Showing posts with label skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label skills. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thoughts on Land Nav

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnetic 237 degrees

Distance 750 meters.

repeat as needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway those are my thoughts on land navigation.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Riddle of Steel and Home Brewed AR-15 Lesson

Commander Zero as well as Conan can be credited with the Riddle of Steel becoming part of my vocabulary.

I was at a shooting range yesterday. Was going about my business there when a guy pulled up and went to a bench near me. He had an AR-15 of the M4 variety with a pretty big scope on it. I didn't think much of the whole thing. He set out a target at 50m when it was cold then shot a little. His AR jammed in short order and I sat there watching him become increasingly frustrated trying to clear it.

I normally do not do this. I find giving folks unsolicited gun advice is almost as jack assish as giving unsolicited critiques of someones exercise routine. Aside from general shooter talk I leave folks alone to their business. However this guy was clearly stuck. There was no way he could solve that problem. Also since I've been shooting AR's for over a decade I figured the odds I could fix the problem were pretty high. Anyway I felt bad enough for the guy that I wanted to help him.

After waiting a couple of minutes, to the point where he had taken a break from even fiddling with it, I walked up to him.

"Sir, would you like some help?" I said. He was probably 40 so certainly not old enough to justify the formality age offers but I figure men, who all think we are gods gift to weapons as well as general athleticism, who are having trouble with a gun will respond well to a respectful tone.

I do not remember what he said but it was an enthusiastic yes.So I took a closer look at the rifle.

It was  a bolt override, in this case there was an expended round above the bolt and another in the chamber. I 'pogo sticked' it which got the bolt back far enough to get the first round out. At this point another guy came over to join the discussion. I used a screwdriver to pry the brass casing from above
the bolt.

 The guy was pretty frusterated about the whole thing. Turns out it was a new gun and he fired 2 rounds before it jammed. Not a good sign. I had noticed the gun was bone dry. The other dude had some gun oil and offered it up. I uncharacteristically did not have oil since it was just a quick trip. I explained to the guy that AR's run optimally with far more lubrication than other rifles.

After lubrication I stuck a magazine in it and went to test fire. It shot 2 rounds then failed to feed. Took the mag out, it was some cheap aftermarket BS. So maybe it was the mag. Looked at his pile of mags, there were a couple more of the junk ones and a decent metal mag of some sort. Metal mag did the same thing. Not the mag. Not good.

At this point Other Guy brought over his AR. I hadn't brought one. After some process of elimination we figured out it was the buffer spring. He had a commercial tube and what appeared to be a mil spec, probably heavier tension, spring. Other Guy put his standard commercial spring in and the gun worked just fine.

I told him to hop onto midway and order a standard buffer spring.

It turns out this guy's rifle was home built, I strongly suspect by someone he knew personally. Needless to say he was not happy and was bringing it back to that person to fix the problem.

I felt for the guy. He surely paid a decent amount of money for an AR with a quad rail and  Burris scope with a back up fast fire red dot site. Aside from the scope having way too much magnification for a 14.5in barrel (it was a 3x9 or maybe even a 4x12) it was set way too far back so you couldn't get a decent site picture. I recommended he move it up.

What are the morals of this story.

1) Unless you know what you are doing and have a specific reason to deviate from the military or factory specifications for a working part of a firearm it is best to stick to the standard option.

2) You can spend a lot of money on a gun and still not have a damn clue what you are doing. Get training from guys like Max Velocity, John Mosby or other experienced combat based trainers to fix your deficiencies. Remember that the root word of gunfight is not gun but fight.

3) Get out and make sure your stuff actually works when the worst consequence is an annoying range day.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quote of the Day

"Not very often does law enforcement have to confront actual combat veterans. When they do, there are frequently heavy casualties.....

If I played golf against Tiger Woods, he could beat my a$$ with a set of rusty K-Mart clubs, just as easily as with his Pings. It's not the gear. It's what you can do with the gear."


