Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Dead-On Annililator 18inch Superhammer

As first seen on BreachBangClear,  and now on to you.

I wanted to get a full-on gift for a friend, one of the fantastic Dead-On Annihilator superhammers and due to a failure to read the details on my part, I accidentally ordered the 18" version, not the 14" version, like the one I already had. To make things right, I simply gave my friend the 14" he was already trialling, and kept the monstrous 18" for myself. It really is a beast.

Probably too much tool for most people, at 1.9kg (3.7lbs) and 30cm (12") shaft with a 45cm (18") overall length. All the features of the 14" are replicated in the 18", just "bigger".
Between the striking face and the "Nail Puller" the "Board Straightener" sits ready to grip and twist.

The two sets of teeth are just over 4cm (1 5/8") and just under 3cm (1 1/8") in width, respectively, which fits standard board sizes for wrenching or adjusting.To be honest, I haven't had much use for this other than occasionally levering at a frame here or there. The hammer is good though, the face is wide and beveled giving both a good nail-driving action, without messing up the surface you're pounding on.

Below the chisel edged Nail Puller/Tile Ripper lies the frightfully formed Demolition Axe, which curves down almost to the edge of the rubberised grip. This is not a shaving-sharp axe, rather that the steel of the haft is formed to a triangular ridge to an angle of around 45 degrees to the full width of the haft. This leaves a very hardy working edge, and is intended for drywall, thin wooden structures, shingles and conduit.

The drywall-only labeled demolition axe seems to work well on particle board, and would probably make short work of errant wrists too. 

The middle of the curve is notched with what appears to be a wire-stripper, but could also be used as a nail-puller as well. As the 18" version is just a heftier version of the 14", the angles are steeper, so it's not really sharp at all, but it is wicked solid. I can imagine that the warning is there for the same reason that coffee lids read "Caution: contents hot". For idiots who try to chop wood, or cut wiring with it. It wont do that, or at least, not well, or safely. Use the right tool for the job. It will make a mess of whatever you want to make a mess of though, so in that, its perfect.

The pointy-end of the tool features several other interesting combination tools. The tip is a rugged ridged point, which could be used for penetration, or scoring as needed. Within the tip is the "Multi Purpose Wrench/Nail Puller", which as suggested includes a hex-bolt socket, and a wide feeding nail puller. The head of the hammer fits nicely in the palm of the hand to drive the spike home.

 The manufacturers suggest using the wrench for releasing concrete forms and other general uses and the tip for smashing, cracking and chipping away at tile, brick or other things deemed "to go away".  I like using it to punch holes in things for old fashioned "Here's Johnny" moments. Again, it makes a mess where needed.

 So, I felt it was a good idea to put the 18" Annihilator up against the mighty Stanley Fatmax Fubar to give a good comparison. However, at 1900g vs 1300g it already comes up significantly heftier. More so again than the 800g 14" Annihilator. This is a big tool, for people with big hands and big tasks. It's probably too much tool for me.  If you're in-field and cutting back every weight counts, you might want to consider the 14" over the 18", but if you are able to keep it in a vehicle, it would be a perfect  multi-function wrecker.

They are really inexpensive, rugged and well designed. When it comes time for me to break my way into an abandoned warehouse, bust my plucky crew out of a cannibal mutants larder, or even just pop open packing crates and 44 gallon drums of fuel for the gyrocopter, the 18" Dead-On Annililator might well be the way to go.

There is also fact that Shaddox Tactical make a Tactical Pouch for it, so I'm hooked.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Events: OzApocalypse - Zombie Apocalypse

I had the opportunity to go and run through the Oz Apocalypse Zombie Experience over the weekend, and wanted to give you my thoughts on it.

There has been quite a bit of controversy around the event, primarily as it changed hands very late in the piece and there was quite a disparity between what the original promoters/organisers (IRL Shooter, who ran Patient 0 in 2013) and the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Experience: LAZARUS event being put on by OzApocalypse and Horror Corp Entertainment. This mostly stems from OzApocalypse "buying up" the Pozible Campaign that for whatever reason IRL Shooter found itself unable to present.

