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News for the Week 2024-04-29

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News for the week of 2024-05-06

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Has anybody blood tested the Oroweat keto tortillas?

Anybody monitoring blood glucose actively? They have the modified/resistant starch as a primary ingredient. Research around the web suggests pretty dramatic blood glucose elevation, though not as sharp a spike as normal starch. Would love to hear from people directly.

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News for the Week 2024-04-22

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News for the Week 2024-04-15

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What is the best camp stove for an emergency power outage or camping?

I would like to get a small portable camp stove that I can use if the power is out or if I want to go camping. It’s not going to be an every day user, so keeping the cost of the stove and fuel as low as possible will allow me to buy it sooner.

I could go as cheaply as $20 and get a butane stove that runs off little butane canisters.

But for $13 more, I can get a similar one that will work on those same butane canisters or the small propane tanks. I like this idea because I believe it would be cheaper in the long run to use propane, but if I wanted to just go camping I could use butane and take the smaller and lighter tank.

And for $17, I can get an adapter hose that will allow me to use one of those large BBQ propane tanks that should be even cheaper. I wouldn’t bring this camping but if the power is out for days, it would be comforting to have a ton of fuel available. 

For $48, there is the classic Coleman propane camp stove that will give me two burners, has a wind guard, but only runs on propane and is larger and heavier if I were to take it camping.

Or I can go all out and buy this camp oven and stove combo for $330

Do you all have any other recommendations or experience with any of these? 

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Screenshot from 2022-05-31 15-01-25

Chickens for preppers: Important considerations

I wanted to put out a guide for preppers who are interested in keeping chickens or other poultry for long term food security reasons. This is a discussion of important concepts for improving self sufficiency in flock management, not a guide for basic animal care. Please add your thoughts/comments/additions!

1. Select the right breeds and flock mix
For preppers, I recommend going with a mixed flock of hardy, dual purpose breeds that are bred for egg production levels of about 200+ eggs/yr. These birds are big enough to make a good soup/stew bird when their laying days wind down and produce higher amounts of larger eggs than fancy and bantam breeds. You want a bird that can forage well, and safely manage all season conditions without heaters or other special care requirements. Popular breeds in the dual purpose category include barred rocks, Rhode Island reds, New Hampshires, orpingtons and australorps, among others. Hybrid production/efficiency birds like ISA browns/red stars can be added to amp up egg production. I also recommend keeping a couple hens of dual purpose breeds that tend to go broody, like brahmas, in the event you want/need to produce chicks without the aid of electric incubators and brooders.

2. Size your flock for your anticipated long term needs
Egg production varies by breed, age of hen, the animal’s health, and environmental/seasonal conditions. Birds under 2 produce more eggs than older hens past their prime, and the dark days of winter can dramatically reduce egg production on a cyclical basis. Even very high temperatures in summer can throw a bird’s laying schedule out of whack. This means that a very small flock of only 3-4 birds is unlikely to produce enough eggs for a family over time, even if they produce enough when they are at their peak. So if you want 3-4 eggs a day from your birds, you will probably need about 6 hens to consistently achieve that.

3. Buy vaccinated chicks from reputable hatcheries/breeders
Many backyard keepers buy, sell, and trade the chicks they produce at costs that are much lower than big hatcheries. The trouble is that most small keepers and breeders dont manage their lineages for health and performance (they just breed whatever rooster they have to whatever hens they have) and more importantly, they ususally don’t vaccinate their chicks for Mareks (https://www.merckvetmanual.com/poultry/neoplasms/marek-disease-in-poultry). Every year, I see backyard keepers on chicken forums looking for help with sick and dying birds infected with Mareks. Many times they lose multiple birds, and the surviving birds become permanent carriers (which means they will infect any unvaxxed new birds the keepers try to get to replace the dead ones). In my opinion, for preppers, it is especially important to maintain a vaxxed flock if at all possible because you don’t want to be losing your birds in a time of food/chick shortages. A 100% vaxxed flock also means that if you want or need to breed your own birds without access to the vaccine, those new birds will be safe. You also don’t want to be contributing to the spread of Mareks in backyard flocks in your region if you sell your birds to others, as that can destabilize the local food supply when you need it most.

