Vegas Survival Guide – Preamble

The childish MS paint map to SHOT Show I wish I’d had when I first went. To say it’s super basic and pared back on the details would be a monstrous under exaggeration, but personally this is what I needed back in 2016 when I first went. I spent probably half the show that year just trying to get the basic bearings on the place, bouncing from one both to another with my head on fire not knowing where I was and where to turn next. It wasn’t until going the 2nd time last year I actually got my head around everything and the difference was very noticeable.

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The place is genuinely massive and there are an absolute shed ton more corridors, stairwells and doorways more than I’ve shown here, but once you realise the whole thing is basically broken down in to only a few ‘blocks’ that contain 80% the same stuff within them, navigating and being efficient with your time and motion becomes so much infinitely easier I really can’t express it in words.

I also have the bare bones notes jotted down for a ‘Vegas/Shot Survival Guide’ based on all the tips and experiences I’ve accumulated so far. I’ll look in to actually fleshing out that article after I’m back from this year’s show. It’s probably not so big of a deal to Americans who’ve been to Vegas before, but as a foreigner I found there to be a very steep learning curve in simply navigating and understanding such a crazy city. Knowing what’s good, what to avoid and all the best ways to manage your time and money are truly crucial.

Crowd Funding

After a LOT of deliberation (good couple of years at this point) I’ve decided to break my silence as it were as far as Patreon is concerned. This is something I’ve well and truly been on the fence about for a long old time, for a couple of reasons. First off I try to keep the recurring monthly costs leaving my bank account absolutely minimal, because it’s too easy to let those ‘small’ amounts stack up and hinder me in terms of acquiring the things I really want – I’d much rather regularly squirrel money in to a savings account myself of my own accord. Secondly because there are an absolute ton of people out there with patreon accounts and deciding which ones to support has been very tricky for me indeed. There are dozens and dozens of creators out there who I like, a couple of them I’m lucky enough to meet and/or talk with now and then, and if I was superbly rich and could buy everything I wanted to post about myself without any concern I’d buy in to the top tier for every one of those people’s Patreon pages. This is the real world however.

At this time, I’ve opted to support Forgotten Weapons and Kit Badger. Two websites/YouTube channels which inhabit a similar-ish firearms realm, but one with a well established following and one that is comparatively new. My primary reasoning for these decisions is quite simple, it’s about the amount of knowledge I’m gaining from a given channel or site. There are many, many other content creators out there whose articles, videos and images I enjoy immensely and many I learn from as well, but overall the 2 mentioned are doing what I assess to be the best jobs in terms of teaching me the things I really want to learn. Of course there are also other factors and my belief is both Ian and Ivan are down-to-earth, decent members of the human race who firmly believe in integrity. I believe they’re also people who want to impart knowledge for the benefit of others, rather than merely becoming internet famous and I don’t support people who I think engage in that.

I hope and would like to think many of you reading this are here because you’re learning things (as I do every day) and because you want to understand gear, firearms and other related topics. Obviously there’s some posts that are purely for the hell of it mixed in there because nobody ever learned anything from a plaid combat shirt, but all work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

I’ve been subscribed to the Forgotten Weapons’ channel for many years now. I found it a long time ago based on a thumbnail that popped up for a video detailing an extremely unusual black power based light weapon that featured multiple chambers allowing for multiple shots in rapid succession, something that was of course quite rare for the time period. I’d seen an example of the same type of gun myself at the National Firearms Centre attached to the Royal Armouries in Leeds and at that time it was my first experience of any black powder-era gun that could actually fire more than one shot without reloading, previously I’d honestly believed no such thing ever existed.

Ivan over at Kit Bager looks at firearms through a more modern lens of hunting, recreation and personal protection. He showcases exactly the sorts of weapons and related activities I’d like to do but am either entirely barred from partaking in, or would have to go to really great lengths to partake in. He’s also former military (and civilian contractor) and an avid outdoorsman who reviews all sorts of outdoor and tactical gear from a perspective of both experience and grounded common sense. His videos also look that good that Soldier Systems Daily features them fairly often and I am glad of that in particular.

Now sometimes I do question Patreon purely in the same sense as I do YouTube, because most of these large companies are very much afraid of being painted with a brush of over-reaction by certain elements in the media. It was radical, extremist and terrorist related content that caused YouTube to lose tons of ad revenue and all type of channels lost out because of that. However based on an aggregate of a lot of different articles created by people who know, policies of demonisation have particularly hit channels related to firearms; not to mention those covering other things like knives, airsoft and anything similar that’s bad and evil and upsets people for no logical reason. So my concern is that the same thing could happen to Patreon and from what I know it did already happened to KickStarter a long time back; and I would call KickStarter Patreon in reverse.

