How to Keep Yourself, and Those Around You, Safe
Given everyone’s ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 virus, and its impacts on our daily lives, one interesting phenomena that we are seeing is a lot of people that have never owned a firearm heading to their local gun store to purchase either a handgun, shotgun or rifle. Some of these individuals have never considered owning a gun before, and some of them seem to be anti-gun people that have had a change of heart given the social turbulence that they see around them. Whatever the cause, we are glad to see people exercising their 2nd Amendment rights and rethinking their gun ownership positions.
Based on the FBI statistics what we are seeing locally is happening all across the United States. In fact, January 2020 had the fourth-highest number of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background checks ever for a month - totaling 2,702,707 checks. February exceeded that number recording 2,802,467 background checks, with 797,221 of these checks occurring between 21 February and 1 March 2020 - the third-highest level since 1998.
In total 338,509,235 NICS background checks have been completed since the system started operations in November 1998; approximately 8 million background checks more than the entire population of the United States of 330 million people.
Here’s the FBI’s data from November 1998 through February 2020.
Here’s the FBI’s data for January and February 2020 – broken down by State
If you want to see more of the FBI’s NICS data here are the direct links:
As with most things in life, this explosion of people realizing that they need to be able to defend themselves (and taking actions to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights to purchase firearms to do so), has both pros and cons.
Biggest Pro – People understand that they are responsible for their own protection - especially since the average response time in the United States for the Police to arrive after being called is 9 minutes and 35 seconds – even in the best of circumstances.
Biggest Con – There are a whole lot of new gun owners out there with firearms that they haven’t trained with and, in many cases, really don’t know how to effectively use safely.
So that brings us to today’s real blog topic: The 4 Rules of Gun Safety. Initially developed by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper in 1976 at “Gunsite”, his ranch in northern Arizona dedicated to teaching and advancing the knowledge that Cooper had developed as his “Modern Technique” approach to effectively using firearms. Cooper’s initial version of the 4 Rules of Gun Safety was:
Rule One: All guns are always loaded.
Rule Two: Never let the muzzle cover anything which you are not willing to destroy.
Rule Three: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
Rule Four: Always be sure of your target.
For safety’s sake every gun owner should commit these 4 rules to memory, and should follow them 100% of the time to maximize safety and minimize accidents. Responsible gun ownership means learning and practicing the behaviors that help prevent needless accidental injury and/or death – in all situations.
Over the past 40 years numerous variations to the wording of Cooper’s original 4 Rules have proliferated – mostly to provide additional clarity. The version of the 4 Rules of Gun Safety that we prefer are:
Based on these four rules some key points that we like emphasize to other shooters (both new – and yes – sometimes old timers too) are:
One last note. Over the past several years, as gun safety has been highlighted, a new rule seems to be emerging:
We like this rule since you should obviously store your guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized people; including your children, friends, and other people that might have access to your home and/or firearms - wherever they are located.
For more details and opinions about the 4 Rules of Gun Safety here are some other great online reference sources:
- A Girl & A Gun: “4 Rules of Gun Safety”
- Keepgunssafe.com – “The Four Primary Rules of Firearm Safety”
- Cheaper Than Dirt Blog – “4 Rules of Gun Safety”
So, whether you are a new gun owner or an old hand, play it safe and follow The 4 Rules of Gun Safety whenever you are around firearms.
The Hierarchy of Survival Actions
Since everyone is currently focused on surviving the COVID-19 (e.g. coronavirus) pandemic we thought that this would be a good time to discuss the hierarchy of survival actions – as dictated by the “Rule of Three”.
For those of you not familiar with the “Rule of Three” it states that you can survive for 3 minutes without air/oxygen or in icy water. You can survive for 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment. You can survive for 3 days without water (if sheltered from a harsh environment). You can survive for 3 weeks without food (if you have water and shelter).
So what does the “Rule of Three” really mean? Well it’s pretty straightforward in directing what you need to focus on and how quickly you need to focus on it. After all, if you can’t breathe - you don’t need shelter. If you get hypothermia from the rain, heatstroke from the sun, or freeze from the cold - you don’t need water. If you are incapacitated or die from dehydration – you don’t need food. And, if you have a shelter and water, then knowing that you have 3 weeks to either improve your wilderness living situation, find a way to trek back to civilization, or help rescuers locate you, should greatly improve your mental condition – while you hunt and gather food.
