Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gear Review: Magpul X-22 Hunter Stock for Ruger 10/22 Takedown and TANDEMKROSS Upgrades

The Tree Trunk of a rifle is the “stoc” or as we say today, stock. In a nutshell the stock holds the important gun parts and is placed against one’s shoulder when shooting. I think tree trunk is an apt description since until recently, gun stocks have evolved about as fast as trees. But today there is little sacred ground with rifle stocks to the point they have jumped species and the thing we used to call a stock might now be called a chassis and could be confused for an alien visiting from another planet.

I decided I was done with wood stocks back in the 1980s and have never looked back. Sure I enjoy the beauty of a artistically carved and finished gunstock, but for real world applications in my life, tree trunks are out. So with my loyalty to the woodstock in the rear view mirror, I am quick to adopt new designs and new technology especially when it comes to interface points between me and the machine. So optics, triggers and stocks are are always on my radar.

Magpul Magic
Few companies in the history of the world have revolutionized the rifle stock as fast Magpul. And given that the stock has been referred to as such since 1571, Magpul’s ability to shake up a almost 450 year old technology really says something. Of course others have dabbled in the buttstock but none with the vim and vigor as Magpul and its polymer wizards. Beginning with the AR-15 platform, Magpul quickly diversified our appreciation for choice and customization. And then just as fast, Magpul moved beyond the AR and just recently entered the glorious 10/22 marketplace.

Magpul’s first 10/22 stock was the Hunter X-22. An overbuilt chassis with fabulous ergonomics and features. Frankly, my first thought when I held an X-22 Hunter was that Magpul cares more about the 10/22 than Ruger does. My feeling was an outgrowth of something I’ve noticed in the past, and that is that often aftermarket builders of gun parts put quality into their designs proportional to the initial cost of a gun or by its cartridge. And thus the lowly .22 Long Rifle was not worth of an full-on stock. Just plastics, lookalikes, and underbuilt experiments. Sure, some were much better than others, but it seemed any major upgrade in .22 stock was as special order.

Compared to the base model Ruger 10/22 Takedown’s black plastic factory stock, the Magpul takes all of the “toy” feel out of original and moves the gun into a whole new rifle experience. There are two primary pieces to a takedown stock, the buttstock with grip and the forend which in the case of the Magpul also contains a separate barrel tray. The weight of the Magpul buttstock is 29.6 ounces while the factory Ruger buttstock weighs 16.7. The Magpul forend weighs in at 8.6 ounces, and the factory Ruger forend is 5.7 ounces.. So overall, the Magpul X-22 Hunter stock adds about one pound more than an out-of-the-box Ruger 10/22. The price in weight of the X-22 Hunter is more than made up in performance and off-hand accuracy.

There are two ways to look at the 10/22 Takedown. One way leans heavily towards minimalism. And the other is to overcome the limitations or shortcomings of a light rifle that breaks in two. The Magpul X-22 Hunter Stock clearly bends towards making the 10/22 a better shooter regardless of adding some additional size and weight. But don’t fear, Magpul is working on bending the otherway as well. Stay tuned on that.

The Magpul X-22 Hunter stock has an M-Lok friendly forend, and a sling-ready back stock. There are also several points to screw in Quick-Detach receptacles. To adjust the length of pull, the Magpul X-22 Hunter comes with additional buttplate spacers. Two spacers are installed at point of purchase, and two more are included in the box allowing the shooter to dial in the perfect length of pull to fit their needs. Additionally, Magpul sells cheek risers that fit the X-22 Hunter. So you can really customize this chassis for serious precision shooting and hunting.

In my case, I installed a M-Lok AFG or Angled Fore Grip on the underside of the X-22 Hunter’s forend. On the right side of the forend I M-Loked (there is no noun I can’t verb) a QD Sling Mount. So of course I put on a Magpul MS1 Padded Sling. I’ve been using Magpul slings since they first appeared in the homeland, but this is the first padded Magpul sling I’ve used. First of all, the MS1 works as great as the other Magpul slings but the padding really takes the bite out of a long carry over the shoulder or across the back. And for those high-speed situations, the I attacked an Magpul MS1/MS4 Adapter to add a QD or Quick Detach option to the top end of the sling. The Adapter snaps into the M-Lok QD attachment point on the forend

The forend of the Magpul X-22 Hunter stock has a reversible barrel tray that accommodates the so-called “pencil barrel” of base model 10/22s as well as the 0.920 diameter bull barrels. And proving that Magpul really loves us, adjustable shims are included that allow the shooter to adjust the barrel harmonics through a set screw directly under the shim.

