Sorry but this first draw in this video, looks like and excellent way to blow ones private parts away. So dear readers, try to convince me otherwise. Grumpy
It doesn’t take a smart person to guess it would be a bad idea to shoot your steel-toed boot with a .45.
We can thank this guy with a grimace for teaching everyone how bad of an idea this was.
The images surfaced on a forum and they are extremely graphic, so proceed with caution.
“This guy and his co-workers were discussing whether a steel toe boot would withstand a round from a .45, so what do do you think would be the best way to test this theory? YUP, you guessed it. Good thing he wasn’t testing his hard hat.”
Based on the placement of the shot, it almost appears the shooter missed his boot’s steel-toe insert in his boot. This might be a blessing in disguise, preventing metal shrapnel from spreading throughout the foot.
Let this be a not-so-friendly reminder to practice gun safety.
Transporting Firearms and Ammunition, a Frequent Flyer’s Perspective
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Recently I was talking with a few fellow gun owners about air travel and the transporting of firearms. I was surprised at how some of them thought that flying with firearms was more of a hassle than it is in reality. These were not casual shooters, either. Industry professionals would be a better term.
For decades flying with guns has been part of my way of life when traveling from point A to point B, whether to attend a trade show, go on a hunting trip, take a class or simply visit family and friends and want the security of my carry guns.
Air travel with firearms can be as difficult or complex as you want to make it or it can be very simple.
The most important thing to ensure is that your firearms and ammunition are legal in both your point of origin and destination.
According to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration):
“When traveling, comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments. If you are traveling internationally with a firearm in checked baggage, please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for information and requirements prior to travel. Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply. Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock. Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage. Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only. Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage. Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. Contact the TSA Contact Center with questions you have regarding TSA firearm regulations and for clarification on what you may or may not transport in your carry-on or checked baggage.”
“Unloaded firearms may be transported in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage. Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage. Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Read the requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)(8).”
You have basically two routes you can go here as far as a container.
- Use a dedicated hard-sided container for firearms
- If flying with a pistol or two, place your locked pistol case inside another piece of checked luggage.
When I fly, I always go with the first option. You may think that this only makes sense when traveling with a long gun and using a $300 wheeled and lockable rifle case and that certainly is an option. However, I found a case that fits not only my needs for flying with a few handguns but other valuables I do not trust to the good graces of an airport’s baggage crew.
It is the Pelican 1510 “Carry-On Case”, but do not let the name fool you, Pelican calls it that as it meets the maximum dimensions for carry-on baggage with most commercial airlines: 22.00″ x 13.81″ x 9.00″ (55.9 x 35.1 x 22.9 cm). Although, to be honest, it is a lot smaller than what I see most air travelers fly with as carry-on items.
Seriously, when did one bag and one personal item become two steamer trunks made in the 1920s with wheels and collapsible handles?
The interior gives you 19.75″ x 11.00″ x 7.60″ (50.2 x 27.9 x 19.3 cm) of secure storage space and the case can be ordered in a variety of colors (black, orange, yellow, red, green and tan). Additionally, you can configure the interior to how you want it.
Most shooters opt for the foam configuration and pluck out the shape of their firearm(s). I find this wasteful and recommend either the Trek Pak Divider system or the padded dividers. This allows me to use a second internal pistol case with my firearms and gives me plenty of room for other items I like to keep under lock and key such as cameras, night vision, thermal imagers, rifle parts, suppressors, ammunition and custom knives.
That is the second benefit of flying with a firearm; since it is transported in a locked case you can place other valuables with it for their protection.
Pelican’s 1510 case is small enough that it is easy to get around with due to its strong polyurethane wheels with stainless steel bearings and retractable extension handle, yet big enough that it cannot be secreted out of a secure area within an airport by a baggage thief. The padlock inserts are reinforced with stainless steel hardware and if you use quality padlocks, your guns and gear will usually arrive safe and sound.
If you think this is too much luggage to haul around with your other bags and are just transporting a handgun or two for concealed carry, you can place a small locked pistol case inside another piece of luggage. The pistol case must be locked, but the outer case cannot be. In my opinion this still leaves your pistol case open to theft as someone can reach in, remove the locked case and get it to a location where it can be pilfered or (if the case is small enough) stolen outright.
“United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44, firearm definitions includes: any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; and any destructive device. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 a loaded firearm has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.”
On one occasion while flying through Phoenix International Airport with firearms, a fellow passenger took note of us putting padlocks on my Pelican case and asked me how I was able to do that. He routinely transported high end electronics and did not trust the security of “TSA Approved Locks”.
I told him that I was transporting firearms and suggested he could do the same, by placing a firearm in his secured case with proper locks. He seemed hesitant but then relieved when I told him that TSA considers a pellet gun or starter pistol a fully-fledged firearm and a $20 non-gun would protect his case’s other more valuable contents.
When flying with handguns for CCW, I take along about 150 rounds in the original factory boxes. If I am attending a class that requires more (say 500 to 2000 rounds) I either buy it locally or have it shipped to the final destination.
As noted previous, ammunition may be stored in magazines, plastic reloading cases or the original cardboard containers.
If you are flying with a substantial amount, this is where the rules of the airlines come into play as many have specific weight allowances for ammunition. The limit seems to be 11 pounds on average.
Oftentimes, ticket counter agents or even TSA Agents may not completely know the rules. I advise printing out copies of the regulations governing firearms from the TSA Website as well as the airline’s requirements for the same in advance of your trip to present it when difficulties in communication occur.
When you declare your firearm, you will be given a declaration form to place in the case containing the firearm after you complete it. You may be asked to wait nearby for up to 30 minutes as the bag is checked in case TSA feels the need to inspect it. If TSA does not arrive, proceed to passenger screening and on to the gate.
When you reach your destination and retrieve your baggage it may come out on the carousel. Some airports will take secured baggage to an office near the baggage claim or a roped off area in the vicinity. Claim your bags and be on your way, it is that easy.
About Mike Searson
Mike Searson’s career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.
Mike has written over 2000 articles for several magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, Examiner.com and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.
I have Blogged many times about the Boer War and the indifferent British commanders that were in the Army at the time. I had commented that the British Soldiers were unmatched but their commanders were with few exceptions unremarkable to put it politely.
I bought a book in the early 90’s called “The Zulu Wars” and a bit later a book called “The khaki and the Red”. These books were fascinating to read the different history and battles that the Victorian era British army faced in defending the empire and “PAX BRITANNIA”.
Those books along with a book I used in college called “The Defense of Duffers Drift” which talked about small unit tactics during the Boer war. Some of the stuff was no longer relevant but it encouraged critical thinking. One of my favorite movies is “Zulu”, having the British soldiers stand and fight the word I remember from the movie was “Get some good pikeman”, for the use of the bayonet would be needed.
As I recall part of the British soldier to deal and adapt was part of the Victorian heritage that was prevalent at the time, the British soldiers and the culture believed that they were superior to everyone because they were British, it was part of the DNA.
For this reason they pushed the sphere of influence to a point where it was said that “The Sun never sets on the British Empire“. Also I remembered another movie with Michael Caine and Sean Connery “The man who would be King”
The Movie “The Man who would be King” was written by Rutyard Kipling, the same person that wrote the “Jungle Book” and he wrote ““Tommie” and many other things.
I ran across this article and I figured that it would tie on good with stuff that I had written.
DURING THE SECOND BOER WAR’S BATTLE OF SPION KOP, THE BRITISH EMPIRE CAME FACE TO FACE WITH AN INDIGENOUS ENEMY THAT EASILY MATCHED IT IN FEROCITY.
by Herman T. Voelkner
The century of conflict that would introduce the concept of total war to the world had its bloody roots on an obscure hilltop in the remote South African veldt. The Boer War, the last imperial struggle of the British Empire, would serve as the dividing line between the era of small, localized wars fought largely at the speed of hoof and foot and the global, mechanized slaughter that would follow. It would also prefigure the dismaying pattern of conflicts to come—the use of barbed wire, the introduction of concentration camps to contain Boer prisoners and their families, and industrial-age innovations in human-killing weapons. “War, which was once cruel and glorious, has become cruel and sordid,” globetrotting adventurer Winston Churchill would complain after observing the short, sharp conflict between his nation and the Republic of South Africa. It was—literally and figuratively—the beginning of the 20th century.
The war had a golden pedigree. When the precious metal was discovered in enormous quantities in the Transvaal region of South Africa in the 1880s, it roiled an already troubled situation. The Boers, itinerant Dutch-descended farmers, already had voted with their feet 60 years earlier in the “Great Trek” northward away from the growing British presence in the south. Now they were growing increasingly restive. Fiercely independent, they wanted no part of British intrusion into their public and private affairs, particularly the accompanying moral lectures on the burghers’ need for kinder, gentler relations with their slaves and servants. In 1881, Boer militia had ended the first armed conflict with Great Britain by hacking to pieces a British force at Majuba Hill. Humiliated, the British government acceded to self-government in the Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. (The South African colonies of Natal and Cape Colony continued to fly the Union Jack.) Two decades of uneasy peace followed.
