Survival & Emergency Preparedness

The latest posts from Survival & Emergency Preparedness

One topic among shooters that generates a lot of disagreement is the pros and cons of pistol caliber carbines (PCCs). I previously owned a Marlin Camp Carbine in .45 ACP, have a couple of leverguns in handgun cartridges, and I recently picked up a TNW Firearms M-31SA Suomi in 9x19 and a Beretta CX-4 Storm 9x19, so this is something I’ve been pondering.

TNW M-31SA Suomi

For the purposes of this article, I’ll mainly discuss PCCs chambered for 9x19, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum. Certainly there are other PCC rounds like .45 Colt, but they are less common. Also, it is a mistake to class the M1 Carbine as a PCC. The .30 Carbine round was developed for the Carbine. Handguns chambered for it became available decades later.

I’d like to look at the con first, and in my opinion there really is only one.

PCCs have the bulk, length, and weight of a rifle, but fire handgun cartridges. If you’re toting a rifle sized package, why not have rifle ballistics? This isn’t an idle concern. True rifle cartridges offer better terminal ballistics against game and people, and rounds like .308 or 7.62x39 offer greatly improved penetration against cover.

On the other hand, PCCs have several potential pros for modern American shooters:

  • Ammunition that can be shared with your handgun, simplifying logistics.
  • Depending on the model, magazines that can be shared with your pistol. E.g., Kel-Tec makes a Sub 2000 which takes Glock magazines, and the Beretta Storm takes Beretta pistol magazines.
  • With autopistol cartridges, PCCs offer slightly improved performance, along with much reduced noise and blast, and low recoil. This is a big deal with inexperienced shooters, IMHO.
  • With magnum revolver cartridges, PCCs offer significantly increased performance, again with reduced noise and blast. The recoil of a .357 Magnum carbine isn’t bad, but the .44 Magnum still has significant recoil from a carbine.
  • Many indoor ranges allow shooting PCCs but forbid shooting rifle cartridges. This makes PCCs more valuable to shooters who don’t have access to an outdoor range. This is increasingly common among urban and suburban shooters.
  • Semiauto PCCs chambered for autopistol cartridges typically employ a straight blowback design, which is very simple and easy to maintain. Lever actions chambered for magnum revolver rounds are more complex, however.
  • Some of the semiatuo PCCs have very innovative, useful designs. For example, the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 folds in half, while the TNW Aero Survival Rifle easily takes down. Either can be carried and stowed in something like an old laptop briefcase.
  • Despite the ballistic advantages of true rifle caliber carbines, PCCs are plenty effective for self- defense, as demonstrated by this case of a Detroit mother who defended her home and family with a Hi Point PCC. And let’s face it, this kind of use is going to be a lot more common than any SHTF scenario.

Some of the PCCs currently on the US market include:

  • Beretta CX-4 Storm
  • Kel-Tec Sub 2000
  • TNW Aero Survival Rifle
  • Just Right Carbine
  • Rossi Model 92 lever actions
  • Marlin 1894 lever actions
  • Hi Point 995, 4095, and 4595
  • Thureon Defense AR-like carbines

There have also been a number of PCCs which are semiauto-only clones of submachineguns, such as the TNW M-31SA Suomi, Sterlings, Uzis, AR-15s, and HK-94s.

Historically, one draw of carbines and handguns taking the same cartridge was simplified logistics when you were away from easy resupply. In the 21st Century this is less of a consideration. On the other hand, I can see the value of having to grab only one type of ammo if you’re in a bugout situation. Likewise, a carbine and a pistol that can share magazines simplifies logistics.

In my opinion, PCCs are worthy of consideration by preppers looking to add a rifle to their arsenal.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: April 6, 2014, 12:26 am

Last week I ordered an unissued German flecktarn camoflage parka from Centerfire Systems and it arrived today. I thought I'd share some pics.

First, the outside and inside.

Pocket inside the left breast. If it's not obvious from the picture, it closes at the top with Velcro.

Manufacturer's label, showing the size and fabric makeup of 80/20 cotton/polyester.

Pit zip.

Left sleeve pocket. I am assuming that what looks like a button hole is really so you can dummy cord a compass to it.

And finally, the importer's sticker.

Initial impressions:

It's well made of good quality fabric. The sewing is neat without a bunch of excess threads. This was sold by CFS as an "XL" and that seems pretty true to size although the bigger guys may find the sleeves too short. I wear a 34" sleeve in dress shirts and they are just right for me, however. There is room for layering a fleece or sweater under the smock. I am 5'6" tall and the bottom hem of the smock falls right above my knees, so it'll provide good coverage. The hood is sized so it'll fit comfortably over a cap, without being huge. There are two chest pockets which snap shut and two lower pockets closed with zippers. The left chest pocket has pencil/pen loops sewn into it.

This parka is a German equivalent to the British windproof or SAS smocks, but priced far less, at $25 + shipping. The camouflage pattern works very well in the woods of the northeastern US. I'm looking forward to getting a lot of use out of this jacket.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: March 10, 2014, 11:37 pm
Over on Blog O'Stuff, I have a review of the TNW Firearms M-31SA Suomi carbine. I didn't buy this as a prep item, just as an historical curio. That said, it appears to be reliable, and 9mm gains 200 to 300 FPS from a carbine barrel compared with a pistol barrel, so it could be a useful defensive carbine, even if it's heavy enough to break down a brick shithouse.

Go take a gander.
Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: March 7, 2014, 6:18 pm
I've been otherwise occupied for the past couple of weeks and had not made any more progress on the capote. Last night I sat down and ripped the seams holding on the sleeves and redid them to eliminate the hole's I'd left in the armpits when I screwed up attaching them the first time.

Remaining work to be done:

  • Attach the pockets and cut slits through the coat so they can be used.
  • Make and attach flaps for the pockets.
  • Add a storm flap.
  • Remove some material from the hood so I don't look like a reject from a Ronnie James Dio video with it up.
More pics to come as I make more progress.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: March 7, 2014, 6:14 pm

In Part 3 I add buttons, holes, a hang loop, and start on the pockets.

