There is a Story afoot . . .



A story has attacked me . . . not sure where it's from, but I have been posting chapters as they come out of my fingers. Yes, I am still posting on firearms training and my new topic of basic prepping - all links are to the right of the blog, newest posts first on the lists. Feel free to ignore the story posts - they usually start with a chapter number. But, feel free to read the story as well and comment on it - I like how it's turning out so far! Links to the various chapters are at the right under . . .

The Story

Bill

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Personal – Muskrat Booya and Uncle Ted

 

Uncle Ted was the husband of my mom’s older sister Esther. To say Mom and Esther mixed like gasoline and gasoline would be an understatement. One of Mom’s favorite stories is how she would sneak out to the outhouse and swipe the catalogue just before Esther made her “visit”. She would belly laugh, turn just a bit red . . . and laugh some more. Unfortunately, under this was true animosity between them and it lasted until just weeks before mom’s death. Fate lead both to the family cemetery where they had a fully unexpected meeting . . . and finally made their peace. Neither ever shared what was said, but I’ve always been grateful that they had that final conversation.

As I’m sure I’ve said in some post – my dad died just before Christmas when I was 7. Mom would not marry for another 20+ years and in the intervening years of my youth Uncle Ted helped fill the gap. He taught me to shoot, took me hunting, fishing and for summer vacations at their hand built cedar log cabin “up north”.

Ted and Esther never had children and Esther’s relationship was as volatile with her three other siblings as it was with my mother. Of all the cousins, I probably got the most time with Uncle Ted. And he’d love to tweak me and tell long and involved stories (gee – wonder where my love of storytelling comes from). He also truly enjoyed cooking – basic, old fashioned “meat and potatoes” cooking. Two meals have always stuck in my mind.

It was his tradition to serve raw sauerkraut and raw rutabagas as a meal just after midnight on New Years Eve/Day. I do not remember if he ever told me why, it was simply to be done.

The other meal was Muskrat Booya. Muskrat is a bit of a traditional dinner in the area of Saginaw, Michigan . . . well, perhaps in the ‘20s anyway. Thousands would gather around Saginaw Bay in the spring for a feed of Muskrat. Uncle Ted was one of the “young’uns” then and saw fit to carry forward the tradition. It was a day-long affair. He had a small wood stove in his “shop” that would act as his cook stove. We would travel to trappers he knew along Saginaw Bay and buy a handful of sizable Muskrat. These would then be brought home and slowly simmered for a couple of hours is lightly salted water. They were then taken out and the meat stripped from the bone. The meat is extremely dark with virtually no fat at all. It’s also quite sweet to my taste. With the meat out of the remaining broth, he added potatoes, a chopped onion and kernel sweet corn to the mix along with some chicken stock broth and again let it simmer for nearly an hour. At that time the Muskrat meat was returned and it was then heated through. The result was a rich but thin “booya” that you could then salt and pepper to your taste in your own bowl. It’s an odd ritual to remember, yet it’s perhaps my fondest memory of Uncle Ted.

So, in his honor, I periodically repeat the ceremony – though I use a gas range instead of a wood burner. The son of a fellow Ike traps and last year got 80+ of the little critters. He saved me 4. I did a pot last spring and with a new season fast approaching, I needed to cook up the remaining two. The recipe is simple:

Muskrat “Booya”

  • 2 cleaned and skinned Muskrats (typically a bit over a pound each with bones)
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 medium/large onion
  • 2 cups kernel sweet corn
  • 32 oz Chicken broth

In a large dutch oven, slowly simmer the Muskrat until the meat easily falls off the bone. This is typically around 1 ½ hours.

Remove the meat and set aside. Cube the potatoes, slice the onion and combine with the corn in the remaining broth. Add the Chicken broth to the mix and simmer until the potatoes are VERY tender.

While the vegetables are simmering, strip the meat from the bone. When the potatoes are tender, return the meat to the mix and heat through.

If you wish to thicken the mix, remove part of the liquid and replace it with an equal amount of cold water into which you have dissolved corn starch (if you use flower, the booya will become cloudy – you want it to remain clear).

Simply serve in a bowl with a good red wine. Salt and pepper to taste.

The results look something like this . . .

20131030_20512420131030_22402120131030_230721Bowl and Wine

And yes . . . there was only a single bowl needed for last night (refilled once).  My wife has yet of “acquire” a taste for this particular tradition . . .

The meal is a great “conversation piece” provided you can get folks past the word “rat” in the name. These critters just eat the green vegetation along the riverbank. And while they look a bit “rat-ish”, I find them very tasty! As for this coming trapping season, I’ve put in an order for a smallish beaver – around 20 pounds or so. Going to try a similar stew, probably bake a hindquarter and then will put one on the “barbie” , I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review – Crimson Trace LG-401 Lasergrips

 

A few words about product reviews. Any number of bloggers review products – I have as well. A select few have reviewed products that were sent to them “gratis” by various manufacturers and I have usually looked at these through a bit of a jaundiced eye while wondering if the content of the review was influenced by the value of the article being reviewed. Products I’ve reviewed in the past I’ve invested my own money in, used them and then shared my thoughts . . . . allowing me to sit “above question” in my reviews.

Heavy sigh . . . . things change?

A number of weeks ago the “Brown Truck of Happiness” came down the long drive, the driver tromped up to our front door, dropped a package by the door, knocked and left. Now, for my business, the UPS folks visit regularly and usually leave some type of computer gear . . . . not that day. I opened the door, saw a small brown box and noted it came from Crimson Trace. My “accountant” (read wife here) keeps fairly close tabs on household expenditures so I was certain no calls/orders/requests had been sent CT’s way. Taking the box in and opening it I found this:

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A “Blue Gun” 1911 with a set of Crimson Trace LG-401 Lasergrips. The invoice stated the cost was “$0”. The company website values them in the $300 range depending on the variant.

And . . . . my resistance to “free stuff” caved like a . . . . heck, I don’t know. Let’s just say I didn’t send them back. So let me spent some time chatting about my thoughts battery powered gear, laser sights and then a full review of the LG-401.

Battery Powered Toys

I am terribly resistant to battery powered gear . . . I use various items – but I use them realizing that they may well have their batteries give out at a profoundly critical moment. Batter maintenance is on ME, and only me. That’s why I switch GPS batteries prior to every trek/paddle – whether they “need” it or not, and I carry spares. I cycle batteries in my Eotech every fall when the time changes – and I carry spares. I’ve moved to a solar powered watch go eliminate batteries. I have cell chargers in all vehicles, carry a spare power “brick” when I base camp as well as a solar panel. Yep – I am that paranoid, it comes from a long history of “oh shits!!” at just the wrong moment.

And, I see the Lasergrips in this category as well. The specs say the batteries are good for 4-hours use. Tough to see how I will be up on target for 4-hours in a year’s worth of range trips, we’ll see. Until then, I will dial the battery swap into my fall time change routine. The LG-401 comes with a “batteries for life” guarantee from Crimson Trace, I find that a nice feature – I’ll update this post as I replace batteries and will share my experiences.

Battery Powered Sights

I am also resistant to battery powered sights for personal defense . . . see paragraphs directly above. Again, that said, I do have an Eotech 517 mounted to my Panther Arms Oracle. But, I have iron sights that can “see” through the 517 as well. I train with both and am equally accurate with both systems out to 100 yards. Honestly, I do little work past 100 yards simply because I see the AR as an up-close, personal defensive weapon.

As for Lasersights my primary fear has been that shooters – particularly new shooters – will become dependent on them very quickly and simply take a pass on learning anything about sight alignment, sight picture, use of the weapon’s slide for sighting or even “metal on meat” and simply depend on seeing a red dot on the threat. Murphy will have a field day with them at exactly the wrong time.

