Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winter is Coming

Meteorologists and the Farmer's Almanac are both predicting a cold winter this season.  It got me thinking about some of the items I need to inspect and/or consider picking up in order to get ready for the winter fun!

Winter Home Item Checklist

There are two main concerns I  have when winter rolls around.  The first is being able to get out of our driveway.  I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home if need be.  However, if we need to get out in an emergency or for something that may be less urgent, but still considered necessary, then I want to be able to do so.  The second concern is in the event of a power outage.  Our area is known for some wicked ice storms and thick wet snow.  Power lines get knocked down by ice forming on them and/or branches that are weighed down by ice and snow.  Here is my list to try and handle those events:
  • Snow blower - Last year (2013) we really could have used this since my wife was pregnant and I was on the road some weeks.  This year, I am seriously considering one.  I looked at some after this past winter.  However, I still haven't figured out which one to go with.  If you have a recommendation, then comment below!
  • Shovels - A shovel per person plus one is what I like to have on hand.
  • Salt - A must when we get those ice storms especially for the stair areas.
  • Indoor portable heater - I actually have this one covered with our Mr. Buddy Portable heater.  It is rated for indoor use and runs off of propane cylinders.  It wouldn't hurt to pick up a few more cylinders.  The cylinders can also be used with my Coleman camping stove in the event we lose electrical power.  I just have to make sure we use it in a ventilated area.
  • Blankets - We have lots and it never hurts to have additional ones.
  • Food and Water - Pretty self explanatory.  We live in an area that gets fairly good snow removal from the city.  However, last year the city ran short on sand and salt.  They were also delayed on getting to the neighborhoods.  Don't count on the city (or anyone else) to come to the rescue.  Also, in very bitter weather pipes have been known to freeze and burst if not properly insulated.  Have plenty of food and water to ride out any potential snow-in.
  • Movies and Video Games - Cabin Fever anyone?
  • Cold Weather Clothing - Gloves, hats, socks, etc wear out over time.  Be sure your wardrobe is up to snuff.  The best time to buy is after the winter season.  Therefore, set a reminder for yourself to check out the sales after the winter season winds down.  Also, if you have children, then you know how quickly they can outgrow their wardrobe.  Be sure to make sure that your child has the appropriate sized clothing for the upcoming winter season.  

Winter Items in Various Bags

I keep a Get Home Bag and "Bug Out" type bag stocked with items for when I may be in a pinch.  I rotate items through them as the seasons progress.  The following are some items that I rotate in when the cold weather is just around the corner:
  • Stocking Cap
  • Base Thermal Top and Bottom - I was able to find Patagonia base top and bottom thermals on sale.  I have worn these under my BDU's that I hunt in and they work as advertised.  Last winter (2013) was very bitter the weekend I went deer hunting. I had no problem staying warm enough to continue staying outside (although it was not exactly toasty either!).
  • Wool Socks and Liners - I swear by Smartwool.  The best deal I can find on these socks on a consistent basis is here.
  • Winter appropriate boots (sits next to the pack)
  • Pants - I prefer heavy ripstop pants like Wrangler Riggs Workwear Ranger Pants
  • Mid Layer - Any type of fleece mid layer is nice.  I prefer a full zipper so that I can doff and don easier.
  • Heavy Coat (sits next to the pack)

Winter Car Items

I treat my vehicles as if they were mobile shelter.  Therefore, I try to keep a little of all of the essentials at all times.  I specifically make sure I have the following in my car in addition to the usual food, water, first aid items, etc:

  • Windshield scraper
  • Windshield de-icer
  • Snow brush - Usually built into a heavy duty scraper.  Great for saving your gloves from getting unnecessarily wet.
  • Tire chains and tow strap - Luckily, I haven't needed them yet.
  • Blanket and winter hat - One can never have too many of these.
  • Mini shovel (or full size if it's the truck)
  • Kitty litter - This provides traction where there may be none.
  • Chemical hand and foot warmers - I use the Hot Hands brand and have been pleased with them.

Those are the lists that I have come up with in the past few years.  Keep in mind these items are specific to the colder weather.  Please share this with others to get them thinking about getting prepared for winter.