The Next LevelTo trick out my 10/22 Takedown Hunter X-22, I first swapped out some internals of Bill Ruger’s 10/22 clockwork. There are obvious upgrades that 10/22s need right out of the chute. The first is a bolt buffer pin and the second is a bolt release plate. To soften the bolt’s equal and opposite motion backward when a shot is fired, I replaced the metal pin from the Ruger factory with a TANDEMKROSS "Shock Block" Bolt Buffer. The Shock Block is a polymer cylinder that works like a drift pin, but is softer and absorbs the shock of a cycling bolt. The Shock Block also reduces the wear on the bolt from repeatedly slamming into a metal stop. I’ve struggled to insert a softer pin into the 10/22 receiver on many occasions so I usually put a mild taper onto the far end of the buffer pin, a TANDEMKROSS Shock Block in this case. To install a subtle taper on the polymer pin to aid in seating without risk of mushrooming either end, I first insert the polymer pin into the jaws of my drill’s chuck. Then I spin it with a piece of sandpaper pinched around the the tip. Ten seconds later I have just the hint of taper to make the pin behave just like a metal one. Better in fact.

In order to sling-shot the bolt closed, I used the TANDEMKROSS "Guardian" Bolt Release Plate. Rather than the “tired but true” clunky bolt release plate of the factory 10/22, a quick swap of the plate makes the 10/22 behave like one would expect this far into the 21st century.

Another important TANDEMKROSS upgrade I made to my X-22 Hunter 10/22 Takedown included swapping out the factory bolt for hardened tool steel CNC-machined “KrossFire Bolt. The KrossFIre is a thing of beauty and has a vertical movement restricted firing pin for more reliable and predictable .22 ignition reducing misfires.

Since I was replacing the bolt, I also swapped out the small but dense factory charging handle with a longer Spartan Skeletonized Charging lever. The TANDEMKROSS Spartan is easier to grab thorough its larger and more ergonomic human interface. But the low mass of the skeletonized grip keeps the bolt cycling at the proper speed.

The final receiver upgrade I made, well almost the final one, was to replace the factory bolt-on scope rail with the TANDEMKROSS "Advantage" Charging Handle and Picatinny Scope Base. While providing a slightly elevated scope platform, the real advantage of the “Advantage” is that you can easily cycle or charge the 10/22 bolt from both the left and the right side of the rifle. Rather than being a total rework of the bolt, the Advantage charging handle is component that engages the existing charging handle but offers an ambidextrous option. When I first saw a picture of the Advantage charging handle, I was skeptical that it would offer the fluid and smooth charging of the factory bolt. But at the 2015 SHOT Show I got some hands-on time with one and was impressed. It worked beautifully.

Shooting the Dream
In the field, the Ruger 10/22 Takedown with Magpul X-22 Hunter stock was like a whole new level of 10/22. The feel of the stock in hand felt so much more precise and natural compared to the classic but ancient lines of the traditional stock.

The Ruger rotary magazines are legendary for their durability and reliability. But there is still some room for improvement and I thought I would take a few mag upgrades for a spin. First is a TANDEMKROSS “Companion” magazine bumper. The Ruger magazines are known are smooth and fairly featureless which makes them difficult to extract when they don’t pop out on their own. The Companion bumper adds a rigid base with wings onto the factory magazine.

Another TANDEMKROSS adventure is the “Double Kross” dual magazine body. The Double Kross is a transparent housing that combines two magazines into one piece with a two 10-rounds mags 180 degrees apart but in one housing. The Double Kross works great, just like the original. However, it uses the internal parts of two existing magazines so one must swap out the guts, twice. And that is where the adventure is. If you’ve never disassembled a Ruger rotary magazine, you are in for a treat. So much so that TANDEMKROSS makes a “10/22 Rotary Magazine Tune-up Tool which I can attest is worth it’s weight in gold when the springs start flying.

