Showing posts with label saddle tramp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label saddle tramp. Show all posts

Saturday, February 5, 2011

AK's For The Ladies

Dear TOR, I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but I'd appreciate it if you could do a blog sometime about the different AK-47s. I saw a MIL channel story about Mr. K and how the AK-47 (and later AK-74) came about. I've also read a lot about its functionality, low maintenance, etc., but I've never seen anyone comment on the differences between countries of manufacture. Are Chinese AKs better than Romanian? What about Ukranian? Others? Are Russian-made the best - and if so, where can you get one? Are the differences significant to anyone other than an African warlord?

What features are most useful? What kind of gear have you put on yours? Do you like the larger 7.+ ammo or the 5.+ better? Why?Would you recommend an AK for a small woman (like me), vs an AR-15? What are the differences in the way they handle, reload, etc.? Does it matter? I have an AR (Bushmaster) and would like an AK, "just because," but I don't really "need" one. Should I just stick with the AR? That way I won't have to stockpile a different calibre of ammo.

Comments? Recommendations? Thnx.

Saddle Tramp
TOR here: I will try my best to answer all these questions. As for the difference in AK's from different countries. AK's are sort of like anything else made by dozens of countries over many decades in factories too numerous to count, let alone mention. While the design is pretty standard they vary in all sorts of ways. Think of it like eggs benedict. If you go to a hundred places and order eggs benedict and it will never be quite the same. Some are great, most are good or at least OK and a few are just bad. Certainly they are all different.
Making AK's in the good old USA even more complicated you aren't getting an AK from a given period, made in a certain factory in a given country. You are getting an AK with all those variables that was potentially stored for decades, sold off in a huge lot, taken apart and shipped across the world to be reassembled with some new parts.
So are Chinese AK's (they are called MAK-90's) better than Romanian AK's? I would say yes. The Norico MAK-90 is a darn good gun. My uncle had one a decade ago and it was a great rifle. I've heard there were some QA/QC issues with them but that is fair to say about most all AK importers. The Romanian AK's are (to be brief, I will revisit it later) not at all bad guns though their fit and finish could be said to leave something to be desired. If I was in the market for an AK and saw a gently used MAK-90 and a gently used WASR-10 or SAR-1 for the same price I would get the MAK-90.
As for the various Eastern European AK's on the market. I am disinclined to try and rank order the AK producing countries and then break it further down by commerical models. You ask "Are the differences significant to anyone other than an African warlord?". That is not the question you should be asking. The question you should be asking is "are the differences significant to anyone other than a fanboy in some forum or a collector?" The answer is probably not. Assuming the individual weapon is reliable a scenario where a higher dollar AK will keep you alive but a WASR-10 won't doesn't exist. Fit and finish varies but that is really just superficial. If you have the extra cash to get nicer fit and finish and it is important to you then go for it.  Think of it like a Colt revolver versus a Ruger or a Taurus. Both are totally functional weapons, while the Colt has a lot better fit and finish you do pay for.
For features I would say you need a good sling, a bunch of mags, plenty of ammo and something to carry your mags. If you feel like getting fancy a red dot/ reflex sight and a tac light are always nice for close up work. I haven't gotten fancy with mine yet. Just a rifle with a sling, mags, ammo and assorted web gear.
As for the AK 47 in 7.62x39 or the AK74 in 5.45x whatever. Personally I own and like the AK47 in 7.62x39. No real deep reasoning behind it. It is a very nice round inside the ranges where civilian combat could happen, most military conflicts happen and the AK can actually hit stuff at. Also 5.45 is almost identical to 5.56 which I already had lying around. I am not going to say 5.45 AK's are bad. In the real gun owning and shooting America 7.62x39 AK's are all over the place. Also milsurp and cheap import 7.62x39 ammo is available. Commercial 7.62x39 ammo exists though the market is small because it is impossible to outprice Wolf and Tulla. For my AK47 if ammo imports stopped tomorrow I could get Walmart white box or a variety of other makes it would just cost average centerfire rifle prices. Deep stocking would be expensive but shooting a few hundred rounds a year to keep familiar would be doable.
 In 5.45 ammo is stupidly cheap which is nice because it is frickin impossible to buy it anywhere except mail/ internet order. While I haven't exactly been looking for it I can't recall seeing milsurp or commerical 5.45 ammo in a single brick and mortar store. I am not saying you shouldn't get an AK74 though if you do get one order CASES of ammo. In general I am quite content with 3k  rounds of ammo for a defensive rifle. If I was an AK74 owner it would be at least double that. They haven't caught on enough to justify (as far as I can tell) any real commerical offerings of ammo If the milsurp supply was cut off, by say executive order that would mean they wouldn't catch on more and thus ammo would not likely become commercially available.
AK's are probably better for a smaller person than an AR because their length of pull is shorter. They are designed to consider 'nutritionally challenged' conscripts and central Asian troops of compact stature. AK's aren't much heavier than AR's so that is a wash. Handling of AK's is simpler than AR's because they require less manipulation if just because the only controls are the safety, bolt and trigger. Mag changes are different than an AR because they are 'rock in' mags. Just like a Mini-14 or an M1A. Not a big deal, just something to get used to. The AK recoils noticably more than the AR but well so does everything else. The AK has a very comparable cartridge to the 30-30 Winchester and weigh's almost 50% more than a Winchester 94 which I don't think anybody considers a bruiser. If need be then get a recoil pad but familiarity and training is the real issue.

