Monday, August 31, 2015

Trade Goods: Alcohol Addendum

After hitting "publish" on my last post, a few things were brought to my attention, or rather the lack of a few things. This is an attempt to cover those omissions.

Distilling Drinking Spirits
I mentioned the legal framework for making your own beer, wine and fuel but forgot to cover the distilling of drinking alcohol. Under current law, you can't. The various governing agencies have not provided a legal way for people to distill their own drinking alcohol without paying huge fees and taxes. Moonshining is still illegal, and you may have noticed that I won't suggest that anyone knowingly break the law. Consider all of the information available on line "For entertainment and educational purposes only":
  • A good place to start is Tony Ackland's page. He's a chemical engineer from New Zealand and his measurements are metric, but the information is clear and reliable.
  • The History Channel has covered moonshining in a few of their series and their webpage has some clear and concise graphics to help explain the process.
  • There are commercial home stills available for sale, but the tax man will want it registered if it is going to be used for drinking alcohol.
  • Of course, in a WROL situation, the tax man will be the least of your worries, and having this kind of information could be very valuable. Use your own judgement and know the risks before getting started.

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #54

The podcast survived a near catastrophic computer crash while recording the show this week. Sean's computer took a dive off the back of the shelf it sits on and crashed to the floor. But Adam and Sean rallied and finished the show!

Stay tuned after the Stuff That Grinds My Gears segment, where Sean gives his response to DadScribe's blog post "What your NRA Sticker Says About You".

Our Contributors This Week!
  • Erin Palette clues us in to the many alternate uses of duct tape.
  • Nicki Kenyon gives us some insight into a crumbling Venezuela.
  • Special Guest The Unnamed Trucker from The RoadGunner Podcast tells us a story about the difficulty of explaining Massad F. Ayoob to gun store counter jockeys in very rural Arkansas
  • Barron B gives us three great options for wireless routers in the Wee, Not So Wee, and F'kin HUGE! categories.
  • And Weer'd catches Michael Bloomberg's The Trace in yet another lie. This time they're claiming that the UK's largest gun bust in history wouldn't even make the top ten gun bust in the US this year!
Thanks for downloading, listening and subscribing. Please share with a friend, and Like and Share us on Facebook.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Special thanks to Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" and get 10% off at checkout.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ammunition Storage

& is used with permission.
Since we seem to be on a roll regarding the stockpiling of goods for trade, I thought I'd mention my favorite precious metals:  Steel, brass, and lead.

There's an old, tasteless prepper joke that goes something like this:

Q:  What's a box of .22LR worth post-SHTF?
A:  Your daughter's virginity.

That joke can be interpreted several ways, none of them very flattering. But the point remains that ammunition will be an important commodity post-disaster, especially if the catastrophe is extensive enough that immediate rebuilding isn't possible. It also makes an excellent trade good because, stored properly, it can last for decades. 

There are three factors which affect stored ammunition: high heat, high humidity, and temperature variations. 

According to the Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturing Institute's (SAAMI) guidelines for storage, ammunition begins to degrade past 150° F. Autoignition isn't an issue -- it takes much higher temperatures for modern gunpower to spontaneously combust -- but performance degradation such that your expensive ammunition goes "click" instead of "bang" is a concern. 

High humidity is also bad for ammunition, as moisture can seep into the cartridge and degrade the powder or the primer. It can also cause corrosion of the brass cartridge, resulting in an improperly-seated bullet or a casing that ruptures when shot. Humidity of 50% or more is too much; 30% or less humidity is ideal for ammunition storage. And, of course, keep all ammunition away from liquids of all kinds. 

Temperature Variations
Frequent heating and cooling cause objects to expand and contract. Cartridges exposed to this on a daily basis (such as in the desert) will frequently have bullets which come unseated. 

Proper Ammunition Storage
Functioning World War 2 ammunition has been found in bunkers throughout Europe, and much of that wasn't even stored properly. If 70 year old cartridges left on the ground can still fire, then modern ammunition properly stored ought to last as long  as you need it to. 

Keep it out of sunlight
Sunlight itself won't hurt ammunition, but being exposed to thermal radiation will heat it up and cause long-term damage.

Keep it in a cool, dry place
Don't store it in the trunk of your car, or in your uninsulated garage. Basements are fine, so long as they're dry (stack the ammunition out of reach of any water). Other good places are in the backs of closets, under beds. and of course in gun safes. 

Keep it in its original container
The plastic cradle and cardboard box serve as a first layer of defense against environmental changes. And if you happen to have a "spam can" of ammunition, keep it sealed -- those cans are watertight and ammunition inside can last forever if properly maintained. 

Use dessicants
Save those little "do not eat" satchets you get in packages or in pill bottles; they absorb moisture. Throw some in with your unsealed ammo. 

Use a vault or storage boxes
If you're fortunate to own a climate-controlled gun vault, then by all means keep your unsealed ammunition inside it. If you aren't, then use water-resistant ammo cans and anti-corrosion bags

Follow these tips, and your ammunition will last a long time, either to be used as intended or trades for other goods and services. And speaking of trading, read Chaplain Tim's article about the dilemma involved in "Do I trade ammo to this person who might use it against me?"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Trade Goods: Alcohol

David mentioned precious metal in yesterday's post, and that set off some discussion on our Facebook page about trade goods. As far as precious metals go, I believe that silver is better than gold for the simple fact that most transactions that take place face-to-face are worth less than an ounce of gold. Having a Krugerrand on a chain around your neck might be enough to get you a plane ticket home, but what if all you need is a hot meal and a place to sleep? Making change is easier with silver.

One of the topics that got brought up was trade goods. Food, medicine, clothing, tobacco, and ammunition were all mentioned, but I got a few questions about alcohol. Useful as a fuel, antiseptic, for recreational use, or just as a way to store value, alcohol can be a handy thing to have around. It can be even more handy to know how to make it.

