Please Read: Archives

Hi Everyone,  odds are good that you’ve been directed to this site from one of my books.  The Road Home and The Day After (sequel to The Road Home) both pointed to  Personal Emergency Communications – Staying in Touch Post-Disaster pointed to

The Road Home
The Day After (Sequel to The Road Home)
Personal Emergency Comms

And there was one more blog…, in which I wrote several reviews of radio-focused books.

They’ve all been migrated!  And now everything is here, in one, convenient location, for your reading pleasure :-).  And it will be here for the foreseeable future.

(Please note that the publication dates for the articles were reset when I migrated the content. Apologies if that mattered to you for any reason.)

Enjoy, and for the radio folks, 73!

-Andrew, AB8L



Using One of Your Critical Everyday Carry Tools: Folding Knife

Aside from your brain, one of the key every-day carry tools is the popular folding knife.  Most of us can use one effectively to open boxes and bags of chips, but how can you use a knife for self-defense purposes?  Take a course like “Defensive Folding Knife” – then you’ll know.

Do you carry a folding knife?  Have you thought about carrying a folding knife but just aren’t ready yet?  And why do/would you carry one?

If your reasoning includes self-defense, in a very bad situation, keep reading, because I learned some things you should know too, at the Defensive Folding Knife course at Insights Training in Bellevue, WA.

A few basics for those of you who aren’t sure about why you’d carry a defensive knife (credit to Ralph Mroz for his article in Tactical Knives magazine) in the first place:

  1. Anyone can use one, old or young, fat or skinny, weak or strong, man or woman
  2. A knife is easy to use very quickly
  3. A knife is very easy to carry – pocket, waistband, etc. (more on that below)
  4. A knife is legal to carry almost everywhere (research your local laws before you carry!)
  5. Depending on where you live, it may not be legal to carry a gun, and for you a knife may be the next best thing
  6. If you travel, a knife is relatively convenient, and legal in many more places, especially internationally (do even more research here – some countries carry stiff penalties for silly things)

As you read further, you’ll learn even more about why a knife can be very handy in a pinch.

Let’s start with a couple things:  1) Why I took the course and 2) Who are these Insights folks?

I took this course for a couple reasons.  I took a similar course previously several years ago, from Eric Remmen.  It was good stuff.  When I saw one of the InSights Training Center flyers at the  local gun store, it looked like similar curriculum, already knowing that their training would be very high quality, I decided to give it a go.  That’s one reason – because I like to learn, am interested in self-defense stuff, and I knew this instruction would be good.  How good?  Here are the bios for a couple of their instructors:

Greg M. Hamilton, Chief Instructor:  “Greg  is the Founder and Chief Instructor for InSights. He is internationally recognized as one of the best firearms and tactics instructors in the world. He is a veteran of the US Army Rangers and Special Forces, and is certified by the Army as a Close Quarters Combat Instructor and Anti-Terrorism Instructor.”  And two more paragraphs with more details…

John Holschen:  “John Holschen is a frequent guest instructor with InSights. John served for over 20 years in the Special Operations and Intelligence branches of the U.S. Army. He is a former US Army Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and Special Forces Medic. John taught at the JFK Special Warfare School and was the Senior Hand to Hand Combat Instructor/Master Instructor for 1st Special Forces Group.”  And two more paragraphs with more details…

They are bona fide bad-asses, and at the same time, easy-going (at least with this civilian crowd), excellent teachers.  How could I help but learn a lot?

The other reason for taking the course is that I often carry a folding knife, and use it to open boxes, bags, bubble-packed stuff, and the hundred other things that seem to come up regularly when you have such a tool available.  The techniques used to open & cut stuff in this context are relatively easy to acquire intuitively.  However, when it comes to using a knife for self-defense purposes, critical behaviors and actions are not so intuitive for many (even for some martial artists, who are taught some wacky concepts sometimes).  I thought I had a good foundation with what I learned in my previous course, but wanted to be a little more sure, since I would be relying on this training to potentially save my life or the life of a loved one.  I wanted to be able to use this tool to protect myself, at least somewhat effectively.

