Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: United Cutlery - M48 Ranger Hawk axe

Here is my first totally "tacticool" post in a while. I have shown you some axe-love in the past, and even debunked a cancelled product post and flirted with some serious and lustful objects but haven't really gotten up close and personal with the smaller choppers, till now!

This piece of bad-assed pointy is the
M48 Kommando Ranger Hawk Axe
from United Cutlery. I had seen this advertised on ThinkGeek, and loved the look of it, and for the price, was willing to grab one to mess with. ThinkGeek have changed their shipping conditions however and this as well as many other of their tool and cool items no longer ship to Australia. I don't know if this from their end or ours, but I was denied! I hate that. I managed to find alternate means of securing my item, via a well known ordering service named after a large South American river system. This too was not without issue, and following once cancellation, I managed to secure myself a chopper!

This head of this piece is "precision" cast 2Cr13 stainless steel, and features a wide bearded cutting edge, which sweeps downwards nicely, and has a very smooth geometry to its edge.The topside of the head has been beveled back and is not blackened like the rest of the head, which I thought was a little odd.. Three holes skeletonise the head, reducing the over all weight without making the piece flimsy feeling in the slightest. The back of the "beard" had a smooth finish and I felt I could grip it for precision whittling if it ever appealed to me. The whole piece weighs in at 1.088 kg (2.4lbs) and sitting at approximately 20cm (7 5/8") across the length of the head, and just under 40cm (15 1/2") "tall" This is a really light option for what it is.

There is apparently 90cm (36") a pole-axe version available as well, but it looks like it may be a different head too.

The flip side of the axe-head is this very impressive spiked beak, again with the edges being uncoated "false edges" in this case leading to a rather pointy, and well defined penetrating tip. the beak follows the same lines as the axe-beard, and sweeps downwards, aiding in transferring the energy of a swing. An interesting and well thought out feature seen clearly here is the notch cut into the underside of the beak, which fits the thumb-and-index finger top of your fist if you slide your hand right up the shaft to take a grip of just the head. This facilitates a really comfortable choked-up grip for fine chopping or perhaps cutting with the blade.
Traditionally,the back of a Tomahawk
seems to have primarily been a hammer type end, rather than a spike, which seems to have been more a common feature of the Warhammer. No less devastating when featured here though, I imagine.

The handle of this piece is nylon, reinforced with 30% fiberglass and features both a double sided "knuckle" for gripping and preventing you from accidentally sliding up the grip, as well as a series of deep groves running the circumference of the rounded handle.

A lanyard hole at the base fits paracord nicely, and in fact,  one of the options offered by United Cutlery is a cord-wrapped version (only on one colour of the handle as far as I can tell, the OD version). Speaking of which, there appear to be a number of colour options available for this, black, OD green, safety orange and rescue yellow. This is a really nice thought, allowing people to clearly indicate the tools function, or keep it subdued and inconspicuous for those people on two-way firing ranges who don't want to stand out.

The head of the axe is fitted to the haft with three TORX type screws, binding the tang to about 1/3 of the length of the haft. I was happy with the binding and security of this attachment, from the brief testing I gave this piece, but intend to do a whole lot more chopping with it shortly.

The sheath is probably the least satisfying piece of the package. Whilst the nylon and furniture was hefty and felt well put together, with rivets along the top and cutting edges, and press-studs to close the bottom of the sheath, for "pull-away" access, however, on the back of the sheath, the attachment options to mount the whole thing were pretty woeful on this model. A single narrow belt-loop was pretty limiting, and I think I will need to do some modifications before I can fit this into my current platforms and bug-out-bags. To be fair, the cord-wrapped / OD green option comes with a somewhat more accommodating sheath, with some PALS/MOLLE looking hook-and-loop tabs, but overall, this was a disappointing end to what was otherwise an outstanding looking and feeling little axe. . 

Perfect for that long trek in the bush, demounted search and rescue, breaching and increasingly for CQB if accounts are to be believed.   


M48 Kommando Ranger Hawk Axe
Click to go to Think Geek store listing ....
You may wonder, in this era, why would people be interested in a hand-axe, well here are some Hollywood-produced suggestions....

