About Robert Partain

Robert Partain spent 10 years on active duty in the Army as both a medic and a training NCO. He has published hundreds of articles on the internet as well as been published in print form. He currently resides in Alabama. Robert will explore the subject of concealed carry laws and other weapon related issues in society. Follow along as Robert brings his expertise and insight to the Patriot Surplus blog!

Identifying Poisonous Berries

Identifying Poisonous BerriesIdentifying Poisonous Berries

Can I eat that berry? Identifying poisonous berries can be difficult. There are many parts of the US (and the globe at large, for that matter) where wild berries flourish at certain times of the year. It is not at all uncommon for hikers, campers, and those lost in the woods to be tempted to eat those berries, especially if no other food source is available. The problem, of course, is that some berries are poisonous and can make you very sick or even kill you if you eat enough of them or if you are allergic to them. This article offers some useful (albeit general) tips on wild berries and how to stay away from the dangerous ones.

Tip 1: Don’t trust your eyes

There are many types of dangerous berries found in various types of terrain, and many of these look very delectable. Chances are you will not be able to determine all of the “bad” berries in any particular area unless you are an expert in berry identification. The easier way to approach this is to learn which berries in your area are “good” berries, those that are edible. It is much safer (and easier) to learn about blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc. than it is to memorize every dangerous type of berry that may be in your area.

Tip 2: Color often matters

Berries that are blue or black are usually edible. Berries that are red are often NOT safe to eat. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Strawberries are red and are safe to eat (unless you are allergic to them) while poinsettia berries (red as well) are not safe at all to eat. You should NEVER eat white berries unless you know for sure it safe to do so.

Tip 3: Don’t eat that

While it may be difficult to memorize all of the dubious berries that thrive in your area, it is possible to memorize the main ones that you are likely to encounter. These would include berries and plants such as mistletoe, holly, yew, nightshade, and jasmine for example. It is good to teach this to your kids as well. If you are out in the wilds a lot, consider buying a pocket-size plant identification booklet.

Tip 4: Bits and Pieces

Do not assume you can eat a berry just because you see birds eating them. Do not eat berries that you do not recognize if they have a bitter taste; spit it out. Poisonous berries, in general, will only harm you if you swallow them. Always watch your kids while in the woods. Children are notoriously curious about berries and have been known to gobble down a handful of whatever they happen upon without a second thought.

The best course of action should someone eat suspicious berries is to encourage vomiting as soon as possible. It takes a bit of time before the stomach can begin digesting the berries, so the faster you get the material out of a person’s stomach the better. You can promote vomiting by sticking a finger down the person’s throat, engaging the gag reflex. If a person shows any symptoms of distress, get to a medical facility ASAP.

Identifying poisonous berries is an extremely important skill to learn if you plan on spending an extended amount of time outdoors. Want to learn more about what is edible and and what is not edible? Mother Earth News has a fantastic, in depth, guide that is very helpful when identifying poisonous berries. Signup below to download the guide.

How to Treat Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Sumac

Treat poion oak

How Do You Treat Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Sumac

If you spend any time at all out in nature, chances are very good you are going to run into poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac. These green, leafy plants thrive throughout most of the U.S., and virtually all people will have reactions to them if they come into contact with these plants. All three of these plants can cause what it known as contact dermatitis with symptoms that include redness, rashes, and itching. The compound urushiol is what causes this misery, and it is so powerfully toxic that a pinhead amount can affect up to 500 individuals!

It should be noted that over the course of any given year, nearly half of the population of the US will present with symptoms of these plants. You can also find urushiol in other plants as well such as cashew nut trees, mango, and ginkgo trees to name a few.


So, what should you do if you come into contact with these plants while you are out in the wilds? How do you treat poison oak and these other ailments?

The first treatment aid you should do is to wash/flush the area with plenty of water. This should be done as soon as possible before the reaction can take full effect.

The second treatment option you can perform is to use a baking soda paste. Mix about 3 teaspoons of soda with 1 teaspoon of water into a paste and then apply this paste to the area. You can easily carry a small bag of baking soda in your pack and is worth having on hand.

Another item you may want to carry in your pack is witch hazel. This liquid works well on relieving the itching. It will not affect the rash, but it can help with that awful itch until you get back to civilization.

