smoke the Chevy in every category except nostalgia.  Same with carry pistols.  Packing a big-block six-shooter, especially a single-action like the one Stallone carried behind his back in the Expendables makes no sense against real world threats, not just Mel Gibson with macho attitude but with terrorism on the rise, and active response training to mass shooter events as common as a training as how to use the new copy machine, packing real heat means more than big guns.  Staying warm means carrying any gun and the mouse guns of yesterday have grown up into the mean dogs of today.

However…

However the Glock 42 has another use for me.  And one that larger guns just cannot fill.  I love EDC Pistolthe outdoors.  All of it.  From the snowy mountains of Alaska to the stone deserts of Utah.  From mountain bike trails of Montana to the canyon rivers of Wyoming, carrying a gun must be as convenient and versatile as carrying a pocket knife.  I’ve run into hikers packing giant caliber revolvers strapped to their chests, but that’s not for me (and makes little sense in the big picture). I’m not scared of bears or mountain lions.  Instead it is the wacko drug-crazed two-legged variety that cause me concern.  When relaxing at the apex of a mountain bike ride, or scratching out a campsite near a high mountain lake, or just wandering through the woods towards a secret fishing hole, carrying a larger gun on the hip is often not an option worth considering. But slipping a Glock 42 into the side pocket of a Camelbak, or dropping a 42 next to my iPod for a mountain run makes more sense than trying to justify not carrying iron at all because of its weight, size and snag-potential.

Related: 1911 vs. Glock

You see, if you always want to be armed, then there are two avenues you can drive down.  Either Survival Pistolonly travel on those roads where you can pack the sizable bore you need to feel comfortable.  Or get a vehicle that will allow you to drive those roads less traveled.  Far too many good folks never venture out beyond where their equipment and imagination lets them.  What I’m here to tell you is that if staying armed is keeping you too close to home then get some lightweight firepower that frees you up to go fast and go light and go far. And of course go often.

Until now, I’ve opted to carry either my Glock 26 or my Ruger LCP backpacking, hiking, and just generally wandering around in the woods.  I liked the capacity and umph of the 26, but not its weight.  But the Ruger is a true mouse gun with mouse sights, mouse capacity, and a mouse feel. Popping off a round or two into a large aggressive animal will do little more than make the violent critter more identifiable to Fish and Game when they track it down after finding what’s left of my corpse.  But if push comes to pull on a fellow man, I want to tip the situation in my favor and even the LCP can help.

Although the Glock 42 has the roughly the same ballistics as the LCP, the handling and Best Bug Out Pistoldependability make it a better choice in my opinion.  The Ruger LCP is a hidden hammer-fired machine while the Glock is, well a Glock meaning it’s a striker-fired autopistol.  And don’t get me started on the sights.  Well, actually do get me to rant on them.  Not the G42 sights which happen to be pretty much the same as every other stock Glock on this planet, but instead the sights, or lack thereof, on the LCP. Most shotguns have better sights than the LCP.  In fact most sticks and stones have better sights than the LCP. Well, maybe an exaggeration, but not by much. The LCP is designed to be pointed, not aimed.  The Glock 42 is decidedly one to aim.

Not So Terrible Twos

Now that we’ve got two years of Glock 42 under our collective belt, it is time to talk frankly about the .380 cartridge, this particular Glock pistol, and the so-called “mouse guns” in general.  The rough spots about the initial Glock 42 have been discussed to death online.  But to review, the early runs of Glock 42s had specific failure to eject (FTE) and failure to feed (FTF) issues. The issues were real and almost immediately addressed (but not really admitted) by Glock.  More recent copies of the Glock 42 rolling off the assembly line have upgrades to the magazines, internal parts, and some believe the polymer frame as well.  A quick swing through the top internet hits on about “Glock 42 problems” make this particular pistol one to avoid, but pretty much every negative review is pre 2015.  Later in 0-15, there is little but flowing Glock love around the mouse gun campfire.

Related: Bug Out Long Term Pistol

Handguns are like pickup trucks; there are more opinions than actual models to have opinions EDC glock handgunsabout. Personally I am a six-cylinder Toyota Tacoma kind of guy.  My friends drive F-150s or bigger, diesel Dodge Rams (note the oxymoron), and I got only one friend who drives a Chevy Avalanche. Whatever.  But the reason I tell you this is that trucks like guns are a personal choice. We place our loyalties where we want, and base them on many factors including ones that don’t match the cold hard facts.  But perceptions don’t have to match reality when reality is a rare commodity these days.

Actual studies have shown that most encounters where a gun is pulled in self defense involves holding and/or shooting the gun with only one hand.  No perfect two-handed Weaver or isosceles stance, or aiming with any other perfect triangle of stability.  Instead, the pistol is held out, arm bent and shaking, one hand gripping what it can of the gun.  In fact, standing on one’s feet is for the lucky.  For many actually trigger pullers they are flat on their back, bruised, injured, some even near blinded by fist blows.  And in all cases your heart rate will be red lined and your breathing will be anything but slow and steady.

Where a mouse gun comes in handy is it by being handy.  It’s easier to shoot. Lighter in weight. And the low recoil keeps the pistol in the fight almost regardless of the injury, grip strength, or limited vision.  Those with dreams of sending .454 Casull bullet after Casull bullet downrange with accuracy are dreamers whose heads are filled with the stay-on-targetness of video games. Sadly but truthfully, most law abiding citizens would be better off with a .22 than a .45. Of course proper and real-world training changes almost everything.  But for those who handguns lean towards the just-in-case preparedness side like food storage and flint-and-steel fire starting, the smaller caliber mouse guns may actually be a better choice.  And certainly the Glock 42 is a viable and excellent backup or or bug out gun.

All Photos By Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: GunfightersINC Ronin Concealment Holster

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Best OWB CCW Holster

There are, according to a completely-made-up-by-me-but-probably-not-too-far-off-number, Best Survival Holsterapproximately six billion custom kydex holster makers in the world.  Don’t believe me?  If you belong to Facebook, find a large Facebook group (or internet forum) for a handgun you have, join it, and then post the following query to the board: “I just got [insert make/model of handgun here] and I’m looking for the best holster for it. What do you guys use?”  Sit back and prepare for the maelstrom.  An example: I belong to a Sig Sauer P320 board on Facebook.  Someone recently asked for the board’s opinion on the best inside-the-waistband (IWB concealment holster).  In 21 responses, there were 14 different holster manufacturers named, and 16 different models.  I hadn’t even heard of most of them.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

With all these options available to a consumer, it’s really, really difficult to narrow your choice down to one offering for you to plunk your hard-earned greenbacks down on.  A company/product would truly have to stand out to be noticed.

…And notice a company called GunfightersINC I did.  Initially their “Kenai” chest-mounted holster caught my eye on a Facebook feed ad, so I contacted GunfightersINC to purchase a Kenai rig.  While I was perusing their catalog, I noticed a slick-looking outside-the-waistband holster they had dubbed the “Ronin Concealment Holster”.  The interesting little details they put into their holster, plus the overwhelming need I had to find a hip-mounted home for my then-new full-sized Sig Sauer P320 meant that I felt compelled to order a Ronin up at the same time.  To, y’know, save on shipping, I told my wife.

Who is GunfightersINC?

GunfightersINC is a small, veteran-owned holster making company that found its beginnings in Best Pistol Holsterthe year 2010 when – like many other company beginnings – the owner/founder decided to make his own holster after finding a glaring lack of gear that fit his stringent needs, for his brand of pistol (HK USP45, according to their website).  Soon, the holster-making hobby turned into a business, and GunfightersINC has since been pushing forward-thinking, practical ideas and design philosophies of simplicity, ergonomics, and durability into the world of quality kydex holsters.

GunfightersINC uses only US-made materials, and all their products are made by Americans in Leavenworth, Washington.  A perusal of their website will inform you that GunfightersINC is fiercely proud of their innovations, quality, and product lineup.  That product lineup encompasses several practical designs – some mainstays of any holster manufacturer like the Outside The Waistband (OWB) “Ronin”, Inside The Waistband (IWB) “Wraith” holster and the “Spectre” shoulder holster – but they also offer belt-mounted magazine pouches for rifles and handguns, as well as the aforementioned “Kenai” chest-mounted holster.  They also offer a gorgeous-looking leather gunbelt that is simple and unobtrusive, but designed from the ground up as a sturdy, long-lasting platform for your holster, mags, and pistol.  Their product line is not cluttered with bells and whistles and unneeded glitz; it’s simple and straightforward and worth a look or three when you need a new holster, mag carrier, and/or belt.

Enter The Ronin

The Ronin Concealment Holster is an all-kydex, outside-the-waistband belt-mounted holster.  Do Best SHTF Holsteran online search for “kydex holster” images, and you’ll see that there may be a couple variations on a theme, but most kydex OWB holsters pretty much look the same.  So the question arises: if all kydex holsters look the same, what sets them apart or makes individual designs better than others?

Related Article: Holsters 101

The answer is “attention to detail”.  Placement of belt loops/clips, rivets vs. screws, gun cant angle, materials, retention, and the way the holster’s contours fit your body and keep the firearm pulled into your body and hidden (if that is your goal.)  Pretty patterns and colors are irrelevant (though GunfightersINC offers many) if the function of the holster is not thought out and executed properly.  It takes a lot of testing, modifying, and holster evolution before a holster can be really good at its intended job – any schmuck can buy kydex and some tools in an attempt to make his own holsters, but chances are the final product is not going to be truly great at what it needs to do.

The Ronin Concealment Holster shows this attention to detail in a couple really useful ways.  The first thing you notice that is a little different from most kydex holster offering is the belt loops.  Instead of cast-off pre-made belt loops, GunfightersINC installs hand-formed, contoured loops that accomplish three holster-essential missions: they pull the holster closer to the body by hugging your body contours, the loops keep the holster secure and fixed in one spot on your belt, and they also maximize the comfort of carrying the holster and pistol.  I will tell you after several weeks of wearing this holster and accompanying magazine pouch on a frequent basis, this holster is undoubtedly the most comfortable holster to wear – leather, kydex, or otherwise – that I own.

The belt loops are solidly hard riveted onto the body of the holster, ensuring the user that the holster will not move, wiggle, loosen, or work out of place.  Many holster manufacturers offer a multitude of adjustment holes, with small philips head screws and rubber grommets so you can move the angle and placement of the belt loops to suit your needs.  If you like a bit of adjustability in your holsters, I can see the draw (pun intended) to that sort of thing.  However, for my money, I prefer a well designed holster that has gone through lots of testing to provide optimally-placed, fixed, hard-riveted belt loop attachment points.

The Ronin Concealment Holster also features a small strip of friction grip tape on the inside of each hand-formed belt loop.  I thought this was a great feature, and it’s very effective when combined with the contoured loops: once the holster is installed on your body with a high-quality gun belt (I’ve been using the Magpul Tejas El Original) the holster DOES NOT move.  This is a great thing once you have the holster on and where you like it; however, it does make getting the holster to that “just right” position a bit more of a tedious process – one must loosen the belt and pull the holster away from the body to adjust the Ronin’s position on the belt.  But once the sweet spot is attained, rest assured – your Ronin will stay put tenaciously.

Also Read: E&E Gun Belt Review

I’ll be honest: the grip tape did pull off the inside of the belt loops eventually with use.  After trying the holster with and without the grip tape, I can tell you that the holster works fine without the tape’s presence, but the grip tape definitely adds a bit of traction on your gun belt.

The holster materials are nice, high-quality slightly textured kydex.  The form and fit to the gun is tremendous, which surely helps with the GunfightersINC motto of “Retention Defined”.  The form is so detailed that you can actually see all of the accessory rail slots molded into the outline of the gun.  While I’m sure this helps with traction on the gun, it also makes a weird “brrrrrt” noise as the gun is drawn and all those pistol rail stations have to slide through all those holster slot indentations.  I’m sure this is quite gun-specific; the P320 full-sized gun has a full five accessory slots; most handguns have one or two, so your gun may not have this fun design auditory attribute.

The Ronin Concealment Holster – and all other holsters from GunfightersINC – come in a multitude of colors for the discerning buyer.  I ordered Storm Gray, with black rivets – both no-charge options.  For a slight upcharge, camo patterns or fabric coverings can be yours as well. GunfightersINC also offers custom touches as well, such as unit insignia on holsters and other cool items – contact them through their website to see what they have to offer.

Wearing The Ronin Everyday

So the Ronin OWB holster became my go-to holster when I could get away with wearing it – Best Holstersummer months came upon us quickly, making me don lighter clothing options if I didn’t want to sweat my posterior off.  In addition, the sheer size of the gun I was putting in the holster – a full-sized Sig Sauer P320 with a 17-round capacity and 4.7” barrel – meant that the holster itself was quite long, and often protruded below the shirt or jacket I was wearing for gun-concealment purposes.  But this is no fault of GunfightersINC or the Ronin design; it’s simply difficult to hide large, long-barrelled pistols – especially when worn outside the waistband.

However, when my exterior shell clothing was long enough to cover the holster adequately, the Ronin Concealment Holster was aces.  The formed belt loops really suck the holster into the body nicely, and the general curved shape of the Ronin really helped blend the outline of the holster to my natural form.  Grip printing – again, with a full-sized duty pistol – was there, but lessened compared to other OWB pancake  leather holsters I’d tried in my local gun shop.  After I obtained my P320 Compact, I gladly slipped the new, smaller pistol into the Ronin and the results were gratifying – much less grip printing under a one-size-too-large T-shirt.

But the real takeaway I have from wearing the Ronin is that the holster is, without hyperbole or blowing smoke, superbly comfortable – easily the most comfortable holster I own, as a matter of fact.  With the holster and matching mag holder, and their respective payloads sucked in tight to your body, the rig feels like part of your person – not an added-on burden that slaps or shuffles around.  Note: an essential ingredient to this recipe is a solid, sturdy 1 ½” gun belt.  A good gun belt doesn’t allow the holster to flex,  pivot, or pull away from the body, and should be considered essential to any holster use.

Related: 10 Tips For Concealed Carry

I’ve really fallen in love with this holster as an open-carry setup for when I’m out fishing, hiking, or canoeing.  The excellent holster posture is a remedy to any ailment caused by other holstered handguns.  In times past, I’ve gotten in the truck after a nice outdoorsy jaunt, only to discover foliage and other detritus finding a home between my body and the holster and/or belt.  Pistols banging on gunwales, catching shirtsleeves, and pistol grips clunking on stocks of shoulder-slung rifles are maladies I’ve encountered with previous holsters – so far, the Ronin has combated these problems with comfort and excellent firearm retention.  While this holster may be marketed and designed with concealment in mind, I feel it also comes into its own as an excellent outdoors use general purpose gun transportation apparatus.

I used this holster through many days of frequent one-handed draw drills, one-handed reloads and other manipulations, both strong- and weak-side.  Draws were quick and positive, and the 10° forward cant helped hide the gun against my body without compromising access with the off-hand too badly if needed.  The outside kydex shell was strong enough to allow me to rack the slide using the flat of the rear sight, though the edge of the holster got a little chewed up – this is to be expected with any kydex holster used similarly.

What I Didn’t Like About The Ronin

My complaints with the holster that are genuine faults of the holster are few and, to be sure, GunfightersINC Ronin Holster Reviewtrivial.  The edges of the holster are cut with wonderful precision, but then only minimally polished or sanded.  This leaves a sharp edge that can scrape skin and abrade clothing.  A simple light scuffing around the perimeter of the holster with a small scrap of 220-grit sandpaper remedied this problem nicely.

The aforementioned grip tape strips jumping ship from the inside of the belt loops was another small issue – but a little degreasing, sandpaper, and a very, VERY light application of epoxy (I used Brownell’s Acraglas because I had a bit left over after a stock bedding project) has fixed this problem so far.  Other than the two small issues above, I have no cons for these holsters.  Some may like a bit more adjustability or a steeper cant angle, but I am extremely pleased with this holster design and intend to buy another for my P320 Compact.

Related: 8 Tips For Flying With A Firearm

I did have an embarrassing and painful anecdotal experience with the Ronin Concealment Holster that I will share with you.  The body side of the Ronin sports a sweat guard, which is a tongue of holster material that rides between your body and the interior side of the pistol slide.  This sweat shield does indeed guard against sweat as its moniker suggests, and also keeps any pistol terrain like slide serrations or sights from rubbing against your clothing or body – it’s a great idea that is effective when done well.  I once went to re-holster the gun after a spirited range session, and the searing pain that immediately resulted informed me that I had pinched a tiny bit of the ol’ love handle between the outside of the holster sweat guard and the gun.  I had a hell of a sharp red mark on my torso just above the holster, and my wife definitely capitalized on my pain for her mirth.  I guess the moral of the story here is that maybe if you run a bit of a spare tire and a close-fitting holster, you may want to seriously consider getting rid of one of them – preferably the couple extra pounds.  Looking down at the holster while you re-insert the handgun is usually wise too.

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, I was very impressed with the Ronin Concealment Holster and GunfightersINC’s product line.  The holster’s design is excellent, the comfort level is through the roof with a good belt, and it’s a solid, no-regrets choice for someone who wants a good, all-purpose OWB holster that performs above and beyond most other kydex designs.  Several weeks’ worth of EDC use with this holster indoors and outdoors, concealed and open, on and off the range, cements that opinion.  I have every confidence that this holster is worth your extended consideration and hard-earned greenbacks the next time you’re looking for a great OWB holster.  Shoot GunfightersINC a line and tell ‘em Drew from Survival Cache sent ya…and keep an eye open for the upcoming “Kenai” review…it’s a badass setup.
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Survival Gear Review: Streamlight Stylus Pro Pen Flashlight

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LED Flashlight

Everyone has their thing that they geek out about, firearms, accessories, knives, etc. I geek out when it comes to LED Pen Flashlightflashlights.  I can never have enough flashlights and find it very hard not to buy one when I come across a “new” one at the store.  Due to my job, I carry a flashlight on me every day and depend on it quite heavily.  Years ago I started out using a pen light due to its convenient size but shortly thereafter became disappointed with their lack of illumination and durability.  So, I went to carrying a midsize flashlight.  The bulky nature of even this size of a flashlight was starting to annoy me.

By Tinderwolf, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

One day a good friend of mine and I were cleaning some firearms when he pulled out the Streamlight Pro Pen Light. I was very surprised of the brightness of this little pen light and asked him if I could take a look at it. He told me his opinion of it and the cost and I decided to give it a try.  I picked my Streamlight up at a local shop for around $25 but found it at a lower price through Amazon.

Related: Compact Flashlight Comparison

This Streamlight Stylus Pro Pen is extremely lightweight and compact, I really don’t even notice it when I am carrying it and it has been in my pocket every day for the last six months.  I highly praise the quality of the pocket clip that Streamlight made. With the everyday use I put my lights and pocket knives through, the pocket clip usually does not hold up for long. For most, the pocket clip might not be a significant part of the product to be concerned with.  However, I am not always working in the upright position, I am on the ground, crawling over and under objects, scaling ladders, I am on the move for most of my day. I do not have to worry about my light falling out during the work day, it will stay exactly where I put it.  In this pen light the tension of the pocket clip has remained just as strong as the first day that I bought it.

50,000 Hours

The 50,000 hour LED is listed to have an output of 65 lumens though it appears to be much brighter when I use it. I Streamlight Penbelieve this is due to what the manufacturer calls a micro optical system that is supposed to optimize the lumen output.  The lens of the light is made up of unbreakable polycarbonate.  In my experience the lens also appears to be scratch resistant.  After the constant use, in and out motion action of taking it from my pocket and it rubbing up against my pocket knife, has not put a single visible scratch on the lens in six months of using it.  There are two modes on the pen light. Momentary on and full on.  You can press and hold the button for the duration of time that you need light or fully depress the button to keep the light on.  There is no lock out mode to keep the light off while in your pocket, which is a nice feature to save battery life.  However, the button on this light takes quite a bit of pressure to fully depress to the on mode.  Because of this, I have not had the light come on once while stowed away in my pocket.

