November 2005 Archives

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Today, I'm posting two more entries for the first round of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The winner will be announced tomorrow. (December 1st.) The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!) Because of the success of the contest, we have decided to repeat this contest. "Round 2" of the contest begins December 1st will end on the last day of January.

When contemplating the self-sufficient/survivalist lifestyle, the most common concerns are weapons, power generation, and food. One area that is frequently overlooked is that of physical fitness. All the non-hybrid seed in the world won't do you any good if you have a heart attack while trying to plant it. All the guns in the world won't do you any good if you can't run to a defensive position without wheezing like an asthmatic in a field of ragweed.
Getting in shape often seems like an impossible task. Although you may never be able to be a body double for Brad Pitt or Kate Hudson, being healthy is a very achievable goal for anyone. All it takes is a little knowledge, some common sense, and dedication. The purpose of this article is to give you the basic knowledge you'll need to achieve your fitness goals.
There are many factors that influence physical conditioning. Some are outside the scope of this article (like stress) and some are so complicated that going into depth about them would require a book (like nutrition). I'll be covering some of the basics, but you may wish to do further research as your time and inclination allow.
First up is a series of negative factors that impede the march to fitness. At the top of the list is stress. It wears down your body, robbing you of the will to workout. Although it's not always possible to completely eliminate stress, reducing it should be a goal of first importance. Closely allied with stress is lack of sleep. Too often our culture devalues sleep as a luxury, sacrificing precious rest time for unimportant pursuits. Without proper rest your body can neither recover from exercise, nor rebuild for further efforts. Relax, get enough sleep and you'll be amazed how easy achieving your goals can be.
Now, let's take a look at some things you can do to enhance the effectiveness of working out. At the front of the line is proper nutrition. I won't get into specific diets or schools of nutritional thought, but there are a few general rules anyone can follow. Cutting down on junk food (candy, soda, potato chips etc), eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast first thing in the morning to get the metabolism working, and not eating for a few hours before going to sleep are all fairly easy to accomplish without drastic lifestyle changes.
Another vital aspect of an effective fitness plan is pre-workout stretching. Often overlooked, stretching properly reduces injuries, enhances the efficacy of a workout, and builds flexibility. Develop a routine that works for you, and do it religiously even on days you don't work out.
Okay, you've gotten a good night's sleep, had a thorough stretching session, and you're ready to exercise! Next we're going to discuss some different types of exercises, their relative advantages and disadvantages, and how to get the most out of them. For the purposes of this article we'll divide the various exercises into two categories: aerobic and strength. Although there is often significant overlap, this division helps to formulate a plan.
The aerobic (or cardiovascular) field of exercises function mainly to tone muscles, build endurance, and build up the circulatory and respiratory systems. This field should form the base of any exercise regime. Without proper circulation of well aerated blood, one cannot hope to make any significant fitness gains. I t is also the most important in terms of overall health.
The field of strength training is somewhat more limited, both in types of exercises and in potential gains. To derive the full benefits of this field, one should have a solid base of cardiovascular fitness. All this is not to demean strength training; it is merely an attempt to put it into perspective. There are many benefits to a proper strength training program, and it is definitely not a field to be ignored.
There are as many ways of getting fit as there are unfit people. The key to it all is persistence. Whether you choose an all out assault on fat that drastically changes your entire lifestyle, or merely start walking the dog and skipping that side of fries it's all for nothing if you don't keep at it. Find activities you enjoy and make them a part of your routine. Find other like-minded individuals and band together to support and encourage each other. Stay positive, stay motivated, and soon you'll see results you thought impossible! - "Bings"

What exactly do you stake your life on? Better stated, what is it that you are willing to gamble your future on? A few dollars spent on a fast-food meal that might have purchased a flat of beans or some medical supplies? Perhaps it is a scoffed-at and discarded notion that our society might indeed be fragile and easily disrupted? Maybe it’s the insecurity that your friends and family will think you are a some sort of a nut?
Are you secure in your lifestyle and beliefs because you still get your paycheck at the end of the week and you have a weekend of grilling and TV to look forward to?
Life is good.
But what if the unthinkable happens…
There are a thousand and one doomsday scenarios floating around. Some are plausible, some are fantastic. But they all share the same underlying theme: Be prepared. Just stop and think about this with an open mind for just a few moments. I’m not asking you to change your entire life philosophy or scare you into hiding. Just stop your hectic life for ten minutes and give serious, honest thought to one question: What if?
Let’s not talk about full preparedness for the end of the world. Let’s talk about a few simple steps that could greatly increase your quality of life on a short-term basis.
What if a simple, yet very possible scenario plays out?
A storm descends on your area and you and your family are suddenly without electrical power for three days. Are you ready? Three days does not seem like a particularly long time, yet you have no light, no water, no way to cook or heat food, and in some cases, no heat or air conditioning. Three days have suddenly become a very stressful and frightening time.
It’s true that most people could survive a three day period without changing their current lifestyle. Cold food, minimal light, minimal water, and no heat. You eat canned soup straight from the can. All four of your candles are lit, but do not provide enough light or heat to be appreciated. You are reduced to drinking the water from your toilet’s flush tank (not the bowl!), and you only have one extra blanket in the whole house. It would be very uncomfortable, but survivable.
But perhaps you were brave and didn’t care what your friends have been thinking about you for the past year. You were living on the edge and decided to make simple preparations so that you and your family could not only survive such small incidents, you would comfortably thrive.
Deciding to pick up a few extra cans of food when they are on sale, or better yet, buying in bulk, has provided you with not only a meal, but a variety of choices. Passing up on buying a few DVDs to purchase a camp stove now seems remarkably prudent. You have a small source of heat, as well as a warm meal. (Even simple things such as a warm meal can be a great morale booster in times of stress). That small kerosene lantern you bought that has been collecting dust in the back of your closet is now a cheerful provider of light. You had the forethought to store a few gallons of drinking water, and those extra wool blankets that have been crowding your linen closet are now a welcome relief.
The point is this: simple, inexpensive preparations will not appreciably cramp your lifestyle, yet when needed, they reward you far more than the small sacrifices it might have taken to acquire them.
Start thinking in terms of the basic needs for survival. Water, food, heat, light. From there, you can expand from the basics to help yourself be ready for nearly any situation. First aid/medical, self-protection, barter, etc. Be honest with yourself. Is there a logical reason not to prepare?
Knowledge is power, and in today’s world of technology, knowledge is easily found. Do some research, either at your local library, or on the Internet. Discover what your options are before you categorically discard them as folly. Don’t let fear, apathy, or arrogance paralyze you into non-action.
Self-sufficiency provides a marvelous boost of confidence. There is great peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that you are ready to face adverse conditions, that you have taken steps to provide a secure environment for yourself and your family. At the end of the day, isn’t it far better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it? - "Clannad"

To reply to the reader about the [Springfield Armory] M1A SOCOM [variant]. First, I have had and do have several M1A-A1 Scout rifles. I would not trade any of them for any other main battle rifle. Second, I personally know several [former] SEAL Team 2 members and other men who have worked with BlackWater in Iraq. The SOCOM is there preferred weapon, other than what would be Class 3 weapons for us [civilians]. - "Woo"

While I cannot speak to the SOCOM, I am the proud owner of an M1A Scout (my understanding that the primary difference in the two models is the muzzle brake/compensator, and the SOCOM is a slightly shorter barrel, perhaps due to the different muzzle brake). I give this rifle a heart-felt thumbs-up. It shoots better than I do, swallows anything I feed it (accuracy wise, it doesn't like the Indian stuff, I get horrible groups with it; South African surplus averages about 3 MOA, but premium Federal is sub-MOA), and Springfield has bent over backwards with regards to customer service (when I ordered a 5-round magazine). Complaints: It is heavy for a shorter rifle, especially with the Springfield 7.62 scope and mount that I have on it. It was a real wrestling match to field strip it the first few times, until it was broken in. Oh yes, the fact that it costs [like] a small mortgage to purchase. (Springfield is back-ordered, so if you can find one under $1,400, then grab it) Other than that, it's my primary weapon, and I'm using it this season on New York bear and deer (with the legal 5-round sporting magazine). Best Regards, - Mike

Mr. Rawles:
Here is a link to the jaw-droppingly absurd, but true. CNN ran a story about Michael Brown getting fired from FEMA only to go into the Emergency Planning "consulting" business. See: We can all sleep better now knowing that America is once again safe. Regards, -B. Adams

"When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn." - Harriet Beecher Stowe

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It really doesn't matter if we are thinking slow slide, nuke exchange, or just losing your job: The full or partial switch to a bicycle can be one of the best changes a person can make. DO NOT jump into a decision about buying a bike. It is one of the most personal things you will ever own, if you don't buy the right bike for you it will just end up rusting in the barn.
As I like to beat into you:
#1 It must be easy to use or you won't when you are worn out tired
#2 Try not to attract unwanted attention, make it look cheap/old

A bicycle is a balance of simplicity versus features.On one side is a single speed coaster bicycle with closed cell foam inner(not)tubes.
Moving parts: Wheel bearings, chain, crank bearing, coaster hub brake, headset (handlebar bushing), and pedal. Using only 7 moving parts and no pneumatic tires this bike may need repacked bearings and a new chain every few years (barring rust-away) there not much to go wrong. On a simple bicycle like this I suggest a steel frame from a quality brand. Get quality coaster hubs from brands like SRAM and Sturmer-Archer. Chrome or stainless steel chains will resist rust. (Rust robs more performance than almost any other cause.) Durable tires with a center strip will greatly reduce the effort required to travel on road. To get more complicated you could go to something with more moving parts like a mountain, road, or touring bike which make the ride easier by allowing you to move faster or climb hills easier by giving you a wide range of gears. Some features to investigate are disk or rim brakes(hydraulic or cable), heavy duty shocks on the front, seat post or rear suspension, derailler gear shifting (a massive failure point, so only buy the most durable or have spares) or internal hub gearing, toe clip or clipless foot attachment, the list could go on.
Another direction is to choose a folding bike. A folder can also be durable but can pack into a large suitcase size allowing you to catch a ride when available, the trade-offs may be durability or riding comfort and accessory options, I suggest trying out several brands before dismissing this group.
Visit several bicycle shops and find a personal mechanic to help you build your bike. A decent mechanic makes his work a passion and will be able to point out the best solution for your application.
Unless you have money only for food and shelter and nothing else don't waste money on an Asian sub $40-to-$100 15 speed, they are of such poor quality it will forever remain in reserve at the back of your garage after its first ride (just try to keep it in one gear).
Rather than telling you what to think, spend a while researching this topic for yourself on the web and in bike shops. You may also consider buying a mid-level bike and getting to be a regular rider so you can deciding what needs to be improved before making a big purchase.

Some Points To Ponder:
Where will you be riding (terrain, topology, road type)?
What will you be carrying?
What weather will you ride in?
Ability to upgrade?
Durability of components?
Ease of repair in field?
Comfort on long rides?
Long term resistance to environment (rust,sun,etc)?
Trailer or baggage options?
Lighting and generator options?
Electrical or gas auxiliary drive systems?
Ease of vehicular transport (auto,air,train,bus,boat)?
Anti-theft options?
Tools, availability/stockpile spares, field tools?

JWR Adds: Some flat black and flat rust-brown spray paint, applied judiciously, will make a brand new $400 bike look like an ancient $40 bike in just a few minutes. (It will also cut down on reflective surfaces to make it "tactical.") However, keep in mind that this will not do good things for your bike's resale value, in the event that you ever have a reason to "trade up." So unless you live in what is currently an area with a high rate of bicycle theft, it is probably best to keep your supply of subduing paint in storage and to apply it only after The Schumer Hits The Fan.

First, this is not an endorsement of any kind. I really want that to be clear to the readers of SurvivalBlog.
I've been wearing glasses for the better part of 35 years. I had myopia and astigmatism. I was wearing bifocals. For many reasons wearing glasses can be a big pain in the "six". I had been considering Lasik surgery for several years and just didn't have the money, justification and/or the courage to get the procedure done.
To me the decision was made several weeks ago when I heard a noise in the house and I went to investigate. There was nothing there. Just the dishwasher changing gears. Anyway, I realized that I did have a problem. It was my vision. I can't just wake up and see things. I have to first find my glasses to see.
Usually, when waking up suddenly one is a little disorganized. However, trying to find your glasses makes it worse. The thought came to me that if I accidentally knocked them on the floor during the night (which has happened) I would be in a real pickle if it was a real two legged bump in the night.
The other thought was that if it was a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI I didn't want to be a slave to my glasses for visual aid. If I lost them or they broke them or whatever, I might not be able to get a replacement pair. On that subject I don't know a lot of folks that have extra pairs of glasses for replacement. Older pairs of glasses are old for a reason. If I couldn't see than my effective range would be about three feet. Personally I couldn't do that to my family.
So, I built up my courage and with my end of the year bonus I went and had Lasik surgery done. The actual surgery was approximately 6 or so minutes. I wont go into all the details of that, however, less than 24 hours after the procedure I had 20/20 vision and it should improve from that. The most important thing to me is that I'm no longer a slave to glasses. I can see across the room and across the street. I can read road signs that would have been a blur just a few days ago without my glasses. My eyes wont fog up from temperature changes and get fingerprints on them, et cetera. My effective range is over 300 yards without glasses.
The money I spent on this could have bought a lot of beans, bullets and band-aids. I consider this a personal investment in my family's future and survival insurance. ("Better to have and not need than to need and not have.")
This isn't for everyone, so check with your doctor. If anyone else has had this done maybe they would like to share their experiences. All for now, - Larry from Kansas
P.S.: Always wear eye protection when shooting. Your sight is very valuable!

Dancing at Armageddon, Survivalism and Chaos in Modern Times, by Richard G. Mitchell, Jr., 2002, University of Chicago Press.

Unlike some of you “lifers”, I’m new to preparedness. So I’m always looking for good books to read to learn more about preparedness, like Patriots. But there is one topic I don’t find written about very much: what is a survivalist, where do they live, and how do you meet one? So when I stumbled across this book on the internet, I was very curious to read the synopsis. It turns out the author spent 12 years interviewing and living with survivalists. This was the mother lode! Here is what appears to be the defining work of who and what survivalists are.
I eagerly ordered my copy and impatiently awaited for its arrival. Once it was delivered, I immediately opened it and started reading. But I’m sorry to say, my excitement quickly drifted to boredom, then confusion, and finally frustration. While this book does have snippets of interesting interviews, overall it is a misguided, pompous, insult to survivalism and preparedness.
I call this book misguided, because the author focused on four main groups, and three of these groups have nothing to do with survivalism. The author spent years infiltrating the Aryan Nation to become an insider. And what did he find? They are mean and hateful people. No big surprise here, but nothing about survivalism or preparedness. The author also spent time with a whacko militia in the northwest. This group never discussed food, water, or shelter. All they did was run around in the woods playing cops and robbers with shotgun blanks. But this does lead to one of the best scenes in the book, where the author ambushes one of the numskulls at close range out of his own frustration. A blank at close range can be quite painful. Another group was an ultra-conservative religious fringe group. Not much to learn here either.
The last group was what I would call true survivalists, working together to gather essentials so their families would be prepared for any major disaster. They were led by “Hank” of the Mount Rainier Rangers. Now here was a group I could identify with and hope to learn from. But the author paints this group as ineffective and meaningless. By the end of the book, “Hank” has lost his job, his house, and all his supplies. The message from the author is subdued, but clear: Survivalists are weak-minded and inconsequential individuals that can’t even survive in the current economy, much less a troubled one.
I call this book pompous, because at many points it is impossible to understand what he is saying. The author is definitely a college professor, because he writes like one. And probably only another college professor would understand what he is writing about in his many sections. Here’s an example from page 146: “Grounded social science seeks utility beyond mere situation-specific description.” What the heck does this mean? The book is full of phrases like this.
The final insult can be found in the appendix of the book. The author interviewed over 200 individuals who openly stood up as survivalist. This is a huge number. Yet he chose to profile the groups above. Obviously he must have interviewed many serious, responsible individuals. But this is not reflected in the text. It seems like the real survivalists were intentionally left out.
Okay, I much as I dislike this book, I will admit there are nuggets of gold sprinkled through-out the book. Near the end of the book, the author quotes one individual as follows: “A survivalist is basically an independent person who cannot in his mind see the status quo remaining. He does not have faith that the powers-that-be will take care of him in all situations. That’s all. It’s like being your own insurance. If there is a windstorm and your house gets damaged, you don’t wait for the government to come and help. You start to rebuild right away with what you have and do the best you can.” I like that phrase, “being your own insurance”.
The statistics in the appendix are also somewhat interesting. Nearly 80% of survivalist are married, they are not single hermits living in a shack like the Unabomber. A full 50% worry about nuclear war, but only 7% have fallout shelters. Only 37% worry about economic collapse. And over 50% have some type of college degree. The most common preparation? 63% have already acquired firearms. I think there is more info in the appendix than the rest of the book.
One final observation. When I bought this book, I did not understand why the author titled it “Dancing at Armageddon”. I don’t plan to do any dancing when the “Schumer hits the fan.” I plan to do what any rational person will do, use my knowledge and materials to help my family, neighbors, and community pull together to survive through any catastrophe. If I get excited when discussing my preparations, it is NOT because I want trouble to come. I get excited because I am learning there are common sense actions I can take today to survive tomorrow. So in essence, the title is one more insult to survivalists, implying we want trouble to come, and will celebrate with dancing when it arrives. I know I will not be dancing, but I probably will be using this book for kindling. Always learning something new, - The Rookie

JWR's Comment: Just leave it to a liberal journalist to focus on the tiny lunatic racist fringe rather than on the mainstream of responsible, rational, open-minded survivalists.

Why is it, Jim, that when I ask a coin shop about "junk silver" or pre-1965 [$1,000 face value] bags of silver they look at me as if I'm nuts? Am I going to the wrong place? - Gerry

JWR Replies: It sounds like you visited a "numismatics only" shop. Some shops don't bother selling bullion because the markup is so much less than rare coins. Just call around to several other dealers in your region. Odds are that most of them will sell pre-'65 by the bag or half-bag--or can at least they can order it for you.

"Commander Harken: For some the war'll never be over. I notice your ship's called Serenity. You were stationed on Hera at the end of the war. Battle of Serenity Valley took place there, if I recall.
Captain Reynolds: You know, I believe you might be right.
Commander Harken: Independents suffered a pretty crushing defeat there. Some say after Serenity, the Browncoats were through. That the war really ended in that valley.
Captain Reynolds: Hmmm.
Commander Harken: Seems odd you'd name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.
Captain Reynolds: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."

- From the cancelled science fiction television series "Firefly"

Monday, November 28, 2005

It is gratifying to see that the SurvivalBlog readership is still growing steadily. Please continue to to tell your family, friends, and co-workers about this blog. God willing, reading SurvivalBlog will motivate them to get "squared away" logistically. Their increased preparedness could help save many lives: their own, yours, your friends, your neighbors, and your loved ones. So it is in your own best interest to spread the word!

We will be announcing the winner of the first SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest on December 1st. The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight! (An up to $2,000 value.) Because of the success of the contest, we have decided to repeat this contest. "Round 2" of the contest begins December 1st will end on the last day of January.

In person at guns shows and at public speaking engagements, as well as in e-mail, I often have folks mention some of the odd, if not bizarre things that they have purchased for their survival preparations. They run the gamut:

Ostentatious: The reader that blew virtually his entire preparation budget on a brand new BMW 4x4 SUV

Impractical: The gent who said that he owns just one firearm: An AR-15 with five 100-round Beta C-MAGs, a rail-mounted white flashlight, a rail-mounted IR flashlight, PAQ-4 laser target designator, a Gen 3 PVS-4 starlight scope, bipod, and a pseudo-M203 (37mm) flare launcher.

Underachieving: The man who had a whopping two cases of MREs (24 meals) en toto as his family's food storage supply. Not to worry. He said that he was "planning to get at least one more case."

Hypochondriacal: The lady that purchased more than $3,000 worth of vitamins and medications for herself and her husband --far more than can be used before the end of the useful shelf life of the meds. Her stockpile includes "heart medicine, in case either of us ever develop a heart condition."

Absurd: The reader that had accumulated hundreds of rolls of toilet paper but who complained: "I lack room in my garage and my storage space for much storage food."

Clueless: The man with more than 2,000 pounds of hard red winter wheat, but that didn't own a wheat grinder.

I suggest a practical, well-balanced approach to preparedness. Here is my preparedness philosophy in a nutshell: You want to buy quality. You want things that will last. But why pay $5,000 for a Rolex Submariner watch, when an O&W Swiss watch that is built just as well will do the same thing, for far less than half as much money?  The inverse corollary is just as important: Why buy a cheap set of low grade "Made in China" tools that will break the first time that they are used instead of buying a set of Craftsman or Snap-On tools which will last a lifetime?  You need to be realistic and strike a commonsense middle ground. Being a truly prepared individual takes wisdom, discernment, and dedication. Learn to objectively judge both the things that you buy and the people that you associate with. You will have to depend on both your logistics and your survival team When the Schumer Hits The Fan (WTSHTF). Make plans and stick to them. Don't develop a plan that is so grand that you never get started. Start small and build on that success. Prioritize your purchases. Don't go overboard in one area (such as firearms/accessories or commo gear) to the detriment of other important preparations. Rid yourself of non-essentials (like your Jet-Skis and your big screen plasma television.) Concentrate on things that work. Concentrate on friends that work--not those who just talk. Buy in bulk. Buy without a paper trail. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Pre-position key logistics at your retreat. Don't scrimp on protecting what you've bought from rust, rot, moths, and critters. (This means getting proper airtight storage containers, a locking CONEX, a gun vault, Golden Rod Dehumidifiers, 02 absorbing packets, diatomaceous earth, et cetera.) Buy extra for barter and more importantly for charity. Be circumspect about your preparations. (The whole town doesn't need to know that you have a three year food supply and 100K rounds of ammo.) Recognize potential threats but don't panic. Instead, plan methodically. Most importantly: pray first, then prepare, and always live by The Golden Rule.

Don't miss the article titled The Great Debate by Puru Saxena which recently ran in The Daily Reckoning. In it, Saxena refutes the widespread belief is that the Federal Reserve is currently increasing interest-rates to "control" inflation. Here is an excerpt from his excellent article:

"The grim reality is that the modern day central banking IS inflation...and the quicker we get used to this idea, the better. The deflation scare is nothing more than a decoy, which the central banks use in order to continue with their money-printing (inflationary) program.
Still not convinced? Then, consider the greatest fabrication, the Japanese "deflation" scare.  For years now, we have been told repeatedly that the root cause of Japan's economic problems is deflation. We have been forced into thinking that deflation is the culprit. Allow me to share a secret - the central banks want you to believe that deflation is a total disaster so that they can freely print more money, thereby creating inflation. After all, who benefits from the monetization of the economy?
Despite all the brainwashing, close inspection reveals that Japan never really had any deflation! The truth is that throughout the past 15 years, Japan's money supply has continued to grow (inflation). Japan has witnessed inflation, and not deflation, since 1980. Sure, Japanese asset prices have fallen since 1990, but the cause is not deflation, as advertised by the establishment. In fact, a sharp rise in interest-rates was the trigger, which caused the Japanese stock and property bubbles to burst.

These days, we are being told that the Federal Reserve is raising interest-rates to "control" inflation. If the Federal Reserve were really curbing inflation, why would the American money supply continue to surge despite recent interest-rate hikes? Despite all the noise about inflation, the Federal Reserve has added roughly $1 trillion to the system over the last year. So, on one hand, the Federal Reserve continues to inflate, and on the other hand, it is raising rates. "But why would they do that?" you may ask. You see, the U.S. economy is in a mess, and a true contraction in the money supply (deflation) would send the whole world into a severe recession. Under this scenario, millions of companies and individuals would go bust and the entire financial system may collapse. Therefore, you can rest assured that the Federal Reserve will continue to inflate for as long as possible. It is shocking to note that the broad-based money supply (M3) has increased from $ 6.5 trillion to $10 trillion in five years - representing a 54% increase! Yeah, Greenspan did a fine job "managing" inflation!

As far as the current situation is concerned, I believe the Federal Reserve is raising interest-rates to prevent an outright collapse of the U.S. dollar..."

Visit The Daily Reckoning web site to read the rest of Mr. Saxena's article. If you do not yet already subscribe to The Daily Reckoning (a free e-mail subscription), then I highly recommend it.


Odds 'n Sods:

By popular demand, The Pre-1899 Specialist has removed the password restriction on his web site.  For those of you that have experienced trouble logging in, try it again now!  See:


Reader "C.G." recommends a battery-powered zip stove for camping and short term outdoor survival . See:


The Chinese city of Harbin (with 3.8 million residents) closed schools and was trucking in drinking water last week after shutting down its water system following a chemical plant explosion. The chemical contamination is working its way down the Songhua River, into Siberia. See:

"Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." - Traditional American Folk Saying on Thrifty Living

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I have again expanded the SurvivalBlog Glossary. It is now much more comprehensive--with many more technical entries. And for the benefit of our overseas readers, I have added a lot of acronyms that are already familiar to most Americans.

Mr. Rawles:
The following response is not intended to be insulting, but I fear it must inevitably come across as such. L.C.’s ignorance is so astonishing in its breadth and depth that I do not know how else to address it. I therefore apologize from the outset for what follows, but understand that this is all intended in the sincere hope of increasing understanding and not some sort of “I know more than you do” contest. 

L.C. wrote:
“I was moderately concerned for the first time reading your blog this past week in regards to the post on Gold and Silver Barter. [On October 27th--see the SurvivalBlog archives] In there you referred to the American public as having ‘been robbed’ [by inflation and debasement of our currency.]” 

Mr. Rawles made a precisely correct observation. For example, if you have money in savings earning 1.5% interest [per year], but a deliberate policy of monetary inflation is eroding the buying power of your money at, say, 2.5% [per year], then, yes, it would be safe to conclude that you are being robbed (and note that I have not even considered taxes in this equation). Bear in mind that inflation, by definition, is almost universally a central bank creation that can usually only exist with a fiat currency. (Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are fantastically rare).

L.C. wrote:
“My concern is that this is one of the few places where survivalists get the bad rap of being crazy.”
Those who truly understand what is going on in the world often are accused of being crazy by the less well informed - this is a common thread throughout recorded history. And sometimes the so accused ARE in fact crazy! But in many cases one finds that such people are not crazy, but merely far more perceptive than is the norm. There were those who foresaw where Hitler and his Thousand Year Reich were going long before Kristallnacht, and fled. They lived. Those who didn’t for the most part ended their lives in unspeakable, hellish agony in places like Auschwitz and Dachau. And yet, the folks who fled were no doubt regarded as “crazy” at the time. Tell me, which group would YOU rather have been in?
Much of what most survivalists believe is regarded as crazy by the mainstream. I would submit, however, that it is the mainstream that has it wrong, not the survivalists.

L.C. wrote:
“I want to point out something: whether it's gold, a paper dollar, or a rock, the value of whatever item is determined by faith, not intrinsic value. Gold is only valuable to us because we decided that shiny stuff was so important that we were willing to trade long, hard days of work for a little bit of it.”
This is partially correct; just correct enough to cause folks like L.C. to come to the precisely wrong conclusion! It would take perhaps several books to cure this profound misunderstanding; let me just state that gold was (and is, amongst more enlightened individuals) considered valuable for reasons far beyond mere faith. It was chosen as money in what can only be described as a harshly Darwinian process of “natural selection” that weeded out all other contenders (save silver, and perhaps copper or copper alloy for small denominations). Space does not permit me to delve into detail; I leave that as an exercise for the class to look up on their own time.

L.C. wrote:
“At one point in our nation's past we limited the currency in the market to be equal to the value of the gold the US Treasury has on hand - but there was a problem. By the 1950s, during our rebuilding of the country post-WWII, there was so much growth going on that we actually were outpacing the availability of gold in the market. We were slowly stifling our own economy because we could not produce more goods and services that there was physical gold in the market.”
Mr. Rawles addressed this pretty well, but I would like to add something here. Not all economic “growth” is beneficial in the long run. One can have healthy growth, and one can have growth that is more akin to a cancerous tumor. America’s “growth”, particularly over the last 40 years, is well and truly a cancer, which is in the end going to kill this once great nation.
And, no, we were not “stifling” our economy - that oft repeated myth has zero basis in fact or reality, and betrays a deep and profound ignorance of how money actually works.

L.C. wrote:
“Finally, common sense prevailed when we realized something: The American public did not need gold, they needed dollars. They can not use gold in the grocery, the feed store, or the mall. Dollars they can use.”
Nonsense! What the American public actually needs is a stable currency - which is precisely what gold is! Unless you happen to think that paying $1 million for a 1st Class postage stamp is a great idea. I suggest you spend some time educating yourself on the concept of hyperinflation. Weimar Republic Germany in the 1920s is a good place to start, and provides an excellent case in point as to why sane people with IQs higher than room temperature do not advocate a fiat currency.
As an aside, why could not one use gold in a grocery store? Prior to 1933, folks would do just that! There were $1, $2.50, $3, $5, $10, and $20 gold coin denominations that were all legal tender. The statements quoted from L.C.'s e-mail are not merely ignorant, but irrational. I am sorry for what I am about to say, L.C., but in all honesty if you had asserted something this idiotic within arms reach I’d have slapped you into next week, just on general principle.

