Author Archive

How You Can Prevent (and Treat!) Venomous Snake Bites

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to send shivers down the spine of even the most experienced trekker, it’s the sight of a venomous snake.

Every year in North America, there are a reported 8,000 bites by venomous snakes – and the figures unreported bites are thought to be much higher. This might sound like a startlingly large number, however, the truth is that very few of these bites result in death. In fact, it is estimated that there just five fatalities per year. To put things into perspective, you are nine times more likely to be killed by lightning than a snake.

That said, it doesn’t mean you should become complacent around snakes, as they are still very capable of delivering a damaging bite. Although death is unlikely, being bitten by a venomous snake can result in breathing difficulty, blurred vision, and potentially even temporary paralysis.

In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know while wandering through snake country. We’ll go through effective preventative measures, snake identification, and what you should do in the unlikely event of a bite.

Identifying Snakes and Myth Busting

First things first, let’s tackle the many myths that are abound when it comes to snakes. Whether it’s because someone is quoting an antiquated piece of advice they found in a magazine from the 1970s or are unscrupulously trying to sell you a useless snakebite kit, there are plenty of untruths floating around online.

Slit-Shaped Eyes = Venom?

One of the most commonly known identifiers of a venomous snake is the shape of its eyes. Many people believe that a venomous snake has slit-shaped eyes. That’s not necessarily true.

A 2010 study found that there is absolutely no correlation between the presence of venom and pupil shape. In fact, it was found that pupil shape might be determined by its predatory/foraging behavior.

Do Snake Bite Kits Work? (TLDR: NO!)

This is a particular bugbear for serious trekkers and snake enthusiasts alike. When it comes to venom treatment, snakebite kits are probably one of the biggest scams out there. These kits simply don’t work. Not only that, they’re potentially extremely dangerous.

 Let’s have a look at one of the more popular kits out there: the Sawyer Extractor Pump. Full of 5-star reviews and first-rate sales copy, a medical study from 2004 concluded that the pump removes virtually no venom.

 These kits will, for example, work for less serious bites. Think bees or wasps, but not snakes. In fact, using these kits can actually increase local tissue damage by concentrating the venom. Not only that, you’re also going to significantly increase the chance of an infection developing.

Identifying Snakes

One of the most important things you can do when it comes to avoiding a bite is learning how to identify a venomous snake and taking a moment to learn some of its most common behaviors.

There are four main species of venomous snake in North America, each with their own unique markings. Additionally, each species comes with its specific behaviors and having an awareness of this can help you when you’re preparing an outing.

Coral Snake

The coral snake is one of the most identifiable of the deadly snakes, so long as you can correctly remember the following saying: ‘red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack’. The saying refers to the colored banding on the snake. If the red and yellow bands are together, then you know you’ve got a venomous snake on your hands.

The coral snake tends to be found in forested areas, hiding under leaves or underground. Knowing this will make you aware when walking on or near piles of leaves. It generally displays reclusive behavior i.e. it will retreat unless provoked. In other words, if you stay out of its way, a bite is highly unlikely.

Rattlesnake

This is the most widely known species of venomous snake and is primarily identified by the rattle on the end of its tail, which can be both seen and heard. Furthermore, rattlesnakes tend to have thick, heavy bodies and a diamond-shaped head.

Although their warning sign is a rattle, it is important to remember that baby rattlesnakes may not have developed the rattle yet (but are just as venomous!). Additionally, it is possible that an adult snake loses its rattle, meaning you should learn more identifying features than just the tail.

In case where the rattle seems to be missing, it’s probably easier to do the identification process the other way around: in other words, if it looks like a rattlesnake but the tail is pointed, then you know it’s probably a harmless snake that has similar features.

Cottonmouth

This is North America’s only semi-aquatic venomous snake, which can usually be found in damp environments, like swamps or in and around water. During the day, the cottonmouth can be found basking on rocks to heat up its body temperature.

The key identifying feature of a cottonmouth is the dark cross bands with light brown shading. That said, it can be hard to spot this in older ones because the coloring becomes incredibly dark.

Copperhead

This snake is known for its predatory ambush attack, typically hiding under rocks or leaves until its prey walks by. They’re thought to be the most likely to bite humans out of all the venomous snakes, although their venom isn’t very potent.

Rather than always displaying reclusive behavior, copperheads are known to sit still when they encounter a human, unless it can easily retreat. They are generally the most defensive of venomous snakes, striking the moment they feel threatened.

As the name suggests, this snake has chestnut-brown cross bands shaped like an hourglass or dumbbell, on top of slightly lighter colored skin. The banding is usually wider on the sides and narrower on top.

How to Prevent a Bite from Occurring

Being able to identify a venomous snake and knowing its usual habitat are just the first steps in being able to prevent a bite. We also want to mention that this article is in no way designed to instill an irrational fear of encountering a venomous snake. Rather, with a simple understanding and better awareness, you’ll be able to keep some tactics in the back of your mind while out on the trail and this will put you in a much better position.

You don’t need to write down and memorize but digest the following few pointers and be sure to practice them while out and about:

  • Always check under logs, rocks, and leaf piles – bites commonly occur without the victim even knowing the snake was there
  • Stick to the beaten path – snakes generally stay off tracks
  • Avoid long grass when possible – this is the perfect hiding place for them
  • Consider snake proof clothing, like boots, chaps, and gaiters – most bites occur on the lower legs or feet
  • If you spot a snake, give it a wide berth and don’t bother it – snakes only bite if they feel threatened
  • Don’t attempt to move or prod the snake, even if it looks dead – snakes do a good job of appearing still and even a dead snake’s head can bite

What You Should Do if Bitten by a Venomous Snakes

First of all, don’t believe everything you read. There is so much misinformation out there on the best practices and there are even conflicting medical journals.

