Emergency bag repack

Like many folks, I keep an emergency bag in the truck for that occasion when the only thing standing between me and an embarrassing death is whatever I managed to tuck into the bag. In Montana, your choices of how to shuffle of the mortal coil in a vehicle related stranding are pretty easy – you either starve to death, freeze to death, or dehydrate to death. (Or any combination of the above.)

If you’re smart, and I hope you are, you’ll pull that bag out every so often and check the contents for any problems that may have arisen from being stored in a vehicle where temperature swings can easily span 120 degrees.

Case in point: my flashlight. For personal use, I like small LED flashlights that run off of lithium batteries of some sort…either AA or CR123. They are far less sensitive to temperature swings and self-discharge than the usual batteries. For vehicle use, I prefer the Mag-Lite (Yes, it’s actually hyphenated…says so right on the light.)

What I like about the Mag-Lite is that, in the LED version, you have an essentially bomb-proof flashlight. You can drop it and not worry about bulb breakage, it resists mosts damage, and it can always be used for ‘percussive persuasion’ if the situation calls for it. Problem is, the ones I like take D-batts and finding lithium D-batteries is virtually impossible and when you do find ’em….they ain’t cheap. Interestingly, lithium 9v. batts are available…I suspect for smoke detector usage.

When I put the Mag-Lite away in the bag I made sure to load it up with fresh Duracell batteries. I then set aside two extra sets of batteries as well. So they’ve sat out there in the heat and cold for over a year. I turned on the flashlight and compared it to a similar Mag-Lite with fresh D-batts and the results were…illuminating.

20150802_113830Clearly the batteries has suffered over the course of the year, what with the huge temperature swings that make Montana such a delight to try and dress for.

Now, yes, i could avoid this problem altogether by simply going to a flashlight platform that uses AA lithium batteries, which are easy to find. But I want the big, reassuring heft and handling of the large Mag-Lite.

So, the moral of the story here is – change out those in-vehicle flashlight batteries at least every year. And if you really wanna go the suspenders-and-a-belt routine do it like you’re supposed to do with your smoke detectors and change the batts every time you reset the clocks for Daylight Savings Time.

E-tools

Entrenching tools (or “e-tools”) are an interesting thing. I’ve had exactly four of them to date and I don’t recall ever really using one very much out in the sticks. Honestly, when its time to answer natures call and you need to dig a hole, a small trowel like the U-Dig-It tends to be much more practical and packable than the larger gear.

That being said, sometimes you need to dig more than just a hole big enough to drop a deuce. Sometimes you need to dig something outta the ground like a bucket cache, or dig something into the ground like a body. Or maybe you just need to dig a large fire pit, or what have you. Times like that you want the real deal – a folding shovel.

I’ve tried four different ones and still have them all. The first is your typical ‘tri-fold’ military entrenching tool. If you get one of these things, get the real deal..the made in China knock offs are just gonna be trouble. Ask your local Iraq/Afghan vet how to use it as a portable toilet seat. They’re pretty stout and do a good job. They’re a bit heavy, and sometimes hard to find, but they are a solid piece of kit. If you want the least expensive but still want quality, these are a good value.

Next up, Gerber made their own version and it’s not bad. The replaced a  lot of the metal construction with plastic (or ‘polymer’, I suppose) and it still folds up to about the same size as the GI tool. It’s nice, but I wonder about it’s durability. It’s really sort of between the military shovel and the Glock..and for about ten bucks more, you can get the Glock.

After that we have the Glock entrenching tool. I rather like this one, but I’m usually willing to spend the extra bucks. It is very compact, fits most e-tool carriers, and even comes with a wood saw attachment for cutting through branches. Its a straight handle rather than the usual D-handle, but that doesn’t seem to affect function very much. It is pretty light and that is it’s big attraction to me.

And then there’s Cold Steel’s Special Forces Shovel. What can you say? It’s a battle axe disguised as a shovel. Oh, it’ll dig a hole just fine but let’s not kid anybody…it’s a weapon. Sharpen the edges of the blade and this thing will take apart a steer. If you like the Eastern European style of entrenching tools, you’ll like the Cold Steel offering. I used to keep one behind the seat of the truck specifically for its ability to lop the head off of some poor slob. It’s not compact enough to really warrant taking on a backpacking trip through the boonies, but it’ll be your best buddy when you’re parking your truck in a dark parking lot in the middle of the night.

Nine times out of ten, though…the U-Dig-It does what I’m looking for and it does it with a lot less space taken up in my bag and a lot less weight on my shoulders. For hunting/fishing it’s definitely more sensible than an entrenching tool. But, for those situations where you gotta have something a bit more shovel-like I prefer the Glock one.

