Friday, August 28, 2020

Ballistic Armor: Plate Carriers

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
You've selected your ballistic plates based on your needs and have the protection, cut, and material you want. The next step is wearing them, and for that you need a plate carrier, which is nothing more than a tactical vest with special pockets for your plates. (Note: Despite the word "plate" in the name, there is no reason you cannot use soft armor in a plate carrier.)

There are many brands of carrier on the market, and unlike plates it really doesn't matter who makes your carrier so long as it has good reviews for durability and reliability. After all, a carrier is nothing more than a stitched nylon (usually 1000 denier cordura) vest and a choice of options. In my opinion, it is the options which make or break a plate carrier. I have listed these in my (quite opinionated) order of importance.

Straps vs. Cummerbund
A plate carrier has, at a minimum, two pieces: the front and the back. These are attached to each other by straps that fasten in a variety of ways; buckles and velcro are the most popular. Once you have it adjusted for your comfort, leave the shoulder straps in place; that will make putting it on much easier.

You put it on a plate carrier by grasping it by the shoulder straps (or near them on the front piece) lifting it up and over your head, then sticking your head between the plates so that the straps sit squarely on your shoulders. This much is universal. After this, what happens next depends on what your carrier has.

If you have a strap type carrier, there will be two straps with YKK-style buckles on either side. How you fasten them is a matter of preference; some prefer to buckle them separately, others like to keep them buckled and then tension the straps into position. My preference is to keep my weak-side strap already buckled and tensioned, so that all I have to do is fasten and then tighten my strong-side strap. The main benefit of a strap type is that they are faster to put on than cummerbund types. 

If you have a cummerbund type carrier, after you have lowered the carrier onto your shoulders you will need to lift the cummberbund retaining flap on the front of your vest (this is secured with at least 6x12" of velcro, so it might take some effort), grab the dangling end of the cummberbund on your weak side, and bring it into position on the velcro. Once you've done that, switch hands and do the other side. Finally, lower the retaining flap into place. The main benefit of a cummerbund system is that it allows you to wear side plates. 

Regardless of which system you have, the carrier should be loose enough that your movement is not restrictive -- check to see if you can smoothly raise/shoulder your weapon and acquire a sight picture -- yet tight enough that most of its weight is borne by your chest instead of your shoulders. Cummerbunds have a slight advantage in this, although a quality strap type carrier is more than able to do this.

A quality (i.e. non-budget) plate carrier will come with the ability to have a cummerbund attached to it. If your primary intended use of ballistic plates is to protect yourself while you investigate a 'bump in the night', I would forgo the use of the cummerbund and keep mine in a strap configuration. The cummerbund can be added later, if necessary.

MOLLE Webbing
You need this. Fortunately, MOLLE webbing comes standard on practically every plate carrier.

Things to put on your webbing:
  • Magazine pouches 
  • an IFAK specifically for gunshot wounds
  • a flashlight
  • a knife
  • a radio (or a cellphone in a dedicated pouch)
  • a water bladder
The water bladder is probably a surprise. I include it not just for the obvious reason, but for the fact that most level III steel plates and level IV ceramic plates weigh in the 7 to 8 pound range and that one gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. If you can only afford a single plate, get a 4 liter bladder (1 gallon = 3.785 liters) for your back to balance it out. 

Be advised that the more you put on your carrier (specifically ammunition), the more uncomfortable it will be to wear for a long period of time. For this reason I would specifically recommend against placing a sidearm on your carrier; wear it on your belt instead. 

Drag Handle
This is a strap on the back of your carrier, close to the nape of the neck. As the name suggests, this is a handle so that if you are wounded, one of your buddies can grab it and drag you to safety.

Do you need it? Hopefully not. Fortunately, these seem to come standard with every plate carrier I've seen. The nicer versions have a big healthy loop at the back, and the cheaper versions are essentially a strip of MOLLE webbing that hasn't been sewn into sections. 

Interior Padding
A foam lining in the inside of the plate carrier, usually with a sweat-wicking mesh as its outer layer.

This is usually one of the first options cut in budget plate carriers. You don't specifically need it, but it's very nice to have, especially if you wear your plates in the heat and/or for an extended period of time.

Shoulder Pads
These are typically aftermarket pads which wrap around the shoulder straps to give you more protection. In my opinion you shouldn't need them as the weight of the plates should be born on your chest and back, not your shoulders. However, you may disagree. I suggest trying your carrier without the shoulder pads, and then adding them later if you feel they are necessary.

