March 29, 2015

Speaking at the Men’s Retreat at the Woodlake Bible Camp

I wanted to let you all know I have been invited to speak at the men’s retreat at the Wood Lake Bible Camp on Saturday, January 24, 2015. I will be speaking on why, as men, it is our duty to prepare for our families; based on 1 Timothy 5:8 and my e-book Why Should I Prepare and is it Biblical?

The camp is located in 22460 Assembly Road Grantsburg, WI 54840. If you’re in the area, and would like to attend the retreat and hear me speak, you can register here.

 
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Challenging Commonly Held Firearms Beliefs

Challenging Commonly Held Firearms Beliefs

I was looking over some of my older posts and noticed I haven’t written an article on using a firearm to CCW or for self-defense in quite some time. So I want to take the opportunity to give you information that I believe is important, and doesn’t necessarily fit into its own article.

I’ll start off by saying that when it comes to the use of firearms for self-defense, there are some people who are so married to their belief, that they’re almost offended when presented with opposing information. If you have a belief that I say something against, please let me know why you think I am wrong. Some of what I will say today is my opinion, but much of it is backed up by science.
 
 
The History of Firearms Training

Until recently, most of the information trainers passed on about the use of handguns for self-defense was gleaned second hand, or information they read from a book, which at the time was cutting edge. In the last fifteen years though there has been a wealth of data coming in from the video cameras that are everywhere. From police dash cams, CCTV, cell phone cameras and even from the wars overseas. There have also been several studies done by neuroscientists that have made it so we have a better understanding of how the brain works in training and in critical incidents.

Many people have learned from a friend who was a cop or in the military back in the day. I’ll go back to saying that their training was probably top notch when they got it, but it very well could be outdated.
 
 
You’ll Default to Your Highest Level of Training

Uh no you won’t. Let’s say you take an expensive 2-day handgun course and learn all kinds of great information. If you never practice those things, you will not do them when in a critical incident. You may have heard the term “muscle memory”, which is a little misleading. Your muscles don’t have a memory, your brain just learns to do things by repetition.

For example, do you need to look at your hands or the shoestrings when you tie your shoes? If you’re just learning how you might, but if you have done it for years it is now second nature. Now let’s say you buy a new pair of shoes and the salesperson shows you a new knot that performs better than the standard knot, and you only practiced it at the store. Now if we added some form of critical stress, such as a burning house, a home invasion or zombie attack and you had to put on your shoes and tie them, your brain is trained to tie them the standard way, so that is how it will respond under critical incident, your body defaults to what the brain has done most often. You can retrain it over time, but that requires repetition to build that “muscle memory”.
 
 
Training For the Worst of the Worst

Needing to defend yourself with a firearm is a worse case self-defense scenario. Criminals don’t let you know they’re going to attack or how they’ll attack. Because of this, you can’t know how things will unfold, so practicing for the worst of a worst case scenario is a good idea. If you only ever train to shoot one round at one attacker, what will you do when faced with multiple attackers and your first shot misses? With this in mind, here are my thoughts on a few related topics.
 
 
Revolvers for Self-Defense

I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard people recommend revolvers for self-defense, usually recommended because they don’t fail as semi-autos do. While this is true, it doesn’t take into consideration the entire picture. Police switched from revolvers to semi-autos many years ago for several reasons. Magazine capacity and ease of reloading are just two.

Since we’re talking about the worst of the worst, you don’t know how many attackers or how many rounds you’ll need to fire. A revolver holds six rounds, and it is very easy to fire six rounds in under 2 seconds. You might think that is overkill, but we’re talking about worst case, and there have been several police shootings where the officer emptied their magazine before the attacker went down. I’ll wager that this is often due to missed shots caused by physiological changes in the body.

If you only have those six rounds and are in need of more, while you can reload with a speed loader, unless you have practiced using it heavily, you might not to be able to do it quickly or at all under stress, due to the physiological changes in the body. Under critical stress, blood is taken from the extremities and pooled into the body’s core. This means fine motor function is highly reduced in the hands, limiting dexterity.

Yes, semi-autos fail, but one can quickly learn how to clear the three types of failures in seconds, and get back in the fight. These are much easier to manipulate with loss of fine motor skills and can be learned quickly. The vast majority of the three types of failures can be cleared with “tap and rack”; hitting the bottom of the magazine and racking a new round into the chamber, which can be done in 1-2 seconds.

If you use a revolver for strength issue, by all means use it. But get proficient at changing speed loaders just in case.
 
 
Double Tap

Double Tapping has been a standard in self-defense for decades. Often, practice is to draw from the holster, fire two rounds into center mass and holster. Since we’re talking about the worst of the worst case scenarios and we know that people fall back to their most frequent level of practice, what do you think will happen when rounds miss or don’t bring the attacker down? There have been reported cases where an officer fired his two shots and holstered his firearm, only to have the attacker continue the attack.

Studies have also been done on the accuracy under critical incidents, which show that as many as 70% of rounds fired are misses. Now, I graduated before common core math, but I am still pretty sure 70% of 2 means either one or both rounds missed.

Instead, I recommend that you practice firing varied rounds each time when training, sometimes firing twice and other times three, five or six rounds. If you are ever involved in a critical incident and must shoot, continue to fire until forward movement of the attacker has stopped.
 
 
Does Size Matter?

