Showing posts with label reader questions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reader questions. Show all posts

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Response to Reader Questions

(1)Blogger tpals said...
Showing my ignorance: what exactly is a stripped lower?
July 17, 2015 at 5:10 PM
(2)Blogger Matt LBS said...
Also, I've seen your thoughts on ammo quantities, but what is the number of mags per weapon that puts you in a happy place?

Ryan here:
1) A stripped lower is technically the serial numbered part of an AR-15. It is the metallic piece of the lower without the internals gut and such.
 This is all the parts for an AR-15 lower receiver (and a sight/ carry handle). Put this all together and you have an AR-15 lower. Note the trigger, hammer, springs, take down pins, receiver extension, butt stock, etc. All of these are put together to have a functional AR-15 lower.
The stripped lower is shown in the picture above this text. Saying it is 'stripped' just means it is without all the pieces (trigger, hammer, takedown pins, receiver extension, etc) attached or included. You need to order a lower parts kit, receiver extension, buffer and buffer spring to make this into a complete lower that you could attach an upper to and make a complete rifle.

I said before that the lower is the serialized part of the firearm. In the eyes of the law that little block of aluminum is the gun. You can buy the rest of the pieces anywhere and just walk out or order it online, then get it shipped right to your house.

Stripped lowers are quite affordable. They are regularly available under $50 and always under $100. I don't care about brands much though I do avoid polymer lowers. As Chris said "the most important part of a lower is the roll mark (that shows brand). Brands only really matter to brag to your friends that you have a Noveske, LaRue, Daniels Defense or whatever lower. If that matters to you and you have the extra cash then by all means do it. I would rather put that money into P mags, and start saving for a case of 5.56 ammunition.

The specific advantage a stripped lower has is that under most past US gun laws older pre existing stuff is grandfathered in. So if a gun ban were to happen which I think we are safe from for at least a few years that stripped lower is 'the gun' and is grandfathered in. You could order the stuff to finish it later when you can afford it.

This probable grandfathered status plus the affordability of stripped lowers makes them pretty handy. For a likely gun ban scenario a stripped lower is in effect a physical version of a stock option to have an AR in the future. Maybe you cannot afford to buy an AR today but want one down the road. Most folks can probably scrape up sixty or eights bucks to get a lower then just put it away. Case in point I would like to be able to have a rifle for each of my kids but right now I do not have 1,600-2,000 dollars to do that. On the other hand I could buy a pair of lowers and build the rifles in the future.

A person looking for profit who found a good deal on lowers and mags could do very well in the gun run I have tentatively scheduled for this fall/winter or even better than that if a ban happened. A 'AR party pack' of a stripped lower and 7 new in plastic PMAGs could probably triple their money.

(2)Matt LBS said...
Also, I've seen your thoughts on ammo quantities, but what is the number of mags per weapon that puts you in a happy place?

Yes my thoughts on ammo are on the record.

My thoughts on mags are also but to briefly recap:
 Core Defensive rifle-20
I stock AR-15 mags

Core Defensive pistol-10
I stock Glock 9mm magazines

That roughly correlate to 3x combat loads rounded out a bit. My general thinking is one set to use, one set to replace those when they are worn out/ damaged/ lost and one set for trade/ charity. Lots of people have a rifle and 2-3 mags or a pistol with two. I am happy with those numbers though more is of course merrier.

It is worth noting those numbers are PER WEAPON not per weapon type. So if you have 2 rifles it would be 40 mags. Buy a third rifle and get another 20 mags.

I hope that answers both questions. If not hit me up in the comments section.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

RE: Selling Stuff, Specifically my 30-30

The balance between keeping spam down and letting the conversation flow authentically is a touchy one. I have fiddled with different things. Right now we have the capcha on and I approve comments over 14 days old. This lets people talk but keeps the spam to a minimum. Aside from keeping spam down, which is the primary goal, I saw in time there was a secondary benefit of letting me see the comments. Usually I scan through the last week or so's posts pretty regularly but comments on older posts tend to get missed.

Today I saw a comment on my post about selling stuff
"Prepper Next Door said...Non standard? 30-30. I'm getting old. Eliminating a caliber is a good thing? My motto: Never let prepping get in the way of your gun collection. I understand. You want to sell some guns to buy some guns. In the future you'll look back and regret selling it. It won't happen today. It won't happen tomorrow. But it will happen."

Ryan here:

1- The 30-30 Winchester is certainly a plenty common caliber. It solidly passes the hardware store test. However relative to my collection it was not 'standard'. It was the outlier in my collection. For anything but a highly legislated nanny state the FAL will out perform the 30-30. Anything the 30-30 can do the FAL can do better. If/ when I get into hunting I will likely get a light general purpose .308 bolt gun like the Savage Hog Hunter and put a 1.5-6x Burris MTAC on it.

2- The thing about logistics is that I like them to be DEEP.  I have mumble mumble number of rifles in 5.56, 7.62x39 and 7.62x51/.308 with mumble mumble cases of ammo for those guns. When it comes to guns plus their mags and to a slightly lesser degree ammo I try to keep in mind Commander Zero's point (to paraphrase) "What if the stuff you have is all you are every going to get. Do you have enough guns/ mags/ ammo to last the rest of your life?" For core roles I like to have multiple guns of a given type with lots of magazines, spare parts and ammo. While it puts the fun in redundancy this type of deep supply has a considerable financial cost to it. This cost strongly incentivizes being vested in relatively few types of weapons. It also incentivizes ditching outliers. While a fine rifle my 30-30 was definitely an outlier in the battery.

3- Honestly I just didn't use it much. The particular 30-30 I sold had been in my collection for about 3 years. I purchased it and shot 20 rounds of Winchester 150 gr SP through it then oiled the gun up and put it in the safe. Every few months I took it out of the safe to fondle but that was about it.

4- As I have piveted into .308/7.62x51 the desire to remove the outlying 30-30 grew stronger.

5- As to collecting guns vs preparations. I think we all have to make choices about where to be sentimental and where to be calculated. Honestly I sort of transferred my sentimentality about the 30-30 into the FN-FAL. In doing research on battle rifles I just got a real desire to own one so that is the way I went. From a financial perspective a PTR-91 would have made more sense and from an ergonomics standpoint some kind of AR-10 would have really been ideal.

6- If I decide that I want a lever gun down the road I can get one. Honestly I think in 2-3 years I will own a .357 mag lever gun, either a Winchester or a Marlin. That would give me the sentimentality of an old school lever gun without the hassle of a different cartridge. Being able to go into the woods with a revolver and a lever gun with 2 boxes of the same ammo would be awful convenient.

7- If I decide to get back into 30-30 Winchester there are plenty of rifles available. There are probably a couple million 30-30's floating around the US. As Aesop once said there is a running joke among firearm dealers that the difference between a 30-30 and an STD is eventually you can get rid of the STD.

Well I hope that shares my opinion on that. Thoughts are always welcome.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reader Question: Glock 43 vs 17

I tried your contact button but it did not work.

My question is: I have some spare cash laying around and I can pick up a Glock 17 that I have spare parts and mags for, or I can get a Glock 43.  I am wondering if there is a significant difference between the two.  I realize the size thing and the 17 versus 6 thing.  I handled a 43 today and it felt top heavy without a loaded mag, much more so than a 42.  I currently have a S&W 638 and model 10 with a 2 inch barrel, a Keltec P3AT, and a Ruger 101. So I have smaller "deep carry" guns.  I am thinking the money would be better spent on a 17 as my son has one so then I would be looking at a two is one situation, this is why I have the spare parts and mags for the 17.  I carry a 1911 so carrying the 17 would not be a problem.

That or I say piss on it all and buy the Savage A17 that I really don't need but want, or is there something else out there I should consider?

