Friday, July 13, 2018

Episode 73 - Switched On



Matter of Facts "tachometer" analogy.
Idle - Minimal focus/attention.  
Throttling up - Focusing, possible threat detected or suspected.
Revving - Threat identified, Fight or Flight, determining action.
Redline - Action phase, run or fight, no hesitation



Friday, June 22, 2018

Episode 69 - Bugout vehicles and Who's in your Group?

Bugout Vehicle
Diesel vs. gas - You have to weight the availability of fuel against the flexibility diesel affords.
V6 vs. V8 - Power is useful, but you have to weigh fuel economy.
4WD vs. RWD - Neither of us really favored a FWD hatchback like mine for a bugout vehicle, but I wouldn't place an extreme premium on 4 wheel drive as a rear wheel drive vehicle with sufficient ground clearance should suffice for most situations.

Militia Skillsets
The Shooter - First of all, everyone has to be a shooter.  That said, optimally, one of your party should have well above average firearm experience, preferably military/police/private security training and some knowledge of security or small unit tactics.

The Doc - You need someone with medical training, the more the better.  Extra points for EMT's and people that work in the field vs. a nurse or doctor.

The Mechanic - You need a guy with mechanical skills.  Be it a mechanic, a carpenter, contractor, or a shade tree do-it-yourselfer, someone needs to have some tools and knowledge of how to fix and build stuff.

Dentist - Andrew and I debated this to death.  I say give me the pliers and I'll deal with it.

Cook/Farmer - Once you have assembled this fantasy league of preppers/militia types, it would be really handy to have someone that knows how to cook a meal without inducing food poisoning.  Plan accordingly





Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mala Prohibita: Why gun control will fail every time

Within legal tradition are two concepts most may have only heard of in fleeting chat about why some laws are regularly violated and others are not.  When one takes all other variables off the table, legal offenses we restrict and punish in this country are divided into two categories: Mala In Se and Mala Prohibita.  Stick with me through the Latin, but the two terms roughly translate into "evil in itself" and "wrong because prohibited".  In other words, some offenses are obviously evil, while others are not.

Those laws regulating firearms (not crimes committed with firearms, just possession and carry) fall into the latter category.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at laws regulating marijuana use, speed limits, seat belt laws, jay walking, etc.  These laws are regularly flaunted by a large portion of our population because the majority simply does not believe those offenses are evil in and of themselves.  No one is being harmed by an individual choosing to light up a joint (debatable, but that's how I see it) and absolutely no one can explain to me why seat belt laws even exist (again, no harm being done other than to the individual choosing not to use a piece of safety equipment.)  Likewise, laws against the possession or carry of a firearm are regularly flaunted.

Every time California passes a new version of their perennial assault weapon's ban, manufacturers and owners of the once legal and newly illegal firearms find a way to comply (some would argue bypass) the law.  When New Jersey and Chicago demand their citizens turn in bump stocks, people blow them off.  When New York demands assault weapons be surrendered to the police, the people chuckled under their breaths and the estimated turn in rate was just a few percent.  The PEOPLE have decided such restrictions are not intrinsically evil, and are refusing to abide by them.

Even laws on carry are not universally complied with.  I have a state concealed weapon's permit, in compliance with a law I wholesale disagree with.  That said, I seem to have a complete inability to notice and comprehend posted "no firearms allowed" signs on local businesses.  I don't believe that business, which is open to the public, has any right to restrict my ability to exercise an unalienable right, and I'm hardly alone.  Carrying a firearm in a holster, under my shirt, with no intention of actively harming anyone with it is not evil in itself, hence the law depends on the people simply not wishing to face retribution in order to guarantee compliance.

And this is why gun control has, is, and will continue to fail.  There are plenty of Lefty loons in this world that would happily see all firearms melted into modern art, but they are not the majority.  There are a LOT of middle ground gun owners that will comply with most of the law, but push hard enough and even they will balk at continued tightening of regulations.  Then there are people like myself, die hard 2nd Amendment advocates that preach from the pulpit of "from my cold dead hands".  Guess which way my opinion sways on firearms.

Gun control will fail because the laws restricting ownership and carry are Mala Prohibita, they do not seek to prevent that which is evil in itself, and the people's willingness to comply with such laws will always be limited.  As the laws become more and more ridiculous, the people's opinion of that law will continue to turn until such laws are ignored, actively flaunted, and one day openly challenged.  One will find it exceedingly difficult to prevent a population from doing that which they believe they have every right to do.

Ask the British if you don't believe me. - Phil Rabalais

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Built, not Bought: The little stuff

So, you've put your rifle together.  It will physically discharge a round of ammunition and send it downrange.  But you're not done yet, there are still a number of small but necessary purchases to make your rifle functional.  Some are obvious, some only to those of us that intend to use these firearms outside of a static range on a shooting bench.
 
***Forgot to mention this in the previous installment - Radian Raptor Charging Handle - I gave a mil-spec charging handle an honest try, and with the traditional "two fingers over the top" grip it works well enough.  What it does not even attempt to do well is allow you to "blade" your hand past the charging handle and actuate the bolt.  This easily remedied that issue, and I only chose this vs. some other options because I had personal experience with it in a friend's built and I know it would work the first time.***

Sling - Magpul MS2 - I have previously had some experience with a number of slings, of the single and two point variety.  My EXTREMELY brief excursion into three point slings has led me to never recommend them or use them again, so let's table that abomination.  With few exceptions I default to a two point sling.  They are versatile for carrying and steadying your rifle when shooting off hand, provide a means to allow you to take both hands off your rifle without it clattering to the ground (if you need to switch to your secondary weapon, or use both hands for any other purpose), and allow you to carry muzzle up or down depending on the situation.  The greatest benefit is the control they lend to your rifle that a single point simply does not. The Magpul MS2 is secured to the buttstock via a tri glide wound through the sling point, and via a QD to the handguard.  This gives me a means to separate the upper and lower (I can hit the button and disconnect the sling from the upper) and if I get tied up I can shed the sling quickly. Extra points for color coordinating the sling to the furniture (OCD is a thing.)

