December 2005 Archives

Saturday, December 31, 2005

About batteries: Since 1996 doing my [seasonal] RV living, I've been using 16 golf cart batteries: 12 on the back bumper and 4 on the front bumper. They have been adequate for my RV requirements. BTW, beyond the normal stuff, my RV utilizes two networked servers, two workstations, two satellite uplinks as well as three satellite downlinks and my ham radios, all on a 24/7 basis. The inverter is a Trace SW-4024. Then in 1998, I bought the ranch and it, now, uses 16 of the venerable L-16 batteries, purchased from a dealer who wished to rotate his stock. The ranch also utilizes a matching Trace SW-4024.
(For commonality of parts.) BTW, I also have a pair of Trace 12 VDC / 2400 watt inverters in case the big Traces fail. (Yep, I'm stupid on occasion. I didn't ground the one at the ranch well enough and lightning took it out. Now it's [replacement is] grounded to the well and four widely separated ground rods.) I went with the backup inverters as 12 Volt DC because they can be more readily utilized elsewhere if needed. Early in 2004, I installed a Trace SW-4024 at my [commercial] radio station with 24 L-16s and both stations operate continuously with the system interfaced with the city power feed. If the city power fails, the Trace picks up the load so fast neither the [audio] CD players nor the computers glitch. On the air, you can't tell that the switch occurred. Unfortunately the rest of the building, which isn't on the Trace, goes dark. This was very disconcerting to one disc jockey in particular. Ha!
As to longevity, we pull a continuous 24 Amps and so far, during a power failure, the system has gone almost 10 hours without running down. (Thank Goodness!)
As to those BIG telephone [Central Office stationary] batteries, they are HUGE and only one cell. It takes three of them [wired in series] to equal the voltage of one L-16. One battery must weigh 200 pounds. They are clear on the sides. I missed out on 42 of them when I ran across a telephone serviceman who had just finished dumping all of the liquid out of them and loading them on his truck for disposal. The EPA poses no problem as long as you affirm you are going to put them into service. EPA only has restrictions when you dispose of the battery. So far no battery failures and things are humming.
Best regards to you and the Memsahib, Oh ..... HAPPY NEW YEAR! - The Army Aviator

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Hi, just wanted to say I loved "Patriots" and follow SurvivalBlog religiously.  Thank you so much for your efforts on behalf of the survival-minded community. A bit about retreat dogs:
A dog is two things - what its breeding have made it, and what its training has made it.  You can’t separate the two.  You can give someone a dog that is ideally suited to a purpose, but if that person doesn’t know the first thing about training and socializing a dog, they will end up with a train wreck that will make their life and the dog’s life a misery.  This is especially true when you figure in back-yard breeders or worse yet, puppy mills where breeding for temperament is the last thing on the breeder’s agenda.  That “purebred” dog you spent retreat money on may just be the worst investment you ever made, [if] done haphazardly.  Training dogs is not nearly so essential as training the dog owner.  A trained dog owner can bring an untrained dog up to speed.  A trained dog, given to an untrained owner, will quickly revert to his natural behaviors with unpleasant results.  A dog is an investment that will return rewards in many ways, but realize that it is an ongoing investment that requires upkeep and involvement from you on a regular basis.
I’m surprised at all the large dogs being recommended.  Sure, a large dog is intimidating to an unarmed person.  A dog of any size will simply be shot by an armed person with ill intent. If you just want an early warning system, a medium or even a small size dog would be better, less food consumption. How much dog food have you got stockpiled?  Remember dogs do a great job of soaking up our leftovers, but come SHTF are you really going to have a dependable supply of leftovers to toss to Rover?   If it came to feeding the kids or feeding Rover, you know you’d feed the kids first.  Then what?  Watch Rover starve, or put a bullet in him before he starts to think of your kids as food?  How would the kids and wife react to that hard choice?  These are the harsh realities we don’t like to think about now, but would have to face later.  Better to plan around them now while we have the luxury of planning. A medium sized dog would still be perceived as a threat by many, and even a medium sized dog can inflict a lot of harm, or at least give a bad guy something additional to deal with while you’re grabbing your gun.  And a medium sized dog can have a big voice.  I currently have a 55 pound mutt who sounds like 150 pounds worth of bad news on the other side of a wood fence or a locked door.
I am a student and a huge fan of the Doberman breed.  However, I have mixed feelings about their suitability for use as a retreat dog. No, I take that back – I think they would be well-suited for some scenarios, and poorly suited for others.  Physically, they have a short coat, and cannot be an “outdoor only” dog in a cold (ice and snow) climate.  Temperamentally, they are incredibly intelligent and trainable, but they get bored easily. Sometimes they are too smart for their owners to manage, because they have their own ideas, and they are strong willed, requiring a strong willed owner.  If bored and confined, they are likely to try to figure out a means of escape. Most dogs don’t like being left alone, in the Doberman this is more intense and they are apt to become very maladjusted if left alone frequently or for long periods even if infrequently. Having a second dog does usually help with this. The Doberman is an athletic breed, and needs frequent exercise or they are apt to become hyperactive and destructive when cooped up indoors. Hope you have rawhide and other chew toys stockpiled if considering a Dobie for retreat! They have a high prey drive, so keeping them in proximity to livestock or other pets (chickens, cats, etc) that run when chased may be problematic. They are very loyal to their “pack” (your family) and naturally protective and leery of strangers. They can also misinterpret aggressive play or wrestling from visiting kids as an “attack” on your children, and respond with devastating force. They can be highly affectionate and even “clingy”. Most Dobermans do not like getting wet, although they will occasionally play in the water (puddles or surf), especially on hot days. If your vision of a retreat dog is one to live indoors with the family, regular training and exercise, going out on chores and errands with you (rather than being left alone) then the Dobie may well be your ideal dog.  If your idea of a retreat dog is one who lives outdoors patrolling the perimeter or living in the back yard that can be left alone (without human interaction and minimal training) for long periods of time, I think you would have to look long and hard to find a worse choice than a Doberman. 
I wouldn’t recommend a Dobie as a first dog for a first time dog owner any more than I would recommend a full auto M16 for a first time gun owner. Too much of a learning curve. They were originally bred to accompany police, night watchmen and tax collectors on their rounds, and they are well suited to this and other similar duties.  Anyone serious about obtaining a Doberman, I recommend doing the homework to find a breeder that uses German stock, or breeding pairs that are from German stock.  The intelligence, trainability and temperament are beyond reproach, since all German breeding stock must pass Schutzhund to be allowed to breed.
Speaking of Schutzhund, this is a terrific sport.  No, it is not “attack dog” training to make the dog mean.  All dogs have aggressive and protective instincts.  However, we train our dogs not to be aggressive with family and friends.  In a real life confrontation, an untrained dog can become either confused or berserk with equally tragic results either way. Maybe that person coming up the walk is a bad guy, here to murder you and your family – or maybe just a poor lost soul looking for directions.  Makes a difference in how you want the dog to respond, doesn’t it? But the dog can’t possibly know the difference. Schutzhund teaches a dog how to turn its aggressive behavior on and off, to control it and direct it at your command.  Any intelligent breed will enjoy working with you, learning something, getting the mental and physical stimulation of this sport.  You and your dog will learn valuable skills and gain confidence that will be of great benefit if and when the balloon goes up.  In any kind of a large dog, I recommend considering this seriously.  The dog needs to understand not to shred the mail man, but when you call it into action, it needs to be able to exert exactly how much and just what kind of protective behavior you instruct. - Rusty

Mr. Rawles
In your [list of] resources for solar and off grid contacts you must not have been aware of Kenny G. at, who is most likely the most respected install team leader in the U.S. and one of the most sought after consultants in the industry. In many cases he has come in to fix systems installed by less than honest installers, particularly in the Texas. In the local area of Austin, Texas I know of none of his customers who are less than enthusiastic about his products and advice. Austin hosts the largest aggregation of residential off grid installations in Texas, and we talk about it! BTW - the wife and I loved your novel TEOTWAWKI [one of the draft editions of "Patriots"] that we got from you many years ago, before it was published via that publishing company. - Wotan

"There are 1011 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." - Dr. Richard Feynman

Friday, December 30, 2005

The majority of SurvivalBlog readers that I talk with tell me that they live in cities or suburbs, but they would like to live full time at a retreat in a rural area. Their complaint is almost always the same: "...but I'm not self-employed. I can't afford to live in the country because I can't find work there, and the nature of my work doesn't allow telecommuting." They feel stuck.

Over the years I've seen lots of people "pull the plug" and move to the boonies with the hope that they'll find local work once they get there. That usually doesn't work. Folks find that the most rural jobs typically pay little more than minimum wage and they are often informally reserved for folks that were born and raised in the area. (Newcomers from the big city certainly don't have hiring priority!)

My suggestion is to start a second income stream, with a home based business. Once you have that business started, then start another one. There are numerous advantages to this approach, namely:

You can get out of debt

You can generally build the businesses up gradually, so that you don't need to quit your current occupation immediately

By working at home you will have the time to home school your children and they will learn about how to operate a business.

You can live at your retreat full time. This will contribute to your self-sufficiency, since you will be there to tend to your garden, fruit/nut trees, and livestock.

If one of your home-based businesses fails, then you can fall back on the other.

Ideally, for someone that is preparedness-minded, a home-based business should be something that is virtually recession proof, or possibly even depression proof. Ask yourself: What are you good at? What knowledge or skills do you have that you can utilize. Next, consider which businesses will flourish during bad times. Some good examples might include:

Mail order/Internet sales/eBay Auctioning of preparedness-related products.



Medical Transcription


Repair/refurbishment businesses

Freelance writing

Blogging (with paid advertising) If you have knowledge about a niche industry and there is currently no blog on the subject, then start your own!

Mail order/Internet sales of entertainment items. (When times get bad, people still set aside a sizable percentage of their income for "escape" from their troubles.For example, video rental shops have done remarkably well during recessions.)

Burglar Alarm Installation

Other home-based businesses that seem to do well only in good economic times include:

Recruiting/Temporary Placement

Fine arts, crafts, and jewelry. Creating and marketing your own designs--not "assembly" for some scammer. (See below.)

Mail order/Internet sales/eBay Auctions of luxury items, collectibles, or other "discretionary spending" items

Personalized stationary and greeting cards (Freelance artwork)


Web Design

Beware the scammers! The fine folks at have compiled a "Top 10" list of common work-at-home and home based business scams to beware of:

10. Craft Assembly
This scam encourages you to assemble toys, dolls, or other craft projects at home with the promise of high per-piece rates. All you have to do is pay a fee up-front for the starter kit... which includes instructions and parts. Sounds good? Well, once you finish assembling your first batch of crafts, you'll be told by the company that they "don't meet our specifications."
In fact, even if you were a robot and did it perfectly, it would be impossible for you to meet their specifications. The scammer company is making money selling the starter kits -- not selling the assembled product. So, you're left with a set of assembled crafts... and no one to sell them to.

9. Medical Billing
In this scam, you pay $300-$900 for everything (supposedly) you need to start your own medical billing service at home. You're promised state-of-the-art medical billing software, as well as a list of potential clients in your area.
What you're not told is that most medical clinics process their own bills, or outsource the processing to firms, not individuals. Your software may not meet their specifications, and often the lists of "potential clients" are outdated or just plain wrong.
As usual, trying to get a refund from the medical billing company is like trying to get blood from a stone.

8. Email Processing
This is a twist on the classic "envelope stuffing scam" (see #1 below). For a low price ($50?) you can become a "highly-paid" email processor working "from the comfort of your own home."
Now... what do you suppose an email processor does? If you have visions of forwarding or editing emails, forget it. What you get for your money are instructions on spamming the same ad you responded to in newsgroups and Web forums!
Think about it -- they offer to pay you $25 per email processed -- would any legitimate company pay that?

7. "A List of Companies Looking for Homeworkers!"
In this one, you pay a small fee for a list of companies looking for homeworkers just like you.
The only problem is that the list is usually a generic list of companies, companies that don't take homeworkers, or companies that may have accepted homeworkers long, long ago. Don't expect to get your money back with this one.

6. "Just Call This 1-900 Number For More Information..."
No need to spend too much time (or money) on this one. 1-900 numbers cost money to call, and that's how the scammers make their profit. Save your money -- don't call a 1-900 number for more information about a supposed work-at-home job.

5. Typing At Home
If you use the Internet a lot, then odds are that you're probably a good typist. How better to capitalize on it than making money by typing at home? Here's how it works: After sending the fee to the scammer for "more information," you receive a disk and printed information that tells you to place home typist ads and sell copies of the disk to the suckers who reply to you. Like #8, this scam tries to turn you into a scammer!

4. "Turn Your Computer Into a Money-Making Machine!"
Well, this one's at least half-true. To be completely true, it should read: "Turn your computer into a money-making machine... for spammers!"
This is much the same spam as #5, above. Once you pay your money, you'll be sent instructions on how to place ads and pull in suckers to "turn their computers into money-making machines."

3. Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)
If you've heard of network marketing (like Amway), then you know that there are legitimate MLM businesses based on agents selling products or services. One big problem with MLMs, though, is when the pyramid and the ladder-climbing become more important than selling the actual product or service. If the MLM business opportunity is all about finding new recruits rather than selling products or services, beware: The Federal Trade Commission may consider it to be a pyramid scheme... and not only can you lose all your money, but you can be charged with fraud, too!
We saw an interesting MLM scam recently: one MLM company advertised the product they were selling as FREE. The fine print, however, states that it is "free in the sense that you could be earning commissions and bonuses in excess of the cost of your monthly purchase of" the product. Does that sound like free to you?

2. Chain Letters/Emails ("Make Money Fast")
If you've been on the Internet for any length of time, you've probably received or at least seen these chain emails. They promise that all you have to do is send the email along plus some money by mail to the top names on the list, then add your name to the bottom... and one day you'll be a millionaire. Actually, the only thing you might be one day is prosecuted for fraud. This is a classic pyramid scheme, and most times the names in the chain emails are manipulated to make sure only the people at the top of the list (the true scammers) make any money. This scam should be called "Lose Money Fast" -- and it's illegal.

1. Envelope Stuffing
This is THE classic work-at-home scam. It's been around since the U.S. Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and it's moved onto the Internet like a cockroach you just can't eliminate. There are several variations, but here's a sample: Much like #5 and #4 above, you are promised to be paid $1-2 for every envelope you stuff. All you have to do is send money and you're guaranteed "up to 1,000 envelopes a week that you can stuff... with postage and address already affixed!" When you send your money, you get a short manual with flyer templates you're supposed to put up around town, advertising yet another harebrained work-from-home scheme. And the pre-addressed, pre-paid envelopes? Well, when people see those flyers, all they have to do is send you $2.00 in a pre-addressed, pre-paid envelope. Then you stuff that envelope with another flyer and send it to them. Ingenious perhaps... but certainly illegal and unethical.


