Category Archives: Basic Skills

Some Skills NEVER Go Out of Style!

Posted on AP 27 Nov 18.

In relation directly to this news post over at American Partisan, this two year old, short article, from the Defensive Training Group blog, on why one might want to know Land Navigation and have the requisite equipment is very apropos.

 

 

 

GPS Operation

 

So, you say, you don’t need to know how to use a map or compass, figure declination, or plot coordinates because you’ve got your handy-dandy palm-sized GPS that goes 5 years on a set of batteries, and is accurate to within 1 meter, huh?  If that’s you, you might want to consider that the old story regarding GPS signals being subject to random programmable errors (meaning that your super-accurate GPS can purposely be fed signals to take you off target as far as the programmer wishes) is true.  What’s more, the increased dependency of our society to have our navigation done for us by mini-computers makes us dependent upon that technology, and puts us at the mercy of the machine and people running it.  Add to that mix our national enemies that already have our communications & GPS satellites targeted for best case, jamming, and worst case, physical destruction.  Makes ya feel all warm and fuzzy on getting from point A to B, now don’t it?

The GPS system is now being purposefully jammed in tests by the US Navy [and refer to the link above for another successful GPS jamming exercise, this time by the Russians] to test a new device used specifically for jamming GPS signals.  Remember, if you’re dependent upon GPS and someone jams the signals, you’re screwed.

Read the full story, here.  Below are some key quotes:

“Starting today, it appears the US military will be testing a device or devices that will potentially jam GPS signals for six hours each day. We say “appears” because officially the tests were announced by the FAA but are centered near the US Navy’s largest installation in the Mojave Desert. And the Navy won’t tell us much about what’s going on.

The FAA issued an advisory warning pilots on Saturday that global positioning systems (GPS) could be unreliable during six different days this month, primarily in the Southwestern United States. On June 7, 9, 21, 23, 28, and 30th [2018] the GPS interference testing will be taking place between 9:30am and 3:30pm Pacific time. But if you’re on the ground, you probably won’t notice interference.”

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“GPS technology has become so ubiquitous that cheap jamming technology has become a real concern for both military and civilian aircraft [and anyone else using the technology on the ground].”

map and compass 1

The nice thing is that Land Navigation Skills – Old School – work ALL the time!   If you don’t know how, you might want to move it up a bit on your priority list – it’s not that difficult to learn.  I’ll be reposting some older ‘how to’ and ‘why’ pieces in the next couple weeks.

Additionally, if you’re local to my AO, and you want to set up a training class, drop me a line.

Stay tuned!

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On Knife Sharpening…

Inspired by a comment I saw over at WRSA (can’t remember on which post) asking if anyone knew where to find good knife sharpening techniques.

Besides my own ‘free hand’ method as well as using systems such as the ‘Razor’s Edge’ and ‘Edge Pro,’ I believe this article from ‘Knife Planet‘ addresses many questions folks have about free hand knife sharpening and how to overcome at least 15 of them.  The latest post as of 15 April outlines a fundamental truth about free hand sharpening:  It’s a learned skill that takes time and patience.

I started learning way back in 1977 after getting my first Camillus ‘USMC’ Combat Knife.  Turned it into a great butter knife with what I knew about sharpening at the time.  Luckily for me, and an ‘old timer’ in my unit (he’d been in for over 20 at the time), took pity on me (after he stopped laughing at me) and showed me things that let me, over time, learn how to put a decent edge on a knife.

Basic Knife Sharpening Facts:

  • The blade grind is the foundation of the edge.  If you have a bad grind (typically, in my world, defined as too obtuse) you’ll never be able to put a razor sharp edge on the knife, and what edge you do get will dull quickly.

Personally, for my knives, I prefer, from left to right, the Flat, Scandi, and Hollow grind.  I’m not a fan of the convex grind, though I know people who won’t have anything else.  My kitchen knives are flat ground, my survival knives are Scandi, and my ‘combat’ knives are hollow ground.  Each grind has advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage of my three favorites is simply this:  They are all ground to the point that I can finish the edge quickly and reasonably painlessly.  The blades all retain their edge for very long periods of use.

