4Seven’s Quark MiNi AA² Review

For years I’ve heard really good things about Fenix Flashlights. People told me they were as bright and good as a Streamlight but for less money. For some reason I’ve been reluctant to take the step of spending over $50 for a flashlight. Instead I’ve opted for ubercheap lights instead.
Quark AA 2
I was at a gun show recently and walked by a booth and the guy had these 4Sevens flashlights setting out, so I asked him about them. Well it turns out they are the people who designed and made Fenix’s lights. Now they are doing their own line of lights. He showed me the Malstorm, saying it was the most powerful tactical light available today at 300 lumins. That’s a statement we could argue with. But he took the light and aimed it at the far wall of the George R Brown convention center near the ceiling. In day light with windows and lights you could see a distinct pattern of light from the flashlight. I was hooked. But he was sold out.

I turned to the web. And found the 4Seven’s website, which presented me with a plethora of lights and many decisions. I did end up buying the Maelstrom G5 and I like it and may review it in the near future. But I also bought the Quark MiNi AA². I wanted an everyday carry light and the MiNi is pretty small and uses standard AA batteries. I’m not hung up on having AA over C123 but the AA helps with size.

I’m in a love hate relationship with the AA, so I’m writing a review.

Pros

The little light is bright. Put on its highest setting you can light up a car 20-30 yards away at night. The specs say it is 180 lumens, but what does that really mean? I found that my cheap lights compare to it when shining inside my car for example, but they don’t have as much “throw” meaning they can’t light things up far away as well.

The form factor is good. The light is the size of a big pen. Smaller than my Livescribe Wonder Pen, or some of the promotional pens I’ve gotten. It is about as big around as those huge pencils we had in the first grade. Its made of metal and feels solid, I have no worries if I drop it or if I needed to hit someone with it. It fits cleanly into the side pocket of my EMT pants and is only a little bigger than my pen light. It also fits comfortably in my hand.

It has useful modes. There are a number of modes and all of them are useful. Low, medium, and high are the main continuous modes. There is strobe, SOS, and 2 beacon modes which flash at different rhythms. At first I was kind of like, “Why do I want a low beam?” But when you are in the dark, you generally don’t need a huge amount of light. Drop something in the backseat? Low is more than enough. I’ve ended up using it most of the time.

Strobe is also very cool. Supposedly – and I’ve tried it before and it seems to work – if you have your light on strobe and walk toward someone with it on, they won’t be able to tell how far away from them you are. It is also going to put an epileptic in grand mal. 🙂

Cons

No crenelations. Many tactical flashlights have these little up and down protrusions around the glass of the light called crenelations after the jagged top of castle walls. The reason for these is that if you hit someone with the light they provide a more jagged edge. Hitting someone overhand with your light is a very real options and I’d like to have the edge. Not a show stopper but a nice feature.

User Interface Sucks. This is the show stopper and why I will probably get a different light for carry. Remember the light has 6 modes? Well to switch between them you have to turn the head of the light off and on. You turn the light on by screwing the head counterclockwise till it stops and comes on, by default into low light. Then you need to quickly turn it off and back on to go to the next mode, again for the brightest setting. Do it 4 times in a row and it switches to the next mode set, so when you turn it on it starts in strobe.

The biggest problem with this is you need two hands on the light to change modes. You can pretty much turn it on with on hand, though you have to hold it overhand to get your thumb near the front of the light. But I find it awkward to switch modes in this position. Plus no matter what mode you leave it in, if you turn it off for very long, you back to low when you turn it on.

It is just clumsy to use the light, which in the end will make me replace it.

I think a lot of what I don’t like about the UI would be fixed by getting the tactical model. It has an tail switch to turn it on. You only use the front to “program” the modes and its position is what the turn on level is. The Maelstrom works this way. Only negative is you only have 2 modes on the tactical mode, 3 would be nice.

EMS Newbie

Once you do one podcast, you are quick to think about doing another. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to be an EMT. I’m a week into my training and it is interesting. But it also gave me an idea for another podcast.