GOLD RUSH LEADS TO WAR
The ensuing gold rush into the Witwatersrand upset the delicate political balance, bringing an unwanted influx of English prospectors into the heart of the Transvaal. These “Uitlanders,” as they were called, were close to forming a majority in the region. During an era when the world’s economy ran on gold, Great Britain saw in the large expatriate presence a heaven-sent opportunity for expanding its influence in its former territories. The Boers were well aware of the demographic danger. A clear indication of that danger came in the notorious Jameson Raid of 1895. Instigated by Cape Colony Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes—creator of the DeBeers diamond fortune—the raid began when Rhodes protégé Starr Z. Jameson led a force of Cape Colony volunteers into the Transvaal to coordinate an attack with restive Uitlanders in the boomtown of Johannesburg. The plan went disastrously awry when the rebellion did not spread as expected—opposition to Boer rule had been overestimated. Jameson and his men were quickly rounded up and handed over to British authorities, who gave them a mere slap on the wrist, further outraging Boer sensibilities.
Weapons and ammunition poured into the Boer republic from the Netherlands and Germany, which was eager to see Britain humbled again by the Boers. Old Martini-Henry rifles were replaced with modern German-made Mausers, and “God and the Mauser” quickly became the Boer war cry. Meanwhile, Transvaal President Paul Kruger roughly suppressed the Uitlanders, refusing them the right to vote and resisting intense British diplomatic pressure. Diplomatic entreaties might be ignored, but as Kruger and his countrymen gazed across the border, they saw something they could not control: shiploads of British Army reinforcements steadily disembarking in Cape Colony and Natal. The Boers must act or face a swelling tide of British soldiers. Kruger issued an ultimatum: Unless the British buildup ceased and its forces withdrew from the frontier, the Transvaal would fight. On October 11, 1899, the ultimatum expired, and war for control of the fabulously wealthy region began. The words Kruger had spoken to his countrymen after the discovery of Transvaal gold—“Instead of rejoicing you would do better to weep, for this gold will cause our country to be soaked in blood”—were now sadly prophetic.
The Natal-based garrison at Ladysmith, where colonial governor Sir George White was in residence, was one of the keys to the British defense; Kimberly and Mafeking were the others. The three cities ringed the perimeter of the Boer republics. The Boers understood this and took immediate steps to forestall any offensive moves by the British. Kimberly and Mafeking were surrounded. (In the latter township, Lord Baden Powell would organize the boys of the town into the first troops of Boy Scouts.) In the British cantonment at Ladysmith, White and 12,000 troops were under imminent threat of capture. A British general of great renown, Sir William Penn Symons, already had been killed by a Boer sniper; his infantry brigade, reeling back from the extreme north of Natal, was now retreating toward Ladysmith. Feeling that destiny was on their side, the Boer inhabitants of the two British colonies were now rising in rebellion, turning the preexisting political demographic on its head.
For the British, the news everywhere was grim. Winston Churchill, who sailed over to Cape Town from England with General Sir Redvers Buller, the commander-in-chief of British forces in South Africa, reported back caustically that the British could “for the moment, be sure of nothing beyond the gunshot of the Navy.” It was far from clear that Buller was the right man for the job. Although he had four decades of military experience behind him, as well as a Victoria Cross, Buller was unused to fighting any enemy with a level of sophistication higher than that of the Zulus. Engaging him now was a highly motivated mounted force both nimble and armed with modern weapons. In a moment of candid self-appraisal before the war, Buller had said, “I have always considered that I was better as second in command in a complex military affair that as an officer in chief command.” This was the man who now faced the daunting military task, defending the two British colonies in South Africa from a determined and resourceful enemy equally at home on the veldt or in the mountains.
CHURCHILL TRAVELS TO THE FRONT AND GETS CAUGHT
While Buller remained at Cape Town to sort things out, an impatient Churchill teamed with journalistic colleague John B. Atkins of the Manchester Guardian to go to the front at Ladysmith before other journalists could do so. The two took a 700-mile train ride on an undefended rail line that brushed against Boer strongpoints along the way. They then boarded a small steamer bound for Durban and immediately sailed into the teeth of an Indian Ocean storm. After several harrowing and wretchedly seasick days, the pair arrived at Durban to learn that Ladysmith was completely surrounded by Boers. Still determined to get to the fighting, Churchill and Atkins made another dangerous train ride of 60 miles that brought them to the end of the line at Estcourt. From there, they could hear the cannonfire at Ladysmith reverberating in the distance against tin-roofed shacks.
On November 14, Churchill was invited to participate in a reconnaissance by armored train, a dubious venture vulnerable to the simplest of countermeasures—a blocked track, a disturbed rail, or a blown bridge. The Boers, under their new commander, Louis Botha—two months earlier a Boer private—speedily obliged. A blockade sufficed; the train rammed boulders strewn along the track. Heavy rifle fire and shrapnel rained down from the hills. For over an hour the train was under fire as Churchill assisted in the defense and attempted escape. “I was very lucky in the hour that followed not to be hit,” he recounted later. “It was necessary for me to be almost continuously moving up and down the train or standing in the open, telling the engine-driver what to do.”
Churchill personally directed the recoupling of the cars in an attempt to ram the blockade, and when that failed, he led a group of wounded soldiers to relative safety beyond a nearby trestle. He was returning to lead more away from danger when he met some figures clad in slouched hats—Boers, he realized—leveling their rifles at him from a hundred yards away. He turned and ran in the other direction, bullets striking all around him. Minutes later a horseman appeared and pointed his rifle at the Englishman, who automatically reached for his pistol, only to find that he had left it on the train. He was taken prisoner after managing at the last second to discard two magazines of prohibited dum-dum bullets. With that, England’s preeminent warrior-journalist was led away to prison, his slyly discarded magazines very likely saving him from drumhead execution.
‘BLACK WEEK’ FOR THE BRITISH FORCES
While Churchill languished in Boer custody, depressing news filled the grim dispatches from South Africa to England. In the space of one week—December 10-15—the British suffered consecutive defeats at Stormberg, Magersfontein, and Colenso. From Buckingham Palace, a vexed Queen Victoria announced, “We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist.” But bold pronouncements could not obscure the truth arriving from the outer reaches of the Empire. The British had suffered their worst losses since the Crimean War a half-century earlier. All too clearly, the innate conservatism of the British military establishment had begun to take its toll. The cavalry had hitherto despised the carbine in favor of the sword—this in the dawning age of magazine-fed rifles and quick-firing guns. Few senior British officers realized that the old ways of open-order drill and carrying the day with regimental discipline and esprit de corps alone were now a prescription for outright slaughter.
At Stormberg, an attempt to wrest control of a railway junction from the Boers miscarried when the British forces were purposely misled by a native guide during a night march. Seven hundred British soldiers were missing or captured. Magersfontein was even worse. The much-vaunted Highland Brigade made an assault across an open plain in virtual parade formation against an enemy whose positions were hidden behind undiscovered barbed wire. The Boers had devised a new battlefield tactic: digging trenches dug down the front of a hill, known as the military crest, rather than at the top. By the time the attempt at Magersfontein to relieve the garrison at Kimberley was called off, 900 dead and wounded members of the Black Watch littered the battlefield.
At Colenso, Buller’s attempt to relieve Ladysmith also failed. The Irish Brigade, which was to have crossed the Tugela (“Terrible”) River three miles away, was misled by another guide, this time into a bend of the river where they were enfiladed from all sides by Boer riflemen. To make matters worse, Buller had deployed 12 field guns at Colenso without an infantry screen. In the face of withering rifle fire, the guns had to be abandoned. A handful of heroic British volunteers tried to recover them, but only two guns were brought back successfully. Casualties were relatively light, in comparison to the earlier two battles—only 150 killed. Meanwhile, Ladysmith remained under siege, and the hard-pressed British troops encircled there had begun to eat their horses and mules.
Until “Black Week,” as the English newspapers dubbed the six terrible days in mid-December, the worst of Britain’s casualties in the region had been suffered at Majuba nearly 20 years earlier, when fewer than 100 of her soldiers were killed. Now they were dying by the hundreds in battle after futile battle. These were not the usual native combatants on the fringes of the Empire—the Zulus, Pathans, or Dervishes. The Boers knew the ground far better than their foe, and they also knew the value of entrenching themselves within it. “Dig now, or they’ll dig your grave later” was their watchword. They were fiercely determined and well armed. A heavy Maxim gun firing one-inch shells, dubbed the “Pom-pom,” ranked alongside German-built Krupp howitzers, 75mm field guns, 155mm “Long Toms” firing 40-pound shrapnel shells, and the ubiquitous Mausers, effectively shredding the serried British ranks. Slowly, it dawned on the British that this was to be no “splendid little war” such as the United States had enjoyed against Spain the year before, but a grinding fight to the death against a seriously underestimated enemy.
