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Monday, November 30, 2009

Making White Flour - Kinda...

Admit it.  Bread made with whole wheat flour is dense and heavy.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but some people (especially kids, it seems) like a lighter bread.  Generally, that means you need to use some sort of a white flour - either All Purpose or bread flour.

While this is fine while it is easy to run down to the store and pick up a five-pound sack, what will you do if it were no longer available?  Remember:  variety in food is one of the important psychological aspects of preparedness.  If you're "stuck" eating plain rice, beans and whole wheat bread every day, you may soon find your fare unappetizing, and not eat sufficient amounts to maintain your health.

Making "white" flour at home is a bit of a misnomer - what we're actually doing is removing a signficant portion of the bran from the whole wheat plus adding a super-secret ingredient.  OF COURSE, that bran is saved, and used for bran muffins or just mixed into soups and stews to provide additional nutrition.

I started off with 1 pound of wheat kernels.  My Family Grain Mill has 4 settings - each producing a successively fine flour.  I ran the grains through on the most course setting - 4 - for the first pass.  This gave me basically "cracked grains".

I clicked it down to the 3 setting, and produced a rough milled grain -

I picked out any parts that didn't look like they should be there (mostly foreign-looking husks), then cranked the mill down to the 2 setting, and milled it all up again.

At this point, it was almost the texture of flour, but you can still feel the bran in the powder.  This is exactly where we want it! 

You will need some sort of sifter.  Be sure not to get one too fine, or it will take you forever to do this step.  Simply scoop up a sifter of flour and shake it over a bowl.  The fine "white" flour will go through the sifter, leaving behind the bran.

After I separated the bran from the flour, I ran the flour through the mill one last time on the 1 setting.  This made it very soft and fine.  Almost a white flour!

The 1 pound of whole wheat kernels produced 13 oz of flour and 3 oz of bran (roughly).  The 13 ounces was the equivalent of 3 cups of flour.

One more thing:  You know how they make white flour, right?  They literally bleach it with chemicals.  Nice, huh?  The 'old fashioned' way was to let the flour age for 2 or 3 months, allowing it to naturally oxidize and (somewhat) whiten.  This aging (and chemical) process actually makes the flour more "receptive" to becoming bread - it helps in making fluffier breads.

What's the super-secret ingredient?  There is a natural way to somewhat duplicate this process:  For every 6 cups of flour, add one tablespoon of lemon juice to your mix (I do it after I've added about 1/2 of my total flour).  Something about the acidity makes whole wheat breads rise up better, without giving the bread a lemony taste.

Accept The Challenge

Learn different ways to use your stored prep foods.  Test your recipes each week on your family.  Find out what they like and dislike before you find yourself with food no one will eat!

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Security Theater

What is "Security Theater"?  Like a theatrical play, it's putting on a big production that isn't real - it doesn't actually accomplish anything other than make us feel good.  It's all sizzle but no steak.

We're seeing it right now with the New And Improved security measures they're implementing at Fort Hood since the shooting of 40+ people - 13 dead, 30 wounded:

Military brass at Fort Hood, Texas, on Tuesday announced tightened security procedures and the availability of a range of mental health services in the wake of the November 5 shooting spree that killed 13 people on the post.
They're going to be especially tight with who is able to enter the base, they will arm a few more soldiers at strategic positions, and a lot of very important sounding measures.

But what will it do?
But, Cone [the commanding general of the base] said, had the changes been in place on November 5, they might not have been enough.

"I don't think necessarily they would have had an effect on this event," he said.
Security Theater at its finest.

Many people have their own home-versions of Security Theater.  They buy guns, pepper spray and stun guns, but don't get the training on how to use them.  They buy home and auto alarms, but don't set them.  They install heavy-duty deadbolts, but use short screws to hold them in place.

They buy the "stuff" but don't know how to use it.  They're just going through the motions.

The problem is, the bad guys aren't playing make-believe.  They're playing for real.  They WILL take your money and your property.  Sometimes, even your life.

Accept The Challenge

Don't fall into the comfortable trap of Security Theater.  Your life and the things you've worked for are too valuable to leave their security to chance.  Take steps today to review your security measures.

Will they buy you some time?  Will they act as a deterrent?  Will they prevent an assault?  Will they allow you to truly defend yourself?

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Weak-side Shooting

The vast majority of people who go to the practice range do one thing:  They stand in front of their target with their favorite two-hand stance and blast away.

Clearly, this has a place in any practice routine, but the likelihood of that stance being the optimum presentation of your firearm during an emergency is pretty slim.  A good routine will practice numerous stances - one-hand, two-hand, strong-side, weak-side.

I think one of the reasons people don't practice weak-side shooting is because - ironically - they're no good at it.  It's like the golfer who never practices from the sand trap.  Most folks look like idiots, flailing away in the trap, with big plumes of sand - and a fair amount of swearing - being the only thing produced.

The smart golfer - and firearms owner - practices that which they have little or no skill, so they can possess those skills when the time comes to use them.

Take a walk through your home.  Identify the points that are most likely to be used by a criminal to gain entry.  The front door, the rear sliding glass door, your windows, etc.  Now, identify the structures in your home - primarily the walls, knee walls, corners and staircases that would give you the most concealment to defend yourself.

How many of those defensive points would be most effectively utilized if you shot from your weak hand?  Probably half of them.

There is a concept in defensive pistol training called, "Slicing the pie".  The idea is to use cover and concealment to shield the greatest portion of your body while locating your uninvited guests.  As you approach a location that likely hides the bad guy, your point of aim (the arrows) resembles the slices of a pie as you investigate around the corner (click to expand).

A key to your survival is to expose as little of your body to the bad guy as possible.  Obviously, in this example, a left-hand stance and presentation of the firearm would offer the smallest target to return fire - your left arm, shoulder and the left side of your face.

If you were only proficient with a right-hand stance and presentation, you would need to expose all of your left side, most (if not all) of the center of your chest, portions of your right side, and likely most of your head.

Why present a bigger target when you don't have to?  What would you do if your strong-side hand were injured and your weak-side was the only option?

Accept The Challenge

Weak-side practice should be incorporated into every single range session.  For instance, if you're practicing rapid fire drills, do them from both sides.  Don't become proficient - and dependent  - just on your strong-side.

Practice your weak-side drills until you are equally accurate regardless of the hand you use.  Get help from a trainer if you need it.  It may save your life.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Combating Holiday Crime

 This is from our weekly newsletter (sign up here).

Combating Holiday Crime

Tomorrow is "Black Friday" - supposedly the biggest shopping day of the year.  It is also the "opening day" for the criminal element to ramp up their efforts to separate you from your goods or cash.

Remember, the criminal efforts are not restricted to brick-and-mortar stores - the online criminals and identity thieves are especially busy this time of year.

What are the characteristics of a criminal?  In general, some of their traits are:
  • Constantly seeking low-risk criminal opportunities
  • Overconfidence in their ability to "scam" the system
  • Masking themselves with a facade of conformity (blending in to appear non-threatening and innocent)
Obviously, they have a plan.  Do you?

The following are just a few of the suggestions and techniques taught in our Refuse To Be A Victim and Defensive Sprays and Stunning Devices workshops -

Online Crime

If you only follow these three suggestions, you will eliminate the vast majority of online scam vulnerabilities:

Never provide personal information over the phone unless you called a phone number you are absolutely certain is a valid number.  No legitimate business will contact you asking for PINs, codes or passwords - they already have that information!

Don't click email links unless they're from vendors you authorized to send you online coupons or offers.

Never enter credit card numbers or other personal information online unless the website page you're entering the information is secure - https:// versus http://

Local Crime

When approaching your car in the parking lot, try to always have one hand free at all times.  Be sure to check the interior of your car before entering.  If you have any concerns whatsoever (i.e., it's dark or you feel uneasy), get an escort from store security.