First things first: Fuel alcohol is not and cannot be made safe to drink. Drinking alcohol may be usable as fuel, but it doesn't go the other direction. Fuel alcohol is made using materials and methods that can contaminate it with poisonous chemicals, and by law it then has to be denatured by adding a poisonous substance. Laws like this are written to make sure the “proper” amount of tax is paid on the alcohol, depending on how it is to be used. Fuel alcohol is taxed at a much lower rate than the fun kind.

Drinking Alcohol
Unless you're a moonshiner with a still hidden in the woods, it's cheaper and easier to buy your drinking goods and store them. I don't drink hard liquor, but I keep a few bottles on hand for guests and as potential trade goods. Small bottles fit my needs best, since they take up little space and, like silver, make for good “small denominations” when making change. Even a few of the airline-sized bottles would come in handy for cleaning a wound or trading for small items. This is obviously a “bugging in” or cache item. Every once of weight in a backpack will make itself known once you start to carry it.

Making safe-to-drink alcoholic beverages is an old art that predates science and agriculture and isn't hard -- if bread, water, and fruit can be turned into contraband wine in prisons, how hard can it be? -- but it takes time, equipment, and money. Since 1978, the Federal Government has allowed people the privilege of producing up to 100 gallons of beer or wine per adult per year for personal consumption without paying taxes on it. State laws vary, but at least you don't have to worry about the BATFE as long as you stay under their limits. Drinking alcohol comes in two types, fermented and distilled.

Fermented Alcohol
Beer, wine, cider, and mead are the main fermented forms of alcohol.

Beer is the result of fermentation of cereal grains followed by the addition of hops, which act as a preservative.
  • Since the sugar content of grains is fairly low, and the “malting” process of converting starches to sugars is dependent on the enzymes available, most beer yeasts produce 4-6% alcohol. This is not quite enough alcohol to kill off other microbes, so hops are added as a preservative. 
  • Barley, oats, rice and wheat are the main grains used in making beer around the world. 
  • Simple beer is nothing more than barley, water, yeast and hops. 
  • Beer doesn't store well, and should be consumed within a few months of being made.
Wine is the result of fermentation of fruits.
  • Since the sugar content of fruit is higher than that of grains, it is possible to get a higher alcohol content in wine (generally around 10%), which is high enough to be self-preserving as long as the container stays sealed. 
  • Wine, if properly stored, can last for centuries. 
  • I helped put up 60 gallons of Elderberry wine in recycled liquor bottles (free from a bar) about 40 years ago. As long as the lid sealed tight, the wine is still fit to drink and may have actually improved a bit with age. The ones that didn't seal are pretty nasty.
Cider, or Hard Cider, is fermented apple juice, and usually has an alcohol content around 7%.
  • Often made using wild or native yeast, the taste and quality can vary from batch to batch.
  • Like beer, it doesn't store well.
Mead is fermented honey.
  • Since honey has strong anti-microbial properties, making mead involves a few more steps than making beer or wine. Normally, the addition of nutrients and water is required to allow the activity of the yeast. 
  • Meads run from 8-20% alcohol, and should store at least as well as wine.

Distilled Alcohol
Distillation is the process of removing water from a fermented liquid in order to raise the alcohol content. The main difference between distilling drinking alcohol vs. fuel alcohol is the equipment construction: you cannot use any lead, zinc, or other heavy metals in the construction of a still that is going to produce drinking alcohol, as the metals will leach out into the alcohol and poison the person drinking it. Dead customers don't come back, so save car radiators and galvanized pipe for the fuel still. If you use copper, use only lead-free solder or welds on joints.
  • Distilled drinks include whiskeys, brandies, vodka, schnapps, and other “hard” liquors. 
  • You can take a wine at 10-12 % alcohol and convert it into a brandy at 35% alcohol by distillation. Instructions for home distilling can be found here
  • Hard liquor is useful as as disinfectant, and if the alcohol content is over 60%, it can be used as a fuel in engines and lamps. 
  • At roughly 50% it will hold a flame, which is how moon-shiners tested, or “proofed”, their batches: if it would hold a flame, it was 100 Proof. That's how we got the silly “80 Proof” on the labels of our rum, which is 40% alcohol. (Sorry, the chemist in me detests arbitrary measuring systems, and alcohol production is so old that it is full of arbitrary measuring systems.)

Fuel Alcohol (Ethanol)
In order to make alcohol that will run an internal combustion engine, you'll need to be able to get the alcohol content above 80% and you'll have to make some modifications to the fuel system in order to allow more ethanol into the cylinder. Ethanol (grain alcohol) has about 65% of the energy that gasoline does, so it takes more of it to get the same amount of work out of an engine. On a carbureted engine, increasing the fuel jet size by 30-40% will do it. If you have a newer engine that is fuel injected, you will have to either replace the injectors with ones that will allow more flow or reprogram your cars computer to hold the injectors open longer. The new “Flex Fuel” cars have their computers programmed to run on either gas or ethanol (or any blend of the two).

I've worked on small engines for years, and lawnmowers, chainsaws, motorcycles, etc. don't like ethanol. Ethanol tends to degrade some of the synthetic rubber compounds used in small engine fuel systems, and can also corrode the really cheap alloys used in older carburetor bodies. Two-strokes are a bit more forgiving, due to the oil mixed with the fuel, but you may still have problems feeding them ethanol. Make sure you have parts on hand to repair your small engines if you plan on running a generator or pump on ethanol!

Most of my reference books were written in the 70s and 80s. Back then there was serious concern about “peak oil” and the environmental damage being caused by burning petroleum. Peak oil has been shown to be a myth, and auto makers have made great strides in reducing the pollutants coming out of their cars. The alternative energy push back then laid the groundwork for the ethanol industry we have today, and the research and experimentation is still valid. My main source of information is a loose-bound book printed by the old Mother Earth News (MEN) as a handout for a seminar on home production of fuel ethanol. The book cost $25 in 1980, and I can't find it on their website, so I have to say it is out of print. MEN has gone through several management changes over the years, and they keep coming back to simple, do-it-yourself projects. The late 70s and early 80s were the “prime time” for the magazine; self-sufficiency was a big, new phenomenon that had an eager audience. Most of the information from that era is now available on their website, and I suggest you go there for details and actual plans for building a small-scale ethanol production plant, since I cannot do it justice in a blog post.