From all that I've heard, most franchises and multi-level marketing schemes are not profitable unless you pick a great product or service, and you already have a strong background in sales. Beware of any franchise where you wouldn't have a protected territory. My general advice is this: You will probably be better off starting your own business, making, retailing, or consulting about something where you can leverage your existing knowledge and/or experience.

Sleeping can be a real challenge when you are away from your soft American style bed. here are a few
tips to beat the cold and discomfort.
1. Cardboard. Whether it is making a mattress base or a refrigerator box bedroom its insulation to cost ratio is amazing. The box provides wind stop and warmth, even if you are making a barn or a warehouse your temporary home. Trash sacks around the lower layers (not the uppers or, you will soak in condensation) will keep ground moisture at bay for awhile.
2. Earplugs and Sleep Mask. These allow you to sleep during the day or in a noisy environment. They must be used
with caution. Hopefully you have someone in your group who will be available to guard.
3. Booties and Wool Stocking Cap. The booties are extras but if in a vehicle they keep the hardest to heat place (the feet) warm. Tight socks (or any circulation restrictive clothing) are a no-no. The nightcap was popular until automated heating became widely available.

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Hello Sir,
Sorry I haven't had time to send in an update recently. I'll try to do so in the near future.
I just wanted to call your attention to an excellent short story [titled "The Bug Out"] about an ordinary man and his family attempting to bug out. I found it thoroughly gripping and informative. It aptly demonstrates the perils of being an "armchair survivalist." It's posted online at
The [same] author [who writes under the pen name by Half Fast] is also currently working on a novel about surviving in the wake of an EMP event. It's called "Lights Out." Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but if it's anything like the story it'll be a real page turner. Please check out the story, and mayhaps post it for your readers. I think they could learn a lot from it. 
Anyway, gotta be going. Hope you had a Merry Christmas. As always, stay low, watch six, and God bless. - John in Iraq

Dear Jim:
Some very good points have been made in the posts on firearms advice - one of the best being to hit with the most bullet you can handle and carry.  The only better advice I could give is:  don't obsess too much about what you shoot - but do get to a serious combat shooting school sooner, rather than later.  You don't know, what you don't know, till you've been to a few different schools - no one school has all the answers.  Some are best on weapon handling, some on technical shooting skills, some on tactics, some on Force on Force combat simulation, etc., etc..
Regarding Model 1911s versus Glocks, I do feel that y'all in the 1911 camp are missing the big picture with regards to advice for survivalists versus advice for "gun guys."
The 1911 is a great weapon, accurate, hard-hitting, and a superb single action trigger.  But it's standard magazine capacity of 6-to-8 is lacking (unless you get a special double stack model) and this is a big handicap when you have multiple threats.  But, most damning, is the fact that you often have to spend a lot of money, or do a lot of work on a 1911, to get excellent reliability.  And anything less than excellent reliability is not worth considering.
Shooting IDPA matches once a month I see 1911s with MULTIPLE malfunctions about every third month.  That is a terrible percentage out of roughly 20, 1911 shooters I see over three squads.  This doesn't usually happen to the "serious gun guys" who have spent a lot of money on their 1911 (or their gunsmith), and stay on top of maintenance - but it often happens to the more casual shooter.  As an aside, International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) matches are a great reality check to see where your shooting skills are, and great training.
Week-long trips to shooting schools with a lot of rounds down-range show the same thing - lots of 1911 problems, far fewer  Glock problems (unless you are shooting reloads in a Glock - but then you were just asking for problems!)
The Glock has a heavier, longer and slower "safe-action" trigger, but a .45 caliber compact Glock 30 holds 10 + 1 rounds, and the full-size Glock 21, (which holds 13 + 1 rounds.)  It's only a few rounds more versus a 1911, but which weapon would you rather face 3 or 4 bad guys with?  Bonus - the compact Glock 30 also accepts the 13 round Glock 21 mag - what would you rather reload with, when your gun has been shot dry, 8 or 13?   Glocks are not perfect, but their reliability is superb.  I own a bunch of them, and they all go bang with monotonous regularity - with many hundreds of rounds between cleanings.   They are quick and easy to clean and inspect.  And it is so refreshing to buy a tool that is good to go out of the box (you will want to add night sights, all else is optional).  Glocks are easy...
By the way, the Springfield XD is also an excellent gun I am told - but no .45 ACP model just yet, just .45 GAP [a short-cased variant of the .45 ACP cartridge.]  SIGs have wonderful quality, but an atrocious, hard-to-shoot design, with the bore set far too high over the hand, making recoil control much harder than it needs to be.
Once you get some good technical hands-on shooting instruction the longer Glock trigger pull is a very small disadvantage.  Check out the training at the Texas Defensive Shooting Academy -  two high intensity days there improved my shooting tremendously even after multiple courses at other very good schools. See: (I have no financial interest in TDSA, I am just an extremely grateful customer.)
So for the SWAT, or military,  or "gun guy" who can spend the extra time and money to ensure a reliable 1911, I say get the better trigger, and more power to you.  Just practice those speed reloads if you are shooting an 8 round single stack mag!  For most survivalists you can buy two Glocks for the same money - or better yet, one Glock and some serious training.
Most importantly the Glock will save time. No hassle trying to find a reliable make and model.  No fine tuning.  Easy to clean.  No diagnostic trips to the gunsmith.  Time is the most scarce commodity when you have a long survival to do list, and precious little time between work and family to get it done.  Your gun time (and money) is best spent on shooting schools, not on expensive hardware or gunsmithing. Yours truly, - N. in Texas

Dr. Gary North writes in the latest issue of his REALITY CHECK e-newsletter: "If you get confused about money, the Federal Reserve System, and all this fractional reserve banking stuff, I have a solution. It's the best 45-minute documentary on the Federal Reserve System that I have seen. The good news: it's free. Google is launching a new service. You can post videos on line for free. This means you incur no bandwidth expenses. This is a deal! To see how well this works, click here:"

OBTW, if you do not yet subscribe to Gary North's REALITY CHECK e-newsletter, then you should. Subscriptions are free! See:

SurvivalBlog reader Dr. Sans Paine recommends the web site as a great compendium on pharmaceuticals, including some very useful data on drug interactions. In addition to their "by subscription" service, their free download data is surprisingly complete and updated frequently.

o o o

I was thoroughly disgusted to see that our local electronics store had a large display of Winchester brand knives, complete with the famous Winchester factory logo. That would be great, except that they were all made in mainland China! For example, the pocketknife/white LED flashlight combo pack (both with prominent Winchester logos) was priced at just $14.99. To be able to retail them at that price, these things obviously had to have been made in China's laogui ("Reform Through Labor'') prison factory system. The laogui camps/prisons/factories primarily house political prisoners, some of whom have been incarcerated continuously since the1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. Talk about the ultimate irony: A brand name synonymous with our right to keep and bear arms and personal freedom, but made with slave labor!

"In our struggle to restrain the violence and contain the damage, we tend to forget that the human capacity for aggression is more than a monstrous defect, that it is also a crucial survival tool." - Katherine Dunn

Thursday, December 29, 2005

While many of us were opening gifts on Christmas morning, SurvivalBlog reader "Hamlet" said that he was was
casually watching Tim Russert and his guests on Meet the Press. He reports: "My jaw dropped as Tom Brokaw...told of... family bug-out plans and stored food/water preparations." The following is brief excerpt from a transcript of the show. (The link to access the full transcript follows.)

MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about an issue that is of grave concern to people but we don't know much about it and that's the Avian Flu, the potential for pandemic. We had Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization on MEET THE PRESS. Let's listen to him and come back and talk about how to deal with this.
(Videotape, November 20, 2005):
DR. MICHAEL RYAN (World Health Organization): The avian flu strain has the potential to become a pandemic strain. It is very worrying that we see this virus transmitting across the species barrier into humans and the virus itself is evolving and we are probably closer to a pandemic at any time in the last 37 years, since the last pandemic of '68. This virus has crossed the species barrier. It has infected humans. It's killing a high proportion of those human beings and we need to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic.
(End videotape)
MR. RUSSERT: Ted Koppel, how do you cover a story like that without alarming people and still do your job as a journalist to prepare people?
MR. KOPPEL: You can't. You have to alarm people because until people are sufficiently alarmed they're not going to listen to what has to happen. You know, what you don't hear in that sound bite, and what is rarely spoken of, especially among the politicians, is that the kind of vaccine that would be necessary to treat the avian flu does not exist. It cannot exist until the strain of avian flu is developed and can be sampled and can be tested and then, and only then, can you begin to develop the vaccine. In order to develop sufficient quantities of that vaccine, to vaccinate people twice, you're going to need so many hundreds of millions of doses that it will take a minimum of two to three years to get them. In other words, by the time you
get them, it'll be too late to treat most of the people that would get the flu. Now, you know, obviously, that raises questions as to what needs to be done, what can be done. I tried, just before I left "Nightline" to do a broadcast in which we brought some of the best experts on and said, "Tell us what we need to know. Tell us what we need to do." Among
the things we need to do, and it sounds horrific, to say it, is to put in a decent supply of food and water and whatever medicine is needed by a family in each American home now, before it's too late, so that if, and when, a flu hits an area, like, let's say, our area here in Washington, the people, especially older people, or people who have breathing problems, lung problems, people who have heart problems, can afford to stay home for two or three weeks, or longer.
MR. BROKAW: Have you done that at your house?
MR. KOPPEL: No, in truth. Have you?
MR. BROKAW: We have.
MR. KOPPEL: Have you?
MR. KOPPEL: Good for you.
MR. BROKAW: Well, we did it for a couple of reasons. Meredith--we live in New York and we have a house outside of New York and Meredith said, "This is going to be our sanctuary. We have to be prepared in case something happens." And we did put in a small supply of food and water and...
MR. BROKAW: ...other things to have on the ready. It's also--the avian flu and the pandemic possibilities are a real commentary on the world in which we're living now. The mobility of people to move across places that--the crush of population everywhere, how rapidly these things spread. And I think that leads in this country to a kind
of unsettled feeling on the part of a lot of people. They have so much access to information now. They don't feel that they have their own sanctuary because it all happens at warp speed and I think politicians are not doing a very good job in my impression.
MR. KOPPEL: But, you see, doing what Tom and Meredith have done, and what my wife and I have not done, yet--will do, I promise--wouldn't at this stage cause any shortages...
MR. KOPPEL: wouldn't cause any panic. I'm not suggesting that people go out and instantly buy a four-week supply of medicine...
MR. BROKAW: Right.
MR. KOPPEL:, water. But if you start...
MR. BROKAW: You have to think about it. Yeah.
MR. KOPPEL: ...over a period of the next three months...
MR. RUSSERT: And that's the hard truth, it's probably the only thing you can do.
MR. KOPPEL: Just--it's the only thing that the individual can do...
MR. KOPPEL: that at the very least, if the pandemic hits your community, you can stay at home, don't go out.

Frankly, I don't find this too surprising, despite Brokaw's left-of-center leanings. Anyone that has worked in the press and who has been around natural disasters--particularly overseas--soon develops an appreciation of just how fragile societies can be. They've seen civilization come rapidly unglued before, and doubtless realize that it could happen again.

Dear James,
I would carry Rourke's point a bit further. I would never recommend the use of a "humane" mouse trap! Given that hantavirus is transmitted via contact or aerosolization/inhalation of feces, urine or saliva, the last thing you want around is a trap that keeps a mouse alive long enough for you to handle it, whereupon it promptly urinates and defecates. A far better solution is to take a plastic trash bag, place a snap trap inside it and place a bent piece of cardboard in the bag to hold it open and keep the trap from getting caught on the bag when it snaps. Once the mouse is caught, put on your mask and spray the mouse, trap and inside of the bag with bleach/water. Wait half an hour. Then mask up, put on your gloves, seal the bag and dispose of the entire mess.
Some people may not regard this as "humane" but neither is dying of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and leaving your wife and kids to deal with the loss.
Several sources I've consulted suggest that hanta- and Sin Nombre virus degrade rapidly in the presence of UV light (including direct sunlight) and that the virus becomes inactive several days after being shed, but neither of these bear heavily on disinfection issues.
I grew up on (and still live on) my family's ranch. Back then, no one ever gave a second thought to "mouse poop" - we simply swept it up and while mice in outbuildings were a constant nuisance, they were a fact of life. Looking back, I never recalled anyone in our community becoming ill or dying of viral pneumonia, but I suppose it may have happened.
(It makes you wonder how many ranchers and farmers have antibody titres to hantavirus.) It is probably an overstated risk, but still worth considering - and avoiding. Regards, - Ralph

What would be the best choice for batteries for a backup solar system, a marine deep cycle, or golf cart batteries? The marine deep cycle batteries I have looked at are "maintenance free." This provides no way to add water. Would this be a problem, or do the batteries have to have a way to add water even if they are maintenance free?   Thank you,  - HP

JWR Replies: The terms "marine battery " and "golf cart battery" are used almost interchangeably by some manufacturers,. Both generally refer to deep cycle lead acid batteries with extra thick plates. Technically, a marine battery is designed not to spill, even when a ship pitches and lists to steep angles. But that is hardly a discriminating issue for someone with a fixed site retreat house. Batteries with either designation work fine.

I recommend that you do not purchase semi-sealed ""maintenance free" batteries. That will hamper you when the battery gets older and it needs to have some distilled water added, or when you want to do a hydrometer test. Yes, standard batteries do lose a bit more water vapor than their semi-sealed cousins, but at least you can work on them! By the way, a method to minimize vapor loss is to retrofit your lead acid batteries with replacement cell caps called Hydro Caps. These are specially designed to recover vapor and return it in liquid form back into the cell reservoirs. They can cut vapor loss by half. The last time I checked, Hydro Caps were available through a number of vendors including Ready Made Resources ( ), Backwoods Solar Electric Systems (, and Real Goods (

OBTW, since lead acid batteries sulfate away to the point of uselessness after 8 to 10 years--even if you just leave them "floating"--if you have a big budget and are concerned about a long term scenario, it would be appropriate to store a complete spare set of batteries for your battery bank. This spare set should be special ordered."dry", and you would add acid only after you need to put the battery bank into operation.

My uncle, a doctor, was living at a remote location in Zambia in the 1980s. They combined several mutts and a single barrel
shotgun with watch geese to secure their compound. Geese are mean and very territorial they get noisy, waking the dog. Another option is several nervous yap-hounds to wake the larger dogs. Unfortunately, most of his survival skill was to throw
money or hire someone to solve his problems so I managed to extract few survival gems from him.He paid over $2,000 [USD equivalent] in bribes for license and shotgun, I am sure he could have had a FAL or AK for that price.
His friend got a [Browning 9mm] Hi-Power and license for around $1000, later that year.

"Anything that is complex is not useful and anything that is useful is simple. This has been my whole life's motto."
- Mikhail Timofeyevitch Kalashnikov, Designer of the AK-47

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

If you do businesses with any of the companies mentioned on SurvivalBlog, please tell them where you heard about their products and services.

