7 Reasons To Add Thermal Optics In Your Preps

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Are Thermal Imaging Scopes Useful?

Having seen the movie Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger when I was young landed me with a fascination for thermal optics. That fascination is not what led me to start considering their use today. Not only as an aid to hunting but as an option for a variety of tasks that we, as preppers, may deem important.

Recently in Search and Rescue training, we used a thermal optic to scan for lost hikers. It was amazingly powerful and successful. Even through rather dense foliage, we were able to clearly make out any presence with body heat.

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This is a very powerful utility and one that is now within the grasp of most people. Back in the 90s, even an affordable thermal optic could quickly exceed $10,000.00. I recall reading the ads for these units in several of the gun catalogs that arrived at our house and knew it was out of reach.

That has changed. Now you can get a high-quality thermal sight that is quite cost-effective.  The entire industry of thermal optics went through some growing pains early on.  This combined with their high cost has seen them mostly employed for hog hunting.

I think it’s well past time we take a hard look at thermal optics as the potential tool they could be.

A Brief Primer on Thermal Optics

To correct any possible misunderstanding, I think it’s important we spend a few brief words on what exactly a thermal optic is. It is not night vision and has a number of benefits over a standard night vision scope. I do believe night vision is a useful technology but not the equal of thermal optics.

Night vision relies on some form of illumination from an external source. That can be ambient light for some types or an IR illuminator for others. In order for something to show on night vision it has to reflect that illumination. It can not work in complete darkness and has a very limited range.

Thermal optics detect the radiation, in the form of body heat, that is emitted from a target. They can be used day or night and even in complete darkness. The range of thermal is often much farther and can easily exceed 1000 meters on some units.

All night vision is monochrome. Usually, you can pick out your target with night vision with little difficulty.  But if your target is near other reflective surfaces, it will just blend in. This is especially true of very small animals.

There is no blending in with thermal. The rainbow hues will stand out and be instantly recognizable. Even the quickest scan will show you if anything is near. From my home, I can clearly watch rats run around my barn over 200 yards from my window.

I believe the versatility and power of a thermal optic make it a far better technology than night vision for many uses.

Why a Thermal Scope?

So far, I have referred to this technology as thermal optics. So, why would I write this article about thermal scopes specifically instead of monoculars, goggles, or any of the other devices? That comes down to choosing a tool that is capable of multiple tasks.

Firstly, this is because a scope can serve as a hunting tool where other forms of thermal optics cannot. But that is just scratching the surface.

I am sure that most readers have a weapon mounted light. When there is something to investigate near our homes, many of us will reach for that weapon with its light rather than just picking up a flashlight.

The weapon mounted light serves the same purposes of a flashlight but with defensive capability.  A weapon mounted thermal optic serves the same purpose.

Because of the way that thermal works, using goggles or a monocular in conjunction with a weapon would be impossible. You would never be able to see your sights. A scope will do everything any other type of thermal will but has a weapon attached should you need it.

If you are not comfortable with carrying a gun, a scope can be detached, often with just a throw lever, and used as a monocular. A thermal scope is just the most useful format for this technology.

Thermal Optics for Hunting

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I am sure most of us are aware of the use of thermal optics in hunting. While it is worth covering briefly, it should not be the focus of this article.

Most game animals cannot be hunted after dark in many states. In my home state, only hog and coyote can be hunted after sundown. This will make hunting uses more limited for some than others.

Where and when it is permissible, hunting at night with a thermal scope is highly effective. Coyote are overpopulated in many areas, mine seems especially prone. I hunted coyote with a spotlight for several years but that method pales in comparison to the effectiveness of a thermal scope.

A bright light will scatter coyote immediately, often faster than you can get a bead on one. Thermal gives them no warning until your fire your first shot. Occasionally, that moment of panic from a loud noise can even give you time to get off a second shot.

My experience with hogs is much more limited but from my understanding, it works much the same.

Though I would hesitate to call it hunting, most of the use I get from my thermal scope is with the local vermin that like to raid my farm. I get coons, coyote, rats, and opossums regularly as they come searching for food. They are all easy prey with a thermal optic.

The one downside I have found is that the snakes they like to prey on my chickens are invisible.

Thermal Optics for Home Security

This is the one place that I feel thermal is most neglected. I have a rather large property with trees and a number of sheds and outbuildings. There are no street lights and on a new moon, it is pitch black. Thanks to the drug epidemic, home invasions and theft are prominent and a very frightening reality.

When I have an indication that something may be on my property, I want to be able to scan quickly. Sure, you can do that with a light but you give away your location. If you happen to start in the wrong spot, any troublemakers are given at least some warning to hide. This is an imperfect solution.

