Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Product Review: TAC-BAR Tactical Food Ration



Safety, planning, and survival are terms we hear and see all over these days. Survival is a major one. Have you thought about surviving 'the big one' or a catastrophic event? Would you have enough supplies for you and your family to survive? I am going to focus on survival food as I review the TAC-BAR meal supplement bar. 


The TAC-BAR comes in a plastic ammo can with five bars, a pouch of 10 water purification tablets, and a tactical belt. When I contacted Expedition Research about the ammo can, it was shared with me that they decided to use that to protect the bar from damage during shipment. It is a good solution. The ammo can is reusable and the belt is a nice touch. If you remove the belt, there is some room inside the ammo can if you want to add a small first-aid kit or added food.


Packaging is a big deal to the folks at TAC-BAR. Each bar is sealed in an airtight pouch that keeps freshness for up to five years. There is an area at the top where it looks as though your can use your fingers to open the package, but that is incorrect. You must use a sharp object to open the package below the seal. In a survival situation this may or may not cause problems. If you didn't have a knife or something sharp, opening this would be very difficult.

UPDATE: After talking with Aaron at Expedition Research, he informed me that the charity version (orange packaging) does have the easy open notch. After I saw that, I made a small notch in the tactical packaging I have and they opened with no issue. You may want to do the same thing when you are stockpiling your TAC-BARs.


The TAC-BAR is split into threes, one for each meal of the day. Each section is 840 calories. You can eat the entire portion at once or spread it out. It is very crumbly and does make a mess. You will want to take care when breaking it up so you don't lose any portion of it. The lines that 'separate' each meal portion of the bar are deep enough that you can use your hands to slowly break the bar at the seam. This method works well and you don't lose much of the bar at all. It's when you start to eat it that it can crumble. I recommend cutting it into manageable sections to eat. I tried eating a section for breakfast as a single bar. It crumbled easily. I did the same thing at lunch, but took better care. That worked fine, but the best result I had was cutting it into four smaller sections and eating each of those. I lost very little this way. Each portion is actually quite filling, too. Now, it's not the perfect solution for a meal, but this is meant to be a survival bar and it works well as such.

The flavor of the bar is interestingly good. There is citrus in the bar to aid in a longer shelf life, but you don't taste it much. In fact, I was quite pleased with the flavor and the aroma. It tastes very close to the flavor of raw cookie dough. More specifically, like chocolate chip cookie dough (minus the chips). It was very tasty. I had my seven year old try it, knowing she is very picky. She liked it as well.

I tried the bar by itself and I also dissolved portions of each section in hot water. As a chunk, it takes much longer to dissolve, as with anything, but if you crumble it up a bit and stir it dissolves well. In water, the flavor isn't very strong at all and tastes almost like an oatmeal tea. Weird, yes, but if I were surviving on this alone I would be delighted!

This bar is definitely not low on sugar. It's actually the first ingredient! The sugar make the bar a bit gritty due to the sugar, but it will keep your energy level up if you are active or in a dire survival situation. I tested it out while working out and while working at my desk. I do not recommend eating it while sedentary. While the TAC-BAR tasted great and filled me up, I was pouring sugar into my body and not doing anything to burn it off. This is definitely meant as a survival meal bar.

One suggestion that I would make is to have a resealable pouch for the remainder of the bar. No one is going to sit and eat the entire days worth of calories in one sitting and currently the pouch will stay open unless you have tape to close it. It would be better for freshness and to keep crumbs from getting all over your pack, too.

I have tasted similar bars that come in individual (400 calorie) servings from other retailers. They are a bit harder, but they have more flavors to choose from. Also, the bars from other retailers come in packaging that are easily opened without the need for a knife. This might be something TAC-BAR wants to look at in the future.

When you order, keep in mind the TAC-BAR is not sold individually. Again, they are shipped in cases of five due to their ease of crumbling or being mishandled in shipping. The ammo case that they come in is well designed and works great in my opinion. They box retails for $69.99 on Amazon (ships free with PRIME) and includes 10 water purification tabs and a tactical belt. For survival planning, this is a nice short-term survival kit. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guest Post from Warne Scope Mounts: Is Lapping Needed?