This is one of the oldest arguments in the realm of firearms for self-defense; does the caliber of the round matter (I can feel the heated comments already lol)? I think that before modern self-defense ammunition, designed to expand upon contact, the size of the round may have been important. However, with the advances of modern ammo, I am of the belief that 9mm is a better choice than .45 for a few reasons.

One shot stop (or two shot) is often recited, but the stopping power of one round does not take into account the physiological changes involved in a critical incident and is irrelevant if it is missed or does not hit a vital organ.

Modern day self defense ammo expands upon contact dumping its kinetic energy into the flesh. As it expands it leave a much bigger hole then the ammo of the past.

The recoil with 9mm is significantly less than .45, making recoil management much easier so you can get back on target faster to fire again and again. It is also less expensive, and if your training budget is an area of concern, you will be able to practice more.

I don’t recommend anything smaller than a .32 or .380 for self-defense, but the bottom line is: carry what you have and are proficient with. If you like a .45, practice and carry one. I personally carry and practice with a 9mm.
 
 
Distance of Attack

Tom Givens is a self-defense trainer out of Memphis Tennessee. He collected information from over 60 self-defense shootings and found that 86.2% of these shootings occurred at the ranges of 9 to 15 feet. If you are practicing for self-defense, it is great if you can hit a bulls-eye at 50 feet, but being able to hit it multiple times in rapid succession at 9 to 15 feet is better.
 
 
I Won’t Hesitate to Pull the Trigger

It is a common belief for people to think that if they are in a life and death critical incident, they will not hesitate to stop the threat with lethal force. However, statistics show that throughout history, people who have been trained to kill often hesitate.

The book “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman helped firm up my understanding of humans and their capacity and willingness to use violence. In short, the vast majority of human beings are not wired to use violence on one another.

Lt. Col. Grossman goes into great detail to explain how, through the earliest of American wars; the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the World Wars, the majority of the men fighting would purposely miss what they were shooting at. He explained how the aversion to killing another human was so strong that a trained soldier often times would not shoot another, even if it meant losing his own life.

I have also heard that there is a large percentage of police killed that either never fire their weapon, or made no attempt to. I did a little digging and found this according to the FBI in the 2013 Law Officers Killed and Assaulted Report.

Leading up to the Vietnam War, great effort went into figuring out how to train men, not only to kill but to do so without hesitation. Today’s military are some of the most efficient warriors in the world’s history. In 2013 there were 27 officers killed in the line of duty which, on a side note, was a far lower number than previous years. Of those 27, 18 either did not use or attempt to use their sidearm. You may think that they must have been jumped, but the report shows that only 5 were ambushed.

I am not criticizing these officers or the veterans that chose not to fire either. I am simply asking if these people, who’s job it was to step into danger every day, knowing there was a chance they may need to use deadly force in the course of their career, failed to respond with deadly force, how can you be so sure you will?

Setting my machismo aside, I hope I respond without hesitation. I have done everything I can reasonably do to make sure I act, but I haven’t been tested, so I don’t know. I hope I never have to find out, I do not relish the idea of taking another’s life, not because I don’t want to hurt someone, no, I believe if someone threatens deadly force, they have written you an invitation to use it against them. There is still a lot of legal, personal, spiritual, mental and emotional baggage that goes with it.

If you’re interested, I list a few ways to raise the odds you’ll be able to pull the trigger in Are You Prepared To Use Violence to Stop Violence?

 
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Why Do You Really Prepare?

Why Do You Really Prepare.

I’m sure you could rattle off several reasons why you prepare. I only want one; but I want the core reason that you prepare. For the moment, I want you to set aside things like economic downturn/meltdown, pandemic, EMP solar flare and so on. To my way of thinking, those are threats to ones level of preparedness, be it good or bad. For me, they are not the reasons I prepare.

I think it is important to know the core reason why you prepare for a few reasons. Here are just two; If I tell myself and others that I am preparing for economic collapse and it doesn’t happen, or if the economy gets better for years, I look or feel like I wasted my time and money. Secondly, preparedness is expensive, takes up a lot of room in your house and can cause friction at home if not everyone is onboard. If you know your core reason, it is easier to stay the course and it can provide motivation to keep going.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here is the core reason that I prepare.

Years ago someone asked me what my biggest fear was. After I thought about it I said “someone I love being in danger and not being able to do anything about it.” To this day I think I would say it still is. When it boils down to it, that is the core reason why I prepare.

I have always been a big believer in personal responsibility and when I think about it and preparedness, 1 Timothy 5:8 comes to mind:


“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

When I read that verse I don’t see any qualifiers or stipulations that say “only when things are going well” or “disregard if the stuff hits your fan.” This verse is a 24/7/365 day a year duty. It is easy to provide for my family when I am working, the stores are stocked and we’re relatively healthy. It isn’t so easy when I am unemployed, the shelves are bare for whatever reason or when we or the general populace it too ill to be out and about. It isn’t so easy, that is, without prior preparation. Granted, depending on what kind of thing happens, it will still be tough to provide for our five basic needs, but at least I will have made every effort and will not be deemed worse than an infidel.

I’ll ask again, what is the core reason that you prepare?

Do You Need to Know Outdoors Skills to Be Prepared?

When I began preparing, I researched all kinds of topics that people on forums said were important to know; implying that to truly be prepared one had to know these outdoor/primitive skills. I joined some outdoors forums, learned several new and interesting things, and then it dawned on me; I don’t spend much time in the great outdoors! While I enjoy learning these skillsets, I decided I was better served learning more practical things for me personally. I do, however, think there are a few skills everyone (even city slickers) should know. There is more on that below. Before I go any further, I want to say that this is not me saying that strictly learning basic preparedness skills is the only way to be prepared. It is me saying that who are so entrenched in their camp and believe the only way to be prepared for come what may is by knowing outdoor/primitive/bushcraft skills.