L.C. wrote:
“People have more faith in the dollar than they do in the ounce of gold.” This may be true (to a point), but not in a good way. It basically means that people have more faith in a corrupt and evil politician’s empty promise, then the millennia proven security of gold. Hardly an example of sound reasoning! But then, the Sheeple believe many irrational and stupid things.

L.C. wrote:
“Let the economy grow!” Just like that, eh? Instant economy, just add water and dollars and watch it grow? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Actually, that has just enough truth to be superficially correct! But, as I pointed out earlier, it is not a healthy growth. It is a cancer, and it will in no uncertain terms destroy us.

L.C. wrote:“To imply that we have been fooled is to imply conspiracy and breeds distrust.” Well, yes, your point, please? The irrefutable facts are that we have been fooled, there is ample evidence to suggest at least an indirect conspiracy of philosophy (if not out and out corruption), and overwhelming proof that smart, sane folks should be distrustful, just as Germans should have been distrustful in the 1930s, and Russians from 1919 onwards. Folks in this day and age that are distrustful act so based on solid historical and economic facts. Those who choose to ignore history and basic reality will suffer accordingly - unfortunately, so will the rest of us. Truth is truth and reality is reality. We are being cheated in no uncertain terms. Calling attention to this fact does not itself breed distrust - it is the committing of this massive fraud in the first place that is responsible for that. Sticking your head in the sand does not resolve the fundamental problem, or make it go away. I should not have to explain this to an adult, but obviously...
Based on these statements, L.C., I would surmise that, had you lived in Germany in 1933, you would have swallowed Hitler’s National Socialist party line hook, line, and sinker. After all, you wouldn’t have wanted to “imply conspiracy” or “breed distrust” (though, admittedly, that might have been a good move, sparing you a trip to Auschwitz. On the other paw, you might have lived just long enough to get carpet bombed by B-17s...)

L.C. wrote:
“We may differ here, but I believe that is completely possible to work within the system until there is no system. When there is no system, I will be beside the other readers here making the best of the barter system.”
“May differ” is a grand understatement of the highest order. Further, one may possess all sorts of beliefs, none of which having any factual or rational basis. And the barter system is fantastically inefficient; indeed, the term “barter economy” is truly an oxymoron.

L.C. wrote:
“...Until then, I will happily use my U.S. Dollars to purchase those items, never once believing I have been duped.”
Ignorance is well and truly Bliss! It is not so much a question of not believing you have been duped, but rather whether or not you are capable of comprehending the fact of having been duped. Do not feel bad that you cannot at this point understand, for this colossal scam is subtle indeed - probably less than 1 in 10,000 can properly diagnose the problem. A hint: the dollars you used to purchase items today do not go as far as the dollars you used 5 years ago (or 25 years ago, for that matter). And don’t get me started on the pure fraud that is the Consumer Price Index!

L.C. wrote: “To summarize, whether it is gold, paper currency, diamond, or potato - the value of any item is what we're willing to trade in labor or tangibles to obtain it."
Absolutely true! But it is not the whole truth, by any stretch.

L.C. wrote:
“The U.S. Dollar's value is not, and should not be based on our perceived value of gold, since gold has no value of its own other than what we assign it.”
Very, very, VERY wrong on all counts. Why this is so requires a book, not a sound bite, to address. Again, a homework assignment for the class.

L.C. wrote:
“Gather your junk silver and gold for WTSHTF, but don't believe in it more than the dollar. Oh, and don't worry about the feds coming to take away your gold - since we're not on the gold standard then they don't need it.” Actually, the government will confiscate anything they deem of value, whether it is gold, dollars, stocks/bonds, gasoline, food, etc. The whole concept of government is founded solely upon the principle of organized theft, and nothing else. There are no exceptions to this rule in all of recorded human history.
The central problem here is that L.C. is so profoundly ignorant that he doesn’t know enough to know any better - hence is utter “certainty” in his pronouncements from on High - a certainty that can only exist in those who know literally nothing about the subject being discussed (or, perhaps more accurately, know just enough to be dangerous). Or, put another way, his statements are a priceless example of the "Law of Logical Argument”, wherein “Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about."
Reminds me of a woman who insisted (quite shrilly, I might add) that inflation was, and I quote, “caused by the CPI” ( Consumer Price Index), which is exactly like saying that my speedometer “caused” my car to drive at 65 miles per hour, and just as irretrievably stupid.
Fortunately, L.C. is, in my estimation, simply ignorant, not stupid. Very ignorant and misled, perhaps, but at least it is a curable condition. But how to undo a lifetime of Keynesian economics indoctrination! Where does one even begin?
Well, let us begin at the beginning. What, exactly, is “money,” anyway? Now, if you look in a dictionary it will tend to describe it in terms of coins or paper used as a medium of exchange, or as property, possessions or wealth. The former is correct, though very incomplete; at least it touches on the concept of a medium of exchange. The latter is actually wrong; money and wealth are really not the same thing. Here is the most succinct and essential definition you will ever find (or need): “Money is an information system we use to deploy human effort” - Michael Linton, originator of the Local Employment and Trading System. Kenneth Royce (a.k.a. “Boston T. Party”) expands this definition to state “Money is an information system we use to spread out human effort so as to form a wider front.”
A “wider front” against what? Against the formidable destructive forces of Nature - Entropy, decay, etc. Forces that will destroy any civilization.
Look at it this way - one person working alone is not going to be able to achieve much more than a precarious, hand to mouth existence, let alone build a civilization. Only large groups of people working together can do that. And there are only three ways to motivate people to work together: Love, Force, or Trade.
I very much doubt I will get folks to build me a home simply out of kindness (and I am not destitute enough for Habitat for Humanity to come by...). I suppose I could round up people at the muzzle end of my M1 Garand and “convince” them to build my dream home, but I expect the authorities would frown upon this. In any case, even if I were a Soviet Commissar with this sort of power, I doubt I would get a very high quality home out of the bargain, and I would probably need to watch my back.
In either case, Love and Force simply require too much up close and personal attention to be practical - this is in part why the Soviet Union collapsed. Only Trade can work to deploy human effort in any sort of meaningful manner. And Trade requires a functioning, uncorrupted money system in order to work properly.
If you can grasp and internalize the aforementioned definitions of money, you will be able to understand in truth how economics really works. Those who cannot (or will not) will never really understand, no matter how much they may delude themselves to the contrary. Argue all you want, you will be no less wrong then when you started.
Wealth, BTW, is perhaps best described as being the fruits of human labor, whether it is in the form of material goods or information (note that raw materials or land can also be considered wealth). Money, therefore, is used as a device to communicate the relative values of different forms of wealth. This last is my definition, based on my current understanding of economic matters, and I welcome other inputs.
So why does gold make a good form of money? There are a number of reasons, some of them hinted at by Mr. Rawles, but the most important is that it cannot be arbitrarily created out of thin air (i.e. “fiat”). When you have a fiat system, such as the modern “dollar”, you invariably start to introduce distortions in pricing that create a compounding “snowball” effect that will, eventually and inevitably, bring down the entire system.
Remember what I said earlier about money being a communications tool? Consider this: an army in the field relies on communications. If said communications are disrupted, then the lower echelons cannot report the tactical situation up the chain to the generals, who in their turn cannot issue commands to deploy their troops down to said troops. End result: the army is defeated.
Kenneth Royce put it best: “To destroy an army, destroy its communications. To destroy a civilization, destroy its MONEY.”
Contrary to L.C.’s insane assertion that people needed dollars and not gold (betraying some of his obvious confusion about the concept of money), the ability to grow a money supply is not a good thing, for in the long run (and sometimes even in the short run) it will lead to economic ruin.
“But but but look at all the GROWTH!!!!” ...or so I envision L.C. sputtering as he reads the above. And who can blame him? Have we not “grown” a great deal? Are we not much more prosperous then we were, say, 100 years ago? That depends. What L.C. certainly does not grasp, and perhaps most others here do not realize either, is that a significant portion of this perceived prosperity is created by *robbing the future* to pay for fun and games now. How this occurs is artful, to say the least.
One method is simply to incur massive debts that your children and grandchildren are expected to pay off. The U.S. Debt is somewhere in the multi-TRILLION dollar range - which, logically, will mean our descendents shall become, for all intents and purposes, slaves.
But the main method is simply through inflation. By arbitrarily printing more money, or simply injecting credit into the system, you invariably lower the value of dollars. Simple supply and demand folks! All else remaining equal, when something becomes more available, its value dwindles. Did you know that since 1913 (the year the Federal Reserve was formed) the dollar has literally lost 95% (perhaps more, now) of its purchasing power? And that the bulk of that loss started from about 1965-1975 (i.e. the years in which we eliminated silver from our coinage and repudiated the gold standard) onwards? This is NOT, in any way, shape, or form, a coincidence.
So what do you think happens to folks who try to save money? Well, if you get 1.5% interest on your savings, but inflation is 2.5% (or more; 6%-7% is a much more plausible figure), then, yes, you end up stealing from them. This is because the creators of this added “money” get to use it at its current “full” value - but those further down the food chain lose buying power because the added liquidity has caused prices of goods and services to rise (and savings just wither away, period). Thus, if you are saving for retirement, you are screwed.
Inflation is, in effect, a stealth tax - and a fairly greedy one at that. But it is the only way for government to grow itself. After all, the level of up front taxation required to support a government as bloated and massive as ours with an honest monetary system (i.e. gold based) would exceed 90% of an individual’s income (not exaggerating here, by the way). Which would, quite naturally, result in an open revolt of the “blood running in the sewers” variety in VERY short order.
Which of course leads to one of the main problems with L.C.’s rose-tinted lens view of the world, namely that much of the “growth” we have witnessed has been in government. Many of the readers here detest government intrusion into their lives, and yet have never once bothered to consider this essential truth: such a level of intrusion would be largely or even wholly IMPOSSIBLE without a fiat money system! Without the ability to inflate, all taxes have to be more or less direct. And as noted earlier the level of taxation in an honest system of money required to support such un-Constitutional abominations such as the IRS, DEA, HUD, ATF, etc. would simply be unsustainable. Only by creating a purely artificial “prosperity” through a policy of inflation can one simultaneously keep such parasitical organizations (would you spend money on ATF “services” if you had a choice in the matter...? Didn’t think so) afloat whilst also keeping the masses content and relatively happy.
As an aside, it should be pointed out that even folks who favor some sort of governmental control might balk at actually paying the costs of such. Continuing with the ATF example, if the gun-grabbers truly had to deal with the direct and indirect costs in an up front and direct manner, it is doubtful there would be any real support for such controls or this agency. It is one thing when the costs are completely hidden, but when, say, 25% of what you make goes to law enforcement, you take a sudden and very deep rooted interest in precisely HOW this money is being spent. Non-effective or even counter-productive use of such money (such as ATF, DEA, etc.) will be immediately highlighted and CUT, without further thought or discussion.
Only dishonest people (i.e. politicians, central bankers, socialists, etc.) want dishonest money.
But there is a far more subtle and sinister side effect that few indeed realize: the artificial prosperity I noted above also causes us to blaze through natural resources at a MUCH higher rate then would ever be possible under an honest monetary system. We are now starting to see resource depletion on a significant scale, from diminishing oil supplies to over fished oceans. We are quite literally stealing the future from our descendents.
What is the root of all evil? Not money, but rather the desire to get something at someone else’s’ expense. In this respect, the so-called “Greatest” Generation and their parents were probably the greediest, as they foisted all of this expense upon us (in fairness, though, they were duped to a significant degree - but they still should have KNOWN better. It is a universal moral law: you can’t get something for nothing!).
Folks, these bills are going to come due at some point! Yeah, maybe YOU don’t have to pay them, but I bet your children and grandchildren won’t adore you. In any case, it is a moral abomination to force others to pay your expenses; it is literally theft, albeit indirect. Perhaps you won’t face the music down here on Earth, but do not think such an evil thing will go unpunished forever. (There is a reason why the Bible considers usury to be wrong...)
There is only one way to, in truth, grow an economy: produce a larger surplus of useful goods and services. There are no true shortcuts to this! Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.
“Government” produces nothing (save mountains of paperwork, rampant corruption, and injustice), and offers very little of value in terms of services. Certainly the ATF, HUD, DEA et al could be swallowed up by a giant fissure in the earth and the only result would be the betterment of all life on this planet (if not, ultimately, the entire Universe). So what do we even want government for, anyway? Good question... honestly not much.
In reality, virtually all government services (the useful ones, that is) could just as easily be provided through other, more “libertarian” means. But setting that aside what we really want out of government is order, specifically “useful”, as opposed to surplus, order. In other words I want them to keep disaffected malcontents from flying passenger airliners into buildings, keep out “immigrants” whose goal is to subvert and take over our country, rather than become Americans, and prevent fanatic Chinese commies from launching nukes at us. Providing coordination and additional resources for local law enforcement to help track down serial killers, rapists, and other thugs might be nice, too.
But the problem is, we get “surplus” order - DEA thugs busting down some 70 year old grandmothers door at 4:00 AM because they were too stupid to get the right address, ATF sturmtruppen burning a bunch of religious dissidents alive in their church (or stomping on helpless kittens and roughing up pregnant women), Education bureau-rats forcing kindergartners to learn about gay lifestyles, EPA slime balls shutting down some small business over a paperwork infraction, BLM agents becoming cattle rustlers, etc. etc., ad nauseam.
This is what L.C.’s blind faith in fiat dollars has really bought for us: a bloated, incompetent, feral, and tyrannical, government. The sort of government that is rapidly starting to make Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia look like a Libertarian paradise by comparison (don’t believe me? Give it a few years; you’ll see...) Whatever prosperity we have is in spite of, not because of, fiat dollars.
Had that commie moron FDR been impeached and put in prison for merely *suggesting* the confiscation of gold back in the 1930s (let alone his other crimes, creation of the BATF, etc.), the Depression would have been ended much sooner, the growth of the 1950s and later would have been genuine and sustained, government would be much smaller and less intrusive, far fewer resources would have been squandered, and the world, quite simply, would be better off.
Instead, we have skyrocketing inflation, which causes prices to rise, forcing minimum wages to rise, thus creating yet more inflation. This makes a mockery of trying to save for the future, so instead we over-consume resources. And why not? It is not as if there will be a tomorrow worth living in.
Inflation literally destroys money, as it introduces such distortions into the communications between markets and customers that it becomes impossible to “deploy a wider front”. Hence, inflation ultimately destroys civilizations. Just ask the Romans! They can tell you exactly what happens.
“The more things change, the more they remain insane.” - Bill Bonner, The Daily Reckoning, 11/10/05
One of the problems is that, while the Laws of Economics are as ironclad and brutal as the ones that govern physics, the results can be delayed - sometimes for years, decades, or even generations! Picture Wile E. Coyote, chasing poor Roadrunner, and missing his seemingly hapless and going straight-along right off a precipice. He sails on, looking back, plotting how to get himself turned around to catch the Roadrunner, when, suddenly, he realizes he is no longer upon terra firma. Then he looks up, holds up a sign saying “Uh-oh” or something like that, and then plummets downward. That’s about we are at right now. There is no way to run back to the cliff; we are way past that point. Only the Abyss awaits us
The distortions we are seeing now had most of their roots with the creation of the Fed in 1913 - some 92 years ago! Heck, all of those who made these monstrous decisions are long since dead and buried (and, hopefully, roasting in Hell). But their evil legacy lives on.
When you start down the road of fiat inflation and the false prosperity it creates, you bring into being certain unrealistic and false expectations. At the time, Social Security struck people as a good idea (yes, I would argue even without hindsight that it was a remarkably stupid idea, but then I am a good deal smarter than 99.99% of the rest of humanity. And those who actually know me would recoil in horror at such a revelation, given that my IQ is such a low benchmark.) but with the dramatic increase in life expectancy and equally dramatic decrease in fertility rates, to say nothing of the loss of wealth creation ability (i.e. manufacturing, etc.) there is literally NO WAY this can be sustained. It is obvious that it is just economically impossible - the realities WILL catch up at some point. And then there will be HELL to pay.
But the problem is, no one can conceive of a way out. Getting rid of the social welfare system is deemed “too cruel” to the parasites that benefit from it – there would be so much “suffering.” What the well meaning but irretrievably stupid people who espouse this fail to realize is that, by delaying the inevitable you only make things immeasurably worse - ESPECIALLY for those they are claiming to be “helping”.
In a sane society folks who suggest implementing a fiat currency (or gun control, for that matter) would be laughed out of polite company, and regarded as mental and moral cripples. Such loathsome creatures would be ostracized until they educated themselves as to why it is such a fantastically bad idea, and then formally apologized to all and sundry for their appalling lapse in rudimentary logic and reason. Those holding public office who actively attempted to do such would simply be dragged out of their offices and publicly hanged (after, naturally, a beating remarkable in its savagery and thoroughness), with their bodies left to rot in the open as an object lesson for the next ten generations that some ideas are simply purely evil in and of themselves.
When I become Master of the Dark Side of the Force, there will be some changes in the way things are run... (“Oh Mighty Sith Lord, I have a proposal to print paper mon-- ack! Cough! ACK!!! ..... ‘I find your lack of common sense... disturbing....’ *thud*)   - G.F.L.

I was looking at the Texas State Department of Health and Human Services home page this morning and saw a link to their state plan for a flu pandemic. I thought our fellow readers might like to take a look. Probably would be a good idea for us all to see what each of our states have in mind for us. Here is the URL:

Long Life, - "Overhill"

"Proximus sum egomet mihi." ("Charity begins at home.") - Publius Terentius Afer ("Terence"), Andria (Act IV, sec. 1, 12)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Today we feature another entry for the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The deadline for entries is November 28th. Get your entry in soon ! The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight! (An up to $2,000 value.)

Reduce, re-use, and recycle. This article addresses intelligent consumerism for the new survivalist. You've heard it many times before: you get what you pay for. As consumers in a global economy we have more choices than ever, but perhaps not as many wise choices. Imported junk fills the shelves of many stores and being a smart consumer is not as easy as knowing a few brand names. Once upon a time you had a general sense of quality by the brand name of a product but the new global economy has made brand names largely irrelevant outside their use as a marketing tool. If you want to be a discriminating consumer in the modern age you need to ask yourself; what is this item worth? Is a knife worth $6.95 because you can always run to the store and by a replacement, or should a knife be worth $75 because you will never need a replacement? The smart consumer will chose the latter. Granted we can't all afford to buy "the best", but nearly everyone can afford to be a smart consumer. It is wise to place the proper value on things we need. As survivalists we need to think beyond our next trip to the store or the bargain of the day. We need to think long term and we are all aware that many, many things in our society are built for the short term. From the latest plasma television, to disposable razors, to tennis shoes, these things are not going to be here for long. Many high-tech items are not made to be repaired at all, if something happens and it is out of warranty it must simply be discarded and replaced. A time will come when simple replacement is out of the question - so choose wisely.
I recently decided to see how long a "disposable" razor would last. I shaved with it once a week for six months! It's nice to know I can get a lot of use out of a disposable item if needed. Yet to too many people it's a single use "disposable" item. I have broken regular non-disposable razors as well, after hitting them against the side of the sink many, many times, so I know they won't last all that long either. Short of an actual straight razor, they are all basically "disposable" items. I'm not an earth-hugging-greenie-weenie mind you but I don't much care for our "disposable society" attitude either. Firstly it is wasteful of money and resources, and secondly it is unwise especially for anyone concerned with their long term survival.
How many things do you throw away every day? How many of those things can be re-used? We can reduce our use of packaging by buying food in bulk quantities. We can reduce our use of natural resources by buying quality first and cost second. We can reuse many items like plastic bread bags and water bottles, and we can recycle almost anything.

The way that I shop is by first looking at where something is made. As a general rule I don't support communists so about half of all goods in any given store are off limits because they are made in communist China. I realize that many times I don't really have a choice and my kids do need shoes so I pretty much have to get shoes made in China for them. For adults we can still find shoes made elsewhere, but I haven't seen the same options for kids. If I can find what I want and it is not made in a communist country then I can compare quality, features, and value. Too often cost is an overriding factor for many people and I try not to fall into that trap, I prefer to shop for value. To do this I ask: how important is this item to my/our survival? If it is truly a needed item and not simply a luxury I can justify nearly any cost to make sure that I get a quality item that will perform as needed and have a long service life. Luxury items like an auto-drip coffee maker are of far less importance in our household than any survival plans. By being smart consumers and thinking about ways to reduce  / re-use / recycle, we are enforcing good practices that will help ensure our long term survival. Survival for us is not just about being  prepared, but being well prepared, not just about having the stuff, but knowing how to use it, and not just talking about surviving a long term crisis or TEOTWAWKI but by implementing intelligent, purpose driven strategies in our everyday life that make a difference. - "A. Friend"

There was an interesting thread of conversation over on The FALFiles Forums about the U.S. 90% silver coinage that was minted up to 1964. The thread began:

> Talk about coincidence, I was given two silver quarters im my change from a local McDonalds [the] day
> before yesterday. I knew there was something good in all that change as soon as she dropped
> it into my hand by the distinct difference in sound the old coins made, the cashier never batted an eye.
>I got one 1965 quarter in very good shape and one 1942 quarter that looks as though it went around the world,
>its very worn.

The thread later continued:
>> $1,000 worth of dimes, quaters and half dollars contained 723.4 ounces of

>>silver when minted.
> Because of wear most have less silver now

I replied:
That is correct. Most coin dealers assume that a $1,000 face value bag of circulated pre-1965 coins has just 715 ounces of silver, due to wear. That is assuming typical wear for a bag that is composed of nearly one-half of the coins with a 1964 mint date (the largest--and last--minting year of 90% silver coins), and a mix of earlier dates. A lot of the really early quarters (such as Walking Liberty quarters) in a typical bag are so badly worn that you can hardly read the dates. A bag of those woudl probbaly have less than 700 ounces of silver.

So, assuming 715 ounces of silver at the current spot price of $8.12 per ounce, that makes a $1,000 face value bag worth $5,805, wholesale. (Or just think of it as about 5.8 times face value.)

As for the date confusion: The proper term is "Pre-1965"--coins with a mint date of 1964 or earlier. All of the dimes and quarters minted in and after 1965 show a copper edge--they are a phoney sandwich ("clad") copper token rather than a proper silver coin. It is no wonder hat they drove the old 90% coins out of circulation so quickly. There was quite a coin shoratge from 1965 ot 1967.

The 1965-to-1970 Kennedy half dollars are not clad coinages. They are a debased 40% silver alloy. BTW, I still occassionally find those circulating (rarely) in rural areas. They mainly get back into circulation via schoolchildren who break into the wrong piggy bank, and don't know the difference. (Probably the same source as those quarters from McDonald's.)
I recommend that folks get their "beans, bullets and band-aids" squared way first. Then, you might want to purchase one $1,000 junk silver bag per adult family member, for barter purposes. Above and beyond that, any "investment" silver should probably be in the form of 1,000 ounce Englehard or Johnson-Matthey serialized silver bars. That is the least expensive (lowest premium) way to buy bullion silver that does not require an assay upon resale.

OBTW, if you have the storage space, I strongly recommend silver over gold. I believe that silver is far more likely to double or triple in price than gold. (It isn't very far from $8 to $16, but psychologically it is a lot farther from $490 to $980!)
I still predict silver at $40+ per ounce by the end of the second term of the Bush administration.


The Army Aviator on HF Radios, Field Telephones, and "Shoutcasting" Parabolic Dish Communications (SAs: Survival Communications, HF, Radio Propagation, Parabolic Dish Voice Communication, Shoutcasting, Field Telephones)

A HF network is a good idea. A local network also has its merits. There are lots of methods and frequencies for local area usage. Some use military surplus equipment, some CBs, some ham, some TA-1 field phones with wire, some use Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) access points (a great idea if you've planned ahead for electricity and it actually works.). I know three people in Colorado who use old solid satellite dishes to be able to stand on their hills and talk to each other over several miles using a normal speaking voice. Must be strange facing away from someone several miles away and having a conversation. It works surprisingly well, but I was told that the rare scream of a hawk flying between the dishes can be slightly unnerving. Many people aren't aware that the Atlanta, Georgia ham community has a city wide internet that's not part of the [International] Internet. All courtesy of Wi-Fi. Now that's an interesting concept. Voice, Phone, Data and Video on a parallel internet. Kinda like the Fed, huh?

Lots of ideas and most are good for their particular arena. But here's the but). But HF can link the continent together so you know what is happening all the way across the continent, even to the other end of the continent. It beats restricting yourself to only knowing what's going on 20, 40 or 60 miles away.(Not to mention talking worldwide or just listening worldwide, Hmmm?). Check out to acquire an idea of how the government planned to use HF to provide trans and post attack communications among nuclear capable units in the European Theater and then applied the concept for use in CONUS for FEMA.

Excellent idea overall. {For example,] I look forward to seeing where people suggest landing. One suggestion might be similar to the HF Backpack net, all USB. Geared to HF with less than 20 watts and the ability to carry it on your back while talking on the radio. Rough times? Conservative power requirement! Excellent capability. Perhaps someone will show up there and suggest moving to a quieter spot to start a discussion?

OBTW, the web page cited above states the units could regularly communicate over 400 miles. Not quite accurate! From Colorado, I regularly talk to San Francisco, San Diego, Maine, and Georgia [the U.S. state]--all from this little radio which fits in a flight bag. It is 20 watts and has a 10 foot vertical whip antenna powered by a 28 volt, 7 amp battery which I can (and do) recharge with solar cells. And it's about the same size as the venerable PRC-77! Best Regards, - The Army Aviator

"The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts." - Edmund Burke

Friday, November 25, 2005

Howdy Mr. Rawles!
One frequency [band] that I have had good results from has been 6 meters. This frequency is really unique. It may not be suitable for every situation, however its properties can be of use. It has the ability to become a national frequency when the E layer of the atmosphere is active. I have talked to HAMs from Washington state, to San Francisco, California down through Texas, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti, parts of South America, Vermont and above the Arctic Circle in Canada, [and] among adjacent states. Lets just say I am on the opposite side of the country from Washington State and California. I did these contacts on a wire sloper antenna cut for the mid portion of the 6 meter band. One day I will get my 5-element beam antenna up which should at least triple my [long range propagation] capabilities. Six Meters has the ability to use AM, FM, SSB (upper and lower) and is repeater system capable. I actually talked for thirty minutes to a fellow in Mississippi on the AM side (which I rarely use). I was just goofing around on AM just to see who was transmitting, if anyone, and I heard his CQ. I have collected QSL cards from all the varying points I have made contact. Granted, 6-meters is subject to atmospherics and sun spot cycles, but it does offer a very private local and potential national and international communications capability. I have heard stations from Spain as well as Africa, but I did not have a path back to them. Once I was monitoring 6 meters and heard a conversation from two other HAMs, one located in Texas and another in Cuba! The fellow in Cuba had to have been a higher up in the government as the conversation turned toward atmospheric science. The Cuban mentioned that he was monitoring, yes monitoring, the progression of an E layer cloud that was passing over parts of central Texas. He mentioned that a particular path to South America should open up and the HAM in Texas could make a contact in South America to get a QSL card. It would take the cloud about 20 minutes to move into position. Sure enough about 20 minutes later I started hearing the Texas HAM making CQ calls to a station he could hear in South America. Now the very interesting thing is this. For the Cuban operator, who was doing HAM work while at work, to "see" an E layer cloud over central Texas; he had to be sitting at an over the horizon radar station. Leastwise, this is the only thing I could figure. This means that in all likelihood he was military. So my question has always been, "What else, other than atmospheric research, would Cuba need over the horizon radar for? Makes you go, "Hmmmm." The six-meter band should be on the list for monitoring of atmospherics at least, and a potential communications band. Other frequencies such as 10 meters are more "stable" in many ways. But what I have noticed is when 6 meters becomes active for distance communication, the other bands 'open up' shortly after. If my memory serves me, I think 6 meters can be used for data (NOS or Packet) communications. I don't have my ARRL Handbook handy to look it up for sure, perhaps someone else knows for sure offhand.

Speaking of Packet and NOS, lets not leave these out also. It could be quite useful to connect computers into a 'chat' mode or a BBS as the old original text based BBS were in the early days of computer communications when you had to dial directly into a server to post messages, etc. For those old enough to know about Fido[net] and other BBS Programs, these too would offer a point to point BBS provided the grid is not totally down or has been fried by EMP. Check Hamfests for good used equipment as well as eBay. These "fallback" technologies aren't as pretty and slick as all the bells and whistles of the Internet today, but they do offer a method of communication that does not have a lot of equipment overhead. Granted they are slower than the Internet today, but so long as the word gets through; that accomplishes the mission. A patchwork quilt approach to communications where one area relays information via Packet or NOS to another area so it can forward that information via voice or morse (yes, MORSE CODE) and back to a different Packet station is what we are looking at. Yes I said that bad word Morse code. It is the only method that you can transmit on 1/10th of a watt on a particular frequency and reach around the world. I had a HAM buddy who was my Elmer (volunteer who helps a new person interested in HAM) sit at my kitchen table with a transmitter he built in a sardine can. He used a short wave radio as the receiver. We sat there and with him using Morse code he 'talked' [in manual morse code] to a HAM in Siberia. This was long before the fall of the USSR. The Siberian HAM had built the 'sardine can transmitter' on the sly from spare parts that he had scrounged. And since it operated on such low wattage and used Morse code, which takes way less power than voice to travel around the world, it was hard for the 'authorities' to find him. Hence information from behind the Iron Curtain could get out regardless of the government's best efforts to prevent it.

