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.

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.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Urban Camouflage

In a lot of survival circles they advocate military surplus gear, chest rigs, Alice packs, BDUs, etc.  A lot of that gear is good quality, efficient, and fairly inexpensive.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with military surplus but it isn't always the best option.

I mentioned in the previous post on survival shorts that sometimes there is a benefit to blending in with the crowd.  Unless you're facing an invading army, and probably even then, camouflage probably isn't the best option for get-out-of-town clothing.

"Urban Camo"

Yes, there is such a thing as "Urban Camo".  It's a digital camo in all shades of black and grey, it's supposed to break up your outline in an urban environment.  I'm not sure how effective it is in military or law enforcement applications, but for the average person I think there's better options.


Or even better...

You could walk around and ask everyone for empty cans, bottles, change, and you'd still be invisible.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Survival Shorts

In the past, whenever I've thought of clothing for "bugging out" or survival situations I've automatically assumed I would wear pants.  Probably some kind of cargo or tactical pants, like some surplus camo or hunting pants.  They have obvious benefits, heavier duty pants won't fall apart, they protect your legs from the random scrapes and cuts, protect your legs from the environment, and usually have well placed pockets for carrying the multitude of survival supplies.  Overall, pants are a must have in your survival wardrobe.

However, today had me rethinking things a little bit.  It was f***ing hot out.  I was running some errands after work, wearing some khakis, and sweating my *** off.  That made me start thinking about how much "fun" it would be to hike around the island, heavy pack on, in pants and boots (yes, those are sarcastic quotation marks).  I'd be losing valuable electrolytes, uncomfortable, and probably developing blisters in all the wrong places.

So, that put a little kink in my mental survival scenarios.

That's what got me thinking about "survival shorts".  That doesn't mean abandon all pants, just that warm (HOT!) weather clothes don't seem to be discussed all that often in survival circles and so I thought I would bounce around a few ideas.  Wear the shorts, keep the pants in the pack, or vice versa as the situation dictates.  Something like swim trunks might be another good option, work in warm weather, work in the water, etc.  There are some serious benefits to shorts in a survival situation (in addition to having pants).

First, obviously they will allow your body to cool more efficiently in hot weather.  This helps avoid excess sweating (loss of precious fluids and electrolytes), the blistering, and the discomfort.  In hot weather, shorts would be a nice, if not essential, addition to preps.  In some climates you might hike all the time in pants, so shorts wouldn't be as essential, but in the southern months or warmer climates short could make a huge difference in your ability to cover distance.  And I don't know if you've ever tried swimming in pants but it isn't fun.

Secondly, in an emergency situation you probably don't want to be the guy or gal that stands out.  When you're "bugging out" of your neighborhood wearing your tactical pants, Alice pack, and chest rig might draw the wrong kind of attention (let alone firearms, but that's a whole other conversation).  Someone in shorts, t-shirt, and a hiking pack will raise a lot fewer eyebrows.  That might be the difference between  a successful bug out and a very abrupt, unsuccessful attempt.  Whether it's law enforcement or unfriendly neighbors, you want to get out of town without being stopped, so clothing should be something you keep in mind.  Some Suburban Rambo is going to pipe up "Yeah, but I'm so scary when I'm all geared up nobody is going to F with me!"  Well, that might be partly true but it seems to me that the better option is to avoid being noticed at all.  Either way, you should be thinking about how you look in your chosen survival clothing.

Ok, so having shorts is a good idea, what are some things to look for when picking our your "survival shorts".

(Hint: Not these)

Comfort, that might seem obvious, but keep in mind that you might be hiking in them for an extended period of time.  You really should test them out before deciding if they're the right ones for you, even a minor discomfort can turn into blisters really quickly, which would certainly hamper your movement (another overlooked piece of clothing is a good pair of compression shorts, good for avoiding those poorly located blisters).

Fabric, you want to find something light weight but durable.  I would avoid cotton because it takes a long time to dry (leading to blisters and discomfort), and doesn't wick sweat very well.  Blended fabrics, or technical fabrics with polyester and nylon are generally better choices.  They also tend to flex better, breath better, and less prone to wear and tear.

Pockets, find shorts with pockets that are a good size and arranged well for your uses.  Also, check how the pockets close.  Maybe you prefer velcro, or buttons, or zippers, but make sure that the pockets will keep your valuable secure.  I have one pair of really comfortable shorts that I love but every time I sit down my keys fall out.  In a survival situation you wouldn't want to lose your knife or something after a pit stop.

And finally, you want to consider the short's coverage.  I don't know if you're into hot pants or not, but those probably aren't the best choice.  I have a pair that cover my knees (thankfully, they are just short enough to not be "capri pants", wouldn't want to lose man points), which would probably be ideal for my situation.  If I need to do any kneeling than my knees are protected but they breath well and are cool enough for this Hawaiian heat.  I've seen some nice 5.11 shorts but they stop mid-thigh, which doesn't offer as much coverage as I'd like (or want to be seen in).