  • If you are new to knife sharpening, find and old ‘beater’ knife at a garage sale or flea market somewhere.  Don’t start your education on your several hundred dollar prized blade!  When I first decided to use the Edge Pro Apex system, the very first knife I sharpened was a cheaply made Chinese knock off of a Buck 110 given to me by a family friend.  I didn’t want to play with my Ek or Randall or Gerber and screw them up before I knew beyond doubt what I was doing with the new system.  Same thing when I first purchased the Razor’s Edge hones.  I used a cheap beater knife until I was absolutely sure I knew what I was doing.
  • Keep in mind that you must keep the knife blade at the same angle throughout the sharpening process on every stroke on the hone.  The thinner the grind on the blade, the less degree that is used.  Example:  Kitchen knives – 12 to 16 degrees; Survival & Combat knives 18 to 22 degrees, depending on the depth of the blade grind.

    Grip is firm, but not death like; angle is constant on this hollow ground blade

  • Too much pressure on the blade when honing will remove too much material and will not cause the blade to take an edge more quickly.
  • A coarse stone should be used to put the initial edge on the blade – you know you’re about there when the ‘wire’ or ‘burr’ is raised on both sides of the blade.  Once the burr is raised on one side, sharpening the other side will most likely remove the first burr and replace it with the newly sharpened side’s burr.  This is fine.

  • A fine stone should be used to ‘finish’ the edge and remove the wire, or burr.
  • When removing the burr, only the weight of the knife should be used for the finishing strokes.  The finishing strokes are few in number compared to the amount used in raising the burr on a ‘new’ or poorly ground knife.

  • Know when to quit – Once it shaves a clean swipe from your arm, you’re done.  Clean the blade and put it away.  Don’t fall for the temptation to do, ‘just a couple more strokes’ to make it even sharper.  Chances are you will find yourself back near square one, depending on your error of angle or force on the blade and hone.

WARNING:  Shaving your arm or leg to check sharpness is not recommended due to the chance of lacerating yourself; better to use a piece of paper and shave thin slices from the edge or to use a sharpness tester.

If you’re experienced, what do you do to show beginners?

New UPDATE: Edge Pro Apex 4 Knife Sharpening System

 

Originally published 26 May 2015 after I had the system for about a month.

In the last year or so, Edge Pro has added some 1/2 inch wide stones in 220, 400, 600 and 1000 grit for ‘recurve knives and/or tantos’. I’ll post a review once I get a chance to use them on a couple of knives that fit the bill.  I’m thinking they’ll do very nicely. 

Also, on the Edge Pro web site, you can find some really good tips on sharpening smaller knifes or knives with a thumb bolt (like spring assisted knives).  If you’ve not given this system serious consideration, you ought to.

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In our quest for consistency in keeping our field and personal use knives razor sharp, DTG has owned several sharpening systems, ranging from the very inexpensive to the (so far) most expensive system we’ve found that provides a superb edge (which makes the cash outlay not so painful because the system provides a superb ROI), the Edge Pro Apex 4 system.

This system is worth the read and time spent.  It’s been 4 years DTG’s been using the Apex 4.  In that time, I’ve added another grit of polishing tape to the kit (6000) for a really, really, really nice, although possibly into the realm of overkill, finish on any blade I feel needs it, and a couple of glass blanks, pictured here, for use with the tape.  Makes a difference because the glass is, compared to the aluminum, perfectly flat without any minute ‘bumps’ that may cause an uneven polish with the tape.  Bottom line is that you should save your pennies and get one, if you want to perfect the edge of the knife you’re sharpening.

Every time I pull out my Edge Pro to either touch up a knife or put an edge on something I discover in my collection, I’m not disappointed.  I’ve taken my Wall Model 18 DTG knife into the bush and used it hard and had the edge still very sharp afterwards; brought it back to optimum  in less than 5 minutes.  My CRKT m-16 stays razor sharp with the most minor touch ups (as I used it for anything from opening packages to cutting cardboard to whatever).  My Randall Made knife edges are like a mirror.  I cannot say this enough:  This system has returned the best ROI of any system I’ve owned (spent money on) in the last 10 years for knife sharpening and edge maintenance.