This was NOT the sequel that IRL Shooter had promised, this was an event put on by OzApocalypse that drew on that event, its fanbase, and premise. I think that in several aspects it was not as impressive as IRL Shooter's Patient 0 (it wasn't nearly as large or sprawling, and didn't have the embedded story).

However, it was also superior in several ways. The technology for one, I felt was significantly better.

The irM4's from iCombat sync wirelessly to the smart bandoleer we all wore, which recorded shot data, accuracy, and more.  The irM4's were fitted with a 150 round SmartMag and additional magazine kits can be purchased. If a player is eliminated, their gun shuts off for a period of time preventing cheating! The best thing about the new weapons were that they had CO2 powered sound and recoil. you could feel every shot, hear every rapport.

I knew if my teammates were firing, even over the din of the event space, and that was  a crucial improvement in the experience.

The bandoleers were tied to our irM4's wirelessly, and reported back to a central computer, and more importantly, they tied into the headbands worn by the Zombies, these were similar to the bandoleers we wore, and acted as emitters to make proximity to the zombies damaging. Get too close, and they "bite".

Shoot the sensors and they flash and go solid with a kill, and the actors dropped. All this data was fed back through to the behind-the scenes control and scored were generated, and passed against the membership cards we were given at registration, giving you reciprocal rights at other iCombat sites, and the ability to accrue rank in the network.

The OzApocalypse website made mention that there was the ability to customise your irM4, but this is a bit of a misnomer, in that there were a second set of weapons, the short barreled, and Picatinny rail mounted short barreled "Commando" irM4's in their armory, fitted with vertical grips, there wasn't really the facility during the Zombie Apocalypse event to do any customization other than adjusting the buttstock and in my case, fitting my own sling, the trusty 215Gear sling.

Other than this it replicates one of the most known assault rifles in the world, the M16/M4, and is used by law enforcement and militaries all over the world.

It has the same form, fit, and function as the real thing and brings the word realism up to a whole new level. I really enjoyed the "Tap, Rack, Bang" functionality. Removable clips, internal sensors and fully functional parts, from mag-release to selector switches . The weapons and sensors made the event for me. No more reload button or hard to hear electronic sounds. You hear and feel every round, in a longer engagement, if you were kitted out with spare mags you could drop your mag and slam a new one home. They bypassed this by assigning everyone a cylume glowstick, and had a reloading station where we were restocked by a technician, but you can see how it could be easily enough facilitated in a more longterm event.

And that's all before we even get to set dressing, gameplay and the actors! I was really happy with what we faced when we passed through the containment doorways.

 When OzApocalypse took the event over, they brought on Horror Corp Entertainment from the US, engineers who specialized in Haunted House and Zombie Apocalypse Experience "in real life" gaming environments. They have three decades of experience in visual, sound, event and multimedia production, creating theatrically-based, interactive horror and genre projects. The event at the Melbourne Showgrounds takes place in a blackened-out, light-controlled battle zone, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is,  – players will step into an ominous world to fight ravenous zombies. The Prop and Set Designers as well as Makeup Artists create a film set style environment that immerses players in the Zombie Apocalypse survival experience.

Combinations of lighting, (and lack of lighting), selected use of smoke, as well as a really harrowing and oppressive sound-scape really put pressure on the player as they navigate a maze or debris and horrific scenes.

I had the good fortune to get to go backstage and saw the interconnected passageways the actors could take to move from area to area, where they would emerge and lay in wait for the passing players, in and around the sets. The hospital area bugged me the most, as I work in them, and have done the graveyard shift...

