Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: CamelBak HAWG

With thanks to CamelBak and as first seen on BreachBang&Clear.

I caught up with the reps from CamelBak at the SSAA SHOT expo, and they were kind enough to send me one the re-released Mil-Tac H.A.W.G. packs, to demo before they hit the shelves.

I am always on the lookout for a new pack, and as ever, want to set myself up with something that does double duty. Here's a link to the now discontinued pack, which if you can find it, it seems to be well though of in the pack communities.

I was really pleased to get this, and whilst I've not been able to take the pack out and give it a thorough field test, as it needs to go back to CamelBak after I've had my paws on it. That said I have had a good look over it and this is what I can tell you about it.

Unlike the older the 4 channel, 7 row PALS/MOLLE of the Mil-Tec H.A.W.G. the carriage grid on the new H.A.W.G. appears to have been replaced by a more sleek and unobtrusive 5 channel, 10 rows of the new 6/9 style platform, or something that looks very similar to it.

There is a broad panel of loop-field on the top front of the pack, for putting ID's and morale patches. The back of the pack has three raised areas of 5mm closed cell foam, making up the Air Director back panel for optimal load distribution and breathability. It has a really good feel on the back, even when the pack is loaded up. There are kidney flaps to guide the waist straps, with D-loops built in on top of them to give a good range of motion when wearing it.

The back of the pack opens up with a long asymmetrical zipper, which allows the fitting of a 3L hydration bladder, in this case the CamelBak Mil-Spec Antidote Reservoir Long with Quick Link. I liked the looks of the bladder too, but as it's a returner, I didn't try it out. However, it features a bite valve adapter which is very cool, manually opened adapters can be a pain. The tube clicks off for faster refilling with auto shut-off, so no leaking, and the new Fillport, is reported as the industry’s largest opening with air-light ¼ turn open/close for quick, secure seal and it also can’t be over-tightened.

The interior of the hydration section is also padded, giving you an insulated compartment, both from your pack and your back. Cold drinks stay that little bit colder, and you don't have a cold weight pressing on your back as you hump it around. Loops in the top of the bag take the hook on top of the hydration bladder.  

The older H.A.W.G. has a total capacity of 23 L in its 48cm (17") x 26.5cm (12") x 26cm (10") and weighs a surprisingly low 1.2kg (2.75lbs) which comes from it having a 500D Cordura on the outwards facing surfaces, with the back faces being 420D nylon on the shoulder harness back side and raised pod panels. The shoulder harnesses are filled with 10mm EVA foam, and all the internal surfaces are made of lightweight 210D nylon. The mixtures make for the reduced weight of the pack.

The top of the front of the pack features a stash pocket, with a dummy-cord and clip built in. Its also worth noting that all the zippers are fitted with string pulls to silence them, which is a feature I'm liking seeing on so many packs these days.

The 6/9 webbing will take all PALS/MOLLE pouches and accessories I've tried on it, so it's simple enough to hot-swap your existing pouches onto the new format built into the H.A.W.G.

Twin ports behind the shoulder straps give access to the hydration tube, and in an interesting addition, there are two access points tucked in behind the waist straps. these allow you to rout the cables up under the arms, rather than over the shoulders, where they could perhaps snag on weapon straps or the like.

You could also feed the waist straps back into the pack, to get them out of the way if you weren't intending to use them. Very tidy design.

Inside the main pack, there are in fact two zipperable sections.

The front section, which has dual zips and opens 3/4 of the way down, is lined in lightweight 210D nylon and on the back of the panel, has a set of pockets sewn in, a triple pen slot, two note-book sized pockets, and one the width of the pack. These would be good for the administrative type gear you might have on hand, but don't need to secure in any special way.

Maps, phone charger gear, a survival tin or even a IFAK like the ITS ETA kit could sit in one of these. Drainage grommets with mesh lining are found in the bottom of the section.  The front section was quite spacious, and would certainly do to stuff with a number of items, especially if they would lay flat easily. The 6/9 webbing is sewn right into the front of this section, so there isn't any padding between your pouches and the contents of the first section, something to be aware of if you are loading up the outside of the pack.

The inner section, which sits between the front "admin" section and the distinct hydration section, is even roomier. Again, it features a dual zip 3/4 opening, and the same drainage grommets in the bottom, but has the advantage of the internal padding on the hydration side, keeping condensation from forming and spreading through to your stored items.

Again, its pretty featureless, although it does have three wide webbing loops sewn in at 3, 9 and 12 o'clock, giving you attachment points for gear, or even to run shock-cord through to for some internal spiderweb structure to pack things down. I think that would be where I'd fit the McNett Gruntline, if I were keeping the H.A.W.G.  for myself.

