Making The “Lightning” For Your Force Multipliers

Making The “Lightning” For Your Force Multipliers

Winter ruckin'16

Charging the large fold up solar unit on top of my pack in the field.

Since the 90’s, I’ve carried a small solar charger for AA batteries in my kit. This was for keeping certain devices I had, like flashlights and PVS-7 NOD’s, operating in the field when there was no chance to get new batteries or charge the rechargeables I had on household 110 system. I started using CR123 batteries in the early 2000’s when I bought an IR laser that used a single 123 battery, and shortly after, I upgraded my weapons light to a two celled, CR123 powered, Surefire.

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The DBAL and Surefire light on this M1A Socom both use CR123 batteries

THE PROBLEM

The use of CR123 batteries put a gap in my preps because, at that time, no one was selling 123 rechargeables. Oh well, guess when they’re done, the IR laser and Surefire is done, right? I made sure I bought a lot of CR123’s for storage. Back in 2013 I found CR123 rechargeables that were made by a company called Tenergy, and I’ve been using them ever since. The caveat to using Tenergy 123’s is that their charge is a little higher than a normal CR123’s 3.2 Volts and two together will burn out a standard Surefire bulb immediately upon hitting the switch (ask me how I know…). No problem, I also ordered some programmable bulbs for my lights and I was back in business.

Last year I decided to get with the times and see if I could come up with alternative charging means to recharge not only my AA’s and CR123’s, but also my 9 Volt batteries for my laser range finder and heat (game) detector. My FLIR 24 which has an internal battery and recharges via micro USB also needed a way to get a boost in the field.

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The total kit that was tested. Total weight was 3.25 lbs.

THE BATTERIES

The system I’ve put together has been in use for approximately 6 months or so. Certain Items like the Tenergy 123 battery box I bought back in 2013 is no longer available, but I’ve found a worthy replacement. I have used a couple different companies’ products, and for the most part, they are about equal in quality and capability.

For the AA batteries, I usually use Eneloop AA’s along with their battery box ($27). I have also used AA battery HSTEK products ($25) with no issues. For the CR123 batteries I’ve been using Tenergy products, but as I already mentioned, that product is no longer available, so I bought batteries and charger box from Power 2000 ($20) and it has performed well. As to the 9 Volt system, I’ve had pretty good luck with the Keenstone charger and 9 Volt batteries ( $25)

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Keenstone 9 Volt charger box on left, HSTEK AA charger box with Eneloop batteries in the Center, and Power 2000 CR123 charger box with Tenergy batteries on the right. The 5V to 12V adapter is on the bottom.

Because the CR123 charger from Tenergy and Power 2000 both come with a 12 Volt and 110AC plugs, I bought a 5 Volt to 12 Volt converter ($10) for the 12V plug. I did this instead of finding a dedicated USB CR123 charger because I figured there might be a need for the ability to charge a dedicated 12V item besides that of my CR123 batteries (example, my “tablet”).

THE POWER

Now, on to the power sources. Although my old units were all solar powered, I decided I’d check into more than just sun charged devices. I found a small, hand held unit that was crank powered and figured it might be a good option if there was no sun available. The other two units I found were both solar. One was small and similar in size to an android phone and had one solar panel. The other one was larger, heavier, and it had four fold out panels.

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Digital multi-meter used for the tests.

To test the chargers I bought a small, digital multi-meter ($18). The process went like this. First, I fully charged the charger/power source being tested before connecting the multi-meter and discharging a specific number of mAh from the charger/power source. Next, I either cranked the crank charger for a given amount of time, or put the solar chargers in the sun (varied levels of sunlight that I documented) for a given amount of time. Lastly, after the time allotted, I then hooked up the multi-meter again and measured the number of mAh it took to completely recharge it while attached to house current.

As an example, the large solar charger shown below was fully charged up, then a measured discharge of 400mAh was completed. At that time, I put the charger out in the sun for 2 hours. Once the time was up, I then recharged the large solar charger from house current while measuring the required amount of mAh required to fully recharge the internal battery.

