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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Prudent Prepping: Giving

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

It's the holiday season, and regardless of which holiday you celebrate or if you choose to ignore the whole thing, we are still coming up to the end of the year. The weather is getting colder, and there are people in several places hurting due to fires and other emergencies so those folks who are better off might be looking to make a tax-deductible donation. While I don't make enough for that to matter, I still look to give a bit more.

Helping Others 
I don't have much money available, but I'm still able to donate to help folks in worse shape than I am. I took some and bought a turkey to donate to my local Food Bank. (I donate to the Food Bank whenever I can, but especially this time of year.) Safeway has Food Donation barrels -- your local market may do something similar -- and so when I went shopping, I bought two cans of beans and two cans of soup to donate.

Helping Myself
After a recent checkup, the results came back showing my cholesterol to be up a bit along with my weight. Neither is up very much, but both are still more than I'd like to see. With that in mind, I took a local gym up on their introductory pricing in their newest location! This means no fast food lunches or Foo Foo coffee during the week, but that needed to be done anyway. I can still see a movie or have a dinner out if I'm careful not to damage my savings or prepping budget. I hope that by doing this I can keep my future medical bills low, maintain a reasonable level of health and mobility, and be able to do the physical chores I still want to do when I want to do them.

The Takeaway
  • Whether you believe in karma, various deities or whatever tickles your fancy, helping others who don't expect help feels good. 
  • Helping yourself is as important as helping others. 

The Recap
  • Purchased this week: one turkey and four cans of food from Safeway for $29.59 . 

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, November 29, 2016

Breaking Out Of Your Car

Try as you might, you can't always avoid car wrecks, especially this time of year. If you're in the USA like most of our readers, you're probably getting snow or expecting it shortly, and if you're not you might well be seeing a lot of rain or other hazardous driving weather. Any of these conditions can increase the odds of an accident.

In the case of an accident, getting out of your car is important but things sometimes act against that: seat belts can jam, doors can be damaged to the point where they no longer open, and you can sometimes be pinned by parts of the car itself. In cases like these, there are tools and tricks that prove invaluable in extricating yourself and others from a hazard.

Seatbelts
Seatbelts are tough and strong. They're designed to hold incredible amounts of force while not abrading or wearing for years at a time. If your belt is jammed and won't release, you'll need to cut yourself free.
  1. Your cutter needs to be very sharp to do this, and serrated blades cut better than smooth ones in this regard. (Some very sharp shears also cut belt material well, but most really just chew at it.)
  2. Make your cut diagonally across the belt. The nature of the weave used in a seat belt makes the material weakest in this direction, 
  3. Once cut, a simple pull should free the belt from your body and allow you to move.

Glass
If your doors are stuck shut, or otherwise can't be used to exit the vehicle, going out through the glass is always an option. There are a few things that make this far safer and easier.
  1. Don't try the windshield. Side and rear car windows are tempered glass, which shatters cleanly and easily, but the windshield is laminated glass and almost impossible to shatter. If you go this route, you'll have to break all along the edges of your windshield, then push it out. It can be done, but it really is the worst case scenario. 
  2. Use a sharp pointed object to shatter the glass. It doesn't take a whole lot of force to shatter windows, but you need to concentrate it all into one point. 
  3. Cover your eyes and face as you break the window. Tempered glass breaks somewhat explosively into small fragments, and they will get into your eyes and otherwise cut you. 
  4. If possible, wear a glove or cover your hand with something. The odds of your hand going through the remnants of the window are quite high. 
  5. Clean the opening as best you can after the break, then (if possible) cover the bottom edge to protect you from cuts as you slide out.
  6. If you're trapped by parts of the vehicle itself, you're going to need professional help and specialized tools. Call 911, treat any injuries that you can, and otherwise keep yourself warm, safe, and alive until help arrives. It's all you can do, so do it well.
Tools
There are many specialty tools marketed to help you escape a car. Most are knives with spikes on the pommel or hammers with a spike point and a blade. Both of these work well, but require space and strength to apply enough force to break the glass; if you have to use your off-hand or are otherwise injured, this may not be possible.


However, something like the ResQMe escape tool eliminate that requirement. The blade is concealed safely in the handle, and the window-breaker is spring-loaded, requiring almost no force to use; it reminds me of the center punch dad used for two decades as a firefighter to do the same task. I'm ordering one for each of my own vehicles, and will post a proper review when they arrive, but their videos give me confidence in their efficiency.



Lokidude

Monday, November 28, 2016

Steganography

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
No, it's not a new dinosaur; steganography is the practice of hiding information (usually a message of some sort, often numeric) within a picture. While this was of limited utility in years past, the advent of personal computers and the Internet has made digital stegonography usable by all.

For example, let's say that you needed to give directions to a friend so that they could access your bug-out location, including such things as passwords, security codes, and the like, and you didn't want to transmit them in the clear (unless email is encrypted, it's "in the clear") but neither did you have time to deliver them written instructions.

The simple answer would be to send them an innocuous image (in my case, it would be a cute or funny My Little Pony picture as I have many of them on my computer, but in your case it might be a picture of your family, or a cute cat; just make sure that whatever you send is not "out of character" for you or for your recipient) with the relevant information encoded within it.
  1. Simply use an online stegonography service (like this one) to upload your image and compose your message. 
  2. Email the message to your friend, with a written clue (such as a specific phrase) that they should look for messages within the picture. 
  3. Your friend consults the same service, and using a predetermined password (do NOT include it in the message!) is able to read that message. 

There are of course a few drawbacks to this message:
  1. Your friend must remember both the clue phrase and the password.
  2. Your friend must realize that a message is being sent. 
  3. Your message isn't 100% private, as the online stegonography service knows the picture, the password, and the message. This is why an innocuous picture is important -- hide its importance by picking one that looks mundane!
As an example of how this works, a secret message has been hidden in a picture in this blog post. The password is the author's name.  Can you find it?

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #119 - Thankfulness 2016

We forgot to add that we're thankful Fidel Castro is dead.
  • Beth brings her whole family to give thanks. 
  • A road rage shooting? Sean takes a look to see who is involved in this "Blood in the Streets!" affair.
  • Barron is back, and this time he brings his family with him. It's been a rough year, but they have things for which to be thankful.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin also tell you the things for which they're thankful. Sensing a pattern?
  • There's a pizza shop in Philadelphia that's thankful for a concealed carrier, and Tiffany tells us all about it.
  • Did you eat too much during the holidays? Your stomach will be thankful that you listened to Erin tell you how to prepare for gastrointestinal distress.
  • The only anti-gun podcast is back (sort of) and Weer'd is thankful for that. Check out his latest Audio Fisk!
  • Our plug of the week is for Hero Lab.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here
Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support. And a special thanks to our sponsors for this episode, Remington Ammunition and Lucky Gunner.com!

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Thankful for Blessed Relief

I’ve been asked by Sean to keep this short, so in the spirit of post-Thanksgiving food hangovers I’m going to mention some medications that every prepper needs in their first aid kits: over the counter solutions for digestive maladies.

For typical indigestion, heartburn and general “I feel yucky in my tummy,” you want an antacid like Pepto Bismol.

If you still feel bloated, you want an anti-gas medication like Gas-X.