Tea tree oil is another item that can help if you come into contact with these plants. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-inflammatory what can help reduce the rash symptoms as well as reduce swelling and itching.

Most people have heard of aloe vera, and this compound can be found in many over-the-counter products. It can reduce the itching and helps to speed overall recovery for those suffering from poison ivy contact. Aloe vera is also good for treating many types of wounds, making it a good pack item.

where-does-poison-growWe medics in the Army were told over and again that the best cure is prevention. That applies here, too. Take some time to learn what these plants look like, where they grow, and wear protective clothing and boots when you are trampling around in their territory. Stay away from these pesky plants, and you will not have to worry about treating yourself or others for their effects.

Important Note! Never, ever burn these plants. Inhaling the smoke can kill you, and getting the smoke on you and your clothing can literally cover you with urushiol. These dangers are present even if the leaves and vines are dried out. Be safe and never burn these plants.


What To Do When You are Lost


What to do when you're lost

What To Do When You are Lost

Getting lost in the wilderness is bad, but it happens all the time. What to do when you are lost starts before you leave on an adventure. By knowing a few tips, you can reduce your chances of becoming lost and increase your chances of getting out alive and well.

The first rule is always to tell someone where you are planning to go. This is true if you are planning a hike, a camping trip, or just exploring. You need to give map coordinates if possible. You must also tell them when you expect to be back. This information is needed in order for this person to direct rescue teams should you become lost or injured and not make it out on your own.

The second rule if you get lost is to stay where you are if you are close to the point you left with your friend. It is usually NOT a good idea to simply start wandering around if you discover you are lost. Now, if you did not tell anyone where you would be, then disregard this rule. Sitting down when you are lost is not going to get you out of trouble.

Rule three applies to those who need to move because no one is coming for them. First, do not panic. Relax and think about where you are and how you got there. You may be able to backtrack your way out of trouble. Here are some other things you can do:

Listen for signs of people. This usually comes in the form of traffic noise, but it could be any noise that people make such as church bells, trains, or factory noise.

Head for Higher Ground: If you do not hear anything, head for high ground where you can get a better look at your surroundings. Once you find a good spot, look for buildings or towns and forest ranger towers. Also, look carefully for roads. Unless you are truly in the wilds, you should be able to spot at least one road, and this is where you want to head as you may be able to flag down a vehicle. If there are no roads or anything else that looks man-made, look for rivers or lakes. Many times you can find humans on or close to rivers and lakes or at least be able to flag down a passing boat. This will also provide you with water if you need it.

When you decide on a direction to travel, keep yourself on track by spotting a fixed object ahead of you and travelling to that object. Then pick out another object and travel to it. Make sure that the object you choose is not too far away, or you may lose sight of it.

Of course, the way to handle these problems is to not get lost in the first place. Buy a compass, learn how to use it, and remember to always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. The few minutes it takes to do this can save you hours, if not days, of trouble and worry.

Understanding Insect and Spider Bites

Insect and Spider Bites

It is virtually impossible to go out into the wilds and not get insect and spider bites. The wilds are their environment, and you are an intruder. Some bugs bite for defense and others bite as a way of getting nourishment (i.e., your blood). In all cases, however, it is good to know about insect bites and how to treat them.

Generally speaking, insect and spider bites will bring about some amount of swelling, usually minor in nature. Bites will also bring about pain, redness in the area, and itching in most cases. These are the most common symptoms and are usually mild, lasting from a few hours to a few days. Treatment for minor bug bites can include putting ice on the site, applying anti-itch medication, or doing nothing. That is the good news. Now, the bad news.

Symptoms of Insect and Spider Bites

Symptoms of Insect and Spider Bites

There are many people who will have allergic reactions to insect and spider bites. In some cases, the person may not even know that they are allergic until they are bitten. The medical term for severe allergic reactions is anaphylaxis. While these reactions are not very common, they can be deadly when they do occur. Look for the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness and confusion
  • Shock
  • Sudden cough or wheezing
  • Obstructed airway
  • Unusual swelling
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and/or stomach cramps

The insects and spiders that can cause a reaction in anyone, not just those allergic to them, include:

  • Brown recluse spider
  • Black widow spider
  • Most types of scorpions
  • Wooly slug (aka the puss caterpillar)

Also, there are other insects that can cause reactions as well, mostly because they involve numerous bites at one time. This would include insects such as:

  • Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets
  • Fire ants
  • African bees

The signs and symptoms of these types of bites can include all of the above-mentioned reactions plus large areas of swelling that come on quickly. This area can encompass a whole limb (such as an arm or leg) within minutes of being bitten. There is also an intense redness at the area as well.