As a specific example of this survival hierarchy, if you watch the TV “survival” shows (e.g. Naked and Afraid, Alone, Man vs. Wild, Dual Survival, etc.,) you can see that there is often a great difference between the initial actions that the experts and the novices take when dropped into the wilderness. Many of the novices start by trying to build a fire – something that may be important – but can take a significant amount of time and effort – and can prove to be very frustrating; a bad emotion to encounter on your first day in a survival situation. In contrast, you’ll notice that the experts normally try to find a good site for their shelter (near water if possible, sheltered from the wind, away from any flood plain and safe from any “widow maker” trees). Once they have located a good site they immediately try to build the best shelter that they can in the available time that they have before nightfall; knowing that they can always improve their shelter on Day #2 if they survive Day #1. As they collect materials for their shelter they might simultaneously gather materials to make a fire, but the fire is of secondary importance (especially since having a shelter will allow them to more easily build, light and protect a fire and any firewood they gather). Only once they have a shelter do they begin to focus in earnest on their needs for fire, a longer term water supply and how to acquire food.
Rather than write a very long blog that still only superficially covers the vast amount of detail required to really prepare you for a survival situation, here’s a listing of six books that you might want to own so that you have access to the knowledge that the survival experts have honed over the years:
For more information on survival, especially what you might want to do to prepare for a potential short term disaster, you should check out our website’s “Camping/Maps and Books” and “Disaster Preparedness” pages. But, whatever else you do, please remember the “Rule of Three” - since it could save your life.
How to Enjoy the Outback and Leave it in a Condition for the Next Adventurers to do the Same
Last week we received an email from Troop 325 of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) - a troop located near San Diego, California - thanking us for all the camping and hiking tips on our HCS website. It turns out that when the Scouts from Troop 325 were writing their “Outdoor Code” principles they found a lot of ideas and helpful links on our site. As an Eagle Scout, and Philmont ranger, I’m always glad to receive positive feedback from Scouts – especially since the main reason we built our website was to pass on some of the knowledge, research, links, and tips that we’ve gathered over the years. Their email also got us to thinking that the “Outdoor Code”, and the ethos that it embodies, would make a great blog post. So that’s our topic for today.
For those of you not familiar with the “Outdoor Code” it first showed up in Boys' Life magazine’s March 1954 issue, which featured "An Outdoor Code for Americans" and "BSA's Conservation Good Turn". The Good Turn was prompted by a request from President Eisenhower, challenging the Boy Scouts to raise public awareness about the importance of caring for our natural resources.
Now, 66 years later, the Outdoor Code is probably even more relevant to all of our outback activities since there are more people out there enjoying the beauty and challenges that Nature has to offer. Since its initial publication in 1954 the wording of the Outdoor Code has changed slightly to keep up with the times. Here’s the latest version:
As an American, I will do my best to…
For those of you not familiar with the Outdoor Code, you may have seen similar outback principles under the title of “Leave No Trace” – a movement that began in the 1960’s and 70’s when there was a significant increase in the number of visits to US National Parks. This movement eventually drove the United States Forest Service, in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), to develop a national education program on “Leave No Trace” in 1990. Today one of the main drivers of the Leave No Trace activities is the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics with their “The Leave No Trace Seven Principles” (© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org). Their 7 Principles are:
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has even refined their principles into 7 Principles for the Frontcountry:
Obviously, both the Outdoor Code and the Leave No Trace Seven Principles are great guidance for how everyone should act during their activities in the outback; with education hopefully more people will.
So, back to Troop 325 - in addition to suggesting this whole blog topic, as a way of helping spread their knowledge they also sent us the link to an article that we hadn’t seen: "Leave No Trace: Low-Impact Campgrounds" from www.wristband.com, written by Michele Wheat. This article has some great information about “Low-Impact Camping Tips” and “How to Hike and Leave No Trace”. The article also has links to over 20 other websites with additional resources. You should give it a read.