So, how does this apply to the folks putting together a NPT?  In a nutshell, this is a great system for a NPT of up to 16 people, because it can handle all the work from edge maintenance to repairing damaged edges.  It’s also very easy to learn, especially with the tutorial videos on the Edge Pro site.  It’s so robust that I was able to modify a serrated knife to a plain edge knife in about 30 minutes – including final sharpening and polishing!

Here’s the basic video from their site.  You can see how easy it is to use.

Now, obviously, this isn’t a ‘ruck system.’  I imagine it could be packed in a ruck and taken along if absolutely necessary (it’s light enough, that’s for sure; maybe 2.5 pounds for the basic kit), but it’s not a ‘bug out’ system.  In the event my ‘SHTF’ knife started to show signs of becoming dull, I’d take the ceramic rod and handle with me, along with a different whet stone that was a water or dry use stone.  There are some good ones out there for that, but for now, let’s look at this system.

First, the hard news:  The Apex 4 set up which is pictured above, including the optional stone leveling kit, is right under $300.  You could get away with going without the stone leveling kit for awhile, but it’s essential to extend the life of your stones when they start to show signs of curvature from use.  So, yes, it’s expensive.  The old saw, ‘you get what you pay for’ comes to mind, though.  Invest once, and get the return on your investment you wanted in the first place!

Here’s what the Edge Pro folks say in describing the Apex 4:

“The Apex Model Edge Pro is a patented system that will sharpen any size or shape blade (up to 3 ½” wide), including serrated knives. Knives can be sharpened at exactly the same angle every time, making re-sharpening so fast you will never work with a dull blade again. Our water stones have been custom formulated to free you from messy, gummed-up oil stones. They last a long time and are inexpensive to replace. The Apex will remove far less metal than electric sharpeners or grinders, eliminating wavy edges and adding to the life and performance of your knives.

The Apex removes nicks and dings without distorting the knife edge. It creates no heat, preserving the temper of your knives. It sets up in seconds on any smooth surface. No power required and comes with a convenient carrying case. Requires no maintenance other than routine cleaning.

[Our] Patented Knife guide system does not clamp the blade, so you can sharpen any length or shape blade up to 3 ½” wide. Adjustable sharpening angles, from 10, 15, 18, 21, and 24 degrees and infinitely in between.

Manufactured from the highest quality materials in Hood River, Oregon, US.”

edge pro stone leveler

Here’s what they say on this essential piece of equipment:

“The stone leveling kit is a 12” diameter, ¼” thick piece of glass, w/ rubber molding installed around the circumference.  It comes with a ½ pound bag of 60 grit (coarse) silicon carbide. Use the stone leveling kit to resurface your sharpening stones after heavy use. By sprinkling about a ½ teaspoon of the silicon carbide on the stone leveling kit, and adding a little water, you can grind the high spots of the stone down until it is level again. Use the opposite side as a perfect surface for mounting your Professional or Apex model. The rubber guard will help contain metal shavings and deaden the sound created from leveling stones. “

Stone maintenance during sharpening is pretty easy:  saturate the stone with purified water mixed with a drop or two of common dish soap (the dish soap makes cleaning the stones up much easier).  Keep the water handy as you work, because the stones must stay wet.

Setting the angle for sharpening is pretty maintenance free, also, as the user manual/instructions demonstrate how to set the approximate angle for the type of knife you’re using, and also details how to find and use the factory edge as a guide in setting the proper angle for your particular knife.  The methods are demonstrated on the included DVD which makes your first time using it much less worrisome.  Once the angle is set properly (and the DVD will show you how to use a ‘Sharpie’ type marker to get it right very quickly), the grind is going to be very consistent and doesn’t require much more force than the weight of your hand on stone arm.  Very user friendly and effective all the way around!