Add to that the poor visibility of a 650 nm, 5mw red laser (the spec for the LG-401 and the vast majority of other lasersights) and should the need to engage a threat in typical daylight, with little or no knowledge of aiming a defensive weapon other than with a lasersight – a defensive shooter could have a very bad day.

All that said

All that said, there are places for everything. There are things lasersights do exceptionally well. And there will be a home on my carry Springfield 1911 for the LG-401. So let’s get the details out of the way and then we’ll talk about the first range trip.

Company Specifications

From the Crimson Trace website:

LASER SIGHTS FOR 1911 FULL-SIZE PISTOLS LASERGRIPS®

The flagship LG-401 is our most popular 1911 laser sight model for Government and Commander variants. Featuring a rugged polymer side panels and a rubber overmold activation button, these are the recommended Lasergrips for most 1911 shooters. Standard to Crimson Trace® Lasergrips, the LG-401 features instinctive activation. This means that the laser sight automatically springs to life when the weapon is held in a natural firing grip.


Fits 1911 and 1991A1 full-size frames, including: Auto-Ordnance, Les Baer, Colt, Kimber, Nighthawk Custom, Olympic Arms, Para-Ordnance (full-size, single-stack), Safari Arms, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Taurus, Dan Wesson, Wilson and most other 1911’s with grip screws measuring 3-1/16" apart


Technical Specs:

Platform

Lasergrips®

Material

Polymer

Attachment

Grip Replacement

Activation Location

Front Activation

Sighting

Factory Sighted at 50'

Master On/Off Switch

Yes

Batteries For Life

Yes

Battery Type

Two #2032 Lithium Batteries

Laser Battery Life

Over Four Hours

Laser Output

5mW Red Laser

Activation Mode

Pressure Activated

Laser Visibility

Approximately .5 Inch Diameter at 50 Feet

Wrench Size

0.028

User Adjustable

Windage and Elevation

Finish

Polymer Grip with Rubber Overmold Activation Pad

Installation

User Installed

Warranty

Three Year Full Warranty

Color

Black

Dot Size

Approx. 0.50" at 50'

This specific version is a 650 nm Red laser and has a power rating of 5mw. While excellent in low-light, in bright sunlight I had difficulty seeing the dot at anything over 21ft. There are Green versions and if you are considering purchasing such an addition . . . go with the Green version, the green color is much more visible in daylight conditions.

Installation

Installation was as simple as replacing the trips and went something like this:

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Springfield 1911 CT Grips to be installed (Small)  Springfield 1911 CT Grips Iinstalled-2 (Small)

The installation went very smooth – remove the old grip panels, slide the new in place and tighten up the screws.

Activation

On the left grip panel, in the lower right corner, there is an activation switch to turn the LG-401 on and off. The switch is quite stiff so accidental enabling – or disabling – of the LG-401 should not be an issue. The only difference in the size of the panels is a slight bulge just below the slide that actually houses the laser itself. I carry the Springfield 1911 in a Blackhawk’s IWB leather holster and this slight bulge did not cause any issues when inserting the weapon or drawing it. I noticed that there are two very small cleaning swabs that came with the lasergrips. These are for cleaning out the hole in the grips that allows the laser light to pass out of the grips. I can see where these could become clogged and the swabs should do a good job cleaning these out.

The activation switch is on the Frontstrap, just below the trigger guard. When you take a firm grip on the weapon – and the LG-401 is switched on – the laser activates. This activation was simply a byproduct of my grip. Given standard training for extending your trigger finger straight forward, just above the trigger guard – most shooters will block the laser beam with their trigger finger. It requires that you place your finger outside the trigger guard to see the laser beam. However, I teach that the shooter should place their trigger finger in the ejection port so it can feel when its “home”. This position caused no blockage of the laser beam what-so-ever.

Range Trip

Finally, after way too many weeks – my calendar cleared yesterday afternoon. I grabbed my gear and headed off to the range. I set up on the 50ft firing line since the factory specs indicated that was what the LG-401was sighted in for. Some preliminary dry fire on my SIRT range indicated that the laser dot rested about ½ below and ½ above my front sight. Honestly, I expected fairly good performance. My range setup looked like this:

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I used my standard course target, a Cabela’s shooting bag and rested it all on the top of one of our movable barrels. What I hadn’t planned on was the low visibility of the laser on a clear, sunny late-October afternoon. You can see how clear the shadows are and it’s about 2PM. I could see the laser dot clearly at 15 ft. By 21 ft. I had to look where I was aiming to find the dot. By 30 ft., it was gone. So, I pack my bags and returned around 6PM. Not “dark” by any stretch, but certainly “low light”. The laser was clearly, brightly visible from the 50 ft. mark.

A couple things to mention when using laser sights and shooting from a bag. Grip still matters. To work the lasergrip sights, you still need a “firm” grip to turn on the laser. And, shooting from the bag does not make up for a poor trigger press. I ran a handful of rounds down range to get the “feel” of things, then did a target for “show and tell”.

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All 10 rounds within a 3” circle. 6 of 10 rounds in a 1” square. Some obvious “flyers” – three left and one 2” low. I could feel them when they left – heavy sigh. So, as you can see – a Crimson Trace LG-401 will NOT make up for sloppy trigger control. But, with a firm grip and a trigger press straight to the rear – a 1” group is the norm . . . and not the exception.

What does this mean?

Basically, if you can hold the laser dot on the threat and press the trigger – you’ll get a hit, period. Remember a standard 230gr bulled fired from a 1911 at 830 fps drops about 24” for every 100 yards. Adjust accordingly.

The other place I can see the LG-401 excelling is non-traditional shooting positions. You have control of the weapon, you can see the threat but you can get your face behind the weapon to get a sight picture. Put the laser dot on the threat – regardless of the relative position of face and weapon – and you can hit the threat.

How does this group compare to me shooting 2-handed, full extension from 50 ft.? Sadly, I have the result of that as well . . .

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My group here is 6” x 6” with a fairly even distribution. What this indicated is that there were no “bad habits” – too much finger, too little finger, flinching – simply normal body movement. I’m obviously not a Bulls Eye shooter – but I wouldn’t hesitate to engage a threat at 50 ft if required.

So where does this leave me?

The LG-401s have found a home on my 1911 – at least for the next year. I will give them a workout on each range trip, see what their reliability is, see what kind of shooting positions I can invent to wring them out in and then I’ll update this post next fall (or do a new one, we’ll see) and let you all know how it went.

And, while I still have the concerns I listed above – batteries and the dependence on “tech” – I can certainly see the benefits, especially in low light conditions where obtaining a sight picture may well be impossible, but putting a laser dot on a threat would be both quick and easy.

If you are looking for a set of lasergrips for your 1911 – regardless of model – Crimson Trace should certainly be one of the options you evaluate. And, while there are certainly cheaper alternatives – Crimson Trace comes with a long, distinguished history for their products. When your life may well hang in the balance – I wouldn’t trust my life to the lowest bidder . . . go with the one with a clear, positive track record.

Short answer . . . I like ‘em!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Basic Prepping / Survival - The Seasons Change

 

Nearly the end of October . . . where the heck did the Summer go?? And, to add insult to injury, we had a significant and measurable amount of snow. Really?? Last year – 2012 – our first measurable snow was December 20th. This year – 2013 – October 22nd, nearly TWO MONTHS EARLIER!! We are all going to die due to global warming . . . . the end is near! Ah well – it’s weather in the Midwest. The purpose for this post – you either choose to pay attention to it or you may well pay a heavy price for it.

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A few reminders:

You are going to be wearing significantly more clothing shortly and it will affect everything about using a handgun, knife or most other defensive tools. I would encourage you to NOT change your carry position to make it “easier” – if you have been working throughout the warmer months with your draw and engagement, that is how your body is going to respond, even with more layers of clothing on. Instead, practice your draw with your cold weather gear on. For me, the clearing process of getting my clothing out of the way simply becomes more pronounced so that when I grasp the bottom of my clothing on my dominant side I make sure my hand is completely under all layers when I lift and clear the grip. My process doesn’t change much at all – I just make sure all layers are included.

