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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fire Safety!

Well, it's that time of year. People are going out practicing for the zombie apocalypse... AKA Camping. We are also out cleaning up after winter and getting rid of all the fallen limbs and trees. It is also that time of year when we set our neighbor's woods on fire with our errant embers. So today I want to take a bit of time and cover fire safety.

First off, let's talk about campfires. We all know how to do that safely right? And with the coming of the nicer weather of summer, we all want to get out and put our "man skills" to the test! One thing, if you are in an area with dry, hazardous conditions, don't do it! You can make it one weekend without a campfire. I mean, do YOU really want to be the guy that caused the fire that burns 17 homes and killed an elderly couple? Thought not. Below are some other reminder points

One of the easiest way to prevent a forest fire caused by your campfire is proper site selection. In this regard remember to keep at least 15 feet between your fire to your tent or camper. Also be aware of lower overhead branches that might catch fire and avoid steep hillsides and hilltops. If it is possible select a site that is on the upwind side of a creek. Lastly, use the existing fire rings if they are there.

If there aren't any fire rings in place, you will need to create a fire pit. You need to select a site that is out of open, windy conditions, and where the wind blows laterally to your tent or camper. Now clear a ten foot circle of anything that will burn such as twigs, loose grass, and trash. In the center dig a flat bottomed hole about three to four feet in diameter and a foot or so deep. Use the dirt to berm up the edges and line the berm with rocks if you have them. Keep your shovel handy, but out of the way, and keep a five gallon bucket of water handy. These are your firefighter tools for when the emergency happens! Lastly, if you use a wooden fire poker, dip it before and after you use it in your water to prevent the possibility of unnoticed embers on the end.

Now you're all set! Just remember to use well seasoned hardwoods and to avoid "poppy" woods such as pine that will blow large coals well clear of your fire ring! Might I also suggest the "Upside down fire" technique for a long lasting and easy fire? Yes, I might. <--- click here. (it is also available on our YouTube channel)

Okay, now your fire is going. I know everyone loves to build a huge, raging bonfire of a campfire, but we gotta knock that off. That is a wildfire in the making! Keep it just large enough to keep you warm and to roast the marshmallows! Manageable... that's the word we are looking for.

A brief word here on wildfires.  Think it can't happen to you because you don't live in a desert or on the side of a mountain?  I kind of thought the same way until last year.  In May of 2012, we had one of the largest wildfires of the year for the NATION!  It happened about an hour's drive from my home and we had smoke so thick on some days that you could only see a quarter mile nearly 60 miles from the fire.  This is in Michigan.  Not Colorado, or Montana.  Not SoCal. Michigan.  In the end it burned over 22 thousand acres and 115 structures, many of which were homes.  It CAN happen to you.  (More here: Duck Lake Fire)

Okay, back on topic.  Now you have a campfire, only thing left is extinguishing it.  The tried and true method of peeing on it and then tossing dirt over it is the way to go... if you want a campfire in an hour or two when the wind picks up. Here's my fool proof safe method. Make the wood in the firepit float. Drown it. How do you know it is safe to leave you ask? Stick your hand into the heart of the coals. Scared to do it? Then you didn't use enough water. Start over... creek is over there. --->

The next fire I want to discuss is a debris fire. First things first, call the fire department and see if there are fire restrictions in your area and to ask if you need to obtain a burn permit. Nothing better than a worried neighbor calling 911 because she thinks your barn is on fire and having the fire truck come roaring in, see everything is under control, and then ask to see your permit. Next thing you know, your fire you spent a hour trying to get lit is OUT and so wet it'll be a week before it'll burn again.

To safely burn debris, you first need to be careful where you pile it. Look up to see if there are power lines or phone lines overhead. Check for any limbs overhead. Unlike a campfire that can have higher up limbs over the fire, a debris fire can light anything overheard for up to 50 feet in the right conditions. Next you want to be 50 feet from any building, vehicle, or tree. Clear ten feet of area completely around the pile down to bare earth. You should have a garden hose on standby... and have the valve open at the faucet. Lastly, stay with your fire! If you have to leave, put it out just like a campfire.

Last things I want to cover are your equipment and your home. Be careful when using outdoor power equipment such as a chainsaw or a weed eater. These can start a fire if placed on top of dry grass of needles. When parking your car, be cognizant of what you are parking in. If you park on top of a pile of leaves or a bunch of grass, you can also start a fire. As far as your home is concerned, drown your charcoal from your grill before discarding them. Haul your trash away instead of burning if possible. If you must burn it, use a proper steel barrel with adequate ventilation holes (three equally spaced three by three holes, three inches from the bottom), and a fire screen on top of heavy gauge 1/4 or smaller hole.

As far as you home's lawn and your home itself is concerned, check out the what the guys at Firewise Communities has to say about it. They actually have a wealth of information over there that anyone can benefit from!

So to rehash :

- Clear away anything that CAN burn in all directions.

- Keep all fires small, and do not leave before you can put your hand into the heart of the coals.

- Be sure and drown fires with water, and add water until everything is wet.

- Do not simply cover a campfire with soil; it may simply smolder before coming back to life.

- Embers can re-ignite. Make sure they are out completely. Make them float!

- Consider composting or mulching yard debris and hauling away trash rather than burning it.

- Anytime you plan to build a fire, have water and a tool to put it out before you ignite it.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stopping Power

Having just read a pretty good article on stopping power for weapons, mostly involving pistols, I thought I'd share my view on stopping power.

My opinion is a bit different on this topic because I look at a couple of factors that are a bit different and outside the norms that most people subscribe to.  I feel that a single round is a great way to judge the stopping power of a firearm... if you only have one round.  With only one round there is no need to take anything else into consideration.  You don't need to have the ability to rapidly get back on target to achieve follow up shots.  There is no need to consider the controllability of the caliber in that particular firearm.  Any firearm is totally controllable for that first round.  I could shoulder fire and control an 81mm mortar for one round.  I'd be gathering bone fragments at the hospital when I regained consciousness in a few days, but it was controllable for that one round.

So what exactly do I look at in terms of stopping power?  First off, I guess I had better define MY definition for stopping power.  Stopping Power is:  The ability for YOU to stop the actions of another.  How easy is that?  Even a drinking straw has stopping power.  Stab someone in the eye with one and see if he stops.  Told you... stopping power.  Okay, all kidding aside, I am really talking about firearms and your ability to stop a threat with one.

