Friday, December 30, 2022

Why I Have a Motorcycle Lift Table

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Traditionally, this blog goes on vacation between Christmas and New Year's Day. For that reason I let David off the hook this week, but I wanted to write something because I've made an effort to write more often since November, and also because we just haven't had many posts this year due to Real Life problems with our other writers. 

Anyway, this Christmas I bought a Lift Table using gift cards.

Now, you're probably wondering why I bought a table capable of pneumatically lifting a 300 pound motorcycle, especially since you know I don't own a motorcycle in the first place. This is a fair question, and the short answer is "I need to lift heavy things and I have arthritis in my lower back." Because I'm going to be "over the hill" next year, I thought it would be prudent to have a piece of equipment that can hoist most anything I would need to lift, because I'm only going to get older and my arthritis will never get better. My mother is in her 80s now, and while she can currently move without assistance, in the future she may need help getting up like my father did a few years ago. She weighs much less than 300 lbs, but I like to say that there's no such thing as overkill, just increasingly greater chances of success. 

The longer answer, and I can practically hear the record needle scratch as I say this, is I bought it to lift my Bug Out and Get Home Bags. "But Erin," you are saying right now, "if you need a lift table for your BOB and GHB then they're too heavy!"

They're actually not too heavy for me to lift, and they're definitely not too heavy for me to carry because I'm already regularly walking a mile while wearing them. My goal is to work up to walking two miles, and the reason I need to work up to that is because I'm overweight and out of shape. I stop because I'm tired and out of breath, not because the pack is too heavy. When I get it cinched down, my hips carry most of the weight. 

No, the problem is that the arthritis in my lower back is a stone-cold bastard, and sometimes just picking up a heavier-than-usual grocery bag makes me hurt, and I don't see the point in hurting myself if it's not necessary. Furthermore, this lift table actually makes it more convenient for me to put my bag on and off, meaning that I'm more likely to put it on for exercise. 

So now I have a lift table that will easily raise my bag to waist level so I can easily put on it for walks, and then when I'm done smoothly lower it for storage or bag access/maintenance.

I haven't used it long enough to give a long-term evaluation of it, but here's what I've noticed so far:
  • The wheels easily move on residential carpet. 
  • ... which is good, because it weighs 70.5 lbs. I'm not picking that sucker up unless I absolutely have to. 
  • The table is wide enough for my needs without getting in the way, although the hole in the surface is a bit annoying. 
  • Weights up to 150 lbs rise with no extra effort. I just push the foot pedal down. (I haven't seen a need to put on more weight than that.)
  • The lift pedal seems to raise it about one inch per pedal pump, so I have to pump it about 30-some times. 
  • The lift pedal swings a bit from side to side. This is awkward but doesn't interfere with its function. 
  • The table lowers smoothly and swiftly. 
  • I can easily fit all of my packs onto it. 

So, I have a lift table now. It was expensive, but I'm glad to have it. I'm certain I will find other uses for it; if you read the Amazon reviews you'll see stories of people using it for other purposes, such as installing window sill air conditioners or raising generators to truck bed level. If you find your back constantly hurting from having to lift heavy things, then perhaps the Extreme Max Hydraulic Motorcycle Lift Table is right for you, too.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Prepper's Armory: Scope Mounting

As with iron sights, there's a proper way to mount, adjust, and sight in a scope. Actually, I should say proper ways, because there are a number of variables as well as preferences involved with the process.

Early scopes were externally adjusted, meaning the scope body was solid and the adjustment knobs were located on the scope mounts. Turning these knobs physically changed the angle of the scope tube. Later, the adjustment knobs were moved to the scope body itself, making adjustments simpler. Further developments made the adjustments more consistent and predictable.

The first steps in mounting a scope to a firearm is acquiring a solid rail mount and the proper rings.

Rail mounts come in one- and two-piece configurations and Weaver or Picatinny rail patterns. These days, one-piece Picatinny are the most common; in fact, many firearms come with Picatinny rail either built into the design, or supplied as an optional attachment. Despite the difference in their appearance, they are functionally identical. 