Related: Bug Out Flashlight Wisdom

When it comes to flashlights that I own, they all have to have one thing in common.  The have to use common batteries.  Those are the type of batteries that you can pick up at any store, relatively cheap.  Primarily AA and AAA batteries.  This pen light uses two AAA batteries and has a listed run time of six hours.  In my use of it I have found that I change the batteries roughly every three weeks.  Of course, I don’t always run down the batteries completely. When I notice a significant output in lumens I will change the batteries.  Using equipment with these types of batteries makes replenishing those batteries much easier, especially if you have to scrounge for them in some type of emergency.

The last quality that this light has that I require, is that it is waterproof.  I have not worked up the courage to fully submerge the light but it has gotten doused plenty in the time that I have used it, with no negative effects.  I give this pen light five out of five starts due to its affordability, durability and light output.

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Survival Gear Review: Escape & Evasion Gun Belt

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Shark Tank Belt Review

Since the Bronze Age belts have been worn by all ages and all genders.  A belt round the waist is a fashion statement money belt review(1), holds utility essentials (2), and is safety equipment in all manner of work-related and recreational applications (3). And it is those very same three aspects of a special purpose belt that make it an essential component of anyone who considers himself prepared.  The Escape and Evasion Belt addresses the three components through style, function and strength.

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

Only in death will I relinquish my belts.” – Manny Pacquiao

As well as being a stiff leather gun belt, the E&E has three inside zippered pouches that will easily hold a few simple tools and some cash. The nickel-plated brass buckle is first class and won’t raise a single eyebrow unlike tactical belts of any flavor. But the buckle’s heft will certainly make a good weapon, and make short order of car windows and most other non-bulletproof glass when at the flying end of a yard-long lever arm.

More Than Skin Deep

The main body of the belt is pure English harness leather which is one of the few best choice for a belt there is. The CIA Money Belt1.5 inch thick cowhide looks as good as it feels. To avoid the effects water and sweat, the leather crafters in the mountains of Utah used polyester thread instead of cotton. And to take the picturesque illusion of a magical belt further, the edges of the belt are burnished with 100% pure beeswax from Heaven.  Ok, maybe not Heaven, but a small farm in Colorado. Almost the same thing, right?

Also Read: Tips For Flying With A Gun

The quality continues on the inside as well.  Using YKK zippers, a long service life is expected. But still, as and Escape and Evasion Belt, you won’t be opening and closing the zippers every day.  YKK is known as the world’s largest zipper maker and arguably the best zipper on earth.  Despite their implication a 2007 price fixing case with other zipper cartels, YKK has a stellar reputation for quality and durability.

My Lowdown

In the three zippered slots in the belt, I have the following:
1. One full lenght (12”) hacksaw blade that has 18 teeth per inch.  Any more teeth and it will struggle with wood, and Best Money Beltany fewer teeth and it will be difficult to cut metal without the blade in a frame with handle.  While I could snap or cut a hacksaw blade into halves or thirds to make it more compact or flexible, the reality of needing a functional hacksaw blade for a true E&E situation necessitates having a long draw and enough length for real cutting and a real handle.

2. Another pocket holds $500 in cash in five $100 bills.  Some think smaller bills would be a better choice, but I figure that a $100 bill will work anywhere a $20 would.  And the bribe factor goes up proportional to the denomination. Imagine an auction breaking out for the last few gallons of gas.  Two zeros beats one zero every day of the week.

3. A metal handcuff key resides in another pocket.  I’ve tried to come up with scenarios where I might need the key yet still be wearing my belt.  I figure that there more possibilities that the key will be handy to help someone else in a jam rather than me needing it personally.  But you never know.  And yes, I know that a handcuff key is one of the easiest things to fabricate out of almost anything, having the right tool for the job is more than just a cute saying if one needs to shed some bracelets because I also cannot come up with a scenario where time is not a major factor.

But Wait, There’s More

Other E&E tools can include lock picks, wire, even Kevlar cord.  I don’t plan on adding any first aid equipment in myJason Hanson Belt E&E belt, and while thinking about that omission, I realized that it might be hard, make that impossible to use the E&E belt as a tourniquet.  Since the E&E belt moonlights as an excellent gun belt, it follows that it won’t make the tight turns necessary to stop blood flow.  On the other hand, it seems that this Escape and Evasion belt will provide a solid platform for towing cars so it will certainly provide enough strength to save your bacon when you need a lift…or to be lowered.

Last Chance

The main idea behind the Escape and Evasion Belt is to have some survival essentials around your waist at all times and without further thought.  While the E&E belt is not the end-all-be-all, it does serve an important purpose in many survival scenarios.  And should the need never arise, you still have an exceptionally nice gun belt that can be worn every day.  And if that is not already enough to convince you to enjoy the comfort of an E&E belt, the idea of a 100% American made product should be.

Related: SHTF Wardrobe List

Each E&E gun belt is made by hand in Cedar City, Utah by a real American worker.  Each stitch, each hole, each rivet.  I understand the allure of inexpensive Chinese products when some mass-produced overseas copy costs half of what an American made one does.  But like the old saying goes that “You are what you eat,” where you put your money is not only confirmation of your patriotism, but a testament of your conviction to America.

All Photos By Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: Talon Grips

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Best handgun grips

So I’d just like to come right out at the outset of this review and state that Talon Grips have best handgun gripsprobably provided the most satisfaction-per-dollar of any of the firearms modifications I’ve tried in recent memory. They are quite inexpensive, easy to install, non-permanent, and 100% effective at the specific improvement they offer. They’re just damn cool too. All pros, no cons. This will probably be a short review, now that I think about it.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

A Cut Above

If you read my article “12 Great Preps for Under $30” you’ll remember that I’d listed stick-on gripBest Pistol Hand Grips tape as a great buy, due to the fact that you could buy it in strips at cut it to any desired shape, to add texture and “grippyness” to any item that needed it. Specific examples are: handgun and rifle grips, cellphones and cellphone cases, knife handles, etc.

Talon Grips – hailing from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, takes that idea and go one step farther, providing laser-cut application-specific pre-made grip tape sections. With over 200 different designs available from 22 different firearms manufacturers, it’s a safe bet that there is a patented wrap-around pattern that fits your exact gun. Talon Grips also offers a bewildering array of stick-on grips for smartphones, rifle grips, shotgun fore ends, extended magazines, tasers…even a stick-on bottom coaster pad for YETI Rambler travel mugs.

Also Read: Which Dog is the King of Survival

Talon Grips got their start back in 2009 when a duty Glock 21 was fitted with a set of grip panels Best Pistol Gripmade from skateboard tape. Others in the department had to have their Glocks likewise upgraded. Soon thereafter, sales on eBay started taking off, and more designs were developed – first more Glock models came around, then Springfield XD grips, all cut by hand from rolls of skateboard tape. Soon they were farming out the product to a local die cutter for mass production, and in 2011 a proprietary rubber material was developed specifically for firearm grip application, and a laser cutter was purchased to allow for much more intricate designs. In 2012, a patent was received for the one-piece wrap-around die-cut grip design Talon Grips had perfected. The sky has been the limit for Talon Grips since then, and this 100% Designed- and Made-In-USA product has been taking the firearms world by storm.  Law Enforcement, competition shooters, military operators, and the civilian market all have flocked to this easy to install, effective modification.

The design is deceptively simple in theory, yet intricate in execution.  Talon Grips are comprised of one-piece wrap-around laser-cut (you can see the scorch marks on the white peel-off grip backing when you get the grips) stick-on grip panels that utilize an adhesive that has been formulated to stick to guns (especially polymer) like crazy, yet is (relatively) easy to remove with no gluey residue remaining behind.  The panels are notched, relieved, and contoured to look like they grew on the gun; all of the sets I got had cutouts for existing logos, reliefs for thumb rests, and cut-outs for existing terrain on the gun.  So, like I said: while these are very simple, there has been a lot of time spent designing the grips to fit perfectly…and fit perfectly they absolutely do.

Get A Grip!

The grip material is offered in two configurations: granular (feels like fine 150 or 220 grit sandpaper) and textured rubber, with both makeups being very thin – less than ½ millimeter thick – for no added bulk to the gun.

The granular material is the epitome of traction for those who need 100% hold on their gun no matter what the conditions – sweat, rain, mud, blood. The aggressiveness of the grip has a trade off if you wear your gun concealed: the grain of the grip would be awful rubbing against your skin on an inside-the-waistband holster, and I imagine it would fray or even wear its way through clothing given enough time and movement. But, if you have a belt gun that rides in a holster on the outside of your body (think uniformed law enforcement officer), there’s no better way to go if positive handgun retention and grip is what is needed.

Related: Personal Defense Weapon – Do You Need One?

The rubber material is textured to provide a pattern a bit like a stippled grip, but the formulation Best Handgun Gripsof the rubber is far more tactile and positive than a stippled polymer grip. The rubber grip is far and away the more user-friendly and versatile of the two materials: it won’t harm clothing or skin with contact, but still provides almost a sticky gripping surface for the user to really muckle onto. The only time the grip was anything like compromised was when I submerged the grip module of my test Sig P320 in water. The Talon Grip stayed on the gun just fine, but it had a sort of “squishy” feeling that was definitely odd. However, the valleys of the grip surface allowed water to ooze out, and while it felt weird, the gun wasn’t about to squirt out of my hands. If you’re in a really wet environment frequently, I might lean towards the granular grips. Otherwise, the rubber ones are terrific – and the rubber grips are the ones I personally chose to leave on my Sig.

Talon Grips doesn’t just do handguns – they offer a lot of other cool grips for non-traditional items. I also ordered up a Talon Grip for my Remington 870 home defense shotgun – I’d seen a grip was offered for the Magpul MOE shotgun fore end so I had to try it. I also ordered a wrap-around rubber grip for my work-issued Apple iPhone 6S cellphone.

Also Read: The Rebuilding Survivors

The Magpul grip had slots cut into it to allow the MOE fore end’s molded-in ribs to come through Best Forend Gripthe grip, and there were also cut-outs for the Magpul logo.  The only issue that I ran into with the Talon Grip for this application was minimal: I had to pull the light and rail off the fore end to get the grip on – and to re-install the rail and light on the fore end means pulling the gun apart to access the inside of the fore end.  Not the end of the world for me since I’ve had Remington 870s apart more times than I can count and have all the proper tools, but for the run-of-the-mill gun owner it might be an inconvenience.  But the pros definitely outweigh this small malfeasance, because the traction I get on the fore end for fast, aggressive cycling is unparalleled.

The iPhone grip was pretty cool.  I pulled the iPhone out of the Magpul Bump Case it had been residing in, cleaned it off with the supplied alcohol wipe, and installed the grip.  For clumsy people like me, it felt a touch alarming to have the phone out of a nice protective case, but the positive grip that I now had on the iPhone thanks to the Talon Grip allayed (most of) the anxiety. If you’re someone who doesn’t need a protective phone case but would like more traction on a phone, the Talon Grip is absolutely the ticket. All the cutouts for rocker switches, power button, charger port, and input jack were all precisely placed, and the rubber grip didn’t create any issues slipping the phone in an out of pockets.  While it was really great and I used the phone with the Talon Grip for a week or so, I eventually peeled the grip off and let the phone live in the Magpul case again since I drop phones with alarming frequency, and I have a 2-year-old running around that likes glowing devices.  That’s not a detraction of the Talon Grip; I just needed the protection over the traction – even though the added traction DID keep me from dropping the phone on numerous occasions.

Getting It On

Installation of the Talon Grips is a breeze if you have any attention to detail and patience – you Best Handgun Gripsdon’t have to be a gunsmith to get the benefits of the grips – installation is almost dummy-proof.  You’ll need the Talon Grips, a hair dryer or heat gun, and (optional) a couple Q-tips and some rubbing alcohol. A full read-through of the included instructions is definitely recommended.

First off, disassemble the gun if you can.  You’ll be moving the gun around, pivoting, turning, twisting it to get the best angle to install the grips. Remember, these are a wrap-around design, so at one point, you’ll likely have the gun pointed at yourself or other things that don’t need extra holes. Be smart, take the gun apart.

Also Read: A Community to Die For

Next, we’ll need to clean the application area.  Talon Grips provides an alcohol pad to accomplish this; however, I found that the pad didn’t really reach down into my Sig’s existing grip texture that well, so I chose to soak a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and really get down and dirty with the cleaning.  The alcohol will eradicate any gun and/or skin oils that have accumulated on the gun and provide a really positive adhesive surface for the grips. Let the alcohol evaporate fully before moving on.

For handgun grips, you start on the left-hand side of the gun, when viewed as if you were Best Handgun Gripsshooting the gun.  I did a dry run first, trying out the alignment of everything instead of peeling the backing off and just going for it. Personally, when getting started, I didn’t remove all of the paper backing from the grip at once – I really didn’t want to deal with multiple adhesive surfaces flailing about mid-way through the process, sticking to things other than what I intended them to. I started with just peeling the left-hand grip side and leaving the remainder attached to start – it was easy to pull the backing as you went around the gun.

Using the existing Sig Sauer logo that was on the gun‘s grip, I lightly aligned the Talon Grip on the frame, getting the orientation perfect. I had to pull the grip off once to start again – this didn’t seem to have a detrimental effect on the grip material or the adhesive.  But once I got the initial start of the Talon Grip on exactly right, the rest of the installation fell into place. I just rolled the grip around the gun slowly, adjusting each tab where I needed to. The instructions said not to pull or tug, but a small amount of gentle stretching was required on the right-hand side of the grip to get the opposing-side Sig Sauer logo cutout to align properly.

Also Read: Gun Rights & Common Sense

A little tip from your buddy Drew: don’t press the whole grip down on the left-hand side starter panel when starting out. Be sure to leave the frontstrap side of the grip unattached if possible. I’m telling you this because you’ll find that as you wrap the grip around the gun, you definitely have too much grip for the frontstrap.  Don’t cut this off! Peel back the left hand grip slightly, and tuck this excess material underneath the left-hand grip. Then, once you’re happy with the alignment of the whole system, press the Talon Grip grip down firmly to get the adhesive to grab.

After I was happy with the placement of the grip on the guns, I stole my wife’s hair dryer (for the love of God, don’t tell her please) and secreted away to my basement workshop. I set the hair dryer to “low warm” and directed the hot air stream onto the Talon Grip.  I took care to keep the hair dryer moving and to not let one area of the grip get too hot – Talon recommends getting the surface about the same temperature as a hot cup of coffee. You could watch the rubberized material almost shrink a little and work its way into grooves and recesses, ensuring the adhesive got a firm grip. Once I was satisfied, I let the gun cool completely and returned the thieved hair dryer to its proper location. Once everything was set up, the Talon Grip was adhered strongly to the gun – definitely in it for the long haul. In the time I’ve had the grips on, no edges have peeled and there has beed zero bubbling or relocation needed – a tribute to a sound design, quality products, and a proper cleaning.  As an aside, I might hold off from using the hair dryer on Talon Grips that are applied to electronics – I didn’t use it on the iPhone, and the grip stayed on just fine.

Related: Review Windham Weaponry AR-10 .308

When it came time to peel off the Talon Grip from my iPhone, I really had to work at it to get an Best Pistol Gripedge pulled up enough to get a grip on it.  Once I did have enough for a good purchase-and-pull, the Talon Grip really fought me to stay on the phone.  But, I eventually prevailed (how sad would it have been if I didn’t?) and removed the grip. I’m happy to say there was zero need for removing sticky, gluey residues – because there weren’t any.  Talon Grips are 100% reversible if you want to change to a different texture or want to sell/trade the gun – you can’t say that for a custom stipple job on your gun…and I daresay the Talon Grips function better than a stipple job.

Conclusions

What can I say?  Order some Talon Grips.  Right now.  If you don’t like them, you’ll be out less than $20.  But were I a betting man, I’d wager that you’ll love Talon Grips on your handgun/shotgun/taser/YETI cup that you’ll be a return customer.  They’re effective, inexpensive, easy to install all by your lonesome, an completely reversible. How can you go wrong? Give it a whirl, you’ll be glad you did.

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Survival Gear Review: Ruger Charger Takedown

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Best 22 Survival Pistol

Some serious firearms are merely taken as fun guns.  Why not allow them to play the role of Survival Pistolboth?  Lucky for me, at a recent NRA Friends banquet, a friend bought be a raffle ticket to which it produced a winning selection of a firearm.  My choice?  It was a no-brainer for me when I saw the Ruger Charger, .22 pistol sitting among the group of choices that was left.  To discover it was the takedown version with the green/brown laminate stock sealed the deal.

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

Factory Specs

If you have not seen one yet, the Ruger Charger is classified as a pistol, but it is more than that.  Its overall length is 19.25 inches and weighs about 50 ounces.  They come in a fixed stock version and now a neat takedown model just like its big brother the regular Ruger 10-22 rifle.  They are available in both synthetic and wood stocks.

The metal is a sort of blued, matte black.  The barrel is 10-inches thus the pistol ranking.  The grip is a standard hard plastic A-2 AR-15 style.  There are no open sights on this rig, but it comes equipped with an add-on Picatinny rail on top of the receiver to mount a red dot optic or other type scope depending on what the user wants.  Also included is a short front mounted folding bipod that attaches to the forward sling mount with the supplied adaptor.

Related: 7 Ruger 10-22 Accessories You Actually Need

The Ruger Charger uses a BX-15 ®, 15-round capacity “banana” type magazine that slips into the Ruger Charger 22 Reviewaction just like a 10-22 rifle.  In fact, the Charger’s action is really just the exact same one as the common 10-22 rifle action.  Therefore, it only shoots long rifle rimfire ammo, so don’t try to feed this one shorts or longs.

The barrel comes threaded featuring a ½-inch-28-thread pattern to accept most suppressors, or flash hiders.  These threads are capped with a factory installed thread protector.  The takedown process is easy.  A small lever under the action is pushed forward and the front barrel unit is simply rotated into its unlocked position.  Reassembly is just as simple and the barrel/forearm unit snaps positively in place.  There is a round knurled adjustment ring that is tightened upon attaching the barrel unit initially to the action. This properly spaces the barrel to the action.

The Charger comes packed in a plastic slide lock case, that frankly could be a better, more sturdy unit.  The lid on mine did not fit very well.  Once you assemble the pistol and attach the bipod, you are not going to use this case anyway.  I suggest getting a good, padded range bag to tote and store the unit.  The Charger retails for about $380, but shop around.

What Is It For?

Ruger suggests the Charger pistol is great for target shooting and small game.  Their info does not specifically use the term “hunting”, but one assumes that is what they mean by small game.  The .22 rimfire being what it is, this pistol could indeed be used for hunting and bug out pot food such as squirrels and rabbits.

Related: Ruger 10-22 Takedown Upgrades

If you were so inclined, the Charger could just as easily take down raccoon, opossum, and in western locales birds such as grouse, or even pheasant with some luck and patience.  The point is with some practice, this .22 pistol is just as capable of dispatching any game the rimfire can put down.  The attached bipod could be used to steady the pistol off the hood of a vehicle or the fender or seat of an ATV or SUV.  The bipod could also be removed to shoot the Charger off of a standing bipod or tripod or unit such as a Primos Trigger Stick.

In the Field

Some may be thinking that the Ruger Charger is not a very practical firearm.   I think if preppers Shooting Ruger Chargerlooked at one, held one, then got to shoot it, they would be inclined to think otherwise.  I mounted an AIM electronic red/green dot optic on mine.  This was something I had already and thought to put it to good use to try it out.  This optic has four switchable dot configurations that can be alternatively displayed in/on the glass optic screen.  There is the standard dot, a crosshair, a circle, and a sort of circle with a crosshair in it.  A rheostat on the side functions to change out the light intensity but also to go from red to green depending on the shooter preference.