I've found a couple options online but you would probably have better luck at your local department store.  I think 5.11 has a pair of slacks that zip-off into shorts and back again.  Something like that might be an interesting option if they fit all the other criteria.  If you don't find anything at the store the easiest option would be to buy an extra set of your favorite "tactical pants" or some surplus military pants and cut them off at your desired length.  I've done that to a couple of older military issue BDUs and was pleased with the results.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Tasty Addition

I was at the supermarket today and noticed an interesting offering.

I really, really wanted to do a VS post on this "Hot & Spicy" Spam, but I couldn't think of anything to compare it with other than... well, other varieties of Spam.  But that didn't seem like all that interesting of a battle, though I have to say I was surprised at the wide variety of Spam products offered.  Especially in Hawaii, it seems there's a version for every taste.

So, I picked up a can of my trial product.  I sliced it up and fried it.  It looked exactly the same as regular Spam only with a reddish tint.  However, I was very surprised at the difference when I tried a bite.

This stuff is not bad at all.  I'm not a particular fan of Spam, it's a little too "generic meat product" for my taste, but this surprised me at how a little Tabasco sauce changed the flavor.

 It's almost like going from a cheap hot dog to a spicy sausage.  The quality of the meat and the content are obviously the same between the regular Spam and the spicy stuff, but the difference between the tastes is pretty dramatic.  And I don't just mean the spice, it only has a little kick to it, but it totally changes the taste.  I'm not sure if it's there's some chemical change when they added the tabasco or if it just adds flavor to an otherwise bland product, but this stuff was actually pretty good.

I chopped some up and mixed it in with some chili over some rice and was very pleased with the results.  

It cost the same as the regular Spam.  I didn't see any bulk packages of the stuff, it's probably not very cost effective to prep one can of Spam at a time, but I'm sure it's out there.  It might take a little more searching than the generic stuff, but it might be worth the effort.

So, if you're looking to add a little variety to your preps, something to spice up an otherwise boring meal, this stuff might be just what you're looking for.

Guns by Stephen King

In case you haven't noticed, I like firearms a lot.  I like their shape, their engineering, the variety, the culture, the practice, and the focus it requires to get the perfect shot.  Obviously, I'm a fan of the Second Amendment that allows me own these firearms.  However, that doesn't mean I'm totally against gun regulation or controls.

I also read a lot and I'm a huge fan of Stephen King, so when he came out with a Kindle Short called "Guns", I picked up a copy.

This is an extended essay on Stephen King's opinion on gun violence and gun control.  It's a no BS take that doesn't pull punches toward any group or party, he pretty much mocks everyone involved and all of the politicians.  He also discusses politics in general and American culture.  I would call it a page-turner but I'm not sure that term really applies to an essay.  Lets just say it was a quick and interesting read.  His wit keeps it rolling along well.  I think it's worth a read, whatever your opinion on gun control (Hint: King is for it).


In the end he agrees with a lot of the President's proposed legislation.  Universal background checks, limits magazines to 10 rounds, and ban "assault" rifles.  He backs it with studies and examples.

While I don't agree with some of his points, and I don't necessarily agree with the conclusions he draws from his examples (granted, I'm fairly biased), it is an interesting read.  It is at times funny, thoughtful, respectful, or even sadly retrospective.  It is as well written as all of King's works.

If you are a fan of gun control, or King, or just looking for an interesting read, you should check out "Guns".

Now a couple of thoughts in response to to his conclusions:

The two points that I disagree with are the ones on magazine restrictions and the ban on "assault" style rifles (and the misuse of the term "assault" drives me nuts these days.  They mean 'military style' semi-auto rifle, not one with selective fire).

First, the magazine restriction is a hindrance to legal firearm owners and does nothing to limit illegal use.  Look at two guys with Glock pistols, one trying to kill the other.  The legal owner has 10 rounds (or 7 if you are in New York) and the illegal owner has the 15 round magazine that gun originally came with (or an after market 33 round mag).  Or what if two (or more) criminals break into your house, you're ability to defend yourself is hampered against those that don't follow the law.  Another point, many "restricted" magazines are standard magazines with a block installed that limits the capacity.  A criminal can simply take the block out to go back to the larger capacity.  On the other hand, it's harder to justify the 30+ round magazines that are available for some rifles (unless preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse).

I totally agree with the universal background check and closing the gun show loop hole.  Those decrease the likelihood of criminals and crazies buying guns.  I'm also OK with waiting periods, as frustrating as they are, because that would force any emotions to cool.  Those are two concessions that I think gun owners should make because they could actually make a difference.

As for the "assault" rifle ban, it would block the most popular rifle in America, the AR-15.  Banning a certain weapon will only mean that other weapons get used by criminals and crazies.  I think a better option would be to make legal gun owners liable for their fire arm, how it's stored and used.  Or require fire arms to be locked up (you could exempt one or two for home defense when the owner is home), or require specific security measures for specific fire arms.  After all, the owner goes through the back ground check, their family, friends, or robbers don't.  I think that would drastically limit access by those that couldn't pass a check.