Backup sights/Irons - Magpul MBUS - The MBUS sights are affordable, and appropriate for their intended use.  MUCH better sight options exist if you intend to use irons more often than I do, but as a backup to a more capable and sophisticated sighting system.  They are plastic, so if durability is a concern you may opt instead for the Magpul Pro sights which best I'm aware are made of metal.

Primary sights/The Great and Endless debate - Vortex Strikefire 2 and Vortex VMX-3T - I debated, really debated, using a red dot and magnifier (separate debates) vs. using a Vortex 1-6 or similar scope.  My father, who's AR build is fairly similar to mine in parts and phylosophy, did opt for a Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6, so I have an opportunity for some very direct comparisons.

The Vortex Strikefire 2 is a notorious robust and reliable red dot from Vortex's catalogue, as such being backed by a company with a reputation for not screwing up products and an unbeatable warranty.  It has a 4 MOA dot which I initially was concerned may not be a fine enough point of aim, but I referred back to my phylosophy of use.  I don't see iron sights as being too imprecise, and the front sight post isn't dramatically different in size from the red dot as mounted on my rifle.  I was able to string together perfectly respectable 2-3" groups at 100 yards, and engage an 8" plate mercilously.  The red dot does run off of a single CR2 battery vs. the more common CR123, but I found them available and stashed a spare in my pistol grip.  Note, when things run on batteries, have spares onboard the rifle if at all possible, in your kit if not.  Extra points for the cantilever lower 1/3 cowitness mount included with the red dot.

The VMX-3T is Vortex's second go at a 3X red dot magnifier. I did opt, as many do, to reverse the usual arrangement of the included flip-to-the-side mount (usually flips to the left, mine flips to the right, call it personal preference) which was easily accomplished.  I found the magnifier to be clear, the mount to be very stable, and the limited magnification to provide just enough extra visibility to stretch out the effective range without slowing down target acquisition.  I would never call this a replacement for a 1-6 scope, but it does give you more tools in your toolbox for a red dot. With the two optics paired together, engaging 8" targets at 100 yards is easy.  It was certainly no chore before, but the magnifier does give me a greater degree of target ID and placing my shots than I had without it.  It also gives me a bit better clarity at intermediate ranges.  It will not give you that fine point of aim to make sub MOA groups, but it will stretch your natural eyesight out that much farther.

Mags, cause it ain't a semi auto without them - C Products Defense stainless steel magazines - I picked these up silly cheap from SGAmmo when they had some in stock.  They are a literal clone of GI mags, minus the anti-tilt follower and the steel bodies vs. aluminum.  Perhaps a little heavier, but hopefully also a little stronger, they have proven bomb proof in their reliability.  I'm less picky about a person's choice on mags as long as they run them enough to be secure in their reliability or weed them out as "range only" mags.

All the junk in the buttstock/pistol grip - The Magpul buttstock, as many fixed stocks, has a built in storage compartment.  So does the Magpul pistol grip.  I have managed to cram a few scraps of old tee shirts to use as cleaning rats and patches, a small bottle of oil(Ballistol), a GI cleaning kit (leftover from my Army days) complete with a chamber brush, and spare batteries for my light and red dot.  I would encourage anyone to use onboard storage for bare minimum gear to service the rifle, just so it's always there.  I also have a RATS tourniquet wrapped around the buttstock (not in the location pictured, it slipped and interfered with the charging handle) because Murphy is ever vigilant and things happen.

What I set out to build was a jack of all trades rifle, something equally capable of home defense as defending a neighborhood.  I don't see my max engagement range often exceeding 50 yards, 100 being fairly optimistic, and 200 being extraordinarily rare.  The 18" barrel gives me the velocity to insure terminal ballistics, rifle length gas system and A2 buffer makes for a soft shooting rifle that won't choke on odd ammo choice, quality parts insure I don't have to worry about premature failures, and a flexible optics package that grants me faster target acquisition than irons without any loss in capability in my chosen envelope.  The rifle functions, and is proving accurate as I spend more time behind it.

What else can I tell you about?  Any interest in me talking about my load development as I tackle this new cartridge? - Phil Rabalais

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Built, not Bought: What's going on up top?

When I decided to build a rifle, I sought the advice of those builders more experienced than I, and boy did I get an education in a hurry.

I was quickly introduced to some of the modernizations that have come up in the last several years that neither Stoner nor the US Army Ordnance Department ever dreamed of.  Of course, a change in upper doesn't usually cause such a ripple effect in your parts selection but it does when it's a drastic departure from a standard mil spec upper.

Aero Precision M4E1 Enhanced Upper 
Before I fell subject to this marketting slang, I asked very directly what the benefit was.  Aero's M4E1 upper already features excellent machining, a flat top picatinny rail for optics mounting, and comes in at a very reasonable price tag.  The "Enhanced" upper completely redesigns the barrel/handguard mounting interface in the name of additional rigidity and strength, picking up where Stoner's design and the many workarounds (attempts to integrate free float handguards into the legacy design) left off.  By integrating the handguard mount into the upper itself, the stress of that handguard is no longer concentrated on the barrel nut.  By taking all of that stress off the barrel nut, it could be made smaller, now only dealing with locating and securing a barrel.  And, but reversing the typical arrangement of barrel nut to upper (the upper having outside threads, and the nut threading on) the barrel nut now threads INSIDE the upper and the gas tube no longer passes through the barrel nut.  Way beyond making assembly simpler, it gives a rock solid mount for the handguard.  To which I mounted....
  