[JWR adds: HF transmissions propagate with near vertical incidence skywaves, which are nearly impossible to locate via traditional radio direction finding.  Yes, there is my old favorite, the Track Wolf HF-DF system, but that requires a much longer tale that I'll reserve for a subsequent blog post. And the full story will have to wait for declassification, probably sometime late in the century.]

Mobility may also be most valuable. Having a HF rig in a mobile platform (car, boat, etc.) makes it difficult to locate. During the invasion into Kuwait by Iraq, a HAM in a van managed to get information out to the rest of the world while constantly moving and keeping messages short. Basically he followed the snipers rule. One shot, then he moves to another location, and takes another shot or transmission in his case. You can get devious about things also. With the data capability why not integrate the use of PGP or other encryption software along with packet, a Network Operating System (NOS), or even over voice. So long as the person you intend to transmit to has the encryption key to decrepit the message. That person passes information along to another node in the net under his or her own unique key. No one could decode it. But you would have to remember about RDF (radio direction finding) if things were real hot. Follow the sniper's rules.

If you are new to HAM Radio or want to start, then find the 'old heads' who have a very broad knowledge of radios. Even tube radio repair will be a useful skill to learn (tube radios aren't subject to EMP as long as they don't have any integrated circuits, but they will suck power like there is no tomorrow.) Also check out an ARRL Handbook and look into the Amateur Satellite Radio aspect. The problem is with EMP, but I have no idea how EMP would affect the satellites themselves. But Sats can also be utilized for particular situations. Amateur Television can be utilized to monitor your property or remote areas, but there again EMP is your enemy. And if properly put together they can be run off Solar Panels with battery backups.

Explore the totality of HAM, it offers a lot. If you are an 'old head' in HAM, become an Elmer. [A mentor to beginners.] If you want to learn more about the capabilities of HAM, check the ARRL website for ARRL clubs listed near you Most HAMs are geared toward disaster communications instead of "rachetjawing" all day. When there is a disaster, you will find a HAM trying to get the information out. OBTW, Another interesting technology that was pioneered by HAMs is communication via laser for point to point communications. There was a club out west that was experimenting with utilizing laser communications between two distant mountains or mesas. This area would be ideal for such communications because of the lack of humidity and pollutants in the air. Dust may be a problem but I never heard of any. I don't remember the name of the club but will try to find out through my HAM buddies. The use of IR laser would make it invisible except for NVGs.

Going on the concept of 'burst' communications may provide another mode for communications in some areas. From what my Elmer told me about 20 years ago, they were having some pretty darn good reliability. So with today's technology it should draw much less power and be viable. Granted, it won't be for every sector of the country but may become part of the patchwork quilt communications we have to rely on.
73s, - The Rabid One

JWR Replies:  Remember that we are presently on the down slope of the 11 year solar cycle, so don't depend on reliable 6 meter propagation via the sporadic E-layer skip.

"If I can recognize the danger at long range, I’ll deactivate it from a safe distance. The rifle is one of the better long range danger deactivators." - Jim Woods.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pardon me for getting off topic "chasing rabbits", but I will be posting some more articles and letters on secure communications, encryption, and privacy in next the couple of days. Encryption and cryptanalysis have been interests of mine for many years--even before I was an ASA officer. I hope that you can appreciate the utility of secure communications in retreat planning and in organizing survival teams. If not, well then humor me...

In the absence of computing power if we are reduced to using tiny QRP [low power] transmitters for communication, then there may come a time where some messages require heavy duty encryption. This is the easiest method I know of the Solitaire card deck encryption method. A group could even generate one time pads which would be starting order for a deck and store them in a secure location. See: Here is a snip from this site:

"In Neal Stephenson's novel Cryptonomicon, the character Enoch Root describes a cryptosystem code-named "Pontifex" to another character named Randy Waterhouse, and later reveals that the steps of the algorithm are intended to be carried out using a deck of playing cards. These two characters go on to exchange several encrypted messages using this system. The system is called "Solitaire" (in the novel, "Pontifex" is a code name intended to temporarily conceal the fact that it employs a deck of cards) and I designed it to allow field agents to communicate securely without having to rely on electronics or having to carry incriminating tools. An agent might be in a situation where he just does not have access to a computer, or may be prosecuted if he has tools for secret communication. But a deck of cards...what harm is that?"

[See the URL cited above, for the details on this enciphering system]

JWR Replies: Thanks for sending that, David. In the near future I plan to post a brief article about "book codes" --using two identical books as one-time pads. This method is called a Buchspiel ("book game") by the German spymasters that perfected it.

Jim, I wanted to add that I think it is a great time now to test for Amateur radio license ("Ham" radio.) The entry level test is apparently quite simple and there is no longer any requirement for morse code (although that is a good skill to acquire.) [JWR adds: IIRC, that applies only to "No Code" license classifications, which have band restrictions.] I have been routinely listening to 75 meters at night, here in Coeur d'Alene {Idaho.] I here people as far as San Diego, California. Those broadcasting within 800 miles (Nevada, Oregon and all over the northwest) come in so clear and strong it seems as if they are down the street!) Most of these fellows willing to help out and share their knowledge. This is a lot different from CB radio where there is usually so much vulgarity and bad behavior it makes you want to keep that radio turned off. There are plenty of amateur radio clubs that are willing to help people out (the Spokane area alone has 10 or more clubs). A visit to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) web site  [] will provide tons of info. If people are serious about surviving any type of calamity then the ability to communicate is going to be vital. Best Regards,  - Jason  in North Idaho

Hi Jim,
I’m writing to see if you, or any of your readers, have any input re: Springfield Armory’s M1A SOCOM. I am considering putting one on layaway as a bugout rifle, but have read mixed reviews. I seem to remember that I saw a recommendation on SurvivalBlog to dispense with the full size version (my MBR) and go with the SOCOM, but I can’t find it. Any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Mr. Rawles:

Regarding the by another SurvivalBlog reader that mentioned that she had purchased Nano mask:  They have major flaw, so I'd rather choose [a full mask with] 95 filters: The Nano mask offers NO EYE PROTECTION. Think about it, if it can get into your mouth or nose, it'll get into your eyes too.

Secondly, [swimming] pool grade diatomaceous earth will work too, contrary to what the website says. (I used to own a pool building business for nine years.. - Tamryn

JWR Replies:  I agree with both of your points. There are differences between natural diatomaceous earth  and the heat-treated (calcined) diatomaceous earth that is used for swimming pool filtration. Swimming pool diatomaceous earth can have a higher crystalline silica content (about 60%) and could be dangerous if taken internally. But it is still fine fro virtually all of the other typical uses--and the markup per pound can be 1000% higher for "store bought" diatomaceous earth. Any other touted difference consists primarily of packaging, marketing, and a bigger mark-up.So I recommend that you buy just a small quantity of "food grade" diatomaceous earth, and a much larger supply of typical swimming pool diatomaceous earth for killing pests and for water filtration. OBTW, diatomaceous earth has 101 uses around the house:  You can uses it to kill insects as a non-toxic alternative to poisons, in water filtration, hydroponics, to dust your chickens for mites, et cetera.


Letter Re: "Nano Masks"  (SAs: Asian Avian Flu, Protective Masks)

Hello Jim,
I saw the post on the blog about the Nano Mask and had to write in to offer some concerns about this system for LONG-TERM usage during an Avian Flu outbreak.

First, as their own web site discloses, if the Nano Mask filtered anything smaller than .027 microns then you would not be able to breath through it as the filter pores would be too small to handle the air flow of our inhalations. So, what they are telling us is that this “nano” filter media ultra-fine filter. Keep that in mind as I discuss the concerns I have…

Nano-Mask concern #1:
The Nano-Mask does not have an EXHALATION VALVE! This means, as their web site confirms, that both air coming IN (inhalation) and air going OUT (exhalation) are both equally filtered through the nano filter media. Unless I have someone in my household that has a weakened immune system, why on earth would I want to FILTER the air coming out of my lungs? Moreover, if properly prepared for a flu pandemic, my home would be a “CLEAN” area where the donning of protective masks would not be needed. Therefore, the only time I will need respiratory protection is when I go out where public contact may or will be expected, so why, again, would I want to filter my exhalations? This makes no sense for “survivalist-type” scenarios…

Nano-Mask concern #2:
MOISTURE!!! Since the nano mask has no exhalation valve and filters both inhalations and exhalations, all that hot, moist air I am exhaling is now DIRECTLY IMPACTING the nano filter media. Add in heavy breathing from physical exertion or stress and you are talking about a huge moisture problem! Unless specifically designed to do so, such as a water filter, moisture DESTROYS a filters ability to operate properly by CLOGGING the filter media with water. Gas mask filters are a great example! There is not a gas mask filter anywhere that I know of that works properly when WET, which is why ALL quality gas masks have EXHALATION VALVES. Think about that!

Nano-Mask concern #3:
SMALL FILTER MEDIA! Take a look at the Nano Mask replaceable filter media; it is a small triangular patch that mounts on a mask assembly. Since the Nano Mask does DOUBLE DUTY by filtering air coming in and air going out, this ultra-fine filter media will CLOG UP at least TWICE AS FAST as a comparable mask with an exhalation valve. Add in the moisture variable from your exhalations upon a small filter media and you have serious EFFECTIVE FILTER LIFESPAN issues!

In conclusion, the Nano filter technology is very promising, but let us keep in mind that the H5N1 virus is not like a “weapons-grade” biological agent as it always needs a CARRIER, such as water droplets (spit, tears, mucous or phlegm) or airborne dust where these water droplets attach themselves. This small virus IS NOT just floating around in the air by itself! Since this small virus, just like the common flu, is always attached to a LARGER PARTICLE, the CDC and WHO are justified in promoting N95 filters as effective protection from the H5N1 virus. Lets be real; does anyone really think the CDC and WHO would send in their staff, researchers, nurses and doctors into an H5N1 hot zone without EFFECTIVE protection? THEY are the ones who know the threat, not a company trying to market their masks to a fearful public with misleading information and a questionable product for the intended application.

I think your readers should be aware of the DOWNSIDE to the Nano-Mask as very few think and analyze the LONG-TERM feasibility of a protection product. I personally am recommending to friends and family, similar to the CDC and WHO, any N95 or N100/P100 mask with an EXHALTION VALVE (I like the 3M 9211 N95 mask) combined with lab-quality, shielded eye protection. In a truly contaminated environment (hospital during pandemic), I would not consider myself safe unless I was wearing full-face protection (eyes, nose, mouth) with HEPA filtration that a good quality military gas mask would provide (I like the Canadian C4 or Scott M95). Then comes DECON.   Baruch HaShem Yahweh, - Robert

"The greatest thing in the world is to know how to be self-sufficient." - Michel Eyquem De Montaigne (1533-1592), French Philosopher and Essayist

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I've been asked by several readers for their advice on cellular phones. First, I should mention that the cellular revolution still hasn't made its way to the Rawles Ranch. Perhaps it never will. I'd appreciate your e-mails with comments on this topic. (As a non-cellular kinda guy, I will surely leave out some important points.)

The general rules of thumb on cellular phones are as follows:

All cellular phones are vulnerable to interception--some are just a bit more secure than others. There is no privacy with a cell phone--or in essence with any other radio transmitter. None. Don't kid yourself. Take my word on it--back when I was an intelligence officer, what I did for a living was supervise troops that did primarily did voice intercept and direction finding. Please don't write to tell me that you saw on television that characters from The Sopranos use encrypted cell phones to talk with their mob buddies. Yes, it is possible, but there are three big problems with this: 1.) It is illegal for private Citizens to do so. 2.)  Doing so will instantly raise your profile in the eyes of authorities. Instead of being just one nondescript cell phone emitter in an ocean of emitters, your cell phone will suddenly become an "signal of interest." (SOI)   3.) Even an encrypted signal can still be DFed.

Regardless of the type of cell phone that you use, if you remove its battery pack then it cannot be tracked. It ceases to be an emitter. (Without a battery it will not even produce local oscillator noise.)

Privacy and anonymity are worthy goals, but consider that their may be situations where you will want to have your location known--such as when you are calling 911 in the event of a car accident, or in a wilderness rescue/medevac situation. IMHO, to the ideal solution would be a cell phone on which you can selectively disable the GPS circuitry.

When the U.S. FCC mandated "Enhanced 911"  ("E911"-- a.k.a. cell phone tracking), they set a standard for direction finding (DF) accuracy, but they left the method implementation up to the major cellular service providers. Some providers chose location schemes that depend on GPS chips. Others use time-of arrival radio direction finding. (The latter approach uses cell phone towers as the DF sites--creating a DF network with a very long baseline.) For details, see:  Because of this diversity of approaches, there are still many "loophole" cell phones that cannot be tracked or triangulated.  These include pre-GPS phones or phones with their GPS receiver disabled, subscribed in Sprint, Verizon, or Nextel service plan. But be advised that there is essentially no way to avoid tracking if your cellular provider employs time-of arrival radio direction finding. Do some research the next time that you change cellular providers.

The other important  aspect of cellular phone privacy is protecting your identity. Most cellular phone service plans require that you provide detailed billing information, a physical street address, and a credit card number. But what about those nifty "pre-paid" cell phones that you can buy at you local drug store?  For now at least, most pre-paid cell phones can be purchased anonymously.  They only lose their anonymity if and when you "recharge" their minutes with a credit card. (OBTW, I'll discuss anonymous credit cards in a future SurvivalBlog post. But here is a hint to get you started: the Simon's Mall chain sells anonymous pre-paid VISA debit cards.)

For more information, see:,aid,114721,00.asp  and 

Here is a good military level primer on HF radio propagation with some links on how to make improvised antennas. See:
For more fun, try Googling on the search phrase: "stealth, apartment, and wire antennas."  There is an amazing science behind these home-built wonders.

A few items that are of concern/interest to me as of late are topics that others have brought up. Don't forget that disabling OnStar may be obtainable, but I surmise that disabling your cell phone would be patently dangerous in a slow slide or SHTF scenario. Learn [the details about] your cell phone, and VOTE WITH YOUR EAR! (Had to get that in there Jim!) I presume that handheld or vehicular mounted GPS  systems would also create some sort of signature or locale while in operation. Is this of noteworthiness? The last unit I bought, I purchased without any registration or anything. I assume if you subscribe to a service then by definition it has its "eyes upon you."

Another item that I seek your expertise on is how to obtain an "annual stockpile" of necessary prescriptions. How do you recommend that your like minded blog readers go about this process? My last purchase of cold medication resulted in the showing of my I.D. before I could obtain it. I hesitate to think this is an easily remedied issue. Take Care, - The Wanderer

JWR Replies:

On cellular phones:   Coincidentally, I addressed these issues in another blog post that is also running today. (Wednesday, November 23, 2005.)

On GPS receivers: Pardon the following side step into ASA arcana (one of my past lives): Any radio receiver creates what is called local oscillator noise--a very weak signature that can be detected by very sophisticated monitoring equipment. But from a practical standpoint, it cannot be pinpointed except if you are up against a serious DFing team with some very sophisticated equipment, and only then if you are in an electromagnetic quiet zone such as out in the middle of a National Forest. Anywhere else, the local oscillator noise will get lost in the ambient clutter. So you can safely assume that a passive GPS receiver by itself is not a threat to your privacy. But when a GPS receiver is integrated with a cellular phone (which is of course an active transmitter), you can kiss your location privacy goodbye.

On prescription meds: It is a pity that most doctors in the urban and suburban portions of  the U.S. don't have the same mentality that is prevalent in Alaska and the more remote regions of the intermountain west.  Here in the hinterboonies, many doctors are accustomed to getting requests for full-year prescriptions from ranchers, miners, bush pilots, and others that live out far beyond the sidewalks. Unless you have a relative that is an M.D., all that I can suggest is that you hunt around for a preparedness-minded doctor. Perhaps someone at church, or in your local shooting club. OBTW, I've heard that most LDS ("Mormon") doctors are sympathetic to their patients that are survival-minded.  As far as insurance company reimbursement goes: Good luck! Many insurance companies refuse pay for more than a three month supply.

Recently seen in The Washington Times was an article touting Frank Gaffney's new book, in which he cites EMP as a major threat that could kill millions--by starvation. See:

"The first rule in investing: don't lose any money. The second rule: don't forget the first rule." - Warren Buffett

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The folks over at report that the U.S. military just announced the recall of more than 18,000 Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) vests because they did not meet ballistic test standards when the body armor was made. This is the second body armor recall announced this year. The recall affects only the outer tactical vest and its soft inserts, made by Point Blank Body Armor Inc. of Florida, and not the ceramic insert that also is used in the armor. Among the eight lots of body armor being recalled, more than 10,000 vests went to the Marines and more than 8,000 went to the Army. These vest procurement lots date back to up to five years ago. See:,13319,80768,00.html?

A good frequency for two-way radio communications is the little-used [amateur] FM radio band on 220 MHz. (See:  Very few scanners cover it--only the most expensive scanners do which most people won't buy. The reason scanners don't cover 200 - 300 MHz is because its [mainly] used by the military. For example, the control tower at Moffett Field Naval Air Station is on 301.something MHz.
In my research, I noticed that there are only two repeaters in Idaho that are on 220 and they are both in Boise. Outside of the big cities 220 is hardly used.  One exception is the Condor Net (, which covers Nevada, California and Arizona. It is the only repeater network of its kind in the US. And it's only available on 220MHz. I used 223.480 MHz simplex for many years. The comment from the guys that used [this band] was that it was like their private "intercom" because it was so quiet until someone got on and started talking. The user community on 220 is so small that everyone knows everyone on a first name basis. The range is as good as 2 meters and the noise floor is very low. Sparking electrical equipment does not effect 220 like it does 2 meters. There are still plenty of good radios are around for 220. Kenwood, Icom, Alinco, ADI, Midland and even Cobra made a few.

Right now there are two Midland cyrstal-controlled 220 radios on eBay ready to go. Excellent radios and there are plenty of parts [like custom crystals] available. (Hint, hint) They last forever.

If you are looking for almost secure communications and excellent range, then 220 is the way to go. It is not uncommon to make contacts to Donner Summit [of the Sierra Nevada mountains] with only 25 watts from the [San Francisco] Bay Area. A few 220 radios were made all-mode, including single sideband (SSB) and they are still around and still used. BTW, most of the people who own this scarce variety refuse to part with them. - Fred the Valmet-meister

JWR Replies: I wonder how difficult it would be to set up a dedicated 220 MHz repeater network in the western states, preferably all with net stations that use photovoltaic power. If the infrastructure would be too expensive, perhaps it would be best to just stick to HF .

I think the proposal by David in Israel is like a dream come true for us that are new to the preparation meditation. I would love to be a part of the "frequency" network whether it be in using, or somehow helping out with the development, (albeit mostly inept experience in "radioing") I for one would feel so much less alone if something were to happen and I knew that I could search for some sort of consortium in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.  Take Care, and a Sincere Thank You!,  - The Wanderer

Hi Jim:
Great to see young new people trying to start practical preparations. One cup of FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth per five gallon bucket will keep the bugs out. All of my stuff is already in nitro packed buckets with oxygen absorbers, but someday we might not be able to get dry ice and O2 absorbers for packing grains, so I just ordered some diatomaceous earth myself. See:

[The other topic that I wanted mention is] "Nano masks." Mine just got shipped to me via UPS. I ordered them a month ago. Far more effective than N-95 [filter]s. See:\ - God bless, Lyn

"Charity never humiliated him who profited from it, nor ever bound him by the chains of gratitude, since it was not to him but to God that the gift was made." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Monday, November 21, 2005

Today, I'm catching up on part of the backlog of e-mails from the past few weeks that I haven't had time to post (or to answer). The flip side to the astonishing success of is my burgeoning list of new e-mails each morning. (BTW, I simply cannot answer them all--so please don't feel slighted when I don't reply.)

After reading your blog [post] on oil storage I heartily agree with most of your points. I stock synthetic [motor] oil for this purpose: it lasts longer! If a time comes when I can’t get oil I want what I have to be the best. I recently began using Mobil 1 Extended Performance [synthetic] and I’m not sure I can back it up, but I did notice a slight mileage increase over regular Mobil 1 in my 2000 F-150 4x4 Super Cab. Perhaps just a coincidence, but perhaps it actually lubricates a bit better than regular Mobil 1. I also like to run synthetic [oil] in mowers and such because of infrequent oil changes and no filters. I recently began the “no oil change” thing on a Toyota that uses some oil anyway, so now I only change the filter occasionally and then top off the oil every week or two.

My only disagreement with your blog post concerns the sand soaked in “used” motor oil. Used motor oil is a known carcinogen and should be recycled. Use some kind of cheap oil for that purpose, but not used motor oil, especially on hand tools that are going to be in contact with your hands.  Later, - Matt in Montana

This is a question that should be of general interest. In your novel Patriots, "The Crunch" was beginning at 16% inflation. With the latest inflation figures annualized at 14.4%, how do we stand on The Crunch index? Will people really believe it is possible, even after it happens? The people I know are incredibly naive and trusting in all-powerful government.- Ron Y.

JWR Replies: I think that inflation would have to jump into triple digits in order to precipitate any sort of full scale economic collapse. IMO, it is far more likely that a dollar crisis initiated by nervous foreign investors (worried about our mountain of debt) will be the proximal trigger for what you envision.

I found this on a e-mail that I subscribe to, from The Federalist Patriot. See:
[JWR Adds: This page includes links to analyses on biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as EMP secondary effects.]

It is a pretty good source of conservative thought. In any case, they have placed some articles on preparedness on their web site. I thought you might be interested. It doesn't say to prepare for as long a period as I think will be required, but at least there is another voice in the wilderness telling people to be prepared .  - Tim P.

I have two somewhat related questions:
1.) Can the OnStar [tracking/communications] system on General Motors vehicles be TOTALLY turned off by an owner? If so, how? And if so, is a professional recommended to do the work? I envision the possibility of the Powers That Be (PTB) simultaneously turning off engines of all OnStar vehicles to create massive chaos if it supports their plan.

2.) If we experience an EMP event, can we carry a spare computer module in protective casing and just replace module in our vehicle and we are off and running again? If so, what is the proper procedure? If question is off base or not possible… What can we do? (Affordably) - Robbie in Va.

JWR Replies: 1.) From what I've read in Usenet forums, the shutdown feature was considered during OnStar's design phase but was never implemented, due to liability issues. OnStar does indeed, however, provide vehicle GPS tracking to assist police in the location of a stolen OnStar-equipped vehicle.

Conceivably, a situation might arise wherein you would want to disable OnStar. (See: ) The only way to be sure that you are completely disconnecting it from power is to disconnect the cables from the OnStar module itself. Any layman can do this. The hard part is finding the box. Typically, the OnStar modules are hidden are in the trunk--often next to the spare tire, such as in Cadillacs.  See:  The location will vary, depending on the make/model of your GM vehicle. I suspect that you cannot simply remove a fuse from your vehicle's fuse holder array, because given the evil genius of GM's design engineers there are probably other components--possibly essential components--that are downstream of that same fuse. (But I may be wrong. One nice thing about this blog: I'm sure that someone more knowledgeable will e-mail me within hours if I post something incorrect about anything.)

OBTW, here is an old trick that dates back to the days when car alarms were not wired into a vehicle wiring harness upstream of the fuse box: So that you can be ready to remove a fuse at a moment's notice, one useful technique is to attach a small dimension "zip"-type plastic cable tie around the middle of a modern plastic fuse (between the fuse's "legs", or in the case of traditional tubular glass fuses, underneath the entire length of the fuse. That way all that you have to do is open the fuse box and jerk on the protruding cable tie--no fumbling around with a flashlight, trying to remember which is the correct fuse to pull.

On a related note, (purely for academic research, mind you) for those of you with a penchant for hacking, you can tap into your GM vehicle's OnStar RS-232 GPS data. See:  You can also hack into the OnStar communications module for Bluetooth. ;-) See:

2.) Yes, a spare electronic ignition "computer" can be purchased and padded up thoroughly and carried in an ammo can or a biscuit tin. (Either will act as an effective Faraday cage.) But keep in mind that many vehicles made since the 1980s also have electronic fuel injection, which will have its own little microchip CPU.  Ask your local car mechanic--preferably one at a factory-associated dealership--for details about the ignition and fuel injection system of your particular make/model/year of vehicle.

Mr. Rawles,
I thoroughly enjoyed "Patriots," as it opened my eyes to the importance of Preparedness. My wife and I are educated Christians in our early twenties, and we are starting to amass supplies as money allows. Being in Law enforcement, I have a good understanding or firearms, but little experience in storing food. Is it a mistake to store large amounts of rice and pasta in food-grade buckets (or other containers)? Both are rather compact for the calories provided, and would be very simple to prepare. When packed vertically, you can feet quite a bit of spaghetti in a five gallon bucket. Any thoughts (however brief) would be appreciated. Thanks, -"Bossaboss"

JWR Replies:  Dried pasta stores fairly well, at least compared to things like wet-packed canned foods. Keep in mind however, that it is typically not made from whole grains, so it is marginally nutritious, even when bought "fresh" at your local grocery store.

Intact whole grains retain most of their nutritive value for much longer periods of time than cracked grains, flour, or flour-based food products (such as pasta). Whole hard red winter wheat, for example, stores for 20+ years with most of its nutritive value still intact.  In contrast, grain-based pasta is still palatable for many years, but it loses most of its nutritive value after just two to three years. Once processed in any way--that is, whenever the grain's outer shell is compromised--then the storage life of grains drop considerably. For really long term nutritious storage, you need to buy wheat in food grade buckets, and a wheat grinder. (See the SurvivalBlog Archives for further details, and our Links page for trustworthy vendors.)

It might be worthwhile to have a dedicated SurvivalBlog radio network. We could set up something on several HF bands. I am thinking it would be nice to have a way for SurvivalBlog readers to contact one another, even if and when the Internet and/or the phone system goes down. I think that there may be some interesting news will be coming from here [in Israel].  OBTW, the new year is 5766 from the creation of the world, the world is being closely judged for the next few days as Hashem re-coronates himself as the true King over kings. - David

JWR Replies:  Okay readers, to get this net "off the ground" please e-mail me with some suggested HF frequencies.  It is probably also apropos to pre-designate a sideband CB channel (or two), and some FRS, GMRS and 2 Meter frequencies. Please don't just send me a random list of frequencies. Rather, I'm looking for your real world expertise on un-crowded frequencies, particularly east of the Mississippi, where spectrum occupancy is more dense.

>RE: Note from JWR: Many thanks for your support Thusfar, we've had seven responses
>to the SurvivalBlog Ten Cent Challenge. Special thanks to David M., who pledged $100.

Come on people!!! Pony up for a valuable resource like this! Seven people? On a site with over three million hits? I've been a lifelong survival/self-sufficiency buff, thanks to my upbringing. I felt that I was totally s**t-together and was operating in a fairly low level maintenance mode with my preparedness supplies. Since finding I have:
1. Heard about, found and ordered Jim's book Patriots.
2. Heard about, found and obtained Sambucol for fighting Avian flu WTSHTF.
3. Heard about, found and obtained fresh antibiotics from a vet supply site for TEOTWAWKI.
4. Heard about, found and obtained canned meats and canned butter from a wonderful site.
5. Heard about and joined the linked discussion forums (The Claire Files) where there are many like-minded individuals sharing experience, strength and hope.
And all of this took place in just under two weeks since discovering SurvivalBlog!  For those out there who read this site regularly and are out stocking up and preparing, don't forget that information is your most valuable resource. Thanks for your time and attention. Sincerely, - Mrs. Victor (in the retreat owner profiles) and "colordohermit" at The Claire Files

JWR Adds: We've now had 14 donations since I first announced the Ten Cent Challenge, including seven that were for the full $36.50.  Many thanks for your support, folks.

I found this short quiz floating through the ether of the Internet:

The world's easiest quiz:
1.) How long did the Hundred Year War last?
2.) Which country makes Panama hats?
3.) From which animal do we get catgut?
4.) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
5.) What is a camel's hair brush made of?
6.) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?
7.) What was King George VI's first name?
8.) What color is a purple finch?
9.) Where are Chinese Gooseberries from?
10.) How long did the Thirty Years War last?

1.) 116 years, from 1337 to 1453 2.) Ecuador 3.) From sheep and horses 4.) November. The Russian calendar was 13 days behind ours. 5.) Squirrel fir 6.) The Latin name was Insularia Canaria - Island of the Dogs 7.) Albert - When he came to the throne in 1936 he respected the wish of Queen Victoria that no future king should ever be called Albert. 8.) Distinctively crimson 9.) New Zealand 10.) Thirty years, of course! From 1618 to 1648.

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them
to do the same." - Ronald Reagan

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Many thanks for your support  Thusfar, we've had seven responses to the SurvivalBlog Ten Cent Challenge. Special thanks to David M., who pledged $100.

Today, we present yet another entry in our writing contest. There are just 10 days left to send your entries. The prize is a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (Worth up to $2,000!)