With all this 10/22 magazine goodness, I went ahead and installed a TANDEMKROSS “Fireswitch” extended mag release lever. Using a cantilevered design, the Fireswitch will release the magazine with either a push or a pull on the lever. The Fireswitch is also much easier to use while wearing gloves compared to the stock mag release.

Ruger packaged the 10/22 Takedown with an oversized backpack. I was not thrilled with the pack, and considered it far too large for the svelte Takedown. But a 10/22 Takedown wearing the Magpul X-22 furniture fits wonderfully into the Ruger backpack. So I put it back into service again.

Big Boy Pants
The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is finally maturing into the rifle I knew it would be someday. But wait, there’s more. But you will have to wait. So stay tuned right here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gear Review: The Fallkniven S1 Pro Survival Knife. The Ultimate Goldilocks Blade!

The quest for a Goldilocks Knife, or one that’s just right, is less a journey and more of a marriage. To trust one’s fate to one single blade especially for survival situations, there must be a commitment to making the best of the situation regardless of the challenges. Thick and thin, sickness and health, and all that.

In additional to personal preferences, there is a small handful of knife characteristics that can be adjusted by blade makers including those addressing the grip such as size, thickness, materials, guard options, and shape. And for the blade there is steel type, length, thickness, grind, shape, and overall size. Of those eleven characteristics, even if each one only had two options, that would be 2 to the 11th or over 2000 combinations. But of course each option has many more than two possibilities, with some nearing an infinite number of choices.

Goldilocks might be a fairy tale, but the Fallkniven S1 Pro Survival Knife is very real and very sharp. Even in its own lineup of Pro Knives, it right down the middle. Not too much. Not too little. Flanking the S1 are the larger A1 Pro and the smaller F1 Pro. With the A1 being noted for its large size and the F1 a designed for smaller cockpit carry, something in between should be just about right. But “just about” is not enough to be “right” when looking for the perfect knife.

Looking at the features of the Fallkniven S1 Pro, it is clear that while this particular knife is smaller in some aspects, but no less potent. For instance, the blade thickness of the S1 is an amazing six millimeters or just shy of a quarter inch. And that’s on a blade only 5.1 inches long.

Speaking of the blade on the Fallkniven S1 Pro, it’s a cobalt steel convex edged masterpiece. The steel is amazing from both the standpoint of overall sharpness and durability. In the never ending search for the perfect steel, blade steel makers have been dabbling at the atomic level with chemistry, crystal structure and the optimum blend of edge shape and cutting performance. The best steel can be neutered by a poor choice of grind, and a marginal steel can be given superpowers with the right shape and grind. But ultimately, one wants the the best of all worlds; the best steel with the best grind, and the best performance characteristics. And it seems the Fallkniven S1 Pro has come as close to this Goldilocks formula as anyone ever has.

Fallkniven uses an enhanced convex grind on the Fallkniven S1 Pro as well as its other Pro blades. The convex grind is an advanced grind with no simple characteristics or ease of manufacturing which is why the convex grind is not a common option among knifemakers. The convex grind is a graceful arc from blade side to blade edge. Most designs transition the blade from flat side tapering linearly to a point where a sharper angle dives towards the absolute edge. It’s an effective strategy for 99% of the uses, but what about the 1% that really matter when it matters? That’s where the convex edge shines.

The heavy blade chops like a dream. A small dream, but a dream nonetheless. And the S1 Pro can slice all day long without a sharpener in sight. But when a touchup is needed, the S1 Pro kit comes with the famous Fallkniven DC4 diamond/ceramic sharpening stone.

