Welcome to Jercol's Back to the Basics. This is where I will post useful information, tips, and gear reviews about what I learn about Outdoor Survival, Activities, and Disaster Preparation. My only goal is to be informative, realistic, and at least a little entertaining.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Stand Your Ground Laws

First off, sorry it's been so long, life just gets in the way sometimes.

Anyway, the news has just been hammering on this new "thug music" trial in Florida.  Now, it's just about impossible to find out the "facts" of this case without getting a huge helping of spin, which direction depends on which news source you go to.  Much like the Trayvon Martin case, there is so much emotion and passion on the different sides that it's hard for anyone outside the situation to get facts without getting all of the extras.  That's why I'm not going to go into the specifics of these cases, I don't have all of the facts of these cases and I wasn't there, so I can't say one thing or the other about guilt or justification.  That's not my place.

Both of these situations are obviously tragic, whenever anyone dies violently it's tragic.  All of the families involved have my deepest sympathies, let there be no doubt about that.

The topic that I would like to talk about, that keeps being brought up, are Florida's "Stand your ground" laws.

Now, pretty much every state has some clause for situations where a person defends themselves.  If you are in fear of your life you have the legal right to defend yourself, of that there is no real question.  The difference in Florida (and many other states with these laws) is that in public you are not required to flee the situation or attempt to defuse it before responding defending yourself (in these cases with firearms).  That is the only distinction between other state's self defense laws and the laws in the states with "Stand your ground".

Now, in traditional self defense cases if the victim shoots the perpetrator there is a burden of evidence on the victim.  They have to prove that they were scared for their life, they have to prove they tried to defuse the situation or flee, and that there was no other way to avoid the shooting.  If the victim cannot prove those things they will most likely be indicted on criminal charges.  In fact, in most states it's standard procedure for the shooter to be taken into custody until all the questions are answered and it's decided whether the state wants to file charges.

The reason that I think the "Stand your ground" laws are a good idea is that it lightens the burden on the victim.  High profile cases aside, the victim has been through a harrowing, scary ordeal, and next thing they're being hand-cuffed and taken to the police station.  Suddenly the victim has become a suspect, all because they defended themselves.  With "Stand your ground" there is less liability on the part of the victim, less they have to prove before they can get back to their normal life.

With the media attention it's easy to find cases where these laws have come up under questionable circumstances, but what about the cases where it has been a good thing?  We don't hear about those.  They aren't controversial so they don't tend to hit the national networks.  And have you ever notice that these high profile cases tend to involve all males?  Let's do some pretending:

A woman is walking home alone at night, a big guy grabs her and wrestles her to the ground.  He starts punching her.  She pulls a gun and shoots him dead.  Would that classify as "Stand your ground"?  No, it would fall under the traditional self-defense laws.  She couldn't run because she was on the ground, it would probably be deemed justifiable.

So, what if he didn't knock her down?  What if she didn't kill him?

He grabs her, punches her.  She pulls a gun and shoots him in the leg, then runs away.  Now we're in a sketchy legal position.  Could she have de-escalated the situation somehow?  Could she have simply run away?  Was her response a justifiable use of force?  The state might charge her and the guy could probably sue her in civil court.  Unless this state has a "Stand your ground" law, which would limit the possibility of her being liable.

There's all these loud voices calling for repeat, but what would happen if "Stand your ground" was repealed?  There would still be plenty of cases of self defense in the states affected.  There would still be controversial cases in the national media.  There would still be families crying foul and shooters claiming self defense.  Repealing the law wouldn't change any of that, it would just make it easier to take legal action against shooters in otherwise justifiable cases.

So, if you ask me "Stand your ground" just clears up some of the gray area in the self defense situations.  It helps keep victims of crime from becoming victims of legal action afterwards.  Just like arguing "self defense" has been misused on occasion, the same can be said of "Stand your ground", that's why there is always a legal review afterwards which hopefully catches the perpetrators who tried to use the law for nefarious purpose.

Again, I'm not trying to make light of the legal cases around "Stand your ground" or the families involved, I'm just trying to give another perspective on a law that has received so much public attention over the last few years.