What clothing do you pack in your bug-out-bag and for long term wear in troubled times? One of the things you can count on in trying times is limited access to shower and laundry facilities. Most clothing you wear next to your skin gets pretty skunky after a few days, especially synthetics. What’s a survivor to do? You want something soft and comfortable, light weight, warm when cold or wet, cool when hot, wicking, doesn’t stink, doesn’t get dirty, easy to wash, and while we are wishing--how about cheap?
I am into ultra-light backpacking. I used to wear a long sleeved dress shirt during the day to keep the sun off. It wasn’t very warm and it got so nasty after hiking in it all day, much less after 5 or 6 days, that I certainly didn’t want to wear it to bed at night. This necessitated carrying another shirt to wear in camp and to sleep in. Another shirt added weight I didn’t want to carry.
Enter Merino Wool. Merino wool has a very long and fine fiber. A long fiber results in fewer fiber ends for a given unit of fabric. It turns out that the fiber ends are what cause wool to feel itchy against the skin. Merino wool is naturally bactericidal and fungicidal (doesn’t stink and protects you from infection). My understanding is that this is somehow related to the wool's property of having no liquid moisture on its surface. This property also keeps the wool from being damp, clammy and sticky against the skin. It also keeps the wool from flash cooling you when your activity level drops off like you experience when wearing cotton. Another advantage of Merino wool over synthetics is that it doesn’t melt or burn. This makes it suitable for high fire risk activities like flying or military operations.
The same features that make Merino wool the best choice for back country adventures make it a great choice for troubled times. Merino wool always feels good. It is a very comfortable fabric to wear against the skin. It is typically a very fine but open knit. When held up to the light you can see through it. This provides for good ventilation in warm weather. When I switched to a wool top for hiking I found that it was the only top I needed. I added a full length zipper to the front for maximum ventilation under heavy exertion when hiking away from the sun. When facing the sun it was easily zipped for sun protection or warmth when entering cool, shady, or windy areas. Wool doesn’t seem to get dirty. If you slop your dinner on your front you can just shake it and brush it off. It tends not to soak in. More absorbent finer woven fabrics get stained and dirty. It also helps that it generally comes in darker natural colors. I have worn a Merino wool top 24/7 for 6 days of strenuous hiking. It just doesn’t get stinky and foul like any other fabric. You can take a bath in a creek after 6 days of hard labor and when donning your Merino wool top it feels just as nice and cushy as when you put it on clean a week earlier. If you do decide to hand wash it it comes clean easily and dries reasonably fast. To speed things up I swing my socks or underwear around on the end of a string. At home I machine wash my Merino wool in cold water with the rest of my clothes. Just don’t put it in the dryer. And, lest I forget it is great for sleeping in. No need to bring another shirt.
Another issue is the message you sent by how you dress. Most Merino wool tops look a little dressier than athletic clothing. This could be an advantage when being approached by the authorities or if you need assistance.
Where can you get Merino wool? Smartwool and Icebreaker are major names. They make garments designed and cut for athletic activities. I have seen the tops for a modest $80! Also cycling shorts and tops are made from Merino wool. The performance of Merino wool has been well know to the professional cycling crowd for a long time. You can sometimes find Merino wool tops at Costco for $25 to $30. I just checked the Sierra Trading Post website and saw tops on sale in the $20 range. Where do I get Merino wool? I actually purchase Smartwool socks retail (retail, what a horrible word) form Sierra Trading Post. For tops, I shop at Savers. Savers is a chain of second hand clothing stores. They have 20 or 30 feet of rack space for sweaters. Once you know what you are looking for the Merino wool sweaters are easily found. They are typically finely woven, Italian made, in darker natural colors with a polo style button up neck and a collar. Occasionally the acrylics will fool you. Just check the label (it kills me when I see "100% virgin acrylic"). They have a distinctive symbol and say Woolmark and “100% fine Merino wool”. Savers color codes their tags so they can tell how long merchandise has been on the rack. Every week they put the next color tag on sale for 50% off. I move all the Merino wool to one spot on the rack and the day the new tag goes on sale I buy the half price ones for $3.50 to $4. The nice ones that are too big for me I give as gifts. The big ones I don’t give away I can make 2 or 3 sets of underwear out of. Yes, I wear Merino wool top and bottom.

For a bug-out-bag or for uncertain times Merino wool has a lot of advantages:

  • It is comfortable over a broader temperature range than any other fabric
  • If necessary it can go for long periods without being laundered and comes clean easily when washed – reduced laundering and minimizes need for extra clothing
  • Doesn’t support bacterial or fungal growth – stinky clothing and skin problems are two less things you need to deal with when trying to survive.

  • My bottom line advice: Pack and wear high performance minimum care Merino wool.

    The Memsahib Comments: Wool has the distinct benefit over other fabrics of being warm even when wet. I once was out in the snow three hours but my feet stayed toasty warm in two layers of wool socks even though the socks were soaked through. Wool can be a life saver in foul weather and when there is risk of hypothermia. Thrift stores like Savers are a great place to find high quality clothes at great prices. Merino is the very finest and softest type of wool. Also note that most military surplus wool clothing uses low grade wool and is fairly itchy. If you've never worn wool, it is probably best to buy just one wool garment to start, to see if you are allergic--although most most people aren't truly allergic but rather have just had the misfortune of  wearing a garment of poor quality wool. Oh, one word of warning don't agitate your wool garments in warm and especially not hot water. And don't tumble them in a hot drier. Wool felts with moisture, heat, and agitation.  And felting cannot be undone.

    There is a wide range of opinion on the potential implications of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)--either that generated by a terrorist nuke ground burst, or a nation-state's high altitude air burst(s). I'm convinced that the threat is real. But don't just take my word on it. Back in 2004, the U.S. Congress commissioned a study by a prestigious panel of scientists to investigate the potential implications of EMP. I suggest that you take time to read the Heritage Foundation's summary, which followed the release of the EMP's Commission's report. (see:  And if you feel so inclined, go on to read the EMP Commission's report--most of it is written in layman's terms. The text of the report can be found here:  Warning: Reading this report has been known to cause rational people to buy large food storage supplies and a spare 4WD vehicle with a pre-electronic ignition system.

    Hi James,
    I thought this was a significant news article. See:,2106,3483521a13,00.html   I assume our banks are making similar plans to the New Zealanders. God Bless, - Lyn

    "Note that mere ownership of a firearm does not render the owner armed any more than ownership of a guitar renders the owner a musician. The wild cry, “My life is in danger, give me a gun!” is the plaint of a fool. The time to acquire one’s weapons and learn how to use them is before the riots start, not afterwards."
    - Col. Jeff Cooper

    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    I have a good friend with whom I chat on the phone quite regularly. I have been bugging him to hedge into metals for the past three years. When the spot price was $4.35 an ounce with the dealer's commission a 100 ounce Engelhard bar was about $500. At that time, I suggested that my friend buy at least buy one or two $1,000 face value bags of pre-1965 "junk" silver coinage--just in case. He waffled. Then, when silver was $4.80 an ounce, I was practically begging him to buy.  Even though he was sitting on substantial dollar-denominated liquid assets, he kept coming up with reasons not buy. Once silver passed $5 per ounce, he claimed that he was waiting for "the next time that it dips below $5." Then that dip came, and I pointed it out, and he came up with yet another excuse. This went on and on.  Once silver passed $6 an ounce, he claimed "I've missed the boat."  I tried explaining to him that silver was heading well past $12 an ounce in this bull market, but he wouldn't budge. I finally gave up trying to convince him. Some deer just can't resist standing and watching those approaching headlights...

    The recent spike in gold and silver prices is interesting, because it came at a time when the dollar was strengthening versus the Euro. In contrast, the previous recent rallies occurred when the dollar was losing ground to the Euro. Similarly, gold has traditionally gone up when he price of oil was climbing. But wait a minute--the price of oil is slumping. So why is gold galloping? Something has changed. Perhaps there has been a collective realization that all paper currencies are risky, and that it is therefore time to hedge. The only problem is that in the grand scheme of things is that there just are not a lot of metals to buy. The COMEX is a relatively small market. That is why it tends to be volatile--just a few investors making significant trades can move the market dramatically. If just 10% of  America's stock and bond investors decided to hedge a fraction of their portfolios into metals, they could buy the entire COMEX inventory, several times over.

    I've been surprised to see that there has not yet been any significant profit taking, which is the norm, following COMEX price spikes. If there is no pulback--just a staircase climb upward, --this could be a portent of a paradigm shift. As I'm writing this, (Friday evening), silver is at $8.03/oz., and gold is at $485.20/oz. If gold breaks out above $500 per ounce, watch out! It could be a precursor of a full scale dollar panic. For those of you that have read this blog regularly, you know the larger implications--at the societal level. Be ready.

    Adjusted for inflation, even after the recent surge in prices, the price of silver is still near its historic low. The spot price of silver was as high as $45 an ounce as recently as 1979. (That equates to pre-1965 U.S. coinage being worth 32 times its face value.)  I consider silver at anywhere under $10 an ounce a real bargain.  For those of you that dawdled, don't feel that you missed the boat.  Just wait for the next dip, and then don't hesitate: Buy!

    Seems to me you would need quite a large herd of miniature goats to have chevron throughout the year using minis considering three meals per butchered animal, once a week = 52 goats just for butchering which means at least 26 females producing twins once a year plus being sure you have two bucks for service those females, plus enough browse for them to thrive on. Seems to me you would be much better off having two to three full size meat goat does to produce 4-6 butcher goats at (depending on the breed) 50-100 pounds of meat per animal. Can it, dry it, salt it, smoke it - 200 to 600 pounds of meat properly preserved should last you for the year. I'm sure you know to butcher in the cool fall weather NOT in spring or summer. This avoid avoids flies, contamination by bacteria, etc caused by warm/hot weather and believe me meat cuts a LOT easier when its VERY cold if not half frozen - doesn't skitter around and mush out of the way of the knife when you are trying to slice steaks or even sized chunks for stew. Best, - The Goatlady

    The Memsahib Replies:  Dear Goatlady, Thank you for writing. Most goats do come into season only in the Fall, but African pygmy goats are very unusual in that they ovulate all year round. They also have a strong tendency toward kidding triplets and quadruplets. The large herd of miniature animals is a benefit in my eyes because you spread your risk.  A loss of one goat from a flock of three could be devastating, but not that bad from a flock of 25. Also you will have have extra animals you can give to neighbors to start their own flocks. I don't mind butchering little animals frequently.  Once you've done it a time or two you develop a routine and it is a snap. I already do this with chickens, rabbits, and ducks. But to each her own. And I completely agree with butchering large animals in the Fall.  That is the only way to go.

    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a
    dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage."  - Alexander Tyler, on the Fall of the Athenian Republic.

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Today, I'm starting the SurvivalBlog "Ten Cent Challenge."  If you value what you read on SurvivalBlog, then please help support our efforts, and help pay for our ever-growing bandwidth costs. (We recently had to upgrade our ISP account again, this time from a "Gold" to a Platinum" bandwidth plan.)  I challenge every regular reader to donate just 10 cents per day to support the blog. ($36.50 per year.)  If you don't feel that you don't get 10 cents worth of  information and entertainment out of the blog each day, then you can pass and forget that we ever asked--donations are purely voluntary.  But I have hopes that at least 5% of readers will pony up. (Statistically, the average sponsorship for free Internet sites like this one is just 2% of readers. I hope that SurvivalBlog readers defy that statistic. Your donations are gratefully accepted via PayPal, YowCow, cash, PMOs, or checks.

    Silver closed at $8.07 per ounce on Thursday, and gold closed at $485.70. Pardon me for rubbing it in a bit, but I told you so. (See my August 6, 2005 post.) Since $8 is a psychological barrier, there will likely be some profit taking for the next few COMEX market days, so if you missed the boat, you may be able to buy on the dip. But then get ready for the bull to resume his charge. I am still convinced that the metals are just a few years into a long term "secular" bull market. NewsMax reports Gold is already up more than 11% this year. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that gold's rally this year has exceeded the paltry 2 percent gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. U.S. Treasuries have returned 1.7 percent, heading for the worst annual performance since 1999, according to Merrill Lynch data.

    My prediction: Silver at $40 per ounce by the end of the second term of the Bush administration. I'm not kidding.

    The South African arms industry was supplied shells and technology to produce the advanced 155mm during the Angolan Wars, by Space Research Corporation (SRC) of Canada/USA.
    This landed Gerald Bull in prison for illegal export.(The PBS Frontline episode on same, or less-so the "Doomsday Gun" has some pretty general information on the subject.  See:
    They got technology to produce Bull's more up-to-date gun too (and produced two types: one a 155mm, the other a 210mm). It wasn't necessary to have to use Bull's 155mm base-bleed shells in his GC-45 as they could also be used to great effect in existing 155mms. It was called the G5 in South Africa (or GC-45, GN-H-45) it was a mobile artillery weapon with better ballistics and hence longer range - most importantly better accuracy than the conventional 155mm guns up to that time - early to mid-80s. The 210mm was self-propelled. It is true that Iraq may have gotten 155mms from SA, but they may have more likely gotten the shells only (still better in the "older" guns) - but what good were they to the Iraqis in the final math of the first Gulf War?

    Gerald Bull designed this and other weapons and for a number of complicated reasons was assassinated in March, 1990 in Brussels.
    The South African arms industry didn't design it - this wasn't suggested per se - just wanted to clarify where the design really came from. - Fitz

    JWR adds:  This whole sordid saga is a fascinating bit of recent history. "Base bleed" technology is fascinating.  Most rifle shooters know that boat tail bullets have less drag, because with less rear surface area, there is less suction. Artillery shells suffer from the same drag, but on a grand scale. Gerald Bull's solution: a small, slow-burning, rocket-like charge that counteracts the suction, and hence greatly increases the range of artillery shells. A brilliant concept.  

    Coincidentally, this story is also a tie-in to another recent SurvivalBlog topic: border straddling. The SRC Corporation's headquarters were on an 8,000 acre parcel that straddled the U.S. Canadian border.  I'm sure that made "import-export" issues a breeze. ;-)

    For more background, see: and

    This is an interesting link. See:  A city of 2.5 million ( about the same as Philadelphia and immediate suburbs) cut off from food deliveries. One big difference from today was the general patriotism and social order. The magnitude of deaths is ominous for those of us aware of future scenarios disrupting the grid and/or trade. (I was going to write up a historical essay for the contest from a lot of material on this, but alas, too busy. But this link is one good article). - Lyn

    When the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941, the population of Leningrad was about 2,500,000. However, as the Germans advanced into Russia, a further 100,000 refugees entered the city. The area that the city authorities controlled produced just 1/3rd of what was needed for grain, 1/3rd of what was needed for coal, 1/12th of what was needed for sugar and half of what was needed with regards to meat - if the supply lines could be kept open. On September 12th, those in charge of the city estimated that they had the following supplies:

    Flour for 35 days
    Cereals for 30 days
    Meat for 33 days
    Fats for 45 days
    Sugar for 60 days

    The nearest rail head outside of the city was about 100 miles to the east at Tikhvin - but this was soon to fall to the Germans on November 9th. By mid-September (two weeks into the siege), Leningrad was effectively surrounded and cut-off from the rest of Russia with minimal food and energy supplies for her population. The siege was to last for 900 days.
    While the city had a rail network of sorts, Stalin ordered that all vital goods in the city that could help defend Moscow be moved out of Leningrad and to the capital.
    Rationing had been introduced almost immediately. Soldiers and manual workers got the most of what was available, followed by office workers then by non-working dependents and children. The city authorities found it difficult to grasp just how serious their situation was. While certain food was rationed, restaurants continued to serve non-rationed food in their 'normal' way. The authorities also failed to inform people in Leningrad just how much food there was - this was probably done so as not to panic people, but if people had known the true situation, they could have planned accordingly. The number of shops handling food was drastically cut to allow for better control - but it also meant that people had to queue for much longer. There is also evidence that money could buy food away from rationing and the black market thrived where it could away from prying eyes.
    Winters in Leningrad are invariably extremely cold. The winter of 1941-42 was no exception. Lack of fuel meant that the use of electricity in homes was banned - industry and the military took priority. Kerosene for oil lamps was unobtainable. Wood became the major source of heat in homes with furniture and floor boards being burned in most homes.
    The food needed to fight the cold was simply not available. If bread was obtainable, people had to queue in the bitter cold in the hope that some might be left by the time they got to the front of the queue. Dogs and cats were hunted for food and stories emerged of cannibalism - freshly buried bodies were, according to some, dug up in the night. Gangs of people braved German guns to leave the city and dig up potatoes in fields outside of the city. This actually did bring in some food that was not kept by those who ventured out - the potatoes were handed in to the authorities and then distributed equably.
    The city authorities ordered that a bread substitute be concocted by those who might have the skill, as they knew that flour was in very short supply. 'Bread' baked by bakers even in the first few months of the siege contained only 50% rye flour. To boost the loaf, soya, barley and oats were used. However, the oats were meant to feed horses and malt was used as an alternate substitute. Even cellulose and cottonseed were tried in an effort to produce bread. Both had little nutritional value but there was plenty of both in Leningrad. The city developed ingenious ways to produce 'food' - cats and sheep intestines were stewed, flavored with oil of cloves and the resulting liquid became a substitute for milk; seaweed was made into broth and yeast was made into soup. Regardless of all the work done by the experts in Leningrad, food remained in very short supply and people were only getting 10% of the required daily calorific intake - despite the fact that most of their work was labor intensive. One writer in the city, Tikhonov, wrote about workers who ate grease from bearings in factory machines and drank oil from oil cans such was their hunger. People collapsed in factories and on the streets - and died. The city organized mass burials to cope with the number who died. When not enough grave diggers could be found, explosives were used to blow a hole in the ground and the bodies were simply thrown in with the expectation that snow would simply cover them up. Where people died in the street, there was a scramble for their ration card.
    " If this happened, there was an immediate scrabbling for the dead one's ration card - not because anyone wanted to steal it but because everyone realized that a ration card handed in to the authorities meant an infinitesimal portion more food for all. Such were the indignities we suffered."
    " I watched my father and mother die - I knew perfectly well they were starving. But I wanted their bread more than I wanted them to stay alive. And they knew that about me too. That's what I remember about the blockade: that feeling that you wanted your parents to die because you wanted their bread."In November 1941, while the siege was in its early stages, 11,000 people died of what the authorities called 'alimentary dystrophy' (starvation) - over 350 a day. However, this number greatly increased as the winter took a hold on the city.
    The two lifelines Leningrad had were constructing a road out of the city to allow supply trucks to get through and using Lake Lagoda as a means of transport.
    Thousands of people assisted in building the road that was meant to link to Zaborie - the next major staging post east of the fallen Tikhvin. The road was more than 200 miles long when it was completed in just 27 days. However, though it was termed a road, in many places it was barely more than a track not wide enough for two lorries to pass. Parts of it were too steep for lorries to cope with and the snow made parts of it impossible to use. On December 6th, the city authorities announced that the road - known by the people as the 'Road of Life' - was to be used for the first time. The news was well received in the city but, in truth, the road was not capable of providing all that the city required for survival. Over 300 lorries started out on the first journey but breakdowns and blizzards meant that the most distance traveled in any one day was 20 miles.
    On December 9th, the city received news that Tikhvin, with its vital railhead, had been recaptured by the Russians. The Germans who had occupied the town were the victims of Hitler's belief that the Russian campaign would be over quickly. They had not been issued with winter clothing and became victims of both the weather and a major Russian assault. 7,000 Germans were killed in the attack and they were pushed back 50 miles from Tikhvin. Railway engineers were brought in by the Russians to repair the line and bridges. For one week they ate food supplies left by the Germans in their retreat. As a result, and by the standards of those in Leningrad, they ate well and all the required repairs to the line were finished in just one week. Supplies started to trickle into the beleaguered city.
    Another supply route was to use the frozen Lake Lagoda. Ironically, though the weather was extremely cold for the people of Leningrad, it was not cold enough to sufficiently freeze the lake to allow it to cope with the weight of lorries. The lake was frozen enough to stop barges bringing in supplies but the ice had to be 200mm thick to cope with lorries. It only achieved such a thickness at the end of November, and on November 26th, eight lorries left Leningrad, crossed the lake and returned with 33 tons of food. It was a major achievement - but the city needed 1000 tons of food each day to function. Once the ice had proved reliable and safe, more journeys were made and occasionally this mode of transport brought in 100 tons of food a day.
    Though the 'Road of Life', the rail system and the use of Lake Lagoda brought much needed relief to the city, they could not provide all that was needed and the city's records show that 52,000 died in December 1941 alone - lack of food and the cold accounted for over 1,600 death a day. However, the figures collected by the city were for those who were known to have died and been buried in some form or another. They do not include people who died at home or on the street and whose bodies were never found. The official death total for the whole 900 day siege is 632,000. However, some believe (such as Alan Wykes) that the figure is likely to be nearer 1 million.

    Mr. Rawles,
    I saw your posts about ATVs and your question about the John Deere Gator. I am a former soldier and work with SOCOM troops in Afghanistan. My experience is they use the Gators only on main bases. The workhorse ATVs in the field are Polaris MV 700s or Sportsman 500s. They are gas powered and very tough. The MV 700 is heavily modified and is bulky and rather heavy, but can haul a lot of gear, etc. The Sportsman 500s have some modifications from the standard version, but are largely the same as you can buy from the showroom. I've used them over here with those guys, and based on my personal experience and the good recommendations of the SOCOM guys I know, I bought a 500 when I was home on leave. I can't say much about the Gator, they may be great, but the actual SOCOM field workhorse is almost always a Polaris machine. - Jeff in Afghanistan

    "Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly,
    accurately,  creatively, and without self-delusion- in the long run, these are the only people who count." - Robert A. Heinlein

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Thanks for making SurvivalBlog such as great success.  To keep the blog running, please patronize our advertisers, and when you do, please mention where you saw their ads.

    Here are some links that you might find of interest, regarding Karnei Shomron. [From the web page: "Atop Ginot Shomron is a charming neighborhood known as “Neve Aliza” that has one of the largest concentrations of North American olim in all of Israel."] See:


    I wish it had pictures of Ramat Gilad it is the three year old hilltop Yeshuv with the caravans (single wide and double wide mobiles) and container houses.

    And here is a story with a little history of Ramat Gilad written by a lefty (an anti-settlement type):

    Mr. Rawles:
    Your book has been highly recommended to me by an acquaintance in another state. He asked if I'd read your book because you and I seem to have the same opinions on being in a large city (like Oakland, California where I live) when any kind of disaster strikes.
    These people rioted when The Raiders
    [JWR adds: For the benefit of our overseas readers, The Oakland Raiders are the local professional football team] made it to the super bowl and rioted again when they lost.
    A good friend of mine lost his thriving auto body business because his insurance would not cover the damages to his business (civil disobedience = no coverage) His equipment was either stolen or destroyed and was sued by several insurance companies for damages and theft of customer cars. He even lost his house. No one had informed him of the [State of California] Homestead clause that would protect a family dwelling in such cases. Can't do it after the fact. Now he drives a taxi and lives (barely) off cash tips. He had to close his bank account. Wages garnished. You name it.
    Until recently, I too was the owner of a successful auto repair shop. I had to close the doors last year because I was being taxed and fee-ed out of business. Though I was grossing nearly six times what I was in 1989, by October 2004, I had slipped hopelessly into debt, so I called it quits. Zoning and various other government restrictions had escalated the rental value of prime auto repair property. My rent was locked by a 10 year lease but, because of the P&L and the high rent the landlord was demanding, no one could negotiate a low enough rent to make a purchase worthwhile. A large specialty chain wanted my location badly. They gave me a lowball offer that was downright insulting. Their "rep" bluntly told me to take the offer because they knew I couldn't sell the business because of the rent and they could just wait me out. I instead sold all the equipment and got a little more than what they offered. It was not enough to pay my debt but at least I didn't wait to the point of even having to leave my equipment behind for them. They got my place but they didn't get my stuff. Small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Now I drive a truck and struggle to pay off my debt and feed my family. My credit is shot and it's gonna take a long time to get back on my feet.
    Anyway, I'd really like to read your book but it's out of print and used copies are going on eBay for triple digit figures. I just can't do that. Do you have any copies you can sell or know of any sources that still have affordable copies? The acquaintance who recommended it loaned it out and never saw it again so...It's probably on eBay now! LOL!|
    Thanks, - Joe

    JWR Replies:  Your letter is more evidence that my description of California (see my Retreat Locales page) was correct. I lost patience with that Mickey Mouse state many years ago. Just the gun laws alone are enough to drive anyone rational away. Methinks it is best to "vote with your feet." OBTW, the opening scenes of my screenplay (Pulling Through) take place in Oakland. The screenplay is available for free download. I'm praying that some Hollywood or Indy producer has the guts to make a politically incorrect action-adventure movie.

    You are correct that my novel Patriots is no longer in print, but there are still a few dealers that still have case quantities. One good source is Fred's M14 Stocks. As of this writing, Fred is currently offering a great three book package deal: one copy of my novel Patriots + one copy of Matthew Bracken's novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic + one copy of Boston's Gun Bible, all for $50.

    Just wanted to really is not too hard to can meat with a pressure cooker. If you stock up now on mason jars and a good pressure cooker ( get an extra gasket) you can raise elephants for meat! Just have a feast for all the neighbors and can the rest. It is nice to have little jars of cooked meat around to dump over rice or throw into a stew. Frankly, it's easier IMO than plucking or skinning family size animal meals every day, to just cut up one big one and can all day, and then relax for a month. - Lyn

    Jim, good point about those two 'Where There is no..." books.

    Here's another, which I've had a small part in: The download is free. A printed and bound copy is also available for $13.60 at The cost covers the printing, nobody is making a dime off of it. This is a work in progress, and the April 2005 revision of the original misc.survivalism medical faq. Highly recommended.

    Here are a couple of sites that have more medical info on them:
    A link to the online 1918 version of Gray's Anatomy (no, not the insipid TV show) is pretty good. It also has a mirror for the FAQ.
    [JWR adds: The 1918 and later editions of Gray's do make useful references. However, please note the "Classic Edition" reprint edition (of a much earlier edition) often found at book stores and on should NOT be relied upon as an anatomy reference!]

    The Navy Corpsman manual ( is particularly good for people with the desire to learn basic lab work. Please note though: The SF medical guide is the OLD one, and many of the treatments recommended are out of favor (Choramphenicol, in particular, is one of those 'lesser of two evil' drugs these days). Good info on austere public health and veterinary work though.
    Stay healthy! - Dr. November

    Noted economist Walter Williams (who sometimes substitutes as the host for Rush Limbaugh's talk radio show) just wrote a concise little piece on understanding inflation. See: Williams is one of my heroes because he is a true conservative and he doesn't mince words.

    "Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    You will notice that I've updated the SurvivalBlog Glossary as well as the Retreat Owners Profiles page. I have added a new profile for "Mr. & Mrs. Victor." If you've never read the Profiles, please take the time to do so. They are very insightful! 

    OBTW, I would greatly appreciate reading additional profiles from any SurvivalBlog readers that live overseas, or any of you that live in a severe climate or in unusual circumstances and/or who have retreats/homes with unusual architecture (straw bale, earthbag, Earthship, adobe, underground, et cetera.)  As usual, in addition to editing for spelling and grammar, I will remove all attribution and of course change locales and other potentially revealing details. If you truly "live the life", please e-mail me your profile.

    The looming spectre of Asian Avian Flu really has me bummed, because I am a big fan of free range poultry. Free range poultry are able to forage for much of their own food from Spring through Fall. Another big advantage is that chickens come in single family serving size. Meaning my family can eat a whole chicken for dinner and there are not a lot of leftovers to worry about. Chickens are a great way of storing family serving sized protein "on the hoof" as it were. But, free range is out of the question for me now. See my post on Tuesday, October 25, 2005. Okay, so instead of free range poultry, say you raise lambs. If you butcher one of your lambs you get lots and lots and lots of meat for future meals. Which is all fine and dandy... until the power goes out. Then all those chops in your chest freezer are in jeopardy. And it doesn't have to be the power grid that goes down. I'm reminded of a sad tale: A contractor working in our home while we were on vacation UNPLUGGED our chest freezer so that he could use the outlet for his power tools. He forgot to plug the chest freezer power cord back in! We didn't discover this until after we returned and found that all our elk and venison--about 400 pounds--had spoiled. So you ask "How about rabbits?" They don't get Asian Avian Flu. They come in family serving size. You can store the meat on the hoof and just them butcher as needed. The drawback is that because rabbits are fantastic diggers, free range does not work very well. Therefore they have to be penned, and you have to provide ALL of their food.

    So here is my crazy thought: Replace my free range chicken flock with a flock miniature goats! During Spring, Summer, and Fall goats can forage for their own food (unlike rabbits) . Pygmy and dwarf goats weigh about 2 pounds at birth. Miniature does can breed throughout the year, so if I let the buck and does breed at will, I ought to have a ready supply of family serving sized "chevron" throughout the year. They will be protein food storage on the hoof. Like the chickens they'll have to be penned up every night to keep them safe from predators. They will also need special field fencing to keep them from escaping our pastures.

    The real drawback with this plan is the Cute Factor. Little bucklings are 100 times cuter than any chicken. Our #2 Son is especially susceptible to the Cute Factor. With that in mind, my DH and I are going be more circumspect with the butchering to make certain that our younger children don't associate dinner with those cute little bucklings cavorting out in the pasture!

    I read your added notes to the discredited letter from the returning Marine's father and I can add one more detail. The Iraqis did have 155mm artillery in inventory and we found several South African 155 rounds in country. The South Africans had a very well developed arms industry and they made some of the best artillery and rounds available. They have some advanced 155 rounds that have a greater lethality due to the pre-formed fragments included in their design and some of these have been used/recovered in Iraq.

