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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sector 2011 Debrief

The CSD crew is composed of all kinds of contributors from different walks of life and professions. Some of us are lucky enough to live and breathe this stuff professionally; as such, we get to attend fancy industry conferences that discuss varying aspects of our differing professions, but which can readily be tied to the Sheepdog mentality.

I had the priviledge to attend one such conference, the annual SecTor security conference in Toronto, Ontario, which ran on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and wrapped up just a few minutes ago. SecTor, short for "Security Toronto", is an annual event that brings together information security professionals from across Canada, with presentations from experts worldwide. As a result of what I experienced at this year's conference, I thought I'd take a couple of minutes to provide a summary of the lessons learned. If there's more interest in any individual subject area, let me know and I'll be happy to post something more detailed on the subject.

Top Things to Watch:

1) Despite glaring security risks, many companies are still finding new and innovative ways to expose your personal information. One of the latest trends involves "near field communications". NFC is insecure, period, but this hasn't stopped banks and other companies from enabling payment systems using contactless NFC technology. Watch for this to be heavily exploited in the near future.

Technology is neat. Don't get ripped off. Understand the risks and educate those who don't.

2) Espionage is Alive and Well. A well known and respected security research firm blew the whistle on a very interesting compromise that seems to have targetted Iran's nuclear program through a very complex attack that could only have been funded by a certain three-letter-agency in a purposely unnamed country. This attack was one of many, and many others have been exposed that are obviously being conducted by foreign governments. What's really interesting is that the attacks didn't target the usual targets...they targetted (and continue to target) employees in downstream material providers for defense contractors, which ultimately provides access to the final assembled components.

Foreign (and domestic) intelligence services will exploit the same social weaknesses as criminals, with a difference; big budgets. Don't for a moment think that anything on your computer, from your computer, or attached to your computer is safe from interception or exposure. Encrypt everything, and keep sensitive contingency plans off the grid.

3) Smartphones are Computers Too. Why don't we think of them as such? Android and Windows phones can be "weaponized" to create hacking platforms which can bypass many of the restrictions on our corporate networks. They can also be hacked, providing access to all the information on your phone. Passwords are good, but like anything, they won't stop a determined attacker. If it's sensitive, encrypt it, or better yet, keep it off your smartphone.

4) Any idiot can pick a lock. In fact, this idiot is surprisingly good at it. When presented with some simple lockpick tools and about 30 seconds of rudimentary instruction, I was able to pick a myriad of locks ranging from single tumbler training locks right up to 7 tumbler master locks. As a result of this, I no longer have any confidence in anything shy of a Medeco.

Bumping a lock can get through just about anything, but it often destroys the lock in the process. Doing it the old fashioned way leaves almost no traces...the implications should be obvious. The tools are available for purchase relatively cheaply, they're legal to own and use (unless you use them to commit a crime), and yes, at least to me, it's every bit as easy as you see on TV.

Of course, I ordered a set. They'll occupy a covetted spot in my bugout bag.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

STKR Scout - Perfection Simplified

After seeing the work-in-progress shots of the Scout, produced by Canadian knifemaker Mike Pryor, owner and founder of STKR Knives in Ottawa, I virtually leaped at the opportunity to give it a go. I’m not a “knife person,” by any means. My personal philosophy has always centered around skills, where knives are simply tools to be employed when required – and tools are not to be fussed over. However, every once in a while a particular tool will stand out amongst the rest and practically beg to be employed in a practical situation. That’s where this little knife came into the picture.

The Scout is a compact drop-point, O-1 tool steel, utility knife with a 23/4” (6.5cm) long, 1/8” (4mm) thick blade and an overall length of 63/4” (17cm). Make no mistake, this blade is compact, but it’s really no larger than it needs to be. This particular Scout arrived with a mirror finish, its full tang wrapped in black paracord, and a matching black kydex sheath with integrated belt loop. The kydex sheath is of particular interest, as it can be altered to be worn either vertical or horizontal and incorporates a magnet to give the sheathing action a more positive lock. These knives are custom built to order, so there are a number of handle and finish options to choose from.

Given its small size, the Scout is best employed as a compact workhorse for detail work and camp chores, such as whittling, carving and general cutting duties, where a larger knife would be too unwieldy or cumbersome. The fairly straight drop point on the Scout lends itself to durability while also making it practical for delicate tasks, like punching holes in leather or removing an annoying splinter. For those looking for an alternative to a compact folding blade for everyday carry, the Scout would serve admirably.

Overall, the impressions on this knife are excellent. The edge arrived razor sharp, and after two weeks of use and abuse it is still hair-popping fresh. While too small for larger camp duties, such as batoning firewood, the Scout really has no equal as a companion blade. It handles confidently, comes with a fantastic kydex sheath, and looks great. The fit and finish is top notch and I’m confident that this little knife would be a welcome addition to any collection.

