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, 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.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hog Hunt pt 2

I'm not sure what I expected Hogs to sound like.  Honestly, I expected them to be pretty quiet.  What little experience I have in the woods has taught me that wild animals are usually far more quiet than people typically think.  I mean, a loud animal in the wild probably isn't going to live very long.  I guess hogs don't have very many predators to worry about (other than hunters, obviously), these hogs made plenty of noise.

It was still so dark that I couldn't see any of them, but I could hear plenty of grunting, snuffling, and squeals.

The sky slowly lightened.  First. I could just make out shadows moving in the shadows.  Then, slowly I could make out individual hogs.  There were four or five of them in a small clearing under the tree with the feeder.  They rooted around the base of the tree and the clearing, looking for food.  They were all black, or at least appeared black in the early dawn's light.  A couple were slightly larger but they were all pretty close to the same size, not that that helped me much.  Between the distance and the dim light I had no idea how big they actually were.  That might sound funny, but the last thing I wanted was to take Piglet on my first real hunt.

Finally, it got light enough that I thought I could make a good shot.  I put up the rifle, took off the safety... and with my next breath I fogged up the scope.  It went from a clear picture to trying to see through milk.  Well, crap.

I quickly realized that the wind was coming from exactly the wrong direction, every time I exhaled with the rifle at my shoulder the scope would fog up.  Then, it would take five minutes or so for it to clear enough to get a good site picture again.  The lenses were far enough inside the scope that I couldn't just wipe them off.  Eventually, I pulled the neck of my jacket up over my mouth and exhaled into my coat.  It was awkward but it worked.

Finally, I got myself situated enough that I felt I could make the shot.

I sighted in on a hog.  That's when I had a sudden thought.  Say I shoot and kill the hog, what then?

Was I supposed to do something with it?  Was I supposed to call the guides to come and pick it up?  I checked my phone, no service of course.  What if I got to my kill and it turned out to be some 20lb piglet?  When were the guides coming back?  Was I supposed to just sit there with my dead hog for two hours until they came back?

I had gotten into this thinking that Grandpa would be there to tell me what I was supposed to do.  The last thing I wanted to do was shoot a hog and then do something stupid and ruin the meat.  Or do something stupid and look like an idiot.

I seemed to remember somewhere that you were supposed to hang it by it's hind legs, cut it's throat, and let it bleed out.  There was something about the blood needing to be out to keep the meat from being ruined.  I really wished I had someone with me that knew what they were doing.  Do I shoot or not?  If I shoot then I didn't know what to do with it, if I don't than I won't learn anything from this experience.

All these thoughts raced through my head, with the cross hairs still on the hog, 70 yards away and oblivious to it's predicament.

I pulled the trigger.  The hog dropped to the ground, the others bolted for the woods and were gone in a fraction of a second.

I had just shot a living creature.  I sat there for a minute, looking down at the hog I'd shot.  I saw it kick it's legs a couple times then it stopped.  I wanted to go down and make sure it was dead and not suffering, but I waited for a while, knowing that there were other hogs in the brush.

I waited about 5 minutes, thinking that was long enough for the other hogs to leave, I came down and started walking down the dirt track toward the feeder.  The palmettos were chest high and incredibly thick, severely limiting my visibility.  There could have been dozens of huge hogs hiding in the brush a few feet away and I would never have seen them.

As I approached the clearing I could hear the distinct, and now familiar sound, of at least two hogs in the brush around the clearing.  They didn't like me approaching, they started grunting and thrashing the brush.  I got close enough to see my Hog was a decent size and wasn't breathing, then retreated back to the tree stand.

Yeah, I retreated.  That moment was a definite challenge to my conception of my manhood.  I tucked tail and went back up my tree.  At least two hogs, unknown size, in their element, definitely creeped me out.

So, I sat in my stand and looked down at my hog.

I'm not sure how long it was, or exactly what thoughts were running through my head.  I sat there and looked at my kill.  Every few minutes I would look through the scope to make sure it wasn't moving.  I kept wondering what I should do.  It seemed wrong to leave it there in the dirt and I still had no idea when the guides would be back.  I would check my watch, then wonder what i should be doing.

Imagine that, a pacifist, staring at his kill for twenty minutes.  It's almost funny.  Of course, there were other things to look at, but my eyes were inexorably drawn back to the black carcass.  It was like a magnet, always drawing the eyes back to it.

Eventually, I decided that I needed to do something, I couldn't just sit there staring at the hog any longer.  I went back down, intent on hanging and bleeding the pig.  I needed to justify the kill to ease my conscience, if the meat was ruined than it would have been for nothing.

So, I get to my hog and get my first real look at it.  He's probably a hundred pounds and covered in scars, an old warrior.  One of things that surprised me was the smell.  I'm not sure what I expected but he smelled intensely like sweet cranberries, like someone opened a can of thanksgiving cranberry sauce and held it under my nose.  I'll never forget it.

The other surprise?  The bullet hit him in the neck.  It was obviously a good shot, he dropped like someone flipped a switch, but that hadn't been where I was aiming.  I'll never know if he stepped back when I shot, or if I had pulled it (I have a history of that), but I had been aiming for a heart/lung shot, behind the shoulder, not for the neck.  If he had stepped forward, or I had pulled the other direction, then it would have been a gut shot and much, much worse for the both of us.

I heard a hog in the brush.  Only one this time, but it was definitely pissed off by my presence.  It made me nervous but I was determined to do something with my hog.

I pulled some 550 cord out of my pack to string my hog up.  I looked around for a reasonable branch but the only ones nearby were in the same tree as the feeder, which didn't seem like a good idea.  To hang it up I would need to drag it at least 100 yards.  I looped the cord around the hind legs and tugged a little, this was going to be awkward.