I like a bit more internal structure to my bags, because I often have a lot of small needfuls kicking about, but for a small daypack like this, I suppose I would make do.
It was very comfortable to wear, and easy to don and doff, with the shoulder straps sitting nicely, and adjustable, with a pretty standard sternum strap to keep it locked down for long, arduous or exciting traverses.

The bases of the shoulder straps were set securely into the bottom corner of the pack, and looked like they'd take some abuse, and whilst I didn't get a chance to test it our under heavy loads, the waist band seemed to sit nicely on my hips, and keep everything where it needed to be.

The twin top and bottom compression straps were a nice touch, with hook-and-loop webbing keepers built in, they would allow bulky but soft gear like sleeping bags, outerwear and the like to be stuffed into the pack, and then buckled down tight to reduce bulk, nicely.

Twin rows of webbing sewn onto the base of the back would allow got you to set a sleeping roll, tent sustainment kit or other bulky but smallish items to the outside of the pack, without too much hassle.

I found the way it sat to be really comfortable, both directly against my back,but also in relation to my shoulder blades, neck and hips.  I had no feeling that it would interfere with the kinds of scrambling, crawling and other misadventure that I find myself doing. It also had a nice sturdy drag handle, for those times when I might want to be pulled out of any of those situations, or just to keep my hands on it whilst waiting for a plane to or from somewhere.

All in all, the new CamelBak H.A.W.G. is a very nice pack, simple design with some sophisticated elements. certainly a new look at an existing product, which is always good to see.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review: Bounce food nuggets

I'm always on the lookout for not only snacks to eat on the go, as I often spend a long time behind the wheel, but also have a pretty demanding work schedule these days and occasionally have three or four back to back hours long meetings, so being able to grab a nutritious and energizing bite can make all the difference from keeping me flying into a hangry rage.

There are lots of energy bars on the market, and body-building type supplement bars, but sometimes you just want something smaller. We had three boxes of these locally produced snacks come our way, and I've loved them. Bounce was founded in 2004 by an Aussie couple, Paula and Andy Hannagan, who they are proud to admit, had the balls to pour their savings into bringing their idea for the Bounce balls to fruition.

Both Paula and Andy have backgrounds in health and fitness and this was their first foray into the nutrition supplement world. If the stories can be believed, in the early days, they used their garage as a warehouse and Andy would travel from retailer to retailer, offering to sell his balls! Puts a very Australian spin on the product, which is something I can really get behind. More products, made locally, means cheaper supplies which in turn means more supplies I can stockpile, an excellent preparedness technique!

There are seven flavors in the Bounce Ball range (they also do a line of protein powders) but I have tried three of them. Here's what I can tell you about them:
I'm not a big fan of coconut, I over-indulged on several S.E. Asian and Pacific islands (I'm a mean hand with a machete and spike) but I was pleasantly surprised by the Coconut & Macadamia Protein Bliss ball which is packed full of high-quality protein which is easily assimilated by the body. Made from a combination of coconut, macadamias, cashews and whey protein, it's also high in fiber, and its primary binding agent is agave syrup, which gives it a good texture, as well as a sweet boost. Texture is pretty important in this kind of thing, and even with my personal feelings about dehydrated coconut, it was quite pleasant, and I went back for more.

The Spirulina & Ginseng Defence Boost is designed to keep you on the bounce, alert and ready for action, it's also power-packed with vitamins and antioxidants for good health and bolstering immune responses, espeically important in high stress and challenging environments.

Again, it is an easily digestible blend and provides slow-releasing energy to help keep you fit and active, to perform the tasks you need to be doing. Unlike the Coconut and Macadamia balls, these are held together with a propriety binding agent, Fruitrim (grape juice, pear juice and brown rice starch), which has a caramel toffee like taste and feel. I found the mouthfeel much more enjoyable than the coconut one, and was trilled with the dark rich flavours the Spirulina added.

The last of the three balls I had to sample were the Almond Protein Hit flavour. These contains what Boost considers the optimum balance of high quality protein and carbohydrates. With a slow-releasing energy formula, this ball is pitched as the ideal food to help satisfy your hunger between meals or as a pre- or post-workout snack. Again it has the Fruitrim binding base, which is delicious. It has protein flakes and the nut elements add a delicious crunch to each sticky bite. This is even better than the Spirulina & Ginseng ball, and my favourite so far.

I think I will be stocking up on these as a back-up food supply, as they are a lot nicer than the Mainstay Emergency Food Rations they are quick, easy, simple to store and pack. You could do a lot worse than getting some of these and stocking up on high-density, high nutritional value foods.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: Kickstarter - Keystone2

I did a review a while back of a key holder project that was Kickstarted  by Abel Ang and I was impressed with its elegance then, so was very pleased to hear that he had a new and improved version on the cards. He sent me a prototype, and asked me to write up my impressions of it, for when the new Kickstarter which is about to go live.