Fuel alcohol is taxed and controlled by the federal government, but they have created a “small-scale producer” permit that is fairly easy to obtain. It will allow you to produce up to 5000 gallons of pure alcohol per year, which should be enough for your daily driving.

How To Make It
Making fuel ethanol is fairly simple:
  1. Find a source of sugars or starches, be it grain, fruit, or whatever you have at hand that can contribute sugars. There are special tools that will tell you how much sugar is in a solution (measured in Brix).
  2. Find the enzymes you'll need to break the starches into sugars.“Malting” is simply wetting the grain to allow it to sprout. This releases enzymes that break down the starches for the plant to use. Heating the malted grain stops the sprouting and gets it ready for the yeast. 
  3. Add yeast to start the fermentation. Brewers yeast is best, since it has been bred to be efficient at producing alcohol, but any yeast (even wild yeast floating through the air) will work. 
  4. Keep the yeast happy (manage nutrients, temperature, etc.). This is where you get to control the heat and air. Fermentation is an anaerobic process and must be done in an environment free of oxygen. 
  5. Once the yeast are done converting the sugars to alcohol, run the liquid through a distillation column. Done-ness is normally indicated by the reduction of CO2 being produced by the yeast. Testing the density (specific gravity) of the liquid will tell you how much of it is alcohol. Design of columns is a science, and there are many kits and plans available. A good column will result in 90-95% alcohol, which is good enough to use as fuel. Plans for a 6 inch column can be found here, and it is rated at 6-8 gallons of alcohol per hour. 
  6. Separate the solids for use as high-protein animal feed. You don't lose the grain, just the sugars and starches. It is common to rinse the solids and use the rinsate for the next batch, thereby reusing some of the nutrients. Contrary to claims on the internet, alcohol production does not take grain out of the mouths of children and animals. The Distillers Dry Grain Solids (DDGS) is a great animal feed, and is actually sold to feed-lots and feed producers. Cows, pigs, and chickens love it. 

I didn't give you complete instructions on how to build your own still, nor did I tell you what you need to stock in your larder. That's not my place. I am here to point you towards information and help explain things that some folks may not understand. As always, I welcome questions and comments here and on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Savings

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

Preparing for a Rainy Day

I usually write about how I'm building an emergency supply of items to sustain myself and others through a disaster -- hopefully one of short duration. My priorities are the standard prepping items of shelter, food, and water. The one thing that I haven't written much about, though, is the money needed for buying supplies during the emergency.

While the items I have stored will feed me and my friends, there might be a time where power will be out, ATM's won't work, and the stores will only take cash.

Perhaps one person in your group has let their car get low on gas, or is short on cash and needs to pick up needed supplies like a prescription. Having cash will get you through this situation, reduce stress, and allow everyone to worry about one less item on the survival checklist.

I've been working to get cash into every one of my bags, with the goal of $50 in the truck and EDC bags and more in the BOB. The EDC goal has been met, but the BOB and home cash fund are lagging. I've been under-employed and extra cash has been tight, so the funds are building up slower than I'd like -- but they're getting there.

Precious Metals
Now before you mistake the light-colored sections of my hair for aluminum foil, hear me out: there might be a time when paper currency will no longer be worth anything, and metals of some type will be trusted and used instead. And if I'm wrong, silver will always be valuable and never 'worth' nothing, even if the dollar 'value' goes up and down. So this is a prep against inflation, if nothing else.
This is also another way for me to save money in a form that is less convenient to spend than dollar bills: when I'm looking at some quarters that cost $20 and think about how much trouble it will be to convert back into a $20 bill, I don't even bother to try.

My Preps
Some of the silver coins I have were given to me by my grandfathers and I've kept them ever since. Most of the coins that I have saved over the years are ones I found when they were easy to find in my change. A deliberate plan to buy coins only started in the last 10 years, and some of the things I buy on occasion are pre-1965 silver coins -- I have a friend of a friend whose family has a pawn shop where I buy coins (mostly dimes and quarters) for the current daily price for silver.

I am planning on Bugging In, so portability of coins is not a factor. If it came time to leave, though, while 10 lbs of silver is still 10 lbs, it takes up a very small amount of room in the car.

Your Preps?
There are many different opinions on what to buy, or even if you should have silver or gold. Old silver coins that have been in circulation; gold coins; gold bars, U.S. minted or foreign; the options are pretty much endless and are as open to discussion as "What brand and caliber of firearm is best?"

If you decide to buy coins, and don't have the cash to buy large amounts, rolls of 50 silver dimes can be had for very little. You can also try to find a local dealer who will sell you individual coins.

The Takeaway
However you do it, and with whatever type of money, cash is an important part of prepping and needs to be as carefully planned out as food, water and shelter.

  • Five pre-1965 silver quarters; $30. (Better than average grade; for a collection; I usually pay half this price for junk silver. )

As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

EDC: How Much is Too Much?

Erin posted a video to the BCP Facebook group over the weekend, featuring an individual showing off his EDC load. The individual in question claims to carry, among other things, two guns, 100 rounds of ammunition, a baton, and two passports. Further, the claim is that he carries this entire load in his pockets and on his person.

I'm aware this is satire, but there's a lesson to be learned here.

A look back at my articles will show that I'm all in favor of having the correct tool for the job. However, sometimes we get so caught up on having tools that we begin to wander into the absurd. How do we keep from falling so far into a tool fallacy that we carry our body weight in gear everywhere we go?

