Total Survivalist Blog

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Turns out EZ Pass's are being used to keep track of speeding ....and (I suspect) probably other record keeping/ surveillance functions.

T Blog found a pic post on The Equipment of Vietnam MACV/ SOG soldiers. Interesting stuff.

I'm having trouble focusing on what I am supposed to be scared of. A pretty interesting article. I think a sense of balance between being informed about world events and getting worked up into an information overload panic.

 
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 21, 2014, 1:00 pm
I have been toying with the idea of an AR Pistol for awhile now. Other more pressing matters have bullied their way in front of it but with those knocked out it's back in the 'next gun' slot. I do not regret that decision. Needed a better EDC solution which came in the form of the Kahr CW9 and a longer distance rifle.

Anyway I have been doing some looking at parts as well as running numbers. Also just generally mulling the whole thing in my head. To prioritization I want to square up some other things first. A case or two of 5.56, a case of 9mm and some .308 ammo are strait up higher on the order of priority.

That being said I do plan to purchase a lower to put this project on very soon. Had one awhile back but it went out in a deal. Also since the 'firearm' is a $50-100 part it makes sense to purchase it and have on hand. Won't help if the world ends but if a ban happens (under current law) the other parts for an AR don't matter at all.

Aside from planning to drop a grand or more on ammo before really starting this project I have been thinking if it's really a worthwhile endeavor. Do I just want an excuse to build another AR and snub my nose at our silly federal gun laws by (totally legally) exploiting existing loopholes to essentially make a paperless short barreled rifle?

My planned design is something like this; build a 10.5-11.5in AR pistol by putting together a lower then ordering a complete upper probably from BCM or Spikes and outfit it with one of those Sig 'arm braces' and a tac light. Eventually when finances allow I would like to put an EoTech on top but would probably rock irons for awhile. As to budget all said and done it will run about a grand. As to timeline from a legitimate start point it would take 6-9 months to fund unless I sold stuff to raise money. Don't really plan on selling anything.

My concept of use is as a wicked worst case scenario home defense gun. Maybe there is a rise in crime or a hurricane or a black out, whatever. If Project 870 sitting in the Sentry Safe Home Defender by my bed was not comforting an AR that holds over 3x the rounds which is very easy to maneuver around the house might be the ticket. Also since it is technically a pistol if I for some reason felt the need to have it loaded in a backpack/ gym bag or my vehicle that would be permissible in most places while a rifle might not be. Also it is another AR on inventory which isn't a bad thing. Lastly the oddity that lets these weapons be on their current legal standing might some day change. If previous firearms laws are any indicator already existing weapons would be grandfathered in so I feel like if I might every want one it should be purchases sooner instead of later.

Is this a worthwhile endeavor? Do you own an AR pistol? If so why did you get one and how do you like it?

Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 20, 2014, 2:00 pm
Bayou Renaissance Man talks budget AR sights/ optics. Ryan's take Plinkers and sporting/ recreational rifles are fine with just a scope. Fighting rifles need iron sights and if you so desire (the only downside is $$$) an optic. Unless you plan on running a long and or free floating rail there is little reason not to stick with the standard front sight post. They are darn stout. For rear sights a fixed sight is the most robust but can get in the way of some optics, particularly magnified ones. In that case a folding sight is the way to go.

As to optics. For red dot/ holographic I recommend Aimpoint or Eotech. Both are quite stout. I have seeen Eotech's, the weaker of the two, that went through multiple combat deployments to Iraq and were still functional.Aimpoints are even stouter. Cost is $400 and up though you can find some deals bringing them closer to the $350 range.

I am not a fan of budget optics on fighting rifles. Historically budget (in particular red dot/ holo) sights either fail to function at the most basic level or do not hold a zero. Generally speaking I would suggest you rock iron sights until a quality optic is within your price range. That being said as technology matures it is worthwhile to question old wisdom.

As to magnified optics. There are a lot of low (1/2 to 4/6) power variable scopes with illuminated reticles on the market. I ended up with a Burris MTAC. For a general purpose rifle the option to have magnification at distance yet near 1x up close is darn handy. Sure if you built an AR pistol as a house gun or were specifically concerned with CQB a red dot/ holo has some advantages but otherwise I like magnification.