Being bitten by a venomous snake is serious business, even if it’s unlikely you’ll die from it. The venom from a snake can begin to destroy skin and muscle tissue and it isn’t unknown for a bite to result in limb amputation.

Stay Calm

If you find yourself bitten by a venomous snake, your first responses will likely be that of shock and pain. It is important, however, that you remain calm and think logically through the next few steps. Panic can elevate your heart rate, speeding the process of venom spread.

Call 9-1-1

You should call the emergency services as soon as you can and never attempt to treat the bite without professional medical help. If you can, you should inform the emergency services as to what type of snake it was as this can help them in deciding which type of antivenin treatment to use. If you can’t figure out the species of snake, you can take a photo of it so long as it is absolutely safe to do so.

Don’t Try to Catch the Snake!

Snakes often strike twice; the first bite acting as a warning (and thus often don’t have much of any venom present). This is one of the reasons you should avoid a second bite as best you can. You should leave the snake alone and don’t attempt to catch it or kill it.

Keep the Wound at Heart Level

You should keep the wound still and at heart level, making sure not to take any painkillers or attempt to suck the venom. Although ingesting venom isn’t necessarily harmful, it can pose problems if you have cuts in your mouth and will be of no help in actually removing any venom.

Avoid Snake Bite Kits

Additionally, and as we’ve already mentioned, you shouldn’t use suction kits. These have been proven to be ineffective in removing any substantial amount of venom, if any, and can cause more harm than good.

Remove Tight Clothing and Jewelry

Finally, you should remove any particularly tight clothing and restrictive jewelry as this can contribute to greater swelling. Do this as soon as you’ve been bitten – don’t wait for symptoms to appear, as it may then be too late to easily remove your jewelry.

From the Editor: Here’s a fantastic infographic that summarizes the article:

What Are Survival Optics and Why You Need Them?

Monday, June 19th, 2017

The use of optics on rifles and shotguns has become standard in the tactical realm, and for a good reason. An optic can:

  • increase the accuracy of a shooter
  • decrease the time it takes to get on target
  • make transitions between targets substantially easier

In 2005, the Marines entering Iraq were equipped with ACOG rifle combat optic and were massively successful. So much that there was a congressional investigation regarding the number of headshots that the Marines were making.

Optics increase the ability of any shooter and are a substantial force multiplier.

Optics and Prepping

It’s easy to dismiss optics, especially modern tactical optics, as being unneeded on combat rifles. They can often be seen as an aid or a crutch when it comes to combat rifle shooting.

However, keeping this attitude means living in the past. In the modern realm, if you are involved in a self-defense shooting, you want every advantage possible.

Any prepper or survivalist carrying a rifle should consider investing in a quality optic. But this doesn’t mean that iron sights are inefficient or outdated. If you are going to let me choose between a scope or iron sights, I’d advise iron sights.

 

Iron Sight

Every rifle should be equipped with iron sights even when it’s rocking a scope. They are:

  • simpler
  • less prone to failure and breaking
  • a fraction of the cost of a quality long gun optic
  • they do not need glass or electronics

With all that being said, a high-quality rifle optic makes shooting simpler and faster. The downside of iron sights is the fact that the front sight often obscures your vision when it comes to long range shooting.

For close range shooting, the process of aligning iron sights and getting on target is significantly slower than utilizing a proper optic.

 

Rifle Scope

A quality rifle scope allows shooters to engage targets at extended ranges easily.

With a quality optic and a good rifle, you can hit a man-sized target out to 500 yards with an AR 15. That’s an unlikely shot, and it’s somewhat hard to justify a self-defense shooting at that range, but it’s possible.

Fighting at 200 to 300 yards, it will be substantially easier to engage an attacker especially when they are hiding behind cover and presenting a smaller target.

Outside of combat situations, an optic makes hunting much easier. In that same realm, it makes scouting easier as well.

In Afghanistan, optics are often used to scout the surrounding area. 4 power ACOGs make searching the road for IEDs much easier. In a survival situation, a variable optic or even spotting scope makes road damage and debris easy to spot from a distance.

You’ll also be able to identify friend from foe at a distance. The presence of an optic on a rifle is an invaluable tool.

If you live in an urban environment, a variable or magnified optic may not be the best solution. However, a red dot scope increases your ability to hit a target accurately and quickly.

In close quarters combat, speed is king so you have to get to the target faster than your opponent. Red dot optics are ideal for close quarters combat.

Optics with illuminated reticles are much easier to use in low light situations and even in the dark of night. Iron sights are nearly impossible to use effectively at night. Red dot optics can be teamed up with magnifiers to increase their range when necessary.

In a running gunfight, your opponent is going to be moving, they’ll like be running, maneuvering, hiding behind cover and shooting back. In these situations, it’s much easier to track your opponent as they run and move.

With iron sights, the sight picture is often too obstructed to track an enemy effectively.

Variable

Variable optics offer higher magnification levels and a range of different magnification levels. They are quite versatile and can serve well in various types of rifles.