4. Use a multi-flock/purpose 20% protein feed in anticipation of changing flock needs
There are a number of different bird feeds out there – chick, grower/raiser, maintenance, layer, etc – and it can be hard to know which one is best. I recommend going with a 20% protein all-flock grower/raiser as your standard feed for your birds once they are off chick crumble for two reasons. First, a 20% feed can be used at all stages of life and for a wide variety of birds – meat, layer, males and females, winter, birds in molt, birds without access to forage, turkeys, ducks, etc. Conversely, layer-specific or general adult maintenance pellets don’t have enough protein for the rapid growth required of young and meat birds, have too much calcium for male birds, and often don’t have enough niacin for waterfowl. This means that if you have your hens on layer pellets and then you get a rooster, now you need to switch feeds. Or if you get ducks, or turkeys, or broilers. You get the idea. Second, as preppers, you should be storing extra feed. If you don’t know how your flock might change over time, you want to make sure whatever feed you have stockpiled will work for everyone in the future, or else you could end up with hundreds of pounds of food that is poorly suited to your animals.

5. Plan on rotating in new layers to keep production consistent
Due to the natural decline in egg production over a hen’s lifetime, your flock’s production will dramatically decrease after a few years if you don’t keep resupplying it with younger hens. Many keepers follow the 1/3 rule: replace/add 1/3 of your flock size every two years to keep egg production high. So if you have 6 hens in 2020, that means you should plan to add 2 new birds by 2022. Older hens do continue to lay, just at a reduced rate, so if you don’t plan on culling older birds to make way for the new additions, be sure to make your coop big enough for a larger flock than you start with.

6. Have a multi-faceted backup feeding plan in the event of feed shortages
The obvious first line of defense for feed shortages is storing enough feed for your animals to get them through at least a couple of months without needing to resupply. Long term situations though, like a complete collapse in the supply chain, will require mutliple other backup food sources in case you can’t resupply when you run low. Fostering a healthy pasture environment for your animals to range is one important strategy. This means preferably offering your animals something more than the typical lawn, and adopting grass/property management strategies that maximize seed production and insect populations (basically the exact opposite of what most suburban lawn care seeks to do). But even with a good pasture available, poultry need supplemental feeds. You can make your own scratch feed by grinding/crushing a mix of dry corn and grains from your own food stores, and you can crush/powder cooked animal bones, eggshells, and crustacean shells for calcium supplementation. Kitchen scraps can help round out the diet. A mix of pasture, kitchen scraps, homemade scratch feed, and carefully rationed amounts of dwindling commercial feed is hardly ideal, but it should hopefully allow you to keep your birds alive longer in a true crisis scenario than if you don’t take advantage of all these methods.

7. Have a backup bird resupply plan in the event of chick shortages/shipping issues
When the pandemic hit, there was a run on chicks and hatcheries were overrun with a surge of orders (https://blog.cacklehatchery.com/the-pandemic-triggers-a-run-on-chickens/). But eggs hatch on their own time frame regardless of how many humans want birds and why. So the orders got backed up, important production breeds sold out, and many people had to wait far longer than usual to get the animals they did manage to order. Issues struck again just recently when problems with the USPS resulted in serious shipping delays, causing thousands of chicks to die enroute to their destinations (https://www.politico.com/news/2020/08/20/farmers-chicks-arrive-dead-usps-399372). USPS is the only shipper of live birds in the US. If they can’t get the chicks to farmers and keepers, then only people/businesses local to the hatcheries can get birds from them (and there aren’t many hatcheries). These problems highlight the importance of having a backup plan to restock your birds as needed. Keeping a rooster in a laying flock can be a major PITA but it has the major advantage of allowing you to make your own chickens without relying on the agricultural supply chain. If you live in an area where you can’t have a rooster, or if you really don’t want to deal with their general ridiculousness, you can still plan on hatching your own eggs by connecting with other local keepers who are willing to sell/trade fertilized hatching eggs or chicks to you (the pro of hatching eggs vs chicks is that they are cheaper and you don’t have to worry about disease introduction, the con is that hatch rates can be dodgy).

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Alexapure

Does Alexapure filter out PFAS? 

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Plants with Saponins

I’m now getting into the gardening stage of being a prepper, and started to learn about different plants that contain saponins. Saponins are a mild soap that help remove dirt, although they aren’t reported to be effective against oils. 

This summer I’m going to grow:

Yucca Glauca: root is best for soap, but videos indicate that the inner parts of leaves can also be used, but you have to scrape away the outside layer of the leaf first.

Soapwort/Soapweed/Saponaria officinalis Alba Plena: both leaves and roots can be used, but it’s best to make “tea” with them first. This plant is reportedly invasive via seeds and roots, so I’m going to keep them in containers and try to deadhead them before they spread seeds.

Mock Orange/Philadelphus x virginalis: leaves and flowers should be possible to use as soap without any preparation step. I actually didn’t know it contained saponins when I bought it.

In addition, I’m also growing several Luffa plants and hope to have a number of Luffas to use for scrubbing dishes and in the shower.

