SB Tactical Gets Pwned

A company that makes pistol braces gets its customer database breached. There are four possibilities here:

  1. ATF was doing a little illegal sneak and peek so they know whose dogs to shoot
  2. ATF had one of their partner informants do it for them
  3. A freelance SJW is planning on outing everyone
  4. Criminals are just doing what they do

I am betting that the incident is either 2, above. Some lefty is going to anonymously notify the ATF that they have a list of lawbreaking owners of SBRs. Since the new rule outlawing unregistered pistol braces was published today, you have 120 days to register your (now) SBR or become a felon. Isn’t that a sweet little coincidence?

The miscreants got away with each user’s credit card number, expiration date, CCV code, cardholder name, address, phone number, and email address. If you have ever done business with SB tactical, you should consider all of that information as being compromised and in the possession of people who mean to steal your money, your life, or your freedom.

We know that the feds are now enlisting people in the private sector to do their unconstitutional dirty work. It can’t be too much longer before the informers are everywhere and people become vzyali.

On a side note, as of today I will no longer be in possession of a pistol brace equipped firearm. I am not registering shit.

Can I Eat Him?

If a deer attacks you on your own front porch, and it’s outside of hunting season, I would assume that it’s still lawful to shoot his ass. I’m sure a couple of handgun bullets to the cranium would take him down, no problem. (mute the audio. The woman screaming is annoying.)

My question here is: Would you then be permitted to add his meat to the freezer? Some venison steaks would be delicious!

Body Armor

I own several types and brands of body armor. Each has advantages and disadvantages. I will summarize them below.

Back in 2018, I bought some body armor for my wife and me. Since we were working as teachers, I got a set for each of us to keep in the classroom. The vests that I bought are made by Bulletsafe. The vests that I got are the Level IIIA vests, cost $300. I found them to be too bulky to wear concealed. With the trauma plates, the vests are upgraded to Level IV, but they are quite heavy when worn that way. My wife’s vest is still in her classroom. Since I no longer teach, my vest is next to the bed with the home defense gun and a set of electronic hearing protection. If I need to clear the house, having a Level IV vest on is a great idea, and the weight isn’t a concern since I won’t be wearing it for long. The company was OK, with the first vest and plate coming on time, but the plate for the second vest wasn’t delivered after two months. I originally cancelled the order, but the company made it right. It looks like they were just too successful and were having trouble filling the large numbers of orders they had. I’ve worn this set a couple of times to clear the house, and twice while I was teaching when we went on lockdown. Mine has a FAK and a couple of velcro tags on it that indicate my blood type and say “Paramedic” on them. One problem that I have with this product is that it covers the shoulder and makes shouldering a long gun kind of difficult.

Fast forward to 2020, and I placed orders for two more sets of armor. The first was a Testudo Gen2 carrier and a set of Level III+ steel plates from AR500. I also put a set of pouches on it that can hold five 30 round AR magazines, a full sized handgun with two magazines, a first aid kit, an accessory pouch, and another pouch that will hold two smoke grenades. (Yes, I have smoke grenades) Delivery was actually faster than the quoted 8 weeks and cost me about $500. One thing: I bought my own pouches elsewhere, as it was cheaper. Even so, at 25 pounds (with armor, handgun, and other gear) that loadout is as heavy as I can wear in Florida’s summer heat without being uncomfortable. Toss in an AR, and I am toting about 35 pounds of gear. I would recommend (if you have the cash) that you spend the extra for the lighter plates to reduce weight. That will save you about seven pounds, but will cost another $500 or so. This vest is my Antifa emergency loadout and I haven’t worn it other than to see how it fit and how heavy it felt. The good and bad of this setup is that it only covers the vital organs. This leaves the shoulders unprotected but allows long guns to be comfortably shouldered.

The last experience I had with armor was the most promising, but was the worst of them. The company was called Bulletproof Everyone. A concealable Level II vest, it looked interesting:

The product was less than ideal. It was just a sweatshirt with pockets for the soft plates sewn into it. It is obvious that it contains body armor. It smelled like chemical scented ass and took months to get delivered. Even though it was only $350, I expected a better product. The first vest I got didn’t fit even though I measured. After some complaints and a call to the company’s owner, I got one that fit properly, but as you can tell, I wasn’t impressed. I don’t think I have ever worn it other than to check fit.

So that is my experience with armor.

InReach

I just came across this handy little gadget, and I can’t believe I had not seen it sooner. We talked about emergency communications the other day, and this product line from Garmin looks pretty amazing. It is a GPS device with built in satellite communications. That is some Star Trek communicator shit right there.