It attached easily to the Charger’s Picatinny rail on top via a cross bolt hex screw mount.  I did find that in cycling the action of the Charger to load it that my knuckle would bump into the sharp knurled optic control dial on the side of the unit.  That was a mild distraction, so I had to play with moving the optic forward and back until I achieved the clearance I needed to leave skin on my knuckle.

Also Read: Ruger 10-22 Takedown Review

One other modification I made was to immediately swap out the factory A2 hard, slick plastic pistol grip with a nice, soft, Hogue AR-15 grip.  I have these grips on all my ARs and find them easier to grip and hold onto.  They are also not slick when wet.  The change out was quick and easy.

Anyway, first, off the bench using the bipod, this little devil can slap tin cans all over the place once I got it punching small holes in target paper from 25, then 50 yards.  It can gong a 10-inch metal plate all day long.  And I was using rather cheap rimfire ammo, if there really is such a thing these days.

I’m not one to press ranges with a rimfire, but I sure think this rig can take down small game out to 50 yards with a steady rest of some kind.  I plan to further test the pistol off a Trigger Stick once small game season opens.  The Ruger Charger could definitely be a field walk around gun, but I have got to ponder on a way to rig up a sling of some sort.   The jury is still out on the usefulness of the bipod except off a bench or flat rest.

Also Read: Project Squirrel Gun

When at my bug out camp, I have this theory about any gun being better than no gun, so even a .22 rimfire ought to scare away a poacher or trespasser with a few rounds in the vicinity.  But if not, then my AR is on the ATV and the 1911 is in my Diamond D chest rig.

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Dr. John J Woods
Rattler1961
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Survival Gear Review: Sig Sauer P320

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Best Survival Handgun

So I got a Sig Sauer P320.  I saw it in a local pawn shop, sitting there in the glass case, perched on green velvet, Survival Handgunlooking all blocky and businesslike and badass.  I handled it, fondled it, wiped the drool away, and made a trade for it. It went home with me where I glared at it in consternation, half furious with myself and half in wild elation.  You see, I really wanted to not like this pistol.  I really wanted to chalk this one up to “the next flash in the plastic pistol pan” and go back to being ensconced in uninhibited true lust over my beloved P220ST.  I wanted to eschew the molded polymer grip with its slight seam lines and go back to trusty, heavy, metal pistol frames.  But the more I handled the P320 and the more I shot it, the sweet siren song of a single trigger pull to master, brutal simplicity, accuracy, and large capacity called to me, and pulled me in.  I finally gave in to the dark side, and am now firmly in its camp. Let me explain.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

You see, I grew up in a transitional period in firearms development.  In the late 1970’s and early 1980s, police Best Survival Pistoldepartments were starting to replace their time-honored .357 Magnum and .38 Special revolvers with semiautomatic handguns.  The 9mm was starting to gain traction, as high-capacity double-action handguns were starting to come unto their own with designs that were reliable enough to feed hollowpoint ammunition regularly.  Also aiding the 9mm’s acceptance was the U.S. Military’s adoption of the 9mm caliber in 1985, along with the Beretta M9/92F platform. Sig P226 pistols, S&W 59s and 459s, and several other designs were starting to be seen in Law Enforcement holsters when one of the most decisive and studied gunfights in history – the 1986 Miami FBI shootout – occurred.

In the Miami shootout, FBI agents went up against two combat-hardened military veterans who had some serious armament – a semi-auto 12-gauge shotgun, a Ruger Mini-14 with multiple 30-round magazines, and several handguns.  To counter this, eight FBI agents fielded just two 12 gauge shotguns loaded with buckshot, and mostly revolvers – though two agents had Smith 459s in 9mm with Winchester Silver tip ammo.  Although the two suspects were neutralized eventually, they wounded or killed all but one of the eight FBI agents who engaged them.  One agent named McNeill suffered one of the worst fates possible in a gunfight: he was shot in the hand by one of the suspects, and when his revolver ran dry, he could not reload due to blood and gore in the gun, and his injuries.  He was then shot in the head and neck and though he survived, he was left paralyzed for some time.

I remember my father talking about the gunfight when it occurred, and reading about it in gun magazines – notably Pistol Defensein several analyses by Massad Ayoob.  (A 25-years-later article by Mr. Ayoob is here, and is excellent.).  Firepower and semi-autos suddenly became the have-to-have for LE.  Gaston Glock’s entry into the marketplace in 1985 couldn’t have been better timed.  Officers quickly flocked to Glock’s first offering, the Glock 17.  A reliable, tough, 17-shot 9mm semi auto was a peace officer’s dream, and as we now know, Glock quickly took over the market, where it still remains the king of the pile.

Related: Sig Sauer P227 Nitron Review

I also remember hearing my father complain about the flood of  “those damn plastic pistols”, and he clung to his Smith & Wesson revolvers tightly (he only started to begrudgingly accept “tupperware” Glocks in the past couple years – and he refuses to try any other polymer framed pistols!) His grousing led to permanent impressions being left in my young brain, and to this day, I have a tough time embracing modern, polymer-framed, striker fired handguns.

Back To The Sig

To bring this around full circle: Glock’s striker-fired monopoly on the handgun market was definitely noticed by all Survival Pistolthe other handgun manufacturers, and some decided to do what they could to dig their heels in and try to push the king off the mountain.  Initial offerings weren’t enough: Smith & Wesson’s Sigma and SW99 offerings were lame ducks, but they evolved into the excellent M&P series of pistols that have been taking the market by storm since 2005.  Others have jumped into the fray, and now there are many polymer framed, high-capacity contenders out there to keep Glocks and M&Ps company: the H&K VP series of guns, Walther’s PPQ/PPM, Springfield’s XD line, and the FN FNX series (and others) have all been gaining traction.

However, one of the premier firearms manufacturers in the world were strangely silent: Sig Sauer, a German company that has a huge manufacturing facility and new headquarters in New Hampshire, USA, never said “peep” about making a “Glockfighter” handgun.  Maybe it was because they’d always made expensive, high-end DA/SA handguns; they didn’t want to undercut their niche.  However, you could see that maybe they were testing the waters on lower-cost handguns:  The SP2022 was a polymer-framed evolution of the 226/228/229 family, and the P250 was an innovative hammer-fired handgun that used a stainless steel fire control group chassis that could be interchanged into inexpensive grip modules.  All of these were well-received as being high-quality handguns worthy of the Sig brand, but they weren’t what the world wanted.  But then, in January 2014, Sig unveiled their new P320 to the world and promptly dropped the mike.  BOOM.

For the past few years, Sig had quietly been watching and researching.  They wanted to address the major shortfalls of the early striker-fired genre (we’re looking squarely at you here, Glock): terrible out-of-the-box trigger pulls, blocky grip frames, glaring lack of ambidextrous controls.  Sig had been waiting in the wings, interviewing veteran military and police officers to get their take on what makes a good handgun great, to make sure their offering was just right…and it was worth the wait.

Also Read: Smith & Wesson M&P 40C Review

Sig Sauer wasn’t content with having tacky add-ons for existing designs to address issues – the Glock Gen 4’s feeble attempt at fitting differently-sized hands with add-on backstraps being a good example.  They wanted a full-tilt modular pistol, and that’s what they rolled out.  The P320 isn’t just a great, reliable design that shoots well; it is a masterpiece, a platform of unequaled modularity.  You see, the P320’s design is centered around a central stainless steel fire control group chassis. This small chassis is serial numbered, and is considered the firearm.  As a consequence, the owner of the pistol can completely swap out the rest of the gun…the grip module can be swapped out to full sized, carry (full sized grip length with a shorter railed dust cover for a shorter slide), compact, and subcompact sized frames.  Each of these sizes of frames are also available in large, medium, and small grip frame girths to accommodate almost all sizes of shooter hands.  Likewise, the slide, barrel, and recoil spring assemblies can be swapped out as well; Sig offers multiple lengths for these as well.  Want a different caliber pistol?  No sweat!  The 9mm, .40 S&W, and .357 Sig barrels and magazines all drop into the same grip/slide assemblies.  Sig offers “X-Change” kits that let you select the configuration/length/caliber you’d like, and buy them all in one shot.

This all ensures that you can have the pistol you want, in the caliber you want, in the configuration you want, tailored to fit your hand.  This sort of modularity is a game-changer, and leaves all the other manufacturers with pin-on grip adapters and change-out backstraps way back in the dust.  It also ensures that the military is certainly considering it deeply in their new MHS (Modular Handgun System) platform competition, and it cinched the American Rifleman Golden Bullseye Award for the 2016 Pistol of the Year.

The Nitty-Gritty

Let’s take a look at what all this modularity specifically brings to the table, as well as some other great stuff the P320 offers.  There are four basic platform sizes available for the P320, each of them with three different grip sizes: small, medium, large. The platforms are:

P320 Full-sized: 8.0” overall length, 5.5” overall height.  The Full-sized configuration sports a 4.7” long barrel, and a 17-round magazine in 9mm.  Weighs 29.4 ounces with the magazine in it, unloaded.  Five slots on the dust cover accessory rail, to mount lights, lasers, etc.

P320 Carry: Same grip frame as the Full-sized with 17-round 9mm magazines, but with a shorter 7.2” overall length and 3.9” barrel and 26.0 ounce weight unloaded.  Shorter dust cover, four slots in the accessory rail.

P320 Compact: The Compact has the shorter 7.2” overall length of the P320 Carry, but utilizes a grip that is a tad shorter, at 5.3” high. 25.8 ounces unloaded.  The magazine capacity is reduced to 15 round in 9mm due to the shorter grip. Four slots in the accessory rail.

P320 Subcompact: The Subcompact model pares away everything not needed, and enjoys a small 6.7” overall length and 4.7” overall height to enhance concealability. 24.9 ounces unloaded.  The 9mm version carries only (!) 12 rounds in the magazine.  The subcompact also has sleeker lines, eliminates the accessory rails, and sports a rounded, no-snag triggerguard in place of the familiar square, hooked Sig Sauer triggerguard.

Okay, so there are four basic pistol offerings.  That’s all well and good. But a really cool thing about the P320’s design is that you can, to a reasonable degree, mix-and-match frames and barrels.  You don’t have to stick to the Sig standard factory-offered configurations.  For example: you can buy a full-sized P320 like mine.  Then, for about $45, you can purchase a P320 Compact grip and mount your full-sized slide and barrel to it. I’ve seen lots of cool builds online from P320 owners making custom configurations out of their guns, even to the point of people cutting off sections of grip frame to make offball configurations like a full-sized slide that sits on a subcompact frame.  And before you ask, yes – the full-sized mags all fit and function in the smaller grip frames.  All of the sizes are available in 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 Sig, and .45ACP. Caliber X-change kits are $399 from the Sig Sauer online store – however, I’ve seen them sold privately and locally for less than that.  I don’t believe the .45ACP components will marry with the smaller-caliber components due to case size – but I don’t have one to test, so I can only surmise.

Also Read: Rothco Concealed Carry Jacket Review

The glass-reinforced polymer grip frames all have nice grippy texture on them – likely a response to many polymer framed gun owners sending their guns out be stippled or have grip texture enhancements.  The triangular shaped Browning-style magazine release is reversible for southpaws, and the small black steel slide catch is 100% ambidextrous with catches on both sides of the gun.  Looking at the grip, you’ll notice the pistol has an odd profile at the magazine well at first glance.  However, once you realize that it’s notched to enable the user to grasp the magazine baseplate for a good hearty magazine rip-out in an emergency, you wonder why other guns don’t have similar features.  A lanyard hole in the back of the grip is standard – a slick offering for people who appreciate the retention possibilities of a good lanyard.  The only other control on the frame is the takedown lever, which is on the left side of the gun.  Mine is an earlier generation gun and as such, the takedown lever is slightly stepped and contoured.  Newer model takedown levers are flat to the frame – however, I really like the tapered design of mine, since it provides a bit of a natural thumb rest for the off-hand thumb in a modern thumbs-forward shooting hold.

Solid 9mm Pistol

The slides are matte black Nitron coated, and are beveled and contoured to keep weight down and allow the gun to be re-inserted into holsters more smoothly.  Sig is offering standard on the P320 what is an expensive custom detail on other pistols: forward slide serrations in addition to the standard serrations at the rear of the slide.  These forward serrations are a godsend when doing press-checks to see if there is a round in the chamber, and all the serrations are deep, wide, and very positive to utilize. Really a great feature of this gun.  Also of note: every P320 I’ve ever seen comes with SigLite night sights.  I’m told they come with Sig 3-dot standard contrast sights, but I have yet to see them. So chances are you’ll find one with night sights installed– and they’re right about the same price as a Glock without night sights.  Just sayin’…I was at the local Cabela’s last night, and a brand new P320 with night sights was $599.  A new Glock 17 without night sights was $549.

Related: Survival Carbine

The stainless steel Fire Control Unit (FCU) is the heart of the whole gun.  It encompasses the trigger, frame rails, ejector, and all the necessary safeties and guts that make the gun work.  The FCU sits in the top of the grip frame, and runs from just forward of the takedown lever, back to the rear of the frame.  Removing and reinstalling it is a breeze, and a tip of the hat is required to the engineers who designed it.  The FCU, as stated previously, has the serial number stamped on it, which shows through a window that is moulded into the right hand size of the frame.  It’s an ingenious setup, one that I bet will be imitated by others in the future.

As a side note: The Sig P320 and P250 platform are brothers – the P320 is striker-fired, while the P250 is double-action-only hammer fired.  As such, magazines and grip frames are interchangeable between the two guns. A nice little tidbit to know while looking for accessories such as holsters.

First Impressions

The first time you pick up a P320 Full Size, you immediately think, “Geez, that’s BIG”.  And it kind of is big, but much of it is due (in my eyes) to the deep, long, blocky dust cover that runs from the triggerguard all the way to the end of the 4.7” barrel; it makes the gun seem taller than most other handguns.  But the grip is long as well, made to house a magazine that holds 17 9mm rounds or 14 .40 S&W/.357 Sig cartridges.  The overall size is probably close to a Beretta 92/M9, though not quite as long.  The Sig feels much more svelte than the M9, though, and points better in my hand, feels more intuitive.  When making the obvious comparison to a Glock 17, the P320 is indeed bigger, but not by much…and the P320 grip feels like it was made for your hand when comparing it to the made-out-of-Legos feeling Glock grip.  The contours, the balance, the reach to the controls – all are very well thought out and executed on the P320. And then you get to the trigger.

Also Read: Magpul Armorer’s Wrench Review

Oh, the trigger! The trigger on the P320 was the deal breaker that sold me on the gun.  Sig obviously directed a LOT of time and effort into getting this aspect of the pistol right.  And if you’ve shot a box-stock Glock or M&P, you know why: the factory triggers of most striker fired pistols are just plain awful.  They have a ton of takeup and creep, and the sear letoffs are gritty and mushy.  It’s understandable, though: There are many internal levers, safeties, draw bars, strikers, and interfacing parts that need to move, slide, drop, and actuate in concert to allow the gun to fire. And while all of those parts do a wonderful job of ensuring that the guns will not fire until the triggers are fully pulled to the rear, they also ensure that the trigger pulls are less than stellar.

This can all be addressed with aftermarket parts, for sure: Ghost and others make great drop in springs and disconnectors for Glocks, and Apex’s Action Enhancement Kits are wonderful treatments for ailing M&P triggers. But the P320? Well, it has a wonderful trigger, straight from the factory.  It’s not “tuned 1911” perfect, but the trigger is definitely head and shoulders above the similarly-priced competition.  There is a slight takeup, maybe 1/4” of travel, but then the trigger breaks cleanly and crisply after about 7 pounds of pressure.  However, the pull seems lighter than the advertised 7+/- pounds due to the exceptional action and clean break.  Apex and others are starting to make aftermarket triggers and other goodies for the P320, but I simply haven’t felt the need.  The trigger is superb for a striker fired gun, straight from Sig. If it ain’t broke…

Also Read: Firearm Maintenance When The SHTF

The rest of the gun on first inspection just exudes Sig quality.  The finish is beautiful, hard-wearing and even, the sights are well-defined and highly visible, and all the controls feel solid and look good.  The only thing close to chintzy in the whole setup isn’t even the gun – the P320 comes with an almost-an-afterthought paddle-type plastic holster. It’s nice that Sig made a holster available to the owner upon purchase, and the holster works okay – it holds the gun on your hip, the triggerguard is covered, the pistol is reasonably secure.  But the moulded plastic is kind of cheap, the design is blocky and it doesn’t hug the body.  I’ll admit I used it, but only until my GunfightersINC Ronin OWB kydex holster came in the mail. After that, the stock Sig offering went into the dusty black-hole bin of forgotten holsters.  Honestly, I would have rather paid $15 less on the overall price and not had the holster come with the pistol. But that’s my call; the included holster is a nice thought for the run-of-the-mill pistol owner who goes out the range with his buddies three times a year.  But, for serious usage and hard duty, spend the money and get a good holster.

Breaking It All Down

Taking the P320 apart into its key components is a breeze.  Sig also incorporated a safety feature into the P320’s Best Survival Pistolfield-stripping method: you don’t have to pull the trigger (like a Glock) or need special tools (like an M&P) to disassemble the pistol. The magazine needs to be out of the pistol as well.  These two attributes are designed to eradicate accidental discharges that could come hand-in-hand with the other offerings of handguns of this ilk.

To disassemble, clear the gun.  Make sure it’s empty.  Then do it again.  Drop the magazine out of the pistol if you haven’t already, then lock the slide ito the rear.  Rotate the takedown lever just over 90° clockwise, until it stops.  Then, controlling the spring tension the slide is under, release the slide by pushing the slide stop down or pulling slightly back on the slide, allowing the slide stop to drop out of its engagement catch.  Let the slide ride forward and off the frame.  The recoil spring assembly and the barrel can then be removed out of the bottom of the slide, just like most other semi-auto pistols. The pistol is now essentially field-stripped for cleaning.

However, to clean the FCU or to change grip modules, you simply take the field-stripped grip frame, grasp the takedown lever, and give it a pull while rotating it slightly back and forth, removing it from the frame.  Then, hook your finger under the front of the FCU, and pull it up and out.  That’s it. The whole process is brutally simple and easy.  The FCU can then be cleaned up, or placed in a new grip module if you so desire.  Re-assemble in reverse order.  That’s it, folks.  It likely took you longer to read this paragraph than it would to disassemble a P320 down to its key components of slide, barrel, recoil assembly, takedown lever, FCU, magazine, and grip frame.  The simplicity and modularity is breathtaking, and worth every penny of the price of admission.

Shooting The P320

I’ll admit, it took me a bit longer that I would’ve liked to find my “groove” and get familiar with this pistol to the Best Survival Handgunpoint where I shooting it well.  Maybe my mind was thinking it would feel like my old familiar M&P when I shot it, or possibly I’m too used to my P220ST.  But after launching a couple hundred rounds of ammo downrange, I can positively tell you that this pistol shoots like a laser beam once you get it dialed in, and once you find ammo it likes. Let me explain.

When I first got the pistol, the pistol was hitting high.  Way high.  Like 8 inches higher than point of aim at 15 yards. I tried different bullet weights – 115s, 124s, and 147s – and they all shot similarly high.  I then jumped on my laptop, took a deep breath, and waded through the mall ninja dribble online.   A bit of internet research eventually informed me that this point of impact issue is a common problem with the P320s with the 8/8 sights.  Sig Sauer numbers their sight heights to denote levels of impact – the higher the number on the sights, the higher the point of impact.  I had these sights – #8 front, #8 rear.  I contacted Sig Sauer, explained my problem, what I’d done to make sure it wasn’t me, and sent pictures of the groups in.  Three days later, I had a new #6 SigLite front sight in my mailbox.  How’s that for customer service?