The maze was a CQB nightmare, with blind corners, concealed alcoves and all manner of cover for the zombies to lurch from and come at us. Importantly though, for all its twists and turns, it was a "safe" environment, from an OH&S perspective and you could easily cope with the 6-8 person teams recommended. We ran it in a team of three, and were like a well oiled machine. I didn't have to worry about anyone actually getting hurt for real during even an intense simulated combat.

We weren't rushed along as we had been in the Patient 0 event, and even though the maze was relatively small, much more in line with a Haunted House event rather than the sprawling warehouse/factory sit utilised for Patient 0, and we went through the maze twice, as a part of the gameplay, I certainly didn't feel any less fearful of my life when zombies came at us from dark corners, or rattled on us from behind chainlink walls as we faced more direct threats.

Back in the registration area, the stark lighting, clean floors and all too living other players was a more jarring experience. I wanted back in to my comforting darkness, screaming and sirens. The one upside of the "real-world" was that I got to fool around with both the Glock training weapons. The Glocks had the same "real features" as the irM4's, removable clips, wireless targeting and scoring, and ammo-counts. Unfortunately due to limited battery capacity, and high accuracy, they weren't really suited to the spray-and-pray zombie hoard threats the game presented with.

A regrettable technical difficulty, but one the organisers preferred to keep it out of the game, but available for range use! I also got to use the notorious pain-belt! It was a really, really unpleasant experience and I heartily recommend it for all gamers. Again, it apparently was not suited to use in the zombie game, but us perfect for PvP shooting. I tried it on the low setting, which was startling and also all the way up at high, which was curse-making, but didn't hamper me as soon as it stopped. Incentive not to get shot, for sure.

So, all in all I was really pleased with the OzApocalypse Zombie Apocalypse event. I was a Pozible campaign ticket holder, and I feel it was pretty amazing that they would offer to honour the IRL Shooter LAZARUS ticket holders at all, which was super generous. It certainly is NOT a sequel to the Patient 0 game, and its really hard to compare the two events as apples and apples. I really enjoyed it, and really look forwards to going back for more.

The Zombie Apocalypse Experience is running for two more weekends, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays while weekdays and weeknights give those who love games like Call of Duty the chance to combat team vs team combat in the BATTLE APOCALYPSE arena, which is the same area as the Zombie Apocalypse event, but with the connecting areas opened up, some walls opened up, and more personal threats, with pain belts available on request, I believe. I'd really recommend you get along and enjoy it, in either its Zombie Apocalypse, Battle Apocalypse or even the kid-friendly FAMILY versions, before it finishes.

AND, thanks to the organisers, I can offer all my readers a whopping 35% discount with the code "COYOTE0415" (thats charlie-oscar-yankee-oscar-tango-echo-zero-four-one-five).

TICKETS: Lazarus
Battle Apocalypse
Group Bookings (minimum of eight players) email

Facebook and Twitter OzApocalypse

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wish Lust: GO! Outfitters - Go! Hammock

As well as my collection of flashlights, pouches and knives,  I seem to have started collecting a surprising amount of hammocks. Hammocks are great forms of hiking, camping and adventure bedding that have been used for centuries.

I keep an eye out for hammock projects on Kickstarter too, because I like to support makers, and I am always on the lookout for new designs and models. One such that is coming up is the Go! Hammock:

At 480g (17 oz) its a lighter hammock than several of the other I have and yet it measures 3.3m (132") long by a rather staggering 1.7m (70") wide. That extra width eliminates uncomfortable pressure points by distributing the user's body weight more evenly than traditional hammocks. Its generous size allows freedom to move around and makes it easy find lots of comfortable positions, even for side sleepers. In order to reduce the curved body position that's associated with hammocks, Go! Hammock is cut to allow the user to lay at a diagonal angle.

