Thursday, February 20, 2020

Hand Drills, part 2

Last week I covered the once-common hand brace style of manual drill. This week I want to explore the geared manual drill, usually just referred to as a hand drill, the last form of manual drill invented before electric motors took over the hand tool market.
Sometimes called an eggbeater drill because it uses the same mechanism as a manual eggbeater, this style of hand drill shares most of the pros and cons of the hand brace but uses a gear and pinion system to increase the speed of the turning bit. That pesky law of conservation of energy requires that an increase in speed comes at the cost of torque or power, so a hand drill is not going to do large holes as well as a brace will. The now-standard 3-jaw chuck for holding drill bits was introduced with this style of drill, allowing more flexibility and standardization in the choice of bits. Working around explosives in the Army, I had to use an eggbeater style drill on rare occasions. I recall drilling out a couple of rivets, which took two days and a bunch of bits, but they were made of very hard metal.

Eggbeater drills are still in production and I recommend spending more for a quality tool rather than getting a cheap one. We usually link to Amazon for purchases, but after looking at what they had to offer I couldn't find one available in the US worth adding to a serious tool box. I did find a woodworking toolsite that has better quality, so I'll use their drills and pictures as examples.

To recap the pros and cons of a manual drill, with emphasis on the eggbeater style:

  • Quiet. With no electric motor, they are almost silent.
  • Precise. The lower speed and manual operation give better control over the drilling.
  • Cordless. No batteries or electricity means it will work anywhere, even after a power outage or underwater. Yes, I have seen them used underwater and they do work.
  • Durable. Fewer moving parts generally means longer life. As long as you choose a well-built drill, it should last a few generations.
  • Slow. When working on metal or stone, slow speeds will extend the life of your bits. I can't count the times I've seen someone with an electric drill ruin a bit by using too much pressure and too high of a speed. Blue bits don't cut and can't be sharpened; the steel has lost its tempering and is too soft.

  • Slow. Trust me, they're slow when used on metal.
  • Tiring. Instead of using a whole-arm motion like a brace, the eggbeater style only uses the lower part of your arm. You'll feel it in your elbow instead of your shoulder after a while.
  • Low torque. The eggbeater style won't generate the torque of a brace, so it is better suited for small bits (under 3/8th inch).

There are a few different styles of hand drills.

Instead of having a handle in line with the chuck and bit, a chest drill will have a flat or slightly curved plate perpendicular to the chuck. This lets the operator put his chest on the plate while turning the crank, giving him more downward pressure. Handy for working with larger wood bits and any size metal bit, but overkill for precision work. I have seen sets with removable handle/chest plate sets to expand the use of the drill. Picture from Highland Woodworking.

Single vs. Double Pinion
Cheap or light-duty drills will have a single pinion gear connected to the shaft that holds the chuck. The outside drive gear with the crank handle on it will engage this pinion gear and cause the shaft to spin. Having only the bottom of the frame for support, this style will not be as precise or as durable and a drill with two pinions.

Double pinion drills have pinions that engage the drive gear at top and bottom. Cheap versions will have the top pinon mounted to the top of the frame and a drive shaft that ends at the bottom pinion, while a quality drill will have a shaft that extends through the frame and has pinion on both top and bottom. Proper double pinion gears will provide a more rigid drive shaft and less tendency for the drill to twist or torque while in use.

Light vs. Heavy Duty
Light-duty is the standard, while heavy-duty generally means better bearings and stiffer frame with the addition of a second handle mounted in the center of the frame. The second handle will let you get more of a pistol style grip on drill, which is handy when using it in a horizontal position.

Adding a gear box and the ability to change gears, this style will offer a bit more flexibility in what you can do but adds a lot of moving parts.You can see the gear box on the breast drill above.

Extra-Light Duty
Fiskars is a craft and hobby brand of scissors and other hand tools. They make a plastic hand drill that is pistol-shaped, designed to be held in the left hand while the right hand turns a crank on the side. I've never used one, but I'd bet that it has plastic gears inside the sealed case. Plastic gears will not last as long as even cheap metal ones, so I would place this in the “toy tools” box.

Not everything a prepper can use fits in the EDC category. Having a well-stocked tool box will give you options to repair or build things that can make life easier. If you're looking at barter as a part of your preps, having the tools to create things opens up new opportunities and being able to repair stuff is a valuable skill.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Prudent Prepping: I'm Stuck on Bandaids

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

Yes, I carry a very small first aid kit with me and the largest number of items in it are band-aids. There are a couple of other things besides band-aids.

Where It Started
Originally it was a Johnson & Johnson mini first aid kit, like this one.
From the Amazon page:
  • Perfect for minor first aid situations
  • The plastic case is durable to travel with you wherever you go
  • Contains 12 essential first aid items
  • Includes cleansing wipes, first aid gauze pad, knuckle adhesive bandages, and butterfly closures.
I've used up the original contents and kept the case, because it is the right size to put into my lunchbox, sling bag or laptop bag.

What's Inside
Some similar items, actually!


