Friday, May 31, 2024

Safe Firearm Storage

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Once you become a gun owner it is your moral (and in some states, legal) responsibility to store your firearms securely in order to keep curious children from finding them and to prevent thieves from stealing them. While firearm safes are expensive (costing at least $1,000) and heavy (weighing several hundred pounds), there are other options available to the budget-conscious prepper. 

Before we begin, however, an important note: any safe can be defeated given proper conditions. A small safe can be stolen and disassembled at leisure; a determined thief with plenty of time and the proper tools can cut or drill into larger safes. Therefore, in my opinion gun storage solutions should have the following qualities:
  1. Affordability. It is better to have a cheap safe than no safe at all. 
  2. Deterrence. Most home thefts are quick in-and-out jobs, with the thieves not wanting to risk being caught by homeowners or police. Anything which is not easily taken or defeated in a few minutes will suffice in this regard, and anything which deters a thief will prevent a child from gaining entry. 
  3. Accessibility. If I hear a bump in the night, I need to be able to get to my home defense firearm quickly and reliably. 
  4. Storage. Since we are storing firearms, it is better to get a safe which stores more of them. 
You will note that I didn't mention protection against fire. While I'm sure some of you will disagree, I feel that fire rating is more hype than substance. Sure, the flames may not penetrate, but how hot will the interior get? House fires burn at over 1,000 degrees F, which is more than hot enough to melt polymer frames and ruin the tempers of metals. Fire resistance also adds to the cost (and weight) of safes, which runs counter to the principle of quality #1. 

To that end, I recommend the concept of the security cabinet to budget-minded preppers: a lockable steel enclosure that is a safe in all but the most stringent definitions, and is more affordable because they can be delivered to you unassembled. This has the valuable side benefit of being able disassemble your cabinet and take it with you when you move, rather than force you to leave it behind or pay a moving company an outrageous fee to ship it. 

The following are the three security cabinets which I own and recommend.

I bought this from Amazon for $90 back in 2017 and it has served me well in that time. While you could store 8 long guns in it, doing so would make them difficult to take out quickly, and rifles with optics will further complicate that procedure. It is far more suitable for storage of 4 long guns, perhaps 6 if you aren't in a hurry to get two of them.

I have further upgraded this with the SecureIt Retrofit 2 kit, which allows me to store my optics-using firearms along the back of the cabinet rather than along the sides.

This allows me to have my bump-in-the-night guns (a 12 gauge shotgun and a pistol caliber carbine) easily accessible at a moment's notice, with the shelf used to hold ammunition and electronic hearing protection earmuffs. The door is kept unlocked with the keys in the door when I am home, and the cabinet is by my bed. When I leave the house, the cabinet is locked and my keyring comes with me. 

I was able to get this on sale for $60 a while back; the price has gone up since then. It mounts to the top of my security cabinet and is the same width and only slightly smaller in depth, adding weight and bulk to the 8 Gun as further deterrence against taking the whole thing.

I use this safe to hold the pistols I want to access quickly, as well as additional ammunition. I keep it locked, with one key inside the security cabinet and the other in my Hiram, below. 

This is a new addition which I acquired after Christmas as part of moving into my father's old bedroom. It cost $200 with $50 shipping (ugh), but it's much larger and more secure than my Stack-On 8 Gun. While this probably doesn't fit the stringent definition of a "safe", the panels are thicker and the locks more durable, so it's likely to be the closest to an actual safe that I'll ever get.

What I like about this safe, in addition to being wide enough to accommodate 6 long guns (with optics) across the back and tall enough to store my Mosin-Nagant, is that its louvred back panel is compatible with the aforementioned SecureIt accessories. It can also be unlocked with biometrics, a keypad code, or a concealed key lock. It's also worth noting that both the Stack-On 8 Gun and the Hiram come with the ability to be bolted to walls and/or floors for extra security. 

I use this safe to store the rifles I don't need in a hurry, and when I go out of town I'll put the guns in the Stack-On in there for extra security. I put my spare keys to the Stack-Ons in here, hanging on a spare peg. 