Maybe you can make this into a blog post, I am not expecting a direct answer.


Ryan here: I'll check out the contact button thing. Onto the question.

I suppose it depends a lot on what you want the gun for. Do you want a different CCW pistol (it doesn't sound like you do) or do you want to stash another Glock in case S hits the F?

In general I am really underwhelmed with single stack 9mm's. Tried it and the whole thing just didn't really work all that well. .j    b b l;lThey are (most would say) too big for pocket carry.They are really not that much smaller (.89-.95 width vs 1.2ish) than double stack semi auto's but hold a lot fewer bullets. Also since the butt is necessarily uniform throughout they are harder to conceal than a J frame even if the dimensions are comparable. When people, as they almost universally do get an extended mag so they have more grip these guns are as long as a compact (G19) sized pistol. Personally I carry the Ruger LCP in and around my little sleepy town and the Glock 19 when I venture further, carry a lot of cash, etc.

As to the Glock 43 in general. For the sake of full disclosure I have little to no experience with this gun, can't remember if I've even fondled one or not. I think it is a bit expensive since there are so many competitive guns at lower prices (Kahr CW series, Ruger LC9, S&W Shield, etc). Still it has value because it should bring Glock reliability to a market with some questionable guns (Kel Tech, Diamondback, etc). With the concealed carry market booming and people loving Glock 9mm's I'm sure they will sell a bunch; this guy just isn't interested. I find that with a decent belt and pants bought 2 inches larger with a pistol in mind I can conceal a similarly sized double stack pistol as easily as a single stack. Until technology advances to the point where we are getting single stack 9mm's in the Walther PPK size range I don't see that opinion changing.

One of the biggest benefits about Glocks is that so many parts are inner changeable. For Glocks in 9mm and 40 S&W I believe the only size specific parts are barrel, slide, recoil spring and frame. This means my parts box for the G19 could probably fix a friends full sized .40 cal G22. Magazines are downwards compatible (a G26 can take 19 and 17 mags, a 19 can take 17 mags).

Paul Howe uses a Glock 26 for CCW and a G19 with a light for a duty type setup. Aside from G26 mags they both take all the same ammo, mags, parts, etc.  I don't mention that entirely from a fan boy perspective but A) it bears on this discussion and B) it's interesting to see the gear/ firearm choices really experienced people make.

As to .17 honestly I don't get it. I guess it can theoretically be a bit more accurate but if my 10/22 won't do the job I'll grab Project AR. Sort of along these lines I once looked at getting a .22 mag rifle and decided against it.

To your specific question I would go with the Glock 17 especially since you have a few small CCW type pistols. However to better answer the question I would consider a smaller Glock like a 19 or 26. I would lean to a G19 since your bench is pretty deep on small guns. That would give you compatability with the G17 and a slightly smaller gun that has a lot of bullets yet is realistic to conceal in anything less than a jacket.

So those are my thoughts on that. What do the readers think?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday Question: Plate Carriers and 7.62x39 JHP Ammo

Question in bold. My answer in italics.

Do you recommend any of the online plate carrier/steel plate dealers? Looking for good quality (350-500$) as the gear will be taken in and out of a truck daily. There is also a big blackberry problem in the area and the thorns can fray nice fibers easily. Do you know anything or have any recommendations about Special Operations Equipment ?

Ryan here: My steel plate setup is AR500 plates in an Exo Carrier from JRH Enterprises. It is more of a full body armor set up than a stripped down minimalist plate carrier but I am happy with it so far. If I was looking for a more PC type set up I would get a set of AR-500 plates and a Condor PC.

Honestly if I was worried about thorns tearing something up I would do the math on replacing it every 3-4 years if/ when it gets torn up enough to genuinely not function. IMO this lends itself to a more affordable set up like Condor than a more expensive set up.

I do not personally own any of their stuff but I have only heard good things about Original SOE gear. Lots of professional and semi professional hard use types swear by their stuff.

Also any personal experience with the 8m3- 7.62x39 round?

Ryan here: Honestly I had to google this one. From what I can tell it is a 124 gr JHP round imported by Wolf and maybe some other folks. Honestly exact sourcing and branding on com bloc stuff is kind of iffy but I'm doing my best.  

I have shot a fair bit of this ammo. My rifle really likes it and a 7.62x39 hollow point is going to be a heck of a man stopper or medium sized game round. My rifle shoots it with the same reliability and accuracy as normal 7.62x39 FMJ ammo. I prefer the HP stuff as it offers a significant ballistic advantage. My stash of AK ammo is probably 60% normal FMJ and 40%  8m3 or similar HP ammo. Honestly of the two I buy whatever is cheapest. With an AK if you put round(s) generally where they are supposed to go it will do it's job. If prices are the same I buy HP ammo.

Hopefully that answers your questions.

Apologies if these are answered on the blog. I don’t always have time to get on but send an email.

Thank you again Ryan!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

7 Layer ECWCS System- My Thoughts

The 7 layer ECWCS system is the Armies newest answer to cold weather clothing. It was first fielded in 2007. It consists of a light 'silk weight' set of long underwear, a 'medium' weight set of long underwear known for one side having ridges like a waffle, a fleece top, a light wind jacket, a set of 'soft shell' top and bottom, a gore tex top and bottom and a cold weather top and bottom referred to as the marshmallow suit.

These systems seem to be making their way onto the surplus market and Commander Zero asked about my thoughts on them. For background I have used various components of this system over several years in Central Europe, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. I have used it in a variety of weather from 40 degrees and rainy to 0 degrees (ambient not including wind chill) with snow, sleet and hail during training and deployment

Taking a step back we should briefly discuss the fundamentals of dressingfor cold weather. You need to layer with moisture wicking fabrics that stay (relatively) warm when wet and during precipitation have an outer layer that repels moisture from the outside yet lets moisture escape from the inside. Start with a good set of long underwear that are synthetic or wool on the inside, have gore tex (or non patented equivalent) for when it rains and put insulating layers in the middle as needed. Also you need hats (at least 1x sun like a ball cap or boonie and 1x cold like a fleece beanie) and gloves. More on that can be covered in previous posts (insert links)

Also we should compare, in generalities, this system with various civilian offerings from the outdoor community. Military stuff is going to take abuse and be more durable than most general use civilian offerings. Military gear will (and this relates to the wear) usually be a tiny bit heavier though this stuff is pretty good about that. To get a corresponding level of durability in civilian gear you would probably need to look at legitimate expedition weight stuff from serious use companies like North Face. Generally speaking civilian gear tends to put a higher premium on comfort and ergonomics though this stuff is pretty good and largely an exception.

I will talk through the layers of the system sharing my thoughts on each.

Level I Lightweight Undershirt and Drawers
-I love these. The basic design has been around for awhile (I have some from ’04) and was originally black and made by Polartech. These very thin long underwear are suprisingly warm for their weight. They have handy little thumb holes you can slip your thumb through to keep this underlayer in place while sliding into other layers. It also prevents the cold skin gap between your gloves, which are another article entirely, and the end of your sleeve. I wear these consistently when outside at temperatures below 40 or so. These are also suprisingly durable, especially considering they are so light. I have a couple sets of the old black ones that were used hard for several years and show no noticable wear. Often I wear only the top but if I will be doing moderate to low intensity activity the bottoms will be added also. These compact small enough there isn’t a reason not to keep a set handy.

Level II Mid Weight shirt and Drawers
-These are good for when it is pretty cold. They are nowhere near as compact as the lightweight set but are significantly warmer. They have a waffle like appearance on the inside and are refered to as ‘waffle tops’. They zip up which is nice for venting or if it is quite cold you can zip them up and they cover the bottom half of the neck. I often use the top(s) and consider them very valuable. I wear them consistently when it is below 30 degrees outside. The bottom’s I do not use so much as it is easy to overheat in them; they would be good for moderate activity in very cold weather or light activity in under 30 degree weather. Often I wear the mid weight top and the light bottoms.