What items did I forget?  Are there items on here you find unnecessary?  What would you have included?  Comment below and share.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Not Only Did You Not Build That...

The government's stellar track record of efficiency (:: cough:: Obamacare  ::cough::), solvency (::cough:: Social Security ::cough::),  and backing winners (::cough:: Auto Industry  ::cough:: ::hack:: Solyndra ::cough:: ) creates jobs, right? /sarc off

Hillary Clinton Claims Businesses Don't Create Jobs

I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure corporations and businesses do create jobs regardless of government policy.  Or did I miss the nationalization of the entire economy when I work up this morning?

When you worship at the Alter of the State, then I guess one of the tenets is to blindly ignore the fact that the economy is largely driven by private business.

Out of touch.  Wow.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Be back next week...

Sorry for no posts this week.  Work has been crazy and I'm a bit burned out.  I will try and post at least once next week.

If there are any topics you think might make for a good post, then I'm always up for a good discussion.  Let me know.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

First Impressions: Apex Tactical Specialties AEK Polymer Trigger

I had been wanting to replace the trigger on my M&P9c for some time.  I finally got around to ordering the AEK Polymer Trigger from Apex.  Once it arrived, I set about getting it installed.

I highly recommend having the right tools on hand as well as watching the installation video that Apex has out on YouTube.  It will go much smoother if you have what you need up front than trying to improvise with other tools.

Once the trigger was initially installed I function tested it and dry fired several times.  It appeared good to go.  From an ergonomic standpoint the AEK trigger is so much easier to pull straight back to the rear.  The articulated two piece S&W trigger got the job done, but I really did not care for the way it was shaped.  I also did not like the fact that the trigger face is actually hinging in the middle as you press the trigger.  Apex claims the AEK trigger "reduces pre-travel and over-travel by approximately 20% from the factory trigger".  I have to agree with that assessment purely from tactile feedback.

I went to the range after installing the AEK trigger the next day to get acquainted with the upgrade.  I was 50 rounds in when I had a what I thought was a failure to fire.  I let the trigger out further and then pulled the trigger again.  BANG!  Ok, maybe I just didn't let it reset.  Approximately, 10 rounds later it happened again.  Okay, I know it reset.  Turns out that I was encountering the issue mentioned in Apex's video concerning the trigger bar rotating the sear, but not allowing the striker to release.  I experienced the striker not wanting to release twice after that during the range session.

I dry fired when I got home and the issue was more pronounced.  It got to the point where the trigger would physically be depressed all the way back and only a sharp release and then a sharp trigger pull might release the striker.  I have to admit, I was a little perturbed by this since I thought I was good to go after the initial function check.  It never occurred to me that there might be some kind of break in period.

Busted out the tools to readjust the "candy cane" on the trigger bar.

I picked up some feeler gauges the next day.  I disassembled the pistol and took a measurement of the "candy cane" that rotates the sear.  The gap measured 0.011 inches.  I decided to add another 0.005 of an inch to the gap.  The sear now contacted the trigger bar sooner rather than later in the trigger pull and there was definitely no problem of the striker being released.  It is worth mentioning that if you do this that the loop can be opened too much and not allow the striker to reset resulting in a "dead trigger".  It is my understanding that the sear should definitely not be contacting the "candy cane" when there is no pull on the trigger.

Everything is in place in this shot.  Can you spot the "candy cane"?  Watch Apex's video for details on how this is adjusted.

So, good to go right?  I had thought I was fine after the initial install.  The only way I was going to feel comfortable was by putting 100 rounds through it at a minimum.

10 rounds in 10 neat little groupings.  The trigger definitely does not hurt having it installed... as long as it stays the way I adjusted it!

I made it to the range and shot 10 round groups at 3 yards for a total of a 100 rounds.  I did not experience any more issues with the striker not releasing.  I dry fired that entire evening and still did not encounter any issues.

On a side note, I recently picked up a M&P Pro Series CORE.  I had the gunsmith do all the Apex upgrades including the AEK trigger in this as well.  Can you guess what happened?  Not only did I experience the same issue with the striker not releasing, but it happened after just dry firing for several hours!  I opened up the "candy cane" on it as well, put 50 rounds through it, and dry fired afterwards.  So far, so good, but I will have to keep an eye on it as well.