While none of these cabinets are "proper" safes, I was able to securely store my firearms against theft and damage for $400, which is less than the price of a new handgun and much, much less than the cost of a $1,000+ safe. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Buying a Rifle Online

I recently retired from the US Army, and to celebrate I decided to buy a new rifle. The particular rifle that I wanted, a Ruger American Predator Stainless (as in having a stainless steel action and barrel) was not available locally. I found the closest match (with a stainless barrel and a blued steel action) in a store over an hour away, but I found that same model for cheaper on I decided that I was going to do something new and purchase a firearm online, figuring the cost of gas for a two hour drive was probably going to be more than the $25 - $35 FFL transfer fee.

Bud's Gun Shop has a handy feature where you input your zip code and it finds Federal Firearms License dealers in your area who have performed Form 4473 and National Instant Check System (NICS) background review and final transfer, with the last known fee for doing so. There were a few pawn shop/gun shops that were close, but ultimately I chose to go with the sportsman’s club on the nearest Army base since I’m a member there and the staff assured me they handle orders from Bud’s all the time.

There is a lot of “legalese” in the online purchase process that can be summed up as “If you fail the NICS then you are out X amount of money” and you have to check the box acknowledging that to proceed. Once you’ve picked the delivery FFL, you can proceed to payment; there were plenty of options, but the one I chose was “e-check” where I input the routing number and account number associated with my checking account along with the other necessary information to handle the purchase. I was happy to see Bud's Gun Shop had payment options that didn’t benefit blatantly anti-2A corporations.

Timeline from Start to Finish
  • 28 April 2024, Sunday. Initial purchase, used e-check option.
  • 29 April 2024, received email from Buds requesting 5 business days to process e-check.
  • 29 April 2024, received email from Buds, funds debited, requesting 3 additional days to process.
  • 30 April 2024, received email thanking me for purchase.
  • 3 May 2024, received email from Buds confirming all finances complete and order cleared for shipping.
  • 7 May 2024, received email from Buds with UPS tracking number.
  • 10 May 2024, UPS attempts to deliver after 1900 (7 p.m.) after store hours are closed.
  • 13 May 2024, UPS attempts to deliver at 0905 (9 a.m.) when the store is closed.
  • 14 May 2024, UPS finally gets the delivery delivered.
  • 15 May 2024, I fill out the Form 4473 at the FFL and pass my National Instant Check System (NICS) background check. I also picked up a Vortex Venom 5-25x56 optic since there is no sales tax on military bases and the price was a few bucks cheaper than Amazon.
This being my first online firearms purchase, I have no other online dealers to compare. This means my experience may not be your experience. Given my experience of exactly one purchase, however, I already plan to purchase from Buds again.

My Experience with the Rifle
  1. The barrel is a bit on the thin side for long strings of precise shots. 
  2. The $20 MCARBO trigger return spring upgrade is worth every penny. Going from a hefty 5+ lbs to a clean break at 2 lbs, it feels like an entirely different animal. 
  3. The factory stock isn’t as bad as the internet makes it out to be.  It's definitely a hunting stock and not a precision stock, but it shouldered just fine and I’d have no problem taking one hunting. 
  4. The Ruger American is the first rifle I’ve purchased that was actually designed in the current century; all of my other rifles are 20th century designs.
  5. More information on my experience with upgrading and shooting the Ruger American Predator can be found in my previous article
My Experience with Purchasing Online 
Sometimes it's just better to buy a complete package than to pay all of the additional tax plus shipping & handling fees.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Measure Lots, Cut Once

Humans are tool users, and one of the important aspects of tool use is accurate, repeatable measurement. Prior to the 1800s, there were hundreds of systems of measurement with thousands of different units around the world, but today we're pretty much down to two: Metric and the American Customary System, often erroneously equated with England's Imperial System of Units

Whether working with wood, metal, or other materials, in order for parts to fit properly they need to be correctly sized. If duplicating an existing object, a piece of string can be used to transfer measurements from the original to the raw material of the copy. Beyond that, accurate measurements need to be taken and recorded.

Nearly all the measuring devices I'm going to mention here are available in both Metric and American Customary Unit versions. I'll also be focusing on dimensional measurements, not volume or weight.

Perhaps the most common of measuring tools is the ruler, whether it is a simple wooden school ruler, triangular scale ruler, tape measure, or yard stick. Traditionally, rulers are marked with large numbered indicators divided by smaller, differently sized marks, collectively called rules. By lining these up against the object to be measured, a reasonably accurate value can be determined. A desk ruler might be marked in quarters or eighths of an inch, while a carpenter's ruler will more likely be marked in thirty-seconds or even sixty-fourths of an inch divisions.