I also read that horse chestnuts contain saponins that can be used as shampoo, so I’ll plan to forage for some next fall, but don’t have space in my garden for a chestnut tree. Do any of you have experience growing and using plants as soap? 

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News for the week of 2024-04-08

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News for the week of 2024-04-01

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News for the week of 2024-03-25

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Ideal distance to bugout location? (For the sake of discussion.)

I assume most of you are in the same position we are, of using a friend/relative’s house or recreational land you already own, but just for the sake of discussion:

All else being equal, how many miles from home would you like a bugout location to be? 

What is too close to even consider (too likely to be impacted by the same emergency) and what is too far to even consider (too difficult/dangerous to attempt to reach as things deteriorate?)

I think the sweet spot would probably be in the 40 to 100 mile range – an easy drive by car, and a long but not unreasonable hike were one to end up on foot. (Unfortunately not our reality, as we no longer have a location available in that range, but what I consider ideal.)

I think anything under 5 miles is too close to really count as bugging out, since even something very localized like a chemical spill or a riot could easily effect both. 

I would also discount anything so far away that getting there would require boarding a commercial flight, or spending multiple days on the road in a vehicle.  In my opinion if the transportation system is still functioning smoothly enough for that, it’s probably not time to bug out.  

Of course, there are other variables according to topography, types of disasters likely to strike an area, and geopolitical lines.  100 miles might not be enough to escape a hurricane in a flat landscape, and 1/4 mile might be all it takes to get out of reach of a flooding river in a hilly one.  Dispite the overall impracticallity of bugging out by plane, it may be the only way to reach a distant and uninvolved country if your region were ever overun by war.  

What are other people’s thoughts on this?

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Can 5 gallon buckets be stacked?

Can you stack 5 gallon buckets (food grade with gamma lids) on top of each other? So buckets are heavier (rice) and some are lighter (freeze dried fruits). 

If not, any suggestions on how to store multiple buckets so that they don’t take up a ton of space? 

Thanks!!

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Packing 5 gallon buckets

Does anyone have any tips on how to be able to get more Mylar bags in a 5-gallon bucket? I’ve freeze dried some food and put them in Mylar bags (5-7 mils thick per side). I haven’t been able to get that many individual bags into each bucket. I didn’t know if there are any tips out there! I didn’t want to end up with tons and tons of buckets. 

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Looking for Long Term Food Storage Ideas

I love this site — thank you to everyone who makes this such a great place. I am wondering if anyone has any specific suggestions for long term food storage that supplements rice and pasta. My pantry is as deep as it can be if I follow the maxim of storing what we eat and eating what we store. BUT . . .  my ratios are off for any slightly longer term emergency. I keep more rice and pasta in storage than food I could put on it. I can’t store a bunch of canned chili or tomatoes without waste. Perhaps powdered tomatoes? Powdered cheese? Has anyone used these? What else? I’d love to hear about anything you all keep that is both shelf stable and long term to go with rice and pasta for flavor/nutrition. (Yes, I have lots of herbs and spices already — I am looking for more substantive additions.) I’d appreciate any new ideas!

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News for the week of 2024-03-18

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News for the week of 2024-03-11

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Invisible First Aid – How to help your family, yourself and others traumatized by crime or violence experienced during a disaster

When we talk about prepping and first aid, we talk about the various items we will put into our first aid kits.

We talk about the length of the crisis and recovery period and what might be needed for first aid supplies.

We also talk about op-sec and the potential for violence and crime during a disaster.

I would like to merge the two concepts and discuss how to best assist persons who are traumatized during a disaster due to crime, assault and other disaster related trauma.

A disaster will bring out the best and the worst in other people. It will also bring out predators, sometimes from where you least expect them. 

I cannot stress the last point enough. During a crisis of any kind, an opportunistic predator will strike. Many predators are known in some way to their victims or their victim’s families. 

My policy after surviving multiple attacks is simple. Regardless of the relationship, I never fully trust anyone. If one maintains a certain reserve of trust, then you can remain objective and spot a predator faster.   

The following event is a good example of a predator known to the victim with no prior indication of this behavior. It is also an example of how a badly traumatized person can interact with you, and you won’t know the difference.

I was assaulted by my best friend’s husband after my apartment was broken into after 1:00 a.m. She told me to come and sleep on their sofa that night because I was badly traumatized and needed to have my apartment windows better secured the next day. 

Despite being able to stop him, I was further traumatized. My condition was not detected by my best friend nor my co-workers when I went to work that day. I was on auto-pilot and no one detected it. 

In a larger scale disaster, there are many possibilities for crime and victimization, all of which carry different motives and the potential for different levels of violence.   

Not all people who survive crime, assault or other violence in a disaster are going to be openly in distress.

