Showing posts with label kit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kit. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Poncho Discussion Revisited

I asked you all for some help with finding a few good poncho's not too long ago. Between your help and my own research I have realized that prices USGI poncho's are widely and regularly available for are IMO silly. Maybe I'm getting old and inflation is doing its thing but there is just no way a darn poncho should cost $50.

So that leaves me looking at other options. We have other poncho's but none quite fit the bill. I prefer MILSURP for its sheer ruggedness and durability. Also to fit my concept of use a poncho would need to be able to unfold into a big flat piece of materiel to be used for shelter making, covering things, etc. Color would need to be something that works in a variety of environments (basically not ACU or DCU type patterns). Weight and bulk are also considerations. Cost is always a consideration, of course I would like them to cost a buck, be perfect and last forever, but if I could get something in the $25 or less range that would be great.

What sort of poncho's do you like? Any suggestions?

Monday, April 22, 2013

An Interesting Discussion on Load Out's Part 1 of 2

Recently there were some very useful articles about packing rucks and living in the field by Mountain Guerrilla HERE, American Mercenary HERE and Max Velocity HERE. I have not written my own to go along with them because the overlap is so significant. It would not really bring much value for you to know I like 5 pair of socks instead of 4, carry lots of baby wipes and make sure to have a fleece watch cap even in the summer. Instead I want to look at it from a different angle. Today I want to look at ways to tailor a load to meet your needs for a particular scenario/ mission. 

As you see by reading the previously mentioned articles there are more commonalities than differences. The way I think of it is like bread. The differences between one and another are generally smaller than a non baker would suspect. A slightly different type of flour, maybe some cinnamon and butter, you get the idea. The point of this is that if somebody is making bread with 3 pounds of dried beans, pepper and pickles I will not be lining up for a slice. 

So we need to look at the reasoning behind different load out's. In the most simple sense we could break variances down into environmental conditions/ mission and personal preference. So let us talk about them both in turn.

Environmental Conditions:

Weather is an enormous factor that you cannot ignore. Without the right gear in cold weather you will die. A poncho liner to sleep in is fine for winter in Florida but in Michigan you probably will not make it through the first night. Often a summer load out and a supplementary heavier winter load out makes sense. 

Local conditions matter significantly. For example it might be hot in both Georgia and Arizona but one has lots of water and the other hardly any. Down here in the Southwest and in the dry parts of the inland west water is a serious consideration. A man on foot will have a very hard time carrying enough in many places. Best case without significant local primitive knowledge a person is stuck to fairly defined routes between reliable sources of water. This was the case for the US Soldiers during the Indian Wars. Folks who are stuck to a clearly defined path are easy to avoid or ambush at ones choosing.

The environment is also a consideration in terms of how much food one could reasonably collect and how easily they could collect it.  

This is definitely where we are going to see our biggest variances (that make sense).

I might be slightly off on the facts here but somewhere after WWI the Brits, French and Germans did independent studies on the load soldiers can sustainably carry while remaining combat effective. They all came to the conclusion that it was 1/3rd of body weigh. Call an average guy 180 pounds and that gives about 60 pounds to work with. (For ladies I think it is more like 1/4 of body weight.) To be candid this is talking about young, healthy military aged men. I doubt half of the folks reading this could walk with 1/3rd of their body weight (1/4 for ladies) all day long then fight afterwords. 

The point here is to figure out what your fundamental goal is and move from there. If you are going to be fighting people then carry the stuff to do that, if you need to gather enough food to survive then carry the stuff to do that. You get the idea.

A rifle, ammo and body armor get heavy in a hurry. At the risk of guessing my fighting load is between 15 and twenty pounds without body armor or 30 and 35 pounds with it.That is a pretty basic setup too: rifle w/ 8 mags, an IFAK, a small utility knife, my Glock and a spare mag or two. A setup with more mags, a day or two worth of food, some snivel gear, a poncho/ liner and whatnot could easily weigh 30+ pounds before armor. 

That means if I want to carry a full fighting load there are about 30 pounds left for sustainment. That means for all but the shortest trips in the mildest climates we are looking more towards not starving or freezing to death than full bellies and comfort. Not a bad thing necessarily just something to remember. It sort of sets you up to make the packing easier.

On the other hand depending on the scenario you might not need or even want that much fire power. I know it's sacrilegious (and can't see myself doing it but then again I can pack the weight) to even say that but if the overall risk is low and you need the weight for other essential life sustaining stuff that might be worth thinking about.

In general short trips tend to favor carrying mostly consumables such as food and water. At some point as trips get longer there is a gradual tipping in favor of tools and things that can produce food vs consumables. Granted we could take a hard look at the practicality of 300 mile trips on foot, let alone playing Batman in the Boondocks but that isn't what we are talking about today.

 I've completely lost focus on where this is going so for today we are going to wrap it up. More will come tomorrow or later in the week


Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Little Stuff

Some little things let you make the most of what we already have.

Maybe you just like shooting and are not all that big into preparing to be a guerrilla or whatever. Spending a couple/ few hundred bucks on a setup might not be something you want to do. However an old school ALICE setup can often be had for less than $30 or you can get a MOLLE rifleman's setup for $40.

You may or may not want to get new cool guy guns. One could argue with some validity that any reasonable choices including revolvers, bolt or lever action rifles and all manner of pump shotguns are just fine. Buy some ammo for your Grandads old .38 or .44 and some buckshot for the bird gun or whatever guns are lying around the house and call it good.