    One of the strengths of the Army National Guard (ARNG) and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) over active duty is that we bring a greater skill set with us when we deploy, both civilian skills and more MOS schools under our belt. I have several to include more than one Intelligence MOS. [JWR adds:  I concur wholeheartedly! The USAR and ARNG soldiers tend to be several years older--sometimes decades older--than their active duty counterparts. Those extra years almost always equate to greater depth and breadth of knowledge/experience/common sense. Many of the military intelligence soldiers that I commanded in the USAR spoke multiple languages and had earned Master's degrees. The enlisted ranks in the active duty M.I. units just didn't compare. BTW, I should mention that this was a humbling experience, as a young M.I. officer with just a Bachelor's degree.]

    If you have any direct contact with soldiers in country please recommend to them that they have their intel people take a look at the NGIC (National Ground Intelligence Center) website regularly. Any soldier with access to the SIPRNET [U.S. military data network for handling classified traffic] can find it and it allowed us to stay weeks ahead of emerging Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP)s. It was not uncommon to find things through NGIC weeks before higher command got the info to us through regular channels. I also found it useful to look at areas (on the NGIC site) that were outside Iraq but were dealing with Islamic fundamentalists. - Anonymous

    "And that is called paying the Dane-geld; but we've proved it again and again, that if once you have paid him the Dane-geld you never get rid of the Dane."
    - Rudyard Kipling

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    A lengthy letter from Fernando in Buenos Aires was originally posted on SurvivalBlog back on November 8th, but I just removed it.  Why?  Because Fernando just confirmed in an e-mail to me that the copyright to his article has been purchased by John, who operates Frugal Squirrel's Forum. The letter is still available there. (See:;f=1;t=044387;p=0) OBTW, I highly recommend Frugal's site and forums. Since I have deep respect for copyrights there are no hard feelings on my part. I trust that the folks at Frugal's will forgive me if I in some way infringed unknowingly by posting what I was sent.

    I have been meaning to write for a few days and thank you for posting Fernando's observations from Argentina. I view the slow slide into economic collapse as the greatest threat and the one I am currently preparing for.

    What prompts me to write now is the post (12 Nov '05) about experience in Iraq. Having recently returned from Iraq I thought I would add some of my observations that run a bit different.

    The AR pattern weapons definitely require greater maintenance but preventive maintenance will prevent problems. Five minutes a day is all it takes. The greatest handicap is the lack of penetration with the 5.56mm, for home owners it is a plus for soldiers a definite disadvantage.

    M249 [SAW] is overly complex and some of the problems relate to all the add on crap like short barrels and collapsible stocks. Some soldiers try to use it as a 19 pound SMG and that is not the right application.

    Our M9s [U.S. Military issue version of the Beretta M92 9mm handgun] were not functioning well and I think it relates to bad magazines. We had few in my unit and I never did any shooting with them so I have little to add.

    M240 [MMG], M2 [HMG], and M14 [MBR] all are above reproach, they all work exactly as soldiers should expect, this nation owes a great thanks to John Browning and Mr. Garand, they have kept the lowly grunt a step ahead of the rest for some time now.

    I have no direct experience with the M24 [U.S. Army issue sniper rifle] or M40 [U.S.M.C. issue sniper rifle] but I have always had good service out of the Remington 700. As a side note some of Carlos Hathcock's contemporaries exceeded his number of kills, I believe two other marines had more confirmed kills and the title (in Vietnam) would go to the Army, Adelbert Waldron had 109 confirmed kills.

    The MK-19 [crew-served automatic 40 mm grenade launcher] is a great weapon for the open battlefield but it has some definite limitations in the city, arming range can place friendly forces in danger and the potential for collateral damage restricts it use some.

    Our new body armor is the real savior in this conflict, that and our advances in medical science. The IBA [Interceptor Body Armor] saved my hide in an unlikely way but that is another story for another day. The base armor is about six pounds (dependant on size) ant the plates are another six pounds each--one front and one back.

    Thermal [sights], night vision ["Starlight" scopes] and FLIR [aircraft cameras] allow us a tremendous advantage over the enemy. Even though they have heard about our night vision gear they seem to not understand or believe it I guess. We saw the enemy move around in the dark obviously believing that if they couldn't see us we couldn't see them. A side benefit is that it's monochromatic, grainy image creates a bit of psychological distance between us and the enemy. It is easier for a soldier to shoot at that green, slightly fuzzy figure. It is easier to convince yourself that what you are punching a hole in is not a real person, that it is some complex video game.

    Many of the RPG rounds fired at us failed to detonate, maybe over 20% in some months. Fine system and I wish we would adopt something similar but it seems to suffer from poor quality control in it's ammunition. Thankfully the Arabs have never developed a tradition of marksmanship. If they had the shooting skills of the Chechens we would have had some serious problems over there. So far I have not seen much that impresses me when it comes to their fighting prowess.

    The indirect fire threat is, I believe, a bit overstated. We were subject to indirect fire attacks daily, sometimes several times a day. I never saw any evidence of the enemy adjusting fire and in fact I think they usually stopped dropping rounds down the tube before the first round hit. They have reason to be afraid or our counter battery radar. Rarely were friendly forces allowed to return fire (with artillery) but we always had our aviation up waiting for something like that to run down (the AC-130 is a wonder to behold), same with patrols running around. After I took a look at the data I stopped worrying about rounds landing on the FOB. Our base was several kilometers in each direction and they only seemed able to land them inside the perimeter about 60% of the time. If the first wasn't a threat to you the next three wouldn't cause any problems either (unless the baseplate shifted as rounds were fired). After while I stopped reacting to IDF that was not danger close with the first impact. This did cause me some trouble, some folks up the chain did not appreciate my lack of action when rounds came in.

    IEDs were the big threat but thankfully they are still in the early stages of learning how to use the stuff. Not to say they aren't having considerable success, they are, but they don't (yet) have the sophistication that many around the world have shown. Several times they tried without success to build fuel flame expedients (FFEs) or shaped charges or explosive formed projectiles (EFPs). Once or twice they did it right but more often than not they failed. After a few failed attempts they would stop trying and go back to the basic blast type devices. Since they have a large quantity of prepared explosive devices (mines, arty rounds, gravity bombs, rocket and missile warheads) and bulk explosives they have little incentive to learn how to build better devices. With hard targets they just build them bigger. Initiating the charge is often done by cell phone and I suspect this makes it hard for the enemy to time things right, many times IEDs would detonate too soon or too late to do much damage.

    Thankfully the only group in country who can fight are the Kurds and they are on our side. The Iraqi National Guard and the Iraqi Police are getting better but the turnover is high, many leave after one or two paydays and their leadership is sometimes lacking. Progress is being made but it is slow going.

    I left Iraq in March so some of my experiences may be a bit dated, but that was what I saw. - Jake


    And here is another, from a gent that is currently in Iraq:

    Mr. Rawles--
    I received the same e-mail from my old TmSgt and sent him back a few of my own observations from over here. To clarify I've been here as a private contractor for the last two years and used quite a few of the weapons in question. Mainly because I've worked mainly in Army controlled areas I wasn't too sure how far off I was though in regards to Marine Corps armament.

    I also though that the items about the SAW (M249) sounded recycled. Having carried one in the early 1990s while in the military I had come to realize their reworked improvements. I had sent him pictures from a year ago with me working in a sandstorm with one.

    I don't think I know of anyone using a pistol at all let alone commonly though I'm sure that it has happened in some instances, and the biggest problem with them is the weak magazine springs. Magazines for 92Fs built during the last 10 years for the military suffered from the lack of quality competition during the Clinton gun ban period. Even a partially loaded magazine would fail to feed after just a few days left in that state.

    The 1911 is more of a status symbol over here. Not issued but captured and definitely not worn by a common soldier unless he wants to face UCMJ action. It seems that some SOF and higher up officer types do sport them though. Finding ammunition for them is hard enough that practicing to any real worth is next to impossible.

    Most troops doing active patrolling and not staying inside the wire all the time have M4s. Active use of the M16 is more from the early stages of the invasion. This however is more of an Army observation of mine and caused me to hesitate when applying it to the Marine Corps. Despite this the M4s and M16s performed equally well (it has the same action anyway) and the only clear advantage of the M4 was its size.

    The 5.56 round in the hands of the insurgents is more of a bugaboo to me than 7.62x39. With various ammo we consistently penetrate steel plating that stops the 7.62 cold. While the 7.62x54 penetrates as well as .308 both require specialized platforms that typical insurgents don't carry. If I had to be shot I would prefer it to come from an AK.
    [JWR adds:  I've heard first hand that there were opiates and other drugs found when the Iraqi insurgents were cleaned out of Fallujah.]

    As far as reported opiate use, its hard to imagine people that refuse nicotine, coffee, shaving, and who fast for a month every year, indulging in narcotics. Insurgents are of a more zealous bent than even your standard Iraqi. This blurb sounded almost recycled from Vietnam.

    M14s can be found in M21 configuration with designated marksmen or snipers but I have seen no bulk re-issue, even with SOF.

    The M240 is mounted over here but mainly because there aren't a lot of foot patrols. In light infantry units it replaced the M60 several years ago, but again I wasn't sure about the Marine Corps.

    Baghdad insurgents are mostly Sunni, Shia leaders like Al Sadr and Al Sistani have put a tight rein on their respective militias, the Mahdi army and the Badr brigade. According to locals that I talked to, many insurgents lived in Fallujah (Sunni territory) and traveled to Baghdad's Sunni areas to stage attacks on both Shia and Coalition forces. With the realization that they could actually come to power, the Shias are hoarding their forces for our eventual withdrawal and not getting them chewed up by the Coalition as they did in April of '04. Still, fighting between Shias and Sunnis, while under-reported is fierce. An example, for a while Sunnis had been targeting Shia mullahs, then fourteen Sunni mullahs were kidnapped and found dead. Their discovery was reported in the news but what wasn't added was that they had been killed via a power drill to the head. Shortly after this the Sunni leadership called for a general agreement not to target religious leadership. This was relayed to me by an Iraqi gentleman who I was working with in the Karada district of Baghdad this summer.

    Checking the page I see that you've already made some corrections, think I'll throw my two cents in anyway.

    Take care and be safe.  - Chuck.

    Thanks for the link to Where There is No Doctor on line but did you know that Where There Is No Dentist is also on line at and over books at  The Sierra Madre newsletter is at Hope this helps and hope you never need these books. - Simon

    Dear Mr. Rawles,
    Some time ago you mentioned my novel, "Lights Out", in your blog. It was quite an honor for me to have my humble work discussed on your web site. I wanted to let you and your readers know that "Lights Out" is now finished. It can be read in its entirety at I plan to edit and improve this first draft and then to pursue publishing. Any constructive criticism and help from anyone will be gladly received at Thanks again and please keep up the fine work you are doing with your blog. Sincerely, - David Crawford

    Dr. Rudi Gunn: "Hold on, how do I cross the border?  I never took survival training."

    Dirk Pitt: "Consider this your course, Rudi..."

    Al Giordino (interrupting): "...It's kind of pass/fail, which I was told is easier."
    - from the action-adventure film Sahara (2005)

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    I often have folks ask me where they can buy guns "without a paper trail."  This is not a big problem for some of us: Just go to a gun show and buy only from private parties.  But this is a real dilemma for folks in those Blue States with the nasty Schumeresque gun laws. (Like "Kalifornia" and "Neu Jersey.")  One great alternative is buying shootable cartridge guns that were made in or before 1898. These "pre-1899" guns are outside of Federal jurisdiction, and hence can be shipped across state lines without the usual FFL paperwork. (Consult your state and local laws before placing an order.) You can read my FAQ on Pre-1899 guns for some details.

    One of our SurvivalBlog advertisers, The Pre-1899 Specialist has a great selection of  hand-picked and custom re-built pre-1899 rifles. Another good source is Dennis Kroh at Empire Arms, but I've noticed that most of his potentially practical/tactical guns sell out very quickly. For pre-1899 revolvers, try either Jim Supica, who runs The Arm Chair Gun Show  or The Pre-1899 Specialist for a smaller albeit more unusual selection.

    I also occasionally notice some nice pre-1899 rifles and handguns at the Internet gun auction sites such as and For example, take a look at these current AuctionArms auctions: 

    A Swedish Mauser Model 1896 (6.5 x55) made in 1898 (very rare):

    A Mosin Nagant Finnish (re-work) 7.62 x 54R: 

    A Model 1895 (Chilean Contract) Ludwig Loewe Mauser Model 1895 7 x57:

    Although the auction prices tend to run high, if you are persistent you can find some bargains that are also Federally exempt.

    In a recent evening of web surfing, I found that one of my favorite little references Where There is No Doctor by David Werner, is now available as a public domain e-book.  See:

    This is a very useful no-nonsense book, written for folks living in Third World countries. It has also been translated into Spanish. Since you obviously won't have access to e-books in the event of a power failure, I highly recommend that you pick up one or more paperback copies. See:  I should mention that the companion volume Where There is No Dentist is also highly recommended.  I've observed that used copies of both books are often offered for sale at or on eBay.

    Our friends at recently ran a chilling article in which Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, Jr, from a Texas border county warns that  the U.S./Mexico border is a veritable sieve through which a radioactive "dirty bomb" will almost assuredly someday get through. See:

    Unless you can actually verify the identity of the author of the "Firearms, Gear, and Tactics in Iraq" e-mail, then it is bogus. I've seen it running around the net in several incarnations with different authors attributed to it for some time now. Some reasons to believe it's bogus without any authentication: The part about the M249 being a POS comes from an early AAR about the invasion. Some USMC units had weapons that were VERY well-used and I know a Marine that went in with his M249 held together with zip ties. The Army, with newer weapons, report no failures. The USMC has replaced the worn out POSs that should have been condemned years ago. The M249 in Marine service now works great. Go figure how a new gun will work better than one that's deadlined. Since this gripe in the e-mail is almost a copy-paste from the original Marine AAR that I've read (from the USMC itself and not 18th hand in a chain e-mail) it raises a stink right off the bat on this e-mail.

    The son is supposed to be in the USMC. The USMC doesn't use the M24 sniper system. They use the M40A3. The M24 is based on a long action so it can
    take the .300 WM, but the Army (which is the only service using the M24) isn't using any in that caliber.

    The new body armor isn't six pounds. It's more like 15--or20 if you add all the c**p. I've also noticed that your version has several differences than the couple that I've seen. Caliber and enemy weapons are referred to exactly the same, but with different calibers and even different weapons. That alone brings it's validity into question. If it's a real e-mail from a Marine,why has it been altered from version to version? Especially when these alterations were made to correct glaring faults in previous versions. There's an almost endless supply of reasons to call "Bulls**t!" on this e-mail. Like most good lies, it has many truths in there to make it more believable. You can explain some of the inconsistencies with reality as the "straw view"
    that a rifleman may have, or possibly seeing Army units with M14s and M24s. But when you see parts that have been obviously lifted from other sources, and seen the same basic e-mail for a couple times, with things changed, it becomes an internet urban myth. It may make for good reading if you simply WANT to believe truths/lies that support an opinion that someone might hold, but if you're looking for truth it's not in this e-mail. It's like any useful observation. Once people start changing things to make it more dramatic, correct glaring flaws that
    have been brought up with it in the past, or somehow show support for a particular position they have it's worthless. Not to bust your chops, but information is useless if it's coming from a
    worthless source. Even if some of that information is good, there's no way to trust it. - Doug Carlton

    JWR Replies:  Your points are well taken.  I should have vetted the letter before posting it. I'll leave your letter up for a couple of days as a teaching tool, along with the original post, so that readers will have a point of reference for your comments.  Then I'll zap them so that the original letter doesn't get taken out of context and re-posted by someone else. OBTW, I would greatly appreciate a first hand honest-to-goodness "I seen it with my own two eyes" weapons/tactics AAR from someone who is either  currently in-theater, or who has recently returned. 

    "A man's got to know his limitations." - John Milius Producer/Director of The Wind and The Lion, Red Dawn, and Farewell to the King

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Just 17 days left in our non-fiction writing contest.  E-mail us your entries soon!

    We received this letter, ostensibly from a former Marine Corps First Sergeant, supposedly his second-hand assessment of weapons and enemy tactics in Iraq. This letter has subsequently been largely discredited, so I'm only leaving it up for a couple of days as a teaching tool. I've added a few notes. Special thanks to to another First Sergeant (1SG White) and to "Doug Carlton" for helping me with those notes.

    Hello to all my fellow gunners, military buffs, veterans and interested guys. A couple of weekends ago I got to spend time with my son Jordan, who was on his first leave since returning from Iraq. He is well (a little thin), and already bored. He will be returning to Iraq for a second tour in early '06 and has already re-enlisted early for 4 more years. He loves
    the Marine Corps and is actually looking forward to returning to Iraq. Jordan spent 7 months at "Camp Blue Diamond" in Ramadi (a.k.a.: Fort Apache. He saw and did a lot and the following is what he told me about weapons, equipment, tactics and other miscellaneous info which may be of interest to you. Nothing herein is by any means classified. No politics here,
    just a Marine with his own opinions:

    U.S. Weapons and Equipment
    1) The M16 rifle: Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder-like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Jordan says you feel filthy just two minutes after coming out of the shower. The M4 carbine version is more popular because it's lighter and shorter, but it also has jamming problems. They like the ability to mount the various optical sights and weapons lights on the Picattiny rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinder block structures common over there and even torso hits cannot be reliably counted on to put the enemy down. Fun fact: Random autopsies on dead insurgents shows a high level of opiate use.

    2) The M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) .223 caiber.belt/magazine fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of s**t.
    Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly. (That's great fun in the middle of a firefight.)

    3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm: Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

    4) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect.

    5) The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 NATO (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60. Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts 'em down.
    Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there. [JWR adds:  According to what I've read, they are not being dismounted in any large numbers--rather, it is the version made at the factory with the bipod, buttstock, and carrying handle that have been added to unit TO&Es.]

    6) The M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. "Ma Deuce" is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper, puts them in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.

    7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol round out there. Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on one. With few exceptions, can reliably be expected to put 'em down with a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old
    government model [M1911] .45s are being re-issued en masse. [JWR adds:  According to what I've read, the venerable M1911 .45 ACP are only issued in small numbers.  I wish that they were issued en-masse.]

    8) The M14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to Special Ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 NATO round.

    9) The Barrett .50 caliber [.50 BMG] sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers (we actually stop a lot of them) and barricaded enemy. Definitely here to stay. [JWR adds:  According to what I've read, they are primarily used by EOD teams for blowing up suspected land mines and IEDs, rather than against moving vehicles. The latter is the job usually handled by the M2 .50 BMG.]

    10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in .300 Win Mag. Heavily modified Remington 700s. Great performance. Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it that a Marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos Hathcock's record for confirmed kills with OVER 100. [JWR adds:  The Army uses the M24.  The marines use the M40. I believe that he may be mistaken about either being issued in 300 Win Mag.  Perhaps somebody with "boots on the ground" in OIF can correct me if I'm wrong about this.]

    11) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approximately six pounds and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as s**t to wear, almost unbearable in the summer heat (which averages over 120 degrees). Also, the enemy now goes for head shots whenever possible. All the bullshit
    about the "old" body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IEDs was a non-starter. The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn't make any difference at all in most cases. [JWR adds: The weight of a full Interceptor armor system is more like 20 pounds.)

    12) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. We've all seen the videos.

    13) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal lights are Surefires, and the troops love 'em. Invaluable for night urban operations. Jordan carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved it.

    I cant help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and ordnance are 50 or more years old!!! With all our technology, it's the WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants!!! The infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given or shown.

    Bad Guy Weapons and Equipment:
    1) Mostly AK-47s. The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in the desert than the M16 and the 7.62 x 39mm Russian round kills reliably. PKM belt fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the enemy mostly shoots like s**t. Undisciplined "spray and pray" type fire. However, they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially sniper rifles. (Iran, again) Fun fact: Captured enemy have apparently marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their lack of toughness. Let's just say they know better now.

    2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys. Simple, reliable and as common as dog leavings. The enemy responded to our up-armored Humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank range. Still killing a lot of our guys.

    3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found in Jordan's area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take two or three 155mm artillery shells and wire them together. [Note from JWR: I think that he meant to write 130mm or 152mm (Russian). The 155mm is a U.S. artillery round, and the Iraqi insurgents wouldn't have access to those.] Most were detonated by cell phone, and the explosions are enormous. You're not safe in any vehicle, even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated "shaped charges" (Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the ready made IEDs are supplied by Iran, who is also providing terrorists (Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics. That's why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment methods are ingenious, the latest being shape charges in Styrofoam containers spray painted to look like the cinder blocks that litter all
    Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.

    4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The Soviet era 122mm rockets (with an 18 km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of Jordan's NCOs lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage "inside the wire". Jordan's base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and to cause fatigue (It did). More of a psychological weapon than anything else. The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and then haul a** in a matter of seconds.

    5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and "Google earth" for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of intel when captured.

    Who are the bad guys?: Most of the carnage is caused by the Zarqawi Al Qaeda group. They operate mostly in Anbar province (Fallujah and Ramadi). These are mostly "foreigners", non-Iraqi Sunni Arab Jihadists from all over the\ Muslim world (and Europe). Most enter Iraq through Syria (with, of course, the knowledge and complicity of the Syrian government), and then travel down the "rat line" which is the trail of towns along the Euphrates River that we've been hitting hard for the last few months. Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in "sacrifice squads". Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian), are supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. (they have been
    fighting the Russians for years). In the Baghdad area and south, most of the insurgents are Iranian inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shia have been very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local governments, the police forces, and the Army. The have had a massive spy and agitator network there since the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80's. Most of the Saddam loyalists were killed, captured or gave up long ago.

    Bad Guy Tactics:
    When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their asses kicked every time. Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing AKs and RPGs directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time. (See the M2 and M240, above). Jordan's base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think
    will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that's the end of that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeo's (Allah's Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to a science. The fast movers, mostly Marine F-18s, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly, artillery is hardly used at all. Fun fact: The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why we're seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber activity. The new strategy is simple: attrition.

    The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and especially Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi government. Kidnapping of family members (especially children) is
    common to influence people they are trying to influence but cannot reach, such as local government. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.). The first thing our guys are told is "don't get captured." They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the Internet. Zarqawi openly offers bounties for anyone who brings him a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don't give a s**t about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to Zarqawi. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option. The Iraqi's are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren't worth a s**t. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawi's use of suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious tactical mistake. Many Iraqi's were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Iraqi's are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians.

    The Kurds are solidly pro-American and fearless fighters. According to Jordan, morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see s**t like "Are we losing in Iraq" on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just can't stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally (with, of course, permanent US bases there).

    JWR Replies:  The foregoing letter has been largely discredited.  DO NOT repost it!


    Here in Washington State we had a small farm which straddled a section line. The county redistricted precincts along that line, and I found our [occupied] house in one precinct and the old house in the other. Out of curiosity I called the county auditor and asked in which precinct I should register to vote. The answer was that in the final analysis, your bedroom determined the location of your legal residence. I thought that was interesting! - David in Washington

    Perhaps it was the camping and outdoor adventures of my youth that led to a desire to be self-sufficient and ultimately to my own "survivalist" attitude, but it's been more a change in society that has formed the current "survivalist" movement than any of our own individual experiences. Modern society has reached it's pinnacle, and we are now in a very awkward period when society as we know it will spit and sputter and flare up before it burns out entirely, at least society as we know it. The time of great  achievement has passed and society is now working to "reclaim" many great works. As an example the Hoover Dam would never be built today because American society no longer has the will to take on great projects. People are choosing sides; the earth worshipers versus the Christians, the Socialists versus the Constitutionalists, and the Muslims against everyone. There is no clear path for American society, but one thing is for sure: our future is not bright. There are too many factions tearing at the fabric that was a great American society, no longer are we united in any common cause. Are we fighting for liberty and freedom or are we fighting to be an imperialist power? Are we spreading democracy and justice around the world or are we responsible for spreading abortion rights and homosexual "marriage"? Are we outsourcing to spread healthy economic development worldwide or are we simply exploiting slave labor? One thing for sure: we are choosing sides. The recent events following Hurricane Katrina demonstrate the tenuous thread by which the fabric of our society hangs, many amongst us are looking for any excuse to revolt. Society no longer has any common purpose.
    I know that I have chosen sides and I am comfortable with my choices. I have friends and family that are aware of what is going on around them and  understand the issues. amongst friends here, that I know. You are reading this because you are uncomfortable with many of these issues. You know that rampant consumerism and the "disposable" society cannot go on forever. You are reading this because it is too late to do anything about this at the ballot box.
    Something somewhere inside you has been telling you that the answer is not in a Spotted Owl or an X-Box, but somewhere else. Where do we go from here? I'm not sure! I do know we are going to be the ones that can form a new society, we are the ones that want a return to Constitutional government. I have no idea what any of the other factions of our society wants, but I know it is not that. You know that I don't support slavery, nor do I think that blacks are 2/3rds. of person, nor do I want to legalize cocaine, but I can't tell many people that because they have already chosen sides and refuse to listen. Many have chosen sides by simply stating they will not chose sides, to not be involved. You and I are simply an ignored part of the population that cannot be bought with government handouts, farm subsidies, or promises for a zero pollution automobile. We aren't lobbying to remove all references to God from society or for homosexual adoption of children. We aren't begging for a new five hundred million dollar bridge to service fifty people and we aren't asking for a new courthouse with English Walnut paneling. I don't know what to do other than my duty as a citizen; write letters, call my representatives, be informed and responsible for myself. I don't think society as we know it now can be fixed, but we are obligated to try. Our current government has largely been formed to service the bureaucracy and pander to fringe special interests, rather than provide a very limited framework in which all of society can operate. Change at this point is meaningless. Reform? Out of the question.
    Are you armed with knowledge? Are you prepared for disaster? You are ahead of 90% of the population if you are reading this. You care or you wouldn't vote, you wouldn't write legislators, and you would not participate. Participation here helps those that will stand with you in difficult times. Whatever the future holds we will be there, we will have a common purpose and we will share high ideals. We will share the burden and overcome the hardships together. We will not blindly follow the mainstream into the abyss, but rather prepare to build a society that is once again tempered with truth and justice. - A. Friend

    "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    About some of the subjects addressed by Fernando in Argentina: For a while people were really into getting body armor here [in Israel]. It was popular during the start of the intifada, but the problem was the bad guys mostly used rifles so you had to use the mega-heavy ceramic chest/back plates. Nobody uses them anymore, I suppose they might come out of the closet if things heat up again.

    We can also legally get snap in shoulder stocks for handgun here. I believe they are an NFA item with $200 transfer tax with background investigation in America. It is amazing what these do for aiming, but they fit into your pack when the gun is on your belt. The rail station security guards carry them slung like a rifle.

    JWR Replies: David is correct that most pistol stocks are unfortunately banned in the U.S., and are subject to a Federal transfer tax. There are, however, a few exceptions in the ATF's interpretation of the U.S. law for some antique and Curio/Relic pistols, most notably C.96 Broomhandle Mausers, Lugers, and Browning Hi-Powers. In most cases the stock must either be an original, or an exact replica. And BTW, I concur that they do wonders for long range pistol accuracy.  I once owned an Inglis (Canadian) Hi-Power with a tangent rear sight and shoulder stock/holster.  With the sight set for 200 yards, I was able to hit an 18" diameter tractor disk roughly every-other shot at 220 yards. That would have been very difficult otherwise--except perhaps if when shooting prone.

    Dear Jim:
    Well, I'm back from my trip to Front Sight and I believe that it was very informative. Some of the things I learned I would like to share with you and your readers:.
    1. There were several policemen in the class and they, along with the instructor, do NOT recommend using a sling on a shotgun for home defense.

    2. One cop was using Federal Tactical buckshot and was getting the best groupings and patterns on his targets.

    3. The lecture on the color-code of awareness is vital to understand.

    4. They really stress being able to load your shotgun WITHOUT looking at either your shotshells or your weapon.

    5. They also emphasize doing "tactical reloads" as frequently as possible. (That is, if you shoot two, reload two if you shoot one then reload one.)

    6. The simulator scenario at "Shotgun Canyon" was very revealing as to learning to break the habit of "tunnel-vision" in a scenario of multiple targets and assailants. They teach to scan in all directions and to differentiate between cover and concealment.

    7. One of the hardest things for me, at first, was to learn how to sling the weapon muzzle down.(Don't ask.)

    OBTW, I used one of the school's Remington 870 pump actions. Surprisingly I did not experience any soreness in my shoulder after firing approximately 150 rounds. But I did sustain a minor cut on my left hand when I pinched it on the foreend pump. Oh well, a little blood kinda adds to the realism don't you think? Baruch HaShem Yahweh, - Dr. Sidney Zweibel, Columbia P&S

    Mr. Rawles:
    All the talk about snares and traps and hunting... You'd better inform people about the proper precautions concerning RABIES in wild game. - Tamara

    JWR Replies: Yes, you are right. There are risks involved with hunting and trapping. But there are also risks involved with walking down a city street, or buying potato salad at your local delicatessen, or picking berries in bear country. As with anything else in life you need to weigh cost/benefit ratios, and learn to take appropriate precautions.

    Here are some basic precautions about hunting, trapping, and handling raw meat: 

    Always wash your hands very thoroughly after gutting, skinning, butchering, or otherwise handling any raw meat--store bought, home raised, or taken in the field. Never touch your hands to your mouth, eyes, or nose until after that washing.

