Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Praxis: Cleaning canteens, logistical support of outlying positions on the cheap, and other ruminations.

Bob Wright and I have been doing some leveling between our respective logistical supplies. He sends me excess LC-1 Y harnesses he picked up for cheap and I send him LC-2 belts that I, likewise, picked up for a song. Right now, I'm looking for some cheap ALICE clips that he needs without beggaring my own stock. Be that as it may, we were talking canteens the other day (he has covers but no ALICE clips, I have covers but no canteens) and I am looking for some cheap canteens for some folks. (By cheap I mean about a buck apiece for good used but serviceable GI 1 quarts and $1.80 for new Chinese 1 quart knock-offs.)

Anyway, the subject of the best way to clean canteens came up. Here is Bob's method for cleaning canteens:

I have always had excellent results in washing canteens using hot water and some version of effervescent denture cleaner. I also clean my thermos bottles this way. Just put the hot water in the canteen then break up one of the dental cleansing tablets up where it will fit in the mouth of the canteen. Allow the tablet to work until there ate no more bubbles visible at the mouth of the canteen. Rinse with hot water and allow to dry. I do this after every mission.

If we have purchased used canteen we use the same procedure with the exception of a weak bleach rinse as the final step. Hot water so the canteen will dry quickly leave the lid open and seal in a plastic bag marking the date of the sterilization and store in accordance with your units policies and it should be ready to issue safely at whatever date that becomes necessary.

We also chatted about our Minuteman days on the border and logistical support of outlying positions, observation posts and the like. I told him I had been picking up these as I encountered them at local thrift stores:

The stainless steel thermos of the type pictured above can be had in thrift stores around here for between a buck and three bucks each. Why am I spending my slender resources on these? Because I have been in an overwatch position on a trail before and know that, after you've been there a while, a thermos of hot coffee, soup, or tea is a Godsend. Sometimes just having hot water delivered to you so that you can wash your face and your balls, or just shave, seems like Heaven on earth.

Fires in OPs are verboten, of course, and MRE heaters and Trioxane tabs are fine, as far as they go, for as long as the supply holds out. But a thermos full of hot water in a sturdy, reusable container is a cheap alternative.

Cadre, noun.

1: frame, framework

2: a nucleus or core group especially of trained personnel able to assume control and to train others.

3: a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party

4: a member of a cadre

-- Merriam Webster Dictionary.

Which led us, as old grizzled militia leaders often are, to the general subject of militia logistics and how most small unit leaders think -- and more importantly, prepare -- far too little about this vital subject.

In an emergency, all militia unit members at the outbreak are -- or had better be -- cadre. That is, they know, or are supposed to know, what they are doing and be able to a. transmit that knowledge quickly to unprepared and untutored volunteers and b. lead them in the expanded framework of the unit in the common purpose. In the event, folks who before were individual fire team members are now leading fire teams, or even squads, and squad leaders are commanding platoons. Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- had better be prepared to lead and teach as an NCO, for that is what they will be required to do when the volunteers show up.

They also had better have thought ahead about how they are going to arm and equip these newbies.

Often, I ran across guys in the 90s who, when SKS's were $69 a pop, would put back a case of rifles and a case or two of ammunition for the newbies in the event of if, as and when. When I did, I would always first complement them on their foresight and then ask: how are your volunteers going to carry your ammo? Is it in bandoleers and stripper clips? No? Isn't that problematic? Loose rounds tinkling in pockets are not very useful, in a whole lot of bad ways. Got extra cleaning fluid, patches, cleaning kits, spare parts? Do the weapons all have slings?

Uniforms? Identification friend or foe? Even ball caps of the same type and color will suffice in a pinch, IF you have thought it through and provided for the necessity. Water? Canteens? Plastic water bottles? How will they carry them? Load bearing equipment? Oh, you have SKS gunner's aprons (also known as "bras" to the uninitiated)?

Yeah, great. They're cheap and will hold stripper clipped 7.62x39 quite nicely. They're made for little Asian bodies, you know. Have you lengthened the straps so they will fit American bodies, provided Fastex buckles on those straps for quick in and out unassisted? Also, have you replaced the clumsy wooden toggle flap catches with fast and silent Fastex buckles as well? Have you matched up the number of gunner's aprons to rifles? Put some extras back for those neighbors you know who have SKS rifles but little else?

All these things a small unit leader must take into account. Bob and I know this because we've run FTXs where willing newbies show up. In fact, there are many things you'll never find out until you actually do field training exercises, but the most important of these is logistics. What works? What doesn't? If you don't work these things out now, ahead of time, they can bite you in the ass hard when the curtain rises.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Comments are invited.


straycat said...

Which canteen cup do you prefer, the wire handle or the old-style "L" shaped handle?

LFMayor said...