Today's post was written by the folks at Warne Scope Mounts. They have graciously allowed me to repost this blog entry. As I begin my 2016 hunt planning, I have decided on a new rifle build. More to come on that later. With that, I will be adding a new MINOX scope. Last hunting season gave me the opportunity to get my .270 set up with a new MINOX scope. I bought horizontal scope rings and a lapping kit. I spent an evening getting everything just right and am very happy with how it turned out. The rifle shoots well and life is good! When I started researching my new scope, I noticed a photo on Facebook from the 2016 SHOT SHOW where a MINOX scope was mounted on a rifle with the Warne scope rings. Further inspection and research showed me that they have a great set up with vertically split rings. When this blog post came up in my research I was sold. Read it for yourself and let me know what your thoughts are on scope rings.  

Content and photos copyright Warne Scope Mounts. Check out their story when you get a chance!
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Is lapping needed?

When using some designs of scope mounts, lapping is recommended to get the best performance. Lapping can increase the amount of surface contact between the ring and scope tube, and also help with proper alignment between the scope rings.  If one were to read the installation instructions for Warne Maxima vertically split rings, Lapping is not recommended. The important question is why Warne does not recommend lapping when so many other ring brands do?


To start out, what is lapping?  The process of lapping in its rudimentary form is taking 2 or more surfaces, applying some kind of abrasive compound between them, then creating friction between the parts. this process smooths and polishes the surfaces, and helps contour the surfaces so they mate better.  Specifically applied to scope rings, the user would assemble the base and rings with a steel lapping bar; a lapping compound (which is basically an abrasive liquid or paste) is applied to the bar. The rings are tightened to the point where the bar can move, but with slight resistance, and the bar is worked back and forth. When the lapping job is done, the bar and compound knocks down high spots, and rough patches, all while essentially polishing the ring surface that contacts the scope tube.  Since it is a common practice with horizontally split rings, it can also help make sure the ring cap is properly aligned with the ring body.  Lapping is valid practice, and can improve the performance of certain kinds of mounts, especially those that are windage adjustable.


Since lapping has all of these benefits, why does Warne not recommend it?  First and foremost, vertically split rings like Warne Maxima should not be lapped due to their basic design.  With a horizontal split, you have a ring body, and a ring cap.  The ring body attaches to the base, and the cap is secured with screws, applying a vise-like clamping pressure on a scope tube. Maxima rings attach to the base and the bottom of the ring comes to a close. When the top screws are tightened, the ring flexes around the scope tube to apply a hose clamp-type pressure on the tube as explained in our Why Vertically Split? Blog post. Maxima rings have only one small gap at the top where the ring is not in contact with the scope tube.  Compared to horizontally split rings, the vertical split starts out with more scope tube contact out of the package to begin with.


Since vertically split rings need to slightly flex around the tube to tighten, lapping is difficult to impossible to do correctly.  Since the ring is designed to be slightly flexed at the correct torque around the scope tube, to properly lap the ring, it would need to be in that tight flexed state. This would make it so the lapping bar cannot move, so to be able to lap a vertically split ring, the ring must be loose.  This can be a problem because the ring will have material removed, changing the shape of the interior surface of the ring. When the ring is then tightened, and flexed around the tube, it is not the correct shape. This can cause high and low spots, as well as uneven pressure on the scope tube.


Windage adjustable, horizontally split rings are most commonly lapped, and for good reason. Windage adjustable rings purposefully push the ring off center from the base, this can lead to misalignment of the 2 rings, putting either a bind on the scope tube, or reducing the holding power of the rings due to a loss in surface contact.  These styles of mounts are then lapped to bring everything back into alignment to ensure they function properly. A Warne Maxima ring naturally centers itself on the scope base since the two ring halves evenly tighten.  Since the ring naturally centers itself, as long as the receiver is drilled straight, and high quality bases are used, the rings will be in perfect alignment every time without the need for lapping.

