Free Shipping on Bulk Ammo -- TargetSportsUSA.Com!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Guest Post: Choosing a Knife

by Levi Ethan Groenendael

Many go immediately to simplistic, tried-and-true answers (“Getcherself a 440 stainless steel 8” blade Bowie Knife!”) but bluntly, the right choice will vary from person to person, circumstance to circumstance.

For me, a burly 6’2, 300lb+ guy with meathooks for hands, I can heft a Gerber LMFII without a second thought. A recent acquisition, a Gerber Strongarm (which has other perks for being in my stable of bladed tools) is, frankly, a bit small for me, and pretty much ANY Swiss Army Knife (I have this one) feels like a toy in my hands.

Fit-to-Hand, however, is only one consideration – and frankly, it isn’t necessarily the most important. When choosing a knife, you should ideally be considering several factors:

Size of Haft
Does the knife fit your hand comfortably? Can you use it without having to engage in manipulation acrobatics?

Size of Blade
What do you expect to use the blade for? Think up the main three or four reasons, and consider what the  blade length, width, height need to be for those reasons. Consider, too, that sometimes one knife won’t do it – you’ll need more than one. That’s okay; just apply the same reasoning to each purchase.

Blade Geometry
This might seem kind of silly, but the shape and style of blade can often make a big difference in how you use it.

Quality of Manufacture
This one’s a little harder to quantify for measurement purposes, but a good rule of thumb is "Don’t buy Asian". I’ve nothing against our brethren to the east, and sometimes you WILL see good products coming from there, but generally, knockoffs from Asia are not to be trusted. Don’t believe me? Go watch 127 Hours.

Construction Material
This one gets ugly, and fast! Some people swear by one kind of steel, some by another… Some insist on Damascus because of its extreme resiliency, some claim it’s too shoddy and won’t withstand heavy use – both are correct, but from different perspectives. Look for a steel that will withstand the kind of use you expect to employ it for – cutting cordage, paper, and cardboard is a far cry from cutting open cans of food or cutting firewood.

Anecdotal Evidence
Whenever I look to buy another knife, I try to look over reviews from various sources:  knife forums, YouTube, Amazon, the manufacturer (if they offer a review system).  While the “good” reviews are nice, I tend to look at the negative ones, more, so that I can get a feel for any sort of common problems that might be the case for a given blade.

This one might seem obvious, but I’m not just talking about how much money you’re going to fork over for the knife. I’m talking about the contrast of cost against material/manufacturing (don’t spend extra for a name, and conversely don’t trust the brand if it’s severely under-priced – reference my earlier comment about knockoffs!), but also consider that a lower price might mean you can replace it without too much heartache or frustration. I have a $600 custom blade that holds a surgical edge after being used to cut through a stack of pennies, which is great... but I’m not about to use it like I use some of my other edged tools!

Closing Thoughts
As with any of your gear selection, don’t just take some arbitrary comment from another person as gospel; what’s right for one person with one set of circumstances at one point in time will not necessarily be right for you, in your circumstances, at your present moment in time.

I’m happy to flesh this out further; if there's sufficient interest, ask Erin Palette and she’ll bug me for a follow-up article.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Value of Grey

Several years ago, I was introduced to the term "grey man." In essence, a grey man is someone who fades into the background. While he is in front of you, you notice him just fine, but once he's left your presence, he is entirely forgettable. The best example for readers is Tom Clancy's John Clark, contrasted against James Bond. This has some very obvious benefits for anyone in rough situations.

The grey man is an intersection of skills and oblivion. No matter what he knows or carries, he strives to be completely uninteresting, just like his namesake. He can neither give nor take offense at others while remaining grey. He cannot be flashy or overly ebullient. The goal is to simply be "some guy."

There are many places where you may be standing out right now that can be made more grey.

This is one of the biggest areas of distinction. Clothing is visible to everyone who sees you. As you attempt to become more grey, consider how your clothing fits into your surroundings. The neon shirts I wear every day to work blend in perfectly on a jobsite, but stick out like a sore thumb in the grocery store. In the blue-collar area where I live, my t-shirt and jeans are almost the neighborhood uniform. Visiting my wife's office, they make me very noticeable.

