Monday, January 30, 2017

A Handy Chart

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I don't like "phoning in a post" by just posting an infographic, but what else can be said about an extremely handy one-page sheet showing the morse code, semaphore, and maritime flag symbols for the alphabet?

Print this out, laminate it, and put it with your other prepping gear.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #128 - L'audace de Non

Audacity, audacity, always audacity; we even record our segments with Audacity.
  • Surprise! Men and women ARE different. Beth gives us her thoughts on why that's a good thing.
  • It's another police chase, but this time it's also interstate kidnapping. Sean tells us who they caught.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about how we are programming people to feel bad about defending themselves.
  • Tiffany is also on assignment and will return next week.
  • How do you say no to hungry people? It's hard, but Erin will tell you how and why.
  • There's another episode of the anti-gun "Loaded Conversations" podcast! Weer'd puts her guest, David Hemenway, through a Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
  • And our plug of the week is Covington Vodka. 
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
The Audacity of Nope
Throughout the course of doing these Blue Collar Prepping segments, I have constantly preached that preppers need to maintain secrecy about the extent of their preps -- and perhaps even hiding the fact that they are preppers at all. 

The reason for this is simple: If it is known that you prep, and your friends and neighbors do not, then those people will likely show up on your doorstep wanting some of your supplies after a disaster. And I have said, multiple times, that it is between you and your conscience whether or not you send them away. My point has always been that it needs to be YOUR choice to share with others. If an entire neighborhood of hungry people shows up on your front yard demanding food, the only choice you have boils down to “Do I let them break in and take the food my family needs, or do I have to threaten to shoot them to make them go away?” 
However you choose, your secret is out and you have to deal with the consequences. I say that it’s far better to stay deep within the Prepping Pantry because if people don’t know, they can’t threaten you with violence if you don’t give up the resources you’ve carefully stored. 

But this approach is invariably met with the question “But if I see someone in need, and I can help them, shouldn’t I?” And while I cannot answer for you, my response is almost always “No.”

Preppers need to learn to say “no”, because that can be a potentially lifesaving skill. I call this “The Audacity of Nope.” And it does take audacity, because the natural human response is to help someone in need.

Now let me ble clear about this: I absolutely encourage preppers helping other people when possible. That’s just common decency. However, if you’ve ever taken a first aid class, or a rescue swimming class, or anything else like that, recall that you are always taught that you should never, ever endanger yourself to help another, because if you put yourself in danger and fail, there are now TWO people who need rescue and you’ve just made the situation worse.

Prepping is like that, only with potentially higher stakes. If you have a family, it is your duty to protect them before you protect other people, and if you allow other people to partake of your supplies then you are in fact depriving your family of those supplies which might be needed later.
Worse, imagine if you give food to someone who needs it, and they tell other people where they go it. What’s to keep them from walking up and asking for the same thing?

It is not your responsibility to feed the neighborhood.

This is why I believe that preppers need to learn to say “no”. Internalize this lesson now, because you do not need to be learning it when it’s life or death.

So here are the steps I recommend prepper take to learn how to “nope” out of situations:
  1. First, learn to live the phrase “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” In other words, if something doesn’t immediately affect you, stay out of it! This is desirable on several levels:
    • It breaks you of a habit of getting involved in other people’s business and cleaning up other people’s messes.
    • It prevents you from looking like a busybody.
    • It gives you more time and energy to devote to more important tasks.
  2. Next, embrace the notion that it isn’t your job to save everyone. In fact, it is physically impossible to save everyone! Your only job in this world is to take care of yourself and those who you love or who depend on you. Everything after that is of secondary concern. Some may call that being selfish; I call it self-love. You don’t want your family homeless or starving because you decided feeling better about yourself for doing something nice was more important than security. To me, THAT is the height of selfishness.
  3. Finally, take the time NOW to teach other people how to prep. This will not only ease your conscience later on -- “They had every opportunity to look after themselves, and I tried to show them how. It is not my fault if they didn’t listen.” -- but this also looking after yourself in the long term.
If everyone around you is prepared, then not only do you not need to worry about them using your supplies or equipment, but you have taken the first step in forming a prepping community that can depend on each other.

Do these three things now, so that if you ever need to harden your heart and say “No” later, it won’t hurt as much.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Small, Simple Forge

So, you need to make a tool and you want to forge it, or maybe just need a way to heat one up to harden it. Is there a simple forge that doesn’t require coal or charcoal, and could use, say, a torch?

Oh yeah.

First, you'll need some firebrick.

Why not regular brick? Firebrick is a ceramic material specifically designed to tolerate high temperatures. It’s also relatively soft. You’ll see why that’s an important property in a minute.

You'll need a place to set it that is solid, fireproof (or at least heat-resistant), and big enough to stack these on. I’m using my small forge, because it’s handy.

As a general rule you want to keep the area you’ll be heating small, so it’ll get hot faster and take less fuel to keep it hot. Here I’ve got three bricks on the bottom as a floor, and two on edge for the compartment. (Yes, you could use one, and a couple of regular bricks for the outside positions on the bottom; they’re not going to be subjected to any real heat.)

Now, take the side brick of your choice, figure your angles, and use a large screwdriver to bore a hole in it.

This is why the ‘relatively soft’ is important -- it’s easy to bore a hole in, or even saw, if you have to.

NOTE: I’m told you really don’t want to inhale the dust from boring or sawing, so do this in a suitable place and use a good dust mask, especially if you’re sawing

You want the hole to be angled toward the fire chamber, and should be angled a bit up; that’ll help the heat swirl in the chamber and give you a more evenly-heated chamber. And remember, it needs to be big enough to put your torch tip in, no bigger.

Here you can see it's in on the left, out on the right.

Now stack things up with a brick on top and in the back.

Don’t close the chamber completely; leave a small crack for flow. You’ll want to keep the chamber as small as you can for the piece you’re working on, to make it easier to get to and keep the temperature you need.

Light the torch, ease it into place, and turn it up. Give it a few minutes for the chamber to heat up, and you can start working.

The size of metal you can work is limited by much heat you can put in. If you've got an acetylene torch available, you can use a big tip and get a lot more heat in. I have also seen this done with two torches, one on each side, with one hole angled a bit forward and up, the other a bit forward and down, to help the heat swirl.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nouveaux Preppers

Yesterday's guest post covered some of the material I intended to write about today, but I'm flexible and can take a slightly different view of the subject.

Preppers used to be called “survivalists”, but that term got so much derision and bad press that it became a pejorative. The news media did (and still does) everything they could to portray survivalists as either right-wing military wanna-be's who spent their weekends practicing how to become armed looters after a civil war and their weekdays wearing tinfoil hats in their parents' basement, or some form of new-age Gaia worshiping loser who lived in a hand-made hut without running water or electricity.

