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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #76

Adam and Sean return for another episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast, this time with voices that actually work!
  • Erin Palette tells us about taking Andrew Branca's Law of Self Defense class. 
  • Did you hear that John Kerry thinks we might lift sanctions on Russia? Well Nicki Kenyon gives us her opinion on that idea.
  • Barron B tells us some more about how people can use Customer Service to hack your password.
  • And continuing on his multi-week effort, Weer'd fisks more of President Obama's disastrous CNN Town Hall. This week, the anti-gun questions.
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, January 29, 2016

The Zika Virus

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
If you're like me, you noticed that social media was talking about a new virus that was "spreading explosively" in the Americas, and you were more than a little alarmed because until that moment you'd never heard of it before. Don't feel too bad about that -- as it turns out, the Zika virus was discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda, but it didn't leave Africa until 2014, so there was really no reason for you to know about it.

Fortunately for you, I've been doing research on Zika for you, and the good news is: You're going to be okay. It's a very mild disease, and you have a tremendous advantage known as "Living in a First World Country."

Symptoms
Here's some more good news: 80% of people infected with Zika don't get sick at all, and once you have it you are effectively immune to it. Those 20% who do contract it might not even realize it's Zika, as the symptoms are remarkably similar to allergies and a cold, or maybe a light case of influenza:
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Possibly headaches and/or muscle pain
Given that Zika is typically transmitted through insect bites (see below), it's easy to see how someone could dismiss these symptoms as an allergic reaction to the bite coupled with "the bug that's going around".

Treatment
There's current no antiviral agent for Zika, so treatment consists of addressing the symptoms with pain relievers, staying hydrated and getting lots of rest. The symptoms typically last no longer than a week.

If you have these symptoms, avoid NSAIDs like Advil (ibuprofen),  Aleve (naproxen) or Aspirin until you have been seen by a doctor. This is because (DO NOT PANIC) these symptoms are also similar to the much worse disease dengue fever, and NSAIDS are blood thinners which could cause a hemorrhage in a patient with dengue. I say DO NOT PANIC because if you have dengue, you are going to feel sick: high fever, severe pain, and mild bleeding from your nose or gums. But just in case, the CDC suggests you treat your pain with Tylenol (acetaminophen).

Transmission
Zika virus is primarily transmitted by mosquito bites, although it is possible to spread it via contact with blood or other bodily fluids. The current insect vector for Zika are mosquitoes from the Aedes genus, which are active in the daytime, as opposed to the more typical dusk to dawn mosquitoes.

The easiest way to avoid contracting Zika, then, is not to get bitten by mosquitoes. Do not travel to any country which is currently experiencing a Zika outbreak (see Outbreak, below). However, if you must travel, or if the virus comes to the USA, stay inside screened-in or air-conditioned buildings and use insect repellent when going outside. The CDC has PDFs with more information here and here.

If you are diagnosed with Zika, then you should also avoid being bitten by mosquitoes during the period you are symptomatic. If you are bitten, you will help spread the disease, and that's bad for everyone, so stay indoors until you are feeling better.

Outbreak
First of all, Zika is not prevalent in the United States. However, it is prevalent in Mexico and Puerto Rico, and southern parts of the USA might see a rise in Zika as it spreads -- and it is spreading "explosively" because we do not have natural resistance to it.

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html
Countries experiencing local virus transmissions -- in other words, where it is spreading natively as opposed to someone contracting it elsewhere and bringing it into the country -- are as follows:

  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Cape Verde
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Martin
  • Samoa
  • Suriname
  • Venezuela
Long Term Effects
All of that said, now it's time to scare you just a little bit.

Pregnant Women Should Avoid Zika 
There is a link between Zika virus and children born with microcephaly. I say "a link" because it is not yet known if Zika infection during pregnancy definitely causes microcephaly, or if it can cause it, or if it just might cause it. What is known is that the virus is rampant in Brazil, and that the number of cases of microcephaly jumped drastically from 167 in 2013 and 147 in 2014 to 2,782 in 2015.

Furthermore, a mother in Hawaii just gave birth to a baby with microcephaly, and the mother tested positive to Zika infection -- likely contracted when she traveled to Brazil in May 2015.

In other words, it's not worth the risk if you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Stay out of affected reasons and avoid mosquito bites during pregnancy.

Fortunately, there appears at this time to be no evidence that contracting Zika in the past will harm future pregnancies.

For more information, see this CDC Question and Answer page.

Guillain–BarrĂ© Syndrome 
There is concern that the Brazillian outbreak is somehow linked to Guillain–BarrĂ© syndrome, as there is also an increasing number of people in Brazil suffering from GBS. The CDC and the Brazillian Ministry of Health are investigating the link. There are currently no laboratory confirmations between the two illnesses, but that could change.

In Conclusion
  1. Again, Do Not Panic. The disease has not come to mainland America, and steps are already being taken to prevent spread of it here. 
  2. Do not go to places where the disease is rampant. If you are thinking about attending the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, you ought to reconsider. 
  3. Take sensible precautions to avoid being bitten by daytime mosquitoes. 
  4. If you feel sick, see the doctor. 
  5. I will update you all as I know more. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Area Air Purification, Part 3: Monitoring

I've covered the basics of sealing off a “clean” room and filtering the air for it, and now comes the hard part: measuring air quality. It is a science, and the methods used vary by the pollutant that you're trying to measure. I'll try to break it down into major groups and give some simple examples of testing methods.

Oxygen Level
OSHA defines “safe” breathing air to have between 19.5 and 23.0% oxygen (O2) by volume. This band is narrow for regulatory reasons, and it can be stretched a bit lower if the gasses displacing the oxygen are not dangerous and a bit higher if you control sources of ignition.

I know all of you are trained in CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Do you realize that the air you're exhaling into that unconscious person is about 16% O2? That falls below the OSHA standards, but is enough to keep a person alive. You'll likely pass out at around 10-15%, which is why I use 15% as a lower limit. Once you've passed out, you are no longer functional and are as good as dead in a crisis/emergency situation. Physical condition and various health issues are going to determine your personal threshold.

On the upper side, you can breathe 100% oxygen for short periods of time (hours) without permanent damage. The major problem with any concentration over 25% is the increased risk of fire. Oxygen itself doesn't burn, but it combines with other substances to create fire. Oxygen enriched environments require special attention to the choices of clothing, electrical equipment, and other things that may ignite or cause a spark.

So, how do you measure the oxygen level in a room? There are various detectors on the market that use electrochemical sensors to measure specific chemical concentrations in the air, but they're not cheap. A typical 4-gas detector will measure O2, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), and combustible gasses, but will cost between $500-1000 and require frequent calibration. I found the test results from an experiment that gives a much cheaper method: a candle will go out if the O2 drops below about 18%.