Now if you’ve eaten so much turkey that you’re having painful “carnivore poops”, you’ll want a stool softener like Ex-Lax or MiraLax. By the way, if NOTHING is moving down there, a great cure for constipation is Magnesium Citrate. (It comes in a bottle so it’s not easily carried in bags, but keep it in your medicine closet at home. It works really, really well; just trust me on this.) 

Finally, if things are moving too quickly and you have diarrhea -- which can be life-threatening in a disaster situation, because it can dehydrate you quickly -- take an anti-diarrheal like Immodium.

Now take those four -- Pepto, Gas-X, Ex-Lax and Immodium -- and put them in your first aid kit alongside activated carbon (which I talked about in episode 55) and your painkiller of choice, and you ought to be set to fix any gastrointestinal distress.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

BCP Cyber Sale This Weekend

Starting now and lasting through Monday, all items from the BCP Teespring Store are 15% off if you use this link.

(An explanation about the "X days left" notation on the items: Teespring is weird in that it requires campaigns of fixed length in order to sell things. I have set up the storefront so that when a campaign ends, it automatically re-launches with the shortest duration possible: 1 day. This allows you to get your merch shipped quickly rather than having to wait several days for the campaign to end.

In other words, don't worry about it: the t-shirts etc. can still be bought even if the timer "runs out".)

Also, if you intend to shop on Amazon this weekend, please consider using our referral link. It costs you nothing and helps us bring you more great content!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Most Versatile Firearm

The most versatile firearm may well be one chambered in .357 Magnum. Why ‘most versatile’? The cartridges. Any firearm chambered for .357 Magnum can also fire .38 Special*. Which means factory ammo ranging from light, accurate .38 target loads to roaring magnums can be had, and if you handload, you can put all kinds of loads together.

The light .38s can be used for practice, target, and small-game hunting. With the right magnum load, you can take game up to deer size with no problem (just place the shot properly). Both are easy cartridges to handload, and neither use large amounts of powder.

For handgun you’re pretty much stuck with revolvers; the only semi-autos I know of are some target pistols chambered in .38 Special (and set up to fire wadcutter bullet for that purpose), and the Coonan 1911 variant which is .357 Magnum (spendy, but a wonderful pistol). And there’s nothing wrong with a good revolver, which you can have in double-action or single-action. With rifles, you can choose between lever-action, single-shot, and bolt-action.
One more thing: if you take a hot .357 or .38 load and put it in a rifle with a 16” barrel, you get a serious gain in power. That longer barrel (compared to a handgun) allows the full energy of the propellant to be used. It’s not unusual to see a gain of around 400 feet per second from a rifle as compared to a handgun with a 4” barrel. That much higher velocity means a serious increase in power, and yet with a rifle it’s easy to manage.

So, yes, the .357 may be the most versatile cartridge.


*Semi-autos can be an exception.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Vehicle Recovery Part 2: Connectors

It's raining hard and you're trying to get out of town before the hurricane makes landfall. Friends are following you in a convoy to higher ground when one of the cars slides off the road into a muddy ditch. Now what?

In last week's post I covered what attachment points to look for on your vehicle when retrieving or towing it; this week I'll cover a bit about what to use to make the connection between the stuck car and the towing vehicle. You should select a connector that has a breaking strength of at least the weight of the stuck vehicle.  Bigger is both better and safer.

Regardless of which type of connector you use between the two vehicles, it is always a good idea to toss a blanket or tarp over it once it is tight but before you start to (slowly) pull. If a cable or strap breaks, the ends can whip in any direction and can maim or kill, but a blanket or tarp will provide drag from air resistance and slow it down.

(It works the same as using a piece of paper to break a ruler. If you never did it as a kid, get a wooden ruler and place it on the edge of a table so that half of it is sticking out away from the table. Smack the free end as hard as you want, and all you'll do is launch the ruler across the room. Now put it back in the same position and cover the end on the table with a sheet of newspaper. Strike the free end a sharp blow and the ruler will break in half. The paper will create enough resistance that the ruler will beak before the paper tears.)

Connectors break down into four main groups; cable, chain, rope, and strap. Here are the pros and cons of each.

Cable
Also known as wire rope, cable is made of several strands of steel wire twisted together to form a flexible connector.

Advantages
  • More resistant to heat, abrasion, sunlight (UV light degrades most plastics), and chemicals than rope and straps. 
  • Like rope and straps, cable will stretch when a load is applied. 
Disadvantages
  • Cable is more stiff, heavier, and more prone to damage from kinking that rope or straps. 
  • It can fray, with the individual steel strands breaking and protruding from the surface of the cable, causing nasty cuts to your hands. 
Best Practices
  • Cable comes in a variety of sizes and the breaking strengths are shown on this chart.
  • Inspect cables after use and always wear gloves when handling it.
  • Buy your tow cable from a reputable dealer with the ends already attached. Unless you work with it on a regular basis, cable can be a challenge to put an end on correctly.

Chain
Made of steel links that are welded together, chain comes in a few different grades or strengths. 
  • The common chain you will find at the hardware store is Grade 30, which is the lowest actual grade. 
  • Chains used by truckers to secure loads will be at least Grade 70.
  • Any chain used for overhead lifting should be Grade 80 or better. 
  • The various strengths of the different grades are shown on this chart, but notice the note on the bottom -- breaking strength is four times the “safe” working load.
  • Graded chain will have a stamp on a link at least every three feet. No stamp showing maker and grade means that it is a cheap imported chain that is best suited for decorative purposes.
Advantages
  • Chain doesn't take a “set” if stored coiled up, nor will it fray. 
  • Similar in strength to cable, but chain is easy to splice or repair with readily available repair links and adding a hook to the end often doesn't even require tools. 
  • Chain doesn't stretch until right before it breaks, making it the most rigid connector. Rigidity is good when retrieving a stuck car but not when towing, where a bit of stretch will take the minor bumps out of a tow.
Disadvantages
  • Chain is the heaviest option of all connectors.
  • Chain doesn't stretch until right before it breaks (see above).
  • Beware the decorative stuff. 

Rope
Natural or artificial fiber rope is easy to find but has a low strength-to-weight ratio. You're going to need a pretty thick rope to move a car with. Choose your rope by the breaking strength, which is usually three or four times the "working load". 

Advantages
  • Rope is easy to work with.
  • Splices and knots are simple and easy to do,
  • Rope is inexpensive and common. 
Disadvantages
  • Knots will reduce the breaking strength of your rope, the amount of reduction depends on the knot.
  • Storage can be a hassle; there's nothing worse than picking up a length of rope that is a tangled rat nest when you need to use it. 
  • Rodents love fiber for making nests, so store your ropes with care.
  • Natural fiber ropes are normally treated to repel pests, but the artificial fiber ones are not. 

Straps
Made of one of a number of artificial fibers woven together, straps share the flexibility of rope but store better. 

Advantages
  • Most straps come with eyes on both ends for attaching hooks/clevises or looping around a hook. 
  • Passing one end of a strap around an object and then through the eye on the opposite end is a quick way to securely attach a strap. 
Disadvantages
  • Splicing or repairing straps takes specialized equipment, so once they're damaged they should be removed from service.
  • Since the base fibers and construction of straps can vary so much, you need to determine its breaking strength. A good strap will have a tag sewn on near one end with breaking strength and other information on it; this is the only way to decide if the strap is going to be strong enough for your use. 
Last week I mentioned “snatching” or jerking a stuck vehicle out of a ditch. There are special straps that are made for this trick, they are more elastic than normal straps and will stretch before contracting and giving an extra “pull” to the car.