One of the most important steps that you can take toward self-reliance is developing the ability to produce your own electricity. Alternatives for off-grid power include:

  • Photovoltaics
  • Wind Power
  • Micro-Hydro Systems

Photovoltaic ("PV") power generation systems use large panels that generate DC voltage. The most durable panels use monocrystaline solar cells in large arrays in weather-sealed panels with glass covers and metal frames. These are designed to last a lifetime with just minimal care, and do not suffer any significant degradation in output over time. They are made with outputs from 5 to 100 watts. They are easily wired in series or series-parallel arrangements to yield the desired voltage and wattage to feed to a battery bank. With plenty of competition between manufacturers, the cost per watt for PV panels has plummeted in the past decade. So PVs are the preferred method of making your own power off grid.

Amorphous solar cells with flexible plastic covers are also now available, but only recommended for tactical applications where you have to stay on the move. In general, amorphous panels are less weather resistant than traditional monocrystaline solar cells hard panels. They also will lose up to 10% of their output over the course of several years, due to UV degradation.

Wind Power systems have been used for many years. Typically they use turbine blades geared to a generator or alternator, mounted on top of a tower. Wind generators work well only at hilltop locations where you get fairly high wind speed regularly. They are relatively high maintenance, noisy, occasionally self-destruct during wind storms, and they pose safety risks for those that climb their towers to do maintenance. In general, I don't recommend wind power systems if you live in an area with good solar exposure. If that is the case, it is usually best to simply add more PV panels to your system rather than adding the complexity of a wind generator system.

One exception to my aforementioned guidance on wind power is wind-powered water well pumping. The reliability of wind power for lifting water directly with mechanical power is an order of magnitude less complex than an a DC wind generator. .. Traditional "AeroMotor" water-pumping windmills (still manufactured) once dotted the landscape in the midwest. They only fell into disuse with the cheap electricity made by the rural electrification programs that began in the 1930s. Water pumping windmills are incredibly simple and efficient: A mechanical windmill that lifts a sucker rod up and down, operating a brass pump cylinder at the bottom of the well shaft. Aside for occasional greasing of bearing surfaces and replacing the pump cylinder leathers every ten years, they require minimal care.

Micro-Hydro systems (small, water-powered Pelton Wheel electrical generators) are great if you live on a fast moving stream or creek where you can get a permit to put in a small dam. (Simple in states like Idaho and Wyoming, but a bureaucratic nightmare in some of the more populous Nanny States.) To be efficient, you need to have enough "fall" of water, since it is that potential energy that is utilized to spin a water turbine. One of the simplest and best little turbines in the micro-hydro world is the "Lil Otto" brand, made by Bob-O Shultze. See:

Batteries, Charge Controllers, and Inverters

Nearly all home power systems utilize a battery bank to store energy and an inverter to convert DC power into 117 VAC. Despite recent advances in gelled and AGM battery designs, the best buy for a fixed location retreat (in terms of amp hours per dollar) is still the good old-fashioned flooded cell lead acid battery. Just be sure to get the heavy duty deep cycle variety, with threaded terminal posts. Because lead-acid batteries are very heavy and shipping costs are usually prohibitive, it is best to buy a set of deep cycle batteries locally. Just contact your local Trojan or Exide battery dealer. Be sure to include a charge controller in your system to prevent over-charging.

If you can suffice with a very frugal and austere lifestyle, you might omit the inverter and buy all 12 VDC and/or 24 VDC appliances. But in practice, this is usually too much to ask of most modern homesteaders who are accustomed to having both DC and AC tools and gadgets.


Resources on the Web:

Home Power Magazine: The best magazine on the subject. They generously provide on-line archives of some of their articles. See:

Ready Made Resources: Pre-packaged and custom PV systems, inverters, and back-up generators. They provide free consulting. See:

Backwoods Solar Electric Systems: See: (I've known Steve Willey for about 15 years. He really knows his stuff!)

Real Goods/Jade Mountain: See:

Xantrex (formerly Trace) Inverters: See:

Dogs are something I know a little about. I'm glad to finally be of some potential help to readers. I have owned dogs, and raised dogs, for as long as I can remember. The dogs we have been blessed with run the gamut of breed, from German Shepards, to Australian Shepards and Blue Heelers, to Rottweilers and various hunting dogs ranging from English Setters to Redbone coonhounds to Plotts, to the dog I am going to recommend: The Drahthaar. As many have probably not heard of this dog,
I have included a link so that it can be studied:
If I could only own one breed of dog for my retreat, it would be a Rottweiler of the line I choose. This is because I believe the need for absolute guarding outweighs the need for hunting and "all-around" ability in my situation. The Rottweilers I have owned have been stunning animals. Hard, yet very capable of being trained by family, brave and protective yet sensitive to each situation. Our male is trained, massive, has incredible prey drive and protection skills, but our children and their young friends look upon him as a dog that is just as happy to spend the day laying in the shade watching them play---or fetching tennis balls until nobody has the arm left to throw again. Our female is equally skilled, and adept at all social occasions.
Again, if protection and guarding of livestock is #1? I go with the Rottweiler. Raise it from puppy with your stock and it will believe them family. As intelligent an animal as I have ever encountered You need to find the right bloodlines and breeder. I would never buy a guard animal from a puppy mill. Seriously, if you take any advice...take that piece of advice. Find a breeder that has personally bred the line of his / her choosing back at least 20 years. You will pay more, yes, and get more.

Now, onto the Drahthaar. I have owned and hunted with Drahts for approximately 15 years. I would urge you (in order to save space here) to read the section on "testing program" at my link, to see what this dog is capable of, and tested on at the highest levels. A Drahthaar from a good breeder [if real estate is about location, location, location---dogs are about breeder, breeder, breeder!] will hunt upland birds with the best of bird dogs. I have taken (over their point) quail, pheasant, chuckar, grouse...all retrieved to hand. I have also taken many ducks and geese in very cold conditions, again, fetched to hand. They enjoy hunting close to their master, are terrific retrievers (on land AND water), extremely durable, comfortable in frigid
weather and cold water (though they do not have all the protection of a Lab or Chessie), and the good ones are blessed with an outstanding tracking nose and desire to work. Once they understand what you are asking, they can blood track wonderfully. Ours have proven to be wonderful watch dogs (by that I mean "alert" dogs...barking when strangers enter upon the property, moving themselves between owner and stranger naturally) and LOVE to work, work, work. Our Drahts have taken to obedience training like ducks to water. Again, read the testing program. A Draht is not an animal to be taken lightly. They are tough, have a gator-type set of teeth and jowls, and the large males will not be outdone by any feral dog in a fight---a reality folks, not a sport. Fact is, while it may strike some as dogs must be capable of protecting my children from feral dogs...and this means capable of dispatching the threat, not just barking at it. If what we believe may
be coming does come, I believe that whatever dog you have must be capable of following through (as opposed to "wanting to") on driving from your place feral dogs, coyotes, etc., or dispatching the same if necessary. They are what I would consider to be a naturally suspicious dog. They love their pack and distrust all else until the alpha (you, if you are the owner and smart) lets them know there is no need to worry. They, as the Rotties do too, love least ours have.
As with the Rotts, raise these from pups with the stock you want them to guard and tolerate. Both breeds will be protective of your "space", and provide you with years of love and comfort. One final thing---buy a pup. Yes, it will take awhile before it is
fully capable as a guard / watch / hunter, but dogs raised from pup on with a family form a bond that is unbreakable. And, it allows you to cure any bad habits while still young. I would not buy an adult Rottweiler. I have bought adult Drahthaars, and they have worked out well---but nothing beats the hand-raised puppy. May God Bless each of you in 2006, - Straightblast.


Mr. Rawles,
As a dog aficionado I have several recommendations regarding the best dog for a retreat. Firstly, I believe most hunting dogs are affable companions and lack the true guard/watch instincts, the Ridgeback being the notable exception. My heart lies with the herding family of dogs. Many have impressive size and strength, natural protective instincts and alertness, wariness of strangers, and almost all make excellent family dogs as they view the family as their flock to protect. When it comes to dogs the most important thing is to research a breed before buying it so you can match a breed to your lifestyle/habits/realistic expectations of training and time spent with the animal. This is important because breeds will have different temperaments and predispositions which you should match to your own. Someone who never gets out of the house for exercise should never own a Malamute; someone who lives in Arizona should try to avoid buying a long hair dog, etc.
Some recommended breeds

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Belgian Shepherds (aka Malinois, Tervuren, Laekenois; names which denote coat type)
Anatolian Shepherd
Giant Schnauzer

(Additional purebred information can be found at, the web site for the American Kennel Club) Best Regards, - Brian



I am partial to the Doberman Pinscher. Regarded universally as one of the easiest breeds to train, these guys are very user-friendly. They can be trained with little trouble to behave and do what the owner wants. I've seen them in the capacity of guard dogs, but my last Dobie was the friendliest animal I have ever seen, because I socialized him when he was young and never rewarded any aggression. He barked, and that's the only "tactical" use he had. That, and helping me lighten up those heavy bags of dog food. That was his specialty. Like rottweilers, doberman are portrayed as mean, violent dogs in the media. A big black dog with his teeth bared is a strong psychological deterrent to anyone wanting to cause trouble. If taught properly, they can be mean and violent to intruders. They are fast and strong, and have a good sense of pack. Multiple dogs will cooperate if they are put together when young. Dobies have the proper territorial and predatory instincts you want in a protective dog. When I was very young, my mother had an old Doberman from before she got married. He was a great companion for me when I was young. He was friendly with his owners, but hostile to those he did not know or like. A good
protector for a single woman living in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. Regards, - Ben J.


Mr. Rawles,
I'd suggest considering a flock guardian breed: Anatolian Shepherds (I've owned one); Kuvasz; Great Pyrenees, etc. They are natural guardians of their herd (two or four-legged) and have not become so popular that they've been over bred to the point of genetic apotheosis. They are big, strong and healthy dogs. Also, Anatolians, at least, eat as much as a dog only two thirds their size. For small rodents? I'd add a couple of small terriers. One dog can't do it all, any more than one weapon can. See the URLs for some FAQs:
Picture of: Anatolian at the beach:

OBTW, I second your recommendation on the Daniel Tortora book! ("The Right Dog for You.") - Tom A.

Dear James,
A couple of things to ponder: IR Cyalume sticks are costly and have a limited shelf life. High intensity IR LEDs can be easily built into an "intrusion illumination" system that can be actuated by a number of means (trip wire, seismic, passive motion detection, command, etc.) LEDs are cheap and a simple, reusable, battery powered unit with indefinite shelf life can be cobbled
together for a few dollars.
Visible and IR LEDs can be made into lights for a variety of uses including illumination and signaling. See:
Years ago, I had an odd dream. I dreamt that I was awakened by a noise from my living room. I arose, shotgun in hand and silently rolled a small, clear plastic ball into the room. After a few seconds' delay the ball glowed and lit the room with the characteristic glow of a cyalume stick. The implications were obvious - a flashless, noiseless, nonexploding, nondestructive illuminating "grenade" might have a use in certain circumstances (especially if it emits in the IR end of the spectrum.) These days, however, I'd opt to build a small, tetrahedral array out of tubing (think of a caltrop, one LED would always point skyward) using visible or IR diodes with a battery and a timer chip to provide a delay. I'm not certain what the EMP issues would be, but LEDs would take up very little storage space inside a grounded locker or can.
For electronics bugs, it's also worth noting that inexpensive laser diodes can be used to build a secure, line-of-sight communications system that can, with appropriate tweaking, "broadcast" over several kilometers. No FCC license is required.See: and

There's a product called "Tomcat" that's a solid bar of coumarin poisoned feed. It's less messy and more convenient than D-Con and can be placed outside with little or no risk to non-rodent wildlife. (BTW, coumarin is effectively the same as "Coumadin" - that is, warfarin anticoagulant. The way it works is diabolically clever. The mice eat it and it slowly anticoagulates them until they hemorrhage internally. This induces thirst and they often leave the area in search of water before they die. As another aside, I remember hearing about a rancher in Ely, Nevada who was too cheap to buy generic warfarin to
prophylax his atrial fibrillation. He used D-con with good results! Certainly not a recommended regimen, but it worked.)
Any area infested with mice should be treated as contaminated with hantavirus. No one should enter the area without a P-100 or N-100 mask. Droppings should be sprayed or wet-mopped with a 1:10 bleach/water solution and allowed to soak for thirty minutes or more. (Recall that contact time, not concentration is the essential element of disinfection.) Sweeping and vacuuming should be avoided as they aerosolize dust bound to viral particles. Disposable latex gloves are essential. "Snap traps" baited with peanut butter seem to be very effective in attracting and killing deer mice, a major vector of hantavirus. In disposing of trapped mice, first spray the trap and surrounding area with bleach/water, allow a half hour or more and dispose of both mouse and trap via double-bagging into the trash, burying or burning. Here's a source for hantavirus information:
The best solution for mouse infestation is mouseproofing, as Rourke points out. Keep food and potential nesting materials sealed in mouse-resistant containers and inspect them frequently. Cats, ferrets and even [de-scented] skunks (vaccinated against rabies) are valuable allies against mice. Of note, they are apparently not susceptible to hantavirus, do not become carriers and cannot spread it to humans. See:
It may be worthwhile to create perches and nesting boxes for hawks and owls. In addition to being fun to watch, it's worth considering that a single family of barn owls may consume up to 3000 mice a year.
See: and
A very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year! - "Moriarty"


Mr. Rawles:

We are surrounded by sugar cane fields here in southern Louisiana, after they harvest the cane, a few days later they burn the fields. (Much to our displeasure). When they do that all the field mice go looking for some place else to stay.
My work shop gets over run. You put out a bunch of traps and you may catch some but then they stop working until you empty them and reset them .. until now ..I found this some where on the web. You take a five gallon bucket drill a hole in both sides about a inch down from the top. Get a metal rod that will pass through both holes and reach all the way across the bucket. Get a quart metal paint can with the top on it and punch a whole in the top and the bottom big enough to have the rod pass through it, get it in the center of the bucket, run the rod through it [acting as a spindle], then put some electrical tape on both sides to keep it in the middle. Put four globs of peanut butter on the paint can about 45 degrees apart.Fill the bottom quarter of the bucket with water. Now take a piece of wood and make a ramp leading up to the paint can. Mouse jumps on paint can, paint can spins dumps mice in to water, ready for the next mouse, come out the next day pour out the dead mice and refill with water
if you can see one mouse, count on the fact that there are a lot more your not seeing.

JWR Replies: I 've used the same method, but simply used a straightened coat hangar wire as the spindle for the can.

The Memsahib recently showed me an even more simple method: Again, use a bucket partly filled with water. Cover it with a piece of newspaper that is taped in place. Put a glob of peanut butter in the middle of the paper. After a couple of days of getting the mice accustomed to visiting this "feeding station", simply cut an "X" in the newspaper, about 5 inches across. It works like a charm.