Aero Precision Enhanced Handguard 
Possibly the only downside to using this specialized upper is it restricting your options for handguard.  Quite frankly, Aero Precision has you covered with options ready to bolt on in various lengths, diameters, and colors.  The Enhanced handguard (M-Lok, anodized black, 15") was my choice, as I had intended from the outset to build a full length rifle and I wanted plenty of rail space and to push the front sight as far forward as practical.  Yes, I planned to run an optic, but I am a big believer is making a sight radius longer where practical.  Some will tell you it doesn't matter, it matters to me.  The handguard features a compatible mounting solution with the Enhanced upper (mounts with 8 screws and a little blue Loctite if you don't like things backing off), anti rotation tabs, and a monolithic rail that matches perfectly with the Picatinny on the upper.  I don't care to mount my optics on the handguards, but it's there if you need it.  The handguard is rock solid, and fills the hand, though the Quatum may be a better fit if you like your handguard a little slimmer and lighter.

Faxon Firearms 18" Gunner barrel in 5.56 Nato 
I had always intended to use a rifle length gas system and an 18" barrel, beyond that I was pretty open to suggestion.  I was immediately steered to Faxon Firearms and their Gunner barrel.  Faxon is well known to provide a good product at a fair price.  Being a Goldilocks build/jack of all trades, I was after a full capable rifle that could still shed ounces where possible and not compromise capability.  The Gunner barrel utilizes the "government profile" from the M4E1 extension (with matching feed ramps) to the gas block, at which point is narrows considerably to the lighter weight "pencil profile" for the remainder of it's length.  This maintains more material and ability to cope with heat near the chamber where it pays dividends, but removes crucial weight from the furthest extreme of the barrel aiding the rifle in transitioning side to side.  Having shot this side by side with my father's traditional government profile barrel, I can attest to mine making a noticeable difference in weight and momentum, with a small penalty in additional felt recoil due to the lower weight.  I call it a worthwhile tradeoff for a rifle meant to be carried and shot from the shoulder, not rested on a bench it's whole life.  The jury is still out on potential accuracy as I dig into hand loading, but Faxon is not known to make trash barrels.  I debated briefly on .223 Wylde, but shelved it for the time being as it didn't really add much to my concept other than price.

Toolcraft Nickel Boron Bolt Carrier Group  
I quickly learned that MANY of your big name companies are using Toolcraft as an OEM supplier of their own bolt carrier groups, and I felt no reason to spend more to have someone else's name on the part.  C-158 Carpenter Steel bolt, MPI tested, and nickel boron coated (made of good stuff and slicker than greased owl snot) it certainly looked and felt the quality part when it arrived at my house.  Now, I fight a neverending battle to keep it clean, typical of direct impingement guns.  The nickel boron coating, promised to make cleaning a wipe and go affair, hasn't alleviated the need to soak it in CLP and break out the brass brushes, but it does seam to make the BCG run a little nicer when things get hot and dirty.  For the minimal extra money, I don't consider it to be a waste.

Next week, I'll start meandering my way around the rifle hitting all the little things that make a rifle run, since we've gotten the major parts out of the way.  Let me know what you guys think and leave me your feedback positive or negative. - Phil Rabalais



Friday, June 1, 2018

Episode 66 - The Militia

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
— George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788


 "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
-- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188


"That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms ... "
-- Samuel Adams, Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at 86-87 (Pierce & Hale, eds., Boston, 1850)


 "What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
-- Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. ME 6:373, Papers 12:356



Militia Act of 1792

Militia Act of 1903

Quote from LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JAMES PAHKER, U.S.A., ACTING ASSISTANT
ADJUTANT-GENERAL:Rifle ranges also are needed, not only for the National Guard, but also for the citizen population. To shoot well is a large part of the education of the soldier ; and if the Government can arouse such an interest in shooting, in not only the organized but also the unorganized militia, that our male population shall be familiar with the accurate use of the rifle, we shall have gone far towards evening up the advantage the foreigner gains by his universal conscription. Much can be accomplished in this direction, if the United States will offer free the use of the military rifle on ranges to be established near our large towns. Such ranges would also be available for the instruction of the National Guard. Their cost would be little in comparison with the benefits to be obtained. The cost of sufficient target ranges and camp sites for the whole country will hardly exceed that of one or two new battle-ships.



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Built, Not Bought: Solid Foundation

Most would consider it foolhardy to build a house on a shaky foundation.  So would I, hence I started with parts I knew I could depend on, from companies with a well deserved reputation of not screwing up the simple stuff.

Aero Precision is well noted in the AR world for building quality parts at fair prices.  Not the fanciest, not the flashiest, not the cheapest, but Aero's offerings often intersect right at the point of "this is too good to be true" and "this is a quality part I want on/in my rifle".  Aero Precision Lower, check please.  In hindsight, I could have (and may have, had I had the option locally) chosen their "Enhanced" lower with the integrated trigger guard, slightly different design, and a few other modernizations to the classic AR lower but I can't complain about the stripped lower I picked up locally.  It was in spec, and even at full price very reasonable on my wallet.

Going into the lower, I wasn't terribly hung up on which parts kit to use (as I tend to think if it's all the right size and material, what point in quibbling over it) but I was sure about my choice of trigger.  Enter ALG Defense, the sister company to Geissele.  I'm the sort of person that is very happy to buy a Honda and skip all the trimming of an Acura as long as the performance and quality is where it counts.  ALG's ACT is not a Geissele 3 gun trigger, but it is a notable and economical improvement over a standard mil spec trigger.  Less creep, cleaner break, very tactile reset, there isn't anything I can see not to like and the price point is half to a third of Geissele price.  I'm not saying Geissele triggers aren't worth the scratch, just that I wasn't in that market on this build.