I still have band-aids and alcohol wipes, but I've added an antibiotic cream, Liquid Skin, and a lighter. (Why a lighter? This was the best place to keep it safe and is easily found when I need it.) I would like to replace the butterfly closures when I find a small package of them so that I can divide them between my other kits.

The Liquid Skin really gets a workout on my hands, since about half the day I wear gloves and half not. When I get a scratch or a cut, keeping a band-aid on my hands or a finger is almost impossible, due to putting on gloves, taking off gloves, and reaching into a pocket to get keys or money.

Liquid skin in use

The shiny stuff on the scab is Liquid Skin covering a scratch. I tried to keep a band-aid on this for a day and it didn't work; my gloves tore the band-aids right off, and when not wearing gloves dirt worked its way under the bandage or I'd bash that spot and cause more bleeding.

One minor problem: the tube is pretty sensitive to heat and cold after opening, or at least that's my guess. I had a hard time getting the cap off due to dried material gluing the cap down. Since the Liquid Skin is carried in a box and there's no chance of smashing the tube to force out the liquid, expansion and contraction is my answer.

The stores I service all have much bigger first aid kits with gauze pads and the like, but for 99% of the 'emergencies' I see, this kit can handle the job. for that last 1%, I have the tourniquet and carrier I mentioned in last weeks post, along with a much larger kit in my GHB.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but I'm going to see about buying more Liquid Skin.
  • I now need to go through all my first aid kits and look at the things that I've opened, not only to see if they haven't dried out, but also to check on everything's expiration dates.


    Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

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

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

Monday, February 17, 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hand Drills, part 1

I took a trip up to my "cabin" a while back just to check on things. It's really a 14' x 21' shed that a buddy and I built many years ago on a back corner of my family farm. It sits on top of a hill buried in trees and is a pain to get to, which makes it perfect for providing a peaceful place to go to take a break from society. We don't store much in the cabin since it is not a secure location (hunters and hikers wander by), but it is a form of fall-back Bug Out Location (BOL) since it has a solid roof and a wood stove for heat/cooking. The main thing we have stored there is tools, some left over from when we built it and others added to make staying there a little nicer. The entire shed was built without the use of power tools on-site, so all of the tools are manual.

Among the handful of manual tools on the shelf is a manual drill, sometimes called a hand brace. There's a metal box full of drill bits next to it, sizes from 1/8th inch to 1- 1/4 inch, for wood-working, We used the drill to make holes in the floor and walls for a few wires from the solar panel and short-wave antenna, along with a few other minor uses, but it stays up there for future projects. Mine is an older version of this one that is still in production.
A hand drill may seem like something that your great-grandpa would have used, and he likely did. Before the invention of small electric motors, hand drills were the only practical way we had to make holes in materials. Their history goes back centuries, and I'll get into that in a future post, but the hand brace was the last generation of manual drills before motor drills replaced them.

A hand brace is normally used for working with wood due to the slow speeds it reaches, but I have used mine on soft metals like Aluminum and Copper. Even though they're old tech, they still do their job and don't require batteries or extension cords.

  • No electricity- this is a major point for a back-up tool. It will work just as well in your garage as it will 20 miles from the nearest power line.
  • Quiet- Without the whine of an electric motor, you can work without bothering neighbors or family that is trying to sleep.
  • Simple- Fewer parts means fewer things that can break or get lost. Before cordless drills became common, you needed a chuck key to tighten the part of an electric drill that holds the bit (the chuck). Losing that key made changing bits a challenge.
  • Inexpensive- The cheap imports are half the price of a cheap cordless drill. A quality brace may be found in antique shops or flea markets, but the prices will vary wildly.
  • Durable- I have cordless drills that are less than 15 years old that I can't find batteries for. Any cordless drill over I've ever torn apart or seen destroyed was full of plastic gears and sealed bearings. My hand brace is older than I am, and by keeping it clean and oiling it once in a while I'll be able to pass it down to my grandson.
  • Safe- Since you are providing the power to the tool, you have instant feedback on how well it is working. The slow speed of the drilling action means that you won't have an out-of-control drill torquing out of your grip if it binds on something. These are also a lot safer to hand to a child as they learn how things work.
  • Slow- Slow and steady allows a better chance of precision with a hand-held tool. Getting a hole at the proper angle is easier at low speeds and corrections are simpler. 
  • Versatile- I have bits for my hand brace up to 1-1/4 inch, which is more than most cordless drills can handle. With a modern chuck I can also use the tiny bits that are commonly found in household bit sets. I also have a set of bits with screwdriver heads and they come in very handy when working with long or large wood screws. The swing of the brace lets me get a lot of torque on a stubborn screw

  • Slow- With a rotating speed measured in double-digit RPMs instead of thousands, it's going to take longer to make a hole.  A lot longer. You're not going to be putting a round wire wheel in a hand brace to remove paint or rust unless you're really bored.
  • Tiring- Your arms are the power source, so you're going to get a workout if you have very many holes to drill. People today aren't used to using manual tools, so it may exercise a set of muscles that you didn't know you had.
  • Bits aren't common- You're not going to find a very large selection of bits anywhere, and very few places carry them. Unless you find a brace with a modern 3-jaw chuck, it will require a bit with a tapered, squared tail to function. Your local hardware store is not likely to have those on the shelf.
  • Larger- While the brace itself may not be much larger than a motor drill, the space required to swing the center piece will mean that working in corners or near walls/floors is going to be  harder. 

