Monday, October 29, 2012

While we are talking disaster prep.... LED lanterns


Seems like a good day to mention these things: Rayovac LED Lantern




I own three of these things.... and have found them worth every single penny they cost, and more.

Lots of light... like 'reading comfortably' bright light, and a lower intensity mode that makes for very nice walking around the house/garage/patio type lighting.

Being LED units, they sip battery power like it was fine whiskey.  I've used mine for outdoor party lighting all summer long, and never needed new batteries.  With the oncoming storm, I replaced them anyway, just in case.

Most of those parties, the lanterns were forgotten overnight, and were found burning away the next morning.  These things last forever on a set of batteries!  

No heat, no flames, utterly safe, excellent and very useful features (Carry/hanging handle, blinking ready light, etc), and they last forever on a set of batteries.

Yup... I have three, and some batteries..... which means I have all the light I can use for days and days and days...

  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Magpul P-Mag AR Magazines

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The AR universe has more choices than stars in a clear night sky, or so it seems, but every owner of the platform has to make at least one choice from that list..... and they have no choice in that. One can walk into any Cabela's and buy the latest and greatest whiz-bang AR-15 setup with factory installed optical sighting, a rail farm complete with folding backup sights, even a compass in the stock... and never do another thing to change the package.

Except.... it has to be fed, and that means magazines. The fanciest M-4orgery available only comes with one magazine in the case, and nobody wants such a weapon with only one magazine.

In the arena of AR magazines, most owners go for 20 or 30 round models. There are oddities such as 10 round blocked magazines for people who live places other than the United States. There are also 40 round models, and even the Beta dual drum magazine which holds 100 rounds.

In the field of 20 and 30 round magazines, there are over a dozen manufacturers to be considered, and many of them build a fine product indeed. For years, my own choice has been BFI and C-products, although the spare magazine box holds other makes as well.

Well, now I've gone over to another maker, and I'm more than happy to report on my experience so far. The ready bag now holds a double handful of Magpul P-Mags. These are Polymer, rather than aluminum or steel like the traditional old fashioned AR magazines.


Building their magazines from Polymer, it appears that Magpul tossed the ancient military AR design to the wind and started over. The P-mag has a solid plastic body with built in feed lips and a removable base plate for easy cleaning. Internally, the magazine differs from the traditional design in many ways. One of the most visually evident is a ridge running down the front of the magazine which separates the two stacks of 5.56mm ammunition. The same ridge guides the follower which travels smoothly in the body.

One problem associated with all polymer magazines is deformation of the feed lips. The area at the top of the magazine is put under pressure by the cartridges being pushed upwards under spring pressure. Over a day, a week, or even months... this is not an issue when high quality modern plastics are used. Over a period of years, the lips can give way under pressure, the magazine doesn't feed well, and is no longer reliable. This is not solely a 'plastic' problem, and even metal magazines show a lot of the same symptoms.

Magpul solves the issue by supplying a snap on magazine dust cover that also serves to take the pressure off the feed lips. With the cover on, the magazine is reasonably safe from dirt and dust intrusion. With the pressure off the lips, the magazine can remain loaded for years, which some AR owners seem bound and determined to do against all good judgement.

The 30 round P-mag's are designed to have the dust cover snap back on over the baseplate while the magazine is in use. The 20 round magazine doesn't have that provision. If one is in a hurry, the dust cover can be popped off under nothing but thumb pressure, and the magazine slid home into the rifle.

The P-mag costs just a little more than a standard high quality metal AR magazine such as C-products or Brownells. For the extra coin, the shooter gets a lightweight magazine that's incredibly strong and stable, and can be left loaded for extended periods with no drawbacks at all. In the Fat Man's experience, every Magpul P-mag I've owned so far has been drop free from every rifle I've tried them in, and utterly trouble free. They require no lubrication, very little care, and work 100% of the time. That's my experience, so far.... and it's one of the few magazine lines I can say that about.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Just in Case.......

(Having nothing at all to do with firearms or shooting...)


And everything to do with making a bad day just a little easier....

Some things have been added to the Old Fat Man's home recently, in preparation for another winter.   Last winter there were a few power outages, and these served to point out some deficiencies.  I'll be going over a few of those in the days to come, and sharing the answers I found.

One of these little issues..... cooking conveniently, and MORNING COFFEE.

To be honest, the cooking part is not a big deal.  Our wood stove serves nicely for most things that can be simply heated, or slow simmered.  Sadly, that is not the case for COFFEE, which needs to be perked over a fair steady supply of concentrated heat.

