First Aid

I’m not a medical professional of any kind (sort of the opposite in a lot of ways), but as has been well publicised throughout the tactical world by this point, we all really should have at least some knowledge with regard to looking after your buddies, because purely ‘taking care’ of the bad guys isn’t enough.

The sexy side of medical training however is not always reality, proper tourniquet application is important but has a lot of facets to it that I’d not dream of providing advice on to strangers via the internet. You cannot ever possibly be ready for every medical emergency, the number of things that can go wrong with the body are simply too great and varied. Ambulances are not small vehicles and even they only carry a small amount of kit compared to the number of things that exist in the world to potentially treat a person in some way or other.

Reality is the injuries you’re most likely to encounter on the range/trail/hill/skirmish field are cuts, scrapes and burns plus other little trivia like broken digits and sprains etc. If you’re reading this, there’s an extremely high chance your hobbies involve lots of very small explosions and sharp/fast moving things as well as people moving quickly over uneven terrains.

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To help deal with these sorts of realities I opted for the Camping FAK from Lifesystems, you can read the full content list on their site. Whether there are cheaper ways to get similar results by buying stuff individual I don’t know for sure, but I didn’t stumble across any. If you’re a person with little or no medical training you’re probably not going to do any more harm with the stuff in this kit (which is the most important thing) and almost all of it only really requires ripping the packet opening and whacking the contents on to the casualty. Worst case scenario they have to suffer a little bit for 30 seconds while you read the plastic for instructions. This isn’t me saying “don’t seek out medical training”, however, I’ve had that handed to me on a plate at different points over the years and I appreciate that not everyone can afford or even get access to that sort of instruction.

The actual contents of the Lifesystems kit seem of good quality, relevant to most commonly occuring situations and for the most part you won’t have to perform any upkeep on the kit to maintain it in a serviceable state for a good few years. The scissors seem a bit ‘underpowered’ and the paracetamol/ibuprofen will no doubt go past their expiry before you’d need them and take up a lot of space given that they’re rather unimportant. However the inclusions of oft-overlooked, but vital, items like nitrile gloves really removes the guess work from building up a kit yourself if you’re not well versed in the subject.

The supplied red pouch is surprisingly really very good, made of a lightweight but sturdy and water resistant nylon similar to that found in some super-light tactical gear. The zip is of equal quality with chunky rubber tabs on the pulls and the internal organisation with segregated and labelled storage is intelligent and intuitive.

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I’ve split this particular kit between my car and a nice MilSpecMonkey Tac-Organiser pouch which is attached to a multicam pack for carrying around at longer/larger airsoft games. Given the amount of pyro that gets chucked around in airsoft and the propensity for BB Warriors to carry around ******** unnecessary fixed blades, it makes a lot of sense for everyone to have these sorts of emergency items to hand. I’ve ‘upgraded’ the airsoft kit with a simple TQ, a larger military field dressing and some bits like chemlights and notepad/pen also largely from MSM; meanwhile the car kit has other things like a space blanket, very simple rescue tool etc (all mounted to a FirstSpear bandoleer style panel).

When it comes to general first aid, just remember your Dr ABCs and fuck any BS complex, updated versions that you’ll get taught differently on every medical training course you attend (guaranteed). I know for a fact that I don’t practice this stuff anywhere near often enough to remember the little changes and iterations if somebody’s gushing blood. If something serious like that does happen I will revert to the iteration I had drilled in to my head over and over at recruit training; because I’m a human being.

Get knowledge where you can, prepare yourself with equipment to a reasonable level in a fashion that’s grounded in your personal reality.

Russian Rain Resistance

I own literally 3 items of gear made in Russia and they’re all distinctly modern, not the military kit that enthusiasts would generally be in to. However all I’m personally interested in is well made gear that works regardless of where it comes from, so I have to thank militarymorons.com for highlighting Gruppa 99 because I’d never had otherwise found their site.

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This is a subject I will eventually get around to covering in much more detail, but to cut a long story short softshell items have really become a staple item in my locker over the past year. Once I actually did some decent digging around, dispelled the incorrect ideas I had in my head and got to understand the real concept behind them, they instantly made 1000x more sense.