Weaver (L) and Picatinny (R) rail sections

Scope rings come in diameters for the two most common scope tube sizes, 1" and 30mm. The height of the rings is also important: ideally, the scope is mounted as low as possible but with some clearance between the objective lens and the barrel. If removable lens caps are to be used, their diameter should be taken into consideration when selecting scope ring height.

Mounting Process
If necessary, mount the rail to the firearm. A single drop of blue Loctite can be used to prevent the screws from backing out if they don't come with thread locker already applied. 

Next, attach the ring bases to the rail. Position them so that when the scope is in place they are relatively centered between the adjustment knobs and where the scope tube swells out at either end.

Once the rail and ring bases have been properly mounted to the rifle, place the scope on the rings and determine the best position for optimal eye relief. Keep in mind this can be adjusted in small increments once everything is in place, but try to get it as close as possible. (Proper eye relief is when the shooter can place their head in a comfortable position on the stock and still see the entire field of view through the scope without any fuzzing around the edges.)

Once scope position is determined, install the top half of the rings and loosely screw them down. Don't tighten them all the way yet; scope orientation needs to be checked and confirmed. This can be done by eye, but a better option is to use a leveling tool. Secure the firearm in a soft jaw vice and try to get it as level as possible first, then attach the scope leveling tool and rotate the scope until the reticle is level.

When tightening the scope ring screws, be careful not to overtighten them. Most scope and scope ring manufactures recommend 25 inch-pounds as a maximum. While this can be done by feel, a safer and more precise option is using a torque wrench. This can either be a dedicated tool or an adapter for an existing bit driver.

The screws should also be tightened in a pattern to avoid applying too much pressure to one side and twisting the scope. Since most rings have four screws each, a figure eight pattern is recommended, tightening each screw partially in turn until they're all done. Make sure the reticle remains level throughout the process.

Sighting In
Once the scope is successfully mounted, it's ready to be sighted in, but that's a topic for another article.

Have fun, and safe shooting.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Rucksack Night Walking

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Now that it's become pleasantly cool here in Florida, I've been taking nighttime walks around the neighborhood loop with my camping rucksack. 

As I mentioned back in April, my Bug Out Bag had become too heavy to carry without back pain, and I needed to slim it down. To that end, I tore everything out and rebuilt it from the ground up with the philosophy of "a pack suitable for a three-day camping trip is also a 72-hour BOB". I then supplemented it sparingly with some items that would be useful in a longer-term emergency. 

I think it's safe to say that I've gotten most of the kinks worked out of this bag, and I can carry it without either pain or difficulty. I'm now able to walk the full loop, 1.1 miles, without back pain or getting out of breath. My stamina still needs work because my goal is to be able to do two full miles -- well, 2.2 in reality, because that's two full loops -- and by the time I finish the first loop I'm exhausted and ready for a shower and bed. Still, this is progress that I'm quite proud of, and I know that if I just keep at it I will eventually reach my goal. 

Last night really wore me out, though. I was wearing hiking boots rather than my usual sneakers because it had rained earlier, and they weigh slightly more than I'm used to having on my feet. Around the 3/4ths mark of the walk my feet felt like they were weighed down with sandbags, and I had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. My new rule is that I either walk in boots or with my rucksack, but not both until I'm stronger. 

For those who want to know more about my current 72 hour bag / camping rucksack, it's a High Sierra Long Trail 90L. 

  • 90-liter, expedition-sized backpack with extra cargo capacity.
  • Top-load main compartment with gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid.
  • Drop-bottom sleeping bag compartment with divider.
  • ERGO-FIT shoulder harness, constructed with HEX-VENT mesh and foam padding.
  • Dual, contoured aluminum frame bars
  • Molded foam back panel with AIRFLOW channels.
  • Waist belt, with HEX-VENT mesh and high-density foam padding.
  • Side and bottom compression straps.
  • Internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tube.
  • Front access to the main compartment.
  • Adjustable sternum strap.
  • Webbing daisy chain for attaching other gear.
  • Soft lashing hardware.
  • Mesh pockets hold water bottles.
  • Tuck-away rain cover also protects pack when checked for air travel.
  • Capacity - 5500 cu. in.
  • Weight: 6.91 lbs.

