Monday, June 25, 2012

72 Hour Survival

The next few posts will be a reprint of a small booklet that I wrote to use in wilderness survival classes.  This booklet outlines the things that you need to do to keep from getting into a survival situation to begin with; but if the worst happens, it tells you the things that you need to do to survive for the first 72 hours and the things that you need to do to aid your rescuers in finding you.

The first 72 hours after becoming lost in the wilderness are the most critical hours.  This is the time period in which the search for a missing person will be the most intense and the most resources will be brought to bare.  If the lost person can survive for these 72 hours and render some aid to the searchers, the chances of a successful rescue are high.  The purpose of this booklet is to help you, the victim, survive those all-important first 72 hours, and to provide strategies for you to help your rescuers locate you in the wilderness.

1. Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.  Always contact this person on your return to let them know that you have made it back safely.

2. Always hunt, fish, hike, or camp with at least one partner; Two partners are better.   With three people, if an injury occurs, one person can stay with the injured party while the third person goes for help.

3. Always carry a compass and a map of the area that you will be in.  Learn how to use map and compass before you go into the wilderness.

4. Always take a compass reading before you leave the trailhead.

5. Always leave yourself plenty of time to return from the wilderness.  Don't get caught unprepared by the sunset.

6.  If you have a cell phone, make sure that it is fully charged and take it with you.  Even if it doesn't work in the wilderness; you may need it to call for assistance when you get in range of a cell tower.

7. If you have a GPS unit, be sure that you know how to operate it before you go into the wilderness.

At a bare minimum always take the following with you into the wilderness.
1. Leatherman tool or Swiss Army Knife
2. matches or cigarette lighter
3. whistle
4. compass
5. relfective Mylar solar blanket
6. quart canteen or water bottle filled with fresh water
7. small bottle of insect repellant (according to season)
8. small bottle of sun screen (according to season)

Better yet, take all of the above plus a wilderness survival kit equipped with the following:
1. small mirror
2. magnifying glass
3. 15' of small gauge snare wire
4. small bottle of water purification tablets
5. 1 quart zip-lock freezer bag (for emergency canteen
6. 2 needles
7. a pair of tweezers
8. 3 Band-Aids
9. 6 Tylenol tablets
10. 2 Benadryl tablets
11. 6 small fishhooks
12. 6 split shot fishing weights
13. 20' of monofilament fishing line
14. another cigarette lighter or waterproof matches
15. a candle stub or emergency fire starter.

A human can survive approximately 3 minutes without oxygen

A human can survive loss of body heat for approximately 3 hours

A human can survive approximately 3 days without water

A human can survive approximately 3 weeks without food.

STOP!  Sit down in a comfortable place, take a long drink of water, and breath deeply through your nose.  This will help fight off the panic that sometimes occurs when we find ourselves lost or disoriented.  Analyze your situation.  Stay where you are.  It will be easier for rescuers to find you if you are not on the move.  Take a compass reading.  Just knowing where north, south, east, and west are is a powerful psychological boost to a disoriented person.  How late in the day is it?  Will you be in the woods overnight?  Now think about the rule of three.  You have oxygen to breath, so you don't have to worry about that.  You can survive without food for 3 weeks, so that's not a problem.  You should have a near full canteen or water bottle, so dehydration is not an immediate threat.  Your main concern, if night is approaching, is to avoid the loss of your body's core heat.  Loss of core body heat, called hypothermia is the most common cause of death for those who are lost in the wilderness.  If you are exhausted, if you are wet, and if the wind is blowing; you can become hypothermic when the air temperature is as high as 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  So let's take care of the body heat problem first.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Make Homemade Muscle Rub from Wild Horsemint Leaves

Horsemint (Monarda punctata L.) is a wild mint that grows in East Texas and much of the rest of the eastern United States.  It has a pretty purple flower and a strong medicinal odor.  Pictured below:  Wild horsemint
My old survival mentor, who taught me so much about the wild plants of East Texas, told me to never drink horsemint tea; that it is much too strong.  If you smell a batch of this “tea” brewing, believe me, you won’t be tempted to drink it.  But he did show me how to make a good muscle rub, kind of a survivalist Ben-Gay ointment, out of horsemint.  Here’s how you do it.