I think some of us have romanticized bugging out to the woods and surviving off the land. I think shows like Survivor Man and the many shows like it might hold some of the blame. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy these kinds of shows, but I have seen very few scenarios that I will ever be even remotely close to being in. If you’re someone who thinks you’ll bug out to the woods if the stuff hits the fan to live off the woods, I hate to break it to you, but that’s not realistic. This article titled: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions About Hunting and Gathering explores the caloric intake of foraged plants and hunted and trapped game. This article doesn’t take into consideration all of the other people you’ll be competing against for the limited amount of game!

Long time readers will know that I believe, while these worst case events, like EMPS, are possible, they’re not very likely. Let’s say, for the sake of this article, an EMP does go off. In the vast majority of circumstances, I believe that one would be far better prepared having their 5 basic human needs met by staying home (bugging in, hunkering down, etc.), rather than bugging out to the woods. Sure, if the grid is completely down, after all my food has been eaten, I might need to head to the woods to find game, but that is a lot of “what ifs” and “maybe’s.” If I had to flee my home, I would hole up in an abandoned building before I would consider building a shelter in the woods and trying to keep Trudee the dogs and I warm.

To answer the question asked in the title of the article; “Do you need to know outdoor skills to be prepared?” My answer is: I don’t think so. If your goal is to be prepared for 95% of the things that happen every year, I think you would be better served first building Redundancy of the Five Basic Human Needs than learning how to use a bow drill or learning to make a figure four trap.

If you don’t have a grasp on the following, they might be better skills to learn first. Basics of food storage. Multiple ways to purify water. How to meet the basic needs during a grid down event, IE keeping food and medicine cool, how to keep cool without AC or provide emergency heat. The basics of survival sanitation and fire safety Also security topics like Situational Awareness and Awareness and Security in Crowds and home security as well as protecting Your neighborhood.

Please don’t think I am knocking outdoor skills. If you spend time in the outdoors hunting, hiking or doing something else, you should know them and be proficient in them. If they are just a passion, by all means, learn all you can. I also think that learning outdoor/primitive skills are a good skills to learn after you have the basics down, this will really round out your skills set. If we ever do see a prolonged grid down event, everyone will need to know outdoor skills. They can also be a great way for people, especially children to build self-confidence.
 
 
Outdoor Skills Everyone Should Know

If you live in the city, you might wonder why I think you should know some basic survival skills. Every year I see several news stories about people who were driving and either got lost, their car broke down or they got stranded somehow. Many of these people panic and make bad decisions. I think they panic because they don’t know what to do to stay alive until help comes. You might not foresee a situation that will take you into or near a remote area, but you never know what God has planned for your future!

For that reason, I think people should know a minimum of three skills; how to start a fire and keep it burning, how to build a very basic shelter, and how to Signal for help.

You’ll notice I only linked to an article I wrote on signaling for help. I was not blessed with a good sense of direction, and have spent more than my fair share of time lost. Knowing this about myself, I spent a good deal of time researching what to do when lost and wrote about it. I do know how to make a fire, and my belief on the subject is to learn how to make one with a lighter first. You should then keep a lighter in your vehicle or EDC if you are heading out. Making a bow drill and starting a fire with it, while very cool, is not realistic for the person who doesn’t spend time outdoors practicing. I also have read, in depth, on how to make various shelters, but haven’t built one, so I don’t feel comfortable telling you what to do.

Instead, I will provide some links to just a couple of the resources I have followed over the years.

The Survival Sherpa is one of my favorite outdoors mentors. You’ll learn all kinds of outdoors and survival related skills from Todd.

The Late Ron Hood is another person I learned a lot from. His wife Karen has picked up the mantle. You can purchase a wide selection of almost 30 outdoors related DVD’s from Survival.com

I also recommend the affiliated forum for Survival.com, Hoods Woods. I haven’t been an active Hoodlum for some time, but this is a fantastic place to research and ask questions.

The last resource I’ll share is Dirttime.com, where you can learn much from the three Survival Instructors who write for the site.

 
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Not In My Backyard

Not In My Backyard

If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while you’re probably familiar with the fact that I don’t recommend people prepare with the TEOTWAWKI events in mind. Instead, I believe the best option it a general approach to preparedness, taking into consideration the events that are most likely to happen in your area.

However, with the exception of weather events, we should not rule out scenarios taking place in our area, simply because of where we live. For example, one would think that if Mexican drug cartel violence was to take place in America, it would happen in a border town. However, this happened in St. Paul Minnesota; from the StarTribune.com

“Three enforcers hired by Mexico’s biggest drug cartel flew from Los Angeles to Minnesota last month, kidnapped two local teenagers, and then tortured them for hours at a house in St. Paul in an effort to recover stolen drugs, according to court documents reviewed by the Star Tribune.”

Acting under orders from the Sinaloa cartel, the three kidnappers were trying to determine who had stolen 30 pounds of methamphetamine and $200,000 from a stash house on Palace Avenue in St. Paul. Before the episode was over, they had issued death threats against the Minnesota pair and their families, demanding that they find the missing drugs or come up with $300,000 to compensate the cartel.”