Treatment for Insect and Spider Bites

It is imperative that you keep the airway open so the person can breathe. Loss of oxygen, even for a few minutes, can lead to permanent brain damage; any longer than that and death will occur. You may need to do artificial respiration to keep the person alive.

Monitor the person’s heartbeat (pulse). Cardiac arrest (heart stopping) can occur in severe cases. You may need to do CPR.

Treat for shock by elevating the person’s feet and keeping the person warm.

Get medical help ASAP. For the most part, this person must be treated by professional medical personnel. You can do your part to help keep the person alive, but you will not be able to treat the symptoms fully.

Because insect bites (and occasionally spider bites) are common in the wilds, carrying a well-stocked first aid kit (with bite-treatment supplies) is a very good idea. The chances of being bitten while on the trail are much higher than any other type of injury you may encounter, so be prepared.


What Are the Different Types of Campfires

What Are the Different Types of Campfires?

different types of campfiresIf you are an old hand at camping, you probably already know about the different types of campfires that can be used at your campsite. However, if you are not familiar with these types of campfires, this article can help you quite a bit the next time you sleep under the stars.

Safety First

Many campsites have fire rings already in place. If you have one, clean it out before you try to light your fire. If you need make a fire ring (and you DO if one is not there), clear out the dead grass and other brush where you want to light your fire. Dig or scrape down to bare earth or rock. If you are on soil, dig down a few inches and put that dirt to the side. You can use that dirt to douse a fire that threatens to get out of control. The rest of the dirt, or stones should be put around the area as a firewall.

When you are ready to light your fire, pile some tinder in the center of the ring. Tinder is very light, easy to light material. Think hay, straw, paper, etc.

Different Types of Campfires

tepee type of campfireTepee fires are the most common type of campfires, and it is good for many things including cooking. To make a tee pee fire, start by putting some tinder (light, easy to catch fire material) into the center of your fire ring; build it up like a Indian style tepee. Over the tinder, set kindling such as twigs or sticks into a tepee fashion. Over the kindling, set larger material like larger sticks and smaller logs continuing that tepee style setup. Light the tinder and kindling, and the fire will move up into the larger material.

The Cross Fire Type of Campfire

The cross fire is great for those who want a long-lasting fire, good light and heat. Lay down your kindling and tinder and add a few larger twigs to it once the first is going. Then add logs in crisscrossed fashion. Do not add too many logs at one time or you could snuff out the fire.

The Cabin Type Campfire

log cabin type campfireThis type of campfire lasts a long time and it is good for providing light and cooking. Start by setting up your kindling in tepee fashion over your tinder. Put down two logs of firewood on each side of this cone that you have made. Then, put two more pieces of firewood over these, thus making a square. Once this is done, add shorter pieces of wood on top as you build up what looks like a log cabin.

Putting Out Your Campfire

When it is time to go, make sure you put your campfire correctly. Use water to put out the fire and to cool off the ashes. If you are in a state or federal park, follow their procedures. Some parks do not want you to “drown” the fire as someone else may be coming to your site later and the ground will be too wet for them to start their fire. Once the flames are out, it is always a good idea to shovel some dirt over the area to smother any possibly remaining embers.

We hope you have found our information on the different types of campfires helpful.

Hot Weather Hazards You Should Avoid

Hot Weather Hazards

Hot Weather Hazards to Avoid

It does not have to be the dog days of summer for someone can to succumb to hot weather hazards such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. These three conditions hit thousands of Americans each and every year. In some cases, these conditions can be fatal. The good news is all of these hot weather health hazards are easily prevented and treated.