The equipment allows you to send your location, an SOS, and even two way text messages via satellite. The only real drawback is cost. There is a monthly subscription fee that ranges from $15 up. The devices themselves cost between $300 and $600. Steep.

I’m telling you that if I regularly travelled far outside of cell range, this would be a sure thing. As it is, I am not sure I can justify the cost for my travel habits now, but if I were still doing the offshore boating or backcountry hiking thing, I would already have one.

I know this post reads like a commercial, but it isn’t. As usual, I accept no advertising. I just occasionally come across products that I think are interesting and would be of value to my readers. I have no relationship with Garmin or Amazon, other than being a customer. In this case, I don’t even own this product, although I am really thinking about it.

Prepping: Communications

For nearly 20 years, I have spread the word that communications were lost in disasters. I learned during Hurricane Charley in 2004 that there is a need for communications. Cell service was out for weeks. With no way to reach the outside world or communicate with family members, checking on each other was a severe handicap. So I added getting a HAM license as a step in my preparedness campaign. It was a simple test, and a $10 fee for the license, and you don’t even need to know Morse code. In exchange, I got a license that allows me to operate radios that have enough reach for most disaster communications.

Some try to rely on CB radios. Try it, you won’t be happy. There are only 40 channels, but millions of CB radios. It’s an unregulated wasteland. In the best of times, the channels are clogged with people running illegally high power levels (in some cases over a thousand watts) and effectively jamming the airwaves with nonsense, just because they enjoy being assholes. The last time I listened, there was a guy on Channel 19 who was broadcasting an anti-Trump rant for over an hour. Nonstop, making Ch 19 unusable. There is another group who makes a hobby of doing the same on Channel 6. So CB is out.

Some opt for FMRS radios. With 22 channels and only 2 watts, the limited power and channel options mean clogged communications and short range.

In my opinion, GMRS or HAM radios is the better option. Each has its own benefits and issues. There is a third, better option out there, and we will get to that in a minute.

GMRS advantages:

  • The license is only $35 for 10 years, one license is good for an entire family, and no testing is required
  • GMRS licensees can operate repeaters, which will extend your range.
  • Can use up to 50 watts, but handhelds normally are 5 watts or less

GMRS disadvantages

  • There are only 30 channels on 22 frequencies, and they are shared with FMRS radios. This means possibly clogged channels
  • GMRS licenses are only good for members of the same household. Different houses require a separate license

There is also HAM radio. Advantages:

  • Thousands of channels to choose from, even in just the 2 meter and 70 cm bands
  • License needed, but only $15 for ten years
  • Less congested than other radio services
  • Can be used to patch into telephone service
  • Can be used in digital modes to connect to Internet, transmit pictures, or other data to other digital HAM sets

HAM disadvantages

  • One license per person is required, and there is a test
  • more technically demanding.
  • Radios have a lot of capabilities, but can be complicated to operate and program
  • Required to speak plainly. Code phrases are not permitted

Radios are cheap, and can be as easy or as complicated as you need them to be. You can get a GMRS radio that has three controls and doesn’t need programming for only $50 or so. The only controls are on/volume, channel selector, and push to talk button.

Then there is the third option. The best of both worlds, and the one that I have selected: Programmable radios.

Get yourself a HAM license AND your family a GMRS license and buy a mixture of radios. This allows you to have all of the advantages of FMRS, GMRS, and HAM while allowing you to circumvent the issues of all three.

Get programmable radios.

  • They can be had for as little as $45 each. They come pre-programmed for the GMRS channels, and your family members who need to communicate with them can do so with very little training.
  • If used within the FMRS power restrictions, non family members can legally borrow and use them
  • Some, like the Baofeng UV5R, can be programmed for HAM channels, meaning that those with a HAM license can use them for all three services
  • Adding a GMRS repeater gives you a lot more range and flexibility, can be used as a base station, and costs less than $220.

Possessing the two licenses allows for great flexibility. You could use GMRS on your street to communicate between houses. The ones who are more technically inclined could serve as “communications specialists” and communicate between streets that are several, or even dozens of miles apart. Use your imagination.

Wrap Up and Roll Call

The storm is past us now to the north, as indicated by the fact that winds are out of the NNW. That puts us in the lower left side of rotation. So, this storm for us is over.

We lost power last night at around 0245. It was back on almost immediately. Winds maxed out last night at 24 miles per hour, and a maximum gust at 38. We got a total of 3.4 inches of rain.

I did my post storm walk around, and damage is almost zero. The only damage I have is a UPS that was damaged by the power surges. That seems to happen with every big storm.

