Sunday, December 04, 2011

New Mobile Format

This morning while poking around in my Blogger Dashboard I saw that they now offer a mobile device viewing option, which I’ve enabled for both Survival & Emergency Preparedness and Blog O’Stuff. Hopefully, this will make both blogs more accessible to mobile users.

DMT Dia-Sharp Diamond Sharpening Stones

Sharp tools are important for a couple reasons. First, they require less effort to use. Second, because it requires less effort when cutting something, a sharp tool is less likely to slip and cause an injury than a dull tool.

When I was a kid my father taught me to sharpen knives using Arkansas bench stones. I used them exclusively up until a couple years ago, when I tried a couple of other methods. The first was sandpaper  on top of a mouse pad, to create a convex edge. The second was a Spyderco Sharpmaker. I have found the Sharpmaker to be an excellent tool for sharpening knives as long as the edge wasn't too dull, or damaged. However, its stones are too fine for major reshaping of an edge.

Recently, it became necessary to sharpen a Wustoff paring knife that had become very dull. However, I could not get an acceptable edge on it with any of my existing sharpening implements. I decided to pick up a couple DMT Dia-Sharp bench stones from Amazon. I bought two, one coarse and one fine.

The DMT "stones" are really 8" x 3" steel plates with one side coated with industrial diamonds. Each weights a couple pounds, which helps keep them in place on your workbench. They also come with rubber feet. DMT says you can use them dry or with water as a lubricant, but not to use oil. I found they worked beter with some water than dry, as it helps to keep the swarf from clogging the surface.

The coarse stone allowed me to put a proper bevel on the paring knife, after which I was able to get a semi-decent cutting edge with the fine. However, it wasn't as polished as I wanted, so I used my Sharpmaker to get a good cutting edge on the blade.

Compared with a hard Arkansas stone, even the DMT Fine is a bit coarse. I will probably buy an extra-fine grade DMT Dia-Sharp stone for final edge polishing when using them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Packing and the Friendly Skies

Here's an interesting article describing why if you must fly, having a firearm in your checked luggage may be the best way to prevent your bags from being pilfered.

{H/T Sipsey Street Irregulars.}

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So, can you sew?

{Old guy}Back when I was in junior high school, everyone took Home Economics classes, including cooking and sewing. Nowadays you're lucky if a kid can tie his shoes.{/Old guy}

Every so often I'll read a comment by some he-man type to the effect that sewing is women's work. Horse crap. Sewing is an important survival skill. If you know how to sew, you can make, repair, or modify clothing and gear.

For example, I recently bought a puukko from Cloudberry Trading via It's a great knife and came with a high quality, handmade sheath. Unfortunately, the sheath is right handed and as anyone who's read this blog has seen, I am a southpaw. I first tried to come up with a mod to the sheath to enable lefty use, but it came out looking bad. So, I decided to make a new, left handed sheath.

It's nothing fancy but it's sturdy and works well. 

First, I made a pattern from cardboard. The sheath is made from three layers of leather about 1/8" thick each: the front and back, and then a middle layer which covers the stitching so that the knife cannot cut through it. After laying out the pieces I secured them together with rubber cement.

Since you can't easily poke a needle through 3/8" of leather, I used my cordless drill and a 1/64" bit to drill the holes for the thread. The thread is artificial sinew, basically the same as waxed dental floss but colored brown. It's strong and being made of polyester won't rot.

Once I finished sewing the sheath together I used Fiebling's #121 Medium Brown leather dye to color it, then gave it a good coating of Sno-Seal after the dye dried.

I now have a unique piece of equipment which suits my needs and which cost me under $20.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Prepping for Civil Unrest

Prepping for civil unrest is beginning to take on a new urgency, in my opinion. Over on Blog O'Stuff, I've posted here and here some pictures of the Occupy Oakland and Occupy Philadelphia crowds, respectively. When you have persons like the Mayor of Oakland and the President of the United States openly voicing support for communist revolutionaries within our borders, it isn't a big stretch to see this spreading and becoming more violent.

IMO, ff you live in an urban area you should be prepared with sufficient food and water to last out a week's worth of rioting at a minimum, along with fire extinguishers, first aid supplies, and the means to defend yourself and your home.

Don't get caught with your pants down.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reminder About Your Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

I'm sure anyone reading this blog has both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in their home. If not, do the right thing for safety and get them installed ASAP.

While fires and smoke are easy to see and smell with your own senses, CO is invisible, tasteless, and odorless. In short, it is dangerous because it combines with the hemoglobin in your blood and interferes with oxygen transport to body tissues. More info here.

My house is a split level, so I have two of each. One of each type is installed in the downstairs hallway outside the closet in which our furnace is located. The others are located in the hallway upstairs outside our bedrooms. My house was built in 1957, so I'm using battery powered units.

More modern units may be hard wired for electrical power. You can also get detectors which have a battery backup. That would be a good idea, since if fire or a CO problem strikes your home while the power is out you need to be alerted.