Heat Cramps:

Heat cramps come upon those who have been perspiring a lot without replacing lost electrolytes, namely, sodium (salt). Drinking bottled water or tap water will not replace the salt that you lose when you sweat profusely. The loss of this salt can lead to painful cramps in the stomach and large muscles (thighs, back, shoulders). Heat cramps are rarely fatal, but it can (and will) become more painful until lost salt is put back into the body.

Treatment: The treatment for heat cramps is to get some salt back into the body. Salt should be placed in water, and the water taken in slowly. Salt tablets can also be used, but many medical experts shy away from them these days. The victim should be placed in a shady (or cool) place, clothing loosened and allowed to drink the salt water slowly.

Heat Exhaustion:

military hot weather hazrdsHeat exhaustion occurs because of a lack of water. A person suffering from heat exhaustion will sweat profusely, become red in the face, and weak. He or she may become dizzy and confused and will often have a headache if the problem is not treated. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, so it must be dealt with fast.

Treatment: To treat someone with heat exhaustion, first get them water, which they should not gulp down as that will lead to vomiting. Next, get them into a shady area and loosen their clothing and boot laces. The person should remain at rest as they drink the water. They will feel much better within 30 minutes or so.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is one of the hot weather hazards that kills. It is that simple. A person suffering from heat stroke must be treated quickly or else. When heat stroke occurs, the person will not be sweating (compare this to the above conditions); they will often appear pale (but can be red, in some cases), and their skin will be clammy. The danger with heat stroke is that the internal temperature of the body will cause brain damage that can be permanent or can be fatal.

Treatment: The treatment for heat stroke is to lower the person’s body temperature as quickly as possible. If there is a body of water near, put them into the water (stay with them!). Remove clothing and boots and fan the person. Apply cold compresses if possible. Once the person’s temp is lowered, give them water and keep them still. Monitor their vital signs (breathing and pulse) and be prepared to do CPR if needed. Seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible.

ALL of the above situations are hot weather hazards you can avoid. Prevention is the best cure. When you are outdoors during hot weather make sure you drink plenty of water and get the salt that you need. If you begin to feel dizzy, or begin to feel cold, understand that you are heading for a heat-related problem. Get some water, get out of the sun, loosen your clothing, and rest. Stop a heat problem before it starts.

Pros and Cons of Open Carry Laws

Pros and Cons of Open Carry Laws

Please Note: The information contained in this article is for general purposes only. Not all states have open carry laws. Each state that does has their own very specific rules. Check with your state before carrying your weapon on your person openly or concealed. Here is a list of the states that allow for open carry of weapons.

What Is Open Carry?

Open Carry LawsTo begin, let’s define what open carry means. Some states allow their residents to carry their firearms on their persons without a carry permit as long as the weapon is carried outside of a person’s clothing. In other words, the weapon can be seen by anyone looking at the person. Most people carry their weapons in a side-holster. While having a permit is generally not required for carrying the weapon openly, some individuals, convicted felons, for instance, are not allowed to carry a weapon under any circumstances. Restrictions vary from state to state.

Pros of Open Carry

The obvious benefit to open carry laws is that more people are armed at any given time. With violent crimes on the increase, many responsible individuals want to have protection within easy reach. Open carry allows these people to defend themselves, and others, should they find themselves in a dangerous situation. Many people believe that having an armed citizenry decreases crime. Lawbreakers are less likely to commit their crimes if they know locals may be armed and ready to take action against them.

Open carry laws are a true reflection of our Constitutional right to “keep and bear arms.” Legal open carry is, for some, a demonstration that they know their rights and are willing to exercise those rights.

Cons of Open Carry Laws

As with anything, misuse and abuse can happen. Most states that allow for open carry do not require any type of weapon’s training at all for their residents. If a person is legally eligible to carry a weapon, they may do so regardless of whether they know how (or when) to use it or not. This can lead to a variety of unfortunate incidents.

It is simple math that the more weapons that are being carried in any given area, the more accidental misfires will happen. Misfires can occur due to weapons being dropped, weapons falling out of holsters, weapons being carried with rounds in the chamber and the hammer cocked, and so forth. The good news is misfires that lead to physical harm are rare.