Slings are really useful if you are going to carry a rifle around a lot. Having a well thought out quality sling for your practical rifles is important. For the others at least have something. Heck a half dozen extra cheap slings 1, 2 tacked onto an order at some point might not be a bad idea.  Some folks will be caught short and for 5 or 6 bucks now you could help them out.

The same could be said for holsters except they are more of a hassle. A rifle needs 1 good sling (though it may take awhile to find which one that is) while pistols usually need multiple holsters. Which ones depends on the gun and what you want it to do. For an all around setup for a general type handgun a concealment and an open carry/ tactical type holster are a solid solution. For a smaller gun you might have a pocket holster and an ankle holster or whatnot. This is the benefit of sticking with a platform or two instead of 5 or 6. Getting good holsters for the guns you use and something for the others and a few to spare is prudent. While an el cheap $20 Uncle Mikes holster is nobody's first choice it beats sticking the darn thing in your back pocket or waistband. Beggar friends and neighbors do not get to be choosers.

Good durable work gloves are something that is easy to forget about. Many life patterns these days do not require them often so it is easy to miss. However if you are going to start doing a lot more manual labor like digging a bunch of fighting positions they are important. 2-3 sets per person would not be a bad idea. You could do it for not a lot of money. Also unlike boots they come in just a few sizes which would make them a more practical gift/ charity item if that is your thing.

Needles and fishhooks cost next to nothing. Yes you can fabricate them but literally spending the change from your couch cushions and the console of your vehicle would give enough of both for years. Or course you would need thread and fishing line also but they are not exactly expensive either.

 There are probably a dozen other things that fit into this sort of category I cannot think of right now. While they don't always the basic categories we look for

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Quick Shout Out To Old Grouchs Surplus

Today I went through a bunch of boxes that have been sitting in the warehouse. The stuff that is pretty standard (a PMAG or case of ammo is pretty strait forward) was as it should be. The only real wild card was an order I made from Old Grouchs Surplus. I say it was a wild card because that is what used military surplus stuff is. Sometimes it is real nice and sometimes it is in rough shape which is problematic for online/ mail order type purchases. Anyway the prices were good enough that I took a chance....

The Alice Pack's and LBE's Old Grouchs Surplus sent me seem to be really nice. Almost half the stuff looked brand new and the rest was in solidly good condition. One item (a medium ALICE pack sold for $10) was a bit on the rough side but it was very clearly labeled as such and had a price that reflected its condition.

These guys seem to be a first class outfit. [Our only affiliation is that I bought some stuff from them] I would not hesitate to make other purchases from them in the future.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Working on the Get Home/ Car Kits

Today we packed up a bag for Wifey. Also we added a fleece and a change of clothes for me. Nothing big really. Just looking at our stuff and filling some little holes while trying to prevent the good idea fairy from filling the whole vehicle with stuff.

The thing about having kits/ systems is that a lot of the benefit comes from the process of making the thing. In reality we do not have much in the car that we didn't before this. However I thought through what we really needed, made some lists and filled a few small but significant gaps. Also kits are a forcing mechanism to have the stuff that you might need where you might actually need it. There isn't much point in having stuff (not talking about stores, redundant items and such) at home in the basement. A jacket, knife, compass, poncho and pair of boots at home are far less useful than having that stuff in a backpack out in the woods or in the trunk.

My long term (probably 6-12 month range) way forward with kits is probably as follows. The kit I recently put together will get lightened down and be Wifey's BOB. One in a larger bag will get put together for me. On the bright side I already have most of the big ticket items lying around so the total cost will not be too bad.

Sportsmens Guide has used Alice Packs for $45. For some reason I have really been feeling a real urge to buy one. I don't really like them but if I had to go all Mad Max/ The Postman that is the bag I would want to carry. A pack that I will have for the long term would be worth modifying to make as comfortable as possible.

I am not sure exactly what I would use it for. Maybe a BOB but then again in some scenarios having a pack that does not look militaryish would be very nice. A scruffy guy carrying an (earth tone) commercial backpack looks like some hippie slacker not a crazy right wing evil wacist militia nutjob. If you want to go a little bit further, toss a peace symbol pin on this or that and make a cardboard sign that says 'damn the man, spare some change' or whatever. Depending on the situation switching contents between bags would be easy. Also at a bit under 50 bucks I would be more comfortable leaving an Alice in a vehicle than a more expensive bag that says "steal me, there is good stuff inside'.

Anyway that is what is going on with that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Personal Survival Kit

First I have to note that I blatantly stole this idea from John Mosby. Since this isn't school there is no penalty for this. Anyway I wanted to give credit where it is due.  I didn't so much steal the general idea to have most of this stuff around as the idea of looking at it as a unique kit.

My personal survival kit consists of the following. A knife, in this case a Buck 110 though any good knife would be fine. A compass I had lying around, a couple lighters wrapped in ranger bands, water purification tablets, 550 cord and a small LED light. Also there is a flint and striker which I plan to replace with the much more compact Boy Scout model when I get around to ordering some stuff. I got the little pouch to put it all in. Figured either I could just slip the whole thing into my camelback or cargo pocket or take the stuff out and put it into various places. Either way it would stay in one place and be readily available. Probably not entirely necessary but it helped me put things together and worst case I can always use it for something else.

