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#280814 - 05/27/16 07:11 AM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: WesleyH]
rafowell Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 217
Loc: Southern California
> I had been looking for the now almost rare 3X5 version

Yes - I think the only currently manufactured 3"x5" glass signal mirror with a retroreflective mesh aimer is the US military issue 3"x5" glass MIL-M-18371E Mark 3 Type II signal mirror manufactured for the US Forces by S.I. Howard Glass.

Thankfully, the MIL-M-18371E Mark 3 Type II is available from several retailers online - just search for MIL-M-18371E.

One option is John D. McCann's Survival Resources: http://www.survivalresources.com/Products/Signaling.html

John had a nice article on retroreflective aimer signal mirrors that seems to have been lost on the current Web, but can be viewed here at the Internet Archive: John McCann: Signal Mirrors Can Get You Rescued

John's book: Stay Alive! Survival Skills You Need devotes at least 5 pages to signal mirrors.

The 2"x3" glass MIL-M-18371E Mark 3 Type II is available at a number of retailers as well.

Background:

The available selection of currently manufactured retroreflective mesh signal mirrors has been roughly halved in recent years with the deaths of Malcolm Murray of Rescue Reflectors (something like six models gone), and Wayne Tegeler of Vector I (who made 3"x5" and 4"x5" glass models as well as the 2"x3" glass and a 2"x3" plastic encased glass mirror - the 2"x3"sizes are still available from Coghlan's, who bought the business after his death. Another victim of this is that the my favorite 2"x3" polycarbonate signal mirror, the original retroreflective mesh aimer Rescue Flash designed by Doug Ritter and sold by American Medical Kits is no longer manufactured with the mesh aimer ( Wayne Tegeler had been willing to supply the mesh to them, but it seems Coghlan's was not willing do do so), but now uses a perforated retroreflective fabric aimer.


Edited by rafowell (05/27/16 07:16 AM)
Edit Reason: Mention John's book
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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#280816 - 05/27/16 08:22 AM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: WesleyH]
rafowell Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 217
Loc: Southern California
> MIDWAYUSA's REACTION HAS BEEN DISAPPOINTING TO SAY THE LEAST.

> As soon as I realize what occurred, I sent an email advising them of the fake mirrors.
> I also reminded them that the mirrors were being sold as survival signaling mirrors, and if anyone else had purchased them, they would not function as intended
> and could potentially endanger anyone who tried to use them.

> I have received two messages back, both kindly telling me I could return them. Neither made mention of the risk, or withdrawing the mirrors.

(BTW - for anyone who doesn't understand what the fuss is about (or just wants to know more about retroreflective aimer signal mirrors), I highly recommend Doug Ritter's article: http://www.equipped.org/phony_signal_mirrors.htm

While my hopes are slim, you could try calling them, telling them that the aimer in the Rescue Flash mirror they carry works, that the grid in the glass one does not produce the light spot that the grid in the Rescue Flash does, and ask them to try both. I wish you well, but I gave up on that approach years ago due to lack of success. You could work up the food chain - I spoke to at least one "director of quality" (without success).

My guess is that your best bet for some influence is to leave a calm, factual, and reasoned review on the Midway product page: http://www.midwayusa.com/product/2724260977/5ive-star-gear-signal-mirror explaining that you had purchased this mirror because you thought that was functionally equivalent to the military mirrors issued to USAF forces from the 1940s to the current day, in possessing a retroreflective mesh that let the user accurately aim the mirror beam at a distant target. You tried the mirror, and despite your success with similar mirrors, you were unable to get the grid in the mirror you received to produce the characteristic "fireball" aiming aid that let the user accurately aim the mirror beam. As a result, you returned your mirror and bought one from another vendor that worked satisfactorily. Close by recommending that they similarly do not settle for a product without a retroreflective aimer. If you want to spend the money to make your point, buy a Rescue Flash from Midway (http://www.midwayusa.com/product/198617/adventure-medical-kits-rescue-flash-signal-mirror), and you can add that, unlike the Rescue Flash you bought from Midway, the mesh in the glass mirror seemed non-functional.

While I didn't speak with Midway, I sent letters and made phone calls to several distributors of the Taiwanese mirrors, and returned lots of these mirrors to various retailers. I had one partial success - the vendor started to carry the MIL-M-18371E ... but they carried the Taiwanese mirror as well. Caveat Emptor is alive and well.

