Friday, December 19, 2014

From Around The Web

Bayou Renaissance Man talks budget AR sights/ optics. Ryan's take Plinkers and sporting/ recreational rifles are fine with just a scope. Fighting rifles need iron sights and if you so desire (the only downside is $$$) an optic. Unless you plan on running a long and or free floating rail there is little reason not to stick with the standard front sight post. They are darn stout. For rear sights a fixed sight is the most robust but can get in the way of some optics, particularly magnified ones. In that case a folding sight is the way to go.

As to optics. For red dot/ holographic I recommend Aimpoint or Eotech. Both are quite stout. I have seeen Eotech's, the weaker of the two, that went through multiple combat deployments to Iraq and were still functional.Aimpoints are even stouter. Cost is $400 and up though you can find some deals bringing them closer to the $350 range.

I am not a fan of budget optics on fighting rifles. Historically budget (in particular red dot/ holo) sights either fail to function at the most basic level or do not hold a zero. Generally speaking I would suggest you rock iron sights until a quality optic is within your price range. That being said as technology matures it is worthwhile to question old wisdom.

As to magnified optics. There are a lot of low (1/2 to 4/6) power variable scopes with illuminated reticles on the market. I ended up with a Burris MTAC. For a general purpose rifle the option to have magnification at distance yet near 1x up close is darn handy. Sure if you built an AR pistol as a house gun or were specifically concerned with CQB a red dot/ holo has some advantages but otherwise I like magnification.

There are lots of great scopes in the $300-500 range.

John Mosby talks the OODA Loop.

A Few Thoughts on the M16A4. Personally for most applications I prefer the handiness of a 14.5in barrel and a collapsible stock. The exception would be a longer range concept of use either due to more open terrain or some sort of SDM concept. While not the preferred long range precision rifle (for anything except punching paper) they can be quite effective in the right hands; as proven by Travis Haley in the Battle of Najaf.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thoughts on Land Nav

Max did an excellent post on Land Nav. I do not disagree with anything he says but do a few minor things differently.

I am going to do the rest of this post figuring people understand what Max wrote but are not used to doing it in the field. Honestly I cannot teach you land nav in a written document any more than one could teach how to shoot a handgun,  shoot a takedown or make love via the written word. To actually learn this stuff you are going to have to get out and do it. This post is not intended as a replacement for that but more as a helpful tool in getting there and being successful. The hope here is that I will be able to distill many years of experience into some hints so that when you go out in the woods (hopefully with someone knowledgeable to help) you get off to a good start by using some solid practices. Or maybe just avoid some pitfalls I have seen.

I use a protractor and a piece of paper to get my route direction. Some folks poke a small hole in the middle of their protractor and put a piece of 550 cord guts through it. They line the string up with the direction they need to go and it shows the GRID azimuth.

For going from grid to magnetic SUBTRACT EASTERLY, at least within the US. If in doubt the declination as well as instructions to calculate it are at the bottom of your map.


MAPS: I usually use 1/50k. 1/25k is fine but a bit small. The downside of these more detailed maps is they cover considerably less ground. Given that our lives are mostly vehicle oriented and, especially for rural folks, we tend to cover larger distances over the course of a day this is an issue. For a normal day when you would go 30 miles this way and 25 miles that way a guy would need several 1/50k maps and x2 as many 1/25k. Personally my kits have a 1/50k of my immediate area and a larger state map so if I get caught out I'm not totally hosed. Along these lines I recently stumbled into some 1/250k topographic maps. They might be a good middle ground between the two extremes. Big enough that 2 maps can cover 95% of my driving yet small enough to see minor roads, terrain, etc.

Compass: I use a tritium military compass made by Cammenga. They are hell for stout and work at night but are expensive. A $20 silva is a decent alternative. As long as it reliably points north and can take the abuse of the field you are good to go. Aside from buying a decent brand (Silva, Suunto, Bruno, etc) the only feature I would pay extra for is glow in the dark/ illumination.

Writing: Mechanical pencils are handy and more precise than the ole #2. Keep a couple #2's for back up's. Rite in the Rain All Weather Tactical Pocket Notebooks 3" x 5" - Tan should really be standard for use in the field.