BULLER DEMOTED; ROBERTS TAKES CHARGE
Buller was badly shaken, wiring home the despairing judgment that “I ought to let Ladysmith go.” He then sent a message to the encircled White, ordering him to burn his ciphers, fire off his ammunition, and seek whatever terms he could with the enemy “after giving me time to fortify myself.” What happened instead was a change in leadership. Buller was demoted, although he continued to command the forces in Natal, and he was told to persist in trying to lift the siege at Ladysmith. The new British commander-in-chief was retired Field Marshal Lord Frederick Roberts, 67 years old when he was recalled to active duty. Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener—“Kitchener of Khartoum”—would serve as Roberts’ chief of staff. Roberts had already had at least one communication from Buller before he departed from London for his South African command: “Your gallant son died today. Condolences, Buller.” Such was the epistolary epitaph of the younger Roberts, who had been killed trying to save Buller’s guns at Colenso.
While Roberts and Kitchener were taking charge of the overall situation, Buller was reinforced in Natal by Lt. Gen. Charles Warren and the 5th Infantry Division. Warren was an odd choice to aid Buller—the older general despised him from Warren’s days as a commander in Malaya, when he had bombarded Buller with demands and complaints while Buller was serving as British adjutant general. (“For heaven’s sake, leave us alone,” Buller had finally told Warren, in utter exasperation.) Now he gave Warren the task of crossing the Tugela River and moving on the Boer right at Tabanyama Ridge, 12 miles southwest of Ladysmith. Meanwhile, Buller would attack the enemy center at Potgeiter’s Drift. Once through the hills beyond the river, the two English columns would reunite for a last-ditch drive across the open plains to Ladysmith.
Warren, who had spent much of his career excavating historical sites in Palestine, had grown accustomed to the painstaking pace of archaeology. Given two-thirds of Buller’s ponderous army to command—11,000 infantrymen, 2,200 cavalry, and 36 field guns—he took the better part of nine days to reach Trichardt’s Drift on the Tugela, the jumping-off point for the coordinated attack. Another day was wasted ferrying guns and supplies across the river.
The Boers, with their crack contingent of scouts, knew every move the British were making. They responded by strengthening their defenses and shifting troops from the siege of Ladysmith to the line of hills overlooking the Tugela. Louis Botha was dispatched to take command of the burghers’ defense. Reasoning correctly that the British always attacked head-on, Botha paid particular attention to the large hill in the center of his line—Spion Kop. Aptly named, the boulder-bedecked “Spy Hill” rose to a height of over 1,400 feet, the centerpiece of several hills that commanded the veldt and the approaches to Ladysmith north of the river. Sixty years earlier, the first hardy voortrekkers had climbed its prominence during the Great Trek northward. Then, as now, they were fleeing the British, but this time they were better armed and better fortified. When the time came, they would be ready.
On January 20, Warren finally attacked the Boer positions on Tabanyama Ridge. The khaki-clad British troops managed to carry a hill or two before halting amid a cyclone of Mauser fire. Ahead of them lay a thousand yards of open grassland, more than enough distance to give them pause, particularly in the face of the quick-firing Boers. Warren wanted to conduct a leisurely bombardment before making another attack, but he was overruled by Buller, who ordered him to attack again immediately. The order came with an explicit “or else.” Buller threatened to call off the entire campaign if Warren did not do as he was told. Thinking quickly—or at least as quickly as he was capable of thinking—Warren suggested an alternative plan. Instead of renewing his attack on the Boer right, he would move on Spion Kop. Buller was not appeased. “Of course you must take Spion Kop,” he told his hated subordinate, but he neglected to supply him with any new troops or ideas on how to accomplish it. It was going to be left to Warren alone, much to the detriment of the men he commanded.
BRITISH TAKE SPION KOP
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Thorneycroft, commanding a contingent of mounted infantry, was selected to spearhead Warren’s attack. On the evening of January 23, Thorneycroft and his men surreptitiously climbed the slope on the near side of Spion Kop and seized the sere moonscape of the summit, a flash of Lee-Enfields and total surprise winning them the strategic position with very few casualties. Three cheers went up for Queen Victoria—the prearranged signal for success—and the way to Ladysmith lay before them at last. But first they must hold on to their prize. Maj. Gen. Edward Woodgate, senior commander on the hill, quickly got the men busy digging trenches in the moonlight, before the eagle-eyed Boers could zero in on their position. He sent a note to Warren informing him of the success, adding that he expected that Spion Kop could be “held till Doomsday against all comers.”
The hill had been shrouded in fog, and when the mists slowly cleared with the dawn it became all too evident to the British that they did not hold the hilltop at all, but only a small, acre-wide plateau ringed on three sides by higher hills that afforded the enemy perfectly sited, boulder-protected firing positions. The Boers, who had watched the leisurely progress of the British with tight-lipped satisfaction, were even now creeping into those positions. Botha ordered his men to retake the position before the British had time to move up their own heavy guns. His burghers quickly poured devastating salvos into the densely packed British troops. The Englishmen, hunkering down in shallow trenches in a confined space comparable in size and dimension to Trafalgar Square, had little cover. The Boers’ artillery, signaled by heliograph, directed intense fire at Spion Kop from the surrounding hills. Shells rained down on the British position at the rate of 10 per minute. Meanwhile, the British heliograph had been knocked out, and they had no comparable artillery support from their own crack gunners. The soldiers atop Spion Kop were on their own.
THE MASSACRE BEGINS
Responding to Botha’s call for reinforcements, Commandant Henrik Prinsloo led his 88-man Carolina Commando onto Aloe Knoll, 400 yards east of the British position. From there, Prinsloo’s marksmen unleashed a deadly fire on the unsuspecting men of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who were on the extreme right flank of the British trench. The Khakis, as the Boers called them, never knew what hit them. Seventy were later found lying dead with bullet holes in the right side of their heads—they had not even had time to turn around. Also struck dead was their commanding general, Woodgate, who fell mortally wounded with a shell splinter above his right eye. His replacement, Colonel Malby Crofton, sent a hasty message down the hill to Warren: “Reinforce at once or all lost. General dead.” Warren, unhelpful as always, signaled back: “You must hold on to the last. No surrender.” His entire career depended on it.
Grimly, the British held on to the 400-yard-wide battlefield. No one on the British side had given much thought to what to do after seizing Spion Kop; asked what his force should do next, Buller had answered dogmatically, “It has got to stay there.” It stayed there all right, stolid and immobile, absorbing a horrific beating. Many of the officers were killed, victims of the Victorian-era code that prohibited a gentleman from taking cover under fire. The men in the ranks, less hidebound and conventional, squirmed into every square inch of cover they could find in the rocky topsoil. It did little good. Boer artillery shells dismembered entire files of soldiers where they lay, while those foolish enough to raise their heads off the ground were immediately shot dead by enemy snipers.
On the command level, all was chaos. At one time or another, four separate senior British officers believed themselves to be in command. In his only direct action of the day, Buller recommended to Warren that he “put some really good hard fighting man in command on the top. I suggest Thorneycroft.” Warren, glad for any assistance, promoted Throneycroft to brigadier general and gave him operational control of the battle. Thorneycroft’s first move was to countermand an attempt by the Lancashire Fusiliers to surrender to the Boers who were bedeviling them. “Take your men back to hell, sir!” Thorneycroft roared at the Boer officer who had approached to accept the surrender under a white flag. “I allow no surrender.” Shamefaced, some of the Fusiliers skulked back to their own lines; others, having no wish to commit state-sanctioned suicide, dashed into the Boer lines and surrendered.
Returning to the forefront now was Winston Churchill, who besides bearing journalist’s credentials also carried a new commission in the South African Light Horse given to him by Buller after Churchill’s extraordinary escape from a Boer prison (see sidebar). Churchill climbed Spion Kop and assayed the scene for himself, conveying it later in words that would find their echo on the Western Front in Europe 15 years later: “Corpses lay here and there. Many of the wounds were of a horrible nature. The splinters and fragments of the shells had torn and mutilated them. The shallow trenches were choked with dead and wounded.” As Churchill climbed and re-climbed the hill, ferrying messages from Buller’s camp, he was “continually under shell and rifle fire and once the feather in my hat was cut through by a bullet. But in then end I came serenely through.”