Have your pepper spray on a lanyard on your wrist.  To most people, it will just look like a key ring, and won't draw undue attention.  It puts your defensive tool close-at-hand.

Don't shop alone.  Bring a friend!  There really is strength in numbers.

At ATMs or Debit card terminals in a store, be sure to shield the keypad as you're entering your PIN.  If someone is able to get your code, you now become a valuable target to have your wallet or purse stolen.

Don't enter your home if there is any indication that someone may have broken in.  Immediately exit the home, get back into your car, lock the doors, DRIVE AWAY and call the police.

When you leave your home, and when you go to bed, for goodness sake, lock your doors and windows, and set an alarm if you have one.  They're there for a reason!

Install outdoor lighting, preferably with motion sensors.  Criminals hate light!

If you've made purchases online, home deliveries can be a huge vulnerability.  Always use your peep hole to view the visitor and hopefully their delivery truck.

If not expecting packages, look through the peep hole and reply to the visitor by talking through the door.  Ask, "Who's there?"  This lets them know someone is home (making it a high-risk target).  Remember:  This is YOUR home - you get to set the rules about who is allowed to enter and how they are greeted.

Women are especially vulnerable to visitors.  Rightly or wrongly, women are perceived to be an easier target.  They may request to speak to your husband.  Never let them know you're alone - tell them he's taking a nap, and you're still not interested.  If they do not leave, call the police immediately.

By taking these very simple and practical steps, you can help ensure your Christmas or other holiday season is a happy one.

Next Issue:  Reality-based Training

Accept The Challenge

Crime is not going to stop for the holidays.  In fact, it usually increases because the bad guys know "regular people" let down their guard during the holidays.

You CAN stay alert and still enjoy the holidays!

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making Sausage - Part 2

If you need to get up to speed, review yesterday's posting to see how to prepare the sausage casing and the meat itself.

Today, we Stuff and Link.

Technically, we all ready have sausage.  Ground, spiced meat.  I've stopped many-a-time right at this stage, and just vacuum sealed up a bunch of the sausage for use in spagetti sauce or as burgers made from Italian sausage or bratwurst.

But we're gonna stuff, and that means we need some way to get the meat into the casings.  At the very basic level, you could use any tube that fit into the casing, and just force the ground meat in.

In my case, I make a lot of sausage each year, so I've purchased a dedicated sausage stuffer.  It's a stainless steel can that holds 5 lbs of meat.  There is a hand crank which forces a plunger down into the can.  The meat exits the can through a hole which has a stuffer tube attached to it.

You can also get attachments for a Kitchen Aid mixer.  That's how I started out, but it seemed like too much work to me.  It really takes two people to do it with any efficiency.

To get started, you must get the 15 feet of casing onto the stuffing tube.  Make sure you are using a tube that matches the diameter of your casings.  Start with some shortening or lard and smear it on the tube - this is very important in getting this done quickly and without ripping the casing.

You then just start feeding it on.

Feed it from the bowl of water it's sitting in, and "sheath up" the stuffing tube.  When you're finished, the casing will be all bunched up at the start of the tube.  This is how it should look -

Although this last picture looks like the tip has been tied off, it has not - and this is important.  You need to first fill the stuffing jar body with meat and crank it to extrude some sausage into the tube and the casing.  THEN tie off the tip with a simply overhand knot.  Otherwise, the casing will fill with air (instead of meat) and you'll need to pierce the casing.

Give the hand crank a couple of twirls, and you're soon making sausage!

You want to guide the casing off the tube, not pull it.  This is aided by keeping the casing VERY moist.  You'll notice the cup of water in the upper right-hand corner of the picture.  I am constantly dribbling water onto the casing that is still on the tube to keep it lubricated, as well as on the counter top to allow the stuffed sausage to easily glide around.

You do not want to fill the casing to their ultimate capacity.  If I had to put a number on it, I'd say it would be 95%.  You need to leave some slack so that you can twist the sausages into links when you're finished.

Crank, crank, chank, and you end up with sausage!

As the sausage comes out, put it into a coil to keep it manageable.  When you get to the end of casing, tie a knot in the back end, slip on another casing and continue with the rest of your meat.  If the stainless jar starts getting to the end, refill it before you hit the bottom - you want to compact the meat so that it doesn't have any air bubbles in it.

To make links, you need to grasp the tube-o-meat at the length you want the sausage, pinch the point you want the sausage to end, and give it 3 twirls.  Most of the time this is about 6 or 7 inches long.  The squares of my counter top are 6 inch squares.  I like my sausage a bit longer, so I use the opposite corners as my marks (about 7 inches).  Be sure you spin the sausage in the same direction each time (either away from you or towards you), or every other sausage will become un-twisted!

The casings are VERY strong.  As long as you're not being a psycho about it, you can spin the links without worrying about the casing breaking or tearing.

For each successive sausage, you need to skip a link, so to speak.  You measure, pinch, measure, pinch, hold both pinches, spin.  Repeat until you have linked your entire casing.

Now what?  Most of the time, you're not going to eat all of your sausage right after you've made it.  Since it's a fresh sausage, you must preserve it - generally by freezing it.

I cut mine into 4-link portions, and vacuum seal it.  When vacuum sealing fresh sausage, it will squish it flat!  To combat that, I take the sausage and place it on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper, and throw it into the freezer.  I leave it there for about 2 hours.  This firms it up enough so it won't lose its shape when the vacuum hits it.

Cooking fresh sausage (store-bought or homemade), IMO, takes two steps - especially if you want it to look good.  Here's how I cook bratwurst -

You'll need 8 bratwurst, 1 onion, 1 bell pepper, and a 6-pack of some American lager beer - Bud, Coors, PBR or the like (NOT Miller - sux!).  The beer you use needs to be a low-hop beer.  Don't get a craft brew Pale Ale or India Pale Ale that is very bitter - drink those!  When cooking with them, the hop oils get way too bitter, and takes away from the flavor of the sausage.

Pour the 6-pack into a pot and turn on the heat.  Add the sliced onions and peppers.  Once it is boiling hard, throw in the fresh sausage.  When it comes to a boil again, turn off the heat and cover the pot.  Walk away for 1 hour AT LEAST.  The longer, the better.  This will par-cook the sausage while infusing it with great flavor.

Now, pan fry or grill the brats.  You'll notice the casing will generally stay intact - you won't have any "blow outs" or excessive flair-ups.  You'll be a hero and considered a grill master (or mistress).  You can thank me later.

For our Raider tailgaters, we do the par-cooking the night before.  After the pot has cooled, the whole mess is placed in a gallon ziplock - sausage, peppers and juice - and thrown in the fridge.  At the tailgater the next day, it only takes 10 minutes or so to add the char or grill marks to the sausage.

Accept The Challenge

Build your skill base.  Save money.  Know what you're eating.  You can make sausage out of virtually any available meat - just be sure you have sufficient levels of fat (at least 30%) to ensure a sufficiently moist product.

As noted, you don't have to use casings.  When I first started making sausage a million years ago, I would just form my breakfast sausages into little link-like forms or as patties, then freeze them.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Making Sausage - Part 1

One of the great ways to stretch your food dollars, and to preserve as much of your bounty as possible, is to turn the "ugly" scraps of meat and fat into sausage. It is embodiment of the ideal that, "Nothing goes to waste".

There are 4 steps that lead you to sausage: Casing preparation, meat preparation, stuffing, and linking. I'm making an uncooked sausage here, so I won't get into smoking or curing.

I'm in the process of producing an Emergency Preparedness DVD (or series). The following images are from the sausage chapter (hence the URL reference on the images).

This post will cover casing and meat preparations.

What are the "skins" that encase sausages? In most instances, they are animal intestines and are referred to as 'casings'. For smaller sausages like hot dogs or breakfast sausages, you generally use sheep. For mid-sized sausages like bratwurst or Italian sausage, you will generally use pork. For the large sausages, such as bologna or salami, you use beef intestines.

