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Friday, March 24, 2017

Using the Fire Brick Forge

A while back, I showed you how to stack some fire brick to make a simple forge, using a propane torch.  I was finally was able to actually set it up for use this week.

There are two types of heads for propane torches:

The one on top gives a 'pencil' flame: thin, focused, very good for some things but not what you want here.  The bottom one gives a much wider flame: uses more fuel, but heats a wider area, and that's what you want.

With the assembly, er, assembled, it looks something like this.

Light the torch, work the head into place (in this case it's pointing a bit down and toward the back), and let things heat up a few minutes. This really ought to be in the shade, but the trees haven't leafed out yet; shade lets you see the inside better.

For instance,  you can see the hot spot formed on the brick opposite the torch.

I stuck a piece of 1/4" diameter round steel in, and by working it back and forth in the hot spot,  I was able to get about 2" of length to a low red heat in a minute or two. This wsa high enough to anneal high-carbon stock, but not really hot enough to forge, so I went to the next step:

Bore a hole in the brick on the off-side, and set in another torch, this one angled up and back. This increases the amount of heat in the chamber, hot enough for light forging, or to harden a small piece like a chisel or punch.

With propane you're limited as to heat, but if you can get hold of an acetylene torch with a large tip, you're really in business. Putting that in place of the left-side torch and leaving the other one out, I was able to get the same size section of rod up to heat much faster. With a larger diameter tip than I currently have, it would've worked better.

If you can use an oxy-acetylene torch (this is a small one), you're in a whole new class. These use both an oxygen and acetylene bottle, and with with a rosebud tip (think of the 'wide' flame tip on the propane torch, supercharged) you could get real heat going inside the chamber*. Alas, I don't have one.

What I ended up doing was taking this small blade that's previously been forged and ground and worked it in the chamber. It's wider but thinner than the 1/4" stock, 3.5" long, and by working it back and forth in the sweet spot, I had no problem getting it hot enough to harden. This means I could have gotten the stock that it's made from (a broken epee blade) up to forging heat.

That's the basics of using one of these. Depending on the torch(es) you have, you can adjust things for what you need to work on, so don't be afraid to make the chamber narrower or more shallow to suit your needs.

*These are more expensive than a acetylene torch, and you'll have to get both the oxygen and acetylene bottles filled.  They also can be used as a cutting torch and for brazing as well as a general heating tool.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Doom and Gloom Round-Up

I try to avoid news broadcasts, but I have to stay informed on the current events that may impact me and mine. We don't write about politics on this blog (there are plenty of others that cover that field from whichever side you want to choose from) but the last six months or so have stirred up the “doom and gloom” reporting. It seems that, from the viewpoint of the news media at least, the world is coming to an end and maybe those crazy preppers weren't so crazy after all. Here are a few examples:

Solar Activity
The sun is still quiet.. too quiet. Normally there are “storms” of hot ionized gasses (plasma) rolling across the surface of the sun, belching streams of plasma out into the solar system. The technical term is “Coronal Mass Ejection” or CME, and it is one of the favorite “non-war” causes of societal collapse used in speculative fiction. Once in a while the Earth will be in the way of one of these streams, and we experience effects like malfunctioning satellites (communications and navigation are impacted), radio blackouts, and even power outages.

The sun runs on a roughly 11 year cycle of high and low activity, but the last few decades have been less active than predicted. This is following the trend of solar activity recorded during the “little ice ages” of the 16th and 17th centuries, leading some to predict global cooling in the next 10-20 years. I don't have the background to be able to make predictions from the data available, but I like to know what is possible so I can plan around the rough bits. Personally, I don't see much of a downside to losing the 24-hour news channels for a few months due to satellite failure; maybe people would start paying attention to local events more. Having grown up with paper maps, the loss of GPS wouldn't be much of an inconvenience either.

Cyanide “Trap” Kills Dog
A boy and his dog are taking a walk and come across a device used to kill coyotes and other predators. Reports are unclear (or so strongly biased as to be untrustworthy), but somehow the device was triggered and killed the dog. I've never worked with this particular type of device, but I know how they work: A spring-loaded capsule containing less than a gram of sodium cyanide is wrapped in cloth that has been soaked with something attractive to canines (wolves, coyotes, foxes, and dogs). When the canine pulls up on the cloth with its teeth the spring ejects the poison into their mouth, causing death fairly quickly. Any person or animal near the device is extremely unlikely to be exposed to the poison unless they are the one that sets it off. Sodium cyanide is a very lethal poison that breaks down quickly, so secondary exposure is not much of a problem.

Teach your kids as much as you can, or don't let them out of your sight; this happened within 400 yards of a house and the proper signs weren't posted. (See also my post on unexploded ordinance for tips on how to avoid this kind of hazard.) The animal-rights folks are screaming about the use of such devices to kill coyotes and foxes, but they aren't the ones who lose millions of dollars worth of livestock to such predators every year. This device has been in use for 50 years with very few accidents and good results on predators, so I don't think it's going away.

More Terrorist Attacks on Crowds
“Stay away from crowds” is still good advice. A few months ago it was a Christmas market in Berlin; in January it was in Jerusalem; now we have another car being used to plow through a crowd of pedestrians, this time on a bridge in London. Cars and trucks are easier to get than guns in many places, and can do as much or more damage; two or three tons of metal and plastic moving at moderate speeds will go over or through a crowd before coming to a stop. Don't assume that every car is out to kill you, but remember to keep your eyes open and always leave yourself an escape route. Avoiding crowds is a good way to minimize your risk of being a target, and even 30+ years ago the Army taught me that you don't walk in clusters -- spread out if you have to travel as a group, so you don't make it easy for the idiots that want to hurt you.

