Sunday, October 16, 2011
Last post we covered some of the issues facing women in regards to firearms. Today I’d like to talk about some non-gunpowder weapons for women, but require some consideration in use.
The most important of these is the bow. Whether simple, re-curve, compound or even crossbow, it is important to ensure that they are appropriate for the woman using them. The first thing to consider is draw weight. It is important to make sure that the bow can be drawn comfortably and consistently, and that getting the bow to full draw not require a heroic effort, although the highest comfortable draw weight is to be aimed for the purpose of getting the best range from the bow.
The trade off to a lower draw weight is less overall power, but this is not as important as it seems at first glance. While bullets kill largely by the amount of kinetic energy they transfer to the target, arrows are different. An arrow usually kills by causing blood loss from the action of the razor sharp broad head mounted on the arrows. As the target moves, it causes more damage with every shift of position. Thus the absolute power of the bow is not as important, as long as the energy is sufficient for penetration into the body cavity.
Due to their generally shorter stature, it is also important for the bow to be sized so that it is not too long and unwieldy for women. This can be difficult with conventional bows, but easier to achieve with compounds. Despite my dislike for the more complicated compound, it may be the best choice in terms of draw weight and fit for women.
There is also the crossbow to consider. Here we get the same draw weight regardless of user, although there are other issues. For example, the same concerns for rifles apply here, where the stock must be fitted to the user. Recoil is not an issue, but cocking the bow might be of some concern. However, where a woman might not have sufficient upper body strength to cock the bow solely by hand, there are devices that can help, from the simple waist hook to mechanical cranks.
Another weapon that may require some thought is the knife, specifically the size of the weapon’s grip. Women in general have far smaller hands than men, and it is important that the handle of any knife be proportioned properly so that a proper grip can be established and maintained. This is more of an issue than ever, as more and more the larger knives are becoming the popular choice for survivalists, and few makers take into account that the hand holding it may be a female hand.
There are other weapons to be considered, such as throwing sticks, spears, atlatls, and slings. While any of them are usable by women, I feel the best choice for women in this group of weapons is the sling, where the power of the weapon is derived from conversion of centripetal force, and not just on raw muscle power; and is a surprisingly effective weapon in skilled hands for hunting small game. As well, modern slingshots are easily used by anyone and are also effective.
Most importantly, regardless of what weapons women choose it is important that time is made to practice. In some cases, such as bows, there may be a necessity for a woman to build upper body strength for maximum effectiveness. Really, there is no earthly reason that women in a survival situation be any less armed or dangerous than their male counterparts
Sunday, September 18, 2011
It’s an appealing movie image: a beautiful but determined woman blazing away with any number of weapons, mowing down foes unflinchingly, firing shotguns freehanded, making impossible shots with .45 s held at impractical angles.
The reality is somewhat different. Very few men can handle weapons the way they do in the movies, and women, due to their lighter frames, shorter stature and smaller hands, are at even more of a disadvantage. Unfortunately, few survival writers take this into account, preferring to pontificate on the ‘best’ weapons and calibers regardless as to their suitability for use by females.
There are a number of things women can do to ensure they are armed with effective weapons that they can handle comfortably. We’ll start with firearms, since that is probably the most ‘macho’ of weapons, and where women have been most poorly served.
First, ignore the bleating of the gun aficionados that argue for a particular caliber or make of weapon. The proper firearm, for men as well as women is the one you can handle comfortably and can use effectively. For women, this comes down to two main issues: recoil and size of weapon. First, firearms such as rifles and shotguns tend to have stocks sized with a particular proportion between butt and fore grip. For some women of shorter stature, this makes for an awkward hold that will affect accuracy and lead to excessive fatigue.
If custom stocks are not an option, you may need to look for weapons particularly sized for women or perhaps the youth market. As well, look at moving down in caliber if necessary. I’d rather have a woman making comfortable, aimed and effective shots with a Ruger 10/22 than doing spray and spray with a heavier weapon unsuited to her.