The consideration is the same when you reach for your spare magazine while exchanging a full mag for an empty one – more clothing equals added focus on clearing all layers when you reach for your spare.

Gloves, while wonderful inventions for keeping your pinkies warm and toasty are a real pain when operating your defensive weapon effectively. What works for me is that I seldom wear gloves, even on prolonged classes on the range. However, if you feel you must wear them, find some of the thinner versions that provide enough comfort to take the edge off but do not add much bulk to your hand and get in the way. Blackhawk has a number of pairs that I have used over the years and yes – I have worn them for some of the classes I’ve taken in the winter months. I try not to, but I too fall prey to comfort as well. Work with your gloves, practice with dry fire draws and don’t wait until you are mid-winter and suddenly have need of a skill that is sadly lacking.

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Cold weather will probably dampen your enthusiasm for range trips . . . fight this. Your risks, your vulnerabilities change little during the winter months. Do your best to continue your range training throughout the year.

Loose the damn hoodie . . . or the hood on your winter jacket. Consider a watch cap and scarf instead. I assisted with a training a few weeks ago and the morning began “chilly” – very low 40s and pretty breezy. One of the shooters was a young woman who was just beginning to work on her draw and engagement. As our time on the range continued, she became chilled and stood at the line just rattling . . . literally. One of the instructors had a couple extra jackets in his car and loaned her one which got her through the day. But, one thing she began to do was to put the hood up on the hoodie she was wearing. Instantly her ability to see the world around her was reduced to about 60 degrees straight ahead, substantially increasing her vulnerability. We moved her to a watch cap instead and her situational awareness returned to “normal”.

She also provided another lesson – throw your winter bag in the car . . . TODAY!! For us – my wife and I – it includes spare clothing, extra gloves, a sleeping bag, a couple spare Clif Bars, boots . . . . things we may well need if we find ourselves spinning off the road in the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere. This is easy to do, costs little or nothing and can save your butt . . . you have all the time in the world to do this NOW . . . .

Adjust your “time”. Trips that normally take 30 minutes could easily expand to 60 . . . or perhaps should not be done at all. Dial this into your response as you check the time, throw on your coat and rush to the car because you’re “running late”. That’s a great use for your cell, just give a quick call and let folks know you’re running behind and the weather isn’t helping! Adjust your stopping distance, your max speed, change your wipers, fill the cleaning fluid . . . . geezz I sound like a dad warning his kid . . . . which reminds me I need to call Chrissy today! J

Winter is winter . . . it’s just weather. It’s coming and all the man-made CO2 is not going to stop it. Adjust your training, refine your skills, adjust your clothing, take proper precautions . . . . and then bitch about the cold all you want because you will be prepared . . . and spring is coming – it’s only 5 months away!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Personal - A photography table

 

I’m not really sure where to put this particular post regarding my photography table . . . so let’s just call it “personal” and get on with it.

My mom purchased my first “real” camera for me for Christmas 1965. It was a Yashica Lynx-5000. It was a 35mm rangefinder with built in light meter, adjustable shutter speed and a host of features that provided me my first handhold into real photography rather than the Kodak Instamatics there were so popular in the 60s.

Since that time a host of cameras have found a home in my bag with my Nikon D100 being my current workhorse. That said, honestly I turn more and more to my Samsung Galaxy Note II “Phablet” for my daily photography needs. It’s capabilities are far beyond the “just a quick photo” level.

Regardless of camera choice, there are times in this blog that I need to take designated photos of equipment to write about. My most recent post contained images of carry ammunition that needed to be well represented in the post. While images are available from the company website, should I want to publish the posts in a broader range of material – copyrights can jump up and bite me in the butt. This has lead me to do much of my own photography – a hobby I already enjoy.

To facilitate this, I have a “photography table” that assists in the lighting of the items to be photographed.

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The kit I purchased for this task was the:

Square Perfect SP500 Platinum Photo Studio In A Box with 2 Light Tents & 8 Backgrounds For Product Photography

It consists of the large and small light boxes on the table along with various color backgrounds and the two small lights on the table. The two large ones behind the table were purchased years ago and I simply cannot find them listed anymore.

This, then is the table I use to make photos such as this one:

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It allows me to reduce shadow, adjust shadow and have even lighting over the subject of the photo. I then use Photoshop for final cropping, color management, brightness and contrast.

If you are looking to provide your own images for your blog posts or for your course material – I would offer this equipment (or similar equipment) as a solution to reduce the amount of time spent taking and editing photos. Honestly, this little table gets quite a work out and saves me countless hours of tweaking with an image.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Just the Basics – Care and Feeding of Carry Ammo

 

Defensive ammunition – that ammunition specifically designed to help defend the life of the individual that carries a defensive handgun – has a number of critical parameters.

1: It must do real damage to the life threatening threat that is attacking the defensive shooter. Real damage is caused by the energy contained in the fired bullet and shows itself in the size of the transient wound cavity, the permanent wound cavity and by expending it’s total energy within the threat and by not over-penetrating and actually exiting the body. In the event of extreme CQB where the muzzle of the defensive firearm may well be in actual contact with the threat – additional damage is also done by the expelled gases of the fired cartridge if they actually enter the threat’s body cavity.

2: It must damage the threat . . . and ONLY the threat. Assuming solid shot placement defensive ammunition is designed to expand rapidly to enhance the wound cavity, to aid in the deceleration of the bullet and helping to insure the energy is contained within the body. It is designed to not “over penetrate” – i.e. actually exit the body of the threat.

3: It must go BLAMMM!!! when the primer is struck by the firing pin or striker or hammer.

One other thought . . . every individual that carries defensive ammunition in their defensive weapon has but one wish . . . to NEVER fire their weapon in self-defense – period! And, for the vast majority of those who carry – they get their wish. Which brings about its own set of cautions and that is what I’d like to chat about in this post.

This is my current carry ammunition:

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This is the Hornady 9MM 115-gr FTX Critical Defense round that I carry in my Glock 17. I carry the same round in my Springfield 1911 in .45 ACP. Geek that I am, I did more than a bit of investigation on defensive rounds before I settled on the CD round from Hornady. It meets or exceeds all FBI parameters for over penetration. The polymer core that is injected into the bullet’s hollow helps insure penetration through various types of clothing and it helps insure solid expansion of the bullet as well.

There are a number of videos of various ballistic tests, this particular video is the intro video by Hornady from 5 years ago – it does an excellent job of introducing, describing and showing ballistics tests of the round.

 

A trap for defensive ammunition – since it is seldom actually used – is to simply load a couple magazines (one for the weapon and a backup) and then simply carry them . . . . for a very long time. Given it’s every shooter’s fervent wish to never actually have to draw – there is a temptation for a new shooter to simply load and forget. The problem with this approach is that magazines become dirty or damaged, the defensive rounds gather lint and other “crap” from your pocket/mag holder/purse and when that “critical moment” arrives – you face it with magazines that refuse to load, refuse to feed and with rounds that present you with one failure after another. Obviously . . . this is NOT GOOD!!!

What’s an easy solution then? It’s simple really – use your weapon and your magazines on your regular range visits.

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I carry a 1-quart Ziploc in my range bag. My range gun IS my carry weapon – both of them, the Glock and the 1911. When I hit the range, unload my carry weapon, remove the rounds from both the mag in the gun and the spare I carry and put them in my Ziploc. Then I reload with ball for my range work. At the end of the trip, I reload both mags and return to a “defensive status”.

This does a couple of things. It lets me move the rounds “around” in the mag so the same round is not always the one on top of the mag that is racked into the chamber. This reduces the chance of “set-back” where the bullet is seated more deeply over time, increasing the pressure inside the casing when it’s fired. It also lets me examine the rounds and the magazine as I reload them. And, it provides me a chance to disassemble the magazine and give it a proper cleaning as well.