When sewing the body together I used black button and carpet thread. This is stronger than regular sewing thread. To sew the buttons on I used artificial sinew from Track of the Wolf (I actually have another spool of this stuff around here somewhere but I’ve misplaced it, so I ordered one along with the buttons).

The buttons are 1.5” in diameter, which is on the large size, but appropriate for this kind of coat. They should also be easier to use with gloves or mitts on than smaller buttons.

Yeah, they’re shiny. I’m either going to let them tarnish or use something to dull them to a patina.

Also shown in the pic above are the pockets I made from the legs of jeans I made into cut off shorts a couple years ago. While looking around for some suitable fabric I ran across these in my closet. Waste not, want not. The pockets will be sewn to the inside of the coat and accessed through slits cut in the outside. I’m also planning to add flaps cut from some leftover blanket material.

To wrap up this post, here’s the hang loop that I made from a short piece of gutted 550 cord. I like all of my coats to have hang loops.

One thing this exercise has done is made me appreciate the value of a sewing machine. I’m entirely hand stitching this capote together, mostly with a blanket stich. Not only is this time consuming but it’s hell on my left thumb (I’m a southpaw). But, it’s good practice.

In Part 4, I’ll get the pockets sewn in and flaps on.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: February 16, 2014, 2:54 pm

In Part 2 I’ll show how I cut the blanket and how the capote looked after my first round of sewing.

First, I cut/tore the blanket to make the body. I'm going to use buttons to fasten the front rather than a wrap, so I narrowed the blanket by a few inches. If doing this again I'd leave it full width for more overlap, but this will be OK. I made it with a 40" length, which brings the bottom hem to the back of my knees (I am 5'6" tall).

Note that one blanket came with the stripes while the other did not. IMO, the stripes add a nice detail to a coat.

Next, I folded the body in half and made the slits for the arms. The instructions say to make them ~7", to be lengthened later. IMO, you could make them 9" right from the get go.

Next, I cut out the sleeves. Here is one laid out on part of the blanket. I would normally use chalk to mark the lines but didn't have any handy, so I grabbed a bar of soap.

I then used this as a pattern to trace around for the second sleeve. I forgot to take a pic of the hood before cutting it out or sewing it onto the body.

And here's how the capote looked after a lot of hand stitching:

The instructions for the pattern aren't the greatest when it came to attaching the hood but I eventually figured it out. Also, I changed the sleeve design a bit to omit the fringe, but I now have holes in each armpit that I need to fill with a gusset.
To sew the pieces together I used black carpet and button thread. I'd planned to use artificial sinew but couldn't find my roll. The black thread is inconspicuous from more than a foot away so it's probably a better choice, anyway. I used a blanket stitch for all seams.

Here’s a detail shot of the hood after I sewed down the triangular flaps.

I went to the local Joann Fabrics to look for buttons but didn't see any I liked. So, I ordered some copper capote buttons from Track of the Wolf.

Work remaining includes:

  • Add a couple slash pockets,
  • Sew on the buttons and make button holes, and
  • I may add a storm flap to the right side from the front opening. The instructions I followed said to cut/tear the blanket to the width that I did, but I’m thinking I want more overlap. So, I can take some leftover material and sew it to the right side (as worn) going from the collar down to the bottom of the stripe. This should keep drafts out.

In Part 3, I’ll get the buttons sewn on, button holes made, and the pocket linings sewn.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: February 16, 2014, 2:21 pm

One of article of clothing which was developed in the 18th or 19th Century and which is still useful today is the wool blanket capote. It’s simply a coat made from a wool blanket or blanket material. Natural fabrics such as wool have some advantages over synthetics, specifically they are much safer around a fire and they are quieter when moving through the bush. Additionally, if you make your own capote from a surplus blanket, you can have a nice, warm winter coat for under $40.

If you do some searching you’ll come across several sites which sell completed capotes, capote kits, and sewing patterns. This thread on BCUSA has a good list of capote patterns and info. The Sportsman’s Guide sells a capote that’s received good reviews on BCUSA, and I considered buying one but really wanted to make my own. I decided to use the pattern found  at The Inquiry Net for a Hudson Bay Capote, with some modifications.

For my raw material I’m using a Bulgarian military surplus 100% wool blanket that I got from They were on sale for $14.95 each plus shipping, so I got two for a total of about $40.

Like many milsurp wool blankets the Bulgarian blankets smelled strongly of mothballs. They reeked. The best way to deodorize them is to hang them in the sun for as much as a week to air them out. As I understand it, the UV light in sunlight helps to break down the napthalene. I haven’t tried it but I’ve also read that napthalene is soluble in alcohol, so you can use a spray of diluted vodka to help along the process. (Finally, a productive use for cheap booze.) If you have experience with this please post a comment.

Anyway, sunlight has been in short supply around here this winter so I decided to throw my blankets in the washer. The one which I’m making the capote from went through three times. Twice on cold and once on hot. I dried it in the gentle cycle after each of the two cold washes and then on hot after the hot wash. Make sure you clean out the lint trap!

Now, generally it’s advised to not put 100% wool into a washing machine, much less the drier, but I seriously doubt the Bulgarian Army had a dry cleaning service for their blankets. Also, I wanted to tighten the weave and preshrink it, to make the material more windproof and warmer. Shrinkage was minimal. This is how wool felt is made, by the way.

Note that if you run a mothball soaked blanket through the wash, it’s gonna stink really bad. My laundry room smelled like you stepped into a box of mothballs.