My brother in law in New York uses a coal pot belly stove to help keep his heating bills down. He usually buys a ton of coal in june of every year and stores it in his garage in a coal bin that he built. He buys it in June because the price of coal in cheaper in June, imagine that. As for storing a three year supply of coal, why couldn't someone dig a trench, fill it with coal and then put something like two inches of dirt on top of it. It's not like the coal will rot. As long as he doesn't need it, it is right there not taking up any space and no one knows he has it. - J.M.

"The slowness of one section of the world about adopting the valuable ideas of another section of it is a curious thing and unaccountable. This form of stupidity is confined to no community, to no nation; it is universal. The fact is the human race is not only slow about borrowing valuable ideas — it sometimes persists in not borrowing them at all.
Take the German [Masonry] stove, for instance — to the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing; but he will soon find that it is a masterly performer. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning one brings a small basketful of slender pine sticks and puts half of these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door, and carries off the key. The work is done. He will not come again until next morning. All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable.
Americans could adopt this stove; but no, we stick placidly to our own fearful and wonderful inventions of which there is not a rational one in the lot. The American wood stove, of whatsoever breed, is a terror.
There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half. It warms no part of the room but its own part; it breeds headaches and suffocation, and makes one’s skin feel dry and feverish; and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano.
Consider these aspects of the Masonry stove. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns; one may absorb himself in his business in peace. Its surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt, yet one is as comfortable in one part of the room as another." - Mark Twain, "Some National Stupidities", 1891

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I'm curious to know what breeds of dogs are recommended by SurvivalBlog readers. I'd like to hear your opinion on the ideal the "All-Around Retreat Dog" breed--one that is a good watch dog with a strong sense of territory, loyalty to its masters, distrustful and vociferous when intruders approach, large enough to be taken seriously by intruders, protective when confronted by bears or mountain lions, and alert to poisonous snakes. Ideally, it would also be versatile enough for other responsibilities such as guarding livestock and perhaps killing mice and rats. Secondarily, it would be advantageous to have the same dog be suitable for small game hunting, waterfowl retrieving, and upland game hunting. Yes, I know that meeting all of those requirements is asking a lot. Which breeds come close to meeting all of these needs? I'll mention three different breeds in this post. But I suspect that you'll have some other breed suggestions, and/or some more observations about my favorite breeds.

Before I go on, I should mention that I've noticed that many people casually use the terms watch dog and guard dog interchangeably. In fact they are two different things: A watch dog is watchful, alert, territorial, and will bark whenever something is amiss. A guard dog, in contrast, has all of the watch dog traits, and it is willing/able to actually attack an intruding human.

Those of you that have read my novel ("Patriots") will recall that I highlighted the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed. This member of the hound family was originally bred in Africa for hunting lions. The Ridgeback has some unusual characteristics: They are known for their propensity for tree-climbing. They are also known for their excellent sense of smell and tracking/trailing ability. They have an unusual band of fur that runs up their spine that has a "grain" that runs in the opposite direction as the rest of the fur on their backs. (Hence the name "Ridgeback.") They are known as fearless hunters, and highly territorial guard dogs. The drawbacks to the breed are that they tend to be "one man dogs" and do not always bond well with all of the members of a family. They also have tendencies toward both congenital hip dysplasia and less often, dermoid sinus. So make sure you get a written health guarantee from the breeder on both of those points.

There are several other varieties of hounds that might be suitable as an "all-in-one" breed for a retreat dog. Hounds tend to be intelligent but unfortunately they also tend to wander.

I've never owned one, but the original Standard (full size) Poodle is highly recommended as an exceptionally versatile breed: retriever, pointer, companion, and watch dog, all in one. The "Pudel" was originally bred in central Europe as bird hunting dog. If you keep their fur uniformly trimmed short they won't look prissy like their kleine Toy Poodle cousins. In fact, with a short "hunting" haircut most folks won't even recognize the dog as a Poodle.

The Airedale is the largest breed in the Terrier family. Airedales are another breed known for their versatility. One particular attribute is their tremendous loyalty. One of our neighbors in our old stomping grounds--up in the wilds of north-central Idaho had a much-celebrated Airedale named Lochsa Louie. Louie was famous for defending the children of his owners from mountain lion and bear attacks. Louie eventually died of wounds received in one such incident and was soon replaced by Lochsa Louie II, who came from the same breeder. (There was copious newspaper ink spilled on this dog. Louie was so famous that they named a saloon after him. Or was it was the other way around?)

Before you select a dog breed, you should check your library for a copy of the book "The Right Dog for You" by Daniel F. Tortora. Inexpensive used copies of this book is also available from This book is excellent because it rates the various breeds in sixteen temperament "dimensions" including:

Dominance/Submissiveness to humans

Dominance/Submissiveness other dogs


Watch Dog Ability

Guard Dog Ability

BTW, it is not always best to select the most intelligent breeds. This is because the most intelligent dog breeds tend to try to solve problems. If left alone, for example, they will often become escape artists--finding clever ways to climb over fences, open gate latches, or dig tunnels under fences.

Lastly, don't forget to consider the types of weeds and grasses that are common at your retreat. If there are lots of foxtails and other weeds that get caught is dog's coat then you should probably consider a short-haired breed.

The hunting and security dog breeding world is about to be stood on it head: Many of the same congressmen that have been after your guns are now after your dogs. Proposed legislation called called The Protection of Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS) designated S. 1139 / H.R.2669 would make hunting dog breeders and sellers subject to Federal (USDA) licensing. Under the legislation's incredibly loose wording, the term ''dealer'' means any person who buys or sells any dog for hunting, security, or breeding purposes

If this bill passes, breeders who sells even just one dog of a "hunting breed" will be designated as a USDA "dealer" and be subject to USDA dealer regulations. These regulations would make it impossible to raise puppies in a home. Because of the expense of complying with all the USDA regulations, hobby breeders will be forced to give up breeding. This will mean that the only puppies available to buy will be those raised for profit by commercial breeders who raise puppies like livestock, without proper socialization. One such kennel in Wisconsin produces 2,500 puppies a year!

We have tried twice to adopt purebred dogs from rescue organizations. In each case the dogs lacked a bond to humans which completely ruined them for being family pets. We will never get another dog that hasn't been raised in someone's home with lots of handling and exposure to all the noise and chaos in the average American home from the day they are born.

You can learn more about the PAWS legislation at: The bureaucrats are stealing our liberty with the death of a thousand paper cuts. It can be stopped, but only if we are vigilant and politically active.

"Likely terrorist EMP targets are key financial centers such as Wall Street, The City district in London, or the Paradeplatz in Zurich. This would cause incalculable damage to computer hardware and software associated with stock and commodities markets, banking, international currency  exchanges, and pension funds." - James Wesley, Rawles, from a feature article on High Technology Terrorism,  Defense Electronics magazine, January, 1990.

Monday, December 26, 2005

If you are stockpiling food and supplies, you should have a system of pest control in place. Mice are probably your first and most serious concern, but rats, other vermin, and of course insects also come into play depending on what types of food you are storing, in what containers, and where you are. If most your food is in #10 steel cans, you may only have to worry about other supplies, like toilet paper, which can make a nice nesting ground for them, and incredible mess for you.
As when with dealing any foe, you need to understand the workings and weaknesses of your enemy and use that against them. Starting on the outside, mice don’t like to run across open areas, inside our out. This is a natural instinct so they are not seen by predators, birds of prey in particular. Thus keeping the grass down and not having a lot of cover right next to your house, retreat, garage, etc. can help a little. Your first main line of defense is the point of entry. Leaving your garage door open is an invitation to mice. Also, sliding doors, like barn doors, simply do not offer good sealing protection. In a barn with such sliding doors, you probably might as well get a barn cat. If you are building a new pole barn with wooden posts, consider wrapping tin on the outside of the wood posts all the way around before back filling, and overlapping with the siding material on top of the tin (leaving to place to chew through wood, just metal).
On keeping them outside, mice have tiny little narrow skulls which allow them to squeeze through very small holes. Basically if you can get a dime through sideways, a mouse can get through. I have seen mice eat a hole through 5/8”-thick drywall. “Great stuff”, and such foam sealers (in a can) does work well, and contains chemicals to make them sick, but they can still eat through it. However, they won’t try to eat through steel wool, so plugging an existing hole with that usually works. For some reason, they don’t like walking straight into the ends of the bristles of a brush, so if you mount one that way, they probably won’t walk into it (this can be used around a garage door where you can’t will in the gap because of movement). Also, they tend not to like the smell of fabric softener sheets (the kind that you throw in the dryer). As for those sonic plug in, devices, I have tried but them, but found zero effect, and also be aware some pets may not like that.
Once inside, mice will tend to run along walls. Therefore the best levels of defense are to put wind-up spin metal traps (not baited) on the wall on either side of a door or point of entry, a garage door in particular. These are nice because you can just leave them be, and they will catch mice over and over in a catch chamber, which you later empty. Also in that area, inside, you can put out poison. (Such as "De-con"), but do it in a way so that your pets can’t get to it. In most states it is illegal to poison outside, to protect birds of prey, etc. Some people tell me poisoning mice inside is a bad idea since the mice will crawl into little cracks and die, thus leaving a stinking corpse for you to smell. I have two answers to this, first a body that small tends to dry up even in most climates reasonably fast, and secondly, more importantly, corpses don’t breed. In the case of a rat, yes [because of it size] you are going to have a stinking corpse to find, but I repeat second comment on that again. (Also, the only good thing about rats is they tend to chase off mice). Now as you get in to your kitchen and food storage areas, you use baited traps. Those cheap spring traps work well. Use peanut butter, and what also works well, and really well for rats, is that cheap fatty potted meat stuff in those little cans. For tiny and young mice that clean your traps without setting them off, you are going to need some glue traps. Once again, put them along the walls in covered areas where they will run at night. Save those until you need them, because they are not reusable, they lose their stickiness.
If you come across a nest of baby mice, the best way to deal with it is to drown the babies. A pail half full of water will do the trick. Dump them in, the whole nest, and come back in an hour, and they’ll be dead. They can’t swim.
Mice and rats are a serious threat to your health, food, and supplies. If they go unchecked, such as in a remote retreat, they can do incredible damage over time as they multiply. If you are infested, call in the experts, they do have gas that will kill everything, but it will cost you. IMHO it is best to take these basic preventative steps first.
More information:
Do it yourself Pest Control:
Pest Products::
Nice selection of mouse traps: and
Humane mouse traps:
I put the last one in for one reason: Some people in your family or group are simply not going to like “killing” mice, and may go do far as to sabotage your traps. I have seen this happen in a food company. I would suggest you get tough with them, such as serving them the food that the mice got into as their ration. However, if it is you that feels this way, then, yes, “humane” traps can work, but I have found them to be less effective. - Rourke (

Hey, I just wanted to write in to comment on what seems to me like a missing element in your survival location analysis. Military installations across the United States are presumably not all evenly distributed, and the presence of these bases not only affects your location in the event of a NBC scenario, but if the Schumer] really hits the fan, even well disciplined American servicemen and women will attempt to ensure their own survival even at the cost of local civilians. Now I assume that it would take a world ending event for our military to act in that fashion, but it is within the realm of possibility. So the nature of the military bases is relevant beyond their status as nuclear targets. That is to say, Air Force bases and Navy installations pose a substantially smaller threat of local domination than do Army bases. Again, this is not to say this is likely at all, just that is possible. Further, the size of the base and its local inventories become relevant should they attempt to dominate the local area. I'm sure that there are other insights to be contributed by others more knowledgeable, but I figured it was worth sparking the discussion. Thanks so much. - J.D.

Military surplus HK91 alloy magazines have been available for several years in the $1-to-$3 price range. It seems to me that the only people who should buy them are HK rifle owners who own less than 50 magazines. Before buying HK magazines as barter items, consider that the market has already been flooded with far more than are needed for the limited number of existing rifles. The German military torched most of their rifles, but sold most of the magazines. Other mags (such as for AR-15) may be great future demand, but I would not bet on the HK. - Mr. Bravo

JWR Replies: Yep, you are probably right: AR-15s are far more commonplace than HK91s (and their clones.) But don't forget that a CETME rifle can also use HK91 magazines, and CETME owners are notoriously frugal individuals ), so chances are that they will only have four or five magazines on hand. Like everyone else WTSHTF they will suddenly want to own 25 or more magazines. Perhaps $50 is not too much to gamble with, for a potentially valuable barter commodity.

Another practical use for HK91 alloy magazines? Here is a trick that I leaned from Mr. Tango: Because of their light weight, an alloy HK91 magazine positioned top-end-up in tightly-fitting ammo pouch makes an ideal "speed" ammo holder for reloading bolt action rifles, particularly if you clip a few coils off of their magazine springs. BTW, if those mags are going to be held in double magazine pouches, tape them together with duck tape so that they don't rattle together. Note that it is important that you always use tightly-fitting mag pouches. If they don't fit tightly, then build up the exterior dimension of the magazine(s) with cardboard and duct tape until they do fit tightly in their pouches. (If the mags wobble in the pouches, it will be difficult to get a "purchase" to strip off the cartridges into your hand.)

"Happiness makes up for in height for what it lacks in length." - Robert Frost

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A reminder that we are still accepting entries for Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!)  The deadline for entries is the last day of January, 2006.

I just noticed that our compadre "Warlord" over at the Alpha-Rubicon site posted a very handy article last year about how to construct a "fan in a can" for a home fallout
shelter. See:

  o  o  o

Noah Schactman at the Defense Tech blog mentioned an interesting briefing that is available in PDF about some recent non-lethal weapon developments:  Ya gotta love those caltrops!

  o  o  o

The folks at the AUSurvivalist site (in Australia) have some interesting documents available for free download. See:

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." - Luke 2:10-1, KJV

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I wish the readers of SurvivalBlog a Joyful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. I also wish a Festive Hanukkah to our Jewish readers.  Thank you for your great letters and contributed articles, and your loyal patronage of our advertisers. Special thanks to the 28 readers that have made 10 Cent Challenge blog support contributions in recent weeks. I especially appreciate this because I know that funds are tight for many people this time of year. Have a safe, happy, and healthy Aught Six. 

