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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Best Home Defense Weapon

Now, this post is not meant to start a rabid debate.  This isn't about the best home defense weapon against hoards of zombies, or gangs of starving raiders.  For the sake of this post, a home defense weapon is what you grab on an average night when you wake up and hear something go 'bump'.

It's easy to be an "Arm Chair Rambo" and go on about how a Man's home is his CASTLE, it's should be manned with machine guns, and kill anyone who gets too close!!  That might be fine for tv and movies, but that doesn't work in real life.  Real life is always more complicated.

My goal with this post is to get you thinking realistically and practically about home defense.

The best home defense weapon is one of those topics that seems to instantly polarize people.  Is it a shot gun?  Is it a pistol?  What caliber?  What make and model?  There are hundreds of different options and thousands of different opinions.

Well, I recently picked up the absolute best home defense weapon.  For me.  For my situation.  Don't laugh, I'll be giving a thorough explanation why.  

Yes, for absolute best home defense weapon I chose a baseball bat (youth model, from Sports Authority, $19).  (A close runner up was pepper spray, another good option)

At this point, I'm sure you're all thinking "What the hell?!?"  Let me explain, I've got plenty of reasons.

I live in a very small apartment.  Like, insanely small.  I've seen bathrooms bigger than my apartment.  So, if something goes 'bump' in the night, it's already within spitting distance of my bed.  I need something that I can pick up and is immediately ready to defend me.  I won't have the time to stumble to the closet, rummage around, pull out a gun, rummage around some more for some bullets... 

I can see you thinking,  "Why not keep a loaded gun by the bed?"  

Well, there are a couple of problems with that.  I'm sure you can think of a few.  Half asleep, loaded gun...  

This is also where I need to mention that each state has different laws on what levels of force are acceptable when defending your home.  I'm not a lawyer, so DO NOT take this any of this as legal advice, look up the laws in your own state before you make your home defense plans.  Yes, you need to do the research and make a plan.  Do it now.  Just like everything else in life, it's better to have a plan in place BEFORE it's needed.

Now, from what I understand of Hawaiian law (again, do your own research), it is not legal to use a gun to defend your home.  It is legal to use a gun to defend against grievous harm or death, but not legal to defend property.  So, if you shot a burglar and he wasn't armed, theoretically you could be arrested.  In fact, in most home defense shootings the home owner is usually taken into custody until all the facts are sorted out.  Again, do not take these as facts, this is just what I understand from the documents I've read.  Research it for yourself in your state, it's amazingly convoluted.  There are huge differences between the laws in each state, it's important to learn the laws where you live.  It's probably also wise to talk to local law enforcement about home defense, learn their procedures, what to expect from them when they are responding to the call.  Remember, they will be coming to a potentially dangerous situation, knowing how they respond could make a big difference in the outcome when they show up.

That's why it's so important to do the research, talk to as many people as you can, gather all the information you can, and make a solid home defense plan.

There are also a lot of laws on how to keep and store your guns.  Again, I'm not a lawyer, but in Hawaii it is illegal to keep any firearms where children might be able to get them (ie, under my pillow).  They need to be out of the way, trigger locked, in a safe, something.  I'm not even sure if you can keep them loaded.  If I planned to use a gun as my primary home defense weapon I would know those laws inside and out.

So, those are the more legal-ish reasons for not wanting a loaded gun by my bed.  

On a more personal level, I don't like the ramifications of potentially using lethal force in a questionable situation.  Obviously, if it is a clear cut "it's him or me or my family" scenario, I wouldn't hesitate to use lethal force.  But when is anything ever clear cut?  Wandering a dark hall way with a loaded gun, not quite awake, scared, doesn't lead to good decision making.  Or what if I shoot at the bad guy but one of the bullets goes through the wall?  There are families that live in my neighboring apartments.  If I made a mistake, or hurt a neighbor, I would have a hard time living with myself.  

A mistake with a baseball bat has far less consequences than making a mistake with any gun.  Worst case scenario with the bat is I hit my TV in the confusion ($250).  Worst case with a gun... well, you get the idea.