You can also purchase edible collagen casings. I find them somewhat difficult to work with, and they seem to break apart too easily if you pan fry or grill the sausage. As I understand it, they are great for sausages you will be hanging to smoke or otherwise cure, as they are supposed to be stronger (at least until direct heat is applied).

You can purchase the casings online or at a local butcher shop. I get mine (and much of my equipment) from and have never had an issue with any of their products.

Generally, you purchase a "hank" of casings.  This used to be 100 yards, total, of casings.  Now, most sites tell you how many pounds the hank will hold, since a smaller casing will hold fewer pounds of sausage per foot.  I have found that with hog casings (which hold about 1 pound in two feet of casing), I usually get 12-15 individual casings that are each 15-20 feet long.  Generally enough to stuff 100+ pounds of sausage.

Don't worry, you don't need to make 100 pounds all at once!  The natural casings come to you in one of two ways:  In a brine solution, or packed in purified salt.  Personally, I prefer the purified salt.  It seems to make the casings tougher and less likely to break (very rare) while they're being stuffed.

This image is of (I'm guessing) 4 or 5 casings left from a hank I bought 2 years ago.  The white stuff is not ice (freezing will ruin natural casings), it is salt.  After you pull out the number of casings you need for your current batch, you add more salt to the casings (I use kosher salt - no additives), cover the tub, and put it into the fridge. 

The casings will supposedly last forever this way.   As I noted, these are two years old, and are in perfect condition.

You then need to rinse out the casings.  While they have been cleaned at the hog factory, considering their past function, I give them some additional cleaning.  I place the individual casing in a bowl, open one end and fill it with some water.  I flush the interior of each casing 3 or 4 times.

You will notice that as soon as water hits the casings, they get very soft and slippery.  Straight out of the salt, they are almost like a loose leather.

Once you've cleaned the casings, you need to leach the remaining salt out of them.  Take your casings and put them into a bowl of clean, fresh, cool water for about an hour.  I usually change the water after 30 minutes.

If you're using more than one casing, I strongly suggest you keep them in separate water bowls.  They tend to bind and knot up otherwise.

While your casings are soaking, it's time to prepare the meat.  Figure out what style you want to make, go to the Internet and pluck a recipe.  When starting, go with "fresh" or "raw" sausages like Italian, bratwurst, breakfast or the like.  Get your technique down pat before you move on to cured or smoked sausages.

I have found that pork butt or shoulder are the best choices for sausage.  They are cheap and naturally have the correct proportion of meat-to-fat.  You want about a 70/30 mix.  Don't get all health conscious and reduce the fat levels - you need it to make the sausage moist and juicy.

I made 10 pounds of sausage, so I purchased two shoulders each weighing 5.5 and 6 pounds, respectively.  You have to account for weight loss from any bones in the meat, plus skin.  If present, remove the skin, but cut off any of the fat that's on it (fat back).

You then want to cut out the bone, and cut the meat and fat into pieces that will fit into your grinder - about 1 inch in size.

Do not add any bone or sinew.  The sinew will gum up your grinder.

Before you start grinding, add all of your spices and water to the chunked meat.  Mix this all up as best as you can with your hands.  Doing this before you grind will help to ensure that all of your spices are well distributed in your sausage.

Start grinding!  Each sausage type usually calls for different "fineness" to the grind.  If it calls for a very fine grind, first put the meat through a rough grind, swap grinding plates, and put it through a second time.

I use a Kitchen Aid mixer attachment for my Family Grain Mill sausage grinder.  If we have no power, I'm able to do my grinding manually with the Family Grain Mill base.

Mix the meat one more time.  Take a small portion, make a patty and cook it up to test for proper seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.

Tommorow:  Stuffing and Linking

Accept The Challenge

Besides being healthy and delicious (and knowing the EXACT contents) homemade sausage is a great food budget extender.  I rarely buy ground meat any more.  Whatever cut of meat is on sale - beef or pork - will get turned into ground meat, vacuum sealed in two-pound packs, and get's popped into the freezer.

Also, if you have shot wild game, producing sausage out of the scraps of meat that remain after trimming out your kill make sure that nothing goes to waste.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dominant Eye

I have been having what (to me) seems to be a large number of firearms students that don't know which of their eyes is their dominant eye.  What's the 'dominant eye'?  The NRA states -
This term is used to designate the eye which determines the direction the shooter is looking.

It's the eye you aim with!

Supposedly, most right-handed shooters are right-eye dominant.  The opposite goes for left-handed shooters.  With cross-dominant people, a right-handed shooter has a stronger left eye.

If you are not aware of this, your aim can be seriously affected.  I am cross-dominant (right-handed, left-eyed).  Until I became aware of this and was able to make adjustments to my shooting style, my accuracy was not up to a level I wanted.  It makes it very difficult to get a proper sight picture with both eyes open.

So how do you determine your dominant eye?  It's very easy.

Choose a smallish fixed object perhaps 20 feet away from you - a light switch or an object in a painting - that is directly in front of you.

Put both arms out in front of you with your palms facing away.  Bring your hands together, leaving a small hole between them.  Center the object you're looking at in this hole in your hands.

With both eyes open, slowly bring your hands towards your face, keeping the object in the center of the hole.  When your hands reach your face, they will naturally move towards your dominant eye.

So, what do you do if you're cross-dominant like me?

There are three proscribed solutions:
  1. Shoot from the other side - meaning if you are left-eye dominant, shoot with a left-handed stance;
  2. Slightly move your entire arm and hand presentation to the left side of your body, or
  3. Slightly cant your head to the right, which brings your left eye more to the center of the target at which you're aiming.
Solution one, is probably the best "pure" solution, but isn't practical, IMO.  If you are in a high-stress situation, you're going to grab a gun with your strong hand - dominant eye be damned.  If you're shooting strictly for target accuracy competitions, it's probably the way to go.

And of course, EVERYONE should be proficient with their strong and weak hands, but that's the subject for another post!

Solution two, at least for me, just wasn't accurate enough.  It seems to take too much fine motor skill adjustment that results in inconsistent accuracy.  I find this to be the least desirable solution.

Solution three is what I feel to be the best overall solution.  I personally find that I am able to very quickly cant my head to align my sights.  It now happens automatically when I present my firearm.

I have found this third solution to be most easily accepted and practiced by my students as well.

Accept The Challenge

If you have taken the very responsible action to learn how to use a firearm, you need to ensure you will be able to hit where you're aiming.  Simply picking up a gun and firing away is unacceptable.

Determine your dominant eye.  If you're cross-dominant, accept the fact, and adjust your regular training so that you are able to seamlessly present the firearm and accurately hit your target.

Practice, practice, practice until your chosen adjustment becomes natural.
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prepping For Bubbles - Part 2

 Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about some of the influences now in play in our economy - namely recessionary cycles, unemployment, inflation and government intervention.  A growing group of people are voicing concern of a potential economic bubble being ready to burst.

So what is an economic "bubble"? Wikipedia describes it as -
An economic bubble (sometimes referred to as a speculative bubble, a market bubble, a price bubble, a financial bubble, or a speculative mania) is “trade in high volumes at prices that are considerably at variance with intrinsic values”. (Another way to describe it is: trade in products or assets with inflated values.)
As more and more people attempt to buy the same type of asset or product, the price rises even more, causing a sort of "feeding frenzy".  Speculators start buying the assets - even at inflated prices - in anticipation of even higher prices in the future, NOT because they think the asset is undervalued based upon its expected performance or function.

During this decade alone, we've had 2 significant economic bubbles - the "Dot Bomb" Internet bubble and the housing bubble.  Both touched virtually all Americans.  The Internet bubble caused a lot of damage to the stock market in general - thus retirement funds and 401k investments - with the "evaporation" of over $5 trillion in wealth.