Many people are strategically relocating, getting settled into their new homes, preparing for the economic crash, and war that is surely coming. As the gent from Argentina said with hindsight: "more food" and trade goods. In addition to obtaining the obvious water, food, seeds, preparing the ground for a large garden, and protection there are some additional things all of us need to consider. Remember you are simply investing in your future. Here is my list:

* Get to know the old timers, people who are active but advanced in years. Go visit them. Have them to your home. Ask a question or two to open conversation, then shut up, and let them talk. They know who can be trusted and who cannot be trusted.
* If you want to know about a builders, plumbers, electricians, road graders or handy men, families by name, wife beaters and child molesters, ask an old timer. You will soon learn who is trustworthy and who is not. Remember, you are information gathering. Your views are not important. Ask the question and then shut up. Listen to the old timers.
* Search the local and county newspaper stacks for the names of people who were arrested and charged with a crime. You will have to be alert for these individuals as we enter into hard times.
* Identify local politicians and enforcement people with the I am God attitude. Identify their shooters. Remember most of these people have not prepared. Some you will be able to bribe, others, oh well.
* Buy more open pollinated seeds than you think you will need.
* Buy more ammunition. If this thing lasts 3-to-5 years, followed by a war you will be glad that you did.
* Buy reloading capabilities and dies. Buy lead bullet casting capabilities. Buy more powder, primers and bullets.
* Buy more clothes than you think you need.
* Buy more canned food than you think you need to last at least three years.
* Buy more gardening and mechanics tools than you think you need.
* Buy socks, shoes and boots.
* Buy local and regional maps.
* Collect telephone books for use as toilet paper.

I have another e-mail in progress that will discuss issues of war.- M.L.T.

G'day from Down Under.
In you post on the TEOTWAWKI rifles, you mentioned .303s. While the rifles are plentiful, robust and inexpensive, the ammo is becoming very hard to find and expensive. Example, Winchester 303 SP is $ 48 AUD per box of 20 here. Good ex-military ball is about $80 to $100 per 100 (if you can find it) and will be at least 30 years old.
The Ishapore Mk.2s are a much better bet, cost about the same, and take 7.62 [mm NATO]. Or perhaps, one of the ex-Israeli [K98] Mausers [chambered] in .308?
However, I personally feel that the best rifle would be one of those Savage Model 24s, preferably the 24C. The choice of a shotgun or rifle barrel with the flick of a switch. Or any reliable .22 LR or .22 Winchester Magnum rimfire. This is not intended to fight with, more a foraging tool, to put food in the pot. Think about it: If you had to walk (worst case scenario) to your retreat, what would you take? Grab a brick of 22 LR. Weigh it. Now grab 500 rds of .223 or 7.62mm NATO. weigh that. I used to be able to walk miles with a MAG-58 [belt-fed 7.62mm NATO MMG] and 800 rds, plus the other 50 or so KGs, but I was a lot younger and fitter then. Now the lack of a good self loader in .223, and the rest of the platoon for back-up, has lead me to think that maybe a good 22 Mag or LR, and trying to avoid trouble, might be the way to go. JMHO, YMMV. Merry Christmas. Cheers, - Dave.


Can you please address your preference of the L1A1 over the more common metric FALs? I settled on the metric version mainly because it is generally more common, has better parts availability, cheaper and easier to find magazines, overall less expensive and just as reliable. I do add a FSE oversize mag release and a Israeli forward assist (FA) charging handle along with necessary bolt carrier modification to all my metric FALs. What am I missing by not going with the L1A1? Thanks, - C.W.

JWR Replies:  I believe that there are several distinct advantages to having an "inch pattern" (L1A1) instead of one of the metric measurement FN-FALs. These advantages include:

1.) The ability to use inch OR metric magazines.  If you have a metric FAL, you are limited to using only metric magazines.  But if you have an inch receiver rifle you can use both inch and metric mags.  (The latter wobble a bit when used in an L1A1, but they still feed reliably.)

2.) Inch magazines are sturdier than metric magazines, because they are heavier gauge steel. And if they ever do get dented, L1A1 magazines can be repaired with a mandrel block, but metric mags cannot.  (If you lay an inch mag and a metric mag side by side, you will notice that the floorplate retaining tabs on a metric magazine are turned inward, whereas they are turned outward on an inch mag. Hence there is no way for a metric magazine to accept a dent-removing mandrel.)

3.)  A larger safety selector switch that you can't miss with your thumb.

4.) A larger, ambidextrous magazine release.  (Unlike the tiny mag release on the metric FAL, which is designed for the convenience of right handers.)

5.)  A sturdy folding charging handle is standard.  If you've ever tripped and fallen while carrying a metric FAL, you'll appreciate this feature.  There is nothing quite like taking a blow  from metric charging handle to the solar plexus!

6.) Sturdier and less reflective stock furniture. The British Maranyl pebble grain black plastic furniture is practically bomb proof.

7.) Buttplates that come in a wide range of thicknesses, to accommodate shooters of various heights. Proper stock length usually means more accurate shooting.

8.) Better rear sights. OBTW, the inch pattern "Hythe" dual-aperture variant is a great sight with the versatility needed for long range shooting, close quarters combat, and night shooting. I have Hythe sights on four of the five L1A1s at the Rawles Ranch.  (The fifth rifle is a metric Para Model (folding stock) FAL "L1A1 wannabe" on which I had the receiver re-cut by Rich Saunders at Century Gun Works to accept inch magazines.)

9.) An integral winter trigger arrangement that is always stowed and available in the pistol grip.  (One downside is that L1A1s don't have the "in the grip" miniature cleaning kit found on metric FALs.)

10.)  A slightly more efficient flash hider. (I've viewed a video of a nighttime test that was filmed by a SurvivalBlog reader, using identical ammo, and the difference was apparent.)

11.) Specially-designed "Sand Cut" bolts and bolt carriers, designed to operate more reliably in grungy environments.

In summary: Yes, the parts and magazines for inch pattern L1As are slightly more expensive, but the advantages that I just related more than compensate for the greater expense.

For those of you that presently own metric FALs, I suggest that you keep them and just improve them a bit:  For example, I recommend retrofitting them with inch pattern magazine releases and selector switches.  And unless you have one of the excellent Israeli-style forward assist charging handles, you should also consider retrofitting with an inch-style folding charging handle. 

All of the aforementioned parts are available from The FALFiles Marketplace. (See: )

Dear Mr. Rawles,
With respect to the great sidearm debate, I suspect that a much underrated feature of the M1911 family lies in the ubiquity of the family. As a disclaimer, I should note that I am an unabashed, though not uncritical, fan of the 1911 design.
I am much inclined to believe that the Schumer and the fan will become commingled in my lifetime. Assuming that they do, the ballistic superiority of a round may become less relevant than the availability of spare parts, ammunition, and expertise for keeping the gun functioning. When you start to think of these factors, the superiority of the M1911 proclaims itself.
With respect to the availability of ammunition, I believe that the .45 ACP and the [9mm] parabellum are equivalent. This factor, however, militates against the use of flavor-of-the-month (though possibly ballistically superior) rounds such as 10MM, .357 Sig, and .40 [S&W]. My father has frequently said that you can't depend on a weapon for which you can't find ammo in the boonies of East Texas. When you get to that point, you are left with only two real choices in pistol calibers.
The availability of spare parts distinguishes the M1911 from all comers. The CONUS "installed base" for 1911s is in the millions. I am given to understand that a total of 20 manufacturers currently produce M1911s. Because of this breadth of install base, the local gunsmith keeps enough parts in stock to perform any repairs that I need. Even if his stock runs dry, there are M1911s salted away in places that you never expect, all of which may be cannibalized to provide my 1911 with some part or another in a pinch. There is a great deal to be said for the fact that my next-door-neighbor has one, one of my coworkers has one, another coworker has 3, my financial advisor has one, all of the guys that sell guns to me carry them for self defense, my best friend from college carries one, my best friend from grad school carries one, and his roommate keeps one. Ubiquity means that somebody probably has a spare recoil spring. If the Schumer and the fan become commingled, I may need that spring. I bought a 1911 for cash once because I knew that, even if it didn't fire, the parts were worth more than I was paying.
Let us now talk about expertise. Again, there are more people in the world who have had to disassemble and diagnose a 1911 than have had to perform these operations on a Glock. If my 1911 becomes unhappy, that base of knowledge may be incredibly valuable to me. I have addressed a pragmatic set of concerns for logistically grim world. I don't carry 1911s because of these grim concerns, but I do think that they should legitimately inform the discussion among your readers.  My best regards and a Merry Christmas, - K.A.D.

The latest statistics on annual state population increases were just released. I see that Nevada has been named the top gainer this year, yet again. Doubtless, a lot of that is attributable to folks fleeing California's taxes, smog, crime, traffic and idiotic civilian disarmament laws. Sadly, the influx of liberal Californians is gradually turning Nevada into another California. See:

  o  o  o

Our British cousins will be feeling the screws turned yet a bit tighter, starting in Aught Six. The latest outrage to freedom is total surveillance of private automobile movements, with a huge database that will be maintained for at least two years:  See:   Perhaps they ought to be honest and simply rename the place Airstrip One. (George Orwell was right!)

  o  o  o

We've made a few additions to the SurvivalBlog Glossary.

  o  o  o

The enrollment deadline to buy a Front Sight $1,200 Lifetime Challenge First Family Membership has been to extended to December 31st. Naish Piazza says this will be the last extension. In my opinion, it is a great deal that you should seriously consider. A First Family Membership makes a great Christmas gift, for those of you that were late doing your shopping.

  o  o  o

Kudos to #1 Son, who created new navigation buttons for our web page top bar that are faster to load.  That will be good news to the SurvivalBlog readers that, like us, live out in the dial-up connection hinterboonies.  

  o  o  o

Such a deal: Tapco is selling batches of 50 HK91 alloy 20 round mags for $50. See: Even if a few turn out to be dented, that is still a fantastic price. At that price, I might buy 50 just for barter,

"Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered." - Cicero

Friday, December 23, 2005

In our modern world, jobs are incredibly and increasingly specialized. Many of us have jobs that may be of little use if TSHTF and society collapses. As many of us may have to look for another way to make a buck, or perhaps more accurately to trade or barter with, consider bettering yourself by attaining a high level of proficiency in at least one secondary survival skill (the more the better).
I have listed below a few useful to survival skills, or secondary occupations that you can learn quite a bit about if you just treat it like a hobby, or a self improvement course. Along with having some informational materials, some experience, the expectation is you would also have at least the basic tools (power and hand tools and library of reference information) of the trade(s) you choose.
This also makes the point for a group working together as a team. Even the biggest Jack or Jill of all trades (which many survivalists are), would be hard pressed to really know the entire list below and have enough basic tools or supplies to do each and every on this things well. Just like with most teams, people have to play different positions well for the team to be a winner.

Alternate Energy – biogas, bio diesel, alcohol, steam power, solar cells, windmills, etc.
Ammunition Reloading Equipment & Supplies (gun repair & maintenance)
Childcare – baby sitting, preschool
Computers – may be impossible to get parts, chips in particular, but can keep them running by cannibalizing…
Construction – rough construction of homes, poles barns, etc.
Butchering - cutting and curing of meats, sausage making
Candle making – including soy based, bees wax
Dental – hygiene, dentistry, oral surgery
Electric supply & repair - home electric system design/repair, off grid
Electronics – repair of as many electronic gadgets as possible
Engine repair & maintenance. Auto, truck, tractor, small motor
Fire fighting – rescue operations in all conditions
Fishing – netting, multiple lines, trolling, ice fishing
Ham radio – this is its own category since it requires a specific license. (Now issued at three different levels)
Herbs – alternate medicine, nutrition
Home schooling – teaching supplies, text books, etc.
Hunting – trapping, snares, training hunting dogs
Farming – crops – small scale farming many crops, large scale gardening or greenhousing
Farming – livestock – chickens, rabbits, goats, bees, fish farming, turkey, hogs
Food canning & dehydration – pressure canning, dehydration of fruits and meats
HVAC – heating, venting, air conditioning and ventilation systems
Leatherwork - tanning to punching and sewing
Lumberjack – from falling trees through saw milling
Masonry – concrete flatwork, brick making, brick laying, poured walls
Medical – from EMT to MD, from bandages to surgery
Metal Working and welding
Mid wife – child birth is its own part of medicine
Plumbing – well, septic, indoor plumbing, outdoor plumbing, water filters, pumps
Security – systems, knowledge of tactics military and/or police
Seed Bank - storage of seeds for growing, hybrids, and open pollinated (heirloom)
Sewing - clothing making and repair, spinning, knitting, making cloth
Soap making – and all the things you will have to make from animals and plants
Survival Skills – wilderness skills in particular, living off the rough land
Veterinary Sciences – animal care, breeding
Wood working – everything beyond roughing; trim, cabinets, furniture

This of course is not a complete list. Looking down the curriculum of a trade school or technical college would be another good thing to do. Consider taking up at least one as a hobby or for self improvement. -Rourke  (

JWR Adds:
I'd recommend adding the following to Rourke's list:

Blacksmithing – Invaluable for repairs and fabrication of metal tools and parts
Machining – Important for fabricating metal parts
Welding and Torch Cutting– Absolutely invaluable for repairs and fabrication of metal parts

Rourke's article indirectly raises the issue of retreat group dynamics and the vagaries of human nature. I've seen some mistakes made when assembling retreat groups, most notably:

1.) Groups that end up with preponderance of doctors, lawyers, or firemen.  This typically happens because a group founder recruits members from his close circle of friends--who all happen to be in the same profession or trade. This results in a group that lacks a good balance of skills.

2.) Groups that lack cohesive leadership. These generally turn into either philosophical debating societies or groups that spend most of their time arguing the finer points of Roberts Rules of Order. In either case, nothing gets done.

3.) Groups with either no discretionary money, or too much discretionary money.  These both lead to absurdities. In the case of the former: Groups that don't have time to train together because the members are all working six days a week at minimum wage jobs. In the case of the latter: A group of mostly rich lawyers with an elaborate five year food supply and a bunch of expensive guns that they've never zeroed. Because they feel logistically "prepared" they don't bother with tactical training or to practice traditional skills. God forbid they should get their hands dirty.

4.) Groups that are have no religious common ground, or groups with so many shared common beliefs that they become dogmatic and intolerant of anyone who doesn't share their precise views on eschatology.

Dear James,
Recently I received an interesting catalog in the mail. It's from the Duluth Trading Company, and they manufacture rugged outdoor clothing made of fire hose material. I have not tried any of their products yet, however, I plan to in the future and just wanted to share it with you and your readers for your and their consideration.

I have a question for you too, if you don't mind. Why is a FMJ round more desirable in combat than a Soft Point? My reasoning is that Soft Point ammo expands more, and creates a larger wound channel than a FMJ. That has been my observation on deer taken with a .30-06 150 grain Winchester Silver Tip, for example. Thank you.
Merry Christmas to you and Yours - D.O.T.

JWR Replies: In essence, I'm a believer for full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition for rifles, and premium jacketed hollow point (JHP) ammunition for most handguns.  Hollow points are important for handguns because with their relatively low power (compared to rifles), you need all of the expansion that you can get.  FMJs are important for rifles because you never know when you will be up against an opponent that is wearing body armor (it is increasingly popular with gang members) or that is shooting at you from behind light cover.

