Range day

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

An impromptu five-shot 100-yard shootoff with the local PD sniper.

I won.

To be fair, we swapped rifles and he won on the next five rounds so it isnt that he’s not a good shot, its that his department-issued rifle isn’t really as suited for the task as it could be. Im sure if he brought his privately owned .308 it would have been a different story.  Still….it was fun.

ETA: By request:

Me: CZ550 in .308, H-S stock, single set trigger, Farrell mount, IOR 10×56 scope with MP8 reticle, 26″ barrel, Harris bipod

Him:  Stock Rem. 700 heavy barrel .308 with Leupold 1-piece base and 3-10x scope with duplex reticle. Other than a camo paintjob it was pretty much a stock gun.

Article – Doomsday shelters making a comeback

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Hmph. For some of us, they never left.

Jason Hodge, father of four children from Barstow, Calif., says he’s “not paranoid” but he is concerned, and that’s why he bought space in what might be labeled a doomsday shelter.

It’s good that someone is thinking about the future and taking steps to protect themselves. What Im curious about is if this is some sort of ‘band-aid’ approach….will someone buy into this program and then figure they have nothing else they need to do. I mean, this isnt like buying homeowners insurance where you send a company the check and then your responsibility ends. However, I suspect thats whats going to happen. Folks will sign on for one of these time-share shelters and figure thats all they have to do…and when the power goes out they’ll stand around helplessly not realizing that theres more to being prepared than just sending a check to some yahoo with a refurbished missile silo. You and I know better, though….right?

Article – Bubbling Up From the Earth, a Cool, Clear Gift

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

A  nice article about artesian wells. I had heard the term in the past but it was interesting to read exactly how an artesian well differs from other types of wells. An artesian well figured prominently in the classic post-apocalyptic novel “Alas Babylon”. I remember as a kid drinking from fountains that had water that smelled as artesian water is supposed to smell – like rotten eggs because of all the dissolved minerals – but I dont think Ive ever come across an artesian well here in Montana. Perhaps our geological makeup doesnt lend itself to it. I’ve seen plenty of natural hot springs out here, but I dont think Ive encountered any artesian wells. If they do exist here, they’d certainly be a nice asset to have on a piece of property. Anyway, its a fascinating article and worth reading.

How things have been holding up

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Whats been around for a few years now and how has it held up?

Tactical Tailor 3-day bag – This is the bag I carry around almost daily. I had to replace one fastex buckle when I slammed it in the truck door and shattered it. Other than that incident, it has held up with virtually no signs of wear. Theres plenty of dirt and grime on the straps but other than that it has held up as well as you could want. I’ve had it for about five or six years now and it shows no sign of needing replacement. (ETA: Received it 3/19/2004)  Its gone hunting, on airline trips, tossed around in the back of trucks, thrown onto concrete, dragged over rough ground, fallen on, sat on, shot off of, and given some typical usage in the field. It gets a thumbs up and high marks from me. Would I buy another one? Sure, although I think Im going to start leaning towards Kifaru for most of my pack needs since their products seem to have more versatility with the additional attachment points and molle webbing. The drawback, of course, is that the Kifaru stuff is pricier than the Tactical Tailor stuff by a good margin. If I couldn’t get the Kifaru bag, I’d get the TT bag with no reservations at all.

Leatherman Wave – Something like four or five years I’ve been carrying this thing around every day and I have had no problems with it. Blades lock up tight, everything unfolds smoothly, and the selection of tools seem to fit my needs. I’ve had it wear holes through two sets of jeans, but that’s to be expected. The Leatherman multitiool has been utterly ignored and neglected except for the occasional sharpening and it shows no signs of wear or failure. A couple of the newer models of Leatherman interest me. I’d like to try playing with the Skeletool…it has a built in carabiner-style clip for attaching it to gear and that seems rather handy.

Wilderness instructor belt – been wearing this for about two or three years now and the non-buckle end of it is starting to fray and split. Not a big deal, but there are high-quality copies of this belt out there that feature polymerized ends to prevent that sort of thing. Otherwise the belt and its Velcro have held up fine….hardware is perfect and everything works as it should. I need to get another one or two to keep as spares. I used to prefer leather belts but the heavy-duty stiff nylon belts like this one don’t seem to develop the stretch and ‘memory’ that the leather ones do. Plus, they don’t ‘creak’ and are a bit quiter.