As some of you know by now, I'm a fan of old-school tech. It worked for our ancestors, and will still work for us if we lose the luxuries of electricity and big-box stores. Knowing how things used to get done makes it easier for me to figure out a way to work around problems.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Bottle Bag Challenge

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

Well, I tried to get this thing done last week, but it didn't happen.

Water Bottle Challenge
Erin set out specific but also very vague guidelines for this challenge. Everything has to go in or be attached to the bottle carrier is what I understood the rules to be. (Correct. - Erin). My bottle carrier was shown in this blog post, right after Erin announced the challenge. Here is what I have going into my bag.

The big pieces

The bag was written up well in the original post, but with a little time to fool with it, I believe this setup will be used when I'm in the local parks this spring and summer. There are plenty of attachment points for clipping to or use MOLLE straps. There are even loops on top of the bag for another patch!

(Speaking of patches, this one is from a BCP Facebook group member and friend, Jonathan Sullivan. If you'd like to buy one contact him, but hurry up because they are going quickly.)

The water bottle is one I've had for a while and don't carry often, since it was purchased from REI. I've limited what I buy from them over the last two years to things that I can't wait for Next Day from Amazon.

Next to that is a Maxpedition PLP cell phone case. More on that later.

Next to that is my latest item bought from Amazon: FUNANASUN 2 Pack Molle Pouches
From the Amazon ad:
  • One item includes 2 tactical pouches and 2 carabiners. Dimensions: 8.3" x 4.7" x 2.2". Constructed by durable 600D nylon material and internal surface are made of waterproof material.
  • The tactical pack has vinyl sewed inside to keep moisture from soaking through to the material on to the outside, and a steel drain hole rivet in the bottom.
  • The molle attachment bag with 2 buckle straps on the back could be attached to tactical backpack, combat vest or other tactical gears as an extra exterior pouch or carry it as a normal pouch to secure essential gears.
  • The utility molle pouch with two-way zippers in silent cord pulls allows you to quickly zip the military pouch shut from either both sides or access just one side of the tactical pack without completely opening it.
  • The main compartment and 2 internal pockets are perfect for storing cell phone, tactical pen, keychain, GPS device, digital cameras, medical supplies, ammo, paracord or any necessary gadgets you need.
I chose this because I needed a bag about this size for carrying some extra items on my sling bag, but never ordered one, so I ordered two for this challenge.

What It Holds
The Contents

I decided to use the water bottle as a water bottle by keeping it empty and carrying everything in the pouch and existing pocket on the bottle bag.

The contents, from left to right and top to bottom:
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter 
  • Hand sanitizer from CVS
  • Pencil wrapped with duct tape
  • Hatori AAA pen light
  • Mints
  • Eye glass repair kit
  • Gum
  • 3 Clif Bars
Bottom Row
  • SOL Survival Blanket 
  • Leatherman  multitool
  • Mini Johnson and Johnson 1st Aid Kit
  • Magnifying Tweezers
Everything but the first aid kit fits into the molle pouch.; that, I had to put into the pocket on the Bottle Carrier itself.

All that's left is the cell phone pouch mentioned earlier.

Maxpedition PLP Phone Case
Maxpedition PLP and contents

I've had this case for some time and carry it with me at work and elsewhere. I wrote about the first version of this kit in this post and have been fooling with the contents ever since.

What you see is:

  • North American Rescue CAT tourniquet
  • H&H mini compression bandage
  • 2 pair rubber gloves
  • Six alcohol wipes 
The wipes sort of migrated to this pouch and so I left them. Everything else should be fairly self explanatory when you read the linked post.

There is still room in the Bottle Carrier pocket for more things, but for what I want at the moment, this is enough... until I start fooling around with it again.

Recap And Takeaway
  • I was surprised with how much I was able to fit into the available space. There is even room to add more without using the empty water bottle as extra storage.
  • I bought a FUNANASUN 2 Pack Molle Pouches from Amazon for $15.99 with Prime. If you aren't a member of the BCP Facebook page, you missed my explanation of why I chose a different model of carrier than Erin's. 
  • Nothing else was purchased this week.
* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

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

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

Monday, February 10, 2020

Shootist's Water Bottle Bag Challenge

Less may be more, but lightweight still is king.

I apologize for talking so much.

Buy your water bottle bags here.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Trauma Infographic

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This has been making the rounds on various blogs, and it's so good I thought I'd post it here for everyone to use. I didn't know that I shouldn't pack an abdominal wound and I would very much like to learn why not.

Blue Collar Prepping endorses the following products:

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Shelter Essentials

Lately we've been discussing skills and the need to practice them, and one of the most important skills that I can think of is providing some form of shelter in an emergency. I'm going to take a generalist approach to my methods and ideas on shelter in order to cover as many variables as possible, as this is one of those times where knowing "why" helps take care of the "how".