I’m not sure if I would call this complacency, willful ignorance or just someone having a blind spot. The type of scenarios I am thinking about are mostly security related in nature. I think this happens the most often to people who live in a rural, suburban or urban environment, thinking the problems of the other environments aren’t a concern for them.

The couple who homesteads on their acreage might be under the assumption that in “SHTF” they won’t have to worry about people coming in from the suburbs or the nearest large urban area. If we see an EMP event and it disables vehicular travel, you could be partially right. It would be hard to cover long distances on foot, but not impossible. If we see any other type of event, I actually think you might be more prone to see crime brought in from other population centers.

I was told by my cities police captain that 90% of our crime is drug related and comes from Minneapolis, which is a thirty or so minute drive and is the nearest large population center. Addicts come into town, burglarize homes and cars and sell/trade what they get for drugs in other cities. I also remember reading about the economic collapse in Argentina; that there were very rural homesteads that were specifically targeted because they were so remote and because there was food there. The point? Crime migrates!

I believe there is a chance we could see one of the large scale events like an EMP or a pandemic, but I don’t think it is as likely as an economic shift causing unemployment to go up to 15% or higher and aid programs to be scaled back.

People using welfare, unemployment, food stamps and other aid programs live in rural, suburban and urban locations. But if these programs are cut back and families have to get by on 20% less, for a certain segment of that population, crime is a viable option to make ends meet.

Since the population is higher in urban environments, logic dictates that there are going to be more people in a high population center affected vying for the limited resources in that area. Whether those resources are jobs, other private aid programs such as food shelves, or people to prey upon. Spreading out to other locals is a very distinct possibility.
 
 
What Can We Do?

Um, the number one thing we can do is not steal 30lbs of drugs from a Mexican drug cartel! Duh!

If you live in a suburban or rural area, don’t think that you don’t have to worry about crime from higher population areas in your backyard. If you live in an urban area, you probably don’t have to worry about the smell or peace and quiet from a rural area invading you (LOL). But the poor decisions of your neighbors could import crime from another urban area.

When it comes to security related topics of any kind, if we believe certain types of events are no risk to us, at best we become complacent and worst we put ourselves in danger. I think a good goal for our security in any situation is to not live in fear, but to be aware that there are real dangers. We are not immune because of our size, gender, what we carry for self-defense or where we live.

 
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Winter Is Coming. Will You Help?

Imagine you’re awakened in the middle of the night by something so terrifying and dangerous that you only have time to get your family and flee with the clothes on your backs and maybe some minimal supplies.

As time goes on, the danger has only increased and is preventing you from returning to your home or job. You’ve taken shelter in an abandoned building and must rely on others to get by day to day.

Now imagine that the reason you fled was because of your faith and that the danger was from a mob on a murderous rampage, slaughtering others who share your faith.

This is reality for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq and Syria who fled when ISIS gave some an ultimatum and slaughtered others.

Winter Is Coming. Will You Help.
Trudee and I use part of our tithe to give to Voice of the Martyrs and they recently sent us this:

VOM1
It gets very cold in northern Iraq, and winter is coming. Christian refugees from Mosul need our help now.

When IS (Islamic State) advanced into Iraq this summer, 100,000 Christians were displaced. Many fled to the Kurdish region and camped in unfinished or abandoned buildings, schools and empty fields. Now that winter is coming, these Christian refugees need our help to stay warm for the next few months.

The Voice of the Martyrs is already at work providing warm clothing, heaters and better shelters for our brothers and sisters in need. Since this past summer, VOM has been supporting Christians in Iraq with food, generators for churches, shelter, Bibles, emergency medical care and water purifiers. Now we’re helping them prepare for winter by providing warm clothing, including coats and long underwear, and gas heaters. You can help support our ongoing efforts with a gift to “Help Iraqi Christians.”

“We thought we had been forgotten by the whole world!”

—IRAQI CHRISTIAN WHO RECEIVED AN ACTION PACK

VOM2VOM partners have been distributing aid items to Christian refugees since summer, and now is your chance to personally fill an Action Pack that will be distributed to Iraqi Christians. Action Packs are special bags that you fill with approved items and send back to VOM for distribution. You will fill these Action Packs with warm clothing and other items that will be given directly to the displaced Iraqi Christians as an encouragement. Get your family or small group involved in filling several Action Packs, and include a photo and a note telling them they are not forgotten.

While this might not be a preparedness topic, it is a kingdom topic. If it is in your budget, please consider supporting persecuted Christians in Iraq.

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” ~ Mathew 25:40

To donate to Iraqi Christians, just click on the image below.

Support Iraqi Christians

 
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Reflecting Over the Last Year

Part of human nature at times is concentrating on what we don’t have, instead of seeing what we do, or how far we’ve come. As a group of people who prepare for the “what if’s,” Prepper’s can easily fall into this, as we see everything we’re still not prepared for.

This last six weeks of the year, among other things, is a time for giving thanks and reflecting over the last year. On a long journey, when concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, it can be hard to tell how far you’ve come until you take time to look back. With that in mind, I highly suggest you take some time to look back and see how far along you’ve come in your mindset, your finances, your plans and your physical preps and, most importantly, your walk with the Lord.

To give you some idea of what I mean, here is part of my list:

I’m working! Last year at this time, I had been unemployed for several months. This means bills are still being paid, we have health insurance and, while we have had our savings depleted due to the unemployment, a new furnace and health issues for us and the dogs, we’ll soon be debt free again and be able to start saving.