Being a podcast listener as well as a podcaster, when I started to enter the world of EMS (Emergency Medical Services), I immediately went to iTunes and searched for EMS and EMT. There are a number of podcasts aimed at that market with really great people on them. But they are so advanced I was often lost to know what they were talking about.

On the other hand, I have been reading Kelly Greyson’s A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driverfor years now. I think I stumbled across it via some gun blogging something, but it was the stories that stuck with me.

So I got the idea of making a podcast about my experience as a EMS Newbie going through EMT-Basic class. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I had a mentor more advanced than I as I went through it who I could ask questions about what I was learning?” I immediately thought of Kelly, or AD as I knew him at the time. And if I’d like that kind of thing, I bet there are a lot of other EMS Newbies out there who would as well. What if I recorded our Q&A time and made a podcast out of it.

So Confessions of An EMS Newbie was born.

It is brand new and only one episode is up, but another is in the can and we are schedule to record a new one every weekend. The plan is to release episodes on Tuesdays. We aren’t in iTunes yet because you really should have 3 or 4 episode before you submit and you have to have album art.

There won’t be much in the way of EMT blogging here, because all of it will be on the new site, but I wanted both of my loyal readers to know about it.

Sexy CPR Is Really CPR

Before it start my EMT clinical I have to take CPR for health care professionals. I found a place online to take it and was just starting to read the section on actual CPR when a office mate pointed something out in this video and I needed to rewatch it. Yes a terrible thing to have to do.

The cool thing about it was this is actually how you do CPR. It is BLS (Basic Life Support) CPR but it is what you do.

Super Sexy CPR from Super Sexy CPR on Vimeo.

From my online CPR course:

“A” for Airway. Look-Listen-Feel for breathing by opening the airway using the Head Tilt-Chin Lift motion. Tilt the head with the palm of your hand, lift the chin with your fingers, and bring your cheek close to the victim’s face (don’t press your fingers under the chin too deeply). Keep your eyes on the chest to see it rise and fall (exercise shouldn’t last more than 10 seconds). Remember breaths may be faint and shallow and are not considered regular breathing.

The thing my buddy pointed out is they are wearing the two halves of each other’s lingerie. One has the black bra and the other the black bottom.

Patriots Review

Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse is the book I judge all other survivalist lit by. Is it better worse written than Patriots? Is the scenario more or less realistic? Even my dichotomy of survivalist vs ordinary people comes from reading this book.

The author says Patriots is a poorly disguised survivalist manual. James Wesley, Rawles (can someone tell me why there is a comma in his name?) is the blogger behind the most popular survivalist blog, Survival Blog. He did later go on to actually write a survival manual How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times but Patriots will do a pretty good job of getting you to think about surviving.

The Survival Scenario: Economic Collapse

It doesn’t take much research to realize the US is in deep economic Shumer (to use a Patriotism). This book takes it to the extreme, with the US currency collapsing and with it all of society. Cities erupt in civil unrest because the police stop working. Eventually everyone stops working and we enter a new dark age, one without power.

The Book as a Book

This is the second edition of the book but it still feels like an authors first work. It is obvious that the point of every plot device – and many of the character’s existence – is just to teach something. We never really get emotionally involved with the character. The only time I really felt bad for them was at their deaths.

I listened to the book on audio but also bought it in paper so my wife could read it. We people read this book, they understand what it means to be a survivalist and want to do something. The book is very much about prepared people and not ordinary ones. Even characters who walk out of cities are survival minded by the time they cross paths with the main characters.

There are a few passages when it gets down right technical and was a hard listen. Description of the retreat’s door was hard to follow on audio.

Survival Lessons

There are too many lessons as part of this story, from how to fortify a house, set up and run an LP/OP, to how to do a person to person blood transfusion. This book really delves into Rawlesian survivalism, and make you want to have a survival retreat. The main characters, both those that live at the retreat in Idaho and those that bug out there show you how big an advantage it is to have a prepared, stocked place WAY off the beaten track.

It makes you want a survival retreat.

These people’s stock piles border on ridiculousness. I think after the first year they were supporting more than 10 people on just their stockpiles of food. I don’t remember any mention of growing crops.

