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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Prudent Prepping: the Winbag

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

I've had to open a car without the proper keys on occasion. That hasn't been a problem since I had the dealer make me extra copies, but it may be something I have to do in the future. The Winbag Inflatable Shim will help me do that without scratching paint or damaging door seals. Using it this way isn't exactly the manufacturer's  specified use, but it's close enough to the tool that tow companies use to get into cars for my purposes.

https://amzn.to/2Mlbm2I
The Winbag is designed to lift cabinets, counters, windows and other items that will not need to be permanently shimmed after installation. This short video shows its intended use, but this short video shows my intended use! These are (as far as I can tell) identical items, with the same shape, size and inflation device. I have never seen the locksmith's model in real life, but I'm convinced of this from the pictures.

As the car video shows, the door needs to be wedged open a small amount to insert the bag and then the inflation bulb is squeezed like a blood pressure cuff.

From the Winbag website:
  • 300 LBS / 135 KILO force at your fingertips 
  • Gentle on surfaces leaving no scratches behind 
  • WINBAG® goes where we can’t! Tight spots and narrow locations 
  • As a “soft shim” against delicate surfaces

WINBAG
I didn't realize that an inflatable shim could be used to open a car door* until saw the Winbag on display in Home Depot. I don't own any lock picks or car entry tools, so after shimming (bagging?) a gap between the car door and frame, I plan on using a coat hanger or similar piece of wire.

(Sorry, I didn't try it out on my car, nor did any of my friends volunteer theirs!)

I have friends who are carpenters and cabinet guys who have used these as intended, and they have no complaints about the Winbag other other than every one of them wishing it was a little bit bigger in both  width and height.

*This post is in no manner an endorsement of breaking into cars!



The Takeaway
  • As usual for me, dual use items are staring me in the face. I just need to open my eyes and see them!

The Recap

Just a reminder: 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, August 14, 2018

Making Winter Coats

Why am I talking about a winter coat in the summer? Because...



"Say what?"

If you've read our blog for any length of time, you know we're all geeks here.  It was only a matter of time before a Game of Thrones reference was made. But it's also relevant to this article because if you want to make a coat for winter you'd best start working on it now. 

I was initially going to show you how to crochet or knit a coat, but that would have made this post super-long. After the success of my apron post, I realized I don't have to break this down to such a level; there are a lot of resources out there that show how to make coats and can explain it far better than I can.

The Capote
A good example of a multi-purpose that is easy to make is the Capote (pronounced capo -- it's French), or blanket coat, of the North American frontier. These coats kept you warm but weren't fancy at all -- not unless you were fortunate enough to have a significant other who was a fair hand at embroidery or bead work.


The blanket coat is just that, a coat made out of a blanket, and I'm fairly certain quite a few people can immediately see the advantages to this:

  • Your blanket is already right there, cutting down on the amount you have to carry otherwise.
  • In summertime, it's your bed. 
  • Remember way back when I published my first security articles? I made mention of the wardrobe changes you should consider for SHTF (for reasons such as "being less of a target"). Coats like this hide your chest and hips really well. 
  • You can use a specific color pattern to identify yourselves, either individually or as a group, to each other when out and about in camp or in town. 
If you like how the capote looks, you can check The Matoska Trading Company.  They have several capote patterns based on the various geographical regions.  (Yes, there were differences in capote designs from area to area, but that's a historical subject and beyond the scope of this post.) There are also several capote patterns on Amazon.

Alternately, you can try your hand at making your own using these patterns I found on Pinterest:





Other Types of Coats
Back in the Middle Ages, the word "coat" referred to armor like chainmail. Outerwear was more like the cloaks and capes that many of us today think of as some kind of fantasy costume. What we would consider a modern coat didn't become the norm until roughly the mid-1800s.  Frequently used interchangeably with the word jacket by American English speakers, there's a huge catalog of the different types of both.


If you're going to make your own coat, there are things you must consider just as if you were buying one instead.
  1. What's the activity I'm going to doing the most while wearing the coat? 
    This helps you decide on the material composition. For example, if you're going to be outside working with animals, it's going to need to be sturdy and not stain easily.
  2. What is the most common kind of weather that I may be wearing this in? This determines how thick, water resistant, or breathable you'll need it to be, and helps you determine the materials. 
  3. How much bending am I going to be doing? Do you need it to be fitted or can it a loose coat?
  4. Can I find what I need already made? Probably, but you have to decide your financial and time budget first.
Once you've gotten that figured out, it's time to hit the web!

Recommendations:
  1. If you can sew, check with your local fabric shops first and go through the outerwear patterns they have available. Start in mid-summer as well, so that you aren't fighting against the deadline of cold weather.
  2. If you're making for kids, size it up a size or two, especially if they're in that 8-12 year range. Growth spurts are bad enough, and being cold during them is no fun.
  3. Trawl YouTube for instructional videos. Making coats can be hard, so learn as many tips and tricks as you can!
  4. If you commission someone else to make it, DON'T SHORT THEM ON PAYMENT. Coats take time and patience.
Once you decide on your coat, save those patterns. If they work, you'll want to make more of them. If they don't, take note of what did work and why, and then what didn't work and why -- the material, the construction, the cut, everything -- so you learn from the experience. 

Winter is coming. Stay warm!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Product Review: Field Expedient e-Readers

You have your fishing rod and you've caught a fish. You remember how to build a fire. You even have some spices on hand. Now how do you actually prepare it for dinner?

This is why an e-reader with an emergency and survival library belongs in your preps.

When deciding that an e-reader should be in my Bug Out Bag, I decided it needed three features, in this order:
  1. It had to be durable. I expect to take this to who knows where, and I expect that it will be difficult to impossible to replace or repair it during an emergency. Survival in rough conditions is an absolute must.
  2. It had to be easy to charge. Having to keep a proprietary charger on hand that requires a wall outlet does me no good if I don’t have a wall outlet on hand.
  3. It had to be cheap. I cannot afford a lot of device for something that will sit around most of the time doing nothing.
To that end, I decided to test two devices that I had sitting around. The first was a Nintendo 3DS XL (a portable gaming device) that I occasionally use. I had already put a 16 gig SD card into it; to turn it into an e-reader, I installed Calibre (a free third-party program) to mange and convert my various e-books into formats that can be read on any device.