Because money was tight, I wasn’t able to buy many new preps. I was, however, able to barter my services and add some food storage and other goods.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about our country and how things are run. I used to vote down the party line, but came to the realization that the enemy of my enemy is not a voting strategy.

My marriage is stronger. Trudee and I have always had a strong relationship, but this year we grew closer together. If we had an argument, or difference in opinion, we took time to understand the others side, instead of just digging in our heels and not hearing the others point of view. Don’t get me wrong, I am right, she is wrong, (and I let him believe that…even though he KNOWS I proofread every one of his articles! LOL ~Trudee) but at least I know where she is coming from ;) Seriously though, a strong relationship is one of the biggest preps you can have. It makes life easier on the best of days, and bearable on the worst.

We don’t have plans at the moment to leave the country, or any real desire to, but we got our passports. I think they are good to have, call it an advanced prep. They do take some time to get, and we decided if we did ever want to travel abroad, we don’t want to have to wait.

I have developed my own CCW (Carrying Concealed Weapon) content and will be submitting it to the state so I can begin to certify people to carry in Minnesota. Goals for the future are to get the Practical Defense, LLC website up and running, and to get certified to certify others in Utah and Florida as well.

I managed to post to the blog usually twice a week. I have written around 450 posts and covered every topic I can think of that I know anything about. I have struggled this year to come up with topics, but God has been faithful! Several times, I have prayed for an idea, and I get one or two until the next time I pray.

Those are just some of the things I am thankful for and reflecting on. Feel free to share any of yours in the comment section.

 
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Review of the SmartCharge™ LED Bulbs

Review of the SmartCharge™ LED Bulbs

I was recently asked if I wanted to review a LINK SmartCharge™ light bulb. It is an LED light bulb that contains a 4 hour battery backup. I said “yes,” as I think this could fill a role in power loss preparations for many of us. A flashlight is great, but unless you have them scattered around the house, you need to go looking for one. Flashlights are great for providing direct light, but not great for lighting up a room. Preparedness Club members, make sure to see the bottom for special pricing!

The LINK SmartCharge™ turns on as soon as a loss of power is detected. The following are some features provided by the manufacturer.

SmartCharge™ Features:
• Works with a Standard Light Fixture
• 4 hours of Light During a Power Outage
• Built in Rechargeable Battery / Charges during normal use
• Turns On/Off from the Switch During Power Outages
• Energy Efficient, ROHS Compliant
• Instant On
• Rated to last for 40,000 hours, 25 years

– Brightness – Minimum 350 lumen
-Annual Energy cost – .72¢ USD
-Color Temperature – 5000K
-Wattage – 5.5 Watt
-40 Watts equivalent
-Bulb Voltage – 110-240V
-UL, CE, FCC, & ROHS certified certifications

It fits in a standard light socket, and acts as a normal light bulb until the internal circuitry detects a loss of power, then it switches to the battery backup power. As you can see from the pictures, there is less light in “grid down,” running on batteries mode.

I see this as a good fit in a few situations.

If you have a battery backup UPS on your computer, you know that if power is lost, your system and any peripherals attached to it stay on. Though some units have a long charge, the purpose of a UPS isn’t to keep you up and running until power is restored. The purpose is to let you finish your work, save it and shutdown, thus making sure you finish your task. I see the LINK SmartCharge™ as a product that can let you finish what you were doing. That is, unless it was something that required electricity of course. It then provides a light source for you to get your Lights Out Kit and get ready, just in case the outage is a bit longer than 4 hours. It will also provide that 4 hours of constant light, more if used sparingly.

While our grid is fragile, in that it takes little to bring it down, it is pretty reliable in the amount of time it is up. The founder of the LINK SmartCharge™ is from India, where there are a lot of power outages. If you live in a place where the grid isn’t reliable, the LINK SmartCharge™ could be a very effective tool to provide light in between outages, as well as during.
 
 
My Take

Normal Bulb

Normal Bulb

Please forgive the quality of the images. They were taken with my iPhone, and I am just pretty happy my thumb isn’t in them. I’ll start by saying that I prefer a softer light bulb. The 40 Watt is what I normally use in the office. So, for me, the LINK SmartCharge™is a great fit. If you prefer a very well lit room, this might not be the best option, unless there are other lights on as well.
 
 
SmartCharge on grid power.

SmartCharge on grid power.

The LINK SmartCharge™ gave off a whiter, cleaner light than the yellowish tint the regular 40Watt put out. Now, if you watch any of the videos, I really think they do themselves a disservice. To simulate a blackout you need to do more than just unplug the lamp. Simply unplugging it from the wall does not simulate a power outage. In a power outage, there are still things connected to the circuit in your house, such as the stove, etc., that are plugged into the outlets. The bulb needs to detect something else to complete the circuit to stay on.
 
SmartCharge on battery power.

SmartCharge on battery power.

To get by this, they seem to use another light as the other electronic device drawing power. This makes the room look very bright while power is on, and very dark; darker than it really is, when power is “out”. I used a fan as the other device, and the difference in the light provided between modes is very minimal. I was surprised how much darker the picture was in the after picture, because I thought it was almost the same level of brightness while I had it on in battery power mode.

Size comparison

As you can see, the LINK SmartCharge™ is bigger than a standard bulb. It doesn’t bother me, but if you have an enclosed fixture, it might be very tight, or not fit at all.