    Use great care not to cut yourself or your helper(s) while handling raw meat.

    Use separate, designated, and preferably color coded cutting boards for meat versus all fruits, vegetables, and other foods.

    Be careful not to pick up ticks from wild game.  I carry an aerosol can of "Off" insect repellent whenever I hunt. I spray my arms and legs before reaching down to bleed out a deer or elk.  Then right after that, I spray the entire carcass thoroughly and wait a full ten minutes before dragging it about 20 feet and then gutting it out.  (BTW, I've found that that same ten minutes is a good chance to sit down and thank God for His blessings.) Lyme disease is widespread. Odds are that deer ticks and brush ticks will be carrying it.

    Don't trap skunks for food unless you are absolutely desperate or starving. Rabies is endemic in both striped and spotted North American skunk populations.

    Tularemia is is endemic in wild rabbits. The old sayings about inspecting rabbit livers for abnormalities is just an Old Wives' Tale.  (It is not a reliable indicator of Tularemia infection.) However, if you do see white cyst-like spots on a rabbit liver, then the rabbit is almost certainly infected, and and should be discarded.

    Cook all meat--regardless of its source--very thoroughly. And then be careful not to cut the cooked meat with the same dirty knife that you used before cooking.

    Never hunt any animal that its not acting alert and lively. If  you find that an animal that you've shoot looks like it is in poor health, leave it lay for the scavengers.

    A little common sense goes a long way. (OBTW, the encyclopedia references above are courtesy of  Wikipedia.)

    This book is full of ideas and know how on wilderness survival/medicine. I would like to share my find with others. It is called "Wilderness Medicine"(4th edition.) It was written by Paul S. Auerbach, M.D. and is essentially a text book about 1500 pages. Its somewhat spendy but worth it. I have provided a link if you are interested. . Thanks for your book (Patriots) and the great web site. - Josh

    Well I thought I would write a quick note concerning the shooting of  9mm [Parabellum] in a Glock 23 after you've changed the barrel. Some say that it will work most of the time. Why would you ever do something to a firearm which only works most of the time? It is not only very stupid it is also unsafe, one of the reasons being the different ejectors between a 9mm and a 40 S&W. I for one know that the time I needed the firearm the most it would not work. Please, if you want to shoot a 9mm Glock then buy a 9mm Glock. I am a Glock armorer and yes I own several Glocks but I don't try to do things with my guns that they we not designed to do. I have a 12 pound short handled hammer that I can use to drive a square peg into a round hole--but that doesn't make it right. - The Mailman

    Jed: "Pearl, What d'ya think? Think I oughta move?"
    Cousin Pearl: "Jed, how can ya even ask? Look around ya. Yer eight miles from yer nearest neighbor. Yor overrun with skunks, possums, coyotes, bobcats. Ya use kerosene lamps fer light and ya cook on a wood stove summer and winter. Yer drinkin' homemade moonshine and washin' with homemade lye soap. And you ask, 'Should I move?'"
    Jed: "I reckon yor right. A man'd be a dang fool to leave all this!"
    - Buddy Ebsen and Bea Benaderet, in The Beverly Hillbillies

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    We've now surpassed more than three million page hits! Many thanks, folks. I appreciate your continued word-of-mouth publicity for SurvivalBlog.

    Note from JWR: The following Armistice Day piece comes to us from USMC Captain Gary Bourland, who is one of my regular contacts. He is stationed near Fallujah, Iraq. OBTW, if you don't already send letters and cards through the's web page contact list, I highly recommend it. Just one word of warning: It is habit forming.

    Blog Readers:
    Although many of you already display your strong support for the military, this year, stop for just a couple minutes and really think what Veterans day is about. Think about the families that were affected and the lives it changed. Somewhere there is a quite veteran that probably goes unrecognized most of the time but inside themselves on Veterans Day, “they” will know that the day is special.

    When I was a Platoon Commander and had about 45 Marines under my command we occasionally had a few that had disciplinary problems. That year I got a little creative and instead of prosecuting them under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ) the military legal system, I decided to offer them another option that wouldn’t reflect on their records. I directed them along with myself to meet me at 0600 in their USMC Service Alpha uniform (Green coat & green pants like worn by Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men”) in front of the barracks. Not going into details, they took the offer. We drove a quiet hot hour to a Veteran’s Hospital. Clenching Marine bumper stickers and posters and American flags. We had no agenda. We looked each other over and began our mission, No time limit, no schedule, about surprising someone. The nurses immediately took us to see some rough and tuff warriors and told us you must see General Richardson. As you entered his conservative room there was a tired warrior with oxygen in his nose, family picture of his grandkids on his nightstand and the Stars & Stripes on the wall, orientated correctly. The nurse said “General, the Marines are here”. He said “You guys here to get me outta here?” I said "Yep I got your shoes let's GO!" He couldn’t move from his bed but he enjoyed the offer. Along with him and several other gentlemen the Marines sat and mainly listened as warriors from Normandy on through the wars told their story but surprisingly were so interested in the young Marine's story and reinforced how proud they were of the young men sitting with them in their impeccable uniforms. I could barely sit there and watch as these gentlemen hooked to all kinds of contraptions had a glow in their face and tried to sit up in their beds to shake young warriors hands. I felt pretty dang humble. One gentleman in a wheel chair dressed in his Sundays best asked one of the Marines, “where does a rusty old Marine find one of those Eagle Globe and Anchor tie clasps”? (These are worn with this type of uniform by Marines). The Marine looked down at his own tie clasp and said you mean like this one, as he clasped it on the gentleman’s tie. The guy just through his arms around the Marine and gave him a big bear hug. Money can’t buy you feelings like that.
    All of the Marines left the hospital a little different that day. It was a quiet ride back to the base and no one really said anything but everyone was thinking the same thing. We were all very proud to be associated with the gentlemen we just visited with and very appreciative that “they” did what they did for their country. The other 364 days of the year will probably be the same as any other day as the nurse stated “these guys don’t get many visitors”, but that Veterans Day was different for all of us.
    If you don’t participate or witness any parades or anything this year for Veterans Day, take a look and the Stars & Stripes in your neighborhood and remember that blood has been shed for our flag time and time again and when the Nation calls on its service members we will answer, so help us God.  Semper Fidelis, - Capt. Gary Bourland

    It should be pointed out that AVGAS should NEVER be used in a car or truck engine or for that matter anything powered by similar engines. This fuel will destroy an automobile engine in short order. Will also clog the catalytic converter as your other writer stated.

    I only recommend getting Jet-A [JP4--to be used in lieu of water clear kerosene] from an airport, not 100LL [100 octane leaded "avgas"]. Get yourself a battery operated pump or hand pump for this purpose and allow a stand off of at least 4 to six inches [distancing the pump drawing inlet from the bottom of the tank] if you have doubts about water or dirt. You may be able to provide your own barrels for use by the airport staff. This would allow you to simply exchange them periodically. As with anything that is obtained in this manner, "CAUTION" is paramount! Long Life, - Overhill

    I’ve been looking for a U.S. Survival site to take the lead and looks like you are it. John has done a great job with and Jim Benson keeps the torch of the original ASG thinking alive with, otherwise Yahoo groups has been the best place to hang out – but now this is this site and I wish you all the best. Love what I see so far. The “Survivalist” movement is going to make a comeback in the next 4-to-6 years IMHO, and it looks like you are going to be a real leader in that. You can do a lot of good with this site. I hope it works out well for you. Tough to make a dime off survivalists ;-)  - Rick in WI

    JWR Replies: Thanks for the compliment, but I consider just one of many useful Internet resources on survival and preparedness. I stand humble and small in the shadow of those many excellent and much longer-lived survival sites including the following, which are mentioned (along with many others) at my Links page:

    Frugal Squirrel's Page
    Captain Dave's Page
    Survival Ring (Richard Fleetwood)

    As usual, excellent comments about [making] a clean cut from the grid. As for me, I am fully self contained in the country with a Trace Inverter/Charger in a Genverter setup. My day to day electricity is from a dual fuel generator which is powered by propane stored in six 1000 gallon surplus tanks. I also have a windmill, windmill tower and solar cells pre wired. HOWEVER, the windmill and solar cells are stored in a well grounded CONEX. ( and BTW the windmill is heavy as he*l on the alternator end and takes a heavy gin pole to mount it.) I don't think we'll see EMP but just in case I figure it's worth the extra cost of fuel to assure the windmill and solar survive. Of course I have two matching windmills and spare well as a matching Trace. "Two is one, and one is none." Best regards to you and the Memsahib. - The Army Aviator

    My 1988 Ford F-250 pickup runs fine on a 50/50 mixture of E85 and regular gasoline. I can run E85, but it will not start using just E85, it just won't fire. - CRZ

    JWR Replies:  The only vehicles that seem to do very well running the E85 ethanol blend are those that have been specifically designed for it. This is because they include an electronic sensor to detect the relative flash point of  the fuel.  This adjusts the fuel/air mixture "on the fly", even if you pump your tank full of regular unleaded gasoline, or all E85, or anything in between. (Most likely this will be dictated by what is less expensive on any given day.)   Yes, I know this is an electronic sensor, so there tradeoff is between fuel flexibility and EMP protection.  Chalk this up as more evidence that "There Ain't no such thing as a free lunch." (TANSTAAFL.) The inelegant solution to this quandary is simply to have two utility vehicles at your retreat:  One that is modern and multi-fuel capable, and another that is single fuel but that uses a bomb proof old fashioned electrical system.  (Either a traditional diesel, or a gas engine with a traditional points/condenser ignition system and no electronic fuel injection.)

    I'm confident that E85 compatible rigs will become more commonplace in the next few years, as Detroit's engineers get some common sense in Post-Katrina/Post-fuel price shock America. But for now, finding an E85-compatible vehicle can be difficult and time consuming. For survival use, the ones that look the most promising to me are:

    2004 Ford Explorers with 4.0 liter engines.

    2005-2006 GMC/Chevrolet Suburbans, Tahoes, Yukons, and 2500HD Pickups with 5.3 liter Vortec engines.

    1998-2003 Dodge Caravans with 3.3 liter engines. (Yes, I know that they have marginal ground clearance and towing capacity, but they do make a 4WD version, and Caravans get 20 MPG, which is important these days.)

    As stated in previous posts about alternate fuel vehicles, you must look closely at the vehicle specifications of a prospective purchase before you buy. (A buyer's guide in PDF is available for download from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.) In many cases it is just selected "fleet purchase" vehicles that can run on E85, so you have to look at specifications right down to a particular digit in the VIN number to be sure. Some vehicles have a special sticker inside the gas cap door, indicating that they are E85 compatible.

    "If you can read this, thank a teacher!  If you are reading this in English, thank a Veteran!" - Bumper sticker seen in Great Falls, Montana

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    A friend once told me back in the late 1990s: "I am not a survivalist." I replied, "Oh really? Why do you get up every morning and go to work?  Because you love working here so much?" He answered: "No, I come to work to feed and shelter my family." I then quipped; "Oh, so in order to survive you work, so you are a survivalist too." He cracked a smile and said that I had a good point! By the same token you have house, life, car and health insurance, right? Why? Do you plan on having your car stolen, your house burning down, a tragic illness, or do you plan on dying today? Ah, no, you say, that is for just in case. That in essence is what a survivalist is: He or she thinks that a disaster might happen that stops the flow of food, gas, heating oil, etc. Can it happen? Sure, no one has to look any farther then down south [to the Gulf Coast] right now to see that America is not immune from disaster.

    What can you do? Lots. 

    There was a movie that came out in 1996 called The Trigger Effect. Don't waste your money renting it--it is a typical nonsense "The Government Saves the Day" movie. But one great scene in the movie was at the gun store. The lead character is trying to buy a shotgun and trades his Rolex watch worth thousands for a $200 pump shotgun. The guy complains that his watch is worth thousands of dollars and the gun shop owner replies: "You waited for a disaster to buy the shotgun, so you pay top price."  This was a movie, in real life what if the gun shop was robbed, closed forever, or the National Guard took all the store's inventory. Then, the gun shop owner would reply: "You waited for the disaster, now it is too late!"

    Being prepared for a disaster like a hurricane, snow storm, or power outage is a good "mini test" to see where you are. But what would you do if we started into deep recession, depression, or economic collapse? My Dad use to say that a recession is when your neighbor is out of work. A depression is when you are out of work.

    I decided at a young age to learn to live off the land. I started trying wilderness survival following the survival books making homemade dead fall traps. As a friend pointed out, the Native Americans soon learned to trap more beaver with real iron traps and caught a lot more animals then they ever did with dead falls. Homemade wire snares and dead falls will take some animals but with real traps and professional grade self-locking snares you will be armed with top notch equipment that will greatly increase your chances of catching something to eat. Comparing wire snares and dead falls to real traps and snares is like comparing deer hunting with a high power pellet gun to hunting with a scoped 30-06. The guy with the pellet gun might get a deer, but the guy with the .30-06 can get almost any deer he sees within range. A recent e-mail comment I received was: "I hold you and your videos on high. I learned a lot from your videos and your snares are great and greatly priced. I use to mess around with the "homemade" kind from Boy Scouts and survival books, but the real ones blow these away."

    By the same token you don't want to be too late putting in supply of snares. I have written previously to SurvivalBlog on the subject of how many traps and snares to put away, covering feral dog control and food gathering, but what about predator control? Here is a very interesting e-mail: "I helped out on my buddies farm where foxes, coyotes, coydogs, and weasels were eating his chickens, ducks, and pigeons. They even ran off with a few of his piglets. His terrier was no match, and after a bad fight, he asked me to help. I set up the snares like in the video (survival snaring ), and I placed them at every entrance spot they were coming into. Out of the dozen snares I had, medium, I set ten and got four foxes and five coyotes in two weeks. I just keep moving the snares to fresh paths, and they worked."

    Now if TEOTWAWKI happens you are not going to be able to go down and buy replacement chickens, pigs, or calves. You are going to have to protect them yourself. Setting the snares is easy once you learn how. Snaring is not rocket science. A few tricks to learn, and you are in business. I have several farmers/ranchers that re-order snares every year from us. How many? One rancher uses three dozen a year for coyotes to protect his sheep. Another buys one-to-two dozen each year. Another buys five dozen every other year. I have talked to several farmers and ranchers on the phone about protecting chickens from foxes, raccoons, coyotes and even skunks.If you are worried about wild dogs, then 10 dozen medium snares is cheap insurance. Like any disaster, it better to have too many on hand then it is to wait until it is too late and you can't order more. - Buckshot

    JWR Replies:   I may be biased, but I think that Buckshot's Camp is the best place to buy traps, snares and scents. His prices certainly are competitive. If you have the chance to buy  bunch of used conibear traps for bargain prices at a farm auction, great!  But most likely you won't. Even if you do, be sure to get Buckshot's instructional DVDs. They are an absolute "must."

    Here is another suggested barter/charity item list.  Keep them coming!

    Mr. Rawles:
    My barter "box" contains the following:
    Travel size toothpaste
    Travel size soap and shampoo (hotel size)
    Matches and lighters
    Band aids
    Razors (disposable kind)
    Dish soap
    Sewing supplies (needles, thread, buttons)
    - K. in FL

    Mr. Rawles--just wanted to drop a quick note about storage barrels. We live down the road from a juice factory and they would probably give the barrels away if they had to. Last time I bought a couple, the steel barrels were a buck (with lids and compression rings...the steel barrels were also lined) and the plastic ones were five dollars. Don't know how many juice factories are out there, but it sure beats paying the high prices the "survival food" companies charge for the same barrels. I'm sure there are other good sources for cheap food grade barrels, too.  Still enjoying the blog and many thanks for all your work. - Peter R.

    Hi Jim,
    Your comments on building a house straddling a state line brought me back to my Navy days in Pensacola, Florida. It may be difficult to build across a state line but not impossible. There is a bar that straddles the state line between Florida and Alabama called - of course - The Floribama. As I recall it, there was a different last call time on opposite sides of the bar as the two states had different alcohol serving times. In any case, if it can be done with a commercial establishment (particularly a bar!) it can be done with a house. I also seem to recall an article in National Geographic a few years back where they featured a bar/restaurant that straddled the border between Canada and the US. I even recall a picture of a pool table with the border line drawn across it. Somehow I doubt its still in business but I do recall seeing the images. In any case, it has been done. - "Some Call me Tim"

    With all the talk recently on EMP issues, I wonder if a solar system or wind generator less vulnerable or just as vulnerable to EMP to the grid. What type of additional protection could/should be incorporated in to alternative energy designed systems? Keep up the terrific work on the blog. It's the first thing I read every morning. - D.

    JWR Replies:  All modern circuitry that employs microchips is at risk.  However, the greatest risk is to systems that are connected to grid power. This is because the power grid will work like a giant antenna to collect EMP. Assuming that you are out in the hinterboonies (well away from potential nuclear targets), then an independent, truly off grid, solar, wind, or microhydro power system is not likely to be affected by EMP. Here, I should mention that I recommend that you resist the urge to "sell back" your excess power to your local power utility, for three reasons. 1.)  If you don't decisively "cut the cord", then you are opening a window of invulnerability to EMP. (By the aforementioned grid connectivity.)  2.)  You are targeting your PV panels for confiscation by grabby bureaucrats in the event of some "crisis" or in a slow slide scenario.  3.)  You make yourself vulnerable to your human nature. If you ever have a problem with your PV, wind, or microhydro system, or when your battery bank starts to get old and sulfated, then you might someday be tempted to revert to using grid power "just for a little while", and then the repairs to your system will never get done.(BTW, I've seen the latter happen, even with wealthy retreat owners.)

    Zener diodes can be used to isolate components, but the only 100% foolproof protection is to keep key spares in a Faraday cage. The component at greatest risk in alternative power system is the modern microprocessor-based battery charge controller. They are fairly simple to bypass if yours ever gets fried by EMP, but since they typically cost less than $200 it is probably best to buy a "just in case" spare charge controller and tuck it away in an ammo can.


    The Real Estate Bubble--Getting Out at The Top (SAs: Contrarian Investing, Real Estate, Relocation)

    Our friends over at The Daily Reckoning report that The International Herald Tribune recently ran an article under the headline: "High Home Prices Drive California Exodus."  In my opinion the Bubble is about ready to pop. I'm not the only one that holds this opinion. There are lots of others. I predict that the price declines will be greatest in the suburbs in coastal cities. Perhaps dramatic declines. But I also believe that good productive agricultural land will hold most of its value, even as urban and suburban real estate prices crater. To explain:  Farming in America has become so efficient that crop prices have been depressed for decades. This has kept the price of farm ground down--at least in terms of what it can actually produce. Yes, this land is much more expensive than it was in the 1970s, but in real terms, it is still "dirt cheap."

    The real losers in the post real estate bubble era will be the poor deluded souls who bought rental properties on speculation near the top of the market. The bubble is likely to burst long before rents ever ratchet up enough to put those investors into the black. They will be stuck with assets that will suffer down-ratcheting value, with no hope of selling them at a profit for perhaps decades, and taking in rents that don't cover their financed debt plus the upkeep. As real estate prices go down, renters will ask for even lower rents. The owners of these rentals will be faced with either selling them at a deep loss, or continuing to rent them with a negative cash flow.

    "I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best." - Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconfield, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and twice British Prime Minister

    Wednesday, November 9, 2005

    We've just surpassed 100,000 unique visits since we started the blog (in August), and are we are rapidly approaching three million page hits. (To be exact: 2,963,176 as of midnight Monday/Tuesday.)  Many thanks for making SurvivalBlog such a rapid success. Please continue to spread the word with posts to Internet Forums and other Blogs, as well as mentioning SurvivalBlog when you call in to talk radio shows.

    I'd like to expand on a topic that I mentioned briefly in a SurvivalBlog post on August 25, 2005:  "The State Line Game." Many folks have discovered how to play the state line jumping game: Living near a state line to take advantage of a lower tax or other advantage in one or more adjoining states. For example, you can live in the Idaho panhandle (very low property tax, car registration, and car insurance), work in eastern Washington (no income tax), make your day-to-day purchases in Idaho (5% sales tax) and your major purchases (trucks, wood stoves, generators, gun vaults, appliances, et cetera) in Montana or Oregon--both of which have no sales tax.  Many SurvivalBlog readers have found themselves at the stage of life where they are considering strategic relocation.  If you look at the tax burdens in various states (See:, then you can take the opportunity afforded by relocation to "vote with your feet."

    Let's continue this line of reasoning a bit further. In many instances, state lines are defined by rivers or the summits of mountain ranges, but in others, the line is more or less arbitrarily set on level ground.  The latter opens up a fascinating possibility: Owning contiguous parcels on both sides of a state line. Imagine living in a small house in a state with no (or low) personal income tax but high property taxes and expensive car registration. You could also own an adjoining much larger parcel land and other assets (garage, vehicles, barn, shop, livestock, a second home) on the other side of the state line, literally a stone's throw away. Or how about a mobile home that you could move slightly, if and when regulations becomes too onerous at the opposing end of your property. 

    Now on to something that at first blush might seem absurd, so I'll label this as an intellectual exercise: It might be possible to build a house that physically straddles a state line. That is sure to get the tax assessors scratching their heads! Consider the possibilities of a house with with a large main "wing" in a low property tax state, and another smaller wing--perhaps connected by a covered walkway or greenhouse--in a state where you can take advantage of the differing income taxes, sales taxes, or other regulations. (The latter could include gun laws, home schooling laws, cost of car registration/insurance, cost of hunting tags, et cetera.) If you operate a home based business, the presence or absence of a sales tax could make a big difference. Your state of "residence" would be based on the wing where your bedroom and home office is located. You might want your children to legally be residents of the adjoining state, because of home schooling law disparities or to avoid the high cost of "out of  state" college tuition. Another disparity is in hunting regulations and the length of hunting seasons:  If deer season ends earlier on one end of your property than the other, then you could simply reposition your livestock salt blocks. Here is an even more absurd abstraction: A state line that bisects your dining room table:  "Please pass--I mean--Interstate Commerce the mashed potatoes." The practicalities of getting permits to build a bi-state house might be insurmountable, but it remains an captivating prospect. Think though the many of possibilities--even of just living near a state line,. Consider the following factors:

    States that have no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Two others, New Hampshire and Tennessee, tax only dividend and interest income. (For detail on state income tax rates, see: .)

    States with no state level general sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. For details, see:

    States with very low county and local property (real estate) taxes: These vary widely, depending on the city and county. For details, see:

    States with differing firearms laws.  See the book Boston's Gun Bible for details.  If you don't already own a copy of this "must read" book, then contact. Fred's M14 Stocks. As of this writing, Fred is currently offering a great three book package deal: one copy of my novel Patriots +one copy of Matthew Bracken's novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic + one copy of Boston's Gun Bible, all for $50. OBTW, please mention SurvivalBlog, regardless of where you buy your books.

    As I previously posted, one possibility is to live and work in southern Washington (no income tax and fairly low property taxes), but shop in Oregon, where there is a high property tax but no sales tax. Unfortunately the two states are divided by the Columbia River.  Perhaps you could buy land east of the point where the river turns north and the border reverts to an arbitrary line. But there aren't many opportunities to take advantage of the sales tax difference at that end of the state! Another possibility is to buy a ranch straddling the Montana/Wyoming state line, since Montana has no sales tax and Wyoming has no income tax. And both have great gun laws. (Not the best of climates there, however!)

    See: for detailed information on the tax rates in various states.

    A reminder that the foregoing discussions skirt around a more core issue: the scale of government in each state. Some states have big, pretentious, intrusive governments that love to get involved in every aspect of your life. My advice is to avoid living in any of these Nanny States. As time goes on, they are only going to get worse.

    The bottom line: If you live in a state with severe taxes or gun laws, then vote with your feet!   I'd appreciate your comments on the foregoing. Perhaps you have considered a novel way to take advantage of tax disparities. Just drop me an e-mail. OBTW, I plan to also post this to The Claire Files.  This should inspire all of the Libertarians there into a spirited string of discussion. They seem to particularly enjoy this sort of food for thought and grounds for further research. (FFTAGFFR.)


    Letter from Dr. November Re: Aviation Fuel as an Alternative Fuel (SAs: Alternate Fuels, Aviation Fuels, 100 Octane Gasoline)

    On the avgas issue, you might remind your readers that avgas has a LOT of lead in it (more than high-test leaded car gas ever did). 100 octane Low-lead avgas still has twice as much lead as leaded car gas did. If you use leaded gas in a car with a catalytic converter (like most cars these days) you will ruin the converter in less time than it takes you to empty the gas tank. One of two alternatives will happen, the converter will become completely plugged and your car won't run at all because of the back pressure, or you'll get terrible performance. And, if you have mandatory smog inspections in your state, look at a repair bill starting at around $750 to replace the converter. (They aren't cheap, even used). Also, the waste fuel drums at airports (at least the ones I go to) also have waste oil in them, and usually water. Be careful! - Dr. November

    "When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, "Well, what do you need?"  - Steven Wright

    Tuesday, November 8, 2005

    In 1965 in Watts, they shouted "Burn baby, burn!" In France, I suppose that the North African teenagers are shouting "Brûlure de bébé, de brûlure!" (Pardon my French.) More than 1,400 cars burned on Sunday night alone. The rioting has spread to 300 cities, and now there are concerns that the rioting could spread to Germany and other countries with large Arab immigrant populations. It remains to be seen if the motivation for this French Intifada is purely economic, or if radical Islam is partly to blame. See: and:

    France went through the traumatic civil war in Algeria decades ago, but apparently didn't learn anything from it. They foolishly brought Algeria home with them, in the form of a large, widely dispersed, largely Islamic, and chronically economically depressed Arab underclass. Hopefully the Bush administration will learn something from this.

    Mr. Rawles;
    I am the manager of a county airport in the South. Which leads me to a piece of information that I want to pass on to you.

    Each day we are required by our brand Quality Control people to draw a sample of fuel from each of our tanks and refuelers. The purpose is to check for contaminates. Once that is done that fuel is poured into a waste drum that has to be disposed of later. We have both 100 low lead for prop planes and Jet-A. Jet-A is a high quality kerosene that works well in diesel engines and in kerosene lamps and heaters. Most larger airports have recovery tanks on their fuel systems that allow them to save this fuel, but some of the smaller airports simply have to call an oil recycler and have it hauled away. For those who are good scrounges and are willing to approach people on such matters this might be a source of fuel for off road use. I would advise the precaution of running this fuel through a filter prior to adding it to a tank since some times an old barrel is used for holding this fuel till pick up. I would request that the "no attribution rule" be applied here.

    As for ethanol: I have a book in my library titled Making it on the Farm. This little book covers in great detail how to build a still and make your own fuel. I got mine several years ago from Buffalo Creek Press in Cleburne, Texas. Thanks again and keep up the good work. Long Life, - Name Withheld By Request

    "There are very few problems around a ranch that cannot be solved with pallets, bailing twine, an Aught Six, duct tape, a Leatherman Tool, or 80% dynamite."  - James Wesley, Rawles

    Monday, November 7, 2005

    My paternal grandfather, Ernest Everett Rawles (1897-1985), was a largely self-educated man. Coming from a pioneer family (his father and grandfather came out west by covered wagon in 1857), he had a profoundly practical outlook on life. Ernest grew up on a 6,000 acre sheep ranch near Boonville, in Mendocino County, California. There, he lived life at its basics: The change of the seasons, hunting and trapping, hard work in foul weather, lambing, shearing, and the constant state of war with the predators that annually killed dozens and sometimes hundreds of lambs. It was hard life, but it had its satisfactions. The following are some brief quotes drawn from his oral history:

    "I liked growing up on the ranch. We ran livestock on the land, and cut quite a bit of timber. We had horses, cattle, pigs, and Merino sheep. Lots of sheep. Two or three thousand at a time were run by the various members of the family. [To protect the sheep] we had to contend with the coyotes, mountain lions, and bear."

    "People had their jealousies, just like they do today, but for strangers passing through, people were a lot more hospitable. Visitors would often drop by unannounced and uninvited. People would come in from the coast, sometimes they'd come into the house when no one was at home [expecting our return later in the day]. Of course my dad was a politician [so he knew a lot of people.] I can remember we'd come home after a trip in the buggy, and there'd be a barn full of horses, and the chores done, and dinner on the table. That was just the way they did things in those days. They generally brought their provisions with them. If they didn't, then on the way back they'd bring provisions. People were more cooperative [back then.]"

    "Boonville was a very isolated community until about the 1920s. One young fellah wanted some adventure, so he got on a tan oak bark wagon, and went over to Largo, which is on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. He went down as far as Cloverdale. Then he got on a train, and went back up to Ukiah. From there, he hitched a ride back home. That's a triangle of about 30 by 30 [miles.] When he got home, he said, 'By gosh if the world is as big the other way as the way I went, she's a whopper.' That's about as some of the people got in those days. They hardly got on the other side of the hill."

    "You've got to understand that we had a big ranch but we only got money once or twice a year out of it. The money wasn't very free. All the money you got was in gold coin. I remember I was nearly fifteen or sixteen years old before I saw much paper money. It was all gold and silver. They didn't have any greenbacks that I remember. My dad would take the wool and mutton to sell, and he'd come back with some tobacco sacks full of twenty-dollar gold pieces. He used to drive three or four-hundred head of sheep down to Cloverdale. They only brought about $2 a head. A big four horse load of wool taken over to Ukiah would pay for the groceries and clothes for the next winter. That was the big trip of the year, when I was a boy. That was when the money came in. That was the way that we used to get paid for things. Gold and silver coins. As kids, they used to let us play with the gold coins now and again. That was quite a celebration."