Towards that end, I fell back on something that mobile chefs know very well indeed..... a butane gas powered portable burner:GASONE Portable Gas Stove

This one, purchased on Amazon, fulfills the need very nicely indeed.  It's decent quality, easy to use, and the gas cartridges last quite a while.  One of these on the closet shelf with a dozen pack of cartridges will serve for weeks of daily cookery, let alone the occasional power outage.

The gas cartridges can be ordered on-line, or are available at every rental store and restaurant supply store, as well as most Hispanic and Asian markets.

To be considered..... the package is also portable, and very low signature.  No smoke, now fuss, no liquid fuels.  Just plug in the gas can, turn it on, and light it.  When done, pull the self-sealing gas can back out and pack it away.

Carteach now has one of these tucked away in the pantry, along with a supply of butane cans.  It's been used already to cook several meals, and works wonderfully as an extra burner when entertaining on the patio.  The reason chef's choose these things became evident the first time it was fired up. 

Coupled with a good percolator (To be discussed later), and a good water filter unit (To be discussed later), this thing equals that most treasured and necessary of luxuries... a good cup of decent quality coffee.

Carteach seal of approval.... I bought one, I own it, I use it, and I recommend it.  
   

Friday, October 19, 2012

LOW and NO light defensive shooting with a flashlight....

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A million years ago (or so it seems), 'ol Carteach was treated to some indoor range time one night. One night... meaning all of one night... from late evening to early bright. A buddy and I kept the steel ringing on the range for about eight hours straight.

What were we doing, besides having a ball? We were practicing low and no light shooting techniques. There was no instructor, no class, and no professionals around. Just us, some gear, and a willingness to learn and experiment.

It would be wonderful if this piece was being written about a defensive class, with professional training, using real life experience. The simple fact is.... Carteach is pretty average amongst shooters, and that means time and money are kind of tight. Low/no light defensive shooting classes are rather pricey, from a poor 'ol teachers viewpoint. The class's generally run around $600, and with travel, lodging, meals, and ammunition tossed in the total quickly exceeds $1000.

Like most average shooters, this poor shlub hasn't got big stacks of extra cash laying around. So what we're gonna do is this.... ya'll watch close now.... we're going to take care of this problem the American way, and just figure it out for ourselves. The Carteach0 blog is all about sharing the fun with friends, and this is no different.... so lets get busy and examine the situation.

Thanks to the way this big ball of mud is spinning in space, we can count on running into low/no light situations about half of each day. Since defensive shooting is all about defending oneself from predators, and such critters prefer to operate in the dark when they can... it only follows that defensive techniques need to take inadequate lighting into account. That means one of two things; learning to shoot in the dark using a Star-War's-like 'force' to guide us (good luck with that), or bringing some light into the situation.

Like anything else in shooting, and especially defensive shooting, forethought and training make all the difference in the world. If it's professional training by people who know what they are doing, that's great! For the other 98% of us who can't buy ourselves that little present... we'll just have to do it on our own. Sure, such self training may not be the bleeding edge of knife.... but it's still light years ahead of no training at all.

So, to approach this issue in an efficient and intelligent manner (a real stretch for Carteach!) we'll need to break this down into a few parts, both closely related. Technology and techniques... with each reflecting the other to a degree. Technology is quite simply the light we'll be using, and this can effect the techniques depending on it's features and capabilities. Techniques are how we employ the light, and the techniques we wish to use greatly effect our choice in flashlight.

Now, on the indoor range so long ago... our choice was limited. State of the art at that time was the traditional Mag-Light, in whatever form one possessed. These are simple flashlights, and gained fame for their toughness, with many police officers adopting them as the patrol light of choice. Reassuringly heavy in the hand, and often doubling as a baton, the D-cell Mag-Light design dictated some specific methods of use. It had a tradition switch on the body of the flashlight, and was certainly a handful. It took a firm grip and some respect for it's weight and bulk. I have personally beat the hinges off a door using a Mag-light, when the situation demanded it. They are heavy and tough.... but we have other options these days.

The roll call of 'Tactical Flashlights' can run for page upon page, and everyone gets to chose what features they want... and can afford. Rather than run down all the brands, Lets spend some time looking at features.

Today we have a choice in general type of flashlight; LED or incandescent bulb. Not long ago the LED lights were simply too dim to really serve a solid defensive role, although they went a long way with their ability to gently sip away at battery power. Modern LED lights can had that are bright.... blindingly bright.... and still use the batteries sparingly. Add in the incredible lifespan of a quality LED bulb. Life span as in..... for life (for most people). Incandescent bulbs can be pretty bright, at prices cheaper than high wattage LED's, but there is a shorter life span to the bulb and they ravage batteries. On the whole, LED's are the best choice for most people.