Start by looking at redundant gear. The adage that "two is one, and one is none" is wonderful - on a large scale. It begins to enter fallacy when you feel it necessary to carry two of everything. If you feel you truly need a backup for a piece of equipment, look into a device that performs multiple functions. It may not perform each function as well as your primary item, but "good enough" truly can be. Instead of carrying two flashlights, realize that your phone has a light as well. It may not be as bright and fancy, but it'll keep you from tripping or stubbing your toe.

In addition, take a look at how often you'll actually pull out each item. I don't plan to get lost in the wilds while I'm out and about in my city, so a survival guide isn't going to be any benefit day-to-day. In addition, survival and other guides should be studied ahead of time and practiced, so you don't need to be carrying one anyways.

I don't take my passport out of my safe more than about once a year. Considering that it's legal ID that contains enough information to make an an identity thief nigh-orgasmic, it's not something I carry if I don't have to, much less a pair. In addition, if you were ever searched by authorities, for whatever reason, having two passports from different nations could raise eyebrows.

I'm a vocal advocate of firearm carry, concealed or otherwise. However, if I need two guns, 100 rounds of ammunition, chemical spray, and a baton, in addition to the rack of knives, then either I need to not be in a place, or I need backup and long guns. I do give the man in the video credit for carrying completely interchangeable gear with regard to his guns, though.

My personal method of avoiding the tool fallacy is to try to justify every item I carry. Forcing myself to critically consider everything on my belt or in my pockets gives me a lens to filter my EDC gear through.

With that said, and because I haven't played "What has it got in its pocketses?", the following is what I'm carrying, this very minute.

Right front pocket: Keys to my truck; Boker AK47 automatic knife; general key ring with work and house keys on it; Swiss Army Knife (admittedly, the SAK is carried mostly for sentimentality and inertia. Dad carries one, both of my grandfathers carried one, and Angus MacGyver carried one. Who am I to argue?).

Right rear pocket: Wallet, with the various contents that a wallet has.

Left rear pocket: Samsung Galaxy S3. Needs an upgrade, but it still does the job for now.

Left Front pocket: Keys to my wife's truck; micro flashlight; coin from one of my state's firearms groups. There's usually some kind of lip balm in there as well, but not today.

On my belt: Gerber MP400 Sport. Still going strong, and seeing daily use.

I also have an iPod floating between pockets. At work, like I am right now, I'll have various tools hanging around, depending on that day's tasks.

I don't carry at work, for a host of reasons. When I am carrying, however, I carry one sidearm (usually either a Glock 20 or a 1911) and one or two spare standard-capacity magazines. I do advocate carrying spare magazines, both for extra ammunition, and because a mag swap will fix a great many common firearms failures.

Now that you've seen what I'm carrying, and how and why I justify carrying it, what am I missing? What ounces should I look at justifying?


Monday, August 24, 2015

BCP Skills Challenge: Some Prizes

& is used with permission.
As a follow-up to my Skill Challenge post, here are just some of the prizes which can be won:

Starting from the top:
  • Adjustable wrench multi-tool from Husky with blade, saw, pliers and bit driver. It's just a bit too bulky and heavy to carry on my belt, but could be a good fit for someone with a toolbelt. Alternately, it could fit nicely in your car's toolbox.  Comes with nylon pouch. 
  • Puuko knife by Kellam Knives of Finland. A very sharp knife with and adjustable plastic sheathe. Never used; its slick plastic handle and lack of any substantial finger guard makes me uncomfortable. 
  • NRA-branded flashlight with "tactical striking surfaces" front and back. Takes 2 AA batteries, not included. It's an okay flashlight (not very bright and beam isn't adjustable), but it's a pretty blue color not found in nature and made from machined aluminum. Use it to store dry tinder, or mash edibles into paste with the striking surfaces. 
  • Mora Classic #1. 4-inch blade, carbon steel. This has been used some, but gently, and has the marks to prove it. Be aware that carbon steel rusts easily. Ask me how I know this
  • Foldable credit card knife. This made the rounds a year or two ago in prepper circles, and I bought it as a curiosity. The blade is all right -- reasonably sharp, but I don't know what it's made from, likely 420 steel. I don't know how durable the plastic is, though, especially along the folds. I have my doubts it will hold up under stress, but if you need a "use once, then throw away" knife, like for a trauma kit, this ought to do the trick. 
  • Nite Ize Tool HolsterNothing wrong with it; just too bulky to fit comfortably on my belt. Great for securely holding items like flip phone, mp3 players, etc. 
  • Fire Keeper. Basically a kydex sheath for a Bic lighter with a paracord lanyard. I prefer to carry my lighters in other ways, but a good gift to someone who uses one a lot, like a smoker. 
  • Wallet Ninja. 18 tools in one card. I found it rather awkward to use and a bit too thick to comfortably carry in a pocket or a wallet. On the other hand, it's supposed to be TSA-approved. 
There will be more prizes listed later. 

Get cracking on those articles, folks! You have until January 2nd, 2016 to submit yours.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #53

It's the first GunBlog VarietyCast of our second year!
  • Adam and Sean do their usual awesome job, including some delicate discussion of the Planned Parenthood whistleblower. That means the last segment is not for young ears. Don't worry, they warn you when they get to that segment.
  • Erin Palette starts off her second year as a podcaster by doing a throwback to her first episode. That one was water purification; this time it's water storage.
  • Nicki Kenyon explains why Hillary's mishandling (or worse) of classified data should disqualify her from any future office of trust.
  • This week's Special Guest William Aprill (Yes, THAT William Aprill) helps us understand how we can't pretend that criminals think the same way we do. 
  • Barron B finds another terrible computer security fail. Those Quadcopter Drones? Yeah, totally unsecure.
  • And Weer'd, who was actually on vacation this week, still manages to appear so you get another patented Weer'd Audio Fisk. In it, Weer'd mocks the new video from the Oregon chapter of Moms Demand Illegal Mayors for Everytown, a wholly owned subsidiary of Michael Bloomberg, Inc.
Thanks for downloading, listening and subscribing. Please share with a friend, and Like and Share us on Facebook.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Special thanks to Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" and get 10% off at checkout.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Apocabox Unboxing #7

& is used with permission.
I apologize in advance for a lot of sniffling and mouth-smacking sounds. I think I got the microphone too close to my face this time.