Little else was serene on the bloody hilltop. Boers and Britons faced each other across a landscape of butchered bodies and heaped wreckage. Battalions were hopelessly intermixed. Messages between the hilltop and Buller, four miles away, were sporadic and confused, and several messengers fell dead with vital information unread in their hands. No one below knew the situation above. Some officers thought the hilltop overcrowded, while others thought there was a vital need for reinforcements. Thorneycroft, for his part, seemed dazed and utterly exhausted. He sent another message to Warren, from whom he had not heard in five long hours. “The troops which marched up here last night are quite done in,” he reported. “They have had no water, and ammunition is running short. It is impossible to permanently hold this place so long as the enemy’s guns can play on the hill. It is all I can do to hold my own. If casualties go on at the present rate I shall barely hold out the night.”
THORNEYCROFT ORDERS A TOTAL WTHDRAWAL
After a hurried conference with Crofton and Lt. Col. Ernest Cooke of the newly arrived Scottish Rifles, Thorneycroft ordered a total withdrawal. A last-second message from Warren promising that help was on the way fell on deaf ears. “Better six good battalions safely down the hill than a bloody mop-up in the morning,” Thorneycroft said. “I’ve done all I can, and I’m not going back.” In vain, the upstart Lieutenant Churchill argued the point, and the retreat began. Abandoning the hard-won hill, the British survivors met their reinforcements massing at the bottom, en route to assist them in consolidating their position. It was too late—surely the Boers had already retaken the hilltop—and Thorneycroft turned these troops around as well. Survivors and reinforcements alike trudged back down the hillside.
Unknown to the British, the Boers had also lost the will to fight, and they too had begun to melt away, in part because they were startled by a sudden move across the Tugela by the King’s Royal Rifle Corps east of Spion Kop at Acton Homes. Barely a handful of Boers remained on hand to threaten the British. The hilltop so fiercely contested at such human cost was discovered by two joyful Boer scouts to be empty. After the British had spent 16 days and suffered almost 2,000 casualties on the campaign, Botha’s burghers were atop Spion Kop once more as if nothing had happened. Only the three-deep piles of British dead remained to dispel that illusion. In soldierly admiration, a Boer doctor examined the human carnage and said, “We Boers would not, could not, suffer like this.”
Botha, returning to the hilltop the next morning, beheld “a gruesome, sickening, hideous picture.” Some 400 dead British soldiers lay sprawled in a shallow trench that would serve double-duty as their grave; another 1,400 were wounded or in captivity. Boer losses were considerably lower—58 dead and 140 wounded, including 55 of Prinsloo’s 88 hard-fighting Carolina Commando. Botha sent a humble telegram back to President Kruger: “Battle over and by the grace of a God a magnificent victory for us. The enemy driven out of their positions and their losses are great. It breaks my heart to say that so many of our gallant heroes have also been killed or wounded. It is incredible that such a small handful of men, with the help of the Most High, could fight and withstand the mighty Britain.”
BRITISH NUMBERS FINALLY PREVAIL
Finally, with his artillery in full support, Buller managed to throw a pontoon bridge across the Tugela, and overwhelming British infantry turned the key in the Ladysmith lock, seizing the last remaining hilltop barring their way. The siege of the British forces there had lasted 118 days. It was lifted on February 27, 1900, ironically the anniversary of the defeat the British had suffered at Majuba 19 years earlier.
Lord Roberts now took center stage as overall commander after the protracted drama of Ladysmith. His forces totaled over 200,000 against 88,000 Boers. The latter began to abandon the Transvaal, retreating into the hinterland in another Great Trek. Churchill, as ever marching to the sound of the guns, carried by bicycle a crucial dispatch to Roberts through a Johannesburg still occupied by Boers; the slightest challenge by a wary burgher might have caused him to be executed as a spy. His audacity endeared him to yet another commander-in-chief. As the Boers withdrew to the east, yielding large parts of the Transvaal, Roberts allowed Churchill to enter Pretoria at the front of the column. One of Churchill’s singular pleasures was to hoist the Union Jack over the place where he had been held as a prisoner of war.
Other combat followed in the form of desultory running fights with the Boers who, despite having been defeated in the field, refused to capitulate. Raiding deep into British territory, the Boers fought for two more years in the newly developed irregular fashion called guerrilla warfare—another dubious innovation bestowed on the newborn century. Buller, for his part, had managed no such innovative thinking. He could have followed up the British cavalry’s success at Acton Homes and exploited its mobility to outflank the Boers and open the road to Ladysmith, but he could not get his main force there quickly enough, and thus had to fight a battle that grossly favored the enemy. Churchill’s biting description of Buller’s traveling camp was apt: “Within striking distance of a mobile enemy whom we wish to circumvent, every soldier has canvas shelter. Rapidity of movement is out of the question. It is poor economy to let a soldier live well for three days at the expense of killing him on the fourth.”
The laborious and cumbersome movements doomed hundreds of regular British soldiers to a Mauser bullet in the head at Spion Kop, and the hidebound conventions of the Victorian era—sneering at the use of cover and demanding an unflappable hauteur in the presence of the enemy—left their bloody epitaph stitched across the chests of their gentlemanly commanders. Few British survivors of Spion Kop would have disputed the mordant words of Manchester Guardiancorrespondent John Atkins, who was there that day and later summed up the battle as “that acre of massacre, that complete shambles.” Indeed it was.
A man’s home is his castle and natural disasters are the closest thing to an attacking army. When mother nature chooses to exercise her power on your home, there’s little you can do to stop it, especially during storms that include high wind, like hurricanes. Flying debris and sudden powerful gusts can blow out windows, skylights, and sliding glass doors that spread broken glass throughout your home and let in rain, which can cause serious water damage. If you have time before the next big one hits, boarding up your windows properly can help alleviate some of the damage and halt the invasion.
It’s been fodder for many a heated debate among men for centuries.
What skills should every man know?
A vast amount of ink and e-ink has been spilled on the subject. But why?
Part of being a man is being competent and effective in the world. To do that, you’ve got to have skills. A man wants to know (or at least feel like he knows) that no matter what situation he’s placed in, he’ll be able to handle himself — to act rather than be acted upon. Hence our incessant drive to figure out what skills we’ll need to know in order to demonstrate confidence and capability in our manly roles as procreators, protectors, and providers.
For primitive man, this needed skill-set was clear and relatively narrow, largely revolving around the jobs of fighting and hunting.
The breadth of skills needed today, however, is much wider. The modern man must be both a warrior and a diplomat, a woodsman and a scholar. We need both hard skills and soft skills; skills we use every day and skills we keep in the back pocket, just in case.
We’ve covered many of these skills over the years on the Art of Manliness, and so figured it was time to add our contribution to the collective cultural enterprise of figuring out which skills a well-rounded, grown man should have. Below you’ll find the AoM list of 100 skills every man should know.
Even in our casual culture where hoodies are appropriate attire for billionaire CEOs, every man should know how to tie a tie. Funerals, weddings, and job interviews are just a few occasions when a sharp necktie is appropriate, and you’ll be attending plenty of those during your adult life. You don’t want to be the 30-something who needs to ask his mom to tie his tie for him.
There’s a primordial link between men and fire. While it’s no longer necessary for our survival, man’s connection to fire still exists. It’s both exhilarating and calming, dangerous and assuring. There’s nothing like sitting around a crackling fire under a starry sky while poking the embers with a stick and meditating on the big questions in life. Just for those reasons alone a man should know how to build a fire. But it’s also vital to know so you can build a fire while camping in order to cook a solid meal for yourself and those with you. Using Duraflame logs is a cardinal sin that will automatically send you to outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Being asked to hang a picture on the wall may be perhaps the world’s most common “honey-do.” While not necessarily an exact science, knowing some basics about wall hangings, and where to place prints on the wall, will ensure that your home has charm that will knock the socks off visiting dates and parents, and greatly please your main squeeze.
A pair of shoes with a mirror shine can add the finishing touch to a sharp get-up. And besides keeping your shoes in tip-top shape, the act of shoe shining is a satisfying, manly ritual that calms the mind. The repetitive strokes of the shine brush coupled with the warm smell of shoe shine polish is enough to put you into a meditative state. To go the extra mile, build your own shoe shine box.
Since the very dawn of man, snakes have been one of our greatest enemies. They slither and sneak and hiss, and just are no good for anyone. Should you encounter a poisonous variety of snake (learn how to identify them here!), it’s in your best interest to know how to treat being bitten. Hint: most of the old wives’ tales are just that, so don’t go trying to suck the poison out.