Making a lasting first impression.... Colonial era style

Up close and personal, Revolutionary War style.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Home Front: Pot Belly Stove restoration

One of the small victories I had in my separation of assets proceedings was to gain custody of the dismantled, rusted and pieces-missing iron pot-belly stove. I lugged it back from the house in the hills where Triceratops Girl lives, and back to my place by the bay. When I first moved into the house in the hills I was delighted to find the stove in the midden-heap of a woodpile on the property, and dug around to find as many of its parts as I could in the leaf-litter, mulch and dirt. It turned out to be missing the top pot-lid cover, and the internal base, and possibly an ash catcher, as well as the chimney pipe.
The first problem with restoring it were the bolts that were to hold the "chest" the the "belly" parts. These had rusted solid, the nuts on either side all but fused to the metal of the bolts. I hit these with lots of silicone spray, and set at them with adjustable spanner and pliers, until i was able to shift them within the bolt-holes.

They wouldn't come free, hoverer, so I applied the NASA technique of percussive maintenance and hammered the bolts free of their heavily rusted nuts. This allowed the "belly" and "chest" to sit flush once again, for the first time in a long time I expect. The door moves freely and latches happily, giving a good seal, so I didn't feel the need to do any adjustments to it. The "lid" piece was missing its "pot-lid plate", which I will endeavor to replace with a close fitting disk of steel at some stage, if I can't find a more original piece of stove-lid iron. In the mean time, an old baking tray closed the hole for firing-up purposes. You can see there is a crack in the iron at the base of the stove-pipe, which leaks a little smoke. Perhaps brazing could patch that, we'll see. Using materials on hand, (baby-food tins and some coat-hanger wire) I fashioned a rude chimney,

A second round baking tray was sacrificed to close the bottom of the "belly" enabling a fire to be built within, and given the rough-fit, also acted to ventilate the stove, giving it good clean burning capability, without raining ash, embers or sparks onto the chopped wood stored below, between the "legs".

All in all I was very happy with the salvage, rebuilding and cobbled together spare parts that I used to turn a pile of rusted metal parts into a functional, cheerful and rugged wood-burning stove that can warm and cook for my family, if ever the electrical and/or natural gas grids should fail. It is also small enough (and nests) that it could conceivable be taken along for long-stay outdoors adventures.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DENIED: Wish-Lust: Gerber Kick Axe

One of my readers brought to my attention a folding axe, purported to be a Gerber product on another blog, and it seemed right up my alley so I went on over and looked it up. Fun blog, I seem some cool parallels in our coverage and interests (well done you Undead Gear guys!)

I wanted to get my hands on this cool piece of kit, but checking Gerber's website I hadn't been able to find it, and the link included in that article defaults to the Gerber Gear homepage. SO I contacted their sales reps:

I asked if they had any publicity or product information on the Kick Axe, telling them I would be delighted to hear more about this product, it looks ideal for me, my blog and my readers.

Here's the reply....


Thank you for contacting Gerber Blades and your interest in the Kick Axe.  The Kick Axe was announced for release in 2009 and due to a number of concerns was not released.  Production of this product has been cancelled indefinitely.

We appreciate your interest in our products and invite you to view our website at to see our current product offerings.
We apologize for any inconvenience.


Donda Burnett
Consumer Services Supervisor | Gerber

So, a sad outcome, but it goes to show, always good to get good up-to-date intel, and for the best, go to the source!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Home Front: Vegie Garden update

Perhaps I am overly proud of my little veggie patches, but it's something I've always enjoyed doing, and for as long as I've lived in places with enough plot to plant in, I've done so. Let me be the first to admit, I'm not very good with germinating seeds and keeping them alive to "seedling" size, although I planted sunflowers for Triceratops Girl last season which grew happily.
Here's an update on our main vegetable patch (as opposed to the  more herb-filled bed).

This first shot is of the "first quadrant" and hosts three variates of tomato, two of chilli and three garlic plants.The stringy grass is pervasive and a real pest to remove, it roots deeply.