Ridicule and disbelief were the normal reaction to anyone who didn't trust everything the media and government had to say leading up to Y2K. Neither the Chicken Littles nor the Pollyannas were 100% correct on that one -- there was a huge amount of work done to prevent and correct issues with computers and that kept the worst from happening.

But a few years ago, maybe ten at most, there was a shift in perception and the term “prepper” started being used to describe those of us who want to be prepared for some of the things that the universe can throw at us. While we're still thought of by many people as a bit off-center, the amount of ridicule and derision has been minimal.

Today, we have preppers from almost all levels of society, working on their own self-sufficiency, all over the country. The latest “tier” of new preppers is the wealthy -- software millionaires and hedge fund managers, successful investors and real estate speculators -- those with the spare money to buy pretty much whatever they want. I've seen or heard at least three news stories about the “super rich” starting to get into prepping in the last two weeks. While I don't think any of the folks at this level are reading our humble little blog, we can watch what they are doing and maybe learn a bit from those with enough money to afford to make mistakes. If you have enough back-up plans, one of them will likely handle a problem when it pops up.

  • OPSEC is not given much thought. This is not surprising, given that we're dealing with a class of people who usually enjoy being in the lime-light. Letting the whole world know where your bunker is, what you have in it, the complete floor plan, and how many people live there is stupid. I mean “frying bacon while nude” stupid.
  • Personal security is often delegated to hired guards. This is a problem for anyone who has any grasp of history, as Praetorian guards tend to figure out that those with the weapons get to make the rules; only those who control the food have more actual control over a group.
  • Self defense is an afterthought for many of these people -- they don't live in a world where bad things happen to good people. Guns are icky, but they buy some because all of the (unnamed) “experts” say they will need them.
  • Walls make good prisons and poor defenses. Since the invention of gunpowder, walls and moats have ceased to be viable forms of defense; going underground provides concealment and cover, but limits your routes of escape. If you doubt these statements, please do some research on sieges and specifically on Iwo Jima, where US Marines burned and blasted 11 miles of underground tunnels and bunkers for 5 weeks, killing over 20,000 Japanese defenders who had a year to build up their fortifications. The entire island is a military graveyard today because so many defenders were entombed in their defensive positions.

  • Most of the articles that cover these mega-preps cite large amounts of stored food and seeds for growing more, with not much mention of who will be doing the cooking and gardening.
  • Any time I hear a claim of sustainability that covers hundreds of years, my BS alarm starts to go off. Books last hundreds of years, as do some buildings and furniture, but I seriously doubt that anything which uses electricity will outlast its original owner if used daily. A simple light bulb that lasts more than a few years is rare; the current record is a 4 Watt, hand-blown, carbon filament bulb that has been running since 1901. Anything with moving parts will wear out and require maintenance, which is never mentioned in these articles. Skills will always trump stuff in the long run.
  • Guns and ammunition are often mentioned, but they get little coverage in any media that has historically been anti-gun. Training with these tools of defense and food harvesting is almost never mentioned.
  • Generators and solar panels are often mentioned as sources of electricity, but usually as a side-note. I'm not sure if it is due to the reporters' lack of interest (and/or knowledge) or if it is an attempt at OPSEC.

Social Aspects
  • The underground complex being built in Texas and the converted ICBM silo in Kansas are both being sold as condominiums. Condos are basically apartments that you buy instead of rent, with the “building association” taking care of maintenance and upkeep, and they depend on a tiered social structure that may not survive a disaster. If the workers stay home -- which is most definitely somewhere other than the condo -- or don't survive the calamity, who is gong to fix the plumbing and cook the meals?
  • Even the ones who are buying small islands in the Pacific Northwest have thought about maintaining contact with others. The few who talked about their plans admitted that no one person would last very long alone. There is too much involved in surviving a long-term crisis for a loner to be able to do everything himself; trade with others is going to be necessary.
  • New Zealand seems to be a popular destination for the well-to-do prepper. Most of the stories about it link back to this New Yorker post, with minor edits thrown in. For someone who can afford to keep an intercontinental airplane fueled and ready as an escape route, I guess New Zealand would be a great place to go...  if you had enough warning to get to your plane. These people are prepping for a slow failure of American society, so they expect to have plenty of warning before they need to leave town.

All told, I see a bunch of people with more money than sense. That's not unusual, nor is it unique to our time. I wish them all the luck in the world and pray that they never have to use the preps they have in place, just as I do for those of us living on tighter budgets.

Now we can all go back to planning what we are going to do when we win the Powerball or similar lottery.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Guest Post: How Not to Drive Away Entry-Level Preppers

by Qua

Last September, I attended a exposition put on by a largish corporation that was looking to get their employees into the mindset of being prepared for emergencies. I thought it would be interesting, and since it was free (my favorite price) and time away from my job (bonus!) I decided to attend.

Now mind you, I try to keep a low profile at work as far as prepping goes. I've noticed that at this company, a large segment of the employees view preppers, even laid-back ones, as nuts. They don't make any distinction between "someone who is ready to ride out a power outage or hurricane for a few days" and "someone with a plan to be self sufficient in an underground bunker long enough so their ancestors can repopulate the earth when the radiation dies down after WW3."

Over the years, this attitude has lead me to the theory of Low Key Is Better when it comes to introducing someone to prepping. You first have to get them to realize there might be something to prep for, something they think is at least possible, and then explain what they might need to have ready to survive it. Once they are past that hurdle, it's easy to bring up suggestions to expand what they might be able to survive.
Don't Scare Off the Muggles
Most of the things laid out at the event were pretty ordinary: "Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and change the batteries in the smoke detectors", "How to secure your house when you are away on a trip", that kind of thing -- nothing for "real" preppers, but nothing to scare off or discourage people who aren't into prepping, nor anything to draw snickers from folks who have more space allotted to spices than they do to food that can survive a power outage. Then I saw the people who brought in an example of an emergency survival bag.

They advertised what they were showing as a "go bag", and it looked like it weighed in around 80 lbs. Honest to God, I've camped recreationally for a week with less gear than this guy was carrying. While advertised as a "go bag", it looked like he expected to be "going" away and into the woods for quite a while.*

The only things he was light on were food and water: 3 bottles of water, two homemade packages of foodstuffs. Enough to last two, maybe three days on slim rations if you were trapped somewhere. Maybe one day's worth on light rations if you were actively traveling / surviving outdoors. The amounts weren't bad, except being too heavy (actual weight) for a "go bag" and too light (in calories) for an outdoor-themed emergency survival pack.