Holding it all: Some folks use fancy map cases. I tried that and ended up deciding a 1 gallon plastic bag works just as well.

Before taking off:
 Route Planning:
There are two basic ways to move from point A to point B; you can use distance and direction (dead reckoning)  or what I call 'attack points'.

Dead reckoning is traveling using distance and direction, generally in a strait line. This is slow because you are watching the compass. Dead reckoning is inherently flawed. Lets say a really good person at land nav has an error rate of 2 degrees. Over 100 meters it does not matter but over a thousand it matters and 10k it matters a whole lot. Now lets say a less experienced person might error by as much as 10 degrees. That will screw you up over much shorter distances.

The attack point method goes something like this. Find a KNOWN POINT as near 'point B' the place you are going as possible. This needs to be something you can say with a very high level of confidence is exactly what/ where you think; I'm talking a road intersection (be careful about trails or logging roads as they can regularly change), bridges, a sharp turn in a road that is otherwise strait, a unique terrain feature for the area, etc. You can just move there without excessive worry about keeping an eye on your compass or pace count. Then once you get to this much closer known point you dead reckon. The advantage of this method is threefold. First you are dead reckoning for a much shorter distance than if that same A-B trip was done strait line. Coming back to the percentage of error in dead reckoning we spoke of earlier, shorter distance means much lower cumulative error. Second if you get turned around you can simply go back to that known point and start again. Third it is generally faster. Bushwhacking is slow and bushwhacking while trying to keep a pace count and hold a bearing is even slower. Also this gives you many more options in route planning to take a faster route through a more open area.
I sit down and plan my whole trip (multiple points) before moving. Many people want to get their first point plotted as quickly as possible then take off frantically. I would rather sit down for 5 or 10 minutes and plot my route well then double check it. You do not need to mess up too much for an extra 10 minutes of plotting to be canceled out.

On many land nav courses you will get a bunch of points to go to in a given time period.
I will start by plotting all the points on the map. While doing this I will mark the start and if applicable end points. After that I will look at the places I need to go. I'll do the same thing you do every time when out running errands. You don't go to the west side for a medical appointment, over to the east side to hit the gun shop, back to the west side for lunch, down to the southern end of town to the farm supply store then north to go grocery shopping and return east to go home. You would want to combine and group things in the most logical way possible considering the routes available/ terrain and other factors.

In a more tactical environment your mission will largely drive route planning. I do not mean to say too much about this. Suffice to say you will need to consider the patrol's objectives as well as the enemy threat as part of your overall route planning.

Either way you are going to move from point A to point B (to point C, to point D, etc).

From A to B I will figure out direction then distance. For direction I will use a protractor. When starting out I did this all on paper after a couple false starts.

It might look like
Point A to point B
Direction 240 deg grid
- declination of lets say 3 degrees

Magnetic 237 degrees

Distance 750 meters.

repeat as needed.

I usually put all of my directions onto one piece paper for easy reference. That might look like-
Point A to point B (using dead reckoning)
237 degrees 750 meters
Point B to point C
189 degrees 400 meters
 Point C to point D (using attack point method)
Move to sharp bend in forest service road 6623 vic ET 12345678. Go 180 degrees for 150 meters.

When I am done my map goes into the plastic bag facing one way, my piece of paper with the directions is on the other and my protractor is in the middle. That way I can see both my map and directions with my ghetto map case securely fastened. Then I get moving.

While moving:
Max is right about the speed of movement needing to be in relation to the amount of attention you need to pay to distance/ direction/ looking for your target location. That is one of the reasons I really like the attack point method, I can just walk fairly fast to the point without worrying about whether I'm going at a given declination or keeping count of distance. That being said sometimes maps are funny so I do like to have a casual pace count, especially if I do not know the area well.

