Monday, May 24, 2010

Amazon Sales on Swiss Army Knives

FYI, Amazon is heavily discounting Swiss Army Knives. No emergency/survival kit is complete without one.  (Yes, that's an Amazon Associates link.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Safepacker Holster

In a previous post I recommended bringing a pistol along with you when taking a walk in the woods for defense against both criminals and animals, especially wild or unrestrained aggressive dogs.  When carrying a pistol it is important to have a good holster which will both protect the gun and allow for easy access.

The gun I've carried the most frequently is a Smith & Wesson Model 640, which is a small 5 shot revolver.  It's small enough to fit into a pocket.  I've frequently carried it in a pocket holster in a cargo pocket in my EOTac Field Jacket.  However, I've wanted to pack something with a bit more punch and that's easier to shoot under stress. I also wanted something with a higher capacity, after encountering a couple of unleashed dogs simultaneously.

Since I don't need to be concerned with large wild animals in Pennsylvania (I am not worried about black bear), this meant one of my 9mm autoloaders -- a Springfield XD9, Browning High Power, or SIG P225.  (I might be willing to go with a 6 shot revolver if it's a medium frame piece in .38 Special or .357 Magnum.)

Concealed carry was also desirable.  Although open carry is legal Pennsylvania (including in Philadelphia so long as you have a concealed carry permit) it tends to draw unwanted attention from law enforcement and urbanites unaccustomed to anyone other than a cop carrying a pistol.

Based on these requirements and reading several reviews posted on some online forums, I decided to give the Safepacker from The Wilderness a try.  I ordered on in the "Commander" size which would fit any of the pistols mentioned above.

The Safepacker is made from nylon fabric over a closed cell neoprene foam core.  The main body of the holster has two compartments, one for the gun and the other for a reload.  The main compartment is covered by a flap which is secured by a fastex buckle.  The front edge of the main compartment is closed with Velcro, allowing an easy draw.  The flap also has hidden pocket secured with Velcro.  On the back there's a wide belt loop that wraps around and secures with Velcro on both the back and the front.  The top has a hand carry loop and two D-rings for adding a shoulder strap (not included).  The Wilderness ships Safepackers with a small carbiner snapped to one of the D-rings, to hold your keys, etc.

My Safepacker is black and could be easily mistaken for a case for binoculars or other gear, as it doesn't really look like a holster.  Fabric and stitching are of high quality and don't look like they would show appreciable wear for quite some time.

After receiving the Safepacker I tried it out with a few of my pistols.  As expected, the XD9 and Browning High Power fit perfectly.  Out of curiousity I also put my Springfield M1911A1 in it.  The Springer is a full size 1911 with a 5" barrel and despite my Safepacker being labeled as the "Commander" size, my full size 1911 fit fine.

I also tried it with my 1952 Polish Tokarev which fits well, as does my 2" S&W Model 15 revolver.  It would probably take up to a 3" K-Frame as long as it had a round butt.  A 2" J-Frame fits with plenty of room to spare. I'd like to find a 2.5" Ruger Speed Six to try but they are pretty uncommon.  Anything larger will require the "Government Model" size Safepacker, or larger.

As with any holster, how comfortable it is when carrying depends in large measure upon your belt.  You can have the best holster ever made, but if you hang it off some wimpy belt it will flop around, droop, and generally be uncomfotable.  For the past several years my everyday belt even when I'm not packing has been a Mitch Rosen gunbelt purchased from Dillon Precision.  It's stiff and supports the weight of a holstered handgun well.  The Wilderness sells their "Instructor" belts which are also suitable for use as a gunbelt, but would look out of place in my normal business casual dress.

After using the Safepack for the first time I am quite pleased with it.  The wide belt loop stabilizes the entire unit on my belt and it's comfortable to wear.  The loop will allow you to attach the holster to a backpack's waistbelt, something most holsters cannot accomodate.  Accessing the pistol is similar to other full flap holsters, though I find the Fastex buckle especially easy to undo while still being secure.  It's definitely easier than releasing the flap on a GI M12 holster, for example.  Further, the design of the Safepacker lends itself to use as a pistol case for transport to and from the range or for storage.

If you're in need of a well made flap holster which offers excellent protection for your gun, while at the same time not looking like a holster, you should give the Safepacker from The Wilderness a very close look.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Do You Have a Backup Water Supply?

Most Americans take a reliable supply of safe drinking water for granted.  For most of us, it's a given.  However, this weekend the greater Boston metropolitan area was placed under an advisory to boil water due to a rupture in a gigantic underground water pipe.  Over two million folks were affected.

In other locales safe water supplies have been interrupted, for example, many areas of the Gulf Coast lost most major utilitites, including water, after Hurricane Katrina.  Aside from natural disasters, there's also the specter of terrorists contaminating the water supply or attacking treatment plants.

 There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for a water supply interruption:

  • First, store some water in your home.  Empty 2L and 3L soda bottles work well for this.  Clean them out thoroughly with hot soap and water, add a drop or two of plain, unscented sodium hypochlorite bleach, and store in a cool dark place.  Bottled water from the store is of course fine, but more expensive than doing it yourself.  FEMA recommends storing a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days' worth.  This is really cutting it close, especially for hot environments when you may be expected to be exerting yourself, e.g., cleaning up hurricane damage.
  • If you have advanced notice of a possible water supply interruption, fill your bathtubs and any buckets you have.  Even if this water isn't drinkable you can use it for flushing toilets.
  • Second is having a water filter.  The small hand pump units sold for use by hikers work but require a lot of manual effort.  Better are gravity based units.  I recently bought a Katadyn TRK Drip Gravidyn Water Filter from  The Katadyn unit basically consists of two stacking plastic buckets and three filter elements.  You pour contaminated water into the upper bucket then wait for it to drain through the filters into the bottom bucket.  You can then get your filtered water via a spigot in the bottom bucket.  The Big Berkey Water Filter System with 2 Black Berkey Filter Elements
    is a similar system but is made from stainless steel instead of plastic.
  • It's also a good idea to keep a gallon or so of chlorine bleach around for disinfecting water.  The EPA recommends using 8 drops per gallon, while the American Red Cross recommends twice that.
  • When disinfecting water, whether by using bleach or a filter like the Katadyn or Berkey, it's a good idea to strain it through something like a coffee filter or cloth first, if it's at all cloudy.  Doing so will extend the life of your filter and help remove unpleasant crunchy bits.
  • In my opinion, boiling water is the last resort for making it safe to drink.  Boiling takes time and uses fuel, both of which may be in short supply after a disaster.
Safe drinking water is critical for sustaining life.  Think ahead and get prepared so that if your supply is interrupted you have something to fall back upon.