To sum it up:
Bat is always locked and loaded
easy to use without training
effective at close quarters
more legal for home defense
if the bad guy gets it first I'm not totally screwed
usually non-lethal
less consequence for a mistake
less likely to get me sued
never runs out of bullets
better reach than a knife
effective against zombies

And finally, when I'm half asleep, storming out of my apartment in my boxers, bat in hand, the cops are less likely to shoot me.

My goal with this post is to make people ask questions, think about their situation, and try to come up with the most practical solution for their situation.  Talk to the police, research the laws in your state.  Make a plan that fits your situation, your family, your house, and your state.  A gun is not always the best self defense weapon.
For me, a baseball bat is the absolute best home defense weapon. 

What's yours?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gear Review: Princeton Tec Blast

When I was first putting together my GHB and BOB, I tore my house apart looking for some good flash lights.  When I came up short, I realized I had a couple of LED lights in my bag of Diving Gear.  That's when I remembered I had two Princeton Tec Blasts that were perfect additions to my preps.

These lights run $10-14 depending on the seller.  They're designed for Scuba diving, they run on two AA batteries, they're bright and they're waterproof to 500ft.  There are a lot of LED flash lights in the same price range, these though are pretty special, cheap lights that are not cheaply made.

Over my years of diving I've bought several different models of Princeton Tec lights, from cheaper to more expensive.  Every light I've used has been well made, bright, and about half the price of most dive lights.  Specifically, I've had two of these small Blast lights for over two years as back ups when diving.  They've been abused, taken diving, loaned out to friends, dumped in the dive bag, never really maintained (unlike my more expensive dive lights), and yet they worked perfectly (still on the original batteries too) and looked almost brand new when I just pulled them out.

They're designed for use in salt water, one of the most corrosive environments available, and heavy pressure environments so they are incredibly durable.

For the quality and the price, these little lights are hard to beat.  You could toss them in a GHB or BOB, forget about them, and you can be confident that they'll work when you need them.  Definitely a good addition for the price.

Here are a few of my favorite things...

Here are a few of my FAVO-RITE things...  You have to say it in that sing-song voice, just like the line from the song.  If you don't have a sense of humor, what else is worth the effort?

I'm a bit of a knife guy, I've said that before.  Pretty much anything with a blade I'm fascinated by.  In a way, the knife is the most fundamental and most basic tool ever created.  A good knife can be used to make other tools, shelter, and most importantly, open DVD cases.

That's only half a joke.

The truth is, as cool as a 12" Rambo knife is, the unsung hero of the knife world is the small, folding, pocket knife.  How many times does the Rambo knife get used?  Not very often.  But that little folder that you keep in your back pocket gets used on a daily basis.  These knives can do almost anything that Rambo can but they're at hand and a whole lot more portable.  So, there's something to say about the pocket knives out there.

In no particular order, here are my three favorite pocket knives (other than the CRKT, which was previously posted):

 The Buck Paperstone Vantage, $35.  Who's got a negative thing to say about Buck knives?  They're a classic.  This one is a little over a three inch blade and it comes very sharp.  This one, I took off the belt clip because I didn't really like the way it affected the grip, otherwise it's a great knife.

What I like about this Buck is the blade thickness.  I swear, this blade is twice as thick as most pocket knives.  The blade has a great shape, a great edge, and because of it's thickness it's ready for some heavy duty work.  This is a very handy blade.  I keep it on my coffee table and it gets used frequently.

Second up is the knife I keep in my pocket at work.  This is the Leatherman Crater, $35.  I think the version shown here is discontinued, it has the blackened blade that's half serrated.  There is a current version I found online, but it doesn't have the paint job or the serration.

