The latest posts from TEOTWAWKI Blog

Some epic-ness right here.

Have been waiting for this movie ever since the summer after 4th grade, when I caught a re-run of Thunderdome on TBS and fell in love. Spent the rest of that summer building dune buggies out of Legos.

Yep, it'd be better with Mel, but Charlize is certainly an upgrade from Tina Turner.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: April 17, 2015, 2:05 am

Last week, MVT posted up a video talking through his current fighting gear / load bearing equipment, which includes a new chest rig made to his specs. It also includes a pretty cool first person run through a shooting scenario - worth paying attention here to pick up on some of the tactics/techniques that Max teaches.

The set up that Max shows here - a light battle belt and midweight chest rig is interesting in that it is a pretty significant shift from the heavy British Para-webbing style battle belt that he used to be a big advocate for--here's the most recent example that I can find:

Image via MVT.
10-12ish mags, handgun, 4x canteen pouches on the back and a couple handgun pouches to round it out. We'll call it a "British-style" battle belt for lack of a better name.

I toyed around with a British battle belt, similar to Max Velocity's, through part of last year. Went cheap on the belt - got a Condor knock off and their harness, bought a few surplus USGI canteen pouches and used pouches that I had lying around to cobble one together.

Found a lot to like about it - way better load carrying ability and generally more comfortable / better mobility than a comparable weight of chest rig. Gives you the ability to carry a decent amount of food, a canteen, survival gear and a big IFAK, which can be a challenge using other load carrying gear. Good place to put your sidearm and good access to it. Easily adjusts to different weights of clothing, too.

After a bit of T&E, I ended up giving up on a British-style battle belt for my purposes, at least for the time being. Why?

The big deal breaker is operations in/around vehicles, and to a lesser extent moving through structures/room clearing. Canteen/utility pouches on the back and triple-thick mag pouches on the hips extends your width pretty significantly and you start having to turn sideways to get through doors, can't sit in a normal car comfortably, etc.

Image via BPRE
There's also no lighter/low threat profile to choose from with just the heavy belt. A lighter battle gives you the option of operating with just the lighter, more comfortable, lower profile belt on. Options and flexibility are good.

Of course, this isn't exactly a revelation--Max's heavier weight battle belts were a bit of an outlier in the tactical gear world. Folks have been running lighter battle belts in conjunction with a lighter chest rig or plate carrier mounted pouches for a while.

It looks like Max has arrived at a similar conclusion and ditched his big ol' battle belt, at least for general use. In his recent write-up on the new chest rig featured in the video above, Max says:

I have most recently been settling on using a light battlebelt, which is comfortable enough to wear most of the time, augmented by a chest rig. I feel that this is the most practical application across operational environments; it works well for both dismounted operations, vehicle operations, and with or without armor.

This matches my own personal assessment after running a variety of gear - plate carriers with pouches directly attached, stand alone chest rigs of a variety of sizes, 'British' battle belt, etc.

I'm currently mid-process of re-building my kit to incorporate three different layers - light battle belt, chest rig and slick plate carrier. In conjunction with concealed carry/daily carry gear, these standalone pieces give you the flexibility of different profiles to address different situations. Slick plate carrier and CCW if anticipating potential trouble but need to maintain low profile. Light battle belt for running drills on the range or hunting. Throw it all together if the Nazi Zombies are at the front gates.

Chest rig and carrier are sorted out - HSP D3CR and a Velocity Lightweight Plate Carrier. I may down the line drop some coin on a custom rig from Extreme Gear Labs, designers of the D3CR, but generally the stock D3CR does what I need it to do. Looking forward to a couple of the enhancements HSP has in the works this year. The ability to directly attach the D3CR to the carrier, or run it as a standalone rig is money.

Battle belt is a work in progress - ideally want pistol, pistol mags x2, 2-3 rifle mags, dump pouch, IFAK, H2O of some variety, flashlight and multi-tool. Maybe comms, too. Not sure if I can manage all of that with the given real estate, but we'll see.

Follow up posts/reviews are incoming.

In my experience, most people are continually tinkering with/adjusting their gear. Trying new things, incorporating new ideas or revisiting old ones. Travis Haley makes a big emphasis on preaching the importance of staying dynamic and adaptive...and at worst, adjusting and evaluating what you're doing exposes you to different ideas and keeps you on your toes.

Interested to hear from the tribe - are you tinkering with your battle rattle? What gear ideas have you tried out recently and left by the wayside?
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: April 11, 2015, 9:04 pm
Not dead, in jail or abducted by aliens. Busy busy with life and other projects. 

Have more than a few things that I need to get wrapped up and posted -- stay tuned.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: April 9, 2015, 11:46 pm
Spoilers after the jump.

Great episode. The rumor-mill was running all out for this episode. Daryl was for sure going to die, Glenn was going to die, Father Gabriel was going to die, Carl was going to get his eyeball shot out...