And that brings us to recoil. If the weapon is of sufficient caliber, it will literally shift a small shooter backwards. I have seen this on a particularly small girl at a range. After every three or four rounds shooting prone, she had to squirm back to her original firing position. She was game, but the weapon she had was obviously far too heavy for her, and she wound up with some spectacular bruises to show for it. Given a long enough time, the bruising recoil will eventually make a shooter shy of the weapon, making effective aim very problematic.
Finally a word about weapon caliber. While you want the most effective round you can get, remember that a light round that hits the target is far more preferable than a clean miss. In fact, in some circumstances, a smaller round may be more devastating. In the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the United States, it is thought that had she been shot with a less penetrating round, the bullet would have caused more damage internally rather than exiting.
In conclusion, the rifle or shotgun for women is one which is comfortable to hold and to shoot, which they can use with accuracy, preferably with a largish magazine capacity. Everything else is at best secondary.
Handguns are also a problem for some women. Grips tend to be sized for male hands, and again, much BS floats about with regards to caliber and make. The same advice applies: use heaviest comfortable caliber (or even one less), good magazine capacity, comfortable to hold. As I said before, caliber doesn’t really matter. I’ve seen a variety of handguns carried by women, including a seven shot .22 caliber automatic called the Escort. Known as a ‘purse’ gun or ‘belly’ gun, the barrel is so short that it is wildly inaccurate beyond a few feet (hence the ‘belly gun’ appellation: you stick it in the opponents belly and pull the trigger.) It is far from ideal, but I’d rather see that carried than nothing at all. At least if the lady carrying it manages to get several rounds into an attacker, it will likely do the job.
Again, custom models, smaller calibers and so on are all options in handguns as well. As well as sizing the gun to the user, it is important that there is enough training undertaken to make the woman confident and capable in whatever weapon she is carrying.
All in all, there is no reason why women should not be as effectively armed as the men in your group. Anything less is putting your life and theirs at risk.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Bug out bags that are permanently stowed in vehicles are a fine thing. I personally do not stow a large kit in my vehicle on a day to day basis. I do most of my travelling in the confines of a very limited area, and live within a mile and a half of my work. I feel that for me, a bug out bag that rides in the vehicle is unnecessary, although I do tend to load up the vehicle for the occasional longer trip.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good idea for you, but each circumstance is unique. I also feel that I practice vehicular every day carry, which I feel is a good middle ground in my circumstance. Again, I cannot emphasis too strongly that my risks are not yours, and everyone needs to develop plans and techniques suitable for their situation.
So, just what is in my vehicular EDC? There is of course the usual spare tire, tire tool and jack, all of which are regularly checked and maintained. I do not keep spare gas, oil or other fluids in the vehicle unless I am travelling outside of my usual very limited area. There is always a collapsible shovel for getting unstuck, and an extension cord for plugging in during the Canadian winters. That is about the extent of usual directly vehicle related items.
Additionally, I have a First Aid kit on board, one that is considerably more extensive than the cheap kits usually sold for cars, but still compact enough that it stores out of the way. It contains a variety of OTC meds as well as a day’s worth of our prescription medications.
Another item always in my vehicle is bug repellent. It seems to be the one item I always forget when I want it, so I make a point of having it in the car at all times. Saves me a lot of itching and scratching.
Of course, summer and bugs eventually give way to winter here in Canada, so there are other items always on board, the most important of which is a warm wool blanket. One simple layer might mean the difference between life in death if you’re stuck in your vehicle. Emergency food is also carried. Generally, I have roughly 2000 calories in the form of long storage type energy bars, and which are replaced annually. In winter I add a few small containers of peanut butter for the concentrated extra calories.
I also carry a shake type LED flashlight. I favour this over a battery type for the reason that there are no batteries to check, and performance seems to be unaffected by cold, unlike batteries. Changing a tire in the dark is likely the most frustrating experience I’ve ever had, and I plan on never having to do so again.
A roll of toilet paper is carried for ’emergencies’, as well as a few rags for general cleanup. There is generally a selection of rugged cloth grocery bags in the car which might be handy if I need to abandon the vehicle but take as much stuff as possible with me.
I don’t carry a lot of tools in my vehicle, but one that is always in the glove box is a pair of pliers, as it seems to be the single most necessary tool I need in almost any variety of circumstances. I recently added a multi-tool as well, giving me a second gripping tool and a variety of other small tools. I’m of the opinion that carrying a big selection of tools is largely useless with modern vehicles, unless you have the diagnostic devices and spares to fix it as well, and that is a whole other level of preparedness.