The reason I love this knife is it has a full size phillips and a full size flat head screwdriver.  Most multi tools have a phillips head, but it's too thin or too small to actually use.  Not a problem with the full sized heads on the Crater, very usable.  It also has a clip/bottle opener (though I don't use that as often at work).  Even with the added tools, the handle is only about a 1/4 inch thicker than a normal pocket knife.  For it's size and weight this is quite the handy little tool.  I love Leatherman multi-tools but they can be bulky and heavy, so I don't usually carry one unless I know I need the extra tools.  For the average person, this Leatherman Crater is a lighter, smaller, more handy option.

Next up is the Kershaw Scallion, $30.  I just picked this one up recently.  I like Kershaw blades but they tend toward the expensive and I didn't have much experience with them.  Many of them also have the "Speed Safe Assisted Opening" system, which is basically a spring system that makes the blade extremely easy to open.

I had a somewhat bad experience with an 'assisted opening' system one time.  A couple years ago, I bought a CRKT My Tighe Spring, an extremely cool looking knife.  I'm pretty sure this knife is Klingon standard issue.

Anyway, because the My Tighe was spring assisted the blade opened extremely easily.  One day it came open in my backpack.  I stuck my hand in my pack and felt something funny.  I kept reaching around in there, wondering what that was.  Well, the knife was so sharp that I cut myself three times before realizing that I was being cut.  After that I kept a rubber band tightly wrapped around the closed knife to keep it closed.  What's the point of having a spring assist if you're too nervous to use it?

That made me very tentative when it came to buying assisted knives.

This Kershaw, though, was a pleasant surprise.

The spring assist works great, the blade is excellent quality and extremely sharp.  And you know what else it has?  A safety lock.

You see that sliding screw on the bottom of the handle?  It's very easy to use and doesn't slow down one-handed operation.  Simply push the screw down with a pinkie, push the knob on the back of the blade, and out it pops.  Slide the screw up and the blade cannot be opened.  Safe, and easy to use.  All in all, it's a very nice little blade.

So, that's three cool blades, all under $40.  All handy, all have their purposes, and they are definitely more practical than their larger, more expensive, Rambo versions.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: SAS Survival Guide

I've had some experience hiking and camping, but most of it was a long time ago, so I find myself having to relearn a lot.  As for disaster preparation and survival, I'm practically a beginner.  So, as any good student, the first thing I began looking for was the right text book.

I decided to start with the SAS Survival Guide, it was highly recommended on many different survival websites.  I picked it up for $8 on Amazon.  Short review?  I think that's probably the best $8 I've spent in a long time.

This is an extremely cool book.  I didn't realize it when I ordered it, but it's pocket sized.  Thankfully, it's size doesn't limit it's effectiveness, it's a veritable encyclopedia of survival information.  It's designed to be useful in the widest variety of situations, it has a lot of generalizations, so it doesn't replace information for specific environments, but it is overall a very useful guide.

It's got an edible plant guide.

Shelter building

Useful knot tying.

There is really too much in this little book to list it all here.  Morse code, signalling, survival strategies, and dozens of other important subjects.  It's like a whole season of Survivorman in one book (Les Stroud is the man!).

Let's just say I'm very impressed with this little book.  I sealed it in a ziploc bag and it's now a permanent addition to my BOB.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Get Home Bag

It'd been a while since I'd gone through my GHB and I figured this was a good opportunity to do an in depth post on GHBs.  Being in Hawaii the contents of my bag are probably quite different than what people would need in other places.  Most of the basics would be the same; clothes, water, food, fire starters... but depending on the local climate there can be a lot of variation.  Keep in mind your own environment when making a GHB.

This is the kit that I keep in my car.  Pretty much everything fits in the Swiss Army day pack that I picked up at Ross for $20.  The the top and side, a fleece sweat shirt and pair of shoes.  This being Hawaii, I'm typically wearing shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops.  Those three things aren't any good in a disaster scenario.  That's why a sweat shirt and shoes (socks are in the bag) are so important here.

While temperature isn't a huge concern in Hawaii, hypothermia is still a concern if conditions are wet and windy.  Tropical storms, earthquakes, and flooding are all possibilities here.  That's why you'll see my 'get home' bag prioritizes rain clothes, water purification, and fire starting. 