So I showed up at about 8:00 A.M., ready to go, wondering what I’d find.  You may be a a little surprised.  While there were a few more men than women, the class was not full of ex-military, muscle-bound, buzz-cut-sporting, tough guys itching to fight, but “regular folks”, from the overweight woman in her late 60’s and her 30-something daughter to the couple in their 20’s who wanted to take better care of each other.  And my wife.  I dragged her along.  She loves to learn too, and is generally a real trouper when it comes to indulging me.  (Thanks Baby.)  Essentially, it was a little cross-section of society.  I wondered how they would be able to tailor their curriculum to fit this group, most of whom were not “fighting-fit”.

One of the wonderful things I learned about a simple folding knife in a life-or-death, self-defense scenario is that it can be used very effectively by weak and strong, tall and short, young and old, with devastating effects.  And Insights set up the class so that anyone could take it.  Kudos to whoever owns the training plan – it seemed to work well for everyone.  Their fitness level didn’t matter much.

Let’s talk about what we learned.  I’m not going to give you a minute-by-minute description, even though the course was sufficiently content-packed to do that.  You’ll need to take the course yourself to get that level of content (and I recommend the course to anyone interested in taking care of him-/herself).  We covered the following topics (and other stuff I don’t have room to include):

  1. When to use deadly force
  2. Color codes of awareness
  3. Mental conditioning
  4. Techniques/Skills
  5. Equipment

You’ll notice something that our instructors didn’t actually call out in the class (that I recall).  The listing above is generally covered in order of importance, from most to least important.  For those of you who think having the super-cool knife is all you need to defend yourself in a life-or-death situation, you are dead wrong.  You should know when it makes sense to use a knife, practically and legally, what your mindset should be, how you can avoid a dangerous situation and using a knife altogether, the basics of how to use the knife in a variety of situations, and lastly, some good knife options.  All of the information leading up to which knife you want is much more important.

Again, this material will NOT replace taking this course or a similar course.  THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, and anything you decide to do with this information is at your own risk.  Consult your doctor, lawyer, local law enforcement, law-books, etc. before you do anything with a knife where you live.

Let’s go over some things I learned.

1. When to use deadly force in self-defense

As I referenced above, you must know the laws in your city, state, province, and/or country.  And aside from what your local laws allow, what’s covered in this course is only defensive in nature.  Do your research – your and your family’s well-being (at least) could depend on it.  You can’t defend your loved ones if you are in prison, and your opinion of what’s right and wrong may not matter to your local lawmakers, law enforcement & judges.  According to many laws, the following conditions must exist before you can use deadly force (which you should also learn in any self-defense-related shooting course):

  • Ability – the attacker must be able to use deadly force against you (or someone else – the same applies to “you” below).
  • Opportunity – the attacker must have the opportunity to carry out the attack.
  • Jeopardy – the first two aren’t enough.  The attacker must use the opportunity and ability to actually put your life in danger by doing something.
  • Preclusion – Bonus points!  While this is not a legal requirement in most states, it may be a good idea nonetheless (and while you’re busy “precluding”, you may have extra time to call 911 and let the police show up.  They get paid to risk their lives for stuff like this, and you can avoid the liability and probable civil lawsuit hassles).  Essentially, it means that you try every other option to get out of that situation.

2. Color codes of awareness

Most firearms courses out there teach these color codes, or one of the few variations on them.  Here is the quick version.

  • White: unaware – you should only be here when you are asleep
  • Yellow: relaxed and alert – you are aware of your surroundings
  • Orange: you are alert to a specific danger or potential danger
  • Red: a fight is imminent – you are in danger and ready to deal with it
  • Black: you are fighting – retreat is not an option, you are in danger and actively dealing with it

We spent a solid chunk of time on this material – what you see above is only a basic outline.  Go learn this material and the accompanying scenarios from a pro.