Gather a couple of handfuls of horsemint leaves.
Bring about two cups of water to a boil, drop in the horsemint leaves, turn off the stove, cover the pot, and let the leaves steep for about fifteen minutes.
 While the horsemint is steeping, take a cup of vegetable shortening or lard and melt it in a small cook pot over a low flame.  Don’t overheat the shortening.  Just warm it until it melts.
When your horsemint “tea” has brewed pour a half cup of it through a tea strainer into the melted shortening.
 Stir the two together and then set aside to let it cool.  The tea and the shortening will separate as they cool, but that’s OK.  The oil in the horse mint, which is the active ingredient, will mix into the shortening.  Take a fork and kind of whip the mixture together.  It should be about the consistency of thin yogurt.
Now pour the mixture off into a jar a put a lid on it.
 If you have sore muscles just take your liniment jar, shake it up to mix it back together, and rub a little liniment onto your muscles to help ease the pain.  Be forewarned that this is pretty greasy; not like the stuff that you buy at the store, so use it sparingly. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pocket Pistol Comparison Test

In this post I'm going to make a side-by-side comparison of three pocket pistols; a vintage Iver Johnson revolver in .32 S&W, a Raven .25 auto-loader, and a Ruger LCP in .380.  All of these firearms are very small in size, hence the term pocket pistol.  Let me say from the start that I am no fan of pocket pistols.  For home defense my choice is a shotgun.  For a vehicle carry weapon my choice is a hand gun of at least 9mm with a long enough barrel to give a good sight plane.  But with that being said, I can conceive of some instances where a pocket pistol might be called for.  Many law enforcement officers carry a small pistol as a back-up weapon, and I can think of instances where a lady might like to have one in her purse, but in general I don't think that there's much place for these guns.  Pictured below: on the top an Iver Johnson chambered for .32 S&W, bottom left a Raven .25 auto, and bottom right a Ruger LCP chambered for .380 auto.

I see three main drawbacks to the pocket pistol: (1) they usually have a very short barrel and hence are very inaccurate over any distance, (2) they generally fire a fairly small caliber round (in Texas it is illegal to carry anything smaller than .380 as a concealed weapon), and (3) the workmanship on most (but not all) pocket pistols is generally pretty poor. 

Now, why would anyone carry a pocket pistol?  Well, I think that the obvious answer is that they feel like they may need it to protect their life.  So, if your life may depend on it, don't you think that it makes sense to carry the most accurate and reliable pocket pistol that you can find?

So let's run these three pocket pistols through a few tests and see what the results are.  We are going to do four tests. First we will test for accuracy by firing five rounds with aimed fire and with the first round already chambered.  Since pocket pistols are intended for very short range use, we will do our shooting from twelve feet.  We will then test for accuracy from the same range but this time we will start with the pistol loaded for safe carry, then ready the pistol and fire three rounds in five seconds.  We will test for reliability by running three magazines of ammo through each pistol.  And finally we will test for power by measuring the penetration of each round into a phone book from ten feet.

Test 1 - Five Rounds Slow Fire

The targets pictured below show the results of the slow, aimed fire test.  On these targets the center bull is 10 points, the next ring out is 7 points, the next ring 5 points, and the outside ring is 3 points. The Ruger and the Raven fired comparable groups.  Both had two in the 10 ring, two in the 7 ring out and one in the 5 ring.  The Raven shot a little tighter group which was a real surprise to me.  The Iver Johnson was only a little less accurate with one 10, three 7’s, and one 5.

Test 2 – Three Rounds in Five Seconds from Safe Carry

Safe carry is different on all three of these firearms.  The Ruger holds six rounds in the magazine.  It has no safety and always has the hammer down.  Every shot is double action with this pistol, so it is safe to carry with a round in the chamber. But the long double action pull is a little disconcerting.  I have to admit that it is a smooth pull, but it is just not what I expect to feel with an auto loader. 