With all the related stressors that must be addressed during a disaster, it can be easy to misread or misunderstand a victim’s behavior.

We are not doctors or nurses, yet we prepare first aid kits and seek to understand how to help or treat someone in a disaster.

We are not psychologists or therapists, yet we can also seek to understand how to help someone who needs invisible first aid. We can learn and practice this now, before a disaster.

When someone survives violence, they feel vulnerable to everything. There is no peace. There is no sense of safety anywhere, even in sleep.

It is like something sacred has been violated and a basic trust of the world is forever gone. It is an innocence that can never be regained.

Survivors of violence and crime in a disaster must continue during the disaster, after the trauma, which further complicates their healing. 

Their trauma, if undetected, can also compromise the op-sec of the family unit. Reactions, can happen and may happen at an inopportune time.

I went searching for information that wasn’t there for much of what I survived. I am very glad it is there now.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime has written and assembled a very well done list of resources.

From their website, I have selected three links specific to trauma response for victims, for first responders and vicarious trauma.

Please read through the information for how to support trauma victims. The content is so well organized for a variety of victim specific assistance. I plan to write to them for a hard copy of their manual to put into my first aid kit.

Here are the links:

Trauma response for victims

Trauma response for first responder victims

Vicarious trauma

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Some things to consider when building fallout shelters

I’ve long had an interest in the construction of nuclear blast and fallout shelters. Most preppers will be familiar with Cresson Kearny’s guidebook, “Nuclear War Survival Skills” (NWSS), which is available as a free pdf here (save a copy!). Anyone interested in the construction of a fallout or blast-resistant shelter should start by reading this guide, which is excellent.

I have some reservations about strict adoption of NWWS to mitigate contemporary nuclear threats. Kearny’s book was largely a response to underfunded civil defence. He operated on the premise that prior to a Russian first strike there would be a significant exodus of civilians from Russian cities. Having detected this migration via satellites, the US civilian population would have 3 days to migrate to rural areas and construct fallout shelters. There are many open questions regarding this strategy. Some thoughts on how contemporary shelters could be modified:

Today, threats are more likely to be sustained at low probabilities for extremely long time periods. Consequently, shelters don’t have to be constructed hastily but should be highly durable. There are several historic examples of accidents nearly resulting in a nuclear disaster. Obviously these scenarios wouldn’t have provided sufficient time for people to construct a shelter. Independent of their durability, the materials and techniques used in NWSS were quite crude – i.e. tools and materials that could be taken from most suburban homes. In addition, we’ve had ~35 years of building science and product advancement since the last version of the book was published. Scientists seem to be converging on the idea that a 5-10 year nuclear winter will be likely after a full-scale exchange, and perhaps even after a smaller exchange such as the sort that would occur between Pakistan and India. This would result in the near total collapse of the industrial agricultural system. Launching a full-scale reboot of technological civilization is outside the scope of this post. However, it might be worth considering the integration of protected food storage, tools, and technology. Although Kearny did provide details for high capacity shelters, I’m of the opinion that in many areas the default shelter size should have at least moderately high capacity. If you’re going to the trouble of constructing a shelter, the marginal cost of adding some neighbors is low. And this isn’t strictly a bleeding heart perspective. Just think of how smug you’ll be in the middle of armageddon, surrounded by people who dismissed you as a survivalist crank! How many times can you pointedly glance at someone and say “good thing I built this, right?” in 3-14 days?

We should divide shelters into 2 major types, those that are within an existing building – usually the basement of a home – and those that are separate. How should you decide between the two? Kearny believed that freestanding shelters were significantly more robust, mainly due to fire risk. On the other hand, basement shelters are considerably less expensive to construct. In addition, it’s somewhat of an open question whether basement shelters could add reasonable fire protection – or even shockwave protection – given contemporary materials, back-up power systems, filtration, ventilation, and airtightness levels. Overall, my sense is that people would ideally have some idea of the threat of fire risk, and gravitate towards basement shelters in the majority of cases where the fire risk isn’t extraordinary, due to the cost savings. I’ll try to cover both types, but will start with the basement.

I’m going to start with a basement shelter that modularly moves through a descending order of priorities. The basement would ideally have a clearance to the bottom of the first floor joists of 7’6″ (or more), which should provide an interior headroom clearance of ~6’. I’ll add an asterix where where I have a lot of uncertainty.

Overhead ceiling mass; Wall mass; Water (possibly integrated into ceiling/walls massing); Food (possibly integrated into ceiling/walls for massing); Fire protection; Ventilation; Air quality and radiation monitoring*; Sleeping; Hygiene; Entertainment and activities; Shockwave protection *.