I wanted to put the system to the test quickly, so I brought out a couple older, not sharp ‘force multiplication’ knives I had to practice on.  The first was an ‘Ek’ knock-off.  Man, oh man, did the edge come to that blade quickly!  About 15 minutes tops, and I went through the 220 to 600 grit before I started to polish the edges with the 1000 and 3000 grit tapes.  The cutting edge is polished like a mirror!

Ek knife

camillus combat

So, after another experiment with a new, old stock Camillus version of the USMC Ka-Bar (famous for not being easy to put a good edge on) with the same results, I decided to finish up my Wall Model 18 pictured below.  It was already shaving sharp, but I wanted to see if polishing the blade would make it ‘scary sharp’.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Wall 18 Pic 1

I’m used to checking edges by shaving an arm for an inch or two; this time, when I laid the blade against my arm as per usual, something happened I didn’t expect.  I drew blood.  The weight of the blade on my arm at just a small fraction off for shaving was enough to instantly cut me!  Ok, shave experiment concluded on THAT knife!

Here’s a few of the other knives I’ve finished the edge on:  Buck 110, Case Stockman (Medium), Case ‘Hobo’, Case Folding Hunter, Ek (a real one, not the knock off), Wustof Kitchen knives (ranging from paring to meat carvers), and a few others.

I can only say that I have yet to find out the limits of this system.  It’s worth the money, and once you master the simple techniques necessary to operate it, you’re going to have a system that will last you many, many years, whether SHTF or not.  A nice bonus:  Made in the USA.  All you need is some water…

We give this system 5 6 stars!

Beretta M9 Upgrades – Superb ROI!

A word of explanation for the light posts:  I’ve been invited to be part of the crew over at American Partisan , so if you have a mind to, check it out.  We’ve got a team of folks who, when combining what we know, cover just about all the bases survival, prepper, and liberty minded folks would like to see.  I’ll continue to post here as well, but on a less frequent basis.

See this post for background on my M9.

So, after yet another range session and very good results with the M9, this time out to 50 meters, I was doing some reading to see if there were any internal parts upgrades available.  Apparently, not having a M9 for several decades, and therefore not really paying attention to product improvements, I’m about the only person in the free world that didn’t know they were out there. <insert eye roll here>.

First thing I did was get a ‘D Hammer Spring’, which is basically about 4 links shorter than the standard.   You can see the difference in the image below.  The idea behind it is to lower the double action trigger pull from somewhere around 13 pounds or so down to 6 to 8 while still providing the force necessary for the hammer and firing pin to penetrate hard primers.  It also lowers the single action trigger pull down to something near 4 to 5 pounds.  Ok, I spent $11.

Man, does that make a difference!

Second upgrade:  Wolff black steel op rod & 15 pound recoil spring (fits over the op rod if you’re not familiar with it)  Factory is 13 pounds.  The factory plastic (and fluted) op rod just did not provide the confidence I want for a SHTF pistol.  When it comes to the recoil spring, personally, I like just a bit more power, especially when I’m shooting rounds like Federal’s HST +P.  Cost:  $8.50 for the spring and $24 for the op rod.

 

After that, I picked up a Wilson Combat Recoil Buffer.  Another $10.  This fits over the recoil spring and sits up near the face of the slide.  It doesn’t change or interfere with operations; it simply acts as a pad between the violent rearward movement of the slide and the front of the slide when it hits the face of the locking block.  These are worthwhile; I put them in every pistol I own.  Makes the pistol keep operating as new for a long, long, long time.  And I like that.

At this point I’ve got $53.50 invested.

Then I’m seeing this Wolff Trigger Conversion Unit also sold by Wilson Combat under the same name.  I chose the Wolff version for two reasons:  I’m very comfortable with Wolff’s quality and customer support (should it be necessary).  The Wilson Combat version was $7 less expensive, but they’re out of stock, a LOT, and Wolff has a good supply.

Sooooo, I purchased the ‘Extra Power’ model.  It’s simply a pound or so more than the standard, and it’s designed to eliminate trigger return spring breakage and ‘spring stacking.’  It’s Np3 coated, and is drop in both design and application.  $25.