The moral of the story:  Do not think you are good to go after an installation and function check.  Take it to the range and try and wring out any issues!  I will still try and go to the range over the next several days to put rounds through the 9c as well as dry fire to ensure it does not reoccur.

So, my initial impressions of the Apex AEK Polymer Trigger?  Very positive!  It does what it says in terms of reducing pre-travel and over-travel.  It also feels way better to shoot when at the range.  Specifically, I can pull the trigger straight back much more smoothly than I could with the factory trigger.  The issues with the striker not releasing are issues that Apex warns about clearly on the product page.  It was my expectations of the trigger being good to go after an initial function check that were misguided.

Have you adjusted your pistol's trigger?  If so, what are some tips or tricks to help fine tune?  Or do you have some advice on troubleshooting trigger issues?  I would love to hear from you.  Please comment below and share.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Happened, America?: School has 5 year old sign a contract not to kill after pointing crayon

Has some folks in the school system lost their damn minds?

School Has 5 Year Old Sign Anti-Murder/Suicide Contract After Pointing Crayon

The child pointed a crayon and said "pew, pew".  I've done the finger gun/ pew pew thing so many times that these people would think I was a mass murderer in the making.  This situation is twisted on so many levels.  A child cannot enter into a legal contract.  Most at that age don't even fully comprehend their ABCs or math let alone the abstract idea of murder or death.

And, really, they're worried about a 5 year old.  With a crown.  Saying "pew pew".  You can't make this up, folks.

This would not have happened 20 years ago.

What Happened, America?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gear Review: Ares Gear Aegis Enhanced Belt

Ares Gear Logo
It became clear after taking Shivworks ECQC that some new gear was in order.  My belt and Supertuck had been sufficient up to that point.  However, I found that the leather on both the belt and on the holster had given up their shape over repeated use.  The belt in particular had formed a bit of a "V" where the back belt loops normally contacted.  A stiffer belt provides better stability of the holster.  Any give provides a "mushy" feel on the draw.  This was evident during my class.

I had read and heard good things about Ares Gear's Aegis Enhanced Belt.  What drew me to this particular belt were the materials that were used to construct it.  Ares Gear uses proprietary scuba webbing to achieve the stiffness in their product.  I decided to take a chance on it.  I have been wearing it for about 3 months since the day it arrived.

Patch did not come with belt.  However, I'm a patch whore, so I ordered one.

I immediately noticed how much more stiff the Aegis Enhanced Belt was than my previous gun belt in brand new condition.  I also noted that the thickness of the belt was fairly beefy.  This is a plus considering that not only does it contribute to the stiffness of the belt, but that it gives more of a "ledge" for a holster's retention clips or loops to gain purchase.  The stiffness has not lessened since the day I removed it from the packaging.  I cannot say the same for my leather belt.

The belt buckle uses friction to hold the belt tight by sliding the end of the belt through the buckle and then running the steel bar tight against the material.  I will say that sometimes the bar does come slightly loose.  It has not been a problem with regards to holding my pants up even with my holster and pistol.  It also has not affected my draw when this has happened.  The material and the bar are grippy enough that it holds well even when it is not completely tight.

Bar shown creates friction against end of belt looped through.  This fastens the belt.

The belts extra length is held fast by an elastic loop.  Ares Gear provides two.  The belt is stiff enough that I find that instead of looping the extra length through another belt loop that it is just easier to lay it over and use the elastic band to keep it from flopping around.  Another item worth mentioning is that sometimes I forget about the loop when taking off my belt for the night.  The loop will fall to the ground without me noticing until the next day.  I suspect that is why Ares Gear provides a second.

Two of these loops are provided.

A couple of practical points to note.  If you're, ahem, heeding Nature's Call, then you may find that the extra length of belt can get in the way, especially if you are a male and taking care of Number 1.  Another item is that the belt can have a tendency to cut into a person's side if they are overweight (damn love handles) or if they lean in one direction for long periods of time.  Both minor gripes are due to the belt's stiffness.  They aren't really critiques of the Aegis Enhanced Belt, but they are things that I have not experienced with other belts.