The driving principle to reduce gamma radiation exposure is to place a high mass between you and the source. We have to assume that gamma-laden fallout dust will be distributed everywhere outdoors, so this means placing mass between you and all lines of sight to outside (gamma doesn’t tend to bounce around corners). In fallout literature, people often refer to a material’s “halving thickness” which is the thickness required to reduce gamma radiation by 50%. Concrete’s halving thickness is 2.4”. In the case of a basement shelter, a realistic target is to place 12″ of concrete overhead, which is 5 halving thicknesses. In conjunction with other materials in the joists directly overhead, or other layers of the building, we could likely achieve 6 halving thicknesses, equivalent to roughly a 98.5% reduction in gamma penetration (2).

Here are some instructions for building a shelter with an interior of roughly 7′ wide & whatever length you specify (although working in modules of 4′-8′ is sensible). The frame consists of a supported ledger and a parallel stud wall. These support joists that support ceiling joists that support a ceiling mass (ideally concrete). I have a spreadsheet cutsheet in the works but it’s not ready for primetime.

Select an ideally windowless corner of a basement with minimal overhead obstacles. The selected corner should also be as far below ground as possible. Wiring is OK if stapled to the joists, but avoid significant plumbing (esp waste) or duct-work if possible. Ideally the width of the shelter (short axis) would run parallel to the overhead ceiling joists. Measure the height from the floor to the bottom of the existing basement ceiling joists. Deduct 20″ from this. This is the stud length for support wall. Cut one stud for every 16″ of length + one for the end. Cut 5 pc 2×4 at the specified length of your shelter. These are your ceiling ledger, 2 ceiling rim joists, wall bottom plate, and wall top plate. Mark a level line on the long side of the wall at a height above the floor of (stud length + 6.5″). This is the top of the ceiling ledger. Back the ledger with ice and water shield or sill gasket and attach it to the wall using construction adhesive and masonry anchors. Individually measure and cut studs for placing beneath the ledger 16″ on center. Attach ice and water shield or sill gasket to the flat side of the studs and attach them to the wall in their measured locations using masonry anchors. Frame the wall by connecting the wall plate to studs placed vertically every 16″. Set the wall well back from the work area. Attach ice and water shield or sill gasket to the bottom plate of the wall. Cut the ceiling joists to the specified width Deduct 4 1/2″ from the overall width of the shelter. This is your ceiling joist length. Cut the same number of ceiling joists as wall studs. Frame the ceiling by attaching the ceiling rim joists to the ceiling joists placed horizontally every 16″. Install 1/2″ sheathing over the ceiling using glue and construction adhesive. The sheathing should be flush on 3 sides, but project over one rim joist by 1 1/4″. This projection will be attached the ledger. Apply either asphalt impregnated 15# felt or ice and water shield over the sheathing. This will serve as a capillary break between the concrete and the plywood to prevent rot. Optional: Drill 1 1/8″” holes 12″ on center ~6 1/2″ above the ledger. Epoxy 1″ dia rebar exactly equal to the length and width of the shelter long into each hole, with 2″-4″ embedment in the wall (this will leave the rebar 2″-4″ short of the penetrating the outside edge of the concrete). Connect each point in the rebar grid using a tie wire loop. Run a bead of construction adhesive along the top of the ledger. Measure from the base of the ledger wall (overall width minus 10″) and mark a line the length of the shelter. This part will suck and will require several pairs of hands. Place the ceiling assembly over the top of the ledger and connect several screws through the plywood into the ledger. Quickly place the support wall under the ceiling assembly on the opposite side. Align the outside edge of the wall with the line you struck in 13. Fasten the wall to the floor slab using masonry anchors. Plumb the wall at the two outside studs and fasten the plate at these two locations to the ceiling joists above. Straighten the wall in between these points by sighting the wall along the top. Fasten the top plate 2x at every joist. The ideal overhead mass is 12″ of concrete, but you can use other heavy objects if you prefer. For concrete, prepare plywood edge forms roughly 16″ wide to be attached to the perimeter joists. Don’t install these yet. This part will also suck. Mix concrete and shovel it into the deck. As you approach the nearest edge of the form, install the plywood edge forms so the concrete doesn’t spill out. Once the concrete has set, you can apply more heavy things into the overhead joist cavity to provide even more protection.

This should complete a reasonably well protected overhead mass. If folks are interested I’ll try to work on the wall section. Hope you enjoyed this!

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What three firearms would you have for prepping?

If you could only have three firearms and cared about preparedness, what would you have? Don’t want to start a “the one true caliber” debate (let’s not open that can of worms just yet!), so this is more about platforms/types that work together well if things really get bad in the world.