Now I’m up to just about $79.  Last, but certainly not least, was getting some more aggressive grip panels.  My hands are average, and I can handle the M9 very well, but I wanted just a tad more purchase on the pistol when holding it.  So, I found a pair of ERGO hard rubber grips with medium abrasion (meaning you can hold it well when your hands are slippery) for $20 shipped.

ergo grips

$99 to put everything I want on the M9 to have it continue to look like a service grade and shoot like it’s almost match grade.

I’m toying with putting on the adjustable rear sight; back in the day in the Air Force, we were always provided adjustable sights until the M9, and then, after I retired, I assumed there would be that upfit.  I don’t know, but the sight itself looks a lot like the old S&W M15 adjustable that I was weaned on.  No decision yet; I’m not sure if I want to pay between $75 and $100 for this upgrade when the issue sights and my eyes still seem to work pretty good.  80% hits in vital areas at 50 meters ain’t too bad, so for now, this is on the shelf.

All the improvements above have countless YouTube videos available to demonstrate, from the home grown to official Beretta versions.   I was able to do each operation without too much trouble (meaning it was me and not the pistol or the instruction) and get everything done in minutes.

If you’re a Beretta 92 or M9 owner, check the upgrades out; it might be worth your while.  It certain was mine – this M9 SINGS on the range!!

Range Time: What’s a Good Frequency?

To determine what might work for you when it comes to going to the range to practice the fundamentals with live fire, a presumption must be made that you’re doing dry fire a couple times a week for at least 10 minutes a session.  Yes, boring, repetitious, and tedious, but you need to accept this as a minimum if you want to master your weapon of choice and become very, very good at applying the fundamentals you practice in live fire.  And truly, that’s all renowned shooters are doing when you see them performing very fast and very accurately on the range:

They are simply applying the fundamentals in a quick, effective manner.  Nothing more, nothing less.  No secret techniques, just mastery of the fundamentals.

So, how much range time?  I’ve found that for me to ensure personal proficiency, I’m expending at least 50 to 100 rounds of whatever I’m primarily carrying every 4 to 6 weeks.  If it’s monthly, a box of 50 is fine, if it’s every 6 weeks, 2 boxes of 50.  I might even go as often as every 3 weeks, but that’s because I’m stoked, but it’s not all the time, and no matter what, I do the dry fire as often as I can.  It’s all based on balancing my schedule (personal and professional obligations) and checkbook (even bought by the 1K round case, ammo gets expensive!), and need for simple relaxation.

So, what’s the take away here?  Simply this:  Make the practice of handling/shooting your weapons part of your normal routine.  The skills you pick up are perishable by nature, and if you aren’t careful, life has a way of overcoming your practice, and the next thing you know, you haven’t touched a pistol, rifle, or shotgun in months!  Do not let that happen!

Minimally, if you dry fire routinely (twice a week, 10 minutes each session), you can get away with every 6 weeks.  For self-evaluation, every other range session put yourself through a 50 round ‘qualification’ course.  With a pistol, at 25 yards/meters; with a rifle, do an AQT or NRA High Power type course.  Doing so will have you ‘qualifying’ every quarter, which is much, much better than 95% of all shooters will do.  Your skill mastery will show it, too!

Discipline is key here, because if you’re like me, dry fire gets to be very monotonous.  However, without it, those perishable skills you’ve picked up will deteriorate to one degree or another.  I’d prefer disciplined monotony to suffering regret when or if I need to employ those skills.  Just sayin’.  One way I keep it interesting is only doing dry fire with one platform a session.  One day I might be using my M-Forgery; another a pistol; another, a bolt gun.  I also add different miniature targets any time I can.

One thing in my dry fire that is not negotiable is the application of safety practices:

  • NEVER MIX ALCOHOL WITH DRY OR LIVE FIRE!  It should go without saying that if you’re going to drink, do it after your practice or live fire shooting.
  • ALWAYS remove any magazine before dry firing to ensure it’s empty.
  • ALWAYS check the chamber to ensure there isn’t a round hiding in it (Remember, ALL weapons are ALWAYS loaded until you ensure they’re not!!)
  • NEVER point your weapon at another human being you don’t intend to shoot, even in dry fire practice (tv/movie characters are different – it’s a projection).
  • THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ‘ACCIDENTAL’ DISCHARGE – IT ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO NEGLIGENCE!