I installed the new front sight, and the point of impact came right down.  It’s still slightly high, maybe 1 ½ inches high from point of aim at 15 yards, but now it’s usable, and I’ve gotten used to it.  I now cut the target in half with my front sight, and if I do my part, the pistol rewards me with solid hits time and time again.

I really wanted to use this Full-Sized 9mm P320 as a steel plate match and IDPA gun.  To shoot lots of matches on a budget requires reloading ammunition, so I took the plunge.  I purchased 2,000 124-grain lead round nose bullets and several different powders that friends had recommended for 9mm loads.  However, I’m finding that even after trying several different handload combinations, 4”-6” groups are the norm at 15 yards.  I’m planning on trying other powders and other bullets, but I have yet to find a 124-grain lead bullet load the pistol likes.  To Sig’s merit, there are many people running P320s as match guns with several of the loads I tried, resulting in excellent accuracy.  Mine just doesn’t like the handloads I’ve tried so far.

However, factory ammunition is a different story altogether. My pistol dearly loves Winchester “white box” 115-grain full metal jacket ammuntion, and routinely shoots ragged one-hole two-inch 10-shot groups with it. It also shoots Sig Sauer’s Elite V-Crown 124-grain JHP ammunition superbly, so that is the defense load I carry in the pistol.  PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ ammunition and Federal American Eagle 147-grain FMJ both shoot very well out of the pistol. I rested the gun on a shooting bench, and was rewarded with a 20-yard, 10-shot group with Winchester 115-grain FMJ measuring just under two inches. The Sig Elite V-Crown 124s performed similarly.  That’s excellent accuracy for an out-of-the-box pistol…I’m pretty sure that with ammunition it likes, this pistol will shoot better than I can. Functioning over probably 750 rounds so far – mostly dirty, lead-bullet handloads – has been absolutely flawless.  You can’t ask for more than that, friends.

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, it’s definitely telling that Sig Sauer took their time and made an outstanding offering straight out of Best Survival Handgunthe gate…and they did it without breaking the bank or compromising the high-end reputation the Sig Sauer brand has come to represent over the years.  I’m a serious gun snob and admitted fanboy of the Sig Sauer “Classic” line (P220, P225, P226, P228, P229, et al), but I like this P320 so much it comes with me everywhere I go now, even if I’m not carrying it on my person.  It’s a great choice as a gun to have with you or in the vehicle as a serious defensive tool you can rely on when the chips are down.  The accuracy is excellent, the pistol is dependable, the gun is light for its size, even when stuffed full of eighteen 9mm rounds.  Keep an extra couple magazines in a mag pouch, and you have 52 rounds of warm and fuzzy ready to go when you are.

Related: SHTF Grab ‘N’ Go Pistol Bag

The P320 platform, on a whole, makes an excellent choice for the person who needs multiple roles in their pistols (full sized “belt” gun, concealed carry gun, plinker, training firearm, home defense, etc.) but can’t afford multiple pistols or doesn’t want the maintenance or liability hassles that owning many guns can bring.  If Sig Sauer would follow suit with many of their other handgun designs and offer .22LR conversion kits (you hear me out there, Sig??) you could truly have a damn-close-to-perfect-do-it-all handgun.

Do me a favor, especially if you already own a polymer-framed striker-fired handgun.  Next time you see a Sig Sauer P320 in a gun shop’s case, ask to handle the gun.  Ask to dry-fire it.  Ask to try out or be shown the disassembly feature, and how the modularity comes into play.  I bet you’ll be impressed; maybe even impressed enough to look sideways at other striker-fired guns, give in to the dark side like I did, and buy a P320.  Trust me, it was worth the wait.

Photos By:
Drew
Panteao Productions
The Miami News

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Survival Gear Review: Kershaw OSO Sweet Pocket Knife

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pocket knife review

I have never owned an assisted opening pocket knife before but have always wanted one. From the outside they Best EDC Pocket Knifeseemed like they would be flimsy and their action was all for show.  Most of the people I had met that brandished an assisted opening blade, were of the “mall ninja” type. I had no real basis for that thought process but it was a gut feeling I had from secondhand experience.  Since I love a good knife and I’m always looking for a new one to try, I decided to take the plunge to find an assisted opening blade for my EDC.  I did not want to spend a lot of money on something that I had never tried before.

By Bryan, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

Under $20 Bucks

I found the Kershaw OSO Sweet Assisted Opening Pocket Knife on Amazon for under $20 and figured I couldn’t go wrong for that price for this particular brand.  The first thing I noticed when I took the knife from the box was how lightweight it felt. At 3.2 ounces you almost don’t even notice the knife in your hand, let alone your pocket.  At four and one-eighth inches long this knife fits diagonally in the palm of my hand with the blade closed.  I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store the first time I engaged the assisted opening.  The quick hard snap of the blade opening and locking up, was quite impressive.  Shutting and opening the blade one handed is very easy and requires almost no practice as long as you are familiar with pocket knives.

Related: Smith’s Pocket Pal X2 Sharpener & Survival Tool

Normally I am not a huge fan of stainless steel blades but this particular knife came razor sharp out of the box.  Yes, EDC Pocket Knife Reviewit shaved hair off of the top of my arm.  Thus far the blade has held its edge quite well through extensive use every day for months.  I have used the Kershaw OSO Sweet Assisted Opening Pocket Knife to cut everything from cardboard, carpet, rope, to shaving tinder from branches.  This knife wasn’t really meant for the use I have put it through because it is not a survival knife, nor is it a utility knife but the stainless steel blade has held up well and I like to test my blades outside of their normal use parameters.  The Smith Pocket Sharpener does an Ok job putting an edge back on the blade but I have much better results if I put in the time with some Arkansas stones at home.

Specs

SpeedSafe® assisted opening
Liner lock
Reversible (tip-up/tip-down) pocketclip
Steel: 8Cr13MoV, satin finish
Handle: Glass-filled nylon
Blade length: 3.1 in. (7.9 cm)
Closed length: 4.1 in. (10.5 cm)
Overall length: 7.25 in. (18.4 cm)
Weight: 3.2 oz. (90.7 g)

The black injection-molded glass-filled nylon handle has held up extremely well to the abuse I have put it through.  I cannot count how many times I have dropped this knife onto the concrete or how many times it has rubbed up against other tools and there is not a scratch on it.  In some customer reviews that I have read they have negative opinions of the handle, though, from an aesthetics standpoint rather than functional one.  Personally I like the “spider web” look of the scales and the feel of it in my hand.  All knives are slippery to a degree when they are wet and this knife is no different.  The few times I have used it while wet, the slippage was not great enough to be a concern.

Conclusion

Out of all the EDC knives that I have owned over the years this knife beats them all hands down.  For the price, the Model 1830 Kershaw  OSO Sweet Pocket Knife cannot be beat.  I love the balance of the knife when it is deployed, especially when transitioning from a standard forward position to a reverse hold position. It is just as fast to deploy as it is to put away which I think is an important aspect to note.  One other EDC knife that I owned had an additional safety lock on it.  I can see why they would put such a feature on a knife but it did make it difficult to close and place back in my pocket.  I think Kershaw did an outstanding job on this model as I have zero complaints and would not change a thing.

All Photos by Bryan

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Survival Gear Review: C.A. Myers Sewing Awl

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Best Awl for Sewing

This is sewing for the caveman in you, or cavewoman.  If you have a well thought out Bug Out review_ca_myers_awl_for_all_sewingBag, then repair gear is included in it.  A small sewing kit, duct tape, multi-tool, IFAK, and maybe some cable ties.  I have been putting a heavy sail needle and thick thread in my kits forever.  If your pack needs a strap reattached, needle and thread, accept no substitute.  With a standard needle and thread you need pliers most of the time to push and pull through the multiple layers, we have that covered.  Is there a better way?

By Pineslayer, a contributing author to Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

Maybe, enter the sewing awl.  I bought a C.A. Myers Sewing Awl about 10 years ago to fix various pieces of gear.  Unfortunately for me, I just picked up a different pack and failed to fix the broken one and the awl sat in my well stocked tackle box of sewing stuff, until last month.  I needed to get a sheath for a hatchet that I wanted to put in my pack.  Looked around the net and couldn’t find one at what I thought was a decent price.  Oh yea, I had an awl and some leather.

Too Easy

The C.A. Myers Sewing Awl worked too easy, I must be doing something wrong I thought.  I c-a-myers-awl-for-all-sewing-review-shtf-survivalmade a blade cover in about 10 minutes.  My mind was trying to come up with a problem when none existed.  So to test my stitching I grabbed 2 pieces of leather and put them together.  Then I tried to pull them apart, the stitching held, but the leather ripped.  Not because it was weak, because I was trying to get something to fail.  Needless to say, I was impressed.  The thread included with the awl is very capable.  I pushed through 2 layers of leather easily.  The only downside of this product is the cost of leather :)   I’ve been using some firehouse, that I pulled out of a dumpster, for some machete sheaths.  That awl makes working with this stuff a pleasure

Related: Sew What

As all of you know gear can get expensive.  When we find a piece that is affordable, made in the USA, can save us money every time we use it, and is packable, bada bing.  This will probably be my shortest post ever, because this thing speaks for itself.  At $12.97, the C.A. Myers Sewing Awl is ready to go, it’s a no brainer.  Extra needles store in the handle and each spool has 13 yds of thread, that’s a lot of repairs.  They have about a dozen colors and sell it in bulk too.  It is my belief that everyone should have one of these in their home.  I have a second one that is set up for my pack, at 3.6 oz with extra needles, one extra spool, reinforced box and ziplock,  it isn’t exactly cumbersome.  Heavier than a standard needle and thread, but it can hold its own in the tool department.

Bug Out Bag Creep

Now maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but when I have this in my Neanderthal hands it feels like you could perforate a skull with it.  Multi-use item?   OK back to the post.  Being able to repair essential gear is, for the lack of a better word, essential.  Holsters, slings, packs, duffels, anything canvas, pack animal gear, the list goes on and on of what can be repaired with this item.  If you get a chance, please visit Awl for All and if you speak to them, tell Al that Survival Cache sent you.  He is the guy who has answered my questions and he is a patriot like all of us.  Give yourself and your friends a Christmas gift that will make them more self sufficient. Jarhead would this qualify as a B.O.B. creep item?  Please say no.

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Neck Knives For The Masses

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Best Neck Knife

The definition of a neck knife pretty much begins and ends with it being a blade worn on a Best Neck Knifelanyard around one’s neck.  Rather than in a belt sheath, pocket, pack clipped anywhere else, the neck knife offers a deployment option and carry strategy that opens some doors especially during specific activities and positions.  Neck knives can be tiny and as small as an index finger, usually carried tip-up.  Or they can be near full sized and carried tip-down on a substantial neckstrap.  Those are the small size can take many additional forms depending on anticipated use from EDC to the edges of survival.

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

The larger end of the spectrum are more for daily use and easy access during general outdoors Best Neck Knifeand bushcrafting tasks. The particular reason I wear a neck knife is two-fold; first as a sport-specific knife, and second, for survival applications when things might-could get dark (using some small-town parlance).

Four situations I wear a neck knife over a knife in my pocket (or in addition to) include skiing, mountain biking, watersports like paddleboarding, and backpacking and hunting.  A main reason I got into neck carry is because I either am not wearing any pockets, or I may need to deploy the knife in a partially immobilized or even inverted state.  And I have different neck knives for each activity.  For downhill skiing, I wear a Boker Magyar.  It’s a stout little beast with a large finger hole and a thick drop point blade. The 440-C stainless steel is a must, like the mountain biking knife, because it will be soaked in salty sweat.  I like the finger hole to keep the Boker Magyar under control when hands are cold or a drop in the snow might as well be overboard in the ocean.

Related: Tops Brothers of Bushcraft Knife Review

For mountain biking, I like the Boker Grasshopper.  It has more handle than blade and is of a Survival Neck Knifemore traditional look as if just a small belt knife missing its scales.  The Grasshopper has a titanium-coated 440-C stainless clip point blade that can drill and stab better than drop points. It can also be held comfortably in a reverse grip as needed even though it weighs less than an ounce. And it’s near weightlessness makes it almost invisible even when bouncing down the trail.

Backpacking is another matter.  I prefer a workhorse of a neck knife because I will be using it ESEE Candiru often. The previous two are more for emergencies, or for that occasional extra-strength food wrapper.  For camping trips I want a neck knife that will get some daily if not hourly use.  I prefer the ESEE Candiru with G-10 scales.  It’s a tiny little critter, both the knife and its namesake, but the tales of it swimming up your, well, private part (the critter not the knife) are overblown (pun intended).  However, as a carbon steel the Candiru will rust if left alone, but the powder coating protects all but the very edge of the edge. After a day of wear, tiny orange flowers start growing on the shiny metal.  But the quality ESEE 1095 tool steel touches up beautifully with little effort to kiss the oxidation goodbye until next time.  Of all my neck knives, the has the best grip, but also the thickest footprint.

Also Read: Fallkniven Jarl Knife Review

And for paddleboarding and sea kayaking, I like the Boker Gnome.  Why?  Well, partially I justTop Neck Knife like the Boker Gnome and am always looking for a reason to wear it.  It’s a funny little knife with an apt name.  The Gnome has a very thick blade for it’s size and two of the cutest little micarta scales you’ve ever seen.  It is the best prybar of my neck knives and it’s 440-C steel resists rust better than most, even in salt water.  The knife is held only between the thumb and index finger because that’s all there is to hold.  So you could say that this is not a high leverage knife even with a 2 ⅛” long and ¼ inch thick blade.  But where the Gnome does shine is in brute strength if you have to pound on it like a piton.

…And Eat It Too

The question as to why a tiny fixed blade instead of a robust folder is a good one.  Especially since folding knives today are better and stronger than ever.  But not at under two ounces, or even under one ounce.  Hinged blades require robust parts and dual reinforcement in the handle.  Locking mechanisms, by nature, can never be as strong as as a solid shaft of steel for the same weight.  And even given the added weight, deployment still requires gravity, muscle or a more complex spring system.  The simplicity of a tiny fixed blade cannot be argued within those parameters.

Gallows Humor

A neck knife has only three parts: a knife, a sheath, and a loop of cord that allows the sheath to Survival Gear Neck knifebe worn around the neck.  There are no size or weight restrictions.  The blade can point up or down.  And the sheath can be molded Kydex, or elegant leather or even bland plastic. In my case, I prefer the uneventful durability of nylon-like scabbards.  A durable, but breakaway neck cord should be a must, but we put many strong cords around our necks quite often, so I’m not really worried that my last breath will be a swear word directed at a loop of paracord around my trachea.  Especially when the point of a neck knife is a rapid and convenient deployment of a blade that will easily cut through paracord.

Chains of small balls like the pull-chains on floor lamps are popular neck knives lanyards.  They will break away before killing you.  At least that’s the plan, but I haven’t personally tested it in all cases.  So use your brain.  But more important that lanyard strength is blade retention. While easy extraction is important, should unintentional deployment happen you will find a sharp blade wandering around your belly region just looking for something to cut.  There is no happy ending to that story except relief when you find it before it finds you.

Related: Benchmade Adamas Knife Review

As neck knives gain popularity it becomes clear that the design is still in its crude phase of evolution.  Not that the knives are rough, but like early days of powered flight, the designs are all over the place.  From mostly handles to almost no handles.  From full-bellied blades to narrow scalpels.  From finger holes to featureless grips.  And from skeleton to scaled. All of these differences give the wearer plenty of options for job-specific carry even when the particular feature set seems oxymoronic like the Boker Gnome.

All Photos By Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: 3M Safety & Security Window Film

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how to secure windows

Everybody loves lots of windows in their house.  Windows provide you with a view towindow security film the world.  They provide natural light, warmth when the sun is shining, fresh air when the weather permits and the ability to cool your home on those hot summer nights.  Everyone loves lots of windows except for a survivalist or prepper.  Unfortunately windows can also be an invitation for uninvited guests during times of trouble.  Providing a weak spot for entry into your home or business.

By Mark Puhaly, a contributing author to Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

To break into someone’s house through a window you have to be committed to the crime.  A window is loud, broken glass is dangerous, and climbing through a window is not easy.  But compared to kicking down a door or picking a lock, breaking a window is a quick way for entry.  Also, many doors now days have an alarm systems tied to when the door opens and closes.  But those same alarm systems rarely recognize when a window is broken or when a window is opened.

The Facts

– 2,000,000 home burglaries are reported each year in the US.
– About 30% of all burglaries are through an open or unlocked window or door.
– Nearly 66% of all burglaries are residential (home) break-ins.
– Renters are just as likely to be the victims of property crime as homeowners.
– The highest % of burglaries occur during the summer months.
– Homes without a security systems are up to 300% more likely to be broken into.
– 1 out of 3 residential assaults are a result of a burglary.
– 85% are from amateurs who are usually more desperate and dangerous.
– 95% of break-ins needed some amount of force to break-in.
– Thieves prefer easy access, through an unlocked doors or windows.

Bar Time

Let’s face it, we have all been to the bad side of town and seen bars on the windows.  Right when you start to notice best way to secure windowsthe bars on the windows, your situational awareness alert starts to go off and you posture begins to change.  You often see bars on the windows in bigger cities in almost all of the neighborhoods, not just bad ones.  Personally, bars on the windows do not bother me.  The more security, the better in my mind.  But bars on the windows can also give off the wrong message in a nicer neighborhood and can be a trap if you have a house fire.  I have been through nicer neighborhoods and seen bars on the windows and thought to myself, that person either is keeping something of value in their home or they are very paranoid.

Related: Home Security After TEOTWAWKI

I have never personally priced out window bars but I imagine that they are not cheap.  Also, the installation has to be somewhat invasive because you have to anchor the bars to the house with bolts or heavy screws.  In an emergency, your access to get out of that window will be limited but your piece of mind will be high because you know that getting through bars will be very difficult for an intruder.

Shutter Them Out

An alternative to window bars are security shutters.  The advantages of shutters over bars is that when they are security shuttersopened, you have full use of your window and could actually get out of that window in an emergency.  Another advantage is that the shutters actually provide extra insulation for both weather and sound.  The disadvantage of shutters is that when they are closed, you cannot see out of them.  I actually have some experience with these.  When I lived in a major city on the west coast, I actually had one of these installed on a ground floor window of a townhouse that I owned.  I came home one night and found a homeless person sleeping next to my front door under that window and I thought to myself, I need to do something about that window or someone will be breaking into my house.

The security window shutter worked great but it was expensive and looked a little bulky on the outside of the house.  Also, I had to remember to shut it all of the time at night and open it for fresh air during the day when I was home.  I know there are some models now that work on timers with RF controllers but I had the kind that you had to manually roll up and down like a window shade.  So it was a little painful to say the least.

Board’em Up

We have all seen the photos of Hurricane Katrina (and other hurricanes for that matter), where people board up Best way to secure windowswindows with plywood and boards.  Yes, this is an alternative during a major disaster but the reality is that it is not very practical for everyday living.  Not to mention that boarded up windows are against most local ordinances unless the house is vacant.  So while it might not be a bad idea to keep some sheets of plywood on hand for a major disaster, your neighbors are not going to be real happy when you board up your windows on a nice sunny day.

A 4th Option

Recently my neighbor had a bad experience.  One night while he and his wife were at home.  A person walked up to home securitytheir home and tried to open their storm door which was locked.  The perpetrator then tried to kick in the glass of the storm door which unbelievably held up to his boot.  By the 3rd kick, the perp was staring down the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun being held by my neighbor and decided to leave the area.  After the traumatic event, my neighbor decided to upgrade his home’s security by adding motion lights, a security system, cameras, and security film to his windows.  I have known about 3m window security film for some time but never investigated it fully until my neighbor put it on his house.