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You Will Not Rise To The Occasion

There is this American idea about rising beyond ones normal abilities to rise to a challenge.  It is cute but just not realistic. Sorry to say it folks but if you cannot do it Wednesday morning on the track, Thursday afternoon at the gym or Saturday at the range the odds of doing it when you need to for real are about zero.

For every '90 pound mother who lifts a car off her kid' there are many, actually documented cases where Momma can't lift the car and the kid gets crushed. For ever normal guy with a .38 in the nightstand that survives or even wins when 3 armed thugs kick in the door many get robbed, beaten, maybe raped and killed. Sort of like they say the plural of anecdote is not data.Sorry to be real but that is actually how life works.

You will not rise to the occasion. At best you will default to the level of a skill you have mastered. These excellent recent articles prove the point in more detail than I'm willing to go into:

Why You Need Tactical Training. Teaser...
You need tactical training. You know, in your heart of hearts and soul of souls, that you need training. You just have to turn your ego down and listen to your brain for a change. 

About Some Survival Myths....

Somehow folks think people are just born with inherant skill in fighting each other which is really stupid. It doesn't matter if you are brave, right minded or own a really cool gun. Folks without knowledge of combat (hand to hand or weapons) tend to somehow think it is not in fact a learned skill that builds off other capabilities/ traits both inherent and developed. The funny thing is if we turned it around and instead of talking fighting talked fixing an engine, building a house, writing computer code or whatever else the person does, they would go into a half hour long tirade about why that would never work. Funny story, the same things apply to fighting except the stakes are far higher. If you out computer program/ car fix/ carpenter me six ways from Sunday nobody ends up dead.

Get quality training from guys like Max Velocity or John Mosby before you need it.

Get training. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Louisiana Life Update

We are learning our way around to the places we regularly go. Such that the GPS isn't getting used too often anymore. That is good. Today I had a frogs leg and some alligator which was pretty cool. I enjoyed them both and trying new things is fun. Of course it's more fun when they turn out to taste good.

There are still some hoops to jump through but it looks like we found housing. If all goes well we can move in about the middle of next month. Fingers crossed. It will be great to actually settle into a place we like (vs 'it's good enough for now I guess') for a change.

Got to start doing some research on gardening here. My initial thought is you can probably grow stuff like crazy 7-8 months of the year but we will see. Space, flexibility and geography should make it a better growing enviornment than Arizona. Then again I think every place except hell has a better gardening environment than Arizona.

We will have the capability to get chickens for the first time. That is something I am really excited about. Got to do some looking into that and start thinking about what sort of structure I want to buy/ make so we can get going shortly after moving in. This should be a fun new adventure and good for our health.

Looking into hunting and fishing down here. I haven't really done either in the past. Wanted to but never really did anything about it years back but there is no time like the present. My son did a bit of fishing at home while I was deployed and liked it so maybe that will be a thing we can do together. Hobbies that largely use stuff I have, are good for our diet/ food production and help me build useful skills are the order of the day.

I really want to shoot an alligator but heard it is pretty expensive. Seems deer, hogs and birds are easy as well as fairly abundant so that is good. Not sure I'll make the season this year with moving in, getting started in a new position, etc but I sure want to try.

So that's what is going on here. Any advice, especially current and applicable to western central Louisiana would be appreciated.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Today I got together with some people. A lady did a lesson on making then canning your own jelly. It was pretty easy. Actually doing it together with somebody experienced took a lot of the mystery out of it. Aside from jars there isn't really anything needed which isn't in a normally equipped kitchen. Best of all we all left with a recipe plus a small jar of strawberry jam.

Assuming you reuse the jars, which everybody does, then procure berries at sane prices it's very cost effective. Also it gets my foot into the door of a very useful skill set. If I can find jars then strawberries at sane prices I'll be making some jam pretty soon.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


So many times people let their pride stand in the way of bettering themselves. Dudes are worse about this than chicks for whatever reason. We dudes seem to have the impression that we can shoot like Chris Costa and fight like a young Mike Tyson even if we can't hit a barn from the inside or beat up a 12 year old yellow belt Taekwondo student.

