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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Odds and Ends

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.



Not Quite a Buffet


Valley Fire Update
The fire north of Napa, CA called the Valley Fire is almost contained and no more structures are being threatened. The houses mentioned in this post turned out to be mostly undamaged: mainly some scorched siding, damaged roofing and out-buildings burned to the ground. What is most upsetting to the local residents and weekenders is the loss of brush and the damage to trees in the area.

Note: Not my friend's neighborhood, but representative of Middletown area damage. Photo by KTVU.
No one is certain how badly damaged the still-living trees are, are and there will be no way to tell until next spring, when new growth will start to show.

Upsetting News
I received a Facebook update from an unknown person recently, mentioning that her brother, my online gaming buddy, had died suddenly. Here is (part of) what she sent:
Ok his obituary should be online at (funeral home) by tomorrow. He died of complications from diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of which he kept telling us he didn't even have. So it should come back the same as my moms did which was a diabetic heart attack. Anyone who wants to go to the website can do so and it allows you to leave comments. Thanks
My friend was in his late 50's and sounded good when we all last heard him. I personally didn't know about any of his health problems, but some of his long-time gaming friends did and mentioned the diabetic problems. This is a roundabout way for me to again mention the importance of keeping yourself healthy. If you can't help yourself, how will you be able to help anyone else in need?

Gear Addition
My local Gear Nut (as opposed to my Florida Gear Nut) friend gave me a rain poncho. It was not up to his kids standards of toughness.

What I now have is a Frogg Toggs poncho. From their web site:

Frogg Toggs® Ultra-Lite2™ PonchoFTP1714 • Ultra-Lite II Poncho
Constructed from ultralight breathable and waterproof nonwoven polypropylene with welded waterproof seams, and side snaps and adjustable hood. Completely recyclable! • Packaged in reusable bag.
Net Weight: 9 oz.





I can see why it might not hold up to the rough use kids might give out, but in my GHB I think it will be more than adequate -- just not as sturdy as the MilSurp poncho Erin has in her gear. This example is one of the three my friend bought that was not damaged. I can't describe the texture or the feel, but it is really weird! The surface is semi-rough, with what looks like microscopic perforations which might be how the poncho is non-woven and also breathable.

I did try the waterproof claim by running water over the edge, and it is repellent. I'm just not too sure how it will hold up after multiple days or rough use.

Recap
  • Get healthy if you are not already in shape. 
  • If you have known medical problems, see what can be done to remedy your condition, or at least reduce the effects if at all possible. 
  • Don't be afraid to look at unusual items as a 'filler' in your preps until your budget improves. 

New Gear
  • Frogg Toggs Poncho, adult size: $11.99 from Amazon,
  
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 be 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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bugging In: Provisions

The first area of bugging in to discuss is provisions. What will you eat, drink, and otherwise consume in an emergency situation? How will you store everything so that it is ready and safe to use when you need it? How much do you need, and are there ways to obtain it that don't require long-term storage?

The easiest way to approach this is to break down the consumables themselves and discuss them individually. Storage and acquisition can then be discussed for each group.

Water
Water is one of the basics of life; we've discussed it at length. Adults need roughly one gallon per person per day, and pets need roughly the same amount. That's fairly easy for short term, but two people require over 700 gallons for a year of very basic subsistence, which is highly impractical.

Long-term survival requires a water source, and very likely a way to filter it. If you have enough property, a well is a worthy investment to consider, as would the equipment to draw from a river or spring if one is available. Catching rainwater is also a viable plan, if you live somewhere that gets enough rain. No matter what you use to get your water, you'll definitely need to plan for filtration. We've covered that quite a bit, and made some educated recommendations.

Food
Food is another provision that we simply cannot work around. You should consume at least 1500-2000 calories of the stuff per person, per day. Canned food is great for some things, but it's expensive and takes up quite a bit of space, and is also quite often nutritionally lacking. When planning for long-term storage, raw ingredients very frequently store just as well (if not better) and carry far more nutritional value. 

 Dried rice, beans, and other items can be bought in bulk and store wonderfully. Dried meat and produce also store for a decent length of time, and can be rehydrated to use in a great number of recipes. David has become our house expert on buying and storing food, and much of the stocking for long-term can be done simply by expanding the scale of his plans. 

 The only other advice for food storage is to buy foods that you actually eat, and rotate your stock by using your storage as your pantry, and replenishing it regularly. Eat the older foods first, and put the new stocks in line at the rear. Be sure to also include salt and oil in your storage plans, as they're needed for survival and are very often overlooked.

Seed is also a food stock to consider.  If you garden, or have the capacity to do so, keep a stock of seeds handy, so that you can plant each year and keep sustaining yourself.  Look for "heirloom" seeds, which allow you to take seed from each year's crop and plant it for the next season.

Medical and Health Care
If you have medicines that keep you alive, see if you can order them in a 90-day supply instead of 30. This way, you're far more likely to have at least a month of medication on hand at any random time. Investigate alternatives that may be more available in a pinch. 

Keep your first aid kits fully stocked. Since you're not carrying the kit, you can stock larger quantities than you might otherwise have at hand, and keep bulky items that you would pass on in a carried kit.

Miscellaneous Gear
This group of provisions is the hardest to lay down a plan for, because it is so individual. Look around your house, taking inventory of consumable items you need to keep everything running. Some things to consider:
  • Pet food
  • Lubricating oils (spray and liquid, both have their benefits)
  • Gasoline (treated with a stabilizing agent)
  • Bleach (remember, it breaks down over time, so keep it rotated)
  • Other cleaning and disinfecting agents
  • Tools - we've assembled a couple basic lists
This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Take stock of your situation and your needs, and stock up on the things you need.

Lokidude

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cast-Iron Pots and Pans: Cleaning and Seasoning


Cast-iron cookware is wonderful. For some things, it's very hard to beat. You can run into problems with it, though, like rust (especially if it's been unused for years and/or got wet and wasn't dried out) and food sticks. Badly. Even with the new stuff.

Are there fixes for this? I'm glad you asked.


Old Stuff
I went to a local flea market Saturday, and picked up this cast-iron pot for $5.


Yes, it's rusty inside and out, but it has some important features:
  1. No cracks. 
  2. No deep pits from the rust. There are some small ones, but the rest is all surface stuff that'll come off fairly easily. 
  3. For five bucks, who wants to pass that up? 
Cleanup
Every bit of this can be done with hand-powered tools: a wire brush or two and sandpaper or sanding blocks. Being both lazy and having some joints not up to that, I'm going to use power.

This is a buffer from Harbor Freight (not a Baldor, but it didn't cost a few hundred dollars, either) with a wire wheel brush on one side. That'll strip the surface rust off the outside in just a few minutes.