I think my single real success was when I visited a sole proprietor shop, took him out in the sun and taught him to use a real mirror, then asked him to try what he'd just learned with one of his mirrors ...

The odious thing about these mirrors is not that they don't have a good aiming mechanism - there are lots of reflective products that are advertised as signal mirrors - the odious thing is how well they mimic a mirror with a functioning retroreflective aimer - specifically, Wayne Tegeler's Vector I mirror. Wayne told me that some distributors that used to buy his mirror switched to the Taiwanese mirror instead - did the distributors do so deliberately, or were they (initially) gulled as well, then didn't want to admit their mistake?

For example:

The grid around the center hole looks amazingly like a real retroreflective grid, but serves no such function. Adding that grid adds manufacturing cost - why is it there, if not deceive the buyer into thinking they are getting a feature that they are not getting?

My most charitable hypothesis is in Taiwan, someone made a knockoff of the Vector I, and sold it in Taiwan with the instructions translated into Chinese, then someone in Taiwan knocked off the knockoff, translating the Chinese back into fractured English for sale to the US. At one iteration or the next, the retroreflective mesh was replaced with a non-retroreflective mesh by someone who had no idea that the mesh needed to be retroreflective to function properly. The ironic thing is that the mainland Chinese military signal mirror has a perfectly functional retroreflective aimer (perforated retroreflective fabric).

If the consumer is in doubt, then the instructions on the back should be reassuring, since they are in fact instructions for use of a retroreflective mesh aimer signal mirror.

For example: where a Vector I mirror says:
"YOU WILL SEE A BRIGHT LIGHT SPOT. THIS IS THE AIM INDICATOR",
a Taiwanese mirror says:
"LOOK FOR THE A BRIGHT LIGHT SPOT WHICH IS AN AIM INDICATOR"

Anyway, bottom line, I've pretty much given up on vendor education, and am concentrating on consumer education. If consumers understood why the retroreflective aimers mattered, these would not sell as signal mirrors, and they'd no longer be manufactured.
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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#280817 - 05/27/16 08:33 AM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: haertig]
rafowell Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 217
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: haertig
... just about everything sold at WalMart is phony ... What did you expect for $10?


A few years back, you could buy a fully functional 3"x5" glass signal mirror from Vector I (a company few had heard of) for not much more than $10.

And I have bought the 2"x3" glass Coghlan's signal mirror (originally OEMed by Vector I) for under $10 - from Walmart, as it turns out.

These days, a good 3"x5" glass signal mirror does cost a bit more - $12.50 is the quantity 100 price from S.I. Howard, the supplier to the US Air Force: http://flatglassproducts.howardglass.com/viewitems/flat-glass-products-fabrication/signal-mirrors?

Survival Resources sells it for $17 (though I dunno what the shipping bite is).
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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#280818 - 05/27/16 08:48 AM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: haertig]
rafowell Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 217
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: haertig
I agree with calling it "low quality", but not necessarily "phony" for "fake".


My analogy: You buy a coffee maker in a box that says on the side "comes with gold screen filter!" has instructions on the box telling how to use the gold screen to filter coffee, and then when you open the box, all it has is a sheet of paper with the screen pattern printed on it with gold ink (and that clearly can't filter coffee).

These mirrors come with a grid around the central hole that looks like retroreflective mesh to close inspection, has instructions on the back that are clearly copied from those on the back of retroreflective aimer signal mirrors, but doesn't deliver.

Doug Ritter's take (quote from the article below): "In my opinion, the only apparent function of the fake mesh is to fool people into thinking they are buying a mirror with a genuine retro-reflective one-handed aimer.

Doug's article: http://www.equipped.org/phony_signal_mirrors.htm
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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#280822 - 05/27/16 02:56 PM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: rafowell]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6740
Loc: southern Cal
Granted that the Taiwanese mirror does not have a good aiming system, and that far better devices are available, how often in real world situations does the more precise aiming mechanism actually make a difference?

I am a definite believer in signal mirror effectiveness, using them fairly often in non-emergency situations to indicate my location to others,but for those purposes, almost any kind of reflective surface will suffice, coupled with the two-handed aiming technique. I have never sent Morse code, or attempted to alert someone on the distant horizon, situations where really precise aiming would be useful.
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#280828 - 05/28/16 06:29 AM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: hikermor]
rafowell Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 217
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: hikermor
... how often in real world situations does the more precise aiming mechanism actually make a difference?