I also have a habit of not loading a magazine to full capacity. This is a bit of a hold-over from my time in Vietnam and experiences with the magazines for that generation of M16. It simply did not like to have a full 20-rounds loaded. Reliability increased with 18 rounds in the magazines. While I have never had that as an issue with either my Glock or 1911 magazines – I carry 15 rounds in the Glock and 7 in the 1911 mag racking one round in the chamber and leaving 6 in the magazine. Old habits I suppose, yet I will continue with them.

Once you have carried your ammunition for a year – use it up and replace it – period! For ease of remembering, I make a range trip in the fall within a weekend or so of the change to Standard Time and I cycle the ammunition through the skill set I’m working on that day. This ensures I don’t get so lazy that all of a sudden it’s two or three or five years later and I’m still carrying the same ammo. Again – if you are in a situation where it needs to go BLAMM!! – doesn’t it pay to have “good stuff” in your defensive weapon?

Finally, this year I’m moving to a new round:

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This is the Federal Premium LE round. The move comes because of solid reviews and solid ballistics. The two major physical differences – no “flex tip” with the Federal round but their primers are nickel plated where the CD round are not.

You defensive ammunition may well be your last line of defense to defend yourself, a friend or a member of your family. Treat it well, shoot it and change it out every year . . . your life may well depend on it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review - 5.11 72-Hour Rush Pack

 

When I look across the array of “packs”, everyone seems to fit them into their own designated categories. I find I’m no different.

In times gone by I did a post on the “Boogie Bag” – usually known in today’s world as a “Bail Out Bag – BOB”. The niche it fills for me is that this is a “home” and can be used to shelter you and your family for the “duration” – from a weekend to a season or longer if need be. The only thing you need to do is replenish your food, water and perhaps clothing if you are in the field for a truly long period of time. These are usually good size bags, around 6,500 cu inches and weighting no more than 30 pounds with base gear and another 30 with food and clothing.

There is the “GO Bag”. I view this as for immediate survival. Its contents revolve around spare ammunition, perhaps a second handgun, carbine magazines, a few days food, navigation aids (GPS and compass), a Blow Out Kit, a “Boo-Boo” kit and various assorted immediate survival items. This bag rides over the passenger side seat of my Jeep. I see this as my “get home bag” since it takes little to survive 3-days but extra ammo and nav-aids can come in real handy. These are typically in the 1,000 cu inch range.

There is a pack that tries to straddle the boundary between the “Go Bag” and the “Boogie Bag”. These are typically called “Get Home Bags” or “72 Hour Bags” with the idea that 3-days will give you time to collect yourself, get home and either get on with the business of long term survival or it will get you past the emergency. Honestly, I encourage folks to by-pass this level “survival” and prepare a well-stocked “Boogie Bag”. I carry mine in the back of my Jeep (of course, I’m still fond of camping every once and a while – so it does a bit more than sitting there). I also have a 3-Day emergency kit in the car to take the edge off in the jeep as well. But . . . . if you are looking for a bag that can carry a long weekend’s worth of clothing and assorted gear (rain gear, extra shooting gear, a couple water bottles and assorted gear) that is what I view the 72-hour bag for. I have tried more than I care to count over the past 30+ years. Most are around 3,500 cu inches, have an assortment of pockets/pouches and straps to secure things and provides easy access to my gear.

About this time last year I was gearing up for a “Post Certified” course at “Armed Missouri” and found I “truly needed” a new bag for the road. I had carried a Victorinox day bag that I typically called my “toy bag”. I decided it was time to integrate the “toy bag” and clothing bag into one new pack. After the typical geek search of old vendors I was familiar with and the newcomers to the arena, I settled on the 5.11 72-Hour Rush bag. Over the past year it has been my designated travel bag, daily gear bag and camp bag. It comes in at just under 2,900 cu inches, just about the perfect size.

The main compartment is 23” x 13.5” x 8.5”. It has a full surround, self-healing, heavy duty zipper that allows you to fully open the compartment for easy access to your gear. I usually pack by “the 3s” . . . 3-shirts, 3-pants, 3’socks, 3-sets of undies (one set is the set I’m wearing) and this compartment has more than enough room. There is a large pouch in the bottom that seems to end up holding my reading material or a tablet of some type.

The lid to the compartment has three zippered mesh pockets. One I use to hold my shave kit, one for socks and the small one for miscellaneous stuff.

There is an outer flap which contains a large zippered pocket. Within that pocket is another zippered pouch that I use to hold a headlamp, spoon, spare set of cheap reading glasses and other temporary items. Pockets contained on both the inside wall of the pouch and the inside wall of the outer flap can be used to hold everything from pens, flashlights and keys to spare pistol and carbine magazines – it’s a very flexible area.

A small external zippered pouch rides just below the upper lip of the outer flap. I end up using this for small items that I want to keep separate – USB cables, phone chargers, pens and pencils and a Ziploc I carry that I keep spare change in.

The outer flap is attached at the bottom of the bag but lifts away and is attached by compression straps at the top. This allows a great place to stash a jacket, fleece or a book, whatever you can slip into the area.

Along each side of the pack are long pockets that can be used to store any number of things. I usually have spare batteries, a couple plastic sack for the local grocery store, a boonie hat, small AM/FM radio and head phones and other items depending on the particular trip.

The shoulder straps are adjustable and have high density foam padding. There is also a cinching waist belt that can be stored in a pocket when not in use.

A hydration pocket is provided which, honestly, I don’t use. I’m more comfortable with Nalgene bottles and there is plenty of room for a couple within the pack. However, I did fine that the area provided for the hydration pack is a great place to store my solar charger for my electronic gear.

My primary use for the bag has been as a travel bag for business and family travel. It is probably the best travel bag I’ve owned. It is rugged and well layed out. I did use it for our annual trek to an island in Lake Michigan and it carried a full 5-days of clothing and “toys” – it did not carry our “home”.

As a pack to take to the training courses I have taken and given - again, it’s perfect. Plenty of room for clothing and the standard “toys” I take along.

If you’re in the market for a new pack, the 5.11 72-Hour Rush Pack is certainly well worth your consideration.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

22 - Crankin’ down the lid . . .

 

In years gone by, when the US still had things called “National Parks” there was a popular sign that conveyed both a serious message and acted as the butt of multiple jokes:

“Please don’t feed the bears”

The plea was founded in the safety of campers who all too often mistook a bear in the wild for a stuffed bear of their childhood. Poorly kept campsites invited bruins out for an easy meal. And, on a bad day, the camper could easily become that meal.

The concern of the wild life biologists is that bears would become dependent on the handouts of passing campers, reducing their ability to forage for their natural food. In larger parks that were well visited this occurred within a few generations of bears. And, by the time the United States Government abandoned the national park system turning them over to the states or to nature – the bruins of the western parks died of starvation by the hundreds until they relearned the lessons that nature had taught their ancestors generations before.

There were other “bears” that were being fed – in many cases by crass political design. The “safety net” of the 30s known as social security gave way to the “war on poverty” which yielded the food stamps programs of the 60s through the early teens. This gave birth to the “Living Wage Act” of 2020 that insured that each individual – 16 years or older, received a “living wage” monthly. The minor facts like 33% unemployment among adults and 45% for ages 16-21 were simply brushed aside. Their “Employee Benefits Card” received their payments the first of every month, regardless of whether actual job was held. For those with real paying jobs in the private sector – or public sector for that matter – if there was a difference between the wages paid and the “Living Wage”, the government simply deposited the difference on the individual’s EBC card.