Before the event at my neighbors house, we had already decided to move to a new town.  The new house we moved into has a lot of windows and a high homeless population in the area.  On top of the homeless population, our new town has a high arrest rate for both heroin and meth.  Having bars or security shutters put on my new house was a little bit out of the question for cost reasons and appearances.  I didn’t want to be the only house in my neighborhood with bars on the windows but on the flip side, I wanted to have protection against a possible break in.

Also Read: Prepper’s Home Defense

I called a local window tinting company, who was a 3m dealer, and asked them about the cost and the installation of the 3m Ultra Series Safety & Security Window Film.  Surprisingly, it was not that bad.  For about 33 windows & sliding glass doors on the main floor of my house, the cost was under $2,000 installed.  That to me was a good price for piece of mind.  Now, will the film keep someone out who really wants to get in?  No, but it will give me precious time to bring my friends Mr. Shotgun and Mr. Glock to the party.

Levels of Protection

3m offers 3 different levels of protection for window film and a bonding system the bonds the film to your window Best Window Security Filmframe for added protection.  From the company’s website here is the description of all three film layers and the bonding product.

Ultra Prestige Series: “Super cool protection. The first of its kind, the 3M™ Ultra Prestige Series films are made from clear, tear-resistant film. That strength is combined with Prestige Series sun control films to reject up to 60% of the heat coming through your windows and 97% of the sun’s infrared light. These films also reject 99.9% of harmful UV rays, reducing the effects of fading on your furnishings. Ultra Prestige Series films allow 50% to 70% of the natural light into your home. The result is films that offer all the benefits of sun control with safety features built in. With these films you’ll block heat, reduce hot spots and damaging UV rays, while also helping to hold glass together in the event of break-ins or accidents.”

Ultra Series: “Super cool protection. The first of its kind, the 3M™ Ultra Series films are made from clear, tear-resistant film. These films deliver superior performance over standard polyester films in blast and impact events; yet still maintain a high level of optical clarity. Ultra Series films are available in combination format with tinted 3M Sun Control Films to give you the best of both worlds.”

Safety Series: “A clear advantage. Our most basic protection level is available in clear or tinted sun-control versions. These single-layer 7 and 8 mil polyester films are paired with a special thicker adhesive to help hold broken glass together.”

Impact Protection Attachment System: “Highest level of protection. This unique window protection system combines the toughness of 3M™ Ultra Safety and Security Films with an adhesive or profile attachment system. Choose either 3M Impact Protection Adhesive or 3M Impact Protection Profile depending upon your frame and overall aesthetic needs. This combination system attaches the filmed window to the window frame, creating a robust shield that significantly outperforms window film-only systems. It’s extra assurance against impact energy from earthquakes and forced entry events—with enough strength to handle even bomb blasts.”

I ended up going with just the mid-level protection (Ultra Series) and did not do the impact protection system.  I window securitybelieve the impact protection system may be better suited for a commercial type property or vacation home that will be unoccupied at night, where no matter what, you want to keep someone out because the police response time may be long.  You can also get a tint to the window film but that tint might make your windows a little hazy.  I went with the totally clear window film to make my windows look as normal as possible.  Make sure you have this discussion with your 3m dealer before the install about tinting or no tinting.

The installation took about one day with two installers.  First, they meticulously cleaned the windows, then they applied the window film.  After the window film was applied, they worked to remove all bubbles to make sure the windows looked totally clear.  After the installation, they said that I might see a few bubbles in the windows but they should evaporate and disappear within 3 to 4 weeks.  If any bubbles stay longer than two months, they would come back to fix the film.  Out of 33 window/door treatments, I only noticed about 3 bubbles but after a few weeks they disappeared as promised.

The Proof

More Proof

Conclusion

My wife can no longer tell the difference between the treated and untreated windows, which is good.  So far I can window filmreport that I have not had my windows tested by someone trying to break in and probably never will.  However, I do sleep easier at night knowing that I have an upgraded level of protection on the ground floor of my house with the 3m Window Security Film.  Is the product worth the cost?  Ask me that question after someone tries to break into my house through one of my windows.

Photos By:
NatGeo
Mark Puhaly
Npelowski16

Video By:
3m

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12 Preps For Under $30 Bucks

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Low cost emergency preparedness gear

I’m willing to bet that at least 90% of the people reading this article have to function under a budget of sorts.  Bills cheap survival gearneed to be paid, houses need to be heated, cars need to be maintained, stomachs need to be fed.  It’s a fact of life and how we have to operate on a day-to-day basis.  As much as any of us would love to go out and blow five grand on preps we would really love to have, reality dictates that we just can’t do that and make ends meet.  I know I have to save up to obtain things I want – preps included.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

While operating under this self-imposed budget, I’ve used, carried, and tested a LOT of low-priced new or “previously-enjoyed” items for lower prices.  Yes, some of them were complete and utter crap, but there have been several shining stars that really enhanced my life on a daily basis; so much so that I have complete confidence that they will serve me well under more extreme, post SHTF-type scenarios.

All of the items I’ve listed here are great.  I personally own and use them all (save for one, but I will explain my rationale when I get to it.) on a semi-daily basis, and they all work.  The kicker?  They all work well for under thirty bucks. So whether you’re under a budget, or looking for stocking stuffers, or just need good gear, these will all function without breaking the bank.  Let’s check them out.

Streamlight Microstream

The Streamlight Microstream is a tiny (3 ½ inches long by 9/16 inch in diameter, 1.04 ounces with battery) C4 LED flashlight that is powered by a single AAA battery.  It has a run time of over two hours on a fresh battery, and the bulb is rated to 30,000 hours of use with a surprisingly brilliant 35 lumen output.  It has an IPX4 water resistance rating, and it is sealed with O-rings.  The light has a spring steel bi-directional clip that allows you to fasten it in your pants pocket like a folding knife, or you can clipp it onto the brim of a baseball cap for a head lamp.  The case is black hard-anodized aluminum, and shrugs off drops onto hard surfaces from waist-level with aplomb.

Also Read: DIY Alcohol Stove

Specs aside, I have been carrying Microstreams almost every day of my life since I got my first one a couple years ago.  I have one (of several) riding clipped to  my weak-hand pants pocket, opposite my folding knife, and extraction and quick deployment is a breeze.  I’ll tell you now: you’ll be amazed how much you use a small light once you have it on you all the time.  Drop something behind your desk into a maze of computer wires?  No problem, instant illumination! Need to dig out the booster pack to jump start your car?   A handly light is already with you. Walking in a dark parking garage and need to identify a threat?  It’s there for you.  The only, and I mean ONLY, problem I’ve ever had with these lights is that they are small and easily lost if you take them off.  That’s why I mentioned I have several – if I lose mine for whatever reason, I’ll run to the store and grab another – which, of course, means I instantly find the one I lost. So I now have Streamlight Microstreams in my cars, bedside stand, and a spare at work. You can never have too many of them, and I can’t recommend these lights highly enough. Drop the $20 (or less) for one and never look back.  Absolutely perfect EDC gear.

Gerber Evo Jr Folding Knife

This is the aforementioned knife I wear opposite the Microstream in my EDC carry. The EVO Jr. is a very small (3 Good Survival Knife5/8 inches by 5/8 inch) folding pocket knife with a 2 5/8” titanium-coated “Fine Edge” blade that discourages corrosion.  The handles are machined anodized aluminum, the blade high carbon stainless steel, with a fast-opening thumb stud and integral finger guard that deploys with the blade opening.  A non-reversible stainless steel pocket clip is screwed to one of the handle panels.

Gerber knives have always had a pretty good reputation where I’ve come from, so when my $80 H&K folder broke before I headed out to a hunting trip, I stopped at the local Cabela’s and saw this baby on sale, for I think $29.99.  It fit the bill dimensionally (I hate having items with too much weight and size in my pockets), the price was good, and I knew Gerber stuff was pretty okay.  I purchased the EVO Jr. and promptly forgot about the H&K folder.  I’ve used this knife to gut deer, open bottles, chisel (yes, with a hammer) door strike openings in wood jambs, cut old caulking out of windows, and shred cardboard boxes – and the EVO Jr. has come up swinging. The blade is just a touch bent, but still 100% functional.  I don’t feel bad at all about not owning a spendy Spyderco or Benchmade with this little beast clipped to my side.  I’m sure it’s not invincible, but it’s really good for the price.  They are available on Amazon for dirt money (I found this one for just over $23!) but I’m told Gerber may have discontinued this model, so grab one if you can…even if its just a backup.

ASP Key Defender OC Spray

Non-lethal threat deterrents are always valuable, whether you do or don’t carry a firearm, knife, etc.  Non-lethal pepper/OC spray is almost always legal to carry anywhere, making it a choice method of protection if you must venture into the lands of the “gun free zone”.  ASP makes the Key Defender, which is a small and slender method of deploying 2 million scoville units of OC love directly into a bad guy’s mug.  The ASP Key Defender OC Spray is about the size of a Mini-Maglite, (6” long by 5/8” diameter) has an easily-utilized and secure flick-off safety, and it’s almost impossible to spray yourself if used properly.  The release valve actuates like a flashlight with a tailcap switch, so it’s intuitive and easy to point in the correct direction.  The knurled aluminum casing is shaped and sized nicely to do double-duty as a kubaton if things get up close and personal, and the key ring means you can attach it to your key chain if that’s your thing. Refills and inert practice cartridges for the spray are readily available as well.  Shop around and you can find a Key Defender in many different colors, for right about the $30 mark on Amazon, with a two-pack of refills dinging the wallet about $15.00-$18.00.

Related: DIY Fire Starter

Funny story about my Key Defender: I was riding back home with my son from a visit with our very own Jarhead Survivor.  I  had to pull over to the side of the road answer the call of nature in the woods, and upon my return in the truck, I was greeted with a fierce, immediate stinging in my eyes.  I looked at my son, and he was coughing and his face and eyes were red.  He was holding the Key Defender, which I kept in my shifter console. “WHAT IS THIS?!?” he cried between coughs.  It seems he decided to screw around with the Key Defender, and sure enough, shot a blast of it right out my driver’s side open window. None of it actually got on either of us, but the fumes alone made us vacate the truck cab post haste, while we sat on the side of the road coughing and laughing like lunatics. I’m sure anyone driving by must have wondered what these two gagging, red-faced buffoons were doing, sitting on the side of the road and laughing.  I made a mistake of scratching my eye and rubbing my nose after touching the steering wheel.  It was ferocious, and I didn’t even get sprayed.  I can just imagine being on the bad end of one of these, and it must be a very effective deterrent indeed.

Real Avid AR-15 Micro Tool

I stumbled across this neat little rig at a local Cabela’s for $17.99, and grabbed it to bring home and try on my AR. Best AR15 Mini ToolIt’s a small, light, all-steel tool meant for taking care of most of the functions you’d need to strip your AR and clean off carbon in the field.  The Real Avid AR-15 Micro Tool has many functions and tools built-in to it: three sizes of bolt scraper, a 5mm, 1/8”, 3/16”, 1/4”, 5/16”, and 3/8” wrenches, a bottle opener, a front sight adjustment tool, a cutter, and a takedown pin punch. It comes with a short web attachment to a keyring.

Also Read: 5 Dollar Preps

While I have no delusions of this not being an absolutely terrible 3/8” wrench, the Real Avid AR15 Micro Tool is worth every penny for other functions: the pin punch, scrapers, and front sight tools all work really well.  I haven’t tried the bottle opener – mainly because I’m not exactly popping open Sam Adams bottles when I’m working on guns – but it looks like it’d do the job fine.  I fastened this tool to my AR grab bag as a lightweight scraper tool pretty much.  It’s no Leatherman MUT but it will work to get the carbon buildup off your bolt and firing pin well enough to get you back in action and to your cleaning kit.

Rechargeable Auxiliary Battery

Cell phones seem to run the world this day, and in many cases, they are better than any took you have in your LED Flashlight for survivalbug-out bag to get you out of trouble.  However, they are definitely battery-dependent, and the bigger and more beautiful your smartphone screen is, the faster your battery will drain.  When I’m out in the woods on a deer stand, I like to have my phone to send messages to any hunting partners, check the weather forecast, read articles to keep me awake, use the GPS, etc.  However, the battery is only good for about 2/3rds of the day under frequent use, generally.

I went up to my brother’s house a while ago to do some deer hunting in an area I was unfamiliar with, and I knew we were going to put on the miles, so I stopped at a Target on the way up and snagged a cheap 3,000 mAH auxiliary battery back for $24.99.  Once charged, it had enough juice to give my cellphone a complete charge, and had a small LED flashlight built in. It stows in a pocket, is rubber-armored, and recharges in an hour.  While I know it’s on the cheaper side and there are far better units out there on the market that sport much larger batteries, solar panels, and USB ports, this one serves me well.  I know that if I have to walk home, I have a full charge ready to go to be able to contact others if I have reception.  Shop around, there are lots of options under $30.

Inspiration Book

My father had this idea, and I think it’s a great one.  He went out and bought a good, sturdy, 4” x 6” notebook and filled it with information and small items to keep him going if he’s in a bad spot.  His notebook contains pictures of his grandchildren that have been laminated and glued to the pages, bible verses, and quotes from authors he likes, or passages that inspire.  Also in the book are helpful bits of information and formulas that will prove helpful in survival situations:  Angles of declination for given areas, bleach:water purification ratios, important phone numbers, photocopies of important documents, and the like.  Fill one of these out and stow it in a plastic bag for when times get rough.

Clear Safety Glasses

Imagine walking through the woods at night with little or no illumination and you’ll get the idea of why a cheap pair of safety glasses is a good thing to have in your bug-out bag.

WISR Custom Paracord Bracelet

This is the one item on this list I don’t personally own, but I do have a really awesome item from Valkyrie War paracord survival braceletCord that I reviewed: The Survival Frag. There are millions of “survival” paracord bracelet designs out there, but Chris, the owner of VWC, will let you select colors and survival items from an online list, and then he will custom build your personal WISR (Wearable Integrated Survival Rigs) with your chosen items and ship it to you. The WICR-CUSTOM starts at $10.00 and goes up from there based upon your selections. Some interesting choices are: a handcuff key ($3.00), a 1” firesteel rod ($3.00), iodine tablets ($2.00), and a buckle whistle ($3.00).

Related: 5 Dollar Preps Fishing & First Aid Gear

If you have a few extra bucks at your disposal, at $50 the Survival Frag remains a really great all-in-one emergency kit. Chris is a full-time student, EMT, and all-around really nice guy. He does top-quality paracord work, and it doesn’t stop at bracelets and Frags. His online store can be found here. Free shipping too! While I don’t have one of these – YET – I have no doubts that VWC’s products are good to go.

Liberty Gun Lube CLP

Does your current gun lube keep machine guns running for hundreds of continuous rounds under high heat Best Gun Lubeconditions?  Okay, it very well may; that’s a common property for a good gun lube. But how does it function at 84 degrees F below zero? For all you guys without calculators, that’s 116 degrees below freezing, and that means that your Liberty Gun Lube-treated gun will function on the -60 degree F surface of Mars if needed.  Liberty Gun Lube’s CLP (Cleaner, Lubricant, Preservative) boasts an ultra-low freezing temperature, and the ability to keep guns working in high heat situations too. Jeff Zimba, renowned author of “The Evolution of the Black Rifle: 20 Years of Upgrades, Options, and Accessories”, did a serious battery of tests of Liberty Lube’s CLP with full-auto rifles, as well as freezing pistols in blocks of ice, chipping the pistols out, and shooting them: Liberty Lube worked slick (pun intended.). Check out just one of the test videos with Liberty Lube here…and check out the rest of his channel while you’re at it.

Spoiler Alert: I have a review of Liberty Gun Lube’s CLP as well as their solvent coming soon, so I won’t get too deep into the product here.  But Liberty Lube’s CLP has replaced all my other gun oils, it works so well. 1-oz bottles go a long way and  take up very little room in your out-the-door gun bag.  If you need to keep your guns running in adverse conditions, this is your first step. 1-oz bottles of the CLP run $10, the non-toxic, biodegradable solvent runs $9.

WD-40

This universal “fix-it” has been around for ages, and for good reason: it does its job, and it does it well.  WD-40 is marketed as a lubricant, penetrating oil, preservative, and seemingly every household has one of the ubiquitous blue and yellow spray bottles kicking around somewhere.  WD-40 should also be on the radar of anyone with a prepper’s mindset, too. A small 3-oz bottle doesn’t take up much room in packs, and can be used to lubricate whetstones while sharpening knives, keep guns from rusting in wet environments, free rusted locks, nuts, bolts, bike chains, etc., and since it is quite flammable, can also be used as a fire accelerant to help start a life-saving fire in wet conditions. It also works as a starting fluid for tough-to-start motors. It is available anywhere for cheap. Everyone needs WD-40 in their lives.

Grip Tape

Grip tape is one of those products that solves a problem that you didn’t know you had.  I’m guessing that grip tape Grip Tape for survival gearis a natural evolution of shooters wrapping their pistol stocks in skateboard tape to improve grip in sweaty, muddy, and bloody conditions.  Many products are marketed with the same goal: to make an easily-applied surface that doesn’t permanently alter firearms, yet provides a vast improvement in gripping traction.  I bought HI-TEC GT5000 tape on a whim one day, and it turned out to be a great product.  I originally applied it to a S&W M&P, and it spiraled out of control from there:  I’ve since applied the tape to rifle magazines, knife handles, flashlight housings, cellphone cases, even my mouse at work…anything that could use more “grip” when things get sweaty or greasy. It’s very easily cut to size and shape, and it has an adhesive backing that grips most surfaces very well if they are clean – a little touch with a heat gun doesn’t hurt either. There are lots of choices out there, and I’m sure most of them do the same job well.  My sheets of GT5000 cost a whopping $6.99 through Amazon.

Mechanix Gloves

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard of or seen “the tool that fits like a glove”:  Mechanix Gloves. mechanix gloves for survivalThese gloves have made an enviable name for themselves as hard-wearing dexterous gloves that will protect your hands, yet let you pick a penny off the floor without having to take your gloves off.  There are easily 50 different designs of gloves that Mechanix puts out, from gardening to tactical protected to cold-weather gloves.  I discovered Mechanix gloves about 8 years ago while working construction and needing warm gloves that would let me pick individual screws out of a box. They’re not impervious and the fingertips will wear out, but not after they give you a long life of hard service.

I’ve run a few different styles of Mechanix gloves, but I really like the Fleece Utility gloves for when cold weather sets in, as they are very warm, and dry out quickly. I appreciate them because I can safely flick the safety off my Winchester 70 and manipulate the trigger well, without having to take my gloves off. When it gets warmer and I need added grip and hand protection but would really not appreciate warm hands, The Tactical Vent Covert setup is hard to beat. A pair of rugged gloves for a Get Out Of Dodge setup makes a lot of sense, and a pair of Mechanix gloves will generally run under $30 unless you go for the really high-end tactical gloves.

Wrapping It Up

As you go down the list, I’m sure you can think of other items that offer similar high “bang for the buck” values, or are just good, simple ideas for anyone who might find themselves in a tough situation with just their gear and knowledge to get them by. What budget ideas or products do you know of that you’d add to this list? Sound off in the comments – we all appreciate good ideas and products that don’t require a second mortgage!

Stay Safe!
-Drew

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Survival Gear Review: goTenna Off-Grid Device

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Off Grid iPhone App Device

Well, I guess Facebook is good for something.  I was having one of those mindless moments where scrolling off grid android devicethrough the feed seemed like a better thing to do than, you know, reading a book, or working out, or bettering myself in some way.  It was the same stuff over and over, but then a promotion for a product caught my eye.  It was called goTenna Off Grid Device, and it hailed as being a radio-based, off-the-grid communications tool that lets you send texts and share location data.