However as things stand Patreon seems fairly neutral and sensible in its’ policies. I don’t think anyone ‘needs’ to support any creators they follow in a monetary fashion because those channels and blogs can always put up a paywall if they so choose. My stance is that it’s worth considering who you really learn from or enjoy the most, then maybe chipping in if it is appropriate. That helps to support the people you personally deem most worthy of that support in order that they keep creating the content you want to see.

Personally of course I don’t have a Patreon page, I used to make a small amount of money from YouTube, around £100-150 every 6 months very roughly, but that’s all gone now on account of the decreased amount of ad money available and the fact various work issues meant I had to take a fair break from really putting up any videos. I don’t think the patron based funding thing is ever going to be right to me because I don’t have a really nailed down schedule of regularity for publishing content. This is just a hobby for me personally and it might spoil my enjoyment of it if it became about making any money instead of just doing it because I like it. But if the ‘follower’ numbers were to somehow magically increase drastically in a few years the system I’d employ would be along these lines:

-All funds received each month go in to a pot that builds up
-Once said pot reaches an appropriate amount, I’d open up a post to any and all suggestions from the patrons on which gear items they want to see reviewed
-Once the money is there (or if close I’d add in some of my own) a specific vote based on the most popular suggestions from the earlier input would be undertaken
-The winning piece of kit from said vote is purchased, tried/tested and a review post on the blog or video uploaded
-That item is then given away to a patron

To me, running that as a cycle would make by far the most sense given that I’m not somebody doing this as my actual job and I genuinely don’t even have the storage space to keep the gear that was purchased.

Let me know what you all think of this particular subject and your feelings on any and all of the points raised above. I’m just one person and I appreciate perspectives other than my own coming in.

Occasional Visitor

Only item I own from Special Operations Equipment. Certainly the most pointless thing I posses.

But when you want a mascot to take away on any detachment or deployment, what better? They come in various sizes but I went for the XL of course. They also come in lots of colours and patterns, but the choice there was even more obvious.

He has a nickname, but I’m not going to post it here.

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Tactical Food Chain

Ever wondered where you fall in the natural pecking order of tactical stuff on the internet? Well wonder no more, the REmf TAc Research and Devlopment sub-division is working around the clock to produce answers for all your burning questions.

Top is best of course and you work down from there.

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What Happens in Vegas?

After a couple of tentative 5p-50p days of send a lot of e-mails back and forth with the organisers, my badge is in.

That was fortunate, because in a logistic/organisation sense it’s definitely takes some time to get this trip sorted each year. I actually booked my flights and hotel way back in June to ensure I got what I wanted at decent prices. Top tip for anyone going: you can get a far nicer room for less money if you just stay at a place slightly further from the expo centre and travel about 10-15 minutes on the monorail/bus – the premium on 2-3* rooms that are near the sands centre is just bonkers.

I actually booked in my leave for this right after the 2017 show to maximise my chances. 2 weeks taken from my annual allowance, about 10 days of it in Las Vegas and the rest trying to get back on to UK time since there’s an 8 hour difference. I usually volunteer to come in on duty and check on the armoury during part of the christmas grant that everyone takes, otherwise I’m smashing most of my year’s entitlement in the space of 6 weeks. It’s pretty funny when I get there I have to say, because the first few days I get out of bed around 2 or 3 in the morning and feel fully wide awake. That also totally takes away my appetite for some reason, so I eat 1 small meal a day for the first week, then eat like a starved horse in the last 3 days just as I get adjusted. It’s a fun time all around in that regard. Something different to my usual routine anyway.

If all goes to plan I’ll be teaming up with Kit Badger to stroll the convention floor for the full 4 days (and hopefully a couple of different range days), checking out all the best in firearms and tactical gear to post up and bring you good folks all the news and cool/interesting products we possibly can.

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Part of the Process

If you’re enjoying the content you’re seeing, I hope you stay tuned because I have got SO much more gear to showcase and talk about.

The ‘storm’ we had in parts of the UK during Saturday meant it was a tad blustery, sadly no good for photography of light, fabric stuff like camo clothing and nylon gear. A lot of the reason I struggle to get more stuff on YouTube is down to the fact I can only ever photograph or film on weekends or leave, and since I have nowhere indoor that’s any good for that, it all gets done outside so I’m entirely at the mercy of the lighting conditions and weather in general to actually get anything ‘on to film’. Too much wind and I can’t record or shoot, stuff will just blow around and audio won’t come out. Cold kills the camera batteries, but I’ll crack on in any temperature as long as the wind isn’t howling, otherwise what’s the point in owning all these tactical jackets?