The furniture is simple Magpul, their MOE + grip and fixed rifle (A2 length) stock.  I decided early in the conception of this build I wanted to use an A2 buffer in concert with a rifle length gas system.  Call me traditional, but I really do feel like Eugene Stoner nailed the original setup on the M16A1.  Rifle length guns are consistently soft recoiling, reliable, and consistent in their operation.  I did opt to come down a little on the barrel length (more on that later), but the buffer and gas system are very traditional because they work.  That limited my butt stock choices a bit, and Magpul's stock is a nod to modernity while working around this legacy buffer system.  The MOE+ grip is their standard MOE with a rubber over mold.  I can attest to it providing a good grip, no discernible downside I can think of.  Both pistol grip and butt stock have storage compartments which are stuffed full (of what?  patience)

Please leave me any feedback or questions you have.  The comment section below is available, and we can be found on Facebook on our page and in our closed group. More to come as we get into the upper next week. - Phil Rabalais 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Built, Not Bought: Building your first AR from a bucket of parts

Today marks a new entry in the blog (that you all thought I forgot about) to try and walk everyone through the decicions I made building my first AR.

    Certainly someone out there has recommended a first timer buy one complete for their first rifle, but I have a couple small problems with that advice.  Firstly, I am a tinkerer by nature.  Second, I wanted to build a very specific rifle for a fairly exacting purpose and I have definite ideas about how to accomplish that task.  Lastly, I am a glutton for punishment and I like a challenge.

    Every week (or perhaps more often, leave a comment and let me know how often you would like blog content to come out) I'll be concisely detailing a part or two on the rifle I ended up building, giving some critique on how I like it (or what I feel I could've done better), and talking about how that part adds to the overall concept.

    Speaking of concept, other than keeping up with the cool guys on the internet, I always tend to think of gear or firearms in terms of WHAT is this supposed to be doing?  What I set out to build was a general purpose rifle, a jack of all trades.  I wasn't after an SPR (special purpose rifle, intermediate to long range), though I wanted to have the legs if I needed them.  I wasn't after a CQB (close quarters battle, short and lightweight) rifle or carbine, but I wanted something I could maneuver in a hallway.  I didn't want to light Instagram on fire with all of my operatoresque coolness and I still don't care if the rifle looks cool or not, it does what I intended it to do.

    The rifle is built around an 18" barrel with a rifle gas system, long 15" handguard, flat top upper with a monolithic pic rail for mounting optics, and a fixed stock with an "A2" buffer system.  It has so far proven to be fairly soft shooting and extremely flexible and forgiving of what ammo is fed into it.  While many manufacturers have figured out the details of making shorter AR's more reliable than in years past, I wanted a known commodity that was likely to work in less than perfect conditions.  Leave me some comments, and I'll be back around to start talking you through the parts, and the method behind the madness. - Phil Rabalais

Friday, April 6, 2018

Why feminists should lose their minds over gun control.


Feminists should absolutely have a fit about gun control.  My reasoning is pretty simple, if perhaps a little sexist.  My wife for example is a beautiful and confident woman.  She is not tread under by her husband (ask her, she'll laugh), and is by all accounts a very independent lady.  She's also Hell on wheels with a rifle, and is turning into a very accomplished pistol shooter with some practice.  She is also woefully unprepared for a hands on violent encounter if she is unarmed.

There is simply, factually, no contest of strength or violence in which I can see my wife being able to overtake and subdue me for example.  I'm a 250 pound Army veteran, with several years of martial arts training under my belt when I was younger and skinnier.  The deficit between us in terms of raw strength is something she can not reasonably be expected to offset with her bare hands.  But, put a handgun in those hands and suddenly we are very obviously equal.  She, armed, is easily able to fend off a violent attacker, and that is why gun control frustrates me so badly.

With my bare hands, or one of my everyday carry knives, I would give myself equal odds fending off a violent attacker.  I would always prefer a carry gun for defense, but I like my odds without a gun a lot better than my wife's, or any woman's for that matter.  Contrary to whatever tarted up feminist fantasy Hollywood has rolled out recently, women are at a phenomenal disadvantage in a violent encounter against a physically stronger and often larger man. This is why I have always asserted that women, the elderly, and the physically less capable are harmed by gun control much more readily than are men.

So, the next time someone starts to trumpet gun control as a means to protect the innocent, gently remind them that gun control laws are a poor substitute for a person's ability to defend themselves in the manner in which they see fit.  Remind them that Smith & Wesson, not diamonds, are a girl's best friends.  Remind them that the people most disadvantaged by restrictions on the 2nd Amendment are the people that are already at a physical disadvantage in a violent encounter.  

The 2nd Amendment is the ultimate equality, making all people able to equally defend themselves regardless of sex or ethnicity, applying equally to citizens from all walks of life. - Phil 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

That's not a knife....that's a knife.

That's not a knife....that's a knife.


A lot of us that claim membership to the gun and prepper communities consider a knife to be an essential part of our EDC gear.  Whether intended for defensive use, camp chores, or more mundane uses around a white collar office, a knife is almost never far from my hand.  What I carry, and where, and why, are subject to a broader conversation.



Bottom to top, my Gerber Paraframe clip point is certainly diminuitive.  With a blade length under 2", most serious knife users would consider it cute.  Unfortunately, my workplace absolutely prohibits the carry of any knife with a blade over 2" (punishable by prison time) so this is the letter of the law for me.  On an average day, this knife plays letter opener, box cutter, and serves to poke holes in the wrapper of a Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones.  In an emergency, I keep it plenty sharp enough that slashing a seat belt or popping an air bag would be little chore....or if I forgot to shave in the morning.