(Does anyone even watch these videos?)

This month's box is... pretty good. It's not great like some have been, but I'm satisfied. I have yet to think "Dang, that was a waste of money," and hopefully I never will.

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

Pictures of this month's contents may be found here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Drinkable Book

One of the members of our Facebook Page found an article covering a new method of cleaning water and wanted our thoughts on it. Since I am the resident water “expert” (I'm trying not to laugh), I looked into this new invention and have some information and opinions on it.

The Drinkable What?
The concept was a student's PhD project to develop a cheap, simple method of treating water to make it less dangerous to drink. The inventor (Dr.Theresa Dankovich ) uses specially manufactured paper to create a water filter that will kill bacteria and screen out the larger particles. Since it's made of paper, she bound it in the form of a book to make it easier to transport and store. Each page is perforated and a half sheet is used at a time. Depending on the raw (untreated) water quality, she claims up to 30 days usable life for each filter, so a 25 page book (50 filters) could last a person about 4 years.

The Paper
The paper is treated with silver and copper nanoparticles which have antibacterial properties. The exact quantity, size, and distribution of the silver and copper particles isn't mentioned, but to be proper nanoparticles, they would have to be between 1-100 nanometers in size. For a quick math refresher there are 1000 millimeters (mm) in a meter, 1000 micrometers (um or microns) in a millimeter, and 1000 nanometers (nm) in a micron. For those of us that don't speak metric, there are 25,400,000 nm in an inch.

Currently the paper is being hand-made by the inventor in a church kitchen. The chemical treatment and drying of the paper is time consuming, and she's working on getting the whole process scaled up for industrial production at a small paper mill. She has the backing of a mid-sized charity and a PR firm, so I think she has a good shot at making it into production.

The project has a Facebook Page with links to their most recent activities.

The Filtering
The book comes packaged in a plastic box. Half of the box is used to hold the piece of filter paper (half of a page) and the untreated water, and is placed on top of the other half of the box which catches the treated water. As a reader pointed out in the Facebook comments, this is a flaw which presents many opportunities for cross contamination when the system is not in use. Placing the book back into the box after the book has gotten dirty or while the box is still damp/wet is a design flaw that should be fixed. The only thing that could allow this to be acceptable is the fact that the filter is killing bacteria instead of just physically removing them from the water.

It is important to that that this is a water disinfection device, and it works only on microbes in the water. It will do nothing for chemical pollutants or metals like lead and arsenic, nor will it desalinate sea water to make it potable.

The Results
The inventor is a chemist, so she knows how to run lab tests properly. I trust her when she claims better than 99.9% reduction in bacteria by using her filter. She claims it meets EPA standards for drinking water, but that would be for bacteria only.

Reducing bacterial contamination by 99.9% is not all that good compared to some of the water purification systems we have available today, but for a cheap and easy system to be given away in undeveloped area of the world it would help. Knocking the bacterial load in your water down makes it easier for your body to handle the remaining bugs.

I'm still digging through reports, trying to find out what exactly they tested it with. Raw water from some third-world mud puddle was the harshest test I've seen it pass so far. I'm trying to find the numbers for efficacy (power to produce results) of her filter on Giardia and some of the other common microbes. E.coli is the standard bacteria for water testing because it is found everywhere, but it is not always a good indicator of how well a system will work against other organisms.

My Take on the Whole Thing
I like the idea of a simple water filter that is capable of destroying 99% of the bacteria present. For use in undeveloped areas, areas affected by major disasters, or when traveling through areas with microbes that your body is not used to (Montezuma's Revenge) it makes sense.

Right now the emphasis seems to be helping out people who don't have access to clean water on a regular basis. I think that they could fund a lot of charity work by developing and selling a system for the emergency equipment market. We'll have to wait and see if it ever gets sold commercially.

The use of gravity instead of pumps means that it is simple and the lack of moving parts means it is unlikely to break. The plastic box is a weakness, but pictures in the video do show the paper being used in a funnel like standard lab filter paper.

Using nanoparticles to do the disinfecting is an untested field, so I'm going to have to wait for more information before passing judgement on its effectiveness and longevity.

Silver and copper do have antibacterial properties, and as elemental metals they have no defined shelf-life. They are also neither consumed nor depleted in their use, so the amount of water that one filter could treat would be determined by when the paper carrier gets clogged or falls apart.

This type of filter would be unaffected by freezing or heat (as long as it didn't ignite) and could be stored indefinately. A perfect application for a filter of this type would be in emergency kits stored in airplanes or fresh-water boats. Having something the size of a sheet of paper that can disinfect your water for a month would be handy when traveling in wilderness areas by canoe, kayak, or foot.

I'm not going to throw away any of the water treatment gear that I already own and replace it with a Drinkable Book if/when it hits the market, but it might be handy to have as a plan C or D. If they get rid of the plastic box and shape it into something that will fit a normal container, it would be a welcome “extra step” in being prepared to clean my own water. Pricing is always going to matter, but they'd be insane to try to put a big price on something they want to be able to give away to people in need.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Prudent Prepping: Buffet Post

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

This is my almost monthly roundup of things that have happened which are too small  to be made into a full-on blog topic.

Personal Preps
I have been looking for a full-time job for some time, and when I do get the chance to interview, I want to make a good impression: nice shirt, sharply creased pants and polished shoes.

