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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Philosophy - OODA - Act

There's no graphic to accurately portray this, no clip art to cartoonize the implications of this final phase in the OODA loop. Action leads to reaction - sometimes only your actions can be the difference between a positive outcome and a bad day.

I don't want to downplay what we're talking about here, but I don't want to sensationalize anything either.

If you can call yourself a civilian sheepdog, you can call yourself a number of things that are inherently attributed to that title. Risk taker, decision maker, crisis manager. No, it's not a profession - it's a mindset. Be prepared to help someone, and willing to do so at a moments notice. We're not acting like superheroes, or self-satisfying 'watchmen' of any kind. We're acting human - community and mutual respect for the things we're supposed to protect.

When you make a decision, there's a reason a metaphor like 'pulling the trigger' exists. In firearms saftey courses, you'll be instructed to always point the weapon in a safe direction - that way even if by accident, a discharged firearm has less of a chance of doing damage. When you 'pull the trigger' on a decision, you're responsible for your choices - much in the same way you're responsible for any projectile's path and landing once it's left your barrel. You have to try to reduce the amount of collateral damage you create by thinking rationally and making careful decisions - the OODA loop hopes to help you with this process.

In acting, you're using what you know to take the situation to the next, most realistic step.

It's important to realize that your actions are a culmination of many things. Your training, the tools at hand and your own mind. I've taken your natural ability out of the equation, with 'training' representing everything you're capable of. These are things you can actively be preparing for. Start purchasing the things you'll use first and things you might use second. Follow this same procedure for training.

There are certain things that are generally considered infallible sources of knowledge that you can actively work on, relearn and introduce yourself to. Learn how to take care of yourself first, then look towards courses and knowledge-bases that help others. First aid, self defence, interpersonal skills and crisis intervention should be, in no particular order, topics of great interest to civilian sheepdogs.

When you take action in a bad situation, you're taking into account your observations and orientation, information that will prove critical directly after you decide to act. Even during the course of your best-case-scenario action, you'll swing into another OODA loop, even if subconsciously and not actively thinking about it. The more you practise the steps in this cycle, the more natural the entire process will be for you in times of need.

There's not much to say about the action phase - it's the final and probably quickest actual step in the process. You've done all the 'work' in deciding what to do - only the physical action lays ahead.

This part is up to you - it's the most practical reason you could have to educate yourself and acquire the provisions required to be prepared for the situations we all hate to take seriously. One day - and I hate to be the one to say it, but most of us will be staring down one of these situations, very few of us will be ready, fewer will be prepared. OODA - and my interpretation of it's use to protectors can hopefully serve to better equip you to deal with those situations. If on any level you've gained anything from this series, feel free to leave a comment. Fight the wolves.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Philosophy - OODA - Decide.

Let's face it, we're all faced with decisions every day. More often than not our decisions are mind-numbingly simple and non-critical. Every so often, whether you like it or not, you'll be faced with a scenario that requires you to make a tough call. Sometimes it won't be a popular choice and sometimes you won't have much of a choice at all. We hope we're not staring down this proverbial barrel of chance - but if you have to, wouldn't it be nice to be prepared?

OODA is nothing more than a philosophy. It's a step-by-step protocol to hopefully help you make decisions when they matter most. Sometimes you'll get the opportunity to Observe your situation and Orient yourself to possible outcomes but most times you won't. Bad situations typically happen fast so do yourself a favour and give OODA a shot in your off-time. Practise this sequence like you would any kind of exercise.

The third phase in OODA-inspired actions is critical to outcomes. Decide.

Think of it like this, you've taken in what's happening and figured out where you place yourself in the situation. Now is the time to figure out what the best possible course of action is. McCall would break this down into three distinct parts. Choice-set formation, Evaluation and Choice.

Choice-Set Formation
Here's where you're going to step back and figure out what your options are. We're not even going to consider them until we've laid them all out on the table. Remember, this process can be actively practised, just like any muscle memory test.

What you've formed from your observations and what you've learned from orienting yourself to the problem will line up some options for you. Let's take a look at a scenario we played with in the 'orient' phase; you've just been tackled to the ground by a police officer, knowing there's a large scale protest occuring around your location. You can hear the rukus from your position and are being held to the ground by a police officer.

Here, we've determined that the police officer ovbiously deems you a threat to public saftey. After all, why are you being held down - for fun?

Rightly or wrongly, you're under arrest. It doesn't how you feel about being under arrest. You are. Plain and simple.The situation has changed now - we're not talking about being arrested, we're talking about your behaviour after the fact. Your time to make a decision in order to affect your not being arrested is over. What matters now is how you conduct yourself - damage control. You've seen and heard mass protesting - almost rioting. You have tasted pavement once already today. You've been
deemed a threat. 

You now have a couple of options. You know that you are not a threat to anyone. You know you are innocent. You know that you've been confused with being part of the protests. You could run. You could proclaim your innocence. You could be quiet and sit still. You could fight back. There are possibilities. 

As you can see, these possibilities and thought patterns must run through your head a mile a minute. This entire OODA process, at this point, takes moments. Even broken down to each specific action, fractions of a second determine the actions you'll take - it's important to make every one of them count for something positive.

To decide on a course of action, you need to know what your options are - so lay them all out in the open first.

The most logical thing to do at this point is a strict, rational evaluation of your possible options. There's a key-word there. Rational.

It's easy to get caught up in the moment. When we let emotions control our decision making processes in times of crisis, it often leads to a one-way train of thought. We're usually very stubborn at this point and not easily coerced into a more logical, rational option, no matter it's relevance on the situation at hand.

There is a key factor in OODA that is almost under-taught in modern times. Self awareness.

It's important to know who we are and we're generally taught to forget about that.

To successfully evaluate our options, we need a calm, rational head on our shoulders. There's no trick to that, but it's what we need to tap into. It's what separates people in true emergencies. I can't remember the guy's name, but the gentleman who taught me First Aid last year had a really good way to explain it.

If it's possible to do so, when the situation is as hot as it's going to get, we have to step back and take one good, solid breath. Separate yourself and inhale. Exhale. It's in that moment that you'll probably cycle through an entire OODA loop and make that critical move that nobody else wants to commit to.

Just take a minute and think.

I really, really hate to quote a giant corperation when discussing philosophy, but really - there's no better way to put it. Just do it.

If you've gotten this far in an OODA loop critically and rationally, it's time to exhale. Come to think of it, that's a pretty good way to describe it. You take a big deep breath in when you evaluate your choices; when you exhale, move!

More often than not, time will not be on your side in a real bad scenario. 

If you know that, and you've observed, oriented and now have scaled out your options, knowing what's involved, it's right now when people usually whisper to themselves; "okay..."

Another important aspect to remember here is the average ratio of failure we will surely encounter. Obviously, we're not going to make the correct decision all the time. We're looking for some kind of balance between utility and positivity. We're trying to fix some sort of problem, as efficiently as possible. 