There are lots of great scopes in the $300-500 range.

John Mosby talks the OODA Loop.

A Few Thoughts on the M16A4. Personally for most applications I prefer the handiness of a 14.5in barrel and a collapsible stock. The exception would be a longer range concept of use either due to more open terrain or some sort of SDM concept. While not the preferred long range precision rifle (for anything except punching paper) they can be quite effective in the right hands; as proven by Travis Haley in the Battle of Najaf.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 20, 2014, 1:13 am
Max did an excellent post on Land Nav. I do not disagree with anything he says but do a few minor things differently.

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

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

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

Gear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnetic 237 degrees

Distance 750 meters.

repeat as needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Anyway those are my thoughts on land navigation.






Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 17, 2014, 11:26 pm
I picked up some additional maps. If you want to know more about land navigation Max Velocity did a real good post on map and compass Infantry style land nav a bit ago.

Restocked some consumables.

Not much else happened as I was quite busy at work this week.

What did you do to prepare this week?
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 16, 2014, 9:00 am
I am looking to bring some more capabilities to my everyday carry without letting it get too heavy. Seriously toying with the purchase of a Hide Away Knife. The concept of use would be primarily self defense with a secondary task to do some various everyday cutting tasks. I have been (in addition to my Benchmade Griptillian) carrying a Leatherman for most everyday tasks though I'm toying with either getting a smaller one (Leatherman 831195 Squirt PS4 Black Keychain Tool with Plier?) or purchasing a Swiss Army Knife of some sort.

The HAK's unique ability too give a good grip with a much shorter than normal handle, decreasing overall length, and be retained brings value. Also that you can grab and transition to a firearm are pretty handy. Lastly I think the HAK by virtue of being single edged avoids a lot of knife carry laws.

Would like to know if anyone has personal experiences with the HAK. Of course I am generally interested in people thoughts (not based on personal experience) on the matter.


Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 15, 2014, 12:00 pm
In September I had eye surgery, PRK to be specific. Went in recently for my 90 day check up. Everything is good. Vision in the left eye is 20/15 and right has a very slight astigmatism so it is a bit better than 20/20 instead of 20/15. The 'halo' effect at night is gone or at least not noticeable enough to interfere with anything. I am still using the replacement tear eye drops but not very much. Probably put a drop or two in each eye 3-4 times a day and am not sure how much that is from need and how much from habit. Still wear dark glasses outside unless it's night time or real cloudy. Wearing glasses while using a PC I'm not so great at. Need to get a set of the glare cutting ones and keep them at work, actually I probably need to get 2 pair and keep them at work and home.

Anyway my eyes are great and it is completely life changingly awesome. Still weird occasionally. Just this morning I was groping around the nightstand for my glasses for a few seconds before realizing I don't wear them anymore. Great stuff.


Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 14, 2014, 1:00 pm

Larry Vickers on 'over lubrication' of weapons. Before saying he is stupid I recommend a quick google search. It's fair to say Larry Vickers has forgotten more about all things guns and fighting with them than most people reading this know. His thoughts mirrors my personal experience, doubly so with the AR-15 platform which runs best wetter than other weapons. As far as I am concerned this is the last word on the matter.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 13, 2014, 2:00 pm
American Mercenary talks winter clothing. Good stuff from a guy who knows what he is talking about. I did a winter clothing post awhile back so I won't totally rehash. Without rehashing I have some general thoughts:

Obviously you want to layer with moisture wicking, stays warm when wet clothes. The outside layer should be water repellent. This usually means some sort of synthetic clothes but wool works for everything except an outer layer in wet weather.

In some ways the 35-28 degree range where you can get rain and have standing water can be more problematic than 20 degrees or lower where water freezes pretty quickly.

I believe in dressing for the level of activity you will be doing, not the level you are at right now, within reason. This means I will start out a road march, run or high effort type of work a bit cold and warm up as I get moving. The other option would be to shed clothes as you heat up. This poses two problems. The first is sweating which we want to avoid. The second is if you are doing something where stopping to shed clothes is a hassle it is a problem.

I will often keep a fleece hat in my pocket or a jacket at the top of my ruck for when I slow down/ stop. 