The other item I decided to try was an old prepaid Huawei Union smartphone that I bought when I was trying out FreedomPop. I gave it a 16 Gig microSD card and purchased a cheap ($6) Otterbox-style case for it.


Nintendo 3DS XL

https://amzn.to/2P6WiDr

Pros:
  • Very much the most durable of the two. As much as the smartphone held up just fine in testing, the handheld game console is designed to be used by small boys, and therefore survive all the abuse that entails. I know people who have regularly dropped the handheld consoles from tall heights, have run them through the washing machine (and dryer) multiple times, left one in a stream overnight, accidentally run them over with cars on and so on, all without actually making the device unusable. 
  • Actually has a nicer screen setup for reading. I find myself turning it sideways and using the direction pads as a page turner. This was a big difference when I was reading for long periods of time for leisure.
  • Plays MP3s natively. Just put them on the SD card. 
  • Still a gaming device. The library of game software available for this means that it is an excellent method to distract teenagers (or yourself).
  • Not a bad battery life, and would probably be notably better if I had a new battery. I found it lasted 1- 2 days of use between charges.

Cons:
  • The charging cable is proprietary. Even thought it looks like a USB to microUSB cable, it's not; the end that plugs into the device is just slightly larger than microUSB. This means that you can't use standard cables to recharge it, so if yours breaks or is lost you have no way to charge the device.
  • They are expensive to purchase, even used. This is partly due to the durability of the unit increasing its resale price.
  • It does not have Bluetooth.
  • You have to sideload everything. In this case, you have to take out the SD card and plug it into the computer. Not a big deal overall, but still inconvenient.

Notes:
I would say that this is an excellent option if you already have one on hand and  you don’t mind sticking one into your Bug Out Bag. If you have a teenager or small child, this is an ideal device to hand to them.


Huawei Union (Freedompop)

https://www.amazon.com/Huawei-Union-No-Contract-Phone/dp/B019VZPKJ0

Pros:
  • Uses a standard cell phone charging cable. I did not have to purchase a new cable or wall adapter, and the one that came with it is cross compatible with my other devices.
  • The battery life is excellent due to its small screen size and the fact that I am not using it for anything that requires a lot of wireless communication (no data, no phone calls). It goes 3-5 days between charges even as I listen to audiobooks all day.
  • Small form factor. Once again, the smaller screen size came in useful when I decided to try putting it into small pockets in my gear. 
  • Can run most android apps.
  • In a pinch, you can set it up as a phone. Even phone without carriers are able to call 911 (this is required by law) so it's still useful for calling for emergency help. 

Cons:
  • Smaller screen. Not as nice to read on as the 3DS. 
  • More likely to attract attention. A game system is generally not seen as a luxury item whereas smartphones are, possibly because portable game systems have been around since the 1990s whereas smartphones are only a decade old. 
  • Needs a screen protector. The 3DS folds up to protect its screen when not in use, but the Union does not. Online reviews agree that without a screen protector, there is a very real chance of it getting cracked.

Notes:
The Huawei Union has been just fine for durability for its price point, but online reviews say that it has the weaknesses of all cell phones: the screen will crack, it responds poorly to being submerged in water and so on. To be fair, it seems to be quite rugged for a cell phone (especially with the cheap case I put on it), but it does seem to come in second to the 3DS XL.

A comparable (and slightly nicer) cell phone by Tracfone is available on Amazon for $35. A screen protector and a case cost a combined $15 USD, giving you a usable device for $50. A 32gb SD card costs around $12 at time of this writing and will hold a huge number of books in text, and a fair amount of audio.


However things go, having a library on hand can be useful, even if that use is fighting boredom.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Some Frugal Friday Firearm Projects


Two cheap firearms bought at auction plus a little sweat equals a very nice investment.




Thursday, August 9, 2018

Grain Storage

If part of your post-TEOTWAWKI plans include growing your own food, you're going to have to store some for use in the months after harvest. Canning fruits and vegetables is a good plan for storing sources of vitamins and minerals, but the common sources of calories are starches in the form of corn, wheat, oats, and other “cereal” grains. Proper storage of these grains will ensure that you have edible, nutritious food to eat while you're waiting for the next crop to grow. Here's a quick general list of how to store grain.

Clean
  • Clean any containers thoroughly to remove any remains of the previous contents. Putting new grain on top of old grain is a good way to speed up the spoilage of the new grain.
  • If you're using containers that held something previously (5 gallon buckets, glass jars, etc), make sure the containers are clean and odor-free. You don't want your oatmeal to taste like pickles, do you?
  • Make sure you get all of the bugs out. Insects will eat the parts of the grain that you're wanting, so make sure there are none present at the start.
  • Clean up spills. Mice, rats, insects and other pests will be attracted to spilled grain and will try to get to the stored grain. Rodent droppings are just full of diseases that you don't want to get. (Hantavirus, anyone?)

Good Condition
  • Store the best quality grain you have, and eat or feed to your animals anything that isn't going to store very long.
  • Sift out the fines (broken pieces) as best you can to prevent spoilage from spreading. Broken or ground grain has the more volatile portions exposed to the air, so they spoil faster.
  • Don't move the grain any more than you have to once it's in storage. Every time you move grain through an auger or conveyor, you break some of it. Even shifting bags around will damage the grain closest to the cloth.