Velcro Strips
These are convenient but not necessary. They are useful for the military and police to show names, units, jurisdictions etc but most people won't need them.

That said, they can be put to use. Blood type is a very popular option, and if you are working at night reflective strips can be useful.

I would recommend against patches that could arouse the ire of authorities, such as Punisher skulls.

Administrative Pocket
This is a fancy term for "There's a velcro pocket at the top of your front carrier." They aren't very large, however. I suppose you could put your Driver's Licence and Carry Permit in them?

Don't pay extra for this.

Next week: the conclusion of this series with a "Miscellaneous" post.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

When No Help Is Needed

The protests in cities are heating up, and more people are bringing firearms to them. This has meant, and will mean, that people are going to get shot for doing stupid things, at stupid times, in stupid places, while with stupid people. Nothing good comes from being stupid!

I'll defer to the trained professionals on how to actually treat a gunshot wound; my medical training only covers how to help a patient get to that trained professional if possible. We've suggested several types of first aid equipment and training over the years, and I know we've covered triage procedures for when the casualties outweigh the medical staff/training/equipment available. Use the search box in the upper left corner to find the older but still relevant articles, because today I want to cover another, more unpleasant, aspect of emergency first aid: when do you not try to help?

One of the things I've noticed most first aid classes lack is a defined point of “they're gone, you can't help them any more”. Your Red Cross first aid class isn't designed to teach you how to treat injuries; it's meant to teach you how to stabilize a patient for transport to a facility where they can be treated. It takes more advanced training to cover the obvious signs of death and when it is proper not to attempt to help, as first responders are more likely to be the first on scene to find an obviously dead person.

I dug around through my training materials and several online sources, and they all agree on the basics of when to declare a patient deceased and that medical aid in not going to help them. The following is a basic outline, not an exhaustive one.

Obvious signs of death / Don't attempt to revive:
  • Decapitation: if the head is removed from the body, current medical science can't help them.
  • Incineration: firefighters are more likely to see this than an average person, but once the body has gone from “burns present” to “charred” there's nothing you can do.
  • Decomposition: obvious is obvious -- a decomposing body is not going to heal.
  • Bisection: a fancy way of saying “cut in half”.

Presumed dead but has potential for revival:
  • Unresponsive
  • Not breathing
  • Has no pulse
  • Has fixed, dilated (open) pupils

If presumed dead AND has any of the following, do not to try to revive:
  • Rigor Mortis: I covered this in one of my first articles. Shortly after death, the body goes stiff due to the chemical reactions of the onset of decomposition.
  • Lividity of lower extremities: Once the heart stops pumping blood, that blood tends to settle out in the lowest part of the body. Blood pooling under the skin will look like a massive bruise or discoloration, which is known as lividity. Rolling a patient and looking at the underside is all you need to do.
  • Massive trauma with internal organs visible: Unless you're next door to a fully equipped surgical theater, there's nothing you can do that will help.

Helping others and rendering aid are good things in my book, but you need to know when you'd just be wasting time and supplies that might be used to save someone else's life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Vital Fluids and How to Find Them

In any vehicle there are a variety of vital fluids that keep you going down the road safely and smoothly. In order to assess and correct any issues with these systems, you need to know what you're looking for under the hood.

I talked before about finding, diagnosing and correcting a leak in my truck.The images I'll be using are from the engine compartments of two of my vehicles; they're not the be-all and end-all of under-hood layouts, but they give a good example. For your specific vehicle, look in your owner's manual, it should provide a complete layout of all of your vital fluid reservoirs and check points.

This is the engine compartment of my Miata. It is a manual transmission car without power steering, so there is no automatic transmission fluid (ATF) or power steering fluid to check. However, the blue circle is the clutch fluid reservoir. This reservoir, as well as the brake fluid reservoir next to it (circled in red) can simply be checked by noting the fluid level against marks in the exterior wall of the reservoir itself. Neither commonly gets low, unless a leak or very severe wear in the system develops.

The reservoir circled in green is the coolant reservoir, and the volume of fluid in this reservoir can change depending on your engine temperature. Your coolant expands as your engine heats up, and will lead to more fluid in this tank. It will have markings on the side for "Full Hot" and "Full Cold." DO NOT OPEN THIS BOTTLE WHILE YOUR ENGINE IS HOT! Severe burning is likely to result. When your engine has cooled, you can open this reservoir to add more coolant if needed, but do not fill above the "Full Cold" marking, thus leaving room for expansion to occur.