The price is $34.95, which isn’t too bad when the average LED bulb goes for around $20.00. Pay an extra $15 and you get one that will sense when the grid is down, and run off of the battery for another four hours.

I’m going to give this item 4 stars. I think it is a very clever idea, and designed well. If they would have changed the design so that power just needed to be lost from the source, and the bulb would stay on, I would give it 5 stars. That would allow for one to charge it with a small solar panel, and have 4 hours of off grid light at night.

The folks at LINK SmartCharge™ have agreed to give Preparedness Club members a 25% discount until January 5th 2015! Log into your account to find the coupon code.

 
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Fifteen Preparedness Gift Ideas

We’re nearing Christmas, so I thought I would take this opportunity to give you some gift ideas for the Prepper on your list! I own all but one of these items. I stand behind every one I will post. Some of the links posted are affiliate links, meaning if you decide to purchase, I will get a very small commission; thank you if you do buy something!

I am also going to mention the Preparedness Club. If you’re looking for gift ideas besides what is on this list or even if you’re looking for something specific, check the Preparedness Club out. Think of us as the sales section of the newspaper. You come to one site to see sales instead of visiting several, and we post only the best sales daily. If you sign up for updates, you will receive one email per day at 6pm EST that lists the sales found for that day.
 
 

Prepper Pete Prepares: An Introduction to Prepping for Kids; $3.99 for Kindle Edition

If you have a child and are looking for ways to teach them about preparedness, then the Prepper Pete Prepares: An Introduction to Prepping for Kids book would make a great gift. The same can be said for Prepper Pete’s Gun of a Son: A Gun Safety Book for Kids, if you have a child you would like to teach gun safety concepts. I have read and reviewed both Prepper Pete Prepares and Prepper Pete’s Gun of a Son, in case you would like to get my full opinion.
 
 

Resqme Keychain Car Escape Tool; $9.95

I used to have a tool that would cut a seatbelt and break a car window. I kept it in the door pocket, thinking if I wrecked it would be within reach. Then my son wrecked the car, nearly rolling it. I found my tool the next day in the back seat, out of reach.

We now have these on our key chains. To break a window, simply push it against the window and a pin snaps forward shattering the glass. It will also cut a seatbelt. Best of all, it will always be in reach when the key is in the ignition.
 
 

Allen Company Adult Blade 4 Lens Style Combo Case (Clear, Red, Yellow, Smoke); $11.00-$15.00

You can read my review of these glasses here.. I used to just buy the safety glasses that cost less than $5 from Menards. Then someone let me try their set of these in yellow. I was amazed at how everything popped out. To me, the yellow alone is worth $11, but add the other colors and this is a great deal!
 
 

Luci Solar Lantern; $14.00
I recently reviewed LUCI. You can read the full review Here. LUCI is a solar powered light, powerful enough to provide up to an 8’x10’ room with enough light to read by. It takes 8 hours to get a full charge. Once charged, it will keep a full charge for 3 months! After that, it will hold a half charge for two years! If you use it for 12 hours a day, she will last around 2 years! If you use her occasionally you can expect many years of use!
 
 

Maxpedition Micro Pocket Organizer; $16.33
Anyone who carries more than a couple pieces of EDC gear has probably gotten tired of fumbling through their pockets for that one needed item. That is what led to me buying this bag, and it was a great idea! It holds most of my EDC gear and fits in the pocket of my cargo pants with room to spare.
 
 

Ps Quick Draw Gun Magnet; $17.69
This might not be the typical gift idea, but if you have someone trying to conceal a handgun at home, it is the perfect gift. This is a great way to have your handgun out with you while watching TV or at the desk, yet have it concealed. The magnet strength is enough to hold up to 10lbs.
 
 


Seed of the Month Club; Six months $19.74 or 1 year $35.52
This is the one item I do not own/participate in. After several years of failed attempts at gardening I realized we just don’t get enough sun to garden in any part of the yard. Should we move, I will join the Seed of the Month Club.

Give a new variety of heirloom, non GMO seeds every month! Click here to save 25%, and Preparedness Club members receive a 30% discount.
 
 

Space All Weather Blanket; $19.99

If you have the typical foil type space blanket in your BOB, this is a great upgrade. I still have them in mine, but this one is far warmer and more durable. Warmer than wool, it will retain 80% of body heat. It also has grommets in each corner and is tear and puncture resistant.
 
 

Guyot Designs Backpacker Stainless Steel Bottle, 32-Ounce; $21.99
I don’t own this version. I own its big, discontinued, brother and you can read my review of it here. As I say in the review, the Backpacker has a narrower base and is less expensive than the one I have. That aside, this is a fantastic water bottle! It keeps things cooler longer and the wide mouth makes filling it easier. Just make sure it comes with a splash guard (I believe they do. Well, mine did anyway.) This is the last water bottle I will ever own.

 
 

Making the Best of Basics


Making the Best of Basics; $39.99

This is the first informational prepper-type book I purchased after seeing several raving reviews on various forums. They were not wrong! This book is very packed with information on subjects including how to stock your pantry, how to store those items and how to cook with them. There is a sprouting guide, a guide on wheat and dehydrating fruits and vegetables. There are instructions on how to make yogurt and cheese. There is even information on essential oils!

I have said it before, this is one book that should be in everyone’s preparedness library! You can read my full review of it here. There are now digital and DVD versions. I prefer the hard copy, but the digital and DVD version come with a lot of extras not included in the hard copy.
 