And when the episode opened on Morgan (finally!) brewing up a cup of coffee and the big bad evil leader of the Wolves (Negan, I am presuming) strolled up with a pistol in hand, I was pretty sure he wasn't going to make it out of there alive.

Of course, I'd forgotten that Morgan had acquired Book of Eli-level bo staff skills somewhere along the line.

This was one of those great, tense conversations that the Walking Dead does really well every now and then. You know its going to explode into violence at any moment...edge of the seat.

Unfortunately, Morgan hasn't picked up Rick's skill at tying up loose ends, which has 1000% likelihood of coming back to haunt the collective group. "All life is precious now" is a nice thought and all, but the life of murderous scum ain't precious.

The episode proceeded to put most of the rumored characters into near death situations. All made it through, which was hugely surprising. Kept me on the edge of my seat.

Was wanting Father Gabriel to get eaten/shot...that crazy bastard has outlived his welcome.

End of the episode set up the big bad evil guys for next season, brought Morgan into the fold at last and seemed to solidify Team Rick's place in the ASZ.

Was Rick executing the abusive husband, or was he putting down the leader woman's husband prior to becoming a zombie?

The Wolves/Negan will make for good baddies - the nefarious creativity of the food warehouse trap, brutality...seem to only really care about looting, plundering and murdering. Somehow a lot more threatening than the Governor.

Also - anyone else catch the pro-2A themes? Team Rick's struggle to stay armed. The exiled family was exiled because they had turned in their guns and couldn't do anything about it. Rick, the one guy with enough balls to have a gun, saving the day when zombies and the angry drunk husband show up.

Good stuff.

What did you guys think?
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 31, 2015, 2:32 am
Been pretty crazy busy 'round here as of late. Slammed at work, three little kiddos,  getting caught up on house projects and starting up some much needed PT/strength training. Spare time - and spare time when I can sit at a keyboard, focus for five minutes and hammer out some coherent thoughts - has been pretty durn limited as of late.

Heck, I haven't even watched last night's Walking Dead yet!

A week ago, I finally made it out to the range to get project AR-(20)15 sighted in and run through its initial paces. Threw a bit of Lucky Gunner-provided ammo down range and the carbine ran extra smoothly. It deserves its own standalone entry, but suffice it to say that I am well pleased. More to come on that, and I know I owe a write up or two on some questions that came from the tribe.

Unless you've been living under a rock, Glock finally dropped a single stack 9mm, the 43. They will sell a couple million of these puppies. I am somewhat glad that I've held off on buying a single stack 9 of my own. Glock 43 and the XD(s) are the contenders right now.

5.56 is quickly recovering from the mini-panic now that the proposed "framework to be stupid" has been withdrawn by the BATF. Also, we not only won that round, but got the Director to take his ball and go home to the private sector. Good work, 'Merica.

A few interesting pieces of legislature are in the works, too - proposals to rid the world of the BATF and/or simply limit its ability to ban the sale of ammo.

Either would be great in my book!
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 23, 2015, 11:00 pm

Our friends over at Vigilant Gear just launch a revamped website. Aside from apply some spit n' polish to the site, they've slashed shipping prices - $2 domestic, free if you spend more than $50.

For those OCONUS types, they've also added shipping to Canada, UK, Australia and Middle Earth/New Zealand.

If you're unfamiliar with Vigilant, they deal in a great variety of compact survival and escape tools, including many hard to find items. Check 'em out, tell them T-Blog sent ya!
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 20, 2015, 11:25 pm
With growing season 'round the corner, thought I'd pass along something that might be a solution to some of your gardening woes.

Choate Machine & Tool, one of our long time sponsors, has a pretty cool, affordable take on the well proven bucket gardening concept--their VersaPot.

Bucket gardening has a bunch of benefits - the buckets are obviously moveable, usually weed-free, and, done well, you can ensure an optimal amount of water to the plant.

The fact that you can move 'em around is a big deal - you can grow stuff where you otherwise wouldn't be able to, scale up or scale down your garden as space allows. You can also control their exposure to weather - moving them into the sunlight, bringing them inside if a bad storm is brewing, etc.

The no-brainer ability to get the right amount of water to the plant is another big deal. Over/under watering is a pretty common mistake, and will kill plants or at least hamper production.

Yes, you can DIY up your own bucket planters by cutting down a bucket and drilling a bunch of holes in it, but that takes up time and gets you a DIY level end product. The VersaPot costs a little bit more than buying second bucket to cut apart ($8 a pop versus $4-$5 for a bucket), but it's ready to rock, much nicer and much less hassle. It also comes with the PVC pipe used for watering, and the plastic mesh cup used for watering. Add your own bucket and you're ready to plant.