Tonight when I walked in after work I was greeted with the chirp from the downstairs CO detector which indicated that the batteries were low. While I was replacing the batteries in that one I also got did the upstairs unit. CO detectors have limited lifespans. When first introduced they lasted as short as two years, but more recent units may be good for up to seven. I checked my CO detectors and they are supposed to be good for seven years, but the manufacture date on them is 2005, so I'll be replacing them shortly.  I just ordered two Kidde KN-COPP-B Front Load Battery-Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Digital Display units from (yes that's a referral link) for delivery Thursday.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Homemade Firestarters

If you were ever a Boy Scout this post is probably old hat to you. ;)

I did some testing tonight with one of the egg carton, dryer lint, and canning wax fire starters I made a couple weeks ago. To light it I put some unwaxed dryer lint on the top and lit it with sparks from a firesteel (ferrocerium rod).  These will of course light readily with matches or a lighter.

Unlit fire starter:

After about a minute:

At six minutes it's going strong and giving off quite a bit of light:

At 14 minutes. As you can see the flame is getting lower.

Finally, about a minute and a half after the previous picture, it finally went out. There were still embers of cardboard glowing now that all the wax was burned off. This pic was taken after 16 minutes:

It burned pretty hot and since the flame lasts long it would be very good at lighting wet sticks. I haven't tried it myself but I have read of guys using one of these with an Esbit stove to boil water for tea or soup.

The cost for one of these is minimal, really all you need to buy is the canning wax, and you could substitute wax from candles that you can often buy for pennies at yard sales. I recommend using dryer lint from loads with mostly cotton clothing or towels.

Be very careful when melting wax. Use a double boiler and it's safest to do it outside, just in case it ignites.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stoeger Coach Gun Range Report

I have a brief range report on the Stoeger 20 gauge Coach Gun that I bought earlier this month.

I was able to put about 10 rounds through the gun today.  I patterned both barrels with Remington 2-3/4" No.3 buckshot, and the equivalent from Federal. At 10 yards both loads and barrels will pretty evenly saturate the -1 zone of an IDPA target.

I also fired some Remington 2-3/4" "Slugger" slugs from 25 yards. At that range the right barrel seems to shoot to point of aim, while the left barrel is high and right.

Recoil was noticeable but not too heavy. Even though the Stoeger lacks a recoil pad, it was more pleasant to shoot than my H&R 158 Topper 20 gauge, which is about a pound lighter but has a factory recoil pad. With a good pad like a Pachmayr Decelerator or a Limbsaver, the Stoeger should be downright nice to shoot with defensive ammo.

I had one light primer strike which resulted in a failure to fire. I think it's because I failed to fully disengage the safety for that shot, and there was enough drag on the hammer to cause it to give light primer strike. Until I have the safety modified so it's manual-only, I need to make sure that I'm mashing it into the fire position.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Stoeger Coach Gun

A lot of people -- including myself -- favor a shotgun as a home defense weapon.  Shotguns combine effective terminal ballistics with limited range, which is ideal for the majority of Americans who live in urban or suburban areas. The most common shotguns chosen for home defense are slide or pump actions. Good quality pumps are readily available at modest cost, especially if you can find police trade-ins.

Another kind of shotgun which has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past 10 to 15 years is the side-by-side double.  This is due to the popularity of cowboy action shooting, or CAS.  Most CAS shooters use a short side-by-side double commonly referred to as a "coach gun," the name coming from their use in defending stagecoaches in the Old West.  Probably the most common of the modern coach guns are those from Stoeger, who describes them thusly:

The Stoeger Coach Gun was developed in response to the demand for a value-priced, short-barreled scattergun for use in Cowboy Action Shooting. The sawed-off shotgun has been romanticized in hundreds of Hollywood Westerns as the stagecoach guard’s weapon of choice, and this one is as handsome as it is affordable.

Also a potent home security gun, the Coach Gun is chambered for 2-3/4” and 3” shells in 12-gauge, 20-gauge, and .410 bore.

The Coach Gun is available in blue, matte nickel, and polished nickel-plated finishes. The Nickel Coach Gun has a polished nickel-plated receiver and barrels and a black-finished, hardwood stock. The Silverado Coach Gun features a matte nickel receiver and barrels, and a standard stock with pistol- or straight-style grip, or an English stock—both in satin-finished American walnut.

The Stoeger Coach Gun is built on the same action as their Uplander hunting gun, one of which I've had for several years. The Coach Gun is basically a shorter version of the Uplander.  Aside from the length, the primary difference is that the Uplander's barrels feature interchangeable choke tubes, while the Coach Gun has fixed Improved Cylinder and Modified chokes.

They Stoeger doubles simple, robust guns designed around a box lock action.  As with most doubles, they feature extractors rather than ejectors.  (Ejectors are required in CAS.)

Today was a vacation day and since the weather was absolutely crummy, I went up to Cabela's instead of going shooting as I'd planned. While there, I bought a 20 gauge Stoeger Coach Gun.  One of the reasons I bought it is for possible use as a home and camp defense gun, as well as something to take on road trips.