So what did the guy have in his bag? Spam. Yes, a couple of actual cans of Spam, along with other stuff to go with it and some questionable choices whose shelf life I doubted -- but little that would relate to the things that people attending the expo there might eat. The employees at my company raise an eyebrow questioningly when catered sandwiches are brought in for a business lunch!

A Newbie-Friendly Go Bag
After noticing the demonstrator's lack of explanation on much of his presented supplies, I decided to go over what I saw and come up with some pointers on how to introduce a newbie to prepping to the idea of a "go bag".

First you need to convince them they need a "go bag" to begin with. Most don't think they do. In fact, most will look at you like you are a bit of a loon for suggesting it. The way to get past that is to use something they will understand as an example. What works best for me are house fires (because you see them often on the news, and it's easy to understand that they could happen to anyone), and tornadoes (because they happen where I live, and if one hits the house it's likely gone). Once you've established a reasonable scenario, such as "you wake up to your smoke alarm at 3 am", it's easy to make them understand the benefits of having a go bag.
What is a go bag?
A "go bag" should be something you can roll out of bed, grab, and run outside with if you wake to your house on fire. A get home bag assumes you still have a "home" to get back to; a go bag assumes anything you didn't take might be lost forever in said fire.
Once you establish that need, concentrate on what they would need to survive and be comfortable for 8 – 12 hrs afterwards. Let them picture themselves standing in their bedclothes at 3 am with firemen rushing to put out the flaming structure that used to be their house. They and their family are all safe... but what do they do then?
  • Call friends or family? With what? 
  • Drive to a friend's or family member's home? Do they have car keys? 
  • Rent a hotel room? Oops, the wallet, cash, credit and bank cards are in the house. 
At this point you are probably going to be the one putting brakes on, and reminding them that this bag is something they have to carry, in a hurry, from their bedroom out the door. My rule of thumb is if they can't lift it and hold it out at arms length, shoulder level, for at least 30 seconds (1 minute is better), it's too heavy. This is something they want to grab, half-asleep, from the side of the bed and run from the house with.
This bag should have at a minimum:
  • vacuum-sealed or ziplock bags containing: 
    • 1 pair of clothes 
    • walking shoes 
    • a printed copy of close contacts 
    • photocopies of your drivers license and bank info 
  • spare cell phone and charger 
  • medication needed for quality of life (prescription meds, allergy meds, birth control, etc) 
  • spare car keys 
  • spare credit card and cash
  • thumb drive containing copies of all your insurance info, family photos, birth / marriage certificates and financial info. 
At this point, even if they add nothing else, they can likely survive and put their life back together if they run from their burning home.
The Next Step
This is to helping them understand there may be times when emergency services may take a bit to get there. "The sirens went off and the news is advising you to shelter in the basement because a tornado has been sighted." So they did, and it hit the house. Now what?

If they grabbed their go bag they can get dressed, and once they get out of the rubble they can begin putting their life back together. But do they have water? Food? Can they handle even a minor injury if emergency services take a few hours to get to them, much less dig them out?
  • Here is where a first aid kit seems like common sense. 
  • So does three or four bottles of water and some emergency food, but keep it light; it doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be ready packed, not perishable and something they are already used to eating like breakfast / granola bars and trail mix packages. These don't look like "end of the world prepping food", but 5 breakfast bars is nothing for weight and packs around 1000 calories -- that's more than enough to survive a day waiting to be dug out of your basement, yet little enough they won't think twice about carrying them. 
  • Skip the water purification and filter systems, along with all of the typical prepper outdoor survival stuff unless you are in an area of extreme climate -- and then make it the minimum you'd need for 12 hours outside. 
  • Weapons? I'd tread cautiously here. If they are the type who normally carries weapons, they will know what they want. If they are not, its no use advising them to carry something they are not familiar with and might get them in trouble if there is active law enforcement nearby. Again, think "house fire", not "EMP strike". 
  • Knives? See above. A Swiss army knife or multitool is handy, and still legal in most locations (even concealed in a pack). 
This bag as described is obviously not what a seasoned prepper would consider acceptable, but it is a minimal "go bag" that you can convince even a non-prepper to keep by the bedside. From there, they will often find their own list of things they want to add... and maybe with encouragement become a prepper in their own right.

* This was in a rather densely populated urban area where one city blends into another with just a stretch of suburbs between them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

On Budget

I've never really been one for New Years' Resolutions -- if a change is needed, it should be made immediately and not because of something as arbitrary as the date. If the calendar is the only reason for a change, the odds are stacked against it becoming permanent.

There are however some things that the new year is particularly suited for, and one of those is reviewing and updating household budgets. Tax preparation shows you exactly what your income was as of December 3, and many other financial changes take place on January 1. With this information fresh in hand, it's prime time to do some very mundane prepping.

If you've never made a budget before, this can look like a very daunting task. If you've tried before, but always blown the budget, it can feel like stepping up to failure again. Like all other skills, it takes practice to become a proficient budgeter, and you'll very likely have problems your first few tries. Even with my several years of practice and an experienced banker for a wife, this year's budget has had multiple rewrites as we shift priorities and goals. Luckily, budgeting can be made fairly simple if you approach it in steps.

Know Your Income
Start by figuring out your take-home pay. This is pretty easy if you get paid the same amount on every check; if your pay is variable, you'll have to work out an average for each pay period. Your W2 tax form will simplify the math, or you can average out a series of pay stubs. Make sure to use your "net pay" for this, not your "gross pay." Also, never bank on overtime or bonuses for your budget --those things can go away far too easily to depend upon them.

Figure out what you bring home in a month, and write this number at the top of a sheet of paper.

Subtract Your Regular Bills
Once you have your monthly income, list  your regular bills below it. These include rent/mortgage, insurance, car payments, credit cards, and any other regularly paid bills. Total these up, and subtract them from your take home pay. Write down the remainder below your monthly bills.

Budget Discretionary Income
This is where the work starts. After your regular bills, you still need to eat, your car needs gas, and you need to buy clothes and other supplies, and at some point, you'll also want to have entertainment or support a hobby or put back fresh supplies. All of these come from your discretionary money. When you're just getting started with a budget, knowing what you pay for food, gas, and the various other sundries of life is a bit tough. Many banks have a tool on their website that can help with this, by breaking your historical spending into categories and showing trends.

Discretionary income is also where a lot of budget tweaking and rewriting come in, and where budget goals get applied. The big budget goal in our home right now is getting out of debt. We're using a less-aggressive version of Dave Ramsey's "debt snowball" plan (whether you agree with anything else about the man, the snowball is pretty much common sense), so a large chunk of our surplus is being dedicated to paying down debts. The smallest debt gets paid first, then all of that payment gets rolled to the next debt, and so on. I hate owing people money, so we're trying to get away from that.