The ten things I look for in determining stopping power are listed below and we will be talking about each of them, but first I just want to say that you and I will all mentally evaluate these things to one extent or another every time we are in a situation in which someone needs to have their actions stopped.  We may not consciously go down the list but we all do this... near instantly.  The ten are:
  • Objective of The Combination
  • Your Ability
  • The Average Encounter
  • His Ability
  • Total Energy of The Round
  • Bullet's Performance
  • Shot Placement
  • Penetration of Intended Target
  • Controllability of Combination
  • Total Round Capacity
  • Ease of Firearm Reloading
So let's walk through an average self defense type situation from the viewpoint of the inside of your head:
(Holy crap.  That dude is robbing the store with that knife.  Man that's a big dude, he's ripped.  He obviously knows what he's doing with that knife, look how he's handling it.  Oh shit... he's going to kill that clerk.  I gotta stop this NOW.  I can't do this barehanded... I gotta go to my pistol.  Man, that's a big dude.  I know I can get it done with this LCP but I gotta put 'em in the ten ring.   Sight alignment, sight picture.  Squeeze squeeze squeeze squeeze.  BANG!  Man, he dropped like a sack of taters.  That was a big dude.  Okay... break my tunnel vision, finger off the trigger, look around for other threats.  Good, nobody here... yet.  Reload in case his buddies come in... mag swap.  Get the new mag in my hand, used mag out, new mag in, retain the mag with the missing round.  Okay... somebody needs to call the cops... That dude over there is calling them.  I should tell him to tell them that I'm the good dude here and what I'm wearing... ) Verbally now-  STAY DOWN!  DON'T MOVE!  IF YOU MOVE I WILL SHOOT YOU AGAIN!!! (moves attention to the guy calling while maintaining observation of the bad guy) SIR!  Is that 911 on your phone?!  Tell them I shot the guy one time in the spine, he's down and needs medics.  He had a knife and was trying to kill the clerk.  I'm the guy wearing the yellow jacket and blue hat!  I will put my weapon away as they approach!  (moves attention back)  SIR! DO NOT FREAKIN MOVE!

Nope, no verbal warning.  That's how it'll happen.  All that in 2/10ths of a second.  Hyper slow motion.  Trust me, I promise you will have that entire conversation in your head in a situation like the one described.  But did you do your evaluation of the points I brought up earlier?  Let's see.

  • Objective of The Combination:  I want to stop the average threat with the least effort and the most effectiveness.  But because it's a tiny little thing I can and will comfortably carry it all summer.  Good thing I have it with me today!
  • Your Ability:  I am better than an average shooter and would feel competent to hit a paper plate at 15 feet under high levels of stress.  While I'm a rather good shooter, this is a itty bitty pistol.  I know I can make this shot from six feet I am sure of it!
  • The Average Encounter:  Less than 21 feet, usually closer.  Usually involving an average sized, more athletic than average, male between 16 and 35 years of age.  This dude is six feet away, 5 feet 9 inches, 195 pounds, stacked, a male, and about 25 years old.
  • His Ability:  Does he appear to be in control and does he look competent with whatever he is doing?  Does he appear to be in better shape than me?  Much better?  Stronger?  Faster?  Yeah, he knows what he's doing, look at that knife usage, and he is in much better shape than me... no hand to hand combat here.  Gun time!
  • Total Energy of The Round:  What round am I carrying?  Does it pack the punch needed to drop this dude, from this angle and distance?  What if I gotta have follow up shots?  Multiple follow ups?  It is a hot loaded, 95 grain Golddot .380, but I wish I had my 10mm with anything right now... but where would I have stowed a full size 10mm in a tee-shirt and a pair of shorts?  Good thing I do have my LCP.
  • Bullet's Performance:  Is this bullet going to penetrate that heavy leather jacket and still perform as intended to perform in naked flesh?  I guess we'll see.  I hope all my research into the .380 ammo I am carrying was right.
  • Shot Placement:  I need to hit this guy square in the spine if I can, but if I miss just a bit it is still in the ten ring of the center of the chest.  If he doesn't instantly drop like a sack of taters, I'll need to repeat the shot.  Slow steady squeeeeeeeze. 
  • Penetration of Intended Target:  It it misses his spine will it make it deep enough to take out his heart? What if it misses his spine but hits a rib?  Will it still make it to his heart?  My research says it will.
  • Controllability of Combination:  What if he doesn't instantly drop?  Can I quickly get back into that ten ring and accurately squeeze another round or two or three into him?  Yes, I can do that.  
  • Total Round Capacity:  Crap!  Only seven rounds here... wish I had my Glock with a normal capacity of 16 rounds instead of my reduced seven round capacity.  BANG!  Well, only took one... so far.
  • Ease of Firearm Reloading:  Danm... I wish I could control my hands better.  There we go, new mag out of the pocket.  Current mag out of the pistol.  New mag in and back toward the threat.  Now, old mag into the pocket.  There we go.  Gotta remember five rounds still there if his buddies show up.
See, we touched on each and every one of those didn't we?  Told you we would.

Now just so we can be clear, I also have my own version of how to determine a pistol and ammo's stopping ability.  Similar to the above, but without "you" in the equation but dependant on your ability.  This works for anything from a little .25 ACP to a .500 S&W.  It is also a measurement that can be put into writing so it makes people feel more comfortable.

This is how it works:
Total Potential Energy is the maximum energy of the selected round multiplied by the total number of rounds in the firearm.  Also, to factor in controllability and your ability to manipulate the firearm quickly, you multiply by 1 plus the percentage (1.75 for 75%) of the chance that you can complete the following: Starting with the weapon in hand and off safe, can you empty it and reload in four seconds with the reload that is on the bench in front of you and put all the rounds into a 8 inch paper plate at 5 feet. OR if you expend 12 or more rounds without running out of ammo in the firearm, multiply by 2.  Also, add one round to the total capacity for every round shot after the reload prior to the four second limit.

If you can't empty it one time in the four seconds and get in a reload, you multiply by 1 minus the percentage of rounds remaining (0.70 if 30% of rounds remain).  Remember, FOUR seconds.  If you can't get them all off and get the reload, take one round out of the mag or cylinder and try it again.  Keep doing that until you get the reload done.  Those removed rounds are subtracted just like unfired rounds.  (Harder than it sounds... try reloading a .38 by hand in under four seconds sometime.)  Because it is based on the percentage of the chance that YOU can complete the task, it is an personalized number.  Some pistols are easier to work with than others and some are impossible to get all the rounds off.  Try it with all you favorite pistols and see if it doesn't work for you too.