By Drew, a contributing author of Survival Cache & SHTFBlog

I bit the lure – hook, line, and sinker.  I checked out the goTenna Facebook page, then migrated to their website. The goTenna looked like a promising new-fangled device, and soon I had a pair of them winging my way for a review.

Meet The goTenna

The goTenna, put simply, is a communications device that links to your smartphone via Blutooth-LE (Low gotenna device huntingEnergy).  Using the goTenna app (which you have to download – don’t worry, it’s free), you pair a goTenna with your Android or IOS based device, and you instantaneously have the ability to chat via text message with any other active goTenna within range.  The goTenna also allows you to send those other goTenna users your location, which is represented on a map – a map which you must download ahead of time (also for free via the goTenna app). These are the two basic functions of the device, and it accomplishes these functions completely independent of a wireless network or cell service, using long-range (151-154 MHz) radio waves to communicate with other GoTenna users.  However, the goTenna doesn’t allow voice or video calling, or data transfer.  It sticks to a simple formula for basic communication, and it works.  Let’s dig deeper.

Also Read Drew’s Review: Rothco CCW Jacket

The goTenna is a small (5.8 inches long, 1 inch wide, ½ inch thick with the antenna collapsed) plastic and aluminum device with a built-in nylon strap that sports a loop and a snap button for securing a goTenna to, well, anything that will fit inside the loop. An antenna pulls out from the top, activating the goTenna and telling it to start communicating with its paired smartphone via Bluetooth. Pushing the antenna back into the goTenna deactivates the device with a satisfying “click”. It has an indicator light on the outside of the casing, which is used via different flashing patterns to communicate if the goTenna has paired, if it’s searching, once a message has been received, etc. Underneath a small dust proof door, there’s the expected micro-USB port on the bottom of the goTenna to hook the device, via included charging cables, to a charger. A tiny red LED next to the USB port shows the charging status. The goTenna’s lithium-polymer battery is sealed, meaning that it cannot be removed or replaced, and will eventually show declining battery life like any other battery-powered device…though this will take years of constant use.

The goTenna is water-resistant and “weatherproof”, meaning it can be latched on your pack during a rainstorm. Best Off Grid iPhone Device AppHowever, if it goes swimming with you, don’t expect it to work afterwards. It is dust-tight as well. The goTenna has been engineered to be very durable – I’ve dropped mine onto my tile floor multiple times from waist height with zero ill effects. In short, it’s meant to be useful to many types of people – whether you’re a hunter or fisherman communicating with buddies in your party, mountain climbers who might take a tumble down a hill, or anyone else who might be in adverse conditions that require off-grid communications. In my experience, ice and snow have built up on the goTenna while packing it in the woods in a Maine winter and during a February ice fishing trip – it shrugged off the cold and elements with aplomb.  I have every confidence it will withstand most inclement conditions as long as it isn’t submerged.

Making The goTenna Work For You

As stated, the goTenna interfaces with your smartphone (IOS or Android) via Bluetooth LE.  I should say this now: the gotenna will not work with your old Nokia flip-phone; a caveat to the system is that it requires a relatively modern smartphone.  goTenna’s website says that the device will work with Apple iPods and iPads and other tablets; however, I’m not sure how the GPS location-finding function will work with these devices if there is no GPS built-in to the device.

Anyhow, your first step: order your goTenna. These can be purchased online via the goTenna Website. They get ordered in pairs or “family” packs of four goTennas. As of right now, the pairs go for $199.00 with free shipping, and the family pack saves you a few bucks per unit at $389 – also shipped to your door for free. They come in four different strap colors to differentiate between the individual units – purple, orange, green, and blue.

Related Article: Survival Radio – What Will Work?

Once you have the goTennas in your hot little hands, you need to download the goTenna app via The Google Play store (if you’re running an Android 4.3 or higher-based phone) or via iTunes for iOS 8.4 and up-based Apple products. The app is free and a quick download.  Once you have the app installed on your smartphone and you fire it up, your phone will initiate a simple, easy-to-follow setup that creates an account and links your phone to your selected goTenna; this is about a three-minute process.  Once you have the app set up and your goTenna paired, you have a few options to play with.

You’ll first be brought to the main message overview screen.  This shows a list of all the people you’ve sent SHTF Radiomessages to.  As an option, you can import the contacts on your phone to have their numbers and possible goTenna contacts saved in the app.  You can access the contacts via the menu, which is accessed by the icon in the upper left of the screen.  At the bottom right, you have a round blue button that allows you to write a new message to other goTenna users, via one of three processes:

-The Shout Chat: This allows you send out a “shout” message to any other active goTenna users in range.
-The Group Chat: A way to communicate with multiple known goTenna users at once, useful for hunting parties, SAR, camp buddies, etc.
-1-to-1 Chat: A standard one-on-one goTenna-to-g0Tenna message, very similar to an SMS or text message.

There is also an “Emergency” chat option, but when selected, you are directed via text in a bright red box to keep chats in this option dedicated to true emergencies.  It broadcasts an emergency message to anyone with a goTenna who is within range.

Also Read: CB Radios For SHTF

To send a message to another goTenna user, simply tap the new message icon, choose your goTenna-utilizingGotenna Feedback recipient, and start typing.  Hit the “send” icon when you’re done. The message will show a little moving icon while the goTennna sends the message.  If the message was sent to the recipient successfully, a little green check mark appears in the corner of your message. If the goTenna was unable to send the message, a small red exclamation mark appears. It will also tell you the time you sent your last message.  You can request the location of other goTenna users, so they can “ping” you or attach their location to their messages.  You can also block them if desired.

Another function of the goTenna is the map view; you tap the little map icon at the top of the screen to actuate this task.  Once you download the goTenna app, your device communicates with your phone’s GPS to show your current location to yourself; you can also “ping” other users to show your location on the map, or include location in text messages (this locaton is transferred to the map, not communicated via the message screen.). If you’re heading to an obscure area to fly fish for rainbow trout in northern Colorado, you simply download the Colorado map ahead of time.  This will allow you to utilize the map – which is saved to your phone – to show your location while off the data grid, unlike most other map apps.  The accuracy is very good; I’m not sure of the location accuracy tolerances, but whenever I used the map, the little blue dot showed me exactly where I knew I was. I would imagine the location services are effected by standard GPS impediments: cloud cover, buildings, line of sight to satellites, etc.

A nice touch: the battery life remaining on your paired goTenna is available to view easily through the app as well.  Battery life has been excellent: once I got the goTennas, I plugged them in to top off the charge, and actually I haven’t had to charge them yet. If the goTenna is constantly on, battery life is expected to be about 24 hours. If you’re constantly using it to have extensive message exchanges, it can shorten, depending on usage. If a communications schedule is maintained between users, keeping the goTenna off between scheduled message times, you can keep a goTenna with a charge for quite some time – days. I have not seen a loss of battery charge when kept turned off for days on end.

These are the basic functions of the goTenna – for now. The website promises updates in the future – and I’ll admit that there is a lot of promise for added functionality for this neat little communications gadget. As of right now, the short list of basic action items the goTenna accomplishes means that the goTenna is very, very simple to use and still pretty effective at what it does. But how effective is it?

Range to Target?

The next obvious question should be: “Okay, what is the range?” And it’s a valid question.  goTenna says that the Gotenna Rangerange varies depending on terrain – it functions on basic line-of-sight principles.  If you’re in a wooded forest or in an apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, your range will be limited.  But goTenna boasts that on the rare opportunity you may have broadcasting mountaintop to mountaintop, you might even be able to find a 50-mile range within grasp. Most of us operate somewhere in the middle of these extremes, so I decided to try the goTenna out in a variety of situations to see how it worked.  I loaded the app on my LG G4 phone and went to work.

The first opportunity I had to use the goTenna was on an ice fishing trip up in Northern Maine, on the shores of Maine’s largest body of water, Moosehead Lake. We only gave the goTenna a run a couple times, but across clear ice, we were able to send messages across a couple miles of open, clear air across a frozen lake, with a small island between us. Message exchanges were quick and easy, (even considering our advanced state of inebriation – a requirement in Maine ice fishing) so I imagine that we could have stretched the range further if we desired.

Next, I coerced a 60-year-old coworker to download the goTenna app on his Samsung Galaxy S4.  We work in a 300,000 square foot manufacturing facility, with concrete walls, steel columns, metal racks filled with aluminum extrusions, large CNC machines running, plus a huge electronic computer server room and 60 or so computers, and 80+ cellphones operating at any given time. I had him stay in his office, which was conveniently located near a corner of the building. I then walked around the entire facility, stopping to message at key points neat equipment, material, or other possible reception intrusions. The goTenna worked flawlessly throughout the entire building even though walls, which impressed me. I honestly didn’t think the goTenna would pass the big concrete building test.

Also Read: Prepper Monthly Checklist

The next major test I ran was with my teenage son.  I had him load the app on his iPhone 6S, and he plunked the antenna next to him. I then hopped in my pickup and drove around our hilly suburban village home area, pulling into different areas to message him.  I had pretty good success closer to the house, out to a Google Maps-measured 1,567 feet. Then I started to have difficulty getting messages to go through.  I turned airplane mode off (I had engaged it to make sure I wasn’t letting any data through) and texted my son – he wasn’t getting replies back to me, either. I told him to open a window and locate the goTenna outside. He did so, and we kept going.  He was able to sit on the couch in standard slumped modern teenager fashion with the TV, iPad, and his cellphone on, and have the goTenna 15 feet away outside the house, and keep communicating with me (Bluetooth range is about 20 feet).  The antenna outside of the house made a difference; I was able to send messages again.

I continued to drive around, again stopping at points that I could find on Google Earth to measure distances from. I got to 3,499 feet from the house with success – probably owing to the slight elevation increases I was driving up – before the village houses and surrounding woodlands starting taking their toll.  I’d pull over and hold the antenna up in the air, move my location slightly, and keep trying – and I eventually got a message to go through at 5,945 feet (over a mile) once – but that was about the maximum I could get through the woods.  Elevation and clear line of sight helps.

Related: Radio Scanners For SHTF

I haven’t had the chance to go long, long distance over clear, open ranges, or in large urban areas as of yet.  But Top Survival Blogbased on my tests so far, goTenna’s predictions on their website under “how it works” have been pretty close to spot-on.  I plan on using the goTenna to communicate between bird hunting parties this fall up in Northern Maine, where communications and coordinations have been spotty due to an almost complete lack of cell reception; the goTenna should be just the ticket.

The goTenna IS encrypted for privacy, utilizing a 384-bit elliptic curve point-to-point encryption process.  I’m not going to go into the tech specs of the goTenna, because I’ll admit I don’t know much about that stuff.  However, if you love geeking out over such things, I would heartily recommend going to the goTenna website and reading their “FAQ” section for tech specs as well as a LOT of other information on the goTenna that ranges from the best locations to keep your antenna, to Bluetooth range from your phone to the goTenna, firmware updates, methods of increasing battery life, what effects signal range, and more.

I tested the goTenna with a wide range of phones, including an iPhone 4S, Motorola DROID RAZR M, Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, and my LG G4.  As long as your smartphone has Bluetooth and meets minimum operating system requirements of Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) or higher, or Apple iOS 8.4 or higher, you should be good to go.  The app ran flawlessly in all the devices.  The app interface was clean, simple, intuitive, and easy to use…my 60-year-old technologically befuddled coworker was able to use the app with zero coaching…so that’s saying something. If you have a smartphone and can use it to text, you can use a goTenna.

Conclusions

The goTenna is definitely a viable off-the-grid communications device.  Range is limited, but the range is a pretty useful one, depending on your location and terrain.  Once the app is loaded, the phone does not require a data or cellular connection to function; it is completely independent.  You could lock a pair of these in a Faraday cage with a properly-sized solar panel to charge the units, along with a couple ready-to-go smartphones with the app loaded on them (perhaps the old phones you don’t use anymore after an upgrade?), and you could have basic communications even after an EMP, or complete power grid outage.  The goTenna is light, small, portable, rechargeable, weather resistant, silent, and tough – can you say the same for your battery-dependent walkie-talkies? It’s something to consider when you’re looking at a solution for off-the-grid communications – even if you have a large group of people in your crew.  You can send text and GPS location to one or multiple people at a time, even when you don’t have service.  Take a long, hard look at the goTenna to accentuate your communications plans – it actually works, and works very well within its intended envelope.

All photos by Drew

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Survival Gear Review: Fallkniven A2

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Top Survival Blog

Peter, the head of Fällkniven knives told me that a big blade can do everything a small blade can do, but a small Best Survival Knifeblade cannot do everything a big blade can do.  Or thereabouts.  In theory, I agree with him. But in practice…well, that would take field testing.  Big is not a measurement, it is a value judgment.  If you need a 22mm wrench, then you need a 22mm wrench. The tool is not too big, it is just right. However, if you have no particular job in front of you, then carrying around the wrench for no particular reason would make it seem “big.”

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

Carry Enough Knife

The same is true with the Fällkniven A2 Wilderness Knife.  If you have no real need for a knife such as the A2, then you might as well carry a smaller, lighter knife. Heck, or even no knife at all.  Heresy you say?  Well that is my point. You carry a knife that matches your anticipated duties. So it follows that a Wilderness Knife such as the Fällkniven A2 is the properly sized tool for the great big outdoors found just past the “great outdoors” common in movies and national parks.

Beyond the usual depth that most folks ever venture into the woods is an entirely new, bigger, and often scarier set of woods.  It is the uninhabited, trail-less frontier where the only certainty in the equation is that your survival skills must outweigh the survival challenges.  And while tools don’t equal skills, the lack of tools can certainly subtract from your skill set.

Size Matters

The absurdity of the so-called “Rambo blade” comes more from attitude and knife design than knife size and Top Survival Knifeintended use.  Nobody pokes fun about the size or length of kitchen knives because they are the right tool for the job. Yet compared to most outdoor knives, kitchen blades are downright huge!  Especially the pro-level cutters.  The Rambo knife moniker is often reserved not for just the knife but instead a knife too big for the tasks at hand. So a true wilderness knife like the Fällkniven A2 is actually the right size for the job so therefore it is not a Rambo knife. The A2 is a properly sized tool for the bigger pieces of the big picture.  Of course, that means it’s not for everybody.

History Lesson

Over a decade ago, Fällkniven took a page from the Swedish history book and explored the strength of laminated steels. For the same reason plywood is so much stronger than a similar thickness solid board or laminated glass windshields are intensely durable compared to household window glass, the layered steel in the Fällkniven A2 is massively stronger than most any other steel of similar thickness.

Fällkniven worked with a famous Japanese steel mill to perfect a laminated metal suitable for the highest quality knife blades. Well, not just any knife blades, but really big knife blades. The Fällkniven NL1 was the first to employ the new laminated 420J2 – VG10 – 402J2 steel and it stands taller than even the A2.

High carbon tool steels such as D2 or O1 are popular for outdoor knives due to their ease of sharpening and resistance to snapping when bent.  Stainless steels have many fine points including edge durability, but can chip or break much easier. So you can do the math.  The ideal steel would have the cutting prowess and durability of stainless, but the bending strength and sharpening ease of high carbon steel.  By laminating steel types, you get the best of both worlds. Plus the additional raw strength that lamination provides on its own.

Dog Inches

The Fällkniven A2 is not the biggest Fällkniven to ship from Sweden. But it’s close.  With a overall length of 12.8 Best Survival Knifeinches and all but 4.9 inches of that being stainless steel VG10 laminated goodness, the A2 is definitely one of the big boys in the sandbox.  The 7.9 inch blade is a full 1.7 inches longer than its famous little brother, the A1. And those 1.7 inches are like dog-inches when you get out to knives like this. It might seem like the added reach looses it’s effect as the blades get longer, but it is not just length where the A2’s blade grew; its also in depth.  Like football players, their height tells only part of the story.  You really need their weight in order to appreciate their potential on the field. Some players weigh half again as much as others of the same height.  For instance on the Denver Broncos lineup, the difference in height between William Sylvester and Aqib Talib is about the same as between the A2 and the A1.  However, Sylvester weighs 108 pounds more than Talib. Which player would you want to be facing off against on the scrimmage line?

But the Fällkniven A2 is not strictly an offensive blade. Instead it is proportioned for the big tasks of Big Wilderness and Big Survival. Especially where you need to wear a big coat, big boots, big gloves and a big hat. When the temperature drops so do our fine motor skills and our grip strength. The A2 helps compensate for the losses by beefing up its contribution to the workload.

When I passed my A2 around the campfire, more than a few folks have commented that it is too big. Avoiding a Best Survival Blogverbal fight, I usually let the comments slide. But what I really want to ask is “Too big for what?”  As Fällkniven notes in their description of the A2, “When you are far from inhabited areas, you need to be able to rely on your equipment.”  I think that make it pretty clear that the A2 was not designed for public carry, or even public campground carry.  So when someone is packing an A2, they are probably no where near you.  And if you do run into an A2 in the wild, you won’t be making any snide comments about it.

The Usual Suspects

For the record, the blade length of the Fällkniven A2 is only one inch longer than the KA-BAR Marine fighting knife.  You know that famous clip-point-leather-washered-grip-soft-steel knife that has multiplied force all over the world.  Other comparables include the big Beckers, the big ESEEs, the big Rats, and the big Cold Steels.  Where most of these knives differ from the A2 besides price is in the steel. Most of them are high carbon steel, spring steel, tool steel or common stainless steel like 420.  Nothing wrong any of those unless you want something different. In order to answer the question of the best steel, one must define the landscape where the knife will live.

As a wilderness knife, the A2 needs to hold an edge as long as possible, but also provide realistic sharpening options.  As a chopper, the convex grind provides good wedging for a knife yet resists as much pinching as possible allowing for easy retraction from the wood.  As a thick-bladed fighter, the system of handle and blade must be stronger than any man who carries it.

Oddly, however, the A2 would look right at home in the kitchen.  As noted before, kitchen knives that dwarf the length of the A2 are available for sale in grocery stores.  Quality is a concern, but the size hardly raises any eyebrows.  Unfortunately the city dwellers think you have a Crocodile Dundee Complex when you pack a kitchen-sized blade on your hip.  Another friendly juxtaposition is with gardening tools.  Most every serious gardener I know rarely ventures into the backyard with a Hori Hori strapped to their pleated cotton shorts.

A Hori Hori, or soil knife, is a heavy duty, wooden handled, double-edged, half-serrated blade averaging seven inches long with an overall length exceeding a foot with some up to 15 inches long. And the Hori Hori is considered a “Leisure Knife.” The smooth blade is to be kept razor sharp and the serrated side acts like a root saw. Hori Horis are worn in sheaths just like other belt knives and when sheathed are indistinguishable from wilderness knives like the A2 at a short distance. But up close, it’s obvious why the price of a quality Hori Hori is one-tenth or less of the Fällkniven.

Can You Handle It?

The A2 has exactly the same handle as the A1, as well as sharing the same blade thickness, convex grind, and SHTF Knifeprotruding tang.  So if you love the A1 grip, you will be just as happy with the A2.  Of course the inverse is true as well. or maybe worse. The typical issues with the A1 grip are its length, thickness, texture and direction of the quillion (finger guard).  The usual complaints are the grip is too short, too narrow, and too rough.  Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that opinion should be based on something. For instance, the “too short” complaint is a comparison between the A2 and something else like another knife.  I prefer to appreciate the minimalism of the A2’s grip in that my large/XL hands almost swallow the A2 handle completely, but not quite.  So the argument about grip length is really more of “how much extra” is needed since the absolute grip amount is sufficiently matched to a large hand.

In a direct comparison, the Fällkniven A2’s actual usable grip length is longer than the Gerber LMF, the Boker Orca, the Spyderco Bushcraft, and the Benchmade Bushcrafter.  And the A2 gip is exactly the same thickness as the Gerber LMF.