If you want an AK and can afford to properly equip one (to include mags and ammo) without skimping somewhere important then get it. An utterly reliable rifle that can take a beating and is cheap to practice with has a place in every collection. Most folks who get past all the hype and actually start using AK's like them. Worst case you can probably sell it for very close to what you paid.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Making Survivalism A Lifestyle Or At Least Part Of Your Lifestyle

This topic came up in an email I got today. It is as good of a topic as any because a lot has gone on today and I haven't given the blog a thought. Anyway I definitely see the benefits of making prepping a lifestyle.

According to Wikipedia a lifestyle is the way a person lives. To me it has a lot to do with what you value and how you choose to allocate limited resources like money and time. Maybe the breakover point is when something goes from being a part of your life to a significant part of your life. For example most people listen to music and periodically see a concert; however a person who considers music and seeing their favorite band(s) a part of their lifestyle is likely to put a lot more of their energy, time and money into listening to music, reading about music, talking about music and attending concerts.

I am not saying that you have to make prepping part of your lifestyle. I will however say that you aren't going to get very well prepared if it isn't at least a part of your lifestyle. Aside from (maybe) the dozen or so people who read this that are an actual part of my real life it won't affect me if you are very well prepared or not.

What I am saying is that you aren't going to get very far in preparedness unless it is important to you. Important enough to merit a decent amount of your limited time and money. You may be able to get prepared for say, a short term power outage or comparable disaster without it being a big part of your life. However beyond that the required outlay of money as well as time is probably not going to be met unless it is part of your lifestyle. Anybody can pick up an extra box of shells for their old shotgun once in awhile but getting extra hours at work to save up for good defensive weapons takes time and energy. You won't deliver pizzas to get an AK unless it is really important to you.

Even if someone is in a good enough money place that money isn't an issue time will get them. For example a well off guy may randomly end up reading One Second After and toss 50k into preps just to feel better. However it is highly unlikely that they will be willing to put the time into being able to meaningfully use. So you have a guy with very nice weapons he can't use well, food he may not be able to turn into an actual meal and all sorts of other problems.

Notice that I didn't say to make prepping/ survivalism a lifestyle. I am not saying you shouldn't do that. From  a survivalist angle if you would move to the ideal location, live in a bunker, spend all your money on preps and all your time on improving your situation that would be real good. However for just about everyone survivalism isn't the biggest thing they have going on. Maybe they enjoy their family, friends, soccer, culture and dining out, fiddling or who knows what else.

Of course the more important to you something is the more you will likely accomplish. I think it is about having your goals properly mesh with how important you make survivalism or I guess anything else. For a person who wants to lose some weight and get a bit stronger working out 4x a week doing moderate cardio and wieghts is fine. If that same person wants to have an 8 pack/ win a powerlifting competition/ run a marathon they will need to train significantly harder. It is about getting the right ratio of goals and effort.

Decide how important survivalism is to you. Not to me or some other blogger or your crazy buddy but to you. Make sure that this meshes with your goals, especially as it involves time and money. I keep coming back to time and money because they are how we generally make things happen. Getting these things to mesh will go a long way toward setting realistic goals and following through with them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Suggestion and Report

Dear TOR and family,

Glad to hear you had such a nice Christmas.

I have a suggestion for one of the first books for the New Year: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption written by Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit.

As you know, I am learning all I can re WWII and the heroics of the Greatest Generation. POW Louis Zamperini, an Army Air Corps bombadier in the Pacific Theater, is one of the greatest of the Great. To say that he is an inspiration for survivors is likely the understatement of the century.

The Wall Street Journal published a two-page review/story. You can possibly access it online. Friday, November 12, 2010.

BTW: I was unaware until reading Unbroken that Pappy Boyington, leader of the Black Sheep Squadron, was also a POW at one of the same camps as Zamperini. He is quoted several times in the book.

You are probably too young to recall, but in the 70's, there was an excellent TV series starring Cliff Robertson, called Black Sheep Sqaudron. It might be available on DVD.

Robertson had earlier starred in the film 633 Sqadron, about an RAF pilot and a mission to Norway. Also a true story. Definitely available on DVD.

Best wishes to you all.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dear TOR:

You are obviously a very thoughtful, fiscally conservative, and intelligent young man. Those traits will do you well in the future.

I agree entirely with your observations and conclusions, but have an addition or two that might help your readers. DH and I have been around the block a few times over the years and have experienced various episodes of TEOTWAWeKI.