Choate was kind enough to send me a package of these kits, which I'll be using in my gardening this year. I am a novice/lousy gardener at best, so don't expect magazine-quality results. But on the other hand, if I can have success with this setup, than you can too.

Stay tuned for more, or if you want to give 'em a try this season, hit up Choate and tell 'em T-Blog sent you.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 18, 2015, 12:29 am
Spoilers after the jump.

Well, I think we just had what were likely the two most gruesome deaths on the Walking Dead. Torn apart and eaten alive. Glenn stuck watching his buddy get ripped to shreds...probably won't get over that one any time soon. Yikes! Honestly couldn't watch all of Noah's demise...a bit too high on the gore factor for me.

This brings me to two related topics:

First up, when is it ok to shoot your comrades rather than leave them to suffer a certain, incredible horrible death?

I'd say both of this week's deaths would have been more than fair game for a mercy bullet to the cranium. Instead of "don't leave me!" I'd be saying "shoot me!" Instant death much preferable to getting ripped to pieces.

Second: I know it's a show and they ran out of ammo for dramatic effect, but in the zombie apocalypse, I'd be carrying some kind of  suicide measure that was held in reserve for just such an unfortunate demise.

A couple measures, actually - a grenade (if one could be found) for taking a bunch with me, and some sort o' pocket gun for offing myself should I wind up in Noah's unfortunate position. Worst case, I'd at least keep a final spare round in reserve for just such a purpose. Much better way to go out.

Tonight's episode was clearly a set up for trouble in paradise. Glorious Leader's son won't be coming home and Preacher Man has come out ranting and raving against Team Rick. Rick is going to have to do something about abusive husband, or Carol will take care of business herself.

The show has been getting into interesting group dynamic territory - the us versus them stuff that all groups go through when merging. It's unavoidable and as we see in TWD, it's fraught with hazards. Joining up with outsiders is a risk. Doesn't mean you can't work together towards the same cause, can't form alliances while staying as separate entities. But trying to absorb one group into another is always going to get messy, fast.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 17, 2015, 2:15 am
I just finished reading an excellent book called the Mission, the Men and Me, written by former Delta Force officer Pete Blaber. Highly recommended to anyone, it largely focuses on key themes and lessons that Blaber learned during his time in the Unit. Great stories and great lessons.

One of Blaber's stories is about a training mission that he took his team on into the mountains of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. He talks in-depth about how all of the guys became obsessed with their pack weight and hitting the goal of what they felt was the optimal maximum weight for a man to carry.

Now, these guys were from friggin' Delta Force and all tip-top athletes who had done a lot of time carrying heavy packs during the military careers leading up to that point. So how much do you think they wanted to carry up into the vast, snow-covered mountains? 70 pounds? 80 pounds? More?

Nope. 40 pounds.

Very fit, literal tier one guys, and they had the goal to not exceed 40 pounds, which they felt was the optimal max weight for a man to carry and still make good mileage.

They obsessed over hitting that weight as much as any backpacker, buying ultralight packs with carbon fiber frames, weighing every possible thing that they were going to carry and trimming out the excess.

When you're packing a bag, whether it's for everyday carry, travel, get home, patrol or bugging out, it pays to have a similar healthy obsession with weight.

Packing lighter and going faster is worth it. Gassing out and wrecking your back after a couple miles with a too heavy pack is lame.

Mi amigo Ryan over at Total Survivalist recently mentioned a desire to slim down what he calls his level 2.5 Get Home Bag, which he's shared here previously. Basically a patrol / hike / light overnight load.

I offered a few tidbits of advice, which I'll develop further and add to here:

The Snugpack Jungle bag is a pretty awesome little sleeping bag if you're looking to slim down in that department. Weighs in at 27 ounces, packs very small. Like its name suggests, it's a warm weather sleeping bag, but it does have a 36 degree "cold" rating - as in you'll be uncomfortable and cold but okay. You can use a fire, space blanket, debris bed, and various other options to make a night outdoors a bit warmer.

If you're in Montana during the winter, a little Jungle bag isn't going to cut, but it'll get you through in a lot of the more hospitable parts of the country.

Along similar lines, make sure to really consider your shelter needs. Depending on your location, plans and the scenario, there may be lots and lots of pre-existing shelter you can take advantage of. An unused building, a motel, the back of your car and so on generally beat sleeping under a tarp in bad weather. Not every pack will be a wilderness survival kit.

Food is another area where you can slim down on weight. Calorically dense food is the way to go. I aim for 100 calories per ounces of weight. MREs usually suck here, especially with all of the packaging, though some of the individual components are good. You can skimp on food, but starving generally tends to impair your physical and mental abilities pretty quickly.

There's a certain desire to pack a bunch of extra clothes in your kits. If it's for travel, that's one thing. But a bug out bag, day pack or patrol bag doesn't necessarily need a spare set of pants and shirt it in, which can quickly weigh in at several pounds of excess. If you can't count on being properly attired, store those earth-toned clothes with the kit, but don't tally them against your total weight, as you'll be donning them before setting out.