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Fuel Stabilizer Results

Just a data point to share about fuel stabilizer, in case anyone is wondering about how long it lasts:

I buy the PRI brand gasoline stabilizer, and use it to treat 5 gallon containers of ethanol-free gas. I just put gas in my car that was treated with stabilizer four years ago, and the car is running fine on it.

Also, regarding this article about capless fuel tanks on cars/trucks, I use what I call a “copper rattle” siphon – I don’t know what they’re really called (safety siphon?) – which works perfectly for transferring gas from the 5 gallon container into the car. It coils up and stores in a much smaller space than a funnel, and it works with both capped and capless fuel tanks.

-WS

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Recap from the 2024 SHOT Show

This is a casual overview of what I noticed/liked a few weeks ago at SHOT Show. If you’re not familiar, SHOT is the biggest annual trade show (2,500 exhibitors, 1M square feet) for the firearm industry, with secondary focuses on military/LE, survival, hunting, camping, etc.

Summary:

There aren’t big or important things to point out, and I didn’t see anything I think is a must-buy. The industry has been in a cycle the last few years where it’s less about big (r)evolutions and more about iterations. Some other experts/influencers complained it was a weak show year. The few trends I did notice and like are the attention on thermal optics, finally moving to USB-C as standard for electronics, better threat labeling on body armor, lots of drones, and a focus on respirators. For example, the makers of my personal BOB headlamp, Armytek, are finally moving to USB-C charging (instead of their proprietary magnetic cable) later this year. The marketing pitches for most new products were centered around customization/personalization, comfort, using different materials and manufacturing methods (eg. 3D printing and self-healing waterproof zippers), and filling in the niche use-cap gaps with lots of permutations. Retro/throwback gun designs, lever actions, old M4-style carry handles, and ‘modular’ platforms meant for swapping to different calibers were the main trends. None of which I like or think are appropriate for preppers. I got to shoot the new 8.6 Blackout caliber via the new Q Boombox. The 8.6 round is a spiritual successor/compliment to the 300 Blackout round, and the Boombox is the successor to the Honey Badger. I really liked both and will probably lean into them as a core part of my firearm mix — but broad adoption of the 8.6 might take a few years. The industry still has a problem with focusing on proprietary parts and manufacturer lock-in. And the industry still sucks at communicating with and selling to the general public. 

Empty “New Product Center” shelves, showing how there wasn’t a lot of distinctly-new stuff.

Geopolitics are noticeable. Putting this up front since it’s of broad “what’s going on in the world” interest. I couldn’t help but notice an increase in attendees from NATO and similar countries that have a renewed interest in national defense — countries like Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Taiwan, and Vietnam that have good reason to fear Winnie the Pooh and his pink-faced sidekick Piglet. Turkey had a lot (dozens?) of manufacturers present, trying to sell cheaper but still Western-acceptable knockoffs. The Chinese manufacturers are still there promoting their IP-theft knockoffs, but it was less than previous years.

Thermal optics (and ways to stay hidden from thermal optics) are getting the attention they deserve. One of the big lessons from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for example, is just how much thermal makes a difference in the field. Which also matters to you in a home defense or hunting situation. The tech has always been prohibitively expensive in the past (eg. I got to play with a $85,000 military unit) but we’re hitting the “J curve” in the tech and prices are starting to become reasonable for civilians without sacrificing usefulness. We’ll probably soon be at the point where traditional “night vision” is no longer worth it. Very excited to watch this space over the next years. Holosun and Pulsar are examples of brands to watch here. 

For example, I got to use a ~$3,000 Thales prototype (first two pictures below) that mostly functions like a typical EOTech-style rifle optic while it real-time overlays a silhouette around warm targets. So you can easily spot a person hiding in your woods, or a predator you’re trying to keep away from your livestock, etc. 

Note the faint yellow box in the middle 50% of the view, outlining warm targets inside, while the guys around the periphery aren’t highlighted. 

Example of a typical military thermal, placed in front of a normal rifle scope.

Saw a growing number of these products that attach to an NVG monocular, projecting thermal/other info over top (the little nub protruding from the bottom unit over the big glass of the monocular). Seems very impractical and heavy, though.

Respiratory protection is a logical market focus in the post-Covid years. Especially among the military and law enforcement brands, there were many new products and marketing pitches about making respirators easier to use — such as focusing on reducing weight and neck fatigue, making it easier to get a cheek weld on a rifle while wearing a mask, more powered (PAPR) units that move the filter canisters to your body (connected to mask via hose), etc. 

Got to spend time with our friends at MIRA Safety, who were promoting their new CM-8M full face respirator and smaller options for kids and dogs, along with an optional powered PAPR unit that mounts to your pack/plate carrier. The 8M looked good enough (especially for the $325 price) that I plan on buying one, including the PAPR (another $400), and could see it becoming the main full-face respirator in our personal kits.