Glock field knife – I’ve at least eight years on this thing and its starting to show. The dark non-reflective coating on the blade has given way to a plum-colored finish on the metal but otherwise the knife has held up quite well despite the abuses I sometimes subject it to. It has cut steel banding, paracord, dug holes, been hammered through deer pelvises, submerged and left wet, and just generally subjected to the kinds of things you do with a working knife. Oh…and I’ve run it through the dishwasher a couple times to get the deer fat and blood off of it after a successful hunting trip. The scabbard is exactly as it was when I got it out of the box years ago…no wear whatsoever. The blade has been sharpened several times, and theres a nick or two, a gouge here and there on the false edge but other than what is essentially cosmetic wear this thing is ready for another ten years or so of use…at least. I don’t think you can damage this knife without doing something exceptionally stupid. And for $25 it’s a bargain for the abuse it’ll take. Buy a bunch of ‘em.

Some of these items were pretty expensive to buy in terms of upfront cost, but over time they’ve proven to be inexpensive in that they never needed to be replaced. This is a good example of the old saying about “Pay for quality once”. Im normally a very…oh lets say “thrifty”…kind of guy so when you put two items on the counter in front of me and one is four times the cost of the other I am, naturally, going to be drawn towards the cheaper one. But sometimes you gotta bite the bullet

Article – The top foods you should keep in case of an emergency

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Natural disasters–such as a flood, hurricane, or blizzard–often come without warning. Stocking non-perishable food items ahead of time (and choosing wisely what you include) will help you weather the storm with less stress.

Be sure to read the followup:

Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency

The calibers not to have

Ever see those posts or articles where folks talk about what they think the ideal calibers are for ‘your survival battery’ or some nonsense like that? Predictably it goes something like this: .22LR, .223 (or 308 or 7.62×39), 45 ACP (or 9mm or .40) and 12 ga. There might be a few folks swimming against the current who will say things like .30-06 or .44 Magnum, but generally I would guess that when you look at anyones list of their ‘survival guns’ those calibers make up 90% of the entries. This post is the opposite of that. This post is the calibers that shouldn’t make up your little stash o’ apocalyptic guns and why. As always, this is purely subjective and you’re probably going to disagree. Fine with me, man….opinions are like fundaments..everyone has one.

The recent ammunition shortages are something everyone is aware of and its been blogged about quite a bit on the interwebs. I saw one argument for stocking up guns in bizarre calibers on the logic that all that was left at WalMart were the weird calibers of ammo (.41 Mag, 10mm, .32 Magnum) and therefore your guns should be in that caliber because when all the ammo is picked over those are the calibers that will be left. I usually try to have some decorum when disagreeing with someone but I gotta say, that’s a stupid argument. If the cartridge is oddball enough that its going to be ignored in a panic-buying craze it is probably also obscure enough that most stores won’t have it. Additionally, if the cartridge is obscure or cultish enough that theres such a small base of people shooting it, the selection of guns is probably going to be pretty dismal.

An example of what Im talking about. I had a buddy who wanted a .30 caliber semi-auto rifle capable of being quickly reloaded. Throw some ideas at me….M1A? HK91 clone? AK? AR-10? .30 Carbine? FAL? All good ideas, right? But he was adamant that the ideal gun to meet this criteria was a 1941 Johnson (the gun, not the outboard motor.) So for the price of two of any of those  rifles I just mentioned he got a 10-shot .30-06 that could be fed with stripper clips and had absolutely zero aftermarket accessories and virtually no spare parts support. (His earlier attempt at .30 caliber perfection was a Remington 7400 with ten-round magazines.) Same fella thought that in a revolver the .32 Magnum was the perfect cartridge. So he bought a couple of Smiths and started reloading for the .32 Mag. Good thing because walking into the average gun shop and finding a good selection of .32 Mag ammo is a fools errand. His other choice of a semi-auto ‘battle rifle’ was a tossup – he had a Ljungman AG-42(b) in 6.5×55 and a Remington Model 81 in .35 Remington. Both will spit a bullet out the end of the barrel each time you pull the trigger but finding ammo isn’t exactly a walk in the park. For the money he spent on these dead-ends he could have gotten some very boring, but very easy-to-feed, firearms that would have made more sense logistically and probably been better adapted to what he was expecting to encounter. But, some folks have their own ideas….