When moving with a compass along a specific declination (angle/ direction) inevitably there will be objects in the way. There are really three ways (at least that I know) to get around without blowing your pace count or bearing. First is the box method. Do a 90 degree turn in either direction then walk away from the obstacle counting your paces. Then walk back on your bearing till you are clear of the obstacle and do a 90 degree turn back, walk the same number of steps and you should be clear of the obstacle on the same bearing with a good pace count. This can get to be problematic in say a dense forest. Another method good for smaller obstacles is to simply alternate going left and right. This should let you stay generally on the correct bearing. Keep in mind it adds to distance so your pace count for a given distance is going to be higher. The last method is best for large obstacles like a cliff or lake. In this method you look past the obstacle, find an object you will be able to clearly identify on the other side, estimate the distance, then move over/ around the obstacle, get to the point and CM. I have had good results with this when there is a solid feature to identify. If there are not solid features or you (guess how I know this) choose one that is clear from 100 meters away but not from 10 meters it is not so effective.

As to how close you can realistically get to a given point on the earth utilizing solely a map and compass. Max's point that a 6 digit grid (100m square) is the best you can do is IMO pretty realistic unless there are some features to aid you (the ridgeline, by the creek, etc). That is IMO sufficient for anything except caches or calling for fire. As to caches I have to refer you to John Mosby's excellent article for specifics only a complete idiot would establish a start point, travel 700 meters at a grid azimuth then bury a cache and expect to find it using a map and compass. Nobody is that good.
For a buried cache you are looking at very short distances, probably dozens of meters or less that are typically cross referenced with other known points/ distance/ direction.  It would be more like 18 meters from the old graveyard's corner fence post at 45 degrees and 15 meters at 0 degrees from the grave marker for Old Man Smith. As to calling for fire if you do not know how to establish where you are and where the bad guys are I would not recommend bringing down the steel rain.

There are a couple skills Max did not touch on. These skills relate to establishing the location of unknown points.

Intersection is where you use two or more known points to find the unknown point you are currently located at. This requires some distinct terrain to really work so it's not an option in deep woods or the wide open prairie.

Basically you will:
1) Lay your map out and properly orient it to the ground (north to north).

2) Look around to find an identifiable feature. Long linear terrain features (a highway, river, 10 mile long ridge) are great for getting a general idea of your location a la 'We are definitely North of I-10" but not really good for this. Now a distinct bend in an otherwise strait road or a dam on a river would be perfect.

3) Find the point you identified in step 2 on the map.

4) take a compass bearing to the first point, point A.

5) You then convert that from magnetic to grid by adding the westerly declination. Now you convert that from an azimuth to a back azimuth. A back azimuth is the reverse of your azimuth. Think of it like this, if your head is pointing north your butt is pointing south. This is real simple to do, if the number is more than 180 you subtract 180, if it is less than 180 add 180.

6) On your map draw your back azimuth from the known location. You should be located somewhere along that line.

Now repeat steps 2-6 for point B and you the point where they intersect is, assuming you accurately identified the known points, your current location. The utility of this is obviously figuring out where you are located.

Next we have resection. Resection is finding an unknown point from 2 known points. The real difference between this and intersection is you are not located at the unknown point. Also it requires two people at different known points who can do land nav and communicate with each other. The utility of this in a military context is calling for fire or reporting enemy movements/ activities. In a civilian context it might be calling 911 to help somebody hurt on a mountain or whatever. Resection works like this.

1) Person A takes a compass bearing to the first known point, point A to the unknown point.

2) Person A then converts that from magnetic to grid by adding the westerly declination. Since we are shooting an azimuth from the known point there is no back azimuth to worry about.

3) On your map draw your back azimuth from the known location. You should be located somewhere along that line.

Now Person B does steps 1-3 from point B and you the point where they intersect is, assuming you accurately identified the known points, the unknown location. The utility of this is identifying the unknown point for situational awareness or so you can go to it.

Anyway those are my thoughts on land navigation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

I picked up some additional maps. If you want to know more about land navigation Max Velocity did a real good post on map and compass Infantry style land nav a bit ago.

Restocked some consumables.

Not much else happened as I was quite busy at work this week.

What did you do to prepare this week?

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Can Haz Hide Away Knife?

I am looking to bring some more capabilities to my everyday carry without letting it get too heavy. Seriously toying with the purchase of a Hide Away Knife. The concept of use would be primarily self defense with a secondary task to do some various everyday cutting tasks. I have been (in addition to my Benchmade Griptillian) carrying a Leatherman for most everyday tasks though I'm toying with either getting a smaller one (Leatherman 831195 Squirt PS4 Black Keychain Tool with Plier ?) or purchasing a Swiss Army Knife of some sort.