These are general ideas work for improvised shelters, portable shelters, and impromptu or expedient shelters. You're going to want the same basics in any tent, debris hut, basement, or bunker. If you're looking at a damaged or abandoned structure, these are the things to give extra scrutiny.

Parts of any shelter, in my order of importance:

  • Most of what we'll need shelter from is going to come from above. Rain, snow, fallout, and sunlight are all things to take shelter from, so having a proper roof over our heads is important. 
  • A proper roof should stop most of what you're trying to get out of. Nothing is perfect, so look for ways to improve what you've found with what you have.
  • Of slightly less importance is heat; heat rises, and a good roof will trap it closer to you and therefore shrink the amount of heat you'll need to generate to stay comfortable. 
  • For the most basic shelter, a flat roof leaned against a solid structure or another section of roof (to form a tent-like shelter) is quick to build and simple enough to throw together from debris and scraps. Additional heat is usually provided by an open fire outside the shelter, near the opening, for safety. 
  • More advanced shelters should include some method of allowing smoke and excess heat out through an opening in the roof, so include that in any planning.

  • Heat may rise, but it is also carried away by conduction. Placing a floor between your body and the ground will break the physical connection between the two and reduce heat loss from conduction through the earth.
  • Anything placed on the bare ground will be better than nothing. Packed earth is a building option, but should be on the bottom of the list.
  • If you're going to be using an open fire inside as a source of heat, you'll want to make sure the floor is not going to catch fire. 
  • You'll want your floor to be above ground level to prevent water from entering. If you can't get that, make sure the floor is sloped enough to allow water to leave. The standard for water drainage is at least one-eighth of an inch of drop for every foot of length.

  • A simple debris hut or lean-to won't have actual walls, but anything more complicated than those will have them. 
  • Walls have to support the roof and block weather, and are normally built before the roof. Plan ahead and make sure you have some way to get the roof pieces up on top of the walls, or you'll have an animal pen instead of a shelter.
  • They also should be constructed in a manner that will let you control air-flow through the shelter, especially if you are using an open flame as a source of heat.
  • Walls will give you more room to move around inside, but will also increase the amount of air you'll have to heat or cool, so plan your shelter according to your fuel supply.

  • Opening don't have to be doors and windows, but those are the most common. Chimneys, ventilation holes, and loose construction methods also count as openings. Openings should have some method of closing when they're not in use.
  • Doors and shutters are a great way to add a layer of security to your shelter while they help keep out the weather. The tighter they fit, the better they will keep out dust, snow, and vermin.
  • Windows don't have to be made of glass. Early pioneer cabins and houses didn't have access to glass, so they used oilcloth or greased paper to keep the bugs and dust out while letting some light in. 

  • Modern plastics are common enough to be useful in emergency shelter construction. Clear plastics make passable windows, but add layers if it's very thin. Opaque plastics make good waterproofing for roofs and walls.
  • Wood comes in many forms, from sticks, logs, and branches to mill-cut lumber. Easy to work with and easy to find anywhere outside of a desert or arctic plain, wood is the most common material in the US.
  • Masonry like brick and stone is common in many areas, but requires a binder of some sort (like mortar) to hold them together, unless you're lucky enough to find flat stones that will stack securely. A good source of clay and a fire will provide you with masonry bricks.
  • Dirt makes a fair construction material, but takes a lot of time and manpower to use correctly. Sod cabins were common 150 years ago around my area; adobe is more common is the Southwest; and baked mud bricks were used for centuries in other parts of the world. Google "rammed earth construction" if you want more information on a rather rare method of building.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but rather more of a way to spark your imagination and powers of observation. I've got a fair amount of experience building and repairing things, so I can look closely at a structure and get a good idea of how sturdy it is, but some of you may not have much experience and will have to learn as you go. Just remember that practice makes permanent, so if you practice something wrong, you'll always get it wrong. I'll be practicing a couple of methods of making emergency shelters this spring and summer, so watch for updates with pictures.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Buffet Post

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

As usual, I have ideas and topics I can't seem to make into stand alone posts, so here is another odds and ends post.

Replacing Food
I have friends who are now serious about looking out for themselves. With all the fires the last three years and the closest big one barely 15 miles away, their decision to get going wasn't a difficult one.

I am also slowly converting my stored food to much longer lasting items, and so I ordered another Mountain House Classic Bucket. I first wrote about buying Mountain House items in this post, and I like their assortment. This is the second meal bucket for me, and my friends also have two.

From the Mountain House Amazon page:
  • Quick prep! Just add water to the pouch and eat in less than 10 minutes, with no extra cleanup!
  • Contains 12 total pouches, two each Beef Stroganoff with Noodles, Chicken Teriyaki with Rice, Beef Stew, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Noodles & Chicken, and Granola with Milk & Blueberries. Bucket contains 29 total servings.
  • Allergens: Soy, Milk, Wheat, Egg, Coconut
  • 30-Year Taste . Packaging May Vary.
  • Use for emergency food storage, survival food, camping trips, backcountry hiking, RV expeditions and more!