As a general rule, avoid flashy jewelry and doodads. I also try to avoid shirts with printed messages or designs, unless they help me fit into an environment. At my local nerd store, I can be grey wearing any manner of geeky shirt, because everybody else wears them. At a sporting event, a shirt from the home team is ready-made mental camouflage. The running joke among my friends and family is that my "Dude uniform" is a one-color t-shirt and a pair of jeans. It's simple and effective, and goes completely unnoticed.

Another major identifying item is what you drive. That big bad bug-out wagon that can ford rivers and carry 3 months worth of supplies is effective, but everybody sees it coming. I love a flashy car as much as the next gearhead, but flashy stands out. At my place, our daily drivers happen to be white, domestic, very popular models. My wife's truck has no bumper stickers or other showy bits. My truck has one sticker on it from before I bought it, that I just haven't gone to the work to remove yet. Both of them are well-maintained, but outwardly appear entirely bland. If I want to make an impression, I have a flashy little sports car, but outside of that, the sports car stays in the garage in favor of the boringly effective truck.

The way you move, act, and speak can very quickly make you noticeable or invisible. Acting nervous, excitable, or overly agitated will immediately mark you in the minds of people around you. Don't be overly specific about skills or other preps unless the situation specifically calls for it. Being pleasantly aloof and noncommittal will make people forget you as soon as you walk away. Be polite and pleasant and you'll fade into the fog of the hundreds of interactions humans have daily.

Body Art
Tattoos, piercings, and other body mods also stick out. If you're trying to disappear, identifiers like those are going to have to hide. They're colorful, unique, and permanent. All of this is fine, but it makes you stand out in peoples' minds. If you have body art, consider how to camouflage it if the need arises.

The moral of the grey man is "Don't advertise." Businesses advertise to get attention. Grey folks do the exact opposite to achieve the opposite result.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Prudent Prepping: Cache and Carry

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

Our Esteemed Editrix Erin Palette foolishly posted several pun-inspired potential titles for future Blue Collar Prepping articles. Several of us have said,  "Challenge accepted!" and here is my contribution to The Cause.

Cache And Carry
It has been several years since I have actively hiked or backpacked long distances. Marriage to a woman with a minor disability, home ownership, and having a child slowed down my participation in activities that were easily done as a single man. When I was able to hike the Sierra Nevadas, the group of guys I hiked with started at Lake Tahoe and went all the way to Yosemite National Park. We never made it all the way to Yosemite in one trip; weather knocked us back twice, and illness the third time we tried it.

We did make the trip in pieces over the years, though. To do a hike that long (almost 190 miles), lightweight food was required. Unfortunately for us, our wallets were lacking the money to buy freeze-dried meals, so we made do the best we could with a mixture of canned goods and what few lightweight meals we could afford. To make it easy on ourselves, we decided to carry in supplies by putting our food into pails, lashing them to the frames of our backpacks, and caching them at the halfway point. This was relatively easy, since the Forest Service and the State of California maintain fire roads into and around the areas the Pacific Crest Trail runs. We still had to do some serious hiking, mostly uphill and through some very rough terrain, to get to the PCT.

This is similar to the pack frames we used, only our frames didn't have a shelf to make keeping a cylindrical object stable.
The idea was to hike in to the "Go, No Go" point, bury the pails in a place that would be easily found, mark it and hike out. Since metal pails were too expensive, 5 gallon plastic pails were what we used.

To keep varmints out of our food, we adapted an old frontier trick used by early settlers to keep graves from being dug up by animals. They would spread gunpowder around the area, whereas we mixed motor oil into the dirt used to backfill the holes. This is totally unacceptable to me now, in our environmentally conscious times, but back then no one thought about the potential damage. I will state that 10w-40 protected our food very well, since it once took us a year to get back to the cache.

Finding an area with enough soil to allow us to dig a hole over two feet deep was our second hardest problem. These holes were NOT dug below the frost line, but the pails were never intended to be stored long term anyway.