Mr. Rawles,
First, I must say that greatly appreciate your website and the expertise that you share. I am 21, and am trying to lead getting my family and close friends prepared logistically for whatever may be coming down in the future. Your information and suggestions are a time/money saver (and likely eventually a life saver.) "Patriots" is an invaluable resource, and more can always be gleaned every time it is read. Thank you!
I wanted to comment on the 45 ACP post from Dec. 20. I generally shy away from handgun discussions because handguns are a mediocre weapon, and the discussions are predictable. In my opinion, the Army Aviators story about the stopping power of a .45 is really inconsequential. If he really did hit the enemy with all 29 rounds, then he didn't hit him COM. The 3 rounds of 45 ACP and the previous damage from the 9mm is what dropped him. He wasn't dropped because the .45 is a "super death ray gun", but is likely because of 3 aimed shots to a vital area. To say the 3 aimed .45 slugs is better than 29 aimed 9mm slugs is not accurate. To say that 3 aimed .45 slugs is better that 29 not-aimed shots would be more accurate. It's just a thought, because I don't want to criticize, and I admire his brave service in the army.
I appreciate and understand the fondness of the 'Warhorse' (I won't say 'old' Warhorse. I have completed several KT Ordnance "80% Complete" Model 1911s with great success. (See: ) Although the process is very rewarding, I learned that my taste for expensive parts (Smith&Alexander; Ed Brown beavertails, sears, hammers, triggers; Kart barrels; Caspian slides...oh it goes on) can really add up. There can be a lot said for understanding a weapons mechanism and operation, and the 80% project is a good way to understand the basics. I was continually humbled by the vastness of experience needed to successfully do this as a profession.
For someone considering a 80% [KT Ordnance] 'build', I would say to set a budget and not exceed it. A good 3 inch group gun can be put together for $500-$600, and that is all that is really needed. A 1911 that shoots 1 inch or less is wonderful, but reliability is second to none! I now prefer the 'abomination' called the Glock. With a capacity of 13+1 .45 ACPs, it puts the odds back in the wielders favor. The price is usually half that of a comparable 'value' 1911.
'A 9mm might expand but a 45 won't shrink'. True, however there are good reasons for having a 9mm in a one's cache. First, it is so common. Ammunition is cheap. There are loads available that have more foot-pounds energy than .45 ACP hardball (but comparing premium self defense loads to UMC ball isn't exactly a fair comparison). The 9mm trumps the .38 Special snubby, especially if you look at the Glock 26. The G26 is 10+1(compared to 5 shots in a snub nose), accepts high caps., and the 9mm is more powerful than the 38. The 9mm may be more lady friendly, although the .45 is mild enough to shoot that really anyone should be able to feel comfortable with it(the .45 is much more mild than the 40 S&W which many female police officers must shoot, once a year typically). Capacity is some what important, although familiarity with tactical and emergency reloads is equally as important. I did some 1911 work for a ex-SWAT and nationally known 3-gun guy, and he now prefers a Glock 17 (9mm) because of it's capacity and his accomplished skill with the sidearm he shoots 20,000 rounds a year with. It really shouldn't be the first choice if there is a .45 or 10mm available, but it was also provide valuable 'wampum' to a post collapse situation (like in your novel with the trade of the Browning Hi-Power for the horse!) Once again, a hearty thanks for your website and book. Sincerely, - The Legend

I just realized something that some of the SurvivalBlog readers might find interesting: All the older Zenith Trans-Oceanic radios have replaceable ("socketed') transistors.
The Zenith Trans-Oceanic radios model 1000 and 3000 all have Sockets. I recently replaced a PNP transistor in a 1962 Sony with a new 2N3906 and the radio worked!
So, if someone buys one of these older multi-band shortwave radios with the transistor sockets, then they should buy a bunch of cross-referenced transistors and place them
in a small metal can to protect them from EMP.  See:
Open the PDF file and you'll see the transistor sockets. They even tell you how to fix/align/tune this radio. I'm sure the designers wanted this radio to last forever.
President Johnson had a 3000 in the White House that he used to listen to regularly.

It's to bad the GE Superadio does not have sockets. But the older Zenith Trans-Oceanics with transistor sockets are almost as sensitive as the Superadios and the Zenith's are made to last! - Fred The Valmet-meister

What about the M1A/M14? It would get my vote, even over the FAL. My M1A ("Irene") has over 8,000 rounds through it, and has never so much as stove piped. And she is a real tack driver. - Gung-Ho

JWR Replies:  I was a big believer in M1As from 1981 until 2003. (I owned five of them at one time.) But in Aught Three I faced facts, took a deep breath, and I sold my M1As and replaced them with L1A1s.  Functionally L1A1s are comparable (but, granted, not quite capable of  match grade M1A accuracy), and their accessories and spare parts are much, much less expensive.  A spare all-G.I. M1A parts set would cost around $900 these days. I was able to replace my M1As with larger number of L1A1s, with a full set of parts for each (everything but the receiver, and 40 spare magazines per rifle, and I still had a lot of money left over. (I spent that on scoping most of the L1A1s.)


Mr Rawles,
In reference to rifle choices for those of us who live in the People's "Republic" of Kalifornia... our esteemed rulers have (so far) neglected to ban the M1A and its variants (at least as sold by Springfield Armory). I do believe that the M1A is a suitable battle rifle. Thank You. -Eric L.

JWR Replies: As I recall, to get around the ban, M1As have to be retrofitted with a California-sanctioned muzzle brake instead of a flash hider.  Also, "E2" style stocks and folding stocks would also be a no-no in California.  And, of course you also had to have your lifetime supply of high capacity magazines in hand by the end of 1999. (All sales of anything over 10 round became legal on Jan. 1, 2000.) California makes me want to retch.


Mr. Rawles,
I am Active Duty USAF stationed in the UK and was strongly discouraged from bringing any firearms with me when I moved here last year. I made contact with some British gun owners through to learn about the regulations and restrictions. After joining the local Rifle and Pistol club my full membership was expedited due to my military background. The club officials were very helpful and friendly. I am using the clubs rifles until I get the paperwork and permits completed; currently my firearms are being kept by her majesty in a customs house. Most bolt action rifles, semi-auto .22s and shotguns are legal here. You can even own a revolver with slight modifications if the barrel is 12 inches.  Thanks for the hard work you put into the website. - Deros

A wise and older man told me once: "It's easer to feed your neighbor than shoot him. Have extra food, wood, and clothes for them." - KT

"Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua -- continents away, tens of thousands of miles apart, but the same goals and objectives. I submit to you that the growth in terrorism in recent years results from the increasing involvement of these states in terrorism in every region of the world. This is terrorism that is part of a pattern, the work of a confederation of terrorist states. Most of the terrorists who are kidnapping and murdering American citizens and attacking American installations are being trained, financed, and directly or indirectly controlled by a core group of radical and totalitarian governments -- a new, international version of Murder, Incorporated. And all of these states are united by one simple criminal phenomenon -- their fanatical hatred of the United States, our people, our way of life, our international stature." - President Ronald Reagan

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of having a large supply of fuel for home heating on hand. Ask anyone that has ever been through an ice storm in the northeast. Big ones happen  on average once per decade. These can be really nasty, knocking down hundreds of power lines, inducing power outages that can last for weeks. Those that heat their homes with natural gas, propane, or home heating oil furnaces find themselves out of luck when the power grid goes down. Even if they can keep their heater's main burner on, there is no electricity to run the circulating fan. That makes for a very chilly house!  Ditto for pellet stoves, which require electricity to run both their pellet-feeding mechanisms and their fans. 

There is nothing quite so "tried and true" as a large, free standing, cast iron stove to burn firewood or coal.  I recommend that you calculate how much wood or coal you burn per winter, and triple that to give you an honest three year supply. Even if you don't anticipate economic disruption that will last more than a year, you should still get a three year supply. The extra fuel that you have on hand can be used for barter or charity.  Your less prudent neighbors will greatly appreciate it if you can help them heat their homes with some judiciously-dispensed charity. Its our duty to help out widows and orphans--and yes, even your neighbor down the street that was more interested in drinking beer and watching football games than in splitting firewood. Like it or not, it is our Christian duty.

In most cases. laying in a three year supply of fuel will necessitate adding a lot of firewood or coal storage space. Don't skimp and put your firewood under those cheapo blue plastic tarps. That is like throwing money away.  Build a proper storage shed, and size your shed to fit an honest three year supply.  Then, never allow it to get less than 2/3rds full. OBTW, one advantage to having a big "three year shed" is that you can burn the oldest (driest) wood first, allowing your green wood two years to season.

Lastly, don't overlook cleaning your chimney every year Learn how to do this yourself, and buy yourself a good quality brush and a set of extensions--perhaps with one extra extension so that you can loan it to your neighbors that might have taller chimneys than yours. Yes, chimney cleaning can be a mess, but it is a valuable skill, and it is essential for preventing a potentially catastrophic chimney fire. BTW, I often see charred/destroyed guns for sale at gun shows. With their melted grips and burned-off stocks, they are sometimes hard to recognize. These guns look beyond pitiful and don't fetch much money when they are sold as a source for spare parts. They are mute testimony to the chimney-cleaning laziness of their owners. The story that I hear is almost always the same: "It was a chimney fire."



Letter Re:  .45 ACP Stopping Power and the M1911 (SAs: Pistol Stopping Power, Survival Guns, .45 ACP, 9mm, M1911s)

Sir - just to support your advocacy of the .45 ACP: it has saved this old sarge's butt more than STOPS the enemy! Versus the 9mm [Parabellum], there is no contest -- .45 [ACP] wins every time.  Semper Fi - Sarge


I have some ideas regarding using a Remington 742 as a main battle rifle (MBR) that you may find of interest. The Rem. 742 is a semi-auto rifle that can be chambered in .308 or 30.06 among other calibers. The standard detachable box mag holds 4 cartridges. But I found that you can get 10-round steel mags from Cabela's for around $21.00 each. A used Rem. 742 can be purchased for about $350.00 depending upon the quality. This would get you a semi-auto rifle chambered in .308 or 30.06 with the capacity for multiple detachable mags. If you think this idea has merit feel free to share with the Blog members. Of course I'm not too sure what an Army Captain would say about using a hunting rifle for a MBR!

OBTW I just finished reading William Bonner's book "Empire of Debt" and thought that it was very informative and eye-opening. His main premise is that America is no longer a Constitutional Republic but has become an empire. And this sad fact has led to the financial mess that we are in. An interesting read! I am looking forward to reading his other book "Financial Reckoning Day".  B'shem Moshiach Yahshua, - Dr. Sidney Zweibel

JWR Replies: Outwardly, using a semi-auto hunting rifle such as the Remington M742 as an MBR might seem like a great idea for someone who is budget conscious or for someone that lives in a restrictive state, but I do not recommend it. In a SurvivalBlog post on October 22nd, I replied to a gent who had essentially the same idea. (He had suggested a Remington Model 7400.) I stated:  

I agree that a.30 caliber centerfire a rifle is essential, both for hunting and self defense. Keep in mind, however, that civilian hunting semi-autos and pumps are not designed to withstand the sustained high rate of fire that might occur in a full scale post-TEOTWAWKI firefight. Their internal tolerances are so precisely machined that they are likely to bind up when the action gets hot. Also be aware that they are more tightly chambered than military arms.(Which have intentionally loose dimensions.) You cannot depend on something like a Remington 760 or 7600 to keep shooting reliably after 200 rounds of rapid fire. Nor can you expect them to keep shooting reliably with muddy or gritty cartridges. (As a test, with a Remington 740 or 760 series, try chambering some cartridges that have had their necks smeared with toothpaste. (DO NOT attempt to fire the rifle in this condition--this is only to demonstrate chambering limitations!) Now try the same with a FAL, HK, CETME, or M1A. Odds are that the bolt on the Remington will not go fully forward, whereas the bolt on a military arm usually will. A civilian pump action or semi-auto hunting rifle might suffice in a pinch, but not in an extended firefight! 

The fact that "small base" (reduced brass dimension) reloading dies are recommended for Remington semi-autos in order to make them chamber reliably should be a strong indication that they are not built to military specifications.  Don't expect a civilian semi-auto hunting rifle to do the same job as a military rifle. It won't be up to the task.

For those of you that are stuck in states like California, New York, and New Jersey that have so-called "assault weapons" bans, I recommend that you buy an early-generation military  issue semi-auto rifle such as the M1 Garand (.30-06, fed from an eight round en bloc clip), the FN-49 in .30-06 (10 round semi-detachable magazine, stripper clip fed), or perhaps if your state law will allow it, the Argentine contract FN-49 in .308 (10 or 20 round detachable magazine.) A poor second choice might be a Russian or Chinese SKS (7.62 x 39mm, stripper clip fed, with a fixed 10 round magazine.) OBTW, I do not recommend the French MAS series semi-autos of the same era, because they have demonstrated reliability issues. Nor do I recommend the U.S. M1 Carbine, because it shoots an under-powered pistol class cartridge. (.30 M1 Carbine.)

Two quick points of interest:
#1 - Here in New York state, the [Federal] 1994 ban did not sunset. The Federal laws that the rest of the nation enjoys freedom from after September 2004 [when the 1994 AWB's 10 year "sunset" clause went into effect], are duplicated by state law with no sunset provision inside New York State.

#2 - As already noted on Survivalblog, New Year's resolutions are a wonderful opportunity to reset our priorities. My resolutions will include spending the $6 per week formerly spent on a six pack of beer on an expanded reserve of family medicines instead. Recent aches and pains after hunting in snow country has convinced me both to drop some pounds and stock up on pain relievers and other over the counter remedies! We too received a foot of snow this weekend, we had a power outage for several hours to boot. Made me glad that I had that wood pile to draw on :) - Mr. Yankee.