  • Beretta Cougar 25ACP- 10 round capacity.  10 x 63 ft/lbs (Hornady 35 grain XTPs) = 630 x 1.40 (40% Chance of getting all ten off and getting reloaded in four seconds)
    882 wey's (<--- some of you will get that, everyone else will just have to pretend it is a highly scientific term).
  • Ruger 22/45 22 LR- 11 round capacity.  11 x 126 ft/lbs (Stingers) = 1386 x 1.75 ( adds 75% for chance of completion).  Notice this is actually right there with a .38 snubby....
    2426 wey's. 
  • S&W .38 snubby- 5 rounds at 251 ft/lbs (Cor-Bon 125 grain +P) = 1255 x 1.95 =
    2447 wey's WITH a speed loader.
    1317 wey's reloading (x 1.00) by speed strips, or x 0.80 by hand for 1004 wey's.
  • Ruger LCP .380ACP- 7 rounds at 267 ft/lbs (Buffalo Bore 95 grain +P+ GD HPs) = 1869 x 1.90 (adds 90% for chance of completion)
    3551 wey's.
  • Colt 1911 .45 ACP- 8 rounds at 405 ft/lbs (Federal Premium 230 grain HSTs) =  3240 x 1.95= 6318 wey's 
  • S&W 500- 5 rounds at 2877 ft/lbs (Winchester 400 grain Platinum Tip HP) = 14,385 x 0.66 (33% of rounds were not fired in 3 seconds.)
    9494 wey's
  • H&K P-2000 .40 S&W- 13 rounds at 492 ft/lbs (Winchester 155 grain JHPs) = 6396 x 2 (over 12 round capacity rule)
    12,792 wey's.
  • Sig Sauer P228 9mm- 15 rounds at 410 ft/lbs (Speer 124 grain +P GD HPs) = 6970 x 2 (over 12 round capacity rule)
    13,120 wey's.
  • Colt Delta Elite 10mm- 10 rounds at 782 ft/lbs (Buffalo Bore 180 grain HPs) = 7820 x 1.95 = 15,249 wey's.
    *These are my personal numbers and your's will not be the same.

So you see, not every pistol stacks up as the ultimate self defense weapon.  Some folks would have considered the huge 500 Smith as the ultimate, but in the end controllability killed it.  If I can't get the rounds off, what good does it do you?  The opposite side of that coin is the .22 LR pistol.  Full controllability and an easy reload made for a great combination that scored pretty highly.

Basically what this formula does is sort out the very best of the middle of the pack.  It is highly dependant on YOUR ability to operate the weapon, the ammo, and the weapons controllability.  These are all high performance personal defense loads shown above.  Drop down to a lesser load and the controllability will increase, but the energy will decrease.

If you notice, the 10mm out scored everything, and many would be skeptical of the results.  This is from a customized Colt Delta Elite which is basically a 1911 in a different caliber.  Because of the weight the controllability is still very good as that heft soaks up a lot of the recoil.  Even then, the recoil isn't that bad to begin with.  It is also a fairly large capacity, and a really high energy level.  It is MY absolute highest rated personal defense weapon because it is all I can physically do to get off all ten rounds, drop the mag and send another mag home in four seconds.  With harder recoiling loads in this same pistol, this becomes impossible and I can't get the reload done.

Anyway, hope this helps someone out there.  Give this a try on your next range outing and see what really works for you.

Wonder what Jerry Miculek's wey's are? 


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Terror Attacks

In response to April 15th/ Tax Day/ Boston Marathon/ Patriot's Day Bombing this year, I thought I'd touch on how to avoid getting into a terror situation to begin with, and what to do after.

There are nine types of terrorist attacks- Bombings, Arson, Sky Jacking, Hijacking, Maiming, Assassination, Riot, Kidnapping, and Hostage Taking.  You can fall victim to one of these at any time because no amount of caution can keep you safe from a coward that is set on hurting people.  Especially one that is also intent on killing himself in the process.  We as human beings tend to subconsciously believe that all people are inherently good.  This is what makes terror attacks so successful.

The first thing that you need to do is be prepared.  Have your Everyday Pack with you.  Also, have your weapon if you can carry lawfully... or carry it unlawfully, but have a weapon.  I do not advocate breaking the law, but I recognize that some people still carry without a permit for personal reasons.  If you are one of those guys, just be ready to take your lumps when they come.  I would however like to point out that it doesn't have to be a conventional weapon that a permit is required for in the first place.  Cold Steel makes some really nice walking sticks!

Now that you are prepared for your day and you are heading out, you should have a terrorist attack pep talk with yourself.  You need to realize that you can only be so careful and prepared.  Nobody can remove all the risk from every day and from every activity.  Bad guys are going to do bad things sometimes.  You should just acknowledge this simple fact and your day will be much less stressful.  Once you close the door behind you and head out to face reality, you need to look like you are ready to conquer the world and eat babies.  Your body language is the most significant deterring factor you will ever possess.  When you look like a hard target, one that will put up a hard fight, the bad guys will find another target.  A soft target.  Don't be soft, be hard!

There are few things you can do to help prevent your becoming involved in someone else's terror plot.  The primary two are to stay moving and to be alert to your surroundings.  It is extraordinarily difficult to hit a moving target.  This includes terrorist attacks.  It is hard for someone to attempt to kidnap you, or maim you, or assassinate you if you are in constant motion.  If you are stopped in a large crowd watching the finish at a race, you are a sitting duck. The next thing to the be vigilant.  Watch for anything strange or out of the ordinary for whatever location you happen to be in.  A truck driver parking his rig in front of a Best Western is pretty normal.  A truck driver parking his rig in front of a five star hotel housing the UN delegates   Not so much.  Same goes for people going into locations.  A pizza guy going into a hotel, normal.  A pizza guy going into a movie theater, strange.  Either of these should send you into condition red.

The next thing that you have to deal with is stopping in public.  Constant motion is great... if you are a shark. People have to stop and eat and what-not.  When you stop to eat, evaluate your surroundings.  Take note of the two closest exits, and obstacles that you may encounter getting to then.  (What's worse, having to explain why you ran out through the kitchen and had to come back around to the front door to pay the tab, or blowing up because you sat there ten seconds to long?)  Also take note of where the most likely entrance for trouble is.  Try to position yourself away from the entrance, and as close to an alternative exit as possible.  Also be out of the center of the room with the door to your front.  The old "back to the wall trick" still works hundreds of years later!

Occasionally, you will find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being stopped in a large sitting duck type crowd.  This doesn't have to mean standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  This could be at the Justin Beaver concert with your kid.  It could be stopped in rush hour traffic in downtown Houston, Texas.  How about the local air show?  Any stopped crowd is a sitting duck, and a sitting duck is a terrorist's wet dream; especially if it happens to occupy a "Gun Free Zone" where he knows he will encounter very little resistance if any.  Try to avoid being a sitting duck.

Be aware that while we like to believe that terrorists are dumb, they are not.  They understand crowd dynamics and they know how to get the best bang for their buck... hardee har har.  If you are ever in a situation such as the Boston attack, be aware of what direction the crowd is going.  You should take a lateral route 90 degrees to the direction they are coming from and the way they are going.  An experienced or a studied terrorists will set up secondary devices (such as the second plane into the Trade Center or the second bomb in Boston) to catch a larger portion of the crowd.

Speaking of crowd dynamics, think of the Boston bombings.  Knowing the crowd would be gathered at the finish line he set his first smaller improvised explosive device just away from the line so that when it went off it would drive the crowd to other way.  He set his second larger device down the block and had enough delay to allow the crowd to get there and jam up with the crowd trying to figure out what happened back down the block.  It was also in the area far enough away from the original so that people fleeing would begin to think they were now in the safe zone and would stop running.  In any situation, the presents of a secondary device is definitive proof that you are in a terrorist attack.