This is the second quadrant, recently weeded, and plays host to green-red kale (the big leafy thing), reclaimed leeks (the bright green on the left, which sprouted from the discarded cut rooty-ends of supermarket leeks. The two big green shoots on the center left edge are more garlic, sprouted from gloves that germinated on our shelf. The long spindly looking thing is the remains of the broccoli that went to seed. I wanted to let it go full term so we could maximize our chance of getting a second season out of it. Some potatoes can be seen poking through the top right of the shot. Need to replant those to save them from going green.

Quadrant three hosts celery (top right), which is shooting up, spring onions shoots through the middle and matured, "gone-to-seed" plants along the top of the frame, and spinach all along the right of the shot. Retired kendo shinai slats make great garden stakes. Recycled futon planks make my walkways. More potatoes throughout. They are invasive but a welcome find when they aren't stifling other crops. The pumpkin is the same way.

Here are the new additions. two punnets of sweet corn (NOT popcorn variety like the last rather unsatisfying crop we grew, accidentally). I also planted basil, in between the rows of corn.In the process I dug in a bucket of chicken poop and old nest-hay, harvested from under the chookens. Digging it all in gave me the ability to clear out a bunch of grass-toots, and other detritus, as well as find and re-home some more potatoes.

I'm really hopeful that these two will be good "companion-plants"  and I may even rish another set of beans, once the corn-stalks mature. So far we've had zero success with beans.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Swiss Army Chocolate

Here is a fun one, a way to re-engergise your apocalypse. I've had a variety of Swiss Army Knives over the years, from the Classic, to the Camper and all the way up to the hefty Swiss-Champ. These were my first knives, and my first survival item. However, I was gleefully surprised to see something else on a shop counter recently:

Here is the Swiss Army Chocolate (not by Victorinox), and Here's what I think about it: Chocolate rations go back a really long way but as the record shows, they weren't designed to be yummy, but as "emergency energy bars". Well, fortunately, times have changed, and these bars are in fact delicious. I picked up a dark, and a milk chocolate version and you can see the "Nutritional Information" listed here for both. Important to note is the 1100kJand 1080kJ energy per 50g listed for both, which is just a shade under the 1116kJ per 50g in the WW2 Logan Bar or D Ration. 

These bars however are also caffeinated, with 45mg and 30mg in the dark and milk varieties.  All the better to see you through when a burst of awareness and to shake off fatigue when it starts to set in. These bars also feature crushed conrflakes, which adds a pleasing and interesting texture.

Having a long lasting energy food source like chocolate bars is an ideal emergency backup, easy to store, long lasting (these bars have a "best-before" of just about two years from date of purchase). The slim size of the bar means I can slip them into my Bullock Echo daypack without even noticing the added bulk.

Each of the bars is divided into six pieces and sealed into an easy-tear plastic pouch withing the paper wrapper. This would hopefully keep the bar water-proofed (remembering that storm and flood-water is likely contaminated, and the CDC recommend caution), I'm delighted to have come across these bars, and I think I will stock up on them, because, who knows ....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: EcoFuture - BioDefence Athletic Foot Shield

So a while back I showed you the alcohol free HandSan spray that I was sent samples of, and from the same folks at EcoFuture, here is an equally useful product, which may touch the heartstrings of some of you. This is the BioDefence Athletic Foot Shield, which is a food-grade organic-compound based, alcohol-free prophylactic spray for feet. As someone who wears boots all day, pretty much every day (I don't actually have any shoes that aren't boots anymore, apart from my sandals) I occasionally suffer from athletes foot which is itchy, annoying and unsightly. In its extreme stages it is debilitating.

This is NOT something you want in a survival situation, especially if you have been spending a lot of time in your boots, trudging through mud and wading through dirty water. My last big bout was following the Tough Mudder, and this product really sped up my recovery, I feel. The active ingredients are a mixture of organically derived materials including: flavonoids such as the Vitamins A, B3, C, D, D3, and K2 and Ubiquinol . More details can be found on their product data sheet including bactericidal and fungicidal testing  performed.

They key thing however, is that it a topical spray, applied before booting-up, that acts to give your beleaguered skin a fighting chance.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Home Front: Walled security?