On a personal note, I'm not a particular fan of guns for personal defense especially in public, there's too many situations where a gun would just escalate the situation.  Of course, I'm also a big young guy, fairly fit, trained in martial arts, and pretty confident in my hands, so take all this with a grain of salt.  A gun can also be taken away from you, could get you in legal trouble, could misfire, could hit bystanders... to me there are just too many variables.  Which is why I would encourage anyone to think through carrying a firearm very thoroughly and receive proper training in gun handling and the laws in their area.  It's not hard to imagine that if Michael Dunn or George Zimmerman had used punches or pepper spray their legal situations would be entirely different.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Slowing things down a bit

Sorry, I've been pretty preoccupied the last couple weeks.  My posts have taken a back seat to a novel I've been working on.  I thought about posting pieces of it here but it isn't really a 'survivalist' story.  There are bits and pieces that would probably interest you guys but I also didn't want to put anything out until it was finished.

I'm still going to keep posting on good topics when I find them but they will probably be a lot less frequent than before.

There's a lot of cool stories still out there and I definitely be posting when I have the time.  As always, if you have questions about or want me to post something, drop me a line.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Modular Bug Out Ideas, Current BOB

When I started getting into Survival skills I built a BOB.  That's probably the first step that many people make when they get into "prepping" or "survivalism" (whatever you want to call it), and it's something that everyone should have.

As I've expanded my knowledge and skills (and stores) I've rethought a lot of my original ideas.  When I did my practice Bug Out during the last Tsunami warning (post) I decided that I wanted a more modular set up, that way I could pick and choose which 'modules' depending on the situation.  That led me to look at different packs, bags, and set ups.  I could tailor my pack out depending on the situation without having to dig through one big bag, it also makes it easier to find an individual item.

So, in that thread, here is my current pack out gear.

HPG Kit Bag, chest
I'd never heard of a "chest rig" before getting into survival skills (and Zombie forums).  Most chest rigs are for battlefield or tactical scenarios (or paintball), they have pouches for magazines, grenades, etc.  Well, I was looking for something that could be worn hiking with or without my main pack, that would keep some supplies handy so I wouldn't have to stop and dig through the main pack for a candy bar or my cell phone.  This HPG Kit Bag is perfect for that.  It's also neat because it adds flexibility, you could leave your main bag at camp and take this for a short hike.  This was also designed with Concealed Carry in mind, the pouch closest to the body has easy pull zippers and loops for carrying a pistol.  I didn't get the Kit Bag for that purpose but it's kind of a neat feature.  There's a cool quick-draw video on their website.  It's an extremely handy kit to have.

Snugpak waist pouch
It's a waist pack and belt.  I keep a lot of stuff here; knives, pouches, canteens, gloves, fire starter, first aid, and a poncho/rain jacket.  This is basically a mini-BOB, one or two of each item.  It keeps things easy to reach, easy to find, and adds versatility.  You see the trend here?

Snugpak pack
This is quite a bit smaller than most BOBs.  You definitely need a good pack but in a set up like this it can be smaller because you spread the items between the Kit Bag, belt, and waist pouch.  I put all the little stuff in those two bags and then just keep the big stuff in the main pack.  Food, hydration bladder, sleeping bag, tarp, extra clothing, etc.

Blackhawk thigh holster, magazine pouches, and Drop leg pouch
I put this last because firearms are the lowest priority and Hawaii has very strict laws against carrying firearms unless you're hunting (and licensed).  In most emergency situations they won't be necessary and could lead to legal problems.  In your State it might not be as big an issue, either way firearms should be a low priority.  Contrary to the popular internet-Rambo type, firearms are simply not as important as the rest of your preps.  Outside of a Zombie Apocalypse water, food, shelter, fire, and clothing, are all far more critical than firearms to staying alive.  By keeping firearms, ammo, mags, and accessories in a configuration like this (drop leg holster and pouch) they can be easily dropped or added to your pack out.

It also means I can grab grab any of these items and go for a hike minimal repacking.  I've also really cut down the amount of stuff in my BOB.  The BOB, or 72 hour bag, is supposed to have all the supplies for 72 hours.  The theory is that 72 hours should get you through the worst of any disaster.  When I first packed a BOB it had everything minus the kitchen sink but really, you don't need that much stuff for 72 hours.  Maintain your core body temperature, a little water, a first aid kit, maybe some food... and that's about it.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.  Obviously, there are things that make life better and easier, but if the goal is to survive, you really don't need much.  Keeping your pack light means you can travel faster, easier, and be more mobile.

I've rushed this post a little bit, I haven't had time to do the full spread and photos.  I'll try and do that soon.  And as always, if you have any questions or comments let me know.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Some Range Time and Conversation

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other day.  For the most part we have very similar ideas on firearms and gun control, though he leans a bit more towards some of the legislation proposed recently.  His girl friend is a High School teacher, so I think that probably plays a role in some of his feelings.  I'm sure he worries about her with all these stories in the news about school shootings.