Anything big, heavy and/or metal is another area to check out for weight loss. A stainless steel water bottle or canteen weighs more than a Nalgene and a titanium cup. A big combat knife weighs more than a slimmer but still capable Mora. You get the idea.

It all really comes down to assessing the weight of your gear and having the knowledge and experience to assess your honest needs. We tend to pack heavy when there's more uncertainty, both in ourselves and what we might need the pack to contend with.

Opportunities to use your kit, refine and adjust should be something we all seek out, and will help build that experience. It'll help you identify what you really need and what you don't.

All that said, you need to be careful about letting an obsession with weight derail you from including essentials that you need to accomplish your mission - whatever that may be.

Back to the book: the night before leaving on the trip, Blaber packs some extra survival type gear, which puts his pack over the weight limit. To get it back down to 40 pounds, he decides to drop a pair of snow shoes before turning in for the night. An old local outdoorsman recommended that he pack those snow shoes, but Blaber unstraps them from his pack anyways, wanting to get back down to the 40 pounds.

Fortunately, he  realizes his mistake, wakes up in a panic and straps them back onto his pack. Yes, he may have ended up a bit over his self-imposed weight maximum, but the snow shoes ended up becoming critical to successfully completing his training hike through the mountains.

So--obsess over trimming weight, but don't screw yourself over by leaving essentials at home when you might need them.

Thoughts? Any other tips for trimming weight?
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 10, 2015, 11:19 pm
The ATF's proposed M855 ban predictably resulted in a spike in demand and pricing for good ol' green tip, but it looks to have spread to .223 in general. We're nowhere near post-Sandy Hook shortages and pricing, but availability and price has been hurt.

M855/SS109 green tip is now in the 60 cent ballpark, which is close to double what it was going for six weeks ago. IMO, I wasn't buying green tip when it was a few cents per round more than FMJ, and double the price sure isn't worth it. You're getting into premium hunting / match / defensive territory, which green tip is not.

Should the ban become formal, I'd expect it to be in the $1/round ballpark pretty quick.

M193, which no one is proposing banning, has gone up 10% to 20% and availability is way down.

Most of the big ammo sellers are running behind - up to two weeks delay.

Looks like the spike hasn't spread outside of .223/5.56mm yet, but that doesn't mean it won't.

Thoughts? Predictions?

Edited to add: After a mass negative outcry from the public and Congress, ATF has pulled their proposed "framework". News link >

Looks like several places that were showing out of stock are now magically back in stock--learning from previous rounds of panic buying, I see. Would also expect to see some clearance priced M855 hit forums soon as "neckbeards" try to pay off the truckload of green tip they bought on their credit card!
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 7, 2015, 4:44 pm
Image via Zyon Systems

I have zero affiliation with these guys, but came across them the other day and wanted to pass this along.

Most ready-made kits are made with cheap Chinese-made dollar store stuff that will fall apart sitting in a closet, let alone being put to any real world use.

This ready-to-rock patrol pack, on the other hand, is built around solid quality, brand name stuff. It comes at an accordingly higher price, but you get really good stuff--a Camelbak HAWG, Leatherman Wave, Fenix Headlamp, QuickClot, Mechanix gloves, etc. Lots of personal favorites there. Impressive.

Maybe a bit light on shelter (comes with a nice Snugpak poncho, though) and you'd probably want to add some ancillaries like gorilla tape, canteen cup, water filter, but if you are in the market for an off-the-shelf bag, this is the best of I've seen.

One of these would be a great foundation for a cache, too.

Check out the Zyon Systems Patrol Pack >

Edited to add:

Got an e-mail from Zyon Systems regarding some of the discussion in the comments:

In regards to the pricing on our Patrol Pack, I ensured that we were beating Amazon's price, which is very hard to do as a reseller. If you tally up the complete cost of the contents of the bag right down to the travel tooth brush its roughly $100 cheaper than buying everything on Amazon. The multicam HAWG is expensive. I can build the kit with other colors to bring the cost down a bit.

The real value of this kit is that we will replace any of the consumable items if used in a real world emergency or operation. Batteries, food, toiletries, camo paint etc. That way your kit is always stocked and ready to roll!

Our Professional Pack will be online in the next few weeks. It's our version of a 72 hour bag, using only the highest quality products. We think its the best designed turnkey emergency kit on the market. I'm just wrapping up doing some evaluation scenarios with it to make sure all of the equipment is up to snuff.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 5, 2015, 12:41 am

You will be missed.