One of the thoughts coming on from thinking about the Urban Preppers seen on National Geographic's "Doomsday Preppers" is what to do to prepare in the event of "bugging-in" to secure and if needs be, fortify one's location.This is our little house. I've shown this shot before. We have this little rendered weatherboard place, wide window frontage, white picket fence. The3re is a bolted wooden gate for access down the side of the house to the back yard, and along the street-facing side of the street, a single window with wooden shutters. The back yard has a falling apart wooden fence and a steel rolling gate set in concrete.

So, being the consummate scavenger and opportunist that I am, I have always kept my eyes open for alternate dwellings, should disaster strike, and we decide to "bug-in" locally, but not necessarily at our place. On a local street is this promising fenceline. Note the bluestone (basalt) fence abutting a red-brick type fence. Great coverage and security you may think.
The problem lies here. The edge of the solid frontage is another wood plank fence. There goes your unassailable castle-wall... Still, the height of the stone frontage, and the coverage of the treeline give you an "out-of-sight" advantage that our white picket fence does not.

Even the stone wall wont stop even the most average able bodied intruder, but it does at least present a physical barrier, and shelter from that front.
Just down the road a bit further is this gated and walled place, again, some gate is better than none, and the high stone walls gives that "out-of-sight" protection too. The gate is a bit of a problem in that regards, again, but some hastily applied scrim or boarding would solve that. 

Again, the problem is the side fence. You can just make out here, another wood-plank fence, but again, behind a dividing and obscuring tree-line.

So, what to do? well, having lived in hurricane affected Houston I have witnessed what storms like that can do to glass frontages like I have, so, for non-society breakdown triage, it will be boarding and taping of our place, and perhaps "bugging-in", to abandoned local places we are still scoping out.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Home Front: Preppers in the media

So, I've started watching the fun National Geographic docu-series "Doomsday Preppers" which I must say is falling right into the slot I pegged it at. It's not actively making fun of preppers, not making them out to be crazies, in fact the opposite, it is showing a fairly broad spectrum of people with a variety of outlooks, concerns and abilities.  Obviously they only televised the ones deemed "entertaining", and again, obviously, only filmed the people who consented to being documented.

That said, there have been some really interesting trends I noticed:

1) It was assumed that in almost every case, violent roving bands of marauders would need to be fought off with firearms, which were freely available to both prepper and perp.

2) A high proportion of urban preppers would endeavor to "bug-in" regardless.

3) A surprisingly high proportion of preppers were not in what I would call "good" physical shape.

I guess the things about these three points that caught me were that in my current situation, without a readily firearm equipped population, there wouldn't be as much emphasis on taking proportional force to the firearms level. That said, I have taken my first steps in this direction, albeit baby-steps, in getting my Paintball Marker License (yeah, really ...).

Secondly, the urban "bugging-in" (buggers-in seems to make me giggle) crowd whilst taking advantage of their ability to stockpile LOTS of supplies, didn't seem to do much to take into account the possibility of the physical location being devastated. Suburbs burn, and if mains water and Fire Departments were out, that could be a big problem. Maybe it was just my experiences with bushfires and big storms that made me worry.

Thirdly, and this is the most problematic personally, what do you do if you are less physically able, or members of your family are? We have little people to look after. Triceratops Girl and Tactical Baby are incapable of doing anything useful at 16m and 4y. That's a given. My partner Omega just had knee-surgery to repair damage from a fall. We have a house of people who are not super-soldiers. So, like the less than peak-condition people in the NG show, what do we do? The best we can.

The ideas behind disaster preparedness are to be ready to adapt and survive through the disaster that you are faced with. To some extent that means being stocked and supplied, partially to plan and have the forethought to have contingencies, and the rest is to be skilled and trained.

In my opinion, regardless of all the cool kit that I review, the key to being Equipped for the Apocalypse, is being mentally and socially prepared.

Knowing what you are capable of, knowing what your family is capable of, and having THEM steel themselves, can be your greatest advantage. Understanding the foibles of other humans is also a big part of this, and on this, I'll leave you with a quote from R.A. Heinlein, from his "Time Enough For Love" :
Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.