Level III High Loft Fleece Jacket
-Not a whole ton to say about this, it’s a fleece. I would describe it as a light to mid weight fleece as compared to all of the different commercial offerings. It is noticeably less warm than the older Army fleece (the black one) which was thick and heavy but it also compacts significantly smaller so that’s something. This is pretty warm, especially when combined with other layers but it is not especially windproof.

Level IV Wind Jacket
-This is a thin, light jacket that squishes down to be quite small. It is wind proof (otherwise the name would be kind of awkward) and water resistant. I say water resistant intentionally. This will not keep you dry standing around all day in a torrential downpour but is good for a drizzle or short trips out in all but the heaviest rain. It does not have a hood so you really need to pair it with a brimmed hat. Due to being adequate for most decent weather conditions (especially spring/ summer) and being quite compact this is a coat I carry/ use a lot.

Level V Soft Shell Cold Weather Jacket and Trousers
-These are a bit more packable, strechier and breathable than gore tex but not quite as water proof. This breakdown from the Arcteryx site explains the difference better than I can

The jackets are nice but I have never really used the pants. I have some doubts about how durable they will be for real use but can’t say for sure. The jackets will take a pretty good downpour so long as you are not out in it too long. They are probably not sufficient for longer durations outside in moderate to heavy rain. That being said since they breathe better than goretex they are nice for spring rainstorms and the like where it is not cold but is wet. I like these but between the wind jacket and the gore tex they are kind of a mushy middle ground.

Level VI Extreme Wet/ Cold Weather Jacket and Trousers
-This is an updated version of the military gore tex top and bottom. They are gore tex so they are basically impermiable to water. Also like their older cousins these are really heavy duty coats and pants as far as gore tex goes. Obviously you would not want to run headlong through an acre of blackberry bushes but this isn’t some thin flimly gear that will tear the first time you bump into a branch. The downside is they retain heat to some degree. I don’t see people wearing them much while active when it is over 60 degrees because they would sweat a lot. Good kit.

Level VII Extreme Cold Weather Parka and Trousers
-AKA the Marshmallow Man Suit. These are very warm. Assuming proper layering they are really only something people use when the temp is below 20 or so and they are going to be pretty sedentary (guard duty, etc). These are bulky items though they compact smaller than one would imagine. Often folks will use just the coat to stay warm in cold temps for short periods (instead of putting on 4 layers they will take off after walking from A to B). These are wind proof. Moisture isn’t an issue as I can’t imagine someone wanting to wear them unless it is well below freezing. As to criticism I wish the jacket was 6 inches longer. They have a hood that folds into the collar which is decent but not a real heavy hood. Honestly maybe I’m being too picky and if those are needed regularly a person should just go buy a real parka. As to the pants they really should be more of a an overall/bib, I stand by that criticism.

Overall Thoughts:
This system has a lot of good components. For whatever reason in the Armies view it is easier to give everyone all the pieces and let them figure out what to use for their situation than give some folks this and some that. Depending on a person’s environment and needs different components of this system could give someone a big start towards having a pretty darn good cold/ wet weather wardrobe.

To the rubber meets the road question of whether you should buy this system. Obviously price matters significantly. Military Surplus is definitely a feast or famine deal so depending on what your local area prices are (the net is helping with this) and the current supply/ demand prices vary wildly. Generally speaking if you can get these items at 65% or less than the price of a comparable civilian offering this stuff is a good deal. If it is over say 80% of the same price I would carefully weigh the individual item in question against earth tone civilian offerings. 
Do you need to buy the whole system? I would say that unless you got it at a substantial discount (over buying all the items individually) there is not a need to have the whole thing. The soft shell and gore tex suits (top/ bottom) are largely redundant and likely to be the two most expensive parts of the system. The fleece is fine (and you really should have a fleece or 5) but fleece is so cheap you could probably beat it for quality to price ratio at Ross or a local outlet. The the Marshmallow Man Suit is good for places with truly cold weather but not needed in the South or other warmer areas.

Assuming reasonable prices across the board for everything if I was going out of pocket for this stuff I would buy: 2x lightweight drawers, 1x medium weight drawers, a fleece; unless I had a green/ brown one already, the wind jacket (I love that thing) and the gore tex. If I was in a cold weather area and didn’t have that well below zero gear squared away I would also purchase the marshmallow suit.

Those are my thoughts on that. Hope they help in deciding what gear is right for you. As always the comments section is open.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Open Lines Friday 2 Jan

If you have a question fire away with it. Could be short and simple or long and complex, or anywhere in between. Preparedness stuff is probably the focus though random stuff is fine too. As to personal stuff it depends and my OPSEC is a big consideration. So I will not share stuff that involves some specific locations or dates but if you want to know whether I like Coors Light vs MGD, what I like on pizza or my favorite action movie that's fine.

Also if you have comments about stuff you want to see on the blog please let me know so I can help address your desires.

I will answer questions in the near future.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reader Questions on the HPG Serape

Hello, I stumbled across your review while doing some research and I had a couple of questions for you. First, let me say it was a great review. I was wondering if you knew what size the serape could be compressed to if I wanted to stuff into a sack or bag?  Also, you said the serape didn't zip up all the way when used as a sleeping bag.  Do you think it would be possible to attach another zipper (or maybe even velcro) so the serape would close all the way?

1) size the serape could be compressed to if I wanted to stuff into a sack or bag?
 I'd say slightly smaller than a 2 liter soda bottle. If forced to be more specific I'd guess about 1.75 liter but lets say two to have some safe room.
2) Do you think it would be possible to attach another zipper (or maybe even velcro) so the serape would close all the way?

The zipper arrangement on the Serapa for the 'sleeping bag mode'  comes about 40% of the way up the bag. For me it comes to about crotch level. It is a bit unorthodox but they use the one zipper for this and the 'greatcoat' mode so I am sure there is a balancing act there. The zipped foot box keeps you in the sleeping bag and the dimensions are generous enough to avoid the 'on the edge of the blanket so there is a gap' affect. I just sort of wrapped up in the top part like a burrito. For me it worked fine. The arrangement wouldn't work for an expedition weight bag designed for -20 temps but given that it is a fairly lightweight sleeping bag designed for light 3 season (probably 2.5 season to clip off the very early spring and latest part of fall) it worked fine.

Coming back to the question, while I do not see the need, if you are handy with a sewing machine one could certainly add a zipper. It would have to be one of the ones that come apart like on the front of a coat. Also that would mean there was a zipper on all but one side which could make for less than optimally comfortable blanket use. A couple pieces of velcro could have basically the same effect and be easier to put on. Either way you could certainly do this if you want. I'd recommend trying it as is for awhile before adding anything, those guys really test their products and you might find that while unorthodox it works for the intended use.

Hope that answers your questions

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Open Lines Friday 7 NOV PT 2: Preparedness Challenges in the Military

Open Lines Friday is sure making for some interesting blog fodder. Think it is a feature worth trying out with an eye towards becoming a regular thing. I'll play with frequency over time to see how many questions you are all interested in hearing my opinion on. A higher the numbers of questions/ comments/ links will push for it to be be more common, maybe even weekly, while less interest will make me lean towards less often. So if you like this feature chime in with questions next time it comes up and throw links to the posts up on your blogs/ sites/ forums.

Today's question is:

"Hi Ryan...been a regular follower of your blog for the past few years now. Great work, love your opinion/perspective. I'm glad you posed this topic. I'm a military officer of about 6 years now, and the issue I face with preparedness is PCS-ing every 3-4 years. I haven't been able to find a good blog or posting about the difficulties of a mandatory military move every couple of years. I would love to see a post or series about the constraints of having to relocate vice being permanently located at your retreat. What has your experience been with this as a member of the military?"