While in my old post about my Uplander I expressed some reservations about a gun with extractors for HD, viewing this video from Clint Smith has caused me to reconsider.  The vast majority of civilian gun usage involves no shots being fired.  In the event that shots are necessary two rounds of 20 gauge buckshot will probably suffice, while practicing my reloads will make keeping the gun running feasible.

My Coach Gun is well finished and has some pretty decent looking wood on it. Actually, the forearm is really nice, with a lot of curl.  The bluing is even and the metal has a good polish.  The action is a bit stiff but that will improve with use. 

After I got it home I took the gun down to clean off the factory preservative and properly lubricate it.  While I had the gun taken apart, I lightly polished the bearing surfaces with some Flitz metal polish to help speed the break-in period. I'd wanted to remove the stock from the action so I could hose out and relube the mechanism, but the stock bolt is tight and I couldn't get it to budge.  The stock bolt has a hex head with a slot for a large screwdriver. I have one that I bought so I could remove the butt from my Uplander but this gun's bolt ain't moving. I'll have to see if I can get a socket on a long extension down the bolt hole and remove it that way, then put some anti-seize on the threads before reassembling it.

Anyway, why would I want a coach gun for defense when I have a couple of perfectly good pumps?  A couple reasons. First, both my pumps are 12 gauge and too much for my wife to handle.  A 20 may be easier for her.  Second, a double gun with 20" barrels is short, really short.  For example, comparing the Stoeger with my Remington 870, the Coach Gun is at least 4" shorter, even though both guns have the same barrel length.  The double doesn't have a reciprocating bolt behind its chambers, enabling the gun to be much shorter.  Additionally, the manual of arms for a double is simpler than that of a pump shotgun.

The light weight and short length of the Coach Gun make it very fast handling. With the butt tucked under your shoulder it doesn't protrude very far in front of you, making navigating one's home easier.  I wouldn't generally recommend trying to clear your home if you think there's an intruder, but some homes may require you to navigate from one part to another to protect a loved one.

I also mentioned camp defense as a potential use.  My friends and I go truck camping at least once a year in Tioga County, PA.  It's a very rural area and while we don't expect crime, there are black bears in the area, some of which have been losing their fear of humans.  And unfortunately, there are good camping spots around the US where concern about criminals is warranted.  Loaded with slugs, the Coach Gun would be just fine for bear.  For defense against criminals my load of choice would be No.3 buckshot.  Some high brass No.4 shot would be good for taking care of vermin, such as raccoons or skunks.  (Mainly a concern if they are rabid. Rabies is a problem in many parts of the US, including Pennsylvania.)

I also mentioned the Coach Gun for use when traveling.  Double guns take down easily for compact stowage in a vehicle, whether it's a car, boat, or aircraft.  In particular, the Coach Gun takes down into a package that's 20" long.  Related to this, ammo for the 20 gauge I selected is lighter and more compact than 12 gauge ammunition, although the latter remains the most popular choice.

Once I've proven the Coach Gun to be reliable there are a couple of mods I have planned for it:

1. Have the stock cut and a Pachmayr Decellerator recoil pad installed. Along with this I want the length of pull shorted by about 3/4 inch.

2. Have the automatic safety disabled. An automatic safety is tolerable on a sporting gun but not desirable on a defensive arm.  Fortunately, this is a simple modification requiring removal of a small bit of metal with no impact on other functions, and leaves the safety as manual only.

I'll post a range report once I get to shoot it, probably in a couple of weeks.

Monday, August 29, 2011

More Irene Follow Up

I've seen several stories calling the new coverage of Irene over-hyped, and in some measure it was. However, what a lot of folks seem to have forgotten is that even a Category 1 hurricane dumps a lot of rain on an area, and combines it with high winds. Irene may have been no Katrina, but that's far from saying it was a non-event.

I was lucky in that I only had a relatively brief power outage (9 hours, followed by a 1 hour outage). However, I did get some water in my crawlspace which has resulted in my den being filled with stuff that was in the crawlspace, while it dries out.  Combine a ton of rain along with already saturated soil, and you have a recipe for flooding.  Several areas including upstate New York and Vermont have seen massive floods.

Two words I repeatedly heard at work today were "sump pump." A coworker has a home with a wet basement. He'd gone and bought an auxiliary sump pump beforehand and used it along with his primary pump, until the auxiliary unit burned out.  He's looking at getting his yard landscaped to better divert water away from his home, getting his basement waterproofed, and seriously considering an automatic, natural gas powered generator to power the sump pump in the event of a power outage coinciding with flooding.

Over at Snowflakes in Hell, Sebastian and Bitter have posted about their experience in trying to keep water out of their home, along with a few other major inconveniences.

Aside from the flooding, even sub-hurricane force winds can take down trees, which knock down power and phone lines.  We have a lot of people in the northeast without power now, and who won't get it back for several days at least.