A selection of linear measuring tools

This type of measuring device comes in two main categories, dial (or digital) calipers and transfer calipers.

With the former, the jaws are closed against the object to be measured, and the reading is taken directly from the scale on the tool. These are commonly used by machinists for precise measurements down to one one-thousandth of an inch. My most frequent uses for these are when reloading and home gunsmithing.

Transfer calipers are similarly closed against an object, but are then compared either to another object, or a ruler of some sort. While less precise, these can be used to more easily measure awkward or irregularly shaped items. These are commonly used by wood workers, especially for lathe work.

Both types of calipers can be used to take inside, outside, and depth measurements. A single dial or digital caliper can usually perform all three tasks, while there are dedicated transfer calipers for each.

A selection of calipers and micrometers

A more limited yet more precise measuring tool than calipers, micrometers are also available in dial and digital versions. Capable of precision of up to one ten-thousandth of an inch, these are used for the most precise machining environments. Using and reading a traditional screw micrometer requires some practice. While I own several of these, I find a dial or digital caliper meets most of my needs.

Informal Measuring Tools
There are also everyday objects that can be used for rough measurements, such as an American dollar bill, which is nominally six inches wide by two and a half inches tall (more precisely, 6.14 inches wide by 2.61 inches tall), or American coins. A quarter is just under an inch in diameter, and 1/16th of an inch thick.

Many other common objects can be used to estimate dimensions, but a proper measuring device is always better. I carry a small tailor's tape measure in my jacket, and the multitool in my pants pocket has a scale on the sides.

For some history on measurements, I highly recommend the book Measuring America.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Ruger American Predator in 6.5 Creedmore

(Editrix's Note: I am pleased to report that George Groot has agreed to become a full-time contributor for Blue Collar Prepping. Please give him a warm welcome!)

The Ruger American Predator in 6.5 Creedmore is a hunting rifle with a medium sporter profile 22” barrel. This is in contrast to the Ruger American Hunter in the same caliber which has a heavy sporter profile 20” barrel with an attached muzzle brake. However, I know that all firearms are a series of deliberate compromises, and having 2 more inches of barrel in a lighter package was the compromise choice I made. I’m still not sure if it was the optimal choice, but I’ll live with it for a while before making a final decision.

Before I ever fired a shot I did these things. 
  1. I swapped the trigger return spring for an MCARBO spring to drop the trigger pull down to something that resembles a precision rifle trigger at around 2 lbs pull.
  2. I installed a three chamber “tank” style muzzle brake that’s really just a placeholder until I figure out what type of muzzle brake and suppressor combination I can afford.
  3. I dropped all that into a KRG Bravo chassis, because I plan to use this rifle more for competition than hunting. 
  4. I then topped it off with a very heavy Vortex Venom 5-25x56 rifle scope. 
I counted it all up, and I probably should have chosen a Ruger American Hunter in 6.5 Creedmoor since it comes with the better Magpul stock and muzzle brake installed, which would have saved me about $200 over the total cost of my build. But my current build comes in at 12.5 lbs with empty magazine and bipod installed, so that's not bad at all for getting after my goal of a relatively lightweight precision rifle. 

How does it shoot? 
So far I’ve run only loads I had on hand through it, and a 140gr Nosler Custom Competition bullet over a charge of H4831SSC powder in Hornady Brass with CCI 200 primers is printing acceptable groups. That is literally zero load workup for this rifle, so the fact that it isn’t consistently printing half inch groups at 100 doesn’t bother me just yet. I have some StaBall 6.5 and Barnes Match Burner 145gr bullets on hand that I hope will produce a winning combination in this rifle, but that will be a post for a different day.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is most often compared to the .308 Winchester. Both will push a 140ish grain bullet to around 2,700 feet per second; the Creedmoor just does it with a higher ballistic coefficient bullet and has become a serious contender to replace the .270 Winchester as the “handy, light recoil option for North America.” Honestly I couldn’t tell any recoil difference between the 6.5 CM and my .308 Win rifles, as the laws of physics are the laws of physics and total weight out of the muzzle (bullet + powder weight) is what causes recoil. The muzzle brake helps quite a bit, as does the heavier chassis stock and 2+ lb optic. 