Also - Alexandria really needs Rick Grimes.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 3, 2015, 11:59 pm

Mk1 version of the rifle is complete. Click here for the 'before' view. Build is as follows:

  • 14.5" ELW Barrel w/ BCM Mod 1 Pinned and welded to bring it to 16"
  • KMR 13 rail
  • Arisaka Defense DIY Scout light - Malkoff bulb, Arisaka body, Surefire tailcap, attached to the Arisaka Keymod scout mount
  • Aimpoint H1 on the Larue LT-751 Absolute Co-Witness mount
  • Troy folding battle sights
  • BCM BCG & Stag charging handle 
  • Vanilla home-assembled CMMG lower
  • BCM Gunfighter handgrip
  • BCM QD Endplate
  • Magpul STR stock
  • Magpul BAD lever
Happy with everything at this point, and will throw out some more detailed reviews/thoughts around some of the components here in the new future.

Weight sits just under 7 pounds without a mag, over 7 pounds with a mag. Very handy, well balanced and comfortable AR. Pretty much exactly what I want.

The Troy's are much more what I am looking for in BUIS than the Magpul PROs were. The Arisaka light setup puts the light exactly where I want it, with a lightweight, low profile mounting solution.

The Microsight is slick and well proven, and purchased second hand for a pretty good deal. Went with the absolute witness mount as that's what I'm used to. I may get some kind of variable magnified scope to switch in and out in the future. Larue's really nice QD mount should facilitate that.

The Gunfighter grip is a huge improvement over the old Magpul grip that I was using, as it has an angle more appropriate for a modern shooting stance, and thus makes the AR a hell of a lot more comfortable shoulder. The old grips end up putting strain on my wrist, which gets annoying after a time.

Life, southern ice storms and waiting on optics and sights to arrive has delayed the initial break in. Should be sometime this next week, and I'm looking forward to throwing some lead with this thing.

As thread title suggests, I'm not entirely done. Need a better charging handle - planning on picking up a Raptor. Need a forward sling QD mount. Probably an upgraded trigger, too. And might swap out the stock.

The black rifle disease...it never ends...

More to come later.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: March 1, 2015, 8:20 pm
Original post generated some good discussion, and I wanted to throw out a few clarifying points.

First, you of course have to use good judgement on your part. Selling something at a loss to only go a repurchase for substantially more is unfavorable math.

There's a bit of informal assessment to do when thinking about throwing something onto the trade blanket:
  • How useful is this to me? Can I re-purpose it?
  • How much can I get for this on resale?
  • What am I going to use those funds for?
  • Would I need to replace/repurchase this in the future? Will I be able to?
  • Will the item be worth more or less in the future if I hold onto it?
That kind of assessment should help guide good versus bad decisions. Useless, easy to replace, high value stuff that you're using to fund important project would be the sweet spot.

If you aren't really constrained for either funds or space, then selling off excess gear makes less sense. You don't need the $$$ to fund projects and you can store the excess away for a rainy day. Most of us aren't in that boat.

Personally, I go through a cycle of testing gear, selling off what doesn't work and then usually plowing those funds back into the same projects. Allows for progress while controlling (to an extent) the out of pocket costs.

That's why I refer to it as gear consolidation - selling an old stock and an unused hand guard to buy a new stock, selling an unused knife for a new / needed flashlight...clearing out the unused excess and turning it into something more needed/desired.

Of course, very often the keep vs. sell assessment often works out as a "naa, I'd better hang onto this", too.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 26, 2015, 2:03 pm
There aren't a lot of things that you can buy, use for a couple years, and then sell at a small loss, or in some select cases, make a tidy profit. But one of the great things about quality gun and knife gear is that it tends to hold its value pretty well.

Case in point: Project AR-(20)15 is largely being funded by clearing out unused stuff. Projects that ended up going no where, ideas that have been abandoned or gear that I wanted to upgrade anyways. Stuff that was of little/no use and was just sitting there, collecting dust, and that sold off pretty quickly, painlessly and in some cases at a healthy profit over what I paid for it a few years ago. Made enough money to fund the purchase of a very nice BCM upper with minimal out-of-pocket cash.

Should have done that a while ago!

Yes, you can keep stuff around "just in case", put it in caches, and so on, but there's a bit of a false economy to that. It might not cost you anything out of pocket to keep, say, an unused hunting rifle around, but it is an unused resource that can be turned into cash. Sell or trade it in, and a new purchase becomes a lot less painful on the budget.

Sure, in some cases it makes sense to keep extra gear around, but that's not always that case.

So - if you have been eyeballing a new project, go clean out the part bins/drawers/closets and see what shakes out.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 22, 2015, 10:24 pm

Picked these up for Project AR-(20)15, but they won't be hanging around here long term.

I know these are really popular, and they come in at a good price point. Nicely made and packaged, slim and fit nicely on the top rail. The front sight doesn't require a tool to adjust, which is awesome.