This method of food storage, and the idea of being able to grab supplies quickly and easily, was in the back of my mind when the idea of The Bucket of Holding hit me. Adapting an internal frame pack to take a 5 gallon pail might be a problem if the pack is completely full; if only partially filled with gear, lashing a pail to the outside should be relatively easy, using existing D-rings and anchor points
I see similar pictures from every disaster in the First or Second World: people no different than those I might see at the grocery store, carrying bags, suitcases or even cardboard boxes filled with their belongings and walking down the road. I don't intend to be like these people if I have to Bug Out, or even if I am going across town in a disaster. I will be carrying my gear safely and securely, on my back.

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Necessity of Solitude

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
(This post brought to you by me rarely leaving my room for the past three days)

There is value to being left alone. All humans need it, just as they need human interaction, but the amount varies by individual: a truly extroverted person likely needs only a little solitude, while the introvert needs more, but we all need personal space and alone time to a certain extent -- even the peppiest of party-lovers wants privacy when using the toilet.

But aside from the expected alone-time needed to sleep, dress and perform sanitary functions, many of us need more than that. It varies for me, but every three to six months I just get "peopled out" and need to withdraw for a while. There is something soothing to my soul about being in complete control of my environment (even it is just my bedroom) and not have to be answerable to anyone except myself when it come to volume, temperature, lighting, clothing, and activity.

I think of it as a field going fallow, or trees hibernating for the winter; a period of quiet that restores both body and soul so that I might be productive again. It's as necessary for my sanity and well-being as sleep and food.

The problem with solitude is that it's difficult to achieve that state of serenity when you're living with other people, as those with families will attest: many times the other people in your life just can't leave alone. Sometimes they need you (as parents with small children will attest); sometimes they don't realize they are being loud or intruding; and sometimes they need to use the same space you do (like married couples, or siblings sharing a bedroom).

In normal times this dilemma can be solved by leaving: taking a walk, going for a head-clearing drive, or just visiting the local library. In times of crisis though, when the feces has truly struck the oscillator, the logistics of alone time become problematic: is it smart to take a walk when the neighborhood is devastated and looters about? is it safe to drive when the roads are full of debris and you don't know when you'll get more gasoline? is the library even there anymore?

This is not a post full of solutions. As Evelyn is fond of pointing out, "People are not widgets", meaning that what works for one person will not work for everyone. For example, earplugs and books can go a long way towards blocking out many environmental distractions, but some people are bothered by the mere presence of others around them. There have been days when I haven't even wanted to look at another human being, let alone share a room with them.

Rather, this post is about understanding. Many people think that folks who need quiet time or solitude are depressed or are psychologically broken in some way or are "just weird", and that's not true. We all need personal space and alone time; people like myself just frequently need more of it than is typical. But the good news is that those of us who crave solitude can still be of use to the tribe or community in times of crisis: for example, there are many tasks which must be performed alone (such as late-night fire watch), or quietly (such as hunting), or which no one else wants to do, and these are ideal jobs for people who are feeling non-social.

In short, don't look upon people who frequently wish to be alone as inconveniences to be worked around or emotional cripples to be pitied. Instead, work with them, and find a way to turn their needs into a strength that will benefit the entire group.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #113 – Hurricane Matthew After-Action Report

In this Very Special Episode, Erin and Sean share their memories of evacuating from Florida and hunkering down in North Carolina, and talk about the lessons they learned from the experience

Stay tuned after the regular show for a quick update on Sean's opening day hunting adventures!

Beth, Barron, Tiffany, and Weer'd will return next week with our regular podcast format.

Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here
Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

And a special thanks to our sponsors for this episode, Remington Ammunition and

Friday, October 14, 2016

Gun Cleaning, Part the Fifth: Corrosive-Primed ammo

Lots of military surplus ammo out there, especially in 7.62x39 and 7.62x54r. It costs less- sometimes MUCH less- than commercial, often can be had in 'spam' cans in which it can be stored for decades, and it works. Just the kind of thing for practice, and maybe stashing some away just in case.However, there is a slight problem: rust.