3M promoted their new one-finger Secure Click feature on half- and full-face respirators, which makes it easier and more sanitary to verify you have an airtight seal against your face. Traditionally, to conduct a seal check you have to use both hands to block the canisters/cartridges that bring air in. 

Body armor is maturing nicely, with better threat labeling and a recent focus on ballistic helmets and even ballistic eye protection. One of the things I really harped on when writing the web’s first ‘consumer friendly’ guides on body armor was the lack of marketing transparency about what specific ammo would be defeated — partly because the government standards (eg. Level 3, Level 4) are very outdated and didn’t match the reality of the technology progress. Things are getting better in this regard, and I noticed many more manufacturers printing the specific calibers on the back side of the plate. So you can quickly know if a piece of armor could stop the common “armor penetrating” rounds like M855A1, for example. But the government needs to update their standards so that commercial marketing wankers stop using cutesy meaningless labels like “Level Super 3+X” or “Level 3+++ STR”. 

The market for helmets (whether ‘armored’ or just bump helmets / mounting platforms) is maturing, with lots of needed advancements in accessories, comfort, ability to run power cables in a way that’s secure but easy to undo, etc. 3M promoted a new design that makes it much easier/quicker to change your ear headset/comms between helmet mounted and strap mounted — a no-brainer design that should’ve existed years ago. 

I’ve never recommended armored “ballistic” helmets (typically Level 3A) in the past because they were too heavy, costly, niche, etc. to be worthwhile for civilians. But as materials sciences and manufacturing improve, it seems like we’re starting to cross the line into worthwhile as I noticed more companies prototyping in this space. Example from Team Wendy:

Modularity continues to be a trend, and I continue to dislike it. It sounds great in theory: you buy “one gun” (the serialized part regulated by the government) and swap out different parts so that one gun can fire 9mm, 5.56, 7.62, 300 BLK, and so on. There’s a lot to like about that idea from a prepping perspective. But I’ve yet to see it done well enough that it’s worth it in almost any product category (not just guns) — you end up with something that’s sorta fine at lots of things but not better than a standalone product for a specific thing. And they tend to break more often, have proprietary parts, etc. It’s the same reason why we dislike other survival tools that try to do too much, like a “32-in-1” axe that also has a compass, knife, bottle opener, allen wrench, toothpick, etc.

A good example at this year’s show is from Primary Weapons Systems — a company I’ve liked for a long time, and I own multiple of their piston rifles for >10 years. Their big launch this year is the modular UXR rifle. But I got to shoot it… and it did not change my mind on this issue. 

The new 8.6 Blackout round is promising, and I’ll probably buy the new Q Boombox + Porq Chop suppressor in 8.6. I’m generally a Q fan and already have their predecessor to the Boombox, the Honey Badger in 300 BLK + Trash Panda can. You can read more about the 8.6 round, but it’s a bigger/heavier bullet than the 300 with more effective range — sub-MOA at 300 meters, even when subsonic. 

The round is still very new and expensive at >$3 a round! But it’s the early days, and I suspect the merits of the round’s performance + that it fills a use-case gap in the market + the tie-in with sexy hardware like the Boombox will make it a viable option for primary use in the future (rather than just a toy for gun nerds). 

We got to fire the Boombox + Porq Chop in 8.6 and everyone in our group was honestly surprised by how much we liked it. One of the design changes from the Honey Badger is easier disassembly/reassembly — a much, much needed change, since the HB bolt can be tough to get back in place. The extra power compared to a 300 BLK is noticeable, but while still being a very light setup that doesn’t recoil much. The Boombox is not yet on market, but should be in a few months. 

Review from TFB: 

There’s finally a “turn a pistol into a PCC” chassis that I want to buy: the Flux Raider for Sig 365. This was broadly considered one of the more exciting new products at SHOT (eg. James Reeves picked it as the #1 PCC). With the stock folded, you can carry it in a waistband-concealable holster. And when you draw it from the holster, the stock auto opens for your shoulder / third point of contact. The mag release also releases the spare second mag (which acts as a vertical foregrip until needed) at the same time. 

It’s not on the market yet, but will be within months. It honestly might become the primary weapon in my wife’s BOB, since it’s small and lightweight but still offers improved performance over just a pistol.

Deeper review from TFB:

3D printed suppressors are now a thing, more all-titanium options, and a focus on reducing gas blowback. I shot my first 3D printed suppressor and it was surprisingly nice. The pictured can was manufactured by PTR, and you can see a closeup of the material in the pictured logo below. While not 3D printed, SilencerCo released the titanium Spectre 9 that handles 9mm + 300 BLK in both super and sub — I might pick this up for my personal stash.