Ends
I should mention the different types of hooks and ends that you'll find on towing gear. Pictures will help. All pictures courtesy of Amazon. There are so many variables that I can't post links to them all.


This is a Grab Hook. It is designed so that it will “grab” a chain link and not move. Never use a grab hook on anything other than a chain since the edges will cut through cable, rope, or a strap once you put a load on it.







This is a Slip Hook. It is designed so that it will slip along the chain, cable, rope, or sling creating a tight loop. Slip hooks are great for hooking up to holes on a car's frame and attaching to other hooks. This one also has a safety catch so it can't fall off once it's attached. Notice the "G70" stamped on the side? It stands for Grade 70, so this is a transport chain hook.




This is a Clevis. It is designed to be placed through a hole to provide a better method of connecting a hook. Most of them are flat, but they are also made with a 90° twist if you need to change the angle of the hook.





Add caption


This is a Thimble, used to create an eye on the end of a cable. Thimbles spread the load out and prevent the cable from kinking at the eye when a load is applied.





I hope this basic primer on towing connectors is informative, although I hope you never have to use the information. I work with farm machinery and we spend too much time dragging things out of ditches and fields for it to be fun any more. 

I prefer to use chains when I have to drag something since they are more versatile and durable than any of the others, but I also keep a tow strap in my own truck for emergencies.






Links for the pictures used:
Grab hook- https://www.amazon.com/Harriscos-LLC-CHG38-6-Clevis-Chain/dp/B00BKDQWNU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479961060&sr=8-1&keywords=chain+grab+hook
Slip Hook- https://www.amazon.com/Alloy-Clevis-Safety-Spring-Towing/dp/B00YNSPTN8/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1480565345&sr=8-6&keywords=chain+clevis
Clevis- https://www.amazon.com/Campbell-T9640835-Anchor-Shackle-Clevis/dp/B001XW52FC/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1479964581&sr=8-6&keywords=chain+clevis
Thimble- https://www.amazon.com/Penta-Angel-Stainless-Diameter-Thimbles/dp/B01HRFGBZ8/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1479964630&sr=8-6&keywords=cable+thimble

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Prudent Prepping: Winter Cleanup

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

In last week's post, I started the cleanup and restocking of my emergency stores. As it happens, another calendar alert popped up this past weekend, telling me it's time to swap out my water jugs.

The jugs I have are mentioned in last year's post, and I have been looking in every Walmart I pass to see if there are any more with seasonal markdowns. Amazon has the same jugs, and with Christmas right around the corner, that Prime membership might get a workout or two or maybe even three.

Cleaning My Jugs
I keep it really simple: Dump, rinse and refill. Since all of my gear is indoors, nothing gets too hot. Adding bleach isn't required, but I add about 1 oz of non-scented liquid chlorine bleach per jug anyway. Since I started adding water to my stores, none of the jugs have smelled bad or tasted funny between cleanings.

My calendar is set to remind me to change out my stored water again in 6 months. Smart phones are good, but my alert is written down too.

New Food
Also mentioned last week was my plan to standardize stored food. As Lokidude said yesterday, an idea is sometimes better than a plan. I'm really flexible on my plans, since my benefits just renewed and went up (less than I expected, but they still went up). The added expenses will slow down how quickly I'll be replacing some of the pricier items, which means all the buckets will be changed more slowly than I'd like.

Here's what is going in:
  • Hot Chocolate mix from Land o' Lakes. This is a direct swap out from 3 pails (2 boxes in each pail), with one going into my GHB. I like the assorted flavors. 
  • Canned Chicken. This is a 6 pack of canned chicken breast from Sam's Club, replacing another type of canned chicken also from Sam's. 2 cans are going into 3 pails also. 
Looking at other things due to reach the Sell By date is my peanut butter. Even with so many people having food allergies, I like the idea of something like this in my gear, but I may switch to Almond Butter if  the price is right.

The Takeaway
  • Have a plan. but be prepared to change it often if necessary. 
  • Plot out a schedule for checking and rotating food and gear. 
  • Backup your calendar. 
  • Pick items that will be acceptable to as wide a range of people as possible. You don't know who might be getting one of these pails in an emergency!
The Recap
  • 7 boxes (6 packets each) of Land o' Lakes Hot Chocolate: $25.98 from Amazon Prime 
  • 6, 13oz. cans of chicken: $10.38 from Sam's Club.

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, November 22, 2016

But I Have A Good Idea

In the most recent GunBlog VarietyCast, Erin said something that really struck me: "I don't have a plan, but I have a good idea." On the surface, this seems a bit soft. The reality of the matter is that a good idea quite frequently beats a plan. There's a good reason for that.
"Take car. Go to Mum's. Kill Phil - "Sorry." - grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How's that for a slice of fried gold?" - Shaun of the Dead
That's a plan, and a pretty impressive one. However, it took some amusing hammering out to get to, and if you watch the movie, you see just how well the plan actually works.

The problem with plans is that they're usually very rigid, and depend on a very specific set of things happening in order to work. For example, let's say that my bugout plan is to make tracks for the family farm. There are a lot of benefits to being at the farm, including food, good separation from my current location, and a fair bit of security. However, one or two road closures or certain weather conditions can completely derail my plan, and any of these game-killers is very likely.
The aforementioned "good idea" allows for a lot more flexibility than a plan. However, "We need to be somewhere that isn't here" lacks a lot of structure and direction. That is dangerous in the other direction. Without focus and direction and practice, people tend to freeze in crisis situations. So if a plan is too strict, and an idea doesn't get us anywhere, what do we do?

The best solution I've found is to have a series of small plans instead of one large one. Instead of a "head to the farm" bugout plan, I have a couple plans in place. Plans 1 and 2 are being aware of danger and grabbing some pre-staged supplies. From there, depending on the specifics of the emergency, we may fall back to my parents' home (45 minutes north), my mother-in-law (5 minutes south), or the farm or more disparate points.

Each of these courses of action has a different plan in place, covering routes and alternates, supplies needed, and other specifics: my mother in law is easy to get to, but is very lightly geared; my parents have a plethora of tools and food, but minimal defenses, and they lack a few other specific supplies; the further-afield alternates are great for shelter and security, but with limited foodstuffs and tools.
"Give me a minute, I'm good. Give me an hour, I'm great. Give me six months, I'm unbeatable." - Hannibal Smith, The A-Team
While improvisation is a handy skill, that's not what we're driving at here. Instead, treat it as a flow chart. Each decision you make leads to another set of options, and each option comes with its own built-in plan.

That feels awful wordy, so here's an example:
  1. An emergency occurs, which requires my wife and I to bug out. It is a large enough emergency that my mother-in-law's house is not an option, but my parents' home is.
  2. We notify the family that we're coming, both out of courtesy and so that they can be ready.
  3. We gather our supplies and cats and load one of the trucks while selecting the best route. 
  4. While we travel, one person monitors the radio and a mapping/traffic app while the other drives. We're both good navigators and on familiar ground, so either of us can handle this.
After step 1, the rest of the steps of the plan are entirely flexible. We can easily make changes to react to a road closure, or additional family needs, or any of the other million and one things that derail the best-laid grand plans on a daily basis.