They are commonly used on hunting rifles. They allow shooters to see and shoot targets near and far. They are becoming very popular for modern defensive rifles like the AR 15 or AK 47 as well, and tend to make use of both close and long range ability.

For Bolt Action Precision Rifles

Primary Arms 4-14×44

This straightforward and affordable optic is a first focal scope with significant power and a good reputation. The FFP design means the reticle grows and shrinks as you increase or decrease the magnification so the holdover points are accurate at any magnification range.

Primary Arms is one of the most affordable FFP optics and is built to last. This particular model is higher on the magnification range and is best suited for long range bolt action and precision rifles.

 

For Modern Combat Optics

Burris MTAC 1-4×24

The Burris MTAC utilizes the very popular 1 to 4 power range. A 1 to 4 power scope allows shooters to easily use the close and longer range aspects of modern semi-automatic rifles.

At 1X with its illuminated reticle, it’s a half decent red dot scope; and dialed up to 4 power, a good shot don’t have any issues seeing and hitting targets that are 200-300 yards away.

 

 

Fixed Power

Trijicon ACOG

The Trijicon ACOG is the king of fixed power combat optics. Designed with combat in mind, this optic can and does go to war and come back.

The ACOG is available in a wide variety of magnification levels, with 4x being the choice of United States Marines and soldiers. The biggest downside is its high price tag. It’s often over a grand in price.

A more affordable alternative is the Primary Arms Compact Prism Riflescope. It is a lightweight, 3 power optic that is built for the 5.56, the 7.62 x 39mm, and the 300 Blackout. Each has a reticle that is tuned to its respective round and feature ballistic drop compensation.

Red Dot

Red dot optics are insanely simple optics with little to no complication. They utilize a red dot as the reticle, although some people use a green dot.

Red dots are perfect for close quarters combat and offer shooters a precise and accurate means of engaging a target rapidly. They are suited for rifles and shotguns.

SIG Sauer ROMEO7

SIG’s newest line of red dot optics is becoming quite popular. Designed to be functional, utilitarian SIG has even met the FBI standard for red dot optics.

It is a full sized red dot optic that is well suited for any rifle or shotgun. It’s large, easy to use, and incredibly durable. The SIG Sauer ROMEO7 is also priced affordably.

Sighting In

Optics are designed to make a shooter’s life a lot easier. With a high-quality optic, the user can accurately and rapidly engage targets.

A high-quality optic should be water-, shock- and fogproof. Any prepper and survivalist should consider an optic for hunting, combat, and scouting.

This post was contributed by Almo Gregor. Almo is a firearm enthusiast, an avid hunter, and a strong lifelong 2nd amendment supporter. Outdoors, hunting and shooting were a big part of his childhood and he continues with these traditions in his personal and professional life, passing the knowledge to others through freelance writing.

7 Essential Items for Your Survival Kit

Friday, December 9th, 2016

7-essential-items-for-survival-kit

Pistol vs Revolver: Which is the Better Bug Out Gun?

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Ever since the semi-automatic pistol was invented, there has been a considerable degree of controversy over whether these guns or revolvers are better.  Each of these handguns has advantages and disadvantages.

If you are looking for the perfect handgun for bugging out, you can consider the pros and cons presented in this article while you are making your choices.  Bear in mind that the gun that looks best for you as a beginner, intermediate shooter, or expert may also look different.

When evaluating guns for bugging out, you should always be aware of how your abilities change and also how your view the situations you may encounter.

Semi-automatic Pistols Pros and Cons

Pros

The most popular type of handgun in use today for protection is the semi-automatic pistol. The main reasons people choose these guns include the high capacity magazines, reliability, less recoil, the triggers are easier to use, the sights are better, and they fire faster.

The ability to shoot quickly with a pistol is one of the most important advantages of this type of firearm. Most people who use semi-automatic pistols would rather be able to fire off several bullets even if they aren’t as well placed rather than rely on one or two shots that were better aimed.

At the end of the day, this belief can be a “pro” to some, but make others with more experience think twice because surviving a gun fight is still very much about hitting the optimal place on the adversary as quickly and efficiently as possible.   That being said, the fact that a semi can carry 12 – 20 bullets versus 5 or 6 in a revolver still gives you the chance to hit multiple targets if needed. Since the semi-automatic also come with better sights these days, the high capacity magazines definitely add up to an advantage over the revolvers.

Semi-automatic pistols are also much easier to reload.  Since the magazines are smaller and more compact, you can also carry several of them pre-loaded and be ready to fire again in a matter of seconds.  On the other hand, the speed loader for a revolver can be quite bulky and take more time to reload.  Even if you plan on carrying them. It is still easier to fit a semi magazine into your pocket.

Cons

There are few drawbacks with a semi-automatic pistol.  First, they must be kept meticulously clean.  They can also be very picky with the ammunition that will go through them without causing damage or jams.  For a semi-automatic pistol, the cartridges must have the proper shape for reliable feeding.  It must also have enough powder in the case to fully function the slide without battering and breaking the internal parts. The case must have the proper head spacing so that it moves easily in and out of the chamber without hanging up.

A semi-automatic pistol to a new shooter can be complicated because they must learn how to operate slides, slides stops, magazine releases, decockers, and safeties.  In addition, some individuals are not strong enough to pull back the side. This problem is as old as the pistol design itself because of the heavy recoil spring and the small width of the slide.   If you have problems fully pulling back the slide, but still want to have a semi for your bug out gun, try the following:

  • First, hold the back of pistol slide in the grooves with your left hand.
  • While holding the frame of the pistol in your right hand, with your trigger finger outside of the trigger guard, push the frame forward to work the slide. This will load the chamber of the pistol. The reason this works is that it takes less muscle power to push the frame forward than it does to pull the slide back.

