Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lifestraw Water Filter: Water is Life - emergency and survival water filtration

I've used a lot of water filters over the years, but none have been able to do what the Lifestraw can do. Lightweight, easy to use, inexpensive, and highly effective - what's not to love? Add to that their indefinite shelf life and 264 gallon filtering life, and you have no more reasons not to add a Lifestraw to every pack, bag, and emergency kit that you own.

Watch the video for more information on how to use the Lifestraw, what the advantages are, and how to easily clean and store it.

We are also now an official Lifestraw dealer - so if you'd like to purchase a Lifestraw through us, Contact Us by clicking here: http://www.independencetraining.com/contact-us/

And don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel! http://www.youtube.com/user/IndependenceTraining

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson

Monday, November 11, 2013

Muzzle Flash: is your defensive ammo a fire-breather?

Many people select defensive ammunition without considering what kind of flash comes out the end of the barrel when it's fired, even though we know that most civilian self-defense situations happen in low-light or no-light circumstances. In this month's Equipment Review, we'll take a look at the types of muzzle flashes that some of the most common ammunition puts out through a full-size 9mm handgun, compact 9mm handgun, full-size .45ACP handgun, and M4/AR-15.

Special thanks to our student Justin for allowing us to use his photos! Check out his blog at: http://www.thepropergrip.blogspot.com/

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson

Monday, September 30, 2013

Covert Carry: 5.11 Tactical COVRT Cases and Bags

There are many instances where you don't want everyone to know what you are carrying. Several cases of theft and robbery that our students have been the victims of over the years involve the victims moving valuables, such as firearms and electronics, from homes to vehicles or carrying them around town in cases and bags that obviously are designed to carry such valuables. Doing this can make you a target for the thief who keeps an eye out for such easy paydays. 

Watch our videos this month on the 5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 backpack and the COVRT M4 rifle case to get a better idea of some of the equipment that is out there to help you keep your valuables safe and secure from prying eyes.

5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 Backpack:

5.11 Tactical COVRT M4 Rifle Case:

Real training sucks, EMBRACE the suck.

- John Pinnix

Thursday, August 29, 2013

SOB Blow Out Kit: everything you need in an easy to reach location

While deployed earlier this year I saw a piece of kit that piqued my interest. It was a blow out kit worn in the Small Of the Back (SOB). The blow out kit is a stripped down version of the IFAK (Improved/Individual First Aid Kit). The contents of a blow out kit generally consist of an Israeli Bandage, H&H gauze, and some type of hemostatic agent. These small kits are easier to carry than a full sized IFAK, and gained quite a bit of popularity in the training and operational communities. I also feel that having some of these basic trauma items readily available is not a bad idea in today’s environment here at home.

Contents of the SOB blow out kit are very small and compact, and offer 
just what you need until you can get to a larger kit or a higher level of medical care

As I said, seeing one of these kits worn in the SOB got my attention. However, being deployed I was busy and did not have the time to investigate it any further. A couple of weeks ago while I was going through some of my equipment I found an old admin pouch. The size was just about perfect for putting a blow out kit in and I figured I would give a shot. I emptied out one of my IFAKs and stripped the contents down to an Israeli bandage, 1 packet of H&H gauze, a package of Quickclot Combat Gauze and added 2 Tegaderm seals (chest seal).  I wanted a way to keep these items protected from sweat and the elements so I sealed them up with my Foodsaver. It took me a few tries to get the size of the bag right, but after about half an hour I had it. The next step was to find a way to get it out of the pouch. This was the easiest step as all I needed was some duct tape to make a tab. My total time spent putting this kit together was an hour.

Deploying a SOB blow out kit is easy and can be done with either hand

My biggest reason for building this was to wear it when I am instructing or attending firearms training courses. Most training organizations have some type of medical personnel and equipment readily available, but nothing will be as fast as self-treatment. This also holds true if you are somehow involved in any type of traumatic incident. The size of this kit lends to easy carry in everyday situations -  it will fit into the cargo pocket of most pants and will absolutely fit into your EDC (everyday carry) bag. If you are going to carry this type of kit I recommend you keep it in a readily available location and get some training on how to properly use the items in it. 

Real training sucks, EMBRACE the suck.

- John Pinnix

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Vehicle Evacuation Tools: how they work and why you need one

Getting yourself or someone else out of a vehicle in an emergency situation may need to be done quickly and efficiently, and without an appropriate rescue or evacuation tool, you may not be able to break that glass or cut that belt fast enough to save a life. There are several of these tools available on the market, from the cheap to the expensive, and we took a look at 3 of the more popular and readily available models.