Climate or Weather?
Spring is officially here with the spring equinox having arrived March 21st, and that means we are in tornado/hurricane/thunderstorm season again. Since the default setting for TV weather-people is that we're all idiots just born yesterday, expect more breathless warnings about the hazards of bad weather. Weather is just something we have to survive, and some is easier to get through than others, but we're all descendants of people who survived weather with fewer tools and toys than we have available today. Watch for the really bad weather and enjoy the good weather as best you can; check your emergency shelter if you have one, making sure the rodents and insects didn't make a mess of it over the winter; and rotate the stored water and do all of the other spring cleaning chores that it's been too cold to get done this winter.

All in all, the world keeps turning despite the howls and screeching from the television and internet. Doom and gloom seems to sell advertising, so it's not going to disappear until the predictions of global calamity come true. I think most of us will get by -- isn't that why we prepare?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Prudent Prepping: One Tool To Do It All...

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

... well, not exactly all of it, but having tools that will do multiple jobs and do them without compromise is rare. All of my tools were left behind when I moved out of The House I No Longer Own, and replacing them has been a struggle.

So you can imagine my joy when,  with the many things I need (let alone want) on my limited budget, I found another bargain addition to my tool collection!

Milwaukee 11-in-1 Multi-Tip Screwdriver with Square Drive Bits (2 Pack)

From the Home Depot website:
Use the Milwaukee 11-in-1 Multi-Tip Screwdriver for a wide variety of driving needs. This screwdriver offers a 5 in. shaft that holds up to nine bits, so you can carry fewer drivers. Featuring hardened tips ranging in size from #1 to #2, it is designed with a rubber handle for comfort and is also ideal for wire stripping and bending.
  • 5 in. shaft holds up to 9 bits for versatility
  • Contains hardened tips ranging in size from #1 to #2
  • Rubber handle offers comfort
  • Wire stripper strips up to 12-Gauge wire
  • Wire bending hole bends up to 12-Gauge wire
  • 6 bits and three nut drivers included for convenience: PH #2, PH #1, SL 1/4 in., SL 3/16 in., SQ #2 and SQ #1 nut drivers 3/8 in., 5/16 in. and 1/4 in

I have owned a variation of this screwdriver for at least 30 years, and I'm pretty sure I may have an original 4-In-One screwdriver someplace. What makes this such a handy tool is how many jobs it can do in place of up to 11 separate drivers. I never start an electrical job without having one of these in my bags, and even if there is no electrical work being done, a combo screwdriver is always in my bags and tool boxes.

One point: this style of screwdriver is not recommended for any work around 'Hot' wiring; for those jobs, insulated shafts are necessary. If you aren't sure about whether wires are energized, stop and call a professional if you don't know how to check or power down a circuit.

A single 11-in-1 screwdriver is $9.97 from Home Depot. I bought a two-pack, normally $19.99 but on closeout for $3.82! Since this is a closeout item and at this amazing low price, I don't expect them to last.

The Takeaway
  • A combination tool can be a cheap and easy way to save space -- and money! 
The Recap
  • Two-pack of Milwaukee 11-In-1 screwdrivers: $3.82 on Closeout from Home Depot 
  • Milwaukee #48-22-2114F two-pack: $19.99 from Amazon with Prime shipping 

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Improvised Tourniquets

Purpose built tourniquets like the C-A-T and SOFTT are great, but they're not always available. Here's how to improvise one.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #135 - The Spotlight Effect

I love the thrill
In the white light
  • What's it like to be a woman in the firearms industry? Beth tells us about how she has to prove herself every day. 
  • A fire, a fire extinguisher, and a knife are the what; Sean takes a closer look at the who. 
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon. 
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about getting over that feeling that EVERYONE is watching you as you learn to carry concealed. 
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return next week. 
  • We know there's no reason to read them, but Erin says that newspapers actually still have uses. 
  • He's half of the "Armed with Reason" duo, and as Weer'd will show, he's not any more intelligent or reasonable in audio form than he is in print. 
  • And our plug of the week is the Striker Control Device, aka the Glock Gadget. 
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
The Many Uses of Newspaper
Newspapers just aren’t taken as seriously as they once were. Between lack of readers, cost of production, and the 24/7 news cycle which is better suited to online reporting, actual newsprint is going the way of the dodo. But that doesn’t mean newspapers aren’t of use to preppers -- quite the opposite! The prepping value of a newspaper, though, is in its material and not what the rag says. 

There’s an old joke from the middle of last century which says that certain papers are only good for lining birdcages, wrapping fish, and toilet-training dogs -- and these are all good uses for the material. Newspaper is made from wood pulp, which is very absorbent, so depending on the cleanliness of the paper you can use it as an impromptu towel for drying off, or for wiping up spills, or even as field-expedient toilet paper.

But one of the best uses for old newspaper is for drying out wet shoes. Stuff them with crumpled up newspaper and leave them overnight, and in the morning the moisture will have moved from your shoes to the paper. This is a great trick to know if you’ve gotten wet and can’t start a fire.

Speaking of starting a fire, it ought to be obvious to everyone that newspapers make great firestarters. Finely-shredded bits of newspaper can serve as tinder; thin strips can serve as kindling; and rolled-up papers can even serve as fuel, if you have enough of them. Just be aware that newspaper doesn’t have much in the way of energy density; it burns quickly, unlike a log.

But newspaper can keep you warm in other ways. If you crumple it up and stick it under your clothes, it can act as insulation by trapping warm air next to your body. If you’re settling down for the night, you can further protect yourself against the elements by putting a layer underneath you to insulate you against the cold ground and absorb any moisture, and then a layer on top of you like a blanket to trap more heat and protect you from the wind, rain, and snow.  (Side note: If you’re out in the woods, you can achieve the same effect with dry leaves). You can also use newspaper to keep your home warm by wadding it into nooks and crannies and creating insulation, or taping it over windows to prevent drafts.