There is a generally a pad of paper and a few pens or pencils as well, and usually a dispenser of small plastic garbage bags that might serve any number of purposes, from water carriers to footwear, and who knows what else.
Finally, I keep some supplies for my dog in there, consisting of a plastic container of dog food with plastic bowls that fit over each end, as well as a webbing leash. Most of the time, there is a two liter bottle of water in the car for the dog, but of course it is drinkable by me as well.
All of this stuff is stored neatly and out of the way, and is practically unnoticeable unless you are looking for it. I feel this is just normal stuff that every Canadian should carry or is likely to carry in their vehicle. Sadly, not many Canadians do carry as much as do I, even though I feel what I’ve got in my car is very little in the bigger scheme of things, and far from a full fledged bug out bag.
So what’s the content of your vehicular EDC?
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
While many survival writers emphasis fitness, it somehow seems that all they write about are men and fitness, never women and fitness. Generally, in articles written for women, fitness seems to be more about having firmer thighs or a shapelier butt rather than building strength or endurance. In reality, women interested in survivalism and being physically prepared need to take specific steps in order to get ready for the demands of a crisis.
A very important aspect for women is upper body strength. This is a must have in the area of self defense, in my opinion. If a woman lacks the strength to land an effective blow, her ability to defend herself is limited. Additionally, the ability to escape and evade, or simply to travel distances with a loaded pack can be limited by a lack of upper body strength.
The easiest way for women to increase strength is to either use resistance machines or by weight training. Since women do not produce the amount of testosterone necessary for the type of hypertrophy seen in male body builders, the chance that they will wind up with a body like Arnold is highly unlikely, unless they take steroids ( a stupid thing for anyone to do) or are exercising to the extreme. They will see some increase in muscle size, but think of a result like Jillian Michaels rather than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Overall, an increase of up to 40% in strength is absolutely possible for women.
In my opinion, in addition to overall strength for self defense, a woman should also aim for a minimum upper body strength that will make it possible for her to do a few chin-ups or pull-ups, or be able to climb a rope if necessary.
Endurance training is another area that women should look at. In our modern society, we drive everywhere, and few people are used to walking any sort of distance. The survival minded woman should be able to walk fairly long distances, and preferably over uneven terrain with a loaded pack. Walking paths and sidewalks in the urban environment are a fine start, but do not resemble the difficult terrain that would likely need to be travelled during a bug out or escape and evasion. Train with a full pack wherever possible to build strength and to get used to the weight and balance of the pack.
There are other areas women should train towards. Speed is important, both in evasion and combat. Flexibility is also important, and often an area men neglect, giving a woman a possible advantage. There are of course lots of side benefits to better fitness: feeling better, looking better, and increased confidence.
Women should incorporate martial arts training into their fitness program as well. There are lots of martial arts styles, and each will have its particular demands that the body needs to be trained for. Additionally, sports such as parkour and obstacle running impart skills that while ensuring the highest level of fitness, will also impart skills that may one day be live savers.
Fitness, and survival fitness in particular are areas women should not shy away from. There is little to be lost except perhaps that muffin top, and much to be gained by training hard to become as strong, fast and quick as possible. Maybe even your life.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
It’s a common scenario in most movies. The female lead, whether tough as nails cop or helpless homemaker, is at the mercy of the physically bigger and stronger male villain. Usually, she is saved from beating, rape, or death only by the intervention of the hero, generally an equally strong male who will defeat the bad guy in a no holds barred physical confrontation. Nice in theory, but art unfortunately does not imitate life, and in reality it is likely up to the woman to save herself.
Ideally, the lady in question will be armed to the teeth. Again, the reality may be that she is not and must defend herself as best she can without weapons, or only with what comes to hand. Given the disparity of size and strength between male and female, the odds are heavily against the female winning such a contest.
While there is no guarantee, women can shift the odds in their favour. One way is by becoming fitter and stronger, about which more in an upcoming post. Another way to even the odds somewhat is by taking training in martial arts.