Another problem with pistols is that if the magazines are lost or broken your pistol turns into a single-shot weapon. If your pistol has a magazine safety and you have lost your magazines this pistol will not be able to fire at all.

When compared to revolvers, semis have limited energy and penetration. In some shooting scenarios, limited penetration could be an advantage, however, it will not work in other situations. For example, a  nine-millimeter hollow point projectile is much less likely to penetrate multiple walls then the classic    357 Magnum projectile.  On the other hand, if you need to get past low-grade body armor or shoot longer distances, the lack of penetration can leave you with a serious problem on your hands.

If you keep your pistol with a loaded round in the chamber. It is to your advantage to have a pistol that has a safety or a decocker to keep the pistol from accidentally discharging if the trigger is pulled.

Pistol malfunctions represent the greatest problem with semi- automatic pistols when compared to revolvers.  You must know how to recognize and clear the four most common different types of pistol malfunctions.  While the following steps may not seem complicated, bear in mind they can cost you in terms of valuable concentration and time in an actual situation.

The Hang fire

  • The trigger is pulled and no bang. A hang fire occurs when there is a delay in the powder being ignited.
  • Keep the pistol pointed down range for about 30-60 seconds to ensure the round will not go off.
  • Remove the magazine.
  • Clear the pistol by pulling the slide back.
  • Check the chamber to ensure that it is empty.
  • Reinsert the magazine.
  • Clamber a new round.

Squib load

  • This is an extremely deadly malfunction that can cause serious injury or death to the shooter.
  • It is caused when a bullet doesn’t leave the barrel when fired and a second bullet hits the front bullet causing a bulged or a ripped open barrel.
  • If there is the possibility of a squib load, the sound of the round in question would be quieter than normal.
  • If something doesn’t sound right, clear the pistol, lock the slide back, and check the barrel for obstructions.
  • To check the barrel use a pencil down the barrel to feel for any obstructions.
  • If there is an obstruction or a bulged barrel, stop shooting and take the pistol to a gunsmith for repair.
  • If the barrel is clear, you should still take the pistol to a gunsmith for a safety check.
  • A squib load can be caused when a round has a primer, but little or no powder in the case.

Failure to feed

  • Is when a pistol fails to feed the next round from the magazine into the chamber.
  •  In this situation, the slide will not be all the way forward because the round did not travel all the way that is needed to be chambered.
  • To fix this problem, first, remove the magazine from the pistol. Then remove the round from the magazine well if it hasn’t already fallen out.
  • Put a fresh magazine in the pistol and chamber the round.

Stovepipe

  • A stovepipe happens when a spent casing fails to eject correctly. This causes the spent casing to get trapped upright in the ejection port.
  • The stovepipe is caused by not holding the pistol correctly or limp wristing.
  • To clear the pistol remove the magazine.
  • Lock the slide to the rear to remove the spent casing.
  • Put a fresh magazine in the pistol and chamber the round.

Revolvers Pros and Cons

Pros

Revolvers are known for their simplicity and dependability.  They are extremely safe handguns to operate in either single or double action mode.  New shooters can grasp how they function easily.  Revolvers take a minimum of training to learn how to use.   Another reason some individuals prefer to carry revolvers is that they simply do not need to worry about having the strength to pull the slide back on a pistol and chamber a round.

It is very easy to recover brass from a revolver. When the revolver is empty, just swing out the cylinder and push the extractor rod. The spent cartridges will fall into your hand.  From there the brass can be saved in your pocket and used with reloading equipment later on to make a new bullet.

Revolvers are also far more forgiving in terms of ammunition choice.  Basically, if the ammunition fits in the cylinder and the cylinder locks, the revolver should fire the bullet.  While you should never use ammunition that is too hot for the gun in question, a revolver will take a lot more variance than a semi-automatic pistol.

Cons

Revolvers only have a few drawbacks as a prime personal protection sidearm. They have a limited capacity, are extremely slow to reload, and the cartridges which they shoot can be too heavy for city or in home use. To fix these problems, practice with the speed loaders regularly and carry ammunition that will not shoot through walls.

In conclusion, there are pros and cons associated with both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers.  At times, you may think that the revolver is the best bug out gun for your needs; while a semi-automatic pistol may seem more appealing to others. As Jeff Cooper would say: “The police cannot protect the citizen at this stage of our development, and they cannot even protect themselves in many cases. It is up to the private citizen to protect himself and his family, and this is not only acceptable but mandatory.”   In the end, this is a highly personal choice, and the best gun will be the one you have with you and know best how to use.

If you have any comments, please put them in the comment section below.

Further Reading

 

About Fred Tyrell:

I am an Eagle Scout and a retired police officer. I love the great outdoors and I am very conservation minded. It is my wish to pass along to other generations what I have learned in my lifetime. I am a champion marksman with handguns, rifles, and shotguns. You can read more of my articles on Survivor’s Fortress.

Intro to Intelligence for Preppers

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires are just three examples of localized and very personal SHTF events that we’ve seen in the past year, and they illustrate the devastation of an event for which there is immediate early warning. We can be alerted to a tornado warning and seek cover. We can vacate our homes in case of flooding or an approaching wildfire. As we deal in the likelihood of SHTF scenarios, Mother Nature is 100%.