Amerc mentioned the Army's almost institutional dislike of base layers AKA long underwear. I fall into this school of thought albeit with some common sense thrown in. If it's ten degrees outside I will be wearing long underwear during high intensity activities. Part of our dislike comes from Newb's tendency to wear too many clothes, get hot and become a heat casualty in cold weather. The other part I think is that in field conditions it is a lot easier to say take off a fleece than long underwear bottoms.

In recent years the availability of synthetic long underwear has really gone up and correspondingly the cost has gone down. For those on a budget either carefully shopping for overruns on ECWS 'silk weight' or hitting up the local Wally World should get you a set of long underwear for not too much over $20. At that price there is really no excuse for wearing cotton.

Fleece has also come down in price considerably. Granted it won't be super heavy well designed North Face but the local China Mart has tops for $15 and pants in the $12 range.

I heard somewhere the patent on Gore Tex expired some time back. Anyway lots of companies are making shell type jackets that are waterproof to anything short of a swim that still let moisture out for not a ton of money. Another option is to check outlet malls. A town I occasionally go through has a gear company outlet. Last time we were there I got a jacket for $40 ish.

The point I'm trying to make is if you shop smart and are a bit flexible on brand/ color, it is very realistic to get decently clothes for cold weather on a tight budget.

Boots I do not have a great work around for. You get what you pay for. For real tight budgets maybe hunt good will or a surplus store for gently used ones.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 12, 2014, 1:00 pm


I



Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 11, 2014, 4:00 pm
Inspired by my Ballistic Baller on a Budget post TEOTWAWKI Blog talks about their 1k firearms battery. Alexander went with the $550 complete upper and stripped lower build plan as well as a Glock 9mm. I certainly agree on the Glock; if you find one that meets price point I would take it over an SDVE-9, Ruger P85, etc all. As to the AR I'm a touch leery about low end AR's but can certainly see the sentiment.

Incidentally Bayou Renaissance Man has been trying to get some low end AR's working right.
My thoughts on general AR problem solving
-If it is a feeding related issue swap out the magazine. Try a different one and see what happens. IF the old mag, which is usually the culprit has problems just toss it as they are so cheap they are functionally disposable.
-Anything else. First conduct a good and thorough cleaning of the weapon. Next lubricate it heavily (just short of dripping). After that try it with some good known ammo like PMC X-TAC M855 (incidentally available at the excellent price of $359/1k at Lucky Gunner).

The first two should clear up the vast majority of generic AR problems. Beyond that depending on exactly what is wrong if it's a new gun it might have been assembled wrong or (new or used) you might need to swap out specific parts related to the problem.

Communists have taken over the parliament in a state that is part of (formerly East) Germany. Needless to say people tortured and imprisoned by the communists are not thrilled.

Oleg Volk does a good job explaining the terrible law I-594 which the lefties in greater Seattle shoved through.It is so openly written that almost any gun owner is a criminal.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 10, 2014, 1:00 pm
Some home security measures have the sole purpose of making your home less appealing to criminals. Remember you do not need an impenetrable fortress; you just need to convince them to go rob the guy down the block.

You can cut back or remove shrubs and vegetation around windows. The goal is to avoid burglars having a place to hide during the entry to your home. The only exception to this is stuff like cacti or other things that are sharp and nasty. Even then I would want to keep the windows clear.

Beware of dog signs are another good one, especially if you actually have a dog. Bonus points if you have a big dog that barks.

Alarm company signs are good and alarms are even better if they are available in your area and you can afford it.

Lights are a good one also. I like motion activated ones best as they aren't on all the time and could potentially make a crook think you turned the light on.

Think of this as the opposite of real estate's 'curb appeal'. You want a crook to take a quick look and decide to rob somebody else.

What else can you think of do to make your place less appealing to a burglar? Bonus points for low cost methods that stop the crook before they try breaking into your house.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 9, 2014, 1:00 pm
I put some energy into our home security along the 'deterrent' line of effort.

Busted out a needle and thread to fix a pair of pants and bring them into service. Wifey would have done it faster and better but it's one of those 'use it or lose it' things.

Restocked some staples and coffee.

Did a map recon then printed out maps for my alternate and contingency routes from work to home. In the near future I will drive them both.