Night vision is a little better. You avoid giving any warning and don’t give away your location. But as we talked about with hunting, targets may not stand out, especially if they are hiding. Night vision also has a smaller field of view and limited range. I think it’s a solid tool but not one that can do everything I want.

Thermal optics give no warning, do not give you away, and make target location and identification easy. I can see to the far end of my property about 400 yards away and make out deer, dogs, and even small animals.

Even if someone were hiding with just a head poking out, it would light up in vibrant hues. Seeing through vegetation is a breeze so a person would have to be completely out of sight for them not to show up. This is by far the quickest way to scan your property with the least chance of missing anything out of place.

I could explain most of this all day but you can not experience how easy spotting through a thermal optic is until you try it for yourself. This video shows a couple of different modes available on Thermal optics.  It does not show the typical rainbow color scheme that most people are familiar with. For scanning, I prefer the rainbow mode but the white heat mode does work very well.

You could do all of this with any thermal optic. I choose a rifle scope over a spotting scope for several reasons. As I mentioned, I like having the option to attach it to a weapon. Additionally, thermal scopes often have superior run times and a greater range of magnification. This is a huge benefit, especially when trying to spot at a distance or to identify a smaller target.

The optic I have attaches with a throw lever and holds zero pretty well. Probably most of my use is ridding the farm of varmints using a .22 rifle. The remainder of the time it gets mounted on an AR-15 for larger targets. I rarely ever use it without it mounted on a gun but it could be used as just a spotter.

I would not trust it to hold a zero well enough for a 100-yard shot but most of my shots are 20 yards or less and I am within an inch or so. This is acceptable for any use I normally have. When I take it out to hunt, I do an actual zero on the rifle before I go.

The peace of mind this has brought for scanning my property has been well worth the cost!

Other Uses for Thermal Optics

As I mentioned above, I use a thermal optic for search and rescue. This is not a weapon mounted scope but a dedicated unit. I do not take a rifle with me on search and rescue. This application works well in the woods, water, and most any other environment and is the most important use I have for thermal.

I also use my thermal to keep track of my dogs after dark when they go out. It works much better than a flashlight and is good practice. But outside of the use on living things, a Thermal scope has a variety of uses. The more innovative you are, the more uses you are likely to find.

I use a thermal to check for hotspots on my wood burning chimney. This can help avoid fires and tell you when you may have a potential blockage in your chimney. While you are at it, you can use a good thermal to check your home insulation by looking for cold spots. Heating is expensive, why waste it?

I do a similar check on my HVAC system. You can easily see leaks and blockages in your system and avoid costly checks that involve taking your ductwork down. You don’t need a sensitive, purpose made unit to do this. Any thermal optic should work well enough to detect these issues.

You can check electrical problems in the same way. Check your breaker box to make sure none of your fuses are running hot before it becomes a problem. You can even check your household outlets and surge protectors to make sure they aren’t running hotter than they should be.

Hot water pipes can also be scanned to look for places that may benefit from more insulation. Check your windows to make sure you aren’t losing heat. There are a variety of uses thermal can be applied to for measuring heat loss. You should probably take it off your rifle first though.

This may somewhat piggyback off other uses but I also take my smaller thermal optic with me when camping. I like to be able to spot wildlife and watch the activities of nocturnal critters that you usually never see. You could even use it to search for Bigfoot or the Yeti if you were so inclined.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this does an adequate job of addressing some of the many uses of thermal technology. For those who seek to be truly prepared, a thermal optic is an amazing tool with so many applications in our world. For prepper types, so many of these uses are important to the way we conduct our daily lives.

The longer I have had my thermal optics, the more I have found I use them. Of course, you should match your thermal to your intended uses. That said, when it comes down to it a mountable rifle scope provides the most utility for me.

I can use it for security, safety, providing food, and even some leisure activities. They may not be a perfect technology but they are a very useful one.

BIO: Eric Patton from Scopesman

Eric grew up hunting, fishing, and roaming the hills of the Easter U.S. and has dedicated himself to becoming a well-rounded outdoorsman.  Anytime there is an opportunity for a little fishing or a morning spent hunting, you will find him in the woods.  In his off time, he teaches a variety of outdoor skills including land navigation and basic survival.  Recently a Search and Rescue member, he has begun learning the ancient art of human tracking in a variety of terrains.