Anyway, he's in the military and was toying with the idea of getting a pistol for his girlfriend for while he is deployed.  I'm sure it is as much for his peace of mind as for hers.

I offered to take them to the range and let them try out a few of my pistols.  She had never handled one before (was kind of scared of them), so this seemed like a good chance to show her the basics and try out a couple, see what she liked.  I brought my Smith & Wesson MP-22, Glock 17, and my Ruger Blackhawk .357.

Having never shot a pistol, she obviously liked how easy the .22 was to handle.  After a bit of practice with the .22 we got her moved up to the 9mm.  She was alright with the 9mm, put a few magazines through it, but she wasn't quite as enthusiastic about it as the .22.  We even got her to try the Blackhawk once, but the gun itself was so heavy that she quickly went back to the other two.  She handled the recoil just fine, it was the actual, physical weight of the revolver.  That was fine, him and I had plenty of fun with the Blackhawk.  He's a revolver guy too.

Afterwards, he was still puzzling over whether or not get her a pistol.  I offered my two cents.  I told him first off that he should get two pistols, one for him, one for her.  The way pistol purchases go in Hawaii, it's a lot of back and forth between the police station and the gun store.  If you are even toying with the idea of buying two pistols, you buy them at the same time and it halves the trips to the police station.  Secondly, if he thinks it might be a good idea to get him and hers pistols, he should do it now.  There is a minimum two week waiting period for all pistol purchases in Hawaii.  I told him that a home defense firearm is kind of like insurance, you don't ever want to use it, but if you need it, you need it now and not in two weeks.

Also, if he gets it now then they will have plenty of time to get her well practiced before he leaves.  Obviously, having a pistol for home defense doesn't do her any good if she she isn't comfortable and accurate with it.

We all had fun at the range, so whether or not they decide to become gun owners, at the very least she had an opportunity to learn about firearm safety, got to shoot a variety of pistols, and have some fun.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Isn't that just pretty?

You ever have a relationship with a gun that's like a marriage?  You love it, but it drives you nuts at the same time?  My M1 carbine has been like that for me.

I originally wrote a glowing review about how much I loved the M1 carbine (original post), with only a few minor complaints.  Well, after the honeymoon phase I started to see the cranky side of the rifle.  I actually went back a couple weeks after the original post and added an edit to the end:

"EDIT (02-10-2013): I love my M1 carbine.  I love the history, the looks, and how it shoots.  However, the rear sight drives me bonkers.  It comes with a non-adjustable flip sight, one for 100 yards, one for 200 yards, in a dove tail joint.  On mine, it was really off to the left.  To "adjust" this sight you need the proper vice/tool, or a hammer, punch, and patience.  I ordered an adjustable sight for it, tried a dozen times to replace the flip sight... and broke down and ordered the proper removal tool.  These typically go for $150, the cheapest I could find was with Sarco for $70 (E-Sarco Inc).  It's been frustrating, especially since I'm probably only going to use it once.  So, great rifle, just keep that rear sight in mind.  On a plus note, the original M1 needed to have the front sight ground down in the field, whereas the front sight on my replica seems spot on."

So, let me summarize the time and money I put into getting my M1 accuracy even close to where I wanted it.

$55 Adjustable Rear Sight
$40 Various Vices, C-clamps, and scrap (trying to find something cheaper than the proper removal tool)
$20 Boresight Laser for 30car
$70 Proper Vice/Removal tool for Rear Sight
$20 on TWO new sets of Hex drivers to fit the Removal Tool
$60 on some 30 round magazines (ok, not entirely necessary, but why not?)
$265  (the cost of the entire rifle was only $900)

From start to finish, about TWO MONTHS of F****ing around to get it finally figured out...

I am pleased to say, with confidence, that it was totally worth it.  Check my baby:

I know there are plenty of AR-15 fan boys out there, lots, and lots of them!  However, I don't care what kind of rifle you like, you can't tell me this is not a helluva sexy rifle.  Folding stock, fully adjustable rear sight, 30rd mag, weights less than 6 lbs, full wood stock, that shoots like a dream?  Hell yeah! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Endurance Products I Like

This is a follow up post to my last one, which discusses the importance of maintaining proper hydration and fuel intake during long term athletic activity whether it's racing, hiking, or bugging out.  Especially if you have limited access to supplies, deep woods hiking or a survival scenario, knowing what to bring with you is really important to avoid problems.