In my initial range session I noticed that the groups “tended left” as the barrel heated up. Ruger advertises that the barrel is a “cold hammer forged” method of manufacture, which doesn’t normally produce a barrel that drifts with heat. One possible explanation is that the barrel nut isn’t perfectly true to the receiver, and so it heating up adds a minute amount of torque to the system. 

To test this I stapled up two printed target sheets with four individual targets on each sheet (available for free here) and shot one round at each target until I “broke the black” on the center circle. It took me 11 trigger pulls to break the black on the eight 1” centers of the targets, one of which was a called flyer (I knew I broke the shot low), but the two uncalled misses were to the left. It could also be that my shooting technique from a range bench leaves a lot to be desired, so further testing from the prone is on the menu before I really determine that it’s the rifle and not me.

"Break the Black Drill" 6 of 8 first round hits at 100 yards.

The bolt action on the Ruger American is “okay” in my opinion; it’s better than a Savage 10 or Axis bolt lift, yet not as good as a Remington 700. The stock bolt handle is serviceable, but I find it a tad on the small side, and I plan to upgrade to a longer “tactical” bolt handle in the future to get better leverage. which hopefully will allow me to move less between shots as I cycle the rifle. The bolt body has an imperfect finish, with machine marks providing that “zippy” sound as you manipulate the bolt, but there are plenty of YouTube videos on how to fix that.

Final Thoughts
The Ruger American Predator is a fine hunting rifle out of the box, and the MCARBO spring upgrade is worth it for 20 dollars. 

If you're looking at a longer range option at a decent price, it's really hard to argue that there's anything better in the price bracket. Dressing mine up as a precision rifle ended up costing almost as much as a Ruger Precision Rifle, although I did save about a pound of weight over the RPR offering in 6.5 Creedmoor (and when you're endurance ruck marching with a rifle, ounces make pounds and pounds make pain).

If you plan to upgrade later there are plenty of aftermarket stocks, triggers, and muzzle devices to choose from, but generally those just make the rifle more comfortable to shoot for long sessions, rather turn it into a better hunting tool.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Erin's Bad Prepper Habits

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
We all have bad habits in our every day lives, so it stands to reason that we have bad habits (some might call them "toxic traits") in our hobbies and lifestyles. Emergency Preparedness is no exception to this, and in fact I could argue that it is prone to more magical thinking and totemism than most. Case in point: the Doomsday Preppers TV show of last decade, which promoted the perception of "In order to survive a big emergency you need to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into bunkers, bug-out vehicles and off-grid living" and which irritated me so much that it led to the creation of this very blog, whose philosophy is "Don't be deterred by shows like that. You can prepare on a budget, step by step, for the emergencies which are likely to affect you."

With that said, I too have bad prepper habits, and I hope that by confessing them I can embolden my other writers to do the same. I don't have any ulterior motive to this -- I certainly don't want to shame anyone -- but I do hope that by sharing my weaknesses I can make some of you feel better about your own failings, and perhaps I can receive some support and advice about how best to overcome mine. 

So here, in no particular order, are my Bad Prepper Habits. 
  1. I don't shoot nearly as much as I should. Between the increase of ammunition prices in the run-up to the 2016 election, my withdrawal from a lot of social events after the family dog mauled my face, and a feeling of "I might need these later," I haven't been putting in the same time at the range as I did in the early 20-teens. I mitigate this some with dry fire practice, and the last time I went shooting back in October I was pleased that my skills hadn't degraded as much as I'd feared, but the fact remains that I know marksmanship is a perishable skill and that I've been neglecting "arms day". 
  2. I collect books instead of reading them. I've mentioned previously that I was once a voracious reader, but these days I struggle with finding the time, the quiet, and the concentration to do so. (I suspect that I have undiagnosed ADHD.) I get around this listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and YouTube videos while I do other things so that I feel productive, but when it comes to "identifying edible plants" or "learning primitive skills" and so forth, those are things which need to be studied, not just absorbed via auditory (and sometimes visual) osmosis. I comfort myself by telling myself that it's good to have these books for a grid-down emergency and I can consult them for information when needed, but I still feel like a slacker for not cracking the spines of these books and at least familiarizing myself with their contents. The biggest lie which I tell myself is that "I'll get around to reading them soon."