My point is that we need to objectively assess our own skills to find the strengths and shortages. We then need to seek out qualified people (paid or not) to help work on those shortages. Sucking it up and taking a couple classes or spending some afternoons with a friend learning can do a world of good. Not fun to admit not knowing something but the short term sucking it up to fix the problem beats a whole life of continuing to know know the thing.

Have you let pride stand in the way of bettering yourself?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

AR-15 Lower Receiver Build

So to start out I had a stripped lower reciever, a DMPS lower parts kit, a Brownells receiver extension AKA buffer tube and stock, some punches and a little hammer. The Glock tools were tossed into the order as they are a nice thing to have. I hopped onto the build guide and got started. It was helpful to have it open in two tabs so one could stay on the picture with the part diagram instead of scrolling back and forth.

Yes that is a tiny hand with a toy truck in the photo. I was getting set up right about his bedtime.

We will start with the Bad, then move onto the Ugly and close with the Good.

The Bad:

Lets just say I am not mechanically inclined. Tiny little pieces that have to go together in specific ways aren't my thing. Imagine if Homer Simpson and the Keystone Kops tried to build an AR-15 lower receiver.

Things got rolling and were going OK until the #*$%)#* #*%$))#*ing Pivot Pin Detent and Spring. Those suckers went flying off to the abyss of our home. After some looking and harsh words I decided to grab the other parts (there are two of each piece) and just keep going. That #*$)(@#ing spring bent but I had a second one. It would probably still work but the idea of using a knowingly flawed part did not appeal to me. That front pivot pin detent and spring are probably the hardest part of the whole lower build. I kept going on figuring this part could be figured out later. About half the parts need to be taken out then put back in but nothing was particularly difficult and I kept a decent pace.

Once I got to the end of the lower build I had to have that other Detent Pin and Spring. Realizing I had some spare parts lying around I decided to see if these parts were on inventory so things could get finished up. Thankfully I had the parts. Getting the rear detent pin in, the buffer retainer compressed and the stock screwed on was kind of awkward. Anyway it got done.

Doing a functions check the trigger was not rebounding properly/ reliably. I then pulled out another lower to take a look. The trigger spring was not properly in place. To take it out I pretty much had to pull the whole thing apart but since I was a bit ahead on the learning curve it was only a 10 minute thing.

All in all it is done and took about 2.5 hours. During that time I ruined/ lost about $3 in parts. I suspect another build would take an hour and not have any lost/ damaged parts.

The Ugly: The implications of lost or damaged parts are significant in some sort of worst case scenario. Folks who plan to build or fully disassemble weapons would be well advised to have some of those little parts on hand. Had this been a worst case scenario and I didn't have the spare parts my AR-15 would be nonfunctional for the want of $3 in parts which would be like really really bad.

Getting into my spare parts I saw we have a less AR-15 spare parts than I thought. Will address this shortage at some point.

The Good:

I know more about the function of the AR-15 than I did before. While the building wasn't fun I am pleased to have done this. Also I learned a new skill. Getting to the level where I am a competent Armorer (able to restore the gun to factory specs) on all of our core weapons and some common other ones is something I want to do.  Also now I have to go to the range to do a test fire which is a good excuse reason to go shooting.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Gut is Telling Me

1) Store food. Lots and lots of food.

2) Develop skills to do things for myself and to trade with others.

3) Fill in the little holes in our systems. This ranges from a $40 sling that makes a $1,000 gun functional to yeast that will help turn flour into bread or little pieces of kit to make rough living more comfortable.

4) Address deficiencies in my weapons handling/ defensive/ tactical training.

5) Get into the best shape of my life.

I don't know what any of it means or where it came from though most of it makes sense.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Range Report- 25 September

Got some range time today which was pretty awesome. I have forgotten what a great stress reliever shooting is. The revolvers were fun as always. Decided to hold onto the one that I was looking at selling. It is a sweet shooter and would not bring a ton of money on resale. Forgot to bring the Browning Buckmark which was a bit of a bummer.