Some safety notes:
  • If you put a wire wheel on a grinder or buffer, be warned that if you get careless it'll take the skin - and maybe some tissue - off you just as fast as it takes rust off. 
  •  Wear goggles or something, as sometimes a wire will break loose and fly off. 
  • A dust mask might be a good idea, too; it's only iron oxide you're brushing off, but you probably don't want to inhale the stuff.


Once the outside is done, the inside gets the treatment with this, a ball-shaped wire brush on the drill. Depending on your drill, you might add some earplugs or muffs to the above-noted safety stuff, as some drills are pretty loud.


For the inside, brush/blow all the loose stuff out that you can, then start brushing with this. Work it over the entire inside surface, dump/blow out all the loose stuff, and repeat a few times. That'll get rid of all the rust, and let you see if the surface needs more work.

In this case, there's no nasty pitting, but the inside has the as-cast texture and a bit of roughness from the rust, and I want it smoother. For that I've got this, a sanding disc attachment for the drill. 


 This one uses stick-on abrasive pads, which you can get from 60 grit (coarse) to fine in the 200's (depending on brand). In this case, I started with a 60.


The disc is flexible, so it's not hard to work it into the curve at the base, then up the sides. Once you've got a fair amount of dust/rust/iron loose, dump it and keep going. When it's as smooth as you want/can get, clean it out and go to a finer disc. In the case of a frying pan, where you want it really smooth, a 220-240 grit finish is plenty fine; in this case I stopped at 150, partly because that's the last disc I had (need to keep some more in the shop).

You don't have to be perfectionist on this, but the fact is that the smoother the cooking surface, the easier it is to clean out later. I'll probably go back later with some 180 and 220 to really smooth it out, but for a stewpot this should be fine.

Now wash it. REALLY wash it, with good soap and a scrub brush, to be sure you get any traces of old grease, sanding dust and rust off, inside and out.

 
Much better.

Seasoning
There are a number of ways people say to season cookware, so this isn't The Only Way. It does work, so I'm going with it:
  1. Wash it inside and out. REALLY wash it, water and soap and a scrub brush, get all the loose rust and iron dust and abrasive dust out and off. 
  2. Dry the pot, and stick it in the oven for about ten minutes at low, or 100F or so if you can set it exactly, to dry it completely and get it warm.
  3. Then comes the seasoning: lard, bacon grease or tallow*. Give the outside a light coat, then give the inside a heavy coat, all the way around, bottom and sides. 
  4. Put it on some aluminum foil or a cookie sheet or something to catch any runoff, and back into the oven, then turn it up to 250F.
  5. Leave it at least fifteen minutes, then take it out and swab the sides again to make sure they're coated, then back in. 
  6.  Repeat twice more (no particular reason, I just think that number works), then turn off the oven and let it cool completely. 
  7. Take it out and wipe off the excess (and if you used enough, there will be excess). The heating opens up the surface of the iron a bit, and keeps the grease hot so it can get into the surface.
That's it.


Now I need to plan some stew or beans or something to try it out.

New Cast-Iron
A lot of new cast-iron stuff is marked 'pre-seasoned'. Mostly that's a lie, partly because the inside is not fully finished; it has that pebbly texture from the casting process. At the very least, you need to scrub the hell out of it to remove the 'pre-seasoning' stuff (protectant put on to keep it from rusting during shipping off) and then season it.

Want to really do it right? Get the sanding disc setup and use it to cut that finish down smooth, then season it.

Cleaning After Seasoning (old and new)
With good skillets, it's not unusual to do nothing more than wipe it out with a paper towel, but occasionally you may need to wash one out. Yes, you can use water. Yes, you can use a brush. What you can't use is soap; it'll strip out the seasoning. 

My usual process is: 
  1. Pour some hot -- really hot, not just warm -- water in.
  2. Use a brush to work it around the inside, dump that, then rinse with hot water. 
  3. Put it on the stove, or in the oven, on low for a while to dry it thoroughly
  4. Done. 
My daughter likes to do this for a frying pan:
  1. Put some water in.
  2. Put it on a burner.
  3. Let it get hot.
  4. Brush it out.
  5. Rinse and dry. 
Works great.

And don't be afraid of using a brush. One of the 'Used by Professional Chefs!' things for cast iron is a square or pad of mail armor made with stainless steel wire like this; if this won't damage things, a scrub brush won't.

Note: I'm told these scrubbers will not only clean everything off the surface, but will remove skin nicely if you don't use gloves.

More on Seasoning
You can start arguments asking about this. I've been using the oven-and-suitable-grease method for quite a while. You can also use vegetable oil if you'd prefer. I ran across this a while back from Matfer Bourgeat, who make what are supposed to be very good carbon-steel skillets:
  1. Before use, wash pan under hot water in mild detergent, use a bristle brush to scrub all protective coating, proceed by thoroughly drying pan.
  2. Place in pan the following ingredients and sauté on medium heat while swirling around entire pan. Amount of ingredient will vary depending the size of pan i.e. medium pan use 1/3-cup oil, 2/3-cup salt, & 2 whole potato peelings. Discard after sautéing for 10 minutes.
  3. Repeat step 2 again.
  4. After processing steps 2 & 3 use oil with paper towel and wipe entire pan.
I saw this on a cooking show. They mentioned they'd never heard this method before, but it worked very well.

*Tallow is from beef, as lard is from pig

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #58


Adam and Sean struggle with overwhelming fatigue due to lack of sleep, but still manage to bring you another weekly episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.
  • Erin Palette brings you some timely advice about prepping for wildfires.
  • Nicki Kenyon is infuriated about how our soldiers are being told to ignore sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan.
  • Erin returns for our This One Time segment to tell us a story about a watermelon and a Katana.
  • Barron B notes the... umm... "attractive" Asian woman who turned her body into a weapon and her shoes into secret compartments
  • And Weer'd gives us another Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk©. This time he calls out (VERY) long shot candidate for President, Martin O’Malley, who appeared on NPR touting his extreme anti-gun agenda.
Among other things we talk about, Adam and Sean discuss Sean's new podcast, The WrongFun Podcast. Do you like Science Fiction and Fantasy? Then you might want to subscribe to this one. Episode 1 comes out on Monday the 28th, at 8 p.m.Eastern time.

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Don't forget to share with a friend. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Show notes may be found here.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Get state specific training in the laws of self defense, and if you use discount code "Variety" at checkout, receive 10% off.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Product Review: UST Emergency Food Ration Bars

While wandering through a Wal-Mart a while ago, I noticed that they carried UST emergency food bars in the camping section (next to the freeze-dried meals). Since they were a brand and flavor (apples and cinnamon instead of the normal lemon or coconut) I wasn't familiar with, I picked up a few to test and add to a 72 hour bag I'm building for a family member.