    Just some of my books. I've looked through all of them,
    but I can't honestly say that I've
    read any of them. 

  3. I don't get out into the woods enough. I have a lot of allergies (dust, mold, pollen, animal dander) and it's just a gross feeling to constantly be sneezing and blowing my nose because I'm around plants and animals, or scratching because my skin touched something it didn't like and now it's red and inflamed. Bugs seem to love biting me, which is another source of inflammation and irritation, and my pale skin burns pretty easily in the sun. Put all of this together and it's a laundry list of why I prefer to live inside my perfect bubble of air conditioning and HEPA filtering. I know that in most disasters and emergencies that power will be the first to go, and yet I look for ways to ensure my creature comforts continue rather than learn to "embrace the suck". 
If I thought about it for long enough I could probably find more, but those are my Big Three. If you're inclined to talk about your Bad Prepper (or Prepping) Habits, then let me tell you that this is a safe space and a no judgement zone. 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Guest Post: .350 Legend Follow-Up

by George Groot

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

A few years back I made the case for the .350 Legend cartridge, and this follow-up will address what I’ve learned in the field. This review should have been done two years ago, but life happened, and last year was my first hunting season not interrupted by my job. 

Bottom line, all the advantages I listed back in 2019 are still true. It's a light, handy, low recoil cartridge and it kills deer cleanly. One interesting point that I didn’t bring up then, but I know now, is that there is almost a negligible difference in velocity between a 16” and 20” barrel for the .350 Legend.

As far as accuracy and reliability are concerned, the Bear Creek Arsenal upper I purchased has been completely acceptable, with only a few magazine-related failures to feed from the bench (something I’ve experienced many times with military issue M4s).

However, there are some disadvantages to my particular setup, a 16” AR pattern rifle, when used for hunting whitetail deer. The first is noise: an AR-15 bolt slamming home is a noisy thing, and to compensate I would load my rifle at my truck and move to the deer stand with the rifle on safe. A bolt action rifle like a Ruger American Ranch doesn’t have this problem. 

The second disadvantage is cheek weld. I have a standard M4 style buttstock on that particular rifle, and so getting a good repeatable cheek weld requires consistent training. This is a skill I can transfer over from running an M4 for decades, but not everyone has that advantage so I feel it needs to be addressed.

The third disadvantage I encountered was with Herter’s brand .350 Legend ammunition, a 180 grain traditional cup and core bullet with advertised velocity of 2,100 fps (manufactured for Cabela’s by Winchester). Velocity was not  2,100 from my 16” barrel; it was instead a bit more than that. This additional velocity caused me to miss a shot, which prompted a trip back to the zero range and confirming that my rifle was in fact still sighted in at 50 yards, but was 6” high at 100. I watched a number of videos from other .350 Legend users who experienced the same “additional velocity” phenomena, and while there isn’t excess pressure or any safety concerns, it does mean you need to verify velocity rather than trust the box.  

Things I’ve learned completely unrelated to the rifle and the ammo? Scopes matter, and while bigger isn’t necessarily better, I think the “compact tactical” size actually limited the hunting potential of my setup more than anything else. Last year I used a Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn 1.5-4.5x32 optic, but this year I used a Swift 4x32 compact scope. Next fall I’ll transition to something in the classic 3-9x40 variety for better light transmission at dawn and dusk, and I’m debating between a Sig Sauer and a Vortex

Final Thoughts
  • The .350 Legend is great for southern whitetails. 
  • It is the ballistic twin of the old .35 Remington, and that’s a good thing. 
  • It has very low recoil out of lightweight rifles and should be no problem for anyone on the hunt. 
  • It is not a long range hunting cartridge, so if you plan on taking shots beyond 150 yards, you’ll want to look to a cartridge like the 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Winchester, or a .260 or 7-08 Remington if you are stuck with commercial ammunition purchases and need a moderate recoil option capable of accuracy at multiple football fields away.  
  • However, if your hunting ranges are modest, and you are comfortable hunting with an AR platform rifle, you can keep a dedicated upper with two mags around for a very low cost-of-entry modern rifle during deer season.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Insect Deterrence & Removal

Spring is here and with it, in addition to flowers and butterflies, are various pest ranging from Japanese Beetles who eat the leaves off our trees, to Tomato Hornworms who devastate our tomato crops, and to fleas, ticks, and other biting insects who make us and our animal companions miserable.