I have been working on being more intentional than I have in the past when it comes to shooting. Either starting from the low ready or holster and shooting controlled pairs at multiple targets. Reloads were often used. If I wasn't sold before the modern isosceles is definitely the ticket. The Glock 19 shot like a champ. There is a reason lots of really smart folks use them.

Practicing with the gear I carry with has been interesting. Like the gun, belt and leather. However my spare mag storage needs to be addressed. I have been tossing a spare mag in my off hand cargo pocket which sucks a lot for the reload. Might as well stop to get a drink of water, use the bathroom and wash my hands during a speed reload. The back pocket is better (at least it won't get turned around) but not by much. Granted carrying a 15 shot pistol a reload is unlikely but I like having one around. I've been meaning to get a spare mag pouch and start using it for CC but this really beats that point in.

All in all I was pretty happy with things especially considering pistol range time has been pretty light for a pretty long time. A pair of good ear muffs would make things a bit more pleasant and a shot timer would help me get serious about training.

The old 30-30 needed some love. It is one of those models that came with the infernal cross bolt safety. Hating said safety I promptly removed it. That left the rifle functioning how it should but with noticeable and unpleasant holes in the sides of the receiver.  Did not want the safety back but didn't want the holes either. the whole thing bothered me so it got stashed away in the safe. Recently I used some google fu to see if other people have had this same problem.

Stumbled into this article by a fellow who had the same problem. For less than a buck at the hardware store I got 2 1/4 in nylon hole inserts and gave it a shot. The gun looks like it should, well at least to a quick glance which is good enough for me. I had considered selling the gun and getting an older one (a 16" 30-30 trapper would be great but it is pretty low on the list) without the safety which is an infernal nod to our overly legalistic society but this solved the problem.

Look it is probably a bad idea to do any at home gunsmithing, let alone messing with safety features. As such I cannot recommend it to anybody and in fact suggest not doing it. As an adult with a decent understanding of firearm safety and the safe handling of this weapon I made a choice that may not be right for others.

Any day shooting is a good day. Most things went really well and there is some stuff to work on.  Planning to do some research and start incorporating dry fire practice into the mix. Hopefully there will be a lot more shooting happening (shooting for monthly as a goal) so this will be a more frequent feature.

Get out there and train!

Monday, September 24, 2012

News and Posts Worth Reading

On the news front:

 Iran threatens to attack US bases in the event of war. This is just ridiculous in so many ways.

Posts worth reading:

The New Renaissance by Paratis Familia. Something to consider for your own personal development and for raising kids.

Pre crisis contracts in Argentina by Surviving in Argentina aka FerFal's blog. My .02 cents on the matter. Timing things to make out better with debt is problematic and a big bet. Also it is clear to me that the trend is clearly to take care of banks and big business at the expense of normal folks, not the opposite. In other words it is far more likely that you would get bent over somehow than that you will be able to stick it to big banks or businesses.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Skill Saturday: Curing and Maintaining Cast Iron

I have been slacking on this feature. On a tangent I was recently asked if it would be possible for me to do some stuff with video. There are some PERSEC concerns. I am not putting my face out there on the web any time soon and would probably use backdrops or whatnot. We have a video camera but I am not entirely sure of it's capabilities. Will have to do tests at some point.

Anyway today I am going to talk about cast iron. Cast Iron and I had a love hate relationship but seem to have figured it out. If you haven't picked it up I like low maintenance things that can take a beating. It is not an accident that I shoot Glocks and drive Japanese/ Korean cars. Non stick stuff is easy but it doesn't wear very well. My observation is that it needs to be replaced every couple years even if you buy quality. I hate products that do not wear well and like ones that last forever, or at least a long time. Obviously pots and pans that last forever have some preparedness benefits. This leads to my cast iron dilema.

I used some cast iron while camping as a kid but not extensively. Being quite heavy it is relegated to car camping or long term base camps. As an adult we got a cast iron frying pan a couple years ago. I never did a lot with it, the thing sort of got rusty and then sat in a cupboard. Since redeploying I wanted to get this sorted out.