Just to cover the matter, the ammo is not actually corrosive; it's called that because of the effect of some of the residue left behind by the primers. One of the chemicals used in primers for a long time(and in Europe still used for some military ammo), when it burns leaves traces of salt behind. Salt itself isn't corrosive, but it attracts moisture, which WILL cause rust.

So you have to make sure your cleaning flushes the traces of salt out of the bore and- especially in semi-auto rifles- action. What complicates this is that most commercial CLP and bore cleaners don't do this well, which has caused many people to clean their rifle, look at it a few days later and find rust in the bore.

And some ammo is worse than others. For instance, there was some 1960's-production German 8mm Mauser ammo available for a while that was fairly awful in this respect. I'd used some of this, and knowing it was corrosive primed, cleaned appropriately. Which turned out to be insufficient for this stuff. Two days later(no later, thank God) I pulled it out to check, and found rust in the bore. Which occasioned an amount of screaming and cursing and immediate recourse to EVERYTHING I HAD to scrub it out. I found it before it'd had enough time to do real damage, but a lot of people have not been so lucky.

So how do you clean the stuff out? Same tools(patches, brushes, rods) as any other, but a different cleaner is needed. The basic is water; it will dissolve the salts, flush them off the surface, and let a patch carry them away. If you use straight water, hot is best, as it'll both help flush the stuff out, and warming the barrel will help it dry faster.

A lot of people add ammonia. Doesn't take much, maybe one part ammonia to ten of water, though I've heard of people using as strong as 1-to-5 just to be sure.

I've been told water with a little vinegar added works well.

A favorite with a lot of people is Windex. Yes, the glass cleaner. I have known people who swear by it. Supposedly the version with vinegar is best.

About the best cleaner I know of for this is Ballistol. Works straight for general cleaning and lubrication, but for this purpose it was designed to be mixed with water(proportions on the can) for cleaning this kind of fouling. It works, it doesn't stink or(that I've noticed) mess with your skin like ammonia. Good stuff.

Thompson Center No. 13 Bore Cleaner. This stuff was made for cleaning muzzleloaders and other arms firing black powder. I've tried it, and it worked quite well.

As noted, plain hot water works. George McDonald Fraser, in one of his books*, wrote of the British Army 'boiling out the rifles' after a day involving shooting. The Brits actually issued a special funnel(one per squad, I believe) for the purpose: had a short hose with a nozzle to fit into the chamber; set the rifles upright, take some hot water and flush out the barrels, then dry and oil them.

With most corrosive-primed ammo, it's not really a big deal to clean. The ideal is at the range, after you're done shooting(description is for bolt-action rifles), remove the bolt. Get a patch damp with your chosen cleaner, and push it through the barrel(or pull it through if using one of those cleaning 'rods'). Do that again. Push a dry patch through, then a lightly-oiled one. That's it.

Dampen a patch with cleaner, wipe off the bolt face and the front section of the bolt. Dry, then oil.

After you get home, do your normal post-range cleaning, and it should be fine. If you can't do the initial cleaning at the range, do it after you get home, followed by the usual. With most of the ammo you might run across, this should take care of it. Though it doesn't hurt to check things the next day or two, just to be sure(again, really glad I did it after that 8mm ammo).

With any of these, remember that after you flush out the barrel, you need to make sure it's thoroughly dry, then use some type of oil or CLP to prevent the bare steel from rusting.

On actions, and things like the gas tube on a SKS, I prefer the Ballistol mix; it does a fine job of cleaning the residue out, and even though there's water involved I've not seen it promote rust(do dry and oil after, just to be on the safe side. And you can use straight Ballistol for that).

*Quartered Safe Out Here, excellent reading. A bit on the Enfield rifle:

And she did, thirty years old as she was; treating her right consisted of keeping her “clean, bright, and slightly oiled” with the pullthrough and oil bottle in her butt trap, and boiling her out after heavy firing.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cache Register

Since our illustrious editrix decided to play word games with my last post about caches, a few of the writers here have decided “challenge accepted”. You want prepper puns? We'll deliver them.