I love it when a plan comes together!

Lokidude

Monday, November 21, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #118 - Will Your Plan Survive Contact With the Enemy?

Fortunately for you, this podcast will survive contact with your ears.
  • Beth is excited about a new project. What is it? She's happy you asked.
  • When five robbers invade your home, it's going to be a bad day. But who are they, and who would they target? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is On Assignment and will return next week.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin use the example of the Taunton Mall Shooting to consider how your decisions under fire may cost you more than just your own life.
  • Are you tired of all the political stuff? Tiffany is, so she takes a break from it and gives some new gear a whirl.
  • Why are zombies able to sneak up on the characters in "The Walking Dead"? Because they aren't using proper protective equipment. Erin gives us some thoughts of eye, ear, and respiratory protection for preppers.
  • If you won't conduct a proper autopsy, how can you tell the actual cause of death? And when you're talking about a political campaign, refusing to see the truth means never understanding why you lost. Weer'd takes a closer look at one false gun control election post-mortem.
  • Our plug of the week is for the Grid-It Organizer.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here

Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Protect Your Senses

So I was watching a YouTube video about The Walking Dead -- y’know, like you do if you’re a fan of the show -- and I came across a video titled “The Walking Dead’s Silent Killer!” which asked a great question: How do these hardened survivors manage to let moaning, shuffling zombies sneak up on them? And the answer was pretty simple: The survivors are going deaf because they are shooting guns, often in enclosed spaces, without sufficient hearing protection. And so they’re going deaf, which explains why Rick seems to yell so dang much.

And so like most things related to the zombie apocalypse, this got me thinking about prepping, and I realized hearing protection during an emergency is something that isn’t talked about very often. So in this segment, I’m going to talk about how average preppers can protect their senses in a disaster.

Sight
Your eyesight is the most important sense, because it’s how humans process most of their data, so it’s very important that you protect it. Unfortunately, given the size and shape of eyes, it’s not easy to carry protection for them in the same way that you carry earplugs.

On the plus side, you probably have eye protection around you without realizing it. For example, if you wear glasses, you have eye protection. Of course, they’re very expensive eye protection and if they break you’re in a mess of trouble, but glasses can be replaced while eyes can’t.

Of course, if you wear glasses all the time, you really ought to spring for protective options like shatterproof lenses, anti-scratch coatings and the like to extend their usefulness.

But if you don’t wear glasses, odds are really good you have a pair of sunglasses nearby. While these aren’t great in many situations due to the polarization, sub-par eye protection is better than no eye protection at all.

Now if you want good protection, I recommend going down to your local hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe’s and looking in the protective gear aisle. There you can find protective lenses in both clear, tinted, and polarized colors. Some of them even look like stylish sunglasses. You can get a nice pair for around $20 to $30 that are rated against a lot of construction-sytle hazards, unlike your typical shooting glasses.

While you’re there, check out some of the goggles that protect your eyes from debris. While not suitable for every day carry, stash a pair at work or in your get-home back, just in case you have to evacuate from an emergency with the wind blowing harmful particulates or irritating vapors. And the best part about these is that they will fit over glasses, so that way we four-eyed folk can protect the things that help us see.

Speaking of goggles, another great option (although one that is quite odd-looking) is to get a set of clear swim goggles. These are small, protect your eyes from vapors and liquids as well as debris (although they aren’t as strong as actual safety glasses) and some brands, like the Speedo Optical Swim Goggle, can be bought with lenses that have negative diopters from -1.5 to -8.

Hearing
Compared to eyesight, preppers have an embarrassment of choices when it comes to ways to protect your ears. It’s very easy to stick a set of disposable foam earplugs into your EDC gear, and if you haven’t you need to do so right now.

But if you want better options than cheap foam, you certainly have them. My earplug of choice is the Surefire 4 Sonic Defender which have a filter that allows you to hear low sounds like conversation while also blocking out louder noises. If you seal the filter, they have a Noise Reduction Rating of 24 db. What’s more, they fit snugly inside the ear, allowing you to wear them with helmets, or you can put earmuffs over them if you need to double-plug.

Best of all, they’re inexpensive: you can get them from Amazon for $13.50 or less. 

Smell/Breathing
Protecting your sense of smell isn’t as important as protecting your lungs, because anything which could damage your nose like that will also wreak havoc on your respiratory system.  Much like eye protection, this is another of those “easy yet hard” things, because the best forms of filters are bulky and not the kind of thing you’d carry on a daily basis.

On the other hand, there are many things you can improvise as an air filter in an emergency: towels, handkerchiefs, and even socks and tee shirts can be held over your nose and mouth (if you can moisten them, so much the better) -- but a good non-improvised solution is a set of filtered noseplugs.

Yes, I know now silly that sounds, and no, I’m being completely serious here.

There’s a brand of nasal filters made by WoodyKnows that protect against volatile organic compounds, secondhand smoke, etc.

You get 3 filter frames and 6 pairs of filters -- so basically a filter set and a spare for each unit -- for $18.99 on Amazon. Carry a set with you, put a set in your get-home bag, and keep the third in reserve or give it to someone you love.


So there you go! Affordable and easy-to-carry ways to protect your senses in emergencies by plugging your ears and nose and covering your eyes.

    Friday, November 18, 2016

    Guest Post: Never Pass Up a Decent .30-30

    by George Groot
    George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

    My father still has his father’s 30-30. It is a great rifle, a Winchester built back when that name still stood for something. It isn’t the only rifle being passed down through the family, but it is the one I’m going to share some thoughts on today.

    I have plenty of .308s, and have materials to assemble several more, but a heavy-barreled range toy isn’t the same as a utilitarian survival tool. This is where the .30-30 comes in: it’s like the .308's older country cousin. Both cartridges are the same length, but the .30-30 has a slimmer case body, longer neck, and slower velocities. They both take game cleanly, but the .30-30 has the unsophisticated plainness that says "I'm a hunting cartridge", where the .308 has been pressed into service as a sniper round, machine gun round, hunting round, and battle rifle round.

    The .30-30 doesn't really do any of that other stuff particularly well, nor was it ever designed to, but it still excels at doing what it was designed to do, which was to give sportsmen a cartridge that could be loaded with smokeless powder and cleanly take big game at moderate ranges.

    Hunting
    The .30-30 is a good round because it doesn’t damage much meat, and you are more than likely going to be killing small game or domesticated animals for protein than you are going to live off venison. There are many more pigeons in the world than deer; squirrels, too, for that matter. The .30-30 handles hunting all the game you have any business hunting inside 100 yards, even elk (although I’d limit the max range to about 90 yards and use 170gr commercial jacketed bullets at max velocity on elk). That isn’t to say the .30-30 is only a short range cartridge -- it truly can reach out and touch things in the hands of a skilled rifleman. However, most people are not skilled rifleman able to routinely hit the target beyond the point blank range of a rifle.