After the Attack

Being a hero is fine if that's the way you want to go out.  Get caught by the secondary device and you are just another dead statistic.  Situation dictates.  If you want to see your family and friends again the best advice ever is unass the area.

First thing is to develop a plan of escape.  Just like when taking pictures the old fashioned way, your previously established plan for every situation is just the film.  It needs to be developed into a picture to get the end result.  Apply the new situation to your existing plan and see what develops.  Then follow that plan but be ready to adapt when a new situation arises.  Then you have to develop a new picture, and start following the new plan.

One of the very primary things is to understand where you are in relation to where you want to be.  Know that people in a panic run in a herd away from the event.  If you must go the way they are coming from, you will have to go around them.  Do not try to run against the herd, or across the flow of the herd.  You will die.  You will get knocked down and trampled to death.  Think it can't happen?  Watch some Walmart coverage on November 26th this year... happens every year.  If you have to cross a moving herd, just like crossing a raging river, you do not fight the flow.  Go with the flow... and slowly work your way across the current to the far side.  Once out of the herd, be hyper vigilant and work your way to your destination.

Also take into account hazardous environments that may be impeding your progress to safety.  Remember that some gasses float and some gasses sink.  If you run into an invisible and odorless cloud of deadly gas that is heavier than air because you went down into the ditch to avoid a herd, you will just become another victim.  Always stay out of the downwind and low lying areas.  Also, just like in JAWS, don't go into the water.  It may not be water flowing down the street at all.  That may be gasoline.  Speeding cars need to be watched closely.  People totally forget the rules of the road during situations such as these and become potential hazards.  Downed electrical wire are another potential hazard you need to watch out for.  Falling debris is yet another.  Hazardous environments come in many fashions.

Travel Abroad

If you must travel or feel compelled to travel abroad there are a few extra things to do to be safer than your average bear.  One thing you want to do regardless is to have photocopies of all your legal documents and a stash of cash that are not on your person.  If you are accosted and the bad guys take all your dinero and travel docs with them, you are in for a severe headache.  That's just basic stuff there though.  To become less of a target in foreign countries you need to follow certain suggestions.

First, before you even leave for your trip, check the current travel warnings for where you are going, and also check the ones for any country to have to land in or drive through to get there.  Next, you want to keep a low profile.  I admire patriotism at all times.  That doesn't mean I advertise it by wearing a big ass flag on my shirt while visiting Azerbaijan !  You want to blend in.  If all the men in said country are wearing white linen shirts, Panama Jack hats, and gold rimmed aviator sunglasses, guess what you should be wearing?  You got it!  Even if you are at the Olympics and everyone is wearing a flag on their shirt, do you really want to help the bad guy identify you as a target?  Also remember that a good rule of thumb is business casual.  Most every other country in the world dresses more conservative than the U.S. and a tee-shirt with Zac Brown on it will trip flags every time.

Last.... have a backup plan for any plan.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Gauge, Choke, and Shot Selection for Beginners

I get asked this one on a regular basis too it seems.
"What size shot do you think I should use for _________?"

My answer is always the same.
"Depends on your choke, your gauge, the area, and your proficiency."

I guess it kind of goes downhill from there because when someone doesn't even know how to select what size shot to use for... let's just use grouse and a 12 gauge for the sake of the remainder of this article.  When they don't know what size to use for grouse and you start talking to them about choke selection and shot size selection and then they get all offended when you ask them to be honest about their proficiency, well it makes it hard to give them a proper answer.  It's also impossible to explain the science that puts it all together if he doesn't understand the basics.

What it all boils down to is shot density, on target, at range, and your ability to put it there.
Here's the deal, shotguns, just like race cars have multiple ways to achieve the same results.  Each change gives you a benefit in one area, but each change also takes something from another area.  "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." which is Newton's Third Law.

Here is your redneck physics lesson for the day:  When you add more down force in the rear wing of a race car, it results in more traction on the driving wheels making the car stick to the track better in the turns.  On the other hand, you get more wind resistance and more rolling resistance which make the car slower overall.  What you end up with is a car that is really fast in the turns because it sticks to the track, but it is slow on the straights.  The other racer took some angle out of his wing and is now faster on the straights, but has to go slower in the turns.  Both drivers end up with identical lap times, but it make it easier on each driver who can then capitalize on his strengths.  Next time you watch NASCAR pay attention to Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle when they get to running together.  One will run off and leave the other through the turns, but by the end of the next straight the other is right back on him.  Redneck physics.

The same applies to chokes and shot selection.  Before we get into the heart of the matter, let's clarify some things first.  Chokes are like a nozzle on your garden hose.  The more it squeezes (chokes) the water, the tighter the stream of water that squirts out.  There are six rather standard chokes that you can use.  Full, Improved Modified, Modified, Improved Cylinder, Skeet, and Cylinder Bore.  Understand that there are others, but we will just discuss these six.

A Full choke is your garden hose with the smallest stream, and a Skeet choke is the hose with the widest spray pattern.  The rest are somewhere in the middle of these two.  Cylinder Bore is absolutely no choke and is represented by the hose without any nozzle at all.

Now your gun's gauge is what size of water hose you are using.  A 12 gauge is the big, fat, rubber hose from Lowe's and a 20 gauge is the little small plastic hose from Big Lots.  There are hoses that are bigger than these and hoses that are smaller, but each hose squirts water the same distance, just less of it.  Same with shotguns.  The velocity of most shotguns using standard length shells is remarkably similar at around 1250 feet per second, only the amount of shot being used is different.  They can't put as much shot into a .410 "gauge" shell as they can is a 10 gauge shell, but they can make the shot travel the same speed.  (Speaking of .410, it is actually a caliber and not a gauge size.  If it were a gauge it would be a 68 Gauge.)

As long as we are on the subject of gauge, gauge is determined by the number of lead balls the diameter of the bore that it would take to equal one pound.  The bore of a 20 Gauge is 0.625 inches and it would take 20 lead balls that size to equal one pound.  A .410 is a caliber in that point 4-1-0 is the measurement of the bore diameter.  See, the .410 was originally designed back in the late 1880's as a rifle and not a shotgun.  As more and more people found the usefulness of the shot cartridges loaded for the rifle it became more popular as a shotgun than as a rifle.  The venerable 44-40 also had shotgun loadings during this same time.

Okay, moving on.  Your ability to put shot on a target at range and your ability to manage recoil is what determines what gauge shotgun you need.  For the sake of keeping it simple, we are going to presume that we are all average shooters here that are able to hit a target.  Your ability to manage recoil is a different story.  I have watched big dudes get pounded shooting small shotguns.  I have also watched cute little ladies own a 12 gauge.  It is all about technique... and that is something you will have to work on by yourself.  Gauge selection all comes down to one's individual ability to preform in this two areas.  Unfortunately, you can't receive shotgunning lessons via written instruction, so we'll move on.