This last issue is purely social in nature. While there are many who believe fervently in open carry laws, there are also those who believe that citizens walking around, visibly armed, reflects poorly on their communities. It is a misconception to assume that these individuals are all “bleeding heart liberals”; they are not. There are more than a few professional law enforcement personnel who would prefer to see less firepower on the street than more.

In closing, if you live in an open carry state and are considering arming yourself, do invest whatever time it takes to become proficient with your weapon before you begin carrying it. This is time well spent.

Putting Together a Winter Survival Kit

Putting Together a Winter Survival Kit

survival backpackYes, in many places it is still hot as hades, but now is the time to get started on your winter survival kit. Countless Americans will put this off, even forget about doing it until it is too late. One of the best reasons for working on your winter survival kit now is that you will be able to find everything more easily because demand will be much lower for those items you need in your kit. You can also find that you can save money as many items will be on sale during the summer months.

Cold Kills – Winter Survival Kit Tips

When winter rolls around, and it will, and temps fall below freezing, humans are at risk. Every year, hundreds of people perish because they were not prepared. Your winter survival kit can save your life and the lives of those you love. These kits are not expensive, and they can be put together in little time. There is no reason not to have one.

What You Need In Your Winter Survival Kit

Let’s begin by saying that the following is a basic list. You can add whatever you like to your winter kit. Also, keep in mind that it is a very good idea to have two types of winter survival kits. One for keeping in the home should the power go out, and the second type for keeping in your vehicles (all vehicles should have their own survival kit).

Blankets, Gloves, and Hats

Few things are as important as blankets. It is imperative that you stay as warm as possible during a winter emergency, and blankets are one of the keys to your survival. Sleeping bags will also work  but they can take up a lot of room in a vehicle. If you have a smaller car, consider getting space blankets. Your vehicle kit, especially, should have extra gloves and hats.

Fire for Staying Warm and Cooking

If the power is out for any length of time, you may need to start a fire for cooking, added heat, or keeping wildlife away from you at night. Have some waterproof matches or lighters in your kits. For both home and vehicle winter kits, having a few candles on hand can be very handy.

Shovel, Survival Knife/Tool, and Traction Aids

For your vehicles, have a shovel in the trunk as well as something to help you get some traction in case you get stuck. Sand, cat litter, or tire chains will all work (in most cases). If you cannot get the chains onto the tires, lay them out as flat as possible in front of the drive wheels. This may provide enough traction to get you going again. A good survival knife or survival tool can be worth its value in gold for cutting wood, skinning game (if it comes to that), and protection.

Food and Water

You should always keep some non-perishable food in both auto and home. This can be anything from MRE’s to energy bars. Make sure you have enough food and water for everyone who normally drives or stays with you. Bottled water will last a long time if it is not opened, even so, rotate your food and water supply once every couple of months.

First Aid Kit

Every home and vehicle should have a first aid kit in it year round. You can purchase inexpensive kits just about anywhere, and they can be life-savers when needed. Make sure your first aid kit has what YOU need; add to it or buy a better kit if it does not.


A light source is very important for both home and vehicle kits. Make sure you need fresh batteries on hand. You do not want to skimp on your flashlight; get the best you can afford.

Whistle, Mirror, Red Cloth

All (or any) of these can be used to signal others that you need help. If help cannot see or hear you, they cannot help you. Sometimes it can be the simplest of things that can save your life. For more information on how to use signal mirrors, see our previous blog post on signal mirrors.

Survival Mirrors – Survival Gear

Survival Mirrors Tips and How to Use Them

Survival Mirror

Those new to personal survival tactics and gear may not appreciate how important the lowly mirror can be in times of trouble. A survival mirror can be of great value if you are out in the wild, injured, stranded or lost and need to signal your whereabouts to others. In fact, very few other items can perform this particular task as well as a good mirror.

Mirrors have been used for centuries as signaling devices for one reason: they work. When your GPS device runs out of battery; your mirror will still work. When your cell phone is out of range/service, your mirror will still work. Your survival mirror will work anything, as long as it has a light source to reflect. Inexpensive, reliable, and easy to use. What more could you want?

While mirror signaling can be done just about anywhere, there are two places where it really shines (no pun intended). In mountainous, wooded terrain, nothing beats a mirror for alerting your position to those who may be searching for you, especially those who may be overhead in aircraft. Bright reflections are easy to spot from the air, even through relatively dense canopies.