The housing bubble still persists, but with a double-wammy on people.  Trillions in value have evaporated from the primary asset of most individuals - their homes - even if they weren't acting in the role of an investor.  We're all being hit by the increased taxes and government debt associated with the various bailouts Washington has thrust upon us.

The Internet bubble fed the Housing bubble.  Investors and others who got out before their stocks crashed, needed a place to put their money.  In the early 2000's, much of that money went into real estate.  When coupled with horrific government policies encouraging people to buy homes they could not afford, we ended up with the mess we're in today.

Just like with the Internet bubble, there are people today with large amounts of money and they've been looking for some place to put it.  With increasing frequency, they've been putting it into the stock market.  As noted yesterday, this is despite the fact that business in general is horrible. The business fundamentals don't support the current stock values.

The presumption is that the bubble will burst, and stock prices will come crashing down.  I personally agree with this presumption.

So what? you may say.  You may have all of your money (what's left of it) somewhere other than the stock market.  If it crashes, big deal.  Let the rich guys take another bath, right?

The reason everyone should care is explained in Japan.  If we want to see the result of our current market conditions, real estate conditions and government policy impacts, we only need to look across the Pacific.

Any of this sound familiar?
The big question is: why the Japanese economy remains so weak so many years after the bubble burst? Economists are still debating this.
(1) One explanation is purely cyclical. Since the bubble period created large overcapacity, it will take time to reduce capital stock and inventory. But if so, stock adjustment is taking a bit too long.(2) Another explanation blames the banks' non-performing loans. Since banks failed to get rid of bad debt (and the government did not encourage this effectively), financial intermediation was impaired, which in turn hurt the real economy. This vicious circle will continue until a bold measure to clean up the banks' balance sheets is taken (the government is claiming that it is being done, but maybe it is not enough...)
(3) Another popular explanation is that Japan's economic system has become obsolete. Japan's relational systems (lifetime employment, seniority system, keiretsu groups, subcontracting, and so on) may have worked well during the 1950s and 60s, but they are no longer efficient in the age of globalization. Some argue that Japan is facing the third major transformation (the first was in Meiji, the second was post-WW2 reforms). But others caution that Japan should not adopt the American system uncritically since some Japanese systems are still useful. Recall the argument about the origin of the Japanese system in lecture 9.
(4) Still another explanation points to the long-term changes of the Japanese society. Japan has a rapidly aging population and snowballing government debt. The Japanese people are uncertain about their future, especially concerning the rising tax burden, availability of jobs, medical care, and the sustainability of pension schemes. This pessimism slows down consumer spending and business investment.
(5) More recently, the lost competitiveness and the "hollowing-out" phenomenon (as firms invest abroad, jobs will disappear at home) of the Japanese manufacturing base are cited as a great threat. The recent rise of China as the factory of the world is raising concern [but China's growth may slow down; China itself has many economic, social and political problems in the age of WTO].

That was written in 2004 - over 10 years into their recession...

And that's really the most likely impact of a bubble burst - a long, grinding recession.  Just like Japan, it started with real estate and progressed to the stock market.  Our government is increasing debt and taxes attempting to fix the problem.  Instead, it merely prolongs the pain.

People need to understand that this is unlikely to be a quick-and-dirty affair.  Are you prepared to take that on?

Accept The Challenge

The likelihood of the state and federal governments cutting back their tax and spend policies is almost non-existent.  In fact, the opposite is more likely.  We all need to assume this recession will either worsen or at best, be a long "U" shaped event.

Because of increased printing of money, the dollar will most likely continue to fall in value.  Your precious dollars will buy less. 

Investments, in the traditional sense of the word, are likely to take a beating, and those that appreciate will likely do so at rates that barely keep up with inflation.  Buy tangible assets you can use - Food, equipment, ammunition, precious metals, homesteads.  Buy them now before sales taxes are increased. 

I will be shocked if we don't get some sort of a Federal VAT in the next couple of years, especially if Cap and Trade goes down in flames.

Prepare NOW while you have resources available.  If we come out of this by some miracle, what harm has been done?
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Prepping For Bubbles - Part 1

 I want to talk about an upcoming economic "bubble" that may be (is?) headed our way.  This is a bit long, so I'm breaking it into two posts - one on the market and government forces currently at play, and the second on the "bubble" itself.

We're currently in an economic cycle that feeds on itself, actually making things worse as it progresses.  It's tough to say what is the starting point, but the cycle goes something like this:  Sales are bad.  The business must lay off employees to keep the business open.  Other businesses do the same thing, and unemployment rises A LOT.  Because so many people are unemployed, they don't have the same levels of disposable income, so they aren't buying as much as they used to buy.  Sales drop further.  More people are laid off.  Cycle continues until the business closes.

Some of these businesses are banks.  Their losses mount due to homeowners and business owners not paying on their loans (on over-valued properties or unsecured lines of credit) and many are shut down by the government.  Those banks that survive, become very tight with their cash.  Unless you're a "solid gold" borrower - business or personal - you're not getting a loan.

To encourage banks to lend money, the government infused them with massive amounts of cash (TARP) and offered them loans at obscenely below-market rates (currently as low as 0.15% - yeah, fifteen one hundredths of one percent).

But banks continue to have tight credit standards.  They still feel it's too risky to lend to most entities.  The majority of them are not making their money from Interest Income, but from Asset Trading or Asset Sales.

This is the cycle we've been seeing since late 2007.

All the while, the government has quietly increased the money supply - "creating" more than  $90 billion of new money (Currency In Circulation) since August of 2008 - to help pay our bills.  That is an increase of almost 11% in 15 months - effectively lowering the purchasing power of the dollars that were already in circulation.

Still, the $90 billion in new money is no where near enough to pay for all of the programs we've added.  Demand for services has increased while the supply of money to pay for them has declined. 

So the government has borrowed like crazy.  Our national debt now exceeds $12 trillion dollars.  The people and entities that lent our government the money must receive regular payments on the loans (Treasury Notes/Bills/Bonds).  An increasing percentage of the taxes our government receives must be applied to interest payments instead of towards Constitutionally mandated services and programs.


Amid all of this doom-and-gloom, there is a startling aberration:  The stock market. 

Despite businesses shutting down, despite continued lay offs, despite profit reports based upon cost cutting and not increased sales - the stock market has blossomed.  Hell, it's boomed!  The Dow Jones Average is up over 57% since March of this year!

How can this be?  Why are people pumping trillions of dollars into the market?  Isn't the stock market supposed to be the "bet" investors make on the future performance of listed businesses?

Most of the time, the answer would be yes.  It could still be a 'yes' for some people, but it's becoming increasing clear that's not what's going on at this time.

Tomorrow:  The coming "bubble" and what you can do to prepare to minimize the impact.

Accept The Challenge

Financial preps are as important as preps for food, water, security and mobility.  They are all fully intertwined.

Virtually everyone needs some source of income to survive - at the very minimum, you've got to pay your taxes.  Just as the knowledge of emergency shelter building can keep you safe and dry, developing financial skills on economic trends and indicators can keep you from getting hit by a "financial tsunami" that wipes you out.    

They're skills that should not be overlooked.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

State of Mind, Part 2

The mental outlook you possess to tackle daily tasks or to live your life is incredibly important.  The last post was on the mindset of self-defense.   Emergency Preparedness gets the nod today.

I spent a good deal of my life in a field that was highly regulated by the government.  Because of the nature of the industry, having Business Continuity and Disaster Plans in place was required by law.  All of the companies in my industry had very impressive tomes that lined the shelves of their board rooms. 

The plans were written, but nothing was ever done with them.  Perhaps once a year, the employee contact sheets were updated, but little more was accomplished.  They were never tested.