The Pro Survival Knife line of Fallkniven provides three exceptional choices, the A1 Pro, S1 Pro, and F1 Pro. All three have their advantages, and no single choice is a wrong one. But given your intended uses, strength, and capabilities. Having used many survival knives for many purposes, truly, if you want a perfect sized survival knife, the Fallkniven S1 Pro as close to perfect as perfect can get.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The BOBOB: A Survival Book Bunker

Be honest, you probably own somewhere between a handful and a shelf-full of various survival and prepping oriented books. And you have the intention of reading them, but know that you probably won’t unless you absolutely have to.
My personal survival oriented book collection occupies about eleven linear feet of shelf space, and while the books address many topics they fit into about a half dozen specific genres. There are the military survival manuals, the medical and first aid tomes, those pages that address wilderness lore and primitive skills, general prepping, hunting, tracking, gardening, game preparation and food storage, a few odd tangents, and plenty of survival stories. So how to take my library on the run?

First, the bunker. I chose the Pelican Storm Case iM2400 waterproof polycarbonate container. If the end is more of a whimper, then this case is overkill. But if it's more of the bang I suspect it will, then this Pelican is just the bird for the Storm. The size is about the same as a small suitcase, and was chosen to provide some focus to the bunker, but not to limit this to a Top Ten List. Additionally, weight and size need to play a role in your decision making. If I Bug In, I have all my books, magazines, manuals, and pretty much everything else in my prepping world. But if I have head to my BOL (Bug Out Location) then I need a single, durable, waterproof package that just might contain my entire Library of Alexandria.

Like many with a survivalist/prepper bend, I tend to accumulate books about all aspects of survival from pet first aid, to boobytraps, to gardening within a square foot, to firearm repair. But as my library increased in weight, I decided what I really needed is a Bug Out Bag Of Books or BOBOB. Or another name I use is my Survival Book Bunker or SBB. In other words, a consolidation of reading material chosen specifically for when one must take the survival literature show on the road. Bug Out Books are not about Bug Out Bags (that ship has sailed), but instead the necessary skills that might be needed in the future to survive and thrive post Bug Out.

Lately, however, I have admitted to myself that I won’t be reading many of these books cover to cover but rather just referring to them or studying their table of contents so I know the gist of the book. And instead putting the books back on the shelf, I have decided to build a portable bunker for them when when I have to throw the Survival Book Bunker (SBB) in the back of the Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) when I head to my Bug Out Location (BOL) with my Bug Out Bag (BOB).

The books I’ve selected are not in stone. They are just the best representatives of the different categories or genres of books that I think will be mission critical in a true Bug Out situation. And the book categories include:
1. Advanced strategic survival techniques: These books are the military survival books that address situations across all terrains, weather, and adversaries. They often lean towards the escape/evasion/short and long term survival from a non-apocalyptical point of view. But no matter the perspective, they are the broad-spectrum unformation antibiotic for survival. If you don’t have these books, you might not need the rest of the books in the bunker.

2. First Aid and Emergency Care: This category of books should need no introduction. But what it does need is a variation of complexity. For some who might use this Book Bunker, basic first aid might be a new skill. Others however, might be advanced and need guidance in surgical techniques for removing bullets and suturing wounds and cauterizing arteries. And not just for humans. Animal care might be part of your kit. I know Pet Vetting is part of mine.

3. Primitive skills and Woodlore: Books in this pile are geared towards self-reliance and off-grid life. They include topics about solid shelters, cooking, toolmaking, and pretty much anything else you might need for long-term life in the woods. There are plenty of sub-genres in this category including hunting and gathering, long-term food storage, long-term shelter building, tanning hides, making cordage, and literally basket weaving. On a side note, my particular copy of “Wilderness Living and Survival Skills” is autographed and signed by both authors. I’m not sure it will improve my chances, but everytime I see the signatures I will know I am not alone in the survival world.

4.. Gardening and Food Preservation: Maybe 50 or 100 years ago, a basic understanding that everyone would have is how to preserve game, salt meat, and can fruit. Not that those skills are difficult, but rather just illusive in today’s technofied world. But luckily they can be regained rather quickly with a few minutes of reading, and a few hours of doing. Gardening? Well that is another matter entirely. Gardening, like marksmanship, is a skill gained through practice and experience that is also perishable. But when it comes to food production, the stakes are a little higher to getting it right the first time.