For years, the US Coast Guard used “flame safety lamps” to check for sufficient O2 in holds and other shipboard spaces, since a flame can't be sustained with less than 16.5% O2. Miners used similar lamps when canaries got to be too expensive (just kidding, they needed a light that wouldn't cause an explosion). Simply put, if a candle won't burn, you can't breathe the air and expect to live... but remember that a flame is consuming oxygen as it burns.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)
CO is formed by the incomplete burning of organic material. CO is flammable (in the range from 12.5-74% by volume) as well as toxic (it binds to the part of your blood that normally carries oxygen, preventing your cells from getting sufficient oxygen). It is a colorless, odorless gas that will cause headaches at about 1-1.5% by volume, and death at about 4% after 30 minute's exposure. This is a nasty chemical that used to be piped into houses as “man-made gas” or “coal gas” for lighting and cooking, and was replaced by “natural gas” (methane). There are tons of battery operated CO detectors on the market, most of them are less than $30. Get one.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
CO2 makes up about 5% of what you exhale with each breath. It can also be formed by fire, decomposing organic material, dry ice, and leaks in food service soda machines. CO2 is heavier than air and will settle into low spaces, like basements and cellars, and displace the oxygen that was there. CO2 will cause unconsciousness and death at 10% by volume, and intoxication at 5%. The regulatory limit for exposure is 0.5%. CO2 detectors are available, but they're hard to find (search engines assume that you're an idiot and meant to type CO so they don't give proper results). They're also not cheap, running around $100-125. For local suppliers, ask around at bar and restaurant suppliers or greenhouses.

Flammable/Combustible Gasses
This is a wide category that covers everything from hydrogen (H) to volatile organic compounds (VOC). Any gas or vapor that will burn in air is a flammable or combustible gas, and is one of the main things that commercial gas monitors check for. Something as simple as an idiot getting too liberal with a spray can of penetrating oil can ruin your whole day (been there, seen that) if there is an ignition source present. If you're going to be working around or expect to see combustible gasses, get a monitor/detector. Broken gas lines after an earthquake or tornado are common, but natural gas and liquid petroleum, both colorless, odorless gasses, have an additive that stinks (methyl mercaptan) just to make them easier to notice.

Dust
Normal household dust is an annoyance, made up mostly of dirt, dead skin cells, and minerals that are not a hazard. If you live in an older building with the potential of having asbestos insulation, dust caused by a natural disaster could be a long-term health hazard. Unfortunately, there is no simple test for asbestos, so if in doubt, get out the respirator. Wood dust, concrete dust, volcanic ash, and silica (fine sand) dust all have health risks similar to asbestos and are visible in the air before they reach dangerous concentrations.

Other dusts can be an explosion hazard. Any vegetable-based dust will burn rapidly. If suspended in the air and ignited, the flame will spread (propagate) fast enough to be classified as an explosion. Visual testing is the easiest: if you can see it in the air it is too much. At your own risk, toss a handful of flour into the flames of a campfire some time for a demonstration or do a search on “Cremora pots” for some interesting videos. We're not responsible for your lack of eyebrows, arm hair, or any other injury if you try these.

Chemical Warfare Agents
There are people on this planet who have, and will use, chemical warfare. Terrorists have been known to use some of the simpler nerve agents, usually in subways or other enclosed spaces. Without the proper testing gear (which is normally only found in military units and is in the “if you have to ask you can't afford it” price range), the only method I can suggest is the miner's canary. Birds breathe differently than mammals, and are more susceptible to anything in the air. Canaries, chickens, geese, or even sky rats (commonly called pigeons) can be used as a warning method. If you're sitting inside watching the birds through the window and they start to fall over, it's time to take some action. Caged sky rats placed within sight can give a few seconds or minutes of warning, if this is a potential threat you want to prepare for.


If there are any questions or you would like me to expand on any of these, feel free to leave a comment here or on ourFaceBook page. I will try to answer as well as I can and I enjoy getting the feedback.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Prudent Prepping: Coffee Post

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.

From two comments on a recent blog post I was:
  1. Directed to try another form of the instant coffee I have in my GHB and BOB stores (hat tip to Gwen Patton), and
  2. asked about the use of improvised heating devices (Hello Tim!) in the face of severe winter weather.
So first things first, here is the coffee test.

Coffee, The Other Food Group
Here are the contestants:
Kershaw Leek shown for scale
Left to Right:
  • G7 Instant Coffee. Trung Nguyen Co., Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Indocafe' Coffee Mix. Mfg. by P.T. Sari Incofood Corp., Indonesia and London, England
  • UCC Coffee Mix. This one is a bit hard to list. Mfg. for UCC (Ueshima Coffee Co.) Kobe, Japan and Imported to Japan by a Hong Kong and Singapore group of holding companies who then export it here. I think.
  • Trader Joe's Instant Coffee. Sold and Distributed Exclusively by Trader Joe's and mfg. in Korea.
Several very important points!
  1. All four products contain instant coffee, sugar and a creamer.
  2. All recommend one packet per-serving.
  3. All serving sizes vary, making this a very subjective test. 
The Taste Test
My normal panel of testers were not available due to several conflicts: the Master Chief is off caffeine due to medical requirements (he always mumbles something about 'decaf and sex in a canoe' while brewing the first pot of the day). and the pre-teen does not like coffee unless it looks and tastes more like hot chocolate or a foo-foo Starbuck's drink.

The directions listed for each brand were followed to the best of my ability -- milliliters were converted to the closest fluid ounce ('Merica baby!) and the hot water added to one packet of coffee.

G7 Instant Coffee
Directions: Add 75 ml (2.5 oz) of hot water to one packet .

At 16 g (0.56 oz) per packet, this was right in the middle of the weight range. Strength was a bit strong, it had a bit more creamer than I might add if I was making my own cup of coffee, and sugar was good. I personally would add more water* (up to double?) if I was making one quick cup, or use two packets and add extra water if I was sharing this.

Indocafe' Coffee Mix
Directions: Add 150 cc (5 oz) of hot water to the 20g (0.70 oz) packet of instant coffee.

Strength was fine here too. The creamer was very good and the sweetness was perfect for me. At 5 oz., this is my perfect size of coffee. I would use two packets and the recommended amount of water for two servings.

UCC Coffee Mix
Directions: Add 140 ml (4.7 oz) hot water to one 17g (0.59 oz) of coffee mix.

Strength was a little less than the first two but still acceptable. Creamer and sugar were just about about perfect for me. At almost 5 oz, a good-sized cup of coffee.