This new benefit had real world consequences. The fact that there were no conditions placed on receiving the card – it was your “right” as an American – meant that government social expenditures exploded. For the private sector – there was little reason to pay the “living wage” since the government would make up the difference anyway. And for the worker, there was even less reason to actually become educated and work because you began receiving your “living wage” when you turned 16 – and the young quickly learned that there were other “off the books” ways to make cash without holding a job.

A high school student of the 50s and 60s could have easily predicted the eventual outcome . . . . educated officials of the ‘20s, not so much. Tax revenue plummeted. The national workforce shrunk. Small companies closed their doors both for lack of workers and for all the increased regulations that accompany a surging government bureaucracy.

By the early spring of 2023 the “bears” were hungry and the “food packs” were empty. Nearly 4 generations had been fed, housed and clothed at the government troth. They had voted for any party that promised more housing, more food, more government provided “goodies” from food to housing to wireless tablets to free connectivity . . . . it was their right as Americans and they expected those they voted for to “feed the bear”.

House and Senate members home for Easter break were hammered at every town hall, their homes were picketed, their families accosted and demands were made with threats not far behind. And, as in Congresses of the past once the freight train of government welfare had left the loading gate, they reacted. After all “something had to be done” for their voters back home . . . . and to insure they were elected again during the next cycle.

There had been a pot of money that had been growing steadily over time. While the grasshopper ate the entire harvest . . . . the ant saved for the winter. And, in 2023 there were hundreds of millions of “grasshoppers” and not nearly as many “ants”. The “ants” sat on trillions of dollars of wealth stored in pension plans, IRAs and 401Ks. They had taken the responsible road, become educated and saved for their future. The temptation proved to be too much for House and Senate members freshly back from a bruising visit “home”. In early May 2023 California representative Darlene Hopper introduced House Bill H.R. 287 – The Retirement Security Act.

“Our nation has been blessed with creative people who have grown our industries. With generations of workers who have labored so that our county could move forward.” Congresswoman Hopper extolled from the floor of the House while introducing her bill. “We have seen our nation’s wealth grow – yet grow is such a way that has favored the few while the many continue to struggle. Nowhere is that struggle more apparent than in the final years of a person life when their only source of income is from their meager pension or their social security check. That’s not good enough! There are, however – those among us who have used their money to influence the outcome of their later years. Fat pension plans that favor the few, large “Individual Retirement Accounts” filled with the money of political favor and 401K plans stuffed with the rewards of political contributions. While millions wonder where their next meal or their next rent check will come from now that they have been pushed out of the workforce – a select few, the “moneyed few” live in luxury. This flies in the face of decency. This flies in the face of compassion. This flies in the face of fairness. And I will not stand idly by a single day more!”

Congresswoman Hopper paused . . . gazed across the other members seated before her and gloried in her moment . . .

“Today I am introducing House Bill 287 – The Retirement Security Act, to insure every American, regardless of their station in life, receives a retirement worth living, without fear of hunger, without fear of being homeless. A retirement free to engage in the rewards of a life lived. To do this we are going to expect those with so much to do with a bit less. When passed, HR287 will convert all “retirement plans” – be they pension plans, IRAs or 401Ks to a new “Government Insured Pension” backed and protected by the full faith of the United States Government. Retirees will be given a “living retirement” determined by regional directors. Rather than the rich few living on the backs of the poor, the poor will be provided what they need and the rich will simply need to find a way to do with a bit less.”

She paused, drew yet another breath and relished the moment . . . .

“Finally, with the passage of HR 287, its passage by the Senate and with the signature of the President . . . we will end the last vestiges of poverty in America and truly secure the finally years of all Americans! I yield the rest of my time to the chair”.

With that four minute speech, a simple bill covering a handful a pages and the votes of Congress and the signature of a President . . . . America completed its final transition to a fully socialist state in August of 2023. The bears were hungry and the government would continue to feed them . . . . at least until the money ran out and the falsehood of the promise of “free” became so glaring even the most ignorant of persons could see the truth. By then . . . it would be much too late to save what most had grown up knowing as the United States of America.

Globally the Caliphate of the Prophet controlled a band from Northern Africa to the Philippines. Europe had been cowed by the coordinated attacks of 9/11/29 and the Mideast would be bathed in radiation for countless generations to come in the aftermath of the exchange between Israel and their neighbors. While global resources of oil and gas were beginning to come back, it was one of the single bright lights in the US economy. Oil and gas production continued to grow and while gas prices had soared to fantasy levels of $20 per gallon – or more, it was at least an available resource, something that could not be said in much of the rest of the world. Still, high prices meant angry “bears”. Our government did little to help the situation.

Finally . . . . after untold threats over a couple generations . . . . the United States government defaulted on vast quantities of bonds owned by governments around the world. Given America’s decline – visible to all except those within the Washington beltway – governments around the world had taken to asking for gold in payment for their bonds that came do. US currency was literally not worth the paper it was printed on – and they wanted their “money”. In a final act of defiance – the federal government planted its feet, refused payment in gold and paid, instead, with vastly inflated US government securities. This did not go over well, to say the least. The result? In July 2033 the US Government found itself without a single government . . . on the face of the earth . . . willing to loan it a single dime. The results were predictable.

Interest rates soared to 35% essentially overnight. The Dow dropped 2,500 points in the next morning’s trading stopping the trading day by 11AM. Something repeated for the next few days and finally settling out at just over 5,000 – a drop of over 20,000 points. Small business saw notes called early out of fear that if banks didn’t get their money soon, it would simply be lost. Large corporations did little better.

By the spring of 2050 the wheels were truly beginning to come off. Tax revenues had dried to a trickle, companies – small and large – were simply gasping for a breath to keep the doors open one more day. Gas prices were so high no one traveled, which meant no one bought cars, which meant an entire industry – and those dependent on it – was headed for the graveyard.

Roads, bridges and basic infrastructure were failing at an alarming rate, followed closely by power generation and public works – basic water and sewage treatment. With increased transportation costs, crumbling infrastructure and the “bears” with only their “Employees Benefit Card” for cash – food distribution had begun to be a real problem. It had been a hard winter – much colder than “normal” with entire regions stranded because state and local governments lacked funds – and fuel – for basic road clearing. Tempers were short and the “bears” were hungry. They expected to be fed; they expected to be cared for. After all, they had their “card”!

It was beginning to dawn on many that “the card” was an empty dream. Through the summer of ’50 – many would learn that lesson and many would pay for it with their lives.

Richard’s thoughts about a federal response was right on the button. After the disaster that was the DC swarm in the fall of ’49 a determination had been made to quell all riots with a “firm” hand. Iron fist might be a better description. While E, Brad and Linda made their return to DT and finally back to Iowa, the full might of the Minnesota National Guard and the 2nd Marine Division moved into Minneapolis. The result was predictable. After weeks of hardship the thought that “they” were being punished for being abandoned by their government sent large segments of the city into a rage. While the on-air murder of a local news reporter was horrific – it was done by two individuals and not the vast majority of the residents of Minneapolis. Yet the “fist” – and there was no other word that truly fit – descended on innocent and criminal alike. Curfews were established, control zones set up, check points built throughout the city. IDs were issued and checked monitoring all movement. All the while troubles with power, water, sewer and food deliveries continued to grow worse.

In hindsight – the residents were remarkably well behaved . . . . until the 4th of July weekend, the celebration of our independence from an oppressive government. It was as if a light went on for hundreds of thousands of people at the same instant. Here they were, in the United States of America and yet living in a police state. It was too much. The morning of the 4th dawned bright and sunny. By noon thousands had gathered at the very spot of Sally Foster and her crew were murdered. They came to pay their respects, to share in the grief of her parents and to, in some way, apologize for their city’s part – however small. The National Guard and the Marine Company saw it as a threat and prepared to force the crowd to disperse. As the military applied force, a gathering of thousands turned into a gathering of tens of thousands. Outnumbered and under ‘threat” – the military responded as military units are trained to respond. Thousands died within the first hour. By the end of the week, when order was finally restored – 10,342 Americans died at the hands of other Americans.

