Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winchester Trapper in .357 Magnum

Whether considering a rifle for the bug out bag or for other purposes, I have a strong preference for short, handy carbines, and few rifles can meet that description better than the Winchester Model 1894 Trapper.  I've owned one chambered in .30-.30 in the past, but my current favorite is this one in .357 Magnum.  This is the pistol caliber carbine I mentioned in Bug Out that goes along so well with a revolver chambered for the same round.  While I would still choose a compact .22 if I could only take one firearm for wilderness survival purposes, if at all possible, this handy little levergun will go along as well. 

This slim lever-action rifle carries easily in the field, with or without a sling, and weighing only 6 lbs., it would be no great burden considering it's capabilities.  The .357 Magnum version is more than adequate for deer at reasonable ranges and can do the job for protection against dangerous animals, although I would choose the .44 Magnum or .30-.30 version if I were in big bear country.  The nice thing about the .357 Magnum is that it can also handle .38 Specials for smaller game and cheap plinking.  The only hitch with these rifles chambered in pistol caliber is that you have to experiment a bit with different brands of ammunition to find the ones that feed reliably.  This was never an issue with the .30-.30 I had. 

Here, you can see just how compact this rifle really is, with an overall length of just 34 and a quarter inches. 

Here it is compared to a Saiga AK-47 with an ACE folding stock.  Overall length is very similar, but the AK is much bulkier and heavier.  Of course they have different purposes, but there is some crossover in the utility of each.  The Winchester is more refined in every way, with regards to fit and finish and within it's effective range it is more accurate, making it more suitable for survival hunting.  I love how quick it is to handle and how it comes to the shoulder and points naturally.  The AK is more of a beast, but with a whole lot more firepower potential with its 30-round mags, of course.  The Trapper in .357 Magnum holds 9 rounds in the tube plus one in the chamber. In .30-.30, this capacity is reduced to 5 in the tube.  But, one thing nice about a lever gun is that you can top off the magazine at any time between the shooting, adding rounds as soon as they are expended.  In a modern combat role, the lever action rifle that won the West is sometimes referred to as a "CAR" (Cowboy Assault Rifle)!

The Trapper version of this Winchester is short enough to fit in some large backpacks fully assembled.  I used to carry my .30-.30 that way, with the butt down and just a couple of inches of barrel protruding from under the backpack flap on my large external frame pack.  I would simply put a nylon tent pole bag over the end and when hiking in places where I might encounter some park ranger or game warden, they would never guess I had a rifle in there.  But if you really want to make it disappear, you can remove one screw and slide the butt stock right off, as shown below.  This leaves the longest part at 24 inches.  So many of the best bug out firearms options break down to 24 inches that I would never consider a backpack that didn't have a 24-inch deep compartment to be a valid choice for a serious bug out bag.

Keep in mind that this rifle was not intended to be taken down this way and I wouldn't do it all the time.  For bugging out purposes all you would have to do is break it down once to pack it and then put it together once you're out in the boonies.  By threading the screw back into the receiver you won't lose anything and you can carefully wrap and pad the receiver with spare clothing in the bag.  This is the same concept as packing the Ruger 10/22 the way I described it in a previous post

Here is another view of the Trapper and the AK, with the Trapper broken down and the AK's stock folded and magazine removed.  The AK is still bulkier, but it has the advantage that it can be fired in the folded position if necessary. 

Now for the bad news.  Winchester stopped production on the Trapper several years ago, so what was once a $300 rifle has now soared in value as a collector's item.  I found the one pictured on Gun Broker last year in brand new condition for a reasonable price.  I've seen them going for as much as $1K, but if you look around, you might come across a used one at a gun show or in a pawn shop.  Other options that are similar and still in production are the Rossi Model 1892 and the Puma.  Marlin has also made limited runs of their lever carbines with a 16-inch barrel. 