Trader Joe's Instant Coffee
This is the coffee I have carried and used for quite a while in my camping gear, even before I started writing here at BCP.

Directions: Add 4-6 oz (I used 5 oz to keep things as close as possible) of hot water to one 12g (0.42 oz) packet.

This is weaker than the other three in strength, creamer taste and sugar. Mixed like this, I find the coffee too weak and have used two packets mixed into 6-8 oz of water for years.


*I did add almost 2 oz extra water to the G7 after trying all mixes using their directions and found the flavor acceptable, but it was marginally weaker than UCC and Indocafe -- and still a fraction stronger than Trader Joe's.

Emergency Heating
From Tim's comment about heating, I found this link to an interesting space heater.

I feel a simpler heater could be built, but this is an excellent way to use tea lights or a tuna can heat source.

The Takeaway
  • If you like coffee and need to have some every day, any of these four choices will serve you well. 
  • As with anything, pre-testing your choices is very important. 
  • Be open for suggestions! 
  • Heating is not just for comfort in the winter, it is a necessity for survival. Alternate means need to be explored if weather knocks out power and normal sources are unavailable.
The Recap
In my order of preference:
  1. G7 Instant Coffee. 18 packets, local Asian market. Reg. $4.59, on sale for $3.79.
  2. Indocafe' Instant Coffee, 8 packets, local Asian market. $2.69 
  3. UCC Coffee Mix, 10 packets, local Asian market. $3.89 
  4. Trader Joe's Coffee, 10 packets Trader Joe's. $1.99
    Strictly by price per packet, Trader Joe's is the leader -- but in my taste test, any of the other three are superior, with G7 winning on the combination of value per-packet and taste.

    Try them yourself and let me know what you think!  
    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.

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    Microlon Gun Juice

    I mentioned this stuff in the post about firearms lubrication, and thought I'd get a bit more detailed. Microlon makes several different products, but I'm going to concentrate on the one I actually know something about.

    Application
    Microlon Gun Juice is a dry film lubricant, so you need to clean out all the old oil or grease out of the bore before applying it. To use it:
    1. Shake the hell out of it to put the solids into suspension.
    2. Dampen a cleaning patch with it and run it through the bore.
    3. Fire a shot. 
    4. Repeat eight to ten times. 
    It leaves a permanent film in the bore; according to the information, you'd have to either heat the bore up to 775° F or above, or actually machine it to get rid of the surface steel it's embedded into.

    Gun Juice can also be used on the internals of a firearm. Ideally you heat the parts, shake the stuff up, wipe on a light coat, let dry, and repeat. I cannot remember the specifics (the instructions are long lost), but the general rule was to repeat it at least five times, with eight to ten times being preferable.

    I Can't Do Lab Analysis
    I can, however, point you to this page which has links under Firearms to two PDF files that have more in-depth information on the stuff, including the testing done by American Gunsmith (which is where I first heard of it).

    I can also tell you my personal experience with it, which started with a Sig Trailside .22 pistol. This was the replacement for the original (yes, there's a story there; another time), and it had a problem: by the time you'd fired 75-100 rounds, accuracy was going to hell as the bore became badly fouled. I wrote to Sig (pre-internet days for me, and yes, I should have called), and got no response. Then, about the time I was going to give Sig a really ticked-off call, I got that issue of AG and read the article. I checked Brownells, and a one-ounce bottle was inexpensive enough that I figured I'd try it.

    Since the range I'd be firing it at frowns on you breaking out a cleaning rod for stuff like this, I did the treatment at home: I field-stripped it, cleaned the bore thoroughly to make sure no traces of lead or oil, then wiped it with a wet patch and set it in front of a fan to move air through the bore and dry it faster. I did that ten times, then took it to the range.

    Success! It worked. I put a hundred rounds through it that day with the same ammo I'd been using before, and the bore looked spotless after wards with no fouling buildup. And I never had the problem again. So just on treating the bore alone, I became a believer.

    As to Lubing the Entire Works of a Pistol
    Call me chicken or old-fashioned, but I couldn't make myself lube the works of something like my carry pistol with it and nothing else. But I did try it on something else: I took the sizing die for my .30-30 apart, stripped all the other lube out, and gave it the treatment, heating it in the oven ('warm' only) for each coat and using a cotton swab to wipe each coat on. It made a noticeable difference in the effort required to resize cases, and I've used it on every sizing die I have. I also started using it to treat the Lee bullet sizing dies I use on cast bullets; it doesn't make it light and effortless to push a bullet through, but they do seem to slide through with no crap left behind (not counting bullet lube).

    The Real Test Came From My Son
    When he was heading to Iraq for the first time, I contacted the company and asked if, by any chance, I could get a deal on one of the 4-ounce cans for him. They sent me two for free ("We like to support the troops"), and  I sent him one right then

    He used it on both his M4 and the M240B machine gun he was assigned to, and he did the whole routine, bore and mechanism. He never noticed any excessive wear in either one, and said it made end-of-patrol cleanup a snap: break down, wipe off the dust, reassemble; no liquid lube to hold dust really helped there. He also told me of the time he had to turn it in for an inspection, and the armorer cleared it, stopped, did it again, then said "What the @%#! did you do to it, it's smoother than the others?" 

    He just said "Full and proper cleaning" and shut up. I don't think Gun Juice was on the approved list.

    So if you have a firearm that tends to foul the bore badly, this may well help. It can make it easier to clean out a barrel as well, as a treated barrel tends to wipe clean quite easily*. It might even increase velocity a bit in some cases. It can help sizing dies work a bit more smoothly, and it may well work as a permanent lube for the insides (my son's testimony is anecdotal, although there are a lot of other "It works!" testimonials on the website).


    *With a new barrel, I'd do any break-in stuff before treating with this.

    Sunday, January 24, 2016

    Gun Blog Variety Podcast #75

    Despite having almost no voice left after a week of coughing, Sean has dragged himself to the computer and done the podcast with Adam. Just because he can't talk doesn't mean he won't talk.
    • Erin Palette, having talked last week about barter, this week talks trade goods.
    • By taking US Navy hostages, Iran seems to want to complete the comparison between President Obama and President Carter. But this time Iran let them go. I ask Nicki Kenyon if that's a Win or a Fail for our foreign policy.
    • Barron B give us his thoughts on New York's attempt to ban smart phone encryption
    • And in his extended series on Obama's disastrous CNN Town Hall, Weer'd enters the second week with "The Lies, Part 2."
    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, January 22, 2016

    Law of Self-Defense Seminar

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    At this time last week (hence the guest article), I was driving to Orlando to attend a Law of Self-Defense seminar hosted by Andrew Branca.