6. Read a Book
1) Open book. 2) Read words. 3) Close book. 4) Move on to next book. Reading a book seems like a pretty straightforward task, doesn’t it? And in some cases, it is. If you’re reading purely for entertainment or leisure, it certainly can be that easy. There’s another kind of reading, though, in which we at least attempt to glean something of value from the book in our hands (whether in paper or tablet form). In such cases, there are certain techniques you must master to be able to dive deeper into the text and suck out all the marrow.
While bear attacks are rare, a man should always be prepared. Whether you’re camping for a weekend, or simply out for a morning hike, you never know when you’ll need this information. Believe it or not, just weeks after I compiled the research for our AoM guide on the topic, I encountered not one, but two black bears on a popular trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. It does happen. I was surprisingly calm with this useful knowledge at hand, and I felt confident I could have taken down those black bears should necessity have called. Alas, it didn’t, and I mourned the loss of the new rug I was looking forward to for my living room.
8. Wet Shave
Electric shaving is fast and easy and the multi-bladed razors can give you a pretty close shave. But nothing beats the manly ritual of shaving with a safety razor or straight razor. Traditional wet shaving adds an element of skill back into what has become a mindless grooming activity. It makes you mindful and present. Plus, old school wet shaving is much cheaper than using the fancy multi-blade cartridges. A blade will only set you back about 25 cents. Feel manly and save money? It’s a win-win proposition.
In the suburbs you enjoy endless drive-in parking in the giant lots in front of big box stores. Make a trip downtown and it’s a different story. Yeah, there are parking garages, but most of the parking is on the street next to the curb (not to mention it’s also the cheapest), meaning you need to know how to parallel park. You don’t want to be the guy who holds up traffic because he’s constantly backing up and moving forward after multiple failed attempts.
10. Paddle a Canoe
Paddling lazily across the water is one of man’s great joys. Whether with your gal on a date, or just enjoying nature on a solo outing, there are few better recreational activities. While paddling might seem as natural as riding a bike, it takes a certain level of skill to deftly captain a canoe. Don’t be that guy/couple who can’t make headway because they paddle inefficiently or even tip over and end up in the water.
Depending on where you are in the world, negotiation is either a part of everyday life or an uncomfortable practice that’s consciously avoided whenever possible. But here’s a truth that many of us, especially those of us living in the Western world, don’t always consider: whether or not you realize it, many of your commercial transactions can be negotiated. From hotel rooms, to rental cars, to complex business deals, knowing how to haggle can save you (or your business) a boatload of money. It’s awkward, sure, but with practice, you’ll get more confident and capable in the deft art of negotiating.
12. Fix a Leaky Faucet
Drip. Drip. Drip. It can drive a man crazy in the middle of the night when he’s trying to sleep. It can also cost you money in the long run, in both water and handyman bills. While plumbing is not always a DIY project, fixing a leaky faucet is generally a pretty simple task. With a couple tools, a trip to your local hardware store, and this guide from This Old House, you’ll restore your sanity in no time.
13. Treat a Burn
Burns can happen just about any time and any place. Spilled coffee, mischievous campfire, over-heated car engine — our world is rife with potential for harm through heat. Should you find yourself with a first or even second-degree burn, you can almost always treat it yourself. A couple tips: You want to slowly cool the affected area with cool, not icy, water. Make sure to clean the burn and apply an antibiotic ointment, and don’t pop the blisters, as that increases the infection risk. More info about treating burns can be found here.
14. Tell a Joke
In the age of dank memes and viral videos, the art of the well-told joke is a dying skill. Knowing how to make people laugh without resorting to showing a guy kicked in the nuts on your smartphone will set you apart from the pack. Plus, when you’re out in the middle of the woods and cell phone reception is non-existent, knowing how to tell a well-timed joke will be some of the only entertainment you have.
If you regularly watch your local news for the weather forecast, or check your smartphone for it, you know how often they are flat out wrong. While forecasting has come a long ways, some of the most accurate tools are the oldest. Barometers, for instance, can tell you what the weather will be like in the next 24-48 hours as well as any professional forecast. Beyond scientific instruments, even old proverbs — like “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red skies in morning, sailors take warning” — have many kernels of truth contained within. Soon enough your own predictions will be beating that of your local weatherman.
The deadlift trains the muscles that allow you to perform one of the most basic of human movements — lifting stuff off the ground. Besides the squat, no other exercise provides as much practicality as the deadlift. And it just feels plain awesome to hoist 400+ lbs off the ground with a barbell.
There’s something about reciting a poem from memory that’s different from just reading it over and over again. The words become a part of you. They may not be your original words, but when you say them from memory, it feels like they’re coming from the heart. Reciting a poem from memory can provide you and others inspiration and consolation in trying times. Plus, knowing how to effortlessly sprinkle in a few lines from a poem in a conversation can make you appear a bit like the Most Interesting Man in the World.
While the propane barbecue grill has only been around since the 1950s, men have been grilling with charcoal for thousands of years. Rather than just pushing a button for your fire, charcoal requires a little more skill and care, and according to most folks, makes for a better-tasting product as well. Bone up on lighting a charcoal grill.
19. Perform CPR
Some emergency situations are so urgent that calling 911 and waiting for paramedics will be too late. One of those is in the case of heart attack or other scenario where someone becomes unresponsive and is having trouble breathing. Believe it or not, one-quarter of Americans say they’ve been in such a situation. Don’t be caught unprepared. While you should know conventional CPR, you should also be aware of the new hands-only method which can be used on teenagers and adults.
20. Throw a Spiral
Whether you’re playing catch with your kiddos on a Saturday or playing all-time QB at this year’s Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl, you’ll need to know how to throw a nice, tight football spiral.
21. Sew a Button
You’re hastily getting ready for work, and as you button up your nice oxford shirt, one pops off. You’ve known it was loose, and that this reckoning would come. What is a man to do? Sew it back on, of course! While sewing may seem like a skill purely in the ladies’ realm, knowing this simple clothing fix can come in mighty handy when you’re in a pinch.
22. Split Firewood
Yes, most of us have central heating to keep our houses warm during the winter, but there’s nothing like the warm glow of a fireplace fire during the winter months to keep you toasty. But to get the big logs to fit into your fireplace, you’ll need to make them smaller by splitting them. And let’s be honest, splitting wood isn’t so much about lowering your heating bill, but rather about the satisfaction a man gets when his maul goes cleanly through a log and splits it in one stroke. It makes for great exercise, too.
23. Find Potable Water
When you’re lost in the woods, your most immediate needs are food, shelter, and water — the last of which is the most pressing. One method of finding safe drinking water is to collect rainwater. If you’re going to use lake or river water, it should be purified, which can be done with filtration, iodine tablets, and other methods.
There’s no sound as disheartening to a driver than the “flop flop” of a flat tire. Instead of cursing about it, look at a flat tire as a chance to display your manly sufficiency by changing it yourself. Knowing how to change a flat will save your own butt when you’re out on some lonely stretch of highway, and will come in handy when helping a damsel in distress or a hapless traveler on the side of the road.
You’re in a burning house and you need to escape, but the door is on fire. Or your loved ones are in a burning house and you’re locked out. You can’t stand there fiddling with the lock — you’ve got to break it down! Or perhaps a loved one is stricken with a medical emergency and is locked inside a room or in their house. What to do? Be a man, dammit! Break down that door! You know you’ve always wanted to.
26. Take the Perfect Photo
The advent of the smartphone means that most everyone is carrying a high-quality HD camera in their pocket at all times. Unfortunately, this fact alone doesn’t mean you’re taking good pictures with it. Don’t let life’s memorable moments be hampered by a poor photo. Play around with your camera, get to know the various settings, and understand some basics about what makes a great photo.
27. Sharpen a Knife
From pocket knives to kitchen knives to survival knives, blades are one of man’s most important tools. But a dull blade renders your knives useless and dangerous. Know how to sharpen a blade, do it regularly, and you’ll always be ready to slice off a piece of apple, or even slay a killer raccoon.
28. Change a Diaper
Even if you don’t have plans of being a dad, you’ll end up changing a poop-filled diaper at some point in your life, perhaps for a nephew or godson. Many men are intimidated by the task, but there’s really not much to it, and there are a few tricks that can make it a quick and tidy affair.
29. Give a Speech
We all are faced with speaking opportunities throughout our lives. Whether it’s running for student council president, making a presentation at work, having your voice heard at a city council meeting, or offering a eulogy, a knack for public speaking makes you a more persuasive and powerful man.
30. Navigate With Map and Compass
Sure, we’ve got phones with Google Maps that can give us turn-by-turn directions. But what happens when you don’t have the phone because you’re in the middle of the wilderness and you can’t get a signal? How are you going to get back to your fancy ski lodge now? With a map and compass of course. Out of all the skills I’ve learned over the years, this has been one of the most empowering. It just feels awesome knowing that by simply getting my bearings with a compass and looking at a topographic map I can traverse miles and get to where I need to be.