As a legal gun owner I have no empathy toward anyone owning, carrying, obtaining, or using firearms illegally.  I absolutely support logical gun control that limits the illegal use of firearms.  It's just too bad that so many of the proposed restrictions do more to restrict legal owners than the criminals.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More Knives and Throwing Some of Them

If you've read a few posts, you know I'm a bit of a knife freak.  Seriously, I need to start making my own knives, I spend way too much money looking for the perfect ones.

Here's a few of my newest purchases, all pretty nice and none of them were over $35:

Left to Right: BladesUSA Throwing Set, Kershaw, Buck ErgoHunter and another Buck

The BladesUSA throwing set I picked up on Amazon for about eight bucks.  I just wanted something to play around with without blowing too much money.  They are about perfect for a starter throwing knife, cheap, and they seem to throw halfway decently.  Downsides?  They are a little light, which is good and bad.  They don't penetrate very well so you have to have a decent throw for them to stick in the target.  As you can guess, the sheath they come with is very cheap but seems to hold all three knives pretty well.  They probably won't last long, but for eight bucks, I'm not complaining.

The two Buck knives here really impressed me with the feel of their grip.  Both were thick, heavy duty rubber.  They feel great in the hand and definitely won't slip, even when wet.  This first one, the ErgoHunter is designed for right handed use.  In the right hand it is amazingly comfortable.  I guess that means if you're left handed it won't feel right.  There is also a weird patch of "rough" metal near the base of the blade.  I'm not sure if that's for fire starting or what, but it looks odd.  Doesn't seem to affect functionality though.  The blade is an interesting shape and would probably work well as a skinning knife or for general camp use.

I couldn't find the name of this model on the Buck website.  I got it at Cabela's and it's probably my all time favorite general purpose knife.  Great blade thickness, it has the same material as the ErgoHunter for the handle but is a much more ambidextrous grip.  This is also the knife that was borrowed from me during the Hog hunt to knife one of the hogs.  Not to get into too much detail but lets say it was extremely effective.  This is my go-to knife for camping and anything outdoors.  Not too shabby for $20.  If anyone knows which one this is, let me know, I'd love to order another couple of these guys.

Like the previous Buck knife, I couldn't find this Kershaw model on their website.  This is a really nice little knife, the kind of thing that would have been perfect for Boyscout camp when my hands were a little smaller.  Now, I generally prefer something with a more sizable handle for easier use.  Nice steel, good thickness, definitely a quality knife, just wish it had a different handle.  It also came with a nice, if not fancy, leather sheath, which is a definite plus in my book.  More on this knife later.

As usual, I'm very critical of knife sheaths.  Most manufacturers tend to skimp when it comes to how the knife is carried.  However, I'm pleased to say that both Bucks and the Kershaw came with very durable, practical, if not particularly pretty sheaths.  All hold the knives securely, will fit comfortably on a belt, and yet easily release the knife when needed.  The Buck sheaths are some kind of thick canvas fabric with formed plastic sleeves for the actual blade inside.  My only complaint would be that sometimes the blades rattle against the plastic when moving around.  The Kershaw, as mentioned earlier, has an effective, all leather sheath.

Now for the fun part.

I recently purchased the Gil Hibbens book on knife throwing (also from Amazon, purchased at the same time as the BladesUSA throwing set).  Well, it's more of a pamphlet than a book, but it had a couple interesting passages and a few good tips.  I would consider it a pretty basic introduction to the concepts of knife throwing, if you already know the basics than I would recommend getting something a little more indepth.  I had purchased the above BladesUSA throwing knives so that I wouldn't ding up any of my nicer knives learning to throw them around.

One of the things in the pamphlet that caught my eye was when the author mentioned that lots of knives can be used for throwing.  I had always thought that a knife needed to have some special balance or something, but I guess it doesn't need to be that specific.  He had lots of examples, many of which I never would have considered throwing...  folding knives, fighting knives (Kabar, who woulda thought?), hunting knives, etc.  So, of course, I got out my extensive collection of knives and tried throwing them all.  Bwuuuuhuuuhahahahaaa!!!  I was surprised at how many of them actually worked pretty well.

Yes, that's the Kershaw stuck in the zombie's neck.  I told you I would mention it again.  Obviously, the knives designed for throwing were the easiest, but the Kershaw threw as well or better than the BladesUSA.  Neither Buck did too bad, which surprised me because they have such large handles.  Kind of fun throwing a knife that heavy into a faux Zombie.  Almost makes me feel sorry for him.  Almost.  The Kershaw seriously impressed me though, it might not be my favorite camp knife but it's definitely my favorite throwing knife.

For survival purposes, I'm not entirely sure how practical it is to throw one of your primary tools.  In most situations it would make far more sense to make a throwing stick or something similar.  However, if you ever thought it might be fun to throw around your knives... you're right.  It's a ****ing blast!  You definitely need the zombie target though, it just adds the right ambiance.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"What Will You Do If They Come For Your Guns?"

I have to say, I think that is probably one of the dumbest questions I've ever heard.