The diameter of the grip is also something noted as in need of adjustment.  The diameter is a function of both grip depth and thickness.  The Gerber’s depth is about a quarter-inch more than the A2, but in my hand feels more like a pistol grip due to the position of my finger joints.  I would describe my grip on the Gerber LMF as more of bending around the handle, while gripping the A2 is decidedly wrapping my hand around it. It is similar to squeezing a trigger or pulling a trigger.  And in my hand, I cannot squeeze the Gerber’s handle because it is proportioned inefficiently for the biomechanics of my hand.

I think the complaints about the size of the Fällkniven A2 grip are more of visual perception clouding the actual feel of the knife. If grips were proportioned to blade size, then a machete would have a flagpole-sized grip. And a utility knife would have a pencil-thin handle.  Instead, the grip is proportioned within a narrow range where the human hand works best. Same with hatchet handles, hammers, and other hand tools.  Cutting tools rapidly become useless when designers venture out of that range.  So an average handle on an large blade looks small and can psychologoically “feel” small.

Regarding the texture of the grip, that is a personal choice.  But I will make two comments.  The first is that if you have soft office hands you will get blisters after 10 minutes of heavy use.  But you will also get blisters from a smooth hickory hatchet handle the first time you do some heavy chopping.  Once the tool is part of your routine, your skin will adapt with calluses.  Better yet, wear gloves.

Weight For Me

The weight of the Fällkniven A2 is 13 ounces, or 2.3 ounces more than the A1.  Thirteen ounces is not a small Best Survival Knifenumber for a knife, but it is small compared to many outdoor tools.  A 13 ounce handgun would be an unloaded Glock 42, the smallest Glock made.  A 13 ounce hatchet would be a Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet.  A can of lite beer weighs about 13 ounces.  And 13 ounces of Big Macs is less than two of them.  Yet when a 13 ounce knife shows up on a belt, people run around in circles with their hair on fire.  Again, a good reason to only wear the Fällkniven A2 in uninhabited areas.

Match Making

An area in need of mention is that in any planned wilderness adventure the Fällkniven A2 will not be traveling alone.  Most carriers of the A2 supplement its skills with a smaller knife of both the folding and straight variety.  You will get no argument from me about the necessity of a smaller blade, but neither will I let knee-jerk comments blasting big knives go unchallenged.  Survival tools fall along a continuum from small to big, light to heavy, cheap to expensive, and feeble to durable.  And those tools can be supported through their combination and contribution to the overall capabilities of the kit.  Every tool is a trade-off that establishes boundaries of use.  Where the wilderness knife fits into the scheme of things is that the finer, more delicate points of civilization are absent in the wilderness.

The 800-Pound Gorilla

The thing that always seems to change the course of the discussion about knives is the price. In this case, the price is the similar as other blades within this same knife space of size and quality.  A common knife of this size that is often compared to the Fällkniven A2 is the Cold Steel Trail Master, but at one third the price. It is easy to question the A2 as a sensible decision with that kind of dollar discrepancy, but what you don’t often read is that Cold Steel makes a high-end Wilderness Knife called the Trail Master but with VG1 steel and a better grip.  Not surprisingly the upgraded Trail Master price is the same as the Fällkniven A2.  You see quality and performance cost real dollars regardless of how similar the knife looks to others.  If you plan on carrying a knife but never pushing it to its survival limits, then go ahead and carry anything. But when the ball drops and what you have is all you will ever have, then now is not the time to be a poser.

Pass the Baton

Using a knife and a club to beat apart a wooden branch is the popular target task for survival knife tests. The Forge Survival Supplyproblem is that a survival knife is capable of so much more, and busting up firewood is something almost anything can do…until it breaks.  However, a true wilderness knife such as the Fällkniven A2 is exactly designed to baton firewood.

The advantage of batoning over using a hatchet is that the swinging of a hatchet or axe blade is only as accurate as the skill and luck of the user.  However, if one can place the cutting blade exactly where it’s needed and then apply the force, every cut will be as precise as the desired.  For those of us who use use a mechanized hydraulics to “chop” firewood, we know that surgical precision is possible when working around knots, and making custom sized wood for a particular stove or fire application.  Batoning is similar but certainly more crude than a smooth well-greased steel wedge sliding gracefully along a track with 20 tons of force behind it.

The A2 has a convex grind meaning that its slight outward bow towards the cutting edge preventing much of the pinching and binding a flat-sided chopping knife experiences.  The curved blade surface just beyond the cutting edge splays the wood apart as the knife sinks in deep, but leaves little metal on the table for the wood to stick to.

Some worry about the sharpening intricacies of a convex grind, but if all you have are rough field sharpening tools or smooth river rocks to polish up the edge, then the convex grind is happy with a gentle roll in the grit as the stone surfs across the blade (or vise versa).  As a wilderness knife, the Fällkniven A2 expects a long time between civilized visits to the dentist.  Living outdoors is the A1’s happy place.  Again, this is the difference between a survival knife and a wilderness knife.

Under Cover

The leather sheath for the A2 is of ambidextrous operation with the single securing snap strap snapping free to the wilderness_survival_knife_review_fallkniven_a2rear when in right-hand carry.  Overall, I really like the sheath.  It is unassuming and quite functional the dangler easily fits up to three inch belts.  The presentation of the grip while in the sheath is slightly outward from the body meaning it easy to grab.  The leather snugs up to the blade holding it in place just fine without the added snap strap for all but the most aggressive gymnastics.  Note that Rambo’s blades in the movies never had extra straps to overcome when deploying his power blade.  But also note that the first major knife deployment in the movie First Blood, Rambo yanked his knife free from the sheath and threw the sheath away behind him.  Yea, I get that he was in a hurry, but still.

The balance point of the A2 falls about an inch forward of the grip while the A1 balances right at the forward end of the grip.  Not a big difference, but certainly noticeable when chopping into a thick branch.  The A2 is a deliberate chopper and behaves as such.  While hacking through branches should be on the resume for all knives, the size of the branch is limited to about two-thirds the length of the blade, and often closer to one-half.

Sweden, home to the Nobel Prizes, should seriously consider opening a category for Cutlery.  But seriously, the degree to which Fällkniven dives into significant knife spaces is impressive not just in scope, but that they pull no punches in quality and performance.  Many blade companies, produce a rich line of edges, but with varying degrees of quality (cough, cough, SOG) and performance (ah-choo, Buck, Kershaw, a-hem).  Not that the major brands are lacking, but one cannot simply extend the capabilities of mass-market knives to pro-level survival and wilderness blades.  The difference must be experienced to be believed.

All Photos By Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: Magpul Armorer’s Wrench

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Best AR-15 Tool

Best AR-15 ToolOnce Upon A Time….You know, I’ll be honest here.  If you have never used an armorer’s tool to work on an AR variant rifle, I almost hate to endorse the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench as your first tool because you will never know just how bad most other armorer’s tools really are.  You won’t know what it’s like to bruise your palm with over-pressure on a thin slice of metal handle.  Or swear as your knuckles are bloodied when your castle nut wrench slips.  Or scratch the finish off your new AR part.  Or when you strip the hell out of whatever you are working on because your wrench just barely grips the nut before failing in world-class form.

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

Instead I’ll just say there is no reason to go through hell just because I did.  My house is not built with trees I chopped down myself.  Nor did I ever suffer from Cholera before my water was chlorinated.  Or lose a child or two in farming accidents long before CPS laws and the Humane Society.  Maybe these examples are a little extreme, but like any great tool, the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench makes the job easier, safer, faster, and certainly more fun.

Everything’s a Compromise

When NASA builds a spacecraft it must compromise on the number of instruments and their placement on the Best Rifle Toolcraft.  Not everything can be everywhere, and some instruments can get in the way of other instruments.  The same is true with Armorer’s wrenches.  It might be a stretch to compare a billion-dollar interplanetary spacecraft to a gun tool, but when creating from scratch anything new that has many functions, you need to work with both the individual components, and the relationship between the components.  That’s one reason there are so darn many Leatherman tool models.  If the leverage handle for one fastening tool happens to land on the sharp end of another tool, then using the implement just got worse.

7-11

The Magpul Armorer’s Wrench has seven tools spread out over 11 inches.  Maximum leverage is applied when the Best AR15 Toolhand is furthest from the rotational point of the tool, but that also means your hand will be applying maximum force to the tool at that point.  Lesser Armorer’s tools I’ve used literally hurt when force was applied because a pointed protuberance occupies what should be a ergonomic grip. I had to either wrap the tool with a rag or wear gloves in order to avoid injury or blood blister. Where’s the fun in that?

Magpul provides not only a rock-solid palm platform for applying muscle-level force to the wrench, but also made the wrench the proper length to bridge the limitations of human anatomy with the foot-pound necessary for a proper rifle build. Even more, the wrench is designed for the extremes of using a torque wrench or breaker bar.  Most of the other “Swiss Army do-it-all” armorer’s wrenches put another tool interface right where you need to apply force with your hand. Or they will offer a sliver of metal handle upon which you will apply massive palm pressure especially when trying to remove an excessively tight part.

Call Me A Snob

I have this neighbor who keeps every tool whether it’s any good or not.  A while ago I helped him with project.  While up on his roof and elbow deep in a skylight project, I asked for a number two phillips screwdriver.  Instead of getting a #2, I got a handful of various screwdrivers of which only one of the seven actually had a useful blade. And it was only useful because it was the best of the worst. When I tossed six screwdrivers off the room, it seemed I hurt my friend’s feelings. But I quickly offered him a deal: Throw away all the junk screwdrivers and I’ll buy one good driver for him. A Snap On to be exact. I could tell by his big eyes when I said Snap On that we had a deal.

My point here is that way too often we settle for less and then assume that a pile of less is actually more when it really is nothing more than a big pile of stinky less that’s only as good as the least worst one. Over the years I have gotten rid of every single lesser tool I ever owned.  I ditched all cheap tools, metal tools made in China or Taiwan or forged in nowhere particular out of who-knows-what , and instead focused my tool acquisition only the highest of quality tools.  Yes, the Snap On dealer knows me by name.  A great warranty is great, but if bugging in because of civil unrest or EMP attack, you only got what you got.  All warranties are null and void because society also currently null and void.

Related: Magpul AR15 Furniture Review

But you don’t need to drop obscene amounts of money for the best tools in the solar system.  You just need to buy the highest quality that meet your anticipated needs.  I say “anticipated” because there are limits to what you can afford and even need.  But the error many folks new to the AR platform make is that they fail to think beyond the immediate need.  I’ll agree that it’s a rude awakening that you have to buy a specialized tool to install a new part on your AR, especially when the tool costs as much or more than your new part.  So now the cost of a tool plus the price of the part…well now we are starting to talk real money.  So why would you pay twice or three times as much as you need to? That would be because “need” is relative.  If you are going to do something only once, then save money and a cheap wrench and some band-aids.  But if you want a tool that will not break, will not fail, will not ever let you down, then there is only one AR armorer’s tool and that is the Magpul.  Try this, ask around to see how many AR armorer’s tools your friends have, and if they upgraded along the way. And if so, how many times?

DPMS Is A Tool

I am so glad the DPMS armorer’s tool is no longer made.  I have a DPMS tool and it looks like a winner, feels like a AR15 Survival Toolwinner, but in use it’s really a whiner.  It’s heavy.  It’s thick.  It feels like a strong tool that could take on the world. Sadly, that is just an illusion.  In practice, the tool is hollow in performance, limited in strength, and wholly lacking in the way the tool grips the workpiece.  But while the DPMS is now discontinued, there are plenty more whiners where the DPMS came from.

Other armorer’s tools have limits with grab, rotation and grip.  The online pictures of the DPMS armorer’s wrench make it look like a keeper, but when gunsmithing with the thing, the tool fails because the Amazon page does not show someone applying pressure to the wrench only to have it spin sideways, skip out of the hold, and flail around the workpiece scratching the heck out of the aluminum parts.  To avoid slipping off the workpiece, or stripping the minimal hold points on the nuts, you need a tool that has been perfected for the task.

Magpul Fanboy? Doh!

OK, I admit I’m a fan of Magpul.  I think they search for solutions like drones search for ISIS.  At the bleeding edge magpul_fanboyof technology to and function, Magpul leaves everything on the field.  It’s designs are as good as can be done right now.  Upgrades follow only when we have learned from the previously generation of tool, whether buttstock, backup “iron” sight, or box magazine. When Gen2 comes out, they (and we) have learned.  So consider the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench a Gen2. Magpul has learned from all the successes and failures of every previous generation of multi-function armorer’s tool that has ever been made.  The restless folks at Magpul noticed that the AR armorer’s tool was broken.  It worked, but was still in need of serious help. So Magpul to the rescue.

Also Read: Magpul MBUS Pro Iron Sights

The Magpul Armorer’s Wrench, aka the Magpul 535, weighs a tenth over a pound, and is 11.7 inches long.  It’sBest AR15 Tool made of heat-treated all-American steel, then covered head-to-toe in a manganese phosphate coating that gives it exceptional corrosion resistance and a refined feel that provides additional grip and a low reflectance that will keep the bad guys from catching the sun reflecting off your wrench when you decide to add a new sling plate on your buffer tube while on the battlefield.

Magpul My Finger

Using only US-made forged steel, Magpul created an AR armorer’s wrench that serves the basic needs of the AR Best AR15 Tooloperator and professional armorer alike with exceptional form, function, and most of all efficient interface with the human hand operating the wrench.  As far as I can tell, Magpul designed this wrench by being honest about what an AR armorer’s wrench is used for.  The list of AR  jobs is longer than that the skill set of this wrench, but that’s the point. Other wrenches tried to do it all, but ended up doing it all poorly.  Since 95% of the need for an armorer’s wrench is found in just two or three tasks, 95% of the design of the Magpul supports these tasks.  The three most common needs for a dedicated armorer’s wrench are to remove/install a muzzle device, remove/tighten a buffer tube castle nut, and loosen/tighten a barrel nut or free float handguard ring.  The icing on the phosphate coating cake of this wrench include two hammer faces, a rifle-length tube wrench, and a bottle-cap that Magpul guarantees will open both SAE and Metric bottle caps.

Related: Magpul PMAG Torture Test

There are many advantages of this Magpul wrench over other wrenches but most of them fit into three categories. First, the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench grips it’s workpiece with more contact points than all other wrenches put together. Second, the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench has a deeper and more secure interface with the workpiece. And finally and possibly most important is that the wrench fits well into the human hand when applying maximum pressure. Other wrenches manage to put a tool interface just where your hand needs to go causing either pain or need for gloves when twisting the wrench, especially when removing stubborn nuts. Now add to this the lack of workpiece grip of substandard wrenches and you have a perfect storm of disasters just waiting for the right moment to ruin your rifle, break the wrench, and rip the skin off your knuckles.

Castle Me

So let’s take a closer look at the wrench. The castle nut wrench has two sides, each with a significant benefit. The Magpul_Armorer_Wrench_Review_SurvivalMagpul logo’d side will completely engulf a USGI castle nut ensuring that a positive grip that cannot go flying off the handle, so to speak. But it only works on traditional castle nuts with no additional mounting plate features like QD attachment points, or Magpul’s own ASAP sling mount.

So for enhanced plates, the reverse side of the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench grabs the castle nut from a distance with three beefy prongs. And that alone can be worth the price of this wrench. In both cases, this wrench requires it to be slid over the carbine buffer tube so the buttstock has to be removed, and there is risk of scratching the tube’s exterior if you slide it aggressively.

En Garde

The other end of the wrench holds a two-sided handguard interface, one side Survival Gear Review Magpulfor traditional USGI barrel nuts, and one for common free-float tube nuts.  The barrel nut wrench has two more contact palls compared to the DPMS taking the grip even further beyond the halfway point of grip.  Since a barrel nut can be the highest torque interface on the AR platform reaching upwards of 80 foot/pounds, loosening a stuck barrel nut requires significantly more force than than the 80 it was born with.

Also Read: AR15 Magazine Strategy

The free-float component of this wrench contains a seven-pin spanner that will safely and firmly provide torque to those expensive and lightweight floating handguard mounting solutions.  And that too could alone justify the cost of this Magpul tool.  The standard muzzle device uses parallel control surfaces exactly 3/4ths of an inch apart.  The Magpul Armorer’s Wrench embeds the muzzle device tool within the castle nut tool. In fact the muzzle device spacer is the same one used to accommodate the six-position adjustable stock rail running under the buffer tube housing.  The single pear-shaped opening the southern end of this wrench is actually three different tools.

Hammer It Home

Go ahead, admit it. We all use wrenches as hammers sometimes.  So why not just build a hammer or two into the wrench? Done. The dual hammer faces provide ultra-convenient small but reinforced flat surfaces that are most effective for tapping punches and giving that little bit of umpf when necessary.  But when in the shop a dedicated hammer is a wise choice.  But the real impact of the hammers are to provide additional surface area to distribute the force on your palm when anger takes over your build.

The half-inch square hole in the barrel nut side of the wrench accommodates a torque wrench and Magpul thoughtfully provided the common torque specs forged into the wrench.  Magpul recommends using the torque wrench at a 90 degrees perpendicular to the wrench for best results.  And if torque values are important to you, it is imperative to have a quality torque wrench.  The inexpensive ones are known for being way off, often 10 foot-pounds or more.  Another torque wrench issue is that many half-inch wrenches begin their range not too far from the fastener values used on guns.  I prefer a digital torque wrench with a ⅜” ratchet since the wrenches with a smaller socket connector start at a lower value.  Of course you loose some high end, but I do more lower-level torquing than high value twists these days.  The ovalized hole opposite the torque hole is used to tighten/loosen rifle-length buttstock tubes.

Iron Butterfly

One last feature of the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench is that it truly is a thing of beauty…in a Glock sort of way. You won’t mind leaving the wrench out on the bench just to enjoy it sitting there. Or hang it on the wall in a prominent place in your shop. With all the eye candy we hang off our ARs these days, you might as well find pleasure with your tools. Yea, I know how that sounded, but you know what I meant.

All Photos by Doc Montana

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Professional Level Key Fob Lights

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surefire_sidekick_keyfob_light_review

A growing space in the world of personal lighting (flashlights) is the USB rechargable key fob light. These are not Nitecoreyour grandma’s key ring lights of yesteryear, but powerful photon blasters that in some cases outreach even your dual-celled flashlights.  Like any new tangent in lighting, there are tradeoffs. Being rechargeable, you cannot simply replace the depleted cells with new ones when the light blinks out.

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

On the other hand, you can re-power the light with a computer, cell phone charger, backup battery, solar panel, or any other creative solution that provides a five volt DC stream of electrons into a micro USB cable.  Another issue at play here is the form factor.  As light manufacturers explore new designs, we need to consider the opportunities of shape and not just be resistant to change.  The flatter design of these keyfob lights is possible due to the flatter design of their batteries.  Like the traditional car lock remotes, the key fob lights easily disappear into a pocket.

The three main lights highlighted here are the Surefire Sidekick, the Nitecore Tube, and the Factor Ghost 130. One other will be mentioned but it’s not currently available to the public. But I have a feeling that within a year, quality rechargeable keyfob lights will be the new norm and offered by every reputable brand, as well as many not so reputable.

The Two Elephants in this Room

First into this space was Nitecore and it’s low cost decent-performance light named the Tube. Recently, the Best mini flash lightarguably best mainstream flashlight maker jumped into the game with its entry, the Sidekick. As expected, the Sidekick costs more than the Tube; six times as much in fact, but the Surefire blasts out six times the lumens if needed. Both lights recharge their lithium polymer batteries through a standard micro USB connection. The Ghost is in the middle and of conventional shape with the bonus of micro USB rechargeability. However, the build quality of the Ghost 130 is seriously beyond the paygrade of entry level tech. Don’t let the size fool you. The Ghost is scary good.