Canned stuff musings

Another glorious day here in paradise. My local Albertson’s is having a sale on canned goods and I picked up a couple of flats of canned tomatoes and corn. Funny thing is, I had just gone to CostCo earlier in the week and bought some canned tomatoes…and they were more expensive than this sale. So the moral of the story is – you can’t always assume the warehouse store will be cheaper. Now, arguably, they’re not the same product….CostCo’s offering was ‘organic diced tomatoes’ and we all know ‘oganic’ means virtually nothing except a higher price. (And the only reason I picked them up was because CostCo didnt have any other kind of canned diced tomatoes.)

Speaking of CostCo, after a hiatus of a few months they appear to have the canned  Kirkland Roast Beef back in stock. Normally, I turn my nose up at canned meats….they all look and smell like cat food once the can opener punctures the can…but the Kirkland roast beef, once you toss it in a pan for a few minutes, turns out to be darn good. So, why wouldn’t I grab a few of them to put on the shelf?

When it comes to storing all this canned stuff, I usually go with steel wire shelving (also available at CostCo).

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I tlooks good, handles the weight, and is configurable to allow me to have it follow walls and corners. Yeah, it runs about $100 for a six-shelf unit, but pick up a bag of S-hooks and you increase the versatility and get better value out of your existing sets of shelves.

I like these little can organizers from Shelf Reliance. They’re plastic and link/stack together so you can just run ’em along the length of shelving. If you’re truly hardcore, or have a huge enough family that #10 cans a re a mainstay, they also make a similar product for #10 cans. Thats when you konw you’ve arrived.

Of course, any goober with some plywood, a saw, and a screwgun can fab up a similar product on his won but I’m kinda lazy and rather enjoy the consumer experience…so I just buy this sort of stuff.

The sale at Albertsons is for another few days so I’ll see if I can scrape up another few bucks to get some more flats. I’m very painfully aware that food I buy now may someday be all thats standing between me and being hungry.

Bandoleer stuff

Unsurprisingly, I had a bunch of loose .223 ammo sitting aound that really needed to be organized better. A cardboard box full of 1000 loose rounds of ammo is no way to show up for the apocalypse.

When I go to the range, and I’m shooting .223 (or 5.56 [and, yeah, I know they’re different]) I usually pack them in a plastic 50-round ammo box. Other than keeping things neat and tidy, it also keeps me from turning too much money into noise.

But…for packing ammo away for that rainy day, I rather prefer to store .223 in bandoleers.

clips

Classic four-pocket bandoleer set

If you’re not familiar with them, a proper bandoleer contains a cloth bandoleer, ammo on stripper clips, cardboard inserts for the bandoleer pockets, a stripper clip guide (‘spoon’), and a safety pin to hold the spoon to the bandoleer. This is pretty much how they’ve been packing the stuff since Vietnam.

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New-style four-pocket set

The idea is not, as some geniuses would have you think, to carry this stuff around and then load magazines from stripper clips in the heat of battle. The idea is that it’s a convenient way to stage and transport a basic loadout of ammo. Original bandoleers were seven pockets holding 20 rounds each, for a total of 140 rounds. Of course, that was back when 20-round magazines were the norm. Nowadays there are bandoleers out there that are four pockets holding 30 rounds each. I’m a bit of a worst-case-scenario kinda guy, so I go with the seven-pocket bandoleer but put three clips in each pocket.

The bandoleers, spoons, and stripper clips are quite reusuable and its the rare survivalist that doesnt have some of them floating around in the garage or in his junk bin. But those damn cardboard inserts….they tend to get lost, destroyed, and they’re kind of a pain in the ass to source out. Now, I’ve got a shopping bag full of stripper clips, a cardboard box full of bandollers, and no 3-clip cardboard inserts. What to do, what to do…….

Naturally enough, a quick trip to Amazon showed that, yes, you could get the 3-clip cardboards there. Gotta love that instant gratification enabling that is Amazon. Ordered ’em up and a few days later -voila-:

20150607_201414So what do you do with them once they’re loaded up? Well, I dunno what you do with ’em, but I pack ’em away in some .30 cal. ammo cans until the day when I need them. Then I can grab a rifle, a couple mag pouches of magazines, throw one or two of these bandoleers over my shoulder, and head for the hills.