Temperature
  • This one varies slightly by type of grain, but if you can get the temperature down below 50°F, insects will go dormant and molds will not grow. Keeping intact grain (not ground into flour) below freezing is not needed unless you are doing so to prepare it for spring/summer temperatures. 
  • As I write this, it's August and I'm emptying a large (90' diameter) bin of corn at work. The grain is coming out at 55°F despite daily temps in the 90s for the last two months. We blow cold air through the grain during January to get it as cold as possible so it will stay cool until we need to ship it.

Moisture
  • Moisture is important, but hard to test without equipment. Corn stores best at less than 15% moisture, soy beans at around 11%, wheat at 14% , and oil seeds like sunflower and canola below 8%.I'll do some research on low-tech moisture testing methods and write an update.
  • Moisture is the key to preventing molds and fungi from growing. Moldy grain can kill you due to the wastes produced by the mold (aflatoxin, ochratoxin) so this is something you want to watch for.
  • Keeping the moisture below 14% will keep most insects from breeding and will stop mold growth.
  • Getting the grain dry before storage is often a challenge. Leaving it in the field to dry naturally works unless you have a rainy year, and that also leaves it exposed to damage or loss from weather and pests. Using a solar food dehydrator would work for small batches, but larger quantities will require a forced-air dryer of some sort.

Management
  • Once you've got your grain dry and cool, it's all set, right? Wrong! You have to check it periodically to make sure it is still in good shape. 
  • In larger containers, you'll want to watch for condensation on the inside if the grain is colder than the ambient dew point and there is air flowing through the grain. Air-tight storage is best, but hard to accomplish with large quantities of grain.
  • If you have rodent traps or poison set out, you'll need to check them frequently. Keep the dead animals from contaminating your grain by disposing of them as soon as possible. Keep the poison bait stations full until you stop seeing activity, then check them once in a while to see if any new rodents have moved into your area.

Storing grain isn't hard, nor is it rocket science. We've been growing and storing grains for about 20,000 years, so it's not an impossible or even difficult job as long as you know what to look out for.

These guidelines for storing food grains also works for storing seeds for planting the next year, so as long as you avoid the hybrid grains you can use some of your stored grain to grow the next batch.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Prudent Prepping: The Tape Of Holding

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

I really like the idea of Duct Tape in my GHB and I've carried some in my salesman gear for years. What I didn't like much was when the tape would get hot, and the adhesive would soften and stick to everything close by. With the tape in a thick plastic package, I don't have to worry what is going to be oozed next!


Redi Tape Pocket Size Duct Tape
From the Redi Tape web page:

tinyurl.com/y9pl5onw
Product Features
  • High Quality Duct Tape: strong, durable, easy to tear, weather resistant 
  • Multi-Purpose for all applications: home, outdoors, auto, on the job, readiness 
  • Stores EVERYWHERE: toolbox, glove box, tackle box, backpack, pocket, purse…EVERYWHERE 
  • Easy to Use, Store, and Handle 
  • Water tight package 
Product Specifications 
  • Tape Dimensions: 5yds x 1.88" 
  • Product Dimension: 4.5" tall x 2.0" wide x only 0.55" thick

    I've tried many different ways to keep my stored tape clean: placed it in plastic bags, covered it in aluminum foil, etc and each one has failed to allow the roll to come out clean when I needed to use some tape. I have a full size roll in my trunk, but I think that 15' in my sling bag and my GHB is plenty.

    Home Depot has this on Closeout in my local stores, so you may want to stop in and pick up a bargain.


    What's your craziest Duct Tape story? 
    Here's mine: At one time I was flying regularly and a friend suggested I start carrying duct tape as an 'emergency restraint device' for in-flight situations.  There was one time when he thought the tape might be used to control a drunk, but the crew convinced the idiot to settle down.


    The Takeaway
    • Duct tape is useful for repairs, first aid, and other uses 
    • Rolls of tape are thick, and even folded sections ooze when hot 
    • 15' of tape in a bag is ideal for BOBs and GHBs

    The Recap
    • Two rolls of Redi Tape: $2.19 each from Home Depot at Closeout pricing 
    • Available from Amazon in a 3 pack: $ 11.00 with Prime

    Just a reminder: 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, August 7, 2018

    Tools in my GHB

    & is used with permission.
    I'm going to preface this post with an admission: I overpack. Anyone who has seen my luggage knows this. Part of what drove me to be a prepper is my hatred of not having a thing when I need it, and so I somewhat compulsively over-estimate my needs when packing because, as has been drilled into me by my parents, It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    So yes, what I consider a Get Home Bag other people would probably call a Bug Out Bag, and my BOB is more likely an I'm Not Coming Home (INCH) bag, aka I'm a homeless refugee and now I must live in a camp in the woods.

    That said, I have a question for the rest of you: Am I weird for carrying tools in my GHB? Or do other people do it, too?

    I know that space is at a premium in GHBs and weight is a major concern, but I can't keep myself from adding these -- I feel un-prepared otherwise. And they only add about 3 pounds total to my bag.


    I live in a semi-rural part of the county (think "suburban neighborhoods in a sea of undeveloped woods") and so my GHB needs to be optimized for both city and country use in case I need to walk home.

    Top to bottom, left to right:
    • Folding bush saw in case I need to make a shelter, build a fire, or otherwise carve wood. 
    • Craftsman clench wrench in case I need to unscrew a nut, like from a car. I realize it's not the best tool for the job, but it's a fair jack-of-all-trades tool and it's lightweight. 
    • Mini claw hammer that I bought at the grocery store. I don't expect to do a lot of hammering nails; this is more of a "in case I need to break or bash something with a blunt object."
    • Compact screwdriver set that has multiple bits:  Phillips heads 1-3; Torx heads 10, 15, 20 and 25; and flathead screwdriver heads 4, 5 and 6mm. Again, not the best tool, but certainly a multi-use and lightweight one. 
    • Mini pry bar. There are many uses for this that aren't nefarious. If you've ever needed to open a crate or a paint can, you know how useful one of these is. 
    • Hawke Peregrine knife for all my multiple fixed-knife needs. Plus I can lash it to a branch and make an improvised spear if I need to. 
    • Multi-Use Survival Tool (MUST) and MUST Angle. The angle is the bit on the left, the MUST is the hatchet-looking thing on the right. With any coin as a screwdriver I can change the MUST from a hatchet to a chisel, and the addition of the MUST Angle creates an adze. Using just the angle without the blade, I have a hoe. 
    • Not shown: the Leatherman multi-tool I always have on me. 
    With these tools, I am reasonably certain I can handle most tasks I'd need if I ever had to walk home from the next county, and they only weigh 3 pounds. 