Next up is my Kershaw/Emerson CQC-8K.  A joint effort between the two companies, with the Wave feature allowing quick single handed deployment of the knife, and with the tip strength typical of tanto blades, I'd consider this to be a fairly sturdy knife....for a folder.  Carrying a large fixed blade knife in my typical environment in the suburbs attracts far too much attention, while a folder attracts exactly none.  This is my every day knockaround knife when I'm away from the office, perfectly content to slice just about anything within reason.  If I had to do it over again, and with a generous brain dump from our resident knife guru Matt Kritzberg, I'd have chosen a clip point over the tanto and gained some slicing ability without giving up much if anything in the stabbing category.  Regardless, it does a good job for a reasonable price.



Overshadowing the other two is my recent addition from Matt Kritzberg, a custom built modern Bowie knife hewn out of 01 Tool steel with G10 scales and a full tang, according to it's maker anything short of chopping down trees should be doable with this blade.  It features a 1/4" thick spine, 6" long clip point blade, and an absence of contouring or beveling on the clip point to encourage additional strength. It's the knife I strap onto my belt when concealability and blending in aren't priorities, and I need a large sturdy knife by my side. This is my camp knife, my woods knife, my zombie apocalypse knife.


Each of these knives serves multiple utility purposes in my daily life, but (at least the latter two) also has a deeper purpose.  These are my last line of defense, another tool in the tool box of self defense.  At arm reach, a knife is every inch as dangerous an implement as a handgun, and often more so.  When in constricted spaces, when your opponent is already on top of you, when things have gone seriously bad, a knife could save your life.  What's important from my perspective, is to match your gear to it's use and your environment.  Carrying a Bowie in the office isn't going to fly very far, neither would it make sense to carry my Paraframe out into the woods.  Take a look at what you carry, why you carry it, and where you are carrying it and ask if you have selected the correct tool for the job. - Phil Rabalais


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Look Down, Not Up! - Heat Loss In Regards to Shelter by Joe Adkins

Look Down, Not Up!
Heat Loss In Regards To Shelter
by Joe Adkins

     When talking about shelter in a survival situation, the rule of threes states that three hours in extreme temperatures can result in death from exposure; exposure being hypothermia (low body temperature) or hyperthermia (high body temperature). Depending upon the environment and other circumstances (adding in wind or dehydration), that three hours can be significantly reduced and so too can the idea that an extreme environment is necessary to succumb to exposure. By taking some of the following information in mind, you can not only improve your chances as a survivor but you can also make your typical “primitive” (in this instance meaning tent, tarp, hammock, etc.) camping trip more comfortable.



   
   
     Certainly, in regards to heat loss clothing must be addressed; however, that will be covered in a future article.  After clothing, we should look at our shelters.  Before we do, first we must understand how heat is lost or transferred.  With this knowledge, we can utilize clothing and sheltering systems to full advantage.      It is worth pointing out that heat transference is not a process that can be stopped, only slowed.  Heat is transferred from the body in five ways.  They are:  conduction, convection, radiation, evaporation and respiration.

     Conduction is the transfer of heat from neighboring molecules, i.e. direct contact.  This happens when, for example, a person lies directly on the ground.  The human body is, at average, 98.6?F.  When the body is directly touching a surface that is either higher or lower in temperature heat is transferred through conduction.  In a desert, the much hotter sand can burn or heat the body; likewise, in the eastern woodlands on a cool October night, the ground can suck the heat from you.

     Convection is the transfer of heat through air currents and/or liquids.  When a person falls overboard into frigid waters, the heat is sapped from their body.  In a high heat environment, wind is great to whisk the heat from you.  Hammock campers know all to well that the wind can be a significant factor in their ability to stay warm or cool.

     Radiation is infrared and ultra violet radiation trying to move from a warmer area to a cooler area.  For our purposes, there are two types of radiation; long wave radiation, our bodies infrared radiation and short-wave radiation, the sun’s UV rays.  Ever snuggle up to someone on a cold winter night to get a little warmer?  That warmth is the body radiating infrared heat.  It is important to know that the sun can heat in three ways:  directly, indirectly by reflecting through particulate matter (think glass or plastic) or indirectly by reflection from the ground (water, snow, ice or sand).

     Evaporation is heat loss by converting a liquid to a gas.  When we sweat, we are trying to produce a cooling effect by evaporating that sweat away from our bodies.  This is important to know.  In some environments controlling this concept is important.  We want to control our perspiration in cold weather to keep us from getting wet and ruining or degrading the insulation value of our clothing.  In a very hot and dry environment, we want to slow this process to maintain moisture and to allow our perspiration to cool us over time.  That is why most desert dwelling peoples wear light, lose clothing covering the majority of their skin.

     Respiration causes us to lose heat.  We humidify the air that we breathe in and out.  This results in heat loss and moisture loss.  In extremely cold and hot environments it is important to breathe through the nose and to keep your mouth closed as much as possible.  Respiration accounts for more than a pint of water loss per day.

     Now that we know how our body transfers and loses or gains heat we can begin to examine our shelters.  Most people look to the sky when they consider sheltering options.  That is understandable and important because, as we discussed earlier, moisture can aid in heat loss.  However, most people don’t look down and there in lies the danger.  When sleeping in the wild the first enemy is the ground.  The ground will conduct heat either to or away from you.  Get off the ground, you need a barrier.  In a cold environment, this means insulation from the ground (could be necessary in a hot environment too if you can’t dig and don’t have a means of overhead cover).  Depending upon how cold of an environment you are in will dictate how much insulation is required.  In our classes, which are in the Eastern US woodlands, we teach a minimum of four inches of compressed material; however, if you can do more you will be warmer.  In a desert environment, finding shade or an overhead cover from the sun is important.  Once that is established if you can dig in the ground try to get at least 8 inches from the surface where the ground is cooler.  If you are camping with a tent or tarpaulin, foam pads and an inflatable mattress are wonderful, you can even pile up debris under these to get warmer.  Think outside the box.  If you carry trash bags in your kit (you should, you know) fill these with debris to make a quite comfortable improvised mattress.  Obviously, if you are camping, your sleeping system should be adequate for the environment that you are in.  In an emergency, remember dead air space is your insulation, pack debris in your clothing or around you to stay warm.