To explore the possibilities of the lever-action rifle as an alternative to semi-automatics like the AK-47 and the AR-15, I highly recommend you visit Gabe Suarez' Warrior Talk Forums.  Although Gabe is a guru of the modern AK-47 in a combat role, there is a sub-forum on Warrior Talk called "Fighting Lever Guns" that any fan of these rifles will find of interest, as there is lots of discussion on calibers and makes, as well as applicable tactics.  Gabe is also offering classes on gunfighting with lever guns. See below:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Short-term Bug Out Scenarios

Keep This in Mind: Bugging Out Does Not Always Imply a Long Stay in the Woods:

Not all bug-out situations will involve long-term escape and evasion in a remote stretch of wilderness or other uninhabited area.  Some people may get the impression that bugging out means an "all or nothing" strategy of backwoods survival, when in fact the chances of having to implement such a serious bug-out plan are much less than the possibilities of a short term bug-out escape. My philosophy has always been to be over-prepared for any given endeavor, whether a long-distance sea kayak trip, a backpacking trip or an offshore sailboat passage.  If you feel confident you are ready for an experience of much greater duration and difficulty than what you will likely run into, then everything else will seem easy by comparison.

With regards to the self-sufficient bug-out bag, the idea is that if you are prepared and equipped to survive as long as necessary while on the move in a remote area, you will thus by default be equally or more so prepared for events of shorter duration.  You may not need to hunker down in the nearest river bottom swamp or retreat to a mountain wilderness at all.  Perhaps you simply need the gear to travel cross-country to reach your own pre-stocked cabin, or the home of a friend or relative in an area unaffected by the event that forces you to leave.  By having the gear and having a plan of action that includes knowing where you can go and how you will get there, you have taken the necessary steps to look out for your own evacuation and security and you will not become a refugee as so many who bash the bug-out option would have you believe.  Refugees are the unprepared who are waiting to be rescued or herded in buses or other means to a safe area, leaving their fate in the hands of the authorities and others.  If your bug-out bag includes everything you need to survive an extended stay in an uninhabited area and you have the skills and knowledge to do so, then any thing less will be that much easier.

Having a well-thought out bug-out plan prepares you for the worst-case scenario.  That doesn’t mean such an all-out SHTF total breakdown scenario is bound to happen, and the plan or parts of the plan can serve you well in a lesser event.  You may simply need to get out of the danger zone of a terror attack, or retreat from an approaching hurricane, or leave a city that has broken out in riots.  The bug-out bag can also serve as a get home bag in certain situations where you may be traveling and some event happens that would make it difficult to reach your family and get them to safety if not for the gear you are carrying. 

With this in mind, the well-stocked bug-out bag will have everything you need to meet the essentials of survival: proper clothing, shelter and the means to make fire, as well as food and water for the first 3 days.  But it should go beyond what is often called a “72-hour bag” and include essential survival tools to include a hunting weapon and other tools to procure more food, purify the water you will have to use when you exhaust your supply, and construct more substantial shelters if needed.   With this sort of bug-out bag and the skills to use what it contains that you should practice in advance, you will be prepared three days and much more if necessary. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guest Post: The Survival Sewing Kit

Julie Eason, of Serious wrote to suggest a guest post on what to include in a well-stocked survival sewing kit.  As some of you may know, I included sewing needles and heavy-duty Dacron thread in the checklist at the back of my book, Bug Out.  I've also mentioned needles and thread as part of the components of an ultra compact, minimal EDC bug out kit.

Knowing how to make simple repairs with a needle and thread is essential to maintain your gear and clothing.  You can progress way beyond that if you take an interest in it and learn to make your own gear, probably better than most of what you can buy.  Among other things, I've made my own buckskin moccasins, archery quivers, hats, rifle slings and cases, water bottle holders, canvas bags and even the sails for my boats, including the one I'm building now.