    But what do you think? Am I foolish for carrying this extra weight? Or have I neglected an important tool that I absolutely need?

    Tell me what tools you have in your Get Home Bags!

    Monday, August 6, 2018

    Neat Condom Tricks: Not Just Balloon Animals


    For those who regularly read my column, you may notice that I am a fan of multi-use items. My philosophy is, "Why carry three tools when I can carry one?" This really comes in handy when I'm limited on space and weight, or when I'm forced to use field expedient replacements.

    To that end, something that I have found has a wide variety of uses, takes little space, almost no weight, and costs very little: condoms.

    Birth Control
    In a disaster, people react to stress in various ways. If you have a significant other, you may find that keeping a spare condom on hand can prevent a happy surprise. As a rule, I prefer latex free, since if I hand them off to someone, I don’t have to worry about a potential allergic reaction.

    Water Carrier
    You actually can fill up a condom with water all on its own, but it's fairly hard [ahem] to keep it in a useful shape, and being stretched by the water makes it much easier to accidentally puncture. I've found that using a nylon stocking helps to keep it in a more or less usable shape and amount, and gives it enough rigidity to make it easier to drink from. Failing having nylons on hand, a sock works just fine, even if it gives you a smaller water container. You may get funny looks, but if you have no other water container, it could save your life.

    Waterproofing Electronics 
    You would be amazed at what a condom will go over: cameras, cell phones, tablets, and even small laptops will fit without tearing the condom. Seriously, you would be amazed at what will fit. For those of you who have ever gone boating, or have marched through a swamp, and hoped not to destroy a digital camera/voice recorder/ cell phone, this is your answer.

    Take an unlubricated condom and carefully roll it over whatever electronic device you are trying to prevent water from damaging. When the condom is over the device, tie it off at the end. If you are paranoid, like I am, use a second unlubricated condom and roll it onto the device starting at the tied off end, tying it off with a secure knot. Don't expect to untie this, just expect to cut it.

    This also works on pill containers that you are not sure are waterproof, food, and just about anything that you don’t want getting wet.

    Waterproofing Tinder for Fires
    Insert tinder into unlubricated condom and tie off the end.

    Here is the cool part: Even the lubricated condoms I tested (Lifestyle Skyn, latex free) burned when exposed to a burning wooden match. If you had to, you could probably use them as part of the tinder.

    Jar Opener
    Just like having a bunch of cans with no can opener is problematic, having jars that will not open is problematic. Unlubricated condoms work remarkably well: wear one as a glove, and use the extra grip to open those pickles.

    Speaking of gloves...

    Field-Expedient Rubber Gloves
    Just like opening the jar, you can actually use them as gloves in an emergency. While it is not my first choice, if I am worried about contamination (blood pathogen, really nasty stuff I have to reach into, etc) I would rather use them as a hand covering than have nothing on my hand at all.

    I've even heard stories of people using them as shower shoes.

    Emergency Rubber Bands
    These aren't likely to be used in an emergency, but you can use condoms as field-expedient rubber bands. They aren't as good as real bands, but better than nothing. Just cut one into rings, and if you have to, double it up.

    Barrel Barrier
    Roll a condom over the muzzle of your long gun while hunting. It will keep dirt, sand, dust and water out of the working of your firearm, and if you need to shoot, just shoot through it!


    As you can see, there are lots of useful things you can do with condoms in an emergency.

    Good luck, and don’t forget to practice. No, not like that!

    Thursday, August 2, 2018

    Disconnecting from Social Media

    After many years of being active on various social media, I've come to the conclusion that most of it is garbage. Myspace, LiveJournal, Facebook, and a few other, more obscure social media portals have all fallen from their goals of connecting people, and if they're still around they have “evolved” into being mostly mindless echo chambers.

    Division

    The widening political divide is a large part of the problem; most people aren't willing to communicate with someone who supports “the other side”. This lack of tolerance for the “other” has led to what I call “intellectual incest”, a state where new thoughts are not allowed and the old thoughts are repeated and reinforced so strongly that the participants start to show signs of hemophilia (lack of blood clotting so wounds don't heal), microcephaly (diminished skull capacity), and mental retardation, all commonly found in populations where inbreeding is practiced.

    We have a strict “No Politics” rule on our blog and Facebook page because we don't want to become an echo chamber. We want to hear new thoughts and ideas. None of us are “experts”; we're here to learn as well as teach, and that requires the ability to listen to what others have to say. We don't always agree on everything -- I've had readers bring up conflicting evidence several times -- but we keep it civil and polite. Trolls and liars are acceptable targets for ridicule, but honest disagreement is allowed and opinions are (for the most part) respected. I fear we are becoming a rarity on the Internet.

    Dehumanization

    There is a theory that has been repeatedly tested on how to get people to do things to other people, generally applied to soldiers who have been taught since birth that it is wrong to kill other people. Not killing people is a good thing to teach children, but creates a problem when there are people who need to be killed. 
    1. The first step to overcoming this childhood training is “othering”: creating or highlighting a distinct difference between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. In the past, most of the “othering” was based on race or religion, and sometimes language and cultural differences were used to point out the “inferior” or “sub-human” qualities that made it permissible to kill another person.
      • A slight alternative is to completely dehumanize the “other”, making them not-human and therefor not protected by our childhood training. We see this in the various zombie and alien gore-fests in popular video games and movies. 
    2.  Once you have created the “other”, it is easier to make it acceptable to do things to them. 
    3. The last step is teaching the soldier how to actually end a human life, which is the easiest part of the training.
    Schoolyard bullies use the same techniques when they ostracize the “weird” kid, making him fair game for abuse. Cliches and gangs also use these tactics to strengthen their internal bonds and exclude outsiders from the “benefits” of membership. Using phrases that refer to a person as an animal (pig, dog, rat, etc.) is a milder form of dehumanizing, but it can be used as a stepping stone for future propaganda.