Every year we have insect incursions into our home and garden. While there are various natural remedies, none seem to be quite as effective as the harsh and toxic chemicals available on the commercial market. I'm not a fan of these, but sometimes, nothing else will do.

Tomato Hornworm

We use a variety of methods to attempt to moderate their damage, which includes having a contract with our local exterminator to spray around the outside of our house to keep as many of the pests from getting in as possible. However, this system isn't perfect, and does nothing for our food plants. As with many things, a defense in depth is important.

To help keep insects from gaining entrance to our home, I use a light layer of diatomaceous earth (DE) on the thresholds of exterior doors. To deal with any bugs who managed to get in anyway, I sprinkle some on rugs prior to vacuuming. In case of a more major infestation, placing a dusting of DE in corners and along baseboards, then leaving it for at least several hours or up to a day before vacuuming, can help significantly.

Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of single-cell algae called diatoms. Present in most soil and many bodies of water, these tiny creatures had cell walls or shells made of silica that's similar to glass. When crushed, the resulting powder has sharp edges capable of cutting through the exoskeleton of insects, sometimes even removing it entirely. It can also absorb fat and oil from the exoskeleton, causing the bug to dry out. Basically, DE can kill a wide variety of insects as long as they have an open circulatory system and an exoskeleton, although some pests (such as caterpillars and cabbage worms) have a coating of mucus or slime on their bodies which renders DE ineffective.

If you are considering this option, make sure to purchase food grade DE. By FDA regulation, it must contain less than 1% crystalline silica, which makes it safer for humans and the best option for pest control around the home. There's also feed-grade DE, which is held to lower standards, as it's intended for use in animal feed.

A commercially available, more natural option we purchased recently is Vet's Best Flea & Tick Spray for Cats. Made from a relatively low concentration of peppermint and clove extracts, it's supposed to be both safe and effective. It's also highly regarded and seems to work well.

Vet's Best

Important Notes:
  • Cats don’t have a necessary liver enzyme, so most mint oils are particularly dangerous to them. Read and follow the directions carefully.
  • Allow any products used to dry completely before allowing pets back into the area. 
  • Do not spray any of these solutions directly on the animal.

A common folk remedy for dealing with pests on plants is to spray them with soap and water. However, several sources noted this can harm the plant directly, and also make the leaves more susceptible to sun damage by removing the waxy outer surface.

A safer, but less effective option is cayenne pepper, either dusted around the base of the plant or mixed with water and used as a spray. This reportedly makes the plant less palatable to many pests, both insect and rodent. As I mentioned in a previous post, mint extract can be used for a similar purpose. Note: there is some evidence that cayenne pepper can be harmful to bees, and some types of plants react poorly to the spray. Test it on a single leaf before applying more.

A less natural option is called Permethrin, a chemical insecticide used for pest removal on everything from farms to aircraft. However, we will not be trying this remedy. Even though Permethrin is noted as being safe for cattle, birds, dogs, etc, it's extremely toxic to cats. While our cats are indoor only, we don't want to chance tracking it inside and putting them at risk.

Many people use citronella candles or diffusers to keep bugs away outdoors. Again, be careful with this extract, as citronella oil is also not safe for use around cats; whether inhaled, ingested or applied topically, citronella oil can cause a variety of health issues to our feline friends. There's also debate on whether commercial citronella candles or oil have a high enough concentration to repel mosquitos.

Some additional options for natural outdoor pest repellents include cinnamon oil, clove oil, and other pungent herbs or their extracts. Planting marigolds around the periphery of an area can also help reduce invading insect populations.


This is in no way an exhaustive list of pest preventatives or remedies, but hopefully it will be of some benefit to our readers.

Good luck... and I hope you can stop scratching.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Product Review: Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouch

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I like to listen to audiobooks while I shower. Like most people, I use my smartphone to play my audiobooks, which of course must be kept dry in order to function. Normally this wouldn't be a problem and I'd just keep my phone on the hamper, but I'm slightly hard of hearing and therefore often have to back up 10 to 30 seconds because I didn't quite understand what was being said, and it was awkward to stick my head out of the curtain and try to find the rewind button without my glasses, and then successfully press it with wet, soapy hands. 