How To Build A High Quality Survival Armory For Just $500

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If you feel that you need a personal armory of firearms but are extremely limited in your budget to only around $500 or so, you may feel that your best course of action will either be to wait and save up for a single high quality firearm later, or to go ahead and buy a collection of cheaply made ‘budget’ firearms to get you by.

But truth be told, neither of these options are ones that you have to pursue. This is because it is possible to build a complete armory of firearms for disaster and SHTF purposes on a shoestring budget of only around five hundred dollars.  

The reason this is possible is because there are a large number of high quality firearms that are also easily affordable. You see, there’s actually a difference between ‘cheap guns’ and ‘budget guns.’

In an SHTF or disaster scenario, there will be three basic types of firearms that you need to have in your collection:

  • Rifle: for big game hunting and long distance shooting
  • Shotgun: for personal/home defense and bird/small game hunting
  • Handgun: for defense and concealment

In this article, we’re going to outline and discuss three specific makes and models of firearms that you can buy in order to put together on a high quality survival armory for just $500 or less.

Rifle – Mosin Nagant 7.62x54r ($200)

The Mosin Nagant is one of the most popular budget rifles in existence.  While admittedly crudely made, the Mosin Nagant also has a well-earned reputation for being a very durable and accurate firearm.  It’s a rifle that you can beat to death, and it will

The Mosin Nagant served as the standard issue infantry rifle of the Red Army in World War I and World War II. Afterwards, when the Soviet Union upgraded to the AK-47 and SKS, tens of millions of surplus Mosin Nagant rifles hit the surplus market and found their way to the United States.

Originally, Mosin Nagants were so cheap that a bundle of three could be purchased for less than a hundred bucks.  Today, prices have been rising, but finding a Mosin Nagant in good condition for $200 or less either online or at pawn shops should not be a major challenge.

The Mosin is also chambered for the 7.62x54r round, which is very cheap and has ballistics very similar to a .30-06 Springfield.  This means that it will be more than capable in bringing down virtually any kind of North American big game.

Shotgun – Breech Loading 12 Gauge ($100)

Shotguns are among the most versatile firearms in existence, and if your gun safe doesn’t have one in it already, you need to change that.

What makes shotguns so versatile? The answer is simple: other than concealed carry and long distance shooting, there’s preciously little that they can’t do.

It’s all because of the ammo: when loaded with birdshot, a shotgun can be used for clay pigeon shooting and small game or bird hunting.  With buckshot, it’s one of the most devastatingly effective home defense weapons in existence. With slugs, it can even be used for big game hunting within reasonable distances.

Easily the cheapest choice for a dependable 12 gauge shotgun will be a breech loading single shot model.  These shotguns are so simple and rugged in operation that you won’t have to worry about one breaking down when the going gets tough.

No, a breech loading single shot shotgun is nothing fancy.  It’s no Mossberg 500 or Remington 870. But if you’re on a very shoestring budget, a simple breech loading shotgun will still be a perfectly doable option, and you should encounter no problems finding one in good shape in the $100 range.

Handgun – Taurus G2C 9mm Luger ($200)

At this point, we’ve spent $200 on our rifle and $100 on our shotgun. That leaves just another $200 to spend on our handgun.

The best handgun to have in an SHTF disaster would quite arguably be a mid-sized 9mm pistol with a relatively large capacity.  Such a handgun would be suitable for defending yourself against multiple attackers, while also being small and light enough to conceal carry.  While the ideal handgun for this criteria may be something like a Glock 19, that’s also going to be too much outside of our budget range.

One of the best pistols to fulfill this criteria for that $200 or so budget will be the Taurus G2C 9mm pistol.  This is a compact sized pistol with a capacity of 12+1 rounds, and offers you enough room for a full firing grip so it’s easily controllable.

The G2C also has an impressive number of features for a budget pistol, including a manual thumb safety, a Glock-style trigger safety, and a loaded chamber indicator.  The pistol has also gained a strong reputation for reliability, with many users reporting having thousands of rounds through their G2C pistols without any hiccups.

Conclusion

Having a personal armory of firearms is one of the most important things you can as you prepare for disaster as it can help keep your family safe while also enabling you to put food on the table.

If you only have $500 to spend on guns right now, the above three choices will definitely serve you well in any SHTF or disaster scenario.

NOTE: THIS WAS A GUEST POST.

$5 Faraday Cage How To Guide

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Have you always wanted a Faraday Cage to protect your sensitive electronics from an EMP, but were afraid of the cost? Well, consider this idea on making your own Faraday cage for about $5 each. And the best part: you can make several of these with the supplies you’ll need! Here’s how…

“Although the EMP literature is scarce, and often contradictory, I found a “recipe” for a Faraday cage that should withhold both types of EMPs, whether natural or man-made. Based on my own research, I’m pretty sure this will work better than a microwave, a galvanized trash can, or some of the other solutions you can find online.