And finally, you can use newspaper to create a weapon. I know this sounds crazy, but apparently soccer hooligans in the UK were bringing newspapers to games and using them to create improvised clubs called “Millwall Bricks”. Watch the video in the show notes, and you’ll see that with some rolled and folded newspaper, a rock, and some taper, you can transform trash into a tomahawk that is capable of splitting a gallon milk container and denting a 55 gallon drum.

There are many things you can do with newspaper once you realize that it is, essentially, a very thin sheet of wood. While newspapers themselves may soon become obsolete, for as long as newsprint exists, there will be many uses for the material.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Guest Post: Creating .50 Caliber Ammo Can Shelves

by Jonathan S.
Regardless of whether you shoot or not, .50 caliber cans are a great way of storing materials. However, they have a tendency to get a little unstable if you stack them too tall, so I built myself a set of shelves to hold mine.

I am going to start by spelling out exactly what I did, and then tell you what I should have done, so you might want to read all the way through to the end if you are really interested in building one of your own. 

Disclaimer: I offer no guarantee that these instructions are complete, or that following them will not result in disaster. Proceed at your own risk. Measure twice, cut once.

What You Need
  • 1x Power Screwdriver/Drill. I used an older-model Ryobi 18V One+ Power Drill from a combo kit, but there are newer versions too.
  • 1x Power Saw. I used the other half of the above kit. I suppose you could also use a handsaw if you were a real masochist, or a table saw, or have whatever lumber yard you buy this stuff from do the cutting for you (I had Home Depot do a few of the cuts so the wood would fit in my car, for instance).
  • 2x Appropriate Batteries (if your screwdriver/drill is cordless). This is something of a “lesson learned”, but it fits in here – I only had one battery, and thus construction had to happen in fits and starts.
  • 1x Level. Really, any kind could work – I have a 4-footer and 6-incher, and it seems to be a good combination.
  • 1x Tape Measure. Minimum 12′ in length.
  • 1x Pencil. Duh.
  • 1x Pound of 2.5″ wood screws. I am a big fan of Grip-Rite products (their heads do not generally strip, and the coating not only prevents corrosion, but also makes the actual screwing easier), but just about any “wood”-type screw will do.
  • 1x Pound of 3″ wood screws. You can use another pound of 2.5″s if you want.
  • 1x Philips-Head Bit.
  • 1x Flexible Bit. If you build the shelves another way, you may not need this.
  • 4x 2″x4″x12′ boards. Straighter is better. The wood I purchased seemed to be pressure-treated, but you do not need to go for full-bore exterior wood if you do not need to – I paid about $4 a stud.
  • 3x 2″x4″x104″ boards. These are typically called “stud boards” or something similar, and that is exactly what they are, but they work. They are also generally of a lower quality than the above boards, so you might have to hunt and pick a little more carefully. Ran about $2.50 a board for me.
  • 1x Sheet of 0.75″ plywood. I suppose 0.5″ could work too, as could MDF and the like – I just happened to have half a sheet laying in my garage, and I know this stuff would have to be fairly durable. I want to say the whole sheet cost me about $25 (but the other half got absorbed into another project).
  • .50 caliber ammo cans. These are currently $24 apiece with Prime shipping from Amazon
Total cost to me, not including tools, was about $50 in my best estimation. Many preppers probably have most of that laying about already.

What You Do
Well, you build it like this picture (which is definitely not to scale, nor straight, nor anything else):

But more specifically…

1. Take the four 2″x4″x12’s and cut them down to 4’6″ x 4’6″ x 3′ lengths.

2. Cut those 3′ boards you made into four 9″ lengths.

3. Take the three 2″x4″x104″s and cut them exactly in half, giving you two 4’4″ lengths.

4. Go back to the 4’6″ lumber (all eight of them) and cut off 1.5″ from one end, making all eight of them 52.5″ long.

5. Cut the plywood sheet you have exactly in half the long way (giving you two sheets, each 24″x96″), and then cut one of those halves into 12″ lengths (giving you eight 12″x24″ pieces).

You now have six legs (the 4’4″ lumber and the pink on the diagram), eight front/backs of shelves (the 52.5″ lumber – green), 16 sides of shelves (the 9″ lumber marked yellow (faintly)), and eight actual shelves (the 24″x12″ sheets in blue). Oh, and eight 2″x4″x1.5″ things, which do not necessarily have to be waste (more on that later).

6. Lay out your 4’4″ lumber, and mark all of them at 9″, 9.5″, 9.5″, and 9.5″. That will be the bottom of each of your shelves.

7. Take two of those 4’4″ studs, lay them out with their bottoms (the end with the 9″ mark) against wall or other known-flat surface, and get them even with and parallel to each other exactly two inches apart.

8. Take four 9″ boards, lay them flat across the two 4’4″ studs, with their bottom edges even with the lines you drew, and screw (2.5″, this time) those guys into place – I used two screws through the 9″ into each leg board, in a diagonal pattern. The 9″ crossmembers give you an easy way to ensure your leg boards are spaced properly, since the outside edges of the legs should be even with the ends of the 9″ boards. This assembly becomes one of your outside legs.

9. Repeat, to make the other outside legs.

10. Repeat again, but then flip that one over, and put 9″ boards on the other side too – just make sure the screws do not clash. That will be your inside/middle legs.

So you should now have three things looking more-or-less like ladders. Short ones. Without much space for you to put your feet. And this is where I got even more silly.

11. Take one of the outside leg assemblies, and lean it flush against something known to be roughly perpendicular with the floor. Have someone hold it, or temporarily attach it in place (i.e. lean something against it). Situate the middle legs 2 feet away, and set one of the 12″x24″ shelves on the bottom 9″ rungs of both the outside legs and the middle legs. Have someone hold the middle legs in place (or put the top shelf where it belongs, and lean a board against this entire rickety contraption to hold it upright like I did), and situate the bottom shelf such that it has a 1.5 inch overhang on the front and back of both the outside and middle legs. Attach shelf to both 9″ rungs (I used one screw each) – this is where the flexible bit comes in.