I'm looking forwards to more of NG's "Doomsday Preppers",to the next season of AMC's "Walking Dead" and to NBC's "Revolutions", when we get around to watching it

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review 5.11 Tactical - Taclite Pro Pants

Here are the pants I mentioned in my belt post recently, these are the 5.11 Tactical Taclite Pro pants, that I picked up form LA Police Gear, online. I got them in their mid-grey "Tundra" and the light sand "Coyote" colours. These are some pretty feature packed pants, and quite comparable with the Blackhawk Performance WarriorWear pants i reviewed not long ago. These are made of a lightweight 65% polyester and 35% poly cotton ripstop material, which have been treated with HT Teflon® Wear Resistant Finish for stain and soil resistance. Tefglon pants, how cool is that? Actually, its very cool. I've been sprayed with water and food several times thanks to the combined efforts of Tactical Baby and Triceratops Girl whilst in these pants and they have beaded and wiped clean on almost all occasions with ease. Water droplets just bead and roll off.

 Very impressive. Apparently that same Teflon® coated fabric dries 25-40% faster than untreated fabric,something I also put to the test recently as I sweated through several days of 39oC Influenza fever. These pants were actually comfortable to be in.

Lets have a look at the pocket options. On the right face, a reinforced open knife pocket graces the front of the thigh, ( keep my Gerber multitool on a lanyard in it) The left thigh features a hook-and-loop closed pocket, big enough for an iPhone or possibly a magazine. Two standard bellowsed cargo pockets sit down the thigh, also with hook-and-loop closures.

There is a brass clip D-loop on the front right belt loop, good for keys, phone or lanyards, I've found. The front hand-pockets are deep and well angled, and also feature reinforcing to protect against fraying from knife or flashlight clips that may be attached here. The pants themselves close with a press-stud snap, a hefty zipper and an internal button.
At the back you can see the hook-and-loop closing rear "slash" pockets. I'm really digging this style of pocket, over the more traditional "up and down" style. It gives me easy access for stowed items quickly and securely.Also on the back right side is the long reinforced cotton webbing utility strap, which would be a great place to sling items such as my Dead-On Super Hammer.

A couple of other really good features are the double knee and seat reinforcements. The knees have an internal inward facing pocket to allow knee pads to be added. The fully gusseted crotch is also a godsend, it allows for full range of movement, especially for us long-legged critters. Behind the belt line are a couple of built in elasticized patches on the waist, which give the pants a stretch point when bending,m kneeling or crawling, whilst not interfering with the sizing or comfort of fit. The belt loops are wide and broad, taking the 1.75" TDU Belt by 5.11 Tactical perfectly. The one problem I had with these pants were that the Coyote pair were somewhat TOO rugged on the inside seams, as I "go commando", this led to some uncomfortable chafing and me having to resort to boxers for a little while. I presume this is just due to their newness, as my other pair which I wore in a bit more, same sizing, gave me no problems.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Guest Review: #$%^ That Works - MSR XGK Shaker Jet II stove

I have the very great pleasure to introduce (some) of you to my old friend Tony. Tony and I have a combined passion for Japanese weapons arts, which is how we met, and subsequently realized we share some other exciting interests as well. I am only too pleased to bring you the first article Tony has to offer......

#$%^ That Works
Some time ago I offered my good friend Josh at Apocalypse Equipped a couple of articles. And due to being slack and an urban hippie I have not managed to get this done for him until now. Below is the first of these articles.
For some back ground I have travelled a lot and climbed the odd mountain and done the odd wilderness expedition. While zombies may be off my radar I have been in places where natural disasters had just hit or hit not long after I have been there it which is more luck than good management. So in an apocalypse situation you just want @#$% that works. It needs to possibly have been lying around for a couple of years untouched and you need to know that...
  1. You can pick it up and run and when you need it and it will just work.
  1. It is field serviceable with a minimum of tools.
For me the best example I have of this is my MSR XGK Shaker Jet II stove.
I was reminded of this a couple of months ago we headed to the desert for a friends festival and one of the things on the list was cooking. I grabbed this stove out of my back shed filled it with mower fuel. Primed it and as you can see below viola first time it fired up and worked like a dream.