If you want more information on the Outdoor Code, or Leave No Trace, here are several links to other websites that you should check out:
“The Outdoor Code”
“Outdoor Ethics Guide”
“BSA Leave No Trace”
ScoutSmarts – “The Outdoor Code (My Ultimate Guide For Any Scout or Troop)”
“The Outdoor Code”
Leave No Trace
“The 7 Principles”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 4: Leave What You Find”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 6: Respect Wildlife”
“The LNT Seven Principles – Principle 7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors”
“Leave No Trace for Frontcountry”
Leave No Trace Seven Principles
wristband.com - "Leave No Trace: Low-Impact Campgrounds"
We Have Readers from All Over the World
Like most websites, ever since we launched our Hiking, Camping and Shooting website we’ve tracked the statistics to see who our readers are and where they’re located. Recently we’ve had a few people ask who reads our site – so we thought that we would share some of our statistics with all of you.
We have readers from all 50 States - with the largest concentrations being in the following 15 States:
We have readers from over 90 Countries around the world - with the largest concentrations being in the following 20 Countries:
The 20 pages and blog posts that people have read the most over the past 3 years are:
Most of our readers find us either by searching on Google (52.3%) or by previously having been to our website and coming directly to us (31.2%). A much smaller percentage (4.8%) find us through our Hiking, Camping and Shooting Facebook page:
The majority of our users view our website on either Chrome (49.8%) or Safari (27.5%) browsers:
Hopefully this data shows you that you’re in good company as you read through our Hiking, Camping and Shooting gear write-ups and blog posts. Our wish is that they give you some information that will make all your adventures a little more fun. Wherever you’re from, we’re glad that you stopped by to look over our HCS website!
Including What You Need to Have On Hand to Bake
Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about the Coronavirus (e.g. COVID-19) and what precautions people should take to protect themselves from catching the virus. As with most other potential disasters we believe that everyone needs to be prepared for at least a week – and preferably two weeks – of social/economic breakdown due to events like tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, power grid outages, etc., The Coronavirus situation is no different.
As the first step in protecting yourself you need to have all the essential gear purchased and stored in your house ahead of any disaster striking since supplies can quickly disappear from local stores. To make matters worse, during a disaster supply chains can break down prohibiting the delivery of new critical food, medical and repair items to your area. Our list of essential supplies that we think you need to have on hand to prepare for any disaster (augmented by other gear that you probably already have for Camping or Hiking), fall into 9 main categories:
You can see all the items that we put into each of these nine categories on our Disaster Preparedness page. You can even download a PDF file with that has a complete listing of all the gear to help you with your shopping.
So that’s the essentials that you should have on hand to prepare for any short term disaster. Now here’s an “advanced” tip. In many disaster situations your house will still have power and you will be able to cook using your normal stove top burners and oven. In other cases you may lose power completely causing any items in your refrigerator/freezer to spoil and forcing you to cook on a camp stove. In both of these cases you may find that you don’t have perishables like milk or eggs on hand to bake or make other recipes. Luckily, there’s an easy fix to this problem – adding powered milk and either freeze-dried eggs or a powdered egg substitute to your Disaster Preparedness stores. Having these two simple items on hand can greatly increase your cooking options.
In our case, for powdered milk, we keep Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk in our supplies. The powdered milk is fortified with vitamins A and D and a 9.63 ounce canister makes 3 quarts of milk when you add water. You should be able to buy Carnation Instant Nonfat Dry Milk at your local grocery store or at Amazon.
For eggs we use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Egg Replacer. This egg powder is made from potato starch, tapioca flour, baking soda and psyllium husk fiber. There’s very little flavor in the mix so it doesn’t interfere with any recipes that we’ve tried. It’s also gluten free in case that matters to you. As an alternative you can always use freeze-dried eggs from companies like OVA Easy or Mountain House – just make sure that they don’t have bacon bits, ham or peppers in the mix if you’re using them to bake – since that can make for a very unpalatable muffin (we have both of these in our supplies too - just not primarily for baking). We can purchase Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Egg Replacer at our local grocery store, so you may be able to find it in your local area – if not you can buy it at Amazon. You can probably find freeze dried eggs like OVA Easy Dehydrated Egg Crystals at your local outdoor store or you can buy them at Amazon.