Many people don't realize that serious illness, auto accidents, deaths in the family, divorces, even something as joyous as the birth of a child, can indeed be TEOTWAYouKI. Life often makes 90-degree turns, some good, some bad, some really bad. Being able to make the mental adjustment to the new direction is often much more important than having a Glock or a stash of beans. The people who can adjust to new circumstances or a new, unforeseen, situation have always been called "survivors."

Not "survivalists." Survivors. IMO, it is more important to be a survivor than a survivalist.

To be a survivor requires being able to adapt. You don't have to be as creative as a MacGiver, for example, but you do have to be able to look at a problem, think through it rationally and cooly, and apply your experience and training to dealing with it. That implies that you have some experience and training to fall back on.

I'm not talking about a degree in Chemistry, or a certificate from Backwoods U. I'm talking about applying your past experience in just plain day-to-day living, or having external resources that you can go to. This is where "having friends in low places" is so important.

Those of you who live in rural or small town America already know what I'm talking about. Folks in the military do too. You have close personal contacts with people who have friends-of-a-friend or a cousin twice removed or know Bubba, the "go-to-guy" who can do anything or knows someone who does -- and owes him something. Having people-who-have-people is the best prep you can get. (If you watch some of my favorite TV programs, Human Target or Burn Notice, you see this in the plot all the time.)

Spend a little time and effort making friends, through your church, a local soup kitchen, the first responders groups, at school, in AA, your gun club, brotherhood organizations like the Lions, Masons or other lodges. Whatever. Be a stand-up guy and meet more like you - people who need people and who are willing to help others. The friendships you make in these organizations will often be lifelong and form a fallback team that you can rely on.

These friendships are what I call "emotional currency," -- as important as any bullion in your pocket.

TOR, I know you have addressed getting in shape in your blogs many times. You have written about physical training and keeping fit. As we all know, there are folks who talk a good game, but never really get off the couch and go do things that improve their health.

Riding shotgun with this concept is the idea that enjoying life is critical to being able to respond to not-so-enjoyable situations. It gives you a certain resiliency that enables your brain to function in creative and responsive ways. Everyone should find something that they like to do and do it regularly. It can even cost a little money. The cash you spend on this mental renewal is every bit an investment as for any other prep.

Use common sense, though - every thing in moderation. Don't pour zillions of bucks into becoming the world's expert in underwater basketweaving if you don't have zillions left to spend after the mortgage, utilities, etc. You could instead take a course at your local community college (usually pretty inexpensive), join a club, or virtually mingle with fellow enthusiasts in blogs and fora online.

Soothe your soul, but you don't have to make a career out of it. (Or do - if the thing you love has potential for making money, go for it!)

There's also a dark side to this topic. Some folks, quite a number actually, suffer from depression. Although this has been shown to be the result of chemical (in)activity in the brain, too many people still feel that this is some sort of personal failing and they don't even tell their doctors about it. Worse, many sufferers try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. It's a no-win situation.

As someone who personally suffers from Seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD), especially in the winter months, I can assure those of you out there that the proper treatment will make a huge difference in your life. In many cases, just a little additional Vitamin D helps tremendously. If you are one of the people who tend to see the world thru darker lenses and don't ever seem to be enjoying life, please do something about it. (I was also experiencing severe physical manifestations - I thought I was having a long-term, continual heart attack... Fortunately, a very insightful and experienced CARDIOLOGIST diagnosed my depression and turned my life around).

This will be one of the most important prep activities you can do.

Being a survivor requires taking risks and being willing to "put yourself out there." I strongly encourage your readers to reach out both for themselves and to benefit others.

Best wishes to all in the Yuletide Season.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Dear TOR:

Welcome back home. Looks like we will be having a white Christmas....

Re the article.

During WW2, while most things in the UK were going down the tube, second hand stores were doing a booming, and unrationed, business. I think the same thing will happen in the US when TSHTF. There are so many people with excess clothing, both cheap and well-made types, that I don't really foresee needing to do a lot of sewing "from scratch."

Patching, general repairs and alterations, otoh, will be very important. These are entirely different skills, and in many ways, much easier to do. I recently found some excellent beginner sewing books for sale at our library book sale. Paid 50 cents each and bought all they had. For fancy hand-sewing (decorative knots and stitching, get books on needle-point, embroidery, petit-point, cross-stitch, etc. There are many magazines and blogs available, too.)

For those folks who are sewing shy, just learning how to hem, put in a fold at a waistband, or put on buttons and snaps, are very good places to start. Actually, just learning how to thread a needle is a good first step. In fact, realizing that you need to stockpile sewing supplies (called notions) and putting together a sewing kit might be an "adjustment reaction" that a lot of people need to go thru.

Suggested items for a hand-sewing kit:

Needles in a variety of sizes, including self-threading ones if you can find them.

Cotton or cotton/polyester thread in different colors, but esp. black, white, brown(s), blue(s), red and green. Pure cotton thread sometimes shrinks in hot water when you wash clothing, so I try to go with a combination-type.