The small solar unit weighs in at 8 oz. and measures 5.5″x 3″x 6.7″ and cost me $25. it has two “Out” ports, and one “In” charging port. It has a small programmable flashlight built in and the internal battery holds 8,000mAh of power. In perspective, when I have recharged a pair of “dead” AA batteries they’ve taken approximately 1800 mAh to fully recharge. From testing using the small voltage meter shown, the solar panel recharges at a rate of 25 mAh an hour in partly sunny conditions. It’s not a lot, but considering it’s size, I wasn’t expecting much.

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Large 25,000 mAh solar charger-left, 5,000 mAh crank charger-top, Small 8,000 mAh solar charger-right.

The large solar unit weighs in at 20 oz.  and measures 6.1″x 3.3″x 1.37″ in size and costs $38. It has two “Out” ports and one “In” charging port. It also has a built in flashlight, and the internal battery holds 25.000 mAh of power. I found that on a partly cloudy day this unit will recharge at a rate of 40 mAh an hour. It’s better than the small solar unit, but it’s not 4 times (4 panels) better. The advantage is it does recharge faster and it holds a lot of juice.

The final charging unit I tested was a small hand crank model. It weighs in at 8 oz., measures 3.75″ x 1.5″ x 2″ and costs about $30. It has one “Out” port and one “In” charging port. Like the other two, it has a built in flashlight. The internal battery hold 5,000 mAh of juice. 30 minutes of cranking will add 25 mAh of power to the internal battery. An hour of cranking this model will produce more power than either of the other chargers, and it doesn’t require the sun to do it.

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Crank charger with AA battery box, 123 battery, 12V adapter and USB cable on left. Small solar charger with the same accessories included on the right.

To give you some comparative size, I can fit either the small hand crank charger or the small solar unit in a quart sized ziplock freezer bag, along with the battery boxes (and their batteries) for AA and 123 and the required cables. The large solar charger fits in a quart sized freezer bag with the 9 Volt battery box and and three 9 Volt batteries.

I usually carry either the crank charger (majority of the time) or the small solar charger with accessories (in the ziplock) in the buttpack of my load bearing equipment. Whichever one I’m not carrying in my LBE, I’m carrying in my ruck with the large solar charger and the 9 Volt battery box and batteries.

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Large solar charger with 9 Volt box and three extra batteries.

All told I have 38,000 mAh of juice to recharge whatever electronics I’m using, whether it’s a laser range finder (9V), my FLIR (USB), my PVS-7’s/ flashlights (AA’s) or the DBAL IR laser/ Surefire weapons lights (CR123’s).They can all be charged by chargers that can be replenished via the sun or a manual powered hand crank.

If you think, “Man, that’s a lot of expense or extra crap.” Fine, it’s a modular system, and you can pick and choose what makes the most sense for your needs and pocket book. Most of these items needing power are considered “Force Multipliers” to those who know how to use them. Give yourself the edge by not being reliant on a never ending need for fresh, disposable batteries in your gear.Anyone who has done combat operations will tell you that batteries was a huge logistics issue in the field. After it all goes to Hell, having this self reliant ability could make all the difference.

JCD

“Parata Vivere”- Live Prepared.

 

“Battle Bars”, A Compact, Energy Packed Ration For The Survivalist

“Battle Bars”, A Compact, Energy Packed Ration For The Survivalist

 

Winter ruckin'16

Ah the Ruck, my old, sadistic friend.

When you’re in the field, space and weight in your gear is always at a premium. If what you have in your load bearing gear is all about surviving what you’ll have to deal with, whether man, beast or environment, being able to save weight and space is not just convenient, but a necessity.

Plenty of times I’ve talked about being prepared to “Bugout” of your very own “TEOTWAWKISTAN” (the physical manifestation and location of The End Of The World As We Know It). I haven’t talked much about what I carry to feed myself along the way, but in this post I wanted to give my impressions of something called a MOAB protein bar made by a relatively new company called “Battle Bars”.