I'll tell you more about my new boots in another post, once I have a bit more experience with walking in them. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Guest Post: Waterproofing a Bivy Cover

 by George Groot

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

In the late 1990s I turned in my old olive drab canvas sleeping bag and received a new issue of the Army Modular Sleep System (MSS), which consists of a lightweight summer sleeping bag, a heavier winter bag, and a Gore-tex fabric bivouac (aka bivy) cover. All three items snap together to make a single unit, but you can mix and match the bags as needed; one time I even slept in just the bivy cover during a Texas summer. That old MSS set in woodland camo was turned in years ago as the Army transitioned to the “Let's invade the Moon!” Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) before transitioning to the current Operational Camouflage Pattern that looks very similar to MultiCam.

On the surplus market you can find all the parts for an MSS in both woodland and UCP camouflage patters, but for this article I just want to talk about the bivy cover. Generally this is the most expensive part of the MSS since it is made of Gore-Tex, which is generally a dandy fabric for the great outdoors. However -- and I’ve learned this the hard way -- Gore-Tex does not retain its waterproof capability after being run through the washer/dryer in order to get your gear clean for Central Issue Facility (CIF) turn-in. This means that a lot of the bivy covers on the surplus market aren’t very waterproof at all.

However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be made useful again. I recently purchased two UCP pattern bivy covers for my sons, and paired them with a Walmart-brand mummy bag for camping with their Trail Life troop. However, my eldest son woke up in a puddle of water while still inside the tent his first time out. This was a failure of both tent site selection and of the bivy cover, as it offered no protection from the water seeping into the tent. Since the poor judgement of my children isn’t the topic of this article, we’ll focus on getting the bivy cover back up to shape.

Gore-Tex from the factory has a “durable water repellant” (DWR) applied to the fibers. If your bivy cover easily accepts water rather than having water bead off, then it’s likely you need to re-apply a coating or two. The three main types of DWR are fluorocarbon-based, silicone-based, and hydrocarbon-based polymers, and they come in both wash-in and application varieties. There are a lot of “nano-tech” products on the market now, many advertised as “silicone free” but from the reviews I’ve researched and the single product I tested, they come with mixed results.

Wash-in is likely the easiest method, as it lets the washing mashing do all the work. This will generally apply the DWR evenly, inside and out. For something like a bivy cover this should be just fine, but for something like a Gore-Tex jacket with a sewn-in liner, it may not be the best choice as it may change the ability of the liner to wick moisture.

Application, either spritz on or spray on, has the benefit of being a readily available option in most big box stores and sporting goods stores. You’ll see these as various offerings from Scotchguard and Sno-Seal in most chain stores, and specialty stores may also carry NikWax.

However you treat your surplus bivy cover, understand that it isn't waterproof any more, only water repellant now, but just like older canvas bivouac covers it is still an incredible value-add if you have to camp without a tent. If you also have cotton bivy covers, then there are a lot of wax-based fabric treatment options that can really help increase the water resistance, some cheaper than others. (Erin wrote about waterproofing cotton with wax in this article.)

What I did to pep up my son's bivy cover was to spray the outside with Tex-10 water repellent, which turned out to be really expensive and didn’t give the results I wanted. It was difficult to get an even spread/penetration with the spritzer, and so the next day some areas beaded water beautifully, while other areas soaked up water like a sponge. It's not a great value for the performance, so I can’t recommend it. 

For a second treatment I turned the bivy covers inside-out, liberally sprayed them with an Atsko Silicone Water-Guard from Walmart, and let them dry hanging outside overnight. The next morning I tossed them into the dryer and tumbled them on low heat for 20 minutes, and the results were much, much better. The organic solvent provided much easier product distribution through the fabric than the water solvent of the Tex-10, and while the environment might take a hit, better performance for 25% of the price seems like a good thing for us blue collar types.

If I have to do this again, I’ll probably plan ahead and order a NikWax wash-in product, as they have the most consistently positive reviews for treating hard use outdoor gear. NikWax products are also beeswax-based, for those who might prefer that over silicone. 

