By John Campbell
I became acquainted with Survivor Firestarters at the Survivalist and Prepper Expo in Prescott Valley Arizona. As soon as I walked in the entrance to the expo my eye naturally went to the booth that had the Texas Firestartes. First thing I noticed was the wooden handle with a mag bar sticking out of it. I picked one up and thought to myself this is a really great tool for the field. I looked it over and the rough look just haunted me all day. I really enjoy a rugged look to handmade tools, to me it gives this feeling of sensibility and longevity. I ended up going back to the booth later that day and introducing myself.
I have for a long time carried a mag bar of some kind with me in my fire kit. I find it to be an amazing back up to all the other cool gadgets that I carry to get my fire going. Looking at this from a serious standpoint the mag bar is really a life saving tool in the field. I have on several occasions been subjected to conditions that were not perfect. This being the case the mag bar has come in handy, the magnesium burns at 5,000 degrees and is hot enough to dry damp tinder. On cold, rainy, and even snowy days this can mean the difference between getting your fire going and dying during the night.
When using a mag bar there is definitely a trick to placing the shavings. Any wind and all that time you spent whittling off a dime or quarter sized pile ends up all over the place instead of where you need it. I find the best way is to simply take precautions. Each method making a fire requires preparation. This means everything must be put into place before your fire is ever lit. Using magnesium is no different. I personally prefer to make a wind block and set up a platform to protect the shavings. I can then strike the magnesium and gently roll my tinder over the fire. I also find that the particular way we strike the ferro rod has a lot to do with the outcome as well. I will usually pull back on my ferro rod rather than push forward with the striker. I find there is less chasing of tinder when striking that way.
The first mag bar in this article I will be talking about is good for over 6,000 strikes. It comes with a 7/16 mag bar and a 3/16 ferro rod. The handle is made out of a hardwood and personally I really like the looks of this. The striker is attached with a leather cord attached the handle. This mag bar is so light weight I found myself carrying it mostly in my pocket. I have tried carrying it in the pouch on my knife sheath, it fit there as well with no issues.
The next firestarter has a few more bells and whistles. This one is good for around 20,000 strikes and has a 5/8 mag bar with a 1/4 inch ferro rod. It comes with a blaze orange plastic handle with a thermometer and a compass embedded inside. The thermometer is liquid filled but the compass is not. I find that in the desert a non liquid filled compass is usually best. The temperature extremes can and will destroy a compass with any kind of liquid inside.
Using these tools seemed to be easier than using a standard mag bar. Having the handle allowed for much easier use of the striker while shaving off the magnesium. I also found that while holding the firestarter, using the ferro rod was also a breeze. This type of magnesium bar seems to feel more comfortable and is easier to use especially with my personal style of striking a ferro rod.
Personally I may feel a little different than most when it comes to this type of firestarter. I have been using mag bars since the Boy Scouts and they have been a part of my kit ever since. Whether it is a bug out bag, hiking kit, survival kit, or even for the backpacker or hunter I can see this as being a great tool to have on hand whether it is a back up or a primary means of getting your fire lit.
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