I really hope that this new launch works well for Abel, and want to give you some honest options about the kit in time for you to go and pledge to get one of your very own, should the idea appeal.

The finish of the frames has been improved, with a brushed surface and is anodized rather than powder coated, which will mean a much longer lasting surface finish, keeping your key-keeper looking neater. The body is 5mm longer, to a total of 90mm allowing you to store longer keys.  The scew-heads have been slimmed down and are now offered in two sizes, to allow as few as two keys to be stored, for a very elegant system. The same extra spacer bars are included and allow you to for as many as 20 keys.

Another improvement is the bolt holes have been pared down from 4mm to 3mm such that the bolts fit very snugly, eliminating the rattle that the old version was a little prone to. That rattle allowed a slight wobble that continually loosened the screw-heads.  Tighter tolerances mean less noise.

The improvements all add up to a considerably better key-keeper, and I was only too pleased to pass the new prototype on my partner Omega, who happens to always loose loose keys, and has quite the penchant for red, so it was a perfect gift to pass on.

If you have keys, you should totally look into getting one of these.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Re-Blog: Self Reliance

I came across a very informative article recently, that I thought my be of interest to you my readers.

Dan West is the founder and CEO of Walden Labs, a certified permaculture designer (Geoff Lawton, 2013), and a seeker of truth. In 2014 he bought a 100+ year old, rundown, farm in the north of Sweden that he's transforming into a resilient homestead full of abundant natural production systems.

"When you are new to self-reliance, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I wish I could tell you the "lost" feeling changes over time, but it doesn’t.
The truth is; while you expand your knowledge of taking care of yourself, your interests in new subjects and skills can spiral out of control.
That’s the thing with depending on yourself, it’s hard to just specialize on doing just one thing. Sure you can become a master of growing potatoes, but potatoes won’t keep you warm through the winter or quench your thirst.
And, when you think you have figured something out, you may realize that you have solved only a small piece of the puzzle."
Mr West has developed this infographic to outline and track a wide variety of elements to self reliance, untpder he major headings of food, water, shelter, energy and protection. It's well worth checking out, and you can download a high resolution PDF version of this document from his article.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Disaster Shopping Event: Kathmandu trip

I was wandering the streets recently, and passed one of the big-chain outdoors stores with a sale on, and thought I'd pop in to see what was what.  I thought I might do a new thing for a spot. I wandered around and found 6 items that I would want to grab and go with if a disaster was imminent. This wasn't a very well thought out thing, and I might do it differently next time, but the premise was: "if SHTF whilst out strolling, what would I grab and go with, right now". I had parked my car only a block away, I had my family with me (Omega, Lorin and Tactical Baby), so we already had a reasonable EDC and BOB capacity on-hand.

Dynamo Radio which gives you a portable and personally powered connection to the outside world, at least listening in. The Radio is recharged by turning the crank for 90 seconds (providing approximately 40 minutes of playback). It also features a torch, clock and alarm. It carries a IPX6 "Splashproof" rating, and even features an earphone jack (reducing your noise signature, and reducing power consumption).

 An internal rechargeable battery pack (2.4V/300mA) powers the radio two LR-44 button batteries run the clock, but it can It can run off AAA 1.5V batteries or be powered by an external DC3V adapter. It has a pretty standard frequency range (AM 540-1600KHz, FM 88-108 MHz). It weighs 200g and is pocket sized.

Phantom MTB v4 hydration pack caught my eye as a carry-it-all.
Lightweight & simple, with enough room for the essentials required for a short trip if we had to hump it. Its design encourages airflow & comfort, with airmesh harness and backing and and adjustable straps. It features a multi-tool organiser, waist strap for secure running or climbing, reflective come-rescue-me flashings, and is 2L hydration bladder compatible. It's construction is of some very lightweight materials, the main body being a P600D Oxford, the trim a N420D SC HD and the lining N210D Oxford, all materials are double polyurethane coated for waterproofing.  It weighs only 390g and this is telling, it's a pretty flimsy pack, compared to the usually mil-spec bags I'm used to, but it would have work well enough for what

With more storage and salvage in mind, as well as contamination reduction, I spied a
Dry Sac 3-pack, which would meet that need. Constructed of a light but tough 30D diamond patterned nylon ripstop with polyurethane coating. The three pack comes in three sizes: Large 48cm L x 33.5cm W, 8L capacity, medium 38cm L x 26.5cm W, 2L capacity and small 28.5cm L x 20cm W with 1L capacity. They are lightweight, durable, and water resistant with sealed seams. I really like dry-bags,  Its just a matter of stuffing them, rolling down the top a minimum of three times to cover the flap and folding back and clasping the Fastex buckles.