There are many ways to 'measure' light output, but wattage and lumens are the most common. The thing is, they don't compare to each other at all. To keep it simple, for defensive uses 5 watts is considered minimum, or 90 lumens. 120 lumens are better, and climb well into the 'Blind your opponent in the dark' range.

Next to consider.... power source. Unless you want to drag a really long extension cord behind you all day, we're talking batteries here. We can chose between standard and lithium batteries, AA, C, D, or CR123a batteries, and rechargeable units as well. The larger the battery does not mean the brighter the light. A flashlight with a pair of little CR123a batteries can easily be as bright as one carrying four large D cells. Bigger batteries mean longer life, and this must be considered. Unless the flashlight is rechargeable, commonality of the battery is also an issue. A light with dead batteries is useless if none are available.

Luckily, even the CR123a lithium batteries can now be had at most all major stores, and many smaller ones as well. By mail order, they can be bought at decent prices in packs of ten. Of course AA, C, and D cells are on the shelf at every Wal-Mart in the land.

There is another thought which must be considered here. Weight and size. While a tactical light using CR123a batteries may only have an hours run time, it's also small and light enough to ride forgotten in a pocket all day. The same cannot be said for a large, heavy flashlight powered by big batteries. An old saying can be paraphrased for this purpose; A .22 in your pocket beats a .45 home in the safe. Well, an hours worth of super bright LED in your pocket beats an aircraft landing light that's home on your porch.

What about the rechargeable lights? Here... I have an opinion. For an officer (or a mechanic) who uses his light every single working day, getting into the habit of charging it every night is reasonable. I have done this myself, using a Stinger model in both school and shop. In fact, I still do.... but.... is it the right choice for a defensive light that doesn't get used every day? I would suggest not... and that battery lights are better. A pair of Lithium CR123a batteries can last for a year with the light resting on a shelf if need be, and still give good service. Should they be dead, a few moments later new ones can be installed. With a rechargeable.... those few moments stretch out to hours, and equal not having the light when it's needed.

Next feature to decide..... how should we be turning this thing on and off? The switch can show up in many places, but typically in one of two. Either on the end cap opposite the lens, or on the body of the flashlight just behind the lens bell (like Granddads flashlight). 'Tactical' flashlights normally have the switch on the end cap, and for good reason. In this placement the user can palm the light, while turning it on and off at will with the thumb; Quickly, easily, almost instinctively. It's an end cap switch that Carteach favors.

There are many, many more features out there. A ring built in that can allow the flashlight to be grasped like a syringe, that can be a good thing. Likewise good, some part of the light body shaped something other than round... allowing the flashlight to be laid down without it rolling away. Space for a lanyard to attach can come in handy, and the ability to focus the light beam might be useful too.

One feature that I have become a believer in, and one that rather limits the choice of lights, is the ability to work on a 'strobe' setting. This state of the art feature uses electronics in the flashlight to 'blink' or 'strobe' the light on and off very quickly indeed. The result is a flashlight that can confuse an attacker, hide your position, and delay an opponents reaction time by valuable seconds. It's because of this feature, amongst others, that I carry at times a Blackhawk Gladius. I understand SureFire just added the same device to their line.

Now, time for a disclosure. Blackhawk gave me a Gladius light as a gift, for which I am grateful. It doesn't change one word I'll write about it, but I need to be up front about that. I'll also say this.... I was so impressed with the little bugger I went out and bought another one for myself.   That said, I have personally moved on to a Fenix made unit, which outputs over 300 lumens in a very small and light package.

To recap flashlight features useful in a tactical light, lets add up. Very, very bright (200 lumens or more is better), uses a nearly indestructible LED bulb, runs on common batteries, has a rear end cap activation switch, shaped so it can be grasped like a syringe and activated in one hand, and preferably flashes faster than the lighting at a KISS concert. That about covers it, although there are lots of other neat things to have with a light... the features listed are enough.

Is it necessary to mention the one trait any tactical light really must have? It must be tough as nails.... all but bulletproof.... and all but idiot proof. Drop it, kick it, take it for a swim, and use it as a hood prop.... but it must work every time.

Having looked at the technical end, it's time to move on to the technique part of this missive. Here, I feel the need to repeat something. Carteach is not a tactical trainer, nor is he some form of expert on this topic. He's just some guy trying to decipher the mysteries on his own, and taking his friends along on a virtual buggy ride while he does it. If someone tries to play Rambo by practicing my meandering thoughts and gets his butt lit up, that's all home grown stupid.... don't try shipping it over this way. We have enough of our own.