Theres a handful of rimfires awailable today. Used to be you only had two to choose from – the .22 LR and the .22 Mag. (For a brief time Remington had a 5mm RF but that sucker is ancient history, a hundred years ago there were rimfires all the way up to .50 cal. And the Swiss used a .41 rimfire for quite a while in their military.) Now you have the two .22s and a couple .17 variants. Pretty much any of the other rimfires are superior to the .22 LR…the Mag and the .17 Mag have it beat for speed and flat trajectory but whats the most common of the bunch? .22 LR. A brick of 500 .22 LR is cheaper than a brick of any of the other rimfires, the guns are common as grass, and while the cartridge has some limitations we pretty much all know what they are and use it accordingly. The other rimfires are great, its just that when it comes time to scrounge ammo from under the seat of a truck, out of someones garage, or even off the ground at the local shooting range the .22 LR will outnumber the other rimfires exponentially.

5.45×39 is the latest incarnation of the AK series of rifles. It can be had on the surplus market pretty cheaply these days but it is still less common than its 7.62×39 parent. Additionally, far more AK (and SKS) variants are out there in 7.62 than there are in 5.45. If you can stock up on 5.45 to the point where the availability outside of your ammo bunker is unimportant, great….but given the choice between the two I’m going with the 7.62×39 over the 5.45. Yeah, the 5.45 is a better cartridge, but the better cartridge is the one you can actually find and the 7.62 is going to be more common, in my opinion.

.41 Magnum and 10mm Auto are great cartridges but have been relegated into the ‘niche’ or ‘cult’ category. I think Ted Nugent is on the right track, toting a Glock 20 around all the time. Great power, excellent trail gun. Ammo availability? Slim compared to it’s weak sister, the .40 S&W. When you don’t know where youre next box of ammo is coming from it’s a good idea to stack the odds in your favor by having something that youre more likely to find. .41 Mag is almost the exact same story – good caliber, thin selection of guns, good luck on the ammo.Really, if your auto is in something other than 9mm, .40 or 45 youre probably going to have a tougher time finding ammo than if it was in one of those calibers. Ditto for .38, .357, .44 in the revolvers.

.30-06? Im conflicted on that one. The only thing even close to being an acceptable self-defense rifle in that caliber is the Garand and I’d take any .308 MBR over a Garand any day of the week. Stuck with .30-06 I’d probably take the FN49 over the Garand. Its probably the most common cartridge around for a bolt gun, and the fella with a Garand will probably never have trouble finding ammo. This is a case of a good cartridge, just a bad choice of guns available. I go with the .308….it’ll do pretty much everything the .30-06 will in weights up to 165 gr. But is available in much better firearms.

If you’ve got some time to kill, pick a list of your favorite cartridges for the particular apocalypse you predict, and go visit five random gun shops or hardware stores…ones you’ve never been to. See if they have your favorite calibers in stock as a standard item they usually carry. If not, maybe its time to rethink what youre planning on going to the zombiefest with.

I’ve got some favorite cartridges that enjoy shooting (..44 Special, 7×57 Mau., etc.) but they are not even on the radar in terms of my long term logistics. When the wheels fly off of civilization I think I’ll be much better served with the guns chambered in cartridges I can actually find ammo for than with the guns that are chambered in pet cartridges that are ’special order’ at many gun shops.

Cast iron

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

I know that bad news is what sells newspapers. As Ivanova said, “Good news can wait. Bad news will refuse to leave.” Maybe theres a recovery going on somewhere but Im seeing nothing in the news that would give anyone a warm-n-fuzzy in regards to the economy. And, considering the inmates that are currently running the asylum, I just don’t see things getting better for quite a while.


I’ve been on something of a cast-iron bender lately…reseasoning all my cast iron and evaluating my collection of it. I found a really good blog on the subject. Using info I gleaned from there I managed to do a very good job of putting an excellent non-stick finish onto my cast iron cookware and I am rediscovering the utility of cast iron. From a preparedness standpoint the cast iron cookware has a lot going for it. Although it lends itself to cooking in rugged environments and conditions, the thing Im really enjoying is that I can use my metal cooking utensils without concern for the non-stick finish.

Currently, I’ve got mostly Lodge-brand cookware. (None of that cheap Chinese cast iron crap that’s probably recycled engine cores.) I’ve got two Dutch ovens (one w/ legs and one w/o), three frying pans of various size and depth, a griddle and I am looking forward to getting a cast iron wok.