Very fine fishing line (use for hemming or repairing heavy duty clothing)

Waxed dental floss (excellent for sewing on buttons)

Straight fabric shears and pinking shears (these are the ones that have the sawtoothed edge and are used for cutting cloth so that it doesn't unravel)


Pin cushion (I use a bar of soap which helps to keep the pins and needles slick)

Straight pins (the larger the head the better) and safety pins, several sizes, including diaper pins

Ruler (12 and 36 inches)

Measuring tape (not metal ones like those used for carpentry. Sewing tapes are made out of soft cloth or other bendable material so you can measure around waists, etc.)

Wooden darning egg (I was taught to darn using an old lightbulb. Cheaper, but a bit more difficult to handle)

Darning needles

Marking chalk or transfer paper (to transfer pattern lines onto cloth. We used to use true carbon paper, but there are probably other products available now)

Marking roller (a pizza cutter with a light hand will do in a pinch. You have to be careful not to cut through the pattern OR the material.)

Sewing hoop (used primarily for fine hand work like cross-stitch, appliques, needle point, etc., but also very useful for small repairs where it helps to stretch out or stabilize the material)

You can also add various standard patterns, extra zippers, extra buttons. I keep a button jar and cut all the buttons off any shirts that I am recycling into rags or other projects.

If you will be using a sewing machine:

You will need much more thread and BOBBINS, which are parts of the machine that enable simultaneous stitching on both sides of the fabric. Usually, you fill the bobbin with the same thread you use for the top stitch, but you don't have to. Some projects intentionally use two colors for contrast.

If you are really concerned about having to live off-grid, you might want to start looking for a "treadle" sewing machine, which uses foot-power, not electricity. They are still available, and though might require some repairs, are often comparatively inexpensive.

Best Yuletide Greetings to you and yours,


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Contest Roundup

Well it has had a great run but our contest is officially closed. We got a lot of great entries that I am excited to share with you. So lets check them all out.
Bro. Brandon B. made a zombie disposal kit with a Glock 26, a bunch of mags and equipment to safely dispose of the undead which he makes dead again through awesome handgun skills. He definitely gets two extra special bonus points for creativity.

Chadow uses ammo cans to store gun power and his reloading equipment.

Duane "I use ammo cans to store most firearm related accessories including ammo, mags and spare parts. While it is not too terribly creative, they can be used for storage for anything you want to keep dry and protected."

Elliot uses ammo cans to store stuff he doesn't want to get wet.

Saddle Tramp "I mostly use my ammo cans for storing ammo, but they are also useful for storing wrapped coins, particularly nickels which fit quite nicely, and, on my kitchen counter, I also use one to store packages of seasonings like taco/chili powder. The ammo cans keep the spices very dry and fresh for a long time and, if used in a retreat cabin or when camping, are especially good to keep bugs and other little critters out. "

Someone You Know uses ammo cans as exercise equipment, for cooking and furniture, entertainment, storage and caches. He got really creative.

Steve came up with about 100 uses for ammo cans.

Teraax uses a .50 caliber ammo can as an emergency cold weather kit for his car.

TEOTWAWKI blog made a Bug Out Ammo Can. It is full of ammunition, magazines and ancillary equipment for his AR, Glock and Ruger 10/22. Sort of a poor mans sneeky bag.

Uncle Milton"I use ammo cans during our waterfowl hunts to keep things dry.  If you have ever been in a duck boat, where muddy guys with waders, and wet dogs get in and out and back into the boat, and it frequently rains and snows and moisturizes everything, then you will realize the value of a good ammo can.  Before I started using ammo cans, I frequently lost my lunch to a greedy, hungry retriever."

Part of the reason I posted the entries is to make sure I am tracking them all. I got them via emails and comments on multiple posts and don't want any to get lost in the sauce so to speak. So if you entered and do not see your post on here then please send me an email with a link to the post so I can add it. In a couple days we will start the voting to see who wins the awesome prize.

Have a great day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Question Of The Day

Dear TOR:

What is a wooby? What is a bivy? Thanks.
-Saddle Tramp

Saddle Tramo, Thank you very much for the questions. I am consistently suprised about how rarely I get questions. I think part of it is that there is a very macho streak in many survivalists so that unless they will actually die (Excuse me but where do you keep the Israeli bandages? I have a bit of a gunshot wound and could really use one.) I like questions because they show me that someone is TRYING TO LEARN. Any time one person has the guts to actually ask a question there are surely 5 folks who didn't know what was being talked about and were embarassed to ask.

A bivy is a water resistant/ proof bag that goes over your sleeping bag to keep you warmer and dry in inclimental weather. Here is an example of one. They vary in size and exact patterns. Some are just a waterproof sack which goes over your sleeping bag and zips all the way up. Some have a small pole or two to kind of get the bag off of your head. Personally I can say the waterproof sack style bivy takes a little bit of getting used to; though the first time it really raint it is amazing how quickly you will pull the top cover all the way over your head. Unless you are truly clostrophobic (sp) I would say the ones with the poles aren't necessary. The advantage of a bivy sack instead of a tent is that it is much lighter. A bivy weights a couple pounds which is a heck of a lot less than most tents. Also they are a lot more compact.