Now, the high-end softshell items that I have from Crye, Arc’teryx LEAF, Plat-A-Tac, Beyond, and Patagonia generally tend to use a material called Tweave Durastretch (or something very close, military issue stuff is slightly different from commercial) and they’ll be almost entirely nlyon, sometimes with a bit of elastane chucked in the mix. They’re genuinely outstanding fabrics with outstanding properties, but they’re probably overkill for a lot of uses in terms of durability and cost.

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The ‘Group 99’ L5 Softshell jacket is largely polyester with some elastane so you’ll lose out a bit on durability, but the layout is still very good and the retail price is far more reasonable for sensible folks who aren’t in.. like… SOF. It’s a little more basic than the top-of-the-line offerings but still does everything you need and the difference is genuinely not that substantial. The colouring blends well with most environs you might find yourself in and there’s no arm velcro, so you could wear it out in public if needs be. Given that certain airsoft-only brands get very close in terms of pricing, I feel this is a pretty strong option given that it’s produced at a quality level aiming at usage by elite forces within the Russian military and police.

Mobile Gourmet

For a long time, I thought to myself “no need to spend all that money on a gas-canister cooker, a cheap little solid fuel option like the issue cooker will be just fine”.

No.

That line of thought was idiocy based on pure ignorance through not having tried the better option (pretty universal problem we all have from time to time). Now I can’t speak for other systems out there, but the old hexi blocks I used in training were hard to light, stank of fish to an indescribable extent, were slow to boil water, awkward to handle, and as we now know, bad for your health in many ways.  The cooking stand was at least light and compact, but it would also get caked in tacky carbon muck whenever you used it, as did the issue mess tins.  All in all, the whole process of getting your cooker setup, heating and eating then fully stowing your cook system to your pack/webbing was extremely time-consuming and unnecessarily arduous for such a simple thing.

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Now, you do need a good bit of flat and level surface to setup a Jetboil and the centre of gravity is so high you do worry sometimes about how easily it’ll tip over; although the included fold-out stand does do a reasonable job to help in this area.  It is also a little awkward to re-pack everything after usage in the sense that the actual boiling pot and some components of the gas stove stay very hot for a little while after cooking.  I’m yet to time them, but it does seem to take a little longer than you’ll spend eating your ‘meal’ for the heated parts of the system to cool back down to such a level that you can put everything back together for storage.  If I was being picky, I’d also like the neoprene cover to be a bit thicker because you can’t quite hold on to the thing until it’s a fair way off cooking temperature.  However it does completely stop you from getting horribly burned if you absent-mindedly try and pick the pot up at the wrong time and the ‘flame’ indicator on the side gradually turning orange as you get closer to boiling point is a nice addition; not necessary of course because you can just look at the water, but it’s nice to have another visual indicator that your food is on its’ way.

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The key feature of the Jetboil is of course, in the name.  The corrugated aluminium fin underneath the main pot increases surface area for heat to be absorbed enormously and the gas burner has some serious growl behind it, especially for such a compact item.  It’s a huge bonus in any situation to be able to get your food or drinks heated up in such a short space of time, doubly so when you’re shivering and really looking forward to that sustenance.

The heater ignites just like a gas hob, open the regulator valve to start the flow then hold the piezo button for maybe a second or two at most – and you’re burning.  You’ve got a wide range of control on your heat level on said regulator, but if you just want your dubious sausages as fast as possible you can whack it fully wide open without concern.  When you’re trudging along with the cooker in your pack, absolutely everything needed stashes away inside the main pot which is a massive help when you’re trying to make the inside of your ruck as neat, segregated and easily-navigable as possible (i.e. the opposite of the inside of the average handbag).  If you wanted to be super efficient on your adventures, I see no reason you couldn’t pour any unused water back in to your bottle/reservoir after cooking if you’ve not used it already for hot drinks.

The plastic base clips right on to the bottom of your commonly-available can of gas fuel, the burner then screws right on to your gas can in a couple of seconds, next the pot has something reminiscent of a bayonet fitting to go on to the burner, with a thick silicone type lid to top everything off.  It all goes together and comes apart extremely easily and I’ve generally been quite impressed with the quality feel of all the components.  Presuming it carries on working for a good length of time without any little parts failing, I’d thoroughly recommend the investment in any of the cooking system options from Jetboil.  I opted for the ‘Flash’ which I’d call their flagship offering and it’s really close to perfect for cooking ration pack meals, but you can save a fair bit of money by going with the ‘Zip’ which will basically do the same job for you overall.