There is a thick streak of conspiracy theorists on the Survivalist websites, and that question has been bouncing around a lot recently.  Normally, I would ignore the conspiracy theorists but I had an interesting encounter the other day that prompted me to share some thoughts.

I was standing in line to register a new pistol.  The line was amazingly long, as it has been for the past two months... not too difficult to figure out why.  So, of course all of us were BSing as we waited in line.

The middle aged gentleman in front of me started to tell this story to a couple young rednecks ahead of him.  I'll paraphrase it here.

"You guys hear about the government in New Orleans?  The story was leaked by one of the SWAT officers, he took video and posted it on YouTube.  It only took them two days to get the video blocked and taken down, but that's how it got out.  The City wanted to know what would happen when they took away people's guns.  So, they got the SWAT team to raid a couple houses and demand any firearms they had.  The owner's didn't do anything, just let the officers take the guns.  They did this at a bunch of different houses and no one did anything about it!  Oh, they wouldn't get away with that at my house!"

It was at this point that I broke in to his conversation,  "Dude, if some SWAT team broke down my door and demanded my guns, I'd hold my hands up high, and point them to the safe."

"No way, man!  I'd show them my guns, fully loaded, barrel first!" wink, wink, nudge one of the rednecks.  They laughed.  I just shook my head.

First off, that's just a ignorant response.  It's like guys talking about who's caught the biggest fish, bagged the biggest buck, etc.  Guys talking themselves up, being stupid.

When someone in uniform yells "Freeze!  Police!", you're first reaction should be to f***ing freeze!  Then patiently await further instructions with your hands motionless and visible.  If you're first reaction is to do anything else, you're just stupid and going to make things worse.

"What will you do if they come for your guns?"

Secondly, no one is talking about taking away all of our guns.  They are talking about restrictions, there's popular support for restrictions.  However, there is no popular support for banning ALL fire arms.  I dislike politicians as much as the average person, but even I realize that they thrive on mass support.  No massive support, nothing gets done.  Hell, most of the time nothing gets done even with massive support.

If you have a problem with the the current legislation proposed, then get in contact with your legislator, gather support, and exercise your rights in the Democracy.

And then, if someday the police want to take your guns, you give them up, and then call a lawyer.  I'm sure the NRA would be happy to foot the bill.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How Freakin' Cool is the Biolite Stove?

Technology and camping are two topics that don't typically mix that much.  Occasionally you'll see some new upgrade to a fabric or tent design, but electrical engineering and the outdoors don't seem particularly compatible.  However, I saw a product on a survival forum that blew my mind and I had to share it.

The Biolite Camp Stove, $129

This is a small stove that uses the heat generated in the stove to power an electric fan and generate electricity to charge electrical devices.  The fan pulls air in through the orange portion of the stove and into the main chamber, making the fire more efficient and generating power.

It charges through a standard USB port and will charge almost anything that uses a standard USB, smart phones, Ipads, etc.  Obviously, you would need to double check the manuals for the device and for the stove to make sure it's compatible before you plug it in, but it looks incredibly versatile.  For example, I have an emergency radio that could be charged with the stove in the field.

 It's small, light weight, and relatively inexpensive.

There are other options out there but they don't appear to be as versatile.  There are small solar panels and windup generators you could get, but according to the Biolite website this thing generates more electricity and faster (20 minutes of charging provide 60 minutes of talk time according to the website).  Plus, it will work day or night, cloudy skies or not.

It might not be the perfect solution but it certainly seems like an extremely cool.  It's definitely going on my wish list.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DIY Cool Cheap Firestarter

I've done a couple posts on firestarters and a DIY version of my cotton balls in vaseline kit.  Ordinarily I wouldn't go over such well trod ground, but I saw this video on another site today.  I thought it was so cool that I would try and share it with all of you.

I know what I'll be making next weekend.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

So... I was browsing Amazon. Cold Steel War Clubs

Isn't that a great way to start a blog post?  It's almost as good as starting out a story "So, I was drinking with the guys one night..."  You just know what follows will be worth your time.

Anyway, I was bored this afternoon and decided to see what kind of hunting vests I could find on Amazon.  I'd seen one at Cabela's when I was on holiday and regretted not getting it.  I figured Amazon would have a decent selection.

They did, but they also have that "customers who looked at this also looked at..." bar.  I hate that bar.  That bar has probably led to me spend two or three times as much money on that friggin site.  I'm on a cool product, then I see three other cool products in that bar.  I check out those products, on each of those pages the bar will lead me to three other cool products.  It's exponential, which I'm sure is exactly why they have it.

So, I get off of vests and on to back packs.  Then I get off of back packs and on to swords somehow.  That's cool, I like looking at knives and swords.

Then this thing pops up:
Cold Steel Gunstock War Club ($35 dollars, Amazon)

My first thought is, of course, "holy sh*t, it's the perfect Zombie club!"

I'm a dork, I know.