 

But on a regional or national scale, we’re looking at more unpredictable events for which there is little to no early warning: an electromagnetic pulse, or perhaps a cyber attack on critical infrastructure, or a financial or monetary breakdown that plunges millions into a very real SHTF scenario. The cyber attack on the New York Stock Exchange will have no direct effect on you, but the second- and thirdorder effects will be felt on every level and generate threats to your community. So what we should be preparing for is not the cyber attack itself, but for the follow-on effects of that cyber attack that will affect your community.

 

Regardless of the event, we need to be able to collect information to support decision making so we can keep our families safe. Should we bug in or bug out? If bugging out, which route should we take? If bugging in, how can we get early warning of approaching threats?

 

How to Remain At Ease in a SHTF Situation

 

I’m going to break down a few ways that we can reduce the uncertainty in an SHTF situation. I spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and both of those countries were real life or death, 24/7 SHTF situations. As an intelligence analyst, my job was to keep the commander informed on the security situation and threat environment. His responsibility was to make decisions based on the intelligence we provided. If we had no incoming information, then we couldn’t produce intelligence. And this is why information is the basic building block of community security. If we want security in an SHTF scneario, then we need to know more about the threats. What we need is real-time intelligence.

 

In 2014, a small group of volunteers and I battle tracked the Ferguson riots. The first step of battle tracking began with a process I call Intelligence Preparation of the Community. (You can watch the entire webinar here.) We analyzed the strength, disposition, and capabilities of local security forces. Knowing what equipment they had enabled us to better understand how they would react to unrest. We similarly analyzed the protest groups and identified associated individuals.

 

What both of these groups had in common is that they were both producing information of intelligence value. Through something as simple as listening to the police scanner, our team was able to plot out the current reported locations of law enforcement and the National Guard. Meanwhile on Twitter, we scanned the accounts of known protestors for real-time information.

 

In the image below, we took information reported on local emergency frequencies and potted those locations on the map using Google Earth.’Warfighter 33′ was the callsign for the National Guard Tactical Operations Center, which was set up in the Target parking lot. We also pinned several National Guard posts as they reported their locations. It wasn’t rocket science, but it started to help us understand the security situation. This is a very rudimentary form of signals intelligence, or SIGINT.

 

forwardobserver

Through the night, we continued to use photographs uploaded into social media and news articles in order to identify the photos’ locations. Then we plotted them on a map. Pretty soon, we have a very good idea of which areas were generally safe and which areas had the most activity as the riots progressed and eventually burnt out. Had we lived in Ferguson, we could have used this intelligence to navigate our way to friends and family, or to help friends and family navigate away from the threats. All this information was publicly available, so we call it Open Source Intelligence, or OSINT.

 

So what do I do if there’s a grid-down situation?

 

That certainly complicates things. Before I answer that question, I want to ask you one: on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is intelligence in a SHTF situation? (I would say 10, but I am admittedly a bit biased.)

 

First understand that there may still be electricity in a grid-down environment. As long as there are generators, and given that there’s not been an EMP, then someone somewhere will have electricity. My local law enforcement agency claims to have enough fuel for two weeks of backup power were things were to go sideways. That’s good to know, and is the benefit of intelligence collection before an SHTF event, as opposed to a post-SHTF scramble. If they’re powered up and communicating in a SHTF situation, or perhaps some ham radio operators are, then we still need the capabilities to listen in. Otherwise, we’re going to be at a severe disadvantage.

 

If there’s no power, then we’ll have to rely on Human Intelligence, called HUMINT. That means getting out and talking to people. It could mean a reconnaissance patrol. The horse-mounted cavalry were the eyes and ears of the commander before collection technology. Snipers and forward observers sitting in hide sides, whose responsibility it is to observe and report enemy activity, are often excellent intelligence collectors. An observation post equipped with a field phone, sending back intelligence information is another example.

 

While these are all military examples, there are similar community equivalents. Consider this: technology is a force multiplier. With SIGINT or OSINT, we can be very wide and very deep in our intelligence gathering. That’s a 1:n ratio. We have one collection platform, in this case a radio receiver, and we can scan a very wide band to collect information from anyone who’s transmitting. But when we deal with human intelligence, we’re often on a 1:1 ratio; that is, one collector speaking to one source at any given time. That’s a very slow and difficult way to do business.

 

So instead of 1:1, I want you to consider the scalability of that ratio. If one person is limited to gathering intelligence information from one person at at time, wouldn’t it makes sense to scale that ratio to 10:10 or 100:100? It absolutely would. Every set of eyes and ears is a sensor, so we as an intelligence element tasked with providing intelligence for community security should absolutely be interested in encouraging community members to passively collect lots of information. All that information is reported back to us, and then we’re engaged in the arduous task of compiling and evaluating that information in order to create intelligence.

 

Intelligence doesn’t produce itself, so it’s incumbent on us to build that capability. The more accurate information we have, the more wellinformed we can be. Without first being well-informed, making high-risk, time-sensitive decisions just got a whole lot more complicated.

 

Samuel Culper is the director of Forward Observer, a threat intelligence service that focuses on domestic SHTF issues. He’s a former military and contract intelligence analyst, and author of SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst’s Guide to Community Security. You can find out more about the SHTF Intelligence Center at his website.