Enter the Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouch, with a 4.6 star rating and 96,717 reviews. For $8.50 you get two transparent pouches that will accommodate nearly every smart phone currently being sold. These pouches are made of thermoplastic polyurethane that allow you to use your phone's touchscreen (but not fingerprint sensor) while it's sealed inside, and that seal is made strong by dual locking clamps that are secure yet easy to use. Each pouch also comes with an adjustable nylon lanyard which clips onto a loop on the pouch.

The prepping uses for this waterproof pouch ought to be obvious: not only will it protect electronics from water and other forms of moisture, but it will also protect against other damaging environmental factors such as sand, dirt, and dust, all while retaining full smartphone functionality. Since smart phones are used to navigate and call for help, they must be protected at all times in an emergency situation and this is an inexpensive yet very effective solution to that problem. I have one in my bug out bag and two in my get home bag (the other is reserved for a dedicated GPS unit, which is more energy efficient than a smart phone).

I have been using this product daily since January and it has performed flawlessly every time. My phone is in a protective case and I have no problems slipping it into or out of the pouch, I can access the touchscreen with ease and accuracy no matter how wet or soapy my fingers are, and not a drop of moisture has crept inside in all that time. In fact, before writing this review I sealed some pieces of toilet paper inside the pouch and left it submerged at the bottom of my bathroom sink for an hour. When I recovered it and opened the pouch, the toilet paper was bone dry. The worst I can say about it is that the lanyard isn't great, but given that it's easily replaced with whatever fits through the loops that's hardly a criticism at all. 

In fact, I've been using a 16" MODL Infinity Loop to hang my Hiearcool pouch from the shower towel rack. I haven't fully explored all of the uses of this tool, but it functions like a cross between a carabiner and a bungee cord and seems highly configurable. I regret that they can't be bought individually (I was given one) and only come in a pack of four (two eight inch, two sixteen inch) for $35. I will definitely be keeping my eye out to see if they go on sale for the holidays, because if so these will make ideal presents for my prepper friends.

For completeness' sake, and because I know some people are wondering, I'm using this water-resistant Bluetooth speaker to hear my audiobooks while showering. It is unfortunately not available at the moment, but given its nonsense company name ("Maoifaec") I suspect it's made in China and will be released under a different name. While I am dubious of Chinese products, I have been using mine for over a year now and I am very satisfied with its sound quality, durability, battery life, and water resistance. If you're in the market for a Bluetooth speaker and you find of these these, go ahead and pick it up; I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Finally, I'm trying out a closing line. It seems like all the cool kids have one, and I want to be considered cool too. Please tell me what you think of it:

Stay prepped or get wrecked. 

Cool? Edgy? A bit too try-hard? Let me know!

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Guest Post: a Small OTC Pharmacy List

by George Groot

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

Every disaster prep list usually includes the words “30 days’ (or more) worth of medication.” If you are on medication, this is really great advice, but there are also a bunch of things you can purchase without a prescription that will provide you with treatment options  from a headache to a laceration, and those are good to have on hand for when stores aren’t open. This list isn’t all encompassing, and it’s meant to be generic so that you can decide, “Yeah, I need that, but not that” and customize it to your situation.