Here's everything pulled out.  I'll go through the contents in detail.  

From the left side toward the center: the sweat shirt, adidas workout pants (light, packs tight, some protection from the elements), Columbia rain jacket , socks.

Here's the water supplies.  Three water bottles, two are kept full.  I've got the stainless steel bottle and the GSI cup (reviewed in an earlier post) for cooking and water purification.  I keep the Dasani bottle so I can use it for UV purification.  There's also the purification tablets to the left.  Just above the bottles are Camelbak Elixer tablets, they dissolve in water like alka seltzer, they taste pleasant and provide electrolytes.

These are fairly self explanatory.  Sunscreen, 550 cord, Gerber multi-tool, Gerber sheath knife, two LED flash lights, Leatherman folding knife, and a compass on top.

In the middle: boonie cap, work gloves, bandana, watch cap, scarf.  Food: couple nutri-grain bars, trail mix, jerkey.  Just below the shoes on the right side is my fire starting kit: two sets of matches, lighter, flint and steel, hand sanitizer (very flammable, just be careful because the flame it creates is almost invisible in day light), and the cotton ball/vaseline kits I previously posted about.

I go a little overboard when it comes to my first aid kit.  For purely "get home" purposes you could probably halve this kit and still have plenty to go.   However, because I keep this bag in my car all the time, I tend to use this kit for any and all day-to-day first aid needs.  That's why there is so much more in here than the bare minimum.  I can't tell you how many times I've pulled this out and used it.

Here's the contents from the top left: benedryl, anti-diarrhea meds, alcohol wipes, moleskin, medical tape, triple antibiotic neosporin, tums, tylenol, carmex, and a wide variety of bandaids.  The whole kit except for the medical tape fits in a pint sized Ziploc bag.

A few more things that weren't really in the pictures: emergency poncho, emergency blanket (I hopefully won't need those two, but they're small, light, and could be life savers), baby wipes, bug spray, goggles, dust mask, and ear plugs.

I think that's everything.

After reviewing the kit I swapped a few things out, added more cordage, extra batteries for the flash lights, underwear, and another pair of socks.

A GHB is a very personal thing, it's all about what you need and what you're comfortable with.  My pack is a pretty good example of "over kill", I have way more than the bare minimum and a lot redundancies.  As is, the size and weight are comfortable and I'm very confident with the contents.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


A while ago I purchased three different knives on Amazon.  If I'm going to be honest, I might have been slightly intoxicated when I made those purchases.  It wouldn't have been the first, or probably the last time.  I was looking for a good camping knife, but I didn't really stick too that very well.

From left to right:  MTECH USA EXTREME, Cold Steel GI Tanto, Cold Steel Shanghai Shadow.

There were a couple things that I didn't realize, in my slightly intoxicated state, when I ordered these knives.  All are blackened, tacticool looking blades.  All are full tang.  All are made in China.  Outsourcing, what can I say?

I've previously posted about the GI Tanto and Shadow.  Now it's time for the MTECH EXTREME.  And, no, that isn't some sort of over exuberance on my part, the company actually capitalizes the name like that.

Out of the three knives that I got this was my favorite.  It was also the most expensive, at $35 (the other two were around $20).  Like the other two, it's full tang.  The EXTREME fits amazingly comfortably in the hand.  It just fits.  That might not be the case with all hand types, I have fairly small hands, but for me it was a great fit.  Very natural.  This knife practically screams to be handled.

It came with the sharpest blade of the three, which says something to me about the pride this company takes in quality.  That isn't always the case.  It wasn't a razors edge but it was definitely sharp enough to use.

This blade is designed for multiple uses.  The flat section, near the handle, is designed more for chopping.  The upper portion is designed for cutting.  The back, while not really as sharp as I would want a saw, could be used for a saw on soft wood.  With sharpening, it would work on a larger variety of woods.