Just before the Y2K panic, the government realized that this just wasn't acceptable, and required the companies to update AND test their plans.  IMO, it was a great example of how the government should act in its role as a regulator (and those are very few and far between!).

I was a Chief Information Officer at the time, and most of this planning and preparation fell on my shoulders.  It was a great experience and education, and also an incredible eye-opener. 

Our Board of Directors fought the testing, tooth and nail.  They saw it as an expenditure that wouldn't produce income.  To them, it was a waste of money.  They figured that we had a plan, and it would work flawlessly if something bad happened.  They couldn't see that spending a little money NOW could save us literally millions of dollars if a disaster struck.  And this was coming from a business located in the heart of earthquake country, San Francisco.

How many people do you know with the exact same outlook as my former bosses?

Many people will grudgingly put together a personal Emergency Preparedness plan, but how many have spent the time and money to test that it will actually work?  They figure that by having the plan, they're covered - nothing can harm them.  They never consider that Murphy's Law will be visited upon them, and their nice, neat plan will get turned on its head.  They don't have the mental toughness to challenge their own assumptions.

Oh, and FEMA will always be there to bail them out, right?  Yeah, nice Plan B.

Accept The Challenge

Don't give yourself a false sense of security by simply going through the motions of putting a plan together.  You have to test your plan, and test your assumptions.  You MUST assume your plan won't work as you've laid it out.

If your plan is to "bug in" during an emergency, what will you do if your house burns down or you can no longer reach it?  What happens if your stored water supply goes bad - do you have alternate sources and the means to make the water potable?  Do you have stored food and equipment in other locations, or do you have all of you "eggs in one basket?"

Change your mental outlook to include the very real possibility that things COULD turn out worse than you expect.  Think of it like a life insurance policy.  You don't expect to die before you are very old and gray, but you accept the idea that it could happen and have taken action to protect against that possibility - regardless of how unlikely it may be.

Test your plan as you've got it designed, but also test it by throwing as many variables as possible.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

State Of Mind, Part 1

With almost any endeavor, your mental outlook is a key to success.  If you think something is worthwhile, you'll generally put forth the effort to make it work.  If you're wishy-washy about a project, chances are you'll look for the first excuse that presents itself to scuttle what you're doing.

Many people recognize that putting together an emergency preparedness plan, or taking their self-defense seriously are good things.  They may go as far as drawing up a plan or even taking some classes on these subjects.

While these are great first steps, they're not enough.  You have to have the mental toughness to act on what you've learned.

Self-defense.  At almost every firearms class I teach, the question comes up about actually firing a gun at an intruder.  A surprisingly large number of people will make a statement along the lines of, "I could never kill someone.  I would just shoot to wound them and call the police."

I want to scream.  But I don't.

I take a deep breath and remind them that someone has entered their home, or followed them to their car or taken some other action which has alerted them that the bad guy is a threat.  You are nothing but a pay day, a piece of ass or some part of a twisted fantasy to these thugs.  They will have no hesitation in taking your life if necessary.  Criminals show no pity.

You need to have the same mental determination to save your life as the criminal will have in taking it.

And it doesn't matter if the bad guy has a gun, a baseball bat or a knife.  No decent person EVER wants to take another life.  But if you command them to retreat or to leave your home, and they advance on you - and you don't shoot - you are unnecessarily putting your life at risk.

Take a look at this excellent review and update of the old Tueller edged weapon defense study.  It has to do with using a gun when your attacker is within 7 yards of you with an edged weapon.
Bottom line: Within a 21-foot perimeter, most officers dealing with most edged-weapon suspects are at a decided - perhaps fatal - disadvantage if the suspect launches a sudden charge intent on harming them. "Certainly it is not safe to have your gun in your holster at this distance," Lewinski says, and firing in hopes of stopping an activated attack within this range may well be justified.
The average attacker was able to travel the 21 feet in 1.5-1.7 seconds.  The fastest attacker was able to do it in 1.27 seconds.  I sure as hell hope you have your weapon in hand and ready before they get that close to you.

If YOU want to try and "wing" them ala a Hollywood movie, go right ahead.  I'm shooting until they stop.

Accept The Challenge

You MUST mentally walk-through multiple threat scenarios before they happen.  If you are serious about your self-defense, you must be willing to accept the (unwarranted) guilt and the potential scrutiny of your friends, family and the media.

By running through scenario after scenario, you are much more likely to make the right decision in a time of crisis.  You don't shoot the kid or the drunken neighbor playing a prank at 3am, but you do protect your family when it's an actual threat.

A final thought:  If you shoot someone - even an attacker in your own living room - you may very likely be arrested, especially in a state such as California.  Be prepared to deal with that as well.

As the old saying goes, "I'd rather be tried by twelve than carried by six."

Tomorrow:  The Preparedness Mind Set

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Inexpensive Firearms Practice

As anyone who owns a firearm knows, shooting skills are "perishable" - if you don't practice on a regular basis, your ability to put bullets on a target diminished greatly.  Anyone who golfs once a year at the company tournament can understand this.  Without practice, you can make yourself look pretty silly.

Obviously, when using a handgun, the stakes are much higher.  A bad shot can result in an innocent person being harmed or killed.

Two of the biggest excuses people have for not going to the range on a regular basis are time and money.  It may take a couple of hours out of your day to pack up all of your gear, head to the range, put a decent number of rounds down-range, then pack up and come home.

With the cost of ammunition and the difficulty in finding certain calibers of handgun cartridges, it can become cost-prohibitive to practice on a regular basis.  Plus, each time you do go down to the range, you have to pay the range fees and target costs.

This is where Air Soft pistols can eliminate both of these excuses.  While they won't fully replace real handgun practice, they do offer a fantastic option for what is perhaps the most important aspect of using a pistol:  First shot accuracy.

I teach an Advanced Pistol class where the overall philosophy is to be able to quickly and accurately hit multiple targets with multiple rounds.  I explain up front that this is not a traditional marksmanship class, per se.

For instance, one of our objectives is not to see how many rounds can be put into a half-inch circle from 10 yards.  It is to learn how to put two or more rounds into an 8 inch target at 10 yards in 2 seconds.  Misses are unacceptable.

To meet that standard, your first shot has to happen VERY quickly.  As soon as your arms are fully extended, the trigger must be pulled.  Immediately.

So how do you do that - essentially shoot your gun without aiming?

By repetition of motion practice.  We find the natural point-of-aim of the shooter and leverage that basic mechanical motion to allow them to "hit paint" with a very high degree of accuracy.

After every class, I drill into my students that they need to go home and practice their first shot drills with an Air Soft pistol.  Basically, start from a high-compact gun position, extend their arms and fire the first shot ONLY.  Again, and again, and again until it becomes second-nature.  They don't need to align the sights in the traditional sense - their body does it for them.

You may have noticed that I have stressed that this is for the first shot only.  That is very important to heed this suggestion.  Obviously, with a real handgun, after the first shot, you're going to have the muzzle rise from the recoil.  You won't have this with an Air Soft gun.  If a student practices double- or triple-taps (I hate that phrase, but you know what I mean), they will get a false - and potentially deadly - sense of confidence.

The second shot will go off in a direction that IS NOT the center of mass of the bad guy.

IMO, the only way you can accurately train for multiple, rapid shots on target is with the guns you expect to have in your possession, and with live ammunition.  Using the Air Soft guns let's you practice the first part of the shooting equation very inexpensively.

Accept The Challenge

If you own a handgun, practice with it on a regular basis.  If you truly want to become proficient at stopping a threat without endangering others around you, practice is a MUST.

Consider using Air Soft guns by setting up a target range in your backyard or, as I do, in my garage.  You can pick up a spring-loaded Air Soft that mimics virtually any widely available handgun for less than $20.  The CO2 powered models are often made of metal (with some running very close to $100), and more accurately reflect the size and weight of a real handgun.