    If either of those names sound familiar, they should; the Law of Self Defense has been a sponsor of the Gun Blog Variety Cast for some time now, and midway through each episode -- you do listen to the episodes, right? -- you hear this dramatic reading by GBVC host Sean Sorrentino:



    Every prepper who carries a firearm for self defense (and all of you legally can carry ought to carry) needs to take this course. I didn't say should take; I said needs to take.

    Florida (where I live) is about as pro-gun as a state can get without being Constitutional Carry, but anyone who remembers the George Zimmerman Trial knows just what a three ring circus it was for what should have been a cut-and-dried case of justifiable homicide. If that can happen here, it could happen anywhere in this country.

    As preppers, we stress that the mind is your greatest survival tool and that knowledge weighs nothing. This eight-hour class will give you a detailed look at the laws regarding self defense in your state -- each seminar is specifically geared to its location so that you don't spend time learning laws that don't apply to you -- and translates all that legalese into simple English. What's more, Andrew Branca is very accommodating and will gladly answer any questions you might have. I asked several questions which I knew were very edge case and extremely hypothetical (in other words, the other students probably rolled their eyes at me) and he answered them all with patience and grace.

    Example:
    Me: "I know you said that legally dogs are property and that lethal force in defense of property like that is frowned upon. We have two dogs and my mother is concerned about what might happen if, say, she came to their defense if someone started attacking them while on a walk? I mean, if someone will attack a dog they could just as easily attack a human."
    Branca (paraphrased): "Never, ever say you are coming to the defense of your dogs. If you have to shoot someone for that, you must be in reasonable fear that after they kill your dogs they will be coming for you next."
    Despite it being an 8-hour course, it moves along quickly, with plenty of quirky humor to break up the legalese (such as embedding the Monty Python "Run Away!" clip when talking about Avoidance) and frequent breaks to allow bathroom use and leg-stretching.

    When you take this class (and you need to), there are two things you should do:
    1. Reserve your seat ahead of time. If you wait until the last few weeks, the price rises from $100 to $150. 
    2. Buy the slide presentation book. It is a bound notebook of all the slides used in the presentation, printed six to a page. Having it in front of you will save you a ton of note taking, and will allow you to easily refer to exactly what Mr. Branca said after the seminar is completed. 
    Andrew Branca's Law of Self Defense Seminar comes with my highest recommendation. Take a course -- it could keep you out of prison. And, in proper Blue Collar fashion, you can get 10% off by using the discount code VARIETY at checkout!

    If you can't attend one of his seminars, at least buy his book. It discusses the self-defense laws of all 50 states and how the courts interpret those laws.

    Carry a gun so you're hard to kill. Know the law so you're hard to convict. 

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

    Area Air Purification, Part 2: Filtration

    In Part 1, I explained the basics of how to seal off a room or other small area to keep contaminated air out. Before I start on Part 2, "How to Clean the Air," I need to answer a few questions that arose from Part 1. 

    What kind of plastic should I use?
    Any solid plastic sheeting will work; the thicker they are, the more durable they are. Plastic painter's drop cloths are cheap and don't take up much room on a shelf, but a roll of 4 or 6 mil (thousandths of an inch) “clear” plastic is easier to work with. Be aware that “clear” often means “translucent” instead of “see-through”. Black plastic may work better if you're trying to provide blackout curtains on exterior windows.

    What kind of expanding foam should I use? 
    Where do I find it?
    I like the Great Stuff brand. It comes in two flavors, normal (for cracks under 1 inch wide) and widegap filler (for larger cracks). Most hardware and home supply stores carry it, as well as Amazon.com.

    If you have a lot of cracks to seal, there are semi-pro systems out there that use a wand and a disposable cartridge.

    What kind of tape do I use?
    I keep blue painter's tape on hand for business reasons, and I know for a fact that it works to hold up plastic over a broken window in an Iowa Autumn. Duct tape varies in quality by brand, and I have seen some of the cheaper duct tape fall off of a vertical seam after less than a day. “Gaffer's”tape, 100mph tape, and Gorilla brand have all worked well for me in the past. Packaging tape, normally used to seal cardboard boxes, sticks to plastic very well and is easy to apply if you have a tape gun. Basically, any tape that will stick and is at around 2 inches wide is what you're looking for.

    Part 2: How to Clean the Air
    Once you have your area sealed off, you need to have a way to pump filtered air into it. That means you'll need an air mover and a filter.

    Air Movers
    I've read of hand-operated air pumps in prepper novels, but I'm not sold on them. The amount of air that you can pump through a bellows or similar system is tiny compared to a powered fan. Unless you're thinking of building a very small, totally sealed underground bunker, plan on using some form of electricity to move the air for you.

    Most home heating/cooling systems use a squirrel-cage fan to move the air through the unit. They're small, quiet, and move a large volume of air at relatively low pressure. If you can access your furnace and isolate the input or return air ducts (hint: they'll be on the side with the filters) and you have a way to power the blower, you're already set. Finding a small squirrel-cage fan isn't that hard, and they aren't terribly expensive.

    In-line duct fans are another option, and are easy to fit into a lot of DIY projects. I've used them to boost air flow into rooms that didn't get enough air flow when the AC was running and they last about ten years if you keep your filters and ductwork clean. Dust will kill them within a couple of years.

    Whichever method you choose, you need to be able to move enough air through your filters to maintain a slightly positive pressure inside your clean space. This will force your plastic sheeting against any holes, and it will keep contaminated air out if your seams aren't perfectly taped.