My kit varies a bit from the one JM described. Not shown is a handgun with a spare magazine because well I am in Germany right now. Also not shown are eye pro but I wear them in the woods. Also I added the small light because they are just really handy. Not pictured or mentioned is a water bottle/ camelback/ canteen. I thought about that for awhile. In the end I sort of consider it an implied item I would have anyway, sort of like how I didn't mention footwear or pants.

This little kit lives in my car and goes with me when I am in the woods or whatever. It is pretty small and as such could be carried during any sort of tasks. Anyway if you do not have some sort of kit like this then it might be worth thinking about putting one together.

Get all kinds of survival gear online at RV Ops.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Week in Preps, Free Downloads, Kits and Other Stuff

I couldn't quite decide what to write today. I didn't want to skip a week in preps/ what did you do to prepare this week but there is other stuff floating around my head also. Anyway you are going to get all sorts of stuff today.

This week I finished up the kit/ bag that I have been working on. That meant buying the last few things like plastic bags and granola bars, digging around closets and storage to find things and just taking the time to get it all put together. We will revisit this later. Also we put some more money into our emergency fund. In the last couple months we have increased it by about 40%. Mostly this was needed for the fund to keep up with our family and life situation.

Today I noticed that John Galt's The Day The Dollar Died blovel is being offered as a free PDF download. I really enjoyed reading it the first time. Being able to read it at my own pace, not all broken up, will be nice. I strongly recommend it. Now onto kits.

So like I said I got done building the kit I have been working on. It started out to be a get home bag. I am not exactly sure what it turned into. Maybe there was a sort of mission creep but it definitely got bigger, heavier and more comprehensive than I planned. While it fit into my Tactical Tailor assault bag it was too heavy for such a bag and carried badly. I put the contents into one of the smallish packs I got from REI awhhile back. What I have is sort of straddling the fence between what I would consider a pretty comprehensive and relatively heavy get home bag and a slightly minimalist bug out bag. It has stuff to purify water, change clothes, sleep in reasonable (spring/summer, winter would need a different module) comfort, treat a variety of injuries and all of that good stuff.

I am not sure if I am thrilled with it or unhappy. In any case it definitely did not fit the intended purpose. If I commuted 50 miles one way to work every day it would probably live in my vehicle. However I do not do that. I do like the setup but am not entirely sure what I will do with it. Maybe it will stay the same or change or get parted out. For the time being it will be my bugout bag. Down the road I think it might get slightly tweeked and become Wifey's bag.

After putting that bag together and realizing the problem we just talked about I immediately set out to making the sort of get home bag that I actually need. So I put together a pretty light get home bag.  One that fits my life. I was determined not to let it suffer from any sort of creep. Basically I took my TT assault pack, tossed in a pair of boots, socks, some water and a bunch of various bars to munch on.  Of course the usual suspects like a knife, compass, fire making stuff, etc are present. Much more geared toward a 25 mile walk than a multi day treck.

Thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.

I may get around to doing posts on these. However I want to mull recent developments and maybe fill some gaps first. It might be awhile as I am lazy when it comes to that sort of posts.

Gas prices are down some here. About 30 cents from the high if memory serves me correctly. I noticed that gold shot up a bit recently but silver is still well under $30 which is a pretty good deal. It may stay there and may not, I can't say.

Anyway that is about all I have for now. Hope Monday wasn't too painful for anybody.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Random Thoughts on Kits

I have pretty much pulled everything we have lying around or locally available for my GHB. Everything else will get ordered today or tomorrow. Stuff is chosen and funds are available but I am on the fence about a couple things that may go in the order. These new "sawyer"  water filtration systems look promising and for the price I may give it a shot.
I have noticed a few things about kits lately that seem worth discussing:

The name a person uses for a specific kit almost meaningless but we have covered that already. It's purpose is probably a lot more meaningful anyway.

There seems to two sort of schools when it comes to kits. There is the "generic" kit school and the specially designed school. The generic kit folks would say that a get home bag aka GHB should have these things. The specially designed folks would want to know a bunch of stuff like where you live, how far you are trying to go, what your plan is, etc. I think they are both sort of right. The generic kit folks are right in that they probably give a 75% solution for most people. Kits need stuff like a knife, fire, water and water purification, shelter (clothes and or sleeping), etc in varying quantities. The specialized folks are (outside of a rare person with terribly unrealistic plan) right in that kits should be driven by your skills, situation and plans. More often than not, excluding a rare person with a really unique situation, the specialists just end up adding and/ or subtracting a few things from the generic kit lists anyway.

In putting things together I have definitely realized you need redundancy in common items. I do believe in a sort of modular nesting concept where your EDC blends into a sort of survival kit, which flows into a get home bag, maybe all this contributes in some way to a BOB, etc. However life doesn't always work that way and each kit should be able to stand alone, certainly in key areas.

That means you probably need stuff like knifes, flashlights, water bottles, etc in some quantities. Not necessarily the same exact items but broad areas to fit different kits. The perfect flashlight to be on your key chain is not the one you want to use to set up camp at midnight. This means you probably want to think about the roles and expectations of tools in different kits.