While lapping can be a very necessary process when mounting some brands of scope rings, at the end of the day, it is just not needed for Warne mounts.  With prices for lapping kits sometimes in excess of $100, Why not save yourself some time and money, and just pick up a set of Warne rings instead?

Link to the original post on the Warne Scope Rings website.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Daughter the Archer


Years ago, my dad showed me how much fun shooting a long bow could be. Some of my favorite memories of early archery are of him stringing my bow and allowing my brother and I to fling arrows at straw bales. My daughter has shown a keen interest for a couple years. She had her little suction cup bow that she outgrew rather quickly and I knew it was time she graduated to a real bow. For Christmas, I got her a new recurve bow and arrow set that I knew she could use for many years. She couldn't wait to shoot it, but with busy weekends and school, the earliest we could do it was this weekend. It was go time.

Before she could begin shooting, I needed to go through the new rules associated with a real bow. As with any seven year-old, staying focused when you are that excited is difficult at best. To make it fun, I asked her if she would like to make her own target. An immediate, 'Yes! With a heart in the center!' was the response I got. So, out came a large piece of cardboard and a Sharpie. I drew the circle and allowed her to make whatever center she wanted. The heart was perfect.

As a dad, I urge caution to all the other dads out there when teaching your children. Be patient. I have learned the hard way in the past and after listening to my wife, seeing the disappointment on my daughters face, and reviewing my 'teaching' methods, I made some adjustments. As this was going to be new for her, I wanted her to have fun. The only thing I was strict about was safety. Other than that, I wanted her to shoot at the target, have fun, and have fun. Yes, I repeated myself, but it's true. The reason I bought her the bow was to be able to shoot with me and have fun. The best part - I was patient.


The arm guard was adjusted to her forearm, and the leather finger protector was placed on her right hand. It was overly large for her hands, but I wanted her to get a feel for it. Then, instead of telling her to draw, aim, open fingers...I simply helped her draw the bow and shoot. We repeated this five or six times before her independence took over. I was proud to see her wanting to do it herself. Did the first dozen arrows hit the 'heart' where she wanted? No. To be honest, I didn't care and neither did she. I saw the smile, heard the laugh, and saw the look of accomplishment in her eyes. Success! She was having fun and so was I.


She set the bow down for a couple hours and wanted to play. Later that afternoon, I picked it up and began shooting. Almost immediately she wanted back in the game. Like her dad, she wanted nothing to do with the finger protector. She wanted to shoot with her fingers. After two or three shots with me guiding her, she took over. The best part of the entire outing can be summed up in this nine-second video.

 
The best part was when she looked into my eyes and said, 'Now I'm an archer!' I could not stop smiling and right back to her said, "You are darn right you are! Great job, Munchkin!" I have a feeling we will be shooting a lot this year.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Product Review: SealSkinz Shooting Gloves


Cold hands will usually make for a miserable hunt. Keeping my hands warm and protected is a priority. In preparation for my Colorado elk hunt last fall, I thought the SealSkinz Sporting Gloves would be a great fit. I tested them, but wanted to utilize them while hunting with a firearm. I haven't done much firearm hunting in the past few years, but this year I finally broke that streak. When I started hunting for deer and bear in California, the temperatures had dropped and I needed to keep my hands warm. That's when the SealSkins Shooting Gloves came out. I had these for over a year and finally had the opportunity to test them out in colder weather while using a firearm. Throughout the season I have been using them and here is my review.

From the SealSkinz website:

These Gun-cut gloves feature a fold-back magnetic trigger finger enabling precise control.
  • Totally waterproof, breathable and windproof
  • Magnetic fold-back trigger finger cover is quiet and enables precise control
  • Coolmax® liner for moisture control
Material composition:
  • Outer Shell: 14% Spandex 20% Polyester Nylon, 66% Polyamide/Nylon
  • Micro-pourous Membrane
  • Inner: 50% Polyester 50% Coolmax
The gloves fit very snug, yet allow for mobility. That is a big plus. This is also a con as it is tough to get these suckers off when your fingers are cold. Even when they are warm it is tough.