This pail is closed and I think it will stay that way -- keeping it closed is best for my purposes since, with water and a heat source, I have food for several days. With the possibility of earthquakes and fires forcing an evacuation, having these buckets in easily moved pails seems like a good idea.

Impulse Buying
Last Friday I was talking to an employee about how dust masks were flying off their shelves and what people were buying. The masks I mentioned in this post were sold out, with no restock date in the system. My friend laughed and let me see the 8 week sales history of that product and I almost fell over, since the average was 6 per week and the prior weeks' sales were 128!

My previous advice to stay home if you aren't feeling well still stands, along with keeping away from crowds if you have a compromised immune system. Being concerned with a new variation of a disease is fine, just be aware that the normal known flu virus killed almost 80,000 people 2017-2018. Be aware, not alarmed.

Bottle Bag Challenge Update
I'm still fooling around with several different ways to carry all I want. Our Esteemed Leader has (as usual) set a pretty high bar for what she was able to fit into a bottle bag. How to fit things I want into the available space means I either need to find more space or carry less. There are interesting things arriving in packages with the Smiling Mouth logo!


Oh my!

Recap And Takeaway
  • One Mountain House Classic Bucket meal assortment from Amazon:  $86.12 with Prime shipping. There is a delay in receiving this, and I'm not sure why.
  • Take your normal precautions this winter and if you are out in crowds often, wash your hands more than normal. If you can't, get yourself  an alcohol based hand sanitizer and rub that stuff in.

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

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

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Yogurt Update

I mentioned in my previous yogurt post that while I enjoyed the initial product, it was a fair bit runnier than I expected. I also mentioned that I had seen a few methods online to correct that. This weekend, we made another batch of yogurt and used one of those methods.

The method that seemed the simplest and "cleanest" to me was adding powdered milk to the mix. The idea is that adding more milk solids will cause a thicker mix, partly by absorbing liquid and partly by having more of those solids on their own. I used this milk from Walmart, but powdered milk is also available on Amazon. Be sure to check the ingredient list on whatever milk product you buy, as it's a fairly processed food product and may interact unfavorably with people who have food sensitivities.

We used one quart of milk's worth of powder to a one gallon batch of yogurt. This was done after boiling and cooling the milk, but before adding the yogurt culture. The end result is much thicker and creamier, but still thinner than commercial yogurt. A two-quart equivalent would likely have been too much, but a quart and a half would probably be about right, if you crave that stiffer texture.

The texture we got from this batch mixes wonderfully with various flavoring agents as well as fresh or frozen fruit. I highly recommend mixing it with honey. I don't know why I've gone 37 years without trying this, but I'll definitely do it far more frequently.

A little mad science in the kitchen is fun and can really improve your food. Please feel free to share your favorite yogurt add-ins in the comments or the BCP Facebook group.


Friday, January 31, 2020

Practice in Both Practice and Theory

As I was taking a look at recent posts by my fellow authors, and reading comments on the Facebook group from some of the members concerning those posts, it struck me that I am facing a somewhat serious crises of conscience right now.

We talk a lot about skill sets, and making sure we have the proper tools on hand to meet whatever types of emergency that life and Mother Nature happen to throw in our direction.  Whether those proper tools happen to be an in-car emergency kit with reflectors and a pair of jumper cables and maybe a few tools to change a hose or belt in a hurry, or a water filter straw, emergency blanket, and fire tab emergency stove in a GHB that happens to live in the trunk next to the jumper cables, its not always about what we have, so much as it is how we use what we have.

During a recent discussion concerning manual can openers prompted by Chaplin Tim's post, many of us were jokingly about whether, what type, and how many manual openers we happened to have on hand in various locations.  I've got... a lot of them.  Let's leave it at that.

I realized something important, though: out of the plethora of styles that I happen to have easy access to in my home, my car, and my camping equipment, there are only 4 or 5 out of the dozen or so that I've actively used more than once or twice.  My first reaction to this realization was to tell myself "No big deal, we don't stock much in the way of canned stuff in this house anyway -- it's all fresh, or shelf-stable non-canned, or home canned!" 

Then I started thinking about it further, and realized that the deficiency extends further than to just my multitude of can openers in various styles. I maintain 6 or 7 different non-bic lighter methods of starting a fire in my BoB/GHB, as well as always carrying at least one or 2 lighters in my pockets (I'm a smoker, what can I say - I'm never without fire!)  But I've done very little work with most of those methods.  I used them just enough to assure myself that with some work, I could use them.  I did not, however, use any of them sufficiently to actually become proficient with them, or for any of them to become second nature.

Skills deteriorate over time if left unused, and it's been a couple of years since I even made an attempt with some of my various methods of lighting a fire.  I honestly don't know, as I'm sitting here writing this blog post, whether I can still accomplish the task with most of the tools available to me.  And while its not such a big deal today - right this minute, right this second, or even probably tomorrow or next week - it could be, because you can never be sure during an Oklahoma winter whether Ma Nature is gonna toss a rather nasty ice storm in your direction that takes down the power lines and causes massive problems.