Now... techniques in low and no light situations; In this area I further break it down to two simple methods of holding the light, and one simple method of using said light. Lets face facts... simple is required because simple is what I are.

There are more than two methods of holding the tactical flashlight in use with a pistol, but keeping it simple allows for better training. The reason to adopt two methods, rather than the ultimate simplicity of only one..... every method has it's pro's and con's, and every method has circumstances where it just won't work. Two methods, each used when best, will cover the vast majority of defensive situations. Some of the 'methods' in all honesty, seem pretty silly... but we'll leave that judgment to the reader.

I suppose, if it comes right down to it.... what I do is really a summation of two methods, swiping the best of each and combining them as needed.

Long ago on that indoor range, over the hours, we practiced what's called the 'Harries method'. This involves holding the flashlight in the off-hand, across the shooters body, and resting the pistol to the left of the flashlight (for right handed shooters), with the wrist of the hand gripping the pistol laying on top of the other wrist. In the olden days, when all flashlights had their switch on the body in the traditional place, the Harries method called for an uncomfortable positioning of the off hand upside down, so the thumb could activate the switch. While difficult to describe, a few images will make the method clear. Here is the Harries method, adapted to a rear switched flashlight:




As the second photos reveals, there is a problem inherent in the system. Looking closely at the muzzle of the pistol and the lens of the flashlight, it's clear they are not pointed in the same direction. In fact, with the unnatural positioning of the arms and wrists, it takes a lot of practice and training till they will point together at the same spot.

Next up in the bag of techniques, the 'Rogers' method, which has the flashlight held in the offhand and positioned between the fingers like a great big syringe. The rear tail cap switch of the flashlight is pressed against the ball of the thumb, and the fingers need only squeeze the flashlight to turn it on. The off hand holding the flashlight is then pressed up against the side of the hand gripping the pistol, with thumbs aligned as in a good shooting grip. Again, an image shows the process better than words can describe it.


The advantages to the Rogers method should be clear in the photo. The hands and arms are in a far more natural position, and the flashlight indexes to the bore much more readily. This is backed up and verified with low/no light practice, especially valuable if the pistol is equipped with a laser. Alignment of the laser dot and the center of the flashlight beam is almost automatic, with a little practice.

How do I combine the two methods? Well.... I use the rogers method as shown, except when clearing a room from the left side of a doorway. Then, rather than expose more of myself to an un-swept room, I simply pass my flashlight hand from alongside the pistol hand, to underneath it... effectively using the Harries method while still holding the flashlight in hand with the Rogers method. Once again... images help.




Saturday, October 6, 2012

THINK... are your 'home defense' weapons really there for you?

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"
I have a question" was the text I got one evening a short time ago.

Princess knew I was in an important meeting, so the text would not have come lightly. As we had just finished the goodbyes, I hit speed dial on the way back to my vehicle. "What's up?"

"I don't want you to worry, but I have a question. Is the gun in the XXXXXXX the same as the one in the XXXXXXX?"

"Huh?" I answered intelligently...

"Does it work the same?"

At this point, with a bit of anxious questioning on my part, I was informed she had heard a noise outside and, intelligent girl that she is, immediately armed herself. Not to go outside and play commando, but just as insurance while she went about her business in the home. I assured her the pistol she had next to her worked exactly the same as the one she had learned to shoot with, and was in exactly the condition she knew the others to be.

In this case.... ready to fire by one simple action. Pulling the trigger.

The conversation revealed a flaw in our home defense planning, and an inexcusable one on my part. You see, Princess is not a shooter.... but she's a bright lady and has learned to handle pistols well enough to use them for their intended purpose... self defense. Not as CCW, but most certainly around the home. She's more than demonstrated the capacity and willingness to handle (and use) weapons in her own self defense. She's a lot like the main character in 'Quigley Down Under' in that way, just after he used a Colt pistol to dispatch the evil bad guy. "Said I had no use for a pistol... didn't say I don't know how to use one".

So, it falls upon me, as the house expert, to see to home defense weapons (as well as plumbing repairs, dealing with the woodstove, and most of the dishes. In return, I never have to touch laundry... and I see that as a fair bargain).

Her question pointed out a problem. While *I* had plans, procedures, and safety checks... I hadn't made her aware of them in enough detail. With her not being a shooter, I had covered a few basics, assured her ability and judgement where safety is concerned, and left it at that.

My mistake, and one rectified as quickly as I arrived home. The noise? Some critter in the night perhaps, but never a threat or bother. She was just being careful. You can be assured... I announced myself before I walked in (g).