Keeping Your Cell Phone Working in a Disaster

Instapundit links to an article at MIT's Technology Review with tips on keeping your cell phone running as long as possible in the aftermath of a disaster.  The article has some good tips but one that is missing is to keep a spare, charged battery with you.  Spare batteries are light and not very expensive.  This is especially important for smartphones, since the large touch screens use up a lot of juice.

For example, after returning to work following the February 2010 Snowpocalypse, when Philadelphia got hit with two Nor'Easters in one week, I had the need to swap batteries in my Motorola Droid. When coming home from work, a railroad switch got frozen and SEPTA (Philly's mass transit provider) dumped me off at Wayne Junction in North Philly.  I.e., da hood.  I'd failed to fully charge my phone before leaving the office, but since I was able to swap in a spare, I was able to call for my wife to come pick me up.

Now that I'm using an iPhone, I don't have a user-replaceable battery. So, I got a Duracell Instant USB Charger with Lithium ion battery, that I keep in my laptop bag. Several other rechargeable batteries are available here.

With cell phones being such an important part of modern communications, and especially since pay phones are now rare, it's important to be able to keep them running in an emergency.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene AAR


It looks like we made it through Hurricane Irene OK.  Last night we started getting heavy rain and high winds.

Power for a good chunk of my neighborhood went out around midnight last night but was restored between 0930 and 1000 this morning. That lasted for about 45 minutes and it went out again. It was restored after about another hour.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll stay up but we still have some high wind gusts, so I won't be shocked if it goes out again.

This morning when I called PECO to report the outage I got a recorded message indicating that they are experiencing very high call volumes and to call back later.

I finished my preps before the storm, including putting some extra water bottles (about 2/3 full) in the freezer, and a bunch in the refrigerator, to help keep them cool in the event of a power outage.  I already store water in empty cleaned 2L soda bottles, plus I filled the 7 gallon jug I take camping.

We made sure that all of our cell phones, iPods, and other rechargeable items were charged ahead of time, but I forgot my Yaesu VX-5 handheld 2m/70cm amateur radio, so that's currently out in my truck charging. I did confirm that the 12v outlet-to-Powerpole adapter works when connected to my Powergate, which is fed from my 70AH gel cell.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ten Things To Do In Advance of a Hurricane

It looks like there is a good chance that the Northeast US is going to get hit by Hurricane Irene this weekend
.  Depending on your location there are several things you can do to prepare, even at the last minute:

1. Ensure you have plenty of food and water.
2. Fill the gas tanks in your vehicles. If you have gas cans fill them, too.
3. If you have a generator, do a test run and make sure you have plenty of fuel.
4. Make sure you have an ample supply of batteries for flashlights, lanterns, radios, etc.
5. If you might need to use an alternative cooking device, have plenty of fuel on hand. E.g., propane, Coleman fuel, or charcoal.
6. Have fuel and oil for chainsaws. Make sure it's working ahead of time.
7. Get some large tarps for quickly covering any roof or window damage due to wind or falling trees. You'll also need some means of securing the tarps - heavy duty cord, drywall screws, or nails.
8. Clean your gutters and make sure any drainage ditches or storm drains are clear.
9. Have a few hundred dollars in cash on hand.
10. Charge any rechargeable electric or electronic devices. E.g., drills, saws, cell phones, iPods, etc.

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but should get you started.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hoppe's M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner

After reading a recommendation for it as an effective, odorless carbon remover, I ordered an 8 oz. bottle of Hoppe's M-Pro-7 gun cleaner from Amazon last week. This past weekend I gave it a try, and based on the results, I am now a fan.

I gave M-Pro 7 a tough test. I went camping over the weekend and brought two guns with me. The first was my Euroarms Rogers & Spencer black powder percussion revolver. The second was my 1945-vintage M-1944 Mosin-Nagant carbine, shooting some early 1960s-vintage Soviet surplus 7.62x54R light ball ammo.

We shot the R&S with 30 grains of Swiss 3Fg black powder. Swiss powder burns cleaner than Goex, but it's still black powder and leaves behind plenty of fouling. We put about 36 to 40 shots through the gun. Afterwards, no more than 6 patches wet with M-Pro 7 got the bore clean. It was similarly effective on the rest of the gun.

The Soviet surplus ammo we fired through the Mosin-Nagant is some of the dirtiest "smokeless" ammo I've shot, and of course it has corrosive primers. I also put a 5 round clip of Hungarian light ball through the gun. Again, only a few patches wet with M-Pro 7 through the bore got it clean. I followed up with a patch wet with Ballistol to verify that M-Pro 7 hadn't left anything behind, and it too came out clean.

We did our shooting on Saturday, I cleaned the guns immediately thereafter, and then I checked them the following Monday. Neither gun showed any signs of corrosion. I ran a patch wet with Remoil through the Mosin's bore and it came out green, indicating that the residual M-Pro7 and Ballistol left in the bore had been attacking copper fouling.