So I need to start making myself practice with all of my gear more regularly, instead of smugly allowing it to simply sit in its bag in the car.  And so do you!  Make sure that you actually practice with the tools at your disposal, instead of blindly assuring yourself that you're in good shape simply because you have access to them!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Product Review: Beeman Black Cub 1022 Air Rifle

While shopping for Christmas gifts a couple of months ago, I found myself wandering down the sporting goods aisle of a local Walmart. Their selection of ammunition has changed recently and I can find better prices online, so I don't wander that area much any more, but I was looking for a gift. I stopped at the air gun display and took a good look at what they had to offer since I've been looking for something to use for pest removal at work. Due to various safety and other concerns I'm limited to an air rifle and lead pellets for this task, and I had been thinking of getting an inexpensive gun to leave in the office. 

Air guns have a place in a prepper's arsenal. Quieter than a firearm, they can be used for harvesting small game at close range. Their low recoil makes them a good choice for training, and many are made with child-sized stocks for the younger shooters. Ammunition is cheap, and as long as you buy a brand name it is fairly accurate. The lack of propellant makes the shot-to-shot variation smaller, so they can be very accurate weapons.  They are also exempt from a lot of the regulations associated with firearms.
I found the Beeman “Black Cub” air rifle, also marked “Beeman 1022”, for less than $80. This package included the rifle, both .177 and .22 caliber barrels, and a cheap 4x32 scope. It is a “break-barrel” design, which means you grab the front of the barrel and pull it down to compress a spring in the action. This also presents the “chamber” of the barrel for loading a single pellet before you return the barrel to the firing position. It's a simple design, and that's one of the things I was looking for. Single shot works fine for the type of shooting I intend to do with this rifle, and the single-stroke cocking is quicker than a multi-pump pellet gun. I also like the option of switching calibers; the .177 is more common, but in my experience the .22 tends to be more lethal on pest-sized targets.

Once I got the box to the office, it was simple to switch the barrel to the .22 cal. Using the hex key supplied, I loosened a set screw on the bottom of the front of the action just ahead of the pivot and pulled the barrel out of the action. The other barrel slid in easily, and tightening the set screw locked it in place. The instructions did warn that the rifle sights will not hold zero between barrel swaps, so I'll have to sight it in again after each swap.

A few points of interest:
  • There is a threaded cap on the end of the palm grip that opens to a hollow space for storing the hex key and spare parts (they included a spare set screw and O-ring for the barrel seat in small bag).
  • The fixed sights both have light-gathering plastic inserts. The front sight has an orange bar and the rear sight has two green bars. This is not a bad set-up, but does require fairly bright light to work.
  • The front sight is fixed and protected by a metal shroud, which is handy since that's where you need to grasp the barrel to cock the rifle.
  • The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. Use a small flat-head screwdriver to loosen the locking screws and manually adjust the sight, then tighten the screws back down. This is not a very accurate or secure type of rear sight, and the lack of any makings makes adjustments a guessing game.
  • The plastic stock is light, but it seems to be sturdy enough for moderate use. I'm not looking for a battle rifle and I doubt I'll have to butt-stroke a dying rat, so this will work for me.
  • The safety is mounted high on the rear of the action and automatically engages when you cock the rifle. It takes a few times to get used to having to push the button in before each shot.

The first thing I did after installing the .22 barrel was sight in the rifle. This is where things started to go wrong:
  • I set up a target in a flat field of dirt and used an improvised bench to provide a steady shooting position.
  • My choice of pellets was Crossman Premier Hollow-points, a good target/hunting choice. Not the cheapest, closer to mid-range in price, I've used them in the past.
  • At 50 yards, my spotter couldn't even see where my shots were going. Normally you can see dirt being thrown up near the target if you're not hitting it. We moved the target up to 35 yards with similar results.
  • Placing a full 4x8 sheet of thin plywood behind the target didn't help, the shots were nowhere near it.
  • After several attempts at shifting the windage to the left on a guess, we finally got hits on the plywood. I had to use almost the entire space available to adjust the rear sight enough to get hits near the point of aim.
  • Adjusting elevation wasn't as much of an issue, and I was able to place 5 shots into an quarter-sized group at 35 yards. Not great, but acceptable accuracy for my purposes.

After a test run on our resident flock of sky-rats, I found that the light-gathering sights need almost full sunlight to be useful. Indoors, with limited lighting and dirty windows, the sights were just a dark post and notch. The large size of the front sight (due to the plastic insert) made it difficult to get a good target picture on a bird 4 inches wide at 20 yards. Time to try the scope that came in the box.
  • 4x32 is a low-power scope and the quality of glass in this one was pretty low as well. It came with an amber dust cover, but that reduced the available light even more.
  • The scope required as much adjustment as the fixed sights did, so I'm going to assume that the barrel is bent. This is not what I'd expect from any factory-fresh gun on the market today, even from a Chinese copy of a rifle that Beeman has been making for many years.
  • I did get to teach my apprentice a bit about scopes and how to sight them in. My helper is quite young and uneducated but not stupid.
  • The cross-hairs on the scope were much better than the iron sights, but the lack of accuracy limited me to body shots. I may be old, but hitting a one-inch target (head shots) at 20 yards is something I can still do with any of my rimfire rifles.
  • Two dozen dead birds later, I turned the rifle over to the apprentice and let him have some practice. We'll try the .177 barrel at a later date, once it warms up a bit.