I first bought this shaker jet back in 1996 (some of the readers here are younger than this stove) in that time it has worked, worked and worked some more for me. It has had parts replaced over that time but the bottle and main unit are as is.
It is light at 500grams plus fuel
Efficient - I once cooked an entire month’s food hiking in Greenland on 1 litre of petrol
Rugged – works after being crammed into packs, on the back of yaks dropped, banged and just generally disrespected.
Field Serviceable – Pulled apart at 7000 meters at 20 below with the tools provided striped and put back together.
Versatile – I have run this successfully on diesel, petrol and white gas (and that was dirty dirty diesel)

Like its name says it sounds like a jet. You are not hiding from anyone using this stove.
It can burn a bit hot if you don’t know how to use it. (tip below)
Has taken my eyebrows off a couple of times priming it when I first got it.
The stove works off a simple principle of heating the liquid before it gets to the jet by passing the tube through the flame this vaporises the fuel allowing it come out as a gas. Obviously it needs to be primed and this should be practiced but once mastered you can do it with your eyes closed or a set of gloves on.
The shaker part refers to a small needle inside the unit that can be shaken up and down that breaks up any residue that might block the unit which allows for the use of very dirty fuel.
Packs down extremely small and with so many other MSR items is well made.
It can boil a litre of water in under 2 minutes and it can turn out some fine food including a nice salami, bean and risonni pasta that we did in the desert. The tip(as promised above) with not burning everything it is to drop a old can top on top of the cross beam of the stove body to act as a diffuser. Makes it less efficient but more versatile for cooking.

So after water and shelter this would be my next item on any list when it has hit the fan and as we discovered in the desert where it had not hit the fan but we where 50 very long KM’s from anywhere like civilisation that water and shelter then food and warmth where on the list.
This model has been superseded by the XGK EX which I have read and heard good things about. At $250 it is bit rich to just have lying around I admit. But as I said if I have to run for the hills or the power goes out for a week in the snow (as happened to a friend of mine) then this is one of the pieces of kit I definitely want around. If Josh lets me in the next couple of months I will put up a post on how to build a super efficient lightweight stove using some old cans.
Till then happy zombie hunting the urban hippie

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: Strike Industries - Vertical Loop sling mount

In my quest to build myself a lasertagger for the Stargate Lasertag LRP that I am involved in, I have been accessorizing the tagger that I already have access to, to add to the "look and feel" of the simulation that we do.  One of the things I've found is that most of our home-made taggers lack the kinds of built-in sling-mounts that one would find on a real firearm, which makes mounting a sling problematic.  The electronics-filled MDF bodies can still weigh quite a lot, and because we are cabled into both the sensors and the controller-box, its not just a matter of "putting the tagger down" to do something, you are literally tied to your tagger. 

Rather than drilling an additional hole to put an eye-bolt, or the like in, or going full-ghetto with cable-ties or webbing I wanted to see what I could find to do it "right".  Because we put rails on the tops of many of the taggers to add red-dot's and the like, I realised I could make use of one of the  Strike Industries - Vertical Loop sling mount to give me my attachment point!
This piece of hardware spans two of the rail "ridges" with a bolt securing it. Simple enough as a concept, but the proof is in the engineering, as the case may be.

The body of the mount is of a T6 6061 aluminium construction with a hard anodized matte black finish. The securing pin is steel, but the real utility comes from the mounting ring itself. This spans both sides of the Picatinny MIL-STD-1913 compatible rail and is split to allow it to be tensioned firmly to the rail.

The loop itself is very cleanly machined, with no places to snag or catch, and is amply dimensioned to accommodate the paracord loop or harness snaps of a variety of sling attachments. Here I have it attached to my 215 Gear Sling.

Being completely adjustable, it is possible to move and reposition this sling mount anywhere that features two rail ridges.

This is a low profile, light and sleek accessory, perfect for what I needed, and is certainly fit for purpose.

I look forwards mounting it to my purpose built laser-tagger, once it's built.
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