Whatever you do, plan ahead and if you can’t afford to purchase all your Disaster Preparedness supplies at one time then make a prioritized list and purchase them a little at a time. You’ll sleep a little better, even if you never need to use them – and you’ll be really glad if you do ever need them.
Giorgia Hofer Photography
One of the things that we love the most about the outback is the clear night skies that allow you to see the moon and dramatic star scenes that are not visible from most locations due to light pollution. Many people try to capture the beauty of these sights, but in our opinion, few are as successful as Giorgia Hofer, an Italian photographer that’s a member of the Cortina Astronomical Association.
One of her photos that we really like is “Lunar Curve”, which shows the position and phases of the moon over 28 days. Each individual photo was taken from the same location at the same time of day.
Here’s a video showing some of Giorgia beautiful work; “Starry Nights in the Dolomites”:
If you want to see more of her spectacular nighttime photos, here are direct links to Giorgia’s website:
- Nightscapes: https://www.giorgiahoferphotography.com/nightscapes
- Moon: https://www.giorgiahoferphotography.com/moon
- Astrophotography: https://www.giorgiahoferphotography.com/astrophoto
Knots You Need to Know and Help to Remember How to Tie Them
This week we ran across an interesting article discussing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) new mathematical model which predicts a knot's stability; “A New Mathematical Model Predicts a Knot's Stability”
To examine the issue MIT mathematicians and engineers developed a mathematical model that predicts how stable a knot is based on several key properties, including the number of crossings and the direction in which the rope segments twist as the knot is pulled tight. "Empirical knowledge refined over centuries has crystallized out what the best knots are," said Mathias Kolle, the Rockwell International Career Development Associate Professor at MIT. But what exactly makes one knot more stable than another has not been well-understood, until now. "And now the model shows why."
In comparing the diagrams of knots of various strengths, the researchers were able to identify general "counting rules," or characteristics that determine a knot's stability. Basically, a knot is stronger if it has more strand crossings, as well as more "twist fluctuations" - changes in the direction of rotation from one strand segment to another. For instance, if a fiber segment is rotated to the left at one crossing and rotated to the right at a neighboring crossing as a knot is pulled tight, this creates a twist fluctuation and thus opposing friction, which adds stability to a knot. If, however, the segment is rotated in the same direction at two neighboring crossing, there is no twist fluctuation, and the strand is more likely to rotate and slip, producing a weaker knot. They also found that a knot can be made stronger if it has more "circulations," which they define as a region in a knot where two parallel strands loop against each other in opposite directions, like a circular flow.
If you do any Camping, and to a lesser extent Hiking, then a working knowledge of the most commonly used knots is essential. Based on our years of experience the 10 knots that we think it is critical for you to absolutely know are:
The problem is that there’s actually a lot to remember, especially if a significant amount of time passes between you actually tying these knots. So we use two items to help our memory as needed, and to give us information on other knots too. The first is the Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST’s) “Learn & Live” Knots card which has instructions and illustrations on how to tie 11 commonly used knots. You can see the details on this card, and the other 5 credit card sized cards that we think are valuable to have, on our Hiking/Emergency Supplies page.
The second item that we use to help us with knot knowledge is the “Knots 3D” app. What a great tool this is! The $4.99 standalone app (i.e. no internet required) by Nynix is worth every penny since it shows you in detail how to tie 135 knots.
The app includes the following information on each knot: best uses, other names that the knot is also known as, related knots, “Ashley Book of Knots” (ABOK) number, classification, structure, strength and reliability and a 3D animated video showing the knot being tied. In addition, the app allows you to:
The Knots 3d app’s ability to rotate a knot to see the front, back and everything in-between is indispensable and provides interactivity you can't get from a knot book’s static photographs. You can get the app at the Apple Store, Google Play Store, or Amazon Store.
