Tuesday, December 31, 2013

VIDEO: How to use Punkwood and a Magnifying Glass to start a Fire (by Mikhail of Emberlit Stoves)

Check out this cool video by Mikhail of Emberlit Stoves. Mikhail shows you how to start a fire using just punkwood and a magnifying glass.

I had the opportunity to meet Mikhail at the Summer Outdoor Retailer Show last August. After chatting about bushcraft, he was nice enough to invite me out to one of his favorite bushcrafting spots in the Utah mountains, where he showed me some of his bushcraft techniques, as well as some of the local plants and trees. I had a great time, and look forward to more bushcrafting adventures with Mikhail in the future.

If you get a chance, stop by his site and check out his very nice foldable wood burning stoves. Happy New Years everyone! Jason



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Just Arrived: Chiappa Double Badger 22 Magnum/.410 Folding Rifle


Just got in this cool new folding .22 Magnum/.410 over and under rifle/shotgun by Chiappa Firearms, called the "Double Badger." Will have a full review posted sometime after Christmas, so keep checking back, or you can follow the RMB Facebook page to be notified when it goes live. Cheers- Jason




Gander Mountain

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mora Black Carbon Bushcraft Knife Update: Using the spine to ignite Charcloth with Quartz


Ever since I posted our review of the Mora Black Carbon Bushcraft Knife last year, readers have asked if the spine of the knife could be struck with a piece of Quartz, Flint or Chert to create sparks that could ignite charcloth, to start a fire.

Thanks to Ben over at Ben's Backwoods, I was able to get a second Black Carbon test knife to demonstrate that yes, the Black Carbon will throw a spark with Quartz/Flint/Chert, and in fact, does so rather easily. The biggest issue of course is that it will ruin the edge of your spine, which is sharpened from the factory to work with a Swedish firesteel. However, from a survival standpoint, it's good to know that the Black Carbon can be used as a firesteel striker and as a primitive "flint and steel" if needed.

For the test, I grabbed a piece of Milky Quartz that was lying on the ground in our area of Colorado (see main photo). Quartz litters the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, so it's easy to find in an emergency and it works as well as Flint or Chert when striking high carbon steel.

Next, I made a tinder bundle from the dead, inner bark of an Aspen tree and set it in a piece of dead Aspen bark to keep it protected from ground moisture. Charcloth was placed in the middle to catch the sparks caused by striking the spine of the Black Carbon knife with the Milky Quartz.

Since the temperature was around 0 degrees F with snow falling, I needed to make this process happen quickly to be successful.

In the first photo below, I'm getting ready to strike the back of the spine with the Quartz to ignite the charcloth in the tinder bundle.

(Click any photo to enlarge)

Striking:

Success-- two sparks landed on the charcloth, so I immediately began to blow on them to keep them burning:


 Here you can see the two embers glowing as I blow on them:


 More blowing!


The charcloth is now burning intensely:


Carefully wrapping the tinder bundle around the glowing charcloth ember so that I can blow it into a flame:


The dead, inner bark of Aspen makes excellent tinder, because once it begins to burn, it will continue to smolder and not go out easily:




Fire!



Putting the burning tinder bundle on the ground so that fine kindling can be placed on it to start a camp fire:


Blowing on it some more to ensure that the fine kindling ignites before the falling snow makes it too wet:


 Success!



Nothing like a campfire to warm up a bushcrafter's cold hands on a frigid day......


   Cheers -Jason

(Special thanks to Monica Tymcio for taking these photos)


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

REVIEW: TriStar SB Folding Survival Shotgun


A couple of weeks ago, I made one of my rare pilgrimages out of the mountains to pick up some supplies. One of the places I stopped was Sportsman's Warehouse. While there, I took a walk over to their gun section to see what kinds of new products they had. Checking out their gun racks, I spotted a rather plain jane single-shot shotgun hiding towards the back of one of the racks.

When I asked to take a look at it, the clerk, though polite, scoffed at the shotgun, telling me it wasn't much to look at and was rather cheaply made. He told me that if I wanted a good single-shot shotgun, I should check out the H&R Pardner sitting next to it. I agreed with him that H&R made a great shotgun, but I still wanted to see this cheap, spartan-looking shotgun lying next to it. Almost begrudgingly, he handed it to me, explaining that it looked rather "useless and cheap."