For any real use, this rifle would make a better club than a gun. The bent barrel fresh out of the box, poor accuracy with good ammunition, and typical Chinese fit and finish make this something to avoid wasting prepping money on. This one will stay at work, probably even after I retire in several years.

In preparation for writing, I normally try to do a bit of research. I try to find sources for anything I do a review on, and I like to find better photographs than I can get out of my phone. However, this rifle is about as close to being a “ghost gun” as I have ever seen: no mention of it on Beeman's website, nothing on Walmart's site, no product reviews online. Amazon does have a listing that I finally found, but it has no reviews.

The most likely scenario I can come up with is that it is a Chinese copy of the Beeman RS2 and it didn't sell very well or the quality was so poor that they got tired of having them returned., so it has been moved to the “Clearance” rack in the local store. If I get any extra discretionary money in the near future, I may get the RS2 and see how it compares.

Update: After writing this article, I did another quick search for this rifle and actually found a review. Written a few weeks prior to mine, the review was by someone with a lot more experience with air rifles and his conclusions were close to mine. If you're interested, it's here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Where Have You Been?

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

... and with whom have you been doing things? That is an important question to answer, with what's happening in China, other nearby Asian countries and now here in North America.

Corona Virus
What do we really know about what is happening in China? Only what the Chinese government wants to tell us. To loosely quote a friend, "Any government that willingly starved and bulldozed millions of their citizens into mass graves can't be trusted to give reliable reports on this."

What To Do
Don't panic. Seriously. Continue to do the things you normally would:
  • Sensibly add to your emergency stores of food, water and other supplies as needed by your situation.
  • Check that those in your group are doing the same things.
  • Talk to your friends and help them start prepping.
    From talking to a senior RN with experience treating patients with easily spread diseases, adding masks to your preps is a good idea, but only a half-measure. These are where you need to start:

    3M N95 Respirator
    From the Amazon ad:
    • NIOSH APPROVED N95 for at least 95 percent filtration efficiency against certain non oil based particles and aerosols
    • 3M COOL FLOW VALVE helps reduce heat build up inside the respirator
    • BREATHE 30 percentage EASIER compared to 3M 8200, breathe easier is defined as initial pressure drop
    • ADJUSTABLE M NOSECLIP helps ensure a custom, secure seal with fewer pressure points
    • LIGHTWEIGHT DESIGN for comfort
    • COMFORTABLE for long periods of wear

    Why is this a good place to start, you ask? My nurse friend mentioned masks are good for you when there is the possibility of you possibly transmitting a virus or germ. However, what's missing is eye protection or a face shield of some type. Since corona virus can be transmitted through the air, exposed eyes are also an easy way to become infected. She mentioned the use of eye protection in most operating rooms, and I know my dentist and the techs are now using it too. Unfortunately for me, all of this is not possible at my work, since we don't have a hazardous workplace or the corporate training to wear this gear.

    Is all this overkill, an overreaction to what may turn out to be 2020's bird flu? Maybe; maybe not. Since the apparent incubation time is two weeks, how many of your friends, co-worker's friends, or their friends have had contact with someone from central China?

    My best answer is, "I don't know." I see nothing wrong with laying in extra supplies of masks, hand sanitizer and maybe goggles just to be safe.

    Coming Attraction
    Just a little teaser!

    Bottle Bag Challenge!

    Recap And Takeaway
    • Stock up, but be sensible about your purchases. All of the Home Improvement Centers on the west coast are sold out of masks -- from speaking to the shoppers in the stores I've been in, the majority are being bought and sent to China.
    • Nothing was purchased by me this week, but things may be bought in the future to complete the Bottle Bag Challenge!

    Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

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

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

    Tuesday, January 28, 2020

    Erin's Water Bottle Carrier Challenge

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    It's late, but here's what I came up with for turning a water bottle carrier into a small BOB. I'm not entirely happy with it, but this is the best I've been able to come up with in a week's time.

    Erin's Amazing Expanding Carrier
    What I'm most proud of is how I managed to fill the bottle with water without losing storage space. What I'm most upset about is that I know there has to be something I can affix to the top of the carrier with velcro, but I don't know what to put on it.

    This is its stowed configuration.


    Exterior Attachments
    Attached to the front of the unit is a folding dump pouch. This is kept mostly empty (but see below) while the pack is stowed. When deployed, I plan to empty the contents of the water bottle into the pouch so that I can keep them handy while still having access to water. 

    Attached to the sides are two MOLLE strobe/GPS/phone pouches, carrying bulky items that I couldn't get into the bottle.