The HAK's unique ability too give a good grip with a much shorter than normal handle, decreasing overall length, and be retained brings value. Also that you can grab and transition to a firearm are pretty handy. Lastly I think the HAK by virtue of being single edged avoids a lot of knife carry laws.

Would like to know if anyone has personal experiences with the HAK. Of course I am generally interested in people thoughts (not based on personal experience) on the matter.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Vision Update

In September I had eye surgery, PRK to be specific. Went in recently for my 90 day check up. Everything is good. Vision in the left eye is 20/15 and right has a very slight astigmatism so it is a bit better than 20/20 instead of 20/15. The 'halo' effect at night is gone or at least not noticeable enough to interfere with anything. I am still using the replacement tear eye drops but not very much. Probably put a drop or two in each eye 3-4 times a day and am not sure how much that is from need and how much from habit. Still wear dark glasses outside unless it's night time or real cloudy. Wearing glasses while using a PC I'm not so great at. Need to get a set of the glare cutting ones and keep them at work, actually I probably need to get 2 pair and keep them at work and home.

Anyway my eyes are great and it is completely life changingly awesome. Still weird occasionally. Just this morning I was groping around the nightstand for my glasses for a few seconds before realizing I don't wear them anymore. Great stuff.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Larry Vickers on The Myth of Over Lubrication

Larry Vickers on 'over lubrication' of weapons. Before saying he is stupid I recommend a quick google search. It's fair to say Larry Vickers has forgotten more about all things guns and fighting with them than most people reading this know. His thoughts mirrors my personal experience, doubly so with the AR-15 platform which runs best wetter than other weapons. As far as I am concerned this is the last word on the matter.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cold Weather Clothing

American Mercenary talks winter clothing. Good stuff from a guy who knows what he is talking about. I did a winter clothing post awhile back so I won't totally rehash. Without rehashing I have some general thoughts:

Obviously you want to layer with moisture wicking, stays warm when wet clothes. The outside layer should be water repellent. This usually means some sort of synthetic clothes but wool works for everything except an outer layer in wet weather.

In some ways the 35-28 degree range where you can get rain and have standing water can be more problematic than 20 degrees or lower where water freezes pretty quickly.

I believe in dressing for the level of activity you will be doing, not the level you are at right now, within reason. This means I will start out a road march, run or high effort type of work a bit cold and warm up as I get moving. The other option would be to shed clothes as you heat up. This poses two problems. The first is sweating which we want to avoid. The second is if you are doing something where stopping to shed clothes is a hassle it is a problem.

I will often keep a fleece hat in my pocket or a jacket at the top of my ruck for when I slow down/ stop. 

Amerc mentioned the Army's almost institutional dislike of base layers AKA long underwear. I fall into this school of thought albeit with some common sense thrown in. If it's ten degrees outside I will be wearing long underwear during high intensity activities. Part of our dislike comes from Newb's tendency to wear too many clothes, get hot and become a heat casualty in cold weather. The other part I think is that in field conditions it is a lot easier to say take off a fleece than long underwear bottoms.

In recent years the availability of synthetic long underwear has really gone up and correspondingly the cost has gone down. For those on a budget either carefully shopping for overruns on ECWS 'silk weight' or hitting up the local Wally World should get you a set of long underwear for not too much over $20. At that price there is really no excuse for wearing cotton.

Fleece has also come down in price considerably. Granted it won't be super heavy well designed North Face but the local China Mart has tops for $15 and pants in the $12 range.

I heard somewhere the patent on Gore Tex expired some time back. Anyway lots of companies are making shell type jackets that are waterproof to anything short of a swim that still let moisture out for not a ton of money. Another option is to check outlet malls. A town I occasionally go through has a gear company outlet. Last time we were there I got a jacket for $40 ish.

The point I'm trying to make is if you shop smart and are a bit flexible on brand/ color, it is very realistic to get decently clothes for cold weather on a tight budget.