"Pineslayer replied: Jamison Vincent, think storage lockers, off base, if stateside. A bike that can set up quickly to haul 'stuff' shouldn't gather much attention. Maybe donate food stores when relocating. Any vehicle gives you an edge. Good luck and thank you. "

Ryan here: 
 I haven't specifically hit on this topic though some posts sort of danced around it. Some time ago Commander Zero asked about Preparedness and the Military but it does not specifically apply here.  Some time back I did a post on moving with guns and ammo which does cover part of the question so is worth touching on.I also did a post on Military Families when SHTF that one might want to read.

It is worth noting that while on average I do believe military members move more often, and further, than most other folks the issue of moving is not specifically a military problem. For example in recent years Alexander Wolfe of TEOTWAWKI Blog has moved almost as often as I do.

Specific problems are going to be capitalized. After talking the problems I will touch on potential strategies for mitigation.

PHYSICALLY MOVING: Survivalism inherently leads to the accumulation of gear, tools, and guns as well as bulk/ heavy items like bulk ammo and food.  It doesn't take many cases of 62 grain M855 5.56 ammo (on sale for $359/1k at Lucky Gunner) to get heavy in a hurry. However at least ammo is fairly compact. Using the rough Pastor Joe Fox formula of a 5 gallon bucket full of food being enough for 1 person for 1 month even a 1 year supply for 2 people is a significant weight and bulk consideration. Moving all your stuff sucks and there is no way around it. However in my experience this is overall the least problematic of the issues we are going to discuss. This is because while it is a significant hassle it is over after you get to the other end and unpacked.

On the plus side you mentioned being an Officer so at least your weight allowance should be pretty decent. Get smart on what movers are required to transport so they don't bamboozle you. They have to move commercially packed food which is significant for a survivalist. On the other hand for ammo, fuel, etc you've got to haul it on your own. While you do not control how often or when you move from post to post you do control how often you move within a specific area so get there and figure out a good place to live then stay there. Movers will hold your stuff for (IIRC) up to 90 days then deliver it. That should give you time to learn the area a bit so you don't want to move ten minutes away in a few months.

INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS/ COST AMORTIZATION: Folks who stay in one place can build a nice garden with raised beds and call it good. Every few years they might need some more soil but their setup is there and ready to go. Ditto fences, chicken coops, rainwater catchment, etc all. Additionally since they do not need to redo these costs over time those areas cost per output (cents per egg, dollar a bushel of produce, etc) go down. If you move frequently a lot of efforts will need to be duplicated and there are costs associated with that.

I really don't have many answers for this. Honestly I'm struggling with the problems myself.

SYSTEM REINVENTION. It is not too hard to have four different awesome routes all planned out for each of your three potential bug out locations for a person who is settled in one area with a solid network of friends and family (we'll hit that next). However redoing all of that work every couple years (say 1ish for a PCS school and 3-4 for a duty station) would be downright difficult. Around the time you put up the last alternate cache in your last location it would be time to move. That is to say nothing of the expense involved in redoing these efforts every couple years. This could also be said about gardening, bartering, getting into the gun crowd, etc at your new location. Basically you have to hit reset on a bunch of stuff every couple years.

Putting effort into systems that can be moved easily is the best idea I have to offer. No huge answers here. In many ways our efforts are far less developed than they would be if we hadn't moved several times in the last few years. My system of caches and potential locations would be far better developed if I was able to put money and effort in knowing it would solve problems over the long term instead of just for a couple years. Honestly the best way forward I can see is setting up a fixed location near home and shifting some efforts to that location.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: Since I do not live near home I am not working on relationships or contingency/ MAG stuff there. Also contacts I develop in a location are potentially nice to have for the future but only really good for that location. It is a potential advantage that I am developing contacts, albeit shallow ones, in different places.

The best mitigation here is that I am currently part of the biggest baddest gang in the world, the US Army.

Anyway this post is a bit shy on solutions and for that I am sorry.  My intent is not just to admire the problem. Hopefully I have at least partially helped frame out the problem and offered some solutions to think about.

I'm open to other peoples thoughts, especially if they have struggled with survivalism while living the military life.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Open Lines Friday 7 NOV Answers PT 1

Note my answers are bold and in italics

wildbillb said...sure, lots of questions.

plans for long-term food production and storage. no store food for 2-4 months.

As to production we have 6 chickens and do our best at gardening. Not going to make a huge dent in caloric needs but we are producing something and learning. The goal is sort of a gradual increase in production each year towards the end of production being a decent percentage of consumption.

As to storage. We TRY to keep a good bit of normal shelf stable stuff we eat around. Peanut butter and jelly, canned stuff, rice, flour, mac n cheese, cereal, oatmeal, oil, etc all.  For the longer term we have a decent bit of long term food stashed in mylar sacks in buckets. Given my lack of real dedicated focus on the details of X jars of this and Y cans of that I'm sure we would have some gaping holes but we would definitely still be eating at the 4 month mark.

short-term: what if property tax goes up to 10x or even just 5x.

This is an interesting point. Generally speaking I do not see property taxes exploding. However I do see them rapidly adjusting up when values rise and failing to drop when they go down. If suddenly your place goes from being valued at 150k to 250k taxes almost double. Add in the economy going to hell and maybe losing your job and that is a real problem.

In the great depression a lot of people lost very valuable land because they couldn't pay the taxes on it. They sold good productive land for nothing to pay the taxes on the plot with the house. I would submit on general principle this means it is worthwhile to consider not only the cost of a home/ ranch/ retreat but the taxes. It is better to buy a smaller place you know you can pay the taxes on no matter what then a bigger place where the taxes would be a stretch.

I would rather have a normal house on 20 acres I could pay the tax on by working part time as a greeter at Wally World than a 250 acre ranch with a huge house and 2 guest houses that had taxes equivalent to an average salary in the county. The reason is I could figure a lot of ways to come up with say 3k a year in property taxes but 30k would be a lot even if things go OK.

short-term: what if banks freeze savings, or charge interest? cash storage options.

I generally suggest keeping a month's worth of cash expenses (food, fuel, medicine, etc) in mixed bills at home. A month's INCOME is even better. If your situation is high risk for a banking freeze, running, etc more money makes sense. If you have a lot of cash just siting around by all means keep some more. Keeping cash covers you for a power outage or a hurricane or a banking holiday.

As to storage options. Commander Zero made a great point awhile back that your biggest enemy in storing cash is generally yourself raiding it for pizza or to buy a new shiny gun, etc. Your scenario matters a lot as does the amount of money we are talking about. If you live alone in a safe place putting $500 in an envelope in your desk drawer is just fine. If you want to keep several thousand dollars at home and have a lifestyle where a variety of people are often in your home it would be smart to get a decent safe and bolt it down. Various cache options are also worth considering. It is worth considering complication here. Say you stash the first $500 in mixed bills in the desk then a couple grand in the gun safe. Go beyond that and you stash the balance in 2 ziplock bags inside a coffee can buried someplace.

short-term: level of crime increases, how to ensure wife/kids are safe during errands, in the home, etc. concealed carry vs escort.

This covers a lot of ground so I will do my best.

You can do some analysis within the general area you live in about crime. With all the databases and information available these days it is not too hard to do a pattern analysis and threat wheel on crime in your AO.

Pattern analysis simply looks at given activities and locations. For the sake of this conversation say we look at vehicle theft, home break in's (no occupants), armed robbery, assault, home invasion, kidnapping and murder. We would then plot the occurrence of these events within the area we are looking at, say maybe a city and greater suburban area or a couple counties.   In the most simple way red pins on the map would be vehicle theft, brown assault, black murder, etc. Obviously more pins in an area is bad.