That's when I realized that my borrowed rifle didn't have a sling.  To pull my hog to a decent branch to hang it up I would need to set down my rifle and use both hands to drag the Hog.  I probably could have thrown the hog over my shoulder but he was an awkward size and quite literally dead weight.  There was at least one other hog in the brush, I didn't want to set my rifle down, but I had no other choice if I wanted to move it to somewhere I could put it up.

Whatever.  WTF.  I put the rifle against a berm, I figured I would take the trip in steps.  Move the hog, move the rifle, repeat, so that the rifle was never too far away from reach.

I set the rifle down and dragged the hog about five feet when the swamp buggy came around the corner.

They looped a cable around the hog's neck and lifted it.  I reached around the hog and got a quick pic.  It bled on my hand, which seemed strangely appropriate.  I hadn't gotten any blood on my hands up until that point.

I grabbed my rifle, brushed off the dirt, and loaded up.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hog Hunt pt 1

When I was a kid my Dad was always trying to get me to go hunting.  I loved going to the range and shooting, but never got into the idea of shooting an animal.  I remember a story He told me one time about the sound of a bear when it draws it's last breath.  He appreciated the animal, made sure that it's life wasn't wasted.  I was more of a pacifist, I didn't like the idea of killing anything so I always kind of brushed him off.

Now a days I wish I hadn't.  When I decided to get into survival skills I realized that I needed to get comfortable with hunting.  All those lessons I could have learned about outdoors skills, hunting, and cleaning game that I missed as a kid...

So, when an opportunity presented itself to go for a hunt I jumped at the chance.  This is the story of what happened, it's not all flattering, some of it is funny, but it's all true.

We were headed to Florida to visit the grandparents.  Grandpa wanted to take my daughter with him on a Hog hunt and I basically invited myself along too.  Grandpa had always been big into hunting, I'd gone moose hunting with him once before but we hadn't even seen one.  This hunt was a guided one on ranch land that pretty much guaranteed we would get something.  We would start out at dawn in stands near feeders, then if we didn't get one we could go hunting with the dogs afterwards.

There was a surprising cold streak in Florida that week.  Temperatures in the mornings were down to 25-30 degrees.  The plan was to get up really early, drive halfway across the state, and get set up before dawn.

My daughter, seven years old, was all psyched to go.  She sat right up as soon as I said her name at 3 a.m., which is pretty amazing since she hates getting up early.  We bundled up in layers, grabbed the guns, some food and water, and set out.

We made it about a mile before we got pulled over.

Grandpa looked at me, I looked at him.  We hadn't been speeding.  I expected a fairly hyped up cop, hand on his gun, to walk up.  It was a little after three am, we were a couple of guys in full camo in a big truck... we were either headed out hunting (so we were armed) or we were drunks on our way home.

Instead, an incredibly attractive young female cop walked up, totally nonchalant, and told us we had a tail light out.  She gave us a verbal warning and let us go.  I'm not sure how wise it is to be an attractive cop, apparently alone, working the graveyard shift, but she seemed pretty comfortable.

We made it to the guide's store a little early so we took a little nap in the truck.  We left it running, it was about 33 degrees out.  The hunt was supposed to start at 6 am, about 10 minutes before 6 a truck pulled in behind us.  The driver walked up, asked us how we were doing, and said to follow him.  We went down the road a ways, onto a dirt track, and down further to the camp.  We didn't know it but the store had been bought out and we were supposed to meet at the camp in the first place.  As such, we missed the informational portion of the pre-hunt, we tossed on our jackets, loaded the rifles, and with barely a word we loaded up on the swamp buggy.

I messed around with the rifle a bit.  I'd wanted to bring one of my rifles, probably the Ruger Scout, but didn't want the hassle of traveling with a fire arm.  The rifle Grandpa lent me was an ancient Browning pump action 300 mag.  He'd zeroed the scope for me (we were supposed to go to the range the day before but everyone had been sick so we didn't get the chance).  It was a pretty nice little rifle, though I didn't like the location of the pump lock.  To rack a second round you had to find the lock next to the trigger, hold it down, and pump the rifle.  I'm sure if it was mine it would be second nature, but on a borrowed rifle I really hoped a fast follow up shot was not going to be needed.

It was at this point that my daughter asked where her rifle was (she'd been practicing a lot with her BB gun and has been getting pretty good).  She was very disappointed when we told her that she wasn't shooting this time, that this was just to show her how it went and see what she was comfortable with.  She'd never seen anything shot before so we weren't sure how she would deal with hunting.  When we first brought up the hunt she seemed fine, but who knew how she would actually do?

The swamp buggy thing was pretty cool, like a suped up truck.  Big tires, the bed was up about five feet and had all the seats up there for spotting game.  We BSed with a couple of guys that were in from out of state, bow hunting.

It was pitch black and freezing cold.  All we could see was the area illuminated by the head lights.  Calling it a road would be an insult to roads, it was basically two ruts worn through the forest from the constant buggy trips.  Branches whipped at our faces, a cold wind seeped through our layers.

We pulled in to our first stop.  The guide pointed at Grandpa and my Daughter.  He took them over to a stand and we set off again.  I was a little disappointed, I was kind of hoping to hang out with them, but I guess they wanted the shooters spread out.

I was next up.  We stopped and the guide pointed out a small tree stand.

"Feeders about a hundred yards that way", he said, pointing toward the dark woods.

I climbed the stand, the guide handed up my borrowed rifle.  Then they left me, alone in the dark.

It was only about 20 minutes later that I started to hear the sounds of Hogs sniffing around in the dark.