12. Repeat the essential elements for the three remaining shelves.

13. Repeat the essential elements for the four shelves that go from the other side of the middle legs to the other outside legs.

You should now have a rickety-assed shelf-looking monstrosity.

14. Gently lay it down on the floor.

15. Take four of the 52.5″ studs, and attach one under each of the twinned shelves – this is where you can use the 3″ screws if you want, and you probably should. No need to attach the shelves to the boards, given that gravity and weight will take care of that. Important: At all three attachment points of both the top and bottom boards (outside legs, middle legs, outside legs), use at least two screws, displaced both horizontally and vertically (read: “diagonally”) – that arrangement will give your shelves the rigidity they need to stay upright. If you have the screws, go ahead and do it for all the boards.

16. Flip the whole assembly over, and do the same thing on the other side.

17. Get the shelves upright again, examine just how far out-of-square/level you are, and realize you do not care, since you are about to drop a few hundred pounds of metal on the shelves and they will settle out.

Thanks to .50 caliber ammo cans being just a hair over 6.5 inches in width, these shelves’ capacity is “only” 30 (including the floor), but something tells me that will be sufficient for the time being, and the extra space on each shelf is convenient for boxes and whatnot else. If you are willing to deal with awkward dimensions and more waste, bumping those shelves to four cans is not hard; I just had half a sheet of plywood left over from another project, and it was easier this way. Alternately, .30 caliber cans will fit nicely in the leftover space on the shelf. 

What I Should Have Done

1. Looking back, I am not sure those 9″ rungs are necessary. They simplified the building process, but since the ammo cans are almost exactly 12 inches deep, they can rest their weight on the front and back boards, and it is not like the 0.75″ plywood is going to care that much, given that only 9″ of it would be unsupported.

2. By the same token, those middle legs may or may not be necessary. Given that a nearly-full can of .45 Long Colt weight just around 50 pounds, though, I was not going to risk putting seven of them on a four foot length without some kind of support in the middle. 

3. .50 caliber ammo cans are, annoyingly, about 6.5″ wide, so you are only going to be able to fit three per shelf. The remaining space can be used for other junk, or you can custom-fit your shelves better. I was just looking to minimize costs (through minimizing waste), and this arrangement did it.

4. Those 2″x4″x1.5″ things from step 4? If you are concerned about the narrow front-to-back footprint of the shelves, once you have them where you want them, just attach those little blocks to the fronts and backs of the legs. However, I will admit that I have not done so with mine, yet – with just the ammo cans I have, those shelves are going nowhere (and I should not have to remind you, but load from the bottom).

5. Pine can split pretty badly, so stay away from the cut ends and proceed slowly when inserting screws.

6. If you are really concerned about rigidity, get some eyehole hooks, screw them into the back corners of the shelves, and run wire tightly between them diagonally. But, really, if just doing the backs of my shelves the way I described them above was enough to make the shelves as stable as they are now, doing both sides should make them rock solid.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Concern Contraction

Concern contraction is what I call the focusing effect that a crisis can have on your mind. (I don't know what else to call the phenomenon; I couldn't find an existing phrase, so I made one up.) I bring this topic up as a warning to our readers, in the event that any of them have been fortunate enough to have never experienced a truly life-threatening or hazardous situation.

We've previously written about situational awareness, the need to stay aware of your surroundings (and the activity of others) in order to detect or predict threats. Over the years, I have seen concern contraction reducing or eliminating a person's situational awareness. These are often incidents that sometimes make the local news, like a policeman getting hit by a passing car while he's conducting a traffic stop or a witness to an accident getting injured while trying to render aid. Times of stress tend to focus our awareness to an extreme that has to be experienced to be understood, but knowing that it can happen may help you avoid the negative effects.

Levels of stress or crisis come in various intensities and the contraction of concern is tied to the intensity. Since I made up the phrase, I get to make up the levels of intensity and some examples as well. Of course, these levels only apply to those of us who are nominally aware of our surroundings -- the average idiot with his face buried in his cell phone is oblivious to the world and has no situational awareness or level of concern (until the battery on his phone dies).

Level 0
You're sitting on the beach with the sun warming your skin, the water is a few yards in one direction and the buffet is a few yards in the other direction. You literally don't have a care in the world and your mind is free to wander as it may... you might even attempt to care what the Kardashians are doing this week! At level 0, the few concerns you may have are diffuse and spread across a wide field of possibilities. Situational awareness at level 0 can be a problem because you're too relaxed.

Level 1
You're at work on a normal day, the coffee tastes okay and the boss isn't in town. Your concerns are going to be focused on getting your work done so you can get home, but you have time to contemplate the upcoming ball game. You're aware of your surroundings as much as you need to be to get the tasks at hand completed. The policeman getting hit by a passing car falls into level 1, so it is important to stay on your toes and not get complacent.

Level 2
A loved one or pet has a minor injury and you're worried about getting them the proper care. The upcoming ball game has been forgotten and your area of concern is starting to contract a bit, your world getting a bit smaller. The route from your current location to the needed aid is about the extent of your concern at level 2, but you need to pay attention while you're traveling.

Level 3
The power went out during an ice storm or thunderstorm. You know it will be restored within a few hours at most, but you have to figure out how to get by without lights and the distractions that modern life has provided us. It might be getting colder in the house and you need to dig out a coat and some blankets. Your world has shrunk down to the size of your house/apartment and you definitely aren't thinking about how many rhinos are left in Africa.

Level 4
Your car dies or gets stuck in the middle of nowhere. You have no cell phone service, and you were taking a “shortcut” so nobody really knows where you are, so it could be a few days before anybody sees you. Things are starting to get serious -- your concerns are food, water, and shelter, and your world is no larger than what you can see. Nothing beyond your vision matters; your concern has contracted to a small area of space. The two ladies who survived for two weeks in the woods in 2015 come to mind as an example.