The first thing I noticed was that for a 12 gauge shotgun, it was extremely light. Then I saw the bargain-basement "$149.99" price tag. Next I realized that it folded in half with just the squeeze of a lever. And finally, I was pleased to note, it had a parkerized finish, something you don't normally see on a shotgun in this price range.

Yep, it wasn't a Browning, but for $150, I thought "What the heck, I'll give it try!" If it turned out to be reliable, it could make a really nice truck/wilderness survival shotgun for very little cash. As you'll see in the sections below, the gamble ended up paying off......


The Gun

There was virtually no information on the SB when I searched the internet. Not even the manufacturer, TriStar Sporting Arms, had any info about it on their website. Luckily, I was able to get hold of a rep at TriStar, who informed me that it was produced as a "backpack/survival shotgun" giveaway for attendees of the 2013 National Wild Turkey Federation Banquet, in 12, 20 and .410 gauges. After the banquet, the remaining leftovers were sold to various Sportsman's Warehouses around the country. He also informed me that it was manufactured by Khan, the reputable Turkish shotgun maker, who, as it turns out, also produces Mossberg's Maverick series of shotguns. 




This new information was definitely encouraging, since even though the shotgun was low-priced, it was probably well made due to it being produced by Khan. I was also encouraged by the fact that it was a giveaway to a turkey hunters banquet, because I would assume that TriStar and Khan made sure the SB would throw a decent shot pattern before giving it away as a gun that could be used to hunt turkeys.

FEATURES

The SB is a lightweight 12 gauge, single-shot, break-action shotgun with a 20" barrel, and chambered for up to 3" shells. When I say "light," I'm not kidding-- this thing weighs in at very svelte 4lbs 4oz:


To put this into perspective, the SB weighs only 14 ounces more than the ultra-light Henry AR-7 .22 Survival Rifle (3lbs 6oz). My first thought when seeing this weight was the horrible, shoulder-dislocating recoil I'd encounter from shooting it! Thankfully, the simple addition of a Pachmayr Decelerator Slip-On Recoil Pad made the gun quite manageable and almost enjoyable to shoot (check out the "Field Test" section below to see more).

The SB is small enough to easily fit inside my diminutive Kelty Redtail 30 Daypack:


As mentioned, the SB folds in half by squeezing a trigger-style lever that sits just ahead of the actual trigger guard. This same lever is also used to open the breech for loading/unloading. Owing to the SB's budget level of production, it takes a "manly" squeeze to disengage it to fold the shotgun open. 


By using my middle finger instead of my index finger, I found it much easier to disengage the lever.

The SB uses an extractor as opposed to an ejector. For a survival shotgun, I consider this a better choice, since extractors tend to be more reliable under tough field conditions.


As mentioned, the SB comes with a parkerized finish on both the barrel and receiver:
(click to enlarge)

The SB's 20" barrel has a simple brass bead site. There is no removable choke. I'm still trying to verify through TriStar what type of choke it has (modified, improved, etc) and will update this review as soon I get this information.


There is a simple manual safety:
 Safe position (click to enlarge):

The SB comes equipped with sling swivel studs on the stock and forend:


The butt plate is removable by two screws, and the stock itself is hollow. There is enough room in the stock to hold up to 10 shotgun rounds or other assorted survival goodies.


FIELD TEST

To test the SB as a potential survival shotgun, I wanted to see how it would pattern its shot at common shotgun hunting ranges. Before starting the test, I installed a Pachmayr Decelerator Slip-On Recoil Pad to make the gun more comfortable to shoot, and an Allen Shotgun Shell Holder:


Federal Power-Shok 2 3/4" 00 Buckshot at 32 yards

Using a pine tree to lean against, and shooting 2 3/4" Federal Power-Shok 00 Buck from 32 yards at a Champion X-Ray Elk target (range was measured using a Nikon ProStaff 3 Rangefinder), all nine 00 pellets struck the Elk, with four hitting the vital area. Buck shot is generally not recommended for Elk hunting, but at this distance in a survival situation, it would have been reasonably effective:

