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.

Solar post07

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.

Solar post06

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)

Solar post01

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.

Solar post03

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.

Solar post02

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.

Solar post04

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.

Solar post05

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Force Multipliers: My Optics Of Choice For The LP/OP

Force Multipliers: My Optics Of Choice For The LP/OP

A few things should come to mind when you think of items that are considered “Force Multipliers”. Good Commo, Night and Thermal vision, and some good optics with special features. These all make things easier and more sure when it counts.  Use of those items along with other visual aids can help positively identify (PID) friend from foe. In a combat zone, PID is a must. Even more so would be the need for PID if you and yours are to survive a WROL situation.

lp-op optics post01

Burris XTS 2575 spotting scope on left, Armasight 7×50 with M22 Mil rangefinder reticle on right. Both are no longer available for sale, but other versions of these items are readily available.

When we think of having to occupy either a permanent or temporary Listening Post/Observation Post (LP/OP), what are some of the tools you think you’d need at your disposal? In the realm of commo, for me it would be a radio and a field phone. That way you have a wireless means of commo, but more importantly, with the field phones, you have a means of commo that can’t be intercepted unless it’s spliced into on the actual wire.

lp-op optics post09

Military TA-312/PT Field Phones with 1/4 mile of wire.

When it comes to optics for an LP-OP type post, they should be geared towards “overlap/confirmation” type devices. What do I mean by “Overlap/Confirmation”? Simply this. When it comes to overlapping or confirming something with optics, I’m talking about being able to easily transition from one system to another. This is either a more powerful optic, or a different systems such as night vision or a thermal imager, to confirm whether it is a friend or foe you are observing.

 

Scenarios:

As an example, we have “Sarah the Survivalist” who has the “fortune” of pulling LP/OP duty this morning ( midnight shift) for the retreat group she is part of. It’s been a boring shift so far, but just as she’s about to drink some coffee from the thermos, she catches movement out of the corner of her eye.

lp-op optics post04

FLIR Scout 240 thermal imager. $1500 but worth every penny as a night or DAYTIME viewer.

Scenario #1

Sarah puts down the thermos, picks up her binos, and although it is still early dawn and still somewhat dark, she is easily able to confirm it was just some small birds moving in the leaves approximately 50 meters away. Sarah is using a pair of 7×50 binos that are easy to use and are well equipped to see in low light, due to their large and moderately magnified lenses.

Scenario #2

Same as scenario #1 above, but Sarah can’t quite make out the movement’s source, so she pulls out a FLIR thermal viewer. Low and behold, it’s two individuals low crawling very slowly through low lying ground (shallow defilade) in the retreat’s perimeter. What the binos had a hard time making out with their non enhanced optical capability, the thermal showed very quickly what was what. Sarah calls in to the “Charge of Quarters” (CQ) desk, personnel are placed on standby and the infiltrators are engaged when they hit a trip wire flare.

lp-op optics post08

Baofeng UV-5R with handset in a UW Gear Swamp Fox 4 rig for FAL/M1A 20 rounders

Scenario #3

“Pete the Prepper” is pulling LP/OP duty one afternoon, and while scanning the treeline in his LP/OP’s area of responsibility with binos, he sees what appears to be a couple armed men approximately 500 meters away. Pete’s rifle of choice only has a 1-6x optic on it (and that won’t help with identifying the individuals at that distance), so he gets behind the spotting scope, turns it up to 40x, and sees it is a neighbor with his sons and they are carrying rifles and an ax. Although Pete could identify that they were armed while using the binos, but he could not positively identify (PID) those guys without the more powerful optical capability that the spotting scope provided.

Scenario #4

“Pete the Prepper” is pulling night duty at the LP/OP and it is raining with a bit of light fog. The 7×50 binos that are in the LP/OP don’t do much except show ghosts. Pete has been using the PVS-7 night vision goggles with a 5x magnifier screwed on the objective lens for the last couple hours. The Night Optical Device (NOD) works ok to a point for this night, but Pete sees something moving in the distance, and he can’t make out what it is, due to the light fog. It is about 175 meters out, and he only sees fleeting images of it as it moves from left to right towards the perimeter wire.

lp-op optics post05

Polish flare pistol with colored (short) flares and white illumination (long) flares in holster/case. Illumination flares are getting hard to find.