There has been a long standing debate in certain zombie killing forums over what the best melee weapon would be.  Popular selections are swords or axes, bladed weapons, but those run the risk of getting stuck.  It's all too easy in the movies to lop off a zombie head without missing a beat, but the reality would be far more difficult.  Bone, ligaments, muscles, are all designed to keep body part attached, separating them isn't all that easy.  You're weapon gets stuck, you're f*cked.  For most zombie 'experts', the consensus is that a club is the best option.  It can deliver enough damage without the risk of it getting stuck on bone.  The only problem with clubs is getting tired out swinging the weight around.

This Gunstock War Club weights in at 2.2 pounds, almost three feet long, is angled like a kukri for added leverage, and has a 3 inch blade on the other side.  This design is historically proven, if you've ever seen the newer "Last of the Mohicans" you've seen this style before.  Don't believe me?  Look at nearly every club ever made, thin handle, about 3 feet long, with a weighted end.  Many also had that angle near the head too for added punch.

Pretty freakin' cool, if you ask me.  I'm not entirely sure how practical it is, maybe for home defense, or maybe as a hunting stick.  It would probably be pretty effective for hunting rabbits or birds.  And, obviously it would be bad ass against zombies.

I want one.  I really, really want one.

That and the S&W M&P 15/22 and I'll be totally set up for Z day.

Oh, and if that doesn't tickle your fancy this thing popped up on that magical bar:

Cold Steel Indian War Club ($40)

Edit 01-21-13:  And I was beaten to it again.  The guys over at Zombie Go Boom have already posted two videos on the Cold Steel Gunstock War Club.  The first the Gunstock club against zombies, the second is for general survival uses, clearing a window, throwing for hunting (I thought of throwing it for hunting rabbit or small game, I didn't think of throwing it to hit something with the blade point).



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pistol Caliber Carbines

There is a propensity with gun nuts to downplay the value of a pistol caliber carbine.

For those of you who don't know, a pistol caliber carbine (PCC) is a rifle that fires a lower powered round that is typically associated with a pistol.  For example, a .357 fired out of a lever action rifle.  The extra barrel length gives the gas a longer time to expand, creating higher velocities, increased accuracy, lower bullet drop over a distance.

A lot of gun nuts consider the PCC to be an intermediate, and therefore pointless, long arm.  They say that a pistol round is better out of a long arm, but not as good as a rifle round out of a long arm.  "If you're going to carry a rifle, why shoot less effective rounds?"  Technically, and ballistically, they are correct.  A rifle round is almost always better than a pistol round out of a rifle, that's what they were designed for.  However, a pistol round is far more efficient, with less kick, and more accuracy out of a longer barrel.

It's my opinion that those gun nuts are being a short sighted (no pun intended).  I love the idea of the intermediate firearm.  Kind of like the scout rifle concept, the idea that a firearm can be used adequately for multiple purposes really appeals to me.  A PCC is a good example of this.

If you want a long range hunting rifle, there are plenty of long range hunting rifles out there, but they are exactly long range hunting rifles.  Not much good at anything else.

Just like a hand gun for personal defense, they are designed for their purpose specifically.  Not much good for accurate distance shooting.

Gun nuts want a rifle that is exceptional, a general purpose firearm is almost by definition average... but it's average at a lot of things, an expert at none.  Personally, I like the idea of a firearm that can be used for multiple purposes over carrying multiple firearms that each have a specialty.

There are quite a few PCC options out there.  I lean toward lever actions, there are plenty of good revolver/rifle combos out there.  .22lr, .357, .44 mag, .45lc... Historically, cowboys liked having a long gun and a pistol that used the same ammunition, that way they only had to carry one.  So, cowboy combos are easily adapter to a pistol-rifle combo.

However, in this modern age, there are quite a few options for semi-auto rifle and pistol combinations.  With a little research, it's quite possible that your favorite mag fed semi-auto pistol has an equivalent carbine.

If you like Glock, there is a Hi-point carbine for you.

If you like Beretta, there is a Beretta CX4 storm for you.

Even the M1 carbine, which shoots ".30 carbine", has a Ruger revolver that uses the same round.

Almost all of the big gun manufacturers have a PCC available, that uses their variety of magazine and ammunition.  It's only too bad that there isn't a good PCC that will take a large variety of magazines, it would make acquiring and matching magazines so much easier.  Personally, I like Glocks but want a CX4... those magazines don't match up.

Or you could look at something like Mech Tech where you can convert your favorite pistol into a PCC.  This is of course depending on your local laws.  There are a couple of companies that offer packages like this, it's an interesting option.

The other benefit is the range time fun... They're a blast to shoot, very low recoil, and pistol ammo is usually far cheaper than rifle rounds.  For a box of common ammo it is around the same price, around $25, but rifle rounds usually come in a box of 20, pistol rounds usually come in a box of 50.

The PCC might not be the best at anything, but it will get the job done in most situations.  That's what I like about them.

Right now, it might be the M&P 22 and the M&P 15 combo.  Or I could do the Rossi R92 and the Ruger Blackhawk.  Neither option is too shabby, if you ask me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Best Zombie Rifle Ever?