    "We used to go work in the hop fields. We got paid one cent a pound for picking hops. You'd work your tail off to strip a hundred pounds. If you worked long, long hours--get out there at daylight, and head home at dark, you'd pick about 125 pounds. Finally, they paid us a cent and quarter. [$0.0125 per pound.]"

    "We used to say that if you saved just ten percent of what you earned, you'd never go to the poor house. That's one of the first lessons I learned, and I've tried to do something along that line since. And I've never gone to the poor house."

    I emphasize versatility in survival planning, particularly in the area of alternate fuels. I have mentioned in several previous SurvivalBlog posts that prefer diesel-engine cars, trucks, tractors, and ATVs because they can be run alternatively on either biodiesel and home heating oil. For those of you readers in the Corn Belt, you might also consider buying a gasoline engine vehicles that is compatible with Ethanol. (Ethyl Alcohol or "corn gas."). The most versatile (but rare) will run on 100% ethanol (E100). But many will run on a 85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend (E85).General Motors of Brazil makes large numbers of E100 vehicles, because E100 is the dominant fuel in that market. (Where it is produced locally from sugar cane.)

    There are a wide range of current and recent production E85 ethanol compatible vehicles, from makers including

    • Daimler Chrysler
    • Ford
    • General Motors
    • Isuzu
    • Mazda
    • Mercedes
    • Mercury
    • Nissan

    Note that many of these are only available as special "fleet purchase" vehicles, so you may have to hunt for a fleet trade-in.

    For some good background on E85, see:

    Many U.S.gas stations already use E85 ethanol compatible pumps and tanks. See:

    Be sure to look closely at the vehicle specifications of a prospective purchase before you buy. (A buyer's guide in PDF is available for download from the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.) In many cases you have to look at specifications right down to a particular digit in the VIN number to be sure. OBTW, some vehicles have a special sticker inside the gas cap door, indicating that they are E85 compatible. That is the quickest --but not surest--way to check when you a wandering around a car dealership lot. Since big four wheel drive vehicles are currently slow sellers, just putting the word out at a couple of local dealerships that you are looking for a used 4WD that is E85 compatible is almost certain to get some commission-only salesmen motivated to doing some legwork on your behalf.

    The bottom line: If you can get get an E85 ethanol compatible vehicle for the same price or slightly more than one that is gasoline-only, then why not get that extra versatility? Some day, post TETOWAWKI, that versatility may make difference between a vehicle that is still viable/mobile and a very expensive immobile lawn ornament.

    OBTW, distilling your own ethanol is not rocket science. (Just ask anyone who has lived in the Ozarks.) I will cover "at home" ethanol fuel distilling in an upcoming post.

    Everybody's referring to 55 gallon barrels. I can't lift something as heavy as a 55 gallon barrel full of fuel. I've always bought the steel 17 gallon barrels for fuel. I CAN pick up one of those full of fuel (if I have too) :-[ They have the same size holes on top as the 55 gallon barrels and they will stand up in the back of a Bronco or Blazer. Regards and please keep up the great work! - The Army Aviator

    "That's human nature. Nobody does anything until it's too late." - Michael Crichton, Prey

    Sunday, November 6, 2005

    Many of the widely read blogs have a featured "Blog of the Week" or at least a fairly lengthy "blog roll." Please recommend SurvivalBlog to the editors of those Blogs. Just a brief e-mail to the editors of the various popular blogs, such as James Lileks, Little Green Footballs, Hugh Hewitt, Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, The Belmont Club, Blogs of War, Bill O'Reilly, et cetera--would go a long way toward increasing the readership of SurvivalBlog.  Many thanks in advance!


    Fed Boss Successor Ben Bernanke--Bearish for the Dollar and Bullish for Precious Metals? (SAs: Economics, Contrarian Investing)

    I'm not the first to observe that the upcoming scheduled departure of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will have some substantial effect on monetary policy and the economy.  The man anointed for the top slot is Ben Bernanke, a Federal Reserve governor and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Just who is this man, and how is how likely to change the Fed's policies?  The best indicators are probably some of the statements that Bernanke has made in speeches in recent years. These include:

    "Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation."


    "Each of the policy options I have discussed so far involves the Fed's acting on its own. In practice, the effectiveness of anti-deflation policy could be significantly enhanced by cooperation between the monetary and fiscal authorities. A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous 'helicopter drop' of money."


    "Although the Federal Reserve does not have an explicit numerical target range for measured inflation, FOMC behavior and rhetoric have suggested to many observers that the Committee does have an implicit preferred range for inflation. Most relevant here, the bottom of that preferred range clearly seems to be a value greater than zero measured inflation, at least 1% per year or so."


    "The essence of constrained discretion is the central role of a commitment to price stability. Not only does such a commitment enhance efficiency, employment, and economic growth in the long run, but -- by providing an anchor for inflation expectations -- it also improves the ability of central banks to stabilize the real economy in the short run as well. An important and interesting implication is that, under a properly designed and implemented monetary policy regime, the key social objectives of price stability and maximum employment tend to be mutually reinforcing rather than competing goals."

    and lastly, on asset bubbles:

    "[I]t's extraordinarily difficult for the central bank to know in advance or even after the fact whether or not there's been a bubble... The central bank should focus the use of its single macroeconomic instrument, the short term interest rate, on price and output stability. It is rarely, if ever, advisable for the central bank to use its interest rate instrument to try to target or control asset price movements, thereby implicitly imposing its view of the proper level of asset prices on financial markets."

    As we transition from the "Mr. Magoo" Greenspan era, to the "Helicopter Ben" Bernanke era, be prepared for some changes. Bernanke appears predisposed toward easy money policies and inflating his way out of problems. We should anticipate a more rapid rate of inflation for the dollar.  That could be bearish for the dollar's rate of exchange with many foreign currencies. The dollar index may very well resume its five year slide. Meanwhile, look for a boost in the prices of gold and silver, which have traditionally been hedges against weak paper currencies. Don't worry about those Black Helicopters. Instead, watch the skies for Federal Reserve helicopters. 

    As an architect for the last 30 years or so, I have been applying some important lessons learned in college that have an eerie resemblance to the survival mindset of those of us who think we just might be in for some hard times, and much sooner than we think. Let me explain.On the very first day of class, on my very first day of college back in the 1970s, I found myself in a design class with other new students who knew absolutely nothing about the profession or business of architecture. But we were there to learn, and our first assignment was to design and build a ‘Survival House for an Egg’, or SHEG for short. The rules were simple: design pure survival for a fresh chicken egg, no restrictions on materials used, no weight limits or minimums, the SHEG could be any size or shape provided it cleanly fit into an 8” x 8” x 8” box, the SHEG would be subjected to a severe external stressing event (to be determined on test day), it had to be opened by someone other than yourself, after testing, using only a matt knife, could be any color, style or texture, and the project was 30% of your final semester grade. It was also pass/fail, ‘A’ or ‘F’. No teamwork allowed, you’re on your own. Each student will present one SHEG for testing in one week at 1:15pm, rain or shine. No class until then. No more questions. Good luck. The professor then went on vacation, I think. The goal was made clear. We were to design and construct a house for an egg to survive unbroken through an unknown catastrophic event. Easy enough.
    We all complained about it. “How can I design for an unknown?” we asked. Isn’t design meant to be for planning, for known occurrences, with foresight and thought? Isn’t that what we’re here for, to be taught how to know what to plan for? All good questions, indeed. Many classmates assumed a weight-applied stress from the top. Some assumed a violent shaking, and a few others a sudden impact. But they were all really, totally inappropriate assumptions for this assignment. This job was for one thing, and one thing only: get that egg to the other side of its impending Armeggeddon. (Sorry).
    Many of us worked day and night, testing and retesting for something, we knew not what. Some of the new students made friends quickly. Others kept to themselves, me included, and just plugged away on our SHEG’s. Then test day came. We were all nervously waiting with our designs and our futures in hand. The professor arrived looking tanned and well fed. We were asked to walk up the stairwell and place our designs on the north parapet wall of the buildings’ roof and stand beside our SHEG’s. The stress event our designs were to withstand would be a baseball bat hitting the SHEG off the parapet, seven stories high, and onto the empty asphalt parking lot below. A judge on the ground would open each SHEG as it rested, determining whether the egg was intact or not. The judge would then crack the egg to be sure no hard boiled cheaters were among us. Your neighbor previous in line will hit your SHEG off the wall. No one touches their SHEG from here on out. Then it started to rain. The professor hit the first one. WHAM. Off went someone’s desperate attempt at survival design into scrambled oblivion. Then another. And another. It was terrible. The professor was laughing. After 30 student tries, not one had yet passed. Then someone succeeded. Everyone cheered. Another round of failures, then it was my turn. I mumbled a silent prayer. My neighbor in line gleefully grabbed the bat, wanting desperately to send my SHEG off the edge in a yellow splat of frustration, just as his had done not one minute earlier. Off it went, down and down, then BANG. The judge opened my SHEG and discovered an intact egg. I had passed. Life was good. I was only one of three success stories that dark day. Three out of 72 students. There were many tears and much gnashing of teeth. Many of my fellow classmates claimed their SHEG’s were hit harder than someone else’s. “Not fair!”, they cried. Some couldn’t believe they really got an ‘F’ for the project (their very first academic failure, in many cases). One student made it to the ground with an intact egg, but the judge could not open the SHEG with the knife, so he failed. Several others failed because they missed the deadline to present their design by just minutes. A few just gave up in total frustration and did not submit any design at all.
    You probably are wondering what miracle material or ingenious new packaging design I used for my success. As my classmates’ designs were flying to pieces on the pavement, as the paper-mache was dissolving in the rain, as the high tech plastic spheres with spring loaded shock absorbers and half-chewed bubble gum cushioning were splattered into oblivion, my SHEG survived. I just used a basic cut-in-half cardboard shoe box packed as full of simple, basic saran wrap as I could possibly make it, then I wrapped it all in duct tape. Mission accomplished. Survival.
    And oh, the lessons learned. They keep coming back to me in spades, almost with every decision I make now. If you can envision the egg as you and your family, think about this:
    1. You really only need a fairly limited space to protect your egg. You can spend a lot of money, or not, but make sure you cover the basics very deep, and pack very well.
    2. Your egg is all you have. If it breaks, you fail.
    3. Use mostly locally obtained and inexpensive materials to the best of your ability.
    4. At least show up to the party with something. You never know, you might get lucky.
    5. Your neighbor will probably be glad to see you fail, so pack your egg as tight and failure proof as you can. And his basics will probably not be your basics, so keep your basics hidden from view.
    6. It will rain.
    7. There will probably always be some fat guy standing close by laughing at you.
    8. Say your prayers.
    9. Whatever hits you will most likely not be planned for, so pack the basics deep.
    10. Survival is pass / fail.
    11. Teamwork is OK, but ultimately your egg is your responsibility.
    12. Life is not fair. Some of us get hit harder than others.
    13. If your egg breaks, it will not be pretty, so pack the basics deep.
    14. Duct tape is good.
    15. Don’t pack so well that the rescuers can’t get in to save the egg, because it may not be the end of the world yet.
    16. No matter how well you plan and build things, someone can always, always get to your egg and crack it if they really want to (if they have the right tools).
    17. Don’t hard boil your life. It’s too short and the stress can kill you. Simplify.
    18. Terrible can always get worse.

    "Let us remind ourselves again that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should be referred to as the Statute of Liberty." - Col. Jeff Cooper

    Saturday, November 5, 2005

    I have just updated my free FAQ on Pre-1899 guns. By popular demand, it now includes links for free downloadin JPEG format my query letter to the BATF, as well as the BATF's reply. See:  Several of my other FAQs are available at the same web site.

    The Times of London reports that planners in the British Government are anticipating shutting down or curtailing traffic on their Underground system, and detailing dedicated security for health care workers, in the event of an influenza pandemic. See: Just some food for thought and ground for further research (FFTAGFFR.)

    SurvivalBlog reader "KonTiki" sent the following article excerpted from the Duffy's Law web site:
    The following is from a collection of random notes from the 1913 book My Life With The Eskimos by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. For serious research, one should read the unabridged edition.

    Eskimo Housing
    Eskimo houses were constructed with a hole in the roof to allow in light. The hole which was most often left open was covered with Bear intestine. The base of the house was five to six foot thick made of earth and sod and tapered and thinned out towards the top which was about six foot square. The top had about six inches of earth on it. The center of the house was about nine feet high and the walls at the edge were about five feet high. The opening on the roof was about three foot square. 3 or 4 lamps burned continuously and one of the most important duties of the wife was to make sure they didn’t smoke or go out. The entrance to the house was a twenty to forty foot shed-covered tunnel about four feet lower than the floor of the house.  The cold air in the tunnel would not rise into the house which was kept warm by the four lamps at a temperature of sixty to seventy degrees Fahrenheit even when the outside temperature was fifty below zero! They would sit with only shorts on in the house. So they would be bare below the knees and above the waist. After five months Stefansson began to enjoy the boiled fish they would eat for supper. The entryway and the hole in the roof were kept open most of the time, but especially during cooking. The only time the entryway would be covered would be to prevent a baby from falling into it or puppies coming in from outside and this was only rarely. Stefansson would usually sleep next to the tunnel entryway to get more fresh air. Each corner of the room had an elevation for sleeping that was covered by skins as was the floor. The houses at first smelled bad but soon you realized that it was the cooking of food that gave the smell to the house. The lamp is a half moon soapstone about two or three inches deep kept almost full and the wick is a powdered ivory (walrus), sawdust, dried moss ground in the fingers, manila rope from the whalers with a strand taken and chopped into tiny pieces. The wick is made from the powder laid in a strip which the oil soaks. A piece of fat is suspended over the flame and when the wick dries the flame gets brighter and hence hotter and more fat drips into the half moon lamp bowl which then fills and wets the wick more which cuts down the height of the flame and this works by itself for about six or eight hours.  The open center of the house was like a club pip on playing cards it was twelve foot square with an alcove in each corner which sometime would lead to another house. The entire compound accommodated 23 people.

    Hey there! Congratulations on the site. There is not a day that goes by that I do not read it. As such, I just thought that I would tell you to check out the following website... (The Barrel Company, out of Nevada). After checking it out, if you desire, you may want to put it out on your website. I get all of my 55 gallon steel and water barrels from this site. I provide you with this information not because I have any personal relationship with this company but simply because you can get CHEAP, HIGH QUALITY barrels from here. Originally, I purchased new barrels from this site, but then began purchasing their used ones. Due to the price, it was just as easy to clean the barrels myself. In terms of the steel barrels, I found these to be great upon receipt. Again, I clean them but find that the 55 gallon steel barrels need very little cleaning due to the fact that the food products were in a bag liner. To date I have purchased ten 55 Gallon Plastic Water Barrels and three 55 gallon steel drums. No complaints what so ever. Again, this is simply food for thought and I thought that you may like to pass this information on to others through your website if you find it helpful. (Note: If purchasing used drums that it is important that you clean them). Take care and continue the good work! - "Mc"

    I can't remember if you covered this scenario in your Patriots book so here's a thought. In a SHTF or a TEOTWAWKI and we are giving away Charity to a small refugee group with OPSEC being done. The refugees move on in their quest for a better place and run into a "foraging group" of folks. A"foraging group" will most likely want to know where the little band of refugees got some of their new stuff. Any ammo that was given in charity more than likely will be liberated from the refugees along with pretty much everything else they have of value. In an effort to save their own skins the refugees will more than likely tell the foragers where they got this stuff from. They will probably all be killed anyway. That's my point of this email. We have just created a very potential future threat to our retreat and it's inhabitants.

    If you have to give out charity [during a "worst case" situation with widespread lawlessness] I would suggest no charity be given anywhere near your retreat. Have a predetermined spot away from the retreat. Then, with the appropriate warnings as you gave in your book, send them on their way. Waiting till they are out of sight before moving back to the retreat. It sure seems like a big effort.

    Handing out charity in front of your property is simpler but really bad OPSEC. That's a NO-NO in my thinking. Another idea is to not hand out charity at all to passing refugees. This will be difficult to do. You might not even see any if your retreat is off the natural drift lines of refugees. If you do see refugees and they haven't seen you then just let them pass and be gone. Charity with your neighbors should be easier since they should be part of your retreats OPSEC anyway. If not, it's a good way to bring them into the fold. Mutual support will make it more secure for everyone in question. - Larry in Kansas

    The first source I would use for replacement pistol barrels (not just for Glock) is Kevin’s company produces arguably the most accurate barrels available, and that is only a part of his superior capabilities as a firearms designer and manufacturer who is well regarded at the highest levels of military purchasing. He actually produces some of the specialty pistol barrels that are retailed under other brands. Go to the source for the best value.
    I know him personally as a good and honest man, and BTW I would also consider him my first choice for a custom rifle. -Mr. Bravo

    "Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples' money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security." - William F. Buckley, Jr.

    Friday, November 4, 2005

    Very special thanks to "Wise Tioga", who out of the goodness of his heart laboriously converted my data on 19 western states into a handy Excel (.xls format) spreadsheet. He has even added some more data on home schooling and home birth regulations. I have posted it as a sub-page to the Retreat Areas static page. (Just click on the Retreat Areas button in our home page top button bar.)

    The latest Mother Earth News (#212) has an article on building a home from earth-filled bags. Looks like a cheap, fast way to build a home with good protection against attacks with weaponry. Might also be a good plan for a secondary place to serve as an emergency shelter against radiation. Or as a way to build up an existing area in a cellar as a Safe Room. - B.B. in Hawaii


    Letter Re: Information on Various Fire Starters (SAs: Wilderness Survival, Primitive Skills, Fire Starting)

    Been a long time reader of your site. Just wanted to drop you a note to say there is an article up on that fits Survivalblog's content. It's all about different methods of ignition sources that people should be aware. Good info for those building survival packs. The direct link is   Keep up the good work Jim! - J.G.

    A question was posted on your site about the ability to use a Glock 23 with a 9mm barrel. It has been my (limited) experience that all that is needed to shoot the gun in 9mm is a replacement barrel and a 9mm magazine. I first heard of this from a friend of mine who is a part time gun writer. I was skeptical but, given the source, I gave it a try. I am not a Glock fan but my then girlfriend was. She shot her Glock 23 more as a 9mm than as a .40 because it was cheaper. In her experience the gun was fully reliable in 9mm. She used .40 for carry and in the home but most of her practice was 9mm. I would guess that in the time we were dating she fired 2,200-2,500 rounds of 9mm and only 300-350 .40. All without any failures. I believe the barrel was made by FAC (Federal Arms Corporation). To avoid any confusion she used the orange Glock magazines in 9mm so she wouldn't confuse the 9mm mags with the .40 mags. - Jake

    Hi Jim,
    Enjoy the blog immensely. Read it every day. Regarding barrels for conversion from one model of Glock to another (i.e. .40 S&W model 23 to 9mm model 19), there are a number of manufacturers of barrels for such purposes. Topglock ( sells conversion barrels from several manufacturers. Federal Arms also makes them, but I don't know if they sell directly or only through dealers. As I recall, from what I have picked up from the web, no change in slide or extractor is necessary for the conversion. The original .40 S&W mags will work for the 9mm, most of the time. But if I was going in harms' way, I'd order the mags for the same size 9mm Glock to use in the .40 S&W.  I'm sure the staff at Topglock or Lone Wolf Distributors (
    ) could answer any questions people have. Thanks for the site, - Jim H.

    There are barrels available to convert .40 to 9mm, but they are NOT 100% reliable. Bar-Sto and Jarvis make them
    [JWR adds: So do Federal Arms and Olympic Arms], various places like Glockmeister carry them. You simply replace the barrel but use the same slide, and this is the cause for it not being 100%. There are ejector/extractor issues. These are okay to train with but not to fight with. To convert to 9mm with full Glock reliability requires you to simple swap slides with a 9mm gun. Thus the 23 can shoot both 40 stock and 9mm. The M23 frame is essentially the same as the M19, just beefed up to handle .40 cal. The downside is price, since a complete 9mm slide costs as much as the used trade-in Glock 19s now. This same "trick" is available for Beretta, SIGs and others. Drop a Beretta 92 slide on a 96 and you have a convertible gun, in fact Beretta sold this combo at one time. DO NOT take a 9mm frame and drop a .40 slide on it. It will function but it (the 9mm frame) isn't beefed up enough to handle the .40. Almost forgot, .40 cal mags hold 9mm with no modification. Back in the High-cap magazine ban days [Sept. 1994 to Sept. 2004], you could always take a 10 round 40 cal mag and put 9mm in it to have a 12-13 round "high cap", it functions fine in every case I have tried. HTH,  - Mike, M.D. in MO

    Just read Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies - by L.H. on your blog. These types of articles always talk about shielding of radiation. Is there any substance that REFLECTS radiation instead of absorbing it?

    JWR Replies: It has been nearly 20 years since I took the Army NBC Defense Officer's course, so forgive me if any of the following betrays my faulty memory:  Any of the materials described will reflect or absorb alpha or beta radiation, and absorb highly energetic gamma rays. Because they are a ray (think of it as a flash from a flash bulb, or the beam from an x-ray machine), virtually nothing will reflect gamma rays. Once gamma rays have been stopped by shielding, they are no longer a threat. But the gamma ray emitter--typically a fallout dust particle, continues to emit gamma for a very long time.

    Alpha radiation has a very short effective range and is rapidly attenuated by passage through the air. That makes it a non-issue for your survival planning. Beta has longer range, but just a sheet of cardboard will stop beta radiation. (Beta radiation mainly causes injury to the skin that looks much like a sunburn--commonly called "beta burns.") It is mainly the gamma radiation that you have to worry about.  That requires a lot of thick shielding. (You need mass--any mass--and a lot of it!) Fallout dust itself continues to emit alpha, beta, and gamma rays for many, many months. That is why, assuming that you will be using a shielding-improved basement type shelter, that it is important to close and seal your house windows after the blast wave(s) passes. If they are shattered by the blast wave, you should cover the broken windows with sheet plastic and tape seal them before taking shelter in your basement shelter, during the brief time available in the "King's X." (The short period between the blast/shock wave and the time that the fallout dust begins to settle.) After shelter emergence, it is possible to decontaminate your roof and sidewalks by hosing the fallout dust away (while wearing the proper protective gear, naturlich), but it will be almost impossible to decontaminate the interior of your house if it has been coated with fallout dust. Read the book Nuclear War Survival Skills--available for free download from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine web site, for details.

    "One of these days, one of these (rogue) governments fabricates one or two nuclear weapons, and gives them to a terrorist group…The group brings one of these bombs into Baltimore by boat, and drives another one up to Pittsburgh. And then the message comes into the White House. Adjust your policy in the Middle East, or on Tuesday you lose Baltimore, and on Wednesday you lose Pittsburgh. Tuesday comes and we lose Baltimore. What does the U.S. do?" - Ambassador Robert Galucci, Former U.S. Arms Negotiator, Dean of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service

    Thursday, November 3, 2005

    Don't forget to send your entries for the SurvivalBlog writing contest. The prize is a transferable four day course certificate, good for any course at Front Sight. OBTW, I recently heard from Naish Piazza that the prices for all of the Front Sight courses will be increasing by 25% in 2006, so this will make the contest prize even more valuable--as much as $2,000 for a four day course. Oh, by the same token, you might want to buy some course certificates or a Front Sight membership to beat the price increases.  (And BTW, check out their new "Lifetime Challenge First Family Membership.")

    Please submit your non-fiction articles via e-mail by the end of November to be considered for the contest.

    Thanks to Kirsten over at the Survival/Gulching Forum at The Claire Files for mentioning the Native Seeds/SEARCH seed bank. See: Here is a quote about their specialized heirloom seeds for desert environments:
    "Today, the Native Seeds/SEARCH seed bank houses approximately 2,000 different accessions of traditional crops grown by Apache, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Gila River Pima, Guarijio, Havasupai, Hopi, Maricopa, Mayo, Mojave, Mountain Pima, Navajo, Paiute, Puebloan, Tarahumara, Tohono O'odham and Yaqui farmers. Over one-half of the collections are comprised of the three sisters -- corn, bean, and squash. An additional 48 species of crops and wild crop relatives wait in frozen storage, including amaranth, tepary bean, chile, cotton, devil's claw, gourds, melon, sunflowers, tobacco, teosinte, watermelon and wild beans."

    In a survival situation you must clear the military mindset from your head, since you are not backed by 300 million citizen western economy and trillions of dollars in supplies. Walking about the land with a AR-15 and BDUs could be one of the best ways to be shot on sight. To the causal observer you will be instantly branded as both clearly dangerous as well as covered in priceless gear.   What is the "gray man"? The gray man mode operates much like a spy, a recon team, or a sniper does. If the gray man is noticed he has lost much of the game. His best tactic is hiding in plain sight, while letting others be noticed. Tactically speaking, gray man is used when you are outnumbered and when a straight fight would be foolish. Dress is important, a fine suit may say rich, BDUs say maybe I may be armed, raggy means maybe I am homeless and likely desperate. Attitude is important, avoiding eye contact without being obvious is a good idea, aggressiveness will be taken as a challenge, stay cool but not so cool as to be cocky. The best gray man is exactly who people expect to see in a given setting: a UPS man in an office, or a mailman or meter reader walking through your neighborhood. Gray man works best when there are other people around to take up the attention of trouble makers. Let the hysterical woman or the angry man take the attention of the terrorist. Don't let them even worry so much that they bother to search you. If you are carrying a weapon, then gladly surrender your wallet if asked, to avoid being searched and hence disarmed. What I am trying to get across is that in a survival situation you are not the big man, rather go to guerrilla mode wait until the battle can be fought on your terms,--sort of like when the police get a hostage taker in the middle of the night when he is less vigilant--and then escape. Assess the setting you are in. By blending in you will have a better chance of tipping the odds on a superior enemy and living to tell the story.

    Mr. Rawles,
    I read somewhere that there was a .40 S&W to 9mm conversion barrel for a Model 23 Glock. This would not only save me the cost of another pistol, but would give me more versatility with a pistol I am familiar and comfortable with. I assume the barrel would have to be slightly thicker in overall diameter than a standard Glock 9mm barrel to fit a 23 slide. I have been unable to find this conversion barrel. Do you know anything about it? (I realize that a 9mm magazine must also be used.) Thanks for a great web site. - C.G. in N.C.

    JWR Replies: As I recall, to convert a Glock Model 23 .40 S&W to 9mm (in effect turning it into a Model 19) requires a M19 conversion barrel, a M19 slide, and even a different ejector. Magazines are not an issue. According to SurvivalBlog reader C.T., a M23 (.40 S&W) magazine will reliably feed 9mm cartridges just fine, without modification.  (Although the baseplate markings might be confusing, in the heat of battle.) Perhaps one of the SurvivalBlog readers that is a Glock aficionado can e-mail me the details on conversion barrels, and I will post them. In the interim, you might nose around a bit at my favorite Glock site: Scott Greenbaum's Glock FAQ page:

    Thanks for the great blog. I read it every day.  There is a free docudrama "that illustrates the threat poised by vulnerable nuclear weapons and materials around the world" on DVD. You can get it at:  It is quite interesting. - Lynne B.

    See these sites: (Site with some info on how containers can be used for living.)
    and, (Site with interesting pictures of container conversions, including door systems.) Regards, - B.A.

    You might be interested in this site about CONEX containers:  Keep up the good work! - J.F.

    "At the end of the 17th century, Marshal Vauban, a French military engineer, developed modern fortification to its pinnacle, refining siege warfare without fundamentally altering it: ditches would be dug; walls would be protected by glacis; and bastions would enfilade an attacker. He was also a master of planning sieges themselves. Before Vauban, sieges had been somewhat slapdash operations. Vauban refined besieging to a science with a methodical process that, if uninterrupted, would break even the strongest fortifications. Examples of Vauban-style fortresses in North America include Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, Fort Ticonderoga in New York State, and La Citadelle in Quebec City."  - From The Wikipedia entry on "Siege"

    Wednesday, November 2, 2005

    Because of the unenthusiastic response, I've decided to discontinue our experiment at running classified ads on SurvivalBlog.  :-(    But of course our very successful display (scrolling banner) ads are still available.)

    Several of the recent letters on barter and charity items mentioned motor oil and chain saw fuel mixing oil.  That reminded me about a subject that I've meant to address on the blog: key considerations of oil and lubricant storage.  It is important to think through all of your oil and lubricant needs--everything from motor oil and transmission fluid to firearms lube. Figure out what you use in a three year period, and stock up.  Then anticipate what you might need for barter and charity, and stock up even more. Because most families do not store any substantial quantity of oils and lubricants, they will make an ideal barter item in a long term Crunch.

    Safe storage for your oil and lubricants is essential. I recommend that you build a separate, dedicated, locking steel storage shed to store all of your flammables. Think in terms of a stubby CONEX that is well-removed from your other retreat buildings. Aside for a very small supply for day-to-day use, nearly all of your flammables should be stored in the outside shed:  kerosene, fuel canisters (propane, stove fuel, et cetera), lighter fluid, gas cans, paint cans, bore cleaner, various automotive/tractor fluids, paint thinner, chemical degreasers, decontamination fluids, and oils of all descriptions. If you store any powder, primers, or blasting caps, or fuse in this same shed, it is important that you store them inside separate ammo cans with tight-fitting rubber seals. Otherwise, the lubricant vapors will deaden them.