Did I mention the look of the belt?  Generally, I try to steer clear of anything looking "tactical".  And while Ranger belts are great, they scream "tactical" to folks who are "in the know".  The Aegis Enhanced Belt helps alleviate that look without sacrificing the stiff webbing material used and having a fairly normal looking buckle.  It has become one of my favorite belts.  The solid piece buckle looks sharp and the belt has a casual look to it that goes well with all but the dressiest of clothing.  Ares Gear does offer a substantial selection to choose from when it comes to the color of the belt.

I would not hesitate to recommend this belt after the 3 months of use thus far.  It has been a solid performer and does its primary function of holding my pants up with no problems to report.  The belt does this while toting a M&P9c in a Raven Concealment holster and I have noticed no sagging that some other belts are prone to.  If you are looking for a gun belt, then look no further than the Ares Gear Aegis Enhanced Belt.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

GORUCK Light #431: Kansas City, MO September 6th, 2014

Before the fun began.
My wife and I arrived at Liberty Memorial around 2 p.m. for our first GORUCK Light event.  The weather was perfect.  It was in the 70's and sunny.

What is a GORUCK event?  The short version is that it is a teamwork event that involves lots of physical activity.  It is lead by Special Operations Force members, both veteran and active, who teach leadership skills using their experience in the military while performing the different tasks you do throughout the event.

The day started out with a gear check by Cadre Daniel.  There was a 5 burpee penalty for every infraction of the packing list.  The fun then began.  We immediately bunny hopped up and down the steps of the Memorial.  We were directed to march out towards a statue and then stand in formation.  So, off we went. Once we lined up, Cadre Daniel explained how we looked like a bunch of individuals and not a team.  This was bad because GORUCK (with the exception of Selection) is an exercise in teamwork.

Cadre Daniel straightening us out.

We then marched back to the Liberty Memorial steps and performed some more exercises keeping in mind what we had just been told about teamwork.

A little bit of crabwalking never hurt anybody, right?

Oh, did I mention there is a team weight?  Made bear crawling up the stairs a bit tricky.

After we were done with exercises on the stairs we moved onto some other fun drills on the back lawn of Liberty Memorial.

Getting up from one of many PT exercises.

Then, it was off an a march towards the Plaza.  Once we arrived, we worked our way down Brush Creek.  Then the Good Livin' really started as we fished out a log...

Did I mention there were rusty nails in the log?
... and then hoisted it on our shoulders and proceeded to hump it all over the Plaza.

We took turns rotating in and out of positions to give each other some rest.

It was a bit awkward when others were on the side walk... or when there was outdoor cafe like seating.
Stopping for a refreshing squat session in the fountain.

We finally ended the log portion of the session at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain.  We cached the log in a natural spot (i.e. we didn't just leave it for people to trip over) and proceeded roughly back the way we came.

I was made "captain" for this last portion of the hike.  About a quarter of a mile out from Liberty Memorial, I was informed by Cadre Daniel that there were "reports" of the enemy ahead, distance unknown, and that they probably possessed chemical weapons.  This is where the SHTF.  We took "casualties" and had to evacuate them towards our pick up point.  However, carrying everyone was a challenge because we had more casualties than able bodied folks who were not carrying packs at this point.  Cadre Daniel had to step in and suggest leap frogging two groups to make it work.

Needless to say, I felt pretty damn stupid the entire time (pride issues, I know) for getting folks in a bind and also for not coming up with a clear plan of action.  Oh well, I learned my lesson (and truth be told, my mind couldn't let the scenario go until I had scrutinized what I would have done differently).  I realize this portion was designed as a "the wheels are coming off" scenario, but I know that I could have handled it better.

Some folks carrying extra packs while others carry "casualties".  My "casualty" had to suffer my poor carry technique.

But I digress.  We eventually made it and were told to line up for more exercises.  This lasted maybe five more minutes and then we were told we had just completed our event (or ENDEX, short for End of exercise).

The last few exercises although we were not sure this was the end.

After 8 hours and 9..6 miles traveled, I earned my GORUCK Light patch and felt pretty good about the whole event.  I met a great crew of folks and will definitely be looking forward to the next!

Have you done a GORUCK event?  I'd like to hear about your experiences with others outside of a Light.  I highly recommend it for a "gut check" type of experience.