[ I got a bit carried away - if this is too long for you, skip to the bottom section, and tell me how to do the "two-handed" aiming method so that it works. Thanks! ]


I'm sure many people in distress who tried to use a signal mirror were rescued later than they might (or not at all),
because they had no idea to use a signal mirror properly - two-handed or otherwise.

I corresponded with such rescuee within the year - she tried to signal the helicopter, but had no idea how to direct the beam, so the helicopter didn't see her flash.

Also - regarding range - I'd expect the first opportunity to catch someone's attention with a signal mirror is at least a mile in most cases.

I don't know about land practice, but for maritime rescue, my understanding is that the search pattern for survivors expected to use signal mirrors
(they know you have a signal mirror because you checked the 5th box in the first column under "Safety and Survival" when you filed your Float Plan),

US Coast Guard search doctrine ( COMDTINST M16130.2F Table H-20) is to assume a 5 nautical mile sweep width,
which I understand to mean that a search plane/helicopter will fly passes 5 nautical miles apart so there is a 50%
chance that there closest approach will be 1.25 to 2.5 nautical miles, and you'd better be sure of hitting them with a bright flash at that range.

There are three precise signal mirror aiming methods (retroreflective aimer, double-sided mirror, small hole + foresight), that are easy to use, easy to improvise, and accurate.

In WW2 there was a Coast Guard Test(right column) of novice subjects bobbing in a raft signaling to a scout plane, using various signal mirror aiming methods.
The results
(in number of flashes seen per minute) were:

  • Retroreflective aimer 35 (2.5 times better than the next best)
  • Double-sided mirror 14 (the incumbent)
  • manufactured foresight aimer 8 (British)
  • Improved foresight aimer 0.3 (top of buddy's oar)


Since land is much steadier than a bobbing raft, I would expect the spread to be less on land, and, unfortunately, I have never seen a similar test on land. I have, however, used
all of these methods (save the buddy with the oar) on land, and all worked better for me than the "Vee-finger" at my best.

I do note that the Boy Scouts used double-sided mirrors quite successfully in their Operation On-Target peak-peak signal mirror event for 29 years,
and the US Coast Guard will accept a double-sided signal mirror as meeting the requirement that lifeboats in oceangoing US vessels carry a USCG approved signal mirror.

The Boy Scout leaders do tell me they find the retroreflective aimer mirrors much easier to use than the double-sided mirrors.



The thing I like about the retroreflective aimers is that in a minute or two, I can teach a Boy Scout how to use it well enough to hit me at twenty miles with a home-made retroreflective aimer mirror.

If cost is the concern, this page on making your own signal mirror teaches how to make both retroreflective aimer and double-sided aimer glass signal mirrors.

Based on your next, I think your suggestion is that the Vee-finger method is an adequate alternative, and that you have had success with that.

To my mind, the "vee-finger" method is a "foresight" aiming technique. In the table above, on water, even with a
manufactured foresight, was less than 1/4 as effective as a retroreflective aimer, but I expect you are thinking about land, and thinking that the "vee-finger" will be "good enough".

A photo of the foresight mirror tested in WW2 is this British Heliograph-style signal mirror.

This type of signal mirror is popular in CommonWealth countries, and is in many foreign lifeboat kits. Here's a YouTube demonstration:




Originally Posted By: hikermor
... almost any kind of reflective surface will suffice, coupled with the two-handed aiming technique.


I think by "two-handed" aiming technique, you mean the "Vee-finger" method taught by the US military and others for use with a plain mirror.

I've spent a fair amount of time trying this method, and it seems like a purely horrible idea to me, but if you've had success with it, perhaps you can explain where I've been going wrong.

First, I've always assumed that I'm trying to hit the target with the sunbeam that I can see visible on a shadowed wall 100 ft away.
That beam is the same subtended angle as the sun, and is much narrower than the "Vee" between my fingers held up, or my fingers themselves -
it is about 1/3 the width of my finger - about the width of Lincoln's head on a US penny held at arms length, or an 18 inch radius at 100 yards. Here's a photo illustrating this:



Perhaps my standards for a "hit" are too high? I know that this very intense narrow beam
(I've used 2"x3" glass mirrors to signal to, or be signaled to, 20 miles or more),
is surrounded by a weaker beam that causes a noticable "glow" that an observer sees as the angle between the main beam and the observer shrinks.
At close range, the "glowing" mirror is apparent, and maybe even at significant longer range.
If the "glow" is visible at 2.5 nautical miles, then targeting is less of an issue.