The wind was still going some today, but with the arrival of a big ol’ box of kit this past week I simply wasn’t coming back to work empty handed. Got out there just before 10, got a little help from Passive Shooter to get the Mail Call overall shot in the can (I think you lot will enjoy this one), stopped briefly for lunch then stayed out til 5 with my trusty Canon. Drove back to base this evening with over 200 pictures of 25 different bits of gear from all sorts of brands and places. Overall very chuffed with that, got a TON of sorting and uploading to do but if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t spend so much of my spare time doing it.

Also remember that facebook are wankers, so check over at remftacticool.com at least once a week or so to see all the content herr Zuckerberg has hidden from you or look me up on Instagram by the same name (it’s still ok over there just about.. for now).

Magpul Every Day

Previously I’ve taken a look over the Magpul Industries Corp. DAKA Essential Wallet after carrying it daily for a few weeks and that was nice, but it lacked a little something. I had a word with a buddy of mine over at Magpul and they mentioned that a version was already in the works that featured exactly that little something I was after – a transparency for ID cards. So now I’ve been fortunate enough to have been provided a DAKA Everyday Wallet to review and unlike most types of military gear, this is an item of non-issued kit I can easily get days and weeks worth of carrying and use on before providing my thoughts.

Original manufacturer page here for reference:
https://www.magpul.com/products/magpul-daka-everyday-wallet

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Fortunately, making the change from the Magpul Essential to the new Everyday design was a lot easier than when I originally went from my old conventional wallet (which did also have a transparency) to the Magpul Essential. My initial thought was along the lines of “how the hell will I manage day to day with so little storage capacity” and all things considered I think Magpul do go a little too spartan with the original Essential; as we can probably surmise with the changes put in to the Everyday. Putting that concern aside however I did want to try out the concept of maybe slimming down my pocket book and not carrying around things I knew I hadn’t used for years and years, so I started using the Essential on a daily basis and ended up not going back to my old wallet. The biggest change is, as you might imagine, only having something that feels comparatively tiny in your pocket and when you sit in a car, hop on your bike or sit down to eat that is a genuine revelation that prompted me to forget about any capacity shortcomings of these types of designs. There are disadvantages but the size advantage alone has been entirely worth the swap in my mind.

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There are 3 key changes that have been made with the Everyday which are all highly beneficial in my opinion.

1 – It’s 10% larger overall compared to the Essential, meaning you’ve got room for any card, ID or currency note that is slightly larger than the norm. It’s also more difficult to lose this one out of your jacket pocket, which is exactly what I did with my Essential.

2 – The addition of a transparency is exactly what I personally needed for showing my ID to the gate guards 4-6+ times per day vs having to fiddle around actually removing my ID card each and every time for inspection. Anyone in the service will welcome this and I’m sure there’s other jobs out there which necessitate similar regular checks – especially in the public/security sector where we’re often still using humans instead of automated doors and check points. Just don’t ask me who that bloke is pictured on my MOD 90, not met him in over a decade.

3 – An extra storage slot has been created right in the middle with the goal of providing a better stash point for notes, rather than having to wedge your cash in to a credit card slot. Crucially this one addition provides a proportionally very large % increase in carrying capacity vs the older model while not falling back in the trap of making you carry tons of shit you don’t need and never use. For me this made the Everyday a truly perfect fit for exactly the cards and cash I wanted to carry every single day wherever I go.

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At this point I’ll mention the one failing point I have with any sort of slimline/essentials-only wallet and that’s carrying coins, it’s pretty much not an option. If you’re the sort to jam cash in a pocket you’ll be fine, but I’m not a fan of that myself and the one thing I miss is the coin pouch every other normal wallet that I’ve ever owned before featured. This design being made of a smooth plastic will lose metal coins, especially when they’re sandwiched against even smoother plastic cards. If you live in normal modern society I’d imagine your need for coins has pretty much been eliminated in 2017, parking meters and the like tend to advertise ways to pay on your phone even in some fairly rural places that I’ve come across. Maybe you work somewhere with an ancient vending machine but those are dying out or their contents being replaced with ‘Protein+’ versions of whatever snacks were in there before and I like to think nobody reading this page is blind enough to fall for that over-priced bullshit. In my job I do sometimes need coins to buy the odd snickers from the t-bar or bacon roll on a friday morning, because we still do some old school shiz like that, but if you live in a country with 1-unit notes or work for a company that’s not still kinda stuck in the 80s I reckon you’ll mostly be fine. I’d say even the need for any sort of cash including notes has been very much diminished at this point and potentially if you live in the centre of a large city you’d only carry notes in an ’emergency’ case of that one very unlikely occasion where folding money might be needed, but your contactless cards will be the go-to 99.9%.