In the next couple weeks I plan to:
Add winter gear to our systems
Order a bung wrench and fill up the blue barrel
Purchase 2-3 5 gallon water jugs
Better investigate surface water in my immediate area
Go to the range
Start looking towards getting a ham license
Order an adapter for my shotgun to mount the sling
If prices stay generally at present levels I will get some more silver
Look into solar powered motion lights

What did you do to prepare this week?
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 8, 2014, 9:30 am
Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Historically it is difficult to overestimate the significance of that event. It brought us into World War Two (though it was coming anyway) and is notable as a break in our pretty successful, thanks in large part to two oceans and weak neighbors, streak of other countries not attacking the homeland.

The lessons of preparedness and vigilance are ones we have a bad tendency to forget.

Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 8, 2014, 2:40 am
Project 870. I had it out to do a couple things. The original velcro I used was not sufficient for the HSGI shot cards and was peeling off. I replaced it with quality Velcro brand industrial Velcro. Also needed to touch up the super classy finish in a couple spots. While it was out I took a picture. 

I am happy with the configuration except the sling. Not sure if I'll bother with it but would like to mount the sling further back on the butt. Also some day I might get it professionally refinished.

Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 6, 2014, 2:56 pm






Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 6, 2014, 2:38 pm
Details here. Terrible law, all it brought was larger government and organized crime. We can also blame prohibition for the darn ATF. At least FDR did something right in ending it. I wonder if a hundred years from now people will look at the war on drugs the same way.

So celebrate and have some drinks already.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 6, 2014, 2:18 am
I talked about the Midnight Rider Loaded Battle Belt a week ago. Now I'm finally sitting down to write a proper review. First a broad overview of the product:
Basically $110 (shipped so equivalent to other folks charging $95ish) gets you a ready to go battle belt setup with a decent budget IFAK and some other items. A breakdown of the components is:

  • Padded War Belt:  The core of the Midnight Rider battle belt is a new USMC-issue Padded War Belt (NSN 8465-01-615-5140).  This comes with an as-issued "Y" harness but has extra attachment points to be compatible with four-point "H" harnesses.
  • GP Pouches:  We add two surplus USMC-issue general purpose/IFAK pouches (NSN 8105-09-000-2725).  These pouches have a convenient internal subdivider and measure about 6"x6" with about two to four inches of depth, making them great general purpose pouches as well.
  • Canteen Pouch:  Each belt is equipped with a NEW USMC canteen pouch.  These have a convenient buckle closure and fit a canteen with cup.  Each pouch has side pockets useful for water purification tabs, paracord, or other small accessories.  
  • Mag Pouches:  Finally, we round out each belt with USMC double magazine pouches.  These pouches will fit two standard capacity 30-round AR-style magazines, including PMAGs.  Small belts can fit only two pouches, medium belts fit four, and large belts can pack six.  If you don't need to carry magazines they provide handy storage for smaller items like monoculars, NVDs, or radios.  Some of the surplus pouches show some evidence of wear but most are in excellent shape.  You could use magazine shingles under these pouches to increase the capacity of your belt system.
  • "LOADED!"  The "LOADED" battle belt also comes with a USGI canteen and the Midnight Rider Patrol Pouch (consisting of Trauma, First Aid, and Patrol Modules -- see below for details).  I toss in a canteen cup for free, but these cups are not to milspec and thus won't nest with the canteen.
As to concept of use and where this system fits in the big picture. It is definitely a high value to cost system. A full USGI (vs airsoft type stuff) battle belt with pouches and an IFAK for $110 is a great deal. Especially considering the price includes shipping it compares more equitably to other setups in the $95 range (shipping for a large flat rate box is $17.). For a person on a budget who wants something more modern and ergonomic than ALICE that is not going to fall apart the first time you take it out training with somebody like Max Velocity or John Mosby this would be a fine choice. The person who put this together has been using one exclusively for awhile. It works fine and I would have no issue using it exclusively.

What I really like this setup as is a sweet spot between expensive new gear and budget but aging and not exactly ideal ALICE stuff. I believe every rifle needs it's own mags and fighting load. That means per rifle not per platform. So if you own 3 AR's it would be three separate sets of gear. The cost of doing that at $200+ a pop can get cost prohibitive in a hurry. At the same time I would like something more along the lines of my primary rig than the old ALICE. That's where Midnight Rider's Battle Belt's come in.