 
Howard Leight
Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff; $48.94
If you go shooting with other people, this is a must have item. If you take any level of training, this is a must have item. I used them during training and could hear the instructor who was speaking normally, and was on the other side of the outdoor range. I would not have heard him that well without the electronic earmuffs! They really amplify voice well, and block the sounds of gunfire to the level any other earmuffs would. You can read my full 5 star review here.
 
 


Cold Steel Spartan; $59.59
This is my EDC knife for last ditch self-defense. I’ll be honest, I liked the look of it and it was getting good reviews, so I asked for it as a birthday gift. It is a far better knife than my previous EDC knife. The handle design means your grip is strong and your fingers are not sliding off. This might be adjustable, but mine doesn’t open easily, which is fine by me. My last knife slid open when it wasn’t supposed to and I ended up with stitches. Be forewarned, this knife is a mammoth, with a total length of 10.5” and is also quite wide. It still fits fine in a pants pocket, but is the biggest folder I have owned.
 
 


AlertsUSA; $99.00 per year
Do you have a news junky in your life? Someone who needs to stay on top of current events? Maybe they check their favorite online sources multiple times a day? AlertsUSA
is the perfect gift for them! AlertsUSA’s goal is to increase the user’s level of situational and threat awareness. They will send a text message to your mobile device and an email with every alert.

I have used the service for two years and they frequently give an alert before the MSM picks up on the topic. Since they are not the MSM and their only agenda is to give you the information they deem as important, they often report information received from an insider that never appears on MSM.

The service is $99.00 a year. However, Preparedness Club members receive it for $75.00! For just this weekend you can get a one year membership to of AlertsUSA for $69.00!
 
 
CrossBreed
Crossbreed holster; Price varies
I was introduced to CrossBreed holsters by a reader, and I am glad I was! I owned 4-5 holsters before my CrossBreed. They either never fit right, didn’t offer enough concealment or were uncomfortable.

I purchased the Snapside and a gun belt to go with it. The combination of the two is BY FAR the most comfortable way I have ever carried. If you CCW on a regular basis, I cannot recommend them enough, especially with a gun belt. The level of comfort, support and conceal-ability is well worth the price!

They also have belly band holsters, ankle holsters and a modular design called a purse defender that essentially turns any purse into a CCW purse. They also have bedside backup and a RAM ball mount that allows you to securely mount your handgun just about anywhere and make it easily accessible.

It might actually be too late to get some of the items before Christmas, but if you have a shooter on your list, consider Crossbreed! They’ll love it.

 
 

Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrator; $179.00
I did a lot of research and looking before deciding to purchase the Excalibur dehydrator. There are many that are less expensive, but I either didn’t like the design or didn’t like some other feature. The Excalibur is the champion when it comes to the amount of food that you can dehydrate at one time.
 
 

SIRT R/R Training Pistol. Dry Fire Handgun by Next Level Training; $195.00
The SIRT training pistol is a diagnostic tool and training aid. It allows you to train and form good habits, and actually see deficiencies like breaking down and left when you squeeze the trigger. With the use of the laser it lets you see if and when you are breaking off target.

The cost might seem a little high, but if you consider the cost of ammo and how much ammo it could take to break you out of bad habits, it could actually save you money!

The deal linked here is actually better than what I got. It includes:

•SIRT 110 Training Pistol Red/Red Lasers
•FREE 90min Training DVD and FREE SIRT Safety Glasses.
Also includes a weighted magazine, a carrying case, adjustment tools and manuals.
•Includes $250.00 Front Sight Certificate as well as Coupons and Other Discounts for Accessories and Additional Training Aids
•One Year Manufacturer Warranty. Made in the USA.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully I have been able to give you some gift ideas for the Prepper on your list. I’m sure they’ll be happy with anything I have listed. If you are looking for a gift that is more light hearted or a gag gift, check out this list from The Daily Prep.

Introducing Homespun Environmental

Homespun Environmental
To Order from Homespun Environmental just click the above image.

I was recently approached by Homespun Environmental, a company specializing in Prepper DIY water filtration. They sell a line of ceramic filters at a fraction of the cost of say Berkey or the others in the marketplace. They also provide you with the instructions on how to make your DIY filtration unit.

I have seen designs people have made with 5 gallon buckets and Berkey filters, which also uses ceramic filters. This would be cheaper than buying a Berkey, but the filters are still expensive.

The filters by Homespun Environmental are very affordable. The Emergency Water Kit is only $25 and includes one ceramic filter. If you do not have a water purifier, this is a very solid option, as they are offering premium filtration at a fraction of the cost of their competitors. You can find a full product line here.

To tell you more about Homespun Environmental, here is an article written by owner Russ Michaud.
 
 
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Russ Michaud – www.homespunenvironmental.com

There is a feeling in the country that things are changing for the worse; the government is deep in debt, politicians are just looking out for themselves, and society as a whole is beginning to fray. For a variety of reasons it appears that the good old days are winding down and harder times are coming. A lot of folks look at our high-tech lifestyles and realize that if critical functions were removed they would be utterly helpless to fend for themselves. Living without the internet seems unimaginable to many; just think if they lost electricity, or grocery stores, or running water…

As the bad news continues to come in there are a lot of folks preparing for a life without some or all of our modern conveniences. There’s a variety of books, blogs, and TV shows discussing how this might be possible. Of course there are many unknowns when planning for disaster, such as what happens, how long it lasts, your living situation, location, and financial circumstances. One thing that you will always need, no matter what happens, is access to clean water. Even a disaster that only lasts for a few days could become deadly if it leaves you without water.