It's okay. We're bound to fail. Unfortunately, that's what turns a crisis into a tragedy. It's knowing that we can prevent that from happening that makes us continue to decide - to act.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: Original SOE Micro 12g Rig Part 1 of 2

OSOE 12g Micro Rig
Tonight we'll be kicking off another review series. This time sponsored by John Willis, owner of OSOE Tactical.

John was kind enough to supply us with a fresh-from-the-line Micro 12g Rig. For those of you unfamiliar with OSOE and it's offerings to the tactical market, John was kind enough to respond to a few questions I had to shed a little light on the topics. A full copy of that interview can be found below our initial review.

Part one will focus on our impression of the rig. Text and picture based. Part two will be an after action report from a range day using the rig, a video review and very special announcement.

Massively micro.
I got home after work and found in my mailbox the little slip of paper that we all like to see - there's new toys waiting at the post office. I got in the door, dropped my stuff and headed back out to see what it was, knowing full well it was probably the 12g rig. I had spoken to John on and off since initially emailing him and knew it was on the way.

There it was - the package was from OSOE. I got home and opened it up. New gear smell.

I took the rig out in a few pieces - the chest rig itself and two included straps. Immediately I began fitting it to my chest. Easily done by myself, I had it on in probably two minutes with another being spent fitting it correctly.

I walked around the house a little bit and moved into various positions to see how it would sit on my chest. Much to my surprise, the rig stayed almost completely still throughout. Transitioning from a standing position to kneeling, sitting, prone and back up again did not move the rig at all. Nice and solid. Most likely because the rig is so small, there's nowhere for it to go to and nothing weighing it down into different positions. It stays where it should and doesn't wander - nice.

The straps fit my shoulders easily and comfortably - even after doing some yard work wearing the rig under my rain jacket, I couldn't notice any visible lines on my skin - or any physical disturbances at that. I think it's important that we really function test our gear. If you only put it on to look in the mirror, you'll never know how it really feels. Wear your stuff around, load a little weight in those pouches and move around - how does it feel?

This rig sat high on my chest too - which I liked. It doesn't get in the way when prone or shouldering your shotgun. Everything you need is close and out of the way. I don't see much chance of losing something attached to this rig by swinging your arms, shouldering your weapon or putting it through the expected wear and tear to be had on a rig like this.

Storage space included.

It is what it is.

If there's one thing I admire about this rig it's this - it is what it claims to be. It's a rig, not so much a platform. A lot like OSOE's owner, this product doesn't pull any punches. You'll notice on the OSOE site, the button is labelled 'vests and rigs'. That's exactly what this is - it's a rig.

This has a specific purpose and it does it well. The 12g rig is meant to haul your shot around until you need it. There's additional storage in a number of places, as an added bonus. You've got a panel that backs the entire rig. There's a pocket beside the shell caddies. It seems that our version is updated even from the one listed on OSOE's site. You'll notice the pouch has velcro on the front, where I slapped another shell carrier on - it didn't come with it, I just added it from my existing collection.

The 'storage' pouch also has velcro inside on the back wall - perhaps to add in some kind of interior organizer. A great idea and really sleek. It's there if you need it.

I'm not sure if the backing storage area is big enough to carry some kind of armor. I'm not in a position to say as I have never had the need to carry armor - OSOE makes it clear to us as well that those who do need armor get a priority. Warfighters, armed security and 'professional protectors' are among the groups that 'need' this gear. I'd be more likely to carry the required paperwork to shoot in that back pocket, maybe some ID too. Nothing saying you could slip an oiled rag in a ziploc back there with some elementary cleaning kit. There`s lots the every-man could use that pouch for.

The pouch is secured by velcro and stitched directly onto the rig. The shotshell shingles are attached directly as well. As I said before - this isn't so much a 'system' or a 'platform' as some products are marketed. This serves a specific purpose, but it does it very, very well.

Out of the box - OSOE Micro 12g Rig
I've got a case of shingles...

Easily the most innovative design I've seen in a long time. I don't throw that word around - this is the real deal. Of course, we've yet to put this to a function test on the range, but simply from a design standpoint, this rig has it right.

Let's focus on the shotshell shingles. Each one holds 6 shells with elastic webbing, the same colour as your rig. The elastic is sized well, holding the shells easily in place, even if we shake it. The elastic isn't so tight though - I've found with some shell-sized loops they get so tight you can't get rounds in easily. With SOE's rig they seem to have found the length that sits the shells 'just right'.

Each shingle is held in place by velcro backing. It sits in place very well and doesn't move unless you give it a pull. The bottom of each shingle is attached to the rig with a piece of one inch webbing that can be loosened right off. This serves a few purposes.

When in use, the user will remove shells from the elastic webbing. When all the shells have been removed, the user pulls the tab at the top of the single away from the body, releasing the shell carrier to either fall to the ground if it has been loosened off or otherwise to just hang freely. At this point, the user digs into the pouch behind the initial carrier and removes a secondary carrier via a pull tab also located on top and drops it into place, locking via velcro backing. Six more shells, ready to rock and roll.

Truth be told, I've never seen anything like this. I've looked at shell caddies before, but I hadn't even known that OSOE produced this rig. Not to my surprise, John reflected my surprise in our interview; "We have never spent a single dollar on advertising. We are not the biggest, easiest company to do business with. Guys used to say we were like the A-team... "if you need them and if you can find them you can buy OSOE gear".

The shell carriers work. I ran a few dry runs with snap caps and found that the rig works very well in my hands. I could easily get shells into the loops, remove them and dump the extra carriers into place. What more could you ask for? 

For those that don't want a dedicated rig - OSOE sells the shingles as a stand alone, MOLLE equipped pouch.

 High test nylon.
Even just handling the rig, you can tell that the materials used are quality and trustworthy. Side by side to a 'knockoff' vest, there's no comparison.

The buckles are snappy and thick. I'm not worried about breakage at all here. The nylon is strong and sturdy. All the edges are crisp and clean. Well done, OSOE.
Even as a presentation piece - the rig stands up to the highest expectations.

As you can see, the stitching is far from under-done. Every seam on this item is rock solid. I'm no expert, but John was able to expand a little further on the types of materials used. 
"As with all SOE product they are made from 1000D cordura. SOE has a warrant that you will never use. That's what we tell people about our warranty. If we made gear from 500D we wouldn't be able to keep saying that. It says a lot when SEAL and SF operators order from us individually and pay out of their own pockets. They are suppose to get issued the best and I guess they do for the large quantities that they get but to the individual there is still better stuff and they often choose SOE to purchase the better option. All SO items are made with US made materials. Type 4 webbing, grade A velcro, and 1000D cordura. Everything is double layered and at minimum triple stitched. We torture test our stuff. If you look around the net the term you will see often is  "Bomb Proof". I didn't start that term but it has been used for a decade by our customers."