    For your long term "TEOTWAWKI" oil storage, I recommend that you store at least a few cases of non-detergent motor oil.  This is because detergent motor oils only store well for a couple of years.  In contrast, non-detergent motor oil store almost indefinitely. Look carefully at the label before you buy. (These days, even most inexpensive brands of motor oil contain detergents.)

    For firearms lubrication, I generally prefer the Break Free CLP brand.  In a post-TEOTWAWKI environment, your guns will be your constant companions in all sorts of weather. So it is important to store gun cleaning and lubrication supplies in quantity

    Important Side Note: If you live in a region with cold winters, then you will also want to store special low temperature dry film lubes such as Dri-Slide, BP-2000, or Moly-coat (molybdenum disulfide) for your firearms. Otherwise, you might have a gun literally freeze up on you. As American G.I.s in Korea found more than a half century ago, this can be more than just embarrassing when someone is shooting at you!  If the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you should scrupulously de-lubricate your battle rifles (with a degreaser such as Chem Tool) and re-lubricate them with a dry film lubricant. Repeat this process whenever a weapon gets wet. (Keep in mind that rapid temperature differences will cause a rifle to "sweat". You should probably plan to do things Alaska style and leave your rifles out in your chilly mud/coat room rather than bringing them into heated rooms. When standing LP/OP duty or patrolling, cycle your rifle's action several times during the night to insure that the action still functions properly

    Oil filters are more important to store than motor oil.  The myth of the obligatory 3,000 mile oil change has been perpetrated by the "30 minute oil change" industry, because they like to see their customers frequently. (Read: $$$) In fact, in the modern era of multi-weight detergent oils, oil changes are grossly over-done!  Unless a car engine is older and starting to grind metal, then your motor oil will usually have a much longer life than 3,000 miles. And just because motor oil is dark does not necessarily indicate that it needs to be changed. Many commercial fleet vehicles get no oils changes at all--just new filters installed, and the same oil put back in. Back in the 1980s the U.S.Army instituted the Army Oil Analysis Program (AOAP.)  Under AOAP, oil samples are periodically mailed to a centralized lab. Unless the lab detects a drop in viscosity, suspended metals particles, or contamination for any particular vehicle's oil, they direct units to re-use the oil and merely change filters.  (By the way, this program has saved the U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the past 20 years.)

    Another tangential note: Part of keeping your hand tools in proper condition is oiling them to prevent rust.  It is a good idea to keep a steel bucket with a tight-fitting metal lid, half-filled with sand that is soaked in used motor oil   (Don't use wood shavings or anything else that is flammable!)  After tasks like splitting wood or spading the garden, be sure brush off any clinging soil, re-sharpen your tools, and then plunge them into the oily sand and swish them around to give them light coat of oil will. This will greatly extend the serviceable life of your hand tools!

    Mr. Rawles:
    Today one of the honchos at [name deleted], a major east coast Medical Center where my wife works told her that a epidemiology research group has finished a modeling study that predicts, based on the mutation rate of the Avian Flu, that sometime within 18 months it will become transferable in human-to-human contact. (Whereas now it goes only from birds to humans.) - "Mr. Not For Attribution"

    Here is the second increment of responses to our barter/charity items poll.  Please keep them coming, and I will post subsequent increments in the days to come.  Many thanks!

    Teresa suggests:
    Having recently survived in central Louisiana (the place where all the Katrina and Rita people evacuated too) I have paid attention to what items disappeared from store shelves first. This is a list from my area...
    Baby formula
    Baby Food
    Gas Cans
    Ammo and guns --the Wal-Marts in the area refused to sell any guns or ammo once the levees broke. This freaked everyone out so the hunting stores and pawn shops ran out and were out for a while)
    canned food--esp chili and soups
    propane camping stoves
    little propane bottles
    sleeping bags
    OBTW, we are still experiencing shortages of ammo, large bags of rice, beans etc.


    "TFA303" suggests:
    Baby Formula. It stores for 2-to-3 years, and if the mother of a newborn is sick or dies in childbirth (probably much more common in TEOTWAWKI environment) could be a life saver for the baby. Soy-base formula would be best, as any baby can take soy, but not all babies can take milk-based formula. I would probably consider this a charity item rather than a barter item.

    "Lone Gunman in Texas" suggests:
    wristwatches - Swiss automatic or manual winding (NO quartz/battery powered) - How important will it be for having a good concept of time??? Can you/your group coordinate various functions and actions without synchronized time coordinates among the group?
    Clocks - windup only - electric and quartz could be useless - Good small Swiss windup 8 day clocks are cheap(don't waste $$ on the Asian JUNK) - how about an alarm? What physical stress will any of us be under, which may dictate limited sleep periods, and an alarm would be needed to get someone back on duty!
    MREs would have value for barter and for charity
    Small water filters , such as Katadyn and Berkey
    Sport bottles, for individual carry in a backpack
    Salt - in all forms and types - not only for seasoning, but for meat preservation--salt blocks for livestock and wild game lure, large bags of rock salt, stock salt, etc
    Multi-function belt & pocket tools, such as Leatherman etc - small handy and invaluable (again, don't WASTE $$ on cheap Asian copies!)
    Eye glasses and reading glasses - even the magnifier type from the dollar stores (and can be bought online auctions in bulk & mix of magnification). Also sunglasses.
    Plexiglas for window replacement etc
    Heavy plastic film - cheap and in rolls
    Sun block and moisturizers and makeup!
    Does everyone have a "disguise kit"? a wig, a fake beard, etc - how valuable might it be to have the ability to disguise yourself for certain occasions and activities?
    Tarps - all kinds and sizes
    Band aids and bandaging materials and gauze
    Scissors & Razors - all types/kinds/sizes & (men may neglect shaving but ladies will INSIST on an ability to do feminine shaving!)
    Sewing repair kits - a variety of needles and thread
    Coffee and  Liquor


    "SEG" suggests:
    First, I need to mention that no ammo or guns will be traded, except to known and trusted associates. Don't want to arm a potential enemy.
    Some items that I keep in addition to what others have suggested, include:
    wooden clothes pins
    vise-grip pliers
    nails, wood screws, hasp and padlocks, etc.
    soap of all kinds, especially antibiotic hand soap
    Ziplock freezer bags, assorted sizes
    back packs
    trash bags, assorted sizes, plastic sheeting rolls
    alcohol, medicinal and drinking
    plastic containers - trash cans, tubs, bottles, etc.
    insect repellant and bug bite soothers
    poison ivy soother
    plastic plates, bowls, cups, flatware
    fly swatter, fly ribbon, mouse traps, bug spray
    plastic wrap, alum foil, wax paper
    tape - electrical, duct, strapping
    zip ties
    spices, especially salt, sugar, and honey
    planting seeds
    Note: My supply is limited, so I don't intend to be the community store, but rather to have something useful to offer for something I might need.


    "Mr. Yankee" suggests:
    Not much to add to the barter poll except to reinforce what has already been said. My barter plan is to stock shelf stable goods for my own family, friends, and neighbors to use.
    I stock nothing specifically for barter, but I would be more than willing to share what I have in exchange for something I need (even labor).
    My rule of thumb for charity when it is clear that we will not be resupplied any time soon is to feed anyone in need a hot meal and a bit for the road. After that any adult will be required to contribute toward the homestead if they want more. Bartering what they have for my supplies that I can spare is fine, but so too is working for them. Here in the north country there will never be enough stove length firewood on hand for the next winter (no matter how much is already cut).
    Regarding Firearms and Ammo:
    I store multiple rifles to share with those I trust, but I would be very hesitant to trade any firearms or ammo away to anyone outside my trusted friends and neighbors.
    Gasoline, toilet paper, and over the counter medicines: will be high demand. But, I doubt we'll have more of them on hand than we are planning to use. I'm not sure I'd be willing to part with them either. I think these will be the primary items that I can barter for anything I find my home in need of.
    The items most likely to share with those in need are those on hand which store and travel well.
    Likely trades are:
    Soap of all kinds (bar soap, hand soap, laundry soap),
    Other hygiene products - dental floss, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo
    Tea and coffee,
    insecticides (ant traps, flea bombs, flea powders, mosquito repellant, garden spray, etc.) - if the crisis lasts more than a year these will be incredibly useful during the second summer.
    Aluminum foil - a lot of people will be figuring out how to cook on campfires, fireplaces and woodstoves. [JWR adds: Aluminum foil is also great for making solar ovens.  A piece of glass scrounged from a picture frame will suffice for the oven's top pane.]

    I've run across some interesting news stories on the Internet in the past few days...

    President Bush's recent Asian Avian Flu speech:

    H5 Asian Avian flu virus (but thankfully not the dreaded H5N1 Strain) has been found in wild birds in Canada:

    Some interesting commentary by Jason Hommel on the emerging silver shortage:

    On the absurd heights of the Housing Bubble. How about buying a small, run down, flat top house in a bad neighborhood for only $1.2 Million?:

    "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do." - Edward Everett Hale

    Tuesday, November 1, 2005

    Please continue to spread the word about SurvivalBlog.  If you find it useful, odds are that some of your friends will, too!

    Here is the first increment of responses to our barter/charity items poll. These have been received in just the first 24 hours of the poll. BTW, please keep them coming, and I will post subsequent increments in the days to come.  Many thanks!  There are some real gems here, so read closely:

    B.A. suggests:
    Sealed bags / canisters of handi-wipes
    Matches / lighters
    Knives [think Mora skinners here]
    2-cycle oil and chainsaw files and chains
    Kerosene and wicks
    Watch-caps / stocking caps
    New socks and underwear [especially for children]
    Common caliber ammo [.22LR being tops]
    Small bolt-action .22LR rifles [CZ Scout is great for younger shooters], as are the many different training rifles that are mil-surp now.
    Shotgun shells
    Hand lotions
    Toilet paper, toilet paper, toilet paper
    Fresh water
    Conibear traps...if society turns to a more grain holding [storing corn, wheat, soybeans] and consuming society, I look for the rat population to explode in most areas.
    Hard candy
    Sewing needles and sturdy thread
    Fishing lines / rod-reel combos
    Plastic 5 gallon buckets
    Leather gloves

    M.O. suggests:
    Hand tools, like shovel, drill, saw

    J.K. in the PRK suggests:
    12 gauge ammo

    C.W. suggests:
    Hoes and other gardening tools
    Non-hybrid seeds
    Chlorine to treat water
    Shoe repair
    Gun repair
    Medical care

    Outdoor Guy suggests:

    "Col. Jack D. Ripper" suggests:

    Grain alcohol (“Everclear” or equivalent 190 proof ethanol)
    For salt, those of us with water softeners have hundreds of pounds of salt pellets on hand at a given time. Rub two together for flavoring food, dissolve for brining, etc.

    C.R.Z. suggests:

    Paperback books, novels, etc for entertainment
    How-To Books (especially organic gardening manuals)
    Primers (sealed in a ammo can)
    Suture Needles
    Knife sharpening stones
    Medical Supplies (gauze, antibiotics, bandaging material, and BIRTHING SUPPLIES)

    DKN suggests:
    After an event like Katrina, some better items for charity might be:
    Clothing: Shirts, hats, socks, shoes/boots (Dollar stores are great)
    Personal items: Toothbrush/toothpaste, chapstick, soap, washcloth, handi-wipes, tampons, toilet paper, etc.
    Containers: small bags with straps (book bags, etc), water bottles.
    Maybe even maps of the area? When I worked for the Sheriff's department, I as working a traffic accident (Southern California) We had an intersection closed in a residential area. I was so surprised at the amount of people who only knew ONE way to get to their house!

    Steven in North Idaho suggests:
    Condensed or dried Milk, Sugar, Flour, Tea, Coffee. Aspirin, children's cold medicine, Antibiotics, (a parent will give their life to save their child's life, at least I would.) Then comes larger food items. Then comes first aid stuff, including water purification. Then fire starting materials. Then ammo. I would never give a gun to anyone I don't know. To much chance of it coming back on me later. A heck of a note to get shot with your own gun. In the mean time, I'll just keep my powder dry.

    L.H. suggests:


    GySgt J.D. suggests:
    CR-123 batteries for SureFire lights

    Larry in Kansas suggests:
    First aid items
    Liquor- 1 pint bottles
    Cigarettes and cigars- sealed in vacuum sealed bags
    Canning lids- different sizes
    Canning jars- different sizes(this can be a bulky item for storage)
    .22 cal long rifle rimfire ammo
    .177 cal pellets for air rifle(s)
    Comfort foods-deserts
    Coloring books
    Small games( auto travel type)
    Cooking spices
    Salt packets
    Pepper packets
    Salt 1 pound containers
    Fishing hooks
    Fishing weights
    Kitchen matches
    Hurricane lamps
    Hurricane lamp glass , wicks and wick holder
    Oil for hurricane lamps

    M.S. suggests:
    shoe laces
    can opener (manual)
    medical supplies
    hygiene supplies (toothpaste, soap, detergent, toothbrushes, shampoo, toilet paper, bleach)
    lighter flints
    lighter fluid
    clothes pins
    clothes line
    playing cards
    canning supplies
    cold medications
    Note: As a rule we have decided against trading ammunition as a security precaution. Another rule is that when bartering we will not do it at our home. We will find a neutral location where we can employ as much security as possible to prevent someone from finding out where we live.

    S.W. suggests:
    Chunks of magnesium, to help start fires.
    Small bottles of iodine, to purify filtered water.
    Small packets of fish hooks, one can dig worms anywhere and with some monofilament can fish practically anywhere. Also lures can be fabricated that will use your fish hooks. Today they are cheap, perhaps one day they will be valuable.
    Cheap compasses. It can be used for navigating, also it is a morale booster.

    "Mr. Whiskey" suggests:
    My barter items are divided into two groups: 1) Short term / Charity for the early days probably out to 6 months after a disaster for immediate needs, goodwill and helping people stay alive for another day.  Then I have group 2) Long term / Profit potential (for me) traded with the folks who were smart or lucky enough to make it during the early days, and now have settled in a place (maybe even on my place), and really need some things that no one can make.

    Group 1:
    Canned foodstuffs (for the pervasive hunger).
    Bar soap, wash cloths, toothpaste and brushes (everyone will want to feel clean again)
    Toilet paper (a rare item to be found because everyone will know its utility)
    Hand and face lotion (no one will be used to the harsh conditions).
    Disposable razors and shaving cream (what would a man give to be clean shaven?).
    Tampons (no one is quite ready yet for the old way alternatives).
    Bibles, New Testaments (many potential converts in the age of disasters).
    Dental floss (when you just can’t get that bit of ‘possum gristle out of the teeth).

    Group 2:
    Lotions and lip balms (everyone spends more time outside working now)
    Fingernail and toenail clippers (who thought about packing these in the BOB?)
    Warm gloves/hats (by now, everything is starting to wear out).
    Long underwear (virtually no survivor from the cities will have this item).
    Bar soap, laundry soap (people have settled in, and soap of all kind will be rare).
    Fragrance (what a delight if you really, really stink).
    Hasps and padlocks with multiple keys (people now realize the benefit of security)
    Kid’s shoes (adults can wear theirs for many years, but a growing 10 year old will be in agony in short order, and you need all those younger kids to work pretty hard. We stock 3 steel barrels with 130 pair of leather work shoes and boots from kid’s sizes 3 thru adult size 13. Bought them at Goodwill over a period of several years, but they are all in very good shape, all of very good quality – though used – and not one pair cost more than $3.95).
    AA batteries (their batteries will be long gone, but they will still hold on to the lights)
    Survival Guides. I have pre-printed in mass quantities outlining basic how-to for people who really have no idea about the longer term survival they are in. Some of the topics covered are outhouse building, old way feminine hygiene, bartering techniques, herbal remedies, cooking over fire, maintaining your old clothing and shoes, pulling a tooth, setting a snare and so on.

    Barter Services for any time:
    Sock Darning
    Charging service with a hand-cranked generator for all their rechargeables they will still have with them.
    Heated shower (solar or wood) with privacy screens and secluded changing area.

    Dr. A.L.O. suggests:
    Used centerfire rifles chambered in .270, .30-30, .30.06, .308
    Used rimfire guns chambered in .22
    Pre-1965 silver coins
    Small hand tools (Hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, etc.)
    Small flashlights
    Batteries (C&D sizes)

    J.K. in Florida suggests:
    Pri-G think of all the stale gasoline 1 year or 4 years into a battle and this stuff will take old gas in the bottom of cars, cans, gas stations and bring it to life. I understand (according to the Pri web site) that this can take 11 year old gasoline and restore it to factory specs. I will be getting a case of this.  OBTW, I also use Pri-D (for diesel fuel.)

    Michael in Oz suggests:
    Funny I was thinking about this and then you actually ask for items. With all the talk of gold and silver, and then tangibles for value and barter, I was thinking of Lead as an item to have a nice stock of.

    It is cheap compared to gold and silver but still expensive enough to warrant some thought.
    It stores well
    Rolls of lead flashing other than flashing roofs etc can be used for
    Sinkers, Projectiles,

    Other items that come to mind to stock/store on a retreat-- i.e. if you have room like a storage shed
    Star pickets
    Rolls of wire
    OLD Picks, shovels, axes, hoes etc now nearly worthless from garage sale etc and with a bit of oil will store fine. These items will be vital post grid down.

    Larry in Casper, Wyoming suggests:
    Toilet paper

    R.S. suggests:
    Here are the rules for ideal barter supplies (adapted from Joel Skousen's writings):
    1. High demand. If no one wants it, no one wants it.
    2. Difficult to manufacture on your own
    3. Durable for long-term storage
    4. Can be easily divided up into smaller quantities
    5. Authenticity and quality is easily recognizable.
    Here's the list of supplies I have on hand for barter
    (again, this list is taken from Joel Skousen's 10 Packs for Survival):
    • Liquid detergent
    • Laundry detergent
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Bleach
    • Toothbrushes
    • Razor blades
    • Toilet paper
    • Aluminum foil
    • Writing paper, typing paper,
    • Pens, Pencils, erasers
    • Shoelaces, string, cord, rope
    • Fishing line
    • Insect repellent
    • Water repellent
    • Paint, varnish
    • Matches
    • Watches
    • Tape
    • Light bulbs
    • Needles, thread, zippers, buttons
    • Bolts, screws, nails
    • Aspirin, vitamins, other drugs
    • Seeds, grain, sugar,
    • Coffee, liquor, cigarettes
    • Antibiotics, burn ointments
    • Safety pins
    • Manual can opener
    • Knives
    • Canning jars, lids, rings
    • Shoes, boots, socks, nylon stockings
    • Underwear
    • Winter clothes
    • Coats
    • Blankets
    • Hand guns, rifles,ammunition, cleaning gear
    • Fuels (all types)
    • Quarts of multi-viscosity motor oil
    • Antifreeze
    • Wire
    • Glues

    "RF Burns" suggests:
    .22 LR
    #10 cans of sugar/salt
    sugar substitutes (sweet n low, etc)
    can openers
    toilet paper
    knives (hunting, skinning, functional knives)
    sewing supplies


    Dr. Sidney Zweibel suggests:

    first aid supplies - bandages, etc.
    water purification chemicals - especially iodine crystals (last forever)
    inexpensive pocket knives, and small sharpening stones. I get them as giveaways at conferences and they go into a box for future need.
    plastic containers of all sorts - Glad ziplock brand as an example
    sheet music books
    Coleman fuel, mantles, and other spare parts to fix these devices (as long as the tanks hold pressure, they can be fixed. There are replacement tanks, too)
    mechanical fasteners - nails, screws (especially drywall), nuts, bolts, etc. - in large quantities they're incredibly cheap to buy.
    Other hardware items like chain, wire rope and fasteners, etc.
    cheap tools - for example, I have 'my tools' in my rollaway tool chest. Then we have my wifes' tools in her rollaway (Yes, she has her own.) Then we have the tools to loan to neighbors (decent quality and we expect to get them back), and finally the tools I let our kids play with, in decreasing order of quality.
    Hand tools like saws, drills and bits, files, wire brushes, etc of all types
    off the shelf reading glasses, protective eyewear like goggles,
    dust masks (or N95 masks)
    inexpensive 'how to' books, pamphlets, and guides - or the ability to print them as needed
    light bulbs (12 and 120 v)
    inexpensive cooking and eating ware and utensils
    ripstop plastic tarps (the blue ones)
    synthetic blankets
    soap, hand, dish and laundry types, bleach, shampoo, etc.
    toothpaste and toothbrushes, dental floss (quite useful in BOB's too)
    OTC medications - keep sealed in the refrigerator
    old plastic bottles that water, fruit juices or soft drinks came in - can be canteens, glasses, containers for whatever
    Canned shortening (Crisco)
    razor blades, razors, single-edged razor blades (for box cutters, etc)
    scissors of various types and qualities
    fingernail clippers
    knitting yarn (synthetic), needles, basic directions and patterns
    paper products, including feminine hygiene products and infant products (cloth diapers, pins, ointments and unguents, powder, bottles, etc)
    batteries - AA, D, AAA, C in that order, maybe cheap flashlights to use them. The batteries last quite a long time in the freezer.
    candle wax, candle wicks, candle forms, candle making instructions
    inexpensive leather work gloves
    old (semi-worn out) shoes and boots (clean them, wax them and wrap them in plastic bags for storage)
    dried spice related items - onion flakes, garlic, etc. Small bottles of flavorings (lemon extract, etc)
    hand gardening tools - shovels, rakes, axes, hatchets, bow/limb saws, pry bars - buy by the pound at garage/farm sales
    board games (Monopoly, Scrabble, etc)
    paperback books of whatever type
    small AM/FM radios, even if battery powered - wire for antennas
    FRS/GMRS or CB radios, working of course
    hand compasses (orienteering type), maps of everywhere
    reference books like the almanac,
    coffee and tea
    coffee filters
    coffee percolators (the old style kind)
    plastic bags (even recycled they're handy)
    cardboard boxes
    small tins (we save the tins that Altoids mints come in, when we buy them)
    solar powered calculators
    office supplies - all sorts, but especially things like ledger paper that have been replaced by computers, and permanent markers
    hand powered can openers
    canning supplies - jars, rings, lids (lots of lids, they're the only part that can't be reused), canners and pressure cookers (fix them up first)


    Dr. November suggests:
    Used centerfire rifles chambered in .270, .30-30, .30.06, .308
    Used rimfire guns chambered in .22
    Pre-1965 silver coins
    Small hand tools (Hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, etc.)
    Small flashlights
    Batteries (C&D sizes)

    One our readers recommended the documentary: The Next Plague, about the Asian Avian Flu threat. This show is currently in the repeat cycle on The History Channel. It features interviews with WHO officials and Dr. Michael Osterholm. You are probably already familiar with many of the details contained therein, but if noting else, it serves as media substantiation that the Asian Avian Flu threat is real.(Just in case you have any friends/neighbors/relatives that won't believe what you say until they "see it on television."

    Hi Jim.
    Your survival blog is wonderful! Reading it every day has already helped me become more constantly focused and working on preparedness. I have recently made some overtures about forming a retreat group to a few family members who are like minded with me on preparedness. One suggested topic for your survival blog that would be helpful to me, and probably many others, is a discussion on the number of people necessary to operate a retreat in a TEOTWAWKI situation. You did speak on that in Patriots, which was very helpful. Some questions are: (1) Is there a minimum, optimum, and maximum number of people? (2) What are the considerations that go into the decision as to the number of people? (3) What are the differences in the organizational requirements for the various sizes of retreat groups? (4) Are there differences in the necessary leadership style of the leader of a small group verses a large group? Thank you very much. - Joe.

    JWR Replies:

    (1) Is there a minimum, optimum, and maximum number of people?

    That all depends on the situation!  If you are close to an urban area during a worst-case grid down situation, then it might take 50 or more people to defend a retreat. Under less demanding circumstances and in a more remote area that is well removed from likely lines of drift, then perhaps just two or three families occupying contiguous parcels (with mutually supporting fields of fire) might suffice.  But in general (given foreseeable TEOTWAWKI exigencies), if affordability of floor space at your retreat is not a constraint, then I would recommend a group with a minimum of six adults, an optimum of 10 adults, and a maximum of 30 adults. (Anything larger is likely to lose cohesiveness, especially with weak leadership/organization.) Keep in mind that manpower planning and limits are considerably different for a group that will be occupying a cluster of buildings (analogous to a tribal village) versus a group that is all living under one roof! 

    (2) What are the considerations that go into the decision as to the number of people?

    IMO, you should consider:

    a.) Severity of circumstances that you anticipate. (Grid up versus grid down, level of lawlessness, and so forth)

    b.) Duration of crisis. (Until order and commerce are restored, or in the event of Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical (NBC) events, when it will be safe to emerge)

    c.) Geographic isolation of your retreat.  (The closer that you are to population centers and lines of drift, the larger your security contingent.)

    d.) Floor space/accommodations of your retreat.(Cramped quarters are both unhealthy and stressful.)

    d.) Climate. (Smaller groups are dictated in more severe climate zones with short growing seasons)

    e.) Group homogeneity. (For example, groups composed of all members of the same church denomination might be more cohesive and capable of larger aggregations.)

    f.) Financial resources of the group. (This relates to "depth of larder"--more wealthy groups can provide more ample food storage and hence more mouths to feed.)

    g.) Acreage and water available for cultivation.  In northern climes, consider the available square footage of greenhouse space.

    (3) What are the differences in the organizational requirements for the various sizes of retreat groups?

    Unity of leadership (having one recognized leader or a "village council") is essential, regardless of group size. In groups of 20 or more, it may be necessary to delegate authority and to specialize responsibilities. (In small groups, most members will wear "many hats", whereas in larger groups some members will have nearly full time responsibilities--cook, logistician, armorer, security coordinator, and so forth)

    (4) Are there differences in the necessary leadership style of the leader of a small group versus a large group?

    IMO, the same principles and styles of leadership apply, regardless of group size. Some people have leadership talent, and some don't. (If you've ever taken ROTC or OCS courses, then you'll know what I mean.) Not surprisingly, many of the people who do well as leaders in "peacetime" (such as corporate managers and mayors) may not be able to cope mentally or emotionally WTSHTF. That is why I recommend that military combat veterans (commissioned officers or NCOs) be put in charge of retreat security. They've been forged in fire, and there are very few substitutes for that sort of real world on-the-job training.

    Hi Sir,
    Sorry I haven't been writing much. Since the elections my schedule's been a bit out of kilter.

    Speaking of the elections... My platoon was guarding a polling place the week leading up to the big day. I hear it was a success elsewhere, but here in scenic Ar Ramadi it was a bust. My polling station received three voters, one of whom was disqualified as a raving lunatic who just wandered in. AFAIK ~200 people voted here, with ~190 of 'em being the Shiite poll workers who don't live here. This city just loves Saddam. I hope they execute him soon; maybe they'd get the idea he isn't coming back.

    Did finally see a little action. Guy took a potshot at my truck with an RPG. Went about a foot and a half high. They use a technique called "turkey peeking" where they pop out from around a corner, shoot more or less without aiming, then de-*ss the AO as fast as they can. They're far more concerned with getting away than with hitting us. Usually. The genius who took the poke at us stuck his head back around the corner and got a burst of .50 cal through the building for his trouble. I miss the ~1500 rounds we had with the 240, but Ma Deuce has her charms. Oh, and the M240G is a medium MG, not light as you indicated when I wrote in awhile back. The M249 SAW is the LMG of the family.
    [Sorry, that was my mistake. When you wrote M240 I was thinking M249. I just went back and corrected that.- JWR]

    Getting behind on the Bible study I've been doing with my wife. Discouraging. On the plus side, I met another Christian! It's funny, I found out he's a believer after he saw the article I'm working on to submit to your writing contest. We got to talking; turns out he's a survivalist too!

    Better sign off for now. Haven't been able to call the little woman for too long, and a phone just opened up. Keep up the good work, and God bless. - John

    Hi to all:
    We at Camp Eggers are embarking on a bold mission for Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan (CFC-A), Office of Security Cooperation - Afghanistan (OSC-A), and Task Force Phoenix - all of which are located in the capital city of Kabul, Afghanistan.
      Please help us meet our goal to put a Christmas Stocking in the hands of each military service member and civilian attached to the military forces in Kabul, Afghanistan this Christmas. There are approximately 1,200 personnel in the three commands listed above. We are asking for small donations (money orders) to be sent by November 24th to allow us time to purchase Christmas goodies along with a Christmas card in every stocking. We think that the money could better be used to purchase the goodies in country rather than pay the additional cost to ship the goodies overseas. However, any goodies sent will help as well. Please get your neighbors, co-workers, churches, civic groups involved if you can. Thanks in advance. - Daniel Ward

    Please send all correspondence to:

    Daniel Ward
    CFC-A, CJ5
    APO AE 09356

    JWR Adds:  Daniel Ward is one of my regular "Any Soldier" support contacts. I can attest that this is a legitimate request from an actual soldier with "boots on the ground" in Afghanistan--not some Internet scammer. You can find Daniel Ward listed on www.AnySoldier.Com with current updates. Be sure to read the www.AnySoldier.Com FAQ before sending any cards, money orders, or packages. I realize that opinion is partly divided among readers about the efficacy of the current Iraq/Afghanistan administration policy, but nearly all of us agree that we should support our troops.

    "But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there."  Deuteronomy 12:10-11 (KJV)

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