9 Fire-Making Methods You Need to Know

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

The following has been contributed by Anonymous Prepper

One of the most discussed topics that I’ve seen over the years is related to starting fires. While some people go as far as learning the bow drill method so they can start one under any circumstances, others say they’re going to use a simple lighter to achieve the same result. It’s pretty funny whenever I see such replies on the survivalist boards.

I’m not going to take sides here, I’d rather do something better and let you know of all the ways to start a fire. This way you can decide for yourself which ones you should pack into your BOB or learn.

#1. Using a Lighter

This is by far the easiest way to start a fire. The vast majority of people go for either Zippo or Bic. (You can follow the debate here).Suffices to say it’s good to have lighters everywhere: inside your car, your survival bags, your pockets, inside the pouch attached to your bike – you name it!

#2. Using Matches

Matches are the next best thing for starting a fire but, just to make sure they work, you should get the waterproof kind. If not, you should at least put them in waterproof containers. Some people like to have a fire starting kit, usually a small waterproof pouch.

#3. Using a Blastmatch

The blastmatch is a very cool device whose beauty consists in the fact that you can use it with only one hand. Very useful in case you get injured and can’t use both of them. Not many preppers consider the likely scenario of them getting injured.

Here’s a video showcasing how to use it:

#4. Using a Ferro Rod

They work when you scrape off some of the rod by means of a sharp striker, thus generating sparks. The actual rod is, in fact, made mostly of iron (along with some other metals) and only has a small percentage of magnesium. Not to be confused with magnesium firestaters.

Here’s a quick youtube video showing how to scrape some tinder and then use a ferro rod to light it:

#5. Using the Flint and Steel Method

The things you use for the flint and steel method are completely different than those used in the ferro rod method. It can be a little confusing, I know.

The steel can be anything, such as piece of a high carbon, while the flint rock is something you should be able to find while bugging out. Quartz ricks will work and they are easy to find along rivers. Good video showing how to find a rock that has quartz and then use it to generate some sparks:

#6. Using a Magnesium Block

IF you have a magnesium block (from Amazon, for example, it’s really cheap), you can use the back of the blade of your knife to scrape it off for 15-20 seconds, then use the same knife to run it along the block and get those shavings to spark using friction.

Quick video on how this works as well as further explanations:

#7. Using Steel Wool and a 9V Battery

This is a lot easier than using flint and steel, magnesium or a ferro rod. The sparks come very quickly, but make sure you keep the two separated inside your backpack to avoid a disaster. All you have to do is touch the steel wool with both ends of the battery and have some tinder ready.

Tip: consider packing devices that use 9V batteries. This way, you won’t have to pack the battery for the sole purpose of starting fires.

#8. Using a Lens

The best lens you can have in your bug out bag is a small magnifying glass. If that’s something you don’t want to pack (some preppers avoid small items such as this one because every ounce counts), you can use other things to achieve the same effect: a transparent plastic bag filled with water, a Fresnel lens (they have them the size of a credit card), or even a block of ice.

The thing that makes the lens work is its focal point. Put it between tinder and the sun in such a way that the rays are focused into a single dot. The smaller the dot, the more likely it will combust.

#9. Using the Bow Drill Method

Wikipedia explains it better but, in essence, this is a last resort means of starting a fire… for when you’ve got no lighter, no steel wool and no Sun to use your magnifying glass. In essence, you need a small bow, a bearing block and a spindle. You can see a video demonstration here:

Final Word

OK, so I didn’t tell you ALL the ways to start a fire, but do you really need to know them? I doubt you’ll use potassium permanganate during your bug out. Stick to 2, 3 or even 4 from the ones above and you’ll be more than prepared to start a fire than anyone.

And if you want to take things further, why not assemble a fire starting kit for your BOB? Keep everything related to fire starting (including tinder) inside a single MOLLE pouch. You’ll have everything in one place and, if need be, you can give it to someone else to carry it for you. If you can get one that has MOLLE webbing, you’ll be able to strap it to a backpack that’s compatible (that has the same webbing).

Cold Hands Effects on Shooting

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Hello folks, we have been to the high desert in Northern Utah to do a bit of shooting today. So like all stories there is a good side and a bad side to this, first the good – we were shooting; now the bad – slow moving fingers and shaky hands.

While my fingers were thawing, this article came to mind. I am going to focus strictly on the local effects of cold on the hands in relation to shooting performance. I won’t get into hypothermia or frostbite; I have an idea swimming in my head for another article regarding hidden dangers (over dressing, cold weather dehydration, etc.) of cold weather where I will discuss those issues.

To “set the stage” of this subject we will quickly discuss the term “normal” in regards to hand/finger temperatures. We will call “normal” what people experience in everyday life under comfortable, often indoor conditions. With normal established, let’s look at “cold”, and just to keep it simple, the only terminology we will use is cold.

Cold Stress and Work in the Cold

Cold stress may be present in many different forms, affecting the whole-body heat balance as well as the local heat balance of extremities. Cooling of the whole body or in this case, parts of the body, results in discomfort, impaired sensory and neuro-muscular function and, ultimately, cold injury.

The most obvious and direct effect of cold stress for this subject is the immediate cooling of the skin. The type and magnitude of reaction are determined primarily by the type and severity of cooling. Local cold exposure may cause systemic arousal, what that means is that the increased stress level increases sympathetic nervous activity and, thereby, preparedness for action. When our bodies prepare for action and respond to the cold stimulus, our fight or flight nervous system function kicks in, and the adrenalin begins to dump. This function will work to fight the cold stimulus by giving the muscles stimulation to shiver AND cause the blood vessels in the extremities to begin to squeeze, which results in a reduction of blood flow to muscles and skin. This reduces fine motor skills and makes the “feel” for the trigger much less. That is not a welcome effect when trying to hit the target; great when trying to out run a bear or survive a blizzard, but we are not in those situations.