I've also said before that I'm a big proponent of savings. We have an emergency fund in place, so our saving has slowed down a bit in favor of hitting the debt, but even at this lower rate savings remain a line item on our budget. As I mentioned in the linked post, your specific savings will be personal, and based on your situation; for us, it's in the ballpark of 2 months' worth of house payments. At that level, we don't have to panic if I get laid off or a sudden financial hit occurs.

As you break your disposable income down into categories in your budget, be flexible. Some months will have a higher costs in areas than other months. We always try and budget a little high, just in case we encounter an unexpected spike.

Live With It
Now that you have a budget, here comes the hard part: trying to live within it. You'll likely find yourself reviewing your budget often in the first couple months, trying to make everything balance. This is normal, and is the way to make a budget truly work in the long term.

A little discipline and a little planning will make your life much smoother.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Palette's Product Review: Bondic Liquid Plastic Welder

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
(This is an expansion of the Plug of the Week from yesterday's podcast)

I'm fond of pointing out that preparedness isn't always about being ready for disaster; it's also about being able to handle the small emergencies of day-to-day life.

As an example of a tiny crisis, have you ever had to repair something tiny and fragile and precious to you or someone you care about? If so, you know how difficult that is to do, because you ultimately end up with having to affix a tiny little contact surface that doesn’t hold much glue to another tiny contact surface. You basically need three hands to fix it: one to hold the base unit steady, one to keep the broken part in place long enough for the glue to bond, and one to wipe away the excess glue that always seeps out between the cracks. Use too much glue and you get a mess; don't use enough glue and the object falls off.

My solution to this dilemma is Bondic, the liquid plastic welder.

If you’ve ever gone to the dentist and they’ve used UV light to cure a resin filling, you already know how Bondic works -- it's a pen-sized applicator that squeezes out drops of resin on one side and has a little UV light on the other. Apply what you need (up to a millimeter in thickness), then cure the liquid into a solid with a quick application of ultraviolet light from the lamp on the other end. The plastic bond is transparent even after curing, although it can be sanded and painted if necessary.

This works great for repairing tiny fragile things, because I no longer have to worry about using too much glue or having to hold the items in place. Instead, I just apply a small amount of glue, then secure the pieces with Bondic. The plastic weld holds the pieces together while the glue sets, and it serves as additional reinforcement as well.

Bondic has other uses, too:
  • You can fill holes with it (this is where the sanding and painting becomes useful)
  • You can create parts out of plastic (if you're patient -- the UV light can only penetrate 1mm in depth, so if you're building something large you have to do it layer by layer)
  • You can even use it on electronics as non-conductive solder, or to insulate exposed pieces. 
About the worst thing I can say about it is that its base layer doesn't have much tensile strength. If you use Bondic to repair something that gets a lot of flex (like frames for glasses), you need to use a lot of it, or else the thin plastic will snap.

I apologize if I sound like an infomercial for Bondic. I just really love mine because it's made my life so much easier when it comes to fixing my mother's damages collectibles -- which also means this helps repair upset feelings and maintains family harmony, too. If you're the "Mr. Fixit" in your family, I encourage you to add this to your toolbox.

You can get the Starter Kit from Amazon for $18 plus Prime shipping, and with that you get two tubes of liquid plastic and a UV light. The 12-piece DIY Kit has all that plus a variety of sanding blocks, sticks, and needles for just $25 and Prime shipping.
FTC disclaimer: I bought this item with my own money. I wasn't paid for this review, despite the fact that I gushed over it. Don't you have better things to do than read blogs looking for infractions?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #127 - Nice SHOT, Man

That's why I say man, nice SHOT
What a good SHOT, man
  • The SHOT Show is over and Beth has some thoughts about the Good, the Bad, and possibly the Ugly aspects of it.
  • Who steals a golf cart and punches a cop? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about the recent gun rights court victory, Ezell II.
  • Tiffany also spent the week at SHOT Show. She asks "Why are we so divided?"
  • Do you like wool clothes? They're great for the cold and wet that preppers might have to face. But how do you clean them when you don't have all your modern conveniences? Erin tells you how.
  • Josh Horwitz, the Oompa Loompa of Gun Control, was on the Tucker Carlson show. And you just KNOW that Weer'd is going to take a crack at him.
  • And our plug of the week is Bondic, the Liquid Plastic Welder. If you need to fix it, Bondic might just be the ticket.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Cleaning your Winter Wool
It’s wintertime for most of the country -- I say “most” because here in Florida, it’s still 73 degrees outside -- and when preppers put on their winter clothes, they’re usually made of wool.

Wool is favored by preppers because it retains its insulating properties even when wet. This makes it a great material for clothes that could get immersed -- like socks -- or become damp from sweat.

But the problem with wool is that it doesn’t clean easily. While this isn’t much of a problem for your favorite sweater that you take to the dry cleaners once a year, stinky clothes -- especially socks -- can be a hygiene and morale problem.

So how do you clean your woolies? First of all, don’t wash them like regular clothes. There’s a link in the show notes to a video explaining why, but the short version is that wool, unlike cotton or synthetic fibers, is made out of protein -- which is exactly what most stains are made of, and most cleaning agents are optimized to destroy protein stains. So putting your wool clothes in with regular soap is about as effective as washing them in acid.

In a non-emergency, the best way to clean your wool unmentionables is to use cold water and a soap that is listed as being wool-safe in the gentle (non-agitating) cycle, and then dry them without heat.

But what do you do if you don’t have access to cold water and soap? Fortunately, there are other cleaning methods available to the intrepid prepper.

The easiest method is to use snow. It’s free and it requires very little effort, but you need need snow -- not the easiest thing to find in places like Florida -- and it should be fresh, dry, powdery snow. Using wet snow will make your clothes soggy and you’ll have to carefully let it dry without heat, which is difficult to do in the winter. Assuming you can find this kind of snow, here is what you do:
  1. Shake your clothing out to get rid of any loose dirt or dust.
  2. Hang your clothes outside for at least 30 minutes to allow them to reach air temperature.
  3. Using a clean broom if available -- and if not, use your hands -- sweep enough snow across the clothes to cover them but not bury them.
  4. Compress the snow onto the material using your palms or the flat of the broom.
  5. Let the snow sit for 15-20 minutes. Snow contains trace amounts of ammonia, and it will react with the cold air to cause stains to solidify and be expelled from the material.
  6. When time is up, flip the clothing over and repeat the above process. For garments like socks and underwear, you may need to turn them inside out and repeat the process again.
  7. After you’ve done this to all the soiled sides, shake as much snow off the item and then hang it up to dry in the sunlight. If you’ve done it properly, the snow will evaporate without even getting your garment wet.
If you don’t have access to snow, there’s still another option open to you, but it’s riskier. According to BCP author OkieRhio, who is a fiber arts enthusiast, you can clean soiled wool with plain white vinegar, so long as it’s no more than half cooking strength, and provided you don't have a delicate nose which is overly sensitive to the smell of vinegar on your clothes.