To further complicate things you really want stuff in kits to be dedicated equipment. To me the whole point of a kit is having a thought through and organized set of stuff ready to go and in the right place when you need it. Otherwise you don't have a kit so much as a bunch of good stuff strewn all over your house, car, storage area, etc all. This means you either need to be really good about borrowing and replacing stuff, which nobody ever actually does, or have additional redundant stuff for common use.
The exact bar for what to get a spare of and what not to is based on our situation. For most people I think something like $50 or so makes sense. So that means the knife/ flashlight/ socks/ waterbottle/ etc all in a kit need to stay there. Certainly in the case of big ticket items like GPS's, guns, sleeping systems, etc common sense dictates some things may have to be added to the kit before taking it out or borrowed as needed. A big prominent tag on the front of a bag that says what to add and where it is located is a good way to make sure you remember those items.

Since most of the stuff we are talking about here is fairly inexpensive this redundancy really isn't a big issue. Also it is helpful with overall redundancy in that if you have 4 good knives the odds you will end up losing or breaking them all is slim. The process of figuring out what works well for each nitche could help the old "equip a friend" stash. A knife/ flashlight/ pouch which is slightly less than perfect for your situation is a lot better than no knife/ flashlight/ pouch.

Another thing that it is worth remembering is that you don't have to get the absolutely perfect best stuff on the market right away. I certainly do not recommend junk as it is alwys false economics. The thing is that you can replace servicable stuff with better stuff piece by piece over time. A $40 knife can be replaced by a better (or maybe just cooler if we are being honest) $85 knife around your birthday or a $75 on sale pack can be replaced by a perfect $400 pack when you have taken care of some other things and have the ever rare surplus cash lying around. This will also help with the whole redundancy thing and the "equip a friend" stash.

Even if you are not so worried about getting home or bugging out or whatever putting together kits is a pretty good way to really look at what you need in context instead of just a bunch of stuff on some big list.
In terms of general themes on the short term you are mostly looking at disposable stuff. You are carrying food to get you to wherever. Water is sort of an exception because it is so darn heavy. For just about any sort of plan you need to be able to make questionable water safe to drink. TP, baby wipes and generally stuff that is going to be consumed is the short term answer. All kits need some of this stuff if just for emergencies and convenience. However at some point a plan just cannot be supported by stuff on your back and you need to transition to things to get food, make shelter, etc.

Maybe you have a ridiculous cross country bug out planned. Of course you hope to use a vehicle and may even have some caches but the odds of that failing or needing to take substantial detours are high. In any case for this type of situation stuff like a .22 rifle, fishing gear, some traps, etc would probably be good to have. Even if you are super duper prepared and live at your "retreat" having a "grab in case of being overrun" bag is probably smart.  Anyway that is all I have to say about that.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bags, Forums, Bugging Out and Acronym's

I have been spending a lot less time on social networks lately. I like to communicate with family and close friends and see their pictures and all that but do I really need to spend time figuring out what is going on with that random guy I partied with a decade ago or played a sport with in Junior High? Probably not. Anyway this has lead to a reallocation of my interwebz time which has lead to me hanging out on Zombiehunters and Survivalistforums. I am theotherryan on both of them if you want to drop me a line or whatever.

The concept of kits is hit on pretty hard in both of these places, or maybe it is where I seem to gravitate as that is my focus right now. In any case I have seem some interesting things.
Some folks get real heavy on one thing or another. Sometimes it is radios/ communication but it almost always seems to be knives. Do you really need 2 folders, a multi tool, a small sheath knife, a big sheath knife, a machete, a hatchet and a saw in a 25 pound car kit? I don't think so. Anyway...
I have seen a lot of debate and some bickering on the exact role of different kits.

I think a lot of the discrepancy is that folks are using terms to mean different things, like a lack of common definitions to make sure like terms are used to mean the same thing.

Also this is definitely not a one size fits all sort of thing. What makes sense for a trapper working 500 miles from anything in Alaska does not make sense for a guy in the urban jungle of Atlanta. My get home kit when I worked 50 miles from home is very different than it is when I live 5 miles from work.

The idea of "Bugging Out" comes up pretty regularly. Some folks see that as synonamous with what I call Batman in the Boondocks ie the grab a rifle and a ruck and a big knife and go live in the woods plan but I do not. Bugging out is practical for most common regional and localized disasters. As CZ says the first rule of surviving disasters is to not be there. I don't care what sort of doomstead or group you have if nuclear aids rain and indestructible rapist robots are coming it is time to go.

Bugging out is a great strategy for a hurricane but a bad one for the mythical and highly unlikely TEOTWAWKI Mad Max end of the world. Also it is worth noting that in all but the most extreme situation you want to have some sort of a destination in mind. In the event of a hurricane a Holiday Inn 500 miles inland is a great plan. In the event of the unlikely TEOTWAWKI a Holiday Inn would not work and you should probably talk to Aunt Sue about your plans to show up at her ranch.

You certainly can make some choices to live in a low crime area with a relatively low population, away from disasters like Hurricanes and Tornado's but every area has weaknesses or potential risks. If you have to leave in 20 minutes or an hour or 12 hours it would be aweful helpful to have some stuff put together. First it will save you time and second you will make better decisions before the fact than you will under stress while trying to wrangle the kids and animals.