Level 5
TSHTF and you are alone, tired, hungry, and lost. Your world has contracted down to the next meal or the next drink of water. You're in trouble and nothing else matters, especially other people. At this level, people start to lose their humanity and act more like animals because survival is the only thing on their minds. Donner party, anyone?

The Last State
Not really a level because it can occur either suddenly or over time is the state known as “shock”. Physical or psychological shock will blow your world apart and you will lose the ability to care about anything. Shock is a medical issue that generally requires the assistance of others to recover from, and can be life-threatening by itself due to the effects it has on your body. It deserves mention because it eliminates all situational awareness and should be watched for in others.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Smoke Detectors and Time Changes

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

With the arrival of Daylight Savings Time, it can be a time to check many things in your preps (assuming you don't keep to another schedule). I have several dates set on calendars, both short and long term, for checking stored food and water.

One thing I check yearly are the smoke detectors in my room and in the hall near my bedroom, because I want to be certain they are working. Mine started chirping Sunday night, which is not a good night to start disturbing my sleep.

When I looked at the battery in the one on my wall, I saw that this unit was 12 years old and had some paint on it. There wasn't enough paint to block ports or any that I could see inside, but better safe than sorry, so I bought this on Monday:

Kidde Worry-Free 10-Year Sealed Lithium-Ion Battery Operated Smoke Alarm with Voice Alert

With all the improvements to electronics and batteries in the past 12 years, buying a new smoke detector for myself seemed like a really smart idea. Besides, not having to replace batteries for at least a decade sounds really attractive. From the Kidde website:

"10-year sealed battery smoke alarms (sometimes called smoke detectors) offer a variety of benefits to the millions of Americans who rely on continuous battery-powered smoke and fire detection in their homes. The alarms are powered by sealed, long-life lithium batteries for 10 years (the life of the alarm), meaning they are always on. The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacing smoke alarms every 10 years."

I bought this from Home Depot since I didn't want to wait for the same model from Amazon to arrive in the mail days later. I really don't like the idea of a fire in my house, or even smoke from a fire; nationwide, smoke inhalation kills more people than fires. I've personally seen how fast smoke can build up in a building and never want to be in a situation like that ever again.

All the batteries in the smoke detectors in my side of the house get changed at the same time, so I'm not sure why the one in my room went off so soon. Looking at the other detectors, all of them seem to be the same model: one of the compact, discount brands you can see at every Big Box store. Since they all look the same, I'm going to bet they all were installed about the same time, which puts them at Detector Death by the calendar. I do not own this house, so the responsibility to replace all the detectors falls on the landlord.

I'm going to see him Thursday and give him the good news.

The Takeaway
  • Safety is not the place to be cheap! As always, buy the best you can afford.
  • The price difference between buying a sealed unit and a less-expensive, replaceable battery unit was small enough that factoring in the PITA multiplier made it a good buy.

The Recap
  • One Kidde Smoke Detector:  $29.97, purchased from Home Depot. Ordered from Amazon, $28.90 with Prime.*
  • *Ordering a combination of detectors can save you more than buying from a brick-and-mortar store. You have to figure in the delivery time to you.

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Slinging Bullets

It's the time of year when the weather gets better, and a young redneck's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of the outdoors and practicing riflery. Today's video covers a simple skill that will dramatically improve your shooting.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #134 - Condiments and Cutlery

In Mordor on the Potomac, only criminals can carry guns.
  • People are so fixated on being "Nice" that Beth thinks they've lost sight of the real goal: being Good.
  • When a suspect ends an hour-long standoff by shooting himself, is that a good resolution? Sean tells you who the suspect was so you can decide for yourself.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Erin tells us about her trip to Maryland Shall Issue.
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return next week.
  • It's good for your tea and it's good for hypoglycemia - Erin tells you about honey in your EDC.
  • When someone tries to open an indoor gun range in Northern New Jersey, the anti-gun nuts lose their minds. Join Weer'd as he listens to their proposed "Reasonable" restrictions.
  • And our plug of the week is for War Stories Podcast.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Hypoglycemia and Honey
I had an interesting experience when at MAG40: one of the students, who is diabetic, started experiencing hypoglycemia, and I had that prepper moment of “OH I HAVE JUST THE THING FOR THIS!” glee. 

For those who don’t know, if you have diabetes you are prone to two types of blood sugar problems: too much and too little. 

Too much blood sugar is known as hyperglycemia. As  a diabetic friend of mine puts it, “Hyperglycemia is when your sugar hits 400 or so, and you get a little crazy, then you pass out, and unless you get insulin, you die.”  Most preppers don’t have access to insulin - you need a prescription for it - and because it’s light sensitive and requires refrigeration, you can’t carry it around in your first aid kit. There are some shelf-stable things which help, like glipizide, but it’s also prescription. So unless you’re diabetic yourself, or a licensed EMT, if  someone else experiences hyperglycemia the only thing you can do is call 911 and hope an ambulance gets there in time.

However, the other side of this tightrope is hypoglycemia, which is “your blood sugar drops through the floor, you get crazy, then pass out and die” according to that same friend. But unlike hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia is very easy to fix: just give that person some sugar. Now, the fastest way to do that is with a glucose IV, but again, unless you’re a licensed professional with medical gear, you won’t be carrying that around. But there are other ways to get that sugar into their system quickly. 

The key word here is “quickly”. Many sugary snacks are made with sucrose, also known as table sugar. Sucrose is actually a compound of two other sugars, glucose and fructose, and before those sugars can get into the body they must be separated via a digestive enzyme within the small intestine. Now there are many bad things to be said about high-fructose corn syrup, but one good thing about it is that is doesn’t need that enzyme to get into the body. So if you have a soda nearby, that’s a good way to get sugar into a hypoglycemic person, but soda cans a large and not really a convenient part of a first aid kit. 