It didn’t end with Minneapolis – there were riots, not full blown swarms that were to come, but riots in virtually every major city coast to coast. An additional 50,000 Americans saw their lives ended by local law enforcement, National Guard Units and elements of America’s Army and Marine Corps. And, it gave a glimpse of what was to come in the years ahead when the tables were turned and the military no longer had the strong hand.

The lives lost might have had value if the government had learned from the summer of ’50. They learned only that more troops were better. More guns were better. More ammunition was better. Citizens became the enemy and the enemy needed to be defeated. Once the dead of the summer of ’50 were buried, once the government, military and guardsmen had licked their wounds – the “fist” was applied without thought to the consequences. While the cold of winter did, indeed, cool things off – in the quiet of the night, in the warrens that were the large cities, in the suburban neighborhoods . . . . plans were made, weapons were gathered and alliances were formed. Spring would see a different result . . . . a different outcome . . . . and the beginning of nearly two decades of violence that would transform the United States is ways few would believe.

The summer of ’50 was also the final “sign” Earl had been waiting for, the confirmation that his fears of “the slide” were well founded and he was grateful he had acted and made preparations.

Thanksgiving was upon them. The acquisition of DT had gone smoothly, Ann had taken to her HR role within the “company” as though she were made for it. Hank Johnson and his wife Cheryl had moved into the old Warrner place with Hank taking over responsibility for one of the three rifle platoons that was being put together. Tony Samson had followed suit and with Brad taking command of the third, much of the control structure was in place. Each knew men they had served with and they were taking advantage of those relationships when they could. The news of the day made recruitment of local “talent” much easier to fill holes in the forming their rifle companies. Earl was determined that all would be hired, trained and ready for the next summer. He’d set a firm date of April first for all elements to be fully operational.

Allison had completed her degree in Mechanical Engineering this past June. She was given a position at DT and assigned the task of learning everything there was to learn from the best weapon’s manufacturers in the Midwest. As for DT – given the current state of affairs, business was booming with the government, state and regional police departments keeping their production lines running seven days a week. Earl found this disquieting because virtually all production was for consumption within CONUS – not a good sign. He made sure his own needs were met as well peeling off enough weaponry to outfit three rifle companies . . . always nice to have spares.

A second acquisition was made as well – a small ammunition manufacturing company – Dalton Ammunition - in Williston, North Dakota. The attraction for Earl was that they had the ability to manufacture the entire cartridge – case, primer, bullet and they had a sister company, Dalton Powders that handled various cartridge powders. It was an entire solution. And, given its location, Dalton industries was in one of the most secure areas of the country. They too were reaping the chaos that was rolling across the country with a 300% increase in ammunition sales, primarily .223, 9mm and .45ACP since the government and law enforcement were their primary customers. That said, Earl made sure a couple pallets of ammunition found their way into his armory every week.

Hank, once settled in their new home, built a weapons range, put together his training program and went about the task of turning their new defensive force into a force to be reckoned with. Little needed to be done with former military joined their force other than keeping their skills sharp. As for civilians – their introduction to a military training program was a bit of a shock. But, with the defense of their homes and family as incentive, there were few complaints.

Tony had been temporally assigned to build a defensive force to protect both DT’s manufacturing plant and Dalton industries. In the more densely populated area around DT, the appearance of a security force to protect DT raised a few eyebrows, but given the events in the “City” a few months early everyone “understood”. As for the team protecting Dalton Industries, it was simply an expansion of their security force and little attention was paid to new faces around town.

Earl was satisfied with their progress – not that that would stop him from pushing things. Richard became the “commander” with all three platoon leaders reporting to him. It was still tight, the demands placed on Ann, Tony, Hank and Brad were intense – but doable. The news of the riots of the summer of ’50 lent urgency and their focus showed it.

Thanksgiving found all gathered around Catherin’s table. Tony and Allison were back from Minnesota, Hank and Cheryl were there with Cheryl, she was just beginning to “show”, Brad and E sitting side by side quickly becoming the couple they were destined to be, Linda was taking time off from her midterms and would graduate in June with her degree in Petroleum Engineering. Richard and Catherine looked over this gathering of “family” and felt truly blessed. If trouble were to come, they were confident they would be able to face it and survive. As for Earl and Edna there was a sense of duties being fulfilled. Earl saw the defense of his family and friends as his duty. He was confident he was giving it 110% and he was confident in the men and women he’d selected. There was not much doubt in Earl as a man – the Marine’s had taught him that. You hesitate – you die. You doubt yourself – you die. You fail to defend a fellow Marine – you die. It was a tough code, a demanding code . . . . and it was the code he lived his life by.

All were seated, the table filled with a fresh turkey from the farm and all the trimmings. Earl stood, tapped his glass gently with his spoon . . .

“Folks, let us pray. Heavenly Father – thank you for the bounty before us. Thank you for those gather around this table and thank you for your guiding hand in this troubled time. We know you will not lay before us any trouble we cannot handle. We pray you make us strong, we pray you guide our hands and keep us safe. And, should trouble indeed visit us, we pray you grant us the strength to survive and prosper. In Jesus’s name we pray . . .” Amens echoed around the table.

Trouble was coming . . . . and their faith would truly be tested beyond anything any of them envisioned . . . .

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

21 - Calling on friends . . . and a course is set

 

E and Brad both hit the head, grabbed a couple sodas from the vending machine and headed to the Jeep. “Hang on a sec E, let’s make a quick press check and bring the M4s up to the racks. Been a strange enough trip already – I’d like a little extra insurance.” Brad had already drawn his Glock, turned so the muzzle was pointed at the small berm along the edge of the parking lot behind the Jeep and gently eased the slide to the rear looking to insure a cartridge was in the chamber. E was simply a mirror – checking her weapon as well. As they reholstered both automatically reached for their mag holders to make sure they felt their spare mags and that they were inserted pointed the right direction.

This quick check done Brad moved to the rear and popped the rear gate and lifted the window. There was a steel box mounted behind the rear seats that had the unit’s response gear – their M4s, their vests, gas masks, spare mags and an extra ammo can with both .223 and .45 ACP JHP rounds. There was assorted other gear meant to enable the crew to respond to a broad range of “incidents”. Brad lifted the lid and grabbed one of the M4 handing it to E – then took the second for himself. Both reached for a PMag, each loaded to full capacity and “locked and loaded”. Then each grabbed a second mag sticking them in their inside jacket pockets. The lid was closed and secured along with the rear window and gate. Once back to the front seats, each weapon snapped securely to a mounting bracket directly above driver and passenger making for easy access should the need arise.

“You want to drive? It’ll give me some time to give a friend of mine a call – I think he might fit what your gramps is lookin’ for.” Brad had been thinking about Hank for the past two days and was pretty certain he was exactly the type of man Earl was looking for.

“Sure, no sweat. I’ve had some thoughts as well, think I’ll make my call tonight after the dust settles.”

As E started the Jeep and headed for 94 on her way to 169 she picked up the mic –

“Control – Demon 62, how copy?”

“Demon 62 – Control, 5x5 - how me?” It was Linda – as usual.

“5x5 Linda – again, you’re workin’ again? Going to have to chew my old man’s ass out and tell him to give you a break! Tell him we’re rolling – taking 169 north to 95 and then into Cambridge. We expect to get there around noon – then we’ll see if we head back to Brad’s house for the night or wait until morning. “

“Sounds good E, I’ll pass the info on, stay safe – control out!”

“Will do – thank you, Demon 62 out,” E hung the mic up as she saw the turn for 169 North. And they were on their way.

Brad turned to E – “The fellow I’m calling is Hank Johnson. He was a squad leader in my rifle platoon during my last tour and we seemed to just “fit” together. He was due to punch out last month, he’s just married – I’m hoping he’s still looking for a job, he’d be a solid addition to our team.” Brian was digging his phone out while he spoke and watched for E’s reaction.