The areas circled in yellow are the oil level dipstick and the oil fill cap; the cap is the larger black piece towards the bottom of the picture. Your owner's manual will have instructions on how to read your dipstick, as some of them have several indicator areas on them.

This is the driver's side of the engine bay on my truck. The engine is big enough that it takes two pictures to show things properly. This truck is equipped with power steering and an automatic transmission, so there is no clutch fluid reservoir, but there are ATF and power steering fluids to check.

The purple circle is both the dipstick and filling port for power steering fluid. It's a very small reservoir, but a very important one to safely drive a vehicle of this size. The red circle is again the brake fluid reservoir, and the only difference from the Miata is size.

This is the passenger side of the bay. The yellow circles are again the dipstick and filling port for motor oil. The green is still coolant, and the same warning applies on the big diesel as the baby gas engine. Opening this cap on a hot engine is almost guaranteed to result in very nasty burns.

The area circled in orange has my automatic transmission fluid dipstick. On this engine, it's hidden behind my turbocharger piping, but it's back there and very well marked. On some vehicles, it is on the driver's side of the engine, but it will almost always be towards the rear of the engine compartment and well marked. The procedure for checking this fluid is fairly involved and a bit vehicle specific, so consult your owner's manual for the specific instructions to perform this check.

Keep your engine's fluids topped up and in top shape, and she'll purr like a kitten for years.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Simple Homemade Blueberry Syrup

DIY simple blueberry syrup.
1 cup blueberries
1cup sugar
1cup water
Bring to a slow boil for 12 minutes or so. 
Turn of the heat
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Put in your favorite container and enjoy!

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Custom Hearing Protection

Whether using firearms or operating noisy machinery or (especially if you ride motorcycles) dealing with wind noise, there are times you need hearing protection. Sometimes earmuffs, fancy or plain, may not be the best fit for the conditions, or you may need more than just muffs.

The usual fix for this is earplugs like these, or these, or these.  All of them work; however, the problem some people run into is that they won't stay in place (especially the foam plugs) when you have to talk or move around much, or they just don't fit your ears well.

This brings me to these: do-it-yourself custom earplugs.  They may not be quite as nice as those you can sometimes find being made a gun shows, but they cost a lot less, too.

How they work:
  1. Make sure your ears and hands are clean.
  2. The kit comes with two small tubs, each with a lump of compound in it.
  3.  Take half of each, and knead that together for 30-45 seconds, no more, until the color is even.
  4. Roll it between your palms into a smooth ball with no creases.
  5. Put it into your ear and push it in place. (A mirror helps.) Don't try to shove it all in; it needs to go a little into the ear canal but not too far, and there should be enough, after you push and fold it in and smooth it, to fill the inner bowl of the ear.
  6. Sit down for ten minutes without no chewing, drinking, or talking. 
  7. After a few minutes you'll start hearing popping sounds as the mix starts to cure and harden, which will increase for a couple of minutes, then start dying down.
  8. After ten minutes you should be able to get hold of the top edge and pull/roll it out.  
  9. Set that one aside and do the other ear.  
  10. Let them sit for a few hours to completely cure.

The Good: I really like these because, unlike any other earplug I've used, they don't start working back out after a few minutes. They'll fit under a motorcycle helmet, they're washable, and can be had in several colors (my last set was pink, which is very easy to find if I drop one).  They'll also last a long time; one of my sets is almost two years old.

The not really Bad, but keep in mind: the package shows a Noise Reduction Rating(NRR) of 26, which is the same as a lot of low-profile earmuffs, less than some of the foam-type.  Shooting outside, or around loud equipment or power tools they work well; for an indoor range I'd want them and muffs, especially around rifles and shotguns.

For what they are, I give them a five-star rating.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Recent Storm

We recently had a major storm roll across Iowa, and by storm I mean it was basically an inland hurricane with sustained winds of up to 130 mph. The folks on the east coast know what a hurricane does, but Iowa is about as land-locked as you can get. We deal with tornadoes every year; they blow through and leave a swath of destruction a few hundred yards wide and a few miles long. This storm, though -- the weather people are calling it a “derecho” -- was 60 miles wide and rampaged across almost 200 miles of the state. Tornadoes have rotating winds between 100-300 mph and pass in a few minutes, but this storm had straight-line winds of 70-130 mph sustained for at least 30 minutes. If you look online you can see the damage in satellite photos, it's that wide-spread.