Shot density is the pepper on the mashed potatoes... little black holes in a piece of white paper.  It is the next consideration and it is simply the number of shot pellets inside a set area at a set range.  This density on target is what determines the choke "sizes" and what choke you need to use.  Shot density and patterning are typically done at the same time.  Density is measured on a paper target four feet square with a single shot from 40 yards range that is fired from a support at a dot in the exact center of the target.  Around that spot, you use a fifteen inch long string to draw a 30 inch circle.  The pattern is the evenness of the shot inside that circle.  A Full Choke will put 70% in it, Modified is about 60%, Skeet about 50%, Cylinder Bore about 40%.  Easy enough right?

Alright, let's start mixing this up then.  The range in which 65% of the shot fall into a 30 inch circle is the standard for determining the range of the choke.  The maximum effective range is what is more important because it is determined by the number of shot in your game.  So let's say that you are shooting high-brass #6 shells and that 65% of the shot from your 12 gauge hit inside that 30 inch circle using a Improved Modified choke at 40 yards and you are hunting grouse as we stated earlier.  There should be enough pellets, say six or eight, in your pattern to bring that grouse down humanely.  On the other hand if you are hunting doves there will probably not be enough in the pattern to do it.  The pattern didn't change.  The yardage didn't change.  The size of the target is what changed.

So how do we put enough shot into that dove at 40 yards?  Well, we can increase the number of shot in the shell by increasing the shell length to a 3 inch magnum, but that's more recoil.  We can increase the number of shot by decreasing the size of the shot to #7 shot, but then you lose energy.  Or just as easily, we could simply increase the tightness of the pattern by going to the Full Choke tube, but then you have a 25 inch circle of shot.  Believe me, 25 inches is pretty small at 40 yards!

Concerning shot size selection, energy retained in the shot as well as hardiness of the game is what determines the shot size needed.  If you are shooting tough pheasant roosters on the wing, you want a shot that is heavy enough to carry sufficient energy to penetrate the feathers and still go through the body.  Heaver shot carries more energy, however there are also less shot in the pattern.  Little sissy birds like doves don't need as much energy and you can therefore use a smaller shot to get more pellets in the bird.

There are many considerations regarding types of shot to use.  The advantages and disadvantages of lead compared to steel, and steel compared to bismuth has been debated at great length over the last 25 years.  Be aware that migratory fowl all require nontoxic shot and also be aware of your local regulations when picking a shot type.  Steel shot tends to shoot tighter patterns due to less barrel deformation.  Lead carries more energy for the same size shot.  You can go online and search for just a second or two and find thousands of debates about shot types.  I tend to use lead whenever it is a legal option.  It is easier on your teeth.  (Speaking of meat prep, look for the little shot hole in the meat and account for every pellet you can in the meat... then run a metal detector over it.)

Okay, last one.  Back to your ability.  Once you learn recoil management, your ability to actually center the shot pattern on the target is the main determining factor in gauge size, shell size, and choke size.  Shot size is actually rather easy... look at the picture on the box of shells.  A better shooter can use a tighter choke and smaller shot than a poor shooter.  Doing this he gets more shot in the bird.  He can also decide to shoot a smaller gauge with a tighter choke with the same shot size and still get more shot in the bird.

While it may be cool to go out and hammer away at doves all day with 3 1/2 inch magnums, that evening you will pay for it!  Meanwhile the old geezer in your group that shot just as many rounds from a 28 gauge and took just as many doves will be laughing at you.  He'll also out shoot you tomorrow because he won't be so sore!

All this info here is written using birds as the example, but remember they are just the example.  The same applies to big game such as deer and large birds such as turkey and geese.

One last word of warning... Do NOT shoot slugs through any choke tighter than an Improved Cylinder.  Doing so will damage your barrel, your choke, your face, your hand, or all the above.  If available, always use a Cylinder Bore choke or barrel with slugs, or if you can afford it, buy a rifled slug barrel.

I hope this helps somebody out in their selections.  Feel free to share this around and Happy Hunting!


Thursday, April 11, 2013


Well, here we are again.  Coming into the heart of tornado season.  Here are some helpful facts and tips that will help you survive another year.

Most every state in the U.S of A. has tornadoes.  Some have more, some less.  Some have stronger ones, some lesser ones.  They all have tornadoes that can kill you given the right circumstances!  Be ready to take the necessary precautions and ready to seek shelter whenever the need arises.  Even if you are in an area of the map below that "never" has tornadoes, at least take a second or two and "What if" it.  Where would you take shelter right now?  I mean where exactly, RIGHT NOW!  See?  That wasn't so hard was it?


What goes into a good tornado plan?  Just like a school has a tornado drill and a tornado plan, you should have one for your home too.  The very first step in developing this plan is to designate your safe room.  This needs to be the smallest, strongest room without windows on the very lowest level of your house.  If you have a basement, it will be down there.  If not, it will probably be a closet or bathroom on the ground level.

Inside your safe room, you should have prepared and stowed your tornado kit.  You did make one of these right?  If not here's what you should prepare for a kit:  First thing, a crank type weather radio! Got to stay informed!  At the very least a battery powered weather radio, that is pre-tuned to your area's weather warning center.  Next is a few emergency candles with several boxes of weatherproof matches, and a large LED Mag-lite.  You will also stash several blankets and pillows, a First Aid kit of sufficient size for your family, sturdy shoes (preferably boots) and leather gloves for each family member, whatever stash of small bill cash you can afford and are comfortable with (Banks may not be open and credit card lines may be down), a couple gallons of water, two MRE's per person, and lastly, a spare set of keys to every vehicle you own.  Keys to your truck that remains mostly untouched in the carport that still stands right where it was, those keys that are in the house that just blew three miles away aren't of much use!  Also toss in an entertainment package with a book or two, a board game, and a deck of cards.  One more thing you might consider is putting all your medication into a zipped shower bag that you can grab at a moments notice, or even putting a couple doses in a separate bottle that is stored inside your tornado kit, just remember to rotate them when you get a new bottle.

While we are talking about preparing, if you live in one of those red areas above, or even an orange one, you should consider building an underground tornado shelter or a purpose built safe room.  FEMA has regulations for both shelters and safe room designs, and fines to go with them.  They also have designs for them but you are looking at two to five thousand bucks to build one of those.

Some of us can't afford that.  If they can recommend "getting into a ditch or low lying area", I can recommend putting a length of three foot concrete pipe into one and covering it over with dirt. I can also recommend putting an elbow onto one end so that debris cannot fly right into the shelter portion.  I can also recommend closing the far end of it up with a poured four inch reinforced concrete slab and covering that with dirt.  You must close that end, even if that is just covering it over with two pieces of 3/4 inch marine grade plywood and piling dirt against that.  I'd also recommend two feet of length per person on the long side of the "L" plus about three feet to get away from the 90 degree elbow.  Couple of tips here... Make sure there is a bit of slope to it so there isn't a lake in the end, and be aware that critters and wasps will love this... check it for residents often during storm season.  Unless you don't mind sharing your space while waiting on the tornado to go away.  That is the most basic, safe design for a shelter.