The method I have found successful for curing cast iron is as follows: Clean and wash the pan (or whatever), if there is rust take care of it with an SOS pad, steel wool or fine sand paper. Wash, immediately dry with a towel then put it on a burner set to high (or in an oven) to heat it up and get rid of any remaining moisture. You can let it cool or not after this, my observation is that it doesn't actually matter.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. [If your pan has some baked on junk or residue put it into the oven for an hour, this should burn it off. ] When the oven is up to temp take out some crisco (do not use vegetable oil, it leaves resedue) and use a rag or paper towel to LIGHTLY coat the pan. Stick the pan in the oven bottom side up and put a cookie sheet, ideally an old nasty one, or covered in tin foil, below it to catch drips. This is important because I have heard that if you do not a bunch of junk will drip onto the bottom of the oven and burn. Set the timer for an hour. Go do something else.

In an hour take the pan out using a potholder because the pan is quite hot. Use a clean rag or paper towel to wipe off the excess crisco or any burned on junk. If nothing comes off then you are done. If stuff comes off then grab your crisco rag or paper towel and LIGHTLY recoat the pan then put it back in the oven for an hour. I found two cycles of coating and an hour in the oven left a nice shiny black pan that is easy to cook with. YMMV.

During this whole thing be careful because the pan will be hot. Also it will stay hot for a suprisingly long time.

Cooking with cast iron: Cast iron needs some sort of oil like product to prevent stuff from burning and getting stuck. Not a lot necessarily but some. It cooks very evenly which is nice.

Maintenance: Water is to cast iron what crack is to Charlie Sheen, a significant problem. DO NOT LET CAST IRON SOAK IN A SINK FULL OF WATER. DO NOT LEAVE CAST IRON WET. Scrape off all the food or residue, wash it normally, dry immediately with a towel and then into the oven or onto the burner to heat up and burn off any remaining moisture.

One benefit of cast iron being a big piece of metal is that you do not need to be afraid of hurting some finish like you would a nonstick pan. You can ruin the nice black oil coat (called a Patina for some reason) but that can be fixed by curing it. I once used a steel wire brush attachment on a drill to clean up a particularly abused dutch oven.

Note: I am certainly not saying this is the only way to cure, clean and use cast iron. Other folks might do something that is better. This is just the way that works for me.

With some reasonable adaptations cast iron can be rewarding and enjoyable to use.

Download the Firefox Book Today!

Well maybe you don't really need to do it today but definitely should do it. Download the first Foxfire book here. The second and third books were available some time ago but I couldn't find them in a dilligent 30 second google search. The first one is IMO the best of the bunch anyway.

Download it and either print it out or buy a hard copy. You can get a set of the first three books (after that it gets more crafty for the sake of crafty than practical) in a box, used but not abused, for under 50 bucks. Considering what printer ink costs and that actual books are nicer anyway it might not be a bad way to go.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Skill Sunday: Packing a Backpack/ Ruck

I planned to write this post today but remembered that I did it years ago. Anyway this throwback post on how to pack a ruck is worth checking out if you are not solid on the topic.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Azimuth Check

I have stolen this title from Lizard Farmer who runs an excellent newish blog that focuses on retreat/ farm/ ranch defense. His post was more a check on how folks thought his blog was doing. I will head in a different direction. My azimuth check is more about the direction from where my/ your overall situation was to where we want it to be. I will break it into a few categories.

How is your debt situation? Do you have any debt with an adjustable or otherwise particularly high interest rate?

Do you have some savings for if something happens?

Do you have some money accessible to buy things if there is an event that interupts normal banking (this means cash on hand)?

If you can afford it have you considered putting some money into precious metals? There isn't a right or wrong answer to this one. Folks differ widely on this topic.

Are you and your family of a reasonably healthy body weight? If not are you making tangible progress towards getting there?