10 million acres of crops were leveled; that's about 40% of the farm land in the state. Storage facilities were damaged or destroyed over a quarter of the state. Numbers are still being compiled, but I've seen estimates of between 20 and 30% of the storage capacity is just gone. My local Co-op has 62 locations around the state, and 24 of them are damaged or destroyed. Demolition crews are trying to clear debris and overhead hazards so the workers can try to salvage over a million bushels of grain that's sitting on the ground, and that's for just the one Co-op that I have contact with; there are dozens more in Iowa.

We're less than 45 days from the start of a normal harvest season, and it looks like it's going to be a tie between the destroyed crops and lack of places to store grain in a lot of places. It's been about 10 days, and there are still people without electricity trying to clean up their neighborhoods. Buildings and trees took a beating and there is debris still scattered in a lot of places. City services are minimal in some areas, water and waste treatment takes electricity, and generators aren't common for small town municipal plants.

I live outside the area that got blasted, so I get the opportunity to watch as others deal with this disaster. I hope to learn from the mistakes of others and get myself and my stuff ready for the time when I'm not so lucky. We had a nasty thunderstorm (over an inch of rain in 30 minutes and strong winds gusting over 70 mph) but sustained little damage. Some tree limbs went down, and a few windows popped out of their frames in one building at work, but nothing serious happened. Metal grain bins are built to handle gusts of up to 90 mph when empty (once they're full they're even stronger), so we didn't lose any around me.

Concrete silos are weather-proof, but are more prone to dust explosions and much more expensive to build. Look at the pictures of the aftermath of the massive explosion in Beruit, Lebanon for proof of the strength of concrete grain silos: half of the large elevator that was right next to the blast survived and shielded the buildings behind it.

What I've seen and learned so far:
  • “Iowa nice” is a thing. No one is looting after a disaster, and people are helping each other all over the state.
  • Opportunists are everywhere. People are buying $300 portable generators and selling them for twice that. They're also being called out for their price-gouging, and pubic shaming still works in small towns.
  • Small engines, like portable generators, don't like gasoline with ethanol in it. Since Iowa is a major producer of ethanol for the petroleum industry, it can be a challenge to find “pure” gas for your generators. In less than 24 hours someone set up a website to track the availability of “pure” gas in some of the cities that got hit the hardest.
  • Having an “all electric” house is a mistake. You might get a slight discount from the power company, but you end up without any way to heat water or cook your food if you don't have some redundancy. Personally, I hate cooking on electric stoves and will always use gas (LP or natural gas). The “Iowa nice” has kicked in here as neighbors are letting others into their houses to cook, or are cooking for those with all electric appliances.
  • People with no experience in farming sound like total idiots when they try to report the news. Okay, they sound like more of an idiot than they normally do.
  • Yes, most farmers have crop insurance, but in order to file a claim they have to harvest as much as they can and the insurance company will pay for the “lost” portion of yield. Harvesting corn that has fallen over takes special equipment that is neither common nor cheap, and it tends to plug up more often than a standard head, requiring a lot more time and effort and exposing workers to a lot more risk. We're going to have more injuries and deaths this harvest than normal.
  • The crops that are still standing are hiding debris that will only be found once the combines hit the fields. More delays and equipment damage is likely when those million-dollar machines try to ingest a chunk of roofing or siding.
  • Roads were cleared within a few hours of the storm. Residents did not wait for the government to take care of it, and instead they brought out their own chainsaws and tractors and got to work once the electric company got the downed power lines out of the way. I saw pictures of everything from snowplows on ATVs to full-size construction equipment being put to use before the government at any level had even finished their coffee.
  • Iowa produces about 15% of the corn grown in the US, and half of that was destroyed. Expect higher food prices this winter as the shortage trickles through the economy. Losing 7% of the production of anything will have ripple effects.

The main thing that I've seen so far is the most basic: Life goes on. Even after a damaging storm, people keep going. Let's try to be ready to keep going as best we can, no matter what life throws at us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Baby, It's Hot Outside (and Everywhere Else)

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

My job has temporarily changed in both the location where I work and the type of work I do. For the next 6-8 weeks I will be working in a gigantic warehouse, loading trucks. Not only is the warehouse hot, inside the trailers it is 20 degrees hotter. 

How hot is that, you ask? 