    Shooting
    I have a lot invested into the .308 Winchester, but I wouldn’t want to carry any of my current .308 rifles with me all day. They are big and heavy, with significant recoil compared to a .30-30. I have plenty of .223 options, and while a few are of the “light and handy” variety, they aren’t cast bullet friendly (yes, you can get an AR to shoot cast bullets, however it’s not for the faint of heart). And while I wouldn’t recommend the .30-30 for competitors (unless you are shooting in the Schuetzen game or some silhouette game -- fine and worthy traditions in their own right), I would rank it tops for preppers.

    Now this isn’t to say that the .30-30 is the perfect caliber for every job. If you plan on having a Mad Max style end of the world as we know it (the Somali civil war being a relatively recent example), then an AR or AK is probably a better choice, although having a .30-30 you can shoot well is probably a lot better than having an AK that you can’t. But if your end of the world is more The Postman (Patagonia during the Argentinian collapse being a recent example), then a .30-30 has the social value of “I’m armed, but not looking for a fight” that an AR or AK doesn’t necessarily have. Whether or not such social niceties have any bearing on your situation is beyond my speculation, but in the world where people associate lever action rifles with hunting and semi-auto carbines with fighting, it might be useful to be seen as something other than a fighter.

    Reloading
    The .30-30 was a handloader's friend from the beginning, because the twist of the rifle barrels is usually 1:12, which is good for cast bullets (they don’t like to be spun too fast) and since most .30-30s are lever action, flat-nosed wide meplat bullets that have good terminal effects on big game are extremely appropriate. The smaller case capacity also uses less powder than a .308, In addition, .30-30 brass is plentiful and cheap and there are many inexpensive .30 caliber cast bullet molds, so everything here points to good cost savings.

    Now here is the downside to reloading a 30-30 is that you are going to have to do the workup to get a load that shoots well in your rifle. With cast bullets this can sometimes be a challenge, especially since the recipe that works on your buddy's Winchester .30-30 with ballard rifling may not work on your Marlin 336 with micro-groove rifling. Every barrel is different, so every load workup has to be done for every rifle, and your loads which shoot great in your rifle might have terrible accuracy and in your buddy’s rifle.

    Also, getting free or cheap lead is becoming more scarce, so if you don’t have a ready supply of it, then maybe casting your own hunting bullets isn’t for you. But if you can find a decent source of lead for a price you can live with, 100 pounds should yield around 4,100 bullets (170 gr weight).


    ,30-30 lever rifles are light, handy, won’t wear you down after a days worth of carry, and are a very utilitarian tool. Even normal carbon steel lever action rifles have been going strong for a century plus now with a simple routine of cleaning and oiling. For a “carry a lot, shoot a little” rifle, there is a lot going for the humble .30-30.

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Vehicle Recovery Part 1: Attachment Points

    So, you're escaping the zombie uprising by driving in a convoy of your tribe to your super-secure BOL when you run over an especially squishy crawler and your vehicle slides into the ditch. Can you get back out of the ditch before the zombie horde catches up to you? Since AAA isn't likely to be running on time (or at all) during an emergency, you may have to be your own tow-truck. Part 1 will cover the vehicles and Part 2 will cover the methods and equipment. There may be a Part 3 if I receive feedback requesting specific information.

    Front-Wheel Drive Vehicles
    If you're driving any front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicle made in the last 30 years, it is likely an unibody and doesn't have a frame that the body is attached to. Rear-wheel drive (RWD), all-wheel drive (AWD) and 4-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles are more likely to have a sturdy frame underneath to accommodate the transfer of power from the engine to the rear wheels. A sturdy frame will provide plenty of places to hook up to, but a unibody style vehicle will be trickier.

    The majority of cars on the road today are FWD, and thus present a challenge when trying to tow them or pull them out of a ditch. Without a solid frame, there are few places sturdy enough to attach a hook without damaging the car. I have seen newer cars with tow hooks or loops welded onto the underside by the factory; this makes life a bit easier if you ever need to hook up your car for a tow or recovery. Older FWD cars need to be studied a bit, with a healthy dose of common sense applied, to find a good place to place a hook for pulling the weight of the car:
    • Don't attach a tow line to anything that is designed to move. Axles, steering components, and suspension parts (shocks/struts, coil springs, etc.) are not going to be strong enough to withstand the force needed to drag a car, and once any of them are bent or broken, your car is out of service until you can find the right parts or shop to replace them. Trying to drive a FWD car with a bent half-shaft is a good way to shred a transmission.
    • It is unlikely that you will find anything to hook to near the center of your vehicle. Most tow points are about mid-way between center and either tire. This means that any force applied will tend to pull the vehicle to the side as well as forward. Keep this in mind when planning your path!
    • The metal you hook to should be at least half the thickness of your chain or cable. Find the beefiest place you can to hook to -- there will be some serious force applied to it.
    • Look for where the engine bolts to the car. That may be as close to a frame member as you're going to find on a FWD car.
    • Rear axles on most FWD cars are only there to keep the vehicle's rear end off the ground. They have no structural strength to speak of. This is why you see fewer of the old-style tow trucks on the road and more of the flat-bed style. lifting the front end of a FWD car shifts the weight to the rear axle, and most of them aren't sturdy enough to handle it.
    Rear and 4 Wheel-Drive
    These vehicles have their own peculiarities:
    • A lot of RWD/4WD vehicles have trailer hitches installed on the rear. I will detail the types and limits of hitches in part 2, but they generally make good tow points since they are bolted to the frame. 
    • Axle housings are usually castings and may not survive a narrow cable pulling on them. They kind of fall into the "parts that move" category, but are stiffer that a bare half-shaft that you'll find on a FWD car. Use a tow strap if you have to pull by the axle housing, as it'll spread out the force and be less likely to cause a crack in the casting.
    • There are usually holes in the frame of a RWD/4WD vehicle for attaching accessories. These will make for good places to attach a tow line, especially if you add an eye or clevis before you need it.
    Some General Rules
     These apply to all vehicles:
    • The towing or recovery vehicle will need to have enough power and traction to pull the weight of itself and the towed vehicle, as well as overcome any slope or suction involving the towed vehicle.  Power is the size of the engine and the type of transmission; traction is the weight over the drive tires and the surface the tires are sitting on. Do what you can to improve the traction (increase the weight over the tires or modify the surface under them) if you have to.
    • Pull gently. Jerking or "snatching" a car out of a ditch without the proper gear will only break things. If you're lucky you'll only break the chain or cable; otherwise you're going to do damage to one or the other vehicle. Automatic transmissions should be set to low gear; manual transmissions should be in the highest gear you can pull forward in.
    • Snow and sand aren't bad for "sticking" a car, but mud will cause suction and make it much harder to pull a car. 
    • Lighten the towed vehicle as much as you can before trying to pull it. Common sense should tell you to make it as easy on the towing vehicle as possible. The exception to this rule is if you are using the towed vehicle drive wheels to assist the towing vehicle. If traction is a problem, shift weight so that it is over the drive wheels. 
    • No vehicle made after about 1975 has a real bumper. Old cars had steel bumpers rigidly mounted to the frame, but now they are all a part of the energy-absorbing crash protection engineered into the car. Bumpers are not a good place to try to hook onto anymore.