Now we can cool at some pictures. Sorry for anybody still on dial up.
The Midnight Rider Loaded Battle Belt as it was shipped to me. For a general non AO specific set of gear Coyote AKA tan is a fine option. It works pretty decently in most areas. I appreciated how it came set up so I could check it out right away (note apparently this is not standard though it's available for $15). For the less experienced user this would avoid MOLLE madness and let them get strait to using it.

What Midnight Rider Outfitters calls a 'patrol pouch'. Basically it is an IFAK plus some other stuff. A little disposable poncho, some matches, etc. I also showed the canteen and canteen cup.

This is my battle belt. I showed the picture for comparison and because I do not really have a good picture of it's current configuration.

My battle belt with components shown. Again mostly for future reference and so show you how my gear is set up.

The Midnight Rider Battle Belt as I started putting stuff into it.

Top view

It got dark but here is how I set the Midnight Rider Battle Belt up. For testing I wanted to put it like I would actually use it. The changes are addition of a pistol mag in a pouch and reconfiguring the pouches a little bit. I put the canteen on the right side and shuffled some stuff around. From left to right: pistol mag, 2x rifle mag, 2x rifle mag, first aid non IFAK items and various stuff, chow and bino's (those two may be the other way, I don't recall), canteen, Morakniv Companion Fixed Blade Outdoor Knife with Sandvik Stainless Steel Blade, Military Green, 4.1-Inch, IFAK in a 2x mag pouch and 2 more rifle mags.

I did not put a holster on this setup because holsters can go in a lot of directions and I wanted to stick to the fairly common setup of the rig.

Now finally on to the normal review format. Since  I have talked a lot already this will be somewhat abreviated.

The Good: A ready to go battle belt setup made of quality components with an IFAK for $110. This is a good well thought out set of gear at a very fair price.  The belt is fine, the pouches are G2G and the suspenders are really nice. I like them a lot and plan to get a set for my personal battle belt. 

I may pick one up some day to use as a back up rig for a spare/ back up rifle. At that price why not.

I also like that it comes with a basic but serviceable IFAK. The only not perfect item is the TK4 tourniquet, some folks criticise them. I reviewed the TK4 tourniquet awhile back and think they have a role for back up's and folks on tight budgets. If you don't like it go out and buy a CAT or SOF-T. Too many people, especially new folks or those on a right budget might forget to get an IFAK. This setup starts you out with one.

The Bad: The canteen cup is not nesting with the canteen. I put it in one of the sustainment pouches on the bottom. That could work but is not ideal. Additionally I would be lying if I think the canteen cup is a particularly durable piece of kit. If/ when I get one of these I will replace the canteen cup.

Additionally while I do like the IFAK and Canteen/ Canteen Cup being included I am underwhelmed with the other stuff that comes in there. A might work once disposable poncho, a little packet of water, a couple water purification pills and matches. I know what they were trying to do with that but as a perspective buyer would rather not pay for that stuff. Along those lines while I do like the IFAK what is someone just wants the belt kit and already has plenty of medical gear?

Generally speaking I would like to see an uncoupling of the core belt/ pouches and the IFAK/ patrol pouch components. Maybe they could just offer them as an add on.

The Ugly: The pouches are definitely 5.56 specific. They are designed for AR mags. It is probably reasonable to assume they would take Mini-14 and most other double stack mags that are shaped similarly. It is not compatible with AK or 7.62 mags. So this system is really only viable if you are shooting an AR or similar rifle.

Also if you for whatever reason do not want Coyote the options are to choose another setup or try dying it yourself.

Overall Assessment: This is a high value system that is a good affordable option to use as a primary system and has a nice niche as a back up battle belt. I am sad to be sending this Battle Belt back and  would like to purchase one in the future.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 5, 2014, 10:39 pm
The PT Thing: Clarification

The reality that  many people aren't a young, fit early 20 (even 30/40) something anymore. At the same time there are significant physical demands involved in the realities of realistic survival scenarios, let alone combat.

To paraphrase from John Mosby on the FO Podcast 'If your particular flavor of worst case scenario involves oppositional situations with LEO/MIL types you are not going to be facing starving cannibal San Franciscans. You will be facing young fit 20-early 30 somethings who run and or lift heavy weights daily. Guys who get paid to work out and do things like Jui Jitsu and powerlifting tournaments for fun AFTER their physically demanding jobs.'