In the following article, Julie Eason goes into detail about what to include in a minimum survival sewing kit and why.  This is cheap to put together, weighs almost nothing and will take up little space in your bug out bag, so I think it's very good advice:

The Well-Stocked Survival Sewing Kit

Guest Post by Julie Anne Eason of Serious

When most people think of things they need to survive an emergency, a sewing kit isn't usually at the top of the list. But whether you're in a long-term TEOTWAWKI or a short-term natural disaster, things are going to need sewing. Obviously, your clothes need to stay in good repair. But don't forget about other fabric or leather based items as well--tents, sails, shoes, water skins. Some form of rudimentary sewing skill is necessary for a comfortable existence, and you're going to need supplies. Here's what you should have on hand in a survival situation.

Several sizes and styles of needles: Not every needle is suitable for every purpose. Fortunately, needles are cheap and small, so stock up on a package of different sized sharps and ball-points. Sharps are used to sew woven fabrics (the kind that don't stretch) and ball-points are used for knits (stretchy fabrics.)

You'll also want leather needles (called glover's needles.) These have a special point shaped like a triangle. It slices easily through leather (and skin-so be careful!) Speaking of skin, a few suture needles are a good idea, too, in case you need to perform medical stitching.

Curved needles, sail needles and large-eye harness and tapestry needles will also come in handy for all kinds of projects.

Several sizes and types of thread: Now is not the time to buy wimpy thread. Invest in several large spools of thick mercerized cotton thread, called "hand-quilting" thread. Also, you'll want several thicknesses of waxed linen thread for sewing heavy-duty items in canvas or leather. Some silk thread is also advisable for suture sewing.

Sharpening stone: Needles may be difficult to find, so you'll need to take good care of the ones you have. You should have a sharpening stone on hand anyway for honing knives and axes. The same one can be used for keeping needles in good working condition.

Scissors: Yes, you could use a knife to cut thread. But cutting fabric and leather is much easier with a pair of scissors. These can do double duty in the kitchen, too.

An awl: An awl makes a hole without cutting the fibers. This is especially important for repairing broken grommets in canvas or anytime you need to sew leather.

Small containers of beeswax and pine pitch: Run your sewing thread through a cake of beeswax a few times before sewing and your seams will last much longer. The wax conditions the thread and makes it less vulnerable to light damage and abrasion. Also, the wax will spread out a bit and fill your sewing holes, making a more water resistant (not water proof) seam.

Pine pitch is great for sealing a patch on shoes or anyplace a repair won't have to bend. It's flexible when warm, but will crack in cold weather if you bend it. You can make water-bearing bags and cups with pitch-sealed leather as they did in Europe 600 years ago.

Straight pins and small spring clamps: Pins hold your fabric together while you're stitching. But sometimes you need to work on a thick seam. That's when the spring clamps come in handy. Just a couple will do.

1/4 to 1/2 yard pieces of fabric: If you're not on the move, you can stockpile larger quantities of wool, linen, cotton, canvas and leather for making clothing and household items. But for an emergency kit, just roll up a few pieces of canvas and linen. Not only will these serve as patch material, but you can also strain liquids through them and even use them for bandages if necessary.

Small container of strong shoe glue like Barge cement: Your shoes and boots are going to wear out and need patching at some point. Barge cement is designed to hold shoes together without nails or stitching. Have a small tube on hand; it's useful for all kinds of repairs.

If you're not on the move and there's room in your kit you can add things like zippers, buttons, hooks & eyes, grommets and elastic. But usually these items can be recycled from other cast-offs. One pair of worn-out blue jeans can be a gold mine of recycled materials--fabric, buttons, zippers, pockets--just cut 'em up and reuse the parts.

Obviously a heavy-duty sewing machine and serger overlock machine are great to have on hand if you have the room and have electricity. But be prepared and learn some basic hand sewing stitches, too.

As with any survival kit--pack what you need and can carry. You never know when your skills with a needle will come in handy. They could even save a life.


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