This paper introduces ceramic water filter cartridges, which provide a low-cost, low-tech, well proven solution that enables clean water to be produced from just about any fresh water source.

homespun 1What is a ceramic water filter? The filter consists of a ceramic shell which usually contains activated carbon. The ceramic shell has sub-micron sized pores which filter out small contaminants such as bacteria and particulates while the carbon inside treats the water by removing a wide spectrum of chemicals. Specialized filters that remove particular chemicals such as fluoride or arsenic can also be manufactured by using other media in place of the carbon.

These filters are fairly low cost but are often bundled with fancy containers and big brand names that can add hundreds of dollars to the price. In reality though, you can make your own water filter systems at a much lower cost. This has been proven by missionary groups and NGOs in disaster situations all around the world.

Two pictures are presented below (in lieu of a few more pages of text) to explain how these systems can be made and used. The picture on the left is made from a couple of 5 gallon buckets with the filter in the middle. Though you can use any type of containers when building your system, the basic design is almost always the same: A top container holding the unfiltered water and the filter, and a bottom container to catch the clean water that drips from the filter spout. The picture on the right shows the parts that make up an ‘emergency kit’ which is used to create the system at left. (Currently this kit sells for only $25.)

homespun 2homespun 3

These systems are portable, require no power, are very simple to create and maintain, and are low cost. They can be used with just about any freshwater source as has been proven throughout the world for the last couple of decades by a multitude of refugees.

How much water and how fast? One of the first questions most people have is “How much water are these filters good for?” There are two answers for this question. The filter will remove bacteria and particulates for as long as the ceramic shell is intact. The pores in the ceramic can get clogged over time, but it is easy to unclog them by using a slight abrasive to remove the outermost (clogged) layer of shell.

Chemicals are treated by the activated carbon inside which is used up after 6 to 8 months of ‘normal’ use. ‘Normal’ assumes 12 to 15 gallons per day from a natural water source. This implies the carbon will last for 3000 to 4000 gallons. The carbon’s lifespan will be shortened if the water contains a lot of chemicals, such as chlorine. The filters can be stored indefinitely and used intermittently provided they are dried out well inbetween uses.

The amount of clean water a system can produce in a day is another question most people have. The water flow of a filter dripping out of the spout depends on the water level in the upper container, so as the water level decreases the flow rate slows. For a standard 5 gallon bucket the flow rate is 12 to 15 gallons per day assuming the bucket is refilled a few times. This is plenty of water for drinking and basic needs for a family. However, one can easily increase the flow rates if larger groups or bartering applications are needed.

homespun 4 A very simple method to increase flow rates is to place filters in parallel. For example; if one filter is giving a flow of 1/2 gallon per hour, placing a second filter in the container will double the flow rate. (A standard 5 gallon bucket can fit up to three dome filters). Another advantage of parallel filters is there is more activated carbon so you can remove more chemicals. The downside to this method is that it costs more to implement.

A second method for increasing water flow is to increase the pressure on the filter. This can be accomplished by using deep upper containers to provide more water pressure, or by increasing the air pressure in the container using an air tight seal and a hand pump. The downside of air pressure is that it increases system costs and also requires manual labor.

homespun 5 A third method that is low cost is to add a siphon tube to the output of the filter. This provides a pulling force instead of a pushing one. The force is proportional to the length of the siphon and the vertical distance it is from one end to the other; the longer the tube the faster the water flows. For a stacked bucket system (where one bucket sits directly on top of the other one, and the vertical distance is only a foot or so) the siphon can double the flow compared to a filter just dripping. A ‘separated bucket’ system (shown to the right) uses a long siphon; this can increase flow rates a lot more depending on the siphon height. Please note that if you separate the buckets like this, the bottom one should stay covered to prevent other contaminants from getting into the filtered water. This method is probably the best due to its low cost and low effort required.

There is a caveat to increasing flow rates and that is that it decreases the ‘contact time’ that the water has with the activated carbon and thus reduces the ability of the carbon to adsorb some chemicals. The time needed varies with the type of chemical being adsorbed so unfortunately there is no straightforward answer as to how fast you should go. The best advice is to filter the water however quickly you have a demand for it.

These filters are adaptable to many applications and configurations. They are used in rain water systems, well water remediation, and back country living as well as disaster situations. Besides tens of thousands of refugees, farmers in Uganda, apartment dwellers in NYC, and water vendors in Central America have all used these filters successfully.

One additional benefit of these filters is their potential value as barter items if times do get really bad. Something fairly inexpensive now could be worth a whole lot more later on, especially if they’re useful.

Conclusion Ceramic and carbon water filters are excellent devices for family and small group sized systems. They are low cost, do not require electricity to operate, and are simple to assemble and maintain. They work on both biological and chemical contaminants in water sources where many other filter types only work on one or the other. In Do It Yourself applications they provide an outstanding value and allow for a wide degree of customization. They can also provide a form of investment as they would enable bartering for other valuable goods and services in ‘grid down’ scenarios.

Homespun Environmental is a small business catering to the DIY ‘prepper’ market for ceramic water filters. DIY (Doing it yourself) allows for much lower prices and systems that can be customized to particular circumstances and needs. They offer individual components, affordable, emergency water filter kits, and systems for the outdoor sportsman.

Homespun Environmental
To Order from Homespun Environmental just click the above image.

 
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