 I think being brutally realistic about your capabilities (maybe you are 30 pounds overweight) and potential for improvement then pursing that goal in a slow incremental way is the best answer. Challenge yourself but not to the point of significantly risking injury and slowly increase the time/ speed/ weight.

Anyway that's the periodic PT reminder.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 5, 2014, 3:11 am
Today I spent some time reading about Operation Gladio the NATO stay behind plan for a USSR invasion of Europe. The plans and logistics alone deserve significant study. The actions of the stay behind forces in all manner of political shenanigans range from quite interesting to complete conspiracy fodder.

That lead to thinking about caches. Always more work that could be done there. Some I could probably do now and some for that mythical future time when resources are available. It also brought up the point of commo. You really need to set those sort of plans up in advance to have a decent chance of them working. If there are people you want to talk to it would be prudent to get those plans set up sooner instead of later.

Also it seems the younger chickens are starting to lay as our egg production is definitely up. That is good. We are getting a lot closer to producing what we use or at least a good percentage of it which makes me happy.

Gas prices dropping is an interesting development. Turns out the Saudi's and majority of OPEC must want to hurt Iran and Russia enough to take the short to mid term hit. The extra cash going back into the family budget is sure nice though. 

Between baby sitting two kids and a baby this weekend and Walker getting sick we are pretty beat.

John Mosby's second book is written. He is currently selling E Books and a physical book will follow and the E Book (for the very reasonable price of $15) will not be offered again. This book is more about the underground, logistics and living in a collapse type situation. I am psyched for the physical book to come out.

Max Velocity is offering $100 off his January Combat Team Tactics class.

The folks at Lucky Gunner did a pretty interesting review on the Glock 42. Personally if I were to get a .380 it would be of the tiny pocket variety (Ruger LCP, etc) .380 and if I went bigger it would be a Walther PPK but I can see how this gun might fit some needs. I can't wait for Glock to make a single stack 9mm and will likely sell my Kahr when they do.

If I had the jingle left in my pockets I would purchase  308 - 147 gr FMJ-BT - PMC - 500 Rounds for $335.
James Yeager did a video titled 'Ballistic Baller on a Budget'. He looked at two guns for under a grand My choice in that scenario would be a Yugo PAP M-70 and an S&W SDVE-9. Taking those two guns home for under a grand would be quite reasonable and a solid combo. Between the CZ-75/ Cannic and the M-70/ SDVE 9 choices it's 6 of one and a half dozen of the other though my choices offer better spare parts availability. Anyway that is what's floating around in my head today.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 3, 2014, 11:00 am
American Mercenary's Interesting Times talks about countries transferring their gold out of the US, the shift away from the dollar as a world reserve currency and China.

Japan is rearming to face the Chinese threat in the pacific theater.

Bayou Renaissance Man talks about firearms and forensic investigations. I cannot independently verify most of this but it seems plausible, also Peter is not typically a fellow who speaks in a factual way when he isn't sure. Good for entertainment and maybe useful for some scenarios.
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 2, 2014, 11:00 am
I really did not plan to make any black Friday purchases but some deals were too good to pass up. Purchased

.22/.223/5.56 Bore Snake for $6.99

Butler Creek Ruger 10/22 'Hot Lips' 25 round mags for $5.99x 10

Blackhawk Sportster Shooters bags for $7.99

Bushnell Powerview 12x25 binoculars for $8.99

Ten boxes of 2 3/4 Winchester Super X Heavy Game #4 shot to knock it off my years list

and a Leatherman because they were on sale for $20.

Additionally thanks to you all buying stuff through my Amazon (check out the search thingie on the bottom right side) I had some spare jingle in my pocket. Purchased a Morakniv stainless companion and a Italian Army Style Wool Blanket- 62" x 80". If you purchase stuff through Amazon and want to start through my widget I'll make a bit of coin.

Also found the great deal on the Pelican rifle case.

In terms of actions (vs buying stuff) Turkey Day took up some time and watching my sisters kids for the weekend not too much happened. Hit fitness well in the first half of the week. Also I re did the shelter piece of the chicken coup. Put the cord higher and angled it better to avoid pooling and protect the hens from the rain. Added coverage on two sides also. Will see how it goes. Wifey said I was playing 'overgrown boy scout'. Hopefully that will protect them from the rain a bit better.