For my family:

  • The eye passed directly over my brother’s house last night. I believe power is out where he is, because I can’t get ahold of him. He should be OK though, because he lives on the east side of the state, and the storm wasn’t even a hurricane anymore by the time it passed him by.
  • My sister has been without power for 14 hours, but reports that she is OK.
  • My mother, daughter, and grandkids are all OK. So are my in-laws.
  • One of my wife’s cousins lives in Englewood. We offered them a spot up here and begged them to evacuate. They waited too long and were not able to leave because of traffic. The northern eye wall was over their house for hours. No one has heard from them since yesterday morning. We are hoping that it’s just power issues. This is why I always tell people to get out early.

The reports from the area between Bonita Springs up to Venice are pretty bad, but remember that the majority of the damage is usually limited to a mile or of the beach and the press is going to focus on the worst of it because ratings.

This storm made landfall in nearly the exact same spot as Hurricane Charley did in 2004, and then followed nearly the same path. The two storms paths were only about 20 miles apart on the west coast, and 45 miles apart on the west coast.

Anyway, that ends my part of hurricane Ian.

The Latest

The forecast seems to be changing every time there is another update, but this is what I know for now:

  • There is a 90 percent chance of 40 mile per hour sustained winds at my location.
  • Likewise, a 50 percent chance of 50 mile per hour winds
  • A 25% chance of 75 mile per hour winds
  • And a 10 percent chance of sustained winds of over 90 miles per hour
  • Gusts would be higher

Now all homes in Florida built in the past 25 years are supposed to be able to withstand winds of up to 110 miles per hour. I will say that I felt like the winds being reported by the NWS were grossly overstated, so I bought a personal weather station. I guess we will be getting a chance to test that out.

We are also being told to expect up to 14 inches of rain. We average 60 inches of rain in a year, so we are getting three months’ rain in three days. That means flooding. Our house is on high ground, so I think we should be OK.

My biggest concern is having the power be out for several days. I have an 8KW genny and a bunch of fuel, so I should be OK. We are working on building a new house about 30 minutes south of here, and it will have a 24KW propane or natural gas fueled backup, but for now 8KW gasoline is all I have.

The nasty weather is supposed to begin before lunchtime tomorrow. My checklist is complete with the exception of shutting down the NAS, buying some subs from Publix, and doing a final check on comms.

My mobile and handheld radios are all good, I just need to check the main radio set. It’s a nice one, a Yaesu FT-897 with an interface to allow digital and voice communication. I have two antennas mounted in the attic, a dual band for VHF, and the second is a G5RV wire antenna for HF. At 52 feet long, it stretches most of the way across the house, but this antenna allows me to transmit in all bands from 10 meters down to 40 meters.

As soon as the wife gets home from work, we will head out to dinner and Publix, then settle in for the night. I still don’t know for sure what my work schedule will be. For now, I am scheduled to work 9-9 tomorrow, but that may change.

It’s 1415 on 9/27, and it just began raining.

Waiting and Watching

When you live in the hurricane prone areas of the US, one of the things that you learn quickly is that the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore has an uncanny skill in predicting where a hurricane will make its presence felt, then doing live broadcasts from that spot in the days leading up to the hurricane making landfall. The last thing you ever want to see is Cantore standing in front of a camera in your neighborhood.

It turns out that Jim Cantore is doing his reports from Clearwater Beach tonight. As for me, I usually have a lot of supplies and don’t need any. Still…

So keep an eye on the hurricane (now a tropical storm) as it approaches. The 1700 report just came out, and the storm has slowed its approach since I last posted. We should have been, based on Friday’s reports, been at 48 hours out from storm conditions this evening. Instead, we are now supposedly looking at the center coming in between Cedar Key and Horseshoe Beach sometime on Thursday night as a Major Hurricane upper end of Category 3, or the lower end of Category 4.

What is significant about this path is that it places northern Central Florida on the east side of the storm, which is the ‘dangerous’ side. This is the side of the storm where most of the wind field, rain, and tornadoes are found. At any rate, we are in a good spot for avoiding the worst of it, simply because we are dozens of miles from the Gulf of Mexico. That means we will avoid most of the bad parts of the storm, but will still be looking at hours of winds in the 40-60 miles per hour range, as well as rain of a foot or more.

Storm strength is in categories, which is set by wind speed. An increase of one category increases the pressure on your house by a factor of four. The good news is that the area of highest winds is near the center. The bad news is that tropical storm force winds extend out for hundreds of miles, as does the chance of tornadoes, and the large amounts of torrential rain.