However, there is a problem with cleaning clothes with vinegar, because you have to make VERY certain that you get the material rinsed out EXTREMELY well, so that there is no trace of the vinegar remaining! This is because vinegar is something called a mordanting agent - a chemical used to make fibers more porous and prone to accepting color. What this means is that if you have this great wool sweater that you really like and you rinse it in cold vinegar water but don’t rinse all of the vinegar water out -- the next time you spill anything colored on your sweater, such as tea, your sweater will now be almost permanently stained by the tea.

So here’s the takeaway from all this: Wool clothes are great to have for preps, but odds are good that if you need to clean them in an emergency, they are likely going to end up with odd colors or smells. That’s fine if they’re socks, gloves, or underwear -- function over form -- but keep in mind the drawbacks of cleaning your nicer wool clothes this way.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Guest Post: Dangers and Praises for Multi-Use Preps

by Levi Ethan Groenendael

What "multi-use" means
For whatever reason, our society has become one of "gadgets" - and, as time goes on, we see those gadgets turn into "2 in 1" or "3 in 1" or "819 in 1" devices. For purposes of this article, we're talking about these kinds of things, as opposed to something you can use for one specific task or purpose, but use it multiple times.

Why is it becoming prevalent?
I suspect a big chunk of this has its roots in our use of technology. That's an industry I've dabbled in, once in a while, and people in that field like to use the phrase "convergence" - which is to say, purposes converge within one device. It's why Smartphones (and heck, even dumb phones) tend to have cameras, alarm clocks, music players, radios, calendar tools, contact management tools... one little device does so many things!

Unfortunately, that "one little device that does so many things" isn't always the best tool for the job. You may have a photography-inclined friend who disparages the use of a smartphone's camera, and instead has put a lot of money into a high-end SLR camera which takes some phenomenal pictures, compared to the camera on a smartphone. The camera is a single-purpose device: it takes pictures, that's it. The smartphone on the other hand, is a multi-purpose device: yes, it takes pictures, but not as well as the SLR camera, and it also does a lot of other things too.

Where this becomes a problem is that when the smartphone stops working, a lot (if not all) of the functionality will stop working like you need/want it to. Our technology-based society has gotten good at finding ways to make sure we don't lose data, but that doesn't necessarily apply in a SHTF situation.

Consumables vs. Durable Goods
So, we've talked a little bit about the difference between single-use and multi-use, but when it comes to prepping, we have another concept to consider. Durable goods are things like a camera or a smartphone -- stuff that you buy and use a bunch of times. They're durable, they last. Consumables, on the other hand, are things that you consume -- once you use them up, they're gone.

When it comes to durable goods, it's a good idea not to let your 'stuff' converge too far, or make sure that the function that you have  in the durable goods item is a function you can achieve with another  durable goods item you may have.  A good example of this would be something like a Leatherman or Gerber multitool: they have a blade in them, but they do a lot more than just cutting, and they're not exactly the sort of thing you'd use to split a log for firewood.  A heavy-duty Kabar knife, however, is (generally) a single-purpose durable goods item -- it's meant to cut, and it's big enough you can use a branch to "baton" with it to cut larger pieces of wood.  Odds are pretty good that most preppers out there are going to have one (or more) of each in their bug-out bag.  My general rule of thumb is that if something is a critical function, I need to have at least three ways to do it with the "stuff" I have. As I like to put it, Three for Me, Two is One, One is none.

Consumable goods are where this gets really tricky. Why? Because we have the idea that once something is consumed, it's gone, but that's not necessarily the case. One good example of this is a wooden strike-anywhere match: once you've used a match, it's used up, it's gone, it can't be used anymore... as a match. But so long as it hasn't completely burnt, it makes a great toothpick. If you have a handful them, you can use them as kindling. The box it came in makes a great storage container for small dry goods, etc.

MREs are another example. Some of the "stuff" that comes in these kits, like spoons, is obviously good for re-use... but what about the bag that the entree comes in? I've actually re-used those bags as an ad-hoc pot for cooking. The smaller ones make a great portable cup or fluid container, and they take up a heck of a lot less space than an actual cup or mug, too. Most MRE bags aren't resealable, but some are, and those are like gold if you're in a poor situation. Paper and other packing materials that might seem utterly useless otherwise, can still be used as toilet paper in a pinch. 

Want to get really 'out there'? Batteries, once dead, are still a useful weight, or depending on the construction, may yield a metal sheathing you can use for repairs to other gear, or even to use as an edge for an ad-hoc blade for other purposes.

North American Aboriginals were great at using every last bit of an animal that they'd take down. We preppers should try to do the same thing to consumable goods, with every last bit of material we have available to us should be used and re-used as much as possible.

How to choose?
I try to "use" my preps, one way or another, at least once a year. This means that, yes, consumable items are consumed. This may not be viable for everyone, but if you are able to, it means you have the option to try new things without the stress of your life depending on it.

That's where I figured out about cooking in a MRE Entree bag, and using a 9v housing and a rock to come up with a skinning blade. There are other tricks and tips I've come up with, as well as some I've gleaned elsewhere and put to use myself, but I don't want to take all  the fun out of it -- do it yourself and see what you come up with!

Positives and Negatives of Multi-Use Preps
I've tried to take a fairly even-handed stance here; I've made reference to both situations where a multi-purpose prep is the smart way to go, but while also tempering that with the value of a single-purpose prep as well. I once heard someone say, "It's trying to do everything, but does nothing well." That's really this in a nutshell: if you try really hard to be ultra-careful with your preps, and try to squeeze the most out of every single prep, your overall prepping is going to be really lean -- and we need some of that fat. As with other articles I've written, it's important to figure out what works for you, and what your own limits and minimum requirements are.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam.

Much maligned as a food for the poor, the ubiquitous nature of Spam has earned it a place in a prepper's pantry. I know that at least one of you out there is gagging at the thought of eating “mystery meat” out of a can, but I'm betting that you'd choke it down if you got hungry enough. Some of us were forced to eat things that we didn't like when we were children, and we may have sworn that once we were grown up we'd never eat “that stuff” again, but I think you should give Spam another look.