The other thing that I really liked about this knife is the sheath.  Unlike the two Cold Steel blades, this one came with a canvas sheath (internal is hard plastic to keep the blade from cutting through).  It comes with a pocket for a sharpener, an adjustable leg strap, plenty of extra cord, and a nice belt loop.

The portion of the handle for the middle finger is slightly deeper than usual.  This works well for the hand but it also is designed for securing the knife into the sheath.  In the photos below, you can see how the handle fastener fits into that section of the handle very nicely.

I was pleasantly surprised by this knife.  Not only is it really cool to look at, it actually seems to fit the role of a good survival/wilderness knife very well.

It's a good weight, it's a good size, it fits naturally into the hand.  This knife is now an addition to my Bug Out Bag.

Why "The Doomsday Preppers" Hurt Us

I almost hate to admit that I've watched this show and found it entertaining.  I hate admitting that because half of the entertainment value of this show is in watching people and their beliefs held up for "review".  Now, I haven't seen every episode, so I could have missed a few, but have you noticed that they never show the more rational preppers?  You know, the family that lives in tornado country and is preparing for a tornado?  Or the ones that live with the drought and are stocking up on water?  No, it's always the ones that believe the military industrial complex is going to forcefully take over.  Or it's the ones that believe the poor economy will collapse the government.  It's always the ones that have conspiracy theories.

Have you ever watched American Idol when they show all those people that didn't make it onto the show?  They were terrible, like two cats fighting in an alley, and you feel sorry for them, but you still laughed?  "Doomsday Preppers" is kind of like that.

One, I'm not interested in holding people up for public ridicule, no matter how strange their ideas might be (or how bad their singing).

Two, this show makes preppers look like the love children of conspiracy theorists and that crazy homeless guy wearing the sandwich board sign "The End is Coming!!"

Now, I'm not saying that all preppers are completely rational.  Preppers are this interesting cross section of society, there's a little bit of everything.  Sometimes though, it seems like the loudest voices are the ones with the most outlandish reasons for prepping.

It's impossible to go to a "survival board" or "prepper board" without finding a fairly thick streak of doomsday theorists (there are also quite a few Zombie Survival boards).  There are preppers that ramble about how the government is going to implement martial law, or sun spots might wipe out all electronics, or people need to protect themselves from evil corporations that run the world... there are a million different theories.  There are a million threads on the best rifles, or gun calibers, to survive when the SHTF (sh!t hits the fan).

The reason I have a problem with the show is that it makes the rest of us seem like fellow conspirators .  I have some supplies stocked, I am working on a BOB, I want to have some things ready for an emergency.  Does that mean I think Zombies will be coming for my brains soon?  No.  But if I went in to work and said "Hey, I got a cool new first aid kit for my bug out bag!"  I would probably get laughed at, whether or not having a first aid kit was actually a good idea.

You see what I mean?

The show and the theories make conversations about disaster and emergency preparation extremely difficult.  And some of those conspiracy theorists might have some good ideas about prepping and survival, but nobody is going to take them seriously.

Let's look at prepping another way.  What are those things that you pay for every month and hope to God that you never need to use it?  Oh yeah, insurance.  Health insurance, life insurance, renters insurance, car insurance...  Is it crazy or is it smart?  Does it give you some piece of mind to know that you have it if something bad happens?

Let's say you have hurricane insurance and a nice little hurricane comes along and turns your house into a pile of lincoln logs.  Is the Aflac bird going to fly in and drop off some MRE's and bottled water for you?  No.  If you're lucky some National Guardsmen will.  Do you want to be cold, hungry, and thirsty when they show up or would you rather be sitting around a campfire, boiling water for some spaghetti, and offer the Guardsmen a cup of coffee?

Insurance is a vitally important thing and something that is missed on a lot of the 'Survivalist' boards.  Consider it a long term 'prep', something that will help you back on your feet when things are hopefully getting back to normal.  Having some supplies set aside is just another form of insurance, something else that we hope we never have to use.  It's another kind of peace of mind.  I can't tell you how comforting it is to have that GHB in my trunk and my BOB in my closet.