Overall, our initial contact with this rig has led me to believe it will outperform any other shotgun rig you can suggest to me. Most vests will have pouches adapted to them to carry shells, but this was built for shotgunners. An interesting note - my brother had the opportunity to get his opinion heard on this rig and one of the first things he said was an idea he had for an alternate use for this item. He suggested that this rig is compact enough to be considered for a drop leg unit. Sure, it's out of the box, but it would work. On top of thicker pants, the buckles are in the right place - something to consider. I'm excited to get out to the range and use this as it was meant to be used - shooting. 

Full transcript of the interview between myself and John Willis, owner of SOE Tactical. Unedited, save for one question that was answered through the rest of the questions.

1) What does SOE stand for - both just regarding the letters and further, as an ideal, what do you stand for at SOE?

I started repairing black hawk gear for seal fiends. We started basically duplicating what they were doing but the designs still had issues so we started making our cqb and patrol vests. We were selling more than we could make and local CA gun shows and soldier of fortune shows. Back them any agency doing anti drug stuff could get federal money and military training. A lot of those guys were going through SEAL weapons school and saw those guys wearing my gear. Before we knew it we had cop cars pulling up at my house and knocking on the door looking for the guy that made gear.

a few years later we had a shop near Camp Pendleton and units from all over came out to train and camp Pendleton and would come by the shop. We were written up in every magazine out there and units would cut orders to fly guys out to my old shop to have us design and pattern gear for them.

We have never spent a single dollar on advertising. We are not the biggest easiest company to do business with. Guys use to say we were like the A-team "if you need them and if you can find them you can buy SOE gear" The guys that truly need our gear are able to get it"

We don't even have a published phone number. We don't have a customer service dept. We still do a great job of getting gear out. We turn work down every day to be able to take care of the real warriors. Just Friday we turned Colt firearms down on a deal to make rifle cases for a special project rifle they are making. Rifle cases are just not our thing. We do what we do and do it better than anyone else.

We moved to a small town in Tennessee three years ago and run a smaller shop now but still put out more gear then we ever have. Eagle had offered to buy us and also offered to hire me. I have no interest in that. I still like what I do and have complete control over what we make and when we make it. We use to do millions in sales when we were in San Diego, now we make a bit less but have better control. Even then we were know to make the best gear your could buy. Now it's even better and its still all made 100% in the US by US citizens all in the same location. We cut and make everything in house.

2) What kind of reception have you seen to your 'micro' line? Who was the 'micro 21g rig' built for?

The Micros have been a huge hit. Our big vests are $350.00 plus and the chest rigs started at $200.00. The micros allowed a customer to get a piece of SOE gear for under $100.00 were that was never a possibility before.  They have been such a big hit that we now offer several version, and have a few upgraded options available. Sherman house sat down at lunch with Chris Barrett from Barrett Firearms at lunch and drew out the idea on a napkin at a BBQ restaurant. Sent me a picture over a cell phone and I made it that day. I was flying to TN the next day to look at shops and houses and brought the initial rig out to TN. They ran it in a Tac Response "Fighting Rifle" class the next day. Worked flawlessly. We made the initial rig from parts of other vests but the price point was very high so I sat down and made a few and figured out how to come to market with a rig at a lower price point but still have SOE quality.

The idea for it was for a police officer for active shooter or armed citizen. They already had a pistol and pistol mags on so we kept this simple to support long gun and give you some medical gear. Thus the no pistol mags. We make the pockets lids adjustable so it will fit both M4 and AK mags. The utility pocket is meant for medical gear. The SOE medical insert tray sets perfectly inside the  pouch and still has room for a full size smoke. The loops underneath were added later to carry pocket smokes and many guys keep other stuff in them like tourniquets or wires for the radios. We later added pals to the outside of the mags and the utility pouch so guys could add single pistol mag pouches yes still keep the cost lower.

Later came the pals micro rig to get a rig out that cost even less but still gave them a piece of SOE gear to attach pockets they already have.

Then the 12ga rig. My wife was about to take Tac Responses "Fighting Shotgun" class. I came into the shop on a Saturday and set out to make a rig for 12ga that held enough rounds and was fast. Thorghu out everything we had always down for the past 10 years and came up with what you see today. Pretty much nailed it the 1st try. That's the black wig with pink thread you see in pics on the website. Made 12 of them and put them on students in the class and they worked flawlessly.

The top of the line in the micro rig lineup is the stacked mag micro. The price point is higher at $185.00 but that's because of the labuor involved. We sell a ton of them. They do what they do perfectly and that's carry 4 m4 mags or AK mags and lets you get them as fast as possible. They keep each mag in an individual slot with bungee retention over the top. The mag pouches are also velcro lined so you can use velcro dot retention. There is nothing faster. We also added the compact tear off med pouch. Stuff to put holes in bad guys and stuff to plug holes in good guys. And its the smallest rig we make. It has become very popular with many small military units. You can also fold it in half and it will fit right under the seat in a car or in a center console.

We made all these rigs so the slim padded h-set would clip into them. For guys that spend time in these training and don't always wear them over body armour they love the h-set. It's the same shoulder set we provide with all our rigs that go to the seals. With that shoulder set you can also use out hydration carrier.

3) Can you tell me a little about your 'custom shop' options?

Use to be I did a lot of custom stuff. Now days If we can sell a lot of something we don't do custom work. We are too busy with special ops stuff. They are about the only custom work we do. If we make something for them it will eventually trickle down too normal units and if we already have a pouch or design we are already to sell to them when they get issued the items. Individual guys are too impatient. I use to take an order with every intention of getting it made. I like making new stuff but inevitable I would find some negative post on a forum somewhere talking about my long wait time. Never mind that I didn't have a deposit and never mind the fact that there is a war going on in several places. Now I just say no. That and I have done this so long I know what works and what doesn't. They watch to many movies. When we tell them it won't work they take it as an attack on them. I bill $125 an hour for anything custom. When I set down to sew that what I make. That's the cost I get paid to not do something else I want to do. That's the price I charge to not be with my family in the evening and weekends. Several of the largest gear companies pay me that price to design and pattern for them. I still turn that work down every day and am still back logged over 6 months to do that work.

4) What does the future of OSOE Tactical look like? Grow again. We use to employee 30 sewers. Now we have 12. I just hired 4 more people last week.

Now day I make stuff I want. Stuff I need and close friends want. I have several close friends that come back from deployment and come stay here for a week at a time and we design and prototype new gear. I post the new stuff on facebook. We will do a small run of a dozen or so at first.  If they sell fast we make a dozen more. If they continue to sell fast we make a production run of them. I literally post stuff on facebook and it sells out in minutes. You can see this over and over on my page. If we are making something it's because someone at the very tip of these spear has asked for it. We get hit up all the time by these kids that have started a you tube channel to "TEST" our gear. If we are selling it its already been to Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other shit hole. And usually what they are asking to see has been in use for years and is actually issued to many units.