There are several benefits to doing this. Strength, speed, and flexibility can all be improved while training in the martial arts, although usually not enough in my opinion. I still think women must go to extra lengths to obtain the strength necessary to fight effectively.
Another benefit is to ‘untrain’ them. Whether you believe it is in a woman’s nature to be less aggressive, or it is the role society trains them to assume, it is a truism that women tend to be less forceful and less likely to react physically to threats. Martial arts training will help with that.
Finally, martial arts techniques will give a woman the training and techniques that will make fighting for her life a viable option rather than a hopeless gesture.
So, what sort of training is appropriate? First, although the sort of ‘rape-proofing’ self defense class that is usually offered to women might be an okay starting point, it should not be considered anything more than a warm up to more effective training. The unfortunate thing about many of these classes is that there is an assumption that escape or assistance is eventually available. Nor do these sort of classes advocate deadly force.
There are a lot of classic martial arts, but some will not transfer well to either life or death combat, or to the size and strength of women. Some ‘harder’ styles of Karate for example, will not work well for a woman facing an aggressive male. Other styles can take excessive time to master, have arguable effectiveness, or are perhaps too ‘sportified’ (e.g. judo) to be useful. However, rather than create a tedious list of what not too take, I’ll get right to the point.
I believe the overall best martial art for women is Krav Maga, the unarmed combat system used by the Israeli armed forces. It has emphasis on continuous motion, aggressiveness and speed. It also teaches techniques for dealing with attackers with weapons, and places some emphasis on improvised weapons. I believe the importance it places on violent action to end a confrontation as soon as possible is of most benefit to women, both psychologically and physically.
Jeet Kune Do would be a close second choice, due to its emphasis on speed and effectiveness over technique. Unfortunately, both it and Krav Maga are eclectic styles and not widely available everywhere.
In fact, a woman looking for martial arts training may have very limited options. In choosing something to learn (since almost any martial art has at least some utility), try to find one that involves full contact. Again, women are trained not to be physical, and practice in hitting and being hit will at least benefit the mental preparedness side of things.
Regardless of the martial art, look for the techniques that have application in real life combat. Even a sport like judo will teach at least one or two throws and chokes that may be useful. It is the same in any other style. Avoid the complicated, look for the simple and effective. Even boxing has something to offer, if only to teach speed and precision in punching.
Women should (at least in my opinion) try to avoid styles that have a heavy emphasis on grappling and groundwork, two areas that they will likely be at a disadvantage. Weapon heavy styles are also to be avoided, as the likelihood of you having your weapon of choice at hand when you need it most is not high. But if grappling or weapons styles are all that you can find, take them. Any training is better than none at all.
Even with the best training in the world, there is no guarantee that a woman trained in a martial art can defeat any attacker. You can be guaranteed that with training, her chances are orders of magnitude greater.
Monday, August 1, 2011
As I mentioned elsewhere, there is a tremendous lack of writing in the preparedness and survival field for women. The first area I’d like to discuss is packs specifically for women. Backpacks seem to form the basis of everybody’s B.O.B., but no-one looks at what might be necessary for the woman or women in your group to carry loads safely and effectively. By safety I mean without injury, and by effectiveness, I mean the ability to carry a meaningful load over distance without undue fatigue or effort.
There are a number of physical characteristics that need to be taken into account when choosing backpacks for females. Women tend to have shorter torsos, curvier hips and bust, and tend to be less broad in the shoulders, proportionally, than males.
The first thing to look at is torso length. Women’s shorter torsos can make it nearly impossible to get a good ‘fit’ on a pack that is too long, even on a highly adjustable model. Better brands of packs come in varying torso lengths, and should be sized to the length of your torso, whether male or female. If your local sporting goods store doesn’t know what you’re talking about, find a store that does, and that can help fit you.
The second issue in getting an effective woman’s pack is in the hips. Generally speaking, a woman’s hips are bell shaped, as opposed to the more cylindrical hip structure in men. A good woman’s backpack will have conforming hip-belts that allow most of the load to ride on the hips comfortably. Look for a pack that rides relatively low on the hip bones, where women are most able to bear the weight. It is hard to over-emphasis the importance of this area of fit. A heavy pack with a standard belt can leave startling bruises on the hips, as well as making the wearer too sore to continue.