    As with any prepping idea, it is a good idea to look under your car now while the weather is good and you're not dodging zombies. Figure out where you can hook a tow chain before you need to, so you'll be prepped for it if the need ever occurs.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

    Prudent Prepping: Pantry Check

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

    According to the notification on my phone, it's time to check supplies in my Buckets of Holding. It's supposed to rain this weekend (Yay! Seriously, we need it) and cleaning and organizing everything is my planned chore.

    The contents of each pail are a bit different, but the basics are the same. I've not yet gone through all 5 pails to standardize them since their initial load-out, and when I'm finished I will have the same inventory in each pail.

    Coming Out 
    • 3 lb bags of rice 
    • Peanut Butter 
    • Canned Chicken 
    • Pasta 
    • Pasta Sauce 
    The list is not exclusive, and if other items are found, everything will be swapped out. All these are items I use myself and have in my kitchen pantry, so I will move some of them onto my kitchen shelf. The rest is going to the local Food Bank. 

    I make it a point to drop off this food to the Contra Costa-Alameda Counties Food Bank all year long, but especially going into the holidays. The San Francisco Bay area has some of the highest housing costs in the country and many people are stretched very thin to pay for everything after rent, and food is sometimes not as plentiful as folk would like. Besides the basics, I also make a point of donating extra items, including one or two frozen turkeys when they go on sale -- which they will be between now and Christmas.

    Going In
    The first thing to go in is two 1 lb bags of rice, to replace the 3 lb bag. My local Discount Grocery had 1 lb bags of brown rice priced at $0.69, so I bought 10! I like the idea of smaller, separate bags of food that can be swapped in or traded for something else if needed.

    I will be buying the rest of the replacement items one or two at a time when I do my normal shopping this month.

    The Takeaway
    • My financial situation still isn't good enough to start converting my stored food over to freeze-dried or other long shelf-life food, so using conventional items is still essential. 
    • Since the idea behind using several 5 gallon buckets was to make them easily portable and shareable, having quality food that others are confident of a must. 
    • In an emergency, knowing you have food you can trust is one less thing to worry over.
    Recap
    • Purchased from my local Discount Grocery store: 10x 1 lb bags of brown rice, $0.69 each, for a total of $6.90.
    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, November 15, 2016

    Mule Light V2 Review

    Erin has mentioned UV Paqlite in the past, and with good reason: they make innovative, durable, quality lights for a variety of needs. Most recently, they introduced a new version of their Mule Light. I backed its Kickstarter earlier this year and received mine last week; production models appear to be shipping this week from their web store.

    The Mule is an amalgam of lighting types packed into one handy tube: it has a white spotlight with high/low/strobe settings and a red lens filter, a white 6 LED work light, a 6 LED blacklight, and an innovative glow stick insert. It's not able to do everything, but it's able to do a whole lot of things.

    Batteries
    First, let's look at how it eats. The Mule ships with two battery cartridges: one contains a lithium ion battery pack with a built-in micro-USB recharging port; the other comes with 3 rechargeable AAA batteries and swaps them out easily. The lithium ion pack provides better run times, but the ability to swap fresh AAA batteries in is a very nice bit of utility.

    Illumination
    The single white LED spotlight is rated at 300 lumens. I don't have a meter to get hard numbers, but I'll attest that it is very bright on high and still manages a comfortable working light on low.

    Full 300 lumens

    Low power mode

    I tend to find the utility of a strobe light to be limited, but they do have two big uses in my mind; impromptu dance parties and signalling for help at night. The human eye is drawn to motion, and a strobe light is one of the best ways to draw that attention. It's the same reason emergency and utility vehicles use them.

    The spotlight also has a red lens filter that stores in the battery cap. Red light is far less harsh than white light. This preserves night vision while still allowing good visibility. Swapping the lens in and out is quick and easy, and both ends hold it securely.

    Full power with red filter

    The work light and black light both operate in either continuous or "hybrid" mode. Continuous mode is a standard all-on mode; hybrid mode is used with the glow stick insert, and I'll go into that shortly.

    White work light. Blacklight did not photograph well.

    While the white light is great as a work light, the UV blacklight does a few other tricks. If you've watched CSI, you know that it can find urine, blood, and other stains, which can be cool. Of more utility to desert dwellers is the fact that a great many scorpions glow under black light. Being able to see a scorpion before you step on it is a powerful thing.

    Hybrid Mode
    The glow stick insert is a clear plastic piece that contains strontium aluminate crystals that kind of resemble the glowing stars I had on my ceiling as a kid. It is charged by either the work light or the blacklight, and sits directly in front of them. This is where hybrid mode comes into play.

    Charging the glow stick with the normal lights works just fine, but it burns batteries. By holding either of the work light buttons for a couple seconds, the light enters a mode where the selected light is turns on for 3 seconds every three minutes. This is enough to keep the glow stick charged, while extending battery life 60x. Yes, sixty times, which is a massive life increase in a battery. The glow stick puts out about as much light as a chemical stick -- enough to use the restroom, navigate a tent, and similar tasks.

    The glow stick
    Drawbacks
    Now, with all the praise for the Mule has been laid out, there are some cons. The lanyard is in an awkward place in relation to the switches. I don't use lanyards on my lights, so I simply removed it. Someone who uses lanyards might find it to be a problem though. (Editor's note: I like lanyards. The problem with this one isn't so much the placement as that the string attaching it to the flashlight isn't long enough. A different lanyard with a longer lead would probably work quite well.)

    The overall size of the light is the real limiting factor for me, though. It's great as a work light, but it's too long to fit into any pocket I could try and put it into and too large in diameter to fit most belt holsters. Mine came with a nice carrying case with a belt clip, but the whole assembly takes up far too much real estate for me to carry it on my belt. It's a great form factor for shining light on things; just not one that's particularly easy to carry around on my person. (Editor's note: I also have this flashlight. It's too long to be convenient for on-body EDC. However, if you carry a purse or other EDC bag, it will fit well in that. Alternately, keep it in your GHB or BOB.)

    The price point ($75) may also be an issue for some folks. It's not cheap, but it's right in line with comparable quality lights from other makers.


    With all those points in consideration, I'm very impressed with the Mule Light V2. It is quickly becoming my go-to light for tasks around the house, and I'm looking at ways to incorporate it into my EDC bag.

    Lokidude

    Monday, November 14, 2016

    Apocabox Unboxing #14 (October 2016)

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    I don't know why the video is choppy. But given that Creek didn't seem to give a damn about the quality of this Apocabox, I decided not to give a damn about the quality of the video. It's fitting, really.

    What was Creek thinking?

    Was he thinking?

    Watch the video and tell me if you think I'm being too harsh.

    I especially want feedback on the Book of Lists. I think it's creepy, but perhaps I'm being too harsh.

    EDIT: I just checked the Apocabox Shop and all the items in the October box are there for sale. So let's do a value breakdown:
    • Hideaway Tarpaulin: $19.99 ("on sale" from $29.99)
    • Nomad Pocket Knife: $10.50 (marked down from $12.99)
    • Frontier Water Filter: $12.95 ($1 more than Amazon)
    • Survivor's Book of Lists: $4.99
    • Beaded Butcher Blend: $3.00 
    • Nomad Hard Use Resin: $3.00
    • Magic Punky Dust: $3.00
    • Nomad Solar Lens: $6.99 (marked down from 9.99)
    Using the markdown prices, this comes to $64.42, which is just $4.42 over the cost of the box + S&H. Not a ripoff, but since previous boxes have averaged about $100 worth of items, we definitely didn't get the same value for our dollar.