My Wife told me a while back that a Veteran friend of hers was starting a company with his Brother, and that they made protein bars. When she asked if I wanted to try one, I said “Sure, why not?”. Helping to support a friend of the Family as well as a fellow Vet is a big deal to me.

The first one I tried was their “Blue Falcon” bar. The BF bar has 21 grams of protein and 230 calories. The flavor was good, but I’m not a big fan of blueberry, so it didn’t do much for me, flavor wise.

Winter ruckin'17

A few weeks later my Wife told me they had a chocolate protein bar out now, so we ordered some. Now we’re on to something! It’s called the MOAB (Mother Of All Bars) and they taste great, they pack 25 grams of protein and 250 calories into a 2.5 oz bar. that measures 3.5x2x1.5 inches. This might not seam like much till you compare it to a freeze dried meal that I normally use.

Winter ruckin'18

One of the Backpacker Pantry, freeze dried meals I use regularly

Comparing the sizes, you can fit 7 MOAB’s in the space of two Backpacker Pantry “2-serving” meals. The difference between the MOAB and the BP meal is the seven MOAB’s have 1750 calories and 175 grams of protein, compared to 1200 calories and 64 grams of protein for the two, 2-serving BPP meals. All fitting in the same amount of space. Another plus is that the MOAB’s require no meal prep like a freeze dried meal does (fuel and time to boil water).

Winter ruckin'19

I’ve used the MOAB’s a number of times as a pre-workout energy boost, and can tell you I’ve noticed they do make a difference in my performance. One of their claims is as a meal replacement, so I put it to the test. What I didn’t do was put it to a normal test.

I started out my day with my typical LARGE cup of coffee, then I didn’t eat any breakfast. I prepped my gear for a mountain ruck and headed off. The temp. was 17 degrees and the snow was 10-12 inches deep. Around 11 AM, I was starting to get pretty hungry, so I decided to give the MOAB a try.

Winter ruckin'13

Keep in mind on the day in question, I’m ruckin’ around 90 lbs. of load bearing gear and a 13 lb. weapon up that mountain. Considering that I’m also slogging through 10-12 inches of snow, sans snowshoes (was just a little too shallow for me to get them out), I was burning some serious calories. After all that, I didn’t even begin to get hungry (no issues with my energy level) for about another three hours after eating the MOAB.

I’ve never been much into the whole “protein bar” thing that a lot of my friends have gotten into for pre-workout prep. My normal “Go To” before a workout is a big cup of coffee. What I am into is space saving, energy boosting, food sources that are not only compact, but give energy beyond what you’d expect from their size.

Not only does this make sense for the Infantryman while conducting combat operations. But it should also be something the Survivalist considers when packing a “Get Home”, “Bug Out” or “INCH” (I’m Not Coming Home) bag. The name of that “game” is to save as much space and weight as possible, while still covering what is needed in equipment and nourishment.

I know what you’re thinkin’, JC is pluggin’ his Wife’s, friend’s business because….”Wife’s Friend”. That’s not how I operate, and if I was gonna do that, I’d have put out a “Hey, this is good stuff” post a couple months back. I get no compensation, and didn’t have to admit to knowing them. I wanted to wait and give my impressions after actually using their product in a variety of situations (not just pre-workout) and seeing how they met my energy needs and supplemented my food requirement.

Winter ruckin'10

There isn’t much out there that will require the energy of heavy ruckin’ in a foot of snow. The MOAB passed my test for a compact, ration designed to give you an energy boost, give you the muscle building protein that is required to maintain fitness and endurance to help survive tough situations, and also to supplement meals you might not have the space for. At $2.50 a piece (12 pack for $29.99), it does a lot for a little, especially when compared to freeze dried meals.

Here’s the “Battle Bars” mission statement,

“We wanted to create a product catered to those who accept nothing less than victory, whether it be on the battlefield, in the gym, or in their daily lives.

This desire led us to create Battle Bars. Hand-crafted ingredients with an incredible taste and texture. Our protein bars will help you build muscle and maintain energy, keeping you at optimal performance during even the biggest challenges.”

Check ’em out, and tell ’em MDT sent ya.