To deal with the large amounts of fabric that large hammocks like this can sometimes have overhanging the sides, the designers have added  removable fabric tensioners that pull the loose fabric out of the way. The tensioners make folds in the fabric, giving the hammock its unique shape. I am really keen to see how this looks and feels in person.
Another feature of the Go! hammock are a set of optional tree straps with cinch buckles.  These add only 300g (10.5oz).  Each 1" wide strap is 4.5m (15') long to make it easy to find a place to set up your hammock, just by looping the strap through itself and tensioning the cinch buckle. Its a clever way around the attachment point issue hammock users come up agaisnt.

The tree straps and cinch buckles and the Go! Hammock will all fit into the integrated stuff sack.

The last optional feature is the Ridgeline cord. In order for a hammock to be as comfortable as possible, it must be set up with a certain amount of sag. The Ridgeline feeds through the attachment cords at the ends of the hammock and sets the sag of the hammock for maximum comfort every time. It would also make a great place to hang gear, such as lights, socks, a mosquito net or even  to support a rainfly or tarp when hammock camping.

I'm looking forwards to see how the Kickstarter campaign runs, and hopefully I'll be able to add a Go! Hammock to my collection,  and fit out the whole family for off-the-ground sleeping and relaxing. Swinging safe above the grasping fingers of the zombie hoards, or just away from creepy-crawlies.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Home Front: Marina

We live a 5 minute drive from a marina, less than 2km by foot. I have often considered bug-out-by-water as one of our options, especially given how close we live to the Bay and that has been one of the motivators I've had to get into kayaking.

The marina we live near  features a 280m long pier, which meats up with a 350m long, curved piled stone breakwater which protects a anchorage with around 120 berths, most of which are suited to docking 2 small yachts.

Both the pier and the breakwater are topped with concrete slab walkways and fitted with guard rails on the windward side. The pier has its own small floating dock and we often see fishermen trying their hand to catch the fish that inhabit the bay from it in the evenings.

The breakwater has a harbourmasters hut, on a raised platform around its 250m mark, and at this point, it is around 240m away from the closest point of the spit of sand that makes up the closest bit of shore.

The marina proper is walled, with heavy duty fencing wrapping around its pier-side perimeter, with spiked ramparts, the marina's facilities are well protected from casual intruders. A motivated individual could make it over these walls without too much trouble, or even less if you approach it from the water, but this is designed to keep people from wandering into private property and making off with supplies, or interfering with the docked vessels.

 A variety of small boats are docked here, from yachts to a few powered launches and even a couple of small sport fishing boats, with a selection of runabouts mored to the marina walls as well. There are only limited facilities in the walled off marina section, but it is both raised from the water level, and walled off from the pier.

These traits are what make me consider the marina and the pier as bug-out locations. They are removed from the main thoroughfare of modern urban life, whilst being not too distant as to make it untenable to range out from.

The sparse local resources bring both a risk and a boon. Apart from the boats, there is little to salvage or scavenge, which would reduce its value as a raiding target to most people. If the threat faced required isolation, say a quarantine, and there were not many able-bodied people to worry about breaking that quarantine this might well make a very appealing site. Prevailing winds and the action of the waves give you some sound and smoke dissipation concealment,  and by the very nature of location, you might well have the advantage of obscurity. Assuming you were not concerned with natural risks coming from the water, or weather, or from able-bodied threats able to invade from the sea, a location like a marina might well make a good bug-out location to head for, even if you don't intend to use it as a staging point to flee by boat, their primary resource.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: Cast iron pots

Following on from my article on cast-iron frypans, I thought I'd cover my collection of cast-iron pots as well.

Sharing the same qualities that make the cast iron pans attractive to apocalyptic cooking an preparedness, namely their ruggedness, good thermal transfer and thermal retention properties that is part and parcel with cast iron products. I have quite the collection of cast-iron pots, which get more use in regular rotation in our regular cooking, beside we like to cook a lot of long and slow.

The down-sides are the same too, its heavy, a touch brittle and can rust if not maintained. There is also quite a variety of sizes and styles of pots as well, but the key points to look for are the combinations of lips, handles and hangers. Lids are of course highly desirable, and also have some variety. I have a range of pots, from the massive 20L, through to the tiny 150mL ones.