The second application is for those who may be stranded on large bodies of water. Because there is virtually nothing obscuring its refection, a mirror signal can be seen for miles and miles over water. This makes it much easier for other people to see you, even though they may not be able to see your boat (or you if you are floating in the water).

How To Buy a Survival Mirror

When it comes survival mirrors, quality does matter to a certain degree. You can find very good quality mirrors online or at the better outdoor gear stores, but you can also find some very cheap, inferior mirrors on the market as well. The best advice for those shopping for a good survival mirror is to shop with reputable vendors.

It is always better to get a survival mirror that is includes retro-reflective aimers. Some good brands to look for include:

The 2 inch by 3 inch Survival Mirror by Coghlans and the 2 by 3 inch Signal Mirror by S.I. Howard Glass.

The Rothco 2 inch by 3 inch Signal Mirror is also a very popular cost friendly option.

You can find some very good plastic mirrors as well. These are lightweight, very durable, and most of them float (important for those on the water). It should be noted that plastic mirrors do not reflect quite as well as glass mirrors (they reflect about 90 percent of what glass does), but they are still very effective and cost less.

If you want a lot of added security while you are out and about, consider adding a survival mirror to your gear. Once you have one, spend some time getting to know it and how it works, and you will much better equipped for facing future problems. The last thing anyone wants to see is help passing them by because they could not get their rescuer’s attention when they needed to do so.

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Tips for First Concealed Carry Weapon for Women

Weapon Tips for First Concealed Carry for Women

Concealed Carry for WomenIt is common knowledge that more women are now carrying concealed weapons than ever before. The primary reason for this increase is self-protection. With violent crimes on the rise, it only makes sense that women want to be able to protect themselves and their families. For many women, however, knowledge of what type of pistol to carry may be lacking. This article looks at some of the most important issues all women need to address before they purchase their first concealed carry weapon.

Concealed Carry Site and Size

Before you purchase your weapon determine where on your person you will carry the weapon. Where you carry the weapon will determine the best size of weapon for you. For instance, if you plan to carry your weapon in an ankle holster, you will not want to purchase a large-frame pistol or revolver. By that same token, if you plan to carry your weapon in a shoulder holster, you will want to avoid very small frame weapons as these can be difficult to remove from most shoulder rigs.

Concealed Carry Weapon Weight

One of the most common mistakes both men and women make when buying their first concealed carry weapon is buying one that simply weighs too much. Carrying a large-frame .45 with a full magazine, for instance, can become a burden for many people. What generally happens when a woman buys a weapon that weighs too much is she stops carrying her weapon. If your heart is set on carrying a heavier weapon, then take your time selecting the best type of holster for carrying that amount of weight. A shoulder holster or hip holster will make carrying your weapon much easier. Also, there are a many purse holsters available today that include an interior holster that is easy to get to, as well as being perfect for those who want to carry a heavier weapon.

Best Caliber for a Woman’s Conceal Carry Weapon

The old adage “bigger is better” does not necessarily apply to concealed weapons in terms of caliber. A well-placed .38 bullet will drop an assailant as easily as a well-placed .45 bullet. The key to any caliber being effective is aim. A large caliber round is useless if you cannot hit what you are aiming at. For this reason, it is highly advisable that women spend some time actually firing a variety of calibers before selecting one. Most of the better gun shops have access to firing ranges where customers can fire off a few rounds from different types of pistols before having to make the actual purchase. This is time well invested.

Concealed Carry Weapon Feel

It is imperative that the weapon you choose as your carry gun feel right in your hands. Knowing how a weapon feels in your hands is part practical assessment and part intuition. In other words, you “know” when a particular weapon feels right and when one does not. In practical terms, the grip of the weapon should fit comfortably in your hand. You should be able to grasp the grip with your fingers solidly wrapped around the grip. If the grip is too large for your hand size, you will not be able to properly control the weapon when it is fired. This could cause the weapon to jump from your hands altogether; something no one wants to experience. If the grip is too small for your hand size, it will be hard to aim properly. Ask any experienced female shooter and she will tell you that you simply “know” when a weapon is right for you or not. Trust your instincts.