JCD,

"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.

 

 

 

 

 

An Updated “Jed Eckert” Rifle

An Updated “Jed Eckert” Rifle

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As a teenager I remember watching “Red Dawn” the first time and thinking, “WOW, that’s all they had to choose from in a gun shop?”. A .308, a .38 Special (revolver), a 12 Gauge shotgun and a 30-30 Winchester lever gun (a Marlin). Lookin’ back I realize they actually had a pretty good assortment of firearms for survival purposes, but out of all those firearms, I always thought the short, light, Ruger “Ultralight” in .308Win. that the “Jed Eckert” (Patrick Swayze) character carried was the best choice for a “Survival Rifle”out of the selection they had.

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“Jed Eckert” with his Ruger M77 Ultralight in .308 Winchester.

One of my issues with firearms over the years has been being a left-hander in a right-handed world. Except for a few weapons systems like the M-60, weapons in the military never gave me issues shooting them left-handed, and I got around the ones thast did. On the other hand, bolt-guns were always an issue when it came to shooting quickly and correctly.

No bolt action rifle type out there is as reliable and dependable as a Mauser type action. Solid lock up. as robust an extractor as is available, and the fixed ejector is solid and dependable. Compared to the small surface grabbing, claw extractors and plunger type ejectors of most other bolt action rifle types made today, the Mauser action wins, hands down, as the durable, reliable, “Go To” bolt type action in a survival rifle.

For all it’s PC faults, Ruger makes great guns. I’ve owned a dozen or so Ruger firearms over the years, and one of the thing I will give Ruger is the fact that they put the extra effort into making firearms for both right and LEFT-handers in most models. I’ve owned three of the M77 rifles. A left handed .300WinMag, an older right handed, tang-safety, Heavy Barreled .308Win. (I like right handed guns when shooting from the prone), and the most recent “Gunsite Scout” rifle in .308 Winchester

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Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle with four 10 round mags and mag carrier.

I always liked the idea of the Cooper “Scout Rifle” concept to a point, but having had a few rifles with long eye relief, low powered (2 3/4-4x) scopes, I’m not the biggest fan of the forward scope mount in execution. The first scope I ever used was a 4x on my BB gun (Dad made me get good with irons first). Next, I had a 3-9x on my Savage 24 .223Rem./20Gauge combo gun. I also used a 3-9x on my Father’s Springfield ’03 (another awesome Mauser action) for deer hunting. So when it came time to scope my Scout Rifle, I put an older 1″ Sightron 3-9x MilDot that I had on it, and mounted it in Leupold Quick Detach, Zero Hold rings .

The '03-02

First Mauser action rifle I ever used. A Springfield 1903, 30-06

For a multi-purpose Survival/Hunting rifle, I think the 3-9 power scope gives the most bang for the buck. If the rifle is up to it, accuracy wise, the 9 power will give you all the range you could ever want in either scenario. For dense brush or snap shooting, 3 power will get it done easily if you’ve practiced. I normally leave it set on 6 power because it is truly a “happy medium” in an optic’s magnification for ease of use.

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Safety is in the forward “Fire” position (position 1) right behind the bolt handle in this pic.

As to the features present on my “Modern Day Jed Eckert Rifle”, let’s go over them. When I bought the Ruger Scout rifle, I picked the 18.7″ barrel over the 16.1 inch model. I figured since it was for Survival/Hunting use, 18 inches will give the ammo I usually use (Federal 168gr Match and Hornady 168gr AMAX TAP) a little more room to perform well.

Overall length is 40 inches with the flash hider and the “length of pull spacer” (it comes with a couple) I used. It weighs in at 9 1/4 pounds empty  and with optic mounted. Ten round mags weigh 1 pound. Loaded but without the extra mag in the buttstock pouch it’s 10 1/4lbs.  and 11 1/4lbs. with extra mag on the stock . Speakin’ of Mags. I have four for my Scout. All are Ruger 10 round mags. One is the steel one that came with the rifle. Three are Ruger synthetics that are slightly lighter but just as robust.