As I've been collecting these for some years, I've come by them in several different ways. The biggest pop cam by way of Omega and her own reenacting past, the lipped large pot can from a disposal store, where as the two mid sized pots came from second-hand shops, and didn't come with lids. The littlest ones came from a cookware shop, for fancy sizzle cooking, but cast-iron is cast-iron!

I'm most pleased with my legged Dutch Oven, with its tripod feet allowing it to be placed over coals and cook in ashes without needing a standalone tripod, and settling on uneven ground without spilling. It also comes with a lipped lid, with a solid handle. The lipped lid lets you stack coals on top allowing you to cook evenly on all sides.
A wire handle lets you hang it from a tripod, and collect it from the fire easily, essential when cooking over an open fire.

For those screaming at me for the rusty look of my pots, giving them a good clean and re-season is usually as easy as a bit of a scrub, heating it till good and hot to burn off any stuck food and water, then re-oiling. I use spray-on vegetable oil from a can to get a even thin layer, and it works really well, as you can see here, following camping for 6 days over Easter.

I bake cakes and bread in mine (for cakes I tend to nest one pot in the other as seen here, with spacers between the pots to distribute the heat a bit). Delicious and magical for all the ramen-noodle and sachet cooking crowd.

I also cook directly in them, both stews, chili and roasts.  They also serve to keep hot food hot, as different dishes are prepared, and as well-sealing serving containers, keeping both germs, bugs and critters out, especially if closed when its sizzling.

The other thing I look for in cast-iron pots is nesting for storage and transport. Cast-iron is be necessity, heavy, and sometimes difficult to pack, store and transport, so having all that in one place can be an advantage (or not, depending). I like mine to nest.

I take them away with me on almost every camping trip, which I'm not hiking all my own gear, which is when I'd use my lightweight gear, like the Optimus: Terra-solo cook or the Power Practical: Power-Pot. For old-timey camping or homesteading, you really can't go past the rugged and robust charm of cast-iron though. It takes a lot of abuse, cooks delicious food and lasts a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wish Lust: DrinkTanks Offers the World's Largest Growler & Personal Keg

Sometimes hydration takes a second place to tasty beverages, even when you are out adventuring, camping, or doing what it takes to survive. At other times, just having some luxury can make all the difference to morale that can keep you going, and give you the ability to overcome an obstacle.

Sometimes you also want to have enough to share, and thats where growlers come into play

The folks at DrinkTanks have already produced a 64oz model and their 128oz model, the Juggernaut just reached it's Kickstarter goals and will be in production soon. Here's what I can tell you about it.

 The Juggernaut weighs 1.72kg (3.8lbs) with a volume of 3.78L (128 oz, or 1 full gallon, 8 pints) and sits at 37cm (14.75") tall without the kegulator, and 43 (17") tall with the Kegulator on. The body is 15cm (6") wide, and the body to the edge of the handle is 22cm (8.5") wide.

The design incorporated both double wall vacuum insulation to keep beverages cold and a revolutionary dual-bail clip cap system that is leakproof and preserves carbonated beverages, exceedingly longer than any screw cap system.

 The Kegulator, is an auto-regulating CO2 keg cap.
This acts to to keep your growler pressurized, as well as including a dispensing tap. The Kegulator turns the growler into a personal, portable mini keg! This incredible technology allows you to control the CO2 pressure for any beverage ranging from 0-40 psi. Home brewers can now force carbonate small batches without having to bottle condition. This is perfect for me and my mead and cider brewing, but apparently it also suits kombucha lovers who can can use it to gain full control over the carbonation of their brew. The Kegulator is compatible with both our 64 oz and 128 oz growlers.

I was really impressed with the look and functionality that the DrinkTanks team indicated their Juggernaut (and the original Growler) will have, and I backed them. I was thinking of having the ability to haul my rewarding foamy beverages into any abandoned warehouses, on the sides of mountains, or as I wander aimlessly through the Australian bush avoiding the grasping claws of the undead.