I also saw a pretty good little pocket sized Survival kit in a find-me Safety-Orange case the case's contents: Pencil, Waterproof paper, fire steel and striker, cotton wool (2pcs), button compass, whistle, survival mirror, Wire saw, a small multi-tool, snare wire, fishing kit, salt sachet (2pcs), safety pins (2pcs), duct tape, zip-lock polybag, braided nylon cord and a carabineer.

It's only 12cm x 10cm and weighs 186g, so would be a very quick way to bolster a survivors kit on short notice.

Power and light are key elements for even short term comfort in a disaster situation ,and can greatly improve morale which is where something like the LuminAid come into play
This is a solar powered, inflatable LED light, with a waterproof (IPX-7) solar cell, battery and LED lantern, which is housed in a PVC-free balloon, which makes it buoyant, and dissipates the light evenly, making it a lantern rather than a flashlight. The battery is fully charged after 7 hours of direct sunlight, and can retain its charge for up to three months, before needing a top up. 

It has two light settings, a 15 lumen glow, with 12 hours of illumination, and 30 lumens, with 6 hours of charge. The bladder is blown up by a valve, the same kind of valve seen on pool toys world wide. At 77g this is a simple innovation that would go a long way to driving back the chaos after a disaster, especially in a family situation. 

A second light also caught my eye, this time as a communal power source as well as light source. The Power source lantern has a Cree R5 LED 3W light with four lighting modes: high – 150 lumens; medium – 75 lumens; low – 13 lumens; flashing, with corresponding run times: high – 6 hours; medium – 12 hours; low – 94 hours. The lantern also features a USB output which can be used to connect and charge your digital devices as a power source. It features a rechargeable Li-ion 3300mAh battery offering DC 5V-1A Max output. 

The lantern can be placed on its base, hung by its built-in hook, or attached to metal via powerful built-in magnets. It also features a battery indicator and has a  IPX5 splash resistance rating. Being able to keep a phone charged can also be really useful and potentially life saving survival tool.

So, there is my quick summary of six items that caught my eye that I might grab, if I happened to be passing near a Kathmandu store in the outbreak of a sudden disaster. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Platatac SUP pouch

Here's a very useful pouch that has gone un-sung for a while, but I wear one every day. This is the Platatac SUP II Small Utility Pouch.

It was primarily designed as a pistol magazine pouch, which I got to model with one of the Glock style iCombat CO2 training magazines the SUP mk II can carry a range of items including pistol magazines, multitools or knives, flashlights of up to 1” diameter bezel, flexicuffs and even OC spray if that's your thing.

The pouch has a hook-and-loop removable lid can be adjusted to securely fit items varying in length. There is an internal hard plastic plating within the flap, for one handed operation during the reload or access to your needfuls. Internal elastic retention on the sides allows the SUP mk II to act as a shingle for CQB application. Might not be as tacticool as a TACO pouch but they fully work. I have my second-hand Gerber multitool in one of mine, which lives in the small of my back on one of my rigger belts, everywhere I go.

These low profile pouches are great for storage of quick access items and are small enough to be placed anywhere on your rig without hindrance to your freedom of movement.

The pouch is fitted with PALS/MOLLE attachment system, with a single channel of two rows, one after another (no gape) so you can loop it a couple of ways. Instead of a press-stud closure it has a fiddly hook-field sewn into the bottom webbing loop, and the stiff plastic reinforced tongue has a corresponding field-loop, and a tab of webbing to use as a draw pull. I found this really difficult to set up right, as it was on the opposite side of the tab than I would have expected. This means that to fasten it it has to be doubled over, which made me pretty nervous about how well it attaches.

It's never come loose, even when I have had it rigged for a belt loop, rather than fed through other PALS/MOLLE but I'm just hesitant.

The drainage grommet in the bottom of the pouch nicely frames the needle-nose Gerber pliers, and seats them nicely, and having a good pouch for my multitool has been a crucial part of my EDC. 

    Friday, September 11, 2015

    Review: VSSL Outdoor Utility cache

    First seen on Breach Bang & Clear

    I had missed the release of this particular product when it ran through its Kickstarter campaign, mostly for financial reasons, but my dear friend and Kickstarter aficionado Gareth Hodges had one and wanted to pass it on, so I snapped it up at a generous discount (thanks man!), so I have had one in my hot little hands, and pack for a while now.

    This is the "utility" model of the VSSL which is to say, one of five models they offer, and this one is filled with s variety of useful and needful survival items.
    The main body of the canister is a machined aluminium tube, with end caps that screw in to give a gasketed airtight seal. Each VSSL unit is 23cm (9") long by 5cm (2") diameter made from seamless extruded mil-spec anodized aluminium, and this model weighs 510g (18 oz). 