Interested in one of these tools? Check out the manufacturer's full description:
-CRKT ExiTool: http://www.crkt.com/ExiTool-Seat-Belt-Cutter-Window-Breaker-LED-Flashlight-Tool
-Benchmade Houdini Pro: http://www.benchmade.com/products/30200
-resQme: http://www.resqme.com/US/

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson

Monday, June 17, 2013

Remora Tuckable Holster: a clip-less option that actually works

Choosing the correct holster for concealed carry can be a tough thing to do if you can't find the right holster that fits you and your lifestyle. This can be especially true when it comes to a tuckable option, and we have tried just about every option out there without ever finding a tuckable holster that really conceals the firearm. Then we got our hands on the tuckable holster from Remora Holsters.

If you'd like to read our review of the original Remora Holster and the Kel-Tec PF9, click here to be taken to that review. And as one final note, here's some feedback on Remora Holsters that we received from one of our students recently:

Just a quick comment on one of your equipment reviews. Last year I purchased a Kel-Tec PF-9 and a Remora IWB holster for one of my concealed carry options. I absolutely love the holster. I often forget I am wearing it because it's so comfortable, but more important than comfort is the performance. I have to admit I was skeptical of an IWB with no clip or belt hooks. Well those concerns have been put to rest. Last weekend, with the nice weather, I found myself outside with the kids for several hours. I had my Remora holster and Kel-Tec on and was running around with the dog - and better yet, jumping on the trampoline with the kids. My setup didn't even slip! Literally doing flips and playing "crack the egg" on the trampoline and no issues whatsoever. 
- Sergio M., Prescott Valley, AZ

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Personal Trauma Kits that can be Carried Everywhere

Emergencies can happen at any time: in the home or in the outdoors, in the middle of town or in the middle of nowhere. Recent tragedies such as Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon attack have shown us that the average person can make a life-saving difference in emergencies if they have the proper tools and knowledge.
In this video, Independence Training Head Instructor Glen Stilson will talk about the types of small personal trauma kits that he carries with him wherever he goes.
Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winter Camping in Southern Utah - Gear Review

Back in August of 2012 I did a gear review from a trip to the Grenadier Mountains in Colorado, and a lot of our readers responded with how much they enjoyed it, so I wanted to share another gear review from a recent trip to the mountains of southern Utah.

Last month, I spent a week backpacking, snowshoeing, rock climbing, and canyoneering through southern Utah. I visited Cedar Breaks above Brian Head, hiked around in the Angel's Landing area in Zion National Park, and camped and climbed in Snow Canyon and Black Rocks just outside of St. George. The weather was pretty nice except for one rainy day, but it was fairly cold the entire week - I think the warmest it got was around 50 on the day we did rock climbing. The first night was below zero at Cedar Breaks, and most other nights were in the 20's, with daytime highs in the 40's.

Snowshoeing in Cedar Breaks out to our camp site.

Snow caves the first night.

The final approach to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park.

A look over the edge at the top of Angel's Landing - long drop, short stop.

Petrified Dunes in Snow Canyon

100ft rappel during one of the canyoneering trips near St. George.

As with every trip I take, I learned new things as well as tested my existing knowledge, and my regular gear held up wonderfully (my Optimus Crux stove struggled a little during some of the sub-freezing meal times, though). As usual, I had the opportunity to put some new gear to the test, and that's the information that I want to pass along here.

Columbia Whirlibird - More Info Here

I literally lived in this coat for the entire week. Mostly I used the inner "puffy" coat, and I was as snug as a bug the entire time. I would use the outer shell in the mornings and evenings to stay warm when the sun was not around, and also to wrap my feet at night in the bottom of my sleeping bag to help keep them warm while I slept. I love pockets, and this coat has them in spades - just about every available space was turned into a pocket. And while I'm not a big fan of hoods, this hood is actually comfortable, and the few times I had to use it I didn't hate it. This is seriously one of the best coat "systems" that I've ever used, and I look forward to using it for years to come.

The complete system.

Zach (fellow cold enthusiast) and me by our snowcave the morning after our first night there - I'm sporting the inner puffy coat here.

Using the puffy during one of our canyoneering trips (no, I'm not yelling, just communicating with my belayer).

Salomon Elbrus WP - More Info Here

In the past, I haven't been a big fan of Salomon boots, but when I was looking for some good cold weather boots they fit the best. I have generally used the Asolo Fugitives for all of my cold weather trips, but seeing as how this trip was going to include snowshoeing, I wanted to get something that was very well insulated; and besides, my Asolos are beat up beyond serviceable condition. Once I got them into the field, I realized that the Salomon Elbrus is one warm boot! Almost too warm, sometimes, and that's saying a lot when the temps are hovering around zero. They kept my feet warm, dry, and comfortable for the few days I wore them before I switched back to my lightweight hiking boots. Combined with my favorite socks, Darn Tough and Fox River, these boots couldn't have performed better. They also have very aggressive and unique tread, which is something I look for in all of my boots. I have one minor complaint about the size of the lace eyelets, but that's not really an operational concern as much as a personal preference.