If you need to justify spending $100 on a "toy", take your average cost of a box of your ammunition, multiply it by the number of boxes you shoot when you go to the range, and divide that into the price of the Air Soft gun.  It pays for itself pretty quickly.

The Air Soft "BBs" are incredibly inexpensive (they're little plastic pellets).  If used indoors in a garage out to perhaps 10 yards, the accuracy is well within the tolerances needed make the training worthwhile.

Another benefit of the Air Soft guns is that you can practice shots while you are moving.  You are not restricted to a stationary shooting point in the range.  As long as you are only taking one shot at a time (take a couple seconds between shots), this can give you some extremely valuable defensive shooting practice.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Legume Flour Soups

At home, we nuke foods in the microwave - we can't get our "meals" down our gullets quickly enough. In a grid-down situation or while camping, fuel resources may be limited. You want food to be prepared quickly, with as little valuable fuel consumed as possible.

I recently saw some videos about a group that teaches bushcraft and survival skills - Bushcraft On Fire. I sniffed around their site and YouTube page (60+ videos of some decent stuff).

The videos that interested me were about making soups using natural greens and legume/grain flours. I have this near-obsession with finding and developing foods and recipes that only require the addition of water and heat. What I like about these recipes is that by using flours, the cook time is considerably reduced. After your water comes up to a boil, you only need 3 or 4 minutes to have a meal!

First up, it required some legume and grain flours. I broke out my Family Grain Mill and made flour out of dent corn, yellow split peas and lentils.

After I made the flours, I followed two of the recipes to the letter. First, corn chowder -

Corn Chowder

Approx. 3 1/4 c. hot water

1/3 c. rounded fine corn flour or Masa

3 Tbsp. pea flour

1 Tbsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon

Hot sauce or cayenne pepper is awesome in it too!

Whisk flours and bouillon into your hot water and cook, stirring, for 1 minute over medium high heat. Cover and turn heat to low; cook 2-3 minutes. Serve with broken corn chips. Makes 2 hearty bowls full.
The result was an edible, pretty flavor-less, though fairly thick soup. It passed the "standing saltine" test. Still, definitely NOT a chowder.

I added some black pepper and a shot or two of hot sauce, and it was much better. I think this would be very good with some sort of smoked meat - ham or bacon come to mind. Some parboiled corn kernels would work nicely as well.

It's a keeper recipe with some minor adjustments for the JAW recipe files.

Next up was the lentil soup.

Just from looking at the recipe, I could tell it was going to be VERY thin. And it was.

Lentil Soup

4 c. hot water

2 tsp. lentil soup seasoning (See below this recipe)

4 Tbsp. green lentil flour

Have your canteen [your cooking pot] over medium heat (knock fire down to hot coals), whisk lentil flour into boiling water and add soup seasoning (below). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook 2 minutes. Serves 3-4.

Soup seasonings

8-10 Tbsp. salt

2 1/2 Tsp. garlic powder

3 Tbsp. black pepper

7 Tbsp. parsley flakes

5 Tbsp. dried chives

3 Tbsp. onion powder

3 Tbsp. paprika

Combine and store in airtight container (Keep in your kitchen and EDC kit)
As suspected, this was more of a broth than what I think of as a soup. It needed some sort of binder, as the lentils would separate from the liquid after a few minutes. It did not pass the "standing saltine" test -

The flavor was pretty good, though. I made up a batch of her Soup Seasoning, and used it to flavor this stuff.

It needs to be thicker, IMO. I guess if you were sick at home and just wanted some watery nutrition, it would do the trick. If I were out camping or in an emergency situation, I'd want a more substantial soup. As with the corn chowder, smoked meats would go very well with this.

In general, though, it's a keeper. I'm going to play with the recipes a bit, and I'll pass along any insights I come across.

Accept The Challenge

Developing foods and recipes that require little preparation can benefit you in a number of way.  In addition to being able to grab a quick, nutritious meal, you can also prepare them with very little fuel.  This can be crucial in any kind of emergency, or if you are on a camping trip.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, November 13, 2009

First Aid

Whatcha gonna do?

A child playing on a swing set is suddenly on the ground, and not moving.

An elderly man walking in the park suddenly drops to the ground in front of you.

While driving down a back road, you come upon an automobile accident and you see the driver - not moving - in the driver's seat.

Tag.  You're it.  You need to render aid.  But do you know what to do?  Do you know how to help the situation and not make it worse?

GENERALLY speaking you want to follow two assessment protocols - AVPU and ABCDE .

The first is to assess the responsiveness of the victim.  AVPU is an acronym for Alert, Verbal, Painful, Unresponsive.

Is the victim awake and aware of their surroundings?  Can they tell you what happened?  Are they in pain (they may appear to be unconscious, but are moaning in pain)?  Are they moving at all?

Up to this point, you haven't touched or physically interacted with the victim.  Most of what follows WILL require some sort of physical interaction.  That interaction may save the person's life, it may kill them or it may make their current injuries worse.

Tread lightly, here.

ABCDE stands for Airway Maintenance, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure/Environmental Control.  You want to do each of these assessments/actions in the order they're presented.  The idea being, each of the items is more important than the next item in keeping the person alive and well.  Most of the time.

Airway Maintenance.  You must have a clear airway.  It may be a chunk of meat stuck in a throat.  If that meat is not removed, the person will never be able to draw a breath of air, and will die.  Do you know how to clear an airway?

Breathing.  They now have a clear airway.  Are they actually breathing?  How are your mouth-to-mouth skills?

Circulation.  They're breathing now, do the have a pulse?  Also, do they have any visible bleeding?  Can you perform CPR to get their heart working again?  Can you stop the blood from pouring out of their gaping wound?

Disability (This pertains to mental awareness).  Are they now aware of what's going on around them?  Can they assist you with letting you know what hurts?  Are they combative or disoriented?  How do you deal with that?

Exposure/Environmental.  If you found someone motionless in the snow or in the middle of the desert, would you know what to do?  What if they fell off a cliff at the beach, and the tide is now coming in?  Is anything in the current environment going to further injure or kill them?

This last item is a very touchy one.  The rule of thumb is that you never move a person that has had some sort of traumatic physical incident until their spine had been immobilized.  You don't want to inadvertently paralyze someone by moving them around.

But what if their car has run off the road and is sinking in the water below?  Or that twisted up hiker down on the beach now has the surf lapping at his feet?  Personally, I'm moving them and letting the Good Samaritan laws sort it out if they are injured by my actions.

Accept The Challenge

At the very bare minimum, take a first aid and CPR class.  A slight "bump up" in training would be to take a First Responder class.  This will give you skills above the first aid/CPR level, but not bring you up to the level of an EMT.

Aside from giving you the skills and knowledge to save a life, you will gain additional legal protection in the event something goes awry.

Additional Resources:

Online First Aid guide (PDF file)
Mayo Clinic First Aid guide
American Red Cross
Ranger Medic Handbook (PDF file)

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Daily Reads

I've added a Daily Reads section to the left sidebar of the folks I visit each day for my preps and firearms related fix.  Stop by and give them a look-see.  Great information and perspectives.

Note to self:  You spend WAY too much time on the Internet!
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Silver and Gold Preps

 Precious Metals (PM) have been in the news as of late.  Gold has hit all-time highs, recently going over $1,100 an ounce.

There has been a LOT of discussion about having PMs as a part of a preparedness plan.  In general, I agree with those sentiments, IF:
  • have all, or a signficant portion of your food and equipment preps already completed.  Don't put money into PMs in lieu of having adequate food supplies and equipment.  You can't eat a silver dollar!
  • don't have to borrow money to get the PM.  Debt, especially in a tight economy, is a killer.  Don't mortgage your future for a bit of coin.
  • don't think of it as an investment, but as a hedge against inflation.  If things suddenly turn rosy - economically - PMs will most likely take a significant hit.  NEVER put all of your "eggs in one basket".
We have put away the equivalent of a few months of our cash expenses in PMs.  Food, gasoline and the like.  If there is some sort of Bank Holiday or sudden economic upheaval, we can still pay for our larger expenses, such as mortgage/rent and utilities with a check, but we might not be able to get cash from an ATM or use debit or credit cards.  PMs can fill that void.