What I hadn't explained well enough to her was this; In my 'home defense weapon' plans, every pistol available (without unlocking something complicated) is in the same condition. In our case, having no children in the home nor adult visitors of questionable competence, we have weapons hidden well but still readily available. Each is in the same condition... round chambered, no external safety engaged, and ready to fire on pulling the trigger.

Each pistol is either a Glock pattern with a 'Safe Action', or has a long double action pull. They are highly unlikely to go off by accident, and are stored in such a way that their triggers are protected.

The idea is simple. If we need them, they are there right now, ready right now, and are safe until then. Nothing to manipulate under pressure, nothing to remember before use, no intricate puzzles to solve. Two of the pistols have laser sighting devices, but this matters little. They don't need to be switched on to have the weapons function perfectly.

The fact that Princess is a component of the plan, and is not a shooting enthusiast, has a great deal to do with the thinking behind it. Any defensive weapon in the home needs to be simple enough that she can use them well under extreme pressure. She's not going to remember to sweep the safety on a 1911 pattern, nor cycle the action on a pistol with an empty chamber. Her judgement can be trusted, and she's more than intelligent enough to keep her finger off the trigger till she needs to fire.... but she's not going to practice with any frequency nor build up instinctive muscle memory (In that... she's not much different from most of the police officers in this nation, who's shooting experience revolves around occasional mandated qualifications).

Long guns are different, and not part of any plans involving Princess. For the record, they too are stored in a specific condition. Chamber empty, safety off, ready to fire upon working the action. Guns locked in the safe? Totally different situation, totally different condition.

Should our home have children visiting, or if by chance we ever had adults staying with us who were not proven safe shooters, all would be locked safely away.

It's an important topic, and one worth considering thoughtfully. Each situation is different, and the people who occupy the home will cause any plan to be modified as required. Where a single person living in a secure area might simply leave a weapon in a nightstand drawer, another person might need something more secure, such as a coded safe. Once that's decided, further thought must be given to weapon condition. Round in the chamber, or not? Safety on, or not? Magazine in the pistol, or not?

Each situation is different, and each persons ability and training must be taken into account. Also, the possibility of split second decisions being necessary under immense life threatening pressure.... and how different people can react to that.

Are there children in the home? Is a break in while the homeowner is away a reasonable threat? Is a home invasion of an occupied house a reasonable threat? All these and more must be thought of ahead of time, and decisions made on dealing with them.

Most of all... most importantly... careful plans must be made in advance of trouble... and as I learned, everyone concerned needs to know what they are.



These are not idle thoughts... especially in a world turning more dangerous by the minute.   When things go bad in a hard way, there is seldom a lot of warning.  Do your planning now, and work your plan.






Thank for stopping in and spending time with 'Ol Carteach. If you are of a mind to, don't hesitate to click on some of the ads posted here and there on the site. You don't need to buy a thing, or even read them, but each click does throw a few pennies into the ammo fund.... and these days that's a lot!

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

On every journey, there comes a point where return is impossible


This past week, attending the GRPC, I was honored to spend time with many, many good people.  Folks who fight for their rights, and those of everyone else.  People who believe in a future, freedom, and that good people win in the end.

It was an honor, and I give them my respect.

But.... I think it's too late.

Not regarding the individual civil rights of man, and of the right people have to defend themselves against force and violence.... no.... in that I agree with the fine people of the GRPC.

No, I think it's too late as a society.  I think, for many reasons and most of all the shear incontrovertible math of our situation, that we as a nation have passed a point of no return.

Bad times are ahead.... and this I believe.  I think otherwise good people are going to pay a hard price for their choices, and the choices others made before them.

I, personally, have given up any notion that politics can make any but the smallest difference now.  Yes, the next president will choose the judges that populate the Supreme Court, and that will change many things indeed.   That said... if the economic math plays out the way it seems to be going, even Supreme Court decisions will mean little.

Yes, I know.... in this I may be wrong.  I've been wrong before, and will easily admit it when it happens.


This blog has always been a a simple shooting blog.  Just one fat old man's way of sharing a passion with friends.

Perhaps it's time for that to change.   There are more important things to discuss now.
 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Black Man With a Gun.... Ken Blanchard


At the GRPC, I had the honor of once again meeting Ken Blanchard, the 'Black Man With a Gun'.

Ken is good man, by the most traditional standards, and is working hard to fight the good fight. He's a Marine, has worked protective service, does firearms instruction, and is a practicing minister to boot. 

Ken traveled to the GRPC to report on the doings, and took time to serve as a speaker as well.  He spoke on the ways. means, and purpose of using social media in the civil rights cause.

Carteach highly recommends visiting the good Mr. Blanchard's site, and passing some time there.