Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dressing for Armageddon

There really is no such thing as "Survival Clothing" and yet, as with everything else, there's always somebody willing to sell you some.

As I watched this video featuring Ron Hood a "very famous survival video maker…" my Bull $#!t detectors went off when he pulled an MRE form a rear pocket on his Scottevest. For one thing MRE's weigh about two pounds apiece and are the size, thickness and hardness of a hardbound book. Not something you'd want poking into your back every time you hopped into your HUMMER.

The sticking points for me are the price of these things ($100 for the Travel Vest with 22 pockets, $150 for the Outback Jacket with 20 pockets and $200 for the Expedition Jacket with 37 pockets) and the claimed utility of all those pockets.

Before I get into those points let me make it clear that this is not a hit piece on Scottevests. They're probably well made and may well get you through airport security quicker by virtue of being able to throw the vest on the X-ray belt as opposed to having to empty between 20 and 37 pockets before going through the metal detector.

Scottevests also have a slicker more citified look to them than my outdoorsy vests, but in an era where men wear Bermuda shorts with cargo pockets there's not all that much difference.

First the price
I've got a couple of vests sitting beside me as I write this. The one on my left is XX large and has a zippered collar with hood; two inner Velcro closured front pockets large enough for iPods and iPhones. The outside had three zippered and three Velcro closure pockets. It's an import and cost me less than $20 a few years ago. It would probably cost you around $40 today.

The vest on my right is XXX large because I used it as my "shooting vest" when I competed in local pistol matches. It's collarless and has two zippered inner pockets large enough to hold an Amazon Kindel DX (10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38") and two zippered outer pockets the same size. In addition it has five smaller Velcro closure pockets and two small zipper pockets.

I've got a real Remington® "shooting vest" (faux padding on the right shoulder) and some others I won't bore you with descriptions of other than to assure you that none of my vests cost anywhere near one hundred dollars.

Having between 20 and 37 pockets sounds convenient but gets bulky when you start filling them up with stuff. Ask yourself how many of the items the "very famous survival video maker…" Ron Hood pulls out of his jacket would you carry everyday?

I do carry a small camera, a note pad and a pen with me everyday. They ride in the left breast pocket of one of my Cabela's shirts.

My genuine Swiss Army knife .45 pistol and spare magazine ride on my belt.

I don't carry pocket knives on my shirtsleeves for the same reason I don't carry my pistol in an ankle holster: momentum. (During the very short time I tried to make ankle holsters work for me I discovered the constant forward, stop, forward, stop motions of walking cause the heavy pistol to try to swing around to the front of the ankle. Even making my own ankle holsters couldn't overcome physics without binding the holster so tightly about my lower leg as to cut off circulation.)

Putting a heavy metal object like a Swiss Army knife or even a small Leatherman Multi-tool in a pocket on the forearm of a long sleeve shirt would beat your forearm to the point of bruising with just the normal movements of everyday activity.

Further Ron Hood intimates that he carries an easy open knife for self defense in one of these lower arm sleeve pockets. That knife in a sheath on his belt or clipped to the top inside of his pants pocket would be exactly where he would expect it to be, in the position he expects it to be in.

In a lower arm sleeve pocket he can expect his defensive knife to be turned around with the wrong end at the wrong end when he grabs it and/or the wrong side out needing to be fumbled around to get the blade side facing out in order to bring the knife into play.

I submit he'll have one hell of a time getting that knife out of his sleeve pocket in anything resembling a hurry.

I'm beginning to think Ron Hood was running out of things to put into all those pockets for his demonstration.

I do like Ron's idea of carrying a short length of 550 cord around and plan to incorporate it into my every day carry in a sleeve pocket.

But there's nothing wrong with putting lighter objects in sleeve pockets, particularly in upper arm pockets. Many of my Cabela's shirts have small sleeve pockets on the upper left sleeve.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that if you've got so much stuff to carry around that you need 20 to 37 pockets to carry it all you're probably carrying around too much stuff.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
OZ writes:

(That's him firing the suppressed Springfield XD pistol in a recent issue of Tactical-Life online magazine.)

First, I gotta tell ya - I live at Ground Zero for all intents and purposes, and I really don't think we are going to face The Planet of The Apes anytime soon - but that's just me. I'm not sure from where this paranoia stems, but hey - it's cool by me. I am more concerned about violent crime, but crime is my vocation, after all.

First - I have nothing for or against the Scottvest, and I have been told that they are a fine piece of gear. Vests around D.C. seem to adorn just about every ignorant, useless, traffic-causing tourist wandering the streets, even if said tourists are wearing shorts and sandals and wool socks. (If they are from New York, that is usually the touristy uniform of the day.)

I am required to wear business attire to work every day - that means coat and tie. Now, I have a few shortcuts, but they do not involve clip-ons. Here, on the littorals of the Chesapeake, we have this phenomenon called HUMIDITY. As the temperatures rise from June to August, the only descriptive term is oppressively sweltering and the term "DAMN!"

I often commute wearing a collared shirt and a tie, and a decent pair of slacks and a pair of tennis shoes. Awaiting me at my office are two sport jackets and one pair each of brown and black dress shoes. Over my shirt and duty sidearm, if it is on my belt, I wear a vest which was made by EoTac. It is a lightweight ripstop black cotton blend. I like it because it is light, has a center vent in the back, and because it is a little higher quality garment it is almost wrinkle-free. It doesn't look all "tacti-cool," and I know that I got it for well under a hundred bucks, maybe half that cost. It has two upper and lower exterior pockets, and I think it has one inside that fits my iPod. That's it. Too simple.