Is this superior to storing your ammo loose in an ammo can? I think so. For one thing, it makes an easy and quantifiable amount…one bandoleer is 210 rounds. (As opposed to a couple fistfuls of .223 which may or may not be enough to fill all your mags.) The stripper clips keep things nice and tidy, and load mags a heck of a lot faster than by onesies.

For range trips, I still use the plastic ammo boxes..but they don’t fit into BDU pockets very well, are noisy, and still require you to load your mags one cartridge at a time…all things that arent really a big deal at the range. I suppose some might question the utility and practicality of the bandoleers but I find them to be a convenient way of grabbing a ‘pre-measured’ amount of ammo, and also a convenient way to carry it.

Local flashlight sale

Years and years ago, the flashlight to have was a MagLite with the ‘Krypton’ bulb. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s these things were practically lightsabers. But…they still used incandescent bulbs (which are somewhat fragile) and sucked down batteries pretty quickly (the tradeoff for lighting intensity). But despite those two issues, MagLites were pretty much the standard flashlight for most folks. Streamlight always controlled a good chunk of the cop market for flashlights, but MagLite wound up becoming quite the major player in that field. One of the great attractions of the MagLite was that they were pretty robust…you could drop them, bang ’em around, and, of course, use them for ‘persuasive concussive techniques’ if the situation called for it. And, even after pulping someones face with them, they still (usually) worked.

When the LED revolution in flashlights finally came, MagLite introduced an LED version of the classic D-batt flashlight. This completely solved the bulb fragility issue (as well as having a longer life) and made a big positive change in battery life as well. As a result, I’ve been slowly phasing out my non-LED MagLites to the LED version. Problem is, the LED versions cost a little more than the non-LED. It is my opinion, though, that the added initial cost is very, very much worth the expense for the tradeoff of battery life and bulb resilience.

So, I was in my local sporting goods store today and they had the LED MagLites marked down by 33% from their normal price. That dropped ’em to about $18. A quick check on my phone shows that Amazon sells them for about $25 and that was the price to beat. So, I managed to get a flashlight upgrade today at a bargain price. Now if only the rest of my day were so bright and promising….

Panic buying

It occurred to me, as I was talking to someone about the still-present situation regarding .22 ammo, that any lulls that we’ve experienced in the panic buying over the last year or so are going to be pretty much wiped out by the fact that next year is an election year.

The Clintons, Slick Willy or/and Hillary, are hardly friends of gun rights. They aren’t even friends of friends of gun rights. And as you hear Clintons name bandied about more and more as the nomination process approaches you’re going to see more and more panic buying going on.

Then, once the nomination process is on, it’ll continue as the election comes closer closer. Finally, depending on who is elected, it might start to calm down around March or April of 2017.

This stuff is actually highly predictable. The four stages of gun panics, as far as elections go, are:

  • Right before the election
  • Right after the election
  • Right before the inauguration
  • Right after the inauguration

Don’t take my word for it, your own life experiences should confirm what I’m telling you.

thNow, I’m not nearly as stupid as I look (I couldn’t possibly be), but even I learned a long time ago to buy what I needed as soon as possible, as much as possible, so I could ignore this sort of thing.

“But, Zero”, I hear you cry, “I am a survivalist of limited resources. I can’t possibly get all my guns, ammo, and magazines before the election. I need both those kidneys!”

Well, that’s true. It’s a pretty intimidating list. That’s why you need to prioritize that mofo like no one’s business. Let’s look at it from a historical and hysterical standpoint – in the last, oh, say thirty years, what’s been regulated out of the realm of ownership by us simple peons? Chinese guns, Chinese ammo, steel core 5.54×39, steel core 7.62×39, imported rifle barrels for ‘assault weapons’, magazines that hold more than 10 rounds*, pistol grip stocks on semi-auto rifles*, bayonet lugs*, etc.

What else could come down the pike from the twisted gnomes in Washington? Well, almost certainly a magazine ban, assault weapons ban, and some restrictions on ammo. That whole wrist brace issue is living on borrowed time, IMHO. I expect there’ll be some fundamental changes to the DIY/80% receiver market and possibly some restrictions on mail ordering the other parts you need to complete your AR. (And before you say that ATF can’t regulate gun parts that aren’t serialized receivers, go try to import some AK barrels and let me know what happens.) And I fully expect there to be some restrictions on body armour coming along as well.

So, man of limited resources, where do you put your money to get the most bang for your buck in a world where political expediency directly challenges your ability to own thundertoys? Guns, mags, ammo, in that order. Since it is reasonable to expect that as we slide further and further down the timeline prices will go up and availability will go down, it would seem to make the most sense to purchase the most expensive and least available items first. Actual guns are outnumbered by magazines and ammo, so get the guns first. After that, get the magazines. After that, ammo. For every AR, there are probably hundred of AR mags, and thousands of rounds of .223….so get the guns first.

