Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Snowy Day Activity

Putting together/updating Get Home bags, and hiking day packs has been on our to-do list for quite a while, so it seemed appropriate for us to do it while a big storm was raging outside. Nothing like inclement weather to provide incentive to get other "preps" done. 

We've spent the last couple of weeks making a list and assembling everything we wanted in our Get Home bags and hiking day packs. Not surprisingly, a lot of the items overlapped.

I had a little Get Home bag in my car that had a boo-boo kit, an oh shit kit, extra magazines, utility knife, flashlights, extra mags, etc. I found I've been stealing that bag out of my car when I was overseeing students at the range, because it was easier to carry around than my range bag.

I also had a Go Bag with stuff in it for my Posse duties. The contents were much less: my slicker, hazard vest, blanket, some snacks, flashlights, and the like. Both of my bags got an overhaul.

Jay got to build his Get Home bag from scratch, which is always fun. It's tempting to try to think of every scenario you might come across and try to pack for those, but then your bag gets incredibly heavy, so we tried to go bare-bones.

Our Get Home bags have first aid kits and medication (Stop the Bleed kits are on order), supplies for fire making, extra magazines, assorted knives, food, collapsible water containers and life straws, lights, pens/paper, a small solar panel for charging devices, and the most important thing - TP! There are a few other lightweight things in there that I forgot to list, I'm sure. We tried to keep in mind that these are not Bug Out Bags, they're Get Home bags. We might have to walk quite a way to get home, so we had to balance the equipment we wanted against how much weight we could carry for extended distances.

Even keeping that in mind, our bags weigh in at right about 12#. There are a couple of other things we're waiting to have delivered, but I think we'll manage to stay less than 15#. To make sure we can haul them around when we need to, we'll start wearing them on walks around the farm road. That way, we can address any rubbing or weight distribution issues in advance (in addition to building the muscle strength required to carry that weight for extended distances).

Our hiking day packs were a lot easier to pack, but had some very similar supplies: first aid kit and meds, Stop the Bleed kit, blister care, food, toilet paper, plus cheap rain ponchos, and a water bladder.  We don't expect to spend more than a few hours on the trails, so we cut back on the "survival" gear, though we do each have solar blankets in case we have to hunker down. The water is going to be the heaviest part of our hiking packs, so just like with our Get Home bags, we'll wear those around the farm roads to check for rubbing and to make sure we can carry them easily.

The little Get Home bag I mentioned earlier got stripped down and will be my dedicated range emergency kit. I moved a lot of supplies to my "big" bag, and kept just the boo-boo and oh shit kits, along with extra magazines, and a "get back" knife. With its decreased weight, it'll be a lot more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time on the range. It'll still live slung over the passenger seat in my car, within easy reach, but its primary job is now for the range.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Baloo Update

 I decided my new bow needed a name, so Baloo Bear it is. Now let's see if I can manage to not sing "Bear Necessities" every time I take him out for a range trip.

Just being generous and sharing the ear worm. Enjoy :)

Anyway ... let's get back on track.

Before the storm arrived over the weekend, Jay and I went to the archery range. I wanted to get Baloo sighted in, and Jay wanted to dress his bow up. While his bow was getting his accoutrements, I did my best to get my bow sighted in.

It's opposite of sighting in a rifle, so I had to think a bit each time. I was told to "chase the arrow", so after my first three shots were down and to the right, I had to move my sight to the right. Still seems backward to me. 

It didn't take too long to get the windage correct, by just moving the sight a bit at a time. As long as I paid attention to my form and release, I did okay, but there were times when I screwed something up and had a flyer.

Bottom left arrow? Flyer.
Holes in the black and blue? Flyers.

I'd like to say that the ones in the yellow were intentional, but I think that was dumb luck, as I was just beginning to adjust elevation. I didn't do a ton of shooting, only about 20 at this point, but shoulder fatigue was starting to set in.

I wanted to dial in elevation just a touch more, so let fly another few sets of three. One set was freaking awesome! Unfortunately, it highlighted that I might be consistent, but not accurate (yet). 