Since I’ve been playing with the cast iron lately I dug out the Volcano cookstove to use in conjunction with the cast iron for some outdoor cooking. And, since we always go a bridge too far around here, we picked up a 20# propane BBQ bomb to hook the Volcano up to. I can either cook over charcoal (or any other flammable material, really) or propane. And, happily, the Volcano comes with an adapter that lets me use the BBQ bomb or 1# propane bottles…excellent versatility there. As a bonus, I have the proper couplings to let the 20# tank run the propane heater and lanterns as well. So…another layer added to the overall preparations. And while the need to cook in a non-kitchen environment may not happen very often it is excellent gear for cooking foods that would normally funk up the house…like anything involving stir fry.

Back to the cast iron, as I said Im developing a new respect for it to the point that I think Im going to haunt a few garage sales and see if I can find some nice vintage cast iron cookware. Apparently the really old stuff is a bit smoother and easier to get a smooth, non-stick finish on.

Although I cant think of too many likely scenarios that will preclude me using the gas range in the kitchen, I think it’s a good idea for us to have the equipment to cook in just about any location. The Volcano stove has been pretty good for my needs. I can run it on charcoal or propane, it can be set on top of a picnic table or tailgate, and works quite well with the cast iron cookware. It would be an excellent choice for setting up a field kitchen or comfort station in a disaster area…additionally, it can also be used for creating that one indispensable thing that makes such a difference in a disaster – hot water. For sterilizing utensils, washing dishes, purifying water, bathing or a dozen different uses there is always a need for boiling hot water.

If a person is stuck with an electric stove, then you really need to have a Plan B for cooking when the power goes out.  Ideally, Plan B would involve more than one type of fuel as well. At the moment, we’re set up to cook with propane, charcoal, gasoline, kerosene, Coleman fuel and, if need be, wood…so I think we’re pretty well covered on the whole ‘how are we going to cook’ angle of things.

Economy, space blankets

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

The economy…what can you say? If it’s a recovery, it doesn’t look like much of one from this angle. My landlord recently laid off virtually all of her employees. I was in their shop the other day and all of the lights were off except for one in the desk area. She was playing computer games, waiting and hoping the phone would ring with some much-needed business. She says that they used to bid jobs for a couple thousand bucks over cost and never had problems. Now theyre bidding jobs at cost just to keep the lights on and are still getting underbid. Dog eat dog world out there. She was feeling horrible at having to lay off her employees, who she and her husband treat like family, but there was no money to pay them. My shop is in a block of little storefronts and commercial space..Im the second oldest business in the block, having been here for about ten years. Lately other business have come in and folded up almost as quickly. I have never seen so many ‘for rent’ and ‘for lease’ signs in my time here.  I cannot fathom any course of action the .gov could take that would fix this situation and not simply punt it down the road for the next administration to handle. Well, I suppose some sort of ‘pro-business’ agenda might be worth a shot but good luck getting anything like that outta the current administration.


I just had a chat with my UPS guy. He noticed my “Commies Arent Cool” t-shirt. He asked me if I thought Obama was a communist. I said that, strictly speaking, probably not but that he is definitely a Roosevelt “New Deal”-style liberal with some leanings that could be considered socialist. The UPS guy agreed and said Obama was just bad news all around. This is coming from a union guy, folks. But, pay him no mind because, as we are told, we only dislike Obama because we’re racists. Riiiiiight.


When I taught hunter safety to the 12-year-olds, one of the things we were supposed to touch upon was what to do when (not if) you got lost. We gave them the usual spiel about making their own survival kits, etc, etc. Every instructor would always tell the students to pack one of those mylar space blankets..you know the ones. Theyre about the size of a pack of cigarettes and the material is thinner than a Kleenex. Funny thing is, as far as I know, only one instructor actually ever bothered to open up one of the darn things. See, in order for them to pack that sucker into as small a package as possible those gossamer-thin layers of mylar become practically impossible to pull apart. This is especially the case when your hands and fingers are cold and near frozen and shaking…the exact conditions under which you would wind up using this thing. The instructor advised that the students should unfold the space blanket at home and then re-fold it. The package wont be nearly as compact but it will be much, much easier to unfold with club-like hands when the time comes.