I have got to start taking some pictures of my kits with lists for you guys to check out and critique. Motivation will come eventually.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Garand Kit

These new pouches are probably the best option to fit those en bloc clips I have seen to date. You could keep a two pouch one loose to put on a belt for casual plinking or hunting or whatever and take a half dozen or so and place them on a vest, chest rig or plate carrier for a full load out. Not suprisingly these are from the same folks who make a buttstock carrier and a contemporary bandaleer for the garand. If my Garand was a primary defensive weapon instead of a collectable/ shooter I would spend some money on kit from Olongaop Outfitters.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Street Robbery and You

Kit AKA Commander Zero's better half tells a very interesting story.
Be aware. Be armed, ideally with a gun, even a small one and if not with the best available alternative. I am not going to tell you how to live your life but consider (admittedly hard if you are a smallish woman or in a wheel chair) being scary looking, jacked and generally not a person folks want to mess with. Lastly discretion is the better part of valor so don't do stupid things in stupid places with stupid people.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Best Is The Enemy Of Good Enough

This post is sort of a progression of my recent post “The Economy of Everything” where I talk about making choices about how to use time and money. Most of us have probably heard the phrase I used as the title to this post ‘best is the enemy of good enough.’ What it means is that we can, in our search for the perfect answer or solution get a sort of paralysis and miss out on an answer that is completely sufficient. Another way to say it is, better a good answer right now than a perfect one in the future.

Like most things this is a trade off. The trick is to know if you are making a good trade or not. That is what I want to talk about today.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what best is. Best would be the perfect plan or gadget or completely mastering a skill or craft. Now figuring out what good enough is can be more problematic.  This is going to make the bulk of today’s post.

To me good enough would typically have most of the traits of best but be significantly easier to execute or obtain. Meaning it takes less time, money or effort to execute than the best solution but has most of its characteristics. Typically I would move towards the best solution incrementally until I was close to it in characteristics then go until I hit a noticeable point of diminished returns. At some point the increased payout stops being worth the return.  Example, one might decide that a Daniels Defense rifle is the best solution out there but a Bushmaster will do most of what the DD rifle does for much less money.

I think the combination of characteristics and cost which is used to informally figure when that point of diminished returns is hit can vary by individual. Mostly the cost, characteristics are more objective. The time and energy one person needs to acquire or maintain a capability may vary significantly from another. Some folks can work out 3 times a week and be in good shape and others can’t.

 Also the relative cost is different. One of my single co workers might be able to spend 2 hours every evening at the gym learning boxing or just getting into stupidly good shape. I have a wife and kid so I plan three 45 minute gym sessions and try to do them at lunch. Would I be in better shape if I worked out for 2 hours every evening, sure (overtraining and efficiency are another post) but the cost is too high for me so I make do with less time.

I do think it is worth remembering that characteristics are a significant part of this trade off and not just cost. Otherwise it can get silly and you miss the point. This has been used to justify definitely sub optimal equipment, bad training plans, lack of physical fitness and probably some other stuff. A Mosin Nagant is a good rifle for what it (not a good rifle 80 years ago) is but it is not a semi automatic rifle with detachable magazines. Even though it is cheap there is a definite limit to what dinking around with your buddies at the public range will do for your skill development. Doing a few pushups and sit-ups now and then will not give you the strength that lifting free weights will and walking is at best a sub optimal substitute for running or rucking. When cost is your only consideration the answers usually suck.  I think common sense needs to be present to keep these tradeoffs realistic.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Can You Do It In Kit

The other day I was doing IOTV pullups. In case you are wondering they are hard. I also run in kit and do all sorts of other stuff in it. I should note that this sort of physical training is pretty hard and should be worked up to gradually, especially if you are not in great shape. Walk before you run. However this is a good thing to do for a few reasons. First it is a pretty good test of if you have the effective fitness to move and control your body in kit. Next it is a great counterpoint to the internet forum fan boys who think you need dozens of pouches and all kinds of tacticool junk hanging everywhere. Also this is a great way to work out all the little kinks and get everything to work together. You will find that a pouch might get in the way or the hose to your camelback won't stay put or the like. A poorly fitted vest will quickly be noticed. Some simple walking and jogging, or more if you are up to it, and a few trips to the range will help iron all that stuff out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Product Review: Vickers Padded Sling

Today I am going to be talking about the Vickers Padded Sling I recently ordered. Today I had the opportunity to put it on a rifle and use it for awhile. Also the day started real early and ended real late so a kinda short post is in order.

The Good: I was initially impressed about how heavy, thick and stuff the webbing on this sling was. It makes my Tactical Tailor slings seem thin and flimsy. Today I put it on and found that it was quick and easy. I got this sling because it is padded and that helps (or at least spreads out the weight) when carrying a weapon for hours. Also I thought the quick adjustment idea was pretty cool. The sling has both more permenant (well not permenant but you would have to take off the rifle, sit down and mess with them) adjustments on both sides of the padded part as well as the quick adjust. I theoretically liked the quick adjust idea, especially going from wearing body armor to not wearing it and changing into heavy winter clothes, etc. My observation is that with a fairly fixed sling I was regularly wishing it was a couple inches longer or shorter, for whatever of the above reasons.

I put the sling on today and used it for awhile. I was quite impressed with it. Also the great forethought of the adjustments helped immensely. Most padded slings have the pad way too far toward the center to be useful when carrying in the low ready. I took a minute and choked up the back adjustment and let a bit out of the front one and it rested right across my shoulder, neck and upper back where it is needed.