    The unit is very sturdy, the two end caps are knurled, and the body has engraved details on it, as well as some knurling as well, giving a solid grip to open either end.

    The real utility of the unit however is in its contents. As well as the two end caps, one of which has a dual mode (static high/low and SOS) LED ‘flood’ beam lantern light, illuminates a large area ( which runs on 3x N type or Energizer E90 batteries), and the tail cap holds a 4 hour burning pure Canadian beeswax candle and has an oil filled compass on its surface.

    The seven little aluminium pill-boxes each with a small collection of survival needfulls, some in pairs, others singly. 

    The contents are thus:

  • Razor blade
  • 6 Aquatabs® water purification tablets
  • Wire saw (high tensile, 60lb working strength with handle straps)
  • Aluminium beadless emergency whistle
  • Waterproof matches
  • Tinder Quik® fire starters
  • Fishing Gear
  • Signalling Mirror
  • Marine grade rope (250lb breaking strength)
  • Reflective trail markers
  • P38 military GI Type can opener
  • First aid supplies 
  • VSSL priorities of survival and instructions

    There's a good spread of items, and here they are itemized:The pill-boxes aren't hermetically sealed, but they don't really need to be, as they all live in the VSSL tube. The contents aren't meant to be for long term sustainment, rather to help out in the event of a short term emergency, or even to fill a gap in your EDC when out adventuring. It's solid construction and precision machining makes it a very well put together survival cache. 

    The weight is a bit of a concern considering the overall size and scope of the contents, however, they are well packaged, so would be safe and ready to use when you need it, whether it's been sitting in your pack, in the back of your car or buried in your safe-drop spot. 

    VSSL also produce several other versions of the flask: a Fist-Aid canister (full of boo-boo repair items), a Shelter canister (with a tarp, line and the like), an empty canister (build your own), a Flask (300mL of capacity and two collapsing shot cups) and their Zombie Spike version (for brain stabby goodness). 

    Tuesday, September 8, 2015

    Wish Lust: Kickstarter - Leveraxe

    New Leveraxe - The Smart Axe Reimagined. Reinvented. Reborn.

    Here's a last-minute plug for a very cool idea. I am a big, big fan of axes,part of my Viking heritage no doubt, and my favorite logsplitter is the Fiskars but I'd be willing to give it away if I managed to lay-hands on one of these weird looking axes, now being re-released on Kickstarter

    About 20 years ago a 74-year-old Finnish inventor, Heikki Kärnä, began clearing trees to build a house, an arduous task that led to an obsession with improving on the tools he found at the local hardware store. He spent 15 years building numerous prototypes of his axe at a local steel workshop. Now the product is finally ready to be brought in front of wider public and ramp up the production capacity to take on its competitors. It's unique off-center head enables it to chop and split hardwood logs far easier, and faster than conventional symmetrical mauls and splitters. Check out this video...

    Leveraxe took first steps to approach their market niche in the USA. Thus far the feedback from test users has been amazing and interest towards this invention had rapidly spread worldwide. Most importantly there have been no reported accidents with Leveraxe since they started selling their previous models. The popularity of these axes exploded once other bloggers began posting YouTube videos of Leveraxe in action, splitting hardwood. I'm late to the party, but it looks phenomenal.

    The main purpose of their Kickstarter campaign is to introduce their product to the US market and find resources to invest in their own production tools.

    The original version's handle is made of wood, whilst the new handle will be made of a polyamide, much like the Fiskars axes, which is characterized by high mechanical strength, stiffness and thermal resistance. Most futuristic about this part is that it is hollow inside, making the Leveraxe even more lighter which in turn helps to build up more speed when in action. Furthermore, this polyamide offers high toughness at low temperatures, fr those of you with sub-freezing winters as well as easy processing.

    The new axe head will be made of a cast steel alloy, which enables us to produce more complicated products in one step but also offer excellent wear resistance in later use. With the upgrade, they will keep all the proven features of the original design (like the side hook, which clamps onto the log after the swing of the axe), and are even offering the axe in KickStarter Green.

    Thus far Leveraxe has managed to make small production batches and distributed their invention in small quantities and have relied solely on receiving customer feedback for advertising purposes. However, to move on produce on a larger scale they require expensive production tooling which is why they have now taken the step to ask people to help them out through crowdfunding.

    It's not a small investment, but it looks like it is built to last, and the sheer style of the thing makes it desirous beyond measure.  I want physics to do the work when I am splitting logs, and make all that time in high-school pay off. The payoff in reduced fatigue, jamming, bouncing or over-cutting risks alone would make it worthwhile for a serious wood-fire burner. If it weren't for the exorbitant shipping costs that big items are hit with to Australia, I'd be all over this. Only a few days left, get in quick!