3. Mental conditioning for self-defense

This was the most fascinating part of the course for me, and that’s saying a lot, because the whole course was fascinating!  The instructor obviously knew what he was talking about, and the amount of information he had to offer made me feel like I was drinking from a fire-hose.  This was all about psychology.  But not the psychology you’d get from your textbook in Psych 101.  Instead, this was the psychology of behavior on the street, in a bar, wherever you put alphas and betas.  We discussed submissive vs. aggressive behavior, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), verbal and non-verbal communication.  Here are some key pieces of info I remember.  (And there was a lot more content we covered that I’m not going into.  This part of the course was well worth the entire cost.)

  • If you look like food, you should expect to get eaten.
  • Aggressive/dominant behavior can often attract other aggressive/dominant behavior (which is presumably not desired).  In other words, you need to be the gray man.
  • Do you want to change your mental state?  Raise your chin one inch.  You just became more assertive and at least slightly changed your attitude.  Oh yeah.
  • Let go of your big, fat ego.  If someone cuts you off, let them go ahead of you and be on their crazy way.  If you make a mistake, admit it and apologize sincerely.  If someone flips you off, don’t do it back – pretend you never saw it.  Allow their ego to stay intact.  This type of an approach will help you avoid all kinds of hassles in the first place!
  • And much, much more…

4. Techniques

We started with drawing and deploying from the front pocket or concealment (I describe my personal preference below), learning how to do it quickly and under stress.  Then we did about 100 other things.  We were busy, and did wreaked some real havoc with our training knives.

I won’t attempt to describe what grip to take, where you should target, how to cut, or the variety of techniques you can use for knife retention, escape from grabs, chokes, locks, holds, how to use a knife when ground-fighting or how to integrate knife and handgun.  Not only am I not qualified, but reading won’t matter.  Doing will.

I will say one more thing about technique:  If you’re wondering what it’s like using your knife on something made of real meat – you’ll get to experience that too.  (No people or animals were harmed during this course :-).)

5. Equipment – Folding Knife Considerations

Spyderco Delica
Spyderco Delica - Simple and Effective

This is the fun part for many folks, especially the gear-heads and people who use the words “everyday carry” :-).  I said it before and I’ll say it again: the knowledge is more important than the gear.  You need to get out of your recliner and go get the knowledge and hands-on, what-it-feels-like training.  But of course, the gear angle is still fun.

The quick version:  Get  a Spyderco Delica or two.  Why?  A few reasons:

1)  The quality is high.  The steel is good, the grip is easy to hold, and the ergonomics are great for most hands.
2)  A Delica is easy to retrieve and open – that hole in the blade is patented for a reason.  They made it very easy to open quickly with one hand, with no extra springs or gadgets – simply functional.
3)   The blade length is appropriate, and the blade length (approx. 2 7/8”) is legal in most areas (do your research).
4)   It is lightweight and slim – will not weigh down one side of your body, pull down your running shorts when you run, or cause unusual bulges.  The slim clip is sturdy and positioned in the right place on the handle to make it easy to conceal.  In addition, the clip is reversible two ways – top or bottom, and left or right side, which makes it easy to carry any way you chose, whether your right- or left-handed (see #2).
5)  They are not very expensive as compared to many high-quality folders: $50-$60.  You won’t have to give up meat for a month to afford it. If you lose it, you won’t be crying for a week.
6)  And if you care, you can get a variety of colors and steels (e.g. blue or green with ZDP-189), versus the plain black body with VG-10 steel.  Of course, the fancier versions cost more.  I got one with a medium blue handle, which matches the color of most of my jeans.  Not because I care about the color of my socks matching my shirt, but because I want it to not be very visible.  There’s a difference!

Of course, you may prefer another brand or style, which is fine.  If you can conceal and retrieve it effectively, the blade is legal, it can be opened under stress with one hand, and you can afford it, you’re set!  There are many great, solid folders out there from Benchmade, SOG, Kershaw, Gerber, and Emerson, just to name a few.  And Spyderco makes many other folding knife variations.