The tab adjustment for the quick adjust is something I was really skeptical about. I was very pleasantly suprised. You just grab the tab and pull it the way you want it to go and the sling stays there till you pull the tab again. Can't say why it works but it does. I set it up so that my normal sling length is right in the middle of the quick adjust. This gives me some play in both directions.

I really enjoy this sling.

The Bad: They are expensive. Costing a nickel under $60 before shipping this isn't a sling that most people would buy lightly. To be honest the only reason I got one is because I have tried all sorts of ghetto rigged two point slings and just haven't been really happy with them. Also I carry a rifle a lot so getting a tough, well thought out quality piece of kit is worth it for me. [Sort of like how it is worth it for a professional carpenter to spend quite a few bucks on a hammer or a tool belt where it isn't for an average guy. Someone who frames 25 homes a year has very different needs in terms of comfort, ergonomics and ruggedness than a guy whose big effort is helping on a deck or an addition each summer.]

I definitely don't plan to order a bunch of these. They are cost prohibitive to say the least. I got one for work because if spending a few bucks makes my life easier and more comfortable I will do it. At some point I will order one for my go rifle too.

No Ugly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Got Skills?

I have been sort of reflecting about my blogging recently. I realized that I talk a lot about stuff and using stuff and storing stuff but not much about skills. So for awhile I wondered why this is. I realized that it was because at least for where I am at in life (when I buy some land and start growing plants and raising animals this will change) I have the vast majority of the skills I want and need. I don't talk much about, just for example .45 acp ammo either. Not that it isn't important by any means it is just that awhile back I got enough that I stopped worrying about it. Since I write about the stuff I think about it is just natural that things which I am not thinking about don't get mentioned.
I guess I was sort of lucky when it comes to skills. My previous interests and work history put me in a pretty good place or at least a pretty good starting point. By the time I got fairly motivated and into preparedness I had just, through the course of my life, acquired a lot of the necessary skills. A lifetime of camping, skiing and backpacking had me pretty solid on being able to handle myself in primative conditions. Living out of a bag, starting fires, rendering first aid, etc. My time in the military and other experiences left me reasonably competent in terms of defending myself with or without weapons. [It was also convenient that I had a ton of camping type gear and was a bit of a gun nut  so was at an OK place there also.] Because of this I just haven't worried about skills all that much.

I suppose in a way this is doing a bit of a disservice to my readers. I could probably talk about skills more as well as the reasons for them and lessons learned while acquiring skills (though I may have forgotten them). I fear that too many skills I just take for granted would be really beneficial to you guys.

I am not however sitting on my lorrels. Over the past couple years thanks to my job I have improved dramatically in terms of tactical stuff from shooting (close quarters or distance, magazine changes, etc) to planning and conducting offensive or defensive operations. I have forgotten more about tactics and field operations than I used to know. I have also learned to use world band radios and make all kinds of food from scratch. I also have learned to brew my own beer.

There are definitely some more skills I want to acquire. Right now I am pretty much in a holding pattern because most of the skills I want to acquire are not available here or the cost benefits derived from them are skewed in my current location. I would like to take a couple of defensive pistol courses as well as a defensive shotgun course. I would love to go to Appleseed and work on being a better shot (the great thing about this is pretty much everyone can improve). If I found a place I thought would actually teach me anything in terms of tactical carbine stuff at a price I could afford I would go there. When we get back to the states we will start canning food and other food storage stuff. I would like to get a ham radio license. The list goes on. Being a jack of all trades is hard.

I think I will try to talk more about skills.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kit On My List

Stuff I want to get over the next few months:
1. A good chest rig
2. A shoulder holster for a Beretta 92FS (for convenient carry on the COP/ FOB)
3. A cold steel push knife
4. A Tactical Tailor double mag pouch
5. An M4 spare mag butt stock pouch
6. A Wolf Hook Sling

If you've got any of this stuff that you want to get rid of or sell please send me an email.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Army Sleep System

I got an email asking about the new sleeping bag with the bivy we are using in the Army now. Since I get to use this stuff at no cost to me in realistic conditions for long periods of time I am in a good position to evaluate it for you folks who would spend their hard earned dollars on it.

Anyway a bit of background. For a long time the Army used these big sucky green sleeping bags. They are equivalent to that big fluffy Coleman brand square sleeping bag we all used as a kid. They work pretty good if you don't have to carry them (they are heavy and very bulky) and they don't get wet (think sponge). Good for a sleep over in your uncles cabin but not for real world use in primitive conditions.

Enter the EWCS modular sleep system. This was a huge update in technology and unlike the MOLLE rucksack they didn't go just part of the way. These things really are a home run. Basically they consist of a light "patrol bag" a heavier bag, a Goretex bivy and a stuff sack. A wooby fits easily into the stuff sack and anybody with an iota of common sense adds one to their personal sleep system. You can mix and match based upon the needs of your upcoming mission/ trip and go with just the light bag, the light bag and the bivy, just the heavy bag or whatever combination suits your fancy. I am very happy that we use these systems at work. I have found them to be rugged, reliable and a great piece of kit. In particular the zippers are quite rugged. I have gotten them hopelessly stuck and through brute force unstuck them without them breaking. Seeing as zippers are a real weak point in sleeping bags this just goes to show the quality and durability of the system.