So if you want to evacuate, do so now. If you wait too long, you can find yourself stuck in traffic. If you must evacuate after the rest of the thundering herd has taken to the roads, you might think about wanting to head the opposite way from the rest of them. For example, heading south. That is a mistake, because Florida will institute a plan called “contraflow” where both sides of the highways leading away from evacuation are used to move people in the same direction, making travel in the other direction impossible. I expect Hurricane Watches will go up in the southwestern parts of the state tomorrow, and evacuations will be announced at that time. Once that happens, people will start losing their shit.

Having worked as the shelter medic at multiple shelters during my earlier career days, I will tell you: don’t go to a shelter unless you’re told to evacuate and have no other options. Shelters aren’t fun, and they’ll be at capacity. They are packed with dirty, smelly, and sick people that are not pleasant to be around. Many of them are drug addicts. Avoid them unless you have no other choice.

While forecasts at day four or five are a coin toss, the accuracy begins climbing rapidly when we look at the 2-3 day timeframe.

If you are anywhere on the Gulf Coast between Biloxi and Miami, I would recommend keeping an eye on this for at least the next couple of days.

Today is Action Day

If you are anywhere on the Florida peninsula, today is the day where you need to decide what you are going to do to prepare for this storm. It’s tough to do, because we are still 4 or 5 days from landfall, meaning that the cone covers virtually the entire state of Florida. Will you evacuate? If so, to where? Will you prepare to ride out the storm? What you decide will depend on your own unique situation.

If you are a tourist in the Keys, for example, get out. There is no reason to stay. All of the tourism businesses are going to close, so there will be nothing to do. Why risk it?

If you live in the state, make a plan. Use the Florida evacuation zone maps to guide you. Staying put in a home on the shore in the face of a hurricane is a pain in the ass at best, and dangerous at worst.

Me? I live dozens of miles from the coast and I don’t live in a flood zone, so storm surge and flooding aren’t an issue. Wind, having to live without power for up to 2 weeks, and possible tornadoes are. So for me, I don’t even consider leaving for anything less than being in the direct path of the core of a Category 4 hurricane. If you do decide to leave, do it early. If you haven’t left by 48 hours before the hurricane is due to make landfall, you risk being trapped in traffic on the road as storm force winds approach.

This is forecast to be on the low level of Cat 3, or the upper end of Cat 2. So I am staying put. My three day checklist is done. One of the items for the day that many overlook is data. If for some reason your possessions are destroyed, the one thing that is most difficult to replace is data. Make sure that there are scans and backup copies of personal data: your driver’s license, professional licenses, birth certificates, bank information, etc. I used to put them on a thumb drive that was encrypted by True Crypt, but that software has been discontinued. I do not yet have a recommended replacement.

My suggestion would be for the people who invented the ransomware that attacked me in 2020 to write some encryption software. No one can crack that shit, so go legit and make a pile of money. Anyhow. BE ready.

For now, I am off to work.

5 days

As of this morning, all of the Florida peninsula is within the 5 day cone of a potential major hurricane.

Now if you have been watching these sorts of things for any amount of time, you know that the 5 day predictions of hurricane paths are about as accurate as a coin flip. The hurricane is as likely to hit here as not. However, it is still prudent to keep an eye on things. Even a 40% chance of disaster is worth keeping an eye on.

So I have a well used checklist for hurricanes around here. At 5 days, we do the following:

  • Retrieve extra fuel and water containers from storage.
  • Ensure that there is a good supply of batteries.
  • Check the yard for loose debris.
  • Since you can’t run a genny during a hurricane, you need chemsticks for light when the power is out. Safer than candles and more reliable and useful for general light than flashlights, you can get them for less than a buck apiece. Make sure you have plenty.
  • Watch the storm updates as they come out every 6 hours: at 0500, 1100, 1700, and 2300.

It’s important to remember that the predictions of the hurricane folks are for the center of the hurricane. Tropical storm force winds are located far from this point. For example, in the case of Hurricane Fiona, the latest forecast shows 35 knot (40 mph) winds extending 290 miles to the northeast and 350 miles to the southwest of the center. Since the storm is moving at 35 miles per hour, damaging 40 mile per hour winds can be expected to begin 10 or 12 hours before the center arrives. If the above prediction cone is correct, we can expect the onset of heavy winds to begin on Tuesday night, sometime around sunset.

What this means to those of us in Florida is that the five day cone is really a 4 day warning of storm conditions. That means my three day checklist would have to begin tomorrow evening, except I am working tomorrow. That means I will have my wife get some of it done.

The pre-event checklist will need to be complete by Tuesday Morning. We haven’t had to prep for a hurricane since Labor day weekend 2019, and that one was a bust. The last storm we had here was Hurricane Irma in 2017, and we were without power for about 4 days.