    I am seeing this process being used on people more often today than I did in the past, and to much stronger levels. It used to be the tribal/rival sports team and their fans who were joked about, but now it is the dehumanization of anyone who supports a politician or policy that is different. Politicians are openly calling for the harassment of people from the other party; people are being assaulted for wearing the “wrong” hat or T-shirt; destruction of private and public property is happening in broad daylight, and all of this is being celebrated instead of condemned.

    The problem I have run into is the incessant seeping of politics into everything on social media. I have friends and acquaintances of just about every stripe you can imagine, but it's getting harder to have a conversation about anything without politics being brought up. Everything is viewed through a filter of politics and political party affiliation, and this is something that I can no longer take part in. I don't really care which driver is behind the wheel when the bus goes over a cliff -- I don't want to be on that bus at all.

    Cutting the Cord

    I've disconnected from most of my social media accounts, with the exception of the BCP Facebook page. I've decided that it is time to start focusing on things closer to home, and getting rid of distractions is part of that. I'm still going to be here every week, but I won't be following the latest trends on social media unless they pop up in one of my news feeds. 

    If TSHTF, I'm not likely to have access to social media, so I consider this preparation for anything that could shut down the Internet. I have a phone and several email accounts, and my friends and family know how to contact me. The various acquaintances I've accumulated over the years will likely not miss me, and if they do they can reach me through mutual friends. 

    We're being played with, people. Social media is free because we're not the consumer, we're the product. Every post and note is analyzed and sorted for sale to advertisers or is used to track you. Think of them as a trail of breadcrumbs that lead to your front door; as a prepper, I don't want to be tracked by anyone who is trying to use me.

    You may want to at least consider how much personal information you're giving to any group that doesn't have your best interest in mind. If you're like me, you don't like being someone else's pawn and will at least think about leaving social media. This may not be a step you're willing to take yet, but I have reached my limit of negativity and outright manipulation.

    Like testing any other prep, stay off all social media for a week and evaluate how it works for you. I think you'll be surprised at how easy it is to do.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2018

    Prudent Prepping: Nitecore P12GT

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

    I've made jokes about fans of flashlights with ALL THE LUMENS more than once, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate (or covet) more light. I recently found a 1,000 lumen flashlight that fits into my gear nicely and is, in my opinion, an incredible bargain.


    Nitecore P12GT

    https://amzn.to/2LJVtTc

    The Nitecore P12GT webpage is not copy n' paste friendly, so I will not have my usual set of bullet point examples. Instead I will list several bits of information from there and then my own observations.

    Four Brightness Levels:

    The amount of light it puts out is 3 times as many lumens as my next closest light!
    1. Dim. Useful in a hotel room for not waking others up as you stagger to the bathroom at 2 AM. at a convention. Not that I know anything about that.
    2. Low. Similar to a drug store 1 AAA flashlight, and definitely enough light to get around in the dark.
    3. Bright. Previously, I would have been satisfied with this amount of light. Previously.
    4. MY EYES. Shining this in someones eyes at close range will make an impression on their retinas for a while. It is bright! Don't even think about the strobe at close range either. I turned it on after dark and the bounce off a white-painted wall was enough to have me seeing spots for a good 10 minutes.

    What I Like
    • It is slightly longer than my previous high price flashlight and larger in diameter, but not enough to bother.
    • The tail on/off switch is covered in rubber and takes a good push to actuate. 
    • The Mode button placed on the side also needs a positive push to change things, which means I won't be accidentally changing from See Everything to Too Dim To Read. 
    • A seriously sturdy pocket clip. 
    • An anti-roll away device. The pocket clip should do that job by itself, but without it you do need something else. 
    • Uses either 2 ea. 123A lithium batteries or one 18650 Li-ion battery
    • Battery level can be checked by holding the Mode and On switch down at the same time, causing the Mode switch to blink if power is 50% or less. 

    What I Like Less

    I don't hate or dislike anything on this light, but there are some things I don't like quite as much.
    • The anti-roll device needs to be either slightly larger in diameter, or the flats need to be fewer in number so that the remaining flats can have longer lengths. 
    • Heat. On the higher settings, this flashlight gets warm -- not to the point that you can't hold it, but it heats up. Nitecore mentions in the instructions having a heat-sensing circuit to moderate the output to extend run-time and prevent damage to the light. 

    That's it. This is a great flashlight!


    The Recap


    Just a reminder: 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.

    Monday, July 30, 2018

    DIY Epipens: the Epipencil


    An epipen is an autoinjector filled with epinephrine, used to manage life threatening anaphalactic reactions.

    Translation: it is a special syringe with a special medication that can be used to save the life of someone who is having a severe allergic reaction.

    For those preppers who are dependent on an epipen, having one can literally be the difference between life and death. It can be frustrating and expensive to acquire them; the last time I purchased an epipen, it was $600 USD per unit. They can also go bad over time or from temperature ranges outside what they are designed for -- if they freeze, or are left in to hot of a car, they are considered to have gone bad.