    Attached to the back is a Hawke Peregrine.

    Inside the dump pouch are two lightweight objects that roll up easily: a 32 ounce Sawyer squeeze pouch and 25 feet of Parapocalypse cord. If I were building this kit for actual use rather than proof-of-concept I'd upgrade that to at least 50 feet.

    Left pouch: an S.O.L heat reflective waterproof poncho and a hard-cased booboo kit filled with an assortment of band-aids, gels, 3 types of painkiller (Aleve, Tylenol, and aspirin), anti-diarrheal, Dramamine, Benadryl, and a sheet of steri-strips.

    Knife pouch: a Speedy-Sharp and a Lansky Quadsharp.

    Right pouch: a one ounce bottle of Gold Bond medicated body powder, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a Tiny Survival Guide that I got as a present. It's slightly silly, but it takes up negligible space, has some useful info, and also comes with a fresnel lens.

    Integral Gadget Pouch

    This is the good stuff right here: a mylar sleeping bag (like a space blanket, only in tube form), a Gen 2 Firebox Nano ultralight stove, a disposable lighter, Pro-Knot cards, an UltraFire 300 lumen mini Cree flashlight, and 5 tabs of Wetfire fuel.

    Water Bottle Compartment
    This contains (surprise!) a Nalgene 32-ounce wide mouth bottle, which is exactly the same volume as the squeeze bag mentioned above. This is so that if I have time I can filter water straight into the bottle.

    Also present are a stainless steel cup of unknown make and origin (seriously, it's featureless and I don't know where I got it), a simple cotton bandana, and a Coughlan's 36-hour survival candle.

    Within the bottle we have, quite frankly, what I could fit inside it: a spork & spatula set (bought at Walmart, I think); an energy bar, powdered coffee, and powdered sports drink; a Swiss army knife; a container of safety pins; a Sawyer Mini filter; UST SparkForce striker; bottle of New Skin liquid bandage; a roll of duct tape; Adventure Medical Rescue Howler whistle and mini signal mirror; straw from the  Sawyer kit; travel toothbrush; toothpaste; and dental floss.

    Biggest Failing
    There isn't more than a snack's worth of food here. I tried, but food is big and heavy.

    I am still annoyed that I couldn't think of anything to put on the velcro lid of the bottle carrier. No doubt one of the smart people who write for this blog will find a way to exploit that.

    If I had the time and was serious about making this into a survival kit, I would probably find a way to mount gear to the strap... but then, if I were serious about this, I would use a larger bag.

    Biggest Success
    I managed to double the carrying capacity of the bag by adding the collapsible dump pouch. That way I have access to water and all the things I stowed inside the bottle.

    Its empty weight is 6 pounds and it is very compact, able to fit underneath most car seats. Filled with water, it weighs 9 pounds and is still very portable.

    If I pair that with my every day carry (which includes a pistol, a leatherman, a tourniquet, and wound bandages) I am pretty prepared for most things the world can throw at me.

    All right, BCP authors. I've set the bar. Can you clear it?

    Sunday, January 26, 2020

    Check your Spare Tires

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    Sorry, no Bottle Carrier BOB this week. I had something come up this weekend which put me very late in getting home from a speech I gave while 100 miles out of town.

    Here's the short version:
    • I had no problems driving to my hotel, where I checked in, refreshed myself, and prepared my presentation. 
    • When I drove to the meeting three hours later, the car's rear end felt a little soft in the turns, like one of the wheels was low. I resolved to put some air into it after my speech. 
    • Driving to dinner after my speech, the tire got worse and worse until I knew I had a flat. I pulled into a parking lot to look at it and, yes, the left rear tire was flat. 
    • While I know how to change a tire, I was in my nice clothes and I didn't want to get them messy and greasy, and besides that I have roadside assistance with my car insurance anyway, so I'd just let them handle it. 
    • After a suitable wait, the assistance man showed up. I opened my trunk and he pulled out the spare tire... and then said "I can't fix this."
    Here are pictures of what he saw, although these were taken 12 hours later:

    I didn't know this, but apparently spare tires can go bad and should be replaced ever 4-6 years. This was my mother's car, a 2006 model, and I think that spare has been checked approximately never

    For those of you wondering what happened next:
    • Roadside man tried to inflate my flat with a compressor, but I had a hole in the sidewall of the tire. 
    • It was 1 am and nothing was open, so I took a Lyft back to my hotel. 
    • The next morning I called another Lyft and put my luggage inside it (all my preps were inside the car, so I didn't have much).
    • I got back, took the above pictures, and put the luggage in the car. 
    • I intended to call roadside assistance again and get it towed to a tire place, but I had passed one coming back and knew I could get there by travelling half a mile through parking lots. 
    • The tire people asked me what I'd hit. I said "Nothing, why?" Apparently the other rear tire was also flat (no idea how) and so I replaced both. 
    • After about 3.5 hours, I was finally on the road and had an uneventful drive home. 
    So if you haven't done so, check your spare tire to make sure it's still good. 

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