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Two 10 round mags in a mag pouch originally meant for 20 round 30 cal. mags.

It has 5/8×24 threads for a flash suppressor, a muzzle brake or a sound suppressor. This could be advantageous for obvious reasons if you are using it in a survival role, and it makes it easier for smaller framed people to shoot the .308Win. if you get an effective muzzle brake.

I bought the stainless model with a laminated stock for the obvious corrosion resistance and durability. I like a laminate stock over a synthetic because it feels and hefts more like a wood stock, but still has the durability of synthetic. I’ve always liked the feel of a wooden stock on a solid rifle. Attached to the stock is a mag carrier originally designed for one 20 round 30 cal. magazine. In it I carry a pull through bore cleaner rolled up in the bottom, and an extra 10 round mag. Also, I like Ruger’s dull stainless finish because it is very corrosion resistant, but doesn’t glow/shine in the woods due to it’s dull finish.

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One 10 round mag and a “Boresnake” go into the buttstock mag pouch.

Another feature I love about this rifle are the back up iron sights. It started out with the factory Ruger peep sights (ghost ring). The front sight is wing protected and about as solid as can be without it being brazed onto the barrel. I replaced the rear sight with a full length (it came with the forward mounting rail) rail from XS Sights and this has a built in ghost ring aperture.

Last, but not least is the Ruger 3-position safety. After using a Springfield ’03, three position safety while growing up, I absolutely love the Ruger version. The Springfield safety rotates over the top of the bolt counter clockwise from 3oclock “safe, bolt locked” (position 3), to 12oclock “safe, bolt unlocked” (position 2), to 9oclock “fire” (position 1).

The Ruger action has the safety rotate forward on the left side of the rear of the action (left handed action). It starts at the rear of the bolt, next to the firing pin protrusion where it’s in “safe, bolt locked” (position 3). It rotates forward and left about 3/8 inch to “safe, bolt unlocked” (position 2), and finally forward again, next to the bolt handle for “Fire” (position 1). It is easy and sure to flip it from “Safe” (position 2) to “Fire” (position 1) with a normal firing grip with the left thumb next the left side of the rifle.

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A three shot, 2.5 inch group at 200 meters

As far as accuracy goes, it is a 1.5 to 2 MOA (with LC Ball) rifle on average. I have shot a 2 inch group at 200 meters with my rifle and Match ammo, but that is the best, and a little smaller than the average. The only downside I see with the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle is cost. They average around $800-$900. Do I think it’s money well spent? Yes, No one else makes a Scout configured rifle left handed. Savage, and Mossberg  each make one, but none are left-handed, and they’re within $200 of the cost of my Ruger.

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Is my Scout the most accurate bolt gun I own? No, that position is owned by my Savage 10 Tactical with a TTI StraightJacket barrel system. It shoots 1/2 MOA or better out to 500 meters all day long (I don’t usually get to shoot further than that on regular basis). The downside for the Savage 10Tac is that it is a 46 1/4 inch long, 13 1/4 pound rifle with a 10x scope and a bipod. That’s 6 inches and 4 pounds heavier than the Scout.

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Savage 10 Tactical. This is the most accurate rifle I own, and the second most accurate rifle I’ve ever shot. 

The Scout and Savage Tac have different applications as rifles, and fill their intended niche perfectly. Given the choice, the Ruger Scout would be the “Grab and Go” gun as a survival/hunting piece, and I would not feel under-gunned in a wilderness survival situation with the Scout as my only rifle . Coupling the Scout with my compact 11″ ParaFAL and Glock 21 pistol as self defense guns, a .22LR rifle (I use a Marlin 880SQ for hunting and an AR-7 as a pack gun) for small game, I’d be hard pressed for a better compact survival arsenal.

ParaFAL04.jpg

Coupled with this 11″ ParaFAL “pistol” in the same caliber as the Scout, it would be a good start to a versatile, compact, centerfire, survival arsenal. 

I hope this was able to help with your choice for a good, compact, boltgun, especially if you’re a left-hander.

JCD

"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.