Very Hot
In my part of California it barely gets over 100° maybe 5 days a year. This year, not only has it been over 100° longer that that, it's also been as hot as 107°; in S. California, Death Valley reached 128° 

I need to change what I do at work, how I stay safe, and also what I wear, starting with underwear. I'm tired of damp shorts, and as it's over 90° at 5 AM and I'm sweaty 30 minutes after starting work, I need something that will not bind or feel soggy for 8 hours, so I ordered a pair of Minus33 Merino Wool 1114 Men’s Woolverino Micro Boxer Shorts for $39.99.
Now before anyone gets gets anything bunched up (heh!), I want to point out that I wear wool socks all year for their moisture wicking and lack of wadding up in my work boots. If you are like me, you've seen a bazillion Facebook ads for wool T-shirts that won't smell and feel great, even if you wear them for a week. I don't know anyone who purchased from those ads, but I do know several people who have these wool blend shorts. Based on their recommendations, I ordered some.

From the Amazon ad:
  • wool
  • Imported
  • QUALITY LIGHTWEIGHT BASELAYER: Woolverino designed for "First-On-Last-Off" extreme comfort quality active wear. The best in easy care technology means your merino wool is machine washable and dryable. Minus33 briefs naturally wick moisture and control odor.
  • CRAFTED TO FIT: Sizes S to 2XL Regular Fit. Outfitting anyone from the active athlete to the comfortable couch-potato.
  • EXPERIENCED BRAND: Although there are many copy-cats on the market today, Minus33 has been a trusted brand since 2004.
  • IMPORTED: As the legacy of a 100+ year old USA based woolen company, Minus33 knows quality and comfort in Merino Wool. We are committed to bringing you the best Merino Wool products at a reasonable price.
  • TECHNICAL DETAILS: 84% 17.5 Micron Merino Wool, 12% Nylon, 4% Spandex 150 g/m2 Jersey knit construction with flatlock seam. UPF Rating 40
If you read the description carefully, there is one bit of information that seems very odd to me and I wonder if anyone else finds it peculiar too.*

Now for the other part that has me feeling a bit light-headed (and I'm sitting down): the price! Yes, double WOW from me, too! When compared to the DriFit T-shirts that I wear these boxers are more expensive (but not by much) and I believe they will be worth the price in the long run. 

Since boxer shorts are not a priority product, Prime Shipping will have them to my front door on Saturday and I will do a review as soon as I possible. 
* UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is a rating system to indicate the UV (Ultraviolet) protection provided by fabrics. Why does underwear need to block UV light?
Recap And Takeaway
  • Being comfortable at work means not only do I feel better, but I should also be able to do more work with less stress.
  • I ordered two of the Minus33 Merino Wool Boxers from Amazon for $39.99 with the new slower Prime shipping.
* * *

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Sling For the Fences

This week we take a look at one of the oldest weapons in existence: the sling!


Monday, August 17, 2020

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Ballistic Armor: Terminology

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This article was written with information provided by Seth Schuehartt in his original submission, which was cut for content and for brevity. 

Now that you've decided upon which material and level of protection best suits your needs, it's time to go shopping. As I have limited experience with ballistic armor (other than to say that I own these Level IV ceramic plates which are off-brand Hesco) I am reluctant to make any recommendations or discommendations by name. However, I can help you narrow your search by explaining many terms used to describe armor plates. When looking at armor descriptions, the format is usually as follows:
  1. Protection Level
  2. Dimensions
  3. Protection Type
  4. Material
  5. Geometry
  6. Cut

Most armor plates are 10" x 12", although 11" x 14" is frequently available. Side plates (see below) are typically 6" x 6". 

Protection Types

This means that the plate armor is sufficient by itself to protect you (although a trauma pad is highly recommended). Most plates are standalone.

This acronym means "In Conjunction With" and is seen most often in duty armor for police officers who usually don't need more than Level IIIa soft armor. Adding an ICW plate over their IIIa armor (usually in an external plate carrier) gives them Level III protection.

Side Plate
These are Level III or IV plates which attach to the cummerbund (see below) and protect your sides from your armpit to the bottom of your ribcage.

Trauma Plate
A non-ballistic hard plate worn in a dedicated pocket underneath soft armor to protect the sternum from blunt trauma.

Cheater Plate
A small ballistic plate worn as additional armor to get additional protection. Speed Plates are a type of ICW cheater plate which covers the heart and upper lungs.