    Monday, September 7, 2015

    Review: maybe 5.11 Tarani x14 karambit

    We have friends who heard that I have a thing for knives, and fixing broken things, and they send a mashed karambit they were very proud of my way. It looked like it had been stood on, popped the main blade fixing screw, and some of the torsion spring and locking mechanisms had bent and warped. The belt clip had two missing screws, but the blade was in good shape, if a little blunt. I got out my TORX screwdrivers and set to work.

    Once I found a spare main fixing screw I had in my parts-bucket, and bending and hammering the frame lock spring back into shape I was pretty satisfied that I'd rejuvenated the blade back into a functional state. The thing was, even fully screwed together, it seemed ... wobbly. I held it in my hand and looked at the 5.11 logo and Tarani branding and thought to myself "is this something that Tom Davin would have released?" I had some serious doubts.

    I did a web-search on the listed data "5.11 Tarani X14 karambit" and all I came up with were Russian language YouTube reviews, and an Ali Express listing for a 5.11 Tarani x14 karambit.

    I asked Omega for the 5.11 CUB Tarani Karambit that I got fer her a couple of years ago and held them side by side, the difference was immediately obvious. Even if the "x14" was an entry level, budget version of the "CUB", it just seemed too different, with a torsion spring rather than a linear liner lock. The molding of the scales was also a little bit off, not sharp enough or well finished enough to be a match to the 5.11 logo.  The scales and the frame were also not fully flush.

    That might have been because of the damage it had sustained, but it seemed more likely, due to poor construction in the first place.

    At full length it makes a 16 cm (6.3") arc, with the blade making up 7 cm (2.7"). At it's widest, the blade is 2.8 mm thick, and made out of 440 steel, half serrated for extra bitey cutting needs, and is apparently hardened to a 55 HRC rating. The surface is oxidation coated, for rust prevention, and marked with a very convincing 5.11 logo on one side, and the Tarani logo on the other. Weighing in at 120 g (4.25oz, it's quite light and lithe in the hand, the ring-loop fitted me well, although the gaps within the frame meant that if I gripped tightly, they could have dug in.

    Its a nice enough knife if you're not looking for reliability, or quality and want to look badassed with your karambit. I will happily address my thoughts if 5.11 get back ti me, but overall, my impression was that this was a poorly put together piece.

    Friday, September 4, 2015

    Review: Propper -Pistol Rug

    As first seen on Breach Bang & Clear today ... 

    Here's an interesting piece from Propper, with some pretty specific uses. This padded, zipperable case is marketed as a pistol carriage case, and here's what I thought of it. Constructed of durable Cordura material on the outside, and with a quality zipper set along two and a half of the three sides, the case is both well put together and well presented. A leather foot fits along the base of the zipper, to ensure it remains secure and adds to the overall finish of the piece. This is the Propper Pistol Rug.

    Propper offer this in 8", 11" and 13" sizes, the two I have are the . Probably the best feature of the case, is the all-encompassing soft closed-cell foam that fills the middle of each panel. This foam runs right up to the very edge case, and is faced with a soft fabric lining. This will keep your gold-inlay and pearl handles safe and scratch free, but for me the best part is that that soft foam keeps whatever you have stored in the case pinned in place, and yet doesn't silhouette against the outer faces. You don't get any indication of what is inside it once its zipped up.I have a base-guitar case that I carry swords around in from time to time, like some sort of Aussie nordic metal mariachi, and apparently you can do the same thing with firearms too.

    Living in Melbourne, Australia, its rather difficult for a regular citizen to own a handgun; not impossible, but there are a lot of red tape to get and then maintain the appropriate licenses. I've not gone down that path, but I do have a reasonably good mock-up training tool at my disposal. This solid aluminum cast of a Walther P99 gives a decent look-and-feel. You can see that you can also carry a reasonably big knife like my Super Colubris in one of these too, to the same effect. Both are contained nicely by the bag and can take a fair amount of abuse before the tools contained slip around and reach an edge, away from the padding.

    One very clever piece of design is that the metal d-ring located at the closed-zipper end of the bag, as well as acting as a lanyard loop if needed, can also act as a locking point, for you to slip a little padlock through to offer you some additional security. Sure, it won't stop a dedicated evil-do'er or zealous airport boarder-security professional, but it will certainly keep little-hands and drunken idiots off the dangerous tools. It will also limit the chances of an accidental exposure of your particular piece. Especially important if you want to transport your tools without flashing the neighborhood. It isn't armoured, it isn't waterproof, it isn't high-speed. It's just a padded bag, but we well thought out one.

    When filled and zipped, the bag will slip nicely and inconspicuously into the bottom of a pack, again without silhouetting or drawing unnecessary attention to itself. With no other external features other than the logo, it's stealth without LOOKING like it's stealth, which is perfect for the casual carrier. Security through obscurity.