The Numbers
This is a typical 2400 Calorie emergency bar, vacuum-sealed in heavy foil and scored to allow you to break it into 6 pieces. Shelf-life is five years, with the production date and expiration date clearly marked on the back of the package. Since the whole bar weighs 18 ounces, each meal is about three ounces. I say "about" because the pieces aren't going to break perfectly square along the scored lines. The six pieces are designed to allow you two meals a day for three days or three meals a day for two days, depending on your activity level. Each piece, or meal, provides 400 Calories (160 from fats) and 100% of the Daily Value of:
Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Iron, Copper, Calcium, Zinc, and Iodine
as well as 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Basically, each meal is the same as taking a multi-vitamin.

The Ingredients
Enriched flour (wheat and malted barley) is the main ingredient, followed by various sugars, flavors, soy solids, and nutritional additives. It is made in Jacksonville, FL, so the quality assurance should be a step or two higher than any of the stuff coming in from overseas. It does contain wheat and soy, so those with food sensitivities should take notice.

The Testing
I didn't really care to go on an exclusive diet of this for three days just to write about it, so instead I added it to my normal daily menu in place of breakfast. Quick, easy, and nutritional; sounds like breakfast to me. The bonus of not needing to take my daily multi-vitamin didn't hurt either. I'm not a morning person, so little things like remembering to take my vitamins can be a chore.

The Results
  • The texture is slightly dry and crumbly, but not thirst-provoking. I could eat it without any liquids, which is rare (my throat is messed up from an old injury). The flavor is mild and definitely apples and cinnamon. Autumn means pumpkin spice everything to some folks, but it means apple season to me. 
  • The meal-sized portion was quite filling. I didn't feel hungry even though it was only 3 ounces of food. I had no problem making it to lunch time without being hungry. 
  • Cost was a factor in my test. Since the whole bar was just under $5.00, I was eating breakfast for less than 85 cents a day. A single donut costs more than that and won't fill you up. Some of the other brands cost twice as much for a slightly larger package, so I'm OK with the pricing. 
  • Weight is also a factor. At 18 ounces, I can carry more of these in a pack than I can MREs or freeze-dried meals. 
  • The vacuum sealing makes them as hard as a board, so be careful where you put them in your pack. Even after I opened the package, the bar stayed hard for the six days it took me to finish it off. Closing the package was accomplished by rolling the foil closed along the top where I had opened it. A quart or larger zipper-seal bag would be a handy storage place for it in a pack. 
  • I noticed no issues with my stomach or intestines during the test. One meal a day of something a body is not used to can often create havoc in the digestive tract. That was not an issue with this brand.
Summary
A cheaper alternative to the Datrex and Mainstay emergency bars that have been on the market for years, the UST emergency bar does what it advertises at a good price. Being available on a store shelf instead of having to be ordered and paid for online has OPSEC value for me. I like paying cash and leaving no record of my prepping purchases. I will be picking up more of them when I see them on the shelf.


Editor's Note: It is worth noting that eating this bar for 3 meals a day only yields a caloric intake of 1200 calories. An active adult female needs twice these calories daily, and an active adult male needs even more. To get the most out of these ration bars, you will either need to be sedentary (in which case the male is still likely to be quite hungry), or carry double the rations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Personal Update

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

Latest News
I have started a new job that gives me medical coverage and 40+ hours a week Monday to Friday. The not-quite-bad news is I am driving 30-90 miles a day in my older truck, with a start time of 5 a.m., which means leaving my house by 4 and getting up well before that. To be up that early, I have to be in bed and trying to fall asleep by 8-8:30, which is early even for old folks. (You in the peanut gallery, pipe down!)

I'm not complaining; this is just an explanation to my friends for my absence from some of the boards and chats that are my usual hangouts late at night or early in the morning.

As I said two posts ago, my bills have taken up most of the cash I had for any extra purchases which includes my prepping items for several more weeks. Maybe longer.

That being said, I did make a purchase before blowing my budget.

New Additions
I bought two, two- person SOL Survival Blankets. From the Sol website:The most advanced emergency blanket on the market - meticulously designed never to fail when you're counting on it with your life. It all starts with the material, vacuum-metalized polyethylene, that reflects 90% of your body heat while also offering a number of other important features that set it apart from traditional mylar blankets; it opens easily and will not shred if nicked or punctured, rips and tears can be repaired, it is quiet and won't crinkle in high winds, and its high-visibility orange exterior makes it easy for rescuers to find you. Plus, survival tips and techniques are printed directly on the blanket so you have them when you need them. Sized to fit two people.
The reason for two is so I have an extra one to go into my Get Home Bag and one to go into my friend's baby steps GHB. I added a second one to my kit because for half the week, I'm a two-day hike home and an extra blanket might come in handy.

Since I am driving farther I have also added a bit more of all the items in my GHB:
  • Food: Two more cans of chicken for a total of four; two more packages of instant oatmeal (four total) and a whole box of Instant Coffee (10 packs). 
  • Water: I have upped my water to 5 liters, not including the water I pack daily. 
  • Clothing: I've added an extra pair of wool socks.

Recap
  • 2 SOL Survival Blankets from REI, $7. Amazon has them for the same price or cheaper, if you subscribe and buy five or more of them.
As always, 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.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bugging In: Setting It Up

On the BCP Facebook group (what, you're not a member?), the question of how to "bug in" came up. While "bugging out" is the sexy answer to so much of prepping, it really isn't as easy as folks make it out to be. As with so many things in life, the less-sexy option is often the better one. Some of the reasons for this were covered in a guest post, but there are others as well.

While bugging in leaves you in a known location, with less flexibility and mobility than bugging out might, it counters with many advantages:
  1. Supply weight is of minimal concern, as you're carrying nothing. You have all your gear with you and you know where it is. 
  2. It is more practical for the elderly or physically infirm.
  3. It is also less disruptive for children by keeping them in a known environment. 
  4. Speaking of that known environment, adults in your group also benefit from home field advantage, with knowledge of local resources, access and egress routes, and people who have needed skill sets.
We've covered short-term "hunkering down" in the past, and that is a good place to start. However, the tone of the question that started all of this leans toward an extended bug-in, so we'll follow the lead in that direction.

The first consideration for bugging in is "How long do I expect emergency conditions to last?" The follow-on to that is "What type of emergency conditions do I expect?" Natural disasters, social unrest, and infrastructure failure all present different challenges to address, and these dictate the amount and types of supplies needed. Short-term conditions require minimal special supplies; extended disasters call for storing special gear, in quantity.

The considerations for extended bug-in can be broken into a few major subgroups.

Gear and Supplies
What are you going to eat, drink, and otherwise consume to stay alive and healthy? What are you going to use to maintain your shelter and equipment?