Note that this applies only to plate (hard) armor, not soft armor.

Flat Plate
This armor is a flat piece of metal, ceramic or polymer. Cheapest to buy because they are the easiest to make, but they are also awkward and uncomfortable to wear due to the fact that our bodies are curved.

Single Curve
This plate curves from left to right, making it mold more readily to your torso. Less awkward but still rather uncomfortable, especially if you have a large belly or any kind of breasts.

This armor has multiple curves to better fit the armor to the wearer’s body. This is the most comfortable type of armor, but also the most expensive.


Again, the least expensive and most uncomfortable style. The upper corners of this plate make it difficult to shoulder long guns and to move your arms inward past 90°.

Shooter’s Cut
These plates have the upper corners cut off, creating an extended hexagonal shape which makes shooting while wearing them much more comfortable. Generally recommended for most people.

Swimmer’s Cut
This is similar to a Shooter’s Cut, but has even steeper cuts at the top corners and also has the bottom corners cut off. It allows for greater flexibility but also provides less coverage. This cut is most useful for those who need more mobility, have narrower shoulders, or have a particularly slender build.

Other Terms

Backface Deformation
If a large enough or fast enough bullet strikes a plate, the force of impact is sufficient to cause a bulge (deformation) on the side of the plate closest to your body (the back face of the plate, aka backface). Depending on how dramatic the backface deformation is, it could cause additional injury to the wearer. Trauma pads are recommended to protect against backface deformation injuries.

The straps that goes from the back, around the sides, and under the front of the plate carrier. This provides for a more secure and comfortable fit, albeit at the cost of being much slower to put on than a strap-and-clip system. You must have a cummerbund if you want side plates. 

The military term for Level III plates. It stands for Small Arms Protective Inserts.

The E stands for Enhanced. These are Level IV military plates.

An experimental armor created in 2008, designed to protect against eXtreme threats. About 120,000 were made, but the threat they were designed to protect against never materialized. The FBI uses these, and probably other government agencies as well, but to my knowledge they are not commercially available.

Next Week:  Plate Carriers

Thursday, August 13, 2020

More Reasons to Have a Tribe

Most prepper sites emphasize the TEOTWAWKI side of being or getting prepared, but we like to leaven our posts with a healthy dose of common sense and “every day” preps. Yes, it would be nice to have a fully stocked bunker in a remote location that could supply our every need for the rest of our natural lives, but that is less likely to be useful (or even attainable) for 99% of the emergencies that life will throw at us. For the mundane, boring crises that we're most likely to encounter, I've found that having a “tribe” is one of the best ways to get through them.

I've written about tribe before, but here's a quick recap for our newer readers:
  • Your Tribe is the collection of trusted friends that you can rely on.
  • Tribe falls between Team (your closest support, usually 2-5 people) and Township (a collection of tribes).
  • Tribes tend to cross family boundaries, but can include family members beyond your immediate family (your team).
  • A tribe is usually made up of a collection of teams, but not always.
Having a tribe that you can fall back on for help is vital to being a prepper. Specialist knowledge is handy in a tribe, and I'm lucky to have several specialists in my tribe, because I'm more of a generalist. They can help me with specific issues in detail, while I can help them with a wide array of issues well enough.

No one person can do everything, even though some of us try, so you're going to eventually run into a problem that is bigger than you or your team can handle. I've run into several such times over the years, mostly medical issues. Here are a few examples:
  • My friend of 40 years had to have surgery, and his wife was out of town and couldn't stay with him for the first 24 hours after he came home. I went over to his place and kept him company and comfortable while watching for any signs of complications from the surgery. Nothing ground-shaking or difficult, but he needed someone to stay with him for safety reasons. Staying awake for 24-36 hours isn't that hard for me, but I've had to do it more times in my life than I care to count.
  • Another close friend had surgery that left him incapacitated for a few weeks. His wife was able to take care of his immediate needs, but I went over and made sure the grass got cut, the fences stayed fixed (horses can be hard on fences), and did other little things around the house.
  • A sister-in-law has a foster child that has special medical needs. She works full-time, so getting him to his appointments and treatments is a challenge. My wife happily helps out as much as she can, playing taxi driver and shepherd. This counts as family but also tribe, because they live about a half-hour away from us and they don't fall under the “immediate” support of a team. How many people can you trust with your children?
  • One of my tribe members had a death in the family several states away. The funeral and various legal entanglements meant they needed to spend a week away from home, so the tribe got together and we figured out a plan to make sure their animals and home were tended to while they were gone. How many people do you have that you trust with your pets? How many are you comfortable giving your house keys?
Since I live in an area of mostly farmland, the examples of town or township pop up more often than most urban dwellers will encounter. Families tend to be more interconnected, and everybody knows (or is related to) their neighbors. Tribes get muddled when you start looking at the divorce/remarriage and “blended” families that are common today, but when you put enough of them together you get a township. Every year we'll have some old farmer pass away or wind up in the hospital before he can get his crops in, and every year the neighbors will take time out of their own harvest schedule to help the family. It's odd seeing six different teams of harvest equipment clearing a field where you usually only see one, but people set aside petty differences and work together in times of need around here. 