Just, for fuck sake, if you were considering it, don’t buy any of the camouflage versions.

Burning A Hole In Your Pocket

It’s most important to be able to laugh at yourself before anyone else.  Crye stuff is awesome in many ways, but unless you’re doing some serious SF’y/door-kicky stuff for real, you need to remain aware of the fact that some Tru-Spec or the like would’ve been MORE than adequate for your needs.

For anyone wondering, yes the money is real and it’s all 20s (just over $2k there) but I picked it up from the camp cashier while I was deployed using a chunk of savings I’d put aside for a holiday.  They had an exchange rate that blows the current one out of the water so I spent the entire triple-flight journey home from afghan shitting myself in case my ‘investment’ were to be lost or stolen.

That’s One Fine Front End

On one hand, I almost feel bad for getting this for myself and having to use it on a mere airsoft gun.  On the other hand.. you only live once.

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I’m not going to tell you exactly what type of aluminium (emphasis on the second i there Americans) this thing is made of, because if you’re going to buy one of these for a real firearm that has serious defensive usage you’ll need to look that up at a retailer and compare it to other options on the market based on what your specific needs are.  Sufficed to say, there is nothing but quality on display here.

I’ll be honest from the start, I’ve got basically zero knowledge when it comes to CNC machine operation or extruding metals, so I can’t comment on those aspects of the manufacture of this freefloat AR-15 handguard.  Hell, it isn’t even that perfect if you were to judge it by a lot of common criteria.  It’s not as light per unit of length as the original BCM KMR or some offerings from the likes of SLR Rifleworks.  It’s not going to be as military-tough as a Knights or Daniel Defens(c)e quad rail.  It’s certainly not nearly as economical as a Midwest Industries M-LOK tube. I mean, hell, I don’t even like the barrel nut or attachment method, it’s pretty damn old school by modern standards and requires more work than should really be necessary to get the rail properly timed.

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But yes, you’ve guessed it, I’ve been negative at the start because I actually really bloody love this thing; how predictable eh?  I started following EraThr3–pronounced era-three for those understandably unsure–fairly early on in their existence.  They’re a company born from the ideas of a small group of folks who are just unobtainably cool in all the classical senses.  Folks who were already doing very well in high-up positions at other well known AR manufacturing companies.  I had the distinct pleasure of bumping in to a few of them at SHOT earlier this year and was frankly annoyed that not only are they as cool as they are, they’re really bloody nice people to go with it.

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You can see the Noveske legacy in the mounting system employed on this M-LOK rail, as well as the overall cross-section and the bolts used for attachment of the tube to the barrel nut.  Whether Noveske is the OEM for these I’m not sure (it would seem to make sense in a lot of ways) but personally, I’m not too fussed either way.

It would perhaps have been nice if the weight of the included proprietary barrel nut could have been shaved a little, because when you hold this thing it’s got a distinct pendulum tendency to it; the tube itself really is feather-light.  That said, if there’s somewhere you want the weight it’s in the back, as far away from the muzzle as possible.  I also cannot say enough good things about the machine work that’s been done on this forend, every single surface and, more importantly, every edge and corner, is just beautifully transitioned in to a smooth curve.  In a lot of places the edges are so narrow it seems impossible for them to not be sharp, yet they somehow they just aren’t.

The combination of Cerakote on top of anodisation is really quite something to behold.  A deep matte black that’s just somehow a higher quality of black than any other AR accessory I’ve purchased in the past.  Plus, it is of course, perfect throughout and just generally beautiful if I’m being really honest with you.  Most other quality AR handguards are only anodised, because if you get a good anodised finished that’s more than enough to do the job.  But this offering not having that high-sheen finish of raw anodising, or the rather rougher feel of some other coatings, is a very premium-feeling change from the norm.

It’s also my experience that the very best companies in the gun/gear world make their instruction inserts fun, entertaining and informative all at the same time.

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I’ve got a fairly rare and high-quality AEG receiver set that’s scheduled to be built from the ground up in to the best CQB replica I can possibly create and that’s where this handguard will end up; that’s the current plan at least.  I’m saddened that I’ve got so many other projects to finish before I get to that point because I really want to get a few choice M-LOK accessories on to this thing and try it out (after taking some more nice photos), but the wait will be worth it.