Which brings me to what I had in my first aid kit at MAG40: a sealed tube of honey. Honey is amazing for different reasons: one of those reasons is that it doesn’t go bad, ever. Another reason is that is contains both glucose and fructose, but they aren’t linked, meaning that they absorb into the body faster than sucrose. So when I noticed my friend wasn’t well, and people were looking for sugar to give her, I ran to the blowout kit in my range bag, got the stick of honey, cut the end off with a knife, and squeezed the honey into her mouth. 

I’m not going to say that it saved her, because there were plenty of other people there helping, but I know for a fact it didn’t didn’t hurt her. More importantly -- which is why I’m sharing this with you folks, because I’m not telling this story as an “Oh, aren’t I awesome” moment -- it showed me that it wasn’t dumb to have a container of honey in my medical supplies. 9.3 percent of Americans have diabetes, so odds are good that you know someone who has the disease and might need help with a hypoglycemic episode. Be  prepared for that!

You can buy 100 sticks of clover honey for only $16.95 from Amazon. They’re 6.5 inches and contain 5 grams of honey each, so they fit easily inside a purse, backpack, or first aid kit. They’re shelf-stable and won’t go bad in high heat or humidity, so make them a part of your everyday carry. Even if you never need to help a diabetic, you can always use them to sweeten to your coffee or tea. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Light Updates

About two and a half years ago, I wrote a post about a solar-powered sidewalk light. To recap, I found some small one-lumen sidewalk marker lights at Wal-Mart in the clearance aisle for less than a buck apiece and I picked up a few.

After my post, I set one of the little lights outside in a half-shaded spot next to my sidewalk. It is still there, and still producing light. When new, it would light up for about 6 hours on a full charge, which meant that for most of the year, it would light up that corner of the sidewalk until about midnight. 

Two very wet summers and three normal Iowa winters later, it is still good until about 9:30PM most nights. Having survived temperatures well over 100°F during the summers, being buried in snow (the whole unit is only 8 inches high, we get more snow than that in most snowstorms), and being frozen to well below zero several time, I'd have to say that this is one tough little light. I haven't done any maintenance or cleaning, so there's a layer of dust inside the plastic globe, and the only time it gets moved is when I need to trim the grass in that spot.

Here's a crappy picture of it tonight at 9:15PM. This is in a dark yard, under a bush that has no leaves. You can see the piece of steel that I use as a winter mount for the plastic stake on the bottom of the light and some of the dead grass. No flash was used so that you could get a feel for the amount of light it is putting out.

I feel confident that similar lights would give the same results, so I stand by my recommended uses as lighting for inside a tent (no flame), as a marker light for tent stakes/ropes, and as a nightlight for those who can't sleep in total darkness. Not bad for less than a dollar - cheap enough (and safe enough) to give to the grandchildren to play with, and it saves me having to search for a flashlight after they've set it down and forgotten it.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the Nebo Twyst light. I still have that one and it is still my truck light. It has seen a lot of hard use in the two years I've had it, so it has a few nicks and dings on it, but it is still one of the best flashlights I've ever used. A fresh set of 4 alkaline batteries will give about 24 hours of usable light, although it does get dimmer as the batteries die. My boss picked up a couple of them last year for use at work and they are more rugged than I thought - one was dropped into a running conveyor and ended up at the bottom of a vertical conveyor about 50 feet away. This happened at midnight, and I didn't get it dug out until 9:30 the next morning. It was still on and putting out good light! Quick immersion in water doesn't seem to hurt them, but I haven't tried leaving them underwater for any length of time (nor do I plan to, as these are not cheap lights). The magnetic base is a great help when hooking up trailers at night, since I can stick the light on the back end and see the spot of light in the mirrors. Working in unlit areas as much as I do, having a dependable, bright light makes life a lot easier.

I also picked up one of the smaller Nebo Twyst Z lights last year. It has the same lighting modes (flashlight, worklight, lantern) as the original, but they added an adjustable 4X focus and deleted the stabilizing legs on the magnetic base. Mine seems to have the same magnet as the original, and since it is quite a bit smaller it “grips” tighter to steel. I'm not impressed with the focus feature, though, as it doesn't get to a very tight spot light and the light seems to be more diffused by the lens. I prefer a nice, bright light over a soft glow when I'm working. The switch is very sensitive and it doesn't take much of a bump to turn it on or off. One positive note is that it is small enough to fit in the pliers pocket of my “carpenter” style jeans, so it is easier to carry.

I'm always looking for a better flashlight, which is one of the bad habits I picked up from my father (I'll see if he'll let me take a picture of his collection of lights sometime), so the search continues even though I'm happy with what I have found so far.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Choosing Wisely

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 a little early for a March Round-Up of topics too short to make into full posts, but I have two things that I really need to mention now: Sometimes a choice needs to be bypassed, and things 'too good to be true' are really too good to be true.

The Not-March Collection

First, the Good News
I work in a different Big Box store every day. Most of them are too hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. Standing on the cold floor is hard on my feet and staying warm is a priority, so doing this takes a combination of good shoes and good socks. Where I am and what I have to do affects my shoe choice: if I'm stocking shelves or building displays, light weight hiking shoes are my normal pick; if there are demos scheduled, I wear Rockport brand shoes like these, since they look great, polish up quickly, and weigh as much as my tennis shoes. I shop at their Outlet stores and buy last years' models and seconds for much less the their listed retail prices.

But no matter which shoes I wear, the socks are possibly more important to me, since they are what will keep my feet warm and comfortable. I've worn many different styles and types of socks, but I keep coming back to an old favorite: part-wool, light weight crew socks from REI.