There are exceptions, too. We do have a few idiots who have managed to piss off every neighbor within 30 miles and have done so for several decades. Those people don't get much help when TSHTF, because they've never helped anyone other than themselves.

Nurture your tribe, while keeping in mind that they can be fluid. People move around and your tribe will change over time, so always keep an eye open for new members. Trust is the main ingredient in a tribe and that takes time to develop.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Etekcity CLK30 Camping Lantern

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

My long-awaited package finally arrived! I ordered it with Prime shipping, but since it was non-essential it took a bit longer to get here. 

Light, But Variable
In my July Take-Out post, I mentioned the small lantern I've had for years and when I looked at the Amazon ad there was a new version listed. I went ahead and ordered one to see if there was any actual improvement. I think there is! 

Just as a refresher, here are the high points from the Amazon ad for the Etekcity Camping Lantern CL30
About this item

  • ULTRA BRIGHT: This lantern includes 30 individual low consumption LED bulbs carrying 360° of luminous light while saving energy
  • LONG-LASTING: Light up at least to 30 hours of regular, continuous use with enough battery capacity (batteries pre-installed in the lantern).
  • 4 LEVELS BRIGHTNESS CONTROL: Easily adjust the brightness with dimmer button to fit the environment for camping, reading, power outage, emergency, hiking, backpacking etc.
  • MAGNETIC BASE: Effortlessly stick it to any metal frames for hand-free lighting in any working environment.
  • DURABLE MATERIALS: Constructed with military grade ABS material; FCC Certified, RoHS Compliant.
  • COMPACT & LIGHTWEIGHT: The extremely lightweight build allows you to take lanterns on the go with ease. When not in use collapse the lantern to a smaller size; taking up little space.
  • TACTICAL STORAGE: The top lid of the lantern contains a small room for storing some small things like some change, yours keys, some spare batteries, etc.
  • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE: Feel free to contact our California Support Team. We are always ready help if you have any question about our product.
Due to a change in my work schedule I haven't given these a serious test or a head-to-head battery life trial, but I'm hoping to grab fresh batteries and try them out very soon. What I have done is a bit of testing, and I really like some of the features on the new lantern! One in particular is a nice addition that I can't clearly photograph, but there is a molded-in spot that holds the handles down. The previous model didn't have that, and I used a rubber band to keep everything neat in my bag. 

New, Old, Soda

Here are both models for comparison. From left to right we have the new version, the old version, and a typical soda can.

They would be the same size if not for  the small storage compartment in the top of the new version.

The light output from the new model appears to be a bit brighter to my eye when fully extended, even if there is no apparent difference in the arrangement of the LED 'bulbs'.  I'm not sure if it's actually brighter, or if it's just the fact that the lantern opens up taller, allowing more light to be reflected out of the housing.

Here is the CL30 on the lowest brightness setting compared to my existing lantern with only one setting. The amount of light on Low is still sufficient to see well.

I think having a variable amount of light,  plus a magnetic base (which I haven't had a chance to try out in a real world test) is going to be a benefit!

Recap And Takeaway 
  • Finally getting a new toy and finding out it really does do what the ad says is satisfying!
  • While the new lantern certainly does more things, I am not dumping the old version. Having a reliable back-up is another cure for my 'One Is None' problem.
  • Nothing was purchased this week but you can order a pair of these Etekcity CL30 Lanterns from Amazon for the amazing price of $19.79 for two! Prime shipping is available.
* * *

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Snappy Gear Repair

Repairing your own gear can be an intimidating task. It seems like it would require specialized tools, skills, and knowledge, but most times that fear is greatly exaggerated. With some basic tools and supplies, and a realization that you can't break it any worse than it already is, you can learn to fix a huge majority of your own gear.