Strapped into the Atlas snowshoes that I used.

I wore them when we hiked Angel's Landing, and I was happy about that decision when we hit the ice patches. Here I am with my Salomons in a cave I found over the edge of a cliff at Angel's Landing, "a good place to take a nap."

Atlas Snowshoes - More Info Here

I haven't spent much time in snowshoes in the past, so I don't have much basis for comparison here, but I felt that these shoes worked very well, especially considering that I had a decently weighted pack and at one point ran about 200 feet with pack and all through the snow at a dead run without falling face first into the snow. I liked how they rotated around the foot with each step, and the aggressive crampons on the bottom really helped grab onto some of the harder crusted snow and ice that we encountered. Overall I can't say whether they are better than other shoes, again because of my limited experience with snowshoes, but I can say that I would be happy to use them again. I didn't purchase these, but rather rented them from a local outdoor center, as did everyone else in our group.

The trekking poles and gloves I used have been reviewed in the past, and held up perfectly as always. Trekking poled are invaluable for snowshoeing, in my opinion - I was the only one who had a set and by the end of the snowshoeing part of our expedition I probably could have sold them to one of my fellow hikers for three times their actual cost.

Here are my Salomons effectively locked (and partially frozen) into the Atlas snowshoes.

Streamlight ProTac HL - More Info Here

Nearly all of my lights, including my headlamps, are Streamlight, as I'm a big Streamlight fan. The ProTac HL is one of their newer flashlights, and while I didn't get it just for this trip and have owned it for several months, this was the first time it really got to stretch its legs. All I can say is wow! This is one bright light. I could easily see things that were 400m away, and from a light powered by a couple of CR123 batteries, that's impressive. At one point, we were a little confused about where some lava tubes were, and it was a moonless night in the pitch black. We literally found them a couple of hundred yards away thanks to this light. Another time, we were sitting around the campfire when I spotted some movement near the bedrolls so I busted out this light and spotted a little kit fox foraging around the campsite about 20 yards away. The light was so intense when it hit him that you could literally see his confusion and temporary blindness - poor little guy!

My new favorite handheld light for the great outdoors.

Thermarest NeoAir XLite - More Info Here

This is hands-down my favorite new piece of gear. For the last 6 years I have been using a Thermarest Trail Lite, which is their least expensive pad, and it's big and heavy, but it's served me well. When I saw this new pad, though, coming in at 12 ozs and packing nice and small, while still inflating to 2.5 inches with a layer of heat-reflecting foil inside, I knew that this upgrade would be worth every penny. And man was I right - I love this pad! I like to inflate it all the way, then lay down and gently open the valve, letting just the right amount of air out so that my body is properly contoured. Oh what a delight! It fits my sleeping system perfectly and made every night comfortable and restful. Rolling it up is a bit of a pain, as you need to be sure that every last bit of air is out of it, and what is with companies who think that the stuff sack must be the identical size of a fully compressed product?! A stuff sack with an extra inch of material wouldn't be horrible here.

Home away from home.

Rolls up nice and tight.

Complete 12oz package, with my hand for size reference, and it even comes with a repair kit.

I could go on about the adventures we had, especially since I always enjoy my time in the outdoors - but suffice to say that it was a great week and good times were had by all. I'm happy with my choices of new gear, and I hope you were able to glean some useful information from my review. Now get out there and have your own adventures!

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Versatile .22 - Feed, Entertain, and Defend

The little .22 rimfire cartridge doesn't get a lot of respect from most people, but most of us cut our teeth in the firearms world shooting the small but effective .22LR (Long Rifle) round. And while there are other versions of this cartridge, including the Long, Short, Hornet, and WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire), the Long Rifle round is what most of us still use today as it remains the most popular of the .22 rimfires.