You don't have to believe in the upcoming Aztec prophecies to think storing some food is a good idea.  Doomsday has nothing to do with it.  Focus on the 'preppers' part, to be prepared or preparing.  There's nothing wrong with that.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gear Review: Cold Steel GI Tanto

This is the Cold Steel GI Tanto knife.  It's 12 inches long, plastic sheath, and runs around $30 on Amazon.  This is kind of a neat knife.  When I opened the box I wasn't particularly impressed with how it looked but after handling it for a little while it started to grow on me.

The website says the blade is 7" but they are including the non-sharpened part in that measurement.  The actual blade is 5 1/2 inches.  It's full tang, carbon steel, and surprisingly heavy.  The metal is quite thick and the overall knife weights 1.2 lbs.  How many knives weight over a pound?

When you grab it by the handle this thing almost feels like a machete, very blade heavy.  With how thick the blade is, this knife could do some heavy duty work cutting through brush or wood.

Then, because of the strange looking blade there is some flexibility in how you can hold this knife.

This is a cool feature because, when you choke up your hold then suddenly you're holding it right at the balance point of the knife.  Instead of being blade heavy, it's surprisingly comfortable in the hand.  Held like this you could do more fine knife work, whittling, or close carving, shaping.

For how big it is, this knife is surprisingly versatile.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The First Line of Survival

There are a million different priorities that come to mind when someone thinks about a survival scenario:  food, water, shelter, first aid, etc.

One of the many things that most survival posts seem to miss, or not prioritize well, is physical fitness.  This doesn't sound like that big a deal, but there is a huge difference between a fit prepper and an unfit one.

The first big difference is how efficient your body is at utilizing nutrients and creating energy.  If you live a sedentary lifestyle than not only is there the mental challenge of survival but there is the physiological challenge. You're going to be more active, eating foods that you aren't necessarily used to, and you are going to be in shock mentally and physically.

There are a few simple exercises that you can do that will increase your potential for survival.  Walking is probably the biggest and the easiest.  In almost any scenario vehicles will be secondary to foot travel, if you aren't used to walking, your footwear, and your foot care than you are seriously in trouble.

Walking is a good exercise, 20-30 minutes a night will make a drastic increase in your physical ability.  It's good for you physically, mentally, and will definitely help if you need to be able to do some serious walking in the future.

Most of us have a fairly sedentary lifestyle.  We come to accept this because physical activity isn't exactly necessary in this modern world.  However, for thousands of years, physical activity was a necessary, daily activity.  In a survival situation, being physically ready will be almost as important as having supplies ready.

Can you walk 20 miles with your BOB?  Can you hike, climb, and run in a 40lb pack?  If the answer isn't a fast "yes" than you need to seriously consider more physical activity (or a much lighter pack).

It's not all that difficult, you don't need to hit the weights every day, going for a nightly walk will put you miles ahead of most average citizens.  Just think of the mental benefits, knowing that if you need to walk 20 miles you can.  Slowly add in some running, some climbing, swimming, and physical travel will seem like an average day to you.

If your schedule keeps you from a decent work out schedule, try and find some way to be active for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week.  This doesn't need to be anything fancy, jumping rope, jogging in place, walking, anything that keeps you moving for 30 minutes.  First off, your body will get used to using nutrients as fuel for exercise.  Remember, simple sugars are best for extended endurance events (long distance running, cardio level walking) but you have to get your body used to using those fuels DURING the exercise, not just before and after.  Carbohydrates for before and during, 1/3 carb to protein for recovery afterwards.

Also, you absolutely have to test your footwear thoroughly.  If you need to bug out, don't grab the brand new hiking boots, grab the beat up sneakers in the corner.  If you haven't put a hundred miles on them, worked out any problems, they aren't any good for survival.  A blister in new shoes might not seem like a big deal for a mile or two, but after 5-10 miles it becomes an immobilizing problem.  Practice good foot care, get used to treating foot problems, and your best mode of transportation will keep you going much, much further.