Do you have any health/ medical/ dental issues that could be improved but have not been? Maybe you need an elective surgery or have been putting off dental work or need to get into physical therapy to get something worked out. Bringing us back to the last question it is utterly amazing how many medical issues decrease or go away if you get to a reasonably healthy body weight.

If applicable do you keep a stash of essential perscription meds on hand? Keeping 30 days on hand is ok, 90 days is pretty decent and will cover a lot of issues but of course more is better. It may mean paying out of pocket but consider the alternative which is, to varying degrees, very ugly.

If applicable do you have at least a pair of spare glasses in your current perscription (two or three would be better)?

How are your chompers doing?

How are you doing at physical fitness? Can you walk long distances with a load? Run fast for short periods and slower for longer ones? Control your body weight through a variety of tasks and obstacles? Lift heavy things or carry another person?

Skills and Training:

Can you make a fire? At night? Can you do it when it has been raining for a week strait?

Can you find your way around with a compass and a map?

Can you make or improvise some sort of shelter to be as comfortable as possible in a variety of situations?

Can you turn basic staples like flour, rice or wheat into a decent or even tasty meal?

Can you grow or raise your own food?

Can you find or gather food from fishing, hunting, plant gathering or something else really cool I have never heard of?

Can you fix stuff? Mechanical things? Small arms? Brick and mortar? Wood? Plumbing? Electrical?

Can you engage targets with personal weapons in realistic circumstances?

Can you organize a defense be it at home or in some sort of hasty situation?

If the Chinese invade or whateveer can you plan and execute small unit Red Dawn/ partisan/ G style offensive operations?

Stockpile and Equipment:

How is your food storage doing?

Do you have personal weapons as well as the stuff needed to use them? Do you have some spare parts, cleaning stuff and ammunition to keep your guns running without a trip to Wally World or the local gun shop?

How are you doing at storing all of the other stuff like medical supplies, batteries, fuel, cleaning and hygiene stuff, spare parts, etc all to keep on keeping on as well as you can without outside assistance?

Is the stuff you have put together into kits or packages or systems that will meet your needs on short notice?

I am sure there are some good questions that I missed. This covers a ton of ground so do not be ashamed if there are some areas where you fall short. My goal is to give you some areas to think about and see where you are at. Every one of these questions is not equally applicable to all situations. Like many things you would be well advised look at these questions with brutal honesty, action what is applicable and disregard what is not.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Skill Saturday- Skill Development


  1. The ability to do something well; expertise.
  2. A particular ability

 I decided to start paying more attention to skills here. Starting by talking about what skills are and different ways you can develop them seemed like as good of a place as any. To me skills differ from education or knowledge in that they relate so some sort of a specific action or end product. A mechanic could show his skill by fixing a vehicle or a chef by making a tasty meal.

Broadly speaking skills tend to be more difficult to develop on you own than knowledge. A guy who reads the right shelf of books and has a decent memory could learn a lot about history for example. It would be much harder to learn to fix engines from a shelf of books.

Thankfully over the last couple decades between how to tapes and DVD's, the internet, reasonably priced recording equipment and youtube there are some readily accessible individual options other than trying to figure things out from a small black and white picture in a book. Being able to read about something and see another person do it goes a long way towards making it actually work. Assuming we are talking about a reasonably simple skill and you are a moderately intelligent person this is often enough to get started.

The upsides of this self guided at home type learning are that you can do it whenever and almost wherever you want. You can learn skills that are uncommon in your area or you don't want to advertise pursueing for whatever reason. The downsides are that it is seriously limited in what you can learn. Complex skills with multiple things going on at once (shooting, hand to hand combat, complicated auto repair, etc) do not typically work well with this style of learning.

 In many cases the easiest way to develop a skill is to find somebody who has that skill and get them to show you how to do it. This is a good place to start for most skills. Look at people in and around your family/ friends/ work circles. Somebody probably knows how to do basic auto maintenance, another guy might know how to do tile or plumbing or shoot a gun. Typically folks are willing to help you out. Just about everybody likes an excuse to practice their hobby so if the skill falls into that area you are probably good to go. If it is something a guy does for a living like auto repair or construction it is a bit harder. Offering to help them work on a project of theirs vs offering to let them do their job outside of work and fix your car/ toilet/ whatever for free is something I have seen work well.