E shook her head – “Nope, sounds like a plan. Mind putting it on speaker – then we have two sets of ears hearing what he says – might make it easier to relay info to Gramps!”

“No problem – let’s see if Hank’s home. Actually – Gramps said your sister had been to the BWCA? Hank lives near Ely, beautiful country, honest to God, beautiful country.” Brad’s thumb flew across the face of his smart phone, rolling through menus and bringing up his contact list. He flipped his thumb “up” spinning the screen watching for the “H”s to appear. He stopped the display and then slowly spun up Hank Johnson, touched the phone symbol and “speaker” button and listened for the phone to ring . . . .

“Johnson!” A thick baritone voice came out of Brad’s phone.

“Hank . . . . Brad, how ya doin’ bud!? Brad had always felt a true closeness to Hank. More than that of a “band of brothers” – it was good to hear his voice.

“Brad?? Hey asshole – how you doin’?? Damn, it’s been what – 9 months or so since we rotated back? What the hell are you doin’ now-a-days? I kind of lost track of you once you punched out!” Brad could hear the excitement in Hank’s voice – another thing he liked about Hank – the guy could get pumped about virtually anything!

“Living in Iowa – just took a new position as a county deputy! Imagine that – me a sheriff’s deputy!”

“No shit! A sheriff’s deputy?? They did a background check – right?? And they still hired you?? Man – they must truly be desperate!” Hank chuckled a bit at his own joke.

“Yep – they knew full well what they were getting – still offered me the job! Say, you remember early last summer in Africa during Ramrod, we were on the comm net listening in as one of our snipers waxed Kaheir?”

“She was the little girl, right? Nailed him then her spotter got waxed on the way to the extraction LZ . . . what the hell was her call . . . Demon? Demon something? Right?”

“Who the hell you callin’ a little girl asshole!” E felt a quick pang as she was reminded yet again about Deke – and let it go.

“MMMmmmmm – Brad . . . you goin’ through puberty again or is there a little girl sitting next to you?” Hank was truly shocked to hear a voice that sounded familiar. Everyone in their squad had listened to the hit, the move to the extraction LZ and the call for support. She’d sounded like a tough woman when she called for support – the ongoing sound of a firefight could be heard every time she pressed the mic. Yet, she hung in, killed bad guys and made it out with her recovered spotter. You couldn’t ask for much more given the circumstances.

“I suspect you’re gonna pay for that last crack Hank . . . Hank – meet E, E this is one of my very few friends – Hank!” Brad took care of the initial introductions and waited to see how either would respond – Hank was first.

“Nice to meet you little girl – E is it? Well, if you’re riding with Brad, you’re in good company!”

“Good to meet you too asshole . . . oops – Hank! I suppose if you have Brad’s recommendation – you’re worth getting to know!” There was a smile in her voice that both Hank and Brad heard.

“Hank, I have a proposition and thought of you. How’s the job huntin’ going in the north woods?” Brad had an idea how it was going, the economy was generally in the shitter. In rural America – shades of the ’30 could be felt.

“Honestly, not worth a damn Brad. There’s a possibility of some guiding in the BWCA this spring and summer – but it looks like it’ll be pretty hit and miss. Cheryl’s put out feelers for next school year – but there just isn’t much call for High School English teachers in today’s world. Frankly, it’s looking pretty frickin’ grim Brad.

“How do you two feel about Iowa?” There was just a bit of a smile in his voice. There was a long-running “feud” between Iowans and Minnesotans as to which was the best place to live. Being genuine Minnesotans he knew both he and Hank would eventually take some light ribbing about their home state.

“Well, I suppose other than hell, there may be worse places to live! Is there some reason I should consider Iowa as a place to live?” Hank knew Brad well – and knew that if an offer was made he’d move, period, just on Brad’s say so.

“I need a platoon leader and a small arms trainer – you interested?” Brad waited.

Hank was more than a little surprised at the offer and the position. Platoon leader? Small arms trainer? What the hell was going on? “You serious Brad? What, you building, an army?” There was just a bit of a smirk in his voice.

“Yes, as a matter of fact – I am. And, as “Uncle” used to say, I’m looking for a few good men – you’re my first call. So you interested? Base salary is $60K and a house on an acreage is included (he hoped – he had been told to build an army, right?). Can I count you in?”

“This is straight up, right Brad? If anyone else was talking to me right now, I’d hang up and call the FBI. This is legit, on the level, legal – a no shit offer?” Hank allowed some of what he’d just heard to settle in just a bit.

“Hank, it’s an honest offer, fully legal and you’ll be working with some class folks. I really want you to say yes Hank . . . .” Brad let the offer hang out there yet again.

“Brad, given what is available around here, this is truly a no brainer. We’re in. You have details?” Hank’s brain slipped into high gear – telling Cheryl, packing, moving . . . hell, they hadn’t even fully unpacked yet from their move to Ely.

“Hoping to be on a call to my boss late this afternoon – I’ll call you so we can move this forward. Bottom line, get packing – I want you moving next week at the latest. That doable?” Brad, like Hank, was spinning tentative schedules in his head. He felt like there was little time to waste.

“Brad, can’t think of a thing in the world to slow us down. I’ll break the news to Cheryl and get the ball rolling on my end. I look forward to your call tonight! And Brad – thank you. This is a bit of a life saver for us!” Hank could feel his old energy flow back in. The past few month struggling to find work had been taking its toll – and this felt much better!

“We’ll see if you thank me or not. But I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather sign on right now than you. Talk to you soon, and thanks Hank!” And with that Brad ended the call and looked at E. “One down!”

E smiled. “Sounds like a good guy, I’m looking forward to meeting him. Let’s give Linda a call, we’re only about 20 minutes out. Her number is . . .” Brad punched in the 10 digits on his smart phone, listened for the ring and punched “Speaker”.

“Franks!” A sharp toned voice came from the phone’s speaker.

“Hey sis, you got your shit together?” E barked back at her sister while Brad listened in.

“E!! You comin’ to my rescue? Dad and Gramps called BEFORE the butt crack of dawn this morning and said you and your new partner were headed my way to take me home! What gives?” Just trying to rest up from her week in the BWCA had taken enough out of Linda that she’d done little in the way of paying attention to the world around her. Their drive down to Cambridge from Ely, unpacking her gear and getting that first good meal in her had taken virtually all of yesterday and this morning. She was surprised by Gramps’ and her dad’s joint phone call at around 4Am this morning. While it was no secret in their family of Gramps’ concern about “the slide”, she had been on the side of “there, there gramps – it’s going to be fine”. Given the shit going on in Minneapolis this morning – she found her confidence failing; perhaps there was more to Gramps’ theories than she first thought.

“It’s a long story; we can fill you in when we pick you up. Grab your gear, we’re about 20 minutes out. I don’t want to dick around – just pull in, load your gear and head out. Can we do that?” There was just a touch of urgency in E’s voice that was easily conveyed to Linda.

“No problem sis, I’ll be waiting. I’m just watching some of the news feeds from Minneapolis. No idea what the fuck is going on there but this little girl of a reporter is right in the middle of it telling us things are going to hell! No shit lady! Unreal E, unreal”. Linda was already moving to the bedroom she and Ross had shared gathering her things while she was chatting with E.

“Keep packin’ sis, see you in a few.” And Brad punched the “End” button on his keypad and put his phone back in his pocket.

Linda grabbed the last few item along with her day pack, cell phone and water bottle and sat it all next to the front door. She and Ross sat on his couch while they watched the events unfold a mere 45 minutes south in the middle of a city that had been without reliable power for well over a week. It was a city on the brink and everyone knew it.