For those interested, you can contact STKR knives on their Facebook page here:

This Scout will be featured in an upcoming giveaway. Keep your eyes peeled!

Have something to add? Questions? Further discussion on this article can be had here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Wow, what a busy time - with work picking up and new projects on my shoulders, I've barely found the time for CSD, let alone my normal routine.

I've got a bunch of cool content coming up - a review on an axe and two more sponsored reviews - GIVEAWAYS.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Update: Kershaw Shallot

I received this knife as yet another gift from my dad's adventures abroad. It has served me well in almost any EDC role that I've put this blade to use in. It's still sharp and the semi-assisted mechanism is very springy, but here's the catch - my couch nearly ruined the pocket clip.

I shouldn't say that I'm surprised - I'm more interested to see if I can bend it back. While I was getting up yesterday, and I'm not sure how but the clip managed to catch some wrinkle in the fabric and it just clipped right out of my pocket. When I picked it up - this is how it looked. I'm not sure how it happened, and I'm not sure what the easiest way to fix it is - beyond buying a new clip.

I'm surprised by this - but I was standing up at 'full speed'. Not that I'm saying there's a bit of weight to throw around at that point but... there's a bit of weight to throw around at that point. I've praised Kershaw for their clip design before - I attribute this to a fluke accident. However unlucky, it's still worth documentation.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

870 101 - Part 2 - Add-ons

We've established already that the 870 is an excellent, multi-purpose platform. You can take one off the shelf and build a gun that is not only personal to you - but a gun that can serve multiple uses. From a dedicated deer gun to a weapon system, the 870 is an excellent starting point for both amateur and professional shooters alike.

In this section, I'll attempt to cover a lot of the available options for the 870 platform. Almost every part on the gun is interchangeable with an after-market piece that adds some sort of additional functionality. Some kit will be better designed for certain tasks while others will have multiple uses. I know that I'll miss quite a bit here - and as this list ages, it will become outdated but as of this writing, I'll try and make this as complete as possible so that when someone is considering the purchase of this system, it will hopefully be all laid out here.

So, let's get into it.


Pistol grip or full stock - there are many options for the gun builder in this category. Some stocks, like the Houge Overmoulded, have a non-slip coating on them to keep it close to the shoulder at all times. The only problem I can see with this is the abrasion you'll catch on normal clothing. Even my Remington Factory stock gets caught on my sleeve sometimes, in dry firing drills.

Some stocks, both full sized and collapsible will have additional shell carriers on them. The Speedfeed stock has built in shell storage - just in case you're all out. This also fits well into most people's 'second kind of cool' criterion.

Stocks are generally divided into two groups, pistol grip and full sized - as mentioned above. ATI produces a lot of budget-series stocks. Some love them, others despise them.

From the S&J Hardware website.
Most will agree that the creme of the crop for pistol grip stocks comes in the form of an 870 stock adapter. This device allows the user to attach any number of mil-spec AR15 stocks and grips  to the device. It opens the door to tons of different stock options - for those who want a pistol grip.

You need to figure out what you want from the gun in order to pick the right stock - I kept the factory installed stock because I didn't need anything else. The other thing I liked about the factory full stock is the storage space it allows through the back. There's all kinds of room back there for firestarters, paper work or other must-have items. Probably another thing that should be considered when looking at stocks as an upgrade option.

There are also folding stocks - both side folding and top folding. These make the weapon really tight to move around and also give the benefit of allowing the 870 to function as a pistol grip only (PGO) firearm. For some, that's a major bonus, and a 'cool factor' as well.


If you don't know what the 'choke' on a shotgun is, I'm not going to attempt to teach you - it's something you should have learned in your firearms course. That being said - the choke you elect to deploy in your shotgun has a number of different effects on the way you're able to use it.

Everything from a slug gun to a trap gun will have a different barrel - it's built for a different purpose.

It's for that reason that I went with an open choke, smooth bore barrel. For me, it was the most versitile choice that presented the best bang for my buck - no pun intended.

Some barrels will have sight systems built onto them - others will have a rib that enhanced sights can be clipped onto.

Barrel size is another consideration that plays into barrel choice. Shorter barrels are built for different tasks. Likewise - a longer barrel will be harder to move with but arguably more accurate. Another thing to look out for is vented barrels - a lot of competition shooters will opt for this type of barrel to help reduce recoil.


Most 870's you find will come stock with a bead sight. This is the most commonly found sight on the 870 shotgun - though it's far from the only sight available.

Some guns will come stock with ghost ring sights. Ghost rings allow the shooter to reach further, more accurately. They consist of two pieces, a front and rear sight. The rear sight is usually a small circle to focus the front post sight through. Good ghost rings will have some kind of night sighting system built in.