 5) Can you tell me about some of the materials that make up the 12g Micro Rig?

As with all SOE product they are made from 1000 den cordura.  You will see a lot of companies jumping on the "light weight" band wagon. Fact is we build what small special ops units pay us to make and I don't have a single request or PO for lesser weight gear. The real deal is that material costs less and is much easier on the machines. You don't have to retrain sewers and can use sewers from clothing plants. Sewing heavier material we have to retrain new people and our machines are heavier and wear out and break down much more frequently. SOE has a warrant that you will never use. That's what we tell people about our warranty. If we made gear from 500D we wouldn't be able to keep saying that. It says a lot when SEAL and SF operators order from us individually and pay out of their own pockets. They are suppose to get issued the best and I guess they do for the large quantities that they get but to the individual there is still better stuff and they often choose SOE to purchase the better option. A guy will but something. Then his team mate see it and buy it as well. Then when it comes time for one of the officers to get it he will say "Why am I buying this" and he will get a PO together for it. That's when we end up making them in larger numbers. We are sols source on many items. What that means is when it goes out to bid, no matter what companies bids the lowest to provide it to the military SOE is the only place that make it and in the end SOE still gets the order. That really says something.  When the units put the requests for bid in to their purchase people the part number contain SOE in them. They actually require that it comes from us. That speaks volumes.

All SO items are made with US made materials. Type 4 webbing, grade A velcro, and 1000 den cordura. Everything is double layered and at minimum triple stitched. We torture test our stuff. If you look around the net the term you will see often is  "Bomb Proof". I didn't start that term but it has been used for a decade by our customers.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: Kershaw Needs Work Knife

New knife - new backdrop fabric!
When I was handed this knife I asked what it was called. Ovbiously a Kershaw, scribed on the pocket clip, but I wanted to know the model name.

"Needs Work."

I almost laughed. I double checked the tag and the box. Maybe I'm missing the funny, but that's a really strange name for a knife, don't you think?

Despite it's namesake, the Kershaw Needs Work is an outstanding EDC companion knife. I wouldn't call it much more than that but seeing as I'm not a self-proclaimed 'expert' on knives, your mileage may vary.

This knife was designed by Ken Onion, renowned knife-crafter signed on with Kershaw. It features a drop point blade, a glass filled - nylon handle, an assisted open mechanism and an internal lock, to keep it open when it's open.

At first, I was also thrown back by the blade shape. I have still yet to see something like this and to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if there's a relevant purpose behind it, or if it's mainly a cosmetic enhancement. The blade is strong, smooth and sharp - right out of the box. Passed the fingernail test with flying colours and slices through paper with little effort at all. It's quoted as a utility knife that's 'perfect for everyday carry' on Kershaw's website. With a consumer price of 64 dollars, it's not too heavy on the wallet either.

The handle has a set of circular patterns on each side. I'm sure this was clearly thought out by Ken as it not only looks decent but the top circle nicely fits the top of my thumb into it while using the knife for daily cutting activities. A nice little add-on that is probably looked over as the blade appears to be styled kind of 'space-age' but a practical design, through and through.

The knife flicks open with authority. It's assisted by a spring mechanism called the Ken Onion Speedsafe system. There is a thumb tab on the outside of the knife that triggers the blade into opening. It's just big enough to use, but not so big as to be cumbersome or in the way for the every day carrier. This knife, though matte black and very snappy, is probably not going to fall so quickly under the 'tactical' label. I guess you have to review your own philosophy of use when considering this knife for purchase. Users should check with local law enforcement before purchasing this type of blade as spring assisted knives are not legal everywhere.

The clip is awesome. Like any Kershaw knife I've ever handled, the clip is strong and springy. I'm not sure that you'd warp this spring out of regular use. I've seen pocket clips wear so easily that within a week or so of regular, standard civilian use, the knife can't even retain itself on the inside of a pocket. It's held in place by two screws, another Kershaw standard. You've got two points of pressure when the clip bends in or out - I like to think that spreads the forces out a bit so as not to focus all the pressure on one point.

There is a small hole on the bottom of the handle for tying on a lanyard or attaching the knife to some sort of retention system. We haven't done this yet, but it's definitely possible.

The locking liner has a grooved lip, easily caught by your thumb when closing the blade back into the handle. It's strong enough to withstand normal use but to be honest, I wouldn't go digging into drywall or trying to pry something apart with this knife. As nutnfancy calls it, I'd reserve this knife for the 'gentleman's EDC' crowd. There's nothing wrong with that either - every tool has it's use.

The Kershaw 'Needs Work' fits the bill for a certain type of chore. Would I take this knife on a hike? Absolutely. Would I take it to work? Everyday. Would I take it as a 'fix-all' into the woods? Probably not. Would I take it as the only option? No.

It sits nicely in the pocket and works when it needs to. There's certain mountains I'm afraid this one won't be able to climb but overall, a quality knife at a price-point that won't take appendages with it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: SuperVision IRNV & Yukon Optics NVMT

IR Night Vision
Today I got the opportunity to play around with SuperVision - a digital night vision system utilizing IR technology. I've only ever played with first generation night vision, back in the day - this is distinctly different from those primitive devices. I was also able to use a Yukon Optics NVMT infrared illuminator.

To start off, I'd like to apologize for not having a formidable way to capture accurate pictures of the device in use. I tried my DSLR - even my cell phone camera... nothing really accurately portrays what's going on through the lens. I did manage to find a good video of the device in use though - and it's JUST like this;


Since I was a kid, using an old, old NV system, I've always categorized night vision as a toy used only by elite military units and the richest toy collectors. With a price tag of $1,200+, this is no exception. It's expensive, but it works. It works way better than you'd expect.

I hate cheesy tag lines. Xenonics's 'seeing is believing' is just the kind of line that I'm talking about. They claim that you won't believe it, until you see it. I'm with them on that one. When I had heard we had a new NV rig to play with, I expected the usual 'cool' exclaimation, about an hour of play then to put it away and write something up about it. I must say, however - this thing is cool.

Variable zoom, CRYSTAL clear, manual focus and CRYSTAL CLEAR - you can't help but to feel like some kind of special agent when you're looking at a pitch black room like it was the middle of the day. The device has an IR illuminator built in, you can navigate even the darkest corridors.

A full spec sheet provided by the manufacturer can be found here.

Box Opening
When you open up the packages, this is what you get. For the Supervision unit - the usual paperwork, a battery charger with a 12v car charger for the batteries, a carry case and the unit itself. The NVMT - a variety of filters, the unit itself and a few paper items. Particularly, I was happy to see a honeycomb filter for the IR illuminator, concealment to any other gear-whore-NV-enthusiasts in your area...