    Using the full prices (which are rather hard to swallow -- who would pay $30 for a poncho?), it's $79.91. We might have had one Apocabox with stuff totaling in the low $80 range, but I don't recall which.

    Verdict: People are right to feel disappointed with this box, because it's a clear step down in both quality and usefulness. 

    You know what would have redeemed this box? Replace the Aquamira with a Sawyer Mini, the glass lens with a card-sized fresnel lens and the book & Butcher blend with an Esbit pocket stove.

    Sunday, November 13, 2016

    Gun Blog Variety Podcast #117 - Brush Your Breath with the Electoral College

    Did the election leave a bad taste in your mouth? There's no need to do anything drastic; just rinse with the The GunBlog VarietyCast -- now with fluoride!
    • Be careful what you ask for; sometimes a cute Dysis Δύσις Sorrentino story can be a little TOO cute.
    • Beth Reoch Alcazar has been holding this in for months, but now that the election is over, she can lets out why she's happy to be on Hillary's enemies list.
    • Sean D Sorrentino answers the burning question "Who needs 12 rounds of tear gas and a robot before he gives up?"
    • What happens when you run a denial of service attack against traditional infrastructure? Barron B gives us a case in point.
    • In the Main Topic, Erin Palette explains the Electoral College, and why it's a good idea.
    • How do you keep your friends AND your political convictions? Tiffany Johnson, with the help of a creepy counter sound effect guy, gives us a list of things to do.
    • You've seen how the election has brought out the crazy in people. What do you do to get home safely? Erin Palette gives you some good advice.
    • Did you think that Joan Peterson was nuts? Wait until you get a load of the new leader of Protect Minnesota! Her recent over the top debate performance in Bloomington, Minnesota was so crazy that it had get its very own Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
    • Our plug of the week is for the Signal secure messaging app.
    Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
    Listen to the podcast here.
    Read the show notes here
    Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

    And a special thanks to our sponsors for this episode, Remington Ammunition and Lucky Gunner.com.

    Main Segment Transcript:
    Why We Have the Electoral College

    Sean: Well, the election is over, and the NRA endorsed candidate won. No matter that he wasn’t my first choice, now he owes gun owners big time. Maybe we should think about what we as gun owners should be pushing for as our reward for our loyalty.

    Erin: Wasn’t that the topic of Michael Bane’s podcast on Thursday? Like, his ENTIRE podcast? And I'm sure pretty much every other podcast is going to do the same thing. How about we talk about the Electoral College instead?

    Sean: The Electoral College, Erin? Seriously?

    Erin: Every time there’s a difference between Electoral and Popular vote results, we get the inevitable ‘Do away with the Electoral College’ arguments.

    Sean: OK, so what?

    Erin: So why don’t we do like Weer’d does with his segment and have a discussion of the various arguments for the Electoral College? That way, our listeners are well informed and can properly discuss it when it is inevitably brought up by the Hillary supporters.

    Sean: That’s actually not a bad idea, Erin. So for those my age who slept through Civics, or those millennials who got Current Events instead, how does the Electoral College work?

    Erin: In our election system, a candidate must receive 270 Electoral College votes in order to win. These electoral votes are not divided evenly by state but rather by representation in Congress. For example, New York elects 27 members to join the House of Representatives and two to join the Senate. Therefore, it gets 29 Electoral College votes. Nevada, meanwhile, has four representatives and two senators, so it gets six Electoral College votes. Whoever wins the most votes in a state wins all of the state’s electors.

    Sean: So what’s the problem if we just went with Popular Vote?

    Erin: If we went to a pure popular vote system we run into the same problem of pure democracies over representative republics: the tyranny of the majority over the minority.

    There’s a picture in the show notes that illustrates how half or more of the US population lives in a handful of super-dense counties; if you don’t live there, under a pure popular vote system your vote doesn’t matter AT ALL.


    As an example, farmers don’t want to be at the mercy of city voters who might decide that using water to fill their swimming pools is more important than irrigating crops.

    Another feature of the Electoral College is that it promotes a broad two party system. Now many people think that two party systems are bad. But consider the alternatives.

    Do you want three or four parties, with minor parties dragging major parties away from the political center? Currently we have a center seeking system, with politics, as they say, played between the 40 yard lines. With fringe parties that need to be “compensated” for their support, you end up with a much more polarized political environment. And do we really want more of that?

    Then we need to consider the idea of regional parties. What would happen if the New England states decided to field a political party based upon the idea of high road tolls, low heating oil costs, and free Amtrak for everyone? That might be popular up in Yankeeland. If they didn’t have to worry about how that would play down here in the South, they would be tempted to split off from the main party and field their own candidates and try to force the rest of us to pay for their favored policies just to make a majority in the House and Senate.

    Sean: Currently presidential candidates focus on so called “Swing” states and ignore some of the big reliable states. Isn’t that a problem?

    Erin: Swing states, also called Battleground states, are states which do not reliably go to a particular party. Because these are winner-take-all states, it’s important for candidates to focus on those states to get ALL of their votes. This is why Florida is important, as it’s a very purple state, whereas candidates rarely campaign in California because that state is reliably Democrat.

    If you think Swing States are important now, under popular vote the candidates would just focus on states with large cities (California, New York, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, etc)

    Sean: Didn’t Andrew Branca say something about this on Facebook?

    Erin: Indeed he did. He compared winning the popular vote to yards gained in a football game. Quoting:
    The winner of a football game is NOT the team that has the most yards gained; it's the team that scores the most points. Any team that maximizes yards gained at the cost of points scored should anticipate losing.
    Sean: So you’re saying that even though people think that the popular vote is more “fair” than the electoral vote, it’s not.

    Erin: Absolutely. In fact, if anything else it’s more UNFAIR, because it centralizes voting power in cities.

    Sean: Are there any other options available besides Winner Take All Electoral College voting?

    Erin Yes! While 48 states are winner-take-all, Maine and Nebraska use the Congressional District method: Instead of the electors being distributed based on the popular vote of the entire state, they’re distributed based on the popular vote of the state’s individual districts.

    Maine is worth four Electoral College votes, and there are two Congressional districts in the state. Winning the popular vote in a district will earn a candidate one elector. Plus, they get a bonus of two points if they win the statewide popular vote. It’s therefore possible for the Electoral College votes to be split, i.e. both candidates get some of them.

    Now in my opinion, the Congressional District method seems to be a fair compromise between popular vote and electoral vote:
    • It’s more easily implemented as each state can do it via state legislature rather than nationally dismantling the Electoral College which would require a Constitutional Amendment.
    • And it actually makes your vote worth more in a state that would traditionally go the other way (such as voting Republican in California).
    • Swing states would become less relevant as candidates would have less to gain by winning that state, and could instead focus on a tactic of scoring many more districts across the country, some even in safe states -- for example, while most of Texas is red, Austin is very very blue. 
    So that’s the short course on the Electoral College. The next time someone complains about it, educate them and encourage them to campaign for their state to switch to the Congressional District method instead.