While the most common mantra is the one written above about the small central room or an underground shelter, I have seen several homes that were completely gone after a storm, but the block foundation was still there and intact!  If you don't have an underground shelter option, then that small, central room is your only option.  Do it!  But if you have a minute, you can give yourself a safer option.  A small, central room is great only as long as it stays anchored to your foundation.  Another option that is often overlooked is the crawlspace of the house.  If you have a house that is not built on a concrete slab, and is not a trailer, then you most likely have a crawlspace.

This paragraph and the next are completely my opinion:
Almost all tornadoes come to you from the southwest traveling toward the northeast.  If I were to use the foundation, or the basement for shelter, I would be a bit more worried about the house landing on me than the tornado blowing me away.  Think about it for a second.  You know that a hole in the ground (Basement or crawlspace) is not going to blow away.  The house might completely blow away, or it might be blown five feet and collapse.  Problem is this: five feet means it is no longer sitting ON the foundation, which means it can fall inside.

Now, since tornadoes approach from the southwest, if the house is going to get blown off the foundation it will be toward the northeast.  I want it to go away from where I am sheltering.  That means I want shelter in the southwest corner of the crawlspace or basement.  If I am under the northeast corner, and the house blows five feet and collapses, then that is right on top of you.  It was once pointed out that after the tornado passes, the wind comes from the other direction.  My answer was that if the tornado didn't blow the house down from one direction as the winds built to max speeds on approach, then it surely would have a very good chance of withstanding the diminishing wind speeds from the tornado as it moved away.

Back to the real world...
Now you are prepared.  We wait.

Always be aware of the forecast and look for these indicators of tornado weather:
Dark, greenish sky
Wall clouds that soar straight up
Cloud rotation and swirling winds
A loud roar that is often said to sound like a freight train
A ground level dust and debris swirl (not all tornadoes have a visible funnel)

The weather siren has sounded!  Head for your safe room or shelter!!!
Once you are inside your safe room, turn on the weather radio and listen for additional information.  Have everyone change into their boots.  Then, I would suggest that you try to remain calm and just wait it out.

In the off chance that you discover that you are indeed about to become Dorthy, have everyone cover their heads with the pillows and their bodies with the blankets and curl into a ball. Good luck, you have done what you could do to be ready for this.

Wow! That was INTENSE!  Now what?  Activate your aftermath plan.  Have an area designated where everyone will meet up.  Treat the injuries that you can and do not move anyone seriously injured.  Cover them with a blanket and make sure they are the first ones visited by EMS once they arrive.  Once you have attended to your family, see if you can help any of your neighbors. If you smell any chemicals or gas, leave that area immediately!  Once serious injuries are treated, look around for any collapsed structures and take a census of who might have been there.  Only if it is a dire emergency should you attempt the try to excavate or extricate them, but this is also a priority area that emergency crews should be directed to when they arrive.

Stay calm both before, during, and after a tornado.  This will help you make better decisions quickly that could save lives!

A few more tips here...
Always know your building's plan where you work... assuming you can get a job in this economy.
Never try to shelter inside a vehicle during a tornado, get out and get into the ditch.  Images of Evil Knievel unsuccessfully trying to jump the Grand Canyon comes to mind.
Never try to shelter under a bridge or overpass.  These are wind funnels and will subject you to much more intense winds and becoming a Human Cannonball.
Never try to out drive a tornado.  They are wily and will track you down.
Never, unless you are a protected class of redneck, go outside to watch a tornado.  Watch some other redneck's video on TV later.
And don't drink beer during a tornado.  The pressure changes make it foam up and it spews everywhere.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Got Scurvy?

Okay, I know... this isn't Pirate Underground.  However scurvy can be a real hazard to anyone that becomes Vitamin C deficient.  Vitamin C also helps fend off colds, influenza, dementia, depression, anxiety, bladder infections, obesity, and some say cancer.  Speaking of cancer, vitamin C also is supposed to help deal with chemo sickness.  So, just for a moment pretend that you can no longer run to the store and buy an orange, lemon, or lime.  Now what?  Scurvy.  Did you know that scurvy was actually rather common until 1932?  

When Jacques Cartier was exploring the St. Lawrence River in the northeast his men were almost at the point of death when the local tribesmen decided to help them.  How they did that was to introduce them to the Arbor Vitae tree... now known as the Eastern White Cedar.  Oddly enough, "arbor vitae" translates directly from the Latin as "Life Tree" and that is very fitting!  It saved their lives.

They took the freshest leaves (Cedar trees have leaves, not needles.) and pulverized them.  They added that to hot water and made a tea which the explorers then drank.  Very shortly, within days, the explorers began feeling better and within a week were fully recovered.  Each cup of that tea contained five times as much vitamin C as is found in an entire lemon!

This tea can be made from ALMOST any pine tree.  The easiest to identify is the white pine tree.  It is the only one with needles in five leaf clusters.  Some variety of long leafed pine grows in almost every corner of the U.S. and is readily identifiable.  The exception is the Yew tree which has bright red berries on it.  Just remember, bright RED berries means STOP!  Another word of caution is in regards to the Ponderosa Pine. It is said that the needles on this particular tree makes horses and cows abort fetuses.  If it'll kill a horse, I'm not sure I'd want to drink it.  If you are in Ponderosa Pine country, I'd suggest using a cedar tree for tea just to be safe.

So how do you make this life saving tea?  Easy.

Pick a handful of the freshest needles on the tree for each cup.
Cut them into pieces about half an inch long, or bruise them well.
Remove the little brown end pieces and put the green bits into your pot.
Add your boiling water and cover.
Allow to steep until the needles become dull and sink to the bottom.
Slowly pour into cups and garnish to taste as you would any other tea.

Enjoy a scurvy free life!



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Apple Jack

No self respecting Patriot would ever go without making a batch of Apple Jack every winter. Heck, good ol' George Washington used to make barrels of it! It is the absolute easiest (and most tasty!) form of liquor anyone has ever made while living in the great white north! This finally solves the riddle why anyone in their right mind would EVER want to live in a climate with such a cold, harsh winter!

Now, thanks to good ol' Thomas Edison and his electric current and the artificial refrigeration technology developed by William Cullen way back in 1748, anyone can make it these days! As an added bonus, he that hath the best freezer, will hath the best hootch!

Why is that one might ask? Well, the colder you go, the higher the proof! For an idea of what you can get, at zero degrees you'll make 15%, minus ten will yield 21%, minus twenty will yield 27%, and minus thirty will yield 33%. That is 30, 42, 54, and 66 proof respectively! So for the colonial Americans, the rougher the winter, the better the summer! Not bad for no still huh? Speaking of stills, a note on legality here:

"In the United States the production of applejack, since the process used is considered distillation, is illegal. The ATF&E considers this the same as operating a still, and therefore this should not be attempted without licensing."