31. Unclog a Toilet
Some clogs will take care of themselves with a few flushes, but sometimes you drop a monster so big that it takes a bit of work and know-how to get the toilet unclogged. For added skill points, know how to unclog a toilet without a plunger. That’ll save you when you clog the toilet at your girlfriend’s parents’ house and you don’t want to shamefully ask for a plunger.
32. Buy a Suit
You’ll likely buy two or three suits in your lifetime. If you buy the right one, it will be years, maybe even a decade, before you’ll have to buy another, so know what to look for in a quality suit — how it should fit, how it should be constructed, the details you should care about, and the alterations that can make it nigh near perfect. Not only will knowing how to buy a suit help you, you’ll also be able to help friends and family navigate the haberdashery so they don’t waste money on a crappy-looking outfit.
Swimming is not only a fun recreational activity, but a survival skill as well. Knowing how to swim the front stroke could not only win you a gold medal (even if it’s just in your backyard olympics), but could very well save your life someday too. It’s the fastest of the primary swimming strokes, and is among the first that any swimmer learns in the pool. If you don’t yet know it, take it upon yourself to find an instructor, and dive in!
34. Shake Hands
A firm handshake is an important part of a good first impression. A full-grip handshake, given with just the right pressure, and accompanied with your looking in the person’s eyes, conveys warmth and confidence. Conversely, a limp, dead-fish shake or a crushing death grip will get your meeting off on the decidedly wrong foot. Or hand, I guess.
35. Treat Frostbite
It only takes 30 minutes to get frostbite when it’s 0 degrees outside with a 15mph wind. Decrease the temp or up the wind speed, and that number quickly goes to 10 and even 5 minutes. If you experience loss of color or feeling at your extremities (frostbite hits your body at its furthest points from your core), you’re possibly experiencing an onset of frostbite. The first step is to slowly rewarm the affected areas with warm, not hot, water. See here for more tips on treating frostbite.
36. Iron Your Clothes
You’ve got a pair of trousers and a custom shirt, but the whole get-up looks terrible because you couldn’t take the time or didn’t have the know-how to iron your clothes. Many men don’t know how to iron their pants or their shirt because dear old mom did it for them and once they got married, the Mrs. took over the chore. But every man is going to have a period in his life when he’s on his own and he’ll have to do his own ironing. It’s not that hard and takes just five minutes, but it can make all the difference between an outfit looking put-together or sloppy.
Every day there’s a chance we’ll encounter a threat that can put our safety in danger — an active shooter, a deranged co-worker, or even an inattentive driver. Often times we don’t notice the threat until it’s too late because we’re so engrossed in our own headspace. In the tactical world, it’s often said that the best way to win a fight is to avoid a fight in the first place. To do that, you need to develop your situational awareness. Situational awareness isn’t just knowing what’s going on around you, it also means having a plan for what to do when you notice something go awry.
The pull-up is one of the best upper-body exercises out there, but most people don’t even know how to do one properly. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and start from a dead hang. Pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Lower yourself down in a controlled manner and repeat. None of that kipping garbage.
39. Build a Shelter
In any kind of survival scenario, proper shelter will provide much-needed protection from the elements. With some basic materials (wood, reflective blankets, fire), and just a little bit of know-how, you can ensure that you’ll not only survive a night (or more), but even sleep warmly.
40. Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food is not only a pleasurable, recreational activity, but goes towards building your self-reliance and antifragility as well. Today’s foodstuffs are loaded with unpronounceable chemicals and additives, and whole, natural foods remain expensive. Why not grow your own fruits and vegetables for a fraction of the cost, and twice the flavor? Need even more reasons to start a garden? Here are seven.
41. Cook Eggs
Eggs are a breakfast staple if for no other reason than their sheer versatility. They can be enjoyed on sandwiches, in scrambles, as omelets, or eaten right out of the shell (raw or cooked!). If you can master a few ways to cook eggs, you’ll be a breakfast aficionado who will wow your significant other, or your kids, depending on your station in life. Your primary varieties — scrambled, fried, poached, and hard-boiled — are all easily learned in just a few minutes.
42. Make Small Talk
When you spot an acquaintance in a store, do you hope they don’t see you? Does the idea of walking into a party where you only know one person fill you with dread? Do you keep trying to summon up the courage to talk to the cute girl who makes your lattes at the local coffee shop, but whenever you get up to the counter, all you can muster is your order? All of us can relate in some way or another to the conundrum of small talk. It’s sometimes uncomfortable, but can be truly life-changing; you never know if the person you’re standing across from could end up being a good friend, a coworker, or even a wife.
A stroll in the woods is nearly always an enjoyable endeavor; what’s not so enjoyable is discovering a red, itchy rash the next day. Each year, millions of Americans come in contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. These may be the most common irritants, but are far from the only ones. Besides being able to identify plants that can harm you, it’s also beneficial to know the plants that could save your life in a dire situation. Knowing your foliage — both good and bad — is truly a skill every man should have!
44. Do a Front Dive
Much like swimming, knowing how to properly dive is not only just a fun skill to have, but could help save your life. In a scenario where you need to skedaddle into the water quickly, such as a sinking boat, the dive is the way to go. It propels you with a jump start of momentum rather than having to get going from the standstill of treading water.
45. Shuffle Cards
It’s always surprising when you’re playing a card game, rotating the shuffling of course, and one of the players has to sheepishly pass the deck because they don’t know this simple, manly skill. If you’re playing cards — be it poker, euchre, gin rummy — you should be able to do your part and shuffle the deck, and do it with some flair too!
In the book, The Hunting Hypothesis, author Robert Ardrey highlights the research and theories that suggest that what made humans human was the ability to hunt. Since our hunter-gatherer times, hunting has always fallen on men. Ardrey suggests that hunting is how men have displayed nurturing and caring behavior since time immemorial. Besides allowing you to connect with our primal history, knowing how to hunt will allow you to provide for yourself and your family even if you don’t have access to a grocery store. In fact, you could provide a full year of meat for your family during a single hunting season. Kiss your meat expenses goodbye.
Does it really matter how you pour your beer? Isn’t beer, beer, no matter how it’s poured? Well, that may be the case if you’re drinking low-quality beer (I won’t name names), but when drinking a fine brew, it can mean a world of difference. When properly poured, the beer produces aromas and flavors that can only be present at the right conditions, and with the agitation of a proper pour.
Even if you have the physical strength to save someone’s life by carrying them to safety, do you know the right way to do it? Every man should know how to perform what is called the “fireman’s carry.” It’s an effective way to distribute someone’s weight, allowing you to haul them over long distances with minimal strain. Next time you have to carry an injured victim from a burning building, down a hiking trail, or off the battlefield, employ the fireman’s carry.
You’ve arrived at the campsite with your friends and some cold beer in the cooler, only to realize you left the bottle opener at home. Lucky for you, that’s no problem — you’re a master of improvisation. We put together 9 MacGyver-esque tricks to open a bottlewhenever you find yourself without an opener. You’ll never be left high and dry again.
50. Cast a Fishing Line
Fishing has been a skill that fathers have passed down to sons since time immemorial. It’s not only a fun and relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon, but hearkens back to our caveman and caveson days, when fishing was more than just a pastime, but a survival skill. And one of the first steps to learning fishing? Knowing how to cast a line.
Traveling the world can be quite an adventure, but you can never truly immerse yourself in the places you visit unless you speak the people’s native tongue. Speaking a second (or third) language allows you to connect with locals and experience more of what lies below the surface available only to the passing tourist. Speaking another language may also help you in your business, sharpen your brain, and even aid you in a tactical situation; James Bond was fluent in 4 different languages, and handy in 4 others, after all.
52. Drive in Snow
Even if you grew up doing it, driving in the snow is a bit of a harrowing task. The sun is glaring off the pure-white landscape, black ice threatens at every curve and underpass, and you aren’t quite sure you have the skills to handle a wipe out. When driving in the winter, just remember that slow and steady wins the race (although you really shouldn’t be racing on a snowy road!).
Even though you’ve probably heard of the Heimlich maneuver countless times, and seen it dramatized just as many, a lot of folks really don’t know exactly what to do beyond putting their arms around the person and squeezing somehow. Because the abdominal thrusts necessitated by the Heimlich maneuver can cause injury, it should be employed only as a last resort, after other techniques, like encouraging the vicim to cough and slapping them on the back, have been tried. But should you need to reach for this technique, you ought to be able to perform it effectively.