So, I was reading this good Zombie novel, "Still Alive..." by A. C. Thorne.

I love a good Zombie book and "Still Alive..." is definitely one of the better ones.  There are a couple of sappy chapters but overall it's one of my current favorites.  It's one of the few zombie books with a strong female main character (written by a woman, I'm thinking), that is action packed, surprising, and very well written.  Several times it caused flash backs to the novel "I am Legend" by Richard Matheson, a classic, which I'm sure was intended by the author.  Over all "Still Alive..." is a very good read and I hope that the series continues soon.

One of the things that caught my attention in the book is the main character's main weapon.  She stumbles onto a "tactical" .22lr semi auto rifle and uses it very effectively.  From the description in the book I'm thinking it was an AR style .22lr, like the Smith and Wesson M&P-15/22.  At one point she is critical of another survivor that didn't make it, who used larger calibers.  She thought that the semi-auto .22lr with hi-cap magazines was far more effective than a hunting style rifle in a larger caliber.  Able to shoot rapidly, can carry lots of ammo, low recoil, accurate, and with high capacity...

Ok, interesting idea... normally I would have forgotten about it and moved on, however, a buddy of mine had just purchased an M&P-15/22 ($500) and was taking it to the range this weekend.  I invited myself along to see if maybe it might actually be the perfect zombie killing rifle.

A couple of things I should mention first; I'm not a fan of semi-auto in general (they just aren't as much fun at the range), I'm not a fan of "Black Rifles" (I don't like the look of military-style rifles), and the idea of having an AR in the .22lr caliber seemed really idiotic.  If you're getting an AR, why not go for a real one in 5.56?   Or, If you want a semi-auto .22lr, why not get a 10/22?  Cheaper and less ugly.  But I decided to try it out and make an attempt at keeping an open mind.

I had a f***ing blast.

I had so much fun that the M&P-15/22 is now high on my wish list.  Seriously, I want one.  Bad.

My buddy had no idea what he was buying, he just thought it would be fun toy.  So, before we went to the range I helped him get the sights set up, got the rifle cleaned, and range ready.  It was incredibly easy to clean, easy to set up, came with nice iron sights (it has a two size flip-up ghost-ring sight, easily adjustable).  It was mostly plastic, extremely light weight, and I was a little worried how it would hold up at the range.

There was no reason to worry, this thing was a freakin' tank.  After I got it sighted in, this thing was a tack driver out to 100 yards.  That would have been cool, but what amazed me was how light the kick was, which meant extremely fast follow up shots.  I mean, keep both eyes open and you could acquire targets, fire, and be back on target in a fraction of a second.  It cycled flawlessly (only one misfeed, which I think was probably a fluke) over 300 rounds.

We were at the silhouette range and the semi-auto was addictive.  There were two lines, 50 yards and another at 100 yards.  The iron silhouettes were about 1ft by 1ft.  At 50 yards I could hit the targets faster than 1 per second, going down the line either direction.  And it's so quiet, so quick handling, so little recoil, it almost feels like it's a toy.

Bang, Ping, Bang, Ping, Bang, Ping, Bang, Ping... as fast as you could acquire the target and pull the trigger.  It was almost video game easy, too easy.  Reload the magazine, back to work.

I thought a .22lr AR was stupid, but even if you just look at the cost vs range time ratio it's worth picking up.  I typically spent at least $50 in ammo for some decent time at the range.  I mean, cheap pistol rounds are 25-35 cents, most rifle rounds are between 50 cents and a dollar.  .308 for my Scout Rifle is almost a dollar a round.  Rifle shooting gets expensive fast.

However, you can buy 500 rounds .22lr for 20 bucks.  You just can't beat .22lr for cost and weight.  It's easy on the wallet, easy to stockpile, and you can easily carry hundreds of rounds.  Maybe you want to train, get used to an AR, or a cheap plinker for the range, or have a fun rifle for the youngsters, then this would be a fairly inexpensive way to do it.  Or maybe you should keep one in the closet, just in case there is a zombie apocalypse.

This rifle is so easy to use, so accurate, so simple, that it is freakin' awesome.  Defend against zombies, fun at the range, easy to use... this thing is awesome.

I've seen a lot of arguments about whether the .22lr is powerful enough to take down zombies.  The round is so small and low powered that it really limits the ability to get through a skull.  I'm not a ballistics or forensic expert, but I'll give a quick opinion on it.  .22lr in a pistol would probably be effective out to 20-30 feet, depending on your accuracy (any further than that and I think you'd have to be an exceptionally accurate shot).  Out of a rifle though, I think you could extend that range out to around 50 yards, again depending on your accuracy.  Accuracy is such a huge factor because the .22lr is such a small round it's far more susceptible than other rounds to glance off the skull rather than punching through.  The shot would need to be a direct, straight-on shot.

I hesitated to think that a .22lr would be a good zombie killer, with accuracy and speed being so vitally important.  However, this M&P-15/22 has me seriously considering it.  I think you'd be hard pressed to find a rifle that can shoot as quickly and accurately.