    [Late note:] I managed to swing a play with one of these simulation/training Glock's this week and the Pistol Rug seemed to work perfectly. I managed to stop myself from wandering off with the pew pew toy and thus will live to play another day.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    Home Front: Reader pistol ownership answers

    I had four intrepid readers contact me answering my questions about their pistol ownership, and I am grateful for their trust and openness is laying out for what to some is a rather contentious topic.I wanted to gauge what pistol owners had to say about their decisions, training and mindset. In Victoria, Australia, where I live unless you are in the Federal or State Police, a licensed private security guard or a competitive sporting shooter, there is very limited civilian pistol ownership here

    I grew up in a staunchly "no-gun toys" house, with exceptions made for my 1977 Han Solo and Stormtrooper blasters (which I still have). I did manage to trade my way into owning a .177 break-barrel air pistol whilst living in Dubai, UAE, in 1989, and left behind in Calgary, Canada in 1991. My dad gave me his Vietnam era Army pistol instruction, and I plinked away at paper targets, bottles, cicadas and the like. I did some quick draws, turn-and-shoots and the like, and generally made like a teenage Billy The Kid.

     Other than that, I've only had a limited experience with live firearms and some with laser trainers.  This is why I go out to the people with the experience to ask the questions. 

    Obviously, I only have the replies from those who wanted to and did reply, so it's a subsection of my readers, but I think these folks have some interesting views and offer some insight to why people carry, what they carry, and how they carry. 

    So, here are the answers to my questions from four pistol owners, all from the U.S.A., with LEO and Mil experience in some capacity in all four respondents. Lets hear it from their perspectives: 

    How much pistol is too much pistol
    • Ed N: A pistol is all about what you intend to do with it. If you are carrying it concealed you want something comfortable that you can wear all day. I don't like to go any smaller in caliber than a 9mm. If you go too big, you won't carry it and it becomes useless.

    what is your current go-to pistol
    • Ed N: In the woods I carry a Glock 20sf 10mm. Day to day, I carry a Ruger Lc9 9mm. For plinking, I prefer a Glock 34 9mm.  
      • I did have a question. When out in the woods, what might you expect to need a pistol for? Hunting? Defense? And if so, what and from what?
        • Ed N:I am much more worried about the two legged problems than I am 4 legged. I am not a hunter and would go well out of my way to harm an animal unless it is an immediate defense situation or survival was in question. I carry the largest caliber pistol with the largest capacity I could find because in the end, I just want to be prepared for anything. When I went camping, I used to carry a 44 magnum. Honestly, they are just a little too loud and reloading can be a problem in a pinch. The Glock 20 in 10mm seemed like the best compromise. I say all of this having never had to shoot at anyone or anything in the woods in all of my years carrying. I keep my pistol concealed and don't broadcast it and have never had a problem. However, I carry it for the same reason I carry a firestarter I have never had to use outside of practice. I would rather have the option there when I need it, than wishing I had it. And there is a pretty dramatic trade off. A couple pounds is a lot when you are hiking in the woods. Having a large pistol concealed on your person, (because having it in my pack would defeat the purpose of being prepared), is tiring. But in the end I would not do it any other way.
    • Hunato (CONUS):Sig Sauer P238 
    • Richard (Virginia, USA): EDC a Glock 19. Also carry a Glock 26 during the summer months when the 19, as small as it is, is to much with holster for the humidity. 
    • Rob (Pennsylvania, USA): My go to pistol is a 1911.  I have a full custom on order, and I should have it soon.  Right now, my 1911 is a Sig Nitron.

    what caliber and cartridge, and was this a deciding feature? 
    • Ed N: 9mm is my go to caliber. With modern ammo it is the equal to 357sig and 40 with almost no ballistic differences. 9mm allows more rounds and a lot of options. You can pick up fmj (full metal jacket) rounds for cheap practice and jhp (jacketed hollow points) for self defense.  
    • Hunato: .380 various PDR (price forces choice) 
    • Richard:  9mm hollow point. 9mm has enough strong power and the size allows for a bigger magazine capacity. An additional deciding factor was that my wife is more comfortable with the recoil than a .40 or .45.
    • Rob: The caliber I prefer is the .45, It was not the deciding factor in my choice, I just like the .45 caliber.