Boots I do not have a great work around for. You get what you pay for. For real tight budgets maybe hunt good will or a surplus store for gently used ones.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From Around The Web

Inspired by my Ballistic Baller on a Budget post TEOTWAWKI Blog talks about their 1k firearms battery. Alexander went with the $550 complete upper and stripped lower build plan as well as a Glock 9mm. I certainly agree on the Glock; if you find one that meets price point I would take it over an SDVE-9, Ruger P85, etc all. As to the AR I'm a touch leery about low end AR's but can certainly see the sentiment.

Incidentally Bayou Renaissance Man has been trying to get some low end AR's working right.
My thoughts on general AR problem solving
-If it is a feeding related issue swap out the magazine. Try a different one and see what happens. IF the old mag, which is usually the culprit has problems just toss it as they are so cheap they are functionally disposable.
-Anything else. First conduct a good and thorough cleaning of the weapon. Next lubricate it heavily (just short of dripping). After that try it with some good known ammo like PMC X-TAC M855 (incidentally available at the excellent price of $359/1k at Lucky Gunner).

The first two should clear up the vast majority of generic AR problems. Beyond that depending on exactly what is wrong if it's a new gun it might have been assembled wrong or (new or used) you might need to swap out specific parts related to the problem.

Communists have taken over the parliament in a state that is part of (formerly East) Germany. Needless to say people tortured and imprisoned by the communists are not thrilled.

Oleg Volk does a good job explaining the terrible law I-594 which the lefties in greater Seattle shoved through.It is so openly written that almost any gun owner is a criminal.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Random Home Security Stuff

Some home security measures have the sole purpose of making your home less appealing to criminals. Remember you do not need an impenetrable fortress; you just need to convince them to go rob the guy down the block.

You can cut back or remove shrubs and vegetation around windows. The goal is to avoid burglars having a place to hide during the entry to your home. The only exception to this is stuff like cacti or other things that are sharp and nasty. Even then I would want to keep the windows clear.

Beware of dog signs are another good one, especially if you actually have a dog. Bonus points if you have a big dog that barks.

Alarm company signs are good and alarms are even better if they are available in your area and you can afford it.

Lights are a good one also. I like motion activated ones best as they aren't on all the time and could potentially make a crook think you turned the light on.

Think of this as the opposite of real estate's 'curb appeal'. You want a crook to take a quick look and decide to rob somebody else.

What else can you think of do to make your place less appealing to a burglar? Bonus points for low cost methods that stop the crook before they try breaking into your house.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

I put some energy into our home security along the 'deterrent' line of effort.

Busted out a needle and thread to fix a pair of pants and bring them into service. Wifey would have done it faster and better but it's one of those 'use it or lose it' things.

Restocked some staples and coffee.

Did a map recon then printed out maps for my alternate and contingency routes from work to home. In the near future I will drive them both.

In the next couple weeks I plan to:
Add winter gear to our systems
Order a bung wrench and fill up the blue barrel
Purchase 2-3 5 gallon water jugs
Better investigate surface water in my immediate area
Go to the range
Start looking towards getting a ham license
Order an adapter for my shotgun to mount the sling
If prices stay generally at present levels I will get some more silver
Look into solar powered motion lights

What did you do to prepare this week?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Historically it is difficult to overestimate the significance of that event. It brought us into World War Two (though it was coming anyway) and is notable as a break in our pretty successful, thanks in large part to two oceans and weak neighbors, streak of other countries not attacking the homeland.

The lessons of preparedness and vigilance are ones we have a bad tendency to forget.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pic Post- Project 870

Project 870. I had it out to do a couple things. The original velcro I used was not sufficient for the HSGI shot cards and was peeling off. I replaced it with quality Velcro brand industrial Velcro. Also needed to touch up the super classy finish in a couple spots. While it was out I took a picture. 

I am happy with the configuration except the sling. Not sure if I'll bother with it but would like to mount the sling further back on the butt. Also some day I might get it professionally refinished.

Pic Post- My Battle Belt

Friday, December 5, 2014

81st Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition

Details here. Terrible law, all it brought was larger government and organized crime. We can also blame prohibition for the darn ATF. At least FDR did something right in ending it. I wonder if a hundred years from now people will look at the war on drugs the same way.

So celebrate and have some drinks already.
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