5. X-Factor books: There is room for a few in my Survival Book Bunker for a couple tomes about boobytraps, parameter security, and a few other unmentionable topics that might provide a level of security and survival advantage beyond the suggestions in mainstream literature. And I’ll just leave it at that for now.

A few topics are missing from my Book Bunker. I might add them later, but for now I will leave them as just concerns on the horizon. And here they are:

Farming and Ranching: Frankly, I would find it more likely that I would stumble across a library of books on animal husbandry than I would find a herd of cattle in need of an owner.

Blacksmithing: A couple of hundred years ago i would have worried about making my own ironworks including blades. But today I am going to reserve my Book Bunker  space for dead-on needs over imagined scarcity. In fact, for blacksmithing I would need much more gear in my BOB than just a book on how to forge metal like a hammer, anvil, bellows, and shop.

Drug chemistry: While it would be nice to grab a handful of whatever is around and formulate some broad-spectrum antibiotics, in reality the chance of cooking up some perfect drugs for your needs is pretty slim. In the end, I will leave my chemistry needs to medicinal plant guides and chicken soup for colds.

Survival Stories etc.: There is an entire shelf of books that no longer have immediate relevance because, as I noted above, “That Ship Has Sailed!” These books including general preparing, how to Bug Out, what to consider with your Bug Out Vehicle, where you should put your Bug Out Location, and what you should cache in your BOL. Also of lesser consequence are lists of supplies, and the endless pile of survival stories (although there is still plenty of successful data mining to do if you have the time).

In the end, if you toss in a Bible of your persuasion and a copy of the US Constitution into your Survival Book Bunker you should be good to go.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gear Review: The Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller Apocalypse Watch

In the field of survival, especially that where a significant amount of prediction is needed, it is often fun to review those pieces of kit that might beyond the esoteric. Such as a $12,000+ watch for example. So here we go. A review of what might be the world’s toughest EMP-proof watch. And a slightly out-of-reach survival item for the average prepper.

Narrowing down the possible candidates for tough watches will first eliminate all electronic movements such as those of the quartz variety. The next cutoff is easily made by chopping out all the watches that don’t suggest at least 100 meters of water resistance. But making that cut means little since the tougher watches will leave 100m in the dust when it comes to pressure testing.

The next limit will be of case material. Stainless steel is an obvious candidate, but titanium is worth considering. Those cases of carbon fiber and super-plastics are few if any when it comes to watch movements that won’t be affected by electromagnetic pulses. Plus they are quite limited in their pressure rating due to the nature of the flexible materials.

And the final easy cut is that only watches in production and are accessible will be considered. The custom makes and those of highly limited run are not of much good if you cannot ever get one.

So when considering the above limitations, a single category rises to the top: stainless steel case automatic movement dive watches. And the undisputed king of that particular category is the Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller. Of course the Rolex DSSD, as it’s nicknamed, is a massive watch, nearly half a pound in weight, 1.7 centimeters thick and a five-figure price tag.

But the good is that the Rolex Deepsea has a rather amazing depth rating. Not the 100 meters common to most sports watches, nor 200m that’s a minimum of sport diving watches. And not the 1000m of the famous Rolex Submariner. Instead the Rolex Deepsea will survive just fine at at 3900m or 12,800 feet!

Sure the Hublot Oceanographic 4000 was the first watch to break the 4k meter pressure barrier, but its limited run of 1000 titanium pieces and 500 carbon fiber ones keeps it off our list since you can’t walk into a store and buy one. Plus, a little known fact about the Rolex Deepsea is that it actually passed pressure testing of 4,875m or almost 16,000 feet in order to meet the ISO 6425 Divers’ Watches Standard the design must account for a 25% margin of error. This fact launched Rolex back into the top spot of production watches’ depth rating.

But of course when it comes to one-offs, Rolex does have the world record for watch depth with its Rolex Deepsea Challenge and a successful depth of 35,787 feet. If you were able to wear such a watch, you could count on it surviving the weight of 10 SUVs driving over your wrist at the same time. So like all these exercises in mechanical toughness during survival situations, there won’t be a human around to witness it if the watch does fail.