Yes, about my shoes: last week, as I was going out the door, I noticed one shoe was not tied well so I pulled on the end to take up the slack. BINK! the lace broke. Both shoes had old laces, but since I don't wear them very often I kept putting off replacing them. Fortunately I have two pairs of identical black shoes that I can alternate wearing if one set gets wet, so I just grabbed the other pair. The worst part is I have shoe laces in my truck bag, just for occasions like this.

I don't think I'm getting the job, but it's not because I didn't look presentable.

Every Day Carry
Over the weekend, before it hit 100° here, a friend and I took a hike with her dogs on a scenic trail overlooking the river and hills. I pack a minimum of two liters of water in my EDC bag and while it was only in the high 80s where we were, everyone needed to drink some water. This was not a problem for the top end of the leash, but a bit more so for the bottom end. I didn't have a cup to use for the two small dogs to drink from, so our hands were used instead -- not an efficient use of the water at hand!

When I got home, the Sea to Summit X-Bowl in my Camping/BOB gear was moved into the EDC bag. I have mentioned Sea To Summit in the past and this is another really neat item. The bowl collapses with accordion-like folds from over 2" in height down to only 3/4".

Yard Sale Finds
I hit several neighborhood yard sales and found a small, compact pair of inexpensive binoculars to go into my GHB/EDC gear. I have been wanting some binoculars for a while, and these are perfect for my needs: light, very compact, and if I break them, I don't really care.

The Takeaway
  • Think about maintaining all your gear, even the things you may not use or see every day. 
  • The items that I carry need to be adaptable to more than one use. 
  • Plan for pets every day, not just in an emergency.

  • 3 pairs of 30" shoe laces;  $2.39 each at Target.
  • 4 x 15 power Vivitar binoculars; $2 at a yard sale.

As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hi-tech Tinder Showdown! (With bonus Instafire revisit)

Erin and I got to discussing some of the pros and cons of modern, high-tech tinders and fuels vs traditional materials. After a fair bit of conversation, we decided that a showdown was in order, and as I seem to be the resident pyro, who better than me to judge such a grudge match?

Our two new challengers are UST Wetfire Tinder Cubes and FastFire Tinder. Instafire was also revisited for part of this test.

Upon inspection, the Wetfire and FastFire cubes appear to be an identical material. Both are white, formed blocks, light in weight, with a dry texture similar to a bar of soap. They can be cut or shaved very easily with a pocketknife, and can even be crumbled under moderate hand pressure, which allows them to be broken down for easy fire starting. Both come in individually sealed foil packets, allowing them to be dispersed throughout various gear packs.
Clockwise from top: Wetfire, Esbit tabs (for scale), FastFire
The big difference between the two is size. The FastFire blocks are roughly twice the size of the Wetfire blocks. An individual Wetfire block can handily light two fires, while a FastFire block can do four or more. Considering that the Wetfire cost $10 shipped to my door, and the FastFire cost $14, the FastFire is the better value, based on price. The Wetfire can be packed into smaller containers however, so if space is a concern, that may sway a decision.
The basic fire lay.  Larger kindling would be added to this after starting.
Both manufacturers recommend making a small pile of shavings, and building your fire lay over and around that pile. This method works very well; the shavings take flame instantly, even with sparks from a ferro rod. They burn at a height of 6-8 inches, readily igniting any wood and giving a hot fire in short minutes. In fact, both tinders take flame so readily, a match or sparks will ignite it in block form as well. A half-cube of Wetfire (or a quarter cube of FastFire) burns for several minutes; more than enough time to dry damp kindling and start it burning.
Burning hot and tall.

Instafire as Fuel
Instafire packaging also touts it as a useful fuel source (Wetfire and Fastfire both state on their packaging not to use them as cooking fuels, only as fire starters; this likely has to do with them being petroleum-based), so it seemed the perfect time to test this claim while I had my fire testing area already set up,

A full pouch of Instafire will fill an Esbit and then some, as I learned pretty quickly.

Instafire on the Esbit.

I used my Esbit stove as a test bed, mostly because it was available and convenient to do so. It holds a pan of water at an ideal height over flame to cook, no matter the flame source.

Speaking of flame sources: Instafire, sadly, did not start with a fire steel. However, it remains very easy to light with an open flame, and the least expensive of the group. It took flame immediately with a single match, but was a bit smoky under the pan. Make sure that any place you use this setup is well ventilated, like mine:

The fire and fuel test setup.
On the Esbit rig, the fuel needed regular stirring to maintain a good flame, but a good flame did result. 

On a pan filled with 16 ounces of water:
  • Small bubbles started rising at 13 minutes.
  • At 17 minutes there were large bubbles. It wasn't what I'd call truly boiling, and definitely not rolling, but it was close to it. 
  • Unfortunately, the fuel self-extinguished at 20 minutes.
 I'd say that, all told, it's less than ideal for cooking on. However, if used simply to provide heat, you get a good 20 minutes of rather hot flame.

Cooking aftermath.
One other note on the Instafire: the above picture is the bottom of my saucepan after the test. If you look at the pre-cooking picture, you'll see it was shiny copper when I started. The residue was a tough soot, which required a scouring pad and elbow grease to remove. Don't use your wife's good pans to cook with this, and if you do, make sure you have time to clean them before she gets home.

As a TV host from my youth used to say, you don't have to take my word for it. In fact, you shouldn't. Pick up a pack of Wetfire or FastFire, and pull out a couple cubes and practice with them. Know your gear before you need it!


Monday, August 17, 2015

BCP Skill Challenge

& is used with permission.
We seem to have run out of guest articles (and Mondays are currently open for someone to become a regular contributor), so today I have decided to issue a challenge to our regular readership in the hopes that it would solve a problem of mine and simultaneously get us more submissions.

As a prepper and an enthusiast of gun accessories, I am constantly acquiring hex wrenches that come with new pieces of hardware. While it's convenient to have the proper size of wrench during installation, afterwards I don't need them -- I have my own set of very nice metric & imperial wrenches that I keep in my tool box.