In Part 2, we’ll start cutting the blanket and sewing it up.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: February 16, 2014, 2:09 pm

Last week I ran across a link to Bulgarian military surplus wool blankets on for the low price of $14.95 each, plus S&H. Wanting to add a couple more wool blankets to my stash, I ordered two. They arrived Saturday while I was out on my last camping trip. packed them well in a big box. Upon opening the box I was met with a very strong mothball smell, which intensified when I pulled one out to look at it. Aside from the odor both appeared to be brand new. The description on their web page is accurate.

Tonight I washed one of the two that I got. I used cold water and Dreft in the washing machine, set it to delicate, and extended & second rinse. I then dried it in the dryer for 70 minutes on delicate with a dryer sheet. It came out fine and there is just the barest hint of a mothball smell remaining. I laid it out flat on the floor and measured it -- no noticeable shrinkage. It seems a little fluffier. I'll probably wash the other one tomorrow.

You can of course use Woolite instead of Dreft (which is what I had on hand). I've also read of guys using shampoo. Wool is hair, after all.

I'm seriously considering using one as the raw material for a bushcraft hoodie. One of these would be perfect for keeping in your car for emergencies, or for camping.

For ~$40 for two of them shipped, this was a great deal.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: February 7, 2014, 2:10 am

Last night I did an overnighter with a friend and his daughter, outside of Pottstown, in SE PA.

We dragged our gear up to the camp using kid's sleds.

On the sled is my Ridge Rest foam mat, East German combat pack containing long johns, socks, and my PCU Level 5 soft shell pants, Swiss poncho, my USGI MSS, a folding camp chair, axe, H&R 20 gauge shotgun, and hunting vest. We wound up not doing any hunting, and I didn't need the extra clothes, but it was still better to have them just in case.

We built a long fire although we didn't use it to heat our shelters. It still made a nice fire to sit in front of and gave off a lot of warmth. You can see the pot and lid from my Swedish mess kit in the lower right. I used it to melt snow so we had warm water for cleaning dishes, etc.

Dinner was beans and franks cooked in a dutch oven my friend dragged up, and some hot dogs grilled on a Biolite stove belonging to another friend who couldn't sleep over. I didn't get any good pics of these.

Here's the hootch I slept in. It's a USMC field tarp over my MSS. Under the MSS I had a Big Agnes insulated air matress, Ridge Rest foam pad, a USGI casualty evacuation blanket, and snow. :) The air mattress, foam pad, and casevac blanket provided plenty of insulation from the cold ground. I used the sled to partially block off the side of the shelter near my head.

To hang the shelter I used 550 cord tied through the bungee loops that come with the USMC field tarp. This allows the tarp to give a bit if there is a gust, although I didn't have to worry about that last night. When prepping for the trip I cut a half dozen 3' pieces of 550 cord especially for this purpose. I used plastic tent stakes through bungees to secure the back of the lean-to.

Since I'm in my 40s I had to get up in the middle of the night. ;) I noticed that the underside of the tarp had a lot of condensation on it. In the morning the top side had a good coating of frost, too. It got down to about 25*F but I was warm in this setup. We didn't have much wind and it mostly came from the direction in back of the tarp.

My friend and his kid slept in this 3 season Coleman tent. Even though it's extremely well ventilated it too had a lot of condensation in the morning.

I told my friend's daughter to look like she was enjoying the zombie apocalypse this morning.

Finally, I got to try out my Kovea Spider stove under field conditions. The temp was around freezing when I took this pic.

We also used the stove to boil water for oatmeal in my friend's Kelly Kettle. To do so we had to fold the legs slightly so that the KK would fit over it, but it worked great. We'd normally use twigs like the KK is designed for, but all the wood was wet, so this made it a lot easier.

It was a fun night out and a good gear test. The USMC field tarp isn't as light as some civilian tarps, but it is very rugged. It's a good size for sheltering one person and has snaps, so you can attach more than one if you need to make a larger shelter. This was my first time trying the MSS in an open shelter and it also worked great. I wouldn't want to carry it far due to its weight but if you don't need to hump it, it's probably one of the best deals available in rugged outdoor gear.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: February 3, 2014, 1:26 am

With Winter upon us, I wanted to post a quick review of a few pieces of cold weather clothing that I’ve been using.

Duluth Fire Hose Pants.  Strictly speaking these aren’t cold weather pants, but they are heavy enough that I wouldn’t want to wear them in the Summer. I have two pairs of these, one of which I’ve owned for over a year. They don’t get a lot of use but one thing I like them for is cool/cold weather practical rifle matches. They allow very good freedom of movement, have well designed, deep pockets, and the fabric is bombproof. On my last trip to Tioga County, PA my friends and I did some grouse hunting, which involved going through some nasty thickets. The Duluth Fire Hose pants shrugged off briars like they were nothing. The pants are pretty wind resistant as well, and snow doesn’t wet them through quickly. Highly recommended.

German surplus wool pants. Wool milsurp clothes are becoming increasingly harder to find as militaries the world over have gone to synthetics in the past couple of decades. I wanted some wool pants for cold weather woodsbumming, camping, and hunting, and found these German surplus pants in my size at There are a few features that I don’t care for. Most annoying, the top button faces inward. I had that replaced with a hook and clasp. I don’t care for the flaps on the front pockets, and I dislike the button fly (something which you’ll find in a lot of older surplus). That said, they are extremely well made and warm. I plan to get a set of suspenders to use with them because they are a little long and feel like they are falling down, due to my lack of a behind.

Alpha Industries N-3B Parka. If  like me you were a boy in the 1970s you probably had a snorkel parka. They were based on the USAF N-3B parka adopted in 1958.  I’ve been wanting a heavy Winter coat for sub-freezing temps that I could just throw on without putting on multiple layers, and decided to go retro. This coat meets that need in spades. Design-wise, it’s a bit dated when compared with stuff you see at REI. For example, the number and size of pockets, and the buttons used for securing the wind flap.  However, it is probably the warmest coat I’ve ever owned. The night I bought it I took walk in 23*F (-5*C) weather with just a t-shirt and a cotton button down shirt underneath and was perfectly warm. I spent a fair amount of time today outside wearing the N-3B, clearing snow, and taking my kids sledding, all in temps under 20*F (-7*C), and stayed warm and dry the whole time. Tonight I went out for a walk while it was 9*F (-13*C). I wore a cotton t-shirt, a light cotton flannel shirt, a light polar fleece jacket, and the Alpha N3B parka. I started getting hot at the end of the walk.