Security
You've got all these supplies. How are you going to protect them, your shelter, and your people from those who would take them from you and do them harm?

Power
Electricity is vital to the way we live. Short-term generation is easy; long-term generation is far less so. There are ways to do it, and you'll have to determine which ways best meet your needs.

Skills
We've discussed building skills throughout the history of BCP. Take stock of your weak areas, and get some training.


In upcoming articles, I'll address each of these categories in detail. In the meantime, ponder the questions posed above and set some parameters to work within. These make a foundation to build your plan upon, and give you direction in what can be a very large undertaking.

Lokidude

Monday, September 21, 2015

Steel: a Quick Overview

There are all kinds of stell for all kinds of purposes. Which can you use without a fairly fancy setup, or sending pieces out for heat-treatment?

Basic Steel 101
An alloy is a substance made of two or more elements mixed together. Steel, at base, is an alloy of iron with a tiny amount of carbon added. 0.1%, one tenth of one percent, changes iron to mild steel; the carbon content is low enough that, while it's stronger than iron, it can't be heat-treated to make it harder and/or tougher.

Increase that amount to about 0.4%, and you're into medium-carbon steel; it won't get very hard, but it will get harder than mild steel, and will be considerably tougher. Here you're getting into steel that can be used for some springs and other such pieces. Medium-carbon has a range between 0.4 to 0.7% -- the low end of that will harden enough to make some springs, and the high end is good for heavy chopping-type knives and tools.

At 0.8% and up, you're in high-carbon steel territory, generally running as high as 1.2% for the top end. Those tend to be specialized alloys that can require some fairly intricate heat-treatment to get the most out of them. Generally, the highest you'd want to work with would be ~1.0%

Common Steels and Their Uses
Rebar is a common use for mild steel, as well as just about anyplace the strength of steel is needed, but it doesn't have to be flexible*. The usual alloy for rebar and a lot of other mild steels is 1020; the alloying element is only carbon, the '20' meaning the amount (0.2%).

Medium-carbon steel is easily available as well. For instance, leaf and coil springs from car and truck suspension are generally an alloy called 5160. It contains the following:
  • Carbon 0.56 to 0.64
  • Manganese 0.75 to 1.00
  • Silicon 0.15 to 0.35
  • Chromium 0.70 to 0.90
  • The '60' means 0.6% carbon
Why all that? Adding those elements to the alloy along with carbon does two things: makes this steel very tough and good for springs, and one more very important thing in heat-treatment:
Generally speaking, the lower the carbon content, the faster the quench needs to be for the steel to fully harden. Stuff 0.5% or below has to be quenched in water or salt water, or it won't cool fast enough to make the changes in structure that make it hard (below 0.4%, it won't harden at all; at least not enough to tell). As the carbon content rises, however, the faster the quench, the more likely it is that it might crack in the quench. But if it doesn't cool fast ENOUGH, it won't fully harden. So, over time, it was discovered that if you add small amounts of the right stuff, it changes the reaction of the steel to the quench; 5160, for example, can be quenched in oil -- a much slower quench -- and still fully harden. This means that, especially in thin pieces like a knife blade, the thermal shock of putting red-hot metal into much cooler liquid is much less likely to cause it to crack.
Some high-carbon steel still has a pretty simple composition: 1090 or 1095 is basically iron with .90-.95% carbon content and is often used for files, rasps, wood chisels and other cutting tools. There's also W1 and W2 (the difference being one contains vanadium, the other doesn't); the 'W' stands for 'water-hardening', though for knife uses it'd be better to use oil.

Then you get into more complex alloys. For instance, one of the favorite steels of knifemakers for many years is O1, which has the following breakdown:
  • Carbon 0.85-1%
  • Chromium 0.4-0.6%
  • Manganese 1%
  • Nickel 0.3%
  • Silicon 0.5%
  • Vanadium 0.3%
Since I can't remember the specifics of what each adds to the mix, the short version is they allow it to be oil-quenched (in this case the 'O' means 'oil-hardening', the '1' nominally 1.0% carbon), the carbon content and other elements also add to wear resistance (which aids edge-holding ability in a cutting tool). This stuff will make blades that cut beautifully and hold an edge wonderfully, but heat-treatment is something the average guy can do without pulling hair out in frustration.

For a list of many knife steels, and their alloys, take a look here.

Exotics
Then there's stuff like stainless and stain-resistant steels. It contains much more alloying elements, and heat-treatment gets very tricky**. Those greater amounts of some elements explains why so many stainless steels won't hold an edge very well: generally speaking, adding enough nickel and chromium to steel gets you stainless, but adding that much actually reduces the wear-resistance of the alloy. An example of this is 440 stainless steel: it won't rust unless you work at it, but won't hold an edge very well unless it has very good heat-treatment; and even then it still won't keep sharpness as well as a good carbon steel like O1. On the other hand, stain-resistant steels like D2 (for example) will rust if you don't take care of them, but they're much more resistant to it than a plain carbon steel, and with good heat-treatment can hold an edge quite well.

Get more into the subject and you'll find shock-resistant steel, an alloy designed to be able to absorb heavy shock or impact in use without cracking or breaking; high-speed steel, like drill bits, able to get hot enough to ruin the heat-treatment of standard steels while still staying hard and sharp; and lots of other alloys for different uses.


That's a basic look at steel.  Next, I'll talk in more detail about the subject of heat-treatment.


Footnotes
*'Flexible' meaning 'it will flex under stress, and return to original shape when the stress is removed', like springs. Rebar doesn't have to do that.

**What's 'tricky' heat-treatment? Higher temperatures for both quench and tempering, preferably in a controlled-atmosphere environment for the hardening, and for some you need to take it up to temperature in steps. Lots of these steels are air-hardening, which means when it's ready to quench you pull it out of the furnace and set it on a rack in the open air; the alloy will harden from cooling that way. Some, however, after cooling to ambient temperature, require a sub-zero (way sub-zero) quench to fully harden. And keeping something like liquid nitrogen around isn't something you generally do.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #57

This is a special episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.. so special that it has THREE HOSTS! Not just your usual Sean and Adam, but they were also joined by Weer'd, who happened to be in the Raleigh area and dropped by the luxurious URS Studios to sit in on the main show!
  • Erin Palette tells us how a little hard work and some great friends led to 500 fact-filled, informative posts on her Blue Collar Prepping blog.
  • Is the Russian intervention in Syria going to turn into a proxy war between Russia and the US? Nicki Kenyon tells us what she thinks.
  • We are joined by not one, but TWO SPECIAL GUESTS! Tammy and Jenna of the brand-new podcast Women Carry. If you are a woman, or if you have a woman in your life, you need to listen to this. 
  • Someone stole Barron B's debit card. He'll tell you how he found out immediately, and how he fixed it.
  • And in addition to co-hosting, Weer'd also does his regular segment, this time one of his patented Weer'd Audio Fisks. Moms Demand Illegal Mayors for Everytown, a wholly owned subsidiary of Michael Bloomberg, Inc held a little (very little) rally in DC demanding their usual infringements on that which shall not be infringed. They even put out an emotion filled and logic deficient highlights reel. Weer'd takes it down.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please share this podcast with all your friends.
  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Show notes may be found here.
A very special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and receive 10% off on books, online and in person law of self defense seminars.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Florida Wildfires of 1998

& is used with permission.
I didn't realize until David mentioned it that I've never written about my experiences with the 1998 Florida fires. Given that it was 17 years ago and that newspapers weren't online at the time, my recollections are going to be spotty and sometimes not backed up by credible links, so some of what I write here might be proven to be in error later.