    Because of how important they are, a group of individuals decided to design an off the shelf version of the same device costing a fraction of the price that allows a prepper to have several on hand. They call this device the epipencil
    NOTE: This is not an FDA approved device. You will still have to have a prescription for the drug itself. Don’t do dumb stuff to yourself medically.
    Parts:

    The inventor explains its assembly:




    Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

    Friday, July 27, 2018

    Thursday, July 26, 2018

    Rationing

    During times of war, when normal supply lines are disrupted, it's common to see food and fuel being rationed. A simple definition of rationing is "When someone else decides how much of a commodity you can own or buy." Today we see rationing in places experiencing economic downfall or failure of a government, with consumable goods like food, fuel, and clothing being limited to what you can produce yourself or a small amount through normal channels. Massive inflation (usually caused by failure of a government or monetary system), trade embargoes (politics), war (government), and major natural disasters can all lead to rationing. How would you react to a rationing system?

    During both world wars, so much production was shifted to the support of the military that consumer goods were rare or non-existent. Some examples:
    • You're going to have trouble finding a picture of a 1944 Ford or Dodge car, because those factories were making tanks and aircraft by then. 
    • Pennies were made out of steel for a few years because copper was so essential to the war effort.
    • Anything that had to be imported was likely to be scarce or unavailable, so tropical fruits and chocolate became very expensive. 
    • Coffee and tea likewise became scarce and substitutes like Chickory root were used instead. 
    • Transportation systems were also placed under government control, so shipments of goods within the county were severely disrupted. 
    Looking back at the Soviet Union and some of the stories I've heard of their mismanaged supply chains, where they couldn't even get bread without standing in line, I dread the idea of a government-run economy. The analogy I got from a former resident of the Soviet Union was that everything was rationed, and the currency itself was their form of ration card. Ordinary people never had enough currency to get everything they needed, and that was by design.

    Today we see electricity being rationed. They don't use that word; they prefer to call it a “rolling brown-out” or insist that you have a “smart meter” that is controlled from a central office. They'll often offer you a discount on your electrical bill if you let them control your heat and air conditioning during the day (while you're at work).

    I don't have any contacts in Puerto Rico, but I've heard/read that they are still living with limited clean water, sewer service, and electricity in many areas almost a year after Hurricane Maria tore the island up. Food supplies are improving, but not back to what they were.

    Several things happen when rationing is instituted:
    • People become very resourceful. If all of the rubber tires were being sent to the front lines of a war, farmers went back to steel wheels on their tractors. Ingenuity is a virtue. 
    • Recycling gets a real workout, with nothing being thrown away until it has to be replaced. People start to realize the value of what they have been throwing in the trash. 
    • Repair shops suddenly become feasible again. If you can't get a replacement, see if you can get your old (whatever) fixed. Skills can be as useful as goods in this area. 
    • “Alternative markets”, also known as gray or black markets, spring up everywhere. If the people in power say something, you can bet that there is someone who will try to find a way around it. Unofficial trade is often outlawed, but it will never be fully stopped. 
    • People start to provide for themselves. Victory gardens were strongly suggested and supported during the world wars as a way to use non-productive ground like yards and parks to grow food for the local citizens, easing the burden of the transportation system. Locally grown food is also healthier and tastier than something that has been shipped in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. 
    • Bulk smuggling becomes very profitable. Today's smugglers carry relatively small, value-dense things like drugs, gems, or guns, but food becomes much more important once it becomes scarce. Things like sugar, coffee, spices and citrus fruits that aren't grown in the USA will rival cocaine and marijuana in profit margin. 
    • People begin to move out of unsustainable areas. Unless you have a job with guaranteed delivery of life's essentials, why would you want to live in a city that can't support itself? Urban areas become less attractive and rural areas see a lot more immigrants. This is not always a good thing, since many of those fleeing an urban environment are ill-suited to rural life. 

    There's a good chance that when the SHTF, it will be a slow process. Without an asteroid strike or EMP attack, our systems are most likely to die a slow, wheezing death due to the inertia they have built up over decades. Rationing is likely to be one of the steps forced on us either as we rebuild, or as the system shuts down for good to be replaced by something different.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    Prudent Prepping: Post-it Extreme Notes

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

    I first mentioned Rite in the Rain notebooks in this post, and I've used them even before I began blogging here. I like the idea of having the ability to leave written notes in bad weather and not have the paper dissolve or the message wash away. Staying in contact with people if cell service is out is important, and the ability to leave alternate contact info, personal status ("I'm okay!") and directions is vital in a disaster. What I wasn't able to figure out was a way to attach the note wherever I wanted it, especially if surfaces are less than perfect. Post-it Extreme Notes look like the answer to my problem.

    From the 3M Post-it website :
    https://amzn.to/2OgI6Yg
    • Water resistant, durable and writable. 
    • Made with ultra-strong Dura-Hold™ Paper and Adhesive. 
    • Sticks to textured surfaces and in tough conditions. 
    • Sticks in hot and cold environments. 
    • Use indoor/outdoor. 
    • Removes cleanly. 
    • 3 in. x 3 in., 1 Pad each in Orange, Green and Yellow. 
    • 3 Pads/Pack, 45 Sheets/Pad. 
    • Not recommended for use on paper. 
    • Apply to dry surface to hold in wet conditions.
      When conditions make communication tough, Post-it® Extreme Notes make leaving notes and reminders simple, so you can get the work done. Made with Dura-Hold™ Paper and Adhesive, these notes will hold up in hot, cold and wet conditions. They stick to tough and textured surfaces like concrete, raw and painted wood, and tile. Make sure your message is seen with a note that sticks in tough conditions. This pack includes 3 pads of Post-it® Extreme Notes in Orange, Green and Yellow. Each pad has 45 sheets.
      The note paper is very different from the Post-it notes I've used before; it's much thinner and feels fragile. but it's very difficult to tear compared to the original. The adhesive is also different; the note presses down on the surface easily since it is thinner and the adhesive feels stickier, but I don't have any originals to do a comparison to.
       
      Everything sticks
      I know that Rite in the Rain will not take some markers, but it appears that Post-it Extreme Notes will. Of course, these are also a much thinner material, and so I expect Rite in the Rain to last longer and hold up much better.

      I'm a little disappointed that the notes are not listed as sticking to damp or wet surfaces. I'll have to try them on different surfaces, including at least a damp surface like misted car windows, when we get some nights that are cool enough to try.