A wooby is properly called a poncho liner. Here is a picture of them. They are a light quilted nylon/ poly blanket which is quite warm for it's weight and rolls up pretty compact (about the size of the big family sized Campbells soup can) They can in theory be attached by the little strings on the side on the inside of a poncho but I don't recall ever actually seeing anyone do that but I think it was a big thing back in Vietnam. In the last decade or so people just use them as blankets.

As the story goes they are called woobies because you would be cold without it. I bring one to every Army overnight trip I go on. They are great for slipping into your sleeping bag's stuff sack to make it a bit warmer or to put into an assault pack for a mission. In cold weather (below 35ish) a woobie alone will not keep you comfortable but it will be the difference between being somewhat cold and tossing and turning all night and slipping into the danger zone.

Also you have just until early Saturday morning to enter our Awesome Ammo Giveaway Contest. Seriously you can get a whole bunch of free ammo for no money and a very modest investment of a few minutes of your time so hurry up and enter. Even if you don't have a good use for ammo cans you can just get a whole bunch of buddies to vote for you and win that way. Seriously enter already.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Radio Advice

Dear TOR:
I noticed on your New Year's list that you got a radio. Is it a Grundig? Can you write about them a bit on your blog, esp. how big they are (portable enough for a backpack?), expensive, etc.
We have lots of different radios, including the car radios, of course. Some are battery-optional, and all can be run using our generators.
One that I got particularly for my BOB is a Red Cross crank model with AM/FM, NOAA channels, cell-phone carger, flashlight and emergency siren, TV-VHF channels and inputs for AC adaptor and earphones. It also operates on 3 AA batteries and weighs a little over a pound. I got it at Bed, Bath and Beyond for around $50 several years ago. I'm sure that the same model is also available at other outlets. The price has probably gone up, but Christmas sales are starting.
Since we planned to keep the BOB at my husband's work location in DC, we thought the flashing light and emergency siren would be useful in case of another terrorist attack or building collapse where rescuers would use it to find him under rubble. Fortunately, he doesnt work in that building anymore (he's now at Fort Belvoir, VA) and security is much better. The radio is still in the BOB, but that BOB is now in my car trunk. His BOB is much lighter - he's disabled and cannot carry more than a small briefcase size bag. His car BOB is more substantial, but still very restricted. We live in a very accessible area (State police, cell phone towers, homes and shopping areas, etc.) and seldom roam off our routine path, so true wilderness survival materiel is not really required in our day-to-day ops. That said, we do have guns, ammo and CCPs.
Anyway, I'd like to get a really good crank or battery-operated radio for our home base use and thought the Grundig would be a good choice. I tried talking to DH about it, but got the usual "What do you need THAT for?" I do most of the prepping on my own, but could use a little help in the techno-babble dept.
Particular model you might suggest? General comments?

Say hi to Wifey and Walker.
TOR here: I own a Grundig 350DL. You can read some of my thoughts about it here 1, 2, 3. The Grundig 350DL is fairly large, about the size of a mans shoe box but a bit more square. I would say they are good for a fairly stationary situation. If you are going to live/ operate out of a car or a backpack then there are a lot more compact radios. 

I am pretty happy with the Grundig though after reading the extensive reviews in Passport to World Band Radio you might be able to get a bit more for your money with some other radios in it's nitche/ price range. I like it's easy controls and good sound. However it's dial tuner is not as precise as a true digital one (with up and down arrows) would be nice. Sometimes it is kind of hard to get to the exact frequency in the busier areas of the spectrum. However with the right antenna and a bit of practice it is easy enough to do what I want with it. I would say the Grundig 350DL is a solid choice for the preparedness type  If you want to get into World Band Radio with pretty general aims and a modest budget you could certainly do a lot worse.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Packing a Ruck

Dear TOR:
I picked up a military surplus MOLLE II backpack (rucksack?) that has three good sized compartments on it. I think the lower one is designed for bedrolls or whatever. Obviously, one can put anything anywhere, but I was wondering if there is a specific layout that the military uses for these backpacks, because, presumably, that would be the most efficient and effective, accessible, etc.
If you have time, would you please tell me what you carry in those backpacks and where it goes? I probably won't need all of what you guys use, but it would be helpful to have a "blueprint" for when I'm packing my stuff. It would also help to make sure that I dont overlook anything important.
Saddle Tramp
 TOR here:
First to get onto the same page. The term rucksack (which I shorten to ruck) is synonymous with backpack, at least in its larger hiking/ backpacking variety. Unit's often have standard operating procedures for all kinds of things including how to properly pack your ruck. [This brings us to two questions. First why do units have SOP's. We have them because we have some really stupid people and we are obsessive compulsive. Also we have them so we can at least in theory find essential pieces of equipment in another individuals stuff. Stuff like first aid kits, radios, etc needs to be able to be found by anyone. Secondly should your group/ family have SOP's. I would say that you should probably have some. It doesn't matter if everyone keeps their spare underoos or hygiene kits in a standard location. However essential stuff like first aid kits, maybe spare ammo for your common weapons (you do carry the same stuff, right?), the group emergency radio, etc is probably good for anyone of you to be able to find in another's stuff.] You don't necessarily carry the same kit or have the same needs as X battalion X regiment Infantry so I'm not going to tell you how they pack their rucks. However I will try to give some ideas to help you out. 