Kick Me

The Surefire Sidekick has three level of brightness and the Nitecore Tube has two. I’ve always found that the low Best Key Fob Lightsetting is just as an important consideration as the high beam. Surefire’s low end is five lumens, a number common to many of their other lights. Five is an excellent amount of glow for reading a map in the dark or even lighting a path over smooth terrain. However, Nitecore opted for one single lumen as its low setting. One lumen is enough to help a key into a lock or read a watch, but not much else in my opinion. Well, I guess it would appear as a lighthouse in night vision goggles even at a distance.

Related: Bug Out Bag Flashlights

The Nitecore maxes out at 45 lumens and the Surefire’s middle setting is a similar 60 lumens.  But then the Surefire does what Surefire does best.  When it shifts into high gear, a full 300 lumens pump out the business end end this tiny block.  Runtime at full speed is about 85 minutes with 45 hours on low, and about four hours on the medium 60 lumen setting.  Nitecore’s Tube offers up about one hour of full blast and claims two full days at one lumen starting with a full charge.

Light Heavyweights

Weight wise, the Nitecore Tube tips the scales at just under a third of an ounce. The Surefire Sidekick, on the other hand, is four times heavier at a massive 1.2 ounces. So both lights tug on gravity much less than a small pocket knife. Another comparison would be that the Tube is a dime and a quarter in your pocket, while the Sidekick is more like a buck and a half worth of quarters. Noticeable, yes. But since the light is not as dense as a quarter, it’s girth distributes its weight better and becomes more a question of size than weight.

System Operation

Operationally, the Surefire is classic Surefire.  The interface is responsive yet firm as it toggles through its four Best Key Fob Lightchoices of high-medium-low-off.  It is possible to reverse the sequence by connecting the light to a charger and toggling the power button three times, then back to off, then disconnect it from power.  The light will now be low-medium-high-off. I much prefer this order as I find low plenty for my immediate needs.  Be advised, however, that the light will turn off with the next click only after a couple seconds have passed. Otherwise the light will change to the next level. With low as the first, I have blinded myself trying to turn the light off quickly.

The Tube is a simple and unchangeable low-off-high-off as long as you depress the single button within a second of the previous click. Otherwise it will turn off and restart on low again.

Accessorize

All three lights have a lanyard or split ring attachment point. In the non-symmetrical body cases of Sidekick and SHTF SurvivalTube, the hole is perpendicular to the light’s major flat surface. This keeps the light in line with keys, when on a larger ring, but can also make the light wider in the pocket depending on what is attached. On my Sidekick, I attached a loop of paracord along with the incredibly small spring-loaded hook Surefire provided with the light. I use the loop more for an extraction handle when pulling it from deep in my pocket, as well as an extra grip when the light is not in its most common other use positions; wedged in my hat like a headlamp or in my mouth.

By far the best feature about lights in this space is that they recharge.  Battery management is important when you are paying for disposable batteries.  So if you are picking up the tab on your own batteries, you are likely shutting the light off as soon as possible, and using the lowest setting possible.  Knowing that you can conveniently recharge the light makes it easy to leave the light on longer and not shut it off between repeating needs such as when working on a truck, or lighting a camp or work space.  Plus, you can leave home with a full charge everyday.

Headaches

For all their goodness, two of these lights have significant but correctable drawbacks. The biggest problem with the Surefire Sidekick is that when recharging the battery, and I’m not kidding here, the light blinks while charging and then stays on when done. Seriously, WTF? I actually have to cover up the light when charging it or the incessant blinking drives me crazy. I talked to Surefire about it, and it sounds like the issue is so obviously a bad idea that future versions will hopefully not carry the “feature” forward.

Related: Bug Out Gun Lights

The main problem with the Nitecore Tube is that the it’s LED is essentially unhoused. This means that the nub of glass on the business end of the Tube spills light in all directions around as well as forward. So looking down on the light when 90 degrees forward-facing, light fills your eyeballs with brightness. I tend to slide my thumb up over the top of the LED in order to kill the spill. Electricians tape around the light would also fix the problem, but so would a design refresh. However, since the light is only slightly thicker than the LED in the first place, I can see why they didn’t bother to thicken up the light’s front end. And for ten bucks, how much can you complain?

The Tube does have a rubber USB port cover that I like. The Surefire’s electronic mouth is open wide and will collect pocket debris and lint over time. Surefire recommends a squirt of compressed air to relocate any transient fuzz. On the other side, the water resistance to the interiors of the lights might be affected by the need and/or absence of a rubber cover. A necessary extra cover might also indicate a potential weak point.

In all cases, there are no deal-killers here. Both lights are exceptional and well worth their price, especially the Tube, which, by the way, comes in almost a half-dozen color flavors including the Surefire’s only Model-T black. The Surefire Sidekick retails for $79.99, but can be easily had for ten bucks less. And with that $10, you could buy the Nitecore Tube as well.

Seen a Ghost?

A new company on the scene grew out from a need near and dear to my heart: real quality.  Spelled out frankly on Key Fob Ghost LED Lighttheir website, “where junk gear is not an option” pretty much says it like it is.  And just off their drawing board is an extraordinary little light that has the durability of a bad internet rumor, and the output of a light saber.  At 1.5 inches in length and half that in thickness this shiny silver cylinder has a blast radius well beyond it’s paygrade, and a durability factor beyond any other small USB light on earth.  In addition to the intricately machined aircraft aluminum housing, the light is sealed on both ends by O-rings.  The front head is unscrewed and removed exposing the USB port.  The glass encased flashlight head also unscrews leaving the center of the cylinder filled with a replaceable battery.  Two light output options are available, low and holy-moly that’s bright!

Also Read: Milwaukee Work Lights

The two-stage lighting is activated by screwing down the head. First low output, then high. A screw-down head also allows for toggling the light either between off and low, or low and high by adding a little more downward pressure with one’s finger rather than the threads. It also means that a little pocket pressure could activate the light (on low) if the electrical contacts are just barely out of reach when in the off position. The only downside of this light that I can tell is it’s heft. At 0.74 ounces with battery, which by any other standard is ignorable, the density of this whole light is not too far off the metal it’s made of so you might feel it in your pocket.

When recharging, once the cord is connected, a tiny internal red light indicates charging and a green light makesBest Survival Light obvious that charging is finished. Surefire could sure learn a thing or two from Factor.  In fact, the gun light industry might get a little spine shiver if Factor popped out an inexpensive tail switch onto the Ghost 130 along with a rail mount.  For thirty bucks, a new space in weapons mounted lights could emerge.  But it might be a waste if this light spends its days in a bedside biometric handgun safe.

Related: Compact Flashlight Comparison

The Ghost’s MSRP $29.95 and will likely be a hot seller with good reason.  With lithium-ion batteries having a 500-plus recharge lifecycle, that means at five bucks of replaceable batteries, this little beast of a light could save you $2500, give or take.  And that’s almost enough for a Daniel Defense DD5v1 .308 if that’s what’s on your list today.  I know it’s on mine.

And even better is that Factor Equipment is so sure you will be thrilled with their lights that they offer a 30-day-Buy-and-Try. That means you’ve got a month of personal use and abuse  “abuse within reason” in their words) before you totally commit to keeping the light. If you return the light within 30 days, you will be credited your purchase price towards something else that Factor Equipment makes.

Last Call

One more light in this USB rechargeable Keyfob space includes a yet to be released Fenix light that very much Survival Key Fob Lightmirrors the Tube. The Fenix light that is in development is an effective lighting solution addressing the exact same space as the Tube. I know because I got some hands-on time with both of the only examples in existence at SHOT Show; a blue one and a pink one presumably covering the entire gender spectrum of potential buyers. It’s flat profile and unhoused LED provides plenty of work area lumens, but less reach except for easily avoiding confrontations between your shins and furniture in a dark house. The build-quality of the Fenix seems a step up from the Tube, but the as-yet unpublished price point will be quite similar to the Tube.

Morning Light

No doubt, as this space evolves, there will be some amazing new lighting opportunities. Just as every other electronic space that ditched the round cells for built-in rechargeables opened doors, the future of mico-lighting is brighter than you can imagine.

All Photos By Doc Montana

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Survival Gear Review: ESEE-6 Knife

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Best Survival Knife

ESSE knives are the real deal.  In fact, they are so darn good and in such high demand by users on the front lines Best Survival Knifethat people have started trying to counterfeit them.  Let’s say up front, if you intend to shop for an ESEE knife on line in particular, buy it from a reputable dealer with established business credentials.  Steer clear of generic populous sales sites that individuals use to scam buyers with knock off junk.  ESEE does have authorized dealers, too.

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

The Catalog Profile

Both preppers and survivalists seem to like to know “just the facts, ma’am” when it comes to presenting or reviewing a product of interest.  So, let’s cover a little history on this company.  ESEE under the direction of president Jeff Randall, has been creating gear and training for survival in some of the most hostile and remote areas on Earth.  They have been doing this for some eighteen years.

They build among other things some of the finest, heavy knives in the world that can withstand the most demanding punishment.   The company resides in Alabama, but the American-made knives are forged in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  You can check them out completely at www.eseeknives.com.

Related: 7 Things You Should Consider Before Buying A Survival Knife

There you will find all sorts of specialized survival gear, kits, ESEE knives, and much more.  They also offer a SHTF survival knifecomprehensive survival skills training school for which you can find courses and schedules on their web site.  It is all very impressive.

The ESEE-6 knife I have to review was obtained via the local authorized dealer David Graves of Brandon Sporting Arms in Brandon, Mississippi, not as a prop or select loaner direct from the company.  They have no idea I have one of their knives and I doubt they care.  They stand behind every knife with a lifetime warranty on all 1095 steel blades.  If you break it, just return it for a replacement.  The warranty is transferable and is warranted no matter how many times the knife has traded hands, no sales receipt required.  It is not guaranteed against rust, normal wear and tear, loss or theft.

The No.6 knife has an overall length of 11.75 inches with a cutting edge length of 5.75 inches.  The total blade is 6.5 inches in length.  The blade width is 1.56 inches making it hefty, strong, and authoritative.   The handle end is fixed with a rounded pommel with a lanyard hole.  The knife weighs only 12 ounces without the sheath, which by the way is a molded ploy with an optional clip plate that can be installed by the owner with provided attachment hardware.

The 1095 carbon steel with a 55-57 Rc produces a fine blade for multi-task cutting, chopping and blade work.  The Best Survival Knifegrip handles are made of Linen Micarta.  There are four models of the ESEE-6 based mainly on blade colors, blade edge type such as plain or serrated, sheath color, and handle colors.  Other options are available, too.  The ESEE-6 retails for around $150 at their network of authorized dealers, but can be found elsewhere if shopped around.
The ESEE sheaths are special as well.  The knives are shipped with a fully ambidextrous molded sheath, a clip plate, paracord with cord lock, and hardware, screws, rubber washers and barrel nuts to attach the clip to the sheath.  The sheath is made with lashing and cord storage holes, hole spacing for MOLLE locks, and a drainage port.  The knife is held in the sheath by friction retention with a thumb grip surface used to withdraw the blade from the sheath.

One additional feature to this knife is the information provided on the knife packing container.  The ESEE boxes include survival, navigation, and emergency signaling information printed on the box sleeve.  The sleeve information could be cut out, folded, and stored in a bug out bag or out the door bag.

Handling and Use

For me first impressions are lasting and my initial handling of the ESEE-6 was positive.  The Micarta handles are a Best Survival Knifegreenish-grey with a fine gripping texture though the surface is slick.  Handling with Mechanix gloves would be advisable as you work with the knife.  The full tang blade is heavy making the butt end pommel substantial.  The knife feels hand fulfilling, stocky, but not overly heavy.  The blade thickness and weight is well proportioned throughout.

In my hands it balances very well and swings with authority.  The steel is coated with a black, grainy textured finish which adds some rust and stain resistance and extra use durability to the blade. All this sweet talk is flattering, but does the ESEE cut it, pun intended?   I took the ESEE to Bug Out Camp this past weekend to wield it in person.   I cannot imagine any other knife in this size and weight category performing any better.  It chops through saplings with dedication so it would be good on camp establishment work, and such.

I walked out into the thick briar section of woods and though the ESEE-6 is not machete, it hacks right through vines and trash.  We have a particularly tough, clingy, green sticker vine in the south and the ESEE waded right through this.  Also this is with the factory edge as I did not even attempt to sharpen it further.

Again, the weight and balance of this knife is great.  I confirmed that gripping gloves are best with this knife doing tough work as the knife’s handle is smooth without an aggressive texture.  For an all round camp knife from cutting meat or foods, and such it would perform very well.  Same for rope work, and such.

The snap-in sheath is sturdy, and holds the ESEE knife with authority.  I don’t see this knife ever falling out of the sheath.  In theory it could be grabbed by woodland vines or such and pull the knife free, but that would be unlikely in my estimation.  The ESEE is good to go.   Whatever size ESEE you pick, I think you’ll be completely satisfied.

All Photos By Dr. John J. Woods

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Survival Gear Review: Gränsfors Bruks Hand Hatchet

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Best Survival Hatchet

I find interesting that knife reviews often and immediately take on cutting chores at the upper limit of a blade’s best survival hatchetpay grade.  Many of the tasks assigned to the knives are really better served by another survival tool; the Hand Hatchet.  And in particular, the Gränsfors Bruks Hand Hatchet.  Of the rides in my growing stable of hand hatchets, the 1.3 pound/9.5 inch Gränsfors Bruks Hand Hatchet is not just my favorite, but by far my BFF for many reasons.  While not all that much bigger than a full-sized bushcraft blade, the hand hatchet is like the stronger but dumber big brother to the survival knife.

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

Give me a Hand

Precision is not the hand hatchet’s main selling feature, but rather blunt force performance for bigger but still Survival Toolhand-sized woodwork. In fact a high quality and very sharp hand hatchet can easily step on the toes of the survival knife. And not just step on them, it can stomp on the knife’s toes to the point of forcing the debate from one needing both to that of being happy with either/or. However, the smaller the axe, the more skill needed to use it effectively and the more dangerous it is since the business end is closer to the user.

Also Read: Survival Choppers, Understanding Axes

Hand hatchets are smaller and/or shorter than conventional camp axes or traditional hatchets which run in the survival hatchetsub-axe length of an overall length less than elbow to fingertip. While the head of the hand hatchet might look familiar, it often ends there. Many hand hatchets are closer to knives than axes through their one-piece design with handgrip scales bolted, riveted, glued, or otherwise somehow stuck to the metal handle, and similar length cutting surfaces. The problem with many designs is that forging a properly tapered hatchet head is difficult if not impossible for many companies to do in-house. The result is that quality hand hatchets have an overall head thickness not much more than a knife blade. The result of this simplistic design is that it produces a low mass head relative to the handle, and absolutely no significant inertia wedging as the head slams into the workpiece. Instead the blade slides neatly into the wood like a screwdriver wedging its parallel sides tightly against the wood grain. And that is if you can generate enough speed to make the hatchet head cut more than just superficial wounding the branch. Otherwise a simple band aid will fix the cut in the cellulose.

Stolen Valor

A flat-sided hand hatchet, or that with no head taper beyond the very edge of traditional steel stock, easily sticks SHTF Hatchetinto softer woods requiring constant rocking to remove them. In fact, they perform much like nails where the wedge tip spreads the grain so the following mass can bury itself into the wood with maximum friction. Better chopping hand hatchets have slightly concave or convex heads that do not stick as easily in the grain, and actively throw wood chips away from the work site during the chopping. If you used one in the kitchen instead of a flat-sided slicing knife, your salad fixings would go flying all over the place rather than lazily falling over. The more convex, the more its wedge-shape splits wood. Unfortunately a hand hatchet has comparatively little energy transfer to the impact point so splitting is definitely not the hand hatchet’s forte’ so you might be better off erring on the flatter side then the convex side.

Related: Trucker’s Friend

Adding insult to the lack of injury to the wood is that many flat-sided hand hatchets are borne of lesser steel that survival hatchethas more in common with a refrigerator door or cheap hammer head than an outdoor knife. Quality axe and hatchet steels have very particular characteristics and tempering that keep it both sharp and sharpenable. The blade must hold up to harsh striking as well as gentle slicing. If lesser steel, the blade will easily chip, fold, or rapidly dull through attrition. None of which are acceptable when you have a survival job to do.

Sharp or SHARP!

As I mentioned before, the short handle and razor sharp blade requires more attention than other choppers. Being SHTF Cutting Toolso small and noticeably sharper off the production line than lesser brands, swinging such a blade can get dangerous. The short handle but full sized head can cause more than normal torque on the head causing the swing follow through to head off in an unintended direction. Therefore proper axe swing technique is more than essential. But even then I still managed to break my skin twice during my first serious voyage with the Gränsfors Bruks hand hatchet. The first cut was absolute stupidity on my part when I was chopping branches clearing a trail through downfall. The horseflies were starting to irritate me more than usual and when one sunk its proboscis into my calf, I whipped my hand around to swat it and the low-mass tiny axe nicked my flesh. The worst part was I missed the damn fly. Well, no. The worst part was the blood trickling down my leg was attracting more flies than Bill Bass’s Body Farm in Tennessee. But forgetting the hatchet was in my hand should be ample evidence that the Hand Hatchet can disappear during use.

Also Read: 10 Non-Power Tools You Need For Survival

My second screw up was when I was shaving bark and mini-stabs off a pair of hiking sticks needed for a river crossing. Getting the sticks to near perfection was easy with the Gränsfors Bruks hand hatchet. The problem was that I wanted total perfection. I choked all the way up on the hatched head and started polishing the stick’s handle are to a mirror finish. It was just so much fun work the blade across the birch. As my work area on the stick grew smaller and smaller, the axe head became correspondingly larger and larger. Since the mass of the axe stayed the same, it was inevitable that I would loose control and slice my finger which is exactly what happened. Like trying to pull a sliver out with lineman’s pliers, there is a point of diminishing return when using a hand hatchet over a knife.

Get a Grip

Hand hatchet handles vary as much as their heads. Many smaller hatchets or those marketed to the survival crowd survivalhave prominent finger grooves. While the tactical-like depressions do help maintain grip and control especially when wet, the fixed finger positions significantly limit the number of comfortable holds and can make extended use rather painful. Without gloves, the more finger grooves, the more blisters or hot spots.  Seriously, listen to the rants about the Gen4 Glocks with lightly defined finger posits in the grip. It’s not like anyone is carrying their Glock hours on end in a grip tight enough to keep it from flying free during a fast arm swing. Yet the fully mature finger guides in hand hatchets are like a gated community and unless your fingers fit and stay, you are not welcome there.

Using the Gränsfors Bruks hand hatchet for big work, regardless of the grip, is an absolute pleasure compared to a survival knife when gross movements and significant force is needed. I’m quick to grab a hand hatchet to make kindling, de-limb branches, chop small firewood, apply some heavy scraping, and sharpen sticks for tent pegs and cooking implements.

Playing the Field

The shortest of my hand hatchets is the Timberline Russ Kommer Bush Pilot Survival Hatchet. It also has the most hand_hatchet_cutting_toolpronounced and aggressive finger grooves in the handle. While the permanent finger placements feel fine upon initial inspection, after a few minutes of chopping your hands will be crying for mommy. The finger notches force a certain grip that is quite squared up with the blade. I find it unnatural and uncomfortable. But in its defense, the digit subdivisions installed on the handle will keep the hatchet more secure, especially with a weak or injured hand. But given the super-short handle length, you have bigger problems than just holding on to the chopping thing.

But What About The…

But the gorilla in the room is how the Gränsfors Bruks Hand Hatchet compares to the Gerber Back Paxe. Gerber