      The Takeaway
      • Always keep your eyes open for things to add to your preps. 

      The Recap

      Just a reminder: 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, July 24, 2018

      The EDC Wallet

      Why an EDC wallet? Because out of all of your gear, getting back to normality after most SHTF is probably going to require documentation, and you are most likely to store those documents in your wallet. People were out of work for months after Katrina not because they couldn't find work, but because they couldn't find their legal ID to show to prospective
      employers. No ID, no employment.

      Even just having a Drivers License that will not get lost due to a defective wallet can make a huge difference. And can you imagine what would happen if an immigrant lost their green card?

      The Wallet
      Ideally, an EDC wallet will be
      • Durable
      • Large enough to hold what you use on a regular basis
      • Compartmentalized enough to make it easy to sort
      • Small enough that it can still fit in a standard pocket
      • Warrantied such that if something happens to it, you don’t have to worry. (I prefer this on all of my tools if I can).
      • I strongly prefer mine to have an ID window
      I personally use an Eddie Bauer Tri-Fold Leather wallet (now no longer made, unfortunately, but you can still pick them up on eBay). Eddie Bauer actually has a reputation for an amazing warranty, and tends to back it up even after years (even decades), promising 100% satisfaction.

      All of this becomes even more important if you have a child, especially one that is rough on things. Can you imagine trying deal with the hassle of proving that a child is yours so that you can get them medical care, and not having the appropriate documents?

      Its Contents
      Just as important as a durable wallet is having the right things inside it.

      Medical
      As someone with life-threatening allergies, it amazes me that so many people who have these allergies don’t have some way of alerting first responders to those allergies if they are unconscious.

      When I went through first aid training, we were told we might need to look in a wallet for a medical card, listing things like allergies or serious medical conditions (diabetes, transplants etc.)

      Having a small printout with your allergies listed (for example, an allergy to penicillin) can literally save your life, especially in an accident. There are certain medications that they cannot administer if you are allergic to certain things, and having a listing of those makes care for you much easier.

      Financial
      This is personal opinion, so take it with a grain of salt: I like to keep an ounce of silver in my wallet. Family history (as well as written accounts of things like the Russian revolution and various major economic collapses) indicate that while an ounce of silver will not get you all the way out of most troubles, it can get you a meal, a tank of gas, or maybe even bribe a border guard.

      I urge careful consideration regarding whether or not this is appropriate for you.

      Other
      I am a fan of carrying an unlubricated, latex-free condom. Aside from its traditional uses, I have lost count of the number of times I have used it in waterproofing electronics -- cell phones are expensive, and having lived in areas prone to unexpected flooding, I have had to wade through more than one small unexpected river in order to get home.

      I am also a fan of having an emergency packing list, which is used in circumstances of “I have to evacuate and these are all the things I need to double check”. Adrenaline and stress make people do odd things, and writing that list down before hand can save a lot of stress.

      Emergency contacts are essential, especially for a child. Having a “Call this person if this child is lost” card can save a lot of stress.


      TL:DR Wallets are an important part of preparedness. Don’t forget them.

      Monday, July 23, 2018

      Zeroing a Rifle Using the “Maximum Point Blank Range” Method

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

      Col. Townsend Whelen opined that “Only accurate rifles are interesting.” I mostly agree with him on that, and have dedicated a good portion of my adult life in the same job field as the good Colonel and hope that I can pass on a few skills that will help you wring out every last bit of accuracy that you need from your rifle.



      Disclaimer

      Please note that varmint hunters, long range competitors, and bench rest shooters aren’t the target of this article; this is aimed at someone who needs to make a shot fairly accurately and fairly quickly. That could be a rancher pulling the trigger on a coyote or wolf, or a deer hunter trying to fill a chest freezer with venison. This article is focused on a more practical form of accuracy to set up a utility rifle for best shooting without having to do any adjustments to scope nobs or your iron sights before you take a shot.


      Terminology

      In my world, precision means how repeatable the rifle/load combination is (in terms of making small groups) but accuracy is how well a shooter uses the rifle/load combination to put a hole in something downrange where it needs to be (whether on target or game).

      A modern bottlenecked rifle cartridge shot from a rifle with a 16” or longer barrel is generally going to have ballistics that allow the projectile to go further than the average shooter is likely to engage. Point blank is the range at which a shooter does not have to compensate for ballistic drop, so the trick is to maximize your max point blank range options for your rifle/load combination.


      Zero Like a Hero
      1. Decide on a load. 
      2. Decide how large of a circle you want your rifle groups to be at max distance with that load.
      3. Zero your rifle at 100 yards. 
      4. Shoot five shots for five groups, measure the group size, and average them.
      5. You now have a really good idea how your rifle will group at distance. 
      6. Apply your load to a ballistic calculator like JBM Ballistics and plug your ballistics numbers into it. 
      7. Set the max distance to 300 or 400 (yards or meters, depending on what you are comfortable using), make sure you set the range increment to 10, and at the bottom choose a “vital circle” diameter (stock number is 5”) and check the “zero at max point blank range” option.

      8. Your output will be a ballistics table that is highlighted in green when your bullet is within 5” of your line of sight, above or below. I put in the data for a 150gr flat nosed hunting bullet at 2,400 fps from the muzzle, one of the most common .30-30 loads in existence. As you can see, this sedate old hunting round has a “point blank range” of 270 yards.