What I like about this design are the very smooth toe seams, the reinforced heel, and a wide and thin top hem that doesn't dig into my leg half way through my day. This sock is a wool blend, so it is not as scratchy as some of the other, higher wool content socks from REI and similar stores. Another feature of these socks is a compression band (the stripe running across the arch in the picture) which seems to help my feet feel supported.

At $14.95 for a single pair these may not seem like a Blue Collar Prepping item, but if I can stay warm, dry and comfortable all day, the price is worth it! I have several pair that are 3-4 years old, and there is very little difference in fit or feel when compared to socks purchased last week. Besides, well-fitting socks and shoes prevent things like this from happening:

My actual foot after a hike with old socks and bad shoes.

The Not-So-Good
If you are a member of the BCP Facebook page (It's fun and lively!) there was a mention of a TIHK lock tool set this past week and how it has been nearly one year for the orders to be processed. After reading a review, Erin and I placed orders for the tool set.

In August.

Of last year.

Mine arrived Monday, 6 March 2017 and I have to say the wait does not seem to be worth it. No, I'm not going to link to the item, since giving the site more page views is not on my agenda. There's a link in the Facebook post, if you choose to look.

The tools are in a very thin plastic case with a molded hinge that looks to be wearing after being opened by me less than a dozen times. A friend who is familiar with lock tools says that for amateurs the tools are 'adequate at best' but not worth the current (or even the pre-order) price if the plan is to use them. And you will need to practice to get better! That is where the problems will more than likely occur, with things bending and breaking very soon. 

Also mentioned in the post is a state where you cannot have this type of lock tool kit, so even if you think it looks interesting, check your local laws before even thinking about it. In my opinion, this particular set is not worth it.

The Takeaway
  • Comfy shoes and dry socks make any task easier, even work! 
  • Sometimes that leap of faith doesn't put you on the hidden path; it drops you face down in the mud.
The Recap
  • Really nice Crew Socks from REI: $14.95 each, but if you buy three pair at once, you get a 10% discount. 
  • Lock tool set from a place I won't mention: $25 and not worth any of it.

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dielectric Grease

In discussions about last week's article and lights in general, the topic of dielectric grease was mentioned. Before I researched it for this article, I was familiar with the existence of dielectric grease but had no real knowledge of its uses. I'm glad the question was asked, because I learned that I should be using this grease in much of my work.
  • Dielectric grease is a silicone-based gelatinous lubricant.
  • It looks very similar to petroleum jelly, with many similar physical properties.
  • It will not dissolve in water and is used as a sealant and corrosion inhibitor.
  • It can degrade silicone rubber over time, however, so be careful using it on rubber components. 
  • It is also non-conductive, and will insulate electrical connections.
So, knowing what it is, what exactly can we do with it?

In cars, it's most commonly used on the rubber sealing boots of spark plugs. It's also quite useful on trailer plug connections, and on any other external wiring connections as well: keeping water out of these areas will prevent short circuits and simplify vehicle maintenance. It can also be used on outdoor connections or damp area connections on circuits on your home and outbuildings.

Dielectric grease is also excellent for sealing threaded battery compartments on devices like flashlights. A thin smear on the threads will keep water, condensation, and debris out, preventing damage to the battery compartment and prolonging the life of your tools.

One of the best things about dielectric grease is the price. $5 gets a 3 oz tube, which is a huge supply for the average user.

More information about dielectric grease can be found here, here, and here.

I always love when discussion allows me to learn new things, especially about something this underrated and useful.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #133 - Erin Won't Say the Word “Negro”

I'm sorry, I'm just too Caucasian to feel comfortable saying the word "negro" unless I'm actually speaking Spanish.
  • Beth is on assignment and will return next week.
  • Sean answers the age-old question, "What path does a man take along the route to stabbing someone in the face?"
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Erin tells us about MAG40 and why every concealed carrier should attend. 
  • It's Week Two of MOVIE (TWO) WEEKS! This week Tiffany reviews "I Am Not Your Negro."
  • Erin had some GI troubles at MAG40. We're not talking about soldiers making it difficult on the range, we're talking something much more explosive. Erin talks about what to do when everything inside wants to be outside.
  • Former contributor Miguel told Weer'd about a YouTube "comedy" channel called Fusion. Weer'd puts them through a Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk (TM).
  • And our plug of the week is for NexBelt.
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 to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Norovirus and the BRAT Diet
As I mentioned in earlier, I came down with a stomach bug the last day of MAG40 that left me dehydrated and going at both ends -- often simultaneously.

While I don’t know what it was that I have, my best guess is Norovirus, aka the “Winter Vomiting Bug”. It’s commonly caused by fecal contamination of food, touching a contaminated surface and then your mouth, or directly from another sick person.

Norovirus is a viral buzzsaw that rips through close collections of people, like classrooms or people on cruise ships.

Based on my close, intimate relationship with Norovirus, the biggest problem with it is dehydration. I was desperately thirsty and my mouth was full of cotton, but I couldn’t take more than a few swallows without upsetting my stomach and triggering another vomiting session.

Worse, diarrhea causes an electrolyte imbalance within the body, which in turn creates more diarrhea. In other words, diarrhea is self-perpetuating, so for those who are curious, you can indeed shit yourself to death.

What’s more, after a case of Norovirus the gastrointestinal tract may be severely inflamed, or not used to digesting food, and may need to be re-started. So what’s a prepper to do?

Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a trained health professional, do not take this as strict medical advice, consult your doctor if you have an erection for more than four hours.

First, always have an antidiarrheal medicine, like Immodium AD, in both your bug-out and get-home bags. Heck, after this weekend I’m keeping several doses in my every day carry kit. Oof.

Second, have a way to get electrolytes back into your system. Since you’re trying to prevent dehydration at the same time, the best way to do that is through liquids. I’m a big fan of Gatorade, but any sport drink will do, as will Pedialyte for children and of course regular old water. You can also buy packages of oral rehydration salts from Amazon -- just mix them with clean water and you’re good to go. They’re light enough that you could fit them into any bug out or get home bag.