After that we would take those same occurences and look at time. First would be the day with a 24 hour clock. Next we would look at the week and month. After that we could focus in on other potential variables such as pay checks (1st and 15th for many people), welfare payments, lunar cycles, sporting events, etc.

When you put the two of these together it becomes apparent that while anything can happen anywhere a very high percentage of crime happens in certain areas during fairly predictable time periods.Obviously you do not want to go to those areas much at all, especially at those times.

 In terms of crime where you live matters a lot. If you live in a dangerous place then it is prudent to make financial choices that allow you to move to a safer one. This is especially true in a slow slide scenario where every neighborhood takes a step down the ladder of safety. Live in a slightly less posh place in a safe neighborhood instead of a nicer place where bad stuff happens.

As to keeping the fam safe above what I already said.

 When it comes to homes like anything real estate, location, location, location. Also avoiding displays of compact wealth is prudent.

Even way back when she was my GF I strongly recommended Wifey didn't go to certain places alone, based on an informal threat assessment. If she needed to go there or just wanted to I would tag along.

Also I tend to handle riskier business such as moving around decent amounts of cash or buying and selling stuff.

Wifey has a valid CCW and owns a revolver though she does not carry it regularly. At least she has the LEGAL option and a piece so if she wants to it is doable. Obviously if we had just one reasonable CCW pistol and were going different places that would be an issue.

This last section lacked focus and got to rambling but I hope it gave you some things to think about. Please leave any and all comments for me to respond to.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Open Lines Friday

If you have a question fire away with it. Could be short and simple or long and complex, or anywhere in between. Preparedness stuff is probably the focus though random stuff is fine too. As to personal stuff it depends and my OPSEC is a big consideration. So I will not share stuff that involves some specific locations or dates but if you want to know whether I like Coors Light vs MGD, what I like on pizza or my favorite action movie that's fine.

Also if you have comments about stuff you want to see on the blog please let me know so I can help address your desires.

I will answer questions at some point over the long weekend.

Friday, April 11, 2014

RE: 5.56 Duty Ammo

Prairie Patriot asked
"Do you consider green tip to be your stash for a SHTF scenario or do you look at it as quality training ammo?

I've been stashing away green tip for a while, but I also keep an eye out for Hornady TAP (usually the barrier blind variety) when there's a good deal on sale. I've heard Black Hills 50 grain TSX is a good round as well for barrier penetration.

I guess I've never been quite clear on how TAP/Black Hills barrier blind type loads would perform on something like Level III body armor. I'm pretty sure non-barrier blind like TAP FPD would not perform as well since it's designed to expand and fragment.

Or do you think it's not a huge enough difference to worry about between green tip vs. barrier blind commercial ammo when it comes down to slinging lead in a SHTF scenario firefight?"

Ryan here: I sort of touched on this awhile back with Reader Question: JHP Ammo for the Emergency Stash. Personally when it comes to centerfire rifles by and large ammo is ammo. Sure there are reliability and accuracy concerns but rifle rounds are so fast they are pretty effective with any reasonable load.

Specifically this ammo is for the ammo stash though if I wanted training ammo I'd have ordered the same stuff. Over time I'll probably train with other ammo purchased long ago till the stash is M855 or comparable ammo. Given the modest cost difference between it and cheaper XM193 or generic 55gr FMJ I don't see a reason not to train with what I'd fight with.

As to 'barrier blind' ammo I personally would have to see some pretty compelling evidence to justify the additional expense as well as potential POI/ Zero issues. 5.56 just isn't a great penetration of barriers any way you cut it. The answer is either to shoot more to punch a hole, get a better angle or pack a different gun, something .30 cal be it an AK or some sort of .308.

As to general ballistic effectiveness if yous hoot somebody with 5.56 in a spot that will kill them and they'll probably die. I say probably because no small arm is a true 100% sure thing. Folks have gotten shot (COL Charles Beckwith and somebody else specifically) with 14.5mm, AKA the red .50, in the chest and returned to active service.

To answer the armor question. Any centerfire rifle is going to penetrate soft body armor be it an AR, AK or Aunt May's .243 deer rifle. As to hard (Class III/ IV) body armor none of the stuff we've discussed is going to penetrate as it is rated to stop .308 and 30'06 M2AP ammo respectively.

I'm not passionately against TAP or any other type of comparable ammo but simply do not see the need. A more compelling argument can be made with 7.62x39 sheerly due to QA/ QC issues. I love me some Wolf but if I had to shoot the guy holding a knife to someones neck I'd rather be slinging TAP than risk Vladdy had a bit more Vodka than usual when he made that particular bullet.

I'm perfectly comfortable with M855 as my go to. Honestly if I was going to branch out from there it would be to something more like the Black Hills MK 262 Mod 0 but for my current situation I'm happy with what I have. 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reader Questions- Pulse on the Army

Riverrider asks "What was that silly survey we had to fill out....command environment or something? was wondering what changes you are seeing in your .mil environment/attitude. when i left morale was falling fast and good troops were bugging out to the civ market. what's the attitude toward the regime in your unit? that kind of thing, if you feel okay talking about it. otherwise, charlie mike."
This is a tough one as it invariably requires sweeping generalizations. 
-Many, if not most soldiers tend to be conservative. They feel the same frustrations with our current administration that other conservatives feel but it is amplified since their lives and livelihoods are far more directly affected by said administration.
-Aside from the R vs D vs everyone discussion many soldiers are very worried about the national debt. Hearing a 20 year old kid passionately say we have to stop borrowing money isn't something that happened a couple years back.
-The polar swing from 'can't get enough people' to significant reductions in force have a lot of folks really worried. The concern that any mistake or failure will mean the end of a career is permiating through our force. This trickles down from the E6 who is worried about not making the next rocker in a highly competitive enviornment to the E4 who has to make E5 to be able to reenlist. A competitive but collaborative enviornment is quickly becoming 'hang everybody out to dry so they can't potentially do something that could make you look bad'.
-Some older guys who lived through the Clinton are getting out before they otherwise might. One guy said he wasn't going to be the one who kicked all those folks out.
-We are transitioning from a wartime force to a garrison force which entails a lot of silliness. Some deployment dodging air thief types like that as it means their crisply folded hat matters more than their actual abilities. Other folks can't stand the stupidity of it.
-If the pension system is changed radically expect a lot of mid career officers and NCO's to get out. To make matters worse that flight will include many of the best and brightest.
-Gays being allowed to openly serve has been a seemless non event. Other than seeing a young lesbian couple at the PX once if I hadn't read about it I would not have noticed the change at all. 
[Note that I'm an Officer on active duty in the Army and have deployed multiple times, during which I have served with gay's. It is coming from this perspective that I don't really care about the opinions of your cousins brothers uncles friend who is a Marine's opinion, opinions of folks who have never served or those of any political commentator types. For those who've been out of service for 30 years I respect your input on that experience but am skeptical on how much it carries over to today.
-Anybody who has read a little bit of history knows our goals, which honestly I cannot clearly define, are probably optomistic.
-Some new folks who've never deployed really want to go before Afghanistan winds down. This is understandable, I'm sure guys who joined the Army in 1945 felt the same way.
-Veterans (of war's not dudes who hung out on a boat or in Germany/ CONUS for a tour) are universally ambivalent about the prospect of deploying there at all or again. The fundamental issues with Afghanistan are abundantly clear to all who've been there.
-Nobody wants to be Afghanistan's equivalent of a getting killed in Nam in 1972.
-I think this reduction in force and decrease in funding (with readiness corresponding) will go a lot like the last one. The measures put in place will work at projected numbers while the economy sucks. However when the economy gets better the lack of training/ readiness/ cutthroat mentality/ low morale will lead to a flood of folks out of the force. 
As to a question Riverrider didn't ask that is inevitable here. No I do not see US military forces being used against civilians. Honestly for a variety of reasons I do not see that happening. Folks would be well advised to stop worrying about soldiers and pay a lot more attention to their local PD/ sheriff's who just got an MRAP and a bunch of M4's.