Setting the Stage
(All photos in this section courtesy of the NOAA National Climatic Data Center.)

In 1988, Florida experienced the perfect storm of environmental conditions. A very mild, very wet winter had nurtured the growth of underbrush, and so by spring the ground was littered with grasses, shrubs, baby trees and the like.

What many people don't realize about Florida is that it's frequently a drought state. There's a running joke that everything south of Melbourne* is a sandbar, and while that's not actually correct, there's more than a little truth to it -- large parts of the state are just thin layers of topsoil over clay. This means that, although it rains a lot in Florida, that water isn't being absorbed by the ground into aquifers; instead, it runs off into canals, swamps, and hammocks, and then likely out to sea. This is why, if you've ever visited, you see lots of retention ponds; they are there to catch and hold rainwater.


This is important to note because, after a very wet winter, rainfall went from "way over what is normal" to "less than half of normal" in a span of about two months.


This, combined with amazingly hot temperatures (thanks in part to El Niño), meant that all this lush underbrush died due to lack of water; there wasn't enough falling from the sky, and there wasn't enough found in the ground. The predictable result of this was that there was now a lot of tinder covering Florida's forests.


In other words, we were living in a tinderbox.  

Fun fact: Florida is the lightning strike capital of the United States. The area between Orlando and Tampa Bay is known as "lightning alley" and it averages fifty strikes per square mile each year

You can see where this is going.

The Perfect Firestorm
I don't think it's ever been determined how many fires were caused by lightning and how many were caused by arson (either negligent or deliberate). I know that we had plenty of all three, and that all fireworks displays (even the ones put on by cities) were cancelled or postponed out of a sense of caution.

It didn't help. In fact, the fires were so big that you could see them from space:


I cannot find a citation for this, but I recall hearing that at one point, every single county in Florida, except the Keys, was on fire.

By late June, 128 wildfires were burning across the state. 69 of them started on a single day!
This map shows the major fires that occurred between June 5, 1998 and July 9, 1998.
Picture courtesy of http://www.react4800.org/photos/fs1998_maps.html
By July 3, the entire county that I lived in -- 35,000 people -- was evacuated. This was done because fires were surrounding us on three sides, and there were fears that we might get surrounded and obliterated. I remember some people saying "The fire will burn itself out once it reaches the Intracoastal Waterway, because it will hit water and stop. There's no need to evacuate." Those people were foolish, because that fire became so hot that it was generating its own wind and blowing embers across the water.

Fortunately, my family had evacuated earlier. I recall, from the relative safety of an hour's drive south, of seeing something floating down from the sky in the parking lot of the hotel where we were staying. I caught it in my hand -- it was a leaf that had burned so quickly that it had been turned into ash without losing its leaf shape.

It was, essentially, snowing ash.

Go here to see a gallery of photos taken during and after the fires.

Aftermath
By the end of July, a total of 2,277 fires had burned almost a half million acres, and yet only 337 homes and 33 businesses were damaged or destroyed.

I'm honestly not sure how the firefighters managed it, other than sheer determination and throwing lots of people at the blaze -- we had no fewer than firefighters from 44 states battling the blaze, and at the time it was the largest aerial suppression operation ever conducted in the United States.

I got off pretty easily: my home was fine and no one in my family was hurt, although the place smelled like a forest fire for weeks afterwards. I did breathe a lot of smoke during those months, though, and it messed up my lungs somewhat. I'm also allergic to most trees, so breathing burnt allergens likely didn't help either. To this day I can't stand to be around a wood fire unless it's burning very cleanly.

I'm not the only one who had respiratory problems: during those two months, emergency room visits for asthma doubled, and emergency room visits for acute exacerbation of bronchitis increased by 132 percent.
There were large sections of the county that were burned so badly that the trees were blackened husks and the ground beneath them was ashen gray. It was eerie and surreal, like a piece of alien landscape had replaced familiar territory.

http://www.trbimg.com/img-511639a0/turbine/orl-1998wildfire16pic20070308135441/500/500x281
In Conclusion
Have an evacuation plan. Bugging in is great for storms, but terrible for fires.

Keep tabs on the situation as it develops. The fires were extremely fluid, ironically enough.

Don't be afraid to leave before being told to evacuate. Our lives were so much easier by getting out before it was mandatory.

Don't expect to get off easy. Plan for things to be so much worse.

Go read David's post on the California fires if you haven't yet. It has good information. 



* Think Kennedy Space Center -- it's not actually Melbourne, but it ought to help you visualize what I'm talking about.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Our 500th Post

This is the 500th published post on Blue Collar Prepping. Monday through Friday, five times a week for a hundred weeks (roughly -- there have been some weekend posts), a bunch of admitted amateur preppers have been able to keep cranking out content that people want to read. 

Each of us has written about a hundred articles in the almost two years since we began. Try that sometime; unless you're a professional author, it isn't easy coming up with a new topic and writing 500-1000 words every week (mine tend to be a bit longer; I'm “thorough,” according to our editrix.  I also like to write in series to cover a topic, that gives me more opportunity to cover things in detail.). I have all of my old posts archived locally, just to make sure that I don't repeat myself.

We have a Facebook page with over 200 members, and our bloggers are the moderators of that page. We do our best to keep the trolls and spammers in line (politics not allowed), and we discuss posts and topics there with more activity than we get from the comments section of this blog. It's also a quick way to share links that we run across without writing a blog post about everything we see.

We've had writers join and we've had a few that had to step away from writing for various reasons. We cherish our guest writers, for they give the regulars a break. We all have regular lives, with the normal amounts of stress and commitments other than writing a blog. We have come together as a small tribe of our own, even though we're scattered from East coast to West and from Florida to Utah. We cover all four time zones, and our goal is to eventually gather somewhere and actually meet face-to-face.