So, how does it work?

I'll let the manufacturer take that question - this excerpt will put it into better words than I ever could;

"Nothing less than a paradigm shift in “night vision” technology, SuperVision utilizes a sensitive and sophisticated multispectral sensor to capture infrared and low level visible light and digitally process the information into a sharp clear HDTV high-resolution display."

I don't have any means of actually measuring the statistical output of this device but my eyes tell me that this night vision monocular is clear, crisp and bright, so bright in fact that you'll find it hard to adjust to the darkness should you look away from the monocular's screen inside. That's something that kind of threw me off initially - you're looking at a video screen. It kind of puts your depth perception out of whack but not enough to notice hardly at all - more just a mental adjustment.

I can view anything in my basement, anything in my windowless bathroom and anything outside, clearly. From pitch black darkness, your details are missed the further you get from each focal point. Unless you have some way to amplify the IR light in the area, you have to get a little closer to make out fine details. Looking down my street, with environmental IR light plentiful with streetlights and the ambient light, it's truly amazing what I can make out. Without zooming in, I can clearly make out my street - enough to know exactly where I am if I were to just see a projected image of that particular view through the night vision system.

With the zoom, I could close in on a guy walking his dog and easily make out what he was wearing. I can read license plates, street signs and house numbers. Really, really easy to use, there's buttons on the top, just like a video camera. The hand strap fits snugly and the buttons give just the right amount of feedback - you won't press any of them accidentally but you don't have to break a finger to tap them either.

Out of the box, the SuperVision and the VNMT
The NVMT is a really cool piece of tactical technology. Available on the civilian market - infrared illuminators are invisible to the human eye. When you shine your flashlight on the wall, you see the white light coming from the flashlight itself and it's reflection on the wall. With an IR light - you'll see the bulb glow red, but no light coming from the device itself. Kind of robotronic, but really cool.

It only has two modes, on and off - no adjustable brightness or strobes. The beam can be focused via the lens on the front and it came with some kind of mount - I'm not sure what it's supposed to mount to, but I could see it being used as an IR weapon light very easily. It fits nicely in the hand and weighs enough to really feel like you've got a good tool in your hand. There's enough room on the front to mount one of the two included filters to help hide the red circle from the trained eye.

The SuperVision fits very well in my hand - this was planned out very well. It's not too big to hold up with one hand and not so small that you'll lose it. The device has two tapped holes on the bottom - I would assume to help with mounting solutions. I haven't looked into what mounts are available, but since the company markets this device to both the civilian and military markets, I could see helmet and weapon mounts alike.

The only picture I could get of this device actually in use is a crappy one - it's the best I could do. This is an image from my cell phone camera of a target roughly 50 feet from my location with no help from the Yukon IR torch. The image in the SuperVision is even clearer than this - we're depending on my cellphone to actually focus on the internal screen.

For once, you get what you pay for. This is bar-none, the best night vision system I have ever been in contact with. For a personal tool, this device could be used for security, hunting, recreation and more. You really can't take my word for it. Really, seeing is believing.

Philosophy - OODA - Orient

The second step in our quest to take decisive action in a threatening situation is dubbed the 'orient' phase. Really, it's more an ongoing mindfulness of everything happening than it is one specific guideline or exercise. Often times, our brains will naturally bounce back and forth between the observation phase and the orient phase before fully deciding on an action. This is a natural reaction and can also be practiced fully in small-scale scenarios, even line, by line, writing down what you're seeing and feeling in a role-play exercise.

That's really how I see this second part, as it frames into this cycle. It's the 'feeling'. It's taking in the raw data from your observations and constructing the thoughts and processes that go along with your position. Your position will certainly dictate how this data is processed and will likely complicate your ability to swiftly decide on a course of action. In some situations however, your position will act to almost make the decision for you, or make you react much quicker than you would normally.

Let's take two scenarios to explore reactions as they pertain to position.

Scenario 1: You're sleeping. It's Wednesday night and your dog wakes you up. Barking at the top of his lungs. You slump your legs over the edge of the bed and exhale deeply. As you start out the bedroom door to see what the issue with your dog is, your brain snaps into alert. You smell smoke.

Here, you're sleeping. Your brain is likely not going to be firing on the level it would be while you're awake - at least, we hope. You know a couple things from the mild observations you've been able to make from the moment you woke up. In order; your dog is barking, you are not in any immediate danger, you are tired, you smell smoke. Taking in this information, in the few seconds it took to do so, you've evaluated your observations and made a decision - go see what's wrong with the dog. Until you smelled smoke, where your observation lead to another mix of possible outcomes - and that's where we left it.

It's in those split-second cognitive cycles that we are able to make informed decisions. Another aspect of our 'orient' phase is just that - informed decisions. We only know what we know. Your 'position' extends much beyond the situation you've found yourself in. It's how you grew up, what you've learned and where you are in your life. An old farmer likely won't know as much about media servers as he will the weather. That's your position.

Luckily, we're creatures capable of learning from others, our own mistakes and good education. It's what will separate those who survive and those who perish in an ugly scenario - our positions. You're fortunate to be able to learn about new things and new skills, take this time to do so. Learn about fixing, building, protecting, thinking. In order to make informed decisions on any topic, we must be sufficiently informed - obviously. So, inform yourself. Research. Anything and everything. Yes, that's a broad statement, it was meant to be. Life is broad.

Your position, in terms of scenario number one, will allow you to reflect on a couple things. Do you know what to do in the case of a fire? How would you ensure your family is safe? Who would you call? Where would you go?

Scenario 2: Damn! Forgot your keys upstairs. Running back down you glance at your watch. Running behind, again. Lock the door on your way out and turn to face the outside world. The furious shrieks on your left draw your attention away only momentarily from the cascade of well-equipped police officers moving quickly down your street. You knew that a big conference was being held downtown or something, you'd seen protesters down there yesterday. You search for the keys to your car on your clunky and souvenir-ridden keyring when...    " Get on the ground, NOW!"

There's a harsh reality that sets in when the unsuspecting public is confronted with a mass of ill-meaning people. That's the thing folks, we're all just people. There's no such thing as good or bad people - there's only people who make decisions. We all make decisions and we're all held accountable for them. For every action there is a reaction. Take Toronto G20 as an outstanding example. Downtown Toronto, ON - thousands of protesters hit the streets to take up action in favour of their causes. When the police moved in to take massive arrests - ethical or not, that's not the debate here - multiple people were taken in regardless of their intents.

When innocent people get caught up in situations, it's a different set of decisions to make. We are so caught up in what we 'are' that we forget we're so susceptible to outside forces. If a bullet strikes you in the chest, you will be propelled backwards. If a police officer tackles you, you will be face down in the dirt. Sometimes, there's nothing we can do but go with the flow - OODA is supposed to help us not be placed in those situations to begin with.