Hope that answers the questions.
Well that's about all I can think of.

Figured I'd mention that PMC 5.56 of the 62 grain M855 variety is running $410 at Lucky Gunner. I'd say that is a solid buy. Honestly I don't see it getting much cheaper and anyway the mid cycle elections might stir up anti gun junk. Going to look at the budget and see if I can get it done myself.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Open Line

I've got nothing and my brain is completely fried. Offer up a suggestion of what you'd like to see more of here and I'll consider it. Ask a question and presuming it doesn't compromise my personal opsec or slip into anything blatantly illegal I will answer it.

So fire away....

Edited to include Max Velocity linked to this funny video titled How to be an Operator

For whatever it's worth I think that whole dress like a cool SOF dude fashion thing is totally silly. If SOF types wear those clothes, which is a big IF, it is because they got the stuff for free at work. You are far more likely to see a SOF guy walking around in a random t shirt, jean/ cargo pants/ work out shorts and a beat up baseball hat from his favorite college team than looking like a catalog for "Urban Ninja Elite clothing'. Throw an ambiguous fleece plus a set or two of sterile uniforms into the mix and that guy's good to go for an actual deployment.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Reader Question: Caches

MATTLBS said... Ryan, I have a question about your cache. Did you have caches at your old location(s) and if so, did you remove them before you made the move, or have you left them in place in case of a "if I'm ever back in the area and need them" scenario? I've been pondering a great deal about caches lately, and just wanting to know what your thought process is?

Ryan here: 
For a variety of reasons this is going to be a mix of things I have done and general thoughts on the topic.

To make it worthwhile to establish a cache you've got to have enough stuff to justify keeping some in a separate location that is not readily accessible.  This means a pistol, shotgun, knife, pair of boots, weeks worth of food or whatever above and beyond what you feel should be at your primary residence. Some level of accumulation typically needs to take place prior to getting to that point.

I've had caches in the past. The question in my mind about keeping or moving them is twofold. First am I realistically going to be back in that area? This is different than most for military folks because we move long distances fairly regularly. In the past few years I've lived 4 places in the US, none of which were closer than a five hundred miles to another, and in Germany. The second question is what sort of stuff can I afford to relegate to a cache that I may never be near again? Remember the point of caches is to stash stuff you intend to use again, otherwise what is the point.

If I moved around within the same region, more like normal people do, I would be inclined to just keep caches in place. Given the nomadic nature of my job and that it's quite likely I will never end up at some of these places again, leaving stuff buried/ stashed every year or two seems like an expensive hassle with a limited upside.

On the other hand if we are talking about an area where I may intend to live again, near family we visit frequently or potentially one we often travel through then it makes sense to have some stuff put away. Setting up caches in areas like this then just leaving them makes sense to me.

Sure it is possible I could be Munsoned some day just outside Fort Benning near where we lived years ago and really wish I'd stashed a change of clothes, some light camping/ survival stuff and a pistol with 100 rounds of ammo but that seems like a long shot. Far more likely would be finding myself wanting some guns/ ammo/ gear/ food at Granny's where we go 3x a year or whatever.

Maybe a middle of the road answer to make cheaper caches like a change of clothes, a set of boots, knife, lighter, flint, wool blanket, cheap backpack to haul it all and a bit of food. Those I could reasonably afford to stash all over the place. Something to think about there.

For me in the foreseeable future I envision caches getting set up where I go for work, most of which are dismantled when we leave. Caches in areas we will have a longer term presence in are and will continue to be set up then left in place.

Hope that answers your question.

So do you keep caches set up in places you used to live? What about areas you frequently visit? Areas you travel through?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BOB Weight, Concept of Use and Bag Selection

Editors Note: I received a comment worth talking about here. Seemed easiest to answer it point by point in the letter. My answers will be in italics. End Note

@Ryan, out of curiousity, any idea what your bag weighs to give an idea?

My bag weighted 42 pounds wet (with water) and 38 dry when weighted a few weeks ago.

As well, I'm by no means new to this stuff, but one thing I definitely don't have right now is a BOB. I've got large kits in the car, weapons, and the skills to go with them all from hunting to bush living but I'm trying to understand the purpose of a BOB. Is it solely if you had to ditch somewhere on foot? Basically a dedicated emergency backpacking trip bag in stupid terms? Just trying to figure out the reason behind it so that way I can start building it to my specs!

When it comes to kits there is a serious lack of continuity in naming/ concept of use/ contents within the survivalist community. I talked about this and my thoughts on it as the 'tiers' of gear relate to military and civilian kits not too long ago. To briefly recap I think it is probably more important to talk concept of use and a brief description of the list of components than go by some arbitrary self imposed title. The primary reason I even call this a bug out bag here is because that is what the cool survivalist kids on the interwebz call them and thus what people like to read about. 

My 'BOB' AKA ruck is a 3rd line sustainment load. Concept of use varies person to person based on their own concerns and environment. Personally my primary concerns are 1) Getting Munsoned in the middle of nowhere. 2) A short notice evacuation type of situation like a chemical spill or something. 3) Last is as a ready to go "Grab the backpack and a rifle then run for the woods" type kit. 

My kit is set up so it is man portable for the long walk home or run to the woods scenario because it is possible to have that capability for those unlikely scenarios while covering all of the more likely ones. In reality of we ever "Bug Out" odds are very high all we will need is enough fuel to get clear of a regional disaster and a visa card to get a room in a hotel then order pizza when we get there. That being said things could be worse like a wider scenario, we could get stuck someplace, etc all. The way I look at it we can have a bunch of great survival gear sitting in the corner of a hotel room with the only downside being I need to carry it into the room. On the other hand if we leave with just a visa card and get stuck on the highway in the middle of nowhere we have big issues. Sort of like you said my bag is a dedicated sustainment load geared towards emergency situations.
Not to mention, how do you choose the pack, because if you're anything like me you've got some nice packs and a older one as well. I'd rather put it in one of my 2 nice 2500-3k in bags to ruck with rather than the large old, external aluminum frame one I bought from my dad. I use both my medium size good ones for school and mil but the big one is always empty. Anyone/Ryan, do you have this predicament? Thoughts? Thanks!

Choosing a pack is a complicated issue. A bag needs to be durable and in earth tones for sure. Other than that options are almost endless. Using a bag you already have that fits the bill is a fine option.

Between the bags you have I think we need to take a step back to look at concept of use. A kit designed to comfortably sustain a person during winter in rural North Dakota for 4 days is obviously going to be substantially larger than a 2 day kit for summer in the South. I figured out the list of stuff for my kit then put it together to see how much bag was really necessary. Basically if the stuff you want fits in a nice smaller bag, otherwise put it in the larger bag. If you are comfortable using the older bag just keep it, otherwise consider a more modern replacement when finances allow.

As to the bag vs bag dilemma I did have that in building my 'get home bag.' My Tactical Tailor assault pack could not simultaneously fill two roles. The way I solved it was to get a budget but quality (mine is a nicer model bough used but basic Jansport bags run $25ish and are just fine) to carry books, my lunch, etc all leaving the bombproof TT bag for my 'get home bag.'

Hope that helps,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reader Questions: Getting into the AR-15 Game

Hey I am in the market for a rifle chambered in 556 preferrably semi-auto. I have been rocking the an AK variant for several years but would like to increase my range performance and enter a new tier of weapon performance. Ive been scouring armslist in Washington and there seems to be quite a bit of options out there. Would you recommend purchasing new or looking for quality used? Any info or tips will help! I am new to the AR game.