You call that a watch? This is a watch!
Arguments abound on the internet as to whether or not a dive watch is the category of toughest watch. Some argue that a lightweight watch has better survival fitness due to it’s more nimble low mass and thinness. But that line of reasoning is from the perspective of avoiding conflicts, not running headfirst into them. The Rolex Deepsea is for when you cannot hide, cannot run, cannot avoid the dark side of survival.

Clamping a half-pound watch to your wrist is not something for those lacking confidence or a small wrist for that matter. The Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller is absolutely massive by watch standards. Well, almost. It is actually smaller than my first two Garmin GPS watches but not my third. And the Rolex Deepsea is smaller in diameter than my Suunto compass/altimeter watches, but the Rolex is at least three times the Suunto weight.

It’s Complicated
Each feature of a watch beyond hours and minutes is an additional complication. Add a date, add a complication. Chronographs add another complication as do alarms, months, moon phases, etc. The most complicated wristwatch has 33 complications so needless to say, its chance of surviving a rough ride is exactly zero. The Rolex Deepsea has one complication beyond time...the date. Why this is important is due the fact that the more complications, the more chance of failure. As systems interact, a lesser system could take down a major system. And as more complications get stuffed into the same small watch housing, well, it gets so complicated in there that the chance of failure is exponentially greater than the regular mind boggling mechanical complications of a lightly featured Rolex. If the point of wearing a watch is to know the time, then you certainly don’t want a 1000 year calendar complication to take down your hourly notation.

Keeping it Simple
By adding a trendy three-dial chronograph on a watch, at least three more complications were added that are three more pathways for failure. Well, actually there are way now way more than three since the complications interact and each interaction is also a point of failure that could take down the whole watch.

The Rolex Deepsea has a uni-directional bezel that can note a specific position on the minute hand for an old-school way of locking in a starting time. And that bezel is a special ceramic material that is harder to scratch than a losing lottery ticket. But all those amazing advances in watch technology along with the never-compromising Rolex name also means I have a potential high-value bartering asset on my wrist at all times.

The Rolex Deepsea is not the lightest, thinnest nor cheapest mechanical analog watch on the planet, but it is certainly one of the toughest. In fact, wearing half a pound of Rolex on my wrist is something I had to get used to, it is nothing I would ever change. So when time no longer matters, Rolex is there for you. And it will be there when time matters again. Something to think about. Right?

Gear Review: ONX HUNT Maps for the GPS Bug Out

T = 0

It’s really happened.

There’s no more question. Bugout time is here.

Plan A is already a non-starter, so Plan B is put in gear with your bugout vehicle locked and loaded.

After a tense nine hours of evasive driving, you blast through the last open highway lane as you watch impromptu roadblocks take shape.

Night is falling along with the rain. Cold, scared, confused, hungry, you and your family have to get to a safe place and dig-in long enough to plan your next move. And the last thing you want is to get in a gunfight over where you’re parked.

Since your Plan B was more conceptual than detailed, you are at a substantial tactical disadvantage compared to anyone familiar with the area you now find yourself. Communication is down so you cannot call your second cousin in Montana, or your wife’s sister-in-law in Wyoming, or your neighbor’s parents in Idaho. You are going to have to solo on this one.

What you need now more than water, food or shelter is information. You need a magic solution that will tell you where you are, what public roads are nearby, and most importantly, who owns the land; every single piece of land. And it turns out that just such a magical solution is available in a tiny chip you drop into your GPS, whether on your car dashboard or handheld receiver. It’s called Hunt by onXmaps.

You Are Here.
In our bugout scenario, this is where you fire up your GPS and instantly your screen blinks to life with color-coded land ownership blocks clearly identifying down to a couple meters what is private, what is state, and what is federal land. You can clearly see where the water is located, what campgrounds are nearby (to avoid them), and possibly the most important bit of survival trivia, the exact name of the person or organization that owns the land. Don’t underestimate that final piece of intel!

Through the beating windshield wipers, you see the turnoff you’ve been praying for. Your GPS shows the road snakes through the trees to a dead end that would be a perfect camping spot in happier times. But right now your main concern is who owns the land. A mistake now could be deadly because everyone is a little loose with the trigger when scared and confused. And nothing brings on fear and confusion like S hitting TF.