How do we fix this, the simple answer is to keep our hands warm or wear gloves. Prevention of cooling by means of donning cold-protective clothing, footwear, gloves and headgear interferes with the mobility and dexterity of the shooter. There is a “cost of protection” in the sense that movements and motions can become restricted and more exhausting.

Manual (hands) dexterity performance

Hand function is very susceptible to cold exposure. Due to their small mass and large surface area, hands and fingers lose heat while maintaining high tissue temperatures (86 to 95ºF).

Accordingly, such high temperatures can be maintained only with a high level of internal heat production, allowing for sustained high blood flow to the extremities. The most expedient way to tell if your hands are beginning to suffer from the cold exposure, and may result in decreased performance is to check for the “White Knuckle Grip.” If your hands look like you are holding the steering wheel of a truck on ice, headed down the hill, you will know the tissues are suffering from a lack of perfusion or blood bringing oxygen to the tissues, and hand grip, finger pull and support hand functions will be affected.

Hand and finger function is directly affected by the temperature of the skin (that is the only way to measure in the field). Fine, delicate and fast finger movements deteriorate when tissue temperature drops by only a few degrees. With more profound temperature drops in the tissues, gross hand functions will also be impaired, eventually, your hands will turn to “clubs” and the fine skill and gross skills will not be possible. You may get to a point where you cannot truly FEEL the gun in your hands.

Significant impairment in hand function is found at hand skin temperatures around 59ºF, and severe impairments occur at skin temperatures about 42 to 46ºF due to the blocking of the function of sensory and thermal skin receptors. The temperature of your fingertips may be more than ten degrees lower than on the back of your hand under certain exposure conditions.

In addition, the viscosity of tissues increases (meaning that instead of everything flowing like oil, it is now moving like sludge), resulting in higher internal friction during motion. With an increase of internal or muscular/tendon friction, smooth is not possible, and jerky motions will be the normal. Isometric (pulling) force output is reduced by 2% per ºF of lowered muscle temperature. Dynamic (general smooth movement) force output is reduced by 2 to 4% per ºF of lowered muscle temperature. In other words, cooling reduces the force output of muscles and has an even greater effect on dynamic contractions. This will have an effect of overall gun handling, and very dramatic effects on trigger pull, and proper grip functions.

Acclimatization

There is evidence for different types of acclimatization to long-term cold exposure. Manual (hand dexterity) performance is better maintained after repeated cold exposures of the hand, as we discussed later with the cold water bath and dry fire drills.

Improved hand and finger circulation allows for the maintenance of a higher tissue temperature and produces a stronger cold-induced vasodilatation. What this over the top science geek talk means is – warm up – flex the fingers, shake the hands, get them ready to operate the gun in cold temperatures. Due to the many complex factors that influence human heat balance, and the considerable individual variations, it is difficult to define critical temperatures for sustained work.

There is a simple way to test the effects of cold on your hands and performance, and train yourself to adapt to this environmental issue and improve your performance as much as possible. This simple and free or nearly free acclimatization method will make you less susceptible to cold hand issues. By exposure to cold water from the sink then maybe move to ice water in a bowl, etc., and dry fire drills, make sure to include shooting (dry fire) and gun manipulations, failure drills, etc.

These drills need to be practiced for all shooters, not just for the hand gunners, but hunters with long guns as well. Just to state the obvious – check then recheck that the gun is unloaded, and no ammo is in the room – OK, now we can move forward. Get ahold of a simple and inexpensive surface thermometer from the drug store, the type that just reads the skin temperature, then put your hands in the cold water, use the thermometer and take the skin temperature, run your dry fire drills. You can check your performance differences between warm and cold hands dry fire, use a stopwatch to test speed or function. Eventually, you will see if your acclimatization efforts are giving any value to your shooting and watch for improvement as you proactively train to beat the cold.

If precautions are followed, and a simple warm up can be performed your shooting should not suffer dramatically, it will a little, that is the way it is in cold weather shooting. If you find that you do a lot of cold weather shooting, and exact precision is needed. Try these simple steps to train your body to acclimate to that style of shooting. This combined with simple warm-ups, and you will be less affected and maybe even reach the “golden ring” of the only guy in the group that can shoot as well cold as everyone else does in the warm.

Good luck, and stay safe

96.8 – 90*F Optimal hand and finger dexterity Good Shooting
90 – 81*F Effects on finger dexterity, precision, and speed OK Shooting
81-68*F Impacted work with small details, reduced endurance Weak Shooting
68 – 59*F Impaired gross hand and finger work Poor Shooting
59 – 50*F Reduced gross muscle strength and coordination Very Poor Shooting
46 – 43*F Blocking sensory and thermal receptors of superficial skin Dangerous Shooting
<50*F Numbness, manual performance reduced to simple gripping, pushing, etc. Impossible Shooting
<32*F Freezing of tissues

Eating the Backyard Harvest you Never Knew Existed

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for some time now you know that I’m a BIG proponent of learning to identify and use wild edible and medicinal plants found all around you. Here’s just a small listing of the articles I’ve written on the subject:

The team over at Fix.com have created a great infographic that I wanted to share with you guys that provides a nice introduction into some common plants you should know that are probably sitting just outside your home right now…

Eating Wild Plants in Your Yard - Edible Backyard Wild Greens
Source: Fix.com Blog

Surviving the Summer without Air Conditioning

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

This article has been contributed by Anne Marie Duhon. Anne Marie is a wife, mother of six and a full time off-gridder. She and her husband currently live in a totally off grid 200 sq foot “tiny home” and are in search of (again) that elusive perfect spot to call home. Besides being a wife and mother she, and her family, have raised many different animals on their various homesteads and have lived and loved being off the grid and many miles from the nearest paved road. She would like to share her first hand experiences and help others to learn to live and love living off grid and being as self reliant as possible.

keeping cool in summer without acYes, believe it or not, it can be done.