So, I think I'm going to have to pick up one for myself.  It'll be cheap fun at the range and when the zombie apocalypse happens I'll let you know how effective it is.  Now I just need to talk Hornady into making these in .22lr...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gear Review: Dewalt Steel Toe Work Shoe

Currently, my job entails spending half my time behind a desk and the other half of the time doing fairly dirty, rough, slightly hazardous contractor work.  So, I needed a pair of "shoes" that could do double duty, not look out of place with slacks and a polo shirt, but also protect my feet when I get put to work (the other contractors I work with keep a second pair of "safety shoes" in their car, I wanted to find one pair that could do both duties).

I picked up a pair of these Dewalt Steel Toe Work Shoes at Sears for about $69 bucks, they are all black and gray except for a few reflective patches.  They aren't as pretty as dress shoes but they look way more professional than sneakers, and don't stand out in slacks.  They are also non-slip, steel toe, shoes so they were plenty are plenty of protection too.

Overall, I have been very impressed with how these shoes fit and hold up.  They fit like a combination between a sneaker and a hiking boot.  My feet have been comfortable, secure and protected in these Dewalt's.

I think these shoes might be the best of both worlds, comfort and protection.  They're comfortable, light, and yet provide more than adequate protection in most any condition.  Plus, these things have enough grip that I wouldn't feel unprepared wearing these on a hiking trail on slippery rock or mud (we've got plenty of both in Hawaii) and yet they look good enough that I wouldn't feel self conscious wearing them to the board room.  No other shoe I've found has offered that kind of versatility.

For the price and the wide variety of uses, these shoes (short boots, really) are very hard to beat.  Fit and feel like a sneaker with the protection of a boot.  Also, I happen to think they look pretty darn good too.  Seriously, the best of both worlds without a huge price tag!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Almost My New Favorite Rifle: Auto-Ordinance M1 Carbine

In general I'm not a fan of semi-auto rifles and pistols.  There's nothing wrong with them, there really isn't, I just think firearms that require more interaction are more fun to shoot.

Take a single action revolver, in my opinion is a whole lot more fun at the range than most other pistols.  It makes you slow down, put a little more time, energy, and thought into shooting.  To me, that's more fun.  It also makes me more accurate since I'm not just throwing rounds down range, each shot is a very deliberate process... not just pulling a trigger.

I think that's probably the same with rifles, that the reason bolt action rifles are widely considered more accurate is because it forces the shooter to slow down.  I also think that the lower the capacity, the more careful the shooter.  If you only have five rounds you make them count, if you have twenty than you are more likely to shoot first and question later.  More input from the shooter and fewer round capacity means slowing down, there is more of a process between each shot being fired, and ultimately I think that makes a shooter more accurate.

However, the firearms that I like to shoot have their limitations.  For most people a single action revolver  doesn't make a lot of sense for self defense compared to even a modest semi auto.  Semi autos usually have larger capacity, quicker follow up shots, and faster reloading.  So, obviously semi-autos have a place, I just never really enjoyed shooting them very much.

All that said, I decided I wanted to add a semi-auto rifle to my growing collection.  I really like the collection I've got going and decided to continue adding variety.

So, of all of the times to go to the gun store looking for a semi-auto rifle, this was probably the absolute worst time to go.  I wasn't looking for an AR-15 or AK, I was thinking maybe a Ruger Mini-14, but quite literally the three stores I went to were cleared out of any semi-auto rifle over a 22lr.  I would have been good with getting a 22lr semi-auto but they were all AR variants (I'm not a fan), or 10/22s in garish colors (I mean that literally, there were greens and purples left).

Then, at the last store I went to I saw something interesting.  Just like the others, the semi-auto shelves were bare... this one had one last rifle.  I'd never seen anything like it and asked if I could check it out.  It came with a folding stock and had a beautiful wood forestock and handle.  It almost looked like an old version of the AK but was obviously a smaller caliber.

Turns out it was an M1 Carbine, a WWII replica of a paratrooper's rifle built by Auto-Ordinance and Kahr.  I'd heard of the Garand, but never the M1 "carbine" before.  I did a little research and realized that I really should have heard of it before, it's a pretty cool rifle with a very cool history.  Check it out yourself, if you need more info there are many, many M1 carbine fan sites out there.

The more I looked at it, the cooler it seemed.

The 30 carbine ammo is not a particularly good round for hunting or survival scenarios (it's actually called ".30 carbine" and you're not likely to find it laying around).  The round looks like a skinnier version of the .357 and hasn't been common for decades.  It's also pretty similar balistically to the .357 out of a rifle.  It's a little weak for a rifle round, only really usable out to around 150 yards, and it was mostly issued to support troops in WWII.

.38sp vs .30 carbine

.38sp vs .30 carbine

Despite being less common, because of it's small size it's cheaper than a lot of rifle ammunition, about $25 for a box of 50.  Almost the equivalent of most pistol amunitions.

I decided to go for it, the rifle was just quirky enough that it caught my interest.  I like getting those looks of "WTF is that?" when I uncase my rifle at the range.  This rifle would be a unique addition to my collection AND it was semi-auto.  Score one for the weirdo.