Since then, everything Ive read says that you should throw one of these things into your survival kits when you go into the boonies. Good advice. But are there alternatives? Didn’t used to be, really. But nowadays there are a couple alternatives. The guys at Thermos made the only alternative to the mylar space blankets for a number of years. Their product was much more heavy-duty with the consequence of trading durability and ruggedness for bulk and weight. One of the most important things about survival gear is that it has to be with you when you need it – if its too heavy or too bulky youre probably going to leave it at home. The Thermos space blanket was a good product but the tradeoff was a bit much. Its still available and if you don’t mind the weight and bulk I would take it over the mylar blanket. A military version is available from Sportsmans Guide as a ‘casualty’ or ‘evacuation blanket’. Surely there must be a middle ground between the Thermos and the space blanket, yes? The closest thing Ive found are the Heatsheets and Thermo-Lite branded blankets. I’ve carried around the Thermo-Lite bivvy during hunting season and while it isn’t as compact as the folded mylar blankets it is still very manageable at 7”x4”. The smaller version rolls up to about the size of a Coke can, which will pretty much fit into any small survival pack. Another product I’ve been made aware of is the Land/Shark bivvy sack. This thing is about twice the price of anything listed here but it appears to be an interesting product with a quality not found elsewhere – its waterproof. This means if youre stuck floating in the ocean somewhere you can wrap up in this thing and stave off hypothermia and stay afloat. Handy.

I still carry the little mylar space blankets but I carry them in addition to the Thermo-Lite. I figure that in a pinch I can use both for added insulation and protection from the elements. Since I got the Kifaru Woobie for my birthday last year that goes in my bag at times. It compresses small enough to be worth sticking in the pack but it’s still a bit large for a dedicated survival pack. However, I think used in conjunction with the bivvy sack it’ll do an excellent job of keeping things from getting terminal. (Normally, I carry a poncho and the Woobie when I go hunting. Although both are much bulkier than the emergency blankets I find it an acceptable tradeoff for the versatility they provide. The Woobie ties into the poncho to form a sleeping bag that works quite well.)

Of course the best way to avoid needing stuff like this is to not get lost or put into a situation where you need it to begin with. After that, the next best thing is to build a nice big fire, sit in front of it, and patiently await the local search and rescue guys. But sometimes things happen despite our best efforts….

Article – ‘Barefoot Bandit’s’ 2-year run from law is over

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Kid did a pretty good job of living on the lam for a couple years. And then, inexplicably, he does something stupid like fly into an island where your avenues of escape are severely limited.

I suspect if he’d simply moves to another region of the US, perhaps the SE or SW, or even the NY area, he would have been able to blend in and disappear. The lesson here, I think, is that if youre going to make a career out of evading people dont put yourself in a position where your potential exits are limited by terrain….like being surrounded by ocean.

The avatar of fail

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Here’s why we’re doomed:

Im walking outta the post office and theres a chick with a clipboard. “Do you have 60 seconds to bring back Amtrak to Montana”. Okay, game on. “Where is it now?”, I ask? She tells me Amtrak hasn’t run in our part of Montana since the late 1970’s. I ask why they stopped. It wasn’t profitable, she tells me. Will Amtrak be able to pay for itself on this Montana route, I ask. Well, we hope it will, she says. Amtrak hasn’t made a profit since..well…ever..how is this route going to get paid for, I ask. Stimulus money from president Obama’s economic package.

Of course.

So what she is saying is that ‘public transportation’ needs trump good fiscal sense. The railroad won’t be profitable, it’ll need government money to run, but by Crom there will be something for tourists to ride.

This is why we’re doomed. Let me rewrite the scenario:

Hi do you have 60 seconds to help me open up an organic ostrich farm? There hasn’t been a successful ostrich farm in Montana in..well, forever…but we think its in Montana’s interest to have an ostrich farm anyway. It might make money someday but history says that it probably wont. We’ll keep throwing money from your taxes at it though. Whaddya say, wanna sign up?

And this bubblehead standing there with her clipboard sees nothing wrong with asking people to have government create yet another money hole because it has the magic words ‘public transportation’ written on it. Its for ‘the public’…you know, the people. The working class. Whatever.

Its these 20-something know-nothings who don’t see anything wrong with spending tax money on nonsense like this that are making things worse. I’m halfway surprised her nipples didn’t poke through her top when she mentioned Obama’s name.

I feel like I should make a sandwichboard with a graph showing Amtrak’s dismal record and stand next to this chick.

Unemployment is around 10%, the economy is stumbling like Ted Kennedy at an embassy dinner, personal savings are at an all time low, people can’t keep their homes so lets take their money in the form of taxes and instead of spending it on bare essentials lets throw it into the wind by subsidizing a railroad that has never been able to pay for itself.

This is why we’re doomed, folks. To throw out even more metaphors, while you and I would be heading for the lifeboats this chick would be re-arranging the deck chairs. And yet her vote counts. Whats worse, she’s oblivious to her being part of the problem.

The avatar of fail, I have met her.