Speaking of which the three new girls (or some subset of them) must be laying because our egg production is up. We went from roughly .75 eggs a day to 1.75ish. Wifey (who knows these things from a childhood of FFA and animal husbandry) says at least one of the older hens is about done laying eggs. That one is headed towards the crock pot to serve her last loyal duty (probably X2) as chicken and dumplings.

I planned to add winter components to our systems but the weekend was a blur of small children so that did not happen. Next week or weekend I guess.

What did you do to prepare this week?
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: December 1, 2014, 1:34 am
Commander Zero wrote a post called Stripped Lower Deals that put this into motion. I was going to write a comment but that was not sufficient so it stewed in my head for awhile and turned into a post. In this post I am going to share some ideas about the benefits of building an AR-15 as well as the potential downsides where just buying a rifle turns out better.

Bottom Line Up Front: The unique characteristics of the AR-15 can let an individual looking to maintain privacy yet still own specific weapons, interested in a rifle configuration that is not currently available or looking to secure potential options/ profit do better by starting with a stripped lower than a complete rifle; provided they are able to make reasonable parts choices and stay on (or close to) budget.

Two specific traits of the AR platform make this conversation very different than most other weapons. First as I read someplace online AR's are not so much built as assembled. What I mean is  that assembly does not require lathes, presses, significant mechanical aptitude/ knowledge or fine fitting of components. A person with lower than average mechanical aptitude and a few basic hand tools can put together a totally functional AR-15 at the kitchen table. Sure they will lose a detent pin and a spring, plus there will be a couple tiny scratches by the roll pins but that's about all that will happen. Second the serialized part of the AR which is for all legal purposes the firearm is a small, cheap piece of aluminum. For reference I spent more on the muzzle device for my AR than the (stripped) lower receiver. These two reasons make the discussion very different than with say an AK or M1A.

Now we will talk about the specific areas that will be discussed: Quality, economics, value and customization.

Quality: Quality in an AR comes from using serviceable, or even good parts and putting them together properly. I'm sure there are some total AR guru's out there who do things with fit and small amounts of thoughtfully applied gunsmithing that can make an AR more accurate. However I will submit that unless a total guru or buffoon are putting together a gun the difference is going to be negligible. What I am getting at is that a complete rifle from whoever is not going to perform differently than if the owner put together the lower and slapped the manufacturers upper onto it.

Of course people can totally screw up AR builds. Zero's example of an AR built out of all of the cheapest random parts is manifested in more than a few rifles. Go figure some of them just don't work well. This is my surprised face. Then again companies totally screw up some rifles too, it just happens. An advantage of buying a complete rifle from a reputable company is that if a problem happens they are usually pretty good about making it right. Some guns just have phantom problems and often a company will just give you a new rifle. If your Franken AR has problems fixing them is on your dime, basically you are hosed.

In terms of quality I'd say Project AR is certainly as good as comparable (BCM, Colt, etc) complete rifles.

Economics: This is an interesting discussion. The way to get the cheapest possible AR would be to shop around and find the cheapest individual items. Thus a person could say you can save 60% by building your own. This is not accurate because to compare value we have to talk apples to apples.

Saying "I built a $524 AR so that is a 50% savings over a Colt 6920 LE" is stupid because your budget build is almost surely not in the same league as the Colt. The point I am trying to make is that you need to compare the total cost to build a given quality rifle with the cost to just go out and buy one.

The other problem is people who spend a ton of money buying all sorts of random parts. I regularly see 2K+ AR's up for sale where the guy spent that much or more on parts. These guys read all kinds of stuff and get their roll pins from one guy, their trigger spring from another, etc. They
 really do believe they are building great rifles. In reality they are spending Ferrari money on Fords because they do not have the experience to actually know what matters. These very expensive guns are nowhere near as good as a comparably priced rifle from Daniels Defense or LaRue. Heck, some of them aren't on par with Spikes or S&W.

The 'A La Carte' model of AR building can work in some situations but you definitely have to keep an eye on the bottom line and compare that bottom line to a similar quality complete rifle. Situations exist where you can save money building but there are also others where the numbers do not work. I would say you also have to consider shipping costs as part of the total cost. This makes ordering parts from fewer places advantageous.