Looking through the statistics furnished by Google, our ten most-viewed posts have covered a variety of subjects and span almost entire life of our blog:
  • Erin's post on Purifying Water with Potassium Permangenate, from August 2014, comes in number one with 3,171 views. 
  • Numbers two through four are my posts on Death and Burial: Body, Mind, and Spirit, with 1585, 880, and 701 views respectively (February and March 2014). This series was cross-linked on another blog and that inflated the numbers a bit.
  • Water Filtration with a Stick, from just a few weeks ago, comes in at number five with 526 views. 
  • A Prepper Library of PDFs is Erin's collection of free-to-use PDF files of interest to preppers and ranks in sixth place.
  • Number seven is one of David's Buffet Posts, in which he covers several smaller topics that weren't worthy of individual posts alone.
  • Erin's introduction to Your Apocalypse Arsenal and Every Day Carry are numbers eight and nine.
  • And at number ten, Lokidude unboxed a prepacked Bail Out Bag -- a modified 72 hour kit designed for keeping in a vehicle. The Bail Out Bag is still available, and it is one of the few things that all BCP writers endorse.
Looking at some of the other statistics, I can tell that two-thirds of our readers use some flavor of Windows operating system and prefer Mozilla's Firefox browser over all others (twice as many as Chrome and three times Safari's users). You're mostly viewing our little blog from the United States, although France and the Ukraine are about tied for second place, with each showing twice as many views as Canada. Some of the other locations that show up are Russia, China, the UK, Germany, India, and Turkey.

We average 300-400 views a day, about 12,000 a month. Our numbers are slowly growing, and we are always looking for ways to get more readers. We keep the ads to a minimum, just a few on the right-hand side of the page, because we're not doing this to get rich. We don't sell DVDs or books (although we have discussed collecting our articles into an e-book) or survival-related gear; we're doing this to present information.

I feel that we need to give recognition to the sites who send readers our way. Without the links from them, we wouldn't have a fraction of the readers we do and we are grateful for their help. The top two are aggregator sites that post links to blogs, SurvivalBlogs.org and Gun Blog Black List. Give them a look if you have the time -- there's a lot of good information on both sites.

Here's looking forward to our next 500 articles. With your input and continued reading, we'll be writing until the SHTF for real.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

Fleeing the Fires
If you watch the news, major portions of California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho are either burning now or have been recently. Of particular concern to me and my friends is the fire burning north of Napa, CA called the Valley Fire. This fire has burned almost 70,000 acres and destroyed 585 homes and an unknown number of out buildings as of 7:30 a.m. September 15.

One area that has been hit particularly hard is the town of Middletown and the surrounding countryside. Reports say that the town has suffered major damage, and videos filmed by residents fleeing the fire, and shot afterwards, confirms those claims. 

A local resident interviewed said she had 30 minutes to get out of her house before the fire got to her. Caution! This video suffers very poor sound for the first 2:25 minutes and then clears up, so keep your speakers down!

My friend the Gear Nut has a friend who, more than likely, has lost his family vacation home to the Valley fire. His house was protected well, with brush cleared away for 100 feet, no big trees overhanging the building, and whatever landscaping that didn't die in the drought having been cut back. No one was there last weekend, but the family has been cleaning up from summer trips and planning for cooler weather and approaching holidays. Their closest neighbor said that their houses are reported to be gone, and every other house in the canyon is more than likely gone too. The neighbor said they had an hour before the fire came over the ridge to get packed and head to safety... not much time if you haven't planned what to take and what to leave.

Prepping for Evacuation
Several of the BCP bloggers have written about fire and evacuating quickly, starting with some of my own posts here and here. Lokidude has one here, and Erin has spoken (in passing) about fires in her BOB planning posts.

The most important thing to take away from all of our posts is to be ready to go NOW. Not tomorrow, not in an hour, RIGHT NOW!

To do that, you have to plan ahead. To plan ahead, you have to have a list of what is important and what is not. This plan should be reviewed regularly and adjusted for changing conditions and members of your group.

Items to Have Ready 
  • Bug out bags for each person.
  • Cell phone, personal electronics and chargers for each item, including car charging cables.
  • Food.
  • Water.
  • Important papers, photos and sentemental items. Copies of your important papers should be in each persons bag.
  • Food and carriers for your pets if you have any, as well as leashes, vet records, water bowls and toys. 
  • First aid items and medicines, with copies of your prescriptions. Don't forget eyeglass prescriptions. 
  • Cash: enough to fill your vehicle twice and buy several days of meals.
  • Any other items that will help make your time away easier.
I have looked at my preps and I don't think I can get my stuff into my truck in less than 30 minutes if I start from a dead sleep. I think it might be doable in less than 15 minutes if I'm awake and there are no complications like a damaged building.

I need to re-do my list of Important Things, since the weather is changing and I plan on it raining in the fall.

At least a little.

Maybe.

I hope.

The Takeaway
  • What you do needs to be planned out, written down and reviewed with everyone involved.
  • There are no 'Do Overs' in the face of a disaster.

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 be 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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Improving the Magnesium Firestarter

In my travels around the web this week, I stumbled across a neat video in which the presenter addressed the primary weakness of using magnesium shavings as a fire starter: they're very light and wind blows them everywhere. Even the striking motion of a ferro rod can cause your shaving pile to scatter and be useless. The weakness is readily apparent, but what is the solution?

The fellow in the video uses simple duct tape to contain his shavings. As Erin pointed out a few weeks ago on the Gunblog Varietycast, one of the many neat features of duct tape is that it burns quite handily. Combined with the magnesium shavings it makes an excellent, if unexpected, firestarter. It also allows you to shave your magnesium at home, where you can a tool that is far more efficient and faster than your striker.

I'll attach the video below, but for those of you who can't watch it for some reason, here is the summary.
  1. Using whatever tool is easiest, make a nice pile of shavings. The example from the video is a file, but there are a number of other tools that would work. Having a sheet of paper or plastic to catch your shavings keeps everything contained and under control. 
  2. When you have a decent pile of shavings, take a square of duct tape, roughly 2" by 2", and rub the adhesive side in the shavings until it is nicely covered. 
  3. Roll the tape into a cigarette shape, adhesive side in. Roll it at a slight angle, so that when you're finished, a tag of adhesive and shavings are visible on one end of the cylinder. 
  4. Store in a plastic bag or some other water-tight container. 
To ignite, drive sparks onto the exposed adhesive/shaving portion.  The shavings will ignite, lighting the duct tape as well and giving you a decent bit of time to get your fire rolling.

 Video courtesy of The Prepper's Voice

As he states in the video, you can make up several of these ahead of time and have them handy. They're not Fastfire or Wetfire, but if you've already got a mag bar around, they cost you nothing but time. It also never hurts to know another way to do something, per the Angus MagGyver school of getting things done.

Lokidude 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Putting the Fun back in Functional

When you get down to brass tacks, reconstruction after a SHTF scenario is all about functionality. You have to stop and consider what's beyond mere survival, though, if you really want to hang on for the long term.

Survival is good and necessary. Having the skills and functionality to keep yourself housed, clothed, fed, protected, and in relatively good health are essential to living long enough to start putting things back together.

What keeps us from devolving into simply another mammalian animal, though, is our resilience and our ability to find (or make) fun during the worst of times.

Even in the midst of crises, it is important for humans to play and laugh for morale and for mental health maintenance. It is important for us to relax, or else the stress of simply surviving will undo all our hard work and make life unlivable. Too much stress can also have nasty adverse physical effects, which are certainly going to be counter-productive in a survival situation.

While I no longer have children young enough to worry about, many do. Those with small children as part of their bug out/bug in/cope and survive group often wonder how to keep their children entertained, useful, and out of trouble (not necessarily in that order!) during a SHTF scenario. The same question arises for unexpected visitors as a SHTF starts -- who may or may not have particularly useful skill sets -- and those members of your Tribe/Clan/Group who perhaps are mentally and emotionally willing, but not as physically able as others to take on difficult tasks necessary for group survival.

Turn small but necessary tasks that do not require significant skills into games for the kids. Sending them to gather kindling and firewood (while still in sight of someone who can protect them, obviously) and turning it into a bit of competition can keep them occupied and entertained, while freeing up someone else to do more skill intensive tasks.Other good tasks for children involve animals, such as feeding chickens, walking dogs, watering cattle.

Encouraging songs, story telling, poetry; all these are good for "down time" to keep minds occupied and off the groups' worries, while providing an excuse for physical lulls. Leading these exercises are good jobs for adults who are low-mobility due to age or illness, especially if they have experience being parents, babysitters, or elementary school teachers.

Remember, life is more than simply surviving from one day to the next: it's thriving and growing and playing and laughing, too! A life that is worth living is a life that is more likely to survive a disaster.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #56

Be honest: You didn't think it would last this long, did you? Well, Adam and Sean recorded their 56th consecutive week of The GunBlog VarietyCast. If you haven't started listening already, this is a good week to start!
  • Erin Palette Clues us in to the really great idea of using eReaders as Survival Tools.
  • Remember how last week Nicki Kenyon told us that we should be very afraid that the European Migrant Crisis might mean thousands of Islamists with automatic visas to visit the US? She was wrong. It's SO MUCH WORSE!
  • This week's Special Guest LawDog tells us the hilarious story of Brigadier-Captain Azikiwe and Phydeaux the Yard Frog.
  • Barron B answers my questions about which SD card I should choose.
  • And Weer'd catches the gun grabbers in another lie.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please leave us a review on iTunes, and Like and Share us on Facebook.
  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Show notes may be found here.
As always, a very special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" and receive 10% off on books and Law of Self Defense seminars in your state.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11 and Prepping

& is used with permission.
I've written about 9/11 many times on my other blog, but it's mostly been about my sense of anger and outrage. I don't think I've ever discussed how it affected me, or where I was that day.

And the main reason for that is because I don't have much to tell. No one I know was killed in any of the attacks, although I know people who did. But if did affect me in other ways.

2001
I was on the DC Beltway, driving from my home in Arlington to my job in Fairfax, VA, when the first plane hit. I was listening to the radio as I drove, and initial reports made it seem like an accident -- because no one expected the truth.

I got to work late, and I'm honestly not sure if it was because of usual DC traffic, or because other people heard the same reports and were slowing down. I am honestly not sure what time I got to work, as most of that morning is a haze for me. By the time I arrived, the other plane had already hit, and people were saying it was a terrorist attack, but I don't recall if the Pentagon strike happened before or after I got off the Interstate.

I think it was before, because the very first thing I did when I got to work was to call my parents (I didn't have a cell phone) and tell them that I was all right, which isn't something I would have done had it just been the NYC attacks.

I remember the chaos as contradictory information came out. I know for a fact I heard on the radio that a bomb had exploded in front of the State Department (or perhaps the Secretary of State's house; I just recall the word State was used a lot); and then later we were told that was incorrect, and nothing else was said about it. To this day I don't know if that was just a rumor someone started, or if a car simply caught fire, or what.

I remember being terribly excited by the whole thing. No, not in a fun way; it was a combination of anxiety over "What's going to get hit next? Who are we at war with? Are we going to win?" and that adrenaline-pumping feeling you get in action movies where the music picks up and you go "Oh yeah. now the righteous ass-kicking will commence!"  If you remember being glued to your seats during the first Gulf War, you know the feeling I'm talking about -- lots of energy, but nothing productive to do with it.

I remember how eerie it was, in the weeks that followed, that the sky was completely silent. And I remember realizing that being in a capital city meant that I was living in a bullseye, and I didn't like that feeling one bit.

2003
I experienced a similar feeling when the Northeast Blackout of 2003. I was fortunate not to be affected by it, but I had a close friend who was. I remember being amazed at the scale of the situation: fifty-five million people without power. I remember being pleasantly surprised -- no, shocked -- that America's largest city being without power for an entire night didn't result in massive amounts of assault, looting, and arson. I'd like to think that the lesson of 9/11/01 was still fresh in everyone's mind, and that's why New York citizens were kind to one another.

But mostly, I remember thinking "When the lights go out, cities turn into traps." I saw pictures of the traffic backed up as cars tried to make their way out of the city without power at the intersections, and realized that if people needed to get out of Manhattan quickly, they wouldn't be able to, and that if was a life or death situation, many would die.

Today
It's these two events which are chiefly responsible for me becoming a prepper. There are others, but these affected me so profoundly that they altered the way I think:
  1. I realized, on a visceral level, that there are people who want to do me harm. 
  2. I realized that anxiety is wasted energy that could be better used implementing a plan of action. Of course, to do that, I needed to make a plan of action that I could implement. 
  3. I realized that I never wanted be caught off-guard in the case of disaster, and so even if I didn't have a plan of action I could implement a plan of reaction. Example: Carry a first-aid kit. 
  4. I realized how fragile everything is: human life, communication, the cocoon of life support and comfort we wrap ourselves in. 
  5. I realized that any place you can't easily get away from can go from "cradle" to "tomb" in a heartbeat. 
Because of this, I have changed the way I live:
  1. I understand that even if I'm not interested in hurting anyone, they may be interested in hurting me, so I maintain situational awareness. 
  2. I have, at least, a reactive plan for situations, such as "What would I do if someone were to take hostages in the bookstore I like to attend?" Once I have reactive plans, I can then make proactive ones. 
  3. I carry useful equipment with me, so that I can act sensibly in an emergency, rather than panic or be filled with useless anxiety. 
  4. I visit cities, but I never live in them. They don't exactly make me claustrophobic, but I've never liked crowds, and now that I see people as potential blockades in an evacuation, I like them even less. As I've said elsewhere, I like persons but I detest people. 
  5. I prep, because it makes me feel secure and gives me an outlet. Some people might call it a crutch; I call it a coping mechanism, and it's a lot healthier than getting drunk. 
Thank you, New York City. 
Thank you, Pentagon. 
Thank you, United Airlines Flight 93. 
I have learned the lessons that you taught me. 

I hope those lessons help me to save lives.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trade Goods: Ammunition

Ammunition is one of the mainstays of prepping. Firearms become expensive, fairly fragile clubs unless you have the right cartridges to feed them. Ammunition is also a “dense” way to store value -- it takes up less space and weighs more than an equivalent worth of water or clothing. With the exceptions of rimfire cartridges and those made of aluminum or steel, most cartridges can be reloaded more than once and will retain some value even after being used.

Primers, powder, and bullets can be made from locally available materials much easier than brass, and having the equipment to reload could be a viable source of “income” after TSHTF. Properly manufactured and stored (see Erin's post on ammunition storage), ammunition has a very long shelf-life. I'm shooting some stuff that was loaded for use in WWI (which makes it almost a century old) with very few misfires; about the same rate as I see from the stuff made during WWII. One of the advantages to shooting old calibers is that some of them were originally loaded with black powder, which is simple to make.

Trading Ammunition
When trading for (buying) ammunition, get the best that you can. Anything that is dented, corroded, or otherwise damaged should be looked at as a source of components (bullet, powder, etc.) only. Small dents that don't interfere with the cycling of the firearm will usually pop back out when the bullet is fired, but larger dents will prevent a proper gas seal around the cartridge and could be dangerous to use. Corrosion weakens the brass and, depending on the type of firearm, could create a ruptured or split case, which requires special tools to get out of the chamber.

When selling ammunition, be aware that the buyers are likely to come back for more. I'll cover safety/security in a bit, but you should only trade what is surplus to your own needs. As an example, I have ammunition on hand for firearms that I no longer own. It is in calibers that will not fit any of my other guns, so it is surplus to me. If someone else could use it in their guns, it would be worth a lot more to them than it is to me. Unless I were to happen upon a truckload of .22LR, I don't think I'd be willing to sell that caliber; it is so useful and common that I wish it was reloadable. Since it's not, there is a finite supply once the factories stop. Supply and demand will make it one of the more valuable commodities in a very short time.

Trade is based on a lot of things, but trust is one of the main ones. If there are no lawyers or courts around, be careful of cheating your trade partners. They may respond in ways you won't like, and have no method to redress. Knowingly selling someone defective ammunition is about the same as shooting them yourself, since it is likely to injure them or cause them to become injured. Taking a shot at a wild hog and having your gun blow up in your face or jam with a bullet half-way down the barrel is not a good way to stay alive.

Why Trade?
Whenever someone mentions using ammunition or weapons as a trade good, it generally evokes one of two responses:
  1. You can never have too much ammo! Never trade it.
  2. Why would you give someone the bullets to kill you?
The first response is generally true. It's hard to accumulate too much ammo -- but not impossible. If you're getting ready to bug out and not return, or if you are relocating for other reasons (i.e. your shelter is no longer suitable or is damaged beyond repair) you may have to leave things behind. If you have several tons of ammo, you can either trade it for something easier to transport, destroy it, or attempt to hide it. In that situation, I'd trade ammo for fuel or a vehicle rather than create a noisy fire that would draw attention.

The second response is quite common, and one that is often seen on prepper sites. It makes sense if you're staying in an area where you are not secure and there are people who you don't know or trust are around. Roaming bands of drug-crazed mutants are generally considered a good reason to find a better place to live, and I would suggest keeping your interactions with them to a bare minimum. Trading with people like that is a no-win proposition.

Security Revisted 
There are situations where you may consider trading ammunition, however. Going back to my post on trade basics, there are four general situations in which trade occurs between people. Each has special requirements for both the buyer's and seller's safety.

Buyer is mobile, seller is not
Buyer: As long as the buyer is able to get to and from the seller safely, and trusts the seller to not rob/kill him, there is no reason to not trade for ammo. 

Seller: The seller will need to have security on hand in sufficient quantity to dissuade would-be robbers. Being stationary means you will be able to plan and implement defensive measures, but will also require them. You're a target, regardless of what you're trading.

Seller is mobile, buyer is not
Buyer
: If you're set up in your compound and you have a trade caravan that stops by every so often, buying ammunition from them should be safe. Random visitors should be treated as potentially hostile until you get more information. Trust is hard to earn, and a lone wanderer could be a scout for a large group. “Casing the joint” is nothing new, and I don't expect it will disappear any time soon.

Seller: If you're a traveling salesman, you'd best have a secure route laid out. The further away you are from a crisis in time and distance, the safer you should be. Another possibility would be stopping by a settlement while traveling and trading excess ammunition for food. Knowing your buyer will be a big help; otherwise you'll just have to trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Pick up and move on if you are physically able.

Both buyer and seller are mobile
Since both are mobile, they will have the same concerns with safety/security. Getting to and from the meeting point will be half of the challenge; the other half will be the meeting itself. Trade is most dangerous just before and just after the negotiations begin. If you're coming to trade, you have something of value and are a target to some; iIf you're done trading, you will have something of value on you, so you're a target once again.

Trading ammunition to a sociopath is not a good idea since they will have no problem killing you and taking everything. Use your gut as well as your head. If something feels “off” or wrong, back away from the meeting and get to safety.

Both buyer and seller are stationary
This gets back to the definitions from last week. Transporting things of value can be a challenge, and ammunition is no different. Small quantities can be hidden in other cargo (one of the good things about being it being a dense medium), but large lots will have to be transported under guard. Communications and safe transport will probably resemble the drug trade of today. Depending on the quality and quantity of “law” still present after a crisis, smuggling skills may be worth knowing.

Final Thoughts
Trading ammunition is another of the various parts of prepping that isn't black and white. There are a lot of gray areas you need to be aware of and to plan for. The danger of “giving someone the bullets to kill you with” can be avoided by trading only with those you trust. I would have no problem at all trading surplus ammunition with my extended family or tribe, because I trust them and I want them to survive any bad times as well. 

Trade without politics is also more personal; without the “rule of law”, there is no way to coerce someone into trading with you. Hang that “We reserve the right to refuse service” sign with pride, and pay heed to your instincts: they could be worth your life.

The Fine Print


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