Made of spiced pork and ham, with various seasonings and a dose of sodium nitrite added as preservative, Spam has been around since 1937. Production and export during WW2 (where it was a field ration) spread the canned meat product all over the world and provided a source of protein for Allied forces and the civilian populations they lived around.

Spam is a simple product. Pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, potato starch (as a binder), sugar, and sodium nitrite are all that's in the basic version today; variants on the market today add bacon, hickory smoke flavoring, Tabasco sauce, jalapeno peppers, garlic, or some other flavoring for a change of pace. 

Produced in plants in in Minnesota and Nebraska, Spam is “retort” canned, meaning that it is cooked in the same can into which it is vacuum sealed. This extends its shelf life beyond that of food which is first cooked and then sealed in a can by eliminating exposure to air and microbes after cooking. Being retort canned makes it “shelf stable”, which means that it doesn't require refrigeration until after it is opened. The cans I have on my pantry shelf have a “best by” date of three years from when I purchased them, which is close to the five year shelf life of most “survival” meals on the market. I'd trust that Spam to be fit to eat beyond those three years, depending on storage conditions -- my pantry is in the basement, so it stays cool and dry with a fairly steady temperature,  all good things for extending the shelf life of stored foods.

Spam comes in standard 12 ounce (oz) cans, and since the “recommended” serving of meat for most meals is 4 oz, each can contains three servings. 
  • One serving provides 310 Calories, about 240 of them from fat (slow energy, useful in cold climates);
  • about 1400 mg of Sodium (half of your RDA);
  • and a good portion of your daily needs for protein and zinc. (It's meat.)
Use some common sense and eat other things as well to balance out your diet, and if you're on a sodium-restricted diet, watch the salt content. For those of us with no natural local source of salt, products like this provide a source if things go wrong for long enough to disrupt normal supply lines.

Spam is easy to find, being sold around the world with some regional variations. Here in the USA it is probably easiest and cheapest to buy it at a local grocery store or Walmart. I normally include Amazon links to products, but when Walmart sells it on their website for $2.50 a can with free shipping and Amazon can't match that unless you're a Prime member, I'll stick to Walmart. It pays to shop around and look for better prices -- some of the prices on Amazon for the flavored kinds were around $7.00 a can, when I can get them at a small-town grocery store for less than $4.00.

As easy as it is to find, Spam is also easy to use. Eat it hot or cold, baked, fried, boiled, broiled, or grilled. There is no shortage of recipes for Spam, with some of the oddest ones coming out of the islands of the Pacific ocean where it was introduced during WW2 and is now a staple or a delicacy depending on the culture.

Spam isn't prime rib, but it will last a lot longer on your shelf. Given the versatility and ease of access, I believe a few cans of Spam should be on everyone's pantry shelf. If nothing else, it's something to threaten the kids with.

P.S.: For those readers who choose to not eat pork products for dietary or religious reasons, there are various forms of canned beef and chicken available, but since they aren't as widely sold the prices are higher -- expect to pay at least twice as much per oz as you would for Spam. Common producers are Yoder's, Lehman's, and Keystone. Two of the three cater to the Amish communities around Ohio and have for many years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Junk In The Trunk

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

Well, 2017 is looking to be an eventful, 'interesting' (in the Chinese proverb/curse meaning) year. I have a new-to-me car that is now my primary vehicle: a 2012 Honda Accord.

The Trunk in Question
Trunk space in my Honda

All of my gear prior to this had to fit under the seat of my Nissan Frontier or in a very plain backpack that I could leave on the floor, hoping it would look too boring to warrant breaking in to find out if it held anything of value.

(And by value I mean 'flea market or pawn shop' value, not how much I might need the contents in an emergency.)

Now that I have a car with a trunk, I can keep my gear there where it's out of sight -- but that means I have to keep it organized. It's been years since I've needed to find trunk organizers, bins or ways to keep the containers from shifting and sliding. I have suggestions from the BCP team for Rubbermaid-type boxes for smaller items (which I need), but there is still nothing there to keep things from moving around. I've seen cargo nets in the trunks of other Hondas and Acuras, so I know that type of thing is available, just not how to adapt it (yet) to the trunk of my slightly older model.

Now I get to work up a list of things that I need to carry, along with a variable list of  wants that will more than likely be stored in separate containers. My GHB, lunch box and daily tools fit easily in the space behind the wheel well and the back edge of the trunk, so carrying everything that I think is needed should still leave plenty of room for normal trunk duties.

Here is another of my projects that will be slowly done, since my budget is now tighter than before. I plan on this being a priority for the next few weeks, so feedback and product suggestions will be appreciated!

The Takeaway
  • Organizing daily carry gear in your vehicle is as important as keeping it organized in your various bags.
The Recap 
  • I can now carry things discretely and securely that previously were too large, bulky or valuable to take with me without a trunk!
  • Nothing was purchased this past week, other than a 2012 Honda Accord to replace my beloved 2002 Nissan Frontier Long Bed Crew Cab.

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, January 17, 2017

Alternative Navigation

We've established that a map and compass are necessary for navigation, providing vital information about where you are, where you want to be, and what is between you and that goal. Unfortunately, sometimes these vital tools fail: maps can become wet or torn or otherwise become unusable; compasses can break or be lost. Losing your tools makes things far more difficult, but it isn't the end of the world.

If you find yourself without a map in hilly or mountainous territory, "downhill and downriver" is a good rule of thumb --  work downhill until you find the water, then follow the water downstream to the people. In flatter, more arid territory, look for stands of trees or bushes that mark watering holes and streams, and follow the water from there.

If you lose your compass, there are ways to find approximate directions without it. A rough East-West bearing can be found early and late in the day simply by checking the sun. The closer you are to the equator, the more accurate this bearing will be, but even at my 41 degrees north latitude, it's close enough to work.

Another method involves standing a stick at least 12" long vertically into the ground. Mark the tip of the shadow cast by this stick, wait about 15 minutes, and then mark the new point of the shadow tip. A line drawn between both marks will be a quite accurate East/West indicator. The first mark is the western end of the line, the second mark shows east.

At night, the stars are a time-tested method of navigation. In the Northern Hemisphere, Polaris (the "north star") is the star of choice. Learn to locate it, and you can draw bearings without the sun at all.