The Alpha N-3B currently sold on the American civilian market has some differences from the USGI parkas, most notably the material used for the shell. Functionally, though, I think it’s as good as the original. There are some other brands of N-3Bs but you’re probably best of sticking with the Alpha. This is one of my favorite recent purchases. I bought mine at I. Goldberg’s in Philly, because I wanted to try it on first. The XL seems true to size, so if you don’t have a local source you can probably buy it online without too much worry about the size being off. Amazon carries it, here.

Swiss Surplus Wool Sweater. I wrote about this last month, so here’s the link in case you missed it. To update my original post on it, I’ve worn it several times, including during a party when we hung out by a fire pit in mid-30s weather for a few hours. It gets two thumbs up from me.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: January 4, 2014, 2:58 am

About a year ago I posted pics of the two antennas I have up on my roof. What I’ve found is that the Ultimax 100 that I’m using for HF is pretty directional for Tx when mounted as a sloper, as I currently have it. So, I’ve decided to remount it vertically.

Since the radiating element is a piece of wire, I’ll need a way to support it. This morning I ordered a Jackite 31’ telescoping fiberglass pole from Amazon. Jackite manufactures their telescoping poles for use in flying kites and windsocks, but a lot of amateur radio operators have adopted them for supporting antennas. Mounting the antenna vertically will give me an omnidirectional radiation pattern, and just as importantly, a lower takeoff angle. For my needs I think this will work better for me.

The pole should arrive Saturday. The weather forecast for Sunday looks good so I hope to have it up then.

Assuming it works out as expected I will probably buy a second pole and then another similar antenna for field use.

Updates to follow.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: December 24, 2013, 6:16 pm

I recently posted about an easy to make alcohol stove. Alcohol stoves are great in that they are cheap to make, easy to use, employ a relatively safe fuel, and work pretty well. However, if you need a stove that will boil water more quickly then there are better alternatives. One such type of stove is the canister stove, fueled by disposable canisters filled with liquified gas fuel. A nice overview of the different types of fuels used in these canisters is available at Zen Stoves.

I had some credit in my Amazon account, so I decided to add a Kovea Spider backpacking stove to my toolkit.  Here’s the stove, piezo electric igniter, instruction flier, and carry sack. It weighs less than 6 oz. sans fuel. I chose the Kovea after reading a couple reviews, here and here. Both reviews have some good detail pictures, along with performance data.


A closeup of the stove. The copper tube next to the burner is part of the fuel line. By running it close to the burner, it can be used to gasify liquid fuel before it gets to the burner itself. This is useful in very cold temperatures when you need to run the canister upside to get liquid fuel out.


Butane canister stoves are attached to the fuel canister in one of two ways. The most common is screwing directly to the top of the can. An example of this is the MSR Pocket Rocket. The other method, employed by the Kovea Spider, is a remote connection using a tube.

The direct connect stoves are a bit lighter and more compact. The remote connect stoves give you a lower center of gravity, allow you to place a windscreen tighter around the stove and pot when in use, and some can be used with the canister inverted, which may be necessary in cold weather. For these reasons I chose a remote connect design.

The butane/isobutane/propane canisters are widely available at sporting goods stores, Walmart, etc. I picked a few up at REI while I was waiting for the Kovea to arrive.

Along with the stove, I ordered a windscreen. Since it’s a remote unit and I don’t have to worry about overheating the canister, the I got a 12” tall windscreen by Solo. This screen can be used with canister, alcohol, or wood stoves. There are wire stakes on both ends which allow you to anchor it to the ground. It’s made from aluminum so it’s very light, and packs into a nice carry case.

To test the Kovea Spider I took it out back while the temperature was in the lower 30s F. I used it to boil 12 oz. of water to reconstitute a Mountain House Pro Pak freeze dried spaghetti and meat sauce dinner.

To use the stove, first make sure that the valve is completely closed by turning it clockwise. (The valve handle is the rectangular wire thing.) Then screw it to the canister. Unfold the stove and set it down away from the canister. Turn the stove on by opening the valve, then light the gas.

I first tried to light the stove using the supplied piezo electric igniter. Perhaps I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t get the miniscule spark to light the stove. So, I turned off the gas flow and got a ferrocerium rod out of my bag, then tried again. After a couple strikes the stove lit.


Here’s my test setup, showing how closely you can wrap the windscreen around the stove and pot.


The 1.5 cups of water in my Walmart grease pot took about 3 minutes to come to a rolling boil on the Kovea. Impressive.


To extinguish the stove simply close the valve again. The canisters can be disconnected from the stove and reused until empty.

As for dinner, the Mountain House Pro Pak spaghetti and meat sauce was pretty good. The package was for a 16 oz. serving. After opening it and discarding the dessicant pack, add 1.5 cups (12 oz.) of boiling water, mix it up, and reseal the bag. Wait 8 or 9 minutes, mix it again, and dig in.

Kovea is a Korean company and fairly new to the US market. The reasonably-priced Spider is well made from good materials and as shown above, offers good performance. Because it can be used with the fuel canister inverted, it will be useful to lower temperatures than stove not supporting that mode of operation.  It’s lightweight and compact. In fact, it will nest inside a Walmart grease pot along with a fuel canister. The one item I wasn’t happy with was the piezo igniter, which doesn’t make much of a spark. So, I plan to keep a ferrocerium rod and striker, and/or some matches along with the stove.