These things are fairly light, pack up compactly and work really well. The bivy is good for keeping dry unless you are sleeping in standing water or there is a truly torrential downpour. Have a poncho to toss over your backpack/ boots and for traveling light a tent is not needed. With the thin bag and a woobie it is very compact and for me comfortable to 30ish. With the heavy bag I've slept soundly, without waking up freezing in the middle of the night, down into the single digits (F).

[The ratings for sleeping bags seems to have little to do with a comfortable nights sleep and are more about not freezing to death. Kind of like how a 3 foot wide tent is rated to sleep two people (if they REALLY like each other in a grown up sort of way). Knowing if a bag rated to 20 degrees is good to 20 or 30 or even 40 degrees for YOU is something that must be found out for yourself. I don't think this system is good to -10F.]

As for the more nebulous question of if they are worth purchasing for you guys and gals. That depends a lot on the cost. I have seen these systems for sale brand new for a few hundred dollars. At that price it would be a hard sell for me. The camouflage bivy is probably the most important single component. Getting one of them and putting it over a quality mummy bag of any color which you already own that is suited to your area would work fine. If you live in ridiculously cold Alaska or Minnesota then getting a heavier sleeping bag would be a must anyway. However if you look around finding one, just be sure it is in good condition and truly Mil Spec not a far inferior knock off, for under $200 doesn't seem difficult. I found 3 for $150 in under 2 minutes. If you are in the market for a sleeping bag you would be a fool not to buy one of these. To put my money where my mouth is getting a complete one of these systems for each member of our family is in my long plans.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Kit

I wrote about chest rigs awhile back. That post got me thinking and then acting on something I had been wanting to do for some time. I use a standard issue MOLLE FLC. Money isn't an object I just like these a lot as a platform. I don't like conventional chest rigs for a couple reasons. The first reason is that unlike a conventional chest rig (they are generally a 6 inch or so panel with 2-3 rows of the modular strapping stuff) with these you can attach stuff basically anywhere on the front of your torso. Secondly in my experience chest rigs have all kinds of straps all over the place and getting them comfortable is pretty hard. Makes adjusting a shoulder holster seem easy. Also I like that the load is evenly distributed widely over your shoulders instead of on a 1 1/4 inch area.

However the FLC as issued has a serious flaw. In the back there is this big stupid strap in the back. You can rotate the biog dumb belt thing all the way around so there are just straps in the back. However doing that has the cost of not being able to open the FLC in the front. That wouldn't be a big issue except for the fact that we wear body armor. It is awful darn convenient to be able to put your FLC on and off with the IBA instead of having an extra step of pulling it over your head every single time. The picture below shows what I am talking about. (Yeah by the looks it is some Marine guys stuff but it's the first good picture which clearly shows what I was looking to show.)

Seriously the FLC is like we had a great idea and then somebody said it had to have a huge stupid thing going around the back. I think it was some old guy who just couldn't deal with the kit not being based around a big belt thing. I have tried the FLC as a rack/ chest rig with the big stupid pad rotated to the front and in its conventional way and found both setups to be wanting. Basically I prefer the FLC over a chest rig but I want it to not have the big stupid belt thing in the back and also be able to open in the front. Yeah I like to have my cake and eat it too.

So I had an idea. My idea was to replace the big stupid belt thing. You need to secure the back so it doesn't go flopping all over the place when you lean over or whatever so just having it open isn't an option. I considered a piece of 550 cord but decided against it because the Army is really anal about this stuff so it needs to look legit. Another consideration on my options was that if God forbid I am seriously injured and somebody grabs that strap to drag me I need the darn thing to hold. In full kit I probably weigh 230lbs and if you factor in momentum and someone pulling on a single point that requires a strong strap. I settled on simple 1 1/4 inch webbing with a buckle in the middle. There are hooks for webbing on the FLC right by the middle of the front (where the zipper is) so you hook it through them and it is attached. The webbing on the FLC's stupid belt thing is the same size so it is too easy. I then sat on the idea for some time.

The day I wrote the blog I decided to just do it and put my kit into the configuration I wanted. Since we are in Germany I ended up having to scavenge the webbing. I had a Tactical Tailor chest rig I never really got comfortable with sitting around and decided to scavenge from it. Unfortunately that meant  cutting straps but I left enough on the side I had to cut from (it went to a clip on the other side) that I can later just get some more webbing and hook it together with a buckle. Anyway I got it done and though I haven't used it much yet am quite happy with the results. 

As worn.

Left side has 4 double mag pouches. They can hold 8 M4 (or I guess others of comparable size) mags or 6 mags and a pistol or NVG monocle or whatever. Figure another in the rifle and possible on the butt stock and I am able to carry 270-300 rounds. Can't see carrying more on my kit though if need be I would bring a bandoleer or something.

Right side from center; medical pouch, radio pouch, 1 quart canteen pouch to hold night vision goggles with the Rino mount and J arm, on the top is a compass. The only addition I intend to make is a small random pouch to hold little stuff. Most likely my compass will move down between the radio pouch and the NVG pouch and said small random pouch will go where the compass pouch is. I carry water in a camelback and sometimes stuff a couple granola bars or whatever in a random pocket. This setup is sufficient for operations of at least several hours. If I was going out dismounted for longer it would require more water, more than a couple chewy bars and probably some sort of sleeping gear. In that case an assault pack with a 2 quart canteen or two would come along.