     Convection is the bane of those that like to hang in the winter.  Hammock campers, if you are doing cold weather camping, invest in good quality under-quilts.  Again, the sleep system that you bring should be sufficient for the environment.  We recommend synthetic fill but if you can keep your down filled sleeping bags dry they are very warm.  When camping or selecting a site for your shelter, remember to look for loose limbs or trees that may come down on you in the night.  Try to get on the leeward side of the hill or mountain and if its cold avoid the ridgelines where wind is worse.  In the summer, deeper in the valleys stay cooler as heat rises.

     Radiation from the body is slowed by the dead air space of our clothing and to an extent, our shelters if they are small.  In cool environments, a reflector wall of stone or wood can act as a heat reflector but mostly absorbs radiant heat from a fire and releases it slowly.  The wall will also deflect wind.  In warm environments, seek the shade where possible to avoid direct and the indirect radiation of the sun.  Insulation can help cooling as well.  A light loose layer that protects the skin and allows air flow will slow evaporation and allow your sweat to do a better job.  Don’t forget sunblock if on the water, in the snow and obviously when in the sun!

     Evaporative cooling is avoided in winter time by controlling perspiration and with moisture wicking materials in clothing.  In warm environments, as mentioned above a loose layer can facilitate your evaporative cooling system.  Additionally, cotton can be an aid to cooling in warmer environments for exactly the same reason as it is a poor choice in cold environments.

     Loosing heat and moisture from respiration is controlled by trying to keep your mouth closed in both environments.  Controlling your work/rest cycles can keep you from breathing harder and avoid more moisture loss; however, in cold in environments exercise can keep you warmer than the heat lost from respiration.

     Now that you understand how our bodies lose heat, you can make better decisions in regards to your shelter set-up and make your camping trips more comfortable.  Remember that you want to be off the ground.  Make shelters small in cold environments.  Avoid the wind to stay warm and take advantage of it to cool.  Cotton can be advantageous in a hot weather environment and aid in evaporative cooling.  One final trick to staying warm or cool is obvious but is sometimes overlooked.  Our bodies have to warm cool fluids.  In the cold, drink warm liquids to help warm the body and in hot environments drink cooler liquids to facilitate heat transfer.  Have fun in the woods and prepare for even a short hike or trip in the wild lands.  Prepare, Survive, Thrive!



The Mountaineer Institute for Self-Reliance is a school located in West Virginia.  Its mission is to provide quality self-reliance education for individuals, businesses and organizations.  They are known for their thorough and intensive curricula.

Joe Adkins is the founder of The Mountaineer Institute for Self-Reliance.  He is a life-long outdoors man.  Joe has over 13 years military experience as an ARMY combat medic & nurse.  Additionally, he is a certified Level 1 Sigma III instructor, a WV Master Naturalist candidate and a certified Basic Man-Tracker by a local law enforcement agency.  He lives in Wayne, Co., WV with his family and his two dogs.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Minuteman: When it's time to shrug off anonymity and get ready to fight.

Last week, we talked about the philosophy of being a Grey Man; how to be a wolf in sheep's clothing.  Now, we're looking at a very opposite philosophy: the Minuteman.  This idea goes back to the 18th century and the Revolutionary War.  The Minutemen (the original ones) were the men who road from town to town to warn the citizenry of the impending threat of violence presented by the British Army to the colonials.  They were also the first citizens to rally against them, long before George Washington assembled his army and sailed over the Potomac in that famous engagement.  The Minutemen are also cited as being the original National Guard, the original citizen soldier.

In this context, the Minuteman is a philosophy that eschews anonymity and blending in for a show of force and maximum aggression.  This would be a posture that would be reserved for the most severe of situations, such as the breakdown of law and order following a large scale natural disaster, a riot, or a Red Dawn scenario (slightly tongue in cheek, but you get the point.)  When all bets are off and the rule of law has broken down, you're in the Minuteman's territory.

Part and parcel to this philosophy is that you are intentionally abandoning blending in and displaying your intention to use force.  Body armor and open carrying would be the two most obvious signs of this, carrying a rifle in addition to your handgun would be another.  You aren't concealing anything, it's all out in the open, your ability and intention to use force are on display.  YOU BEING IN PLAIN SIGHT is a display of force.  You aren't blending in, and you aren't hiding.  You are making it clear by your appearance and your posture that you intend to make it rain if trouble comes your way.

This has two functions: hopefully your display of force convinces the wolves to find easier prey, but you're also readying yourself for a fight if that comes.  You're handgun is now a secondary weapon.  Your rifle gives you dramatically greater range and firepower.  Your plate carrier enhances your survivability and ability to carry more ammo.  You should (in my opinion) also plan for restraints and an IFAK on your plate carrier, things difficult to carry while blending in but useful in a more serious engagement.

Your posture and demeaner should also be substantially altered.  If you are presented with a potential hostile, that rifle should be in your hands at a low ready.  Your eyes keep moving, mostly glancing between their eyes and their hands. Your posture should indicate your intention (if you have ever had formal training in shooting, or martial arts, I don't have to tell you what that means.) Everything about your physical appearance is broadcasting loud and clear "I am going to hurt you if you force me to."