Accept The Challenge

Our government has shut down the banking system once.  There is no reason to believe they won't do it again if they deem it necessary.    If banks start failing more rapidly after a disappointing Christmas season by their retail business customers, or if the Commercial Real Estate bubble does in fact burst as expected, it's not out of the realm of possibility.  Planning for such an eventuality - even a short-lived one - is prudent planning.

Unless you believe that our economic system will revert entirely to a barter economy (big, big, BIG long-shot, IMO), having some readily available cash and/or PMs (both well-hidden!) for short-term emergencies should be a part of all preparedness plans.
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Upcoming Class

First Steps Pistol Orientation

Wednesday/Thursday, November 18/19, 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm each night

Center Mass Shooting Range
Vacaville, Ca

Click here for class information

Click here to register
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Practice Like It's Real

 A phrase heard often during sports training is, "You play like you practice."  The idea being, the level of commitment you put into your training will be reflected during the real game.  If you only do your drills half-assed, you'll play the actual game the same way.  Generally, that means you'll end up on the losing end.

The same can be said for most things.  Actors have rehearsals.  Novelists write drafts.  Boxers have sparring matches.

For some reason, when it comes to self-defense practice - especially with lethal weapons - we somehow feel we're at the "top of our game" by simply going to the range and firing a box of rounds at a stationary target from a steady benchrest position.

The chances of having to use a gun AND being able to calmly line up your sights are virtually non-existent.  Come "game time," you will be lucky to get a decent sight-picture, let alone having a stationary target.

Finding a facility where you can do some realistic training can be a challenge - particularly here in California.  Unless you're a member of a club that has an IDPA or IPSC training facility, you're generally restricted to firing at a stationary target while standing in your own "shooting point" at the range.

Make the most of what you have to work with.  These are some of the routines we teach in our Advanced Pistol classes:

1.  Don't make hitting a perfect bulls-eye your objective.  Shoot at a 6 or 8 inch target, and consider any hits on the target as a success.  Your objective is to put all of your rounds on target in as short of a period of time as is possible.

2.  Use ranges that have targets you can set at different distances.  This generally means you need to use indoor ranges.  Set your targets starting at 5 yards.  Once you can put 10 consecutive rounds on target, move the target out 3 yards.  Repeat.

3.  Start from the "high compact" position - the gun is held near the front of your chest with the muzzle pointed down range.  Extend your arm(s) towards the target at eye level and fire once you have a sight picture.  Practice this until you can fire your gun as soon as your arms are fully extended.

4.  Practice this strong side and weak side, both two-handed and one-handed.

I'll share some other techniques in later posts.

One way to add some of the adrenaline-rush of a "live fire" situation is to play paintball.  I particularly like type where you are out in the woods (as opposed to the more rigid X-ball style).  You learn all about concealment and paying attention to your surroundings so you know when it's safe to shoot.

You shoot and are shot at without lethal consequences.  As long as you don't get into the "spray and pray" style of play, you can pick up some very practical self-defense skills.

Using air-soft guns at home in your garage or backyard is a wonderful way to improve your point-and-shoot skills.  While you cannot accurately duplicated multiple-shot drills (since you're not getting the recoil from an air-soft gun), you can significantly improve your first shot accuracy.  And you can do it very inexpensively.

Accept The Challenge

There is nothing more important than protecting your life, or the life of a loved one.  Don't give yourself a false sense of security by telling yourself that by shooting a box of cartridges at a target every 6 months means you a proficient with your handgun.

Every owner of a handgun should practice with it at least once each month.  Make the most of your practice time by developing skills you will most likely use if the need for self-defense ever arises.

Practice Like It's Real.
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Long-Term Storage Options

I store a lot of dry goods in our home emergency preps stores.  Rice, beans, pasta, sugar, spices and the like.  And a LOT of grains - mostly wheat and corn.

Generally speaking, I purchase my grains at a feed store that's about an hour away from where I live.  I can get a 50 pound sack of either grain for around $15.

Before a friend brought this store to my attention, I used to buy from Walton Grains in Idaho.  While their price-per-pound was good, the shipping was a killer.  For instance, I just checked their site, and a 50 lb double-plastic bag of Red Winter Wheat is $12.05.  The shipping to my home is an ADDITIONAL $24.63, for a total of over $36 a bag.

I can get two sacks for that price including the $6 for round-trip gas.

That's not a dig on Walton.  It's just a fact of life. 

I do my long-term storage a bit differently from other folks, I believe.  I take my 50lb sacks and break them down into 2- or 3-pound portions. 

I just sealed up a 50 lb sack of dent (or field) corn in 3-pound batches.

I vacuum seal the grains, mark down what they are, how much they weigh and the date I sealed them up.

 I used to add an oxygen absorber to the packs but have since discontinued the practice.  Obviously, the reason you add the absorbers is to remove oxygen from the packs.  That's what the vacuum sealer does!  Even if there happens to be a bug or eggs in with the grain (as is VERY likely), they will die very shortly from the lack of oxygen.

I've been asked why I break down my grains into smaller portions - why not just pour them into mylar bags in plastic buckets?

I have a few reasons:

1.  Portability - if I need or want to have my grains in multiple locations (as I do), I can more easily store 3-pound bags than 50-pound buckets.

2.  Barter - If things ever get truly ugly, I have my stores conveniently broken down into managable sizes.  I don't need to haul out a big old bucket each time I want to trade some grains for something else.  I also don't have to bring everything with me, and worry about getting hit over the head and all of my stuff being taken.

3.  Charity - at any time, I can easily give a neighbor or our church a few pounds of grain, beans, sugar - whatever - in convenient packages.  If it is dire times, I don't have to show or disclose the amount of food we have, while still being able to help someone out.  And again, I don't have to open up and break the seal on a larger bucket.

4.  Less spoilage - I only need to open up what I'm going to use in the short term.  I don't need to worry about a whole bucket getting kicked over or contaminated if someone accidentally drops something into an open bucket.

The downside of doing this is it takes up more space.  After I seal up the bags, I put the bags into a plastic bucket - this gives me some additional protection against rodents and insects getting at our stores.  But instead of a bucket being able to hold 45-50 pounds of grains, they can only hold about 30-36 pounds.

You also need to be careful with what you put in the bags.  Pasta, for instance, seems to always have some sharp edge that pierces the bag, rendering the vacuum seal useless.  You have to be careful not to over-stack the bags or have them packed with other pointy objects.

I think the benefits outweigh the negative side, but you need to make up your own decision on this.

Accept The Challenge

As I understand it, the Mormon Church (awesome preppers, BTW) recommend you store enough to eat 25 pounds of grain per person, per month.  That includes whole grain wheat, flour, rice, corn meal, oats and pasta.  They also recommend another 5 pounds of beans per person, per month.  That all sounds about right.

How much have YOU got stored away?  A couple of years?  A few months?  Two weeks?  Anything?

It is never too late to start.  If cash is tight, pick up a little bit each time you go to the store, and squirrel it away.

Don't be left unprepared.  Take responsibility.
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Knotty Problems

We use knots virtually every day.  We tie our shoes.  We tie a necktie.  We tie an apron.  We tie one on (oh wait, that's different!).

There are a handful of "specialty" knots, that, if you can perfect them, can make things better around the house or the yard, plus have the added benefit of having developed a survival or emergency skill.