Gray man tip:

This is something they didn’t teach in class, that I have personally found to be convenient.  I carry my pocket-knife* in my waistband.  Why?  It isn’t easy to see by everyone and their brother.  I can go to work, out for a jog, to the grocery store, or wherever, without identifying myself as “the guy with the knife in his pocket.”  You know who they are (if you notice it once, you’ll always notice it), and may be one of those people yourself.  The clip is easy to see on the front of someone’s pocket.  And much of the time, that may be perfectly appropriate for you.  But I prefer to keep it low-key.

Here’s another reason.  Often you can use that visible knife clip that’s on the front of someone’s pocket as an indicator to look a little further, for the accompanying bulge of a concealed handgun.  Gun guys are also often knife guys.  Am I wrong?  Please send me an email and let me know what you think. 🙂

Note:  If you have a big belly, keeping a knife on your waistband will probably not work for you.

*Did you notice the non-tacti-cool, unobtrusive, tool-focused words I used?  It is just a tool after all, not a “combat-folder” or “zombie-stopper” or any kind of “dangerous weapon”.  It’s just a tool.  Along those lines, here’s another tip (from class): if you’re out in public and need to open a bag or box or delicately slice off a piece of Camembert to go with your crackers, consider slowly retrieving your knife, opening it slowly with two hands, versus going for the speed-draw and seeing whose attention you can draw with the sudden “snick” of the shiny blade locking open.  Gray.


There you go – this was the very quick version, which will certainly not be sufficient for you to adequately defend yourself with a folding knife, but will give you an idea of what you should be able to do with one, if you can find good training in your area.

If you live in or travel to the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend InSights Training Center.  I’ve taken a few classes from them, and they’ve been top quality.  Their website is here:

It’s hard to go wrong with a folding knife as part of your everyday carry, because these tools are so versatile.  If you want to have your knife realistically available as a self-defense tool also, please get some training.

Stay safe,


Every-day Carry Brass Button Compass

Can you point to the north?  I would guess that it’s OK if you don’t know, because as you read this, you are probably at home or somewhere else familiar and it doesn’t really matter.  However, when you figure out what you need to have with you as part of your every-day carry (EDC), you might want to consider a compass, especially if:
  • You are new to your area
  • You travel frequently
  • You often get lost – it’s OK to admit it 🙂
  • You like to go hiking or camping

But will it be a hassle to carry a compass around with you all the time?  Not if it’s a tiny, brass compass like the kind you can buy at Triple Aught Design (TAD Gear).  It’s smaller than a dime in diameter, and quite rugged. Here’s what it looks like.  And if you want to save a few bucks, and are OK with black instead of green, you can get the same one for $36 at (at this link).  The compass is known as the Pyser compass, or a NATO survival compass, and it has its origins in World War II, when it was issued to pilots.

You might also want a compass like this if you have a very small survival kit.  While there are other small compasses close to this size, at far lower price, I’m not aware of any decent-quality compass that’s this small.  If you don’t need the smallest, you can save a few bucks and get a high-quality, slightly larger compass like this.

Below is what mine looks like after several months of every-day carry.  You can see that some of the custom green paint has worn away, because I’ve carried it in the change pocket of my jeans, with… change.  The constant abrasion of metal coins has worn the green paint around the edge, but the compass still works as it’s supposed to, and I’m not worried about it not looking quite as pretty as it once did.

NATO Brass Button EDC Compass

Since the compass is incredibly small and light, I don’t notice that I’m carrying it, but since I spent ~$40 on it (TAD gear is not inexpensive!), I have been careful about not leaving it in my pocket on laundry day.  So far so good.

You won’t want to use this compass as your main compass in an orienteering course.  You will want something that provides more detail, like this much larger, very good Silva model.  But if you are turned around in a new town, or just reached a fork in the trail and aren’t quite sure if you’re taking the correct direction, and need to double-check and get your bearings, and only have whatever is in your pocket, this tiny compass will do the trick!

Last and (admittedly) probably least, this little compass is just plain cool. It’s really small, it works, it’s durable, and you won’t notice you have it with you, that is, unless you need it!

Stay safe, and stay found! 🙂

Top 10 Backpacking Survival Essentials

What should be in your backpack when you go on a hike?