The Raven holds six rounds in the magazine.  It has a safety but I would only feel comfortable carrying it with an empty chamber.  This means chambering a round before the first shot.  Not something I would want to have to do in a hot situation. 

The Iver Johnson, being a revolver is probably safe to carry with the hammer down on a round, but I just can’t do this with a revolver.  I always carry a revolver with the hammer down on an empty chamber.  Just an old habit, but it is deeply ingrained in my shooting habits.  Since the I J only holds five rounds, this is a severe limitation as far as fire power goes.  An empty chamber under the hammer means that you only have four rounds to use.

The Ruger and the Iver Johnson were virtually tied in this test.  The Ruger shot a 10 and two fives for a total of 20 points.  The Iver Johnson fired a 10, a 3, and a 7 for a total of 20 points.  The Raven was out of it on this test, firing only two 5’s.  Time expired before the third round could be fired.  The problem was that the Raven put itself on safety after ejecting the second round.  This occurred several times in the course of firing this weapon.  I don’t know if it is just this particular gun or if this is a problem with Ravens in general, but it is a definite deal breaker if this firearm is intended for self defense. 

Test 3 – Penetration

For this test we fired a round from each handgun into two telephone books that were taped together and counted the number of pages that each slug penetrated.   
Big surprise!!  The Raven .25 had the best penetration.  Not by much, but it did win this one.

The Ruger .380 penetrated 1342 pages.  The jacketed slug was slightly flattened on one side of the nose.  Needless to say, the greater mass of this slug did more damage than the .25, and the friction generated by the larger slug is probably why there was a little less penetration than the smaller .25.

The Raven .25 penetrated 1375 pages.  Its jacketed slug was pristine.  No expansion at all, and hence not as much damage.

All I had for the Iver Johnson .32 were unjacketed rounds.  It only penetrated 623 pages; less than half of the other two firearms. As you can see in the picture below, the slug was mashed in all along one side.  The heavy, unjacketed slug sitting on top of a relatively light powder charge greatly reduced the penetration of this round; but, here again, shock would be much greater than the .25. Pictured below: On the left is the .380 slug, .25 in the center, and .32 S&W on the right.

The Ruger and the Iver Johnson had no problems cycling rounds.  The Raven, on the other hand, put itself on safety two different times while we were running rounds through it.  Not a good thing.

I guess, on the whole, the Ruger came out on top in this little comparison.  It’s a good little gun with only a couple of drawbacks.  It is so light that the recoil of the .380 feels pretty extreme.  Don’t buy one of these for your wife unless she is used to managing recoil.  Also, I am told by two different owners that breaking the Ruger down for cleaning and then re-assembling it is not an easy task.  Pictured below: Ruger LCP

The Raven is fun to shoot, and it is surprisingly accurate, but if the “unintentional going onto safety” problem can not be solved in my shop then this will never be a gun that I carry.  Pictured below: Raven .25

The Iver Johnson is a fun little gun, but it has low magazine capacity and the ammo is expensive and hard to find.  I think I’ll leave this one on the wall.  Pictured below: Iver Johnson .32 S&W

Truth be told, if I am going to depend on a handgun to save my life, I’m going to carry my Taurus PT-92 9mm.  It’s larger than a pocket gun but it holds 15 rounds, it has tremendous knock-down power, and it has never misfired.  These are all a good trade-off for the little extra weight and size as far as I’m concerned, but that’s just me. Pictured below: Pocket pistols compared to Taurus PT-92 in 9mm

Friday, June 8, 2012

Finishing Out the Pack Basket

So, let’s finish out this pack basket and try it on for size.
First I take the finished pack straps and punch a hole in each end.  A thong of wet rawhide is used to tie the top of the straps to the pack frame.
On the bottom of the straps I twist up some brain tanned elk hide and insert it through the hole. 
This can then be tied to the bottom of the pack frame to make the straps fit as tight as I need them.
I add a couple of brain tanned thongs on the bottom of the basket so that I can tie my bedroll to the bottom.
The last thing is to twist up about ten feet of yucca cordage that I can use to lash my gear into the pack.
And here’s the finished product.  My tarp and a canvas bag with all my gear are lashed into the basket, my bedroll is tied on to the bottom of the pack, and the straps are adjusted for a comfortable fit.  Ready to head for the woods.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Sew with Real Sinew