You also learn if you are going to survival, you want to do it with other people. You want a group retreat, not just a solo one. You need more than 1 or 2 people to have a round the clock guard. You also realize again that certain skills will be of vital importance after a crash.

Conclusion

Like I said at the beginning, Patriots is the book others are judged by. If you want to learn survivalism this is the book to read. I find a few faults, it doesn’t have the writer’s polish of One Second After and I’m not sure an economic collapse would cause as much break down as they say, but you’ll get a good overview of all the things that could happen and enjoy the process.

Last Light Review

This is my first survival literature review and is for Terri Blackstock’s Last Light, the first in her Restoration Series.

In my intro to reviewing survival literature I talked about two kinds of survival stories. This book is a regular people story.

The Survival Scenario: EMP

The book starts with what appears to be an EMP attack. Everything electronic stops working, planes fall out of the sky, phones don’t work, cars don’t work.

But this is an EMP attack on steroids. Even when you turn on something electronic that wasn’t effected they break. Including things like generators.

The story centers around one family, the Bannings, in Birmingham Alabama. They are an upper middle class suburban family with 3 kids. The oldest Dani, has just graduated college and landed a job as a reporter in Washington DC. Her and her father have just landed back in Birmingham when the lights go out.

The Book as a Book

The book is well written. Once I started reading it I couldn’t stop, which to me is the sole arbiter of how good a book is. The characters are well formed, if stupid on a number of levels, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The plot has some interesting a subtle twists and turns. This is very much about a suburban neighborhood. There are no external threats in this book, but a very interesting murder mystery from the beginning.

If you go looking for the book, look in the Christian fiction section. I don’t think the book is all that Christian – yes the main characters are Christian and at one point in the book they decided to allow their faith to guide their post-apocalyptic lifestyle. Patriots characters are just as Christian, but since the book didn’t have a Christian publisher it doesn’t end up in the getto.

I don’t know if this is a mark of good writing, that is can evoke such a strong reaction, or bad, because I hated the character so. I hated one of the characters so much by the end of the book, I probably won’t read anymore in the series. About 3/4 of the way through the book I was hoping Dani would just get herself killed and put us out of our misery.

There is also very good social understanding in this book. Terri deals well with how people interact with their suburban neighbors, whom they hardly know. She deals with teenage rebellion which is a luxury we can afford in an affluent society. Issues of race were also well done with people on both sides understanding their own prejudices and trying to deal with them correctly.

Survival Lessons

This book taught me a couple of things.

Water

The suburb the Bannings live has its own lake, so they have a source of water. They don’t talk about purifying it much, but it is a source. This means that even though they didn’t prepare, they did have water.

But they didn’t have a way to transport and store it. They had to make daily trips to the lake and at first had nothing to put water in. Water is heavy and you need some kind of cart to carry it.

I live in a suburb called the livable forest and there are a number of streams within walking distance, but I wouldn’t want to have carry even 5 gallons – which I consider the amount one person needs for one day in the Houston heat – back to my house. I need a wheeled something, even a kids wagon would help. I’m thinking a gardening cart with 4 wheels. And of course I need something to hold that water in to put in the cart.

Bicycles

There is quite a bit of travel that happens in the book. There are often discussions of horses in a post-apocalyptic worlds, but the thing that fascinated me was how incredibly useful a bicycle could be. People could get most places in Birmingham on a bike. At one point someone road from Washington DC to Birmingham on a bike (over 700 miles).

If you think about it bikes are a great multiplier.

I generally think the average person could walk 20 miles a day. Maybe more. A runner can run a marathon in 4 hours, so a person should be able to walk one in 8-12 hours.

But a bike will multiply that by at least 3. The equivalent for bicycles of a marathon is a century, which is 100 miles. This guy did 2465 miles across America in 45 days. Avg 55 miles/day, longest day 126 miles.

Most people have bicycles, few have horses.

