Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tapco 20 round SKS Magazine – Review

I have an old Yugo SKS.  The SKS is a WWII era Soviet Block semi-auto weapon with a ten round box magazine that is loaded via stripper clips.  Tapco, which makes pretty good after market products, makes a twenty round detachable magazine for the SKS.  I bought a Tapco replacement stock for my SKS (the subject of a future post) and I decided to go ahead and get the twenty round detachable magazine to go along with the new stock.  This is my personal experience with the Tapco 20 round detachable SKS magazine.  It should be noted that the SKS was widely manufactured in several Soviet Block countries, so what I experienced with this magazine is not necessarily what you may experience.

This Tapco magazine is made of the same polymer material that Tapco uses for its stocks, magazines, and other after market products.  I have purchases several Tapco products and found them to be reliable and of good quality.  In appearance, the SKS magazine has an ungainly nose piece that extends about two inches from the front of the magazine.  The purpose of the nose piece is to lock the front of the magazine into the retainer that secures the front of the original box magazine.  The extension makes this magazine rather difficult to store in a mag pouch.  For this reason, and because I wasn’t going to buy multiple mags until I knew that they worked, I bought only one magazine and planned to reload it either manually after removal, or using stripper clips while the mag was still attached to the rifle.

To prepare the rifle for accepting the removable magazine, you must first remove the original box magazine.  This is a simple operation that involves only removing the stock and unhooking the box magazine.

Once the rifle is re-assembled, you should be able to attach the removable magazine by inserting the nose piece into the front attachment point of the old box magazine and then pressing the rear of the magazine up until it locks into the rear tab that was used to release the rear of the original box magazine.  Because the SKS was not originally designed for a removable magazine, it does not have a magazine well like an AK or an AR.  Consequently, there is nothing to really guide the insertion of the removable magazine.  It is not a smooth operation.  You have to feel around to get the magazine seated correctly.

It seemed to me that since magazine transitions would be pretty slow, loading the still seated magazine from stripper clips might be the way to go.  I grabbed a stripper clip, inserted it into the slot on the bolt, and pushed.  No luck.  I tried several different clips, I cycled the bolt thinking maybe something wasn’t lined up right, it just wouldn’t work.  I’d get one or two rounds down into the magazine and then everything would lock up and no more rounds would feed down into the mag.  Pretty disappointing.

Once loaded and in place the magazine fed without problems, and it looked really good along with the new stock, but I just couldn’t see any practicality to it.  It would be a situation of firing twenty rounds and then having a very slow transition to a fresh mag.  I feel certain that I could fire twenty rounds out of the box mag using ten round stripper clips faster than I could make a magazine transition using the removable magazine.  Add to that the space that is required to store the removable mags, and I just couldn’t see it working out.  I could carry fifty rounds in stripper clips in the same space that would be required for one twenty round removable magazine.

It was with great disappointment that I removed the stock and re-installed the original box magazine.  Maybe it’s just me and my particular rifle; but, in this case, the removable magazine was a definite bust.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Survival Gardening Takes Practice

Any of you who are experienced gardeners will recognize these simple truths. 

(1) It takes practice to become a successful gardener.
(2) Gardening skills developed in one location will not necessarily transfer to another location
(3) Even the most experienced gardeners have bad years

Let me address these statements one at a time:

(1) It takes practice to become a successful gardener.

It never fails to amaze me that perfectly intelligent and rational people think that they can read a book about gardening, buy some seeds, and think that they will be able to produce enough food to feed themselves and their family in an emergency.  If you told the same person that they could read a book about golf, go buy some clubs, and then provide for their family by becoming a professional golfer; they would say that you were crazy.  Making things grow is a pretty complicated skill set.  There are so many variables.  Even commercial farming operations, which try to carefully control all the variables possible, still have disastrous years.  I would say that it takes a minimum of three years of gardening, in the same location, to come anywhere close to understanding how to cultivate a successful garden, and it will take that long or longer to get your soil built up to the condition that you want.  You will probably need to turn in compost and mulch.  You may need to add crushed limestone if the soil is too acid.  Remember, survival gardening will mean organic gardening.  Commercial fertilizers, soil amendments, and insecticides will be hard to come by in a post catastrophe world.  My advice would be to start gardening now.  If you don’t learn how to garden before the collapse, you would be wise to have several years of food storage so that you don’t starve during the learning curve.

(2) Gardening skills developed in one location will not necessarily transfer to another location

When I first started gardening I lived on the Texas Blackland Prairie.  The soil was black, heavy and very alkaline.  We received about 35 inches of rain a year.  I only gardened there a few years, but I was starting to get comfortable with my gardening.  Then I moved to East Texas about a hundred miles away.  Sandy loam soil, very acid, and about 45 inches of rain.  Hardly anything that I learned on the prairie did me any good in the Piney Woods.  For one thing, the plants that were hardest to grow in the alkaline prairie soil were the easiest to grow in the eastern acid soil, and vice versa.  Fortunately I moved from West to East and the elevation was about the same, so there wasn’t a huge difference in temperatures or planting dates.  If you move North/South, or change elevation by more than a hundred feet it can make a big difference in planting dates and length of growing season.  Other local gardeners and your local feed store owner can be a big asset in choosing the crops and varieties that will grow best in your location; and how and when to plant them.  So the best thing to do is practice gardening where you will be trying to produce your survival crops.  This may not be possible; but you should, at least, be aware of the differences that you may encounter when you move.

(3) Even the most experienced gardeners have bad years

I have been gardening and raising fruit trees for years.  This year we had a late frost and I did not get one piece of fruit off of any of my ten fruit trees.  No amount of experience could have overcome this.  Just ask a Florida orange grower.  Some years it doesn’t rain enough, some years it rains too much. One year the coons got in my corn field and wiped it out.  One year the deer cleaned out my pea patch.  These things just happen.  An old neighbor of mine used to say, “Plant enough for yourself, then plant some for your neighbors, and be sure and plant enough for the bugs.” The best plan is to always have a year’s worth of food and two years worth of heirloom seed stored.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Some Links to Electronic Projects for Survival and Preparedness

I know next to nothing about electronics which is kind of embarrassing since my dad was an electrical engineer.  He designed missile guidance systems, and I can barely operate a flashlight.  I must have missed out on that gene.  Anyway, if I’m doing any kind of project that involves electronics I have to have the real dummy’s version of how to do it.  There are some things that I would like to do or know how to do to help with my survival preparations that involve electronics.  I haven’t done any of these projects yet, but I have searched the web and bookmarked several sites that have instructions that I feel like I could follow.  And if I can follow them that means that pretty much anybody can follow them.  Besides simple and clear instructions, my other criteria for choosing these sites is lots of pictures to illustrate the process, and few or no exotic parts required.  I can’t vouch for the info on these sites, and I don’t know how long they will be active, but you might want to take a look at them if you are interested in building any of this stuff. 

How to build a simple crystal radio using household items and commonly available parts -

How to build an electricity producing wind turbine -

How to build a simple telegraph set -

How to build a hand cranked generator -

How to build a generator powered by a lawnmower -

How to build a generator powered by a bicycle -

How to build a solar battery charger.  This is one that you would have to do before TEOTWAWKI because it does involve some parts that are not going to be found in your garage; but it is a good step-by-step article on how to do this project -