Manliness is too often ranked by how many random women a dude can bed. But one of the things that separates man from the beasts is the ability and desire to focus his romantic energies on one woman at a time. Being a lover and romancer is something that makes us human, rather than just another mammal on the Discovery Channel. And there is no better tool in the romantic man’s arsenal than the date. The date’s structure allows a man to show off his ability to woo a lady. Unfortunately, few men have been taking on the challenge of being artful pursuers these days, as our dating abilities have become infected with the plague of hanging out. Don’t be that man. Gird up your loins, and ask a woman out!
55. Always Know North
A man always knows his direction, be it philosophically in life or physically on the road. He can find North without a digital aid. A compass is the easiest and surest way to do this, of course, but there are other methods as well, including using an analog watch, sticks and shadows, the constellations in the night sky, and the moss growing on trees and rocks. But each of these methods of finding North involve a good deal of know-how and nuance, so it’s definitely a skill you’ll need to master before you really need it.
So you know how to split wood, but how do you get those logs in the first place? You could buy them, but that’s lame. No, you need to go out to the woods and fell your own tree. It’s a dangerous task if you don’t know what you’re doing, but boy is it a great feeling to hear a tree fall on the forest floor with an echoing “THUMP!” End your day felling trees with a large plate of pancakes smothered with Vermont maple syrup.
57. Hitch/Back-Up a Trailer
So you’ve decided to borrow a boat for a weekend of fishing or maybe you’re going to rent an Airstream for that dream road trip across America. Awesome. Do you know how to hitch the boat trailer and the Airstream to your vehicle? Once you get it hitched to your car, do you know how to back-up a trailer without destroying the property around you? Knowing how to hitch and back-up a trailer will open a whole world of outdoor recreation opportunities for you, so get out there and start learning.
58. Play Poker
If you’ve never played poker before, going to a casino for a bachelor party or a friend’s house for a casual poker night can be an intimidating affair. The rules of the game itself are hard enough to master (Does my two pair beat your three of a kind? Answer: no it does not.), but you also have to know betting rules and game etiquette. Thankfully, with just a few strategies up your sleeve, it won’t take long to not feel like a newb anymore.
59. Write in Cursive
In our age of texts, tweets, and emails, one thing that can set you apart from the crowd is sending a nice, handwritten letter every now and then. To set yourself apart from the pack even more, write your letter in cursive. It just looks classy and adds a bit of personality to your notes. And don’t just save it for letters. The continuous strokes of cursive make journaling a more meditative experience.
Avoid a fight if you can, but if there’s no other option, end it as quickly as possible by throwing a knockout blow. Open your opponent up with high jabs and a few fakes; once he drops his guard, send a powerful straight punch right to his kisser. Lights out.
61. Make Pancakes From Scratch
While eggs are a breakfast staple because of their ease and versatility, pancakes are a fan favorite because of their simply delightful nature. They’re fluffy, warm, and covered in any number of tasty toppings: butter, syrup, peanut butter, fruit, whipped cream. It doesn’t get much better than a tall stack of pancakes to start a lazy weekend with your family. Knowing how make pancakes from scratch will make you a Saturday morning hero.
62. Skipper a Boat
One of man’s great powers is that he is an amphibious creature, able to both traverse the land and navigate the water. Not only should you be able to move through water by your own manpower, you should be able to skim its surface by knowing how to pilot a boat — and not just those that involve a motor and steering wheel. From tying nautical knots, keeping the boat balanced, and trimming the sails, every man should know how to skipper traditional sea craft.
Black-tie. Semi-formal. Business casual. Do you find yourself asking what the heck these terms mean anytime you see them on an event invitation? With just a little bit of study and practice, you’ll come to automatically know the differences — for instance, that business casual means a sports coat and khakis (or even jeans, depending on where you live). You never want to be the guy who wore slacks and a button-up to a semi-formal event.
64. Shoot a Bow and Arrow
From our survival guru Creek Stewart: “I am a big fan of the bow and arrow for a variety of reasons, and I personally think that anyone who has an interest in primitive survival skills or modern urban survival should seriously consider purchasing a good bow and arrow and become proficient in using it.” The weapon’s portability, versatility, and affordability (you can even craft your own) make it a top choice for hunters and survivalists.
Driving an automatic vehicle is so pedestrian. With a stick shift, you actually feel like you’re part of your car. The synchronicity of man and machine makes driving a manual transmission car not just a chore, but a joy. Plus, owning a manual makes your vehicle pretty much theft-proof — it’s such a lost skill that most would-be thieves wouldn’t know how to drive away with your car even if they managed to break in.
When you don’t have access to a gym, there’s always push-ups. They work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps. Even if you do have access to a gym, make push-ups part of your routine throughout the day. An 85-year-old attorney I knew credited his random push-up workouts in his office as the key to his longevity and health.
67. Pick a Lock
Kicking down a door is a great skill to have, but sometimes you need to be a bit more discreet when opening a door that’s locked. Who wants to replace their door every time they lock themselves out of their house? That’s where lock-picking comes in. Besides making you handy, and saving you money on replacement doors or calling a locksmith, this skill also makes you feel a bit like Jason Bourne.
68. Mix Two Classic Cocktails
If you’re out on the town with your main squeeze, you can look to spend anywhere from $8 to $20 on a nice cocktail. That’s a lot of scratch for a beverage, especially when you can be making ones at home that taste just as good (if not better!) for a fraction of the cost. And rather than being a one-trick pony, knowing how to make at least two different drinks will make you feel like a real mixologist, and impress your guests too. Learn how to make classics like the martini and the Manhattan; bonus points if you can mix up some interesting drinks for your teetotaling friends too.
69. Field Dress Game
Whether you hunt regularly to stock your freezer with meat or you’re stuck in the wild and need to eat a squirrel to survive, you’ll need to know how to dress your kill so that it’s ready for butchering and eating. If you don’t know anything about dressing game, start with a small animal like a squirrel or a rabbit. It’s less messy, and the same general principles that you use with those animals apply to larger game like deer.
The guitar has a way of showing up at parties and campfires, and it often gets passed around so people who know how to play can strum out some tunes while everyone sings along. Instead of passing it on to the next dude, why not hold on to it and bust out a song of your own? Getting a group of people to sing a song while you provide the accompaniment is an easy way to command a room like a man. Also, chicks dig a dude who can play the guitar.
The aftermath of a heavy thunderstorm or ice storm often leaves broken and fallen branches in your yard. To clean them up, you’ll need to cut them with a chainsaw. Learn how to operate one safely so you don’t accidentally cut off one of your limbs in the process.
You don’t need a bunch of leg machines to get a good lower-body workout; just a barbell with some plates will do. Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength. Not only do they work your quads and hamstrings, but also your hips, butt, back, and core. There are two variations of the barbell squat: high bar (pictured above) and low bar. Learn them both. They emphasize different muscles and can be used in different strength training routines.
73. Cook a Steak
The beauty of a well-cooked steak is in its simplicity. No fancy seasonings, just a bit of salt and pepper and fire. Know how to cook a steak and you can eat like a king the rest of your life.
74. Entertain Yourself (Without a Smartphone)
You see it everywhere: people on their smartphones while standing in line, while getting gas, when conversation lulls at dinner…anytime people aren’t stimulated for 10 seconds or longer, out comes the phone. Not only is it rude in many instances, it means you’re tethered to your little electronic device for entertainment. Learn how to pass the time without your phone — play board games, do push-ups during commercial breaks, make a paper airplane, work out a philosophical problem in your head, or turn a boring conversation into a stimulating one by actually listening intently, showing some curiosity, and asking good questions. Heck, learn to enjoy the old pastime of people watching. Being able to entertain yourself is surely one of the 3 characteristics of an educated man.
Knowing how to change your own oil can save you time and money. Instead of driving 10 minutes to the Kwik Lube, waiting another 30 minutes before your car can get worked on, waiting another 15 minutes while the oil change actually takes place, and then driving another 10 minutes back home, just get the job done in half an hour by doing it in your garage. Besides saving you time and money, changing your own oil just feels self-sufficient and darn manly.
With a loud, commanding whistle you can call your dog, your kids, a taxi, or the peanuts guy at the ballpark. Using your fingers makes it easy to get that ear-piercing whistle sound whenever you want it. This is a small skill, but a weirdly satisfying one to master.
77. Shovel Snow
Snow shoveling is often a back-breaking, tiresome process. You could be moving hundreds of cubic feet of the fluffy (or not-so-fluffy) white stuff. It’s generally not a particularly fun activity, although it is an excellent workout and a fine opportunity to fill your lungs with crisp, clean air. While those in colder environs are practically born knowing this skill, others may need a couple quick pointers to ensure the best and most efficient job possible.
78. Carve a Turkey
Primitive hunters often dressed and butchered their game in the field, in order to divide up the carcass among the hunting party and make it easier for carrying back home. Maybe the echoes of this task is why carving the Thanksgiving turkey typically falls upon the man in a household in our modern day. When you get called up to carve the bird, you want to be ready with skill and know-how that will allow you to get as much meat as possible from the turkey without mutilating it. Take pride in the artfully sliced platter of juicy turkey you assemble for your guests.