    You'll also need to figure out how much air you're going to need to move and size your blower accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to calculate the volume of your clean space (length x width x height) in cubic feet and expect to pump that much air at least five times every hour. You could probably get by on less, but it is going to depend on how many people you have breathing the air and how active they are. As a point of interest, when doing confined space entries we often use 20 ACH (Air Changes per Hour) when calculating air movement.
    • Example 1: a small bedroom of 10 x 12 x 8 feet = 960 cubic feet (cf) of air. 5 ACH (Air Changes per Hour) would be 960 x 5 = 4800 cf per hour. 4800 cf / 60 minutes per hour = 80 cf per minute (cfm). That's not a very big blower when you look at the ratings of most fans. 
    • Example 2: an enclosure around a child's playpen, roughly 4 x 4 x 3 ft = 48 cf. 5ACH x 48 cf = 240 cf per hour. 240 cf / 60 minutes per hour = 4 cfm. That's possible with a battery operated 12V fan.
    Filters
    Okay, you've got a sealed area and have a way to push air into it. How are you going to filter the air before you move it? I can't recommend a set of filters that will remove everything possible, but I may be able to point you towards something that will meet your needs.
    • Household filters that you'll find in the hardware stores are ranked by Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) going from 1 to 16, where the filters that stop smaller particles earn higher numbers. Follow the link for a good explanation of the different ranks and example of what they'll stop. 
    • HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are the standard and correspond to a MERV of at least 16. A proper HEPA filter will remove at least 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 micron. 0.3 micron means that a HEPA filter will stop most bacteria and all pollen or dust, but won't catch all viruses or smoke. 
    • Hospitals use HEPA filters backed up with strong ultraviolet (UV) light to clean the air in operating rooms and infectious disease wards. The UV lamps are placed in the ductwork and kill off viruses, molds, and yeasts that might be floating around. They are placed inside the ducts to prevent damage to human eyes, since UV light is mostly invisible and very destructive to living tissue. 
    • Electrostatic filters work by passing the air through a series of electrically charged grids, something like a very fine mesh bug zapper, that causes particles and chemicals to cling to the grid due to the difference in electrical charge. They are quite efficient at removing pollutants like smoke, but needs to be cleaned , usually by running them through the dishwasher or something similar. Some of the small room “air purifiers” work on the same principle but I have no experience with them. 
    • Ozone generators work by using high voltage electricity to create small amounts of ozone, a form of ionized oxygen that chemically attacks volatile pollutants and breaks them down into less dangerous compounds. Think of it as the air filtration version of using bleach to clean up water. Like bleach, ozone in large quantities is corrosive. 
    • Carbon filters (activated charcoal) work to clean air the same way it does water, by trapping contamination in the microscopic pores of the carbon. Good for removing chemicals and odors. 
    • Potassium permangenate is another water treatment that is used to clean air. Useful in removing hydrogen sulfide, but......
    • Chemical filtration is a technical field that is beyond the scope of this humble blog. If you're expecting to be dealing with nerve agents or other airborne chemical weapons, you need to consult with experts in that field.

    Putting It All Together
    • I recommend placing your filters and air mover outside of your clean space. This may mean you'll have to wear a respirator while servicing it (a wise precaution anyway), but it will keep the concentrated filtrate (whatever gets caught in the filters) out of your clean space. There's no use going to all of the trouble of filtering it out of the air and then keeping it where you live. 
    • Place the filters on the intake side of the blower. This will keep the blower fan cleaner, ensuring a longer life. 
    • Make sure your source of air has enough oxygen in it to be worth filtering. No filter will provide more oxygen, so you need to make sure your source isn't deficient. Avoid drawing from underground spaces, since CO2 is heavier than air and will displace it in stagnant spaces.
    • Keep your ductwork as straight as possible. It doesn't take many sharp turns to slow down air flow. 
    • If you don't have metal ducting to connect your filter to your blower, improvise. Cardboard and duct tape with a layer of plastic over it will suffice for several days. The same goes with getting air into your clean space -- use flexible drier vent pipe or whatever else you can find to make it work.


    As always, I will try to answer specific questions and help you find the information you need. Feel free to comment here or on our Facebook Page.

    How to monitor for contamination is Part 3, since it gets fairly technical.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2016

    Prudent Prepping: Gimme Shelter

    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.

    For the last year or so, I have tried to find a good quality, used 2-3 person tent. I've come very close -- for example, the famous Craigslist "I just sold it 20 minutes before you got here"; quality and condition not as advertised; or even the wrong brand and size from the posted picture. I'm still looking and hoping that a good one will turn up before camping season rolls around or I need it in an emergency.

    This lack of personal shelter has led me to begin...

    Thinking Inside the Dome
    As I am going to be Bugging In, and the likely disaster is going to be an earthquake, I've been thinking about other forms of shelter that are bigger than a backpacking tent and slightly more permanent. Repairs to structures to bring them back to livable condition could take months, if the Big One hits.

    I have a sister with a family close by, and I've kicked around the idea of a dome as a way to shelter 4-6 people cheaply and in a form that, when not in use, would take up a small amount of storage space. 

    Desert Domes has very complete directions for building domes from simple and small to large and very complex. What I like are the very detailed instructions such as the cut tube calculator, jig building diagram and bending illustrations found on this page.

    I really need to sit down with my brother-in-law and work out if this is something that might work for all of us, but I figure that a dome 16' across would use less than fifty 10' long sticks of 3/4" electrical conduit. 
    Similar to what I am planning
    If you have a minimum assortment of hand tools (electric drill, hack saw or power saw, vise and wrenches) total cost for your dome frame should be approximately $175 and weigh less than 50 lbs. I'm not good with math so I can't calculate the area of the dome (Here's a dome calculator for you -- Erin), but I'm guessing another $100 in tarps will make it waterproof.

    With the right wrenches and some help, a geodesic dome of this size could be built and covered in tarps in a day. Domes are very stable in winds when anchored correctly, and are popular at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert for that reason (not just for the hippie 'cool' factor).

    Warning! Potential time sink ahead!

    I am a do-it-myself person because of cost, but there are some other options that would blow up most BCP'ers budgets, like some of the pre-built and packaged domes from a company such as Pacific Domes. These are a much fancier option, with galvanized tubing, doors and covers included.

    Another option is a variation of the Mongolian yurt called Hexayurt with a very link heavy and cluttered website here. The Tiny House Blog has a much cleaner and easily-read version of how to build a Hexayurt. Please look at the links on the bottom of the page for an interview with the developer of the Hexayurt!

    These designs are fairly simple and, in my mind, shouldn't be considered as permanent or as stable as a dome. Having built neither, I really don't know.

    All of these structures can be purchased and laid out with a minimum investment of dollars and time, stored away in a small space and assembled quickly when needed.

    The Takeaway
    • In a disaster like an earthquake, plans may need to include more permanent shelter than a tent. 
    • Decide what is affordable and stick to your plan. 
    • Whatever you decide to build, having extra hands will make the job easier.
    Recap
    • Nothing was purchased this week, 

    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, January 19, 2016

    Electrical Home Inspection

    I spent a good chunk of this weekend teaching merit badge classes to young Boy Scouts, because I'm an Eagle Scout and it's what I do. My usual merit badge is Electricity, because it's what I know. One of the requirements for the badge is to conduct a basic electrical inspection of your home. Since I asked my boys to do it, I took the opportunity to do a quick inspection of my home, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

    The checklist I use is from usscouts.org. It's basic enough to be simple, but complete enough to actually find common and critical problems. While the whole list is available at the link, I'd like to cover some of the more common and more critical elements here.