The upsides of this style of learning are that it is convenient, comfortable and cheap. All of these are good things.

The downsides however are noteable. Sometimes free training is worth exactly what you paid. Jimbo the gun guy or Bob the shade tree mechanic might be completely uncapable or even dangerous. Unfortunately folks with no experience in an area are often not capable of assessing an individuals skill or ability at instruction.  Often instruction in this style is limited by time and effort by both parties. If your 65 year old retired neighbor shot high power for 4 decades and is lonely he might teach you almost everything he knows over a few years of Sundays at the range but if your 30 year old cousin who casually target shoots takes you to the range once the amount of skills you get will be pretty minimal.

Also different groups vary but it is my observation that often skills tend to cluster in groups based on region/ socioeconomic/ cultural leanings. The odds that a rural Wyoming community has folks who can teach you to shoot or hunt are a lot higher than in Manhattan. On the other hand Jim the rancher probably can't do the paperwork to set up a dummy corp incorporate your small business in 20 minutes during a Saturday BBQ. Sometimes skills you need do not exist inside of your social group.

As with anything in life, you get what you pay for.

The next option is looking to local groups or clubs. Join an outdoors or orienteering club or whatever. This may cost a little bit of money but if paying a $20 membership fee and doing some stupid meetings lets you get a skill that you need it is a good investment. The upside is that you can pursue specific skills in this way. The downside would be that it really only applies to certain hobby type skills.

The last option is getting professional training in the area(s) you are weak in. If you really want to learn how to do something getting quality training from an expert is a hard option to beat. For specific skills which have a high level of technical complication that you really want to get good at this is probably the best way to go. Unless your good buddy is an MMA fighter or a tactical marksmenship instructor who is willing to teach you for weeks or years for free this is really the only viable options. One thing to consider is how much time and money you would need to spend to reach a given skill level. Lots of schools can teach you to be a decent defensive handgun shooter in a weekend for a few hundred bucks. Spending 2 years going full time to a technical school to learn to fix engines is a lot harder to pull off. The only real downside of this plan is that it is expensive. The old addage about trading time and convenience for money probably applies here.

Anyway while not exclusive the ways we talk about developing skills are pretty representative of the available options.



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Skills and Mindset

Recently I realized something that I do not like about this blog recently. There is not anywhere near enough discussion of skills, mindset's or training taking place here. After looking around long and hard for somebody to blame for this shortcoming I was unable to find anybody but myself.

I got to thinking about why exactly this is the case. The answer came about pretty easily. This blog is largely a reflection of what I am doing, working on or thinking about. Skilss haven't been a big part of this personal journey in survivalism or it's subsequent twists and turns.

The reason that skills haven't been a big part of my journey are that I came into this thing fairly comfortable with my skillsets. At the risk of tooting my own horn when I became seriously interested in survivalism I had a solid outdoor background, decent hand to hand and firearms/ tactical skills and a variety of little stuff learned from rural living and various redneck jobs. Certainly not saying that I know everything or am a master of anything but somehow I had a pretty good grab bag of skills to work with.

Once I started getting into this I pretty much needed stuff to feed the skill sets that already existed. This I have been more likely to be thinking and talking about something related to food storage than how to cook with a camp stove as I can do that. While I have worked on a small skill here or there it hasn't been a big part of my personal preparations.

I want to add these parts to the blog in greater frequency, mostly for readers. The way I talk and operate here works for somebody with a background similar to mine but would fail miserably for a lot of people. Different folks need different things to become more fully prepared. The desired endstates are the same but how to get there is different based on where one currently is. A super rural small scale organic farmer/ rancher has different needs and concerns than a big city SWAT cop. Obviously what is good for one person isn't necessarily good for another.