I am impressed with M-Pro 7. It is odorless with no fumes, not flammable, doesn't require any special ventilation, and according to the MSDS doesn't contain anything especially nasty. After years of using smelly, carcinogenic gun cleaners I think I found my new favorite.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Couple Inexpensive, Useful Xterra Mods

My daily driver/BOV is a 2007 Nissan Xterra S that I bought back in April. It's a great truck. After reading the Xterra forum I did a couple of inexpensive modifications. 

First, my baby: 

The Xterra comes with two cargo tie-downs near the lift gate. Unfortunately, they are cheap plastic and will pull out if 
you put to much weight on them. So, I went to Home Depot and picked up a 4-pack of Stanley steel cargo tie-down shackles and a pack of selt-tapping sheet metal screws. I pulled out the OEM tie-downs and installed the metal tie-downs in their place. The screws go into sheet metal under the plastic, so they are secure. I used the left one this weekend to secure a 7 gal. water jug, worked great.

I wanted a mat to cover the plastic floor of the cargo area. It helps to keep things from sliding around and may dampen road noise a little. Nissan wants about $75 for a factory mat. Screw that. Along with the shackles I picked up a 3'x5' rug at Home Depot. Upon getting it home I took out all my crap and laid the rug inside the cargo area. I then used a piece of chalk to trace around the areas I needed to remove, then cut them off. Finally, I sealed the edges with a lighter. It even matches the truck. 

The cargo box is a Contico SUV box that I bought a few years ago at Lowe's. I can highly recommend it. It's made of some sort of hard expanded foam. It does not latch although it does have two places for a padlock. I had to leave it on my back patio over the weekend because I needed the space, and it got rained on heavily. No water got inside the box.

You may notice that I also added a cargo area cover. IMO, if you drive an SUV or a station wagon it's a good idea for security to cover up whatever you keep in the back. What people can't see won't tempt them. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Making a Lockable Ammo Can

I ran across this video on Youtube showing how to make a lockable ammo can, and thought it worthwhile to pass on.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Going to try Hammocking

My annual camping trip to North Central PA is coming up in a couple weeks, and the following weekend I have an overnight hike planned with my brother. The North Central PA trip will be truck camping, so it'll be easy to bring a tent and a cot. In contrast, the trip with my brother will have us hiking a few miles into a state forest. Not being keen on sleeping on the ground, even on a pad, I decided to give hammocking a try.

After reading through the Hammocks forum on Bushcraft USA, and product reviews on, I ordered a Grand Trunk Skeeter Beater hammock. It's nicely made with a polyester taffetta body and a zip-open bug net sewn to it. There are S-hooks attached to each end, and it comes with two cords to hang it, along with some smaller diamter cord to hang the netting. There's also a sewn-on stuff sack for storage.  The hang cords aren't very long and in some places you're not supposed to use rope to hang hammocks because they can damage tree bark. So, I also ordered a set of Hammock Bliss extra long tree straps. The webbing straps don't dig into tree bark like rope, and will allow me to hang the hammock between trees that are further apart.

In case of rain or squirrel poop, I'm planning to rig a tarp over me as a fly. For now, I have a cheap camo poly tarp. Assuming that I like hammocking, I'll probably get a lighter nylon tarp like an Etowah or one of the tarps from the BCUSA store.

To prevent getting bitten by bugs through the hammock, I plan on spraying it down with a permethrin-based bug repellent before taking it into the woods. I normally use DEET-based sprays but it's my understanding that DEET can damage polyester, and the last thing I need is for it to dump me on the ground.

I plan on trying the hammock on the first trip and will post a follow up after I get back.

Monday, August 01, 2011

You know preparedness is going mainstream

... when you see this on the comics page:

The comment about defensive weaponry should be taken to heart, as well as the unspoken lesson about OPSEC.

(Click the comic to view full width.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

UK Surplus Soldier 95 Jacket

Last week I put in an order for some first aid supplies with Warden's Surplus, and I noticed that they had some British surplus Soldier 95 jackets in stock, and amazingly, in my size.  I've always like British uniforms and the price was right -- under $20, so I added one to my cart. It came the other day.

I've posted a full review with more detailed pictures on the Bushcraft USA forum.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Importance of Testing New Gun Gear

I was on vacation today and was able to get down to the range for my first extended shooting session with modern guns since February (I have been on a black powder kick since then).

Today is a good example of why you should try out new gun gear before relying upon it in earnest.

The two guns I brought with me were my Springfield Loaded M1911A1 and my 1943 Underwood M1 Carbine, which is currently fitted with a replica M1A1 folding stock, Ultimak, and Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight. (Purists should note that I can return it to as-issued condition in about 5 minutes.)

I started out with the Carbine. This was my first time shooting it since I mounted the Ultimak and RDS.  I zeroed the gun at 25 yards in about 10 shots. Along with the Carbine I'd brought three 15 round magazines, only one of which I'd used before. The other two were Korean-made mags which I got a couple years ago NIW from AIM Surplus.  I was pleased to see that I had no malfunctions in 100 rounds, mostly fired from the Korean mags.  Ammo was Remington-UMC 110 grain FMJ.