No, it won’t be an easy thing but it has and is being done all over the world for a lot longer than air conditions have been around.

I remember when I was a very young girl my parents putting in our first air conditioner and us kids laying on the living room floor basking in the cool air. Air conditioning as we know it now has only been around for like 40 years or so. Man has always looked for a way to stay cool in the summer.

Low-Tech Tips on Keeping Cool in the Summer

Here are some ideas and tips to make your air conditioner less summer more bearable:

  • If you can switch up your work schedule. Put the outside chores for early in the morning or later in the evening and leave the hottest part of the day for inside the house or just sitting around.
  • Wear cool clothes but do cover up. I find I am cooler in my skirts than in my shorts! Always wear a hat or a bonnet when working outside. Clothes make shade for your body and protect it from the direct rays of the sun.
  • Drink a lot! Water or Gatorade is better than soda for you but really it is all about the cool drink cooling you off from the inside.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal during the hottest part of the day. The body creates heat digesting food and will just make you hotter.
  • Seek shade just like animals do. Find the coolest place in the house; a basement, the north side of the house, the part of the house that is under a tree and shaded things like that.
  • Try getting wet if only your feet (I’m soaking my piggy’s in a bucket of cool water right now as I write this and it helps!) Dampen your head/hair and put a cool wet rag on your neck. You will be surprised at how much that really does help.
  • If it is really hot hit the library and enjoy their air conditioning! Or go to the city pool (not me I’m WAY too shy!) or walk the mall.

And Some More Involved Tips…

Those ideas are low tech and cheap! Here are a few that are a little more involved:

  • Fans! The moving air will help dissipate your sweat making you feel much cooler. Try putting a big block of ice (like what you would get for a cooler) behind the fan so the air gets sucked over the ice and it will drop the temp in a small room noticeably.
  • If you live in a dry hot climate try “swamp coolers” or evaporative fans. These are fans that have little hoses and nozzles on them that spray a fine mist in the air.
  • Cover south facing windows during the day to keep out the sun and open windows on the cooler north side or ones that are located under trees. This is just the reverse of what you would want to do in the winter.
  • Open windows at night to bring the cooler night air in and close them during the day to retain the cool air for as long as possible.

Tips on Building a “Summer-Proof” Home

If you know in advance of building your home that you are not going to be having air conditioning here are some ideas that you can incorporate into the build:

  • Make for sure that there are large deciduous trees shading the south and west sides of the house. Trees release water vapor from their leaves when they “breathe” and it is much cooler under a tree!
  • Build your house out of rock, stone or concrete. Works great for both winter and summer by storing heat in the walls and keeping the inside cooler/warmer.
  • Heck build your house underground! Even just the depth of a normal home deep will keep the house cooler in the summer because of the mass of earth around it on all sides. Go real crazy and build your home in a cave!
  • If you are building a “normal” stud frame home bulk up on insulation in the walls and ceiling and situate the windows and doors for maximum air flow throughout the home.
  • Put awnings over the very necessary south windows to shade out the high hot summer sun but allow the lower cooler winter sun in to passively warm the house in the winter. Make all windows insulated or double-paned.

Summer is not an easy time for man or beast but we all can make it as long as we think and take precautions.

That and you will become accustomed to not having air conditioning it is called acclimating and when you go to an air conditioned place you will find it uncomfortably cold! It usually takes about two weeks of dealing with the heat and sweating like a horse before you are acclimated but after that you will see your spoiled friends gasping and sweating while you just motor on!

Enjoy the summer it does not last forever!

Infographic: The Survivors Guide to Lockpicking

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

We’ve all thought about the vast array of things that we can to in order to be prepared for a real life survival situation. Clean water, food rations, tools and a diversity of skill sets are all a great start. However, one thing that many of us overlook is how we are going to keep getting water and food when our rations have run dry.

Since most of us live in cities, towns or near cities and towns – there is one vital skill that you should have in your back pocket. That’s where the skill of urban lock picking comes in. Knowing how to pick a lock can save you and your family in an urban survival situation. Imagine being starving, with a food truck right in front of you, full of Twinkies and other delicious and life saving treats but you have no tools to breach it… That would be one sad day with a lot of extra energy being spent trying to figure out how to get inside.

The infographic below shows you the basic steps to breach almost any lock out there with enough practice. Padlocks are notoriously easy to pick with this method although it can also be implemented with standard knob locks, deadbolts and others. Our friends at Picker Of Locks
made this east 4 Step Guide to get you started on your lock picking skill training. If you want to check out more in-depth articles on how to pick all different types of locks, lock pick set reviews and more – head over to pickeroflocks.com.

lock-picking