But the design has some deal-breaker flaws for me:
  • Slick / difficult to open. Especially with a pair of gloves on. If I'm going to need my BUISs, things aren't going well, and there's a pretty good chance I'm probably going to be wearing some kind of light glove, too. The low profile and smooth sides means the sights aren't easy to grab onto and flip open. It was taking me several tries to flip the things open, in the warm, dry, zero stress comfort of my living room. Cold, wet, stressful environment...even more trouble.
  • Don't lock open. The big deal to me is that they could get bumped, partially fold in and you not realize it, and then think the sight picture is still a good one. Then you're wondering why your shots aren't going where you intend them to go...that's bad. Less likely to happen, but completely plausible, especially with the front sight.
  • Rear sight's aperture. I prefer the 'big' aperture...the MBUS Pro's uses a 'nested' small aperture, that you have to flip out of the way using a finger nail to get to the big aperture. And then the small aperture piece is exposed and looks like it's just waiting to get snapped off...not a big fan of this.
So, nicely made, but design shortcomings were a deal breaker for me. Lots of people love 'em, but I am not one. Luckily purchase 'em from Amazon so the return process is simple.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 19, 2015, 1:00 am

Via mi amigo Ed @ Ed's Manifesto:

"Friend of the page sent in this picture. He arrived in an unfamiliar place and went with the on site procurement method. Basically he built his cheap throwaway kit from just one trip to the Local Walmart. This method allows you to bypass a lot of problems as far as transportation of gear from one country to another for example." -  Ed

Commentary: Sometimes circumstances separate you from your tools. Air travel is a big 'un, especially if you're packing light and limiting yourself to carry ons. A little cash and improvisational ability can get you re-equipped in no time.
Or plan ahead and cache it.

I'm seeing maybe $40 worth of stuff here, but well rounded set for daily carry.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 18, 2015, 12:00 am
The $1K Cache post inspired some good discussion on the topic, here and elsewhere. Frequent commenter / T-Blog buddy Meister has been pumping out some thought-provoking posts on caches over at his place.

Meister's put some heavy investment into diversifying his preparations into well thought out and well placed caches. Recommended reading:
Some specific comments:
  • Meister-level caches are probably impractical / out of budget for most folks, but a cache doesn't need to have $3-$5k worth of stuff in it to be worthwhile
  • Be smart, responsible and aware of local laws if you include firearms in a cache
  • Meister's paid special attention to where he stores his caches...very secure, out of the way and private locations
  • They're not buried in the ground. That's so 1990s, people!
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 17, 2015, 3:47 am

The depress-fest continues on the Walking Dead...

Synopsis of the episode: the group mopes and stumbles around for 40 minutes, then meets a "friend" who looks like he's straight out of an Eddie Bauer catalog.

It is good that the squad had to face lack of resources (food/water), and struggle with the psychological toll of little/no hope for tomorrow and losing many of their friends and family. That's often what a real survival scenario looks like...pretty grim.

Unfortunately, it's also not a lot o' fun to watch. In terms of "interesting stuff happening", outside of the dude at the end, this was pretty much a throw away episode after last week's Tyrese: This is your Life special.

The storm - zombies - holding the barn door scene was especially odd. The way that it was shot, the wife and I thought it was a dream sequence. Became clear that it wasn't afterwards, but confusingly shot/edit.

We did get to see the first appearance of a classic post-apocalyptic trope: a wild dog attack. Exciting! Also worm eating, too.

I was hoping the "friend" who donated the water to the group was Morgan, and he'd stroll out of hiding to say "Look, cheer up dudes, I have something interesting for us to do!" - but alas, it looks like that was mysterious stranger (Aaron), instead.
So - to the real talking point of the episode: who is this Aaron dude and where does he come from? Obviously has showered and put on a set of clean clothes recently...if he's a bad guy--maybe a member of the Wolves bandit group from last week--then he's got an odd approach for waging an attack on the team. He knows that Rick is the leader, too - how'd he figure that out?

Spoiler: If some logic, a bit o' Google and the storyline from the comics don't lie, he's not actually a bad guy and instead comes from the Alexandria Safe Zone. Maybe Morgan is there, too, and told 'em about Rick being the leader and all that. I'm looking forward to their arrival in Alexandria, as it'll end the aimless wandering they've been doing since the fall of the prison.

Your thoughts about the episode?
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 16, 2015, 9:36 pm
Had some good comments around optics in the prior post, and Ryan shared his thoughts on optic choices, so I thought some follow-up discussion was in order.

Aimpoint PRO vs Micro Dot
My current optic is an Aimpoint PRO. It's been very good, zero issues, and a solid choice for a $400 red dot w/ mount. Great budget conscious choice, but the only real reason that I can discern to run a PRO is if you can't afford the $200-ish extra for a H1, T1 or T2 Micro Dot.