“For the Inside of You” List
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These are the “fever reducing” and “general aches and pains” medications. I like generic acetaminophen and naproxen, but my wife finds that ibuprofen works very well for her. The generic bottles of 100 pills or more should be sufficient for a short term disaster, and I recommend one each acetaminophen, naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. 
  • Antihistamines. Due to the war on some drugs, the “good stuff” is still available without a prescription, but you’ll actually have to talk to a pharmacy tech and show your ID to make the purchase. The prices for even generics are pretty high, but pseudoephedrine is still the “king of clearing things up” (especially hives) for me when diphenhydramine doesn’t cut it.  I would say that two 24 packs of pseudoephedrine pills is a good start for a household that doesn’t have environmental allergies, and one large bottle of diphenhydramine for mild “seasonal allergies”. People with chronic allergies will need a 30 day supply of their normal medication.
  • Laxatives. An interruption to your normal diet can cause a person to become constipated. There are multiple options, and if you don’t want to keep laxative pills on hand, you can make a “saline laxative” out of potable water and Epsom salts.
  • The “Anti-Laxative” Loperamide (aka generic Imodium) This helps avoid dehydration when illness causes diarrhea. 
  • Vitamins. A generic multi-vitamin is cheap insurance; I use Walmart’s Equate brand. You’ll want one pill per person per day times the number of days you are prepping; for a 4 person family working on a month, that’s 124 pills. Generally a short term disaster doesn’t lead to any sort of vitamin or mineral deficiency, but it is pretty cheap insurance. If someone in your house has a specific supplement they need to take regularly (iron, magnesium, etc.) add that in as well.
  • Caffeine can really help with headaches/migraines, which is why caffeine is an ingredient in so many OTC headache pill and powder formulas. A bottle of generic “alertness pills” is cheap insurance in case someone needs caffeine to deal with a migraine, and for some reason don’t have caffeinated beverage handy.
  • Rehydration salts. These can be individual packets of sports drink mix, medical grade salt mixes, or a mix of salts in pill form. It doesn’t matter too much which you choose, but you will want some on hand to assist anyone who needs to rehydrate. This can get spendy if you buy individual packets of name brand sports drink, but electrolyte tablets seem to be fairly affordable right now on Amazon.

“For the Outside of You” List
  • Sterilizing Fluids. You’ll want 90% rubbing alcohol on hand, and a bottle of povidone iodine or prep pads is also a good idea.
  • Antibiotic Ointment. A generic “triple antibiotic ointment” is cheap insurance, so I recommend two tubes. 
  • Super Glue. When you really, really need to hold skin together right now, this is good stuff to have on hand. It will harden in the container, so make sure you rotate in new stock every year. Of all the recommendations, super glue probably has the shortest useable shelf life.
  • Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream. This is for treating rashes, itches, and mild allergic reactions to plants on the skin. 
  • Anti-fungal cream. A significant number of Americans have an active foot fungus infection at any given time. Generally this is not a problem, but you don’t want it to spread to others during a disaster.
  • Petroleum Jelly. Really useful for dry, cracking skin, and it also turns a cotton ball into a great fire starter.
  • Sports Tape. This is different than medical tape, as it is designed to support joints. I use the cheap three dollar generic stuff for taping my fingers for Brazilian Jiujutsu the same way rock climbers tap their fingers for that sport. This also serves as a good blister cover, and can wrap around bandages for added protection. It doesn’t last forever, but is pretty cheap to have on hand.

“Preventive Medicine” List
In the event that “normal services are disrupted” you want to be able to keep your area as clean as possible, preventing rodents and insects from invading your space. 
  • Insect repellent for your skin. Being munched on by bugs is pretty miserable, and this helps prevent insect-borne illnesses from spreading. In addition to the sprays and lotions for your skin, you can get candles/torches and electronic devices that help you keep your area temporarily free from the bloodsucking insects.
  • Lice shampoo/treatment kit. Do not get an “organic/natural” kit here, get the kind that has dimethicone, which interrupts the lice water metabolism and kills them that way.
  • Permethrin. This is an insect killer/repellent for your living area. You can get it highly concentrated for agricultural purposes, or in spray cans to kill bed bugs. Understand that this is a pretty serious chemical, and it needs to be handled accordingly. It can be seriously nasty stuff if you let it touch your skin, but I’ve found nothing better for treating fabrics. 
  • Sunscreen. Don’t make a bad situation worse by getting sunburned. 
Storage and Stock Rotation
Like most perishable things, “store in a cool, dry place” is the best advice for your medicinal preparations, but even medicinal items stored properly still have a shelf life.  If it is a dry item, like a pill or powder, that shelf life is much longer than the “use by” date on the packaging. If the product is “wet” in any way, such as a gel, adhesive tape, cream, or spray, you’ll see a much more noticeable degradation of the product the further beyond the “use by” date on the packaging. If the product is a liquid, such as hydrogen peroxide, you’ll want to replace it regularly for the same reason you rotate your stock of laundry bleach (it breaks down and loses its oxidative properties over time).

If you have access to the internet you can check for drug interactions here, and if you are preparing to survive offline the “Where There Is No Doctor” series comes highly rated, and the newest editions are updated with additional medicinal information. 

While I don’t plan to start a village medical clinic, having a printed reference on hand is pretty cheap insurance for those things where I don’t have a clear idea on how to proceed.

The Fine Print

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