The “Top Ten List” contains all of the essentials for wilderness survival, which everyone should always have with them when they go hiking in the wilderness, even just for a day trip.  For overnight expeditions, you should have a variety of additional supplies (for example, a sleeping bag), but this is a list of the minimum supplies needed.

Here is the list, with some examples you can research further.  Of course, if you’re hiking in the desert or the rain forest, you’ll have different needs, but this is a good starting point for most hikers:

  • Emergency Shelter:  A ‘bivvy-bag’, plastic tube tent, ‘sil-tarp’, poncho, large garbage bag, or mylar blanket (‘space blanket’)
  • Jacket:  It should have a hood, and be warm and waterproof (consider Gore-tex)
  • Fire starter:  Waterproof matches, stormproof lighter, ferrocerium rod, magnesium block
  • Water:  At least one liter per person, with a way to filter and/or purify more.  Depending on your location, you may need to carry two liters or more, even for a day trip.
  • Food:  Snacks, Clif bars, MRE snacks
  • Map and compass:  A high-quality compass and topographical map
  • Knife:  A sturdy, fixed-blade knife, if that’s legal where you live.  Otherwise, a lock-blade, folding knife will work.
  • Multi-tool:  Made by a reputable manufacturer, like Leatherman, Gerber, or SOG
  • Whistle:  Many survival whistles can be heard from a great distance, and they weigh as little as a fraction of an ounce – there is no reason to not have one of these at all times.
  • Flashlight:  Use an LED flashlight – modern ones are very bright, and the ‘bulbs’ never burn out.  Don’t forget spare batteries.

What should you do with all of these items?  Obviously, you will need to know how to use them.  While I’ll cover many of these topics in upcoming articles, in the meantime, you need to do your own research.

But wait!  There’s more!  One last thing – the most important thing you must have with you – and thank goodness you already have it screwed onto your shoulders – your head!  If you don’t know what to do with any of the items listed above, you need to learn.  Your brain is the most important tool you have, and if you have the ability to think clearly and apply relevant experience to a dangerous and even life-threatening survival situation, you will be much better off. 

Have fun and stay safe!

Everyday Carry (EDC) basics

Are you familiar with the term Everyday Carry? It’s also known as “EDC.” Long story short, EDC gear is what you have on your person all the time.

Aside from the common items such as a watch, wallet, cell phone, a list of things commonly carried by people who like to be prepared often contains many or all of the following:

  1. A pocketknife: This is one of the most common things carried on a daily basis. As long as man could shape metal, he’s carried a knife as a tool or weapon. A pocketknife has more uses than I can list here.  One example of a relatively inexpensive and high-quality knife, which can be opened easily with one hand and clipped into a pocket or waistband is the Spyderco Delica.
  2. A multi-tool: One of the most popular is the Leatherman brand of multi-tool.  Personally, I prefer the Leatherman Charge, and Leatherman makes several other very useful variations.  Other popular brands are Gerber, SOG, or Victorinox. These tools are amazingly handy, and often contain pliers, wire cutters, a knife blade, saw and/or metal file, various screwdrivers and more! With a multi-tool on your belt, you can accomplish hundreds of useful tasks.
  3. A flashlight: With a flashlight in your pocket (or on your belt), you can….. well, see in the dark! I guess it goes without saying how that can be handy in a crawlspace or attic, when you’re looking under the sofa, or just when it’s dark out. You can find a variety of small (or even tiny) flashlights that run off of a watch battery, or AAA, AA, or CR123 batteries. The brightness ranges from just barely visible to hundreds of lumens for a pocket flashlight.

With just these three items, you can solve a variety of problems, day or night.  There are many additional options you could include, for example a lighter (fire is both cool and handy, depending on your situation), a thumb drive (essential if you work with computers), pepper spray (OC spray, a simple and effective self-defense tool), duct tape, or extra medication.

One of the best resources for learning more about Everyday Carry is the forum dedicated entirely to this topic:  The folks there would be happy to help you with any questions, and have a ton of great ideas.