I am not sponsored by any of these companies, nor do I receive any financial gain or gain otherwise from discussing them here.  These are simply products I've found that do what they are supposed to, have proven themselves to me in the field, and that I have used extensively.  When I was doing long distance trail running (ultra-running) I always kept these items in stock and then could pick and choose what I needed for each event.

Nuun Tablets
Nuun tablets have been formulated to precisely match electrolytes with the percentages that are sweat out.  You can check their website, they have lots of graphs, studies, and stuff...  I just know they work.  I used to get these really annoying headaches after long races, I couldn't figure out what they were from.  Then I started drinking these during the races and I haven't had a problem since.  Each tube has twelve tablets, they dissolve in water like an alka seltzer and in two minutes you have an electrolyte drink.  Easy to carry and effective, every athlete and survivalist should have a few of these.  And they taste pretty decent too.

Camelbak Elixer
Camelbak Elixir is very similar to the Nuun tablets.  They dissolve in water and produce an electrolyte drink. These are very similar products, both taste good and provide the necessary electrolytes.  I think the ratio on these isn't quite as precise as the Nuun tablets and the Elixir is a little more expensive, but the Elixir produces more drink per tab and seem to be more easily found in stores.  I've used them both a lot, they both seem to be good products.

Perpetuem is a pretty neat product, it's food and fluid rolled up into one.  When they were making this they wanted a single solution for fuel and hydration.  Because the calories and nutrients are in a liquid form they are much more easily digested during activity.  The nutritional info is on the site.  It comes in powder form, just mix it with water, though the taste takes a little getting used to.  I have the "orange" one, you could take a creamsicle and melt in a liter of slightly gritty water, and that would be about the same taste/texture.  However, for a "one size fits all" approach it actually works pretty well.  I like this stuff, it worked extremely well on my last race.  With most drinks you don't get a 'full' feeling in your stomach.  When you're hungry and then drink a sports drink you're still hungry.  With Perpetuem, it's like drinking a class a milk when you're hungry, might not be entirely satisfied but it's a whole lot better than most drinks.

There are a variety of "salt pills" on the market.  Salt Stick has developed tubes for dispensing their version of the electrolyte pills and they've done quite a few studies on what electrolytes and amounts to put in them.  They have links for their studies on their site, whether you believe them or not is up to you.  I haven't tried the dispensing tubes but I have taken these pills during events and found them very effective.  I usually drink Nuun or Perpetuem and take these as back ups, or take one an hour for extended races to make sure I'm keeping up the electrolyte levels.  The dispensers seem kind of neat, they keep the pills dry and easy to access, so they might be a good option for long distances or survival scenarios.  Otherwise, any water tight container works well.

Honey Stingers
These guys have a very wide variety of products, all made with honey.  Waffles, gels, chews, you name it and they probably make it.  Carbohydrates are important for maintaining a high level of activity and honey is an excellent carbohydrate.  There are quite a number of different carbs available, but he best ones come from more natural sources, honey, agave, etc.  Carbs that are more processed get absorbed into the body really fast, which leads to ups and downs in your energy level.  More natural, complex carbs are as effective but absorb at a longer, steadier rate, helping maintain a steadier energy level.

GU Chomps
GU chomps have a pretty standard carb mix, there's lots of chews out there that are similar.  However, GU Chomps also have Amino Acids added.  Amino Acids are kind of a new trend in the endurance world.  During exercise, if your body doesn't get enough calories (because your stomach isn't digesting very well) then it starts to cannibalize your muscle tissue.  If you are already damaging your muscles (by exercising) then the last thing you want is that cannibalization.  There haven't been too many studies on the use of Amino Acids during exercise yet, but the theory is that by taking in Amino Acids you are providing them to the body for fuel, which means your body won't need to break down muscle tissue.  Also, it means that there are extra Amino Acids in the body so that during recovery it should make rebuilding muscle tissue faster and easier.  I like these, they do seem to make a difference during and after a race.

Hammer Endurance Amino
Ok, same reason as above.  The difference here is that these are in pill form, you can just drop a pill before, during, and/or after your endurance event.  Again, there aren't many studies on these yet, but in an endurance event or a survival situation I'll take any advantage I can get.  I've used these and they do seem to make recovery faster, I don't know if that means my muscles aren't getting cannibalized or if they help rebuild muscle faster, but they seemed to work for me.