If we are trying to hit the target with the "main beam",
then my "vee fingers" seem like pretty blunt guides for
aiming that narrow beam.

Also, if we are trying to use the "main beam", most of
the instructions I've seen would (if followed) pretty
much guarantee I will miss the target with confidence
for any mirror that lacks a sighting hole.

The issue is parallax - the line from the center of the
mirror to the target cannot be parallel to the line from
my eye to the target (since I can't look through the mirror,
absent a hole). I can neatly center the rectangle of light
on my spread fingers, look past the very side of the mirror
at a plane dead center between my fingers, and miss it by
many times the width of the main beam.

I've read dozens of written instructions (including numerous US military manuals, and Doug Ritter's instructions appended to his retoreflective aimer instructions,
here: Doug Ritter's Rescue Flash Instructions (and Vee-Finger) and viewed numerous videos on this technique,
including the section on "Vee-finger" in the Peter Kummerfeldt Signal Mirror Video

My conclusion is that anyone using most of the instruction material online for "Vee-finger" aiming will never hit a
target at a mile or two (because they will be carefully
aiming away from the target.)

However, people seem to love this technique - what am I missing?
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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#280832 - 05/28/16 01:49 PM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: rafowell]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6740
Loc: southern Cal
Many times one does not have a precise target, nor is one attempting to employ Morse code, but simply paints an area with blinding flashes. In my most successful and dramatic use of a signal mirror, we were attempting to define our location to a helicopter about eleven miles distant, about to take off. We were in radio contact, which probably made a difference.

All I knew was that the chopper was somewhere on Davis-Monathan AFB, which was a distant gray smudge in the somewhat smoggy Tucson atmosphere, hence there was no real, defined target. After a flash or two, just a matter of seconds, I had confirmation that they had spotted us, and a routine helo evac of our patient ensued - a good way to start the day.

This was a few years ago, and I do not recollect what mirror I was carrying, or the technique I employed. I own everything from a mil-spec 3"x5" to glorified shaving mirrors. These days I usually pack a 2x3, for weight considerations.

It seems to me that if one is using a less precise aiming technique, one should compensate by flashing early and very, very often - no significant additional effort is involved.

I always carry a mirror of some sort with me. When I need to signal, especially at a distance, it will be mirror by day and fire by night, supplemented with a whistle.
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Geezer in Chief

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#280841 - 05/28/16 07:27 PM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: hikermor]
rafowell Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 217
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: hikermor
Many times one does not have a precise target, nor is one attempting to employ Morse code, but simply paints an area with blinding flashes.

Signal mirrors can be used without a definite target the strategy of painting the horizon
if "no ships or aircraft are in sight" has long been advocated [1].

I've done so myself (in training) when I wasn't sure where along a ridge (or range) the Boy Scout team was[1].

In most of the 20+ recent signal mirror rescue news reports, the survivor's flashes were spotted by a rescue plane or helicopter.

I would expect most such cases to be deliberately targeted flashes
rescue aircraft are noisy and easily spotted at long range against the sky. Ground search parties are far stealthier.

Only one recent case seems a good candidate for "painting an area" rather than "painting a target":

In sixteen of these recent signal mirror rescues the signals were to helicopters or planes.

While some of those may be (as in your Davis-Montham example), at least initially area search rather than targeted,
I would expect most were targeted, and some clearly were - the most definitive being the 2008 Patrick Higgins Case :

"Higgens helped tremendously in his rescue as he was unusually knowledgeable in the use of the mirror as he tracked the plane with it."

So, from this unscientfically chosen sample of signal mirror successes, I'd say most of them were cases of signaling to a definite target, usually a helicopter or plane.

This suggests to me that, while linear and area search have value, most signal mirror rescues seem to be the result of aimed point-target signaling.

[1] Recognition of linear or area signaling vs. point target:
  • the 4th instruction on the back of the current US military mirror, the glass retroreflective MIL-M-18371E mirror, is:
    "EVEN THOUGH NO AIRCRAFT OR SHIPS ARE IN SIGHT, CONTINUE SWEEPING THE HORIZON FOR MIRRORS MAY BE SEEN FOR MANY MILES, EVEN IN HAZY WEATHER."