I couldn't duplicate this if I tried! Love me some beginner's luck. About that time, Jay's bow was ready and my arms were shaking, so I thought it'd be a good time to wind up. I'm not sure if my elevation is correct or not. There are some decent shots in the yellow, and I felt like I was pretty steady on those three, but could have been dropping them due to muscle fatigue.

One more trip to the range with fresh shoulders should get us dialed in. 

I'm excited to join Jay at some of the nearby outdoor ranges this summer!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

I Adopted A Bear

Sort of. 

It's a Bear Cruiser G2 compound bow, but still.

A few years ago I bought GunDude Jay a bow for his birthday and kind of played around with the idea of eventually getting one of my own. Yesterday was "eventually" and we went to an amazing place, Rocky Mountain Archery in Fort Collins. The staff was incredible, not only with me, a complete novice, but with the kids who were in and out. There were so many families and children in the store and the range. Every single employee who interacted with a young 'un treated them with respect, looked them in the eyes, explained whatever they didn't understand, and never once seemed impatient. They treated the kids the same way they treated the adults, they did not talk down to them, or talk around them. The kids were their customers and were treated as such. Even if I hadn't planned on buying anything yesterday, I would have, just to support such a great company.

Speaking of treating people with respect and showing patience, the gentleman (I think his name was Colin?) who helped me spent a lot of time helping me to not only find the bow that fit my needs, but he took the time to *literally* fit the bow to me. I am a rank novice with archery. The last time I played bows and arrows I was in Girl Scouts some 40 years, and I used a recurve bow.

He didn't just help me find a bow and send me on my way, he took me to the range and gave me a quick lesson on how to stand, how to draw, etc. My only criteria was that my new bow couldn't be pink. Yet, one of two that we thought would work for me was pink, so I sucked it up and tried it out.

It did match my lavender shirt, though.

Unfortunately, the not-pink bow wasn't going to work. He couldn't adjust the pull weight low enough (safely) for my wimpy arms to draw it. I started to try to talk myself into the pink bow, but before I'd convinced myself to just suck it up and buy it, a co-worker reminded him of a different bow that might work.

That's when he broke out the Bear. Not only not-pink, but adjustable enough to fit me. As I get stronger and more comfortable with my bow, we can increase the pull weight if necessary, but we didn't have to decrease it so much that it became unstable like we would have with the other not-pink bow.

Once we decided the Bear was going to work for me, he then spent time helping adjust the peep sight and explaining how it worked. He explained everything thoroughly, from how to adjust my sights, to caring for my bow strings, to arrows (sticks) and tips. 

Sadly, I've never had such great customer service in a gun shop. And, sadly, while I thought I gave good customer service when I worked at the shop, I was nowhere near this good. We're talking Chick-Fil-A level customer service.

I still have to figure out how to actually sight in my bow, but I know if I go back and use their range to do so that they'll help me out and not make me feel stupid for not knowing.

I'm excited to step out of my comfort zone and learn a new skill. And I'm not gonna lie, something about my new Bear makes me feel like a total badass.

(Oh! I almost forgot! I can mount my Mantis to my bow and it can help analyze what I'm doing right or wrong - I think it'll be helpful to have a coach in my phone.)

Monday, February 8, 2021

KORE Essentials belt

 A little problem back in December had me looking for a new belt. The problem? I'd lost enough weight that when I put my usual belt on, the tongue overlapped too much and I couldn't tuck it in under my magazine carrier. Normally, I don't wear an external magazine carrier, so hadn't noticed my belt had gotten too big. Luckily, that day, my velcro under-belt for my duty belt stepped in and saved the day.

I knew I'd have to buy a new gun belt, but had no idea what I wanted. I have a couple from GunGoddess and I love them, but they're Western-styled and I'm not always about wearing my Wranglers and boots. I wanted to find a quality gun belt that I could wear with regular jeans and tennis shoes. As I was whining to Jay about it, he told me he'd just ordered a belt from KORE.

Now, as you know, I'm hardly a girly-girl, so the fact that it's KORE Essentials For Men didn't bother me one bit. All I needed was an EDC belt that didn't look like my old 5.11 training belt. While I like my 5.11 belt, it is not for every day wear. At least not for me. I looked through the options and found a belt that looked like it would work. I don't think it's overly "manly", and it doesn't really scream "gun belt" to me.