Sometimes, your position will make your decisions very swift. Almost automatic. If you turn around to be rushed by a jacked-up police officer shouting 'get down!', you'll likely do very little to keep that from happening. It's what happens immediately after that event that really matters. If your body automatically commits to a decision regardless of your OODA process, your next action needs to be processed. Ovbiously, it's difficult to really 'observe' in a heated situation, but that's when it matters.

You know that in all likelihood, a police officer is not trying to harm you. Though you know this, you also feel his partner's boot against your back. You know that there are protests going on in your city. You can see and hear the commotion around you. You can feel your heart racing. You need to take this information and use it.

Our position is an amalgamation of our past, our present and our perceived future. We'll fall back on things we innately know and things we've learned. We'll take in what's happening in front of our faces (observation), and we'll implant what we think will happen - all in a matter of seconds. Our opportunity to orient ourselves to a situation is a chance to process raw data taken in from observation and think about our position.

For further reading on this topic - most likely the most important of the entire OODA loop, please refer below.

Self-Awareness: Who am I? What am I capable of?
Situational Awareness: What's going on around me?
Threat Assessment: Who's a target?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paracord Dongle Giveaway!

BAM! Free paracord!
Congradulations to J. Hull - A facebook poster, on winning the first ever giveaway!

We had a number of submissions - everything from hatbands (which were initially slated to win, because I thought it would make such a cool project) suggested by Gary, multiple posts on CGN that unfortunately couldn't be taken as official entries (c'mon, it wouldn't be fair to the guys that followed the only rules I set out.), a rifle sling that Eric suggested and many more.

The one that got me was a suggestion that made me really think. A paracord belt - sure, an project many of us had heard about. But here's the kicker - Mr. Hull made the argument for the weave itself, separate from the design. His thinking basically states that if you really NEED a good length of paracord in a hurry, it's hard to untangle the typical Cobra or King Cobra weave style - but that this project would allow you access to all the paracord included in it, really quickly.

I like that - a good argument with solid proof.

Stay tuned for our next giveaway, SOE Tactical's 12g Micro Rig.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: Condor Medical MOLLE

Had some extra time on my hands tonight and therefore decided to review a couple pieces of kit that I have used extensively. A while back, I ordered a bunch of Condor gear. I was looking for a good set of kit at a reasonable price. As a newly-wed, I didn't have the funds to throw at the higher end stuff but needed kit none-the-less. I found Condor and after reading quite a few reviews, bought a bunch of stuff from a retailer in Canada.

Condor EMT pouches
Two of those kit items were Condor's tear-away EMT pouch and their EMT glove pouch. Both items I intended to be used very strictly for range gear. I wanted to have a First Aid Kit handy for any accidents that may occur, but didn't want to supersede my knowledge level. Gloves, separate from the EMT pouch and accessible very quickly, I thought would lend well to the heightened stress level of a medical emergency, so that at least I'd be protected in the case of an accident.

I ordered mine in Tan and wasn't surprised to find the quality I had come to expect. I have handled a lot of gear, from made-in-china dollar store special to Maxpedition. Condor sits somewhere in the high-middle range of that spectrum. Much like I had expected, it was decent kit at a reasonable price. I'm not sure how it would stand up in wartime conditions - and I don't ever expect to be able to speak on that point, I'll likely never know. I do know that these articles will stand up to anything I can throw at them.

EMT glove pouch
The EMT glove pouch has a simple task and it accomplishes it well. It is supposed to dispense gloves for use in emergency situations. I have yet to encounter a situation that required the use of latex gloves at the range - and I hope I'll never see the day - but I've function tested this pouch numerous times. I have 6 gloves in the pouch - when I pull the exposed latex, 2 pop out. If I need more, it's a little piece of elastic fabric holding them in there. I don't doubt for a moment my ability to quickly and efficiently access gloves in a bad scenario. There's really not much more to say - this works.

Let's take a look at the rip-away EMT pouch. It's MOLLE compatible back webbing is velcro lined, along with the back end of the pouch itself. A pair of side closing buckles add to secure the pouch in place while being carried on a MOLLE equipped carrier. While on a vest or otherwise, the pouch on it's velcro carrier bounces around a little, but nothing that isn't manageable. Rarely noticeable, in fact.

extended view of EMT rip-away pouch
From Condor:

Description :

- Tri-fold design.
- Multiple pockets and elastic loops for storage.
- Double zipper closure.
- Addition 2" webbing, with pull-tab for quick/temperory closing.
- Two inch patch area across front of pouch.
- Wide handle for carrying or rapid removal.
- Two D-rings on the back for shoulder strap.

The pouch rips off of the velcro carrier and can be held in the hand or by a nylon carry strap on top. I have used this pouch as a stand alone barrel rest, in a pinch, while sighting in a rifle. I'm positive that most cheap-o stuff couldn't stand up to that kind of abuse, without obvious signs of wear.

Another look at the space available - blurry...

The pouch folds out into three distinct sections. One section meant for carrying tools, another for bandages and a mesh pouch for organizing your 'loose items'. Bandages can be held in by the use of elastic fabric - as well as some tool compartments.

bandage section
Here's a quick overview of what I keep in my Range-Med kit;

  • CRKT M16EDC - A fantastic little knife. As a matter of fact, the first one I ever bought outside of a utensil or 'swiss army knife'. Still sharp. It's been through the wash a few times with a little rust but nothing more. Still 100% workable and I keep it in there as a 'just in case'.
  • Tool bag - vaccum sealed. Mini Maglite, EMT shears, tweezers.
  • Bandages of various sizes.
  • Dressings - everything from EMT pads to bandaids. 
  • Instant cold-pack.
  • Insect bite oitment, alcohal pads, afterbite pads, sterilization pads.
  • Marker, pad of paper, lighter.
  • Medical tape.
  • Paracord
 All things considered, I would not only buy these pouches again but fully intend on incorporating more of them into different systems I use. Each built very sturdily - to give an example, I'll usually grab them last as I head out the door to the range. They get thrown into the back of my truck, from there, they're taken to the range; tossed, dropped and otherwise mistreated. The difference - they're always there. If something happens, I have a first aid kit ready to go. I'm sure not to include any tools or supplies that I'm not fully qualified to use. Do no harm.

Each have proven to be good kit to own and valuable items to use and maintain.

Warrior Mind Set and being a Civilian Sheepdog...

Warrior Mind Set........

I have just completed a Carbine Rifle Instructors course and it was filled with some amazing and talented Rifle Operators that now want to be certified as instructors.

Everyone there was either military or Law Enforcement personnel with many years of service and experience.

We started to discuss the topic of a "Warrior Mindset" and amazing enough our conversation falls into the parameters of being a Civilian Sheepdog.

First off I should focus in what a Warrior Mindset is.