After I got home it looked like the Ultimak mount shifted forward a little under recoil. The barrel band spring on the replica folding stock is not quite in spec, but this hasn't been a problem when there was only a wooden handguard on the Carbine. But the additional mass of the Ultimak and RDS was enough to allow them to shift forward, causing the barrel band to jump the retaining spring. I'll see about replacing it with a GI spring.

I also experienced some annoyance with the Springfield. I wanted to try out two new Metalform 7 round magazines in the gun. I picked them up a few weeks ago from CDNN when they were on sale. From what I've read the Metalforms are good magazines at a low price.

Not in my gun, unfortunately. I had a couple stovepipes and failures to eject. I had a similar problem with a 7 round Springfield magazine that came with the gun. However, I was able to put at least 60 rounds through the gun using two Chip McCormick 8 round Shooting Star magazines with no malfunctions.  Ammo was 50 rounds of Federal Champion and 50 rounds of Magtech. Both were 230 grain Ball, though the Federal seemed a little hotter.

My dad has some Metalforms that have worked well in his 1911s, so I'll give mine to him.

The point to take away from all this is to test new gun gear to see how it works for you, with your guns. Magazines which work well in others' guns may not work in yours. Accessories which seem firmly affixed may work themselves loose when actually used. Live fire is the only true test.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Homemade Firestarters

If you go to any store catering to campers you'll see a large selection of firestarters designed to help you get your campfire going.  Many of these work well, e.g., Lightning Nuggets, but it's simple to make your own firestarters for much less money.  I made some today from cardboard, jute twine, and paraffin wax from the canning section at the supermarket.

To get the cardboard I cut the flaps from an empty beer case, then cut each flap into sections about six inches long.  I then rolled up each piece and secured it with several wraps of jute twine, tied off with a square knot. Then I soaked each bundle for a few minutes in paraffin canning wax in an old pot on my charcoal grill.  After a few minutes I took each firestarter out with a pair of pliers and set it in the bottom of the beer case to harden.

I tested one firestarter by lighting it with a match. It burned for several minutes with a good, high flame. It would work well to help get your campfire going if you had to contend with wet wood.  Note that these won't light directly from a spark but are pretty easily lit with a match or lighter.

Be very careful when melting paraffin.  The safest way to do so is in a double boiler.  It's also a good idea to do this outside in case you have too much heat and the wax ignites.

Aside from rolls of cardboard you can use other household items to make firestarters.  One of the best ways is to take the bottom of a cardboard egg carton and fill each pocket with sawdust or dryer lint.  Use lint containing mostly cotton fibers, such as lint from drying a load of towels.  Then, melt some wax and pour it into the egg carton.  You then cut apart each pocket, leaving you with 12 to 18 firestarters that will burn for several minutes.  Depending on how much help you need getting your fire started, you can even cut each of the firestarters into smaller sections.

Making your own camping gear is fun and can save you some money.  Give it a try.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Travelling With Small Children

Long road trips with small children can be an adventure for various reasons. In an emergency situation when you're evacuating from something like a hurricane or industrial accident, they can be even worse due to packed roads. I want to share some lessons learned in routine car trips that would be applicable to a bugout situation as well.

This weekend we went to a cousin's wedding up in New York. Depending upon traffic the trip can take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours. We've done this trip many times when visiting my family, and we've learned a lot about long car trips with small children. Our girls are now 8 and 6 years old and I wanted to focus this post on kids in that age range.

To preserve your own sanity it's important to have something to keep them occupied. I'm in my 40s and remember well long car trips with nothing to do but read, play games like "spot the pidoodle," and fight with my younger brother. The Sony Walkman and similar devices came out when I was a teen, so I had music to pass the time for the trips my family took then. Nowadays, kids have iPods, game machines like Nintendo DSes, and portable DVD players. We let our girls buy iPod Touches with money they got on their last two birthdays, so they are able to use them for music, a few movies each, and some games. Along with their DSes, the iPod Touches do a really good job of keeping them entertained while I drive.

We always ensure that our kids' iPods and DSes are charged before we leave on a trip. However, the charge might not last for a very long trip, or you might need to leave in an emergency and not have time to charge them beforehand. It's important to have car chargers for each device, and if you're bringing something that would need A/C power to charge, bring an inverter. Recent vehicles like my '07 Xterra are well-supplied with 12V receptacles. E.g., my '97 Expedition had 3, the Xterra has 4. But older vehicles may have only 1 or 2. You can buy splitters, which will turn a single 12v outlet into 2 or 3, and sometimes include a USB charging port. Amazons sells a variety of 12v splitters here.

Another thing you sometimes have to contend with is a sick child. We had that yesterday, unfortunately. It seems that my older daughter's stomach can handle only small amounts of fried or greasy food. Shortly after we got started she vomited. Most of it landed on her, her Pillow Pet, the towel she was sitting on, and the back of the front passenger seat.