There are plenty of other products out there, I've used quite a few of them and those above are just a few of my favorites.  My favorite place to purchase these items is online at ZombieRunner.com.  They have a million options and good prices.  I also like the name.  What can I say, I'm a zombie dork.

If you have any questions about endurance events or nutrition, suggestions, or comments feel free to send me a message. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Metabolism of Endurance

When I was really into long distance trail running and hiking I spent a lot of time looking for the best options for food and drink (usually referred to in those circles as "fuel" and "hydration").  Some of those products were really cool, really effective, and a lot of those lessons I learned serve me well every time I head into the woods.  In this post I'm going to go over some of the basics, in the next post I'll talk about some of the specific food and drinks that have worked well for me.

Obviously, trail running is a much higher intensity than hiking, but a lot of the techniques can carry over.

When you are moving a lot, sweating a lot, you need to keep in mind fuel and hydration.  You need to intake calories, water, and electrolytes if you want to KEEP moving.  Too little fuel, food, and you run out of energy.  You have to maintain the proper electrolyte balance as well, you get too far either way and you lose your endurance, get sick, and it could eventually kill you.  Electrolytes are necessary to relay electrical impulses in the body, they include sodium, potassium (those are the two biggest), magnesium, and calcium.

Too much water (without enough electrolytes) and you can get hyponatremia, a condition that kills a couple long distance runners every year.  They run a long race, lose lots of electrolytes, then drink water trying to rehydrate.  By just drinking water they essentially dilute the levels of electrolytes in the blood, it throws off your body's balance.  Sports drinks are one way to intake electrolytes, but there are quite a few options (I'll go over them in my next post).  Hyponatremia outside of athletics is most commonly caused by kidney failure.  In other words, it's not the kind of thing you want to happen in the woods, in a survival situation, or during/after a race.  That's why you need to take in electrolytes.  Also, look at the drinks you are using, many common sports drinks only have sodium, potassium, and not necessarily in the ratios that are best (these are better than nothing but intended for short term activities, sporting events).  For extended activities you need to find a better option with Sodium to Potassium is about 3.5-1, calcium and magnesium levels should be lower and in a ratio about 2-1.  So, something with 180mg of Sodium, 50mg of Potassium, 10mg of calcium, and 5mg of magnesium should be about right for an hour of high level activity.  There are quite a few electrolyte pills available, a simple, easy solution when drinks are not as available.

Hypernatremia, or too much sodium, results in the same symptoms as dehydration; extreme thirst, lethargy, weakness, swelling, and at extreme levels seizures and coma (the same as drinking sea water).  Usually, it will start with swelling in the hands and feet.  When you get in tune with your body you will notice those symptoms and increase your water to electrolyte intake.

Ok, so those are the reasons that balance is important.  Now, how much overall fluid should you be taking in?  That depends on your personal physiology (some people sweat more than others, with more or less electrolytes lost), your fitness, the climate, and your current activity level.  Essentially, you need to do some testing and find how much you lose so you know how much you need to drink.  When I was running a race I would typically take in close to a liter of fluid an hour, that was trail running though; high activity level, extreme heat, lots of sweating.  For hiking I could probably make do with half that.

It's also better for your body to take in fluid frequently and in small amounts.  That helps maintain a steady balance rather than drinking a full liter once an hour and it's easier to absorb.  That's why hydration packs like the Camelbak or hand held bottles are so popular with long distance athletes, easy to take small, frequent sips.

Ok, now what about food or 'fuel'?  Again, that depends a lot on you and your activity level, but to maintain a high activity level for multiple hours you should probably try to take in at least 300 calories an hour.   Now, this is where it gets a little complicated... when your body is in high activity mode it's diverting blood away from your stomach and generally toward your legs (or skin for cooling), which means you won't be digesting food very well.  In fact, you are going to be digesting really poorly, absorbing calories very slowly and inefficiently, which means you need to bring along food which is easily digested or you will just get bloated, cramped, diarrhea, and not many calories.  Mostly you will need carbohydrates for energy, but you will also need fats (for long term energy), and protein (for energy and to maintain muscle endurance).  Easily digested foods are those like fruits, gels, liquids, and gummies.  For low intensity exercise, like easy walking and hiking, foods like trail mix have a pretty good mix of carbs, fats, and protein. Just like the water, you want to eat small amounts frequently, it's easier on the stomach and will help maintain a better overall balance of energy level.

I know, it all sounds complicated, but once you do a little experimenting with what products and balance work for you the benefits are drastic.  You can go longer, feel better, and recover faster.

Next post, I'll show you some of the cool products I've found that work well for me.