Tools are a wonderful thing. Being without them is tough, but with this knowledge and some practice, you'll have no excuse for being lost.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #126 - Panthers, Po-Po, and the Pew-Pew Life

It's the pew-pew life for us!
Guns are civil rights for us!
Steada resting, we fight back!
Nearly all our guns are black!
It's the pew-pew life!
  • Beth is going to the SHOT Show. Since she started attending in 2000, some things have changed... and some have not.
  • We all love a story with a happy ending, and this one will not disappoint you. But what sort of person ties up a woman in her own bedroom during a home invasion? Sean tells you what he's found.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin read and explain the newly introduced National Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill.
  • What are the dark, secret parts of Gun Control? Tiffany gets her Black Panther Party on and tells us what she's found.
  • Does the idea of flushing the toilet during an emergency by pouring good clean drinking water into it feel like sacrificing your baby? Erin tells us how the Blue-Grey-Black water cycle can help.
  • There's a new "threat" to our gun rights. Are they dangerous, or just a paper tiger? Weer'd takes a recent NPR interview with their spokesman and puts it all in context.
  • And our plug of the week is for "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" on Netflix. It's got guns, action, and adventure for the guys, and costumes, relationships, and not a small amount of wish fulfillment for the ladies. It's a date night TV show for everyone.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunesStitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
the Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle
Last week, Sean and I talked about the preparations he’d made for the Snowpocalypse that was slated to hit North Carolina, and later on Facebook he posted a picture of his bathtub full of water jugs.  He captioned it it “This is about 40 gallons, or three flushes of the toilet” and then in the comments explained “During the power outage from the hurricane I had to pour water into the toilet to make it flush the poo. The Wife insisted. Each flush was 2.5 gallons. It was like sacrificing a baby watching all that water I'd driven to Walmart to get going down the toilet.”

And I agree, using 2 and a half gallons of fresh drinking water to flush the toilet is wasteful. So let’s talk about making the most out of our drinking water by utilizing the Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle.
  • Blue water -- also sometimes called white water, but that makes me think of rapids -- is water fit for human consumption. The technical term for this is “potable”, and it’s what you drink and cook with and bathe in and usually what you wash your clothes in. 
  • Gray water is what goes down the drain. It’s not drinkable, because it’s soiled with things like dirt, soap, bits of food, hair, shampoo, skin cells, and so forth, but it’s not harmful to a human being. You could bathe in gray water without ill effects. 
  • Black water is what leaves your toilet, and it’s decidedly NOT safe to be exposed to, because it’s full of pathogens that are just waiting to infect you if they get past your skin. 
So the general thought behind this cycle is that you can use water more than once, going from levels of highest potability to lowest, if you are in a situation like Sean where your water resources are limited.

Here’s an example of how that would work in a limited-water emergency:
  1. When preparing food or washing yourself or your clothes, do not pour the water down the sink. Instead, catch it in a container of some kind. The blue water has become gray. 
    • If you REALLY want to ration water, wash your clothes and your dirty dishes in the gray water. I would caution you that the grease and other food elements might not be the best for your clothes, but it’s possible. Washing dishes and utensils in gray water isn’t as bad, since metals and ceramic aren’t going to absorb odors, but make sure that 1) you use lots of soap and 2) you rinse them with blue water before putting them away for reuse.
    • Depending on the soap and other elements in the gray water, you might be able to use it for watering plants. In fact, gray water irrigation is a rabbit hole that is outside the scope of this article, so I’m going to suggest that anyone who is interested should check out the article titled “How Gray Water Reclamation Works” in the show notes. 
    • For our example here, though, we’re just going to assume that you aren’t going to do that. Instead, you save that gray water for flushing the toilet.
  2. Now it must said that when it comes to conserving water, the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule must be in effect. Otherwise, you’re going to be flushing a lot more often, which is exactly what we want to avoid.
  3. When it comes time to “flush it down, because it’s brown”, you take your bucket or tub or whatever container of gray water you have and you pour about a gallon of it, quickly, from about two feet. You don’t want it so high that you get splashed, but you want it high enough that the water gets a gravity assist.
  4. Past a certain point, the pressure of water in the bowl will be greater than the air pressure in the pipes beyond, and the force will induce a flush. There’s a YouTube video in the show notes if you need a demonstration.
  5. After you pour the gray water into the toilet, it becomes black water -- and because you’ve caused it to flush, that black water is no longer your concern.
Now before you decide to start saving your gray water for flushing, you need to know that gray water becomes black water within about 24 hours due to the bacteria in the water eating the food and giving off their own waste. So don’t let it become a health hazard and flush it away.

But with that in mind, Sean and everyone else can be a lot happier if the water goes out during a winter storm, because 1 gallon of gray water is a lot less heart-wrenching to flush than 2.5 gallons of blue water.

And if you’d like to read more about getting by on limited water, check out the linked article of the same name on Blue Collar prepping, linked in the show notes.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: The Little House Cookbook

Hey all, it's Evie and I'm recovering from a cold -- a nasty little strain that waylaid both myself and my fiancé. DR, being the lovely chap that he is, decided to surprise me with this book after it was clear that I had indeed caught the cold from him. I've had it on my wishlist a for a long time now, and I ended up reading it cover to cover in less than a day.

I grew up with the Little House on the Prairie book series, so having the cookbook in my hands was a huge treat because I was relieving parts of my childhood. If you're a fan of the series like I am, there are bits and pieces of information in this book that will leave you giggling and having "OH!" moments, and the two alternate pretty regularly. Many of the sketches from the original series appear in this book.
Memories aside, though, this is a great cookbook in of itself. There are recipes in here from the late 1800s that were made during sparse times, and these recipes can be tailored easily for preppers and our pantries.

However, some of the recipes you will most likely never try. Case in point: blackbird pie. None of the North American corvid family may be hunted freely and without season, so you'd likely need to hunt starlings instead, and it takes 12 of them to make this pie. Now while I might be stubborn enough to try that endeavor (remember the duck plucking incident?), most folks are not going to be that hungry, let alone that bored.

Other recipes include homemade sausage, baked spareribs, roasted pig and a recipe for oxtails soup. There are also tips and recipes for fruit drying, fruit jams and jellies, cakes, and even a recipe for ginger water.

So whether you decide to get this cookbook for the sake of a series you grew up reading, are a fan of cookbooks from an era when food had to go further, or just want a good base for starting to build your own recipes, I highly recommend The Little House Cookbook ($15.32 with Prime shipping) -- as well as the rest of the Little House on the Prairie series!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Lee Loader Kit

We have mentioned reloading ammunition in a few posts, and one of the comments we got back was about the Lee Loader series of reloading kits. I started reloading with a single stage press, and still do most of my reloading on that press, but I have been collecting Lee Loader kits for various calibers for “just in case”. I find them on tables at gun shows in some odd calibers, usually for less than they cost new, and they make good gifts for friends who shoot odd guns that are harder to find ammunition for.