I think about two main things when it comes to packing a ruck. First I look at any excessively heavy items I may have. A big radio, a huge cast iron frying pan you are carrying up to the cabin, a spare case of ammo, etc would all apply. This stuff has to go as close to your body and as high as possible. You want it basically centered over the upper part of your back so it carries as well as it possibly can. If it is to one side or the left it is really unpleasant to carry. Having this stuff toward the bottom or outside pulls the bag back and down which is hard. 

Next I pack based upon what I will likely need access to. You don't want to have to dig all the way to the bottom of your bag for your water bottle or granola bars. For example your rain gear should be very accessible. The little pouches on the sides of your bag are a great place for rain gear as well as your flashlight, first aid kit, snacks and food you will eat through the day, etc. Your cooking stuff and dinner chow might go toward the top of the main pouch because after you get to camp the first thing you will do is making dinner. After that is your sleeping bag with bivy so you can get that set up. In the bottom might be your spare clothes because you don't plan to change anything except maybe new socks in the morning.

My packing usually goes like this:
Side pouches are filled with my rain coat and poncho as well as a bunch of snack foods and a small first aid kit. Weather depending I might have a bit of cold weather stuff like a silk weight top and a fleece cap in there also. In the main compartment the bottom is my extra clothes in a waterproof bag. Next I toss in the food I am carrying but do not plan to eat throughout the day. On top is my sleeping bag because in the Army I usually open the main compartment when it is time for me to go to bed so I want it on top. Depending on the conditions I might have my fleece jacket up top also. My foam sleeping pad is strapped on top. I stick my camelback under the flap for the main pouch to keep it off my back. If I was carrying ammo that wasn't in my chest rig/ LBE/ whatever you want to call it I would have it in the upper part of the main pouch because it is heavy. If I didn't have a chest rig/ LBE/ whatever you want to call it I would keep extra ammo in a side pouch so I could get to it fast. Considering I carry 7+ mags whatever bandoleers or extra loaded mags I had would be more for follow on missions in a situation where we planned multiple operations without resupply. 

I hope this helps.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reader Question: Hyperinflation and Currency Devaluation

I love the photos and captions - esp. the one about the fighter plane. Keep 'em coming. Since my eldest got out of the Army a few years ago, we've been a little short of military humor.
Now a question - I dont really expect you to know this answer, but no one else I've asked has had one for me. Maybe you know someone you could ask.
Anyway - the scenario:
The Govt decides to devalue the dollar. We wake up one morning and we are told that we have to turn in all our Federal Reserve notes and we will be issued new currency at a, say, 2:1 ratio. That is, we turn in two dollars and get one dollar in new currency back, or a 50 percent reduction in buying power. (This is pretty much what happened to the people in North Korea recently and it didn't turn out well.)
What happens to all the coins we've stashed? (I heard that when this happens, the govt pretty much ignores coins because few people have more than a small stash on their dresser or  in their pockets or something.)
What happens to govt pensions? Say Im a retired fed getting $2K a month. Do I now get $1K or do I get $2K in new money? Since it is directly deposited, it's all ones and zeros anyway until I cash it out.
What about Medicare or Social Security recipients? Are their payments cut in half or just converted to new money in cash? How would this affect their debit card system?
What happens to fixed mortgages? Do they stay the same amount and you just have to pay them in new money? Or, since you had to turn in your old money, did that magically cut your mortgage in half, too? Remember, you have a contract with the bank on the mortgage.
I know how it affected other countries (like Argentina - ferFal wrote about it a lot), but that isn't quite the same, because the conversion was based on the money's relationship to the dollar. I.e., the peso went from 1 peso to one dollar, to 3 pesos to one dollar. That just resulted in basic, ordinary. crappy inflation.
What do you do when it's dollar to dollar?
Do you think the Fed will just use inflation as it's Tool of the Month, rather than actually devalue and reissue the currency? There has been a lot of discussion on the doomer blogs about the govt already having different colored money stashed for such an emergency....In fact, one of the storage facilities is supposed to be a big building down the road from where I live. We know what it REALLY is (nyahaha).
Thanks for your thoughts.
TOR here: I think Saddle Tramp wins the award for the hardest question. Usually reader questions are hitting from a T easy but this one is a real fast ball. Anyway first I think it is important to say that nobody knows what could actually happen. We are talking about a very complicated scenario. The best we can do is to look at what has happened and our knowledge of America to make some informed guesses.