Every great culture around the world had their warriors or sheepdogs and the mind set developed was all the same, no matter what the cultural barriers were.

It is to engage in combat with an other human being and fight for what is right no matter what the consequences are.

A Warrior will not cower even if his or her actions many walk them through the fields of death.

The reason I am writing about this idea of life morality is because the word warrior is drastically diluted by the media. Such things are 'arm chair warrior', 'weekend warrior' and even describing every person who battled disease or addiction as a 'warrior'. Don't get me wrong I have a vast respect for those who have battled illness or addiction. I have fought through illness and know what a fight one must to preserver but that did not make me a warrior.

The key being that it is a violent battle with an other human being that may cause you death or grevious injury. It is easy to sit back and say that you crash helmets together on a playing field but there is no direct association to the possibility of death from that sport. Standing up to a group of thugs that are about to assault or rape a woman, well that has a very high chance of injury or death. That is what makes a warrior.

What makes a warrior is the path in life that they choose and the fact that they always walk in the direction of their moral compass. A warrior will draw a line in the sand and no matter what battle faces him or her they will stand fast and face the challenge.

Now lets take the idea of being a warrior and place it on being a Civilian Sheepdog. Are you willing to stand up for what is right or wrong? Are you willing to help the weaker people in society (the sheeple) as the wolves try to prey on them?

Being a Sheepdog is no easy task because it requires action, not words to prove self worth. Do you train for that moment were you are blessed to be in combat or do you talk about taking the training? Do you actually tune your body for combat or do you continually talk about those last ten pounds you want to loose? Is your mind ready for the event because you have studied the affects of stress and adrenaline on the human body?

When the time comes and sh*t starts to hit the fan are you going to run away from the violence or are you going to stand up and fight because it is the right thing to do?

If so, my fellow sheepdog, start training, start fighting and start educating yourself on human violence.

So that when the day comes you will not say what the sheeple say.

"Oh my god, I cant believe this is happening to me......."

You will have the Warrior Mindset and your inner dialog will reflect that what you have been training for.

"Thank god this is happening to me because I have been training for it........"

I think John Wayne said it best......
"If you talk the talk you better walk the walk"

Thanks for your time and stay safe, John Smith.

Review: Fenix flashlight side by side - LD20 & PD30

Today we're taking a look at two higher quality lights from Fenix Tactical. Each has it's own unique specifications and uses in the field. Both are what I like to call 'budget lights'. They're both very well constructed - but you're not going to save for months to buy one.

Lights from Fenix - LD20 and PD30

First we'll look at the longer of the two. The LD20 comes with a nylon sheath that is well put together - I can't see any reason you'd have to replace it under normal working circumstances. Unless you beat the heck out of it or are working under rough conditions, this should serve you well. It's got a belt loop on the back as well as a Velcro strip running along the entire length - useful as a MOLLE attachment aid.

Out of the sheath, the light is skinny. That was my initial thought - I'm used to lights that fill out my hand a little. Any hesitation I had about the light was quickly pushed aside once I put 2 double A batteries inside. The tailcap - with a clicky switch on the end, screws off to allow you to put in the required power source. The tailcap also has two attachment points for a lanyard.

The lights specifications, as listed on the Fenix site include:

Features of Fenix LD20: • Cree XP-G LED (R5) with lifespan of 50,000 hours

• Two modes with 6 types of output:
     Turbo Mode: 180 lumens (2h16m) ->Strobe
     General Mode: 5 lumens (100h) - > 30 lumens (15h) -> 81 lumens (5h57m) - > SOS

• Digitally regulated output - maintains constant brightness
• Uses two 1.5V AA (Alkaline, Ni-MH, Lithium) batteries (not included), inexpensive and widely available

       • Length: 150mm / 5.91in
       • Diameter: 21.5mm / 0.85in
       • Weight: 60grams / 2.1oz (excluding batteries)

• Made of durable T6 aircraft-grade aluminum
• Premium Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
• Waterproof to IPX-8 Standard
• Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
• Push-button tail cap switch
• Capable of standing up securely on a flat surface to serve as a candle
• Included accessories: holster, lanyard, body clip, two spare o-rings and a rubber switch boot

The light came with some of these accessories, but since it was purchased at a local gun show - out of a box of lights, it's no surprise that everything wasn't included - we didn't even get a box!

The body clip is sturdy and could easily be adapted into a 'pocket light' scenario - EDC or otherwise. A couple spots on the light are kept really skinny, almost hugging the batteries inside, most likely to be used as an attachment point for use as a weapon light.

It has a number of easy-to-see modes. You can select a mode by lightly depressing the tailcap switch momentarily. From strobe to high - all modes work flawlessly.

This light may be 'too' skinny for some, but it's also a bonus feature of it as well - it's small and easy to carry without dedicating a pocket completely to it's storage. It hangs about a half inch out of either side of my hand when grasped in the middle - a larger EDC light than most but definitely viable; maybe has room to be used as an impact device as well.

Side by side, the only major difference is size.

The PD30 is much shorter than it's cousin, fitting in my hand completely. It's just as skinny though, and with more lumens to boot.

Features of Fenix PD30:
• Cree XP-G LED (R5) with lifespan of 50,000 hours

• 2 modes with 6 types of output:
     Turbo Mode: 257 lumens (2h37m) ->Strobe
     General Mode: 10 lumens (126h) - > 67 lumens (17h) -> 124 lumens (7h45m) - > SOS

• Digitally regulated output - maintains constant brightness
• Uses two 3V CR123A batteries (Lithium) (not included)

       • Length: 118mm / 4.65in
       • Diameter: 21.5mm / 0.85in
       • Weight: 53grams / 1.9oz (excluding batteries)

• Made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum
• Premium Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
• Waterproof to IPX-8 Standard
• Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
• Push-button tail cap switch
• Capable of standing up securely on a flat surface to serve as a candle
• Included accessories: holster, lanyard, body clip, two spare o-rings and a rubber switch boot

I have no way of effectively measuring the amount of light coming out of either of these lights, except a side by side 'eyeball' test. As seen below, the bottom light, the PD30 - has a different, more bright and white light.

The cost to keep this little light running is more than your mega-pack of AA's, but worth the hassle in the end. The PD30's output is much more vivid, and in a smaller package. Even in broad daylight, if you get a full-face high output beam from this little guy, you can't see who's doing it. Not only is it distracting, I haven't met someone who can just stare at the source without looking away - great as a momentary 'stun' device.

As with the LD - there are a bunch of different things you can use with this light including diffusers and filters for certain tasks. We didn't get any of these items as this light too came from a local show as a discounted item.

At work, I could easily see this being kept in the vehicle, my toolbelt or on my person. It takes up even less room and provides lots of light. It's actually a little heavier than the other, and sits well in the hand.