There are however some liquids to avoid:
  • Milk, because while you may not normally be lactose intolerant, your digestive tract may not be able to process milk in your weakened state.
  • Alcohol and caffeine, because both of these substances also contribute to dehydration and would only make things worse.
  • Excessively sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices, because while sugar is important in electrolyte solutions, too much has the opposite effect. Avoid any liquid that has more than 3% sugar in it.
  • Don’t use artificial sweeteners, either, as those often have a laxative effect.
Third, when it comes time to eat -- and it may be days before you want to think about food -- it’s best to start small. There’s something called the BRAT diet - Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast - which is supposed to be easy on sensitive guts. Other foods which are good for recovering digestive tracts are oatmeal, boiled potatoes, plain crackers, and baked chicken without skin or fat. You’ll notice that a lot of these ingredients are in that universal antidote, chicken soup.

Preppers ought to consider adding some packages of oatmeal and chicken broth to their bug-out bags, and perhaps some dehydrated bananas as well.

Finally, keep a dark-colored washcloth in your various bags. Don’t use it for regular hygiene of the hands or face; use it just for cleaning “down there.” When the S hits the F, it’s good to have a soft, absorbent, dark-so-it-won’t-stain cloth to clean that S from your body.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Long-Term Book Storage

We have mentioned books a few times over the past three years. Having information written down means that you don't have to remember everything that you might possibly need to know in the future, and also makes it easier to teach future generations things that you may not be an expert on. Printed material will outlast most single forms of digital recording, and it doesn't require electricity or a machine to read. Books are clearly important to long-term prepping, but how do you safely store them for future use?

Storing anything begins with identifying what you need to prevent and then figuring out a way to achieve that goal.

Actual water spilled on a book is bad, but high humidity is actually worse: a book that has been wet can usually be carefully dried out, but the mold and mildew caused by high humidity is next to impossible to remove.

Keep books and their containers off of the floor (especially concrete floors) to prevent condensation from making them damp. Plastic containers will keep water out, but can also trap water within if you put away a book that is damp. If using air-tight storage, desiccant packs should be added to absorb any moisture.

Silverfish and roaches are the main adult insects to watch for. They are attracted to the glues used in binding books and can silently destroy a collection over time. Bookworms are the larvae of several different insects, and while not as common as they were a century ago, they can still mess up a book.

Storing books in cardboard boxes is common, but the corrugations in their construction and the starch used to make the cardboard turn the boxes a combination hotel and buffet for roaches and silverfish. Diatomaceous earth is a good way to control insects of all kinds, but remember that it is abrasive and may damage the books if there is a lot of vibration. Keeping the boxes slightly separated and off of the floor will also reduce the presence of roaches.

The ultraviolet portion of sunlight has a strong bleaching effect on most things; paper and ink are not immune. I've seen books left on the dash of a car for as little as two weeks that have started to show damage from sunlight. Modern inks are good, but some of them are not as permanent as the old formulas.

Never build shelves or cases where they will be subjected to full sunlight. Put books away when not in use, since leaving them out on a table for extended times can expose them to too much sunlight.

Idiots and Children
Children who have not been taught to respect other people's things should not be left unattended around books. Idiots who have no respect for knowledge are similar to children, but some of them will actively seek to destroy what they don't understand. People who will burn books often end up burning other people.

Good locks (and controlling your guests) will go a long way in stopping these threats. Properly punishing bad behavior from either type will prevent further damage.

Most of my reference library is boxed and stored right now. Not counting the “recreational” reading (fiction and alternative science), I think I have somewhere around 250 books in my main collection and I need to start thinking about preserving them. Since some of them are already over a century old, this is going to be a it of a challenge. I may have an actual library/study in a few years if I'm lucky, and I'm already designing the bookcases -- glass-paneled doors protect books much better than simple shelves will.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Prudent Prepping: A Little Light

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

The need for every bit of extra light and ways to keep track of people in the dark is important to me in an emergency.

In my daily trips to various Big Box stores, I hunt for bargains that are adaptable to the prepping shopping list I have. I mainly find a lot of light sources. but this time an unusual item caught my eye: a glow stick with a twist!

Nite Ize LED Mini Glowstick
Glowsticks are common in almost every emergency kit I have seen or have made. They are inexpensive, produce a quick and easy to see light, take up almost no room, last for hours and are disposable. The last two parts bothered me -- until I found the Nite Ize. 

Not easily seen in the picture is another feature from this company: a mini "S" carabiner to make attaching this light to anything fast and easy.
From their website:

Product Details

  • LED Glowstick for visibility & safety
  • Twist on/off
  • Waterproof - it floats!
  • Included #0 plastic S-Biner for clippability
  • Run time: 60 hours
  • 4x replaceable AG-3 batteries included
  • Diameter: .8" | 19.1mm
  • Length: 6.2" | 157mm
  • Weight: .6 oz | 18g
At a run time of up to 60 hours, These LED glowsticks run up to five times as long as disposable glowsticks and are reusuable!

My package has two red, one blue and one green. I'm not sure if this is the normal assortment or if the combination of colors vary. Here is what the red light actually looks like on my desk.

I was surprised by how much light was actually produced by these things! My monitor was producing some background light, but the Mini LED was bright enough to read the original packaging easily. 

I purchased this four pack from Home Depot at a marked-down price, so supplies are limited. In fact, there does not seem to be a source for assorted colors other than Home Depot. Most listings are for 2 packs of the same colors or single colors.

The Takeaway
  • An inexpensive, long runtime, reusable emergency light source in several colors. 
  • Nite Ize offers many different and unusual items. Check them out
The Recap
  • Nite Ize mini LED Glowstick: discounted to $4 from Home Depot. 
  • (Available as an Amazon add-on for $3 to $6, depending on color.)

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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