I had Dave Spaulding's Kinetic Pistol class looming and knew I needed a good quality belt for class and that my current belts weren't going to work, so I placed my order.

Weirdly (for me, at least), you don't order the belt by size. You choose the belt and the buckle you want and they send it to you, and it's up to the customer to cut it to size. They include instructions for determining the correct length to cut it down to, dependent on whether you are planning to OWB or IWB. 

This might be fairly straightforward for men, but it was a little trickier for me. Women's pants are stupid. Some ride just below the waist, some ride just above the hips. And I'm not talking just jeans, even my 5.11 pants ride differently. One pair is at my waist; one pair just above my hips. Depending on a woman's build, the difference between the waist and hips can be inches. Because of that, finding the right length to cut the belt down was difficult. It took me a couple of tries to find a length that worked with all of my pants, OWB and IWB.

I managed to get it cut down to the right size a week or so before I left for Phoenix, for Dave's class. I knew using the belt in a two-day class would make or break it for me - by the end of class I was either going to love the belt, or hate it.

One of the cool things about it is that there aren't any holes for a belt buckle, so you can adjust it in 1/4" increments instead of the traditional 1" increments. It makes finding "just the right" tightness easier. I'd worn the belt for a few days before class and knew it was comfortable and that I liked it, but was looking forward to putting it to the test in class.

For two days, the belt remained comfortable and distributed the weight of the gun and extra magazine very well. I did find that if I wanted to wear my mag carrier as close to centerline as possible, that I had to clip it onto my pants first, and then run the belt through it, but that was an easy solution. It probably had more to do with the tight clasp of my mag carrier than the belt.

Before I got my KORE belt, when I wanted to IWB appendix, I had to almost wear my gun in a cross-draw position. The larger belt buckle of my go-to gun belts meant that I couldn't easily carry my gun on the right side (about 12:15) and ended up having to carry it on the left (about 11:45). That wasn't super comfortable, so I was extremely excited to be able to move my gun back to where it was most comfortable. 

Prior to taking Dave's course, I'd worn the KORE belt with an OWB holster in class to teach with, and was pleasantly surprised that when I had to use the bathroom, the holster didn't slip. With all of my other gun belts, as soon as I buckled to unzip, the weight of the gun would pull on the belt, threatening to flap over. With this belt, the holster and gun didn't even think of moving. It was like magic. 

As far as EDC belts go, this one was worth the money. It's sturdy enough that if I had to rack my gun off of it I could do it without a problem. It's comfortable enough to wear all day. And it's adjustable in 1/4" increments, so if it becomes necessary to loosen it, it's easy to do. And I've mentioned that with OWB, I don't have to worry about my gun/holster flapping around.

If you're looking for a good EDC belt, and you're not worried about finding a belt for women, this was a great investment.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Mantis Blackbeard

I feel like I should just remind everyone that with very, very rare exception, everything that we review on this page is something we've purchased ourselves. This allows us to be very honest in our opinions. I think the last free item I received for review was several years ago, and - oh boy, did I upset some people. When I review something and I love it (or hate it), I really do love it (or hate it). We make no money running this blog and our views are not "bought".

Now that that's out of the way - the Mantis Blackbeard ...

Jay really opened Pandora's box when he got me the X10 Elite for my birthday last year. He knew I was a training junkie, but neither of us realized I was also a data junkie. 

At the end of December, we had an "Instructor Development" day with our ARs and after only three hours I was gassed. I can shoot a pistol all day long, but shouldering that rifle took more work than I'm used to. I vowed to do more dry fire with it at home so I could build up the core muscles needed.

I did follow through on my vow to practice dry fire. For one session. I mounted the Mantis to the rail and got to work. Turns out that having to cycle the bolt after every shot was as tiring as mounting the rifle. Probably really good for building muscles, but frustrating and time-consuming. 

About that time, I started seeing ads pop up about the Mantis Blackbeard. I didn't really know what it was about, so last week I decided to go to the website and dig into it. I watched a couple of videos and became more intrigued.

An system that auto-sets the trigger? A system that doesn't require me to cycle the bolt and have to re-shoulder the rifle after each round? Oh, hells yes!