Then comes the real question, how did it do at the range?

First time out?  I don't think I hit the target.  It took some cycling to get it running smoothly, the first few times it was pretty rough.  It also had an issue with feeding the last round in the mag.  I think that was stiff springs in the mags, which should break in, causing the last round to get stuck half way inserted.  Otherwise, it was a blast to shoot.  This thing kicks about the same as a .38sp out of a lever gun, which is hardly more than a .22lr.  I think I was grinning ear to ear with each shot, it was just a blast to shoot.

I looked it up later and accuracy problems are a pretty common with these rifles the first time out.  Out of manufacturing they leave the front site too tall.  This is also had a non-adjustable flip-up rear sight, one for 100 yards and the other for 200.  I'm going to have to do some playing to get it up to the accuracy I would expect.  The only other complaint that I had is that the rifle isn't actually "blued", it's painted and scratches fairly easily.

But man, is this a cool carbine.  It's pretty, I love all the wood.  It's easy to disassemble and clean.  It barely kicks, and it's fun to shoot.  It's a unique addition to most anyone's collection.  Even with the few small issues I had, this rifle is quickly creeping toward the title of "Favorite Rifle".  It makes it me smile everytime I shoot it.

For all you survivalist types, this is probably the lightest rifle I've ever held.  You pick up my rifle case and it feels empty.  Seriously, the whole rifle weighs in around 5lbs.  This paratrooper folding rifle, you cold sling it over your shoulder and forget about it until you need it.  The ammo isn't common, but it is fairly light and inexpensive compared to actual "rifle" rounds.  Besides, with how light the rifle is you could compensate by carrying more ammo.

At $990 dollars it isn't the cheapest rifle, but for that price I can put up with the few complaints I've got (they're all easily fixed).  I'm definitely looking forward to getting the sights adjusted and having some fun throwing lead the next time I head to the range.

 And I found out that Ruger makes a Blackhawk single action revolver in .30 carbine.  Apparently, it's very, very loud and intimidating.

Ruger Blackhawk .30 carbine


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.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hog Hunt pt 3

The next stop after mine was Grandpa and my Daughter's stand.  They hadn't seen anything all morning.

It turned out that no one else had even seen a single hog, let alone the numbers that had stopped at my feeder.  At my feeder there'd been at least five hogs for over an hour, with several coming and going.

We drove back to the main camp, they took my hog to get gutted and cleaned.  I got on a another swamp buggy to go with Grandpa and my daughter and the other hunters with the dogs.  Grandpa wanted my daughter to see all of the hunt and they hadn't seen anything yet.  We drove around for a while we saw buffalo, deer, and a variety of birds before letting out the dogs.

We came across another group and decided to follow them since Grandpa decided not to get one.  This other group had already gotten a couple of hogs but they hadn't reached the limit yet.  It was a grand father, a father, and his two sons.  They had gotten two hogs, wounded another and never found it (despite the fact that they had found blood and large chunks of bone from the shoot), and were out to get two more.

Hunting with the dogs was interesting.  The dogs get the scent, chase the hog down, grab it by the ears and keep it pinned until the guides could get ahold of it.  The guides would grab the hind legs, pin it down, then the hunter would kill it.  I wasn't particularly interested in this part of the day, it didn't seem very sporting, but we wanted my Daughter to see it for herself, see how she would handle it.

The dogs grabbed a hog and the older of the two sons was volunteered to shoot it in the head with a 30-30.  He did so, my daughter covered her ears.  It was a good sized sow, they loaded it up with the others.  The guide came over and asked who had a decent knife.  I showed him mine and he said it would work, that he would need it at the next stop.

The next time the dogs got a hog, the guides pulled it out of the brush, and pinned it down.  The guide borrowed my knife and handed it to the father who used it to kill the hog.  Despite what I would have though, it was a surprisingly humane way to do it (assuming the person hits the right spot).

Grandpa hadn't gotten a hog and declined the opportunity to get one with the dogs.  It wasn't the kind of hunt that we were looking for.  If he didn't get one from the stand he didn't need to get one at all.  I'm not surprised that Grandpa didn't go for it, I'm not sure I would have either.

The guide's wife was along for the "hunt".  She was very interested in getting my daughter involved, if only to familiarize herself with the whole process.  She convinced my daughter to get a picture taken with the knifed hog, she's grinning ear to ear.  So much for worrying about how she would handle it.

Then it was back to camp.  My daughter was surprisingly interested in the skinning and butchering of the hogs.  Rather than being disturbed she was fascinated as the guides went about their job, getting the hogs ready for butchering.  She watched them being skinned, gutted, and cut up without a hesitation.  That's far more than I can say for myself at her age, I'd probably have been puking my guts out.

All in all, we all had a good time.  We got to drive around in cool buggies, I got a hog, we got to see a lot of animals and have a lot of stories to tell.  I guess it's time to break out the .22 and get her to the range, next time she probably won't be satisfied just tagging along for the hunt.