If you don't want full ghost rings / rifle sights, there are replacement beads. I was considering the purchase of a replacement bead but elected not to based on other priority purchases. Most replacement beads will slip right over the factory bead and get JBWelded into place. I'm not sure about the longevity of this solution and have seen online reports of negative experiences with these kinds of add-ons - but that can be said about anything.

Then, there's rails.You can get receiver mounted rails or rails that are built into the stock adapter mentioned before. You can also get rails that are machined as a part of the side saddle unit. On these modular mounting systems, you can attach anything from a magnified hunting scope to the latest holographic combat sight - the choice is yours.


Your average shotgun, depending on the model you decide on, will come with one of a few different types of forends. Some might be wood - others synthetic but a definite personal recommendation of mine would be to upgrade yours first, before anything else.

There are forends that have light mounts built in - especially those models from surefire; who's main purpose is to add the functionality of a weaponlight to your system. Other forend's will have multiple rails to allow the user to add their own attachments - light, laser or otherwise.

Some are simple, some are very rail-y but they all provide the same function in the end. They rack the next shell into the chamber.

Small stuff:

Where to begin?

You can get; sling adapters, extended safties, extended mag tubes, mag tube caps, followers, bayonet mounts and detachable shell carriers to name just a few of the common items people will look at for upgrading an 870.

I'd like to touch on a few things in more detail however; side saddles, ammo selection and muzzle breaks.

Side saddles attach directly to the receiver by using the pins that keep the trigger assembly in place. They hold shells for fast reloading and usually come in loads of 4, 6 or 8 shell-spots. Some have open backed designs while others are solid. Some side saddles have integrated rail systems to attach optics to the top of the gun. Some are made of steel - others from plastic. It depends on your philosophy of use concerning this kit.

It's hard to look at shotgun add-on's without considering the type of ammunition that you will use. Slug guns will handle differently than bird guns and different kit can make a difference while deploying your gun. You can get low-recoil loads and less-than-lethal loads as well - adding another layer to the things you should consider when loading up your 870.

Muzzle breaks add both function and form to a shotgun. I once had a particular muzzle flash's job described to me as being strictly for 'knockin' down doors'. Muzzle breaks aid in recoil management and definitely add a scary-looking addition to the business end of the boomstick.

I know that I've likely missed some things here - but I have covered pretty much everything that can be bolted onto an 870 to enhance it's function in the right hands. If I've missed anything major - let me know.

If you haven't read part 1 yet - click here.

If you haven't entered our contest for FREE 870 upgrades, sponsored by S&J Hardware - click here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: CLC Pro Framer XC gloves

I couldn't help myself. Walking through Home Depot today I was passing the work gloves section when these grabbed my attention. I've been looking for a good pair of utility gloves for some time now - since loosing my Mechanix light duty's on a work site.

I picked up a few pairs before I saw these ones - and I stayed with them after inspecting them a little closer. Compared to the other models, I liked the stitching on this model. It seemed a little more robust and more conducive to some other tasks I have planned for this piece of gear.

I plan to use these gloves in the bush, hiking, shooting and at work. In this way - I'm really stretching the line for a pair of store bought utility gloves. After picking up a couple pairs of Mechanix at Lowes - I went with this brand, they seem more robust but still remain light and slim. They've got reinforced palms and knuckles with a little bit of soft padding around each knuckle. They're reinforced around the holding edge of the hand - inside the thumb to index finger ridge.

Another feature that can be found on a variety of different work-glove models is the cut off index and middle finger tips and the half cut thumb. This allows for the use of your digits to manipulate small objects comfortably. That'll come in handy for both putting in screws and tactical reloads.

Especially for something that I know will be seeing a lot of action - I don't particularly care about it's 'style'. These are black and grey with some yellow stitching. They're built solid and ring in at about 25 bucks. I'm hoping they'll last through a good season of outdoor use and provide the protection I need at work, on the range and in the wild.

Used these gloves before? Tell us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The chills - late season hiking.

Had a wake-up call recently in the form of a fun hike - fortunately.

My wife, dog and I were hiding our latest geocache and enjoying some of the cooler weather this weekend when I remembered Les Stroud's iconic saying - you sweat, you die.

Granted - it was a family-friendly hike along the SC Johnson trail - but the lesson was learned on my end. The clouds remained covering the sky for the entire day but we headed out anyways. Along with my normal hiking bag, I packed two extra t-shirts in case we got cold. Even on our short hike, I found it very difficult to control the flow of sweat down the center of my back - eventually creating a  wet spot in my shirt and really - giving me a good little chill.

So, I came home and researched some essentials about off-season hiking.

The Great Outdoors - Hiking in Winter

Hiking Dude - Winter Hiking Adventures

Review some of the tips int he links above and share some of your own. I'm always looking for good information.

Thankfully, our hike was in a densely populated area with little risk of exposure. Sure - it's always there, but we weren't very far from civilization at all - we were walking right through it. A good wake up call and a fantastic opportunity to explore some of the science behind off-season hiking.