Sally’s cell awakened her a little after 3AM. Her boss was on the line rattling off how the city was about to implode and he wanted her and her crew downtown on the double to catch it for the morning broadcast. He was placing calls to Joe her camera guy and Liz who handled the truck, the feed to the studio and insured that what was said on camera was eventually seen by a couple million people while they drank their morning coffee.

She got up, hustled through her morning routine and was out the door in record time. She punched up the police scanners on her smartphone app and was appalled at what she heard. It seemed like the folks had finally had enough. Reports of looting, broken windows, overturned and burning cars were rolling in on all frequencies. It looked to be a full news day. The prospect of physical harm never entered her mind – only her desire to get as close to the story as possible.

She found Joe and Liz at the truck and ready to head out. Throwing her gear behind the passenger side seat she climbed in and Joe headed up 35E towards Hennepin Avenue and a dozen or so blocks south of the river. Eventually the set up in front of the Hilton, Liz established comm and Joe brought up the cameras – both remote controlled on top of their van and the on-air camera that would record and feed Sally’s reports.

Their first on-air report and quick interview with a few locals aired on the 6AM morning show. They had posted regular updates throughout the morning. It was fast approaching her 12PM feed. What had begun as a “demonstration” at the entrance to the financial and restaurant district had grown to a mob. To those watching the news feeds every half hour since the first at 6AM – the change in mood was stark. The raw anger shown in the 10:30AM report was stunning. By 11:30AM those interviewed were simply enraged at the inaction of the city, the state and the feds. They were out of food, out of money, had tolerated the near total loss of power for nearly a week and were simply out of patience. The observer hundreds of miles away could see the danger, sense the danger and easily realized it was time to get the heck out of dodge.

But the news crew was like the frog placed in a kettle of cold water. They had no sense that the pot was near boiling. They would soon learn a very hard lesson . .. .

“Liz, you have the feed linked?” Sally spoke into her handheld mic – listening for a reply from Liz.

“Roger that Sally, they have you 5X5 – solid audio and video. Remotes are also fully linked in and we have you and your “guests” on camera.

“Thanks Liz – Joe, how’s the lighting and frame?” She wanted to make sure shadows were kept to a minimum and the crowd gathered around here could be seen when Joe panned out. The crowds had been growing since her first report. She had noticed a change in “tone” but truly felt like she and her crew were in little danger. Hell, they were on national TV for god’s sake!

“Two minutes Sally!” Liz gave her a head up and she turned to see a couple men looking to talk to her. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“Been watching you all morning – I expect there’s a bunch of folks out there watching what you sayin’?” Their gaze was direct and both of their faces were hard.

“We hit about 3 million with the noon broadcast – why?”

“One minute Sally . . .” Liz spoke again.

“Cause we got a message for the government – and we want to make sure they hear what we say. We thought you might be able to help us out . . .” They were looking over Sally, Joe and the broadcast truck.

“Stick around – I’m on in a few seconds . . .” Sally turned towards Joe . . .

“Sally . . . in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .” and Joe points at her, the on-air light goes solid and Sally is brought into the noon news panel.

“Now an update from our on-scene crew in Minneapolis. Sally – what’s the latest?”

“Thanks guys, it’s been a long morning here in the Twin Cities. We’ve been in front of the Hilton since early today watching this crowd become more and more agitated. As the entire nation knows this city has been essentially powerless for over a week. The couple of hours power is restored each day only makes people angrier. Our conversations with all parties in central Minnesota that provide power to the city seem to indicate that old equipment, dated transmission lines and increased power usage have combined into a near “perfect storm” that has done real damage to the power grid in the Minneapolis area. The truth is that it may well be months before this situation is resolved.”

“Sally – Norm Simons here – just how is that going to play out with the citizens of Minneapolis?”

“Norm, I have a couple gentlemen here that have agreed to be interviewed this morning. Let me put it to them and see what they say.” Sally turned and motioned the two men who had walked up to her to come into camera view. Pointing her hand-held at them she asked . . . “It’s been a couple of weeks since this city has seen reliable power. How is that affecting you and your families?”

“It’s bullshit lady – that’s what it is. We are citizens of Minneapolis. We pays taxes, has jobs, work hard – and for what? I ain’t had no running water in my house for 6 days. Can’t flush no toilet, have to travel to the fire station and haul home water. We been told that there will only be one meal every day at the local church. Our stores have been empty for almost a week. We supposed to wait while the government sits on their asses?? We had it lady . . . we had it!”

As the man grabbed her arm, pulled her in front of him and pulled a large pistol from under her coat Sally realized that the water in the pot was boiling. She knew in her heart she was well and truly fucked . . . .

Looking into the camera her captor looked at a nation . . .

“You . . . all you out there . . . government, cops, brothers and sisters. We been patient . . . but our kids are hungry. We’ve waited . . . but we ain’t had no lights for weeks. We asked for help . . . . and got shit in return. We been telling folks that things need changed . . . ain’t shit changed. We been thinkin’ and think maybe you all don’t think this is serious . . . that we serious . . . we here to tell you that THIS SURE THE FUCK IS SERIOUS!!!

Sally heard the snap as the primer ignited . . . . the last sound she would ever hear. Joe was simply captured by the scene he was filming – unable to move. A couple rounds to his chest insured his feet would never move again. Liz attempted to get out of her chair and move to close the door to the van. A pair of shots to her face made her attempt mute. And in less than 10 seconds the nation was forced to recognize that the country had changed . . . . and that dark days – darker than they could even imagine – were coming.

“Demon 62 – Badger, you there E?”

“Roger that dad, right here. What’s up?”

“How far you out right now?”

“Can’t be more than 5 minutes – why?”

“A reporter and her crew were just murdered – on air during the noon news broadcast from downtown Minneapolis. I want your asses outta there ASAP!!”

“Understood, will contact you when we’re underway. Demon 62 out!” E and Brad simply looked at each other . . . .

Three minutes found them in the driveway of Linda’s friend. She met them at the door, nearly hysterical at what she’d seen on the noon news broadcast. E and Brad gathered her gear, Linda and Ross parted with a kiss and promises of calls later in the day. Within 10 minutes of the original radio call, E was back on the radio with her dad.

“Badger this is Demon 62, Linda is onboard and we are headed back to DT. Things here seem quiet – any news on what the state’s response is going to be?”

“Demon 62 – Badger. Sounds like they’ve about to bring the hand of God down on the city. The National Guard has been called up, the same Marine battalion sent into DC is loading up for the Cities. I suspect they will be made an example of – full martial law, heavy handed responses and more than a few civilians killed in the process. They want to make a point – and they will. No idea how this will settle out but it won’t be pretty. I want you to get to the factory, make sure it’s secure and then sit in on our conference call this afternoon. Have you had a chance to call Tony yet – I know you were thinking of asking him to join us?”

“On my list dad, just not gotten to it. Brad offered a position to one of his squad leaders this morning – hope Gramps is serious about all this because he’s headed our way. As for Tony, I’m pretty sure he’ll sign on, will try to catch up with him tonight.”

“Sounds good to me – Brad is lead on this, if he’s ok this this guy and signs off on Tony, I’m fine with it. Have Brad in the meeting as well. I have 12:30, let’s plan on 15:30 for the call – may as well bring Linda in too – time for her to earn all that tuition I’ve been paying out!” Just a bit of humor came across the speaker as Linda listened in.

“Roger that Dad, we’ll be on-line at 15:30. Demon 62 out”

“Badger out”

And so the die was cast . . . and the players would play out their parts in traditional manner. Citizens pushed to the absolute limit would push back – some in the criminal act of murder and others is petty ways. A government would act to crush resistance at the first sign of trouble and turn that event into a focal point that would act to drive “the resistance” even harder. Gone was reason, gone was discussion, gone was compromise. In three senseless murders and one grand oppressive response – “the slide” gathered steam.

It would be a dicey summer ahead . . .