Luckily, it happens that you have as much right to use this land as any other American so the race is on to see who gets there first.

You dim the lights and make the turn. Grinding up the muddy track, you see no sign of man. Your spirits lift as you take the spur deeper into the pine trees. Moments later you hit the end of the road, and you are alone. Killing the engine, the first time 10 hours, you listen to the rain dance on the roof of your rig. Instead of worrying about where you are, you can now concern yourself with fortification because Hunt by onXmaps has given you the green light to dig in.

In reality your GPS clearly shows you smack-dab in the middle of a bright yellow finger of BLM land flanked by white private land a quarter mile to the south, and green Forest Service land a mile to the north. The nearby creek is the boundary line separating your new home (yellow) from the private land (white) meaning you can safely access the water (blue), and the BLM land is fertile hunting ground all the way to the mountains to the west.

Hunt by onXmaps
A hundred bucks. Let’s get that out of the way right now. A state-specific premium map chip costs $100. That’s not chump change, but in the big picture it’s less than two tanks of gas in your BOV. Maybe less than one if your BOV is “not quite” stock.

Most states are covered by Hunt by onXmaps, and with few exceptions a simple highway map will get you to to a state worth bugging out to (with the exception of Maine which desperately needs its own onXmaps map). However, the featureset of Hunt by onXmaps is much deeper than just land ownership.

At Your Fingertips!
GPS receivers, even the newer touchscreen ones, are nowhere near as responsive let alone as large as an iPad. For the tablet and smartphone crowd, onXmaps is available for Android and iOS touchscreens through a combination of free App and purchased membership code. For the same $99, a statewide premium account will light up a mind boggling rich amount of information that reacts instantly to taps, touches, pinches and swipes.

The tablet will need a wireless connection (cell or 802.11x) to load the information from the onXmaps servers, but if you have any idea where you are going you can cache information in the onboard offline in-App library. However, caching dense layers of information can take up a rather large amount of memory so screenshots are another quick and lighter option. You can even email screenshots within the App for quick communication. Even more, you can literally trace out a route using the line markup tool and in two clicks, fire off the map with highlighted route via email to anyone anywhere.

The touchscreen version has many layers that can be added and subtracted with a tap. The user can touch between satellite imagery, road and transportation lines, property boundaries, hunting districts, walk-in areas, and a dozen other metadata overlays.

Let’s be frank:
Knowing the name of the landowner can make all the difference if you are cornered. Politely calling names into the headlights cornering you will change the dynamics of the situation. Or knowing that that your bugout neighbor is on state or federal land, not their own land as they might tell you. Or realizing that there is public access to a water supply in one direction but not the other. In fact this information is so critical that even locals use Hunt by onXmaps when chasing game, fishing, driving around the backcountry, and recreating in general. Even some police forces apply the magic of onXmaps when planning raids in residential areas.

Tough Love Montana Style
Let me tell you something. As a card-carrying landowner in rural Montana, I cannot count the number of times some SUV, pickup or ORV “stumbles” into my territory claiming to be “just driving around” when in reality their intentions are somewhere between clueless and criminal; usually leaning towards the latter. Let’s clear up some things, “No Trespassing” “No Hunting” and “Private Drive” can also be easily translated into I do have certain rights ordained by God, the US Constitution, and Montana State Law that are in my favor should I feel threatened. And SHTF, TEOTWAWKI, or whatever string of capital letter you want to use is “just cause” for feeling threatened thus clearing the landowner to act appropriately. Just because my driveway is a quarter-mile of unimproved dirt road does not mean you are welcome to explore it at your leisure. Normally we give the trespasser the benefit of the doubt, but when WROL is the law of the land, expect an apology for my actions, not permission.

Bugout Wisdom
Weighing less than half-a-gram, the Hunt by onXmaps microSD card is easily the most powerful survival accessory by weight and size. While it’s true you cannot eat it, drink it, or shoot with it, the gigabytes of information on the chip may provide you a longer life than a whole case of MREs. Don’t bugout without one!