Conclusion

It was a good well written book about normal people and what they did after the grid went down. I came away thankful that my kids were not as big a brats as the Bannings were. 🙂 And I know it is true because after Hurricane Ike we spend a week grid down, and my boys never complained or snuck off.

There are some good ideas about how you can deal with grid down situations even if you didn’t prepare, and you can see how somethings you could do now would make a big difference.

Reviewing Survival Literature

I’ve been reading a bunch of survivalist literature lately and I thought I should write some reviews. But as I got ready to write my first ones I thought about some over arching things that need to be talked about first.

Fiction vs. How To

There are two kinds of books I’ve been reading. One are fictional stories about survival situations, the other are how to survive non-fiction books. Probably the best example of this are two books by the same author. Both by James Wesley Rawles Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse and How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.

While Rawles, the man behind the very good Survival Blog, says Patriots is a poorly disguised survival manual, it really isn’t a manual. Hence his creation of How To Survive TEOTWAWKI. Other examples of how to books are Neil Strauss’ Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life(I’ve already reviewed Emergency) , and Fernando Ferfal Aguirre’s The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse. When reviewing how to books I have talk about how the information is presented, how applicable it is, what kind of disaster it is talking about and how accurate I think it is.

When it comes to fiction like, Patriots and books like Terri Blackstock’s Last Light and William R. Forstchen’s One Second After, you give some leaway for the how to aspects of it, and also have talk about how believable the scenario is. Plus the kind of characters that are in the books make a difference.

Prepared Vs Unprepared

When looking at fiction works, you have to take into account what kind of characters are in the book. Are they, like Patriots, hard core suvivalists? Or are they average middle class suburbanites taken completely by surprise, like in Last Light? Or is a small town in the middle of now where Kansas like Jericho?

Survivalists – while I’ll admit to considering myself – are often very hard to stuff that happens in non-survivalist literature. Hence why I wrote my article “In Defense of Jericho“. Non-survivalist will act differently than those prepared.

Also in general survivalist have an idea of how things will go that non-survivalist may not have. Which needs to be talked about.

Realism

Talking about how I think things would have gone. What I think is realistic is a bit of an exercise in futility. Not because I don’t have ideas, just like the authors of the books, but because no one really knows. Every situation is different, every place is different, and people are different. So saying something won’t happen like this is really just opinion. Its opinion when the authors say it and its opinion when I disagree with them. But we can all learn from each other’s perspective.

That’s where I’ll be coming from as I review first Rawles books and Blackstock’s Last Light over the coming weeks.

The Best Is The One You Have With You

I’ve heard this phrase used for everything from guns to cameras. Over the years I’ve slowly added a number of things to my pockets. Every one I thought I’d be fine without, and learned after carrying it for a few days how great it was to have them.

Here’s the best gear I’ve got, ie, the ones I carry daily.

Gun

“The best gun to carry is the one you will have with you when you need it.” I have a CHL in Texas and carry from the time I get dressed until I go to bed. If I have my pants on, I’ve got a gun on my hip.
I carry a Springfield XD 45 “Compact”. This works for me even though it is a pretty big gun. I carry in an Inside the Waistband holster from Houston’s own Comp-Tac. Luckily right now fashion for men makes wearing your shirt untucked fashionable, though the IWB allows me to tuck in my shirt if I have to.

It may seem crazy to talk about fashion in a blog about survival. But the fact is I’m much more likely to be in a social situation where looking like Joe tactical isn’t the best thing for my success, which impacts my survival long term. Business guru Dan Kennedy has an interesting maxim when told that you shouldn’t be judged based on how you dress. He agrees to the idea and then says, “Would you rather be right, or rich?” Wearing a suit, or fashionable shirt will make people react to you differently. Isn’t that worth changing your behavior in an ethical way?

I learned the carry all the time philosophy from Ignatius Piazza of Front Sight. He once discussed the idea some people have to hide guns all over their house or place of business so one would be at hand wherever you needed it. But there are problems with having guns hidden all over the place.

1. They are hidden. You have remember where they are in a crisis situation.

2. They aren’t necessarily really at hand. Even being 4 feet from where you are standing means you have to move to get them.