None of these treatments last forever, so you will end up re-applying as needed to keep performance at an acceptable level. In Alaska that’s probably going to be more often than Arizona or North Carolina.

Stay dry!

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Prepper's Armory: Scopes, Part 1

When it comes to optics, especially magnified optics, there's a lot of confusion and misinformation out there. One aspect of this type of optic that's not very well understood is the First and Second Focal Plane Reticle.

In variable magnification scopes with a reticle in the First Focal Plane, the reticle will adjust along with the image. This means that any graduations, such as mil-dots or bullet drop compensator markings, will still be useable no matter the zoom level. The downside to this is that at higher magnifications, the reticle itself will appear noticeably thicker and is more likely to obscure part of the sight picture and at the lowest magnification, the reticle may be thinner than preferred. First Focal Plane scopes are also generally more expensive than Second Focal Plane scopes because of the additional manufacturing elements required.

Magnified scopes with Second Focal Plane reticles change the image size, but not the reticle, which means the crosshairs and other aiming marks are always the same size while the view gets bigger or smaller. This can be beneficial for aiming consistency, but if the scope has Mil-Dots, etc. they'll only be reliably usable in a small subset of the full magnification range. This type of scope is generally less expensive than those with First Focal Plane setup.

Scope Anatomy

Image courtesy of The NRA Blog

Starting from the front of the scope and on the right of the illustration is the objective lens, measured in millimeters. It affects both field of view (the width of viewable area at any given zoom level) and the amount of light entering the optic path. The larger the objective lens, the better for both these values.

Moving left and back, the erector tube assembly is next. This element contains the lenses needed for magnification, and may also include the reticle in a First Focal Plane setup. Another part of the erector tube is the focus lens which, as the name implies, helps keep the image crisp and clear. 

Behind the focus lens is the image reversal assembly. When light passes through the series of lenses in a modern scope, it can cause the image to appear upside down, and the image reversal assembly corrects this before it reaches the user's eye.

The magnification lenses move forward and back inside the scope body in a scope with adjustable zoom. When these lenses move forward (away from the ocular lens) magnification increases; when they move rearward (away from the objective lens), magnification decreases. For example, in a 3x9 variable magnification scope, at 9x magnification the erector tube will be closest to the objective lens, and at 3x it will be closest to the ocular lens.

Next is the Second Focal Plane aperture and, if appropriate, the reticle for this type of scope. Finally there is the ocular lens, which collects the light that passes through the scope and presents its image to the shooters eye. Many of these lenses will have coatings to reduce light reflection and improve clarity. 

All the different elements of the scope are sealed with rubber or silicone gaskets to make the scope waterproof, and before final assembly the scope is purged of air and filled with nitrogen (or a similar gas) to prevent fogging of the lenses.

Scope Operation
There are several external adjustment controls on a modern scope. The windage and elevation knobs, located on the top and side of the scope at the middle of the scope body or tube, allow the user to change the position of the reticle for zeroing a scope. These are adjusted in either half- or quarter-minute of angle increments.

If appropriate, there may also be a Bullet Drop Compensator knob. These days it is more likely that the BDC will be incorporated into the reticle.

Zoom adjustment is generally made by means of a collar in front of the ocular lens. Many scopes also have a focus ring at the rear of the eyepiece, used to adjust focus of the reticle for each user.

If the scope has a parallax adjustment, it may have another knob opposite the windage adjustment, or else be changed by rotating the objective end of the scope. This adjusts the reticle focus in relation to the target. If the scope has fixed parallax, it will usually be set at 100 yards in centerfire rifle scopes and 50 yards in rimfire, shotgun, and handgun scopes. This means that at other distances, both the reticle and the target may not be in focus simultaneously.

Another setting is what's called eye relief, the distance between the shooter's eye and the eyepiece of the ocular lens where the entire field of view is visible. Shotgun and handgun scopes have considerably longer eye relief than rifle scopes. While this can usually be adjusted in small increments on the scope itself, it is more coarsely set by the position of the scope on the firearm.