Budget constraints aside, the Micros do the same thing for substantially less weight. The PRO weighs 11.6 ounces, where a Microdot weighs something like 5 ounces, depending on your mounting option. That's a nontrivial weight difference - nearly half a pound of excess when running the PRO.

Weight isn't of course the be-all, end-all, especially on a weapon platform that is fairly lightweight to begin with.

But, I am really enjoying the light weight and balance of my new ELW / KMR13 upper. Having a fatty optic on there just seems non-congruent. A micro dot would be soooo nice -- and it seems like a bunch 'o of today's top carbine trainers are running a pretty similar set up, too. Travis Haley, LAV and others.

Micro Dot vs. 1x-Nx
One of the commenters mentioned that variable power 1-6x magnification scopes are all of the rage now. The Vortex Viper HD seems to be the go-to recommendation, but it's also $1400. Trijicon has a similar optic in a similar price range, as does Leupold. So, off hand I replied that a $1000 optic wasn't in the budget.

Subsequent comments pointed out that there were more cost-friendly variables out there.

Primary Arms has a 1-6x for under $300...but honestly, I wouldn't put a Primary Arms on my go-to, primary defensive rifles, and I think PA would agree with that--they've put notes on their optics that they are for training purposes / not patrol in the past.

Vortex and several others have 1-4x optics at around $500. Vortex also just announced their 1-6x Strike Eagle which would probably be at the top of my list to check out.

A variable optic has a lot to like about it - red dot like performance at 1x and the ability to zoom in for distance shooting. The 'recce' - shorter, railed carbine with a variable power optic - has become the go to choice for a versatile, do-all AR.

Variables also have a big downside - weight - with a mount, you're talking somewhere around ~1.5 pounds extra. That tradeoff can often be worthwhile, sometimes not.

Personally, I don't have ready access to a range that goes much beyond 50 yards. When I lived in rocky mountain west, long range was the norm - heck, I lived around the corner from a range that went out to 400 yards. In the heavily forested south east, I'd have to drive an hour or two to get to a range that was 100 or 200 yards. And even then, 200+ yards isn't that hard with a red dot. You won't get tiny groups like you can with a magnified optic, but combat effective ain't hard.

And there's also the point things would have to be waaaay down the crapper for me to be taking potshots at bad guys out at 300 or 400 yards.

So, for my situation and for this particular lighter-weight, go-to defensive carbine, I'm feeling like a variable would be more than what I need and more weight than I want to strap onto the gun.

Of course, minds can always be changed and switching out optics isn't that tough. But for now, I'm hunting for deals on an Aimpoint Micro - if anyone has any screamin' deals, let me know.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 15, 2015, 1:19 pm
Recommended reading over at the Spartan Monkey's place -> The SFODA as a model for the modern tribe.

Short version: Army SF Operational Detachments / "A-Teams" are structured such that each member of the ~12 man team specializes in a certain primary skillset, but all cross-train in a variety of disciplines.

Spartan Monkey suggests a variety of well-thought specializations that could apply to a preparedness / survival tribe.

My Thoughts: I think the small SF teams have a lot to extrapolate from in terms of how they structure themselves and some of the strategies that they are known for, especially unconventional warfare (typically, organizing, equipping, training and leading friendly indigenous forces into battle). More on that later.
As the SF has realized, there are huge benefits to having specialized, in-depth skill sets, especially to small groups operating with little/no outside support.

A survival / preparedness group or tribe could certainly take a page or two from their playbook.

Specialization seems somewhat counter-intuitive to our 'self-sufficient' mindset, and really, many of us focus on try to learn a little about the broad array of related skills.

But, specialization is a lot more efficient and viable than trying to do it all.

As an example, four of the potential specializations Spartan Monkey suggests:
  • Electronics expert (commo, security systems, off-grid electrical)
  • Medical expert
  • Food expert - storage and production
  • Weapons expert (weapons repair / maintenance / gunsmithing / reloading)
How long would it take one person to get really proficient in each area? How much would they need to invest in training, tools and mistakes? How would they have time and opportunity to gain experience using each of those skills?

Now -- what if, instead, you could largely focus your time and efforts on one or two areas that you had a natural aptitude for? You develop a deep understanding, experience and the associated tools in that one area, while relying on other group members to do the same for their areas of specialization?

And then, as you each build up your specialized knowledge, capabilities and tools, you shared that with the rest of the tribe?

The vehicle expert, who has invested in a pretty capable at-home repair shop and the skills to use it, helps the tribe repair their own vehicles.

The food specialist, who grew up on a small farm, has been canning food all their life, raises backyard chickens and grows prize winning vegetables, helps group members build and maintain their food storage, plant gardens or raise small livestock.

The weapons expert, who has invested in gunsmithing tools, formal training and a healthy inventory of spare parts helps tribe members with repairs, maintenance and gunsmithing.