    Friday, November 11, 2016

    The Minimum Equipment Needed for Handloading

    Right now I’ve got lots of crap sitting around for the purpose of "rolling my own" that I've  collected over time.  But if you cut it down to the very minimum, what do you actually need?

    To load a cartridge from a fired case, you have to resize the cartridge case (it expands a bit when fired), punch out the fired primer, open up the case mouth (this is for pistol rounds only), insert a new primer, drop in a powder charge, seat a bullet, crimp the case mouth.  So which tools do you actually need for this?

    Basic List:
    • Loading press
    • Primer tool
    • Loading dies for the cartridge
    • Shell holder, if not included with dies
    • Powder scale
    • Load data
    If you go bare minimum, you can do it with this. (It’ll be slow, but it’ll work.) You need a press to hold the dies, you need the dies to process the cartridge cases, you need a scale to measure out the powder charges, you need lubricant to resize the cases (if not using carbide dies).
    A loading press can be as simple as a Lee Hand Press, This set comes with the tool to put a new primer in the cartridge case, some case lube, and a funnel for pouring powder into the primed case. I’ve got one of these, and I used it for loading both rifle and pistol cartridges before I got a bench-mount press. It works. Be it noted that full-length resizing a bunch of rifle cases can give you a serious upper-body workout.

    A bench-mounted press would be something like this basic Lee press*. You can bolt or clamp it to a bench or desk, and it does make it easier to do some operations.

    You have to have a way to put a new primer in the case.  That's covered in this post, and some presses come with a priming arm to do this.

    Dies are essential. To pick a common caliber, this set of dies for .45 ACP has four:
    1. One die resizes the case and pushes out the fired primer,
    2. One expands the case mouth (also called ‘belling’, it opens the mouth up so a bullet can more easily be started in; essential if you use plated or cast bullets).
    3. One seats the bullet into the case.
    4. One crimps the case mouth to the bullet.
    I like Lee die sets because they also come with the shell holder for the press (different one for different cartridges) and most other brands do not.

    Many dies for handguns come in a set of three: the resizing/depriming die, expanding die, and a seating/crimping die. Once adjusted, the last will seat the bullet and crimp the case mouth in one operation.

    Die sets for rifles often come in two: resizing/depriming die and the seating/crimp die, since most jacketed rifle bullets don’t require expanding the case mouth. If you intend to use cast or plated bullets, you will have to have a die to open up the case mouth, the same as with handgun cases; these can be bought separately if the die set you get does not have one. This Lyman or this Lee are good choices.

    Load data can be found online from many companies, and you can buy load manuals from many companies. They list cartridges, the bullets you can use in them, and powder types and charges that have been tested. You must have reliable information, and pay attention to it: when you pull the trigger on a cartridge, you’re starting a burn that creates pressures that can be up into 40,000 pounds per square inch in some cartridges, and all that’s happening while you’re holding onto it. You do not want surprises.

    Speaking of surprises, a powder scale is essential.  There are simple balance-beam types, and there are electronic scales. Both work. You have to have one, because you have to know the weight of the powder charge you’re putting in. In the standard load data you find in this country, powder is weighed by grains, of which there are 7000 in a pound. In some pistol powders the charge can be as little as two grains; rifle cartridges can (for big ones) go up around a hundred grains. You must to be able to measure accurate charges, so there is no way around having a scale.

     Materials Needed:
    • Primers
    • Powder
    • Bullets
    • Case lubricant (if not using carbide dies)
    You can't reload without actually having things to reload.

    Most handgun die sets come with a carbide sizing die: there’s a ring of carbide in the die that actually does the resizing, and it’s so hard and slick that you don’t have to lube the cartridge cases.  It makes the dies a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it.  Very few rifle dies can be had in carbide, due to the shape of the case, same for some bottleneck-shaped pistol cases; those case must be lubricated before you try to resize them.  This is not optional, try it with dry cases and they will stick in the die, and that gets complicated.  Numerous choices for case lubricant are out there; two I've used and recommend are Lee and Redding.

    Non-essential but Recommended:
    That non-essential loading block?  Its sole job is to hold primed cases while you put a powder charge in them.  You can buy them, or you can make your own with some suitable wood and a drill press (I’ve got a bunch of those).  With this you can measure powder charges and pour them into cases without worrying about them getting knocked over.  It also lets you hold the whole bunch in the light and look in to make sure you didn’t miss any (bad) or accidentally dump two charges in one case (very bad).  You don’t have to have one, but I recommend you do.

    What about that caliper or gauge?  Well, cartridge cases stretch when fired, and it stretches more in a semi-auto firearm.  There are specifications for the minimum and maximum length of cases, and that's where either an electronic or dial caliper (yes, digital is less expensive than a dial nowadays) or case length gauge comes in.  They let you know what the exact length currently is. The gauge is handy, but a caliper will tell you the actual length, not just if it's overly long.

    Trimmers come in two flavors, bench-mounted and hand-held. The Lee hand-held also need this cutter and lock-stud set which can be used on any of their gauges. Something like the Lee can be used anywhere, or you can chuck the stud into a cordless drill to power it.  The Lyman type has a universal case holder, but needs a pilot (a set comes with this one) for different cartridges.  They go by size: the '.30' pilot will work on ANY case using a .308" diameter bullet: .30 Carbine, .308, .30-06, and on and on.

    With straight-wall cases such as .38 Special, .45acp, or 9mm, you may never need to trim; with rifle cartridges, especially when used in a semi-auto, sooner or later you WILL need to have some way to trim the cases.

    Using It All
    So, let’s say you’ve got that basic set. How does the process work? Done with that Lee hand press and .45 ACP, if you do a single cartridge beginning to end it looks like this:
    1. Put the shell holder and resize/deprime die in the press and adjust the die.
    2. Place a fired case in the holder.
    3. Push it up into the die; this resizes the case and punches out the primer.
    4. Take out the resize die, place the expanding die in, and adjust to open up the case mouth. Do so.
    5. Remove that die, place the priming tool into the press, and use that to insert a new primer into the case.
    6. Insert the seating die into the press.
    7. Use the powder scale to weigh a powder charge, and pour it into the case.
    8. Place the case into the shell holder, place the bullet in the case mouth, and work the press to seat the bullet. Use the caliper to make sure you have it seated to the correct overall length.
    9. With a three-die set you then use the seat/crimp die to crimp the case mouth to the bullet, once adjusted it will both seat the bullet and crimp in one step. With a four-die set, then you change to the crimp die, adjust it and crimp the case mouth.
    Doing this for each cartridge is silly, so you do it in groups:
    • Deprime/resize a bunch of cases, then prime them all, expand them all. 
    • Then powder charges are measured and poured in cases. 
    • Place bullets in case mouth, then seat them. 
    • Then crimp if using a separate crimp die. And each die will have a lock ring; once you have it adjusted to your press and that ring in place, you won't have to adjust it again. 
    • The exception is the seating die -- if you use a different bullet in the future, it'll need adjustment for seating depth.

    That’s your basic load set. Part II will cover some other tools that make this all a bit faster and easier.

    There's also more information on reloading that you can read here and here.

    *I use a lot of Lee equipment; their prices and quality are both good.

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