Many hobbyists and re-enactors use artificial sinew (waxed Dacron) to sew together bags, clothing, and other items.  It's hard to tell the difference between artificial sinew and real sinew after the sewing is done, and the artificial stuff is sure more convenient to work with; but this is a blog about survival and primitive skills, and you don't find waxed Dacron in the wilds.  So in this post I'm going to show you how to sew with real sinew.  The project I'm working on here is a set of straps for the pack basket that we made in the last post.  By the way, if you try this kind of sewing you will gain a quick understanding of why things like steel awls, metal sewing needles, and linen thread were such popular trade items with the Native Americans.

The Pack Straps

We could just twist up some rawhide or yucca fibers into large cordage to make our pack straps, but I know from experience that narrow straps are tough on the shoulders.  I'm going to make some straps for my pack basket out of brain tanned elk hide, with the finished straps being about an inch and three quarters wide.  Straps this wide that are made from a double layer of soft leather will be a lot easier on the shoulders.  Here's the procedure:

First cut the straps about three and half inches wide, then fold them in half lengthwise.  This will give a double layer of leather and a finished strap that is about one and three-quarters inch wide..  

Now it's time to prepare the sinew.  You want the longest sinew possible so that you don't have to constantly be tying off an old thread and starting a new one.  In this case we will use an elk loin sinew.  This will give us sinew threads that are about two feet long.  Pictured below: Elk loin sinew with dollar bill to show scale
 When you first strip off a thread of sinew it will be kind of fuzzy and rough.  Pictured below: Freshly stripped sinew thread
 Run the sinew through your mouth and moisten it with saliva.  This will soften the sinew and smooth it out.  Set the sinew aside to dry for a minute.  Pictured below: Moisten and dried sinew thread

When you have your sinew prepared, it's time to take your awl and start punching holes in the leather.  It's a waste of time to punch more than two or three holes at a time.  The holes in the leather will shrink back up and make it hard to thread the sinew through, so it's easier to punch the holes as you go.  Pictured below: Using an awl and hammer-stone to punch holes in the leather

You don't need a needle to sew with sinew.  Just leave the first inch or two of the sinew dry and stiff and that will serve as your needle.  Pictured below: Dried sinew "needle"

Chew lightly on the rest of the sinew to soften it and then tie a double knot in the tail end of the sinew.  Pictured below: top, chewing sinew: bottom, knot in the tail end of the sinew

Start sewing by running the sinew up from the inside through one layer of the leather.  This will hide your knot in between the layers.  Go to the second set of holes and sew down through both of them, then back to the first holes and up through both of them, then once again down through the second set of holes.  This makes your first stitch a double stitch with the knot hidden between the layers of leather.

Now you can start punching and stitching down the length of the strap.  Pictured below:  Sinew "needle" sticking through pre-punched holes in the leather

When you run out of sinew, you will have to start a new piece.  I have never found any definitive information on how this is done, so I have tried several different methods.  I tried twisting the new sinew and the old together.  Didn't work.  The wet sinew would pull apart.  I tried tying the new sinew to the old.  Didn't work.  Again, the wet sinew would slide out of the knot.  If I let it dry first, the knot would be hard to pull through the holes, and you never knew if the knot was going to end up showing on the outside of a stitch.  So, this is what I came up with.  I don't know if it's historically accurate, but it works for me.  First I tie a knot in the old sinew so that the knot will be in between the layers of leather. 
 Then I take my new thread, knot it, back up one hole and start the thread so that the knot is in between the layers of leather. 

I then continue my sewing.

When you get to the end of your sewing, do a double stitch pulling the thread out between the layers of leather. 
Tie a knot in the sinew.
 Cut off the excess, and use the point of your awl to push the knot back up between the layers of leather. 
You should now have a nicely stitched piece of work with no visible knots. Pictured below: top, row of stitching; bottom, the finished pack strap.

In my next post we will attach the straps to our pack basket, and finish the basket out.