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In terms of general capacity in the Everyday, I myself have 2 different debit cards that I regularly use, my military ID, driving licence in the middle and a couple of notes and that’s all I’ve ever needed in the past couple of months of carrying the thing. I’ve never felt the desire for any more capacity with the exception of pieces of pirate silver as mentioned above. There is room for plenty more credit/debit cards or any sort of membership or loyalty card if you want to put them in there and on the occasion you need to chuck in a business card or any other thin item that comes in to your possession the fabric will grow to accommodate. There is also just about room for 1 item of contraception, and I’m sure we all want to be grown up and responsible in that area. I never need such things because I write a tactical blog, but I know a few of you folks are more tanned and lift more weight than I do.

Construction wise I don’t have a name of the exact fabric used, but if you’ve got any gear that uses Hypalon you’ll have a rough idea. Essentially this is a fabric in the sense that it looks to be ‘weaved’ from strands at some point in its’ creation, rather than just being liquid plastic that’s cooled in to a solid sheet and cut. Fortunately it is proving to be infinitely more abrasion resistant than Hypalon, it also turns away sweat and oils from your skin like a champ. There are 5 layers of this fabric (which is incredibly thin I should add) and they’re all welded together at the edges which Magpul claim are both permanent and impenetrable. I’ve seen nothing so far to suggest those claims aren’t true. Also much like a really well made magazine pouch, the fabric does grip the smooth plastic of any ID/money card well during carry, yet relinquishes that grip when you begin to pull out a card and break the friction bond.

The rounded corners make it fast and snag-free going in out and out of bags and pockets which is something I’ve certainly found I appreciate on a daily basis. It also keeps everything inside cinched tightly together and that means it’s nearly impossible for anyone else to see which pocket your wallet is in, a very big change from your old type wallet that’s got 2 years of receipts and a Blockbuster member card collecting lint inside.

The Everyday comes in the same colour options as most of Magpul’s plastic firearms parts and accessories and it’s actually made in the US, whereas most of the EDC-culture gear you’ll find out there which isn’t firearm related will most likely come from the same country as most of everything else. At $25 the Everyday is a bit of a price hike vs the $17 Essential when you look at the percentage, but based on carrying this fabric around for a few months now I’m confident in saying you’ll get many years use out of one of these. In fact I’d say it’ll last a lot longer than it takes any leather wallet to reach that point where the external smooth hide surface of said leather has gotten ratty and chipped and exposed the grey suede underneath.

What I’d do myself is keep a leather wallet in a drawer ready for any type of ‘going out’ that might involve a touch of class or just generally wanting to come across as not being any type of prepper or EDC/CCW type (for any reason you may personally happen to have). What I do myself for example is have a horrendously bight Magpul phone case that provides protection and easy spotting to use every day, then a slim, plain black phone case to take to nice bars and restaurants and the like where I might be wearing chinos or a suit and want to trick normal people in to thinking I’m a standard adult human. Same kind of story with my wallet and watch.

I’m really glad I took the figurative leap of faith over to this style of wallet and I’m going to continue to keep the Magpul Everyday as my primary day-to-day until it either breaks or I find something better. However at this current moment it quite literally carries exactly what I need it to carry and nothing more so unless the cards/cash I need to carry change then my wallet isn’t going to.

iFly

I’ve done a couple of dozen parachute jumps so far (struggling to organise the next course) but never the indoor sky diving, so pretty hyped to get to try it on a little trip out with work I have to say.

It’s definitely a whole lot easier to try than actual parachuting, none of the fear, far less money. So if you’d like to get an idea of what freefall actually feels like, then I wouldn’t have any hesitation recommending iFLYiFLY Basingstoke. Really good facility, equipment and instructors all around.

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As it happened by some strange coincidence my group was being looked after by an American bloke, 10 year vet US Army, hadn’t been long out. Had a pretty strong accent still, not sure how he ended up doing indoor skydiving over here but a lot of the spams do love it over here. “Infantry then special operations” apparently which I could believe to look at him, I guessed Ranger then saw he had the relevant tattoo so I gave myself an internet cookie. Probably done a load of airborne ops in his time then taken those freefall skills to the indoor circuit, there’s a big business and sport/competition around wind tunnel stuff.

Hot Shots 2018

A video I like to share once each year when it drops. Definitely tell they’ve got some prior service ladies on the shooting team.

Was rather lucky to have the chance to buy my 2018 edition at DSEI, hung up ready and waiting here in the block for January 1st. Not sure whether it’s the finalised edition since the general sales aren’t open yet, but there’s an e-mail sign up for notification available on both the US and UK/ROW websites.

Committed folks, I guess you’ll just have to find the inside of a cupboard your other half never goes in to..?