      9. Take your 100 yard group size, divide that by 10 to get your spread per 10 yards, and multiply by your max PBR. 
        • If our .30-30 had a 4” group at 100, then it would be 0.4” at 10, and multiplying that by 27 gives us an expected group size of 10.8 inches of spread at max point blank range. That’s hitting a dinner plate at more than two and a half football fields if you do your part.
        • If it shot a 3” group at 100 yards, that’s 6” at 200 and 8” at 250.
        • If it shot a 2” group at 100 yards, that’s 4” at 200, and 6” at 300, so a 2” rifle/load combination can take full advantage of a 5” vital zone on the target all the way out to the max point blank range and still be inside of that 8” dinner plate. 
        • But notice that even the 4” grouping rifle could shoot a dinner plate at 200 yards using this method to zero a rifle.
      10. So what do you do if your target is smaller than a dinner plate? Well you have to figure out how big of a circle you are willing to accept. If your target was an 8” circle, then you already know that you can’t shoot beyond 200 yards with the accuracy of that load in your rifle, so you go back to the ballistics calculator and start shrinking the Vital Zone number until it gets down to 200 yards. 
        • In our case, that vital zone gets whittled down to 2.4” and the max PBR becomes 200 yards. There are formulas you can use to figure this out, but unless you are a math geek it’ll be much faster just to take a stab using the ballistics calculator and adjust yourself in to the correct answer.

      11. Your ballistic table will let you know how high you need to be at 100 yards to take advantage of your max point blank range zero. 
        • Use a ruler or tape measure and put a mark that far above your aiming point, and verify. 
      12. Now your rifle is ready to be as accurate as you are, out to the max point blank range of the ammunition you are running through it.

      “Shooting a rifle accurately is easy; just align the sights perfectly to the target and keep them there while you pull the trigger.” – A running joke for service rifle shooters that I first heard from an AMU instructor at Fort Benning. Shooting accurately is actually pretty difficult, because it’s really hard to stay still.

      I hope this has been helpful, as at the end of the day I want you to have confidence in your gear and be able to take the shots that fill your freezer with venison -- or get you through an Appleseed with a Rifleman patch at the end.

      Thursday, July 19, 2018

      Financial Security?

      I'm getting close to retirement age and have been making preparations for the time when I don't have to get up before dawn and freeze (or sweat) my butt off just to put food on the table. I've worked blue collar jobs most of my life, so I have some savings and a retirement account set aside, but I also know that the concept of “financial security” is a recent invention and is about half myth. I promise, this isn't going to be a political post -- we don't do those here.

      Let's look at the basics:
      • Finances are based on money, which in the USA is measured in dollars. Those dollars are backed by faith and trust in our government... the same government that can't live within its own budget, even though it gets to write the tax laws and the budgets.
      • There is no material backing for our money (the system is known as fiat currency) and it has no intrinsic value. It's not allowed to have any intrinsic value. To be blunt, it's imaginary money, and the US Mint is constantly changing our coinage to ensure that the metal content is less than the denomination (pennies aren't copper any more, and nickels are on the list to be changed soon) just so we don't melt them down for a profit. 
      • To make things worse, around 90% of those dollars don't even exist in physical form; they're digits on a computer spreadsheet. If anything were to shut down the communications between the computers that track our money, or the computers themselves, all of that digital currency disappears.
      • Banks loan out up to nine times as much money as they have deposited, a practice known as fractional-reserve banking that is legal and often encouraged by the government. This further decreases the value of the physical currency in circulation.

      Security is the second part, and the most mythical.
      • Having money deposited in a bank is only as secure as the system that tracks it. No bank keeps their deposits physically on-hand; it's all digital in today's world. Digits are harder (but not impossible) to steal than physical cash, making banks less prone to robbery. Those deposits are insured through a government-run program (FDIC), but only up to $250,000. That's on the low end of any retirement fund, so don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
      • But I have an IRA/401(k) retirement plan, so I'm good, right? Sorry, but both of those are based on the stock market, which is an entirely different level of imaginary money. The value of a stock/bond/note is only what someone is willing to pay for it, so owning $100 dollars worth of stock today can turn into owning $1 worth of stock tomorrow if nobody wants to buy it. I lost about $80,000 worth of “value” when the stock market took a wrong turn in 2008, so I know how fast stocks can be devalued. There is no insurance for retirement accounts like there is for bank deposits.

      Someone out there is laughing to themselves because they bought gold or silver to hedge against losses in the stock market. 
      • Unless you have physical possession of those precious metals, you don't own them. You may have a certificate that says you “own” a certain amount of gold, but unless you can put your hands on the metal, all you have is an expensive piece of paper.
      • Even if you have the metal in a safe or safety deposit box, it's not secure. There is precedent for the confiscation of gold by government decree: in 1933, the US government outlawed the “hoarding” of gold, and forced the sale of most privately held coins and bars to the Federal Reserve. They paid about $21 per ounce for the gold, then set the price at $35 per ounce to boost the holdings of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is a private bank, meaning it's as much a part of the government as Federal Express.
      • There is also the example of the “Liberty Dollar”, an alternative currency that was shut down by the US government. Although a judge finally ordered that the coins seized be returned to their owners, it took almost seven years for that decision. A lot can happen in seven years.

      Bitcoin and some of the other crypto-currencies rely on the Internet and digital communication for their existence. I understand the basics of block-chain encryption and how the coins are “mined”, but they seem to be a fragile vessel for carrying wealth. Any disruption, natural or man-made, of digital communications would place your “money” out of reach or wipe it out completely.

      I don't like to be the bearer of bad news, but money is a gamble. Regardless of what the salesmen may tell you, there is no guaranteed method of storing money for retirement. Cash buried in the backyard will lose value due to inflation (which can be astronomical; see Zimbabwe or Venezuela), and can be rendered worthless if the government decides to print new bills.

      Real estate is about the only stable way to store wealth, since (volcanoes aside) they're not making any more of it, but I know not everyone has the opportunity or resources to buy land. I have a few family members who had rental properties that were sold when retirement time came. They didn't make a killing, but it was a nice way to ensure that they had something to rely on besides savings and the stock market.

      This is one of those topics where I don't have an answer for you, but rather just want to make sure you're aware of the risks. We might all get lucky and the next major crash won't happen until we're all dead and buried, but I don't like to rely on luck.

      If any of you have something to add, feel free to leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.

      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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