Many suppressor companies are talking about “vent through” designs that reduce blowback into the shooter’s face by deflecting gas forward and/or holding the gas in place for longer so it can dissipate — a much needed improvement in this market. No more tears! 

Misc

Magpul released a translucent magazine (TMAG) — a product category that isn’t neccesarily new, but Magpul is known for better quality and testing, which matters in this case because the transparent-type mags are inherently weaker than their opaque versions. I also liked Omega’s magazines and the MagRipper speed loader.

Work Sharp, makers of some of our favorite blade sharpeners, released a new rolling knife sharpener. I didn’t get to use it enough to endorse it, but it’s intriguing and I definitely want to play with it.

I noticed manufacturers are paying more attention to better designs/options in medical packs, where they’re making it easier to see and label different pouches. I liked the pictured kit that had velcro across the grab handles for these clear, swappable labels:

Saw some focus on comfort improvements, whether in clothing, pack/load carrying, etc. Pictured is a pad worn between your chest and body armor plate that adds cushioning and airflow / sweat reduction:

I noticed more firearm manufacturers playing with bullpup designs. Although many of them still seem to have the issue where spent shells/casings are ejected downward onto your exposed inner wrist (which is the #1 reason I sold my Kel-Tec KSG bullpup shotgun).

Not sure why, but there was a noticeable increase in 40mm grenade launchers. 

I did not notice much new in the Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC) market. Seems like we’re in the maturation phase of this cycle, with higher-end groups like Daniel Defense starting to offer their own models, which are nice but not really revolutionary. 

Variable optics, which you normally have to adjust/rotate by hand (which interrupts your firing, sight, etc.), now have a push-button powered option with the Scopeswitch from Antimatter Industries:

Darn Tough told me they have no plans to remove or reduce their legendary warranty even though they’ve started ramping up the “lifestyle” lines of socks meant for more casual use — which have thinner fabric than the more rugged traditional models and thus are more likely to wear out.

Watertight, self-healing zippers are being adopted by more designers. Yay. I hope the long-term durability tests turn out well and this becomes a new norm.

Small drones are a logical market focus given how effective they’ve been in the Ukrainian war. Nothing special to mention for our context, but I’d expect to see new advancements trickle down into the consumer market in the coming years.

And although not at all relevant for us normal folks, this $500,000 fully armored skid steer + breaching platform that attaches to the skid steer boom arm was really awesome. Imagine the police rolling up to a barricaded house with this bad boy:

Good SHOT recap videos from others, if you want to see more:

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New product center

News for the week of 2024-02-26

Make a top-level comment for a new story/topic. Discussions about the topic should be in the replies to the top-level comment. That way things stay organized and every main comment as you scroll down is a different piece of news.

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Vehicle Emergency Kit

Here’s my vehicle emergency kit. It’s packed in 2 Plano Medium Storage Trunks. I also have an emergency bag in case I need to grab and go.

Air Pump Antifreeze/coolant Bag, Cloth Bag, Plastic Bandana Battery Jumper Bottle, Metal Bungie Cord Cable ties, 24” Can Opener Candle Cash Chafing Fuel Contractor bag Fire Extinguisher Fix-A-Flat Flares Flashlight Food-Payday bars Food-Emergency Bars Garbage bags Glasses, Reading Gloves, Nitrile Gloves, Work Googles Hand Cleaner Hand Sanitizer Jumper Cables Lantern Maps, Paper Oil Paper, Pad Pen Poncho Power cable, iPhone Pry Bar Resqme glass/seatbelt Rope Shovel (military) Tape, Duct Tape, Emergency Tarp-8×10 Tire Pressure Gauge Tire Repair Kit Tissues Tissues, compressed Tool-Pliers Tool-Screwdriver 4-way Tooll-Vise Grips Tow strap Towel Wet wipes Zip Ties: 24”

Backpack

Bandana Batteries, AA Blanket, Mylar Blanket, Survival Cable, charging (multi)Cable ties, 11” Can Opener Chem Lights Contractor bag First Aid Kit First Aid Kit First Aid Kit-Trauma Kit Flashlight Food (Payday bars) Garbage bag Glasses, Reading Gloves, Nitrile Gloves, Work Goggles Hand Sanitizer Hand Wipes Headlamp Jacket, Reflective Knife, Fixed Blade Lighter, Butane Multitool Pepper Spray Playing Cards Tarp-5×7 Tissues Tissues, Compressed Warmers, Hand Warmers, Toe Water Filter Zip Ties, 11” Read More
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