 

Pete gets out the FLIR thermal viewer and is immediately able to see it is a lone gunman creeping towards the perimeter of their retreat. Pete calls his security counterpart sitting at the CQ desk, over the field phone, and a “Stand To” is alerted. When all security posts are manned, he fires an illumination flare which catches the individual out in the open. At that time, the individual opens fire and is engaged by the members of the retreat.

 

lp-op optics post03

5x magnifier screws directly into the front of a PVS- 7 and 14. On the 7’s it’s like 5x binos at night.

Scenario #5

One evening, “Isaac the Idiot” is “pullin’ security” as his buddies call it. His group has all the latest high end rifles from SCAR’s to Knight Armament SR-25’s to LWRC piston guns. Of course all of them have high end Nightforce or Leupold scopes or ACOG optics on their rifles, so when it came time for other, more boring items like quality binos and night vision, they all bought the $25 Walmart specials and $125 “Gen 1” goggles because they spent the coin on what looked good in their “Tacti-selfies” on social media.

As Isaac is sittin’ there, he thinks he sees movement in the clearing in front of him. He looks with his binos…nothing. He looks with his night vision and all he sees is an unidentifiable, dark blob. He pulls up his high end, super deluxe Leupold MK4 LR/T 10×40 Mildot scope mounted to his SCAR-H, and what does he see? He sees a dark blob running directly towards his position! Holy Cow! No one is supposed to be back from the patrol for another day or so! INTRUDER…..BANG!

Isaac just shot a member of his group. That member was part of a reconnaissance patrol they sent out the afternoon before to see what was going on in their area. That patrol had been ambushed, and “Louis the Lucky” had been wounded and was the only survivor of that patrol……until Isaac. Isaac had nothing to be able to positively identify anything in his LP/OP area of responsibility at night. Just like their lack of planning to have the optics needed for situations like this, Isaac’s group had not gone over a “Challenge and Password” or what a running password is, and how to use it.

Optics play a big role during the day, and special optics can play an even bigger role at night (when you should expect an attack). The basics for night observation start with a good pair of 7×50 binos. It has been shown that the 50mm objective lens size, combined with no more than a 7 power magnification, make for an extraordinary combination to see in very low light.

lp=op optics post09

M-22 Military rangefinder reticle available is some binoculars

7×50’s also work well during the day, and combined with a good spotting scope, will positively identify objects out to, and beyond, realistic engagement ranges. a good 20-50x spotting scope will get the job done, and there are many on the market. Another advantage of binos is the availability of a built in range finder scale (M22). By the way, If you are at a fixed location or even a temporary one, you should have a Range Card (post for another day) made for every position on the perimeter.

lp-op optics post07

Older commercial Coincidence style range finder from Bushnell that I’ve had since ’94

Even if you are in a temporary patrol base, a basic range card should be developed. A nice to have for doing this is some type of range finder. Whether it’s a “no batteries required”, “coincidence” type (Bushnell) or the battery operated old or newer laser type (Leica, etc.) range finders. Both will do the job.

lp-op optics post06

A Lieca LRF 1200 rangefinder I bought in 2002, and a pair of Apollo 10×40’s I bought in 1989. Both are durable and have been through a lot.

Night time LP-OP duties can be difficult in many ways. You’re probably fighting off sleep. If you’re tired, you will see things that aren’t there. Worst of all is if it is bone chilling cold, since this just adds insult to the other issues you are already dealing with. Having quality gear to positively identify what you are seeing is crucial to make sure you don’t engage an innocent.

m1a rifles

You don’t always have the opportunity to use your rifle optics for detailed observation. The rifle on the left only has a 1-4x scope, while the one on the right has a 4-16x.

Of all the items mentioned in this post, I recommend you at least have a good pair of 7×50 bino, and a thermal imager. The binos are good for the majority of things you will need to observe in an LP-OP setting, and the thermal viewer will help discriminate the difference between a friend or foe whether day or night.

Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas of what scenarios you should plan for, and what you will need to survive them. We have the benefit of many durable, quality “Force Multipliers” available to us these days. It makes sense to at least minimally equip yourself with a few to give yourself every advantage possible.

oif 5 (167)

Night vision on rifle and helmet, IR laser on the rifle for use with the goggles and good commo. These are force multipliers that are not only available to Soldiers, but are available to you as a civilian.

JCD

“Parata Vivere”-Live Prepared.

BTW, if you’re wondering why posts have been light for the last few months, I have been spending most of my time posting older posts from here over at American Partisan.