Now, for historical purposes only, here is how it was done by the Original Patriot Type Folk!

"Take a wagon of good apples plucked during the peak of ripeness and mash them well into a barrel, removing the bodies to leave the juices. The fellow now prepares sweet water by adding four scoops of molasses sugars dissolved into one jug warm water. He adds this to the barrel at a rate of one portion of sweet water to one portion of apple juices. He adds lastly to the barrel one scoop of yeasts. Having done these steps he then loosely caps the barrel to exclude vermin and places in the cold cellar to await the coldest freezings of winter. On the harshest of winter days when it is too bitter for all else, he will venture into the cellar and using a holed ladled covered in mesh cloth, he removes all the frozen waters leaving behind the prepared elixir. Five full barrels of the prepared mixture will give remnants of one full barrel of elixirs."

So to help understand it, in today's English it shakes out like this:

One gallon apple juice with no additives or preservatives what-so-ever.
Four pounds of dark brown sugar dissolved into one gallon of hot spring water.
Cool the sugar water mix.
Add two packets of wine yeast.
Mix all together and allow to ferment until the yeast are almost all dead.
(Using an air bubbler, wait until there is less than one bubble per minute.
Without the bubbler, wait at least two weeks.)
Filter the mix into freezer safe plastic jugs.
Place in the coldest environment (deep freezer) available and freeze overnight.
Shake in the morning.
Repeat this cycle for one week.
(replicates the freeze thaw cycle during a winter season)
Starting day eight, shake and filter out the ice.
Return the liquid to the jug. Repeat until it will no longer freeze.

Apple Jack.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Got an Ax to Grind?

Those that know me know that I have more axes than any one man should.  I am an ax nut.  I always have been and I don't know why.  Maybe it goes back to playing "explorer" along the creeks and in the ridges around where I grew up and building forts using my dad's hatchet.  It was both a hammer, and a saw... the first multi-tool!  Then I discovered wood splitting (thanks dad!) and cutting kindling for our wood heater.  Later, as I grew older and stronger, I was introduced to the splitting maul and sledgehammer.  Through it all though, I retained a love for axes of all shapes.  There is just something about the sing as it whirls through the air that will bring out the frontiersman in any of us!

Quite a few guys have watched me stone the edge on one or another of my axes and commented that they couldn't believe that I put that much effort into something that I was going to "beat on a log with."  Boy, if they only knew how it feels to not "beat" on a log and to actually make the chips FLY they'd sure change their minds!  A good edge on an ax makes it one of the most useful and satisfying tools you can own!

All together I probably still possess about eight axes.  Three of which will shave you at this instant.  Why not all?  Well, some aren't worth the effort and others just won't keep an edge.  So after I educate them on the different types of axes and their uses it always leads into a conversation about what my favorite ax is.  Heck, this is easy now, but if you had asked me that at different stages of my life it would have been one of several different answers!  So what is it right now?  It is the Long Handle Camper's Axe.  Yes, with an "e" because that is the way Estwing names their axes.

Yes, THAT Estwing.  Blue rubber handle and all!  Did you even know they made axes?  Hatchets and tomahawks too!  Ten varieties to be exact.  The one that has my fancy has a misnomer for a name.  The "long handle" camper's axe is 26 inches total!  That is about ten inches shorter than a regular felling ax.  However at about two and a half pounds total it is about four pounds lighter than a Collins felling ax.  Let me just say something here... if you have never cut a 12 inch tree out of a road when the tree was six or seven feet high while you were using a felling ax then you have no idea what you are missing.  Forget going to a gym, go cut trees overhead!  That was when I realized I could never replace my Estwing ax!

The Estwing is just about the perfect size for me too.  I am a bit over six feet tall and this does not feel like a midget ax to me.  Perfect.  No other word for it.  You pick it up and you know it is a real ax.  It has that solid feel and heft.  The rubber handle gives that nice tacky grip that prevents blisters and gives a solid grip.  Because it is Estwing's patented shock adsorbing grip it also isolates the vibrations and keeps it from hurting your hands on a sour blow.

The weight is also perfect.  It runs much lighter than most comparable axes this size, but the weight is all out on the head and it give it a sweet bite!  I cut a newly fallen and solid birch that was across the road not long ago.  It was probably 14 inches in diameter and we had to cut it twice... too big to move the top or the trunk so we had to cut a eight foot piece out of the middle.  Two of us taking turns finished that tree in less than three minutes.  No joke.  With that itty-bitty ax.  Actually, it is a four inch bit, so it takes a full bite like a regular felling ax.  Calling it itty-bitty isn't really fair, especially considering how it performs!

Long story short, I recommend the Estwing Long Handle Camper's Axe without any reservation.  There is one, and only one, slight modification I would make (made) to this ax.  The eight inch, slick fiberglass handle portion in front of the rubber grip I wrapped with about fifteen feet of 550 paracord so that it is more grippy when choking up to cut kindling or for fine work.

If you didn't want to do that, Estwing also makes a 16 inch version of the camper's axe that I hear is also superb!  Also, they make a four pound short handled axe (14" overall length) that is specifically for driving a wedge and splitting camp sized fire wood.  It is called the Estwing Fireside Friend and you can use it to drive the Sure Split Wedge.  You wouldn't want to split a cord of wood with these, but for a camp it looks like just the thing!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

The One Day (Everyday) Pack

Fantastic.  A broken ankle, no cell service, 30 degrees tonight, five miles from my truck, two hours 'til dark, and nobody knows where I am.  Fan-damn-tastic.

Well, it's a good thing I took someone's advice and finally put together a little one day, everyday kit that I carry on every excursion no matter how short, especially since I am solo!  Right?  You have one too, right?  No?  Well, that simple kit is the difference in "alright" and "serious trouble" in the above scenario.

So what goes in?  Only the bare essentials.  The easiest and most user friendly items available that will save your life in a case like this are what you need.  It's great that you know how to start a fire with a bamboo saw, but do you really want to be trying to do that in this situation?  It's also awesome that you know how to drink your own piss thanks to Bear Grylls, but wouldn't you prefer just a little bit of just plain ol' water?  Thought so.

The ten areas you need to cover with items in your pack are:
1.  Protection
2.  Water
3.  Fire
4.  Shelter
5.  Food
6.  Navigation
7.  Illumination
8.  Tools and Spares
9.  First Aid
10. Sun Protection
*   Bonus Items!

A few small and very lightweight multi-use items in your pack that will take care of you in these 10 areas.  What degree of comfort you'd like determines how much of each item you carry.  It'd be great to be able to bring the entire sporting goods section from the Cabela's store with you, but we are talking about a small pack that you will carry on every outing.  However, there comes a point where it becomes an inconvenience and at that point most people will start leaving stuff at home.  If you find yourself at the point where you must have the entire Cabela's store, I'd suggest you watch a nature show and get on a treadmill. 