In any case broadly speaking my lack of discussion of skills is an issue. In the worst extreme it could leave them with thousands of dollars of stuff they don't have a clue what to do with. I will try to consciously step back and talk about different foundational skills to the best of my ability.

Priorities should probably go to the most foundational stuff. You have got to learn basic weapons handling before you learn to shoot steel at 1,000 meters and how to change the oil before rebuilding an engine. This also helps because it typically puts the easiest targets in front of you first. Finding a basic (qualified) instructor in firearms handling, outdoor skills, auto maintenance, etc is probably something you can do pretty locally and cheaply. Heck if you are willing to invest some time and sweat equity money may not even be an issue. Less so if you want to shoot like Sammy The Seal or Wally the Super Woodsman who an go into the woods with a knife and build a shopping mall.

Personally I have some things to work on. Mostly because of the eccentricities of Germany (as well as our OP Tempo and deployment) the skills I need to develop have pretty much been in a holding pattern. I need to get better at mechanical stuff and harvesting wild game/ plants. I could greatly benefit from some targeted professional firearms training. Additional medical training is always beneficial. I am almost surely missing other stuff. Some of these things will take sweat equity and the rest will take cold hard cash.

Not quite sure how I will do this. Maybe a weekly feature or something. Despite any of my failures as a blogger please pay attention to the skill sets which you have and those which you lack. Work to close the gap between the two. Come up with some sort of plan that will allow realistic progress towards these goals.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

Some weeks you end up buying a bunch of stuff and this was sure one of them. Prices seemed right so we bought silver and gold. I got a bunch of stuff to finish off the get home bag which I am pretty psyched about. I ordered a Nalgene bottle  with matching steel cup, another knife sharpener, some more water purification tablets, one of those heavy duty emergency blankets, too much stuff to remember or list. I will probably talk about it at some point once things arrive.

Also  we seem to be fiddling some with alternative transportation. I got a bike, though sadly not a sweet Harley. Also I found a small wagon, like to pull the kid around in. It is pretty cool. It has little seats and a place for him to put a sippy cup. We took it out this weekend and he really liked it. Being able to move him and a bit of stuff in a way that he is happy with is significant. Also the wagon led to a slew of Oregon Trails jokes which was big fun. These little steps may just take us somewhere.

Anyway that is what we were up to this week. I hope you all did some good stuff. Remember it isn't just about buying things. Exercise, learn and practice new skills, network and build relationships, work on your tribe. Just do something that makes you more prepared than you were last week.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Teach Your Boy To Sew

The other day my roomie, a guy I’ve known for awhile now asked if I knew anybody here who can sew. I asked what he needed done and it turned out he had a couple pair of torn pants. I asked if they were clean and then to see them. Realizing it was something I could fix I said I would get to it when I could. Just strait holes worn at points of stress so it was easy. (On an unrelated note I think the cloth used for Multi Cam is lacking in durability. Also the addition of zippers to the ACU model of uniforms sucks. You can’t fix a zipper in the field for love or money but a small sewing kit and a few buttons can keep a pair of BDU’s (even the summer ones are much more durable)in serviceable condition almost indefinitely. End rant on how these uniforms are lacking.)

In any case everyone needs to know how to sew, at least at a functional level. I don’t sew things that are nice like a dress shirt but can patch a rip or put on a new button to a pair of work clothes or a field uniform. This skill has let me keep a lot of stuff workable for prolonged time periods.

Sewing is a skill everybody should have.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Little Choices

The thing is that life is just a series of small choices. We make them literally every day. Over time these choices add up to our lives. While we are somewhat constrained by various rules, regulations and laws I don't see a point in dwelling on that. You can work to change things you don't like, figure out how to deal with them, ignore them, whine and complain or some combination theiron. However please remember that a choice to do something you really can't afford or put away a few dollars, hit the weight pile and road for a run or sit on the couch eating fast food, practice your skills and improve your preps or sit staring at the TV and or computer. These choices will over time add up to your life. Make good ones.
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