    Cords, Plugs, and Outlets
    The vast majority of electrical issues are found in this area. Cords and plugs are exposed to an incredible amount of wear and tear, and outlets get overlooked a lot.
    • Any time you pick up a tool or appliance that has a cord, check the cord for damage. Look for cracked or frayed insulation, exposed wires, and damaged plugs. 
    • Ensure that any plug that had 3 prongs from the factory remains that way. 
    • When you plug in to an outlet, make sure the plug fits securely and doesn't hang loose. 
    • Check the cover plates on your outlets and switches. Live power connects right behind them, and they play a critical role in keeping children and pets from getting shocked. 
    • Avoid running cords across hallways or doors, and don't cover them with a carpet or rug. All of these things accelerate wear. 
    • Do not staple a cord to a baseboard or wall. Staples will wear through insulation and can cause dangerous short circuits.
    Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
    GFCI plugs provide protection from shock in wet areas. They are required in areas like kitchens, bathrooms, outdoor areas, and others. They're commonly identified by two buttons in their face labeled Test and Reset.

    These outlets should be tested regularly (I do mine monthly):
    1. Simply press the button labeled Test. 
    2. The Reset button should pop out with an audible click, and the outlet will lose power. 
    3. Press the reset button, and power will be restored. 
    4. If power doesn't restore, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
      Lighting
      • Inside all of your light fixtures should be a sticker or stamp giving a maximum bulb wattage. 
      • Stamped on each bulb is a rated wattage. 
      • Ensure that you don't use bulbs with a higher wattage rating than the fixture they're installed in. 
      • Excessively large bulbs can overload fixtures and cause a fire. 
      Space Heaters and Halogen Lamps
      These get grouped together because they both have the same major concern; they get hot. They also see a lot of use this time of year.
      • Keep them away from children, as they can cause severe burns quite easily. 
      • Make sure halogen lamps on poles cannot tip over. 
      • Keep all flammable materials clear, as these items can easily start a fire.


      Electricity is entirely safe, as long as you give it proper respect and concern. It's only when you approach it with a cavalier attitude that you get bitten.

      Lokidude

      Monday, January 18, 2016

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #74

      Adam is getting better from his extended illness while Sean is getting sicker.
      • Erin Palette tells us about bartering.
      • Nicki Kenyon explains how the Cologne, Germany open air rape attacks will affect the future of European refugees.
      • Barron B gives us some tips on how to avoid pop ups, adware, and malware.
      • And Weer'd starts a multi-week series on President Obama's very bad, no good time at CNN's Town Hall.
      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, January 15, 2016

      Guest Post: Air Rifles

      by George Groot
      Firearms are awesome. But unless you have a silencer, or are using a very low power rimfire cartridge, firearms are loud. Firearms are also expensive to feed, even rimfires.

      For sake of argument, let's say that after the (insert apocalypse here) you have a nice plot of potatoes, carrots, other root vegetables, but need some meat for the pot. Odds are good that if you live in a city you can find some pigeon or other bird, and if you live in the suburbs you can find squirrels. It doesn’t take much meat to keep all the essential amino acids in your diet, and hunting small game quietly is preferable to hunting small game loudly.

      To choose an air rifle for the taking of small game (and let’s be honest, there is a lot more small game than big game out there) your choices are effectively limitless for squirrel and smaller. For rabbit or raccoon, you’ll want bigger pellets and stronger energy levels, and enough accuracy to make headshots if you can for instant kills.

      Types of Air Rifles
      There are four basic types of air rifle; break barrel, single stroke, multi pump, pre-charged pneumatic.

      Break Barrel Rifles
      These provide good power pretty cheaply. They are also “hunting accurate”, but have been replaced by precharged pneumatics in competition because the spring action induces vibrations which are not good for accuracy. These are relatively easy to tune and repair for most people who are mechanically inclined. There are lots of manufacturers and lots of options.

      Single Stroke Pneumatic
      These are accurate, but you are stuck with the power level given. I don’t recommend them for hunting, but they are great for marksmanship practice. In fact I highly recommend them for marksmanship practice.

      Multi-Pump Pneumatic
      These can be very accurate. People have been using Sheridan Blue Streak (now called the Benjamin 397) or Silver Streak (now Benjamin 392) air rifles for hunting small game since the 1950s. They can be pricier than break barrels, and trickier to repair.

      Precharged Pneumatic
      The ones regulated for competition are in the same league as most single stroke pneumatics. But you can get these in .17, .22, .25, .35, .45, or .50 caliber if you want to drop a lot of money. These are the fastest for follow up shots because there is nothing to do but put in another pellet. These can get very pricey, and are not easy to repair on your own.

      Recommendation
      If you are a prepper and you don’t already own an air rifle for hunting, I recommend a break barrel .22 caliber. While not as common as the .17 caliber ammunition, .22 caliber pellets will reliably dispatch squirrels in trees and knock them down to the ground for recovery. The .17 caliber rifles, even high powered ones, don’t always knock the squirrels down.

      .22 caliber pellets are more expensive than .17, but still less than $10 per 100 (some are $10 per 500), which is a pretty good price considering how much a 500 round “value pack” of .22 LR is going for lately.

      I also recommend getting a low powered air rifle scope in the 4x range to put on your hunting air rifle, because most air rifles come with not much to write home about in the way of factory sites. Not that you need one, mind you, just that it isn't going to hurt to have glass on a rifle.

      My recommended air rifles for Blue Collar Preppers are:
      Should you go out and sell your rimfires to buy air rifles? No. But if you have squirrels and rabbits getting into your garden, or a raccoon making a nuisance of themselves, a hunting power .22 caliber air rifle is going to be a good addition to your preps.

      Thursday, January 14, 2016

      Ice

      Winter is here, at least in the frozen parts of the fly-over country that some of us call home. Coming out of a wet Autumn there is no shortage of ice around here, so what good uses can we find for it?

      Building Material
      Ice and snow are actually quite good as insulation. The classic igloo, a dome of snow/ice blocks, can maintain an internal temperature well above freezing since the interior layer melts and refreezes into an insulating layer of ice. 10 inches of light snow has the same R-value (a measure of insulation) as a 6 inch layer of fiberglass insulation, so packing snow around a structure can actually help keep extreme cold out. 

      Packing snow on top of a structure (or simply not removing it), however, will require some consideration of the strength of the structure. I've seen flat roofs, and even some gently sloped ones, collapse under the weight of a single snowfall, and I don't live in an area that gets more than a foot or two of snow per storm. Areas around the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes in upstate NY can get snow measured in tens of feet per year, but around here it takes a serious blizzard to dump more than a foot.

      Snow “work-hardens”, which is a technical term for something that gets harder the more you mess with it. Light, fluffy snow takes on the consistency of Styrofoam after being shoveled around a few times and starts to resemble concrete if you keep moving it around.

      If you add sawdust or some other form of fiber to water and then freeze it, you get Pykrete. 4% wood pulp and 96% water gives a substance that is as strong as concrete (as long as you keep it frozen). Pretty close to being bullet-proof as well as strong, Pykrete can make an environmentally friendly wind break/privacy fence.