Now, if all of the above sounds mighty excessive, I'd agree with you 98% of the time.  When would I espouse any and all of the above?  One word: Katrina.  What I witnessed during Hurricane Katrina (listen to that episode), had I not ALREADY been in uniform and well armed as a member of the Louisiana National Guard, would have sent me straight for my armor and rifle.  City streets turned into the Wild West, LEO response time was measured in hours or DAYS, if you got into trouble you were probably on your own.  In such a situation where the rule of law has broken down and violence is open and rampant, it's time to throw off the sheep costume and make obvious your intention to fight if a fight comes to you.

It's time to be a Minuteman. - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Grey Man: how to be the wolf in sheep's clothing?

Much is often made in the Prepper and Gun Guy communities of falling into two camps: to be either The Grey Man, or to be a Minuteman.  Both methodologies have legitimate uses, and in my mind are complimentary.  Each of us should strive to be The Grey Man when the time is appropriate, and transition to the Minuteman when the time has come.

The Grey Man is the person you never see, or the one you see and never remember.  He's not dressed in any particular attention grabbing way, is cordial but not overly friendly, the ones that blends into a crowd.  He's not the one constantly reaching for his belt to make sure his concealed handgun has magically escaped from his holster.  He isn't the standoffish one that's "mean mugging" everyone that makes eye contact with him.  He isn't the one that puffs his chest out and walks around like he's out looking for a fight.  The Grey Man may be able to swing like Mike Tyson, or shoot like Jerry Miculek, but he blends in like an average Joe.  That's the point.

Being the Grey Man allows you to slip between the throngs of humanity you encounter on a daily basis and not attract attention to yourself.  Note that the basic rules of situational awareness apply, your head should be up and eyes moving, but try to appear casual about it.  Check hands and eyes, but keep your eyes moving and glance at street signs or billboards so that it just looks like you're looking for something or taking in the scenery.  Yes, a pro will still spot you (the fact you aren't staring numbly into a cell phone will ring most alarm bells) but the uninitiated will walk right by you.

Your clothing, with some allowance for personal taste and style, should be likewise chosen to blend in.  Leave the TAPOUT shirts and GLOCK hats at home.  What you want is a tee shirt/button down/hoody/etc. that is either devoid of prominent branding OR at the least has no branding that has anything to do with firearms.  If you're going to an event in which EVERYONE ELSE is wearing a certain type of dress, that would be a great choice.  Despite that, take care that your dress is appropriate to conceal your EDC, and wear good close toed shoes in case running becomes necessary.

Your EDC may have to be compromised to keep this ruse going.  When I'm at my workplace, I'm legally barred from bringing a firearm onto the premises.  I also can't bring a knife with a blade longer than 2" into the building.  I have a Gerber Paraframe clip point that just barely meets that length limit, and that's what I keep on my person.  I also have my IFAK in my vehicle, and keep my Streamlight Protac 1L on my person.  You may have to leave the Glock 19 at home and trade out for a 43 or other sub compact depending on how deep you need to conceal.  Strapping a Bowie knife onto your side wearing dress clothes isn't the right direction if you're following what I'm saying.

At the end of the day, your goal is to be forgettable.  You want to blend in, you don't want to look threatening.  You are the wolf in sheep's clothing, fortunately you're on the sheep's side (or at least not looking to harm the sheep). Next week, we'll look at the Minuteman philosophy. - Phil Rabalais


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Gun Maintenance: Kicking the tires and checking the oil.

A gun is not a mythological and magical device.  It isn't powered by voodoo, unicorn tears, or fairy dust.  It's a mechanical device that contains and harnesses an explosive force caused by burning propellant to both move a projectile and cause itself to mechanically cycle.  Mechanical devices take some lube, some maintenance, and some attention to insure they continue to function reliably, especially when such devices are carried daily and subject to pocket lint, dust, sweat (salt, very corrosive), heat, and humidity.

Cleaning is deceivingly simple.  If you see anything but pristine metal/plastic, clean it.  Carbon is a natural byproduct of discharging cartridges, and it will be abundant in a well shot firearm.  Any decent cleaning kit should include a nylon brush (old toothbrush works fine) and that will clean most loose carbon very quickly.  I keep an old tee shirt handy to clean the brush itself so you aren't just smearing around dirt.  A bit of cleaner or oil (more kinds than can be listed, I like Ballistol personally) may be required to loosen stubborn or baked on carbon. A brass brush may also be necessary if a little more aggressive measure is required, though care should be taken as this may disfigure a gun's finish (on internals or a stainless gun, this is obviously less of a concern). The point is to clean out any debris and dirt, not to move or disfigure metal.

Lubing is where the court of public opinion starts to weigh in, as each person's own experience comes into play.  Some like to run a gun "wet", practically dripping oil.  You only need to get a spritz of hot oil in your face a single time to see that isn't preferable all the time, though some will insist their gun ONLY runs when dripping wet with lube.  I would argue their gun has a mechanical problem they are trying to mask.  Some insist their guns can and SHOULD be run dry.  Metal + metal - Lube = premature metal wear and more friction.  Since most of the firearms we would consider for carry use run off of either recoil and spring pressure (modern handguns) or a myriad or small tight tolerance parts (double action revolvers) the complete absence of lube is a really bad idea.  For a carry gun, I place just enough oil to lightly coat moving parts.  Using a precision bottle helps to prevent over application and helps get the oil exactly where it needs to be.  I typically apply oil, cycle several times, wipe everything out I can leaving only a thin smear.  If a gun can't run with an absolute minimum amount of lubrication, then I say something is going on that needs to be addressed.  You'll also appreciate not over-oiling a gun on laundry day when you have to get gun oil stains out of your pants and shirts.

