Archive | Preparedness

The Knife Connection (TKC) Blurs the Line Between Custom and Production with the Architect Field Buddy 5.5

Have you ever wished you could have the type of control over knife features that you get when ordering a custom knife… but pay a production knife price? That is the promise of the TKC Architect series and the first offering in that series – the Field Buddy 5.5.

The Architect Field Buddy 5.5 is available 2 ways from TKC. You can purchase the bare blade on its own or you can use their Knife Builder to customize with your choice of handle scales, sheath options, and more.

The Field Buddy 5.5 is ground from 5/32″ thick 1095 steel. The blade has a high saber ground drop point shape where the point is in line with the handle. The blades are produced by TOPS Knives who knows how to get a lot of performance out of 1095 steel.

The handle shape is shared with the ESEE 6 which allows TKC to offer their massive array of aftermarket ESEE handles to fit the Field Buddy 5.5. The amount of options available is staggering and these handles are very comfortable to use in my experience.

There are a lot more specs and features to see and customize on the TKC Knife Builder. You can also check out the bare blade and all available accessory options at TKC’s Architect product page.

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OC Tactical Facemask Updates

OC Tactical has made two updates to their facemasks. First, they are now including a disposable PM2.5 filter insert with each mask in addition to the included disposable fiber filter insert. This addition comes with a very slight price increase ($7.00, up from $6.25). Second, the mask is now available in Multicam in addition to the previously available Tiger Stripe and Desert Tiger Stripe options.

I purchased a number of these when they were initially available and I am very pleased with them. The ear bands in particular are extremely comfortable and the ability to insert disposable filter media is a nice feature. I also find them to be quite affordable.

OCTactical.com

Review: Motorola T800 and T801 Talkabout Radios

FRS radio communications can’t be private… can they?

The rechargeable battery packs in some of my older FRS radios gave up the ghost recently so it seemed like a good time to update. FRS radios haven’t seen much innovation in the last several years so I was surprised to come across the Motorola T800 and T801 Talkabout radios with a feature set that is actually quite innovative and very useful.

These radios can be paired with a smartphone to serve as a sort of off-grid, FRS based modem for sending text messages and other info. So… do they work? The short answer is yes, but they come with all the shortcomings of FRS radios with which you are likely already familiar.

Overview

The T800 and T801 radios are identical except for color and the T801 radios come with some additional accessories. These are fairly typical FRS radios with 22 channels and 121 privacy codes. They feature access to NOAA weather radio and ca be configured to give weather alerts. They come with a rechargeable NiMH battery pack but can also be powered from 3 AA batteries. Per the FCC listing, these radios output 750mW (FRS max is 2W but power makes almost no difference with these radios for a variety of reasons).

The housings are weather resistant but not submersible. The quality is typical Motorola which is to say it is quite good. They feel sturdy.

Finally, the feature that sets these apart is Bluetooth connectivity. This is used to pair the radios with your phone in order to integrate with Motorola’s free Talkabout app which contains the connected functionality. It is not used for wireless headsets or anything along those lines.

Observations from Use

As FRS radios go… these are typical. If you have ever used FRS radios before, you are familiar with their limitations. Radio manufacturers often claim ranges of 30+ miles but that rarely (if ever) works out in the real world. I tested these around my home which consists of low hills, lots of timber, and few structures. These are hardly ideal conditions but they are a good test. My testing consisted of placing one radio inside my home with my wife while I walked around our area and attempted to contact her along with general usage on our acreage.

I was able to have reliable voice connections regardless of conditions within a 1/2 mile. At 3/4 a mile, voice calls were generally fine but I could put myself in positions where I was too low or there was too much timber to make contact. Generally, I could make contact easily out to 1 1/2 or 2 miles as long as I was intentional about my positioning. This is fairly typical of any decent quality FRS radio that I have tried.

In my experience, the connected features of these radios work well with one very annoying caveat. Before I get into that, I’ll outline a little about how these features work. The radios may be paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth. Once connected, they may be used in conjunction with Motorola’s free Talkabout app to send individual or group texts and share locations via maps as long. All of the connected features are handled via the app with the radios acting as a sort of modem.

Each user is registered to the app which adds a useful layer of privacy that is lacking with FRS voice communications. You can send texts to a specific radio user or blast them out to anyone who may be in range. This privacy is perhaps the best feature of these radios.

The data range is shorter than the voice range. I was able to send texts from almost 1 1/2 miles but I also had texts that failed to send at 3/4 mile. Like voice communications, it will be heavily dependant on your conditions but is generally reliable within a 1/2 mile.

Now for the annoying caveat: You can turn off any and all tones on these radio for silent operation… except for one. Whenever the radio connects to or disconnects from Bluetooth, there is a fairly loud tone. It can not be turned off which is unfortunate because, like many Bluetooth devices, these can and will drop their connection at inopportune times. Sometimes just having your phone on one side of your body and the radio on the other is enough to interrupt the Bluetooth connection resulting in a surprise tone. This is obviously not ideal for hunting or home security applications but it can be mitigated by turning off Bluetooth or only using it intentionally. Using an earpiece may also eliminate the tone, at the external speaker at least, but I have been unable to test this.