      Ice Fishing
      There are some borderline lunatics who actually cut holes into the frozen surface of a lake and catch fish in the dead of winter. You have to wait until the dead of winter to have ice thick enough to be safe to travel on (see chart). Fun fact: scuba divers just north of me have great fun counting snowmobiles and ATVs on the bottoms of popular lakes. Fishing is always a good way to supplement your stored food, and ice fishing has one advantage over conventional fishing: no bugs.

      Primitive Refrigeration
      Ever hear your grandma call the 'fridge an “icebox”? Before electricity was ubiquitous, people would cut ice from lakes and streams in the winter and store it in ice-houses for use through the rest of the year. If there were no open bodies of water nearby, wooden forms were built and filled with water from the well and left outside to freeze overnight. Commercial ice-houses used industrial-sized refrigeration units to make blocks of ice, which were then delivered to houses that lacked electricity. Storing cold food in the kitchen was made possible by using a well-insulated box with a shelf on the top for a large chunk of ice and lower shelves or compartments for the food.

      What we call a "cooler" when we go on a picnic or to the beach is actually an icebox, and there are some good ones (and a lot of bad ones) on the market. When I went camping in the past, a cooler full of food with 20 pounds of ice was good for a weekend -- we'd load it up Friday afternoon and there would still be ice in it Sunday evening when we got back. The cheap plastic coolers I've seen recently haven't held 20 pounds of ice for more than a day, but my off-road friends swear by the Yeti brand of coolers. Quite expensive, but worth it if you're going to want cold food and beverages for several days without power. They're also rated as bear-proof when you add a padlock, so they're serious gear.

      Travel
      Once the ice on a river or lake is thick enough to walk on, it can often open up new routes of travel. During the siege of Stalingrad during WW2, the defending Soviet troops had to wait for the Volga river to freeze before they could be reliably resupplied with food and ammunition. Many of the canals in northern Europe served for centuries as convenient routes of foot traffic (ice skate traffic, actually) once they froze over.

      http://www.iceboat.org/photos/buyandsell/3-18-09-1lg.jpg
      Ice boats are mostly one-man sailboats with runners attached to the bottom -- think of a cross between a kayak and an old-fashioned sled and you'll get the idea. For crossing large frozen lakes or traveling a frozen river ,an ice boat would be cheap (no fuel), fast (over 50 mph), and quiet. Larger ice boats were used in the 1800s for transportation to ice-bound lighthouses and for general shipping during the winter.

      If your evacuation route has you going around a body of water during the winter, think about checking the thickness of the ice and taking a shortcut across it. With as many bodies of water as I have around here, it could save a lot of miles by not having to look for a bridge (which is a tactical choke point, anyway). Some of the small rivers in the area are in deep (15-20 feet) but not steep channels, so traveling on them would also reduce my visibility.


      Nature is going to do what it wants, and complaining about it does nothing but annoy those around you. Keep looking for ways to utilize the things and conditions around you, even if they aren't what you would prefer.

      Wednesday, January 13, 2016

      Prudent Prepping: Pantry Check

      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.

      Since I have not yet made the change to lighter and more easily stored freeze-dried food, I have to check my stored items for their 'sell by' dates and signs of aging. I try to rotate many of these items into my every day pantry, but since I am not able to eat the quantities I have stored, they get donated to my local Food Bank before they (supposedly) expire. For an explanation of how expiration dates are measured, see this from the USDA.

      Changes
      I make a habit of going through the stored goods about once a month, so I always know what is ready to rotate out. The Food Bank appreciates the donations, nothing goes to waste and I keep fresh food in my regular pantry and prepping supplies.

      Replaced with Fresher Versions
      Eight 32 oz. cans of pasta sauce from Trader Joe's that are close to the sell by date. I have a matching amount of dry pasta that has a while to go yet, so only the sauce is being replaced now. These are only $1.99 each, so it is not a big amount to spend to keep food fresh.

      Two 10 count boxes of instant coffee 'tubes' from Trader Joe's. These have creamer and sugar included and are supposed to make one cup of coffee, but I find myself using 2 to make a stronger cup. From a suggestion in a comment on my post last week (Thanks Gwen!), I will be experimenting with the Vietnamese equivalent, and a taste test will be coming soon.

      Removed and Not Replaced
      8 oz packages of Trader Joe's Mango slices that are in the buckets. I put them in for the obvious use as a good tasting, naturally sweet snack but mainly for the fiber. Most of the food in my buckets and BOB is pretty high protein (canned chicken or tuna) and low bulk, so extra fiber to prevent constipation is a Very Good Thing. I keep a good supply of mango on hand as a replacement for candy or other sugary snacks.

      Added
      A big box of Instant Oatmeal in the bulk storage bin.
      Quaker Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack (52 ct.)
      I like oatmeal and eat it for breakfast several days a week. I do use the slow cooking variety at home, but the instant was purchased specifically for my BOB and the Bucket of Holding. Well, actually the Tote of Holding, but it is still stored for emergency use.
      What I like about this is that it includes:
      • Maple & Brown Sugar - 18 packets
      • Apples & Cinnamon - 15 packets
      • Cinnamon & Spice - 14 packets
      • Original - 5 packets
      • Heartier texture
      • Great taste
      • 25% less sugar
      • Kosher
      The packets take a very small amount of water and cook quickly. Plus, everyones like oatmeal.


      The Takeaway
      • Buy things that you like to eat now so you know how they will taste in a pinch. 
      • Have your stored goods packed in an easily checked manner. Rotation and use are a priority. 
      • Be open to suggestions and ideas from others. Good finds are hard to come by.

        Purchased This Week
        • Quaker Instant Oatmeal from Sam's Club: $9.87 
        • Eight 32 oz cans of Pasta sauce from Trader Joe's: $1.99 
        • Two 10 count boxes of instant coffee tubes from Trader Joe's: $1.99

          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, January 12, 2016

          Earthquake Preparedness

          There's not much you can do when the earth starts moving. It's uncommon, it's scary, and you're pretty much helpless until it stops. There are things you can do beforehand that will mitigate much of the damage and danger, and will greatly aid in survival of yourself and your property. If you live in an earthquake zone, these are things to consider.

          Before
          When the ground moves, things tip over and fall down. When things tip over and fall down, they break, and they injure or damage whatever they fall on. Anchor your bookshelves, TV stands, and any other tall furniture securely to the wall. There are limitless options on the market for doing this, allowing you to select the anchors that meet your needs. An Amazon search for "earthquake straps" yields more options than one would believe.