I shall do so secure in the knowledge that my beverage will be secure in its double walled, chilled and pressurized Juggernaut.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Samurai Studio - FinShield

I was sent one of these by the good folks at Samurai Studio, who have just launched a Kickstarter (yes, I really do back a lot of things from there) and this is their current project. This is the FinShield, a wearable guard for fingers in the kitchen.

The design is very elegant, and simple. A classical heater-shield shape with a split finger ring, which can be stretched to adjust to fit a variety of finger sizes.

Samurai Studio say the FinShield's design motto is “Always be protected, never cut yourself again.” and it seems that the design is pretty spot on to that.  I've been cooking since I was about 6, and over the years, I've nicked myself many, many times. My off-hand is covered in little nicks and scars, I even picked up a couple more over the weekend whilst camping. A wearable guard like the FinShield is a lightweight and elegant means of protecting against this, especially when a lot of repetitive slicing or chopping is in order.

These few little cuts I has over the camping weekend weren't serious, but they did annoy me throughout the whole event, and in a time where first aid or even good personal hygiene is hard to come by, such as on long camping trips, or after a disaster, keeping safe from this kind of incidental injury could become quite a significant concern. Those little stinging cuts to finger tips, and knuckles and be both distracting and if left to get infected, a considerable safety issue.

The ring is spot welded to the shield, and is probably the greatest source of weakness for the system, especially if you are going to be adjusting the sizing, but once its set, I cant see it being overly at risk of breaking.

The steel is ferromagnetic, so you can simply stow it up on a magnetic knife rack (if you have one) or on a fridge magnet. Keeping it with your knives would be a good reminder to use it, especially if you're long in the habit of cooking and cutting without having had finger armour before.

I didn't find I had any issues with it dulling my knives, as the blade edge never came in contact with the shield, only the flat of the blade. the curved sides ensures that the blade stays off your hands, and into your food (or whatever it is you are cutting).

I also found it was useful when I was honing knives (which I do a lot of) so it serves double duty.
Check them out of you're forever nicking yourself, or just want to avoid it.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Platatac - 200rnd Pouch

Here's a pouch I picked up recently, second hand. It's a Platatac 200rnd pouch, designated as a 2009 design, but is no longer in current stock.

I was looking for a larger pouch, to carry bigger incidentals that I might have on the outsides of a pouch, and need rapid access to.

As with all Platatac pouches, this is ruggedly made, to withstand the rough treatment of ADF troopers in the field, and doubly so as this is made to carry 200 rounds.

Double stitched along all seams, and using as few seams as needed, its construction is from the hardy 1000d Cordura nylon, and features a box-sided lid, to give both adequate retention and cover from environmental, like dirt, sand and water getting in and fouling your linked ammo, magazines, or other gear stowed.

Featuring fully four sets of three-row reinforced PALS/MOLLE tabs on the back, as well as a pair of webbing brackets, it again tells of this pouch's designers wanting it to hold up to heavy loads.

Two channels of three side-by-side PALS/MOLLE webbing on each side offers additional attachment points for accessory pouches as an added bonus.
The Fastex fixed tuck-buckle ensures that the pouch stays closed when needed, with a fairly quiet action, although I usually prefer an adjustable closure action.

I found that the pouch will nicely hold bulky items such as this old style plastic canteen, as well as over five STANAG magazine sized MS Clean kits.
 It would also suit a set of binoculars, meal kits, or items such as a raincoat, poncho or other auxiliary kit. I have been considering how much 7mm dynamic rope I can jam into these, so stay tuned on that.

All in all, this is a great pouch, on the larger side of things, and I presume that like this one, there are still plenty kicking around, even though Platatac don't have it on their regular retail site any longer.

They DO however still have the 200's smaller cousin, the 100rnd pouch, which is essentially a cut down version.

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