The combination of a liquid fuel canister stove and dehydrated food is very convenient. It’s a good combination for day hikes, camping, or keeping in your bugout bag.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: December 14, 2013, 12:40 am

As a fan of wool clothing I’ve been on the lookout for a good sweater to add to my wardrobe.  Wool, of course, is great because it still provides some insulation even if it gets wet, and is more fire resistant the synthetics.

I came across Swiss military surplus sweaters on a few sites, most of which had used sweaters. SwissLink had some new ones for $59.99, so I ordered one on November 27th. It arrived on December 5th. Not bad for shipping over a holiday weekend.

The sweater is in perfect, new condition as described on SwissLink’s site. It is a heavy 70% virgin wool / 30% polyester. It’s itchy against bare skin but I don’t plan on wearing it without a shirt underneath.

The collar and cuffs have a ribbed knit pattern. SwissLink describes it as having a quarter-zip, but it’s actually closer to a half-zip, which I like because it makes donning or doffing it easier, and allows for better ventilation.

The workmanship is top notch. There aren’t any loose threads and the plastic zipper operates smoothly. It actually looks nice enough that it wouldn’t appear out of place if you wore it into the office. That said, I bought it for field use.

The sweater I received is marked with the European size 56, which converts to American sizing as a 46 according to this site. SwissLink lists them using American sizing ( M, L, XL, and XXL).

I am 5’6” tall but carry my own survival rations around my waist, so I ordered the XL. It fits well although the sleeves a bit long. I can roll the cuffs over so that’s not a problem and would allow me to pull them down over my hands if I don’t have gloves.

Some measurements from the garment:

  • Height from top of collar to hem: 31”
  • Width at armpits: 26”
  • Sleeve length (along top edge): 26”

Unlike a lot of milsurp this didn’t come with a funky smell. In fact, it smells pretty much like my Land’s End lamb’s wool sweaters.

Hopefully I’ll have enough cool weather to wear it often.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: December 6, 2013, 3:58 pm

While cruising the Interwebs I’ve come across a few notewrothy blogs worth perusing by preppers.

  • Mountain Guerilla. This is written by “John Mosby,” a SF veteran. One noteworthy post is Optics Options for the Fighting Rifle.
  • Max Velocity Tactical. This is the website of former British Para, now US citizen. From reading the blog, he appears more oriented towards training regular guys than most trainers, who are oriented more towards the military or LEO side of things. One of the pieces of gear that I’ve written about in the past is the SAS smock. Max has a couple good posts about the smock here and here.
  • Signal Corps. This blog appears to be pretty new. It’s written by a former SF commo guy and the blog has mostly covered radio communications. He’s a big proponent of getting your ham ticket.
Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: December 1, 2013, 6:44 pm

I found this video via a link on BushcraftUSA.

How To Turn A Beer Can Into The Only Camping Stove You'll Ever Need from Tom Allen on Vimeo.

I made one from a soda can a week or two ago and finally had the chance to try it out today.


For lunch I had a Mountain House “Wraps” meal of scrambled eggs, sausage, onions, and hash browns. The bag says it’s for filling your own burritos, but I ate it right out of the bad using an MRE spoon.

The stove worked well using denatured alcohol for the fuel. At first, I had it inside the hobo stove pictured, which I intended to be both a pot stand and windscreen for the stove. I put an ounce or two of alcohol in the soda can stove and after about five minutes, the 1.5 cups of water in the Walmart grease pot was just starting to boil. At that point it ran out of fuel. I waited for the stove to cool down, added more fuel, and lit it. After waiting about 30 seconds for it to begin burning well I put the pot right on top of the stove, as shown in the video. Within a few minutes the water was boiling.

The instructions for the Mountain House food are to add 1.5 cups of boiling water to the pouch, stir, then reseal and let it sit for 8 – 9 minutes. I did so, stirred it some more, then ate it. It was pretty good and not too salty. A little bit of hot sauce would’ve been good, though.

I’m impressed with the stove. Compared with other alcohol stoves made from soda cans it’s much simpler to make. I.e., you don’t need to make a series of holes around the outside. I do need to come up with some sort of lightweight windscreen. I’d like to come up with a kit consisting of the stove, fuel bottle, windscreen, and a box of matches, all fitting inside the Walmart grease pot. It would be a great lightweight cooking kit.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: December 1, 2013, 6:20 pm

In recent posts I’ve discussed single shot shotguns as tools for your survival arsenal. The oldest way of making a multiple shot firearm was to add a second barrel. Double guns remain popular to this day. Side by side shotguns have experienced a revival with the advent of cowboy action shooting, while over/unders are very popular with trap, skeet, and sporting clay shooters, as well as hunters.

Over on Blog O’Stuff, I’ve posted recently about the Baikal MP-310 (IZH-27) over/under that I got a couple weeks ago. See here, here, and here.

The Baikal guns in particular offer a couple nice features for the prepper. First is chrome plated bores. That means easier maintenance and better weather resistance. The chromed bores will be especially handy if you shoot any shells loaded with black powder or Pyrodex.  The other is that they come with sling swivels. They are old fashioned Euro-style 3/4” swivels. I bought a suitable sling from Hastings Distribution which fit perfectly and was inexpensive.

A well-made double, whether it’s a side-by-side or over/under, is a good hunting tool and not a bad defensive weapon. Doubles offer redundant firing mechanisms and the ability to load a different kind of ammo in each barrel. For example, if you’re hunting you could load one barrel with birdshot and the other with a slug.

Doubles also allow you to shoot ammo that won’t feed well in a repeater, e.g., Aguila 1.5” mini shells.

A double barrel shotgun is a rather intimidating looking weapon. Having two ~3/4” holes pointed at your face says, “GTFO OR ELSE!” in pretty much every language. While you should not rely solely on intimidation, if it prevents you from having to drop the hammer on another person I’d say you’re coming out ahead. Most defensive gun use doesn’t require any shots being fired, so this shouldn’t be totally discounted.