What's Inside
The Lee Loader is a single-caliber kit that gives you all of the tools (except a plastic mallet or piece of hardwood) you will need to reload cartridges of that caliber. The Lee Precision company used to make these kits in 110 calibers, but have narrowed their current listings down to the 15 most common (6 pistol, 9 rifle) calibers. Being made of steel, the old kits are still out there and are still usable if you can find them. Lee Precision claims you can load up to 50 rounds in an hour with such a kit. That will take some practice -- I'd say 20 rounds per hour is more realistic for a beginner or someone unfamiliar with the kit and its operation. However, it's fast enough for someone who is reloading after hunting.

One downside to using the Lee Loader is that it does not full-length size the fired brass. This means that it doesn't squeeze the brass back down to standard factory size, so it will be “formed” to the chamber of the firearm that it came out of. The brass will be “neck sized”, meaning the part that holds the bullet will be forced back to the proper size, which is great for accuracy when used in a single firearm. Many precision shooters use specific lots of brass assigned to a specific rifle and they only neck size it when they load. Since the body of the cartridge is formed to the chamber of that rifle, it doesn't have to stretch out every time it is fired and that extends the life of the brass. Lee Precision does not recommend using the Lee Loader kits for semi-auto, pump, or lever-action rifles, which limits you to bolt-action and break-action rifles. Neck-sizing can mean using a bit more force to get the cartridge into the chamber, which you probably won't notice in a bolt-action but might cause a semi-auto to jam.

Here's one of my Lee Loader kits. This one is for the .303 British cartridge, which is what I feed my Lee-Enfield rifle. Since I only have the one rifle in this caliber and ammunition for it is not common in my area, the Lee Loader is a good choice. 

This is an old kit from the 1970s or early 80s, and came in a cardboard box with a styrofoam liner; I think I paid $10 for mine at a gun show back in the day. Newer kits come in a red plastic box with formed holders for the various parts. They are still making the kits in .303 British, and they sell on Amazon for about $30. The older kits in discontinued calibers may be worth a bit more, if you can find them on eBay or at a gun show, but they are the same quality as the new ones.

Reloading Procedure
The rifle kit is made up of six pieces and the instructions are quite well-presented. I doubt any of you would have a problem opening the box and being able to reload a box of ammunition without incident, but here is a run-down of the process.

Before First Use
Before you can start loading, you need to set the bullet-seating depth based upon the total length of a factory cartridge. If you are working to create a load specifically for accuracy in your rifle, you may want to adjust the bullet depth later.
  1. Screw the lock nut and stop collar all the way down.
  2. Place a factory cartridge on the depriming chamber.
  3. Place the die over the cartridge.
  4. Put the bullet seater into the die and adjust the stop collar up until it touches the seater, then tighten then lock collar.
Case Prep
  1. Check to make sure the case will fit into the chamber of your rifle.
  2. Clean the brass if needed -- dirt and grit will damage a reloading die.
  3. Inspect the case for cracks and splits, especially on the neck. Discard any brass that is split or cracked, as it's not safe to use any more.
  4. Check the primer holes inside the cartridge. If there is one hole in the center of the base, it is Boxer primed and is reloadable. If you see two holes it is Berdan primed and is not reloadable with this equipment. Berdan priming is common in European and Asian ammunition, whereas Boxer priming is the standard in the USA.
  5. Check your case length against a new one or with a guage to make sure it isn't too long. After being fired a few times, brass tends to “grow” and may need to be trimmed back to a the right length. If it gets too long the brass may not release the bullet when it is fired, causing excessive pressure and damage to the gun and/or you.
  6. Using a pocket knife or suitable tool, chamfer the inside of the neck slightly to ease the bullet into the brass. This only has to be done before the first loading and after trimming.
Depriming the Brass
  1. Place the cartridge in the depriming chamber (the small black cylinder). It will only fit in one way, so don't worry about getting it backwards.
  2. Place the depriming tool in the case. You can feel the tip of the tool drop into the primer hole.
  3. Using a rubber mallet, tap the depriming tool until you feel the old primer fall out.
  4. Move on to the next case. Depriming them in a batch speeds up the process.
Size the Neck of the Case
  • Place the brass neck down in the sizing die and tap it with a mallet until the head is flush with the base.
Prime the Case
  1. Place a primer, open end up, in the priming chamber. (That's the metallic cylinder with the spring-loaded face.)
  2. Place the die, with the brass still in it, over the priming chamber.
  3. Place the priming tool into the neck of the cartridge and gently tap the end a few times to seat the primer.
  4. Move the die to the depriming chamber and tap the priming tool lightly to knock it loose from the die. Leave it there while going on to the next steps.
Add Powder
Each kit comes with a red powder scoop that is sized for a small selection of common powders. Don't substitute powders without a way to measure them. Powder selection and measurement is one of the hardest and most important safety-important parts of reloading!
  1. To use the scoop, drag it through the powder and give it one and only one shake to the side to level off the powder.
  2. Pour the powder into the open end of the die.
Seat the Bullet
  1. Drop the bullet, base-down, into the die.
  2. Place the bullet-seating stem into the die.
  3. Tap the bullet seater until it touches the die.
Crimp the Bullet
If you're using a rifle with a tubular magazine and have used bullets with a crimping groove (known as a cannelure) or lead bullets, there is a way to crimp the bullets into the brass.
  1. Turn the loaded cartridge upside down and insert the bullet end into the of the die.
  2. Gently tap the base of the bullet with the plastic mallet or piece of wood until you get the amount of crimp you want.

If you're looking for a way to keep a hunting rifle supplied on a limited budget, a Lee Loader may be a route to explore. As an example:
  • My .303 British takes 38.5gr of IMR 4320 powder, something I have on the shelf since it is suitable for several rifle calibers. 
  • There are 7000 gr in a pound, so I can get about 180 rounds (9 boxes) reloaded from a single container. 
  • Powder is selling for about $25 a pound, so that's about $0.14 worth of powder for each round. 
  • Primers are going for about $4 per hundred or $0.04 per round.
  • Bullets are variable, depending on weight and design but average around $0.14 apiece. 
Add this all up ,and you can reload a fairly odd-ball caliber for $0.32 a round, or $6.40 a box. Try finding factory ammunition at that price --  or at any price, once TSHTF.

A pound of powder, a couple flats of primers, two boxes of bullets, a Lee Loader kit, a plastic mallet, and a few boxes worth of brass will fit comfortably in a small ammo can or a medium Rubbermaid box. Not a bad way to store a year or two's worth of hunting ammo!

The Fine Print

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