Ryan here. As I see it we can break this down to 2 different questions.
1) Buying new vs used.
2) My thoughts on different types of AR-15's currently on the market. This will be broken down further to general configuration and make/ manufacturer. I will answer them in order.

New Guns- There are pro's and con's to buying guns new. The biggest advantage is that you can get exactly what you want. That is followed by the gun being new with which means there are fewer potential issues and manufacturer support for ones that do pop up. Lastly if you are a person who cares about getting a gun without any scratches, dings, wear marks, etc this is the best option.

The con's of buying new are the ATF form 4473 which some have called defacto registration through record keeping happens. Depending on where you stand with private party firearms that may not be an issue or could be a deal maker. Also you are going to pay retail price and tax.

Used Guns- Of course there are pro's and con's here also. For the sake of simplicity I am going to talk about used gun sales from private party's not via a shop. The biggest pro in my opinion is the lack of paperwork. A private party gun or two might be real handy some day. The second is that is the best place to find deals. This works best for the seller's also. Instead of selling a gun to a shop for $300 which they will immediately put on the shelf for $400 we can split the difference at $340 and both win. 

It is worth noting here that most gun owners do not shoot much so their weapons have very low round counts. They get a gun, test fire it with a couple mags then put it into the closet/ safe. It stays there till they decide on something else or run into money trouble. So you're more likely to face a few scratches and nicks from handling than actual wear on the parts that matter.

The biggest downside of used guns is the difficulty to find what you want. Instead of a local shop having it or ordering it you need to find an individual who owns one that wants to sell it. If you are looking for a Glock 17 or a Remington 870 that's not a big deal but if you want a Wizzbanger 900 X2L3 in Multicam or a limited edition 2 tone Sig .357 with night sights and short run factory grips it can be a big problem. 

The next biggest downside is guns hold their value really well. Part of it is that some folks pay a premium for non papered guns which drives up the marker. I definitely saw this phenomena in Arizona. In any case expect to pay more like 85-95% of the new price for a like new gun while other items tend to be in the 60-75% range. Of course guns do occasionally pop up cheaper when somebody needs cash fast but those cannot be defended on. 

The last downside is that the gun could have issues or be stolen/ linked to a crime. Some people cobble together and clean messed up guns then sell them used to unload the problem onto another person. [Don't be that guy, there is a special place in hell for these scumbags.] Also some guns were stolen previously or whatever. Even if you buy from a good person the guy who had that gun 10 years ago may have made a shady deal or whatever. A guy I know had a pistol taken by the cops because it was stolen a long time ago. Both of these happen rarely but they do happen.

To roll up this question. If you are not patient or want a really specific gun new is probably the way to go. On the other hand if a paperless gun matters to you that is the way to go. Occasionally a person who has cash handy can get some real deals in used guns.

As to different configurations as well as makes/ models of AR-15's. For a general use type rifle I favor a 14.5inch barrel of standard weight on a flat top AR with an adjustable butt stock. I favor chrome lined barrels and everything as mil spec as possible. As to rails I'd only bother with them if you plan to mount enough stuff to justify it. [Honestly in substantive ways I don't see myself varying from this much unless I build a pistol. You could go with a 20" barrel and a fixed stock to make it a SDM type gun but honestly for that role I'd probably get a .308.] 

To manufacturers. I'll break this down in 2 ways. We will talk guns by approximate price range and then I'll talk what of this is based on personal experiences and what is a general consensus of others. Please note that my discussion of manufacturers is not all encompassing. Part of the limitation is that I'm trying to stick as much as possible to stuff I know and part is due to time/ length limitations. Not saying those manufacturers are good or bad but there is only so much time in the day. Please don't get all butt hurt if I do not mention your favorite brand; let's stick to the big picture here.

First we will talk about what I would consider on the more expensive side. Probably closer to "a good job and some spare cash" than "assistant night manager with a young family barely getting by" territory. In this range you get professional grade guns. I hesitate to say an exact price but we are probably talking $1,100ish on the bottom end up to around 2k. The difference will be brand as well as specific features/ variants, obviously a gun with a $250 rail will cost more than an otherwise identical one with $40 hand guards.

Manufacturers in this price range include Colt, Knight Armament, Daniels Defense, LMT and Bravo Company. I have personal experience with Colt's at work and own a Bravo Company rifle that I love. John Mosby is running an LMT. Knight stuff I have anecdotal experiences with at work. DD is just a great company.

These are just great guns that can be used really hard. One can reasonably expect a genuine go to war gun right out of the box. The downside is that nothing is free. To some degree a customer is paying for better design, materials and workmanship which is worthwhile. Also to some degree they are paying for a name as well as the cool guy's they pay for endorsements. If you can afford the tab one of these rifles will suit you well. On the other hand if this sort of rifle is our of your reach do not despair as there are other options.

The second category of rifles I am going to talk about are closer to the "assistant night manager with a young family barely getting by" territory. This isn't ARF so I won't bash folks who can not or simply will not spend a mortgage payment or two on a rifle. The manufacturers in this category include Bushmaster, Olympic Arms, DPMS which I have varying degrees of personal experience with. Depending on exactly where the lines are drawn basic models from Stag Arms and in Smith and Wesson M&P series could fall in here also. While exact prices are fuzzy I'd say $600-900ish is about the right range.

As a general rule these are fine rifles, perfectly suitable for all needs average or even not so average Joe has. Fit and finish are less than the fancy brands but that is OK. To be blunt these companies do produce more lemon's than the professional grade manufacturers. However for every lemon there are a bunch of guns that work just fine. On this one the upside and downside are pretty obvious. You get a gun that is affordable but may potentially have some issues.

Personally I think we should consider option #3 which is to order the parts you want (complete upper, BCG, etc all) and put it onto a lower receiver purchased via private party. This way you circumvent the difficulty of finding specific stuff via private party basically get whatever rifle you want without the 4473 hassle. If this option doesn't appeal to you....

I recommend that you buy a gently used professional grade AR-15 from a private party. 

As always reader input to this discussion is welcome.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Reader Question: JHP Ammo For The Emergency Stash

Just had a random question. As you build up ammo supplies, I was just curious as to whether you suggest trying to have your emergency (non-range) ammo be good quality HP's. I've got carry ammo of HP's but have been having my emergency ammo be regular FMJ's of good quality. What are your thoughts? No biggie if your busy with your move! Just was curious of your thoughts! Thanks!

Ryan here,  Happen to have some time while the kids are taking an afternoon nap so here we go. I think it is worth seperating the answer between handguns and rifles. Handguns that are practical for defensive use are universally mediocre stoppers with anything but perfect shot placement. The saying that people shot with handguns run away while those shot with long guns die right there (DRT) has some truth to it. For rifles I am apathetic about HP ammo towards the goal of increased 'stopping power' but do like them for managing penetration. I buy them if the price difference is negligible but am just fine with FMJ. Case in point this Wolf 7.62x39 HP ammo is $285 a case which is basically the same price as ball. For rifle ammo we probably half 2/3rds FMJ and 1/3rd ball in the stash. The rest of the answer will be directed towards handgun ammunition.

Generally speaking I like hollow point type ammunition for defensive use. They stop people more effectively and have more controlled penetration which means lower chances of unintentionally hurting the wrong person. Obviously that is what I carry on a regular basis.
As to ammo stashed away just in case. Yes I think a person would be well advised to have some hollow points stashed away. If you can afford a case of Corbon DPX at a dollar a shot then good for you. Personally I cannot afford that but see the wisdom of keeping some HP ammo stashed, especially since my chosen handgun is a 9mm. For this task I opted for Federal Classic Personal Defense 115gr 9mm. Got a case of the stuff awhile back on sale for $375 if I recall correctly. Affordable and considerably superior to ball ammo. I would like to switch to CorBon or Speer Gold Dot's for my carry ammo but haven't gotten around to it yet. When times were good and ammo was readily available I would snag the Winchester white boxes of HP ammo in 9mm and .38 special so we have a few of those lying around.