Another nice feature of break open guns compared with most pumps or semiautos is that they are shorter, because there isn’t much action behind the breach. For example, a Remington 870 Express with a 28” barrel is 48.5” long. The Baikal O/U with the same barrel length is 3” shorter.

Most double guns take down easily without tools. My Stoeger SxS Coach Gun and the Baikal take down by removing the forearm by opening a retaining lever. You then break open the gun and pull the barrels off. With a little practice you can takedown or reassemble the gun in about 10 seconds.

Break open guns make it easy to use a sub-gauge adapter. Savage used to sell the “Four Tenner,” which allowed you to shoot .410 bore shells in a 12 gauge shotgun. There are a few vendors of similar products nowadays (search for “sub-gauge adapter”).

Break open singles and doubles have a very simple manual of arms. They don’t require learning how to use a magazine or a slide release. This is an advantage if you need to use one as a hand out gun.

If a single shot doesn’t provide enough firepower for you but a repeater is more complex than you’d like, check out a double gun.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: November 26, 2013, 12:10 am

This afternoon my 9 year old daughter gave me a hand and we made this compost bin. Most of the wood was salvaged from a friend’s old deck that he had torn down, although I did have to buy a couple of 1x3s to finish the job.

It’s about 50” wide, 3’ high, and 2’ front-to-back. The sides are surrounded by hardware cloth (1/2” galvanized steel mesh). I plan to add a hinged door to the front right, but ran out of time today.

We added 3 bags of leaves that were mulched by going through my Toro leaf blower/vac, and some of the vegetable scraps from tonight’s dinner prep.

I’m hoping we get some good compost out of it for next year’s garden. My girls really want to do a garden next year, so that should help motivate me. The soil in my yard is hard packed clay, so I’m planning on building raised beds and filling them with good topsoil.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: November 11, 2013, 2:08 am

I’ve been doing some preliminary research into silencer designs prior to filing my first Form 1, and ran across this article about a small lathe made by a British POW being held in a WW2 Japanese prison camp. Link to ~1.1 meg PDF.

This lathe was quite a bit smaller than the modern Chinese lathes made by Sieg and Real Bull, and which are commonly derided as toys. Yet, the author of the article made good use of it, fabricating parts for artificial limbs, among other things.

There’s something to be said for picking up and learning how to use a lathe as part of your preps. It could come in useful in the event of an economic depression when manufactured items become hard to get and it’s a tool with which to earn some extra cash.

Sources for the modern mini lathes include Harbor Freight, Grizzly, Little Machine Shop, and Big Dog Metal Works. Also check out for more info.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: November 7, 2013, 1:33 am

I went camping with friends a couple weekends ago. On the way to the property, we stopped at Cabela’s and I picked up a box of the Herter’s Multi Defense load, which is a modern incarnation of buck and ball that was used by the US Army in its smoothbore muskets. The Herter’s load consists of one .650” caliber round ball and six No.1 buckshot, each of which is a .30” caliber ball.

As described on Wikipedia:

The intent of the buck and ball load was to combine the devastating impact of the full-size (normally .65 caliber) ball with the spreading pattern of a shotgun, and served to greatly improve the hit probability of the smoothbore musket used in combat, especially at closer ranges, where the buckshot would retain significant energy, and against closely packed troops where the spread of the buckshot would be advantageous

Obviously, the extra hit probability against massed troop formations is no longer of concern, but the Multi Defense load’s combination of a single large projectile with a half dozen smaller pellets may be advantageous in certain environments. I wouldn’t choose it for use in a city or suburban area due to the potential for stray pellets. But for rural or campsite defense it may be a viable option.

The Multi Defense loads may also be found marketed under the Centurion brand name, and I think also Nobel. They are made in Italy and appear to be well made, high quality ammo. I’d like to see a reduced recoil version.

I put a couple of them through my cut down H&R Topper. Thank G-d for the Pachmayr Decelerator slip on recoil pad, because the recoil of these high brass loads in the lightweight H&R was truly vicious.

I’m pleased to note that the Truglo fiber optic bead sight that I put on the H&R  stayed put after putting two of the Multi Defense loads plus two Federal reduced recoil Tactical OO buck through it.

Aside from the self abuse inflicted by shooting high brass shells through a 5.5 pound 12 gauge shotgun, we did some bird and small game hunting. This reinforced that yes, you can in fact miss with a shotgun. The four of us flushed about a dozen ruffed grouse, got off several shots, and wound up having the beef we brought along for dinner.

I got one shot off with my H&R 20 gauge Topper at a grouse but missed. I might have had better luck with a more open choke. The range when I fired was no more than 20 feet. It’s tempting to have the barrel sent off to get threaded for choke tubes and stick an IC tube in the gun.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: November 5, 2013, 1:51 pm

{Army of Darkness}

This is my BOOM stick!

{/Army of Darness}

Inspired by this thread on Arfcom (among others), today I took my old H&R Topper that I got while I was in high school back in the early ‘80s, and cut the barrel to 22” from the original 27.5” length. To cut the barrel I used a cutoff wheel in my angle grinder, then dressed the end square on a belt sander. I used some more sandpaper to debur the inside of the crown.


I hunted with this gun and shot a fair amount of doves with it but it’s been unused for over 20 years at this point. At some point back in the ‘80s the lug on the bottom of the barrel that you screw the forearm to sheared off. This is a common problem with H&Rs of this era. Last weekend a friend TIG welded it back on.


Yes, it’s ugly, but it held on through a few rounds of low brass trap loads.

As you can see in the top pic I added a Truglo fiber optic bead sight and a Pachmayr Decellerator slip-on recoil pad. I also added a set of Allen quick detachable sling swivel studs.

I’m hoping that the fiber optic bead will stay on the barrel. It’s really tight. If not, I marked a spot for reinstalling the original bead.

The length of pull is a little too long for me now so I’m planning to shorten the butt.

My intended use for this is as a camp gun and maybe upland hunting in thick brush. It takes down into two short pieces by removing one screw, so it may also get used as a truck gun on road trips.