If you're going to hide some things far away from your normal Area of Operations (AO), you'll need to have a way to find them when you need them. A map with a large red X on it will work, but it will also mark the spot for anyone else that may see or find your map. I mentioned encrypting the location information in my last post, so here are a few methods that will work toward that end.

Methods of Identifying a Location
First, you need to figure out what kind of information you're trying to hide. The location of a cache (buried, submerged, or otherwise hidden from view) can be expressed as a series of numbers and/or letters using one of many methods. Those letters/numbers can then be encrypted to make it more difficult to find your cache.

Latitude and Longitude
The most common method of designating a specific place on the planet, lat/long has been in use for centuries. Starting from the arbitrary “zero” of the Prime Meridian that passes through Greenwich, England and moving around the earth east and west, we divide the world into 360 one-degree slices. The north-south division begins at the Equator and is also a total of 360°. Each degree is divided into 60 “minutes” (symbol ' ) and each minute is divided into 60 “seconds” (symbol “). A complete lat/long would look like 21 18' 32 ' -157 51' 3” or 21.308787 -157.850811 in decimal form. The negative sign designates areas south of the Equator and/or west of the Prime Meridian. Geo-caching and modern GPS units have made lat long a common system.

Military Grid System
Instead of working with pure numbers, the US military decided to separate the Earth into 60 east-west zones (numbered 1 through 60) and 20 north-south zones (letters C through X, excluding I and O which are easily confused with 1 and 0). Each block designated by a number and a letter is roughly 6° by 8° and covers about 800 km by 1100 km. An example zone would be called “4Q”.

Each block is further split up using 24 east-west and 24 north-south lines, to create squares. These squares are identified using the same letters of the alphabet as the grids. An example would be “FJ”.

Locations within the squares are pinpointed by measuring, in meters, from the south-west corner. You measure the distance east, then the distance north to get a string of numbers. The more precise the location, the more numbers. An example would be “19056562”, which means 1905 meters east and 6562 meters north of the starting point.

Using this system (which takes some practice) and military maps, a chunk of land 10 meters on a side would have a designation something like “4QFJ19056562”, which happens to be somewhere in Honolulu, HI.

Polar Coordinates
Instead of measuring in squares, another method uses vector and distance from a known point. If you have a standard starting point, say a large boulder or a bridge, you take out your compass and note the direction to your cache (the vector). You then measure the distance in paces, meters, feet, etc. and combine the two. An example would be 143275, for a point 275 meters (or feet, whatever you want to use) from your starting point at a bearing of 143°.

Now that you have your data, you need to pick a way to hide or encrypt it. I don't have the time or space to get into all of the possible ways you can encrypt numbers, but I can give you a few basics.

Substitution Codes
These are the most common form of encryption. Replacing a letter or a number with another digit, chosen through a system that only you know, is the root of a substitution code. They are as basic as replacing the numbers 0 through 9 with letters of the alphabet starting with the first letter of your middle name (FGHJKLMNPQ for me) and get as complicated as the 128-bit security algorithms used for banking. Pick one that you're likely to remember or that you can pass on to someone else if you're unlikely to be able to use your cache. Replacing letters with numbers is similar. I suggest you look into one-time pads if you're serious about encrypting data.

Another method of hiding or encrypting your data, the quick definition is "placing your numbers and/or letters in an existing document in such a way that they are not noticed" (follow the link for a thorough explanation). Writing your debit card PIN number down as the last four digits of a phone number is a (not very smart) example - anybody that sees it will think it is just a phone number. Writing a lat/long designation in decimal form down in the back of a math book, maybe as part of an equation, would be another example.

Split Control 
This option breaks your data into two parts and gives each part to a different person. John has the longitude or vector, but Mary has the latitude or distance.

Being able to find what you have intentionally “lost” is important. I hope I have given you some things to think about, and maybe a new idea or two. As always, comments here or on our Facebook page are always welcome.

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to