Hopefully this article clarifies both components and terminology in the modern scope. Have fun, and safe shooting.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Prepper's Armory: Using Iron Sights

Continuing from my previous post, the quality of any sighting system is of little benefit if it isn't applied correctly. The two elements of using iron sights properly are referred to as Sight Alignment and Sight Picture.

Sight Alignment
When your front and rear sight elements are in proper orientation to one another, you have Sight Alignment. With proper sight alignment, aiming is easier, but if sight alignment is not correct and not consistent, then everything is harder.

When using Patridge sights, the top of the front sight blade (or post) should be level with the top of rear sight block, and it should be centered in the rear sight notch. If the front sight protrudes above the rear sight, your bullets will hit higher than you intended; if there is a gap between the top of the front sight and the top of the rear sight, your bullets will hit lower. Similarly, if the front sight is held to one side or the other in the rear sight notch, hits will be to one side or the other on the target. It's also very difficult to hold the sights out of alignment consistently, meaning that your point of impact will wander. 

Tang-mounted or Receiver sights should have the top of the front sight blade (or middle of the crosshairs) centered in the field of view. Tang sights have different sized apertures for different ranges and light conditions.

Image courtesy of the TN Handgun Carry Course

Sight Picture
Looking through properly aligned sights at a target involves dealing with three elements at different distances. Unfortunately, we have a problem in that our eyes can only focus on one element at a time. 
  • If we focus on the target, the rear sight is practically useless
  • If we focus on the rear sight, the target is effectively a blob.
  • Therefore, the general recommendation is to focus on the front sight. The rear sight and target will be slightly out of focus, but will still  be manageable.

Image courtesy of the TN Handgun Carry Course

Proper understanding and use of sights is an essential part of accuracy. As Colonel Townsend Whelen said, "Only accurate rifles are interesting."

In a future post I'll discuss the difference a Red Dot sight can make.

Good luck, and safe shooting.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Follow-Up Reports

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Herein is an assortment of further information on topics I've discussed earlier. 

I am pleased to report that using this as an uninterruptible power supply for my CPAP works perfectly. Last month our neighborhood lost power from early morning until about 1 pm, and I didn't experience a change in performance as the Freeman 600 switched from pass-through charging to onboard battery. I am very happy with how this system operates, so unless there are hidden issues with the unit which only crop up after months or years, I consider this experiment a resounding success and recommend the Freeman 600 for all my CPAP-using brethren. 

I haven't yet tested the recharging speed/capabilities of the solar panels. That's on my list of "Things I want to do but first need to find the time to do them."

The Caretras Bunion Splint is doing its job of pulling my toe back into alignment while I work at my desk or watch television. However, the velcro doesn't hold as tightly as it once used to do, despite having been laundered and the hooks free of any lint. However, I have achieved a workaround with something I ordered for a different problem.

This 20-piece set of velcro ties for cable management works a treat for keeping the splint on my foot. The smallest (8" long) wraps around my big toe, and the next smallest (12" long) secures the brace around my instep. I have plenty of each, so if these start to fail I can just use the others, and I still have straps left over to secure the cables I wanted gathered up.

On a related note, I have discovered that wearing these gel toe separators while going for walks or running errands is a useful preventative measure. While they don't prevent my toe from cramping, they reduce the intensity of the discomfort and the time required in the splint to correct it.

Back in 2018 I mentioned using Hickies-brand no-tie shoelaces for my daily shoe and boot usage. As it turns out, while version 2.0 is more durable than version 1.0, they do still experience material fatigue and failure from repeated use. 

However, I have found something better! Lock Laces are a single strand of elastic cord with a spring-loaded lock to gather them tightly into place. This keeps them securely attached to my feet, but with enough "give" that I am able to quickly slip them on and off as needed.

There is even a heavy-duty boot version

I have been using Lock Laces for almost a year now and they continue to stretch and return to form. While I am certain the elastic will eventually fail, they have stood up to daily wear & tear and I am impressed with their durability and performance. I recommend them to anyone who wants to be able to save time putting on or taking off their footwear. 

That's all for now, but I will update you on any changes. 

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