Obviously I need to pattern it. It should be OK to shoot with low brass loads and fun with Aguila mini shells, or even black powder handloads.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: September 26, 2013, 8:05 pm

Over on Blog O’Stuff I have two posts (part one, part two) showing how I revitalized a century old H&R Model 1900 12 gauge, top break shotgun. If you’re on a tight budget and you run across one of these or something similar, you can clean it up with some elbow grease and time.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: September 26, 2013, 7:44 pm
This article is worth reading in full:

Trapping Feral Pigs and Other Parables of Modern Life
by Matt Bracken

Professional trappers don't catch fast-breeding and destructive feral pigs using hunting dogs and guns, or in little traps one or two at a time. The wily pigs quickly learn to evade humans after such fleeting contacts. So how do the pros trap entire feral pig herds, eliminating them all, from granddads to piglets, in one go? They feed them, most generously. They kill them with kindness.

First, in a clearing in the woods, the trappers build an enclosure about twenty feet on a side and four feet high, made of stout wire mesh. There is an opening on each of the four sides of the pen. The pen is loaded with corn and other pig favorites. At first, the suspicious hog honchos will send in a few of the little ones as scouts. The scouts come and go at will, eating to their piggy satisfaction, until eventually suspicions die and they are joined by every other member of the herd right up the chain of command. The pigs soon come to believe that if nothing bad has happened to them after entering the strange wire enclosure full of corn, then nothing bad will ever happen. Their "normalcy bias" kicks in very quickly.

Soon, the pigs can't imagine any other life. Rooting for tubers? An unpleasant task of the forgotten past. Nightly the herd eagerly trots to the free corn in the pen, and they fail to notice when one of the openings has been closed off with another panel of wire fencing during the day. Pigs are said to be as smart as dogs, but neither can count to four. Nor are the closings of the second or third openings much noticed. Finally, all that remains for the trapper to do is to install a powerful spring-driven trap door above the last opening. The entire tribe of formerly wary feral hogs once again enters the pen, and with a metallic clang their miraculous corn nirvana turns into a death trap.

The moral of the story: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don't go inside the "free corn" pen, not even when all the doors are open. Free food is as dangerous as the sirens' song to ancient mariners. It is all too easy to get used to being fed, and then to miss the exits closing one at a time.

2. The Turkeys and Farmer Brown

Pigs are Einsteins compared to turkeys. Turkeys are so stupid that care must be taken to prevent them from killing themselves by accident. For example, if incorrectly stimulated, they might stampede into a corner of a feeding lot and trample many of their brethren to death in their urgency to follow the herd.

If turkeys think at all, they think of Farmer Brown as "the food man" or "the food god." So you can imagine their simple and unreserved joy at seeing the food man arriving to dispense the daily manna. For 364 straight days they believe they are living in turkey heaven, and they worship the food man, until on day 365 he unexpectedly takes an ax to their necks. (Hat tip to Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his seminal book, "The Black Swan" If you have not yet read it, you are way behind the learning curve. It's waiting for you at your local library.)

The moral of the story: If somebody is feeding you every day and asking for nothing in return, give an occasional thought to his motives and his possible end plans. Not everybody that feeds you loves you. The normalcy bias can kill you.

3. The Buffalo Jump

Native American Indians hunted on foot before the arrival of Spanish horses in North America. Bows and arrows and spears were not showstoppers against stampeding herds of bison, each weighing up to a ton. The Indians understood bison much better than the bison understood the Indians, however, and so the bison repeatedly failed to discern that all the pesky humans waving flags and setting grass fires were funneling them into a narrow draw and then to a yawning cliff, with squaws and children waiting below to commence the butchery.

The moral of the story: If you are being stampeded and funneled, it might be toward disaster, not away from it. Take any exit and go another direction. Read about the then-Greek city of Smyrna in 1922 to see a human Buffalo Jump in action. Wiki link to the "Catstrophe of Smyrna"

4. The Lemmings

The lemmings we are interested in are the small furry rodents that live on islands around Norway. For most of history, their mass charges into the frigid waters were seen as some kind of group suicide. Today, they’re understood to be the result of the little rodent's rapid gestation period kicking into high gear during rare periods of abundance of seed grasses sprouting madly during particularly mild arctic summers. In a matter of months the lemming population explodes, but eventually every last seed is eaten, and not another seed will appear until after the passage of the long arctic winter. The starving rodents packing the small islands can either die in place or undertake a desperate swim to greener pastures on other islands beckoning in the distance.

The moral of the story: There doesn't need to be a pig trapper or a turkey farmer in the equation to cause a mass die-off event; nature can do it all on her own. And nature doesn't care about your schedule, or your personal problems.

5. The Land Crab Massacre

One day in Puerto Rico a platoon of Navy SEALs had to drive in a few trucks and vans to an isolated rifle range way out in some swampy corner of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, now sadly closed. A few miles of gravel road paralleled the Caribbean shore, with mangrove trees close on both sides of the narrow track. You had to access this rifle range at certain times during the daily tidal cycle, or the road might be under water. The frogmen spent the day shooting guns and blowing things up, then at sunset packed up the trucks for the quick run back to their beloved NavSpecWar Det Caribbean.

Truck headlights illuminated a moving sheet of land crabs, migrating from the ocean toward the land for the night. Land crabs have a body about the size of a fist, and one claw as big as a Maine lobster's. They were so tightly packed that you could not toss a hat into their midst without hitting two or three: a near solid mass of them covering a mile of gravel road and the mangrove swamps on both sides. All the SEALs could do was drive over them in their government trucks, pulverizing thousands of them, maybe millions, leaving two wide swaths of crushed crab, crackling and squishing beneath our tires for a mile.

On the return trip to the range the next day, not a sign remained of the land crab holocaust. The smashed crustaceans had been immediately devoured by their erstwhile kin, who were probably happy that the hard work of shell-cracking had already been done by Goodyear tires. A mile-long crab massacre was followed by a cannibal feast that left no trace, overnight.