Lastly is parts replacement.  Semi auto firearms run off of a carefully balanced ballet of forces and counter forces, which relies heavily on springs.  With every cycle, these springs wear (though not visible in many cases.)  When the spring tension/pressure is appreciably altered, they should be replaced by either a well informed gun owner or a gunsmith.  Failure to do so will result in decreased reliability.  You revolver guys aren't out of the woods either, it isn't magic that makes that hammer rotate and smack a primer when you pull the trigger.  Opinions on how often to change certain springs in certain firearms varies wildly.  Suffice to say, if you're shooting and training regularly, your firearm will give you more than sufficient indication it would like some attention at your earliest convenience.  Neglecting the warnings will cause it to become more vocal until it refuses to cooperate at all.

Gun maintenance isn't rocket surgery.  A little bit of cleaning, which I recommend following EVERY time it is discharged, keeps things running fairly smoothly.  I also make a point of cleaning a gun if it's sat unused for 60 days, which gets some fresh oil on to keep corrosion at bay and lets me check for rust or other oxidation.  Leaving your gun sitting in a holster in a sock drawer for six months to a year is a sure way to start the process of ruining a firearm.  Lubrication isn't an exactly science, but a necessary part of your firearm's care and feeding.  Enough to keep things from being gritty, not so much that it's dripping, and there is a fair tolerance between the two that keeps things happy.  Above all, do not neglect your firearm to rust away in a closet nor ignore it when it starts to complain.  Either behavior will almost guarantee a firearm that is not ready to defend your life if it is called upon. - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Brand new to guns?

In the circles I travel, firearms are a common and well traveled topic.  I carry just about every day, and am intimately familiar with firearms, as it would be fair to say many of the people I know are.  For us, the concept that a person DOESN'T know about firearms is not something humorous, but more something we have trouble wrapping our heads around.  It is because of that we often forget to reach out to the new guys and bring them along in this world we live in.

What to buy, and how to buy it:  While I'm always keen on finding a deal, I never recommend a used firearm for a first timer.  Quite to the contrary, I recommend you Google or check your phone book, and get a list of ever local gun store within a reasonable distance of your home.  Treat this like buying a new car, you aren't going to buy the first car you see at whatever price the salesman insists is a great deal.  Go, admit you're a first time purchaser, listen to what he/she has to say, then politely decline to purchase and go to the next store.  After a few different points of view (because if you're asking for a recommendation that's what you're getting) you may be ready to drop some cash.

Regarding that recommendation, here's mine and I doubt Andrew would recommend much different: buy a full sized handgun or revolver from a known manufacturer, spend the money, and vigorously decline (or just walk out of the store) any recommendation to buy the smallest gun they have on hand.  For anything but a concealed carry gun, size is not a huge concern.  You need to pick a firearm you can comfortably grip, the controls and trigger are all within reach of your fingertips, and the weight is not so severe that you can not bring it up to shoulder level without your hands trembling.  That's it, no modifiers for brand, striker fired or hammer fired, revolver or semi auto.  Those are all personal choices, but for goodness sake do not buy a J frame revolver or a sub compact for a bedside gun.  You're sacrificing muzzle energy and capacity with no other benefit.

While you're in the store, get a cleaning kit.  It doesn't need to be fancy, but I am expecting you'll spend time training and shooting this gun (if you aren't, leave it in the store and spend the money on a home alarm, or a large dog) and that will demand it be cleaned and lubricated afterwards.  I even recommend you field strip, clean, and lube a brand new gun so that you can insure it is ready for use and you're familiar with the takedown procedure.  Also, if you bought a semi auto and it has less than three magazines, remedy that.  Magazine springs are wear items, enough use will cause them to not reliably lock the slide back on an empty magazine.  If that happens, bench that magazine until it can be remedied: that's why you have multiple mags.  If you have a revolver, I recommend a speed loader or two (see our Youtube vid for speed loaders).  Safariland Comp J2's are my pick personally.

Please resist the temptation after you've dropped this much money to cheap out and only buy a single box of ammunition, or buy the cheapest ammo on the shelf.  What you're looking for is a hollow point premium defensive round from a popular manufacturer.  Some other kind of ammo may be the current new hotness around the gun store, but sticking to something like Hornady Critical Defense/Critical Duty, Federal Hydrashok/HST, Remington Golden Sabre, or similar (make friends with a local cop and ask what his department issues) will guarantee you at least a sufficient choice.  No, it won't be cheap as defensive ammo typically runs $0.60 - $1.00 per bullet, but what is your life worth?  I'd say buy a box of 100, and a few boxes or cheaper "range" or plinking ammo.  It isn't milk, it doesn't spoil, it's almost never cheaper to buy the day after you bought yours.

And after you've spent $400-$500 on a handgun, a few hundred on ammunition and spare mags, some more on a holster (We covered that on Episode 46 of our podcast) I'm going to beat your wallet up once again for you to pay $100-$150 for some training with your local firearms instructor.  I dislike the NRA with nearly religious fervor, but an NRA certified instructor will have a reasonably good curriculum with which to baptize you into the ranks of safe firearm owners.  Do not skip this step unless you have a friend that is VERY proficient and safe and willing to take you under their wing.

If all of the above hasn't completely scared you off, and it shouldn't, know that "gun people" tend to be very enthusiastic and helpful towards other gun people.  Most of us, being faced with a new but open minded person, will happily offer advice and assistance to the best of any of our abilities.  Andrew and I have both extended offers to others to bring them to the range and help them get started.  Hopefully the above has given you a good jumping off point, and if you have any questions I certainly hope you'll come find us in our Facebook Group and not be shy asking for help. - Phil Rabalais