  • The very first purpose-built precision aim US military signal mirror,
    the double-sided aimer"cross-in-glass" GE ESM/I of 1943 had as the last line of the instructions:

    "Practice sweeping horizon with aimed beam even if no rescuer is in sight, as mirror has range of up to 10 miles".

  • From the 1905 Manual of Visual SIgnaling of the US Signal Corps, p.80, last paragraph:

    "To find a distant station, its position being unknown, reverse the catch holding the station mirror and with the hand turn the mirror very slowly and full azimuth distance in which the distant station may possibly lie. This should be repeated not less than twice, after which, within a reasonable time, there being no response, teh mirror will be directed upon a point nearer to the home station and the same process repeated."



Edited by rafowell (05/29/16 07:05 PM)
Edit Reason: Found out one area case was a point case, edited to condense and clarify
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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#280850 - 05/29/16 07:21 PM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: WesleyH]
WesleyH Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 05/26/16
Posts: 82
Loc: OKLAHOMA
My what a firestorm I have ignited. I felt a bit more information about the issue was appropriate.

Let me start by explaining on how I choose that mirror from that distributor. Cost was not a consideration. My first place to look was the dreaded Amazon.com. Exclusively, what I found were the smaller 2x3 mirrors. I felt that a larger mirror would be a better choice and was specifically seeking the 3x5 mirrors.

After checking a few sources, (sporty's pilot shop was suggested) and simular, the only signal mirrors I found were the 2x3 mirrors. Finally after a google search, I found the mirrors on MidwayUSA.com. It honestly never occurred to me that such a company would sell obviously defective equipment. (Ok call me naive.)

After ordering, I started to wonder if the smaller size mirrors were actually less effective and did an internet search. That was how I came across Doug's review. In short order, the mirrors came in, and to my utter chagrin, they were exactly what Doug had described.

There has been a bit of discussion about the defective mirrors here. I want to briefly address that. As I mentioned, cost was not a consideration. I had not seen the posting about the defective mirrors until I did a search. As Heartig mentioned above, no they were not "advertised" as being mil spec" Granted, he stated he would not have purchased the mirrors, but I am not him, nor do I have his extensive knowledge base.

A consideration of where the mirrors were made, taiwan or china was not an issue as this information was not listed on the midway site.

Rafowell nails the issue with this observation:

"These mirrors come with a grid around the central hole that looks like retroreflective mesh to close inspection, has instructions on the back that are clearly copied from those on the back of retroreflective aimer signal mirrors, but doesn't deliver.

Doug Ritter's take (quote from the article below): "In my opinion, the only apparent function of the fake mesh is to fool people into thinking they are buying a mirror with a genuine retro-reflective one-handed aimer."

Yes, I had an expectation that as the pictured product on MidwayUSA site included retroreflective material, that it would be just that, not a clever fake. Given too, that the printed instructions would NOT work, when expected to, and no doubt when MOST NEEDED, would fail.

I would say, on my behalf, I did find Doug's posting about the issue AND i had the foresite to try to use them rather than just blindly sticking them in a kit.

Rafowell's follow up missive highlights the greatly increased efficiency of a working retroreflective matrix as opposed to anything else.

MY ISSUE WITH MIDWAY USA

Is that they sell a product (which someone's life could depend upon) AND which someone could very well purchase with the expectation that it functions as specified on the product itself, AND does not infact work AT ALL. I more liken it to selling pop bottle rockets advertised as aerial flares. Sure, it goes up in the air, and is sorta visible. But the expectation for survival gear would seem, on the face to be a bit different.

It sort of reminds me of some of the dismal findings people have made when deploying emergency liferafts. Not a good time to discover you have bought a faulty piece of equipment!

Wesley Horton




Edited by WesleyH (05/30/16 01:29 AM)

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#280855 - 05/29/16 09:53 PM Re: Phony glass signal mirrors and who is selling them [Re: WesleyH]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6740
Loc: southern Cal
I don't think I have ever bought anything from Midway, and I probably won't - not the best purveyor of goods.

You have demonstrated the obvious benefit of familiarizing with critical gear, rather than just packing it away for the dreaded emergency. This applies to all types of gear, not just strictly emergency items.

With respect to the mirror itself, what is one to do if there is trouble and a top of the line, mil-spec mirror is not available, but you have something else with a shiny surface? There are various techniques which will accomplish the same end. importantly, "angle of incidence equals angle of reflection" is true whether you have the very best mirror or merely a shiny frying pan. The ability to improvise and think outside the box is often critical in survival situations.....
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