I understand scorning the cost of the ScottVest, but you wear Cabela's shirts. Don't those shirts cost 40 to 50 bucks each? Wouldn't it be more cost effective to have ten $6.00 T-shirts from Wally World and one quality vest to wear over them all? (Yeah, I know you can get those shirts from Cabela's on sale. I have gotten similar ones from for far less than Cabelas charges.) OK - enough about vests.

Oh yeah - I wear a paracord bracelet. A kid in Florida makes them to raise money for his Dad so he can shoot matches on the weekend. They are cheap, he makes them in any color combo you want, it's a good cause, and if I ever REALLY need the cord, it's on my body. Had mine in less than a week. is where I got mine. (You can actually see mine on my wrist in a recent article in Tactical Life magazine. I am shooting a silenced Springfield XD. I can try to send the link if you like.

Let's talk about ankle holsters:

What gun were you trying to carry on your ankle? First - many guns are either too heavy, or even if they are lightweight, they are still WAYYYY too bulky in dimension to carry on the ankle. I tell my armed minions that they must "Dress for success," which is why we authorize certain backup guns in .38/.357, 9mm and .40 S&W. If you were trying to carry even an alloy framed Officer's sized .45 on your ankle, you are asking for disaster.

Remember - any gun you have is infinitely better than the 300 WinMag you left at home. And I'll let you in on a time tested, street-proven secret: It ain't the caliber, it's where you but the BB that matters. That being said - get a gun suitable for ankle carry, and carry it.

Second - what kind of ankle holster were you using when you tested the ankle carry option? I have found 3 types that work, and unless some new design has been made over the weekend, just about nothing else that I have seen is very effective: The Galco "Ankle Glove", the Renegade, and the Alessi. I have tried many gun and holster combinations over the years, and I gotta tell ya - those (and their clones,) are the only ones that really work. Are they cheap? Not really. And the best - the Alessi - is the most expensive. Here's another secret: You get what you pay for.

And I really can't believe you would attempt to make your own ankle holster. Really? REALLY? My Dad was a roofer. When I was a kid, if the plumber was over at the house working on the pipes on Wednesday night I knew that I would be on the plumber's roof first thing Saturday morning helping my Old Man flash a chimney or bash shingles or fix a gutter. The point is, my Dad used to say "I'm a roofer. I roof. Plumbers plumb - I don't." The late holstermaker legend and icon Lou Alessi was a dear friend of mine. I learned so much about holsters and holstermaking and history from him that it could probably fill volumes. And the more I learned, the more I realized that I use holsters, I don't make them. But it did give me a very discerning, if not critical taste for holsters.

I carry on my ankle as much as I carry on my belt, and I have for years. And I have no tendon damage or bruised tibias or anything like that. And no, I do not carry a single-stack polymer KelTec or other hideout gun like the fine NAA .32 ACP or even my old Colt Vest Pocket .25, but I would rather carry one of those than leave my big-bore fire breather at home and carry nothing at all. I usually have my all steel S&W 640 revolver in .357, or my Glock 26 on my ankle.

The wheelgun is heavy, and I have had it and my Alessi holster for it since 1997. Yes - the same holster. However, I have had my 26 since it hit our shores in about 1993 (?), and Lou made me an ankle holster for it way back then - and I still use that same holster. Again - you get what you pay for. And yes - I use ankle holsters exclusively when it is just too damn hot to wear even the light vest. The best carry gun is the one the bad guys don't know is there, right?

So take a crowbar to your wallet my brother, kit up appropriately, and dress for success.

Just my .02 cents.

Take care -

I reply:
No, I don't believe we're headed for a "Planet of the Apes" scenario anytime soon either. More likely a gradual decline like what happened in Argentina.

And I've nothing against Scottevests or tourists in shorts in wool socks. But then we don't get very many tourists around these parts.

I like your EoTac vest it looks a lot like a couple of mine, but neither yours nor mine are festooned with 20 some odd pockets.

I can get two of my "40 to 50" dollar" Cabela's shirts for the cost of one Scottevest and have two colors to choose from when I dress in the morning.

I like your idea of a paracord bracelet, but don't wear jewelry. And, hell yes, send me a link to your picture in Tactical-Life magazine!

I don't remember what brand, but it was a major brand ankle holster I tried out first with a Smith & Wesson .38 Airweight. Later, in desperation, I tried making two ankle holsters (one leather & one stretch nylon) for my little .22 Beretta mod. 21A but they didn't work out either.

While we're on the subject, one style ankle holster I've never tried (and never will) is those things that carry the gun upside down so that if the retainer comes loose the gun will literally FALL out of the ankle holster.
Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:

Keeping Your Freezer Colder Longer
If you have advance warning of disaster that may cut power to your area you can keep frozen foods colder longer with the following tips:

1. Before the storm/flood/etc. set the freezer to its coldest setting.
2. If you expect newly added food to have enough time to freeze, fill the freezer with foods from your refrigerator that would spoil before you could eat them in a prolonged outage.
3. The fuller the freezer is with solid frozen things the longer it will take to thaw out.
4. Partially fill plastic jugs with water to help hold thermal mass.
5. If you have to eat from the freezer before the power comes back on, KNOW what you are going to take out before you open it. Grab it fast and close the door!
6. Blankets and quilts around the freezer will help insulate it.
7. Be sure to remove the blankets and quilts when the power comes back on.

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