Wrap Up

FRS radios are, in my view, the foundation of almost any emergency communication plan. They do not require a license to operate and, chances are, your neighbors already have some compatible radios. They are not without limitations but they are the first rung in the ladder.

The Motorola T800 and T801 are solid, typical FRS radios with the useful addition of off-grid text messaging and location sharing. They expand your communication options in a useful way when you are out of range of a cell tower or in emergencies. Perhaps most importantly, they add a method of communication that is more private than voice communications over FRS frequencies.

I purchased 4 of the T801 Talkabouts from Amazon for my own use. If you are interested, you can check them out at Amazon.com (affiliate links to follow):

Motorola T800 on Amazon

Motorola T801 on Amazon

Ben’s Backwoods Fire Wicks

I recently had the chance to try Fire Wicks from Ben’s Backwoods and I’m impressed. To give you some context, my impression of them is that they are kind of like an improved version of petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls. Having something that readily turns spark into flame and then extends that flame is vital to any fire kit.

Fire Wicks are sections of lamp wick that are impregnated with wax. The use of lamp wick is the genius part. First, lamp wick is dense with cotton fibers so the can be fluffed to catch a spark and burn for a long, long time. Second, the lamp wick is flat in form which makes Fire Wicks incredibly easy to store in a kit, on a sheath, or anywhere. Lastly, one Fire Wick can be trimmed into multiple pieces to start multiple fires. It can also be kept whole to use like a match when starting a twig stove or reaching into a fire lay. The lamp wick form is very handy.

BensBackwoods.com

Close Encounters of the Moose Kind…

I was charged by a cow moose and her calf yesterday. That’s a first for me and it happened on our family property… well, technically adjacent to our property but still, the charge began on our property.

This is not the moose from yesterday… I didn’t bother taking any pics then.

The northern border of our place is a road that runs West to East, eventually climbing its way into a National Forest. Our driveway enters this road and the forest lands start about 2.5 miles beyond our place. I walk or ruck this road regularly to stay in hiking shape and that is what I was doing yesterday when I meet Mrs. Moose.

My walk started with me turning East out of our driveway. I walked less than 100 yards from the end of the driveway. In this area, the woodline is set back from the road anywhere between 20-40 yards to give space for some power lines. Fortunately, this buffer field is at its widest where the charge happened which gave me time to see it happen.

I was walking East when I noticed rustling and caught movement in my peripheral vision to the South in the woodline (my right). Initially, I noticed a moose calf (already much larger than a very large Whitetail Deer) pop out of the woodline at a run directly toward me. It was coming from ahead and to my right. The calf was out first, possibly trying to get out of the way of the cow (which I didn’t know about yet). I am really not sure why it came out first.

I stopped walking and the woodline had my immediate attention. I realized shortly, based on movement, that a large dark spot I could see but wasn’t fully aware of in the woodline was the cow moose. She was coming out quickly through, not around, some smaller Grand Firs that choke this section of our property. She covered half the ground between my position on the road and the woodline in a flash before stopping. It didn’t really even look like a sprint since she slowed to a stop so easily. The elapsed time from when I saw the calf and realized a cow was following to when she stopped, may have been less than a second.

At this point, I am not moving but she has stopped about 20 yards away and is sort of just staring so I shifted my gaze away from her. I am not sure how much of a difference it makes since supposedly moose have terrible eyesight, but I’ve heard you shouldn’t make eye contact… so I didn’t. I just sort of watched below her slightly so I could still see legs and track movement while I started to back away. At some point, while backing away, I drew my Ruger LCR (not enough gun) from a pocket holster and kept it low along the side of my thigh.

Not enough gun

The cow took probably no more than 1 or 2 more small steps in my general direction at this point. She was mostly standing in place. Then an S10 Blazer drove past seemingly unaware of the moose since they didn’t slow down. When the Blazer zipped past, the cow turned and stepped back toward the woodline with a start which I took as an opportunity to back up a bit faster. I was out of view of the cow a moment after that because of some low brush and smaller trees between us.

It was exciting, to say the least, but there are also some lessons to be learned.

  1. Carry a gun. – In this case, I was woefully under-gunned but at least I had access to one. I didn’t need it but I was glad to have it.
  2. Know the wildlife/threats specific to your area. – I dealt with this moose the way I have rehearsed dealing with a moose. This is something that I have made a point to know about and role-play. We have bears, mountain lions, and moose on our property and wolves nearby. I recommend that you take some time to understand and practice what you would do in an encounter with the dangerous animals in your area.
  3. Carry your phone. – I always carry my phone on my rucks/walks. I was able to immediately let my family know that there was a jumpy cow moose on the property and to stay away from the area. If the situation was a bit different, it could have been handy for getting help.

I’ll wrap up by pointing something out that I often think about in situations like this. We have active mountain lions on our property… mountain lions that have killed and carried miniature horses and alpacas OUT OF BARNS! We obviously have moose too. We are not unique. There are millions of people living in wild places like this. And a lot of those people are tired of their right to own the firearms they deem appropriate to protect themselves from these animals being questioned by people who live somewhere far away in a place where the wildlife is limited to little critters that eat from dumpsters.

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