The moral of the story: Don't be caught in the middle of a mass migration where you have no room to maneuver independently. Any outside force, or your neighbors, can smite you at will. Like Desert Storm's "Highway of Death," refugee columns attract warbird attention the way that honey attracts flies. History is full of refugee columns being strafed, on purpose or through mis-identification. Or like the bison, refugee columns can be herded into traps, and the individual refugee can do nothing to prevent it. This is a paradoxical case where the normally presumed “safety in numbers” is a deadly betrayer instead of a savior. Given a choice, going it alone beats The Buffalo Jump every time, but it’s very hard to bolt from the herd.

Read the whole thing here:
Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: August 29, 2013, 1:11 pm

Over the past few years I’ve read many discussions of the Walmart IMUSA grease pot for use as an inexpensive, lightweight cooking pot while camping. I was at Walmart earlier this week and decided to pick one up to try. For about $6, why not?

(For whatever reason, I can’t find the grease pot at, here is the same pot at Amazon.)

The wife and kids were out tonight so I stopped at the local Asian grocer and bought a few different kinds of noodles to try, including the pack of udon that I cooked tonight. Here’s the udon pack, grease pot, hobo stove, and fuel that I used.


Not shown is the strainer included with the great pot, since I didn’t use it tonight.

For fueling the hobo stove I used a firestarter that I’d made up a few weeks ago. It’s part of a cardboard egg carton stuffed with oak shavings, then saturated with melted Gulf canning wax (paraffin). Once the melted wax hardens, you get a waterproof firestarter that lights easily and will burn hot for several minutes. They are great for starting campfires, and I wanted to see how it would work in lieu of sticks in the hobo stove.

The stove is one I made a couple years ago from a 1 pound coffee can. It has several ~1/2” holes around the bottom to allow for a draft, several more around the top, and a window at the top for adding fuel in the form of sticks or split wood.

I put 1.5 cups of tap water into the grease pot and placed it on the stove, then lit the fuel. After a couple minutes it looked like this.


Remember, that’s one of these firestarters.

I didn’t hear any boiling so after about 3 minutes I removed the lid, and found that I had a rolling boil.


So I put the udon in and let it cook for about 3 minutes. The firestarter burned out about 2 to 3 minutes after I added the noodles. I figure that it burned for about 6 to 7 minutes.



I did end up transferring the udon to a bowl, because the grease pot is too tall to conveniently eat from.


For six bucks, the IMUSA grease pot carried by Walmart is a great deal if you want a light, cheap cooking pot for camping. It’s even  big enough to hold one of those small butane powered stoves. It’s made from thin aluminum, so don’t expect it to withstand much abuse, but if you keep that in mind it’s a great deal.

The IMUSA grease pot would also make a good basis for a car survival kit. It can hold some survival supplies, e.g., tea bags, bullion cubes, a cup, space blanket, matches, firestarters, Esbit tabs or Trioxane fuel bars.

I was pleased with the performance of the firestarter when used as cooking fuel. If the pot had more than 1.5 cups of water in it I would have needed more fuel, however.

One caveat about using this kind of firestarter as a fuel bar is that it leaves a lot of thick, greasy soot on your cooking pot. If you plan on using this, better carry a plastic bag to put your pot in so everything else in your pack doesn’t turn black.

Performance of the hobo stove was good. It could probably be improved with something to hold the fuel closer to the bottom of the pot, such as a metal grate or the bottom of a smaller, empty can inverted and placed inside.

This goes to show you that you don’t always need to spend a lot of money on gear if you exercise a bit of creativity.

Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: August 16, 2013, 11:25 pm
I think this pretty much cements the notion that AR15s are in "common use" per Heller.

80% AR15 lower receiver at


Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: August 9, 2013, 12:13 pm
Tonight in my meanderings on the web I ran across this post from last year by KE4SKY* on the Hill People Gear forum:

A break-open, single-shot, 12-gauge shotgun is the least expensive, most handy, versatile firearm that anyone can own. A subsistence farmer in the Third World or outdoorsman doesn’t want a heavy tactical shotgun. When on foot out doing chores you aren’t going to carry more than a pound or so of ammo. 
12-gauge shells weigh 9 rounds to the pound. A box of 25 shells weigh about 3 pounds. This limits how much ammunition you will carry, because playing Rambo with your shotgun gets in the way of carrying mission-essential kit like shelter, water, fire making, food, first aid, navigation, communication,..survival! So, you take what you need for camp meat opportunities which may occur during the day and a few for two- or four-leggged predator deterrent on the walk home. If backpacking, you will carefully make that three pound box of 25 shells last as long a time as possible, especially if re-supply is a great distance away.

This is a simple meat producer, predator deterrent and personal defense gun. Low cost, safety, simplicity, ruggedness, durability, ease of carry, fast handling and versatility are its attributes. What other firearm can you get for about $100 used or less than $200 new which does so much?
The break-open shotgun “always works,” is simplicity itself and is legal most places which don't permit people to carry a handgun or military rifle. Minimal training is needed. You can’t “short-shuck” one, as often happens to novice “pump gun” owners. It keeps going like the Energizer Bunny with minimal care, despite rain, sand, snow, ice, mud, dust or saltwater exposure AND it takes apart to fit in your pack. Nothing much breaks on them unless you are stupid enough to dry-fire one with the action open and slam the action closed, breaking the firing pin. 

I've been seeing a lot more interest in the single-barrel shotgun lately, which is a nice alternative to the tacticool stuff. Certainly a Remington 870 or other repeater is a better gun for defense, but single-shots can be picked up cheaper, are simpler to run, and work just fine as game getters.

*Since he posted under his call sign I won't name him here. If you know where to look it's easy to find, though. Let's just say that he's very knowledgeable about firearms.
Author: Dave Markowitz
Posted: August 1, 2013, 11:18 pm

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