Comparing sale items is problematic because it depends a lot on what is on sale today, not yesterday or tomorrow. Looking at normal prices is probably a fair indicator. It is often, though not always, possible to save ten or even twenty percent by getting a stripped lower, LPK, stock and upper vs getting a complete rifle. I did this once. The difference in that particular case was closer to 30% for getting all the parts vs a complete rifle. Exact same parts from the exact same company. Found an acquaintance who put the lower together and I was good to go. That was a good rifle.

Recently with Project AR I probably saved some money. It gets hard to really compare equitably because I upgraded some components and got a less expensive LPK.

Customization: This is really where building makes a lot of sense. The AR is really a grown up male lego set in that a normal guy can pretty much make one into whatever he wants. In general I would say that all other things being equal if you only want to change a superficial thing (furniture, charging handle, etc) there isn't a huge need to go out and build a rifle. On the other hand if you want a configuration not currently available or are otherwise going to change more than a couple things it might make sense to build your own. If you want a different barrel or whatnot the cost of buying all that stuff once then changing it out can get silly fast. When building your own you can avoid duplicate costs for stuff that's going to be thrown into the AR parts bin.

For people with specific tastes who like private party anonymity building is a good option. I say this because while you can (except in panic times and even then if you're willing to pay panic prices) buy AR's PP no problem finding a 16" BCM Middy with a certain barrel twist is going to be really hard. If you get a lower (complete or stripped) then it is easy to build what you want without the high expense of buying a complete rifle you do not want.

Various Thoughts:
Do you want to build a rifle for the fun and learning experience or do you just want to get a gun and be done with it? I wanted to build my rifle to have that experience and am glad I did it. Other people might not be interested in doing that for it's own sake and should probably just buy a rifle. Down the road if / when in the market for another carbine I will probably just do like Max Velocity and buy a Colt 6920 LE. As to other AR configurations I will run the numbers to see which makes the most economic sense.

In Closing:
Depending on your wants, needs and budget there are times when building a rifle makes the most sense. If you choose to build be sure to keep an eye on part quality while simultaneously staying within your budget.

Thoughts?
Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: November 30, 2014, 11:00 am
Hello, I stumbled across your review while doing some research and I had a couple of questions for you. First, let me say it was a great review. I was wondering if you knew what size the serape could be compressed to if I wanted to stuff into a sack or bag?  Also, you said the serape didn't zip up all the way when used as a sleeping bag.  Do you think it would be possible to attach another zipper (or maybe even velcro) so the serape would close all the way?
Thanks,
Derek

1) size the serape could be compressed to if I wanted to stuff into a sack or bag?
 I'd say slightly smaller than a 2 liter soda bottle. If forced to be more specific I'd guess about 1.75 liter but lets say two to have some safe room.
2) Do you think it would be possible to attach another zipper (or maybe even velcro) so the serape would close all the way?

The zipper arrangement on the Serapa for the 'sleeping bag mode'  comes about 40% of the way up the bag. For me it comes to about crotch level. It is a bit unorthodox but they use the one zipper for this and the 'greatcoat' mode so I am sure there is a balancing act there. The zipped foot box keeps you in the sleeping bag and the dimensions are generous enough to avoid the 'on the edge of the blanket so there is a gap' affect. I just sort of wrapped up in the top part like a burrito. For me it worked fine. The arrangement wouldn't work for an expedition weight bag designed for -20 temps but given that it is a fairly lightweight sleeping bag designed for light 3 season (probably 2.5 season to clip off the very early spring and latest part of fall) it worked fine.

Coming back to the question, while I do not see the need, if you are handy with a sewing machine one could certainly add a zipper. It would have to be one of the ones that come apart like on the front of a coat. Also that would mean there was a zipper on all but one side which could make for less than optimally comfortable blanket use. A couple pieces of velcro could have basically the same effect and be easier to put on. Either way you could certainly do this if you want. I'd recommend trying it as is for awhile before adding anything, those guys really test their products and you might find that while unorthodox it works for the intended use.

Hope that answers your questions

Author: Theother Ryan
Posted: November 29, 2014, 1:50 pm




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