Camelbak Mil-Tac M.U.L.E.
First things first!  You need a good pack!  One that is comfortable and functional, and that will carry everything you need.  My personal pack is a Camelbak Mil-Tac M.U.L.E. which is about as perfect a pack for this option as you will find.  I have carried this pack on hundreds of hikes in every condition you can think of.  The longest of which was 22 miles in ten hours and that started in 100 degree heat during the day and ended in 30 degree cold at night.  This pack has NEVER let me down and I have been using the same one for over 10 years now.  I highly recommend this pack! 

Now the top ten items to fill it!

1.  Protection from what ails you!  I recommend a 9mm or larger.  I personally carry a Colt Delta Elite 10mm when I am in the wilds with bears, and a compact .40 S&W otherwise.  But for inside your pack, you will carry your extra ammo, and a quality fixed blade knife such as a Gerber LMF II. If you go with a smaller pack than the MULE, then get a large folder for this billet.  I'd go with something like the Kershaw Piston 1860... and don't start whining about a seventy dollar knife for your pack.  It's only your life we are talking about.

2.  Water is sacred!  This pack will let you pack 100 ounces and you'll never realize it's there, but if you go with a regular pack, carry at least a 20 ounce sealed bottle for emergencies.  I also have an NDUR Survival Straw that I can use after my water supply is gone.  With that I can drink right out of a mud puddle if I need to.  If I was not carrying my Camelbak with 100 ounces, I'd for sure be carrying a one liter bottle (with the big cap) and the straw.  The straw is just a bit to big for a regular bottle and I am not keen on doing push ups in mud puddles to drink.

3.  Fire is a life saver!  A fire will warm you, dry you, and protect you.  Fire and shelter are interchangeable on this list dependent on your environment.  Summer in Florida?  You may not need a fire.  For your pack, put in two disposable Bic lighters WITH the child safeties on the gas actuator   The safety will keep it from accidentally getting depressed inside the pack.  I check mine periodically, but have had the same ones in there for years!  Why Bics?  Cheap and dependable.  Zippos dry up when forgotten about for over a week, however if you tend to them, they are hard to top for fire starting and will not explode if crushed.  If I knew I was going to have to start a fire, a hard to find model 6700 trench lighter from Imco is my first choice, but a Zippo is a close second! 

4.  Shelter for a pack is different than shelter in a normal sense.  What I am talking about here is a space blanket and a head cover.  Put in a Mylar space blanket and a Polartec beanie you are covered in this area.  The silver Mylar blanket will keep you warm and dry and the beanie will keep your head warm even if it gets wet.  The silver is also easy to see from the air so if you need found it will help.

5.  Food is the next thing we need to cover.  Put in three energy bars such as Power Bar Performance bars.  They keep for over a year easily, and are easy to find.  Matter of fact, you can get them at most any gas station.  Also, if you are in a hot and dry climate, put in a dry electrolytic mix such as Nunn tablets.
6.  Navigation is pretty simple right?  GPS?  Great, and when it breaks?  Get a good high quality compass and at the very least you can not walk in circles, because if you have no idea which end is up, you will walk in a large circle.  If you don't have either one, walk downhill.  Down always leads out.  Ever seen all the houses on top of Mount McKinley   Exactly, there are none.  Ever seen an ocean front without houses?  Just remember this saying:  When lost, you are DOWN and OUT.  
7.  Illumination is your friend.  I have a 4D LED Mag-lite inside my MULE alongside the water bladder.  It will burn for DAYS on a single set of batteries.  That is a great light.  LED bulbs do not burn out like regular bulbs and they don't pop when you drop it while it's on.  They also are a drop in replacement.  If your current Mag-lite has an incandescent bulb, buy the LED and replace it.  Put your old bulb in the tail cap... just in case.  The second light you need is a LED headlamp.  I like the Energizer 6 LED unit that is available on Amazon for about 15 bucks.  A Mag-lite is great except when you need both hands, like when carrying firewood or if you need to saw off your arm like Aron Ralston.  Just sayin....

8.  Tools and Spares are what you always need an never have... except inside your pack you will!  I am a huge fan of the Leatherman Wave tool.  It has about everything you need to build a house, or swap an engine. As for spares, toss in a set of spare batteries for the GPS and headlamp.  A spare set of boot laces is always handy too.  On that note, I always like to replace mine with paracord.  Not because it gives me another piece of cordage, but because they are superior to anything else!  The last thing you want to try to do is make your way out of the wilderness with no bootlaces while running from zombies because you used your laces to make a shelter last night.  Those are the ab-so-lute last piece of cordage I will ever use for anything other than their intended purpose!  I'll cut my underwear into cordage first!

9.  First Aid is always a concern and should always find a home in whatever pack you carry.  A first aid kit for a day pack is really a small item that is always handy.  I like to use a small plastic soap box to keep everything neat and clean.  Put in a few 4x4 gauze packs, a small roll of medical tape, Neosporin, a dozen alcohol prep pads, six Nexcare Sport bandages, a pair of quality tweezers, and a couple of needles.  Also put in a small bottle with Bayer Aspirin, Imodium, Motrin, and Benadryl.  Last thing I strongly advise including is Quick Clot or Celox clotting agent.  No need leaking out if you can avoid it!

10. Sun Protection is often overlooked, but it is a real hazard to become severely sunburned.  Your skin isn't just a bag to hold your guts, but it is the cooling system of the body.  Fry it and it stops working correctly, then you overheat and die.  Toss in a couple of the single serving packs of 30 + SPF and a tube of sunscreen for your lips.... AND USE IT.  No need to be a tough guy in the wilderness.  Nobody is there to see you not crying.

*   Bonus Items!  There are a few items that are indispensable in a tough situation.  These are things that get stuffed into a pack and forgotten about until you need them.  Let me kick off the festivities with this: TOILET PAPER!  Go to the local surplus store and buy a ziplok baggie full of the TP packets from MRE's.  How they pack 700 feet of TP in a packet the size of a matchbox still amazes me even though it has been over twenty years since I saw my first one!  Next, a hundred foot roll of #36 bank line with 25 feet of paracord stuffed into the middle of the spool is one such item.  #36 bank line is a cordage primarily used to make fishing nets in the real world.  It is slightly smaller than 3/32 of an inch with a tensile strength of 330 pounds.  We all know about paracord, so I'll skip that.  One more thing that I hope I never need but will have in my pack is a Storm whistle.  Loudest whistle in the world and much easier than yelling for help.  Lastly, inside the pack should be a plastic bottle full of cotton balls soaked in Vaseline. These are the best tinder for fire starting I think I have ever used.  They are also useful for dressing a wound, and as makeshift lubrication for whatever needs it.