The medical expert, who teaches the group members first aid, tactical combat casualty care, and maintains comprehensive medical kits. 

And so on, training the rest of the group, building up their knowledge and skills as you go.

To the extent that its feasible and practical, this concept makes all sorts of sense.

Making it happen in real life is unfortunately squishy, since we're usually friends with people who have fairly common interests, not completely diverse and different ones.

But, where it makes sense, making the effort to get your tribe organized to that level would be worthwhile.

Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 13, 2015, 4:34 am

The BCM upper discussed a little bit back was purchased and arrived in short order. The stats:
  • 14.5" Enhanced Lightweight Barrel (ELW)
  • Pinned BCM Gunfighter Comp Mod 1
  • KMR13 Free float handguard 
The combination shorter barrel along with BCM's proprietary ELW profile and magnesium alloy KMR rail make for a lightweight, agile and all around handy carbine. It's very slick.

Moving from a short, fat carbine length MOE handguard on my old carbine to the long and slender KMR stands out as the biggest upgrade. Modernized ergonomics / grip is hugely important, and that was one of the real driving factors behind the upgrade. Now I get to shoot like the cool kids do.

The buying experience from BCM was awesome, as expected - fast shipping, got to my door two days ahead of schedule, and the package included the customary pile o' BCM loot, too. Pretty much perfection. If you're in the market for AR gear, you won't find any who does it better.

The carbine is still obviously a work in progress. Back up iron sights (BUIS), light, sling mount and a hand stop will be added. My Aimpoint PRO feels like a pig on this thing, too - an optic change may be in order. The upper destined for another lower, too. I've got no plans to obsess over a particular weight threshold as some folks do, but I do want to retain the balance and handiness of the carbine. I'll check in as things evolve.

First range trip / break in / sighting is planned for this weekend. The folks at Lucky Gunner were kind of enough to volunteer a supply of ammo for the cause, which is very cool of them. The ammo shipped wicked fast, too - got from their door to mine in around 24 hours. So - go buy ammo, tell them T-Blog sent you, and hopefully I'll get more free ammo, which will in turn lead to more range trips for me and more gun blogging for you to read. Thus, the circle of ammo will be complete.

Stay tuned for more.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 11, 2015, 5:19 am
This showed up on my doorstep...hmm, what could it be?

Damn you, BCM, for announcing the end of your perpetual free bolt carrier group sale! Damn you!

Also - try not to get too jealous of my rug.

That is all.

For now.
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 10, 2015, 10:45 pm
Spoilers after the jump!

No! Like T-Dogg before him, Tyrese falls victim to the Walking Dead's "there can be only one black dude" trope. No...wait, there's preacher man and Noah left in the group, so maybe that trope is dead and gone.

Ahh - no wait - it's "there can only be one tough black dude" - that's the trope, and neither preacher man nor Noah fit that bill. Tyrese replaced T-Dogg, and my money has it on Morgan finally joining the group and replacing our dearly departed hammer wielding friend Tyrese.

I was sad to see Tyrese go - I liked his character, though this past season he's been kind of a downer...all depressed and mopey. Surprised to see him get killed off, too, what with Beth getting offed in the episode prior to the break. I'm going to wager the actor took up another gig so they needed to kill off Tyrese.

And the big man goes down due to a real rookie mistake...going into an unknown area with someone clueless and then not paying attention. That's always when the creepy little kid zombies pop outta nowhere and take a bite out of your arm.

Survivalist Sidebar: Tyrese's unfortunate demise highlights the dangers of not having an adequately capable battle buddy to watch your back. Noah's not a bad guy, but clearly not capable of protecting himself, let alone someone else. Without someone to watch Tyrese's back, he was ambushed by kiddo walker, injured, then left to bleed all over the place, tangle with another walker...and ultimately it killed him.

Running solo will get you killed, and running with people who are essentially a liability will get you killed even faster. In many, many cases, loved ones - children, maybe spouses, relatives - may be that kind of liability in a crisis situation. Honest self assessment here, folks. Not that we're going to abandon our responsibility to protect those loved ones, but we also shouldn't count on them as that battle buddy / capable backup unless they really are.

Back to the episode: Downer of an episode in general (what else is new?), though I did appreciate how they faked us out in the beginning (they're burying Beth, right?), and then came back around in the end. Guest stars in the flashback were all creepy, especially the Governor. Forgot what a good actor that guy was.

Glenn picked up his baseball bat, which I think was kind of a trademark brain smasher for him in the comics. We'll see more of that in episodes to come.

Also - what was with the truck load of zombie torsos? Who does that? Why?

That's it for my thoughts - how about you?
Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 10, 2015, 3:19 am
And in case you can't wait, here's the first 2 minutes of the new episodes...looks like another road trip is coming.

Author: TEOTWAWKI Blog / Alexander Wolf
Posted: February 7, 2015, 8:31 pm

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