LD20 & PD30
Depending on your POU - either light is well worth the purchase. Both can easily be used as an EDC lightsource, or as a go-to light when needed. The smaller of the two is more likely to be used as a weapon light, just given it's size in comparison. In saying this - I'd also be more likely to carry it with me every day, in it's sheath or in my pocket.

The only person who might want to stay away from these lights is one who is more used to bigger lights. Maglites and products like them have a certain ergonomic standard to them. If you're used to using big lights, you might fumble around with these little ones - but it's something to consider, given the amount of light these ones can put out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Philosophy: OODA - Observe.

Observe, orient, decide, act.

This sequence, when applied to any decision or scenario is instrumental in avoiding negative or harmful results. Most times, we're placed into negative situations because of either previous decisions or happenstance. If by coincidence we're confronted with a tough decision, OODA could obviously not have prevented this from happening. However, if the result of a misjudged decision has left you in another tough position, the philosophy of OODA might very well help you from making the same mistake twice.

That's all this philosophy is; help. We're not ever guaranteed to make wise decisions - especially when the consequences are due to human interaction. We're emotional creatures and this sets the stage for even the most logical choice to backfire. We can only hope to make reasonable, conscious decisions that will reflect our intent to defuse a bad situation - not the opposite. Even though sometimes your actions are not the popular choice, some situations require intervention.

The OODA loop was an idea generated by Boyd, a USAF Colonel. It runs through a decision, piece by piece. This model has been applied to military operations, business applications and more. Today, I'd like to begin looking at this philosophy from a personal context inside the sheepdog mindset.

Imagine any scenario where you've had to make a decision.

If I could guess - you're not thinking about what toppings you wanted on your pizza last Friday. You're probably thinking about some time where you saw two individuals fighting. Maybe it was last Tuesday, when you saw a lady slip at work, but didn't know if you should ask her if she needed help.

In any case, I do wholeheartedly believe that most common day problems, no matter their relevance, can be solved with OODA.

The first step - as you might have guessed, is Observation.

As Bruce Lee said - listen to the birds chirping. You have more than one sense that can be tapped into in a problematic situation. Let's review a scenario where observation includes more than our trusted eyesight.


Driving down a highway, mid winter, you encounter a rolled vehicle. Nobody else on the highway has stopped - it's too early, nobody is around. You slow to a stop 20 feet from the car, a four door sedan. Zipping up your jacket as you get out of the car, you've already made the decision to intervene - that's a separate issue. In any case, you make your way to the downed vehicle. Your heart rate speeds up as you strain to get back into that classroom, to remember every minute of the first-aid class your work mandated.

Mid stride, you freeze. Breathing heavily, you say to the 911 operator;

"I can smell gas. You need to get someone here fast. I can see someone in there, but I can't go any closer."


What I'm trying to illustrate here is a typical mindset. You'll notice the missing details. How did the phone get on your ear, already connected to 911? Why did you stop at the smell of gas?

There's a lot going on in an emergency. I know that I'm not a professional rescuer - that's probably why my brain misses critical steps in thought, as it becomes automatic. Auto-pilot of sorts. Luckily, you stopped when your brain interpreted the smell as gas - if you had have approached the vehicle, this could have gotten a lot worse. I've always been an advocate of professional rescuers - they have a job and they do it well - let them.

In any case, you'll come upon scenarios where that type of help is not available. We hate to think of it, but it's true. Rarely, a person might find themselves in a predicament where they are the only help around. It's for those situations that we should mentally prepare by practicing OODA. Not because we want to use it, but because if we have to be that person - we NEED to be ready. 

So, what's involved in 'observation'. Luckily, it's a skill that we can build everyday with little consequence. Using all of your senses, you're trying to find a few things; unfolding interaction with your environment, unfolding circumstances and outside information. 

Your environment - what's happening around you? What do you hear, smell, see and feel? Do you feel heat emanating from behind that door? Do you see blood or vomit? Do you smell 'burning'? Do you hear gunshots?

We don't ever think about experiencing these things outside of movies and video games, but what happens when it's happening?

Circumstances - What has brought you here? What made all of this happen? The second largest part of observation is asking; "Why?" Most times it only takes a few moments to figure out, but when you observe the circumstances surrounding a situation, try to find out WHY it all went down... it might lend crucial information about what you're facing.

Outside information - What have you been told? What is the most obvious, raw information that you can take in from what's happening? The third stage in observation, broken down to a micro-level, usually happens in a short amount of time. Think of it; "Help! A lady fell down outside!"... There's your situation - now, do you react?

As you can see, it all blends into a few minutes, sometimes less if the situation permits. 

You can practice this with very simple problems in your life. Treat your brain like a muscle, keep doing it. If you practice this with nothing on the line, I believe you'll be more likely to snap-back to it in a time of distress. Especially once your brain starts really firing, in a hyper-important scenario, you'll be relying on what you 'know'.

So next time you order pizza - practice observation. It sounds silly, but it may be very important one day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Lacie USB 'key' - EDC tech.

Keychain EDC - USB equipped.

EDC - or Every Day Carry, refers to items a person usually has with them, all day, every day. While this concept is not new to seasoned survival veterans, it's the first thing I bring up when discussing the topic with newbies. It can be a lifesaver - literally and figuratively, to have the right tool at the right time. That said - you don't want to be hauling too much stuff around, only what you'll usually need. That's the tricky part - what do you usually need?

Everyone's EDC selection is different and should be tailored to your own personal needs. Some might need a multi-tool, others an epi-pen. You get the idea.

Today I'll be taking a quick look at an often forgotten piece of kit; my Lacie USB 'key'. I quote 'key' because it's actually shaped like a key. This feature alone was enough for me to pick it up - always with me, hard to lose and just enough storage at 16GB to fit most everything I could use on it.

Quick to pop into a buddies computer to grab some files, to make a quick fix at work (as an IT guy, you can never have enough storage) or better yet, as a security enhancement for my shop computer. Using a program that locks the computer when I'm not using it, the only way to unlock it - even in safe mode - is to plug my key into it. Now, you could rip the drive out and get at it manually, but this is a good desktop level security feature, I figure.

I've used it a number of times, and after losing a few USB sticks that were once a part of my EDC, I have learned a few things.

- Tie something onto it that you notice on your keychain. You'll notice if it's NOT on your keychain later and makes it hard to miss if you're plugging it in to multiple PC's.
- Change the icon to something other than standard - before you close out of that computer, you might have a 'My Computer' window open and will notice it's still plugged in.

Lacie USB
To be honest - I find this key a little skinny. That's good because it keeps a low profile on my keyring; bad because I'm always worried it'll snap off in the USB slot. The key came with a little cover to hide the golden end, but that fell off in less than a few minutes. I'm not gentle with this key - my keys have been thrown around quite a bit. I've never had an issue reading the data on it, but I'm careful not to keep very sensitive stuff on it, in the case it breaks or is misplaced. OPSEC, after all.