The idea is simple: wrap your devices in alternating layers of insulating and conductive material, then put everything inside a thick ammo box.

Aluminum foil is cheap, you can find cardboard around the house for free, duct tape and packaging tape are also dirt-cheap, so you can make a cheap Faraday cage for less than $5. Now you will spend more than $5 for these supplies, but keep in mind you’ll be able to make several cages for this amount of money. This doesn’t include the ammo can, which you also probably have in your garage…”

Read the full article here

The Bronc Box: Durable Gear Storage

This guy always seems to come up with neat new gear, and the bronc box is no exception. If you’re looking for a very durable, modular storage option for your weapons and gear, this box may be just the thing. They say it’s “build like a tank,” floats, can be customized, comes in different colors, and more…

Off Grid Tools Survival Axe Review

I was sent this Off Grid Tools Survival Axe with “31 features” in exchange for an honest review. And I told the representative that I’m not normally a fan of multi-use tools such as these… maybe I was wrong in this case.

I do want to point out that I feel advertising a tool has “31 features” to make it sound more useful is a bit misleading. As an example, nine of those features are somehow split among four separately sized hex head sockets built into the axe head. To me that’s only four “features” to list. Other features pull double-duty too, but there’s no reason to point out every single one. In my opinion, the survival axe has about a dozen clearly unique “features” to name.

Now, I’ll get off my soapbox and onto the interesting and useful aspects of the tool…

For starters, the packaging is something I pay attention to. If a tool is packaged well then odds are that it’s going to be built well. And, in this case, even though it’s packaged in plastic, the survival axe is clearly packaged well:

And comes with an easy-to-use sheath (a must for safety):

Inside the handle there’s a 6″ reciprocating saw blade that can be exposed by turning the small knob near the bottom of the handle:

The blade locks into position when being used; just push the blade a bit to the side and it can be rotated back into the handle for storage. That’s nice.

Before even using the axe, I decided to take the five screws out of the handle because I thought the axe might include extra blades… it does not.

Of course, the first thing I wanted to try out was the axe. And, so, I decided to split a bit of kindling. As you can see below, the Off Grid Tools Survival Axe is sitting next to my trusty Fiskars Hatchet which is what I normally use for splitting kindling fast:

Surprisingly, the Survival Axe performed very well. The blade was sharp and split kindling easily; just as easily as my Fiskars. In addition, the hammer on the backside of the Survival Axe came in handy when I needed to use a mallet get the axe head through tough spots in the firewood. For this purpose, I was pleased.

The next thing I tried was to drive a few different nails into a board with the hammer feature, and it worked well enough:

I then used the hammer claw feature to remove the nails and it worked just fine for the nails closer to the board, though I needed a bit of leverage for the longer nail:

Overall, the hammer and nail puller / claw worked well enough. It’s no replacement for an actual hammer, but it will get the job done.

I then wondered about the saw. And, although, it’s a full 6″ in length, I’d say the saw blade is virtually useless. In fact, I spent a good 30 seconds just trying to cut the end of the 2″x4″ until I tired out after getting almost nowhere:

Clearly, the teeth on this blade are NOT meant for cutting wood, so, I tried to cut a piece of cooper pipe:

It works, though, I wouldn’t want to have to use it often at all. If you can replace the blade with more aggressive teeth, then I would say it’s useful for potential survival purposes. Fortunately, it appears to be a typical reciprocating saw blade which means it can be easily swapped out with a more aggressive teeth pattern.

Most of the other features I didn’t really try, such as the hex head sockets, pry bar, or spanner wrench. I did try the box cutter and was underwhelmed as it was in an odd position to be truly useful and, to be honest, didn’t do a good job even when I could position the survival axe correctly.

And, although I wasn’t able to try a few of the likely more useful survival features yet, I do like the fact that it includes a gas shut-off wrench (I assume it’s non-sparking), seat belt cutter, and glass breaker.

Ultimately, I’m fairly pleased with the Off Grid Tools Survival Axe. The main components of the tool are useful (though you should replace the saw blade), it’s clearly made solidly, and includes a handful of additional features that could prove useful in the right situations (e.g., the seat belt cutter and glass breaker).

If interested, here’s a video about the various features too (not made by me):

GoSun Sport Portable Solar Cooker

I used to love to cook meals with my All American Sun Oven (like this one) and would post about it almost weekly for quite a while. Sadly, we moved to the Pacific Northwest and, well… those tall trees don’t make for advantageous solar cooking conditions, lol. Maybe one of these days I’ll dust it off again.