(click to enlarge)

Winchester Supreme Double X 3" Magnum Copper Plated 000 Buck at 32 Yards



(click to enlarge)

Closeup- Mr Turkey would have been in big trouble:

Remington 2 3/4" #4 Birdshot at turkey target at 40 Yards

This shot was taken at a steep right angle at 40 yards while hiding behind trees, to simulate having to take a shot from a less than perfect position. As you can see, multiple pellets still struck the turkey's vitals:


As you can see, the patterns were definitely effective for a cheap, $150 shotgun. The #4 shot patterned well enough for nearly any small game or large birds within 40 yards. I also tried a few rounds of Remington 2 3/4" #8 Birdshot off camera, and the patterns were dense enough that I could easily hunt small game birds out to 40 yards or more.

Slugs, Adapters

I was unable to procur Slugs in time to test them in the SB for this review, but have some Brenneke slugs on the way to me via UPS as we speak. I also plan to try some of Short Lane's .22, 20 Gauge and .410 Gauge adapters in the SB soon. Will post the results in this review after they arrive.

Recoil, Trigger Pull and Shell Extraction

I fired a total of twenty three 2 3/4" shells, and seven 3" magnum shells through the SB during testing. With the Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad, recoil was stout, but not painful at all. The Pachmayr did an excellent job of managing recoil, and really is a necessary accessory for this shotgun, because without it, it'd be a real shoulder buster. 

The SB's trigger was definitely on the stiff/gritty side, but not enough to impede accuracy in any of the tests. A good trigger job by a qualified gunsmith would probably do wonders for this gun. 

There were also no issues with shell extraction, as all fired shells easily pulled out.

Conclusion

I'm happy to report that this little folding shotgun turned out to be one of the best buys I've made in years. For $150, you get an ultra-lite folding shotgun that patterns effectively, has a parkerized finish, is sturdily constructed, and fits inside of a daypack. You will have to add a good slip-on recoil pad like the Pachmayr Decelerator to make it more user-friendly, but I consider this a minor issue considering all the positive attributes of the gun. I like the SB so much, I've already added it to my backcountry survival kit.


I should note that the TriStar rep explained to me that even though the SB is not a regular production item, they would strongly consider releasing it again if the demand were there. If you're interested in having TriStar release this gun, email service@tristararms.com

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

UPDATE- Short Lane 12 Gauge Adapters Review/Blackhawk Sling and Shell Carrier Review

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

REVIEW: Fiskars' 28" Chopping Axe-- New, improved and ALL Black?



When I reviewed the Fiskars X15 Axe last year, I gave it a glowing review, but mentioned how much I pined for the option of a 28" version over the X15's shorter 23.5" handle. While the X15's shorter handle is great for packing into the bush, a longer handle definitely makes wood processing easier during long days of chopping while camping or working on the homestead.

Fiskars had previously sold a 28" long "Pro Chopping Axe," but decided to discontinue it around the time they introduced the X15, leaving a bit of a void in Fiskars's product line.

The previous incarnation of the Chopping Axe-- the Fiskars "Pro Chopping Axe," which featured a wider, European-style axe head:



After nearly two years of waiting, Fiskars' fans can finally rejoice! Fiskars has just released a 28" version of the X15, called the "Fiskars Chopping Axe."

The SPECS:

  • Head Weight-2.31lbs, Overall Weight- 3lbs 8oz (as measured on a digital postal scale)
  • Balance and power-to-weight ratio increases swing speed to multiply power, much like an aluminum baseball bat
  • Proprietary blade-grinding technique provides a sharper edge for better contact and cleaner cuts
  • Hardened, drop forged medium-carbon steel blade 
  • Low-friction blade coating powers through wood and prevents head from getting stuck
  • Inseparable PermaHead™ insert-molded head will not loosen and prevents overstrike breakage
  • Shock-absorbing DuraFrame™ handle is lightweight yet stronger than steel to prevent overstrike damage
  • Designed/Manufactured in Billnäs, Finland
  • Includes blade guard
  • Warrranty- Lifetime

FEATURES

The biggest surprise with the new Chopping Axe is that instead of Fiskars' traditional black and orange color scheme (like on the X15), it is ALL black. I wrote in our previous "Battle of the Compact Bushcraft Axes" article that the Fiskars' designed Gerber Camp Axe II reminded me of something that Luke Skywalker might have used in Star Wars. If that's the case, then the solid ebony black Chopping Axe must have been built specifically for Darth Vader. Have the evil Sith Lords returned, this time wielding Fiskars Chopping Axes instead of light sabers?