          In particular, pay attention to gas appliances, and make sure that they're secured. Water heaters are of particular note, as they're tall and heavy and can become unstable. Use plumber's strap and screws to secure it to the wall.

          Try to not hang pictures and other decorations above areas where people sit or sleep. Also, store pots and other heavy items close to the floor where they cannot fall on anyone.

          During
          During the quake itself, move away from windows and exterior walls by crouching or moving on hands and knees. Stay down and close to the wall for protection. Doorframes are no stronger than the rest of the wall, and provide less protection than a full wall, so ignore that old wives' tale about seeking shelter in a doorway.

          After
          When the shaking stops, perform a head count. If you're all there, check yourself and your people for injuries and perform first aid as necessary. If someone is missing, search for them if it is safe. If it's not safe, then cold as it sounds, you shouldn't look for them. If you do, then other people will be searching for or performing first on you. Call 911 if you're afraid that a loved one is buried in the rubble.

          Speaking of which, the 911 service will be under such a heavy load that getting through is of questionable likelihood. Do not call unless you need emergency personnel sent to your location. Any other calls contribute to the excessive load on the system. Cellular towers may be similarly overloaded, so text messaging is a far more reliable method of communication with loved ones.

          If you smell gas or have other utility issues/concerns, remember the lesson on utility shut-offs. Get out of any building that is dangerous, and follow any government directions that seem prudent. 


          The earth may move, but you can be solid.

          Lokidude

          Monday, January 11, 2016

          When You Need a Long Hex Key


          A friend of mind needs a long one to reach down inside an AR handguard to adjust a gas block. Have you ever tried to find a 12" long hex? We couldn't either, so we made one.

          Materials
          • A spare key of the right size (5/64" in this case) 
          • A piece of music wire of 5/32" diameter*. To get the length, measure from the gas block to the front of the handguard, add an inch or two as suits you, then another few for the handle. 
          • A center punch & hammer 
          • Propane torch 
          • Some solder 
          • A drill press (unless you're steady enough to do it with a hand drill) 
          • Either a drill press vise or some other way to hold the wire steady. (I clamp the drill press vise in the workbench vise for the filing and marking) 
          *Yes, a larger diameter -- as long as it'll fit -- will be easier, as you'll have more leeway for the hole to be a bit off-center.

          Process
          Step One: Use the torch to normalize** an inch or so of one end of the wire. If it's mild steel, you can skip this. If it's something like the music wire I used, you HAVE to do this before drilling, or you'll wind up with destroyed bits and no hole.

          **Strictly speaking, 'annealing' involves getting the piece up to suitable temperature, holding it there for a couple of minutes (in the case of something small), and then cooling it down very slowly to get it as soft as possible. 'Normalizing' means to get it hot -- a low red will do -- let it cool to dark, repeat that a couple of times, then let it cool to ambient temperature. It won't get it as 'soft' as annealing, but it's much easier to do and it'll be enough to do the job.

          Step Two: Square-off one end of the wire. The easiest way is to clamp it in the drill press vise (which usually has cuts milled in the jaws to allow better holding of shapes other than flat) with just a tiny length of it sticking up. Take a file and file that exposed bit down; the jaws should help you square it off nicely.



          Step Three: Use the punch to mark the exact center(or as close as you can get), to give the drill bit a place to start.




          Step Four: Take the vise to the drill press. In this case I used a 3/32" bit, which is just a touch larger diameter than the hex key. You want as little slop as possible in the fit when drilling stuff like this,


          I set the press on the slowest speed it has, then drilled with light pressure, just enough to make sure the hole is centered. If it's off, or too far off, now's the time to take it back to the vise and file it square and start over.

          If it's good, put some lube in the hole, and proceed to drill with light pressure. Pull the bit back up regularly both to clear chips and to add a bit more oil.*** Continue until the hole's as deep as you need. I went with 1/2" here.

          ***Much like with guns, any oil is better than none; it both lubes the surfaces and helps chips flow up the flutes on the bit. If you're going to do much drilling in metal, it'd be worth it to find a bottle of actual cutting oil.

          Step Five: When the hole's deep enough, try the hex key in it to make sure of depth and see if it sit in straight. When it will, figure how much of the hex key to cut off (1" in my case). You can either cut it with a rotary tool and a cutoff wheel if you've got one, or do it fast & dirty by clamping that length in the vise, grabbing the rest and bending it until it snaps off. These things are hard, and the small ones break easily.

          Step Six: Clean the hole in the rod and the piece of hex. It doesn't matter if it's dish soap and water, brake cleaner or whatever else, just as long as it gets rid of every trace of oil. It's amazing how little it takes to screw up a solder joint.

          Step Seven: Solder it in place.
          1. Clamp the rod upright in the vise with a couple of inches exposed.
          2. Put some flux on the bottom of the hex piece and work it into the hole.
          3. Cut off a couple of pieces of solder, in this case about 3/4" or so total in short pieces, and push it into the hole.
          4. Set the hex piece into the top of the hole.
          5. Start heating the rod a little below the bottom of the hole.
          6. As the solder melts, the hex will sink into the hole. I wanted the solder to fill in all the way to the top, and the first time it wasn't, so I lifted the hex out with pliers, added another piece of solder, and heated again.
          7. Do NOT push the hex into the hole; it'll act like a pump rod and may well pump molten solder out. This is Bad. 
          8. Let it sink in, give it a few seconds to make sure the bottom of the hex gets hot enough for the solder to grab, then remove the heat. Right now is the time to make sure everything is straight; while the solder is still molten you can push things around a bit if needed. 
          9. Let it cool. If you did everything right, that hex will be locked in; if you didn't (probably having left a trace of oil), it may slip out. If that happens, clean the hex again, flux, and heat it in again.

          Step Eight: Make the handle. Clamp the other end in the vise, heat at the appropriate spot until it's a low-to-medium red, grab it with a big pair of pliers, and bend. Let it cool.

          That's it. At that point you can clean it all off thoroughly, if there's any roughness on the end of the handle you can file or sand it smooth, and it's ready to use.

          The finished product. 














          The Difference Between Solder and Flux
          General-purpose solder used to be a mix of lead and tin, the tin both lowering the melting point and making it flow a bit better. Now the stuff is almost always tin with a low percentage (usually around 3%, I believe) of silver. It's non-toxic, and will hold well, but I've found it's more sensitive to oil or other contaminants than the lead stuff.

          Flux definitely helps by doing several things: cit helps clean the surfaces, masks them from the atmosphere to prevent scale (mostly in high-temperature situations), and helps the solder flow.

          The stuff can be found everywhere from Wally World to auto parts and hardware stores. Some solder comes with flux, some you have to buy it separately.

          The Fine Print


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