Also, a proper woman’s pack will be contoured anatomically to give the best fit over the chest, making breathing easier as well.
Finally, women are narrower through the shoulders than men, and a woman trying to use a pack designed for a male will often find the shoulder straps too far apart for proper fit and load bearing. Again, a well made woman’s backpack will have shoulder straps set closer together.
Another factor to consider is internal vs. external frame backpacks. Since women tend to sway at the hips more when they walk, the overall stability of the pack on the wearer is an issue. Generally an internal frame pack tends to hug the body more, giving better balance and stability in rough terrain.
When choosing a pack, go for one that has a good amount of adjustability in both harness and in keeping your load stable, especially with packs that are not crammed full. For lighter applications, a lumbar or large fanny pack might be a good choice, as it too keeps the weight low on the hips and close to the body.
There are a variety of sizes and brands available. Gregory makes a women’s expedition pack with an 80 to 90 liter capacity (see picture above), and there are a number of multi-day packs in the 60 to 70 liter range from both Arc’teryx and Gregory. There are also a number of companies making daypacks in the 15 to 35 liter range as well as packs in 35 to 55 liter capacities specifically for women.
We all hope it will never come to it, but one day the ability to carry enough supplies and equipment to sustain you may be the difference between life and death. Having load bearing equipment that is suitable for a woman to do so might be the difference between her life and death.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
The bloom is off of the rose. Season 2 of Dual Survival has run its course, and I have to say, while I sort of liked the first season for various reasons, the second leaves me wondering if I can somehow get the time back I have spent watching it.
The disillusionment started right off of the bat in the first episode. For some reason, they decided it was a good idea to demonstrate how to cauterize a wound using black powder. So Dave Canterbury slashed his own arm, and Cody Lundin dumped on the powder and lit it off. It did cauterize the wound, although I wonder if the procedure caused more additional trauma from burning than it was worth.
Furthermore, the slash was not of a severity that couldn’t be treated with direct pressure and an improvised wound dressing. Not that I am advocating Canterbury maim himself for television, but I am concerned that they may leave the impression that cauterization is the treatment of choice for a wound of such limited severity. On top of which, it ticks me off that in none of their scenarios (in which they play the part of the typical persons) does anyone ever carry a first aid kit. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some CELOX coagulant in a first aid kit? On the off chance you don’t happen to be a black powder hunter with powder horn at the ready?
Overall, the series continues the well-worn format of hypothetical situations used by almost every survival show out there. The pair proceeds through a variety of situations, but there is little of novelty or interest in them. What originally promised to be differing viewpoints of how to tackle a survival problem seems to have degenerated by the last episode of the season to two cranky old men bickering. The differences that arise seem to have little to do with their varying styles and more to do with the personalities involved.
Canterbury is very much the push-on, hard charger type of personality whereas Lundin is innately cautious. I believe that over two seasons, the difference in personalities is causing friction, and indeed, some of the talk-to-camera asides are far less respectful and civil than in the first season.
The difference in style is wearing to the viewer as well. Watching Canterbury make a high risk descent down a steep valley had me half cringing and half hoping he would fall a punishment for his bull-headedness. Frankly, I can do with a little less testosterone and a little more common sense and information.
Lundin’s insistence on bare feet and shorts is becoming similarly annoying. He might get away with this behavior in his home turf in the American southwest, but it strikes the viewer as pig-headed stupidity as he gets his legs and feet damaged in multiple shows in varying terrains. If bare footedness was such an advantage, shoes would not have been invented over 5,000 years ago.
There isn’t a lot of new information in the second season. Follow rivers downstream to find civilization, stay dry, and stay hydrated and so on. Lots of the basics any show of this type has presented, and very few new concepts or ideas.
While I felt the show was, overall, worth watching in the first season, I can’t make the same recommendation for the second season. I really feel that if you took the twelve hours watching this show a would take and instead spent twelve hours practicing any survival skill at all, or even spent it organizing your preps, it would be time far better utilized.
Unfortunately, the show seems to have been renewed for a third season, so I’ll be watching at least twelve more hours of it.