I've found a lot of utility in the 4 pocket M-16 bandoliers. After you pull the string that supports the 10 round strippers, they make a nice deep pocket that can hold a 30 round AR mag. I use these for 7.62x39, .308, x54r and 8mm stippers, as well as 12 and 20 gauge packed into 5 round "slug" boxes (or even loose).
Staple a piece of thin cardboard to the carry strap for quick ID of caliber and you have a nice grab and go of reloads that you can throw over a shoulder.
Use and old sock to pack it tight to prevent tinkling noise and it doubles as a cleaning rag source later.

LFMayor said...

not to hog the thread boys, but sportsmans guide has the norwegian web sets for cheap right now. Belt, canteen cover and suspenders with what looks to be two very nice, deep and wide general purpose mag pouches.

Chris said...

Thanks for the praxis. It is great to see you putting out info to help us, again..
F&F info is important, but there are a lot of us that need practical help
Again, many Thanks for all you have done for us

Anonymous said...

Screw the ALICE clips Mike...take it from an old Infantryman, use zip ties...the heavy kind.

Invisus, Inauditus, Impavidus

Former FAM


JoshuaF said...

Mike, I have been looking for canteen cups at a decent price. I broke down and bought myself some gear from Old Grouch. I do need to find me a good pistol rig to wear with the LBE gear.


pdxr13 said...

As one of the low-ranking kids in a bunker in Korea, I was impressed as all heck when the Squadron Commander and 1st Sgt. came out to our post with styrofoam-trayed breakfast and coffee in thermos about 3 hours before our relief was due. It was an opportunity to show off the improvements that we had made to the OP so that the Norks would be slightly-more-slowed before we were overwhelmed or bypassed. We weren't called "speedbumps" for nothing.

It was an opportunity for me to impart some Boy Scout Rifle & Shotgun Merit Badge info to the 19 year old urban Southern boys with me, like "don't point that thing at us! Keep it pointed up or down.".

Korea has every kind of weather: too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, with brief windows of niceness in spring and fall. Plenty of opportunity to die if intoxicated or poorly dressed. Just like here.

"Irregular" means that we want good function on the cheep. Thrift Store supply is great, requiring only a smart gatherer with a couple bucks to concentrate the gear, clean it up and get it to where it's needed.
Thanks Mike.


Robert Fowler said...

Numrich has alice clips. They run about 1.42 each. That's the cheapest I have found.

Maddawg308 said...

Robert - Coleman's Surplus in PA has new ALICE clips for 2 for $1.00.

straycat - the wire handles and the L handles are both good, I like the wire ones because the wire is made of stainless steel, and doesn't rust. The L handled ones the handle was made of steel, and they rust over time, and they often snapped off. I haven't seen any wire handled ones with snapped off handles.

Anonymous said...

The recent War Room link (praxis Sept 15th) for Y-harnesses helped me find a lot of other things I needed but not available at nearby thrift stores. They bought out another store and have many things other than what's listed on the website for good prices, so ask when you call. Besides, they're offering a Sipsey discount.


Slobyskya Rotchikokov said...

One more vote for the use of those heavy, 1/4 or 3/8 wide zip ties instead of Alice clips. Cut 'em off if you need to, re-attach when or where you want, carry a couple of dozen extras in your pack and the added weight is less than an ounce.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't find Norwegian web gear at Sportsman's Guide, but did find this Swedish set for $15: http://www.sportsmansguide.com/net/cb/5-pc-used-swedish-military-m304-belt-set-olive-drab.aspx?a=773068

Anonymous said...


Try this place for cheap canteens. Never bought from them myself, but googled around and they seem okay.

Try one of the Nalgene Oasis canteens if you get a chance. Probably a little easier to keep clean.

Dutchman6 said...

"Anonymous said... Screw the ALICE clips Mike...take it from an old Infantryman, use zip ties...the heavy kind. Invisus, Inauditus, Impavidus Former FAM III"

Agreed, certainly, but remember that the ALICE clips are necessary for issue of the equipment to newbies so they can put it on immediately, then play around with positioning each item on the rig until they get it just right. Then they can substitute either zip ties or 550 cord to put in place permanently. The ALICE c lips are then put back in the unit stores pot.

-- Mike

Chuck said...

Cleaning canteens, Nalgene bottles and other hard to clean containers is something for which I've found a sustainable solution. I looked at denture cleaners, but every time I use my bottle brush I have to wonder what folks will do when this stuff runs out.

A $3 baby calf bottle brush from Tractor Supply Co will just fit down the neck of a canteen. A little bend in the end will let you wiggle it around and get 100% of the fuzzies scrubbed out of old canteens.

The real beauty is that for weekly cleanings on my half dozen Nalgene bottles (half of which have GI canteen size necks) it'll likely last a lifetime.