Stripped lowers? Sure, if you can’t afford the actual complete gun I’d grab as many stripped lowers as I can. I suspect that at some point the upper receivers and what not will be regulated as well but until that time you’ll at least have the serial numbered part sitting away waiting for you to complete it…or use it as trade for other stuff.

Magazines are simply a buy-as-many-as-you-can item. For those of us who remember the ’94-’04 ban, we can tell you youngsters stories about $750 BetaMags, $100 Glock mags, and $30 AR mags. It was a time of great chaos, and great(!) profit making. Even if you don’t have the gun, get the mags.

Unless you’re on fire or swimming, you can’t have too much ammo. Any surplus ammo still coming into the country, as well as the Russian stuff, is probably first in the crosshairs of those who would do evil to us. While we all have a magic number in our head about how much ammo is the recommended amount per gun, the truth is that you really can’t go wrong with buying as much as you can afford. If you don’t think so, look at the the folks who are sitting on thousands and thousands of rounds of .22LR right now. Or cases of old Chinese 7.62×39 when it was nine cents per round.

At this point I’m sure there is some genius hitting the comment button about to say something deeply profound like “It’s because of idiots like you encouraging all this hoarding that I can’t find .22LR ammo, and when I can find it it’s at ten cents a round!” Actually, it’s not because of me..it’s because of basic economics, laws of scarcity and demand, and federal asshattery. (How many ‘t’s in asshattery, anyway?)

Having been to this dance before, I’m pretty much immune to a bunch of it. I already have a goodly amount of guns and mags stashed away, and ammo is always on the shopping list anyway. But it is my opinion that if you’ve been waiting for prices to ‘return to normal’ or for ‘availability to return to normal’ you’re going to be left with a full wallet and empty shopping cart. As the political season heats up prices are going to go up, availability will go down, and today is going to be looked back upon as the day you’ll wish you had started shopping.

* = yes, that law sunset and we can now enjoy normal-capacity magazines and ‘evil features’. But do you really think they’re gonna make that mistake again?

Link – The Little Can That Could

Wonderful post about the history of the jerrycan.

During World War II the United States exported more tons of petroleum products than of all other war matériel combined. The mainstay of the enormous oil-and-gasoline transportation network that fed the war was the oceangoing tanker, supplemented on land by pipelines, railroad tank cars, and trucks. But for combat vehicles on the move, another link was crucial—smaller containers that could be carried and poured by hand and moved around a battle zone by trucks.

I’ve given up on anything other than the ‘NATO/Euro’ style cans for gasoline storage. They are more expensive, and sometimes hard to find, but I believe they are worth it.

Quiet weekend stuff

It’s always interesting to watch the pricing on bargains suddenly go wonky. Last week I posted about the LifeStraws being $15.99 and quite a few people (myself included) jumped in there and picked up a few. Or, in some cases, more than a few.

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Why would I mention a bargain on a cool piece of gear and NOT get a bunch for myself?

Sadly, I just checked the link and they’re back up to twenty bucks each. Bummer. Gotta strike while the iron is hot.

Same story on the OD hooded space blankets. They were $10.01 for a brief time and now they’re back up to $20. Hopefully, everyone who wanted one managed to get in there and snag a couple at the $10 price.

And speaking of things to put away for that rainy day, I decided that $2.15 was as good as its gonna get, and with us being slightly ahead on the gas budget this month, so I went ahead and have the extra fuel cans filled. Those are the lovely ‘Euro/NATO-style’ cans that I got from Lexington Container a couple years back. Don’t be tempted to buy the ones you see in Sportsmans Guide and a few other places…those are the cheapo Chinese cans and they are worthless. Yes, these cans are going to be expensive at around $50 ea (plus shipping) but when it’s 2am, pouring rain, and you’re on the side of the road hoping to outrun whatever it is that’s got you running, you’ll think that fifty bucks is a bargain to have five-gallons of fuel perfectly preserved and ready to go.

20150328_184015And, of course, each one of those cans represents x amount of hours of electricity courtesy of the generator. And electricity means hot water, hot food, lighting, communications, furnace blowers, etc….in short, those cans hold civilization. (Which  sorta explains those Mad Max movies)

So, a somewhat productive last couple of days…picked up some extra water filters, filled some gas cans, did some grocery shopping. The weather has gotten nicer here so I expect I’ll be doing some spring cleaning and organizing shortly.