Well that is what I carry.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

It was a pretty good week here. Somehow I seem to have a cycle where I save then buy. This is kind of a buy week. I ordered some more ingredients so I can do a couple more batches of beer. This time it is going to be a good strong Belgian beer. I will be able to stop spending bunches of money on Chimay and be able to enjoy great beer more often. Not that there is anything wrong with a generic American light beer but I want to be able to drink good beer more often.

I also ordered some one ounce silver bars. I think silver is still sanely priced. Plan to keep buying it for at least the rest of the year. One nice thing about silver is that you get a far more gratifying amount of stuff than with gold. Spend a couple hundred bucks on silver and you get a nice handful of coins. Spend a couple hundred bucks on gold and you get a little coin.

I ordered a cold steel push knife. Those things are just nasty. I have done some thinking on it and any real use I would have for a fighting knife is going to be up close and very physical. These things are really intuitive which helps a lot.

I am sticking with the weight room which is good. It is a nice transition between work and home. Also I just feel better when I life.

Lastly I am finally happy with where my MOLLE chest rig is. I feel like I finally got that piece of gear to how it really should be. I will probably write specifically about what I did at some point. However to do that I will need to take pictures and such so it will be awhile. I replaced a pair of triple mag panels with 3 two mag pouches. The panels do not flex and just felt like a big thick board on my off side. The 3 two mag pouches hold the same ammo in the same place but since they aren't connected have a lot more flex and give. I can toss another one on down the road which I would want for Afghanistan but don't need for here. Also I replaced a random pouch that was holding my MBTR radio with a legit radio pouch. At some point I can use a random little pouch to hold stuff but that is a back burner priority.

What did you do to prepare this week?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chest Rigs

Our buddy Rourke from Modern Survival Online asked about my preference in chest rigs some time ago. Not entirely sure why but it took me some time to getting around to writing this. I wear this sort of stuff a lot and spend most of my working hours around other people who wear it also. So in addition to my own preferences I can talk about what other people seem to like.

First I want to talk about a couple companies that make great stuff. I bear no interest in them other than being a satisfied customer. I love Tactical Tailor gear. They just make great stuff. Lots of folks use Blackhawk stuff. I certainly do not mean to imply that nobody else makes nice stuff as I am sure they do. It is just that I see a lot of these two brands.

There are a few features I like in a chest rig:
1. Minimalist. Particularly having a low profile on the back and shoulders so not to interfere with a backpack.
2. Modular. MOLLE webbing gives you oodles of options to customize exactly what you want. For instance a young man whose position changes from Automatic Rifleman to Rifleman or Grenadier can change a couple pouches and be ready to go with a modular system. If he had a system that was not modular at all (like those "tactical vests" where the pouches are attached) or was less modular like the old LBE system it would be more of a pain. Even if you know the exact setup you want and don't plan to change anything sometimes after putting it all together you find that the mag pouches need to go an inch to the left or right.
3. Rugged. Even if your life is nothing like mine and this chest rig will just sit in the closet and go to the range bi monthly quality matters. The stuff has to be able to take a beating as its intended use is rather rough. My advice is to suck it up and buy quality once. Obviously having your mags and other essential stuff in a crap made Chinese vest that falls apart during a mission would be a real problem.The only reason you will need to replace a Tactical Tailor or Blackhawk setup is if you lose it.
4. Comfortable. You might scoff at this but we wear our gear for days on end. A friction point that bothers a normal guy at the range a little bit can turn into a bleeding sore on a long road march or mission.
5. Secure. Stuff you put in the pouches needs to stay in the pouches until you take it out. It needs to stay in place if you are crawling or running through thick brush. If you can't take a loaded chest rig and shake it upside down then toss it off the back of a truck and drag it around by one strap and keep everything then it is best to move on.
6. Compact. It needs to securely hold all the stuff you need and not be bulky or too thick. You don't want to be walking around like a commando Micheline Man getting stuck in vehicles, doorways and windows.
7. Allow maximum freedom of movement. You need to be able to run, crawl, climb and generally do stuff while wearing gear. Also you need to be able to shoulder a weapon on both shoulders.

Where and how to store mags in an interesting question. There are numerous types of mag pouches but they can be basically broken down into single or multiple mag and open top or flap. The ones with a flap generally hold 2-3 magazines. This is personal preference thing without a "right answer". I would however say that for open flap you need some kind of retention cord or snap. The TT and Blackhawk ones use a cord with a little thing to grab onto. The issue ones have a snap. Some companies have make mags that have open tops and some sort of friction device for retention like these pouches from Blue Force Gear. I have some real concerns with this kind of pouches. Maybe this type (not to pick on Blue Force Gear or this pouch. They seem like nice people who make good stuff. I just have no experience with this pouch of their products in general.) works great but I am not willing to take the risk of them failing. YMMV.

Personally I like to keep all my mags in one spot slightly off center towards my non dominant side. Roughly between my belly button and kidney. Some folks keep them right in the center. Others have them all the way around and attach their other pouches (medical, miscellaneous, compass, etc) to the outside webbing. Blackhawk makes an interesting chest rig with integral open top mag pouches that some folks seem to really like.

If possible I suggest trying on and fiddling with all kinds of stuff in order to figure out what YOU LIKE before going out and spending the money.
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