First of all I think we need to look at how currency devaluations work. I would say that currency devaluations are more of a desperate last stand than an intentional plan. Basically due to government overspending usually on a large military or various welfare programs (sound a bit familiar?) the government can't bring in as much as it is spending so they borrow and print. Inflation starts getting really bad and the currency becomes close to worthless or entirely worthless. The government then comes out and says that they made some mistakes  blah blah blah and in order to address this crisis they are going to re issue the currency. It would be more likely that a New Dollar/ Blue Buck/ Amero/ Whatever would be issued and we could change in our old and close to worthless dollars at a fixed exchange rate. Governments do not do this unless things are really out of control. I imagine an exchange rate more like 10 or even 100 to 1 would be likely.  
For various South American nations (they pretty much all did it at some point) this devaluation usually meant changing how their currency was pegged to the dollar. I am sure if this happened in America some theoretical "we are adjusting the value to get more in line with current world blah blah blah" stuff would be said. However that doesn't matter. What matters is that overnight you lose a zero or two off your cash savings. Governments say that in theory the new currency is worth more (and at the official exchange rate it is) but it never seems to quite work that way. In reality the new currency isn't worth much more than the old one and you have a lot less of it. Either the free market values the currency where it should be (lower than the government values it) or we all of a sudden have price controls.  People have their life savings destroyed overnight.
As for coins. If I recall in Zimbabwe they did not re issue new coins so people were searching to find old Zimbabwean piggy banks and coffee cups (or whatever the cultural equivalent is) full of them.  Either coins would be re issued or they would not, really it is anybodies guess.

When it comes to pensions. It is worth noting that hyperinflation and currency devaluation are wild and crazy times. Some people get totally screwed and other groups manage to get an OK deal with little rhyme or reason except their influence with those in charge. Congress and a couple of other influential groups might be able to wrangle a discrete but comfortable deal but most folks would likely get whatever the official rate is or lose their pensions entirely.
To be honest this is really the only scenario where middle age and retired (but not yet feeble) people are in a worse spot than the young. In general assuming they have made good choices middle aged and retired folks have had decades to build skills, store deep stores of supplies, maybe set up a nice retreat and become financially stable. However these folks are far more vulnerable to a hyper inflationary/ currency devaluation scenario because they do not have time to recover. As a 20 something a currency devaluation would suck for me for a few years as I would lose savings but I have 30+ working years to get into a good spot. However for my Father it would hurt a lot. He would seriously need to re reevaluate in what sort of lifestyle, when and even if he could retire at all. For my Grandmother the picture is even worse. She would be OK but she has significant savings in addition to her pension and some real estate but that is not where most people retire. For a person who relies on that check in the mail every month having it be worth far less is a serious problem.

I would say the people who fare the worst are those on a fixed income (well except those who get killed in the protests/ riots and increased crime rates but in the big picture that group is usually fairly small). Remember the pictures of old Russian women sitting in the street begging? They were doing this because the check they got every month was at the official exchange rate which doesn't reflect reality (unless there are price controls but that is a whole different mess) and probably couldn't feed them for a week, let alone the whole month. I can not express what an ugly situation this is for people on a fixed income. Their savings are gone and the check they get every month (assuming they even still get it) buys far less than it used to.
In terms of America I imagine Social Security would stay around as it is called the 3rd rail of politics with a very good reason. However the checks old folks get wouldn't buy much of anything because after being converted to the new currency and adjusted for the official exchange rate they would be a small fraction of what they are now. 
Likely Medicare would just become underfunded and really dysfunctional. People would get health care coverage but good luck finding a Doctor or getting an appointment. Far more scrutiny would be put on all but the most basic procedures and don't even think about seeing a specialist. 

As for fixed rate debt such as mortgages. The conventional wisdom is that your mortgage would just become really cheap which would be cool. Under this theory a mortgage for 150,000 dollars would go to 15,000 Blue Bucks. However as I mentioned above this sort of climate is a wild and crazy time. All contracts would have to be changed to reflect the new currency. Groups with influence can get a paragraph put into one of the numerous pieces of legislation which would be flying through our legislatures to protect their interests. Bankers as an industry have a huge amount of influence and they sure fared pretty well through our most recent troubles. Some sort of exception which made mortgages or other debt be converted at a preferential rate or converted fixed rate debt to have an inflation index is possible.

Our money supply has grown a lot recently but we are a huge economy and a very powerful nation.  When the economy starts to recover and all this newly created money starts moving through the system we will have inflation. I think it is worth noting that hyperinflation is ruinously high inflation. There is no precise numerical definition to hyperinflation but 50% a month is a number lots of folks seems to use. It is just a question of when we shift away from the current trend of massive deficits. When the economy starts moving again interest rates could be raised to shrink the monetary supply and get inflation under control. 