But I am reluctant to throw away these spare wrenches, because that seems wasteful. They're still perfectly good tools; they just happen to be unnecessary. Since I couldn't think of what to do with them, I decided to pose the question to you, dear readers, as the

BCP Hex Wrench Skill Challenge!
The rules are quite simple:
  1. Think of something non-wasteful to do with these pieces of steel. I want a solution that is constructive, useful, and preferably ingenious. Do not suggest I put them in the recycling bin or give them to someone else.  
  2. Practical applications will be deemed more worthy than purely artistic solutions. The ideal submission will be both practical and attractive. 
  3. The solution must be something that someone without technical skills can perform. For example. Firehand is a blacksmith, so I imagine he has all sorts of notions for melting them down into ingots or hammering them into nails using his knowledge and equipment. However, I don't have that knowledge, nor do I have access to a forge, bellows, etc. 
  4. If you provide detailed, step-by step instructions, preferably with photographs or illustraions on how to do these technical things (such as making a forge using simple household items). then that will make you eligible for this contest. This is called "Leveling the playing field."
  5. Write an article using the guidelines on Guest Articles page. If you have pictures, you can get by with fewer words; fewer pictures means more words. If it's a concern, I'd rather you write too much than too little; I can edit out unnecessary elements but I don't want to put words in your mouths. 
  6. The contest starts now and runs through the end of the year. I realize I'm asking for something very technical, so you have 4.5 months to put it together. 
  7. Because I am running this contest myself, other members of this blog can compete if they desire. Lokidude and Firehand, I'm looking at you in particular. 
Because this is out of my pocket and born of a desire to de-clutter my life, prizes are in a similar vein: Anyone who writes an article gets to pick an item out of my swag box. Some items in the swag box are tools which didn't quite work the way I'd hoped they would; some are goodies that I've reviewed, or which came in Apocaboxes, and I don't have room for them. (For example, I have multiple knives, both fixed and folding, in the swag box; it's not that I don't like knives, it's just that I have no current use for them and no place to put them, so they're in my way and gathering dust.)

Nothing in the swag box is junk.  I wouldn't do that to people. 

The person with the best article gets first pick from the box. Other winners get subsequent picks, until everyone has had a turn. 

Anything left over will be given as thank-yous to future BCP guest authors.

This is the Swag Box as it currently stands. It's likely to fill up more as I clean and de-clutter my life. Please  keep in an mind that between now and the end of the contest, there will be 3 more Apocaboxes (August, October, December) arriving, along with whatever I acquire for product testing and for the holidays, so this picture is not everything that is available. 

Got it? Good! Now get to work!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #52

Adam and Sean  make it to Episode 52! That's one full year of The GunBlog VarietyCast!
  • Erin Palette gives us some very good advice about depression.
  • Nicki Kenyon thinks The Donald would be The Disaster for US foreign policy.
  • This week's Special Guest is Sean's father, Eugene Sorrentino. He tells us why you should never shoot all your ammo at the range.
  • Barron B tells us all about why Adobe Flash sucks.
  • And Weer'd goes back to that never ending well of liberal foolishness, MSNBC, and audio fisks someone we've never even heard of before.
Thanks for downloading, listening and subscribing. Please share with a friend, and Like and Share us on Facebook.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
A special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout to get 10% off anything you buy.

Friday, August 14, 2015


& is used with permission.
It's rightly said that attitude is the defining factor between survival and failure. You can have all the gear, all the training, all the knowledge, all the preparedness in the world, and it won't matter one whit if you have no resolve and your response is to give in to grief, curl up and die.

I struggle with depression, fatigue, and crippling headaches on a regular basis. Thankfully I am not suicidal, but I know all too well what it's like to feel that the simple act of getting out of bed is a monumental task. And this is in the comfort of my electric-powered, climate-controlled home! I shudder to think what it would be like to do so after a disaster when I don't know what the day will bring, or where my next meal will be from, or if I'll have enough clean water.

My life is cushy, no doubt about it. I have clean clothes and a soft bed. I have fresh water and nutritious food. I have entertainment, I have convenience, and I have comfort.

And yet there are some days in this cushy life when getting to the end of the day seems insurmountable. How, then, can I expect that I will make it through a disaster?

The truth is that I don't expect it. I hope that I will, of course, and it's not like I'm counting on failure. But eventually, my chronic and cyclical depression WILL catch up to me. And while that isn't a death sentence, it will make survival that much harder -- because depression makes everything harder.

(Everyone who has had to psyche themselves up to put on shoes just to get the mail knows what I'm talking about.)

And so ultimately, I have to prep around my weakness. That means a lot of convenience and a lot of comforts in my preps. I understand some of the hard-core types believe only in the necessities, and that anything non-essential will slow them down. And for them, maybe it's true.

But as someone who gets emotionally exhausted just getting out of bed, convenience and comfort go a long way toward making existence bearable, which to my mind makes them survival items. They're emotional force multipliers.

Your mileage likely differs. That's fine. You aren't me, and I'm not you.

This post born of the fact that I'm currently in the grips of my depressive cycle and I'm tired of people telling me I'm too enamored with things. I'm not a goddamn Army Ranger or Navy SEAL. Likely, neither are you. So stop telling me I need to give up my "snivel gear." How about you give up your "more prepper than thou" attitude instead?

Thursday, August 13, 2015


This will be the first of a short series on growing food, from the perspective of someone who has lived most of his life in the “breadbasket” of the US. If you're growing food for yourself and family you have a garden, but if you're growing a crop for sale or trade then you have a farm. Truck gardens fit somewhere in between the family garden and the commercial farm with some of the advantages and problems of both. I'll start with what I know best: farming.

The People
Farmers are aging. For the last few generations, farmers have sent their children off to college and not many of them are coming back to work on the farm. I know men in their 60's and 70's that are still farming, or working with farmers, some out of necessity but others because they don't know any other way of life. Finding young workers isn't easy when McDonald's has similar pay and better hours. 