See you on the range.

Rediscovering the Beretta M9 – Range Update

Old School becomes ‘New School’ after a fashion.

I carried & qualified with issue M9’s on active duty when our S&W M-15’s were replaced in the late 80’s (the Smith was a great revolver, but not up to tactical employment…just sayin’).  We immediately liked the M9 it a lot – had a lot more rounds, more powerful than the .38 Special the USAF seemed to be enthralled with for so many years, was magazine fed, could be field stripped in about 3 seconds, and was accurate as the Smith (which was very accurate) give or take (the M9 has fixed sites; the Smith had adjustable) for qualification to 25 meters, and if you were serious, you could practice and hit to 50 meters on a human silhouette target to 50 meters.  The decocking lever caused us a bit of anxiousness until we found out it worked, and the safety lever was easy to learn, though  reversed from a 1911 (the 1911 safety is pushed down to go to ‘fire’ and the M9 is pushed up).

Liked it so much I had a Beretta 92C (Compact) POW (Personally Owned Weapon) from 85 until I sold it before I returned home in 92.  I didn’t want to go through the paperwork to have it added to my orders, and then stuck in my ‘hold baggage.’  In hindsight, it was a bad decision, but I digress.

Years flew, and then I started looking at them again a couple of months ago.  Mostly because the M9 is being phased out of the service, and I’m thinking ‘CHEAP MAGAZINES and PARTS.’

Found a safe queen with a purported use of less than 2 boxes of ammo on gunbroker almost new for about $200 less than retail, and it was a M9, not the 92FS.  Basically, the civilian M9 is a military copy (because it’s not property of the US Government) though everything else down to the lanyard loop, (including the markings) are the same, and was sold around the 20th anniversary of the pistol’s service use.  Came with 4 original mags to boot, so how could I lose?  The only thing Beretta did that really isn’t good is the op rod is now plastic (steel replacement already on the way).

After inspection, the round count was probably right; not a bit of wear internally.  It was like taking a new pistol out and looking it over.  It is really sweet, too, except for that famous looooooooooong first trigger pull if shooting double action.  But I can get used to that again.

So, the first thing is to break it down and clean it (and that’s where I was able to see the lack of wear internally).  Especially if it’s a used gun, even though it was a safe queen.  Then, after about an hour of refamiliarization with dry fire, mag change outs, and such, made sure it was lubricated to specs, and ready for the range.  Everything is functional, so it’s off to the range this morning to wring it out with a couple hundred rounds.

That’ll be part 2 of this post.  Until then, here’s what she looks like:

Now, don’t think for a second I’m giving up my Glocks or Kimbers; just adding this to the stable of proven ‘go to’ sidearms.

Get yourself some range time.

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Ok, didn’t have a lot of time today, but in 45 minutes I was able to check the inherent accuracy of this pistol pretty well with both deliberate aimed fire as well as some 1 & 2 shot drills.  I fired at 10 meters, indoor range, Winchester 124gr FMJ finishing up with some Federal 124gr HST.  The first two pictures are to simply show the distance and the first 15 rounds.  The pistol is worth having, especially if you’re just getting started and want a reliable pistol.  The offset group to the left of center is not the weapon; it’s my poor vision.  The last picture demonstrates why the M9 eats anything.  The magazine puts the rounds almost perfectly in line with the chamber, so there’s no worry about ‘bullet bump’ that can cause failure to feed.

The indoor range – 10 meters, 50 ft small bore target augmented with a 3 inch Shootnc target.

The inaugural magazine – 15 rounds, aimed, deliberate fire at 10 meters.  My eyes suck, but the pistol is top notch!

Why the Beretta M9 eats any kind of ammo, and yes, that’s Federal 124gr HST getting ready for a trip downrange.