I sat on it for about a day before I decided to just give them my money. I initially intended to buy the one without the laser, because my plan was just to put my Mantis X10 on my rifle and use them together. However, the system with the laser was only about $20 more and gave me the option of utilizing their Mantis Laser Academy. I have no idea what the Mantis Laser Academy is, but since I'm in love with all things Mantis, I'll probably find out sooner rather than later.

When I placed my order there was a warning that because of a large volume of orders, mine might be delayed up to 30 days. I sighed, but with ammo what it is, I figured I could wait another 30 days. Imagine my surprise when it arrived on my doorstep less than a week after I ordered it!

I immediately pulled the "magazine" out of the case and plugged it in to charge. My plan was to use today to try out the system. It is as easy as they say: remove your charging handle and BCG, replace with the system's polymer one, slap the 'magazine' in and you're ready to rock and roll. In seconds, my rifle went from a fully functioning, live-fire rifle to basically an inert training gun.

Since I didn't plan on using the laser, I left it alone and didn't bother zeroing it in. However, since it is set to fire with every trigger press, I can see that it is pretty well zeroed right out of the box. If you do intend to use the laser with your training, remember height over bore when you're zeroing it.

It took me exactly five rounds to fall in love. I didn't even hook up the Mantis, I just put the system in my gun, aimed at my 3"x3" sticky note on the wall and pressed off five quick rounds. Holy cow! Not having to cycle the bolt after every round is so lovely.

Jay had purchased some Runner Mounts a few months ago and was kind enough to put one up for me. Our rifle storage is a bit ... cluttered ... and hard to get to, so being able to slip my rifle onto one of the mounts when I'm not using it is handy. A word of caution: the Runner Mount is not secure storage and will not protect your rifle from unauthorized users. However, since my rifle is inert and incapable of firing live rounds right now, having it readily accessible for dry fire training is wonderful. Since we don't have young kids around the house, I'm comfortable with this 'storage' solution for us.

With the rifle accessible for training, I slipped the Mantis on the rail and put the Blackbeard magazine in my gun. I only managed about a hundred rounds and can immediately see that I've got work to do.

The work I have to do is not only with my trigger manipulation, but with building my core strength. After only 100 rounds, my right SI joint is sore. Sadly, I see planks in my future, along with really focusing on having a good, solid stance. 

My first impression of the Blackbeard is that it does work as advertised. It does take only seconds to install the system. The automatic trigger reset is awesome (and it makes a cute little noise with every reset that makes me giggle), and I love being able to practice with the same gun I shoot with. After 100 rounds, I'm in love with the system and give it two thumbs up! It is well worth the $219.00 (+ S&H and tax) I spent on it, and it'll pay for itself in about another 100 rounds.

Side note: one thing I noticed was that when I changed my settings in the Mantis app to rifle, it opened up a whole new file of different training options, specific to rifles. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Suicide Prevention

In December, 2020, I had the opportunity to take a class called "At the Intersection of Guns and Mental Health: The Introductory Course".

It was an excellent course which introduced me to Walk The Talk America. WTTA is, in their own words, "bridging the gap between mental health and safe gun ownership". I think it's an important thing to acknowledge that suicide by firearm is a big problem, and also that gun owners tend to avoid seeking help for their mental health due to the fear that they will have their guns taken from them.

One of the coolest things WTTA does is offer a free, anonymous mental health screenings for multiple mental health issues. They're also working with educating mental health professionals on how to talk to gun owners. Though we may not think of gun owners as a "culture", it truly is, and mental health professionals should be well-versed in how to help those of us in this culture.

I can't do WTTA justice here, so do yourselves a favor and click on over to their site to explore. 


In each class I teach, I take a handful of books that I recommend to students. I firmly believe that learning should not stop with just one class. The fact is, many students never go on to take another class, so I like to give them other resources. I'm a complete book nerd, so I share books with them that I find useful.

During my last class, I had a student who asked if I had my recommended books posted on the blog and I realized I'd overlooked doing do. I've since rectified that. You can find my book recommendations under the "GunDiva's Teaching Library" tab on the home page.

If you're interested in discussing self-defense books, or are looking for recommendations, check out GunDiva's Book Club on Facebook.