Endurance athletes and soldiers have a very disciplined approach to foot care.  They are constantly paying attention to "hot spots" or any other potential warning sign of any foot issues. They notice those little things and attend them early, dedicated practices like that will keep you moving when others fail.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Keep foot care kits in your bag, vaseline, moleskin, and athletic tape (or duct tape).  There are pre-made kits available at many websites.  The Zombie Runner version is my favorite.  There's so much there you could probably split this kit into two or three smaller kits and spread them out between your supplies.


There are also a variety of foot care books on the market.  "Fixing Your Feet" is widely considered the 'bible' of foot care.  It has very in depth, practical, descriptions of problems and their solutions.  I have a copy and have used it as a reference for many situations.

Your fitness and your feet will keep you alive, they need as much, or more, attention than anything else you are currently researching.  Do you need binoculars in your BOB?  Maybe.  Do you need your heart, lungs, and feet to be in good condition?  Definitely.

Gear Review: Cold Steel Shanghai Shadow

Ok, so I'm going to start by acknowledging that this isn't really a practical survival knife.  I know that.  It's double sided blade means that it isn't very practical for shaping wood or skinning game.  All great 'survival' knives are full tang, good hilt, thick grip, and almost always one sided.

The Shanghai Shadow popped up on Amazon's little scrolling panel "Customers who viewed this also viewed these".  It was so cool looking, and fairly inexpensive, that I wanted to check it out.  Along with a couple more 'practical' survival knives I added this one to the shopping cart.

It came in this week and I wanted to give a quick review and later on a little more depth.

This is a very cool looking knife, that's why I picked it up in the first place.  I mean, look at this thing, it just screams "THIS IS... SPARTA!!!"

The knife is weighted extremely well.  The balance point is right at the cross bar, which makes this knife feel incredibly light and fast.  It came with a nice edge, not as sharp as it could be, but a couple minutes with a wet stone and it'd be in great shape.

Ok, now a couple of complaints about it.

There is this huge chunk of unshaped metal between the handle and the blade.  It didn't turn out that great in the photo above, but believe me this is a huge eye sore.  I'm not sure why they didn't shape it down to the cross bar (which is also much thicker than it probably needs to be).

Second, the sheath holds the knife securely but looks cheap.  It's just one big chunk of plastic.

Third, from the photos on Amazon I thought this was some kind of Karambit style knife.  That is, that the loop was for a finger, to help keep the blade secure in the hand.  However, this is not the case as far as I can tell.  With how long the handle is, there's no way to put a finger or thumb through without having an awkward grip.  See the two photos below.

The next photo is a comparison between the Shanghai Shadow and a Karambit I picked up at a local Martial Arts Supply store.

The Karambit is a knife that has some serious history in Asia and in Asian Martial Arts.  The loop is for the pointer finger (most novices put their pinkie through it, have the blade facing up).  This knife is meant to be an easy to use self defense knife.  By putting the index finger through it, you form a fist comfortably around the knife.  Anyone who can throw a punch suddenly has a very dangerous self defense technique.

So, the Shanghai Shadow isn't a very practical survival knife, it's not a particularly practical self defense knife.  What is it?  What is it good for?

I pondered over this for a while.  I mean, I had the knife, now what was I going to do with it?  It seemed such a waste to just toss it in a drawer and forget about it.

After a while I came up with a fairly AWESOME use for this thing.  It might not make the best knife, but it would make one hell of a spear head.  Split a nice thick piece of wood about six inches down.  Take off the handle of the Shadow and put it in the split.  That blank section above the handle and the thick cross bar make easy points to secure the head.  Add in another splice or two a couple inches down and you have one hell of a spear.

Look!  I fixed it!  I took off the handle, wrapped it with 8 feet of 550 cord, and I have a ready-made Spear Kit!  That big blade, double sided, makes a perfect hunting spear head.

Forgive the sloppy wrapping job, I followed some very good instructions but whipped it up pretty quick so I could do this post.

To wrap your own knives, check out this link: