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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #71

Adam and Sean got up very early after Christmas to make sure that you got your podcast on schedule, even though Adam is very tired after a long holiday.
  • Don't miss our extra special "Felons Behaving Badly" segment. This week is that "ACTIVE SHOOTER!!!" in the Charlotte mall on Christmas Eve. The Gun Grabbers had their anti-gun mass blood dancing shoes all laced up and were already sending out Facebook press releases before they realized the magnitude of the Narrative Failure they were about to experience. You've got to hear this one to believe it. 
  • Erin Palette teaches you how to recycle Christmas trees in Blue Collar Prepping.
  • Putin and Trump seem to have quite the bromance, and Nicki Kenyon tries to stop gagging long enough to tell you what she thinks of it in Foreign Policy for Grownups.
  • Returning guest Ambulance Driver Kelly Grayson tells us about a very special White Christmas he and his ambulance crew endured in rural Louisiana in this little segment we like to call This One Time.
  • Our Special Guest this week is the President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League Philip Van Cleave. Philip joins us by telephone to talk about some good strategies to defeat the Virginia Attorney General's attack on Concealed Handgun Reciprocity. And guess what? "Boycott the whole state of Virginia" isn't on the list.
  • And it looks like the Imagineers at Disney have hauled out their audio-animatronic Hillary again. This time they took her to Late Night with Seth Meyers to see if they could fool anyone into believing she was human. Weer'd plays along and subjects it to another Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™ in This Week in Anti-Gun Nuttery!
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas -- See you next year!

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Just like last year, I'm giving the entire staff of Blue Collar Prepping the next week off so they can spend time with friends and family. I might post next week, but I also might not.

May you have a blessed and fulfilling holiday season!

Blue Collar Prepping will return Monday, 4 January 2016. 



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Air Purification

We have covered water purification and food supplies (among other things) for the last 22 months, but I realized that none of us had ever discussed air purification. The rule of threes states that you can live three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without air. Have you thought about how to clean the air that you breathe?

Today I will cover personal breathing aids, and if there is interest I can cover area/group methods later.

Equipment
There are three basic types of devices that you can use to clean the air you breathe, passive and active filters and supplied-air systems.

Passive filters are the most common and range from common dust masks through industrial respirators to the military grade gas masks. Passive filters all use the power of your diaphragm and lungs to draw air through them, and can only remove things from the atmosphere before it gets to your lungs. Filters do not add or supply oxygen for you to breathe. Think of them as water filters whereas a supplied-air system is a canteen, if that helps make the difference clear.

Active filtration is any system that uses an external source of energy to move the air for you to breathe. The main advantage over passive filters is that they create a positive pressure on the inside of the mask/respirator and that is a great help in keeping pollutants out of your lungs. They also make it easier to breathe and won't make you work muscles in your abdomen that you may not realize you have. The other advantage is that since it creates a positive pressure inside the mask, you don't have to have a perfect seal between the mask and your skin. Those of us with beards can don a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) and breathe clean air without having to shave first. (Yes, I'm trying to get the boss to buy me one.)

Supplied-air is any system that provides stored and/or piped-in clean air to an air-tight hood or mask. The typical Scuba (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) tanks that divers use are a good example of a supplied-air system, and several companies make SCBA (remove the word underwater) gear for firefighters and separate systems for industrial use. There are also emergency hoods with a small air bottle, commonly referred to as Scram-Packs, designed to allow a person to evacuate an area with severe air quality issues. At my job, we carry them when applying anhydrous ammonia and certain pesticides, and the 10 minute air bottle is plenty to get clear of a serious leak. Self-contained means more mobile, but with a very limited amount of air -- usually no more than 30 or 60 minutes' worth.

Many industrial respirators can be converted to a supplied-air configuration by removing the filters and connecting to hoses running from a certified source of clean air. Dragging hoses around limits your mobility, but gives a much longer time to do what needs to be done. The main problem with SCBA systems is the cost of keeping the bottles full (2200 psi is a bit more than your garage compressor can handle) of clean air (oil-less compressors and big pre-filters) unless you have the budget of a business or municipality to draw upon.

Choosing the Right Type
Those are the types of breathing equipment that are available, now how do you figure out which one you need?

The first step is to identify what you are likely to run into, so you can find the mask that will protect you the best. Knowing the limits of specific chemicals is a special art that requires training, since some are dangerous at very small concentrations. Knowing what to expect will give you a chance to study ahead of time and make sure you have what you need.

If you're dealing with dust from construction, demolition, or weather, a simple dust mask will usually be enough. Look for the ones with an exhaust valve on the front; they make breathing easier and don't trap as much moisture as the unvented style. In a pinch, a wetted piece of cloth wrapped around the lower half of your face will work almost as well as a commercial dust mask. Cowboys didn't wear bandannas just to look cool; they were there to be used as dust masks when they got stuck behind the herd of cattle.

If there is lead paint or asbestos present, then you'll need to look at a respirator with filters rated for those. Half-face respirators are designed for minor-to-moderate contamination that does not pose a threat to your eyes, and are the most commonly used industrial type. Since they don't cover the entire head there are fewer problems with claustrophobia and heat stress for the wearer.

Any time you start to deal with vapors or mists (welding and cutting certain metals, chemical exposure, etc.) you will need to find a respirator with replaceable filters and then get the filters that will remove those chemicals. Most filters have a lifespan of hours or days once the factory seal is broken, and many have a shelf-life as well, so rotate your stock as needed. Additionally, if you're dealing with mists instead of dusts, you'll be looking for a full-face respirator in order to protect your eyes. Military surplus gas masks fall into this category, with the caveat of "it's surplus for a reason": natural and man-made rubbers have a definite useful life, and when they start to weather-check or crack they are no longer of any use, so be careful what you buy. Finally, face shields fog up from the moisture in your breath in cool/cold weather and you can't just take off the respirator to clean it. Cat crap (TM) is a good anti-fog treatment for goggles and face shields.

If there is a hazard that will deplete or replace the oxygen in the area you are in, or a chemical is present in concentrations that are "Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health" (IDLH, an acronym that you may see on warning labels or data sheets) then a supplied-air system is the only type that will work.

Cost
Next, you need to know how much money you have to spend on a respirator.
  • Dust mask: a couple of dollars apiece.
  • Half-mask respirator: $20-50, plus filters.
  • Full-face respirator: $30-100, plus filters.
  • PAPR: $1500-2000, plus filters (usually more than 2) and batteries.
  • SCBA: $800-5000, plus a way to refill tanks.
Training
Finally, you need to make sure you know how to use what you are looking to buy. If you are ever offered a chance to take Haz-Mat or Haz-Com training, do it. Learn how to fit a mask, as even the simple dust masks need to be fitted to you face in order to do any good. Find someone who can show you how to put on and take off the respirator you've chosen; there are tricks that make is a lot easier and save wear and tear on your equipment. Unless you are trained, I would suggest you avoid the SCBA systems, as there is far too much potential for making lethal errors.

For liability reasons, I can't tell you what you'll need for any specific hazard. Do your research and if you have a specific question about a specific hazard, I may be able to point you towards where you can find the information. I'm a trained user but not a trainer, so I don't have all of the information you may need for your personal preparations.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Weather Prep

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.

It is finally raining here in California and I have found a few things to check on and repair, starting with the sun roof in my truck. I noticed a wet spot on my arm rest this morning and, looking for the source, found the latch handle directly overhead wet also. I've had to replace the gasket material under the mountings screws before, so it may be time to do it again. All I need is a dry couple of hours (or a nice garage) to get this work done. And the work on my brakes. Yeah.

With the change in weather, I've made sure to have my rolls of 2 mil plastic and duct tape handy. I don't expect to make an emergency shelter or use it for temporary repairs; I just need to know where it is, is all. I do live on a street with plenty of trees and the potential is there for a branch breaking off and hitting the house, but with the tree services trimming everything and no chance of snow or ice loading up a limb, I think I'm pretty safe.

Personal Weather Prep

Internal
I have a very bad cold that seems to be making the rounds here: chest congestion, cough, runny nose, sore throat and body aches. To help fight this, I am packing a liquid Day-Time cough medicine along with the usual Tylenol and other OTC remedies. I don't take them all at once, --I have them to share with others less prepared, scoring Gold Stars for me and my coworkers! Because I am feeling sick, staying warm and comfortable is really hard where I work. While it isn't below freezing and I am inside, it is a large warehouse building with doors that are always open and the crosswinds do not allow me enough time to warm up and stay that way.

External
I have my lightweight wool hiking socks and liners out, and I'm wearing them on the very coldest days. (An extra set is in my GHB, just in case.) These are from REI and have held up well. I believe the liners are from REI also, but I'm not certain.

 I like the fact the sock is thicker in the heel and toe while being thinner in the middle and hugging the arch of my foot. If my feet get wet, the liner moves the moisture away and the wool gives me some cushion and keeps me warm. Just the thing for rainy mornings that start at 5 AM!

The Takeaway
  • Look for leaks in your car. Leaves clogging a gasket could allow water in your trunk to spoil your gear or corrode connections 
  • Prepare for colder weather now, while you can. 50° F is not a normal December temperature.
  • Prepare your body for cold weather too. More food, fluids and extra clothing will keep you healthy. 

Recap
  • Nothing was purchased for this week.

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon this Holiday season, 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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Zero Like a Hero Pt 3: Troubleshooting


We've looked at the how and why of zeroing a rifle, but what about when it just won't come together? There are a few things that will cause a rifle to be unable to zero. Luckily, most of them are fairly simple and quick fixes, and cost nothing or next to it.

If your gun simply will not put together a fairly tight cluster of holes in 3-5 shots, and you're certain that it's not shooter error, start by looking for something loose that shouldn't be. This is a fix that you'll likely not want to do at the range, and the range will likely appreciate that.
  1. Unload your gun, and keep it pointed in a safe direction. 
  2. Check the screws on your rifle to ensure that the barrel and receiver are mated firmly to the stock and forearm.
  3. Check that the screws holding your scope base are firmly torqued into your rifle's action. Loctite is a good idea on these screws.  I prefer the blue variety for my gun work.
  4. Check that your rings are tight, and solidly attached to the base. Again, blue Loctite will help eliminate future problems.
These steps will cure the vast majority of problems with a rifle that won't group. Checking that all these screws remain tight is an often-overlooked part of rifle maintenance that should be done regularly. The threadlocker helps a great deal, but even that can walk loose after extended firing.

If your rifle still won't group, there are a couple other things that you can check for yourself. First, inspect the muzzle (double check that the weapon is unloaded, please). You're looking for nicks, burrs, or other damage, as these can cause the bullet to leave the muzzle unevenly, devastating accuracy. Unfortunately, this pretty much requires gunsmith attention, but it's usually on the simpler side of smith work.

The other thing is to try different ammunition. Some rifles are quite particular about what bullet weights and velocities that they like, and it will show when they shoot. My .30-06, for example, likes 165gr bullets just fine, but my groups open up to almost double with 180gr rounds. Unfortunately, this can only be found by firing various options, which can be spendy. It is also one of the least common causes of severe inaccuracy.

Grouping problems that aren't fixed by these steps are probably going to need at least a consultation with a gunsmith.

If your rifle will group, but runs out of adjustment before it gets to point of aim, you'll need to adjust your mounting. The more expensive, but faster and easier way, is to buy adjustable rings like these from Burris. This type of ring has eccentric inserts that allow you to adjust the angle of your scope in relation to your barrel, and consequently your point of impact in relation to your point of aim. You'll need to know your tube diameter and mounting height when you order your rings.
The can with ends removed, split and rinsed.

The cheap/free way to do this is with shims. Shimming accomplishes the same thing, trading cost for time and work on your part. Shims can be placed either between the base and the action, or the ring and the bottom of the scope, or both if necessary. If your rifle is hitting low, shim the rear of the scope. If you're hitting high, shim the front of the scope.

The easiest source I've found for shims is the humble soda can.
  1. Using a pair of scissors or shears, cut the ends off the can, then cut down the side so that the metal lies flat. 
  2. Rinse any residue off your material. 
  3. Cut strips roughly 1/2" wide by 1-1.5" long, then fold them in half, ending up with a doubled piece of material 1/2" x 1/2" or 3/4". 
  4. Insert the shim in the appropriate location, and trim as necessary to fit. 
  5. Add additional shims as needed, until you can adjust your rifle to zero properly.
On the right is a strip from the can, and a finished shim on the left.
This should help you get and stay on target. Get set up and practice as much as you can.

Lokidude

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: Ruger 10-22 Takedown

The Ruger 10-22 came out in 1964, and it's been selling steadily ever since. Part of that is due to customization -- much like the AR-15, there's just about every kind of replacement and add-on part and accessory imaginable. It's also short, light, reliable, and accurate, and it's been a prepper and general truck gun favorite for quite a while. If you don't know someone who has one, I'll be surprised. 
http://americanhandgunner.com/exclusive-web-extra-take-it-down/
In 2012, Ruger brought out a takedown version where the barrel & forend separate from the receiver for easy packing. It even comes with a padded bag where the barrel/forend fits into a pocket on one side and the receiver/stock assembly on the other. There are two big pockets on the front for accessories, ammunition or magazines. 

Assembly
  1. Start with the two separate units.
  2. Lock the bolt on the receiver back.  
  3. Insert the barrel shank into the receiver at about a 30 degree angle.
  4.   Pull the spring-loaded latch in the bottom rear of the forend back.
  5. Rotate the barrel into position.
  6. Release the lock.  
That's it for assembly. To disassemble, lock the bolt back and reverse the rest of the process.

Review
My first thought was to wonder how well it would lock up. Not a problem; they borrowed an idea from a much earlier Browning design. There's a ring on the receiver with a spring-loaded detent (see arrow). 
  1. Rotate that ring all the way back against the receiver.
  2. Insert and lock the barrel.
  3. Rotate the ring back out -- finger pressure only-- until it seats snugly against the breech of the barrel. This tightens the fit nicely, and it ever loosens up you can readjust it.
The sights are standard Ruger: a brass-bead front and a folding leaf rear. For me, and probably for a lot of other adults, these sights are so low that I had to really press my cheek onto the stock to line them up. I'm guessing they expect most people will either mount a scope or red dot sight (a mounting rail comes standard), or if they stick with irons to change these out for something like these sights. For kids, and people with a smaller face than mine, the factory sights should work nicely.

The trigger isn't bad at all; a little heavy, but with a clean break.

It uses the standard Ruger ten-round rotary magazine, or any of the aftermarket extended mags.

How does it shoot? Nicely. I was only able to try it on a 25-yard range, and did the accuracy test with a mounted scope (a no-name 3x the owner had picked up somewhere). From a bench rest, if I did my part, it would easily keep the shots in 1/2" groups (using Remington bulk-pack ammo), and in about fifty rounds there were no function problems of any kind.

Personal Opinion
It's a nice little rifle. Break it down into the bag and it takes up little space. It's easy to carry around; there's a removable strap that comes with the bag. and the bag protects the rifle from getting banged up. You can put spare mags and ammo in the pockets, too. 

Assuming your mount maintains zero after being removed and reinstalled, you could keep a red dot in one of the pockets until needed. For myself, I think I'd see if I could get that red Ruger symbol off; with it on, someone familiar with guns who saw it would know what it was, but without it it's just one more black daypack.

Put it this way: I'd say it's a good .22 rifle with the advantage of quick & easy takedown for transport.  This is a good one to pick up.

Firehand was not paid for this review. Go away. FTC. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #70

Adam and Sean bring you another episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast -- now with 100% more Kurt Russell!
  • Erin Palette gives you some prepping advice straight out of Star Wars. No, seriously! 
  • Nicki Kenyon talks about that "Climate Change" accord that Obama seems so much more interested in than global terror. 
  • And Weer'd does his patented Audio Fisk™ on the Daily Show's silly attack on concealed carriers vs. mass shooters. 
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Apocabox Unboxing #9

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
The Curse of Video Delays continues to haunt me, but I posted it before midnight... barely.

I am very pleased with this month's box: is is the Creek-iest of all the Apocaboxes, containing a knife and a bandana and a patch and something to eat. It just feels fuller than some previous ones, which is fitting for a December box.

Some of you may have noticed the Apocabox advertisement to the right; I am an affiliate members now, so clicking on that link (or this one) gets me a little bit of cash, so if you're inclined to find out more, please use my link.

Enjoy the video, and leave me a comment about it either here, on my personal blog, or on my YouTube channel.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chaplain Tim's EDC

Since most of the other authors have done an Every Day Carry post, I thought it was time for me to add mine. I work at least 5 days a week now, but during harvest we went 34 days without a day off. (I spend lots of Saturdays at work, but they're good about the holidays.) For that reason, my EDC is based upon my going to, being at, or coming home from work (that's about half of any given day).

I don't carry a lot on my person for various reasons.
  • I'm tall and thin, which means I have a hard enough time keeping my pants from sliding off of where my hips should be without adding 10 lbs of accessories.
  • My work varies from day to day. One day I may be sitting in a truck for 8 hours; the next I could be crawling in and out of grain bins. A lot of my work is wet or dusty and I work with odd chemicals. I need to be able to move about freely.
  • A lot of my work is done in grain elevators, which are a severe explosion hazard. Grain dust is a FAE (Fuel-Air Explosive) bomb waiting for a spark. 
  • I have found through experience that I can get 80% of what I need done accomplished with the minimal tools that I carry. There is a shop on-site and, with rare exceptions, nobody is in a rush to get things done quickly rather than well.
  • My pickup has my first-aid and tool kits, and is rarely far from me. On days where I can't carry my pistol (remember the grain dust?) it stays locked up in the truck. Lunchbox and Get Home Bag are in the truck unless I'm working from another vehicle, in which case they go with me.
My employer provides uniform shirts and jackets and they all have pockets on them, but I rarely carry more than a pen and my cigarettes above my waist, becauseI got tired of picking things up after they fell out of my breast pocket and landed 20-60 feet below me. Most of my personal shirts have button-down flaps on the breast pockets to prevent that, but I still don't care to fill them unless I must.

My employer does not provide pants, so I buy my own blue jeans; usually carpenter pants for the tool pocket on the right leg and the extra belt loops. Any pair of pants with fewer than 6 belt loops is unsuited to my body style, and will bind around my waist.

Left-hand front pocket
As you can see in the picture there's a cigarette lighter, a small LED flashlight, and my folding Gerber knife. I like the Gerber, it's cheap and holds an edge well.

The flashlight is a NEBO mini that I picked up after buying and reviewing their Twyst light. It has a super bright LED, uses a single AA battery, and has a clip which allows me to attach is to the bill of a ball cap for hands-free illumination.

The cigarette lighter is because of my nicotine addiction, and is a way to start fires.

Not shown are the small bills and change that I carry for daily use.

Right-hand front pocket
Keychain, Boy Scout pocket knife, and a pack of paper matches.

The keychain is one of two that I normally carry. This one is with me at all times and carries my truck key, a few other keys (OPSEC), a micro ferrocerium firestarter, a Swisstech Utili-Key, and a handcuff key. The firestarter works quite well for its size, and the multi-tool comes in handy as a screwdriver, extra cutting blade, and bottle opener. The handcuff key is there just because.

The other keychain is either work keys or house/car keys. The work keys are for the hundreds of padlocks we have in use, I don't carry it any more than I have to. The house/car keys are for going in and out of the house and I don't carry them at work.

The BSA pocket knife is the second one I've owned in 30 years. Get the real BSA branded one and you'll get many years of use out of it. The can opener and leather awl get more use than the knife blade (which does NOT lock open- Boy Scout rules prohibit locking knives).

The paper matches are for giving away to anyone who asks for a light. This saves me from having to get into their personal space (and arm's reach) if I don't know them -- "Hey buddy, got a light?" is still in use by muggers. They are also backup fire starting method.

This Otterbox clip is for the Samsung Galaxy S4 that is being used to take the pictures. The phone is normally clipped to my right front pocket, but is tucked into the pocket if I'm going to be working in tight quarters. (I've had to dig it out of 4 feet of soybeans once, and I will not make that mistake again.) Rubber armor and almost dust-proof, I like the way it protects my phone. I've had it coming up on two years now, and the phone itself looks almost new.

Right-rear pocket and leg pocket
Wallet and comb in the rear pocket, pliers in the leg pocket. The wallet is kept thin because I often drive for 4 hours at a time and nothing will wear on your nerves like being lopsided while sitting/bouncing around in a tractor. ID/insurance, debit card, licenses (plural because I'm licensed for more than just driving) and a few business cards are about all I need. 

Pliers are a farmer's best friend after his dog. They aren't the best for every job, but they will help in a lot of jobs.
Left-rear pocket
Usually nothing more than a handkerchief, although there may be a container of smokeless tobacco in there if I know I'm not going to be able to smoke for several hours at a time.

On the belt
Either a Sig P229 in 40S&W (or 375Sig when I can buy it) or a 1911A1. The Sig carries 14+1 rounds and I have a spare magazine in the console of the pickup. The 1911A1 has 8+1 and two spare magazines in the truck. I switch off between the two depending on if I'm carrying IWB (1911A1) or on the outside of my belt (Sig). I don't work or live in a high crime area, so most of the threats I may see are animals.

Overall
As you can see, I normally carry three ways to start a fire and at least three knives. I have a flashlight that uses common batteries (spares in the pickup) with the phone light as a backup source of light. I carry minimal tools, although you'd be amazed at what you can tear up with a good pair of pliers. My normal day is fairly relaxed, and I have plenty of resources close to hand if I need them, so my EDC is mainly for getting through the day in a convenient way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Merry Buffet!





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.

These Buffet Posts are a way for me to cover several smaller topics quickly that can't be made into a stand alone post.

Light! 
(And stop calling me Aziz!)
I'm a big believer in having as much light as I can get into my hands available everywhere at any time. Since I am in a Home Depot store every day, I try to shop their Black Friday/Christmas special purchases for stocking stuffers or as a gift for someone I don't know well.

Here is my first find: A 4 pack of LED flash lights that have the added bonus of glow-in-the-dark bodies! This is my gift to my friend the SEAL, since he can't hold onto a flashlight even if you offered him $100 to have one 6 months from now.



Please notice which one was the first to be removed and used -- I guess some people just want to feel pretty! (Not like there's anything wrong with that.)

Being inexpensive and close to disposable, these put out plenty of light and don't kill batteries quickly, even the stock ones.

The next item is not disposable: two quality brand name lights, also from Home Depot. Either one of these will fit into a EDC bag, purse, desk drawer or car door pocket. The lumen ratings are not spectacular, but for a pair of lights that cost less than a 6-pack of CR 123 batteries, I think they work just fine.


Car Repairs
Not visible in the picture is a jackstand just to the left 
of the jack, so I am following standard safety steps. 
Lastly, here is something I don't talk or blog about but have done for years.

This is a picture of the front brakes of my truck. The rotor is new, and the backing plate on the pads is visible at 9 o'clock. I do as many things as I can to keep my costs down, and replacing the brake rotors and pads is a relatively simple job. Since I have the know-how and skill to do this, why would I give several hundred dollars in labor to a shop for parts that cost me less than $125? I replaced them slower than a shop would, but my going rate is pretty low.

I don't turn (resurface) rotors since the replacement cost for medium priced units are disgustingly close to the labor charge. Plus, I have not seen any wear difference or life span from higher priced replacement parts.

The Takeaway
  • Light is good. More light all the time is even gooder! 
  • Shop to your intended giftee's needs. I have one tacti-cool relative and he already has the high/low/pulsing strobe battery-killing flamethrower flashlight. Everyone else is going to love what they get. 
  • Save money where you can. If you don't know how to do car repairs, find a friend who has tools and bring over some sodas while they are working and watch. Help if you can, even if it is as Chief Wrench and Socket Chaser. (Save the beer for later. Seriously.)
Recap
  • One 4 pack LED lights: $9.88 from Home Depot Christmas specials.
  • 2 pack of MagLight LED flashlights: $24.88, also from Home Depot.
  • Rotors, pads spray cleaner, grease package: $125 including tax from my local independent parts store. Live local, buy local!
  
Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon this Holiday season, 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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Zero Like A Hero Pt 2: How It All Works

Last week, we talked about why zero is important, and the math and theory involved in zeroing a rifle. This week, we'll look at the hardware side of the process.

All optics have a couple things in common: a glass lens, a method for secure attachment to a rifle, an aiming point (called a reticle), and a mechanism for adjusting the point of aim. The specifics vary a bit between the types of optics, but the parts will be there. These parts all work together in a pretty precise system, so any rough handling or impact calls for a check and possible re-zero.

Types of Optics
This is an electronic "holographic" optic (also known as a red dot sight):
Sightmark Ultra Shot Reflex Sight
  • The mounting hardware is built into the bottom of the optic body. 
  • The lens is in the shroud at the right side. 
  • The adjustments on this optic require a hex key in the holes on the top and left faces, as indicated by the arrow markings. 
  • The reticle is electronically projected onto the lens, and many of these optics offer multiple reticle options, so that the shooter can select an aiming point that fits their personal taste. 
  • The large knob near the lens adjusts the brightness, allowing the optic to work in a wide array of lighting conditions. 
Holographic sights are quicker and more intuitive than a traditional magnified scope, but they have little to no magnification built in. There are magnifiers that can pair with them, but magnification remains fairly low.

One concern with an electronic optic is the requirement for battery power. With most of these optics, "no power" means "no reticle". This may or may not be a dealbreaker for you; in my home, it's just a factor that requires awareness and planning.

This is a traditional scope, albeit a rather large one:
Cabela's Outfitter Series 1" Scope
  • The drums just to the left of center are called the turrets, and are the mechanism for adjusting the point of aim. 
  • There are two lenses in this type of optic, with one mounted at each end. 
  • The two bands near the turrets are referred to as rings, and are the method for mounting the scope to a gun. 
  • The reticle is etched onto the glass, and is seen clearly when the eye is brought in line with the optic.
Turrets with caps removed.
When the caps are removed from the turrets, the adjustment mechanism is revealed. Turning the knobs moves the point of aim in the indicated direction. The distance the point of aim moves is indicated on the knob. For this particular scope (and a great number of scopes out there), one click of the knob moves the point of impact 1/4" at 100 yards. This translates to 1/2" at 200 yards, 3/4" at 300 yards, and so forth.

Now that we know how the mechanisms work, let's make it do something useful.

How To Zero
  1. As mentioned last week, start your zeroing at 25 yards. 
  2. Set your rifle in the most stable support available; this dramatically reduces the effects of shooter error in the zeroing process. 
  3. A large target can be beneficial in this part of the process, on the off chance your optic and your rifle are more significantly out of alignment. 
  4. Line your scope up with the bulls-eye, and fire three to five shots, taking whatever time you need to line up between shots. These shots need to be grouped fairly close together. If they are not, fire another three to five shots and see if they form a close group.
    Three shots in a tight group and a flyer to the left. 
  5. If your shots can't form a close grouping, there is a problem with either your gun, your optic, or your shooting technique. Most of these problems are fairly simple to correct, when you know what you're looking for. We'll troubleshoot these problems next week.
  6. Once you are able to cluster your shots together, it's time to adjust your optic. Where one click moves 1/4" at 100 yards, it takes 4 clicks to do the same at 25 yards. 
  7. Turn the scope knobs in the necessary direction to align your point of aim (where you want it to hit) and point of impact (where it actually hits). 
  8. If your bullets hit right of your point of aim, turn the knob on the side of the scope in the direction marked "right" the appropriate number of clicks. If your bullets hit low, turn the top knob in the direction marked "up." Do the opposite if your bullets hit high or left.
  9. Once you've made your adjustments, fire another set of shots, and see how close your adjustments have gotten you to the bulls-eye. 
  10. If more adjustment is needed, repeat the process until your shots group on the bulls-eye. You're then ready to move to 100 or 200 yards.
  11. This portion of the process should be fairly quick, as you're now fine-tuning your zero, and should be fairly close to start. If you're confirming zero at 100 yards, you'll want to be about 2" high, as we said last week. At 200 yards, you should be dead-on. 
  12. After this is done, you can do your periodic checks at 100 or 200 yards, and skip the 25 yard portion.

Next week, we'll look at the reasons your rifle may not zero readily, and ways to correct the problem.

Lokidude

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #69


This week it's Bill and Ted's favorite episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast: Episode 69, Dude!
  • Sean and Adam bring you another episode featuring all manner of interesting subjects, including Felons Behaving Badly, Emma Newman, and Michael Bane.
  • Erin Palette tells us about the calming effects of Combat Breathing.
  • I ask Nicki Kenyon if the recent terror attacks in San Bernardino will change our foreign policy.
  • We heard your call for more book reviews. Well, at least Weer'd did, and so he reviewed Castigo Cay by Matthew Bracken.
  • And then Weer'd returned to take on Obama and his entire staff as they positively frothed at the mouth in their excitement after the two shooting events last week.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Friday, December 11, 2015

When Things Go a-Fowl

This is the second installment of Rhi and Evie's Adventures at Knights Rest, where we take a bird in hand and discover it's worth more than two in the bush.

While out at KR, Evelyn and I had to deal with livestock of various sorts. Knights Rest is a working farm, after all, and there are horses, sheep, dairy cows, chickens, ducks, and the attendant working dogs.

One of the things that we did, both as an exercise in off-grid grocery skills and because Evelyn had never had any, was to acquire a duck for our dinner one night.

Most wild birds which aren't raptors (i.e. falcons, hawks, eagles, owls) or straight-up carrion eaters (vultures) can be consumed by humans. Varieties of songbird and game birds -- including several species that we modern Westerners wouldn't even consider putting on our dinner plates, such as peacocks -- have been part of the dinner menu in the past. Ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and chickens have all been kept as farm livestock for several thousand years for their meat and eggs, as well as their feathers being useful for clothing and bedding once the bird is headed for the cook fire.

Unless you live on a farm and routinely harvest your own animals, though, its rather easy to forget just what goes into getting a bird ready for human consumption. As a society, we've been conditioned to consider it "no big deal" to run down to the grocery store, grab a ready-to-cook bird from the frozen foods section, take it home, and deal with simply cooking it.

Our duck dinner started with figuring out which members of the flock (a mixed flock of domestic and originally wild ducks who've chosen to stick around at KR for the abundant food and safety) were "excess" males, and therefore prime candidates for harvesting. Fortunately, with so many previously wild ducks now making their home at KR, there was an over-abundance of brightly plumed semi-wild drakes that were easy to identify.

Of the available ducks ready for harvest, we picked out one that could be easily identified by his markings, and proceeded with the task of capturing our dinner. This meant getting him out of the pond, into the pen, and then cornered so he could be collected. While we "could" have simply shot him, neither of us has done much in the way of hunting in several years, and the chances of spooking the flock and scattering them, ending up empty-handed, was higher than either of us cared to risk.
Don't ever believe that chickens, geese, and ducks won't bite. They will and they do. I got nipped (fortunately very lightly) in the process of cornering our duck in the pen. Then came the Messy Part.
Why yes, ducks DO bite - those are serrated edges on that beak!
A log with a pair of nails forming a somewhat open V was used to stretch out our bird so we could slit his throat and chop off his head. Make sure your knife, axe, machete, etc is sharp when you do so, preferably sharp enough to take off the head in a single stroke rather than having to whack at it several times. We didn't pause to sharpen the blade being used, and it took us 3 tries to finish severing the neck all the way through.

Once the head is removed, holding the body by the feet so it drains of blood is both straightforward and a relatively rapid process. By the time we'd walked from the butchering block at the main house back to where we were camped, the bird was ready for plucking.
If you aren't planning on saving and using the feathers, then skinning the bird in the same manner you would skin other small game is a simple task and works to remove the offending plumage so you can get on with the task of cooking the bird. 

But if, like us, you are thinking, "Hey, these feathers will be great for stuffing a pillow, fletching arrows and darts, making quill pens for writing, and let's not even start with the 1001 decorative uses for them", then you'll want to pluck the bird.
That day taught me a rather valuable lesson that doesn't get stressed often enough: Understanding the theory of how to do something, even when you have the proper tools for the task, is a lot different than having actual hands-on experience! And having hands-on experience once or twice during your life is a far cry from actually KNOWING what you're doing. Practice the skills you have and will need in an actual SHTF, folks, or you will find yourself saying, "But I know how to do this! So why isn't it happening?"

Evelyn had never plucked a bird. I had only done so once prior to this point. In theory, we knew what to do.

In Theory. In fact, Evelyn had never taken part in taking dinner from field to table through all the steps. 

We both had the necessary knowledge base, the book learning, for the task. We had the proper tools ready: our hands, a bag to hold the feathers (we wanted them for other projects, after all) and a pot to put the bird in a boiling water bath for a few seconds once most of the feathers were gone, to get the final few.

What we did not have, collectively, was any comprehension of just how labor-intensive getting a bird ready for the pot truly is. We (mistakenly) estimated that it would take 10 to 15 minutes to divest our duck of his colorful coat of fanciful feathers. We were off in our estimates by more than an hour.
Pulling the feathers, while not a particularly difficult task, is time-consuming. It also caused our hands to cramp after a while, so we traded back and forth as to who was working on pulling plumage from Monsieur Canard. But Evelyn, true to form, insisted that she was going to do the majority of the work on plucking that bird, simply because it was her first time and a serious learning experience for her!
MaggieDog was just SURE I would drop that bird for her!


Finally ready for a quick scalding bath to loosen those final feathers
Nearly ready for his hot bath
Once we'd managed to remove the majority of the feathers from our bird, we gave it a 15 to 20 second dip into water which had 3 to 5 drops of dish soap added and had been brought to a low boil.

Why dish soap? It helps to cut the oils that coat the feathers, making them just a tad easier to pull. It doesn't take long, and you don't want your bird to soak; just a fast in and out, no more than 30 seconds tops, and then those last few feathers (while wet and pretty much useless for any "projects" you might have in mind) will slide out much easier.

At the point where the feathers are removed, fluffy stuff and all, gutting it is just like you would with any small game, as is removing the feet. When dealing with fowl, feet can actually be stewed and eaten, though it is an acquired taste.
Daffy in all his tasty glory!
We wrapped him up in aluminum foil, along with a bit of salt and pepper and sliced garlic, dried mission figs, and onion, then tossed him on the grill over our camp fire. He'd been feeding on acorns for a while, so he was incredibly tasty - his diet left a wonderfully rich sweetness to the meat. Of course, taking a bite out of something that tried to bite me might have had as much to do with it!

Practice your skills, folks. I can't stress that enough. When you're facing a situation where you can't simply run down to the neighborhood grocery or the fast food place around the corner is not the time to realize that you're clueless about feeding yourself and your tribe.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Helping or Hurting?

Once you have your preparations well underway, or maybe just as complete as you can get, you may get an opportunity to assist someone else. It could be before, during, or after a crisis, but the opportunity may occur.

What's the old saying? "If you build a man a fire he'll be warm for a night, but if you set a man on fire he'll be warm for the rest of his life." 

No, wait. It's fish, not fire: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach a man to fish, he'll feed himself for the rest of his life." That's a good example of helping someone in need, and one of the main reasons we are here five days a week, giving advice and information. We want you to be able to prepare for your own emergencies in life, and not rely on others.

Helping
Feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, giving shelter to the homeless, and comforting the afflicted are all forms of charity. Those of us who are Christians have an obligation to help our fellow man, and many of the other religions have similar expectations of their followers. Helping others is just a generally nice thing to do and often gives a good, "warm" feeling in return. True charity is done for the act itself, not for any hoped for future reward. How much you help others is a personal decision, and in my opinion you should take care of your own family/tribe first before taking on any other problems. If you have surplus and can afford to share, most of us would go for the extra karma/brownie points by helping out someone who is not a threat, but always be aware that in crisis situations, threats can be anywhere. Situational awareness and going with your gut instincts will help you avoid a lot of the threats.

Not Helping
There are situations where giving someone what they are asking for is not helpful. Substance abusers come to mind: they will beg, plead, promise, and offer anything in order to get their next dose of whichever poison they're addicted to. The more addicted they are, the further they will go to get a "fix". Giving an alcoholic a bottle of wine or a fifth of whiskey may get them to shut up for a day, but there's an excellent chance they'll be back the next day with the same litany of excuses and begging for another bottle. Your charity did them no good; it just got them out of your hair for a short while.

Harder drugs like meth and heroin are likely to bring out violence and theft if needed to get the next hit. Withdrawl from serious alcohol abuse, meth, heroin, and a host of other drugs is not a pleasant thing to watch, and is a form of hell to go through. If you have any medical training at all, I would suggest looking into training on the signs of addiction and possible ways to deal with it. Unless you have access to Narcan, Antabuse, Methadone, or another specific drug needed to treat the specific addiction, you're in a bad place if you're stuck with an addict who is out of their drug of choice. Caffeine and nicotine addiction are more common problems, but they are also easier to wean off of. Coffee and tobacco are also legal, and store fairly well. Listen to Erin's podcast segment on this topic for more information.

Hurting
There is a third class of "helping": enabling. If you live with or deal with someone who has an addiction problem, you have to watch yourself and your actions to ensure that you are not enabling or supplementing their problems. It doesn't matter if it is an eating disorder (bulimia, anorexia, overeating, etc.), an activity or behavior (sex, sports, anything short of true OCD) or a drug problem; having someone who makes life easier for the addict is helping sustain and continue the addiction.
  • Are you making excuses for them? 
  • How about making sure they have the basics covered, allowing them to spend everything on their addiction? 
  • Are you joining them in their addiction? 
If you answered "yes" to any of these, you may be enabling their behavior. Under normal circumstances, they will never quit until they want to quit. You are not helping unless you are doing things that will make them want to quit.

Tough Love
This term has fallen out of favor in today's culture. Using the principles of Tough Love, you have to be able to harden your heart and do the things necessary to get the addict off of the things/activities that are destroying their lives. Sometimes the best thing you can do for an addict is to make them face their addiction and then help them fight their way out of it.

I generally support helping others, as long as it is truly helping them. Don't put yourself at risk to help too much (unless you're looking to add "martyr" to your resume) and take care of those in your family/tribe before reaching out to strangers. Don't make the mistake of "eating your seed corn"; always have something set aside to use as a base for developing more in the future.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Power to Share


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.

I like to have dual purpose items in my preps since they will save space, weight, and hopefully dollars. For the past two weeks I've been playing with an item that is a 'twofer' in that it is a portable backup charger and flashlight all in one: the Power Bank Plus USB Light Combo from a local (to me) tech company called SIIG.

Some information from the product website:

SIIG’s Portable Battery Power Bank Plus USB Light Combo is a compact size rechargeable Power Bank designed to charge your electronic devices while on the go. It works with most Smartphones, Tablets, eBook Readers, Digital Cameras, MP3/MP4 Players and many other USB powered mobile devices. The high-quality rechargeable Lithium-ion battery recharges easily via your computer system’s USB port or USB wall charger. A handy detachable LED light module is included to easily turn the Power Bank into a portable flashlight.

  • The whole unit weighs less than 6 ounces.
  • The removable flashlight head weighs the least, since it is two LED bulbs and a USB connector in a plastic shell. 
  • It is not water resistant in any way, so this is an addition to my job/work tools and not the regular prepping supplies. 
  • The flashlight is more than bright enough to get around in a dark room or outside, with the usual limitation of a non-focusing LED type bulb and lens.
Testing the battery was pretty straightforward: I ran my phone down and then plugged in the power pack to see how long until my phone was charged up.

My last testing was on the day of the San Bernardino shootings, so because I turned on every app on my phone to get the news and was reading & responding to all the messages shared by my co-bloggers and Facebook friends, my phone ran low around 1 PM. I plugged my phone into the battery pack, and when I left the store at 1:45, there was a 49% charge showing. By the time I got home at 3:00, my phone was 91% recharged.

I have not drained the battery pack by running it completely flat/out of power as indicated by the blue lights in the photo to the right. Fully charged and used strictly as a flashlight, I expect there will be many hours of run time as LED's draw so little power. Since I never let the pack run completely down, I don't know exactly how long it takes to achieve a full recharge. I do know that after my average use, and plugged into a USB port on my computer, the pack is recharged in about one hour.

The Power Bank Plus comes with a storage bag, and that is where I have a small problem with the set: the flashlight head has to be removed for the battery pack be used as a charging device. I can foresee this being a problem, since the flashlight head is so very light weight it could be easily misplaced or lost.

All things considered, though, I like it.

The Takeaway
The Good
  • Small size and weight will help keep my bag as light as possible.
  • Dual-use fits my needs: all-in-one flashlight and charger saves space and weight.
  • It charges my phone quickly, and also recharges itself quickly. 
The Not-So-Good
  • Not water resistant or waterproof.
  • The small flashlight head may be easily lost.

Recap
  • SIIG Power Bank Plus USB Light Combo from Fry's Electronics: regularly $29.99, open box price $26.99.  $19.99 with Prime shipping from Amazon

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon this Holiday season, 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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Zero Like A Hero Pt 1: What it Means

If you're going to hit your target, you need to use your sights. For those sights to be effective, you need to make sure they are aligned with the gun. This aligning process is called zeroing, and is critical to accuracy. (Note, everything in this process assumes that you're using a scope or other optic, and that it is properly mounted. How to diagnose and correct mounting issues will be covered next week.)

What Zeroing Is
The first thing to understand when you zero your optic is what your bullet is doing when it leaves the barrel. Contrary to what some folks think, the path a bullet takes is anything but straight. Gravity and air friction obviously make a bullet slow down and fall to earth, but far more interesting is what happens as a bullet leaves the muzzle.
  1. The point where the focal point of the optic and the trajectory of the bullet intersect is called zero.
  2. Because your optic is higher than the bore of your rifle, you have to focus it lower than parallel. This means that your optic's line of sight is essentially pointing down when the barrel is held parallel to the ground.
  3. When you aim at a target far away, your optic's line of sight is parallel to the ground, which means that the bore if your rifle is now pointing up. 
  4. Therefore when you fire your rifle, the bullet seems to climb for a bit,  although in actuality it's following a parabolic arc. It rises for a bit until wind resistance slows it, and then it drops. 
  5. If your rifle is zeroed properly, the bullet will drop and hit where you're aiming. 
So from the shooter's perspective, the bullet exits the barrel, climbs some, then slows down and drops until it hits the ground. In this process, the projectile passes through the crosshairs of your optic twice, once on the way up and once on the way down. This is important, because it gives the opportunity for a very simple zero method: you can zero your optic at a close target (called near zero), where it's easy to see where you're hitting, and that will also give you a zero at a larger distance (called far zero). While I suppose you could just set up and bang away at that range straight away, if you're not already close to zero you might not even hit the paper of your target.

This is where we revisit the up and down path of a bullet, and the simpler zero method I mentioned earlier.

Example: 55 grain .223, one of the most common cartridges in the USA. 
http://aussiehunter.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/040-223-Rem-Trajectory1.jpg
A rifle's zero is set at a specific range determined by the shooter and based on a number of factors. The factors that shape this decision include the caliber of the rifle, the intended uses of the gun, and the shooter's skill level. As an example, my .22LR is zeroed at 50 yards. Most of my hunting rifles are zeroed at 200 yards, and both my precision rifle and my wife's are zeroed at 400. Erin zeroed her Mosin at 300 yards, because she was feeling froggy.
  • A good rule of thumb for 5.56/.223 cartridges is that the rifle will do the same thing at 50 yards that it does at 200. This means that if a rifle is dead-on at 50 yards, it should also be dead on (or very close) at 200 yards. 
  • 7.62mm/30 caliber cartridges are a bit different due to bullet weight and powder charge. Erin zeroed her 7.62x54r Mosin 2" high at 25 yards, so it should hit roughly 2" high at 200 yards as well, and dead-on at 300. 
  • 7.62x39, used by SKSes and AK-47, has a dramatic arcing trajectory and does well with a 25/200 yard zero.
  • .22 Long Rifle is obviously not as aerodynamic nor as fast as a centerfire rifle, so it has a much shorter range and zero. Ideally, a .22LR should zero at 60 yards, but 60 yard ranges are awful hard to come by. This is why mine zero at 50 yards, and the difference ends up being negligible. 25 yards remains a good starting point for getting on paper, then making the needed adjustments at 50 yards.
Once you've set your 25 yard zero, move your target out to your desired range and confirm that your rounds are landing where you want them to. You'll very likely have to make some small adjustments, but you should be fairly close to your desired outcome.

A Note on Maximum Point Blank Range
Maximum point blank range is the longest range at which a given cartridge stays with a predetermined circle. In general use, the radius of that circle is the highest point above the muzzle that the bullet reaches. Once it has dropped that same amount, it has reached maximum point blank range. For most .30 rifles, this range happens to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards.

What does all of that mean? In short, I can hold the crosshairs of my hunting rifles at the desired point of impact at any point between 0 and 200 yards, and hit close enough to that point to have high odds of a clean, lethal shot. It makes quick shots on game animals simple and instinctive. The same logic applies to the .22LR with a 50 yard zero (and actually is the math behind declaring 60 yards to be ideal).

Get zeroed and get practicing.

Lokidude

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #68

Adam and Sean bring you Episode 68 of The GunBlog VarietyCast!
  • Erin Pallette tells us about Zones of Assessment.
  • Nicki Kenyon answers that burning question about Iraq, about Russia, and about Foreign Policy in general: "Was Romney Right?"
  • Weer'd takes his shot at that WRAL attack on NFA Trusts in one of his patented Weer'd Audio Fisks. 
  • And make sure to listen for a peek behind the curtain and we'll tell you how the podcast gets made.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor,Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Stop Sabotaging Your Situational Awareness

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I and others on this blog have talked a lot about the importance of Situational Awareness. This is because situational awareness is the key to being prepared; if you are surprised, it won't matter what your preparations are, as you will be unable to utilize them as your brain grapples with what is happening.* In many ways, situational awareness is preparedness, because if you can't react in time then all your preparations are for naught. It is a constant source of astonishment for me, then, when I notice just how often so many people willingly place themselves in danger while disabling their situational awareness.

Now let me be clear: there is a time and a place for tuning out all distractions, be it to get work done or to relax. After all, everyone needs to sleep sometime! This is what Col. Cooper calls Condition White, and it is best done in the safety of your own home. Barring that, do it in a place that you know (not think, not suspect, but KNOW) is safe, preferably among people you trust to have your back.

But just as it's possible to get drunk responsibly, it's also possible to become distracted irresponsibly. And worst of all, many people choose to be irresponsibly distracted. Perhaps they feel safe all the time; perhaps they think that society exists to protect them; perhaps they don't think at all.

However, if you are reading this blog then you have made a conscious decision to be responsible for your own safety. Here, then, are the things you will need to stop doing in order to give your situational awareness a chance to work for you.

Don't Lose Yourself in the Visual
There's an excellent scene from The Matrix which perfectly illustrates this point:

Were you listening to me, Neo? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?

Human beings are visual creatures. This can be an incredible advantage, as we are biologically primed to notice movement, facial expressions, body language, and patterns or behavior which seem out of place. Soldiers, police officers, and medical personnel are highly trained to notice important visual cues.

However, this biological optimization can also be a weakness. We are easily distracted by movement and color -- just try to have a conversation with someone when there is a television within your field of view. Your eyes will be drawn it, because you have millions of years of genetics telling you "Look at this flickering thing, it is important to your survival."

If you are reading in a book, watching a movie or television, or engrossed with your computer or smartphone, you are in condition white. Don't do this in places where you ought to be in condition yellow, or you are sabotaging yourself.

Don't Keep Yourself from Hearing
Sound is another immersive sensation for humanity, and is equally beneficial and distracting. While it is marginally safer to be out in the world with headphones than it is to have your eyes glued to a screen, there are still important audial cues that you can miss if nothing can penetrate your wall of sound.

Listening to music or a book is fine; just make sure that it isn't so loud that you cannot hear important things, like trucks backing up or someone shouting "Hey, look out!"

Don't Daydream (except at home)
Of course, you don't need a screen or headphones to miss out one cues; some folks are so good at concentrating (or daydreaming, which is concentrating without the focus) that they can miss cues necessary to their survival, such as the smell of smoke or a fire alarm going off.

It's okay to daydream, but don't zone out (or sleep) in public unless you have someone you trust watching over you.

Have Things Ready Before You Need Them
The classic example of this are your car keys: take them out of your pocket or purse before you step foot into the parking lot, because if you get to your car and then spend time digging for them, your focus narrows to "must get keys" and you lose the world around you. This makes you a very temping target, as all someone needs to do is get the drop on you and not only can they rob you, they can take your car as well. If you're a woman, this robbery-turned-carjacking could easily escalate into kidnapping and thence to rape if you are pushed into the passenger seat.

If you know you are going to need something, like keys or a flashlight or a knife, get it out and have it handy so that your attention can be used on deploying it effectively rather than getting at it.

Keep Your Head on a Swivel
That's a military phrase; translated to civilian it means "Don't just just straight ahead. Look to the sides and behind you as well." Be aware of your environment in all directions; danger can come from any angle.

Get in the habit of scanning from left to right as you go about your business. Occasionally look over your shoulder ("Checking your six" in military parlance) to make sure no one is following you; this can be done by moving your eyes to the side in the same direction that your head is sweeping and using your peripheral vision to check behind you. If something seems off, then turn your head (or whole body) and take a better look.


Do these five simple things and your situational awareness, and your ability to respond to surprises, will increase dramatically.


* It's a semantic quibble, but I differentiate between "Being startled or taken off-guard" and "Being surprised."  To me, the difference is that with the former, your opponent has the drop on you and goes first before you can react; in the latter, you are figuratively caught with your pants down and your brain requires several precious seconds to process what is going on -- seconds which put you at the mercy of your aggressor.

The Fine Print


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

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