Dealing with a sick kid at home is no fun but it's a lot worse on the side of the road. HAving certain items with you will make handling this situation much easier:

1. A change of clothes.

2. Unscented baby wipes to clean off your kid and the inside of the vehicle. Baby wipes are pre-moistened and don't tear as easily as paper towels. I keep mine inside a Ziploc bag so they don't dry out as quickly. You can add water to them if they do.

3. Paper towels are good to have as well; get something like these shop towels, which are tougher than regular paper towels.

4. I'd had both kids sit on old towels during the trip, mainly to catch crumbs, but in this case they helped protect the seat from vomit. A little still got on the seat so I had her sit on a blanket for the rest of the trip.

5. Water to moisten the paper towels and for drinking. Anyone who gets sick will also appreciate the chance the rinse out the taste. We had some bottled water with us but we could have used some more. Today I added a 2 liter bottle to my truck box.

6. Some large plastic bags to hold soiled items. I had some plastic shopping bags but they weren't big enough to hold my daughter's Pillow Pet. Because it was so covered in vomit we just tossed it when we stopped at a gas station about a half hour later, after driving with the windows down.

My Nissan Xterra is a storage compartment built into the front of the roof rack. As explained to me when I bought it, it's for wet items you don't want to bring inside the vehicle. You could also lash bags with soiled items to a roof rack, so bring some string. Paracord is good for this and has many other uses.

I bought some spray air freshener at the gas station which masked most of the stench for the remainder of our drive.

7. Have some Tums and/or Pepto Bismol with you to settle an upset stomach. Also have some Immodium in case someone in your party get diarrhea. If anyone in your group is prone to motion sickness then Dramamine is a must.

One item not specifically related to this post that I consider a must for long car trips is a standalone automotive GPS with up to date maps. I use and like Garmin automotive GPSes. Aside from directions, you can use the GPS to find the nearest hospital.

Make sure you keep your GPS updated. Updating the maps once a year is probably enough. I'd updated my Garmin nuvi 200w before the trip and found that the current maps of the lower 48 now are larger than its storage capacity, so I had to limit it to the Eastern half of the country. I figure that I'll get a new unit sometime next year.

I do not consider phone-based GPS an adequate substitute for a standalone unit, especially if you'll be in areas with spotty cell coverage. Without a data signal, your phone won't be able download maps on the fly, making it useless.

Naturally, it's also smart to have current maps of the areas in which you'll be travelling. The Delorme Atlas and Gazeteers are good.

Travelling with small children can be difficult but you can make it easier with some advance preparation.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beefing Up my Home Security

Over the last year or so my normally quiet suburban neighborhood has experienced several burglaries, some of which have occurred while the homes were occupied.  This has had me thinking about ways to improve my home security.  One of these is by installing a home security system.  I am well aware that such systems do not have the magical effect on prowlers depicted in TV commercials.  However, it does add another layer of warning if it's set off while we're home, and by sending us alerts could keep us from walking into a bad situation if we come home and the house has been broken into.  Home security systems aren't panaceas but they are another tool in the box.

Last weekend I installed a Visonic PowerMax Pro with a built-in PowerLink broadband + GSM module home security system from I chose this particular unit because I wanted a system that is capable of being accessed, controlled and monitored by me over an Internet connection. I also wanted something with GSM backup in case the line to my home gets cut. The PowerLink module also enables you to connect and control X10-compatible devices like lamp controllers and thermostats. I don't currently have any X10 gear but might add a thermostat at some point.

Along with the PowerMax Pro panel I have 3 door/window sensors, 3 motion detectors, and a smoke detector. All sensors are wireless and powered by long-life lithium cells. (I'm capable of running wire but I really don't like doing it.)

I also have two Visonic CAM3100 IP cameras tied into the system. One of them is connected to my home network switch via Ethernet while the other is over WiFi. The cameras have built-in IR illuminators which improve picture quality in marginal light. I don't think they'll work that well in complete darkness, however.

Installation was pretty straightforward after I read through the directions. The installer's guide is pretty good. I did most of the configuration, i.e., enrolling keyfobs and sensors, on my dining room table before mounting the panel on the wall. One thing I made sure to do before connecting the unit to my home LAN was to statically set the IP address of the PowerLink GSM/broadband module to an unused IP on my subnet.

One nice feature of the PowerLink module is that once it's connected to the Internet, it will go out to Visonic's dynamic DNS server and enroll itself, so that in the future to access it remotely in a browser you just open and you'll be redirected to your panel.  The default system nickname is its serial number.  If you know your IP address you can access it directly. (I have a static IP on my home cable modem so I don't need the dynamic DNS service, but most people would.)

The PowerLink web page that is served off the box can be viewed on a Mac or PC, or on a mobile device. There's a mobile-optimized version which you can use and which works OK using my Droid's browser. The web page can be viewed over HTTP or HTTPS.

The PowerLink module automatically takes video clips with the cameras when an alarm is triggered, and will email the videos as .avi file attachments to an address you specify. I have it setup to send me email messages for general alerts (e.g., arming and disarming) and alarms. My cell phone is a Motorola Droid which is setup to access my Gmail account, so I don't need a computer to receive them.