3. Someone else can find them too. It could be a bad guy who duck behind you desk in a confrontation and discovers the gun you hid there. It could be a visiting 5 year old playing hide and seek.

The easiest way to have a firearm at your finger tips is to have it on your hip. This also allows you to practice your draw and know it is going to be in exactly that place any time you need it.

In discussions with co-workers I have found other people change clothes when they get home, generally into very comfortable pants – like sweat pants or pajama pants – that don’t have a belt to handle the weight of a pistol. It is something to consider.

At first it was a little strange to have that weight there when doing things like watching TV, or laying down reading a book, but you get used to it quickly.

Knife

It is amazing how much you will use something when it is readily to hand. I started carrying a pocket knife years ago. First I had tiny pen knife on my key chain. I’d use it to open packages, and cut things with the tiny scissors.

Then the TSA confiscated this highly dangerous piece of hardware and I was in the market for a new knife.

I started carrying a “real” pocket knife, a Kershaw with one handed opening. This made it even easier to get the knife out and use it, so I did. The little locking piece of plastic on the back the knife that is suppose to hold it closed in your pocket kept breaking off – they fixed it for free, but I still had the fear of the blade coming open in my pocket and slicing into the artery that runs down the front of my leg.

When I decided to get a new knife my friend and fellow preparedness person Hsoi suggested the Leatherman Wave. I bought it and always carry it now. It is a little big, but oh so useful. I’ve used the knife often, plus having pliers and scissors has been priceless. I don’t clip it to my belt because I don’t like stuff on my belt, but I clip it to the top of my pocket so I don’t have to dig for it. Takes a little experience to remember how to twist it in your hand to get the standard blade, but you can open it one handed.

Flashlight

Again my friend Hsoi recommended carrying a flash light, and my training at Frontsight also said you needed one with the button on the back if you get in a gunfight at night. But again I don’t like carrying stuff on my belt. Shopping for lights was also confusing and expensive and I always wondered if I was getting the right thing.
Last November we were looking for something a dark car when my wife pulls a tiny flashlight out of her purse. It was a little over 3 inches long, made of metal, fit into her hand and came on with a click of the button on the bottom. And it was bright, filled the car and blinded me if I looked directly at it.

“Where’d you get that? How much did it cost?” were my first questions.

“At the auto parts store. About $10.”

“I know what I want from the boys for Christmas. Buy 3.” Which is exactly what she did. These may not be the best lights out there, but they were cheap enough I have multiples.

And it fits in my pocket. Which means it is much better than a bigger, more rugged light because it is with me all the time.

The only thing I have against it is black. I don’t like gear that is black because if you drop it in the dark it is nigh impossible to find. When I opened the pack she had already wrapped the center in white electrical tape. We do this often with black gear.

Camera

“The best camera is the one you have with you when you want to get the shot.” Is a camera a piece of survival gear? I don’t know, but once everyone started having them in their phones pictures proliferated.
I use my camera phone to remember all kinds of things now, books I want to come back to, people I just met, places I have been. At the last gun show I went to I took pictures of ammo prices and the banner over the booth so I could compare them and know where to come back to later.

Matter of fact there is an iPhone app from photographer Chase Jarvis called Best Camera because for most photographers the camera you have with you is the one in your phone. I’m a professional photographer with thousands of dollar worth of camera equipment, but more than likely the camera I’ll have when I need to take a picture of something important will be my iPhone.

The one thing you don’t have on most camera phones is any kind of optical zoom. If you want to reach out and take an image that’s what you need – and it is an improvised telescope/binocular. You can find optical zooms on most compact digital cameras. Something the size of a pack of cards will fit in your pocket is something you will carry, and hence the best camera.

Conclusion

If you carry the four things I talked about you will find you use them a lot. Even if you don’t everyday, when you do need them they will seem the greatest thing ever. Try carrying any of these for 30 days and see if wonder how you did without them before.
Lastly, remember the best gun, flashlight, knife, camera, you’ve got are the ones you have with you when you need them. So think about carriablilty when purchasing equipment. Especially stuff you may use on a day by day basis.