Norman has it right-on in his Wednesday’s post about taking things further out than one or two years past TEOTWAWKI. How about plans for the rest of your kid’s lives? Not stockpiles, mind you, but plans. That means forethought, how-to manuals in the old ways for people to read when they have run out of modern technology (and options), or when they need to use unfamiliar technology-free appliances, and so on. For instance, I have just ordered a spinning wheel made in Holland, foot powered, that will be possible to repair with even hand carved wooden parts and simple metal pieces made from scrap. Even the whole spinning wheel could be replicated by using simple hand tools if you have enough time and a decent hardwood tree to cut.
Most of us have the year’s supply of things. What happens after that?, because TEOTWAWKI may not just be an acronym, it may be our life soon, i.e. an unknown world.
Take a look at this table of contents from a manual I am finishing up for my farm visitors to read at TEOTWAWKI plus one year. It’s for people who show up at my farm who have survived for a year or so after the disaster (everyone else who was unprepared will have died), and these people are just looking for work or a safe place to pitch a tent, park a camper or RV, though many may have arrived much earlier than one year. It’s a manual for people to read to help them decide whether they want to stay with us at the farm and attempt to make a go of a new settlement, all working together for a while with new ideas using old-fashioned methods. It discusses many of the potential problems we’ll be facing, and posits solutions to those same problems in a way not many people have thought about yet. But they now are just being forced to think about these issues because they are coming up against the brick wall of survival stocks dwindling, people really running out of patience and time for the ‘modern’ ways to return to them and save the day, and they are coming to the realization they are really on their own now, not waiting any longer for government to regroup and continue the welfare checks. TEOTWAWKI plus one year (in my opinion) will force hardened survivors into groups as the technological age will finally be dead. People will need guidance to work together in the old ways because no one can do it all. You can if you’re stockpiled, but when the stocks are gone, old-fashioned work must take the place of freeze-dried rations, and there’s still only 24 hours in a very long day.
This manual is my way doing what Norman so eloquently said about long range planning. It gives us a way to think clearly at the end of an unfamiliar road. Even though I can not now foresee every need and problem that may arise one year plus, it gives a planning base to start from, gives someone who may be in panic stage and ready to give up the ship (and who is also now ready to listen to a good argument) a reason for hope by showing a possible solution to a totally unfamiliar and deadly situation. Planning long term has really given me an opportunity to dig deep into anticipated future events and try to solve many problems that even I couldn’t prepare for, short of actually being there first hand myself. I needed a way to help others plan long term past the disaster, since most people failed to plan long term (or even short term) before it. When they read the manual they can see in writing how their lives might be improved for the better, and have a chance to join a long range plan in action to benefit them. Certainly it may fail, but foresight and forethought should help to some extent. That’s planning, and survivors must be good at that or they won’t make it past one year. Keep up the great work. - Mr. Whiskey


Mr. Rawles:
I have just read Norman’s message on SurvivalBlog about Longer Term Survival and, while I think that it would be great that everyone who wants to survive a future calamity be trained to be a do-it-all McGyver Mountainman Special Ops superninja, it just isn’t possible or attainable for most of us. Yes, I’m exaggerating some, but I want to be clear on something: most people (99%) don’t even have a clue that there is a great chance that in their lifetime there will be a life-changing event what we commonly term “TEOTWAWKI”.
But I think we need to give ourselves a bit of credit here. Sure, you can’t expect to buy a couple guns and MREs and think things are going to go your way. And maybe these are the guys that Norman is railing against. Those of us that are concerned about this risk and are willing to do something about it, to put away a little “disaster insurance”, are so far and away ahead of everyone else it’s not funny. People reading this blog are way ahead of most, if they act on some of the valuable suggestions here. People who have put away some supplies and educated themselves are buying time to make more than a few mistakes along the way while they learn how to live like their ancestors. However, let me tell you, my Mormon pioneer ancestors (who, by and large, were townfolk, not farmers), driven out of town by the mobs and the Federal government extermination order, were just as ill-prepared (or more) as I would be trekking across the mountains to Utah in a handcart, and I would have modern weapons, modern medical supplies, modern fabrics, inexpensive modern hand tools, and modern food storage technology to help me get by. Yes, I wouldn’t be able to make any more, but I will have a leg up until I can spend the downtime to learn to make lower tech equivalents. Since the majority of folks are unprepared and will probably perish in a world-changing event, I and many others will be able to live off of the detritus of society for a long, long, long time.
But we still need to weigh the risks with our ability to support our families with a sufficient income. Not everyone can immediately move out into the woods tomorrow and build a homestead. It takes means to do this. There is no free land anymore. You can’t just go out and find some land and tame it (with no tools or equipment or training or means of support), and then use it to support your wife and children. Even if you could, do you want to be a dirt poor chicken farmer? Do you want your children to be robbed of an education to support their families or healthcare to take care of medical emergencies on the possibility of disaster? Don’t you owe it to your family to prepare to find a means to make an income outside of the megaplexes?
So, we need to earn a proper income to pay for the means to get supplies, books, training, land, equipment, shelter, and systems. Some lucky ones are able to do this already in what they think would be an “ideal” location. Not all of us are so lucky. The rest of us must set goals to do what we can to get out of the multimegaplex deathtraps (reducing debt, using home equity to buy a retreat in the boonies, training or changing careers to be able to produce income in the boonies) and educate ourselves by taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge available in books and on the internet and practice on a smaller scale at home what they will need to do if things go haywire.
So, let us review:
  1. Set goals to get out of the big cities and be more self-reliant, while making an income to support your family
  2. Get out of debt
  3. Educate yourself and your family
  4. Get healthy
  5. Act on your dream
This is the best most of us can do. I am doing it today.
Just to make it personal, let me describe my own “eject button” plan:
Six years ago I realized that I must take steps to protect my family in the event of a catastrophe. Over this time, I have slowly educated myself and accumulated supplies to be able to temporarily sustain us during an “event”. The plan at that time was to escape with our supplies to my mom’s rural retreat if things got bad, or, barring that, lean on the fellowship and organization of the church (which is considerable- "strength in numbers") that we belong to bring us through.
Four years ago we moved out of California to be closer to my mom’s place and make a few bucks on selling our home. I used some of that money to put a down payment on our existing house, purchase firearms, some selected survival and camping gear, a good 6 months of food supplies, a trailer, and set aside the rest. Just this summer, we found an ideal retreat location in the mountains on 20 acres in a subdivision of 300 units of 20 acres, with a membership in an association that owns in common the 6,000 acres surrounding the units (to pay for road maintenance, taxes, caretakers, etc), with several amenities, like a 2 week time-share in one of 10 cabins, trout ponds, horses, and, as a side benefit, the place functions as a working cattle ranch for extra income. There are some folks living there full time, but most are out of state. I used the money I set aside to buy in. I don’t have enough money to build on it yet, but will eventually.
Now, this ranch is over six hours away and in a bordering state. It’s a bit too far for effective retreat status. This triggered a search for job opportunities nearby. Consulting with my employer, I recently determined that I could keep my existing job working as an on-call consultant at a slightly diminished wage (really only on the basis that I have significant value to the company due to my expertise and experience, and the fact that due to the recent growth of VPN and VOIP technology, much of my work can be done over the internet now) as long as I have access to low-delay high speed internet and a phone line, as well as proximity to a reasonable sized town. The 20 acre ranch is just too far away, has no power, no internet or phone lines, much less cell coverage. So, we put some money down on 2 1⁄2 acres in a rural area just outside of a small town 45 miles away from a much larger growing larger town, only 2 1⁄2 hours away from the 20 acre ranch retreat. I plan on selling my
home next month and using the equity to pay off debts, balances on our 20 acre retreat and our 2 1⁄2 acre “town” place (which actually cost a little more than our 20 acres) , and more than half the cost of our new home, which I will build myself . My new job situation will allow me the time to build, rather than commuting every day and hoping to squeeze enough time in on the weekend and in the early morning. This will also pay for survivability features which I couldn’t have in town, like a solar power backup, septic system, a solar-pumped well and water catchment/storage system, root cellar and other underground storage, workshop and others.
This will also bring me to having no debt whatsoever in 7-to-10 years as long as I exercise discipline.
This will be my “primary” setup, and “plan B” will be using the experience (and equity) I will gain from building my house to build a cabin on the 20 acre ranch. In the mean time, it will be a nice vacation spot. Before then, should I have to G.O.O.D. to the ranch we can survive on our hauled short-term gear and pre-positioned items until we build a good enough shelter there. I plan on using The $50 and Up Underground Housing Book as my guide ( for that scenario. Nice thing is, the ranch owns a backhoe that I can use for a discounted price.
I have been preparing to do this for a long time, and have been slowly gathering a rather large library of tools and resources for me to use in this endeavor. Now it’s time for me apply what I’ve read about. Wish me luck. - D.

Did you select the HK rifles for northern nations because of cold weather reliability? Also note that my reading of New York state law includes an unenforced ban on receivers of the semi auto rifles banned under federal law in 1994. This includes FALs and AKs but not HKs or CETMEs. Yes I know that there are thousands of AKs and FALS inside N.Y. state, but I believe that they are still banned under N.Y. State law.
[Some commentary for the upcoming Threats survey snipped for later use.] Thanx, -Mr. Yankee

JWR Replies: Yes, I partly recommended HKs for their cold weather reliability. HKs work exceptionally well in very cold weather.  Also, their short stocks, large trigger guards, and ergonomics lend themselves well to use with gloved hands and shooters wearing heavy clothing.   But the main reason I mentioned them was that HKs are popular in those countries, so that would be conducive to finding extra magazines and spare parts.


I agree with the FAL in .308 choice. With, perhaps, this caveat: If you are an adult, without children, the FAL is an excellent weapon choice. The best, in my opinion.  If, however, you are with children, some consideration needs to be given to what rifle can be picked up and used in your absence---temporary or permanent. The AR-15 system in .223 has many advantages. Almost non-existent recoil; lightweight ammo; a platform that can be changed to multiple calibers, .22LR to .458 SOCOM and dozens of others in between. And the changes are quick. For a family rifle I choose the AR-15. Built properly it has been reliable for me. Kids can be taught quickly to use it well, carry it long distances, etc. Killing power has been questioned with the .223.  I have found the caliber deadly on game from squirrels to deer, with proper shot placement and proper bullet choice.  I hope to never be without my FALs. The main rifle of our house though, is the AR-15.  - Straightblast

JWR Replies: We do have one token .223 here at the ranch-- a CAR-15/"M4gery". Everyone here just calls it "The Mouse Gun."  It is primarily a low recoil transitional training gun for our kids. OBTW, I'd never risk hunting 180 pound deer with a .223--nor 180 pound two-legged predators for that matter. I plan to transition all of our kids to .308s (our bolt actions, L1A1s, and .308 Valmet) by the time they turn 16 or 17.


I was reading your web page and your suggestions for the best rifle/calibre for England made me frown a little. I'm in England and I currently own (and keep at home),

Marlin 1894 .44 magnum lever action
Ruger 10/22 .22 with silencer
CZ 452 .22 with silencer
Lee Enfield No4 .303
Beretta 0/U 12 gauge shotgun
Euroarms .44 cap & ball revolver
BSA air-rifle with silencer

On my shopping list for next year will be another couple of shotguns - probably a pump action and a silenced single barrel shotgun. Anyone who isn't a felon and isn't mentally ill can legally own and shoot firearms in the UK - it just takes a bit of time/money/effort. One nice thing about shooting here is that silencers are not considered anything special. They are the norm for hunting - you would be considered odd if you didn't use one. They are also increasingly accepted for target shooting to reduce the noise pollution and potential hearing damage. Regards, - Adam.

JWR Replies: I'm glad to hear that you were able to negotiate all of the "flame filled hoops" to get your firearms paperwork approved.  Sadly, most of your countrymen have been effectively disarmed. And things are probably only going to get worse.  (Hence, my suggestion that you take the gap.)  Consider the fact that as a licensed centerfire cartridge firearm owner, you probably represent far less than 5% of the population in the U.K. As a small minority, your prospects for 10 to 20 years down the road are not promising. At the very least I expect that there will be demands that apart for someone that lives on more than 5 or 10 acres that firearms be kept in vaults at shooting clubs. The handwriting is on the wall.


Hi Jim,
Interesting observations concerning the never ending discussion about this - here are some points to consider from a guy that's currently in Kalifornia:
"United States (Except California): L1A1 or FN/FAL in 7.62mm NATO California: FN-49 .308 Argentine Variant (in 7.62mm NATO with 20 round detachable magazines)--most other effective semi-autos rifles are banned " The Argy FN-49s that I've seen are overpriced, and in bad shape. I primarily see them in gun shows - last one I spotted was $850, which doesn't seem too unusual around here, and that specimen was most definitely in "used" condition. Mag prices are up there too. If they were in better condition, and mags were cheaper, they'd be something I'd consider. So as the laws stand, my choice, as a Kali resident, is the FAL in the neutered configuration. 10 rd mag, (removable only with a tool), stripper clip top cover, approved muzzle brake, and the usual number of 922r compliance parts. If I ever make it back to the free states side, the magazine modification will take a couple of minutes to remove (it's just a modified original mag release lever) and presto, we're back in 20 rd detachable mag territory. The usual choices between metric and inch, etc don't really enter into the equation for us here - that's personal preference. My recommendation for folks that are serious about this is to build your own rifle - there's plenty of information out there, the FAL system is very simple, and by the time you're done you'll be able to gunsmith your own rifle easily, if anything should break in the future. There are enough non-FN domestic and imported receivers out there, parts kits are all over the place, and FAL accessories are everywhere too. Who knows? Maybe you'll pick up another hobby!  Regards, -G.T.

"By calling attention to 'a well regulated militia', the 'security' of the nation, and the right of each citizen 'to keep and bear arms', our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the  defense of his country. For that reason, I believe the Second Amendment will  always be important."  - John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Today we present another article from Rourke, one of our prolific SurvivalBlog contributors. (He is also the organizer/editor of Yahoo's Survival Retreat and Secure Home Forum.)  We are grateful to Rourke for sharing his knowledge and insights.

I've been touting the advantages of E85 Ethanol-compatible "flexible fuel" vehicles for many months. I recently put my money where my mouth is, and bought a flexible fuel 2003 Ford Explorer 4WD for us here at the ranch. The Explorer replaced our not-so-gracefully aging 1989 Suburban. (It had 205,000 miles on the clock, lots of non-functional subsystems, and it was starting to lose compression on the grades.)

Assuming that you buy a Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV), where do you find fuel? If you live in Brazil or Sweden, no sweat. E85 is found at the majority of gas stations. But here in the States, E85 is just starting to catch on. (In 10 years it is anticipated that the majority of vehicles sold in the U.S. will be built to burn it, but for now, the ethanol distribution infrastructure is spotty.) Here are two different web sites that it will help you find E85:  and

Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa have the highest concentrations of gas stations with an E85 pump, but Colorado is catching up quickly. For those of you with no E85 station nearby, don't despair. Odds are that there will be within the next few years. 

If you want to store E85 (85% ethanol) at your retreat, remember that it is best to buy your storage fuel in mid-winter, when stations will have a the winter blend variety in their tanks. (The winter blend is actually 70% ethanol and 30% gasoline ("E70"), whereas the summer blend is an 85/15 mix.) The winter blend is designed to prevent hard starting during very cold weather. (And the gasoline itself in the E85 blend will be a winter blend, with more butane--again to help with cold weather starting.)

E70 has a longer storage life than E85. Be absolutely certain that your storage tanks are well sealed to prevent the fuel drawing moisture. Ethanol has a strong affinity for moisture ("hygroscopic"), and once it has been contaminated by water, it will make engines run rough and cause excessive mechanical wear, particularly when engines are warming up.