These knots are my choices for the very MINIMUM everyone should know how to tie.  They are all very easy to do, and they are all very easy to practice, practice, practice.

Oh, and this is MY list.  I'm sure someone may come along and say, "Well, you should have included XYZ knot."  I'd say that there is no way to ever come up with a definitive list.  It's like when you have discussions about what is the best shotgun, handgun, or 4-wheel drive.  Everyone's got their own choices.

Obviously, if you have some specialized hobby or job, your list will be different.  For instance, I fly fish.  So, in addition to the Trilene knot and surgeon's loop I'm including on my list, I'm very good with a blood knot, nail knot and many others.

This list is for general purpose, regular human being needs!

BTW, the absolutely, positively BEST place to learn how to tie knots is  You pick the knot you need, and they have very clear and accurate animations on how to tie the knot.  It is an invaluable asset to have in your preparedness arsenal.

The List:

Square knot - your basic, everyday knot for tying two pieces of similar sized rope together.  It's not an overly secure knot, but it gets the job done in most instances.  For a knot that does the same thing, but is virtually "bullet proof" for holding together, consider learning the Double Fisherman.

Bowline - makes a very secure loop at the end of a rope.  This can be used for snares by running the other end of the rope through the loop to make a noose, or in conjunction with other knots, such as the Truckers Hitch for securing loads.  The knot won't slip as long as it has tension on it, but can be undone easily once the tension is released.

Trucker's Hitch - is an incredibly versatile knot.  It is used to secure loads, generally in the back of a truck.  It allows you to tie everything down, then tighten up the line to make sure it is secure.  If you're taking a load of garbage or yard waste to the dumps, the Trucker's Hitch is what keep the load secured in the back of your truck bed.  It is also used for stringing a line between two points.  For instance, if you have two trees or stakes in the ground, you can make a bowline loop at one end of the rope, run the line through the loop and around the first tree, then use the Trucker's Loop on the other tree and tighten the line between them.  Hang laundry or use it for the top ridge of a tarp tent.

Trilene knot - is used for attaching a fishing line to a hook or swivel.  It is the very basic and most important knot for a fisherman.  If your hook doesn't stay attached to the line, you're goin' hungry!

Surgeon's Loop - another very versatile knot.  I use it to make loops in fishing line to hold hooks and swivels, and to place loops in the middle of a multi-hook line, such as a Trot Line.  I also use it for the middle loop in the Trucker's Loop.  Like the Bowline knot, it can also be used for making a noose for snares, and is much easier to tie.

Accept The Challenge

Learn these knots and any other knots you feel you may need because of your hobbies, interests or situations in which you may find yourself.  Practice these knots at least once each month.  I set a reminder in my computer calendar to "Practice Knots".  I spend an hour tying stuff up (my dogs really hate me around this time) and keeping my skills sharp.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Emergency Communications

In the middle of any kind of emergency or disaster, keeping in touch with "the outside world"  - anything outside of your home - can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Most people have some sort of battery-powered radio in their homes.  People who are a bit more forward thinking have radios that have a hand-cranked dynamo so that they're not dependent upon batteries.  These are all good things to have.

But what if the emergency is simply in the development stages?  Something like a riot or a train car derailment.  You still have power and all normal utilities coming into your home.

The first place most people will go is usually their television set.  While beneficial, you need to understand that the content is edited and not always timely.  You can go directly to the source via police and fire scanners.

If you don't want to spend the money on a scanner, you can (most likely) get a live feed via the Internet at  Very cool.

Go to the site and click the Live Audio link.  Click your state and see if there is a feed in your area.  For instance, I am able to get a link to my sheriff's dispatch and another for the local police and fire.

We had a huge fire in our area a few months ago, and the TV information was virtually useless.  It was clear from observing the smoke plume that the fire was moving towards my house, but there was no information available about the exact location of the fire or if it was under control.

The TV helicopters just kept showing the massive flames but didn't provide much information.  Having this scanner information would have been fantastic for knowing the real status.

Since this is Internet based, you are not restricted to your locality.  If something is brewing somewhere else in the country, you can simply select the state and location where something might be happening.

It's a bit addictive, and a little disturbing.  These broadcasts are the actual discussions going on between the officers and the dispatchers.  Drivers licenses and names are broadcast, for instance, when someone is pulled over by a police officer.

They were obviously talking in Radio Code, and I had no idea what they were talking about.  I found this site that gives you all of the codes that are used between the officers and the dispatchers.

Accept the Challenge

Knowing what's "coming your way" can save your life.  Consider a portable scanner for your vehicle in the event you need to relocate - bug out - on short notice.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What's It Gonna Take?

When are people going to wake up and realize that they ALONE are responsible for their own personal safety?  More importantly, when are people going to demand of their elected officials that the legal restraints on law abiding citizens arming themselves be removed?

We've had two horrific shooting incidents in the last two days that have gotten national exposure - the shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, and the still-unfolding incident in Tampa, Florida.  Since the specifics of the Tampa incident are not yet published, I'll focus on the Fort Hood murders.

When I heard that in excess of a dozen soldiers had been killed and 30+ had been wounded - on an Army base  - I first assumed that the killer had walked in with a fully-automatic rifle and just sprayed the place down.  It later came to light that this crime was perpetrated by a single individual with two, semi-automatic handguns.  WTF?

How could this be possible on, of all places, an Army base?

It seems as though most military posts are "gun free zones" for the most part.  Aside from guards and sentries, no one was armed.  Having never been in the military, this surprised the hell out of me.  Most of the weapons on base are in locked armories.

The murderer, being a Major in the Army, knew this.  He took advantage of this when he entered buildings that had upwards of 400 soldiers present.  Honestly, it's amazing more weren't killed.  This dog was finally stopped by a civilian police officer who was called and arrived 10 minutes after the shooting started.

How many fewer soldiers would be dead if they had all been armed?  How many fewer students at Virgina Tech would be dead if someone were armed?  Pick your "favorite" mass shooting and ask the same question.

Gun control advocates will NEVER address that question.  Somehow, in their warped brains, taking defensive weapons out of the hands of law abiding citizens will make them safer.  It seems - time and time again - as though the bad guys never get the memo that they're not supposed to be armed, and they instead target all of these gun-free zones.

Funny how that works out, huh?

Here in the state of California, we have a "May Issue" law for concealed carry.  The state has left it to the whim of the local sheriff to determine who is worthy of a permit.

In most cases, unless you're somehow politically connected, you're SOL.  Someone like fellow Californian and anti-gunner Senator Diane Feinstein is apparently worthy -
"Less than twenty years ago I was the target of a terrorist group. It was the New World Liberation Front. They blew up power stations and put a bomb at my home when my husband was dying of cancer. And the bomb didn't detonate. [...] I was very lucky. But, I thought of what might have happened. Later the same group shot out all the windows of my home. [...] And, I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself because that's what I did. I was trained in firearms. I'd walk to the hospital when my husband was sick. I carried a concealed weapon. I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me."
So, her life is worth protecting, but yours and mine are not.

A few years back, I obtained a Utah non-resident Concealed Carry Permit.  Every time I've ventured out of California and had a gun with me, I have somehow restrained my "inner beast" from going on a shooting rampage.  It's amazing, but true!

All kidding aside, that's the case across the nation.  If you're in the mood for some statistics, go to Gun Facts and read all about it.  States with "Shall Issue" laws are significantly safer than those with more restrictive laws.

The sheriff in my county is not running for re-election.  There are two candidates up for the position.  I've sent both of them letters requesting their position on CCW laws and our recently passed AB962, which will now require all ammo buyers to be fingerprinted with each purchase, and prevent Californians from buying ammo online.

I've promised to share their positions with my 1,400 member gun club.  We all vote.

You may have noticed the Life and Liberty Insurance link over on the sidebar.  I think I'll buy each of them one of the 2010 calendars and circle Election Day...
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.