My hunch is that Fiskars is trying to cash in on the popularity of the tactical craze in choosing the Chopping Axe's color scheme. I have no problem with tactical colors if that's what you're into, but for an axe designed primarily for homeowners and campers, it seems to be a bit of an odd move on Fiskars' part.

As mentioned, the Chopping Axe is basically just a longer handled version of the X15 with a new paint job. Here is a side by side comparison of the two (Chopping Axe on left, X15 on right):


One minor change Fiskars made on the Chopping Axe is a revision of the lower handle section. Whereas the Fiskars X7 HatchetGerber Camp Axe and X15 Axe all have a rubberized lower handle, the Chopping Axe ditches this feature for a smooth plastic handle with traction grooves.


FIELD TESTING

To field test the Chopping Axe, I wanted to focus mainly on the performance of the longer handle, since it is virtually identical to the X15 we reviewed last year. I already covered many of the unchanged features in that review, so I won't rehash all the details. Instead, I'll concentrate on how the Chopping Axe performs with the additional handle length over the X15.


Chopping

Prior to this test, I had expected the Chopping Axe to perform slightly better than the X15, but was surprised to find that it absolutely trounced the X15 after 30 chops into a dead Lodgepole Pine (Chopping Axe on right):

(click to enlarge)

Considering that the shorter-handled X15 proved to be the baddest chopper in its size range in our previous review, this makes the new Chopping Axe an absolute wood destroyer. In fact, the Chopping Axe was hitting the wood so hard that it made a loud "thud!" upon impact, sending large chips flying in a wide area around the v-notch. The extra 4.5" in handle length makes that much of a difference.

Splitting

Similar to the way it performed in the chopping test, the Chopping Axe proved to be a ferocious splitter. For the splitting test, I grabbed the log that was bucked out of the dead Lodgepole Pine during the chopping test. Note how large the log is next to the Chopping Axe-- this won't be an easy job:
(click to enlarge)

The first strike hits the log so hard that a chunk is knocked out of it:


Second swing:

Success! The Chopping Axe easily reduced this healthy sized log into a nice pile of split pieces:

Impression of the Revised Handle

What's the verdict on the Chopping Axe's revised lower handle section?-- I dig it. The lack of a rubber section allows for a slightly smoother transition as you swing the axe when compared to the tackier rubber coated section on the X15. The grooves carved into the handle are deep enough to improve grip, yet shallow enough to be comfortable when your hand runs along them.

CONCLUSION

In spite of the Chopping Axe's unconventional looking "Tacticool\Darth Vader" appearance, it performed brilliantly in both our chopping and splitting tests. In fact, I would say that functionally, this axe is everything I'd hoped for in a longer-handled version of the existing king of budget axes-- the X15.

Even the appearance of the Chopping Axe grew on me after using it a few times, as the black finish on the head began to dull and fade after splitting a log with it. This faded appearance made it look a little closer to the rest of Fiskars' line, and not so "tacticool." Even so, I'd still like to see this axe produced with the attractive and slightly more mainstream colors that are used on the current X15 Axe.

I also enjoyed the revised handle. The grooved plastic is easier to slide your hand over than rubber, and it still provides the necessary traction.

Overall, I think the Chopping Axe is an incredible value, much like its predecessor the X15. With its 4.5" longer handle, the Chopping Axe is an absolute powerhouse that has be experienced to be truly appreciated. Yes, the "black rifle" paint job might turn off some consumers, but if you're looking for the hottest performing 3/4 Axe on the market, look no further, the Chopping Axe is most definitely it.

4.5 out of 5 Stars 
(Recommended for Campers, Homesteaders and Evil Sith Lords)

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)