If you’re looking for other good information on knots used for camping, or survival, here are four good online articles that we recommend you take a look at:
5 Best Survival Knots – Strong Life Saving Knots You Need To Know
Camping Knots: 6 Essential Knots Every Camper Needs to Know
The 7 Most Useful Survival Knots You Need to Know
Essential Knots: How to Tie the 20 Knots You Need to Know
Safariland 6004-173-6114 STX Black Tactical Holster
Since a large handgun is normally too big to carry in an Inside the Waistband (IWB) holster, you really need to carry it in a different type of holster. For concealed carry the only option is really a shoulder holster – so we have one of those (a Bianchi 4601 Ranger Viper). But for unconcealed carrying, or for ease of access for activities like 3-gun shooting, you really need to carry the firearm as a “sidearm”; and that means either an Outside the Waistband (OWB) holster or a drop-leg holster. Since an OWB holster makes the firearm sit high on your waist, that can cause issues drawing a large firearm since you have to lift your arm up fairly high to allow the barrel to fully clear the holster. Because of this, the more popular option for large handguns, like the Beretta 92FS, is a drop leg holster. After looking at the many options on the market, for unconcealed carry for our Beretta 92FS, we selected a Safariland 6004-173-6114 STX Black Tactical Holster.
You can find the details about the Safariland 6004 Holster on the Shooting/Holsters page.
Where the Moose Are and What to Do If you See One on the Trails
Back in March I wrote a blog about the expanding bear population here in New England (“It’s Springtime and That Means the Bears Are Out"). Now, based on the latest Wildlife survey, it’s clear that bears aren’t the only large mammal increasing in population in the area since the number of moose in the area is evidently growing too.
Although moose in Massachusetts were nearly hunted into extinction during the Colonial era and 19th century, after hunting was regulated in the early 1900's their population began to rebound. "It was a slow progression from Maine to New Hampshire to Vermont, and then started to show up in Massachusetts in the 1960's and 1970's. But it wasn't really until the late 1990's and early 2000's that we started having moose year-round." - Moose biologist David Stainbrook of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Over the past four years there have been hundreds of moose incidents (to include sightings, injuries and deaths) in Massachusetts. Here’s a map showing where the moose are concentrated and another showing the specific locations where moose have been sighted, or sadly died – mostly due to impacts with cars since moose are taller than deer so headlights don’t normally reflect off of their eyes making them harder to see at night.
Here's a more in depth article on the resurgence of moose in our area:
If you want all the details on the Massachusetts Moose population, and other detailed fish and wildlife statistics, here’s the link to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s 2018 Annual Report.
Since the probability of a sighting is increasing, if you do see a moose while you’re out on a hike, you should know that they're not typically dangerous. But it's still good to give them plenty of space — and definitely keep any dogs hiking with you away from the moose. Although rare, you can tell if a moose will become aggressive by its body language. Here are 7 signs to look for (from Emergency Essentials Blog – “7 Signs You’re Going to be Attacked by a Moose”):
The Appalachian Mountain Club also has some good information in their article titled “Do You Know How to Respond to a Moose Encounter?”
We routinely see deer, coyotes, black bears, foxes, turkeys, fischer cats, beavers, wood chucks and even a few bobcats in our neck of the woods. I guess we’ll have to start being on the lookout for moose too.
Our Latest Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting Gear Checklists
Everybody that's been Hiking, Camping and Shooting for a while has a list of gear that they always take with them on their adventures. For some people their method of keeping track of their gear is to keep it all in one place. Others make a checklist to ensure that they have everything that they need. We do both.
Based on our experience the gear that you need for Hiking comes in 10 categories, Camping has 10 categories, Disaster Preparedness has 9 categories and Shooting gear comes in 17 categories:
To make it easier for you we have updated and added downloadable PDFs of the Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting gear checklists that we use. The checklists include the types of gear that we think you need in each of these 46 categories.
Our website also has the details on the specific gear that we use (477 items from these 46 categories at last count), the reasons that we selected it and links to Amazon, or other locations, where you can buy the gear.
You can find these downloadable PDF checklists on the main Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting pages.
What's On This Page?
Here's where we post reviews, questions, answers, thoughts and other information that's of general interest to our followers in a blog format.