They have a VELCRO strap on the wrist and if you know me at all, I don't like VELCRO at all for hunting. The long cuffs are great if you don't wear a watch (see photos above). I typically wear a watch while hunting, so this was an impediment as the cuff completely covers your wrist. I opted to test it with the watch on and then with it off. I definitely preferred the gloves with no watch on. Getting back tot he VELCRO, I actually think it works great for these gloves. I will only be using these gloves when hunting with a rifle or shotgun, so the noise the VELCRO makes isn't much of an issue. Plus, if you want them waterproof, you need something that will help cinch down on your wrist. This works very well.

The trigger fingers have a magnetic, flip-back cover that allows you to keep your fingers covered and warm until you need to fire your weapon. I prefer to feel the trigger against my skin, so this is a very cool feature. It is a bit difficult to get it off and flipped back quickly, so you have to practice. I had to figure out a trick to get mine off of my fingers. I do like this feature though. The magnets are strong enough to attach to other metal on you, so prepare yourself for that. I found that if I was crawling on my hands and knees I had to take time to get small bits of iron off the magnets each time. These will stick to metal items in your pocket, too. Be cautious of sticking your hands in your pockets too often during a hunt.

The gloves are waterproof and windproof when you first start using them. Keep in mind that if you dunk your hand or stay out in the rain for hours on end, the open spots (trigger fingers, as mentioned above) will get wet, but the enclosed, covered parts will remain dry, for a time. In my opinion, nothing that is breathable can remain completely waterproof, but these held up well. I hunted in the wind and my hands stayed very warm as well. I would much rather wear these in the wind than in the rain. Also, when you flip the finger covers over and over, they will stretch and leave large gaps where water can get in.


Not warm enough in extremely cold weather, the SealSkinz Shooting Gloves kept my hands warm in just about everything else. I used them when it was warm while hiking, cold while scouting, and cold while hunting. They kept my hands comfortable for the most part, but I wouldn't say toasty, except for the warm Cali days of hiking. My fingers did get cold at times in the cold weather which made for removing the gloves a challenge. Cold fingers don't allow for easy mobility. That being said, I didn't have issues with my hands getting overly cold or overly hot.

The SealSkinz Shooting Gloves retail for $75.00, which is a tough pill for me to swallow for hunters in SoCal or hunters on a budget. I plan on hunting more in the colder months, but it doesn't rain a great deal here, nor does the hunting involve cold temperatures for long periods of time.
I will continue to wear these when I hunt with a rifle. Every time I have used these I have been happy with the performance, but I haven't used them consistently for an entire year or two. If I paid $75.00 for a pair of gloves, I hope they would last for a long time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hunting Season Recipe for Tag Soup

Alright, so the headline is misleading. There is no recipe for tag soup as there are a million and one ways to make it. My 2015 California deer season was short-lived and was a great recipe for tag soup. I was able to get out only a few times with the bow and twice with the rifle, but saw very few deer and none in range. While I may be eating tag soup, it's not that the season wasn't successful. I was able to go scouting with a new bow hunter, hunt with some friends who I have been hoping to hunt with for a long time, and I was able to see some beautiful countryside. That ranks as a success in my book.

My favorite time to hunt deer in SoCal is during December with my A31 tag. It gets cold, frigid in fact, and the deer are moving a lot more. Unfortunately for me, my contractor flaked on me for a couple days and could only work one particular day. That day just happened to be the last day of the hunting season. I was pretty bummed that I couldn't make it out to hunt, but priorities had to come first.

So now that 2016 is here, my focus is going to be getting in Colorado shape, hunting some pigs, and hopefully doing some seminars again. I miss getting out to Bass Pro and sharing what I have learned, hearing your hunting stories, and meeting experienced and new hunters. With your help and requests I will put together a plan for this year to give a couple seminars encompassing archery, hunting, glassing, or anything else you want to learn about.

With all of the rain we are getting this week I will be out after pigs soon. They are going to be tearing it up. Anyone looking to get out and hunt some pigs? Anyone want to get together and shoot up some targets? Shoot me a message and we'll see what we can do.

I hope you all have a great 2016 and I look forward to meeting more of you! Happy hunting, stay safe, and enjoy the ride!