How can you best avoid being caught in the egress gridlock of sheeple? The best answer to that problem is having the critical information first, allowing you to bug out prior to everyone else. If you are ready to go, or ready to do what you need to do, a few hours or even minutes may be all the edge you need.
The information age is becoming the instant information age, but the problem becomes filtering out what you don’t want (too much information, then again you can just watch major media and let them filter out what they don’t want you to see). New advances in web search tools in conjunction with email alert systems seem to be the way of the future, and for many types of useful information, are here now. The original concept of alert systems in nothing new. Remember those several weather alert radio cubes from Radio Shack in the 1970s? Even back in the late 1980s surfers in California could pay for a service that would page their phone pagers (this is before practical cell phones even) and alert them that in their area, surf’s up!
Listed below are several things you can do with email and web access for free. You critical problem is, how many hours a day or night are you away from your emails. You don’t want to log on in the morning to see a seven hour old alert you needed. The best 24/7 solution seems to be the ever present cell phone, especially if you could use an always-on distinctive ring for selected emergency incoming text or email messages/warnings. Clearly your cell phone is going to be your email link, your PDA, your MP3, personal important data, and your personal phone number that stays with you for life. So with the means to know or shortly alert yourself of danger, the final issue seems to be that there really is not a 24/7 alert system that goes beyond the mere public information sources I list below. This I believe is an open area, so I therefore offer this concept to the readers of SurvivalBlog and the results of some polling I have done on it.

Image a Survivalist paging system that on a 24/7 basis monitors serious threats regionally (where you were), and if something of a certain level of significance (risk level) came up suddenly, people in that area are immediately alerted by their cell phone (as well as email). In a fictional work I am presently writing, I pursue this concept with a 2009 example of just such a service. This service monitors everything below, international news wires, ham radio communications, certain police and fire bands, and as any professional investigator will tell you, has some inside sources in high places as well as thousands of cooperative people ready to give tips if they hear something. Most notices are sent by e-mail, but in that urgent moment, the customer’s cell phone is paged with a text message describing the warning which overrides the no ringer function. A Confidence Factor Index (CFI) is given with it, in the form of a percentage (1 to 100) of how sure the service administrator is as to the veracity of the information, based on an established set of criteria. Note that we live in a "gray" world [with nothing 100% black or white], and thus 100% certainty is not possible until after official, after-the-fact confirmation, and even then there may be doubt. Based on some polling that I did, I set the fee at $1 per month for that service (the service does other things too). A real service would have to figure the elasticity of demand on this versus how few would want it. The survival community is small and stingy, but the one buck per month seemed to be what a lot of people could part with, for a service that could of course, save your life by giving you the edge. Obviously in the story, it does, or at least helps quite a bit. Again, aspects of this idea are already up in a running in the general news service world.

Here is an example of a progressive news service that is already set up for wireless, especially if your cell phone is also your PDA: Meanwhile, the NOAA also has a new weather center for cell phones. See:

Listed below are some free Internet services you can use now. Enjoy these, and please e-mail mention of any additional ones that you find to SurvivalBlog.

Alerts to your email you can set for free now:
Terrorist Alerts
News Alerts by CNN, you can control why area of news:
News or Web alerts using your own key words:   (try doing “Bird Flu”, you won’t believe how many you get each day)
Severe Weather Alerts:
Weather, Alerts for your area: (or find a station in your local area, this is an example)
Earthquakes in your area:
Conditions in Space:

Examples of things that you can monitor on original source web sites:
Current National Weather Information:
National Weather Radar:
Earthquakes -
The Jet Stream: (where is fall out going)
Near Earth Object Program: (Asteroid/Comet Watch)
Space Weather:
World Tsunami, Volcano, Earth quakes:

As an example of real time video cameras you can log into:
Volcano camera on Mount. St. Helens
If you wish to look to the government for help (actually this is some good stuff):
Homeland Security:
FEMA's web site:
White House page:
US Dept. of Defense:
Centers for Disease Control: (Be sure to check for your local, county, municipal, and state sites too)

Some Nuclear sites:
Nuclear Targets from Bruce Beach: (Newcomers to Survivalism should be aware of this classic site)
Nuclear Power Plants and current operational status in USA:

Having access to critical and timely information and alerts, as well as looking ahead and staying aware can give you the edge to be one of few, the proud--not one of the many, the crowd. - Rourke  (

JWR Adds: I think that Rourke's idea has some merit.  The crowds of grossly under-prepared refugees clogging the highways, attempting to escape Houston as Hurricane Rita approached were a prime example. Traffic was backed up for 8+ hours and many cars ran out of gas. This incident was ample evidence that a few hours extra notice could very well make a big difference in Getting Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) successfully. In a nuke scenario, the highways near a blast will probably look like a parking lot in short order--due to EMP effects and/or cars running out of gas, leaving many folks stranded on foot.

OBTW, I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I am NOT an advocate of living in a city or suburb and counting on the ability to G.O.O.D. at the 11th hour! If you must live in the Dirty Big City, then at least show the foresight to pre-position 90% of your logistics at your retreat. Odds are that you will only have one trip Outta Dodge! It would be a shame to have to leave most of your gear at home!

Dear Jim,
For once and for all, which rifle and caliber is the best for the end of days? Let the discussion begin.
Sincerely, - 2Knives

JWR Replies:  I'll open the discussion with these oh-so subjective suggestions (YMMV):

  • United States (Except California): L1A1 or FN/FAL in 7.62mm NATO
  • California: FN-49 .308 Argentine Variant (in 7.62mm NATO with 20 round detachable magazines)--most other effective semi-autos rifles are banned
  • Central America (except Mexico)/South America/Anywhere in Africa/Oceania: FN/FAL in 7.62mm NATO
  • Philippines: M14E2, in 7.62mm NATO, selective fire. Why selective fire? Just because you can.
  • Canada: M1 Garand in .30-06.  (Thankfully exempted from their draconian "assault weapon" confiscation law.)
  • Australia:  SMLE bolt action in .303 or an Ishapore 1A bolt action in 7.62mm NATO (Sadly, virtually all semi-autos are banned in Oz.) 
  • France, Mexico, or other countries with "military caliber" restrictions:  M1A chambered in .243 Winchester. (Yes, they can be special ordered or re-barreled that way.) If semi-autos are outlawed, then get a Steyr Scout bolt action in .243
  • Sweden, Norway, Iceland, or Greenland: HK G3 or HK91 in 7.62mm NATO
  • Finland: Valmet M76, 7.62mm NATO
  • Switzerland: PE-57 in 7.5mm Swiss
  • Former Soviet Bloc Countries or elsewhere in Asia where guns are allowed:  Dragunov in 7.62 x 54R
  • Germany, Austria, and the Low Countries: Steyr Scout bolt action in .308 or perhaps .243
  • England: High power air rifle in the largest caliber obtainable, or perhaps a crossbow and/or a flare gun.  (If those haven't been banned yet.) Hint: Time to emigrate to a free country!

I'd appreciate hearing opposing views (or legal clarifications), from folks in any of the countries cited. 

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have become increasing concerned that many survivalists do not take longer term survival seriously and in many case appear to give it no consideration at all. They seem to be more concerned with stocking their retreats and being able to hold out against all until things return to normal.
The majority of what has been written about survival originates from the USA but there is literally none of this information that considers the longer term. By longer term I mean after surviving the initial disaster, whatever the cause. I am also talking about an event that completely rules out the possibility of a return to the way we are now and something that affects a significant section of the world’s population.
To simply survive would be to revert to a state of savagery genuine survivalists must avoid. The rational idea of survival is to make the transition from our civilisation to the next with as much benefit to one’s self and posterity as preparation can insure. It should also be to ensure that future generations do not just exist but have as reasonable quality of live as possible.
Whilst we should preserve as much of the modern technology as we can we must remember that if an item uses more energy than our home power plant can supply, or more importantly, if it will require replacement parts later on, forget it. This does not mean that we should not use all that we may have at our disposal, even if for only a short time. Use it wisely and use it to get us to a future without it. May be that future will be a little better with our planning and forethought.
When a civilization goes splat, the technologies that supported it tend to go with it. This is particularly true of systems that are based on highly interdependent technologies such as ours today. We are the generation that landed a man on the moon and yet we will not have the skill to make an iron spear head. Our reliance on technology has robbed us of the simplest, most basic skills. We have to look ahead to the time when we do not have the convenience of modern civilisation. There's no doubt in my mind that when the crunch comes we're going to regress very quickly.
Much that has been written on survival is useful into the long term but much of that written also assumes that things will get back to normal. Survivalists seem loath to discuss or even contemplate that things will not ‘get back to normal’.
The real survivors will be the ones who come through what will follow the collapse. Those of us who come through and there may not be many of us, will be left to face the aftermath and it will be more terrible than we can imagine.
You got to your well-stocked retreat replete with manuals, plans and procedures, and you survived. Now, what are you going to do?
This is not a moot question; this should be the true objective of your preparedness efforts. One must prepare for the "afterward" as thoughtfully and thoroughly as preparing for survival.
This is where you must also assess your post-survival requirements so that you and your family can not only survive but also prosper. This effort will also impact all the goodies you can buy and the skills and knowledge you need. It may also affect how you plan your short term survival. It will also have a very definite effect on future generations.
As an example, you have a wood stove for heating your retreat. If there is no source of gasoline and oil, how are you going to cut the firewood you need? Ever use an axe and bow saw to cut a season's worth of firewood?
What about food when the "Year's Food Supply" is gone? What about your water supply? Your assessment must provide for the recommended skills, plans, procedures, equipment, and spare parts to these and a host of other "afterward" issues and questions. And where are is all this going to come from?
To do this properly requires a well thought out approach and process that leads to an integrated preparedness plan with the specific objective of surviving and prospering afterwards.
There is a lot of information available on various parts of the preparedness equation but it must be integrated into the whole equation of your preparedness based on the threats with the prime objective of living well beyond bad times.
Too many today who call themselves survivalists look no further than preparing to get through the initial stages of any crisis. In most cases this may well be sufficient. But is it a question of the misplaced faith and expectations that are commonly placed on technology. One problem with placing too much faith in technology is that nature will always provide an event greater than the specified design criteria, at some point in the future. That "some time" could be tomorrow. Another problem with technology is that it sometimes fails-after all, it is designed by human beings and mistakes can be made in design, materials, or construction or even in the operation of any system by those same human beings.
Is it not time that survivalist discussed more concerning longer term survival rather than concentrating on short term subjects that although valid and needed to help get us into the longer term are themselves going to be of no use once we reach the long term. Yours truly, - Norman.

The Memsahib and I have nearly finished watching the late-great science fiction TV series Firefly, on DVD. I must say that it is some of the best television that we've seen in years. Parenthetically, I should mention that we don't even own a television. We just watch movies on DVD on our computers--we have three Macintosh computers at the Rawles Ranch. The folks over at The Claire Files were positively raving about Joss Whedon's Firefly, so we took the plunge and bought the entire series on DVD at The series is set in colonized/terraformed outer space, sans aliens, a few centuries hence, shortly after a civil war. (The good guys lost.) It is sort of a cross between George Lucas's Star Wars and John Ford's Stagecoach. We soon understood why folks were so profuse in their praise for the series: Great acting, imaginative storylines, above average special effects, and some very quirky music and cinemaphotography. The series is subtly pro-firearms ownership, and overtly pro-self reliance and pro-Libertarian. It is too bad that the TV studio executives never understood the series, and axed it before the first season had been completed. OBTW, Firefly is definitely not suitable for children to watch. There is way too much gunfire and minor surgery...


With a web search I found a reference to SurvivalBlog at an interesting web site: Check it out.


Today marks the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere.The days start getting longer tomorrow! Those of you that are serious gardeners are probably already looking at your seed catalogs.


The Memsahib is presently writing her magnum opus on the nascent National Animal Identification System (NAIS).  She generally shies away from politics, but this issue really got her blood boiling.  If any of you have any insider info on NAIS, please forward it to the Memsahib via e-mail, so that she can include it in her forthcoming article.

"... Mr. Clinton, sir, America didn't trust you with our health-care system. America didn't trust you with gays in the military. America doesn't trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don't trust you with our guns." - Charlton Heston, in a June 6, 1998 speech at a NRA Convention

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I heard from a reader that he found our scrolling advertising distracting. Sorry, but when I started the blog my two alternatives were paid subscriptions or paid advertising.  I chose the latter, which has made SurvivalBlog available to an unlimited number of readers, free of charge. We now have 17 advertisers, which requires ads that scroll so that they all come into view.  If you'd like the scrolling function to pause while you are reading an article, just position your cursor arrow over any of the ads.

OBTW, when you patronize any of our advertisers, please be sure to mention where you saw their ad. And if you know of anyone that sells preparedness related products or services, please ask them to advertise on SurvivalBlog. We need more advertisers to make this level of effort worthwhile. Thanks!

As an Army officer, I learned that in order to be effective, and army must have three key abilities: To move, shoot, and communicate. Take away any one, and you are ineffective. But if you get all three right, and you can absolutely devastate an opponent--even one that has superior numbers. The same principles apply to defending a survival retreat in a TEOTWAWKI situation. In the context of a static retreat position, movement is not as crucial, but don't overlook the need to conduct commerce, and even the need to move between retreat buildings safely. And in an absolute worst case, consider the potential need to vacate your retreat in a hurry.  Always have a "Plan B"!

As for the other two factors:  If your correspondence has been any indicator, I'd say that most of you have the capability to shoot well in hand!  ;-) But be sure to consider:

1.)  Engagement at all ranges within line of sight.

2.)  Engagement at night. See my previous posts on tritium sights, tritium-lit reticule scopes, and Starlight Night Vision gear. Also consider getting some military surplus trip flares. (Unfortunately these are scarce an expensive, but they have a very long shelf life.) There is also a nifty gizmo made for chemical light sticks that works much like a trip flare: It is a metal light stick holder that can be nailed to a tree or a fence post. It has a spring-loaded mechanism that flexes a five minute duration ultra-bright light activate it. Clever! Here is something something even more clever that was mentioned to me by a friend who was recently in the Special Forces:  Use infrared chem lights, and the bad guys won't even know that they've illuminated themselves. ("I pity da fools!")   (To explain: Infrared light sticks throw off a glow that can be seen only through starlight night vision goggles or a starlight rifle scope.)  The chemlite trip flare gizmos are available from several mail orders dealers including Nitro-Pak, Spruce Mountain Surplus, and a gent on Craig's List (I haven't done business with the latter two.) Just keep in mind that because of their relatively short shelf life, your stock of chemical light sticks should be kept refrigerated and rotated once every two years!

3.) Taking game without making noise. Consider snares, traps, and archery.  See the Buckshot's Camp website ( to learn about trapping and snaring. Buckshot has some incredibly educational DVDs.)

Now on to communications:

1.)  Plan for communications with your neighbors to coordinate security.  Obviously the phone systems will be down (both land line and cellular) When The Schumer Hits The Fan (WTSHTF) and the utility power goes out.  Most telephone company offices have large backup banks of "floating" batteries, but don't depend on the phones to work for more than a few days after the onset of a long term power failure.

By now, you should have at least three or four military surplus hard wire field telephones (such as the venerable TA-1 or TA-312) and plenty of commo wire. Those are available from a number of vendors including Ready Made Resources (one of our advertisers) and Fair Radio Sales. Both of these companies