As to putting my money where my mouth is I would guess a bit over half our operational stash of 9mm ammo is some sort of JHP. Probably 1/3rd of our .38 special is HP. The rest is ball ammo. Well anyway those are my thoughts on that. Hope it helps

Sunday, August 4, 2013

RE: Why The AK-47?

12:13 said "Don't understand you. If you got trained with the AR and your abilities are in that gun. Why then chose something that you can pick up after exercising all the muscle memory whit the AR? I believe you said before that the AR is more precise and of course got longer range.
Are you contradicting yourself, like when you dump the 30-06 and chose the 30-30?"

Ryan here.  This comment on yesterday's post seemed worth discussing here in a broader venue. Also it will take enough time/ energy that depending on how the rest of the day's packing and cleaning goes it might just be the post. So here we go.

Maybe there is some confusion. I own both guns. We could debate the need or utility of that but it's where I am. This isn't a purchase and a lifestyle choice; it's choosing a sweatshirt from the closet instead of a fleece.

The primary reason I  chose an AK for this trip are it's compact nature due to the folding stock. It can go in a normal duffel bag ready to go. Granted an AR can be broken down and get a bit smaller but then it has to be reassembled to fire. That I could discretely slip it into a bag to take into a hotel is an appealing idea. The second reason is that it is a weapon I am far more willing to risk being stolen/ whatever than an AR. AK's have come up in price considerably over the last few years but I don't have much cash into this gun.

I am better with an AR but still sufficiently capable with an AK. Like the quote from Lord of War "It's so easy a child can use it, and they do."

 For the reasons listed above I chose an AK for this trip. The AR is better at distance. I do not think anyone would argue that point. My AK is a roughly 3 MOA gun. Not precision accuracy by any measure but shooting faces at 100 meters and chests well past 200 is sufficient for my needs. For this particular trip my need for a compact package is higher than my need for accuracy at 300 plus meters.

As to the 30'06 and 30-30. That is a much longer discussion. To sum it up. I owned rifles in both calibers then ended up selling both rifles in 30'06 for different reasons. Ultimately my plan is to shift our "precision" caliber to .308. Probably with a bolt gun next year some time. While the '06's left and have yet to be replaced with a .308 the 30-30 stayed around. Why the 30-30 is in the collection is something I'm not fully able to express. The cowboy assault rifle is unlikely to be targeted by any sort of ban and ammunition is widely available, that it is a non "evil black rifle" caliber is an advantage there.

Guess I'm not entirely sure how I am contradicting myself. Is it that I've talked about X being nice yet own Y? While I have fewer guns than the average Montana Sportsmen (26) the collection is pretty decent. Everything has advantages and disadvantages. Since I got into the writing fairly early my opinions have changed over time. Also invariably if you write about different gun type stuff often enough, for long enough, one thing will not match with some other thing.

So I hope that explains my thinking.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Reader Question: Budget AK Optics

Anonymous 10:24 asked "Anyone recommend reflex sight or an optic that wont break the bank for an AK?"

Ryan here: Without knowing what you consider "breaking the bank" I can only speak in generalities. Broadly speaking I am not a fan of low end optics for practical use in general and especially for fighting weapons.
With optics there is a certain price point where quality falls off a cliff.  You go from duty grade briefly touching hobby grade and landing strait in plinker/ Chinese made junk. A $30 Walmart red dot on a .22 pistol is a riot to shoot. Worst case if it breaks or fails or the zero wanders so what, it ends the .22 pistol shooting fun for the day.  Worst case if a hunting rifle's $120 scope fails it messes up a hunting trip. Though inconvenient and not ideal that is not actually the end of the world despite what some may think. An optic on a fighting gun fails and good people can die.

For fighting optics/ red dots I like Aimpoint/ Eotech/ Trijicon products. For red dot/ reflex sights you can get a basic Eotech or Aimpoint Pro for around $400. A bit cheaper if you find a sale or something. Now and then stolen surplus used M68 Aimpoints pop up on various sites at very reasonable prices. Since they are hell for stout I would be comfortable with a used one at the right price. Trijicon makes a smaller (reflexive) type red dot that you could look at. 

Could you fudge it a bit and maybe get a Burris Fastfire or something and be OK, probably. However cheaper red dot's generally do not work real well. They do not hold zero's, fail to turn on and just have issues. Putting it simply a $400ish quality red dot will cost the same if you try a $100-250 cheaper optic before or not. Buy nice or buy twice.

For magnified optics it is a bit more complicated. Leupold has some nice offerings in the $400 ish range. Personally wanting a variable power with a true (or very close) 1x bottom end I went with a Burris MTAC. So far it is hell for stout and a well designed easy to use optic. I like it a lot. There are some other quality optics in that general $400 ish price range. Note that price did not include a mount. In general I cannot see the real reason to put a magnified optic on an AK. About where you need the magnification they are falling off in terms of accuracy and ballistics so I do not get it though to each their own.

Mounting an optic/ red dot to an AK is an interesting proposition. There is the original intended side mount for a scope but you would need to take it off to clean the gun which is problematic. Some folks make dust covers with a rail attached but those probably do not mount securely/ stably enough to work very well. A company (Texas Weapons Systems?) makes a kit to swap out the dust cover to a secure one with a hinge on front. This is the only good option for mounting an optic in the conventional position where a normal scope would work.

You can put a rail on the gas tube (I think Ultimak) or a quad rail forend on it (Midwest Industries) both of which are solid options.

If I was going to mount an optic on an AK here is what I would do. I would purchase an Ultimak gas tube rail. I would then put an Aimpoint (new Pro or used M68) on that rail. Out the door that setup will run around $500. That might be getting into "break the bank territory'. However first as I noted before that quality setup will cost the same if you put time and energy into trying cheaper stuff (which usually fails) first or not. Second while they are very nice you do not NEED an optic. If money is an issue I would recommend that you rock iron sights for a few months while saving up tobuy a serviceable setup that will last and meet all your needs.

Well those are my thoughts on that. Hope they are helpful.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Highdesertlivin Asks: 30-30 for Match Grade .308 ammo

Highdesertlivin said... Im having the "price is right",  jitters, as I am trying to hammer out a deal that I am not sure is the smart move. My scenario: I have 3 308 rifles and 2 30-30, One 30-30 is a 336 marlin unfired. A individual has 500 rd cases of black hills 168 gr match for 700. I am negotiating the 336 (450. value) and 1500 .22 and perhaps a couple .45acp 50 rd boxes. I want the match grade as all my 308 is medium quality or mil. ball. But part of me is good rifle bird in the hand oriented. Ive looked up the availability of both on the market so I know whats available. I can be prone to tunnel vision. Feedback please fellas. Thanks for the read ryan.

Ryan here:  To use the longer range capability of the .308 rifle in a precision type way you want a decent stash of high quality match grade type .308 ammunition. I know trading a gun for ammo or a combination of stuff is mentally hard to do for some reason; did it recently myself. Especially considering you have two 30-30's I think it's an easy choice.

I would make the trade. Can see far more situations where you would benefit from having a decent stash of match grade .308 ammunition than needing two 30-30's especially since you have other rifles. You might find the second 30-30 isn't missed at all. If you do decide to replace it down the road getting another Marlin 336 will be easy as there are untold millions of them floating around the US. Anyway that's my .02 cents on that.

Anybody else have an opinion?
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