Farming is dangerous. Farm work usually ranks about #4 on any list of the most dangerous jobs in America (police work is usually #8 or #10). Not many people are willing to work around dangerous, chemicals, moving machinery, and livestock that can crush you at all hours of the day, in all kinds of weather, and often alone. Scars and missing digits aren't unusual in a gathering of farmers.

These all lead to a smaller number of people feeding the rest of the population. If a catastrophe were to hit the US, the impact of losing just a “few” farmers would have major repercussions. The percentage of the population that actually grows food has been shrinking for decades, and the size of farms has been growing as family farms are incorporated into larger operations. As farms have gotten bigger so has the equipment, which is now equipped with state-of-the-art electronics to help manage their operation.

The Land
Fields are being reworked to take out fences (GPS has eliminated the need to mark property lines) and terrain features in order to use larger equipment.What used to be done with four-row equipment is now done sixteen (or more) rows at a time. The "big" tractors I used as a teenager are now relegated to hauling wagons and powering augers - they can't handle the new field equipment.

Farms vary greatly in size, from a few acres for a truck farm to several hundred acres for growing grain and several thousand acres for cattle/sheep ranches in marginal land. Regulation of the farming industry is growing, and it is just as easy to file paperwork for a large farm as it is for a small one.

Prime farmland is currently selling for around $10k/acre around here; pasture land (too steep or poor soil to plant on) is selling for $2000-3000/acre. There are a lot of millionaire farmers, but it's all tied up in the land. For tax purposes, a lot of land is held in a family trust - a legal way of passing the land on to a new generation without having to sell half of it in order to pay the inheritance taxes.

Developers building houses for the urban-flight crowd have been buying a lot of marginal land and turning a quick buck planting McMansions in the hills. They don't fare well with the intermittent power and blocked roads that occur when winter rolls around, and most of them aren't built well enough to stand alone in a field without a windbreak and the heating bills are astronomical.

The Definitions 
Acre: 43,560 square feet. There are 640 acres in a square mile (also called a “section”). For city folks, an acre is about 90% of the size of a football field. Fields were laid out or surveyed in square-mile blocks when the middle of the country was settled. A section (square mile) was divided into fourths (160 acres) called quarters, which were further divided into fourths (40 acres).

Fertilizer: Anything that can be used to provide the nutrients needed for plants to grow. Manure was used for centuries, but has been replaced with mined minerals and manufactured blends.

Nutrients: The three main nutrients used to grow plants are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). Fertilizer is often marked with three numbers designating the percentage by weight of these three major nutrients, in that order (N-P-K), so if you see 28-8-4 on a bag you can know that it contains 28%N, 8%P, and 4%K.

Permaculture: Any crop that reproduces itself without human assistance. Meadows, forests, and orchards are good examples. They have lower maintenance, but produce less quantity or lower quality food/feed.

Monoculture: A farming technique that favors specializing in one crop, and often only one variety of that crop. The major downside to monoculture farming is its susceptibility to disease: one potato blight (a fungus-like disease) can wipe out an entire economy based on monoculture farming.

The bird flu hit hard this year and has caused the extermination of many large poultry flocks (tens of millions of birds), which has already raised the price of eggs at the grocery store.

This (2015) spring and summer have been wetter than normal for a large portion of the middle of the country (sorry, California). Since wheat is grown in two seasons (winter wheat gets planted in the fall and matures in the spring; summer wheat is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall), most of the wheat in the fields has been water-logged this year. If it stays wet there is a good chance of mold and fungi starting in the fields, which will reduce the amount of wheat for food/feed use and therefore increasing prices.

Monoculture farming is becoming more common around here; the days of a farmer growing his own livestock feed and raising meat animals are mostly gone. Poultry is raised in factories, beef in feedlots, and pork in confinement buildings. Where most farmers used to grow wheat (for bread), corn (for feed), oats (for the horses), hay (for winter feed), and often some of other small grains (sorghum, barley, flax, rye, etc.), now they specialize in either corn or soybeans, and buy whatever else they need with the money from the sale of their single crops. In other areas of the USA, this specialization leans towards wheat or cotton with the same lack of diversification.

Agronomy: The study of how to best grow plants for human use. It's a messed-up combination of economics, chemistry, biology, geology, and a few others for good measure. It's part science, part art, and usually a whole bunch of experience. Most colleges in the middle of the country offer degrees in Agronomy, but without the experience a new graduate is going to be lost.

A good agronomist can survey a field and tell you what you'll need to put on it to grow a good crop. A bad one will sell you whatever his boss is pushing the most.

Truck garden: I know several truck farmers locally. The typical setup is an older family farm (40 acres or less) that is not economical for raising corn or soy beans, and the family doesn't want to sell the land to a big operation that would be able to blend a small field or two into their existing fields and still make money (I've been on single fields of 500+ acres of corn).

Unlike traditional farming, truck farming doesn't rely as heavily on one big harvest every year to pay the bills; most truck farmers have structured their planting and harvesting schedule to provide income throughout the year. Diversification of your crops minimizes the bad effects of a disease or pest infecting one crop and leaving you broke and hungry. Typical spring harvests are “new potatoes” and berries of all sorts. Summer crops are sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and string beans. Fall crops are melons and squash with apples and other tree fruits being a minor specialization. Winter crops are rare, but some people have found niche markets with nuts and preserves that they can sell through the cold weather.

There is a growing market for locally-grown produce with a premium price for “organic” anything in nearby cities, so there are customers available. Since most of the sales are made off the back of a pickup (there are some grocery stores that will carry locally-grown produce) and paid in cash, the tax burden implications are clear.

The Wrap-Up
If growing your own food is part of your strategy to deal with disasters, let me know if there's anything I can expand on. This is a subject that is so deep and broad that I'll never be able to cover everything on a blog. I'll be recommending some reading material in the near future, and will take a stab at gardening soon.

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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