One thing did annoy me about setup: While the installer's and user's guides for the PowerMax Pro are provided in hard copy and pretty good, the manual for the PowerLink module is provided as a web page on a mini-CD. It's pretty minimal and not really all that helpful, IMO. I work in IT so figuring out the networking stuff was pretty easy for me. The mini-CD is useless for people with access only to a slot-load optical drive, e.g., most Mac users. If you're in that boat you'll need to borrow a friend's PC and copy the contents of the mini-CD to either a full size CD or a USB stick.

I got the GSM module working today. This morning I went to WalMart and bought the cheapest prepaid T-Mobile cell phone they had for $14.95, a Nokia 1661. I also bought a T-Mobile prepaid SIM $100 refill card, which is good for a year. WM discounts the refill card a couple of bucks so you save a little compared with getting it directly from T-Mobile.

After getting the phone home and activating it on a pay-as-you go account for $0.10/minute, I installed it on the Visonic panel. To do so you must first disconnect both AC power and the battery backup. All my settings were retained but I did have to reset the system time and date.

I was pleased to see that as soon as I started unscrewing the panel's cover it started complaining about being tampereding. It also called my cell phone with a voice message alerting me that someone was tampering with the panel.

Along with the security system I ordered a yard sign, a solar powered rechargeable light for the sign, and a half dozen window stickers.  Hopefully, anyone casing my house would see them and decide to go after lower hanging fruit.

Once the weather warms up I want to add some defensive shrubbery under the ground floor windows.  When we moved in there was a pyracantha bush outside our dining room window.  Unfortunately it was so overgrown I had to remove it.  That was not fun. Pyracantha thorns go right through leather work gloves, and they hurt.  You'd have to be stoned out of your mind to try to wade through pyracantha.  I'm considering a new pyracantha bush or two out back, and maybe roses or holly out front.

The GSM module is working fine. I'm able to arm and disarm via SMS text message, as well as get a system status report. SMS text messaging to/from my Google Voice number works as well.

This is the first time I've bought a cell phone with a SIM card. I've been a Verizon Wireless customer for my cell phone for going on 10 years and they don't use SIMs on their CDMA network. By moving the activated SIM card to the security panel, you're moving the phone number to the panel. So, text messages from the panel come from the phone number you get when you activate the phone.

Note that before installing the SIM card you should  ensure that the PIN number assigned to it during activation is not enabled (you'd have to enable it on the phone). After installing it into the panel you can enter the PIN code in case the panel needs it for some reason.

The only major glitch I ran into today was that when I wanted to add the prepaid refill card to the SIM, T-Mobile's web site did not recognize the refill card's PIN as being valid. However, when I called T-Mobile's prepaid refill 800-number from the cell, and entered the refill card's PIN, it worked.

The final step will be to arrange central station monitoring. My first plan was to use but it turns out I have an uncle in the business who should be able to get me monitoring at his cost, with no contract.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sinus Irrigation

Some portions of this post may be gross but it was prompted by the sinus infection that I currently have.  Having a sinus infection or allergic rhinitis while your dealing with the aftermath of some disaster is additional stress you won’t need.

Simply described, sinus irrigation is the process of flushing out your sinuses with an isotonic solution of water and salts.  The goals of doing so are to remove extra mucus, allergens, bacteria, etc.  Under normal circumstances your body does this naturally by producing mucus (about a liter per day), which captures airborne contaminants, which you then get rid of by either blowing your nose or swallowing it.  Yummy.

However, when we get sick or have an allergic reaction (e.g., to ragweed or dust) the natural process isn’t enough to clear our sinuses.  Over the counter medications can help, but decongestant sprays like Afrin carry the risk of easily getting addicted to them (BTDT).

Neti pots have been used for nasal irrigation for centuries in India, but the first time I read of sinus irrigation was on Jerry Pournelle’s The View From Chaos Manor.  One summer about six years ago I decided to give it a try, after a particularly bad allergy attack that my prescription antihistamine couldn’t knock out.

 The first kit I picked up was by Ayr.  It worked well and sold me on the concept.  It brought me some additional relief from my allergies.  I’m now using a kit from Neilmed.

After trying it for my allergies, the next time I got a sinus infection I used the rinse to see if it would help.  In my experience it does.  Instead of having a head filled with a mixture of bacteria and snot, the rinse flushes out the infectious brew, which seems to promote healing.  We also now use saline rinses on our daughters when they get head colds and sinus infections.  It provides them with some relief.

To make my rinse solution, I like the Neilmed packets mixed with tapwater.  If your tapwater isn’t sufficiently clean, use distilled water.  You do not want to introduce any irritants or pathogens into your sinuses, you’re trying to flush that stuff out.

The results people get from sinus irrigation varies.  I find it helps both my allergies and sinus infections.  I still need to use a prescription antihistamine with a decongestant much of the year.  Other people have reported better results, while a few find that it doesn’t help, much at all.  It is something you should consider for the medical part of your preps.