Anyway, that’s where a truly portable solar cooker, such as this GoSun Sport, would be a perfect fit. (I can attest that lugging my bulky sun oven around wasn’t fun by any means.)

And, while the price tag seemed a bit high at first, when I realized all that you could do with the GoSun Sport via the video below and recognizing how portable this particular sun oven truly is, then the GoSun Sport ProPack is actually quite reasonably priced.

Plus, the ProPack contains everything you need to cook and boil water while on the go, for in your car, at home, and so much more. If you don’t yet have a solar cooker then this one would be a good choice…

 

Save 31% on Collapsible Camping Lanterns (2-pk)

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I got an email today from Amazon pointing out that, for a limited time, you can save 31% off a 2-pack of collapsible camping lanterns with promo code 312EA2RH.

Personally, I’ve got a few collapsible lanterns like these and have used them for at least two or three years now and I think they’re great! I wrote about one of them a few years back here, though these are a different brand.

Granted, such lanterns are not nearly as bright as a gas lantern, but they’re really good for being battery-powered since they’re LEDs which make them very efficient. In fact, I think they’re among the brightest battery-powered lanterns I own.

Besides that, they’re also super-lightweight, obviously compact (about the size of a can of vegetables when collapsed), safe for kids and adults because you won’t get burned (ask me how I know that’s a problem with gas lanterns), run on only a few AA batteries, and are nearly waterproof (let’s say quite water resistant).

Anyway, I couldn’t recommend them enough for the price at retail and with an additional 31% off right now… they’re a steal.

Grab a pack of two for your next camping trip or do what I do and keep a few placed around the house for when the power goes out.

Rocket Stove Fuel Alternatives

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If you’re “into” survival at all then you’re likely very familiar with rocket stoves… they’re awesome! And they can be fashioned out of all sorts of items, from sheet metal and tin cans to masonry bricks and even earthen materials.

The thing is that I’ve ALWAYS used sticks and twigs to fuel them; however, as the following post explains: “…when a hurricane brushes by my coast and dumps 4-10 inches of rain, there are no dry branches or twigs to gather, light and cook dinner with!”

Clearly, you’ll need an alternative rocket fuel in that case. Here’s a few ideas…

A rocket stove can burn just about anything, including your furniture if need be!

Like any cooking appliance, it needs fuel of some sort. The Rocket Stove is no exception. For me, when a hurricane brushes by my coast and dumps 4-10 inches of rain, there are no dry branches or twigs to gather, light and cook dinner with! I found it difficult to long-term store dry twigs and small branches for its’ fuel, until this week. I found that the Preppers favorite long-term storage container, the 5-gallon bucket, works perfectly!

Wood Fuel for the Rocket Stove:

Here are two buckets, one has split wood in it (about ½ to ¾ inch square by 12-13 inches long) ready to use. The other bucket has scrap 2×4’s and 2×6’s in it, I had this wood on my fireplace wood pile and because of rains, it is too wet to easily split with a hand ax so I’ll get to it in a couple weeks. The nice thing about using 5-gallon bucket for the wood storage is just snap a lid on it and it is neat, dry, bug-free, and clean in your closet or pantry storage…”

Read the full article here

How to Use a Smartphone Without a Signal

Smartphones… everyone seems to have one, yet few people choose to make use of them properly to better prepare for disasters. That’s way I wrote this book on smartphone apps for survival because your phone is a crucial, yet underutilized, survival tool that you should ensure is ready when needed the most.

What I now realize is that I didn’t fully cover how to better utilize your smartphone if/when you can’t get a cell signal at all.

Fortunately, there’s more than one way to make use of a smartphone as an actual communication device when cell towers are down. The following article discusses four ways, in particular, to make that happen…

“Communication, wherever you are, is a vital resource.

Whether you are a survivalist, prepper, hiker, hunter, or homesteader, having a method of off-grid communication is vital. Why is it important? Because when disaster strikes, an emergency happens, or when you are outdoors, too often we are left without cell phone service, and it is generally in those times that we need communication the most.

In regional areas, there is still scant phone coverage. In those circumstances, sure, we could use satellite phones, but if you have ever looked at their pricing you will know that satphones and satellite minutes can be ridiculously expensive.

With changes to technology, there are a few, much more affordable, alternative options that allow us to communicate with others. These options do not require us to use a cell phone signal, making them a way to communicate off-the-grid, so to say.

Why off-grid communication is important…”

Read the full article here