    what is your motivation to own a firearm? 
    • Ed N: Self defense and it is just fun to shoot. I have been shooting for 25+ years and it is a Hell of a lot of fun. 
    • Hunato: I am a free man in a Republic.  I have children under my roof and two legged wolves (literally) come down my street time to time. 
    • Richard: Raised around firearms in a law enforcement and military household, so firearms safety began as soon as I could walk. After my service, my father gave me a sidearm, and I have carried ever since. It is always better to be prepared and [not] need it, than need it and not have it. 
    • Rob: I grew up on a farm and was always around firearms.  When I got into law enforcement as a career, naturally, the pistol training came with it. 
    what was your motivation to carry a firearm?
    • Ed N:I started off in an action oriented career before giving it up and going for money instead. I have been shooting and been around guns most of my life. 
    • Hunato: Travel and home defense.  I also enjoy the sport of shooting. 
    • Richard:  (as with reason to own)
    • Rob: Even without my career choice, this world is getting dangerous.  I would carry a pistol regardless.
    do you open-carry, concealed-carry or store-secure?
    • Ed N: I conceal carry 99% of the time. I have friends that are very open-carry oriented, but I can do without the hassle of a soccer mom feeling threatened by a pistol on my hip and calling the cops. In my opinion, it is best to keep it completely concealed and hidden away from private eyes.
    • Hunato: On some rural land I own, open carry.  Out and about conceal carry (license) at home ALWAYS store secure.  My oldest child was 8 before he realized we even have firearms 
    • Richard: I am fortunate to live firearm friendly state (Virginia) and carry concealed ever day. During the weekend, I may carry openly while running errands, and when I do that carry a Glock 17. 
    • Rob: Conceal carry.
    what features of your pistol made it appealing for your use?
    • Ed N: Overall size, grip comfort, ammo capacity, and accuracy with the pistol.
    • Hunato: Can be carried condition One with high reliability, thumb safety (1911-ish design) my wife and I carry identical weapons, interchangeable. 
    • Richard: I have stuck with the Glock family as they are inherently simple and safe to operate. In addition, if my wife is carrying the 26, and I am incapacitated, she can reload using the spare magazines for my 19 or 17 as I always carry at least two additional. 
    • Rob: My Sig is the standard Sig pistol.  However, my custom 1911 was ordered with Heine ledge sites, a light rail, and a magazine well.  These, to me anyway, are needed for a true combat style pistol.

    what training have you had?
    • Ed N: I have had and later taught gun safety and target shooting. I actually spent more time learning tactical shooting with a shotgun than a pistol. While a pistol is the best self defense weapon, overall it does not compare to a long-gun.
    • Hunato: Scouting Merit Badges, Law Enforcement Explorer Academy, Concealed Carry Permit Class, Active shooter class 
    • Richard: My farther is a firearms instructor with the state, and have also trained during military service, although not as extensively as I do with my dad. With him, quick draws, fire from concealment, weak hand operations, threat identification, and more 
    • Rob: Like I said, I grew up around guns and used them my whole life, for not only hunting, but target shooting as well.  I learned the safety issues surrounding guns at an early age. After high school, and during college, I joined the military, where my training continued and became more advanced.  Finally, my law enforcement experience has continued my training over the years.

    what regular training do you perform?
    • Ed N: I shoot on a semi-regular basis. Currently I hit the range about once every month. I tapered off a bit a couple years ago when ammo prices went through the roof. 
    • Hunato: Monthly Range Day, weekly Dry Fire practice (including draws with Blue Gun). I used to think the NRA was "over the Top".  Now, after NY, PA, CT, MD, CO, PA, IL, CA, DC, and the English, Oz, NZ, and Canadian removal of self defense rights, I am a member. 
    • Richard: As accuracy requires constant up keep, my wife and I go to the range at least monthly, more so if our schedule allows. In addition to that, we will randomly load a dummy round to simulate a failure and build muscle memory. I hope this answers your questions, and to add additional information, both my wife and I are ccw licensed in multiple states. We carry to ensure we do not become victims, and offset if that is also not putting ourselves into a situation where that could occur. Neither of us have ever had to resort to our firearm as a civilian, and hope never to need to. But I believe that I would rather carry for another 50 years, before seeing harm come to a loved one, and not have the tools to save them. 
    • Rob: I continue to receive training through my department, and I shoot when I can on my own.

    So, thanks to all the folks who sent me in replies, and I hope I've represented you all well.  It makes for an interesting read, and I am pleased to see responsible gun-ownership mentalities in place in all the replies. 
    Be responsible, stay safe. I hope that none of you ever feed the need to use your pistols for anything other than because it's fun to shoot guns, or to put food on the table!

    For those who object to all of this (and are still reading) , or thick skinned gun owners don't mind a very Australian ribbing, here's Jim Jeffries talking about an Australian take on the very American gun-culture.

    And finally, to throw my own hat into the ring, if I had my choice of pistols to own, it would likely be the 
    H&K SOCOM Mk23-Mod 0, being a "big gun that holds a lot of bullets", because I would want to put a lot of big rounds on target until it went away and accessories are what I'm all about ...
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