As for what I think is going to happen. The situation I see as most realistic is that  the economy starts moving again at some point at least a year from now, probably 2-5 years off. We start to see inflation rear its head and sooner or later our government will decide to deal with it. They will want to do something gradual in order to not totally slow the recovery and it will take awhile for it to get to the point where it will work. Likely that critical mass will be a couple percentage points higher than anybody would like. I see double digit inflation as very probable and late 70's/ early 80's era inflation around 20% as realistic. However if we continue running at massive deficits which grow the money supply the situation could well be worse than that.

Hopefully this at least gives you an idea of my thoughts on this rather complicated question and a bit of food for thought.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Inflation and Food Dehydrators

I got a couple questions recently. Saddle Tramp asked me a very complicated question which I will address this afternoon or tomorrow. In order to address Saddle Tramp's question I think it is worthwhile to talk a little bit about inflation. Chris from AK asked how the dehydrator is turning out as he is in the market for one.

It took me a long time to really understand inflation. I of course understood that when stuff costs more it is inflation and when it costs less it is deflation. On a very individual Joe everyday trying to pay bills, save and generally live that is enough. However what about the rest of the story.

Two truths shape my beliefs in inflation as they are now. First is that it is a hidden tax. How is it a hidden tax you ask? Simply because the government (ours or some other one) prints money and spends it. This money makes the value of the money in circulation lower. Politicians like this because they get the benefit of spending more without having to raise taxes or decrease spending neither of which voters like. There is no need to take money out of peoples paychecks or extract it from them annually when they can reach into our pockets and just decrease the value.

Lets say you keep a few hundred dollars in cash at home because well that is what you do if you are smart. If we have 5% inflation the money in your sock drawer or gun safe is able to buy 5% less stuff. No guy who was too low in his accounting class to get a lucrative private job and thus has a big chip on his shoulder is going to show up at your house backed by the implicit threat of force. They just print more and it decreases the value of what you have.

The second is a bit more conceptual. Dave Duffy said it best "Inflation isn't so much that prices go up—because that would imply that groceries and stuff like that have somehow become more valuable. Inflation is when money becomes less valuable so it takes more money to buy a sack of potatoes, a gallon of gas, or hire a babysitter. It's a distinction most people don't seem to get.". 

Inflation isn't stuff becoming worth more through companies adding features to something, having increased costs or God forbid deciding to just make a little bit more profit. Inflation is the value of money going down. 

 Anyway I felt like revisiting those foundations is important for what I will talk about later. 

Not too long ago I purchased a 4 tray Excalibur dehydrator.  There were two features I initially wanted, the ability to set the temperature and a timer. Because of cost considerations I decided to get one without a timer. As Angela pointed out you can just plug it into one of those Christmas tree timers. 

I am really enjoying the dehydrator. If we had a bigger family I would have purchased a bigger one but since we don't the smaller and cheaper model is just fine.  Not having a timer is a bit of an annoyance but I just time it so I will be around when the stuff should be done. The trays just get tossed into the dish washer and come out clean. There is no need to rotate trays as with some models. 

I found it well worth the roughly $100 it cost. Hope that helps.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Buying From APMEX and Radio Fun

Our friend Saddle Tramp who asked about buying silver eagles sent me another email. He asked about getting started buying from APMEX as he was a bit put off by the process. Really it is pretty easy. If you have registered for an online forum or with Amazon the process is basically the same, except you have to actually put your real info. No matter, I will go through the process of registering an account and then explain the buying process. So here we go step by step.

1. Go to
2. On the top right hand side and click on the green rectangle with rounded corners that says "Create my free account".
3. Fill out all the information.
4. Click that you agree to the user agreement.
5. Click create my secure account.

Now you have an account and can log in and buy stuff. When buying stuff you have to secure the purchase with a credit card. If I recall correctly this is so people can't say they will buy at a certain price and only actually pay if prices go up. You can pay by card, check or for big enough amounts wire transfer. There is a charge for cards and wire transfers. This is because more so than any business I know of precious metals dealers operate on very thin margins. The charge, if i recall correctly is $15. Personally I send them a check, wait for it to get there then clear (again thin margins leave no room for fraud) and eventually get my PM's for the cheapest prices possible.

If there are any more questions please just email me.

Yesterday I got to the Grundig 350DL cranking. Picked up some speaker wire at the store. It was lame that I had to buy 10 meters when I needed 4 feet but oh well. First I needed a piece of wire to hook the stupid antenna (a bit miffed at both that product and the Grundig for that one). You know how it goes. Strip the wire a bit so the metal is exposed and you can get a good connection. Getting the antenna hooked up helped some but nowhere near as much as the ground did. For the ground I took a chunk of the same wire with an appropriate amount of each end stripped. I took that wire and wrapped it around the metal pipe for the heater (do not do this with a gas pipe) and the reception improved exponentially. I picked up a whole bunch more stations. It was pretty awesome. The log is in the other room so I will have to post it later.

I have heard that shortwave radio reception, particularly on the upper end is better at night so I will have to give it a shot a bit later in the evening next weekend.
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