79. Tie a Bowline
The bowline is a loop knot that is incredibly secure. Consequently, it’s often used in rescue situations in which you need to pull someone out of a ditch or ravine. You can also use it to tie off the boat to your dock. Once you master tying the bowline with both hands, earn bonus man points by learning how to tie it with one hand.
80. Ride a Horse
Sure, in this motorized world, knowing how to ride a horse may be the most “archaic” skill on this list. But I’ll be darned if it’s not also one of the most satisfying. Many a great man from history used horseback riding as a way to decompress — Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London. It simply feels wonderful to mount up and head towards the horizon. Also, if American cinema is correct about the apocalypse, horses will once again be the primary mode of transportation one day. So don’t scoff — know how to saddle up!
81. Give a Good Massage
While the date is the ultimate tool in the gentleman’s romantic arsenal, you need other skills as well to impress your gal (including many on this list!). Among them, knowing how to give a good massage — and just for her sake rather than in hopes of sex — is an important one. She’ll feel loved and cared for, which is the ultimate way to affair-proof your relationship.
There are a lot of things your car can get stuck in: mud, snow, even a ditch. While every situation is different, there are some principles you can follow that may help you become unstuck without needing to call for a tow. Knowing them could save you thousands of dollars in towing fees, and may be a necessity in rural areas that don’t have cell phone reception.
83. Break a Rack of Pool Balls
So you’ve watched The Hustler — one of the best movies of all-time — and you’re inspired to head down to your local pool hall for some billiards action. You grab a cue, line it up to break the rack, and instead of hitting it perfectly like you did in your daydreams, you shank the cue ball for the ultimate whiff, and the rack is still intact. Breaking the rack is your billiards first impression — it has the potential to intimidate foes and impress buddies. Don’t blow it.
84. Make a Logical Argument
In the age of the internet, it seems that logical arguments have gone the way of the dodo. Debates, whether in online comment sections or on TV, are not much more than name-calling matches in which whoever shouts the loudest wins. Debates and arguments should be civil affairs, though, that avoid logical fallacies and employ sound reasoning. Learning this skill builds your powers of persuasion, puts you a leg up in our modern world, and allows you to stand out as a real gentleman. For it’s not the volume of your voice that signifies a masterful debater and skilled rhetorician, but the content of your words.
85. Cook Bacon
Nothing tastes better on a cold winter morning than some pork bacon (turkey bacon is not bacon) fried in a cast iron skillet. You don’t want bacon too soft or too crispy. Getting that just-right texture takes patience and skill (and maybe even ditching that skillet for the oven). Add man points for frying bacon shirtless and braving those hot kisses of grease.
86. Write a Letter
At AoM we’re great champions of the lost art of letter writing. Emails, texting, and the wide variety of other digital mediums available to us in the modern age are convenient and efficient, but they can’t hold a candle to the warm, tangible, classy nature of handwritten correspondence. Letters are the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door. And their permanence is unrivaled; long after we’ve forgotten the password to our hotmail account, our shoebox of letters will remain. Write to a pen pal; write regular thank you notes; write letters of “emotional insurance” to your children; and be sure to write all 7 of these letters before you turn 70.
87. Shoot a Gun
A gun can provide food, protection, and even an afternoon of fun. It’s an extremely useful tool, but a dangerous one. You need to know how to safely operate different types of firearms (pistols, shotguns, rifles) without unintentionally injuring those around you or yourself. Even if you don’t have plans on becoming a “Gun Guy,” at least have a basic understanding of how firearms work in case you ever come across one in the wild, or need to use one to save your life.
88. Make a Toast
You don’t want to be the Best Man that’s remembered for giving an utterly cringe-worthy toast at your buddy’s wedding. And besides weddings, you’ll likely have several opportunities to provide toasts throughout your life. With a bit of forethought and practice in front of the mirror, your toasts can sound natural, inspiring, and memorable (in a good way).
89. Jump Start a Car
It happens to every one. Somehow the dome light in your car got left on while you were in the office and now your car’s battery is dead. Instead of calling AAA to get the car going for you, jump start it yourself. It will save you time and money. Plus it’s a skill that will make you incredibly useful to others. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t know how to jump start a car.
90. Know How to Dance
Nothing impresses a woman more than a man who knows how to dance. And by dance I mean ballroom dancing where you lead a gal across the dance floor. None of that “nae nae” nonsense. Basic ballroom dancing isn’t that hard. Start off with the waltz and foxtrot and you’ll be good for most weddings and cruises.
Sure, you can plop some Folgers into a filter and hit the “Brew” button on your coffee machine. But that’s like going to Walmart to buy a suit. You just aren’t getting the best product. Grinding your beans, boiling your water, and brewing them in a French press truly creates the perfect cup of coffee, and also adds an element of craftsmanship to your morning routine. You can try roasting your own beans, as well as some other tactics to level up your morning coffee game.
92. Tie a Tourniquet
For a long time, tying tourniquets was a frowned-upon method for controlling major bleeding — something to be employed as an absolute last resort. That’s because during the wars of the 20th century, when it often took a long time for a wounded solider to get medical attention, the tourniquet would end up cutting off the blood supply for too long, necessitating amputations. But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that tourniquets, coupled with speedy medical attention, could be absolute life savers, and thus their use has been revived in combat and civilian medicine alike. You still need to know when and how to properly tie a tourniquet though, so study up and then do ample hands-on practice.
93. Know Two Cool Uncle Tricks
An essential part of being an awesome uncle is having a repertoire of tricks and jokes that will amaze your nieces and nephews, and crack them up. From juggling and pulling coins from ears, to levitating and “bouncing” dinner rolls on the floor, every uncle should have at least two giggle-inducing tricks up his sleeve.
94. Fillet a Fish
What makes fishing even more satisfying is being able to fillet and cook your catch for a real water-to-table experience. Throw it in a skillet with some garlic, lemon, and butter, fry it over the campfire you’ve built, and enjoy a wild dinner under the stars.
Whether your baby has colic or just intermittent fussiness, their cries can really do a number on your equilibrium. Since babies can’t do anything for themselves, their cries are designed by nature to get your attention, burrowing into your brain and refusing to let go until you alleviate their distress. Their wails elicit a real physiological response — you start to sweat, your heart rate goes up, and your body releases cortisol (the stress hormone). So it’s no surprise that knowing how to calm a crying baby is one of the most important new-dad tools you can have in your arsenal!
Motorcycles are one of the pinnacles of manliness. They’re up there with Islay single malt, grass-fed sirloin, and Creed’s Green Irish Tweed aftershave. Why? Because unlike automobiles, they offer a visceral experience: one that requires skill, mental engagement, and risk management. On a motorcycle, you can’t sip coffee, fiddle with your phone, or daydream the minutes away. Your senses are on red alert, and your life depends on two tiny patches of rubber connecting you to the road. Riding a motorcycle is an experience every man should have in his life.
To the unskilled, hammering just means pounding the hell out of something until you get the job done. Sure, you could do that, but you’ll end up with crummy results and a tired arm to boot. A wise handyman knows how to use a hammer safely, effectively, and efficiently.
Cooking cultivates a variety of manly qualities, from self-reliance to chivalry. So while you need not become a 5-star chef, at a certain point every man needs to move on from the Easy Mac, ramen, and frozen pizza he subsisted on in college. Knowing your way around the kitchen can be intimidating at first, but even with just a single pot you can make some tasty meals that will impress friends, family, and ladies alike. Once you’ve mastered some basics, you can work on creating a signature dish that you perfect and whip up on special occasions.
It’s easy to start a fire when you have a pack of matches at your disposal. But could you forge a flame if you didn’t have that crutch? Or would you starve and freeze? There are many ways to make fire sans matches, from using a battery or magnifying glass to going totally primal and using only a board and a stick. Learn as many methods as you can, so that if you ever find yourself alone on a desert island, you can declare to your volleyball friend: “I have made fire!”
100. Tell a Story
Every man needs to be able to tell a great story. It might be for a presentation you give at work. Or for a paper you need to write. Maybe you’re just hanging out with your buddies swapping stories. Or you’re tucking your kids into bed, and a nighttime tale is demanded. No matter the scenario, it takes a certain amount of skill to tell a story in a way that captivates an audience.
The most important part of storytelling though, is simply having the experiences that make for good tales. What stories of your life will you have to tell your grandkids? Start making those memories now by learning as many of these skills as you can. The more know-how you gain, the more places you can go, things you can do, and people you can converse with; in short, the more skills you master, the more adventures you can have!