While I would not necessarily want to have to defend myself with a .22LR against an armed and determined attacker, I wouldn't put one down if it was my last resort, either. I've heard people say that the bad guy will "probably just laugh at you" if you shoot him with a .22, and indeed it's a well known fact that during the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in March of 1981, several people who were shot, including the President, did not even know they had been shot until later. But it's also a well known fact that the .22LR has been a successful weapon of assassins the world over, as well as the choice for military special operations teams in close quarters operations, such as the tunnel rats in Vietnam. And if you ask your local trauma surgeon about gun shot wounds, they're likely to tell you a story about how they'd rather deal with a large caliber that is easy to locate and remove, as opposed to the small .22LR that tends to hit something solid and then find a new path and trajectory to some other part of the body. And while the oft quoted statement that if you shoot someone or something in the head with a .22LR it will bounce around inside the skull and destroy the brain is theoretical at best, there is no doubt that a well-placed .22LR round, or several quickly well-placed .22LR rounds, will make your attacker either rethink their life decisions, or at the very least have more opposition to fight through with several sharp objects tearing through their flesh. And again, while I personally would not prefer to use a .22LR as my primary defensive tool, I will always abide by the old saying that "a .22 in the hand is better than a .45 in the bush."

The wound cavity from a .22LR, while small compared to larger centerfire rounds,
is still quite effective as the 40 grain bullet travels almost 14.5 inches into the target.
In today's economy, and in our current political environment, ammunition has become more expensive and in certain circumstances even difficult to find. But in recent years, these rising expenses have driven increasing opportunities to train with and recreate with the .22LR. AR-15s have long been able to be converted to fire the .22LR round, as have several makes of handguns, but now on the market we see AR-style rifles as well as handguns specifically modeled after our primary firearms but available in the .22LR cartridge. This enables us to train with the less expensive round while maintaining proficiency with firearm marksmanship and manipulation. A box of 500 quality .22LR can still be purchased here in Arizona for under $25, while that same dollar amount would only buy a little over 50 rounds of .223/5.56 rounds, or just shy of 100 rounds of 9mm. And the .22LR has little to no recoil, which makes it enjoyable for shooters of all ages, comfort levels, and shooting abilities. Most .22LR rifles and handguns are in the $150 - $400 range, and will easily outlast the shooters who buy them, which also makes them very affordable and easy to obtain. In fact, I have a Winchester .22 rifle that belonged to my great-grandfather, and it still shoots as true today as it did when he held it. My favorite .22 pistol belonged to another grandfather and is still a family favorite when we head to the range. And let's not forget that with the diminutive size comes a diminutive sound, and while hearing protection should still always be worn when shooting any firearm, the blast heard from a .22LR is much less frightening or overpowering than with other, larger rounds. If you have the ability to put a sound suppressor on a .22LR, all the better.

.22LR rounds weigh much less than similar popular calibers, so more can be carried.
Price is also a major factor, as the .22LR pictured above cost around $20, while the .308
cost around $100, the .223 cost around $40, and the 9mm cost around $30.
And what about the emergency preparedness side of things? Where does the .22LR stand there? In my opinion, the .22LR may be the ultimate survival firearm. Small, easy to carry ammunition is a huge plus, as the picture above shows. A box of 500 hollowpoint .22LR rounds weighs just under 3lbs 8ozs, while the same weight would only get me 61 rounds of hollowpoint .308, 90 rounds of .223 ammunition loaded in three 30 round AR-15 magazines, or 125 rounds of 9mm in their factory boxes. Those four rounds are the calibers that I shoot the most, and while carrying the same weight limit at best I could get 25% of the number of .22LR rounds by packing 9mm. I consider a survival firearm to be needed primarily for securing a meal of wild game or dispatching larger animals for butchering, and when pressed into service as such it could be used as a defensive tool. However, this survival rifle must be easy to feed with small and inexpensive ammunition, must be lightweight and accurate, and must be reliable enough out to 50 yards, and beyond if needed. This is perhaps why the U.S. military has selected .22 caliber firearms for their aircrew survival kits for many years, including the M4 (.22 Hornet) and M6 (.22 Hornet/.410) survival rifles. The Ithaca M6 and similar rifles, such as the Henry AR-7, are available for civilian purchase and are good choices for last-ditch tools, though I would recommend a solid bolt-action or semi-auto action .22LR, such as the Ruger 10/22, as a primary survival tool.
Both of these hollow point rounds were pulled from game animals who had been killed with them;
top-left is an expanded 147 grain 9mm HP, with its unfired version top-right. Center bottom is
an 'expanded' 36 grain .22LR HP - quite small in comparison to the 9mm.
But quite frankly I wouldn't want to be shot with either of them.
If you don't own a .22LR caliber firearm, there is simply no excuse for it. With the ample supply of both firearms and ammunition in .22LR, and the myriad of setups that can be attained, from a training tool to a survival tool, or a 100 yard precision rifle to a compact rifle for recreation, there is something out there for you. I have not nor will I likely ever carry a .22LR as a defensive tool - there are simply too many better options. But the merits of the .22LR round are too great to be ignored, and with all that is going on today in this crazy world, I'll happily put to work a firearm that can feed me, entertain me, and if need be, defend me.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.

-Glen Stilson