Our own editrix Erin Palette experienced this feeling with a MOLLE pouch recently. I told her I'd happily fix it for her, but lets go one better and teach her (and the rest of you) how to repair a broken snap fastener.

(I apologize for a bit of blur, I had focus issues on a couple pictures that I didn't see until I couldn't correct it.)

The damage to the pouch is shown here. The stud portion of the snap fastener has broken completely off and needs to be replaced.

Snap fasteners are a four-part affair. Both the cap and stud consist of a post side and a receiving side. They're placed with the fabric or leather between them and smashed until they grab.

The pieces mate together like so. The post is driven to compress against the receiver plate to permanently hold them tightly together.

Since the cap portion of the fastener was in perfect shape, only the stud side required replacement. I use a hard plastic cutting board as a base to set rivets and snap fasteners for leather work, and the corner fit nicely into the area behind the fastener, giving me a hard surface to strike against.

The finished product. It took about 4 strikes with a mallet and a punch to flatten the post, securing the stud into position. If I wasn't taking pictures and breaking down the process, this repair would take less than five minutes to perform and less than a dollar in parts. I actually couldn't find my snap-setter punch, so I used a pin punch, similar to the kind most gun owners have in their tool kits to take down firearms.

Many gear repairs are just this simple. It takes the appropriate parts and basic tools, and basic instruction or a bit of experimentation. Don't buy new gear or go without when a fix is just minutes away.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Guest Post: UHDPE Ballistic Plates

by Seth Schuehartt

Seth is an Armed Security Professional and Consultant in Phoenix, Arizona.

Editor's Note: It was pointed out to me that in my article about ballistic armor materials, I completely neglected to mention UHDPE plates. Since I have no experience with this material and there is less information about them than with steel and ceramic, I defer to Seth in this matter.

Per the author's request, it should be noted that this post has been edited down (it was originally five pages long) for content and for brevity.   -- Erin Palette
Disclaimer: Everything I say here is true to the best of my knowledge, but I am human and am currently updating my understanding of the topic. The goal here is to pass along what I’ve learned, and even as a fairly informed consumer and professional end user, my understanding of the subject is that of a layman’s when compared to the folks who do all the testing on this stuff. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I do know enough to make an informed purchase. 
When it comes to ballistic rifle armor, you typically see ceramic and steel as the  primary component of construction. What’s new is the emergence of Ultra High Density Polyethylene (UHDPE) plates on the market.

UHDPE (henceforth just called "poly") plates are extraordinarily lightweight (5 pounds per plate) and can perform well up to NIJ Level III, having been proven extremely effective at stopping lead/copper projectiles. Unfortunately, they don't hold up very well to any sort of solid projectile, such as bonded cores and mild steel (non-AP) cores.*

However, many manufacturers offer a hybrid Ceramic/Poly style plate, essentially wrapping the ceramic in rigid Polyethylene to save weight (hybrid plates are around 6 lbs) to protect the ceramic component of the armor while offering NIJ Level IV protection. If you’re looking for a standalone Level IV plate, this construction is what I would recommend.

If you can carry the extra weight, I’d also recommend a "training" or "fitness" metal plate (it doesn’t necessarily need to have a ballistic rating) to save your chest the pain of blunt trauma after being shot, and to keep you in the fight since backface deformation (how deformed the side of armor closest to your skin becomes after being struck by a bullet) allows for potentially lethal injuries. This is the only place where steel shines, as it spreads the impact across the entire body contact-area whereas other plates basically end up with all that energy directed into a solid baseball-sized area punched into the body with broken bones not uncommon. However, that same benefit of steel can be achieved by using a fitness plate. If weight is an issue, a lighter but less effective option is what's known as a trauma pad.

* The NIJ is currently changing their standards for armor performance. This is due to steel armors failing with high velocity rounds within their threat profile, and poly armor failing to modern bonded core and exposed penetrator type projectiles. For example, a Level IV plate should hold up to any 5.56mm bullet, but M855 (the most common 5.56mm cartridge within the US military) will punch through any poly plate, and any 55 grain bullet traveling at 3000+ fps will punch through most steel plates, whereas ceramic will maintain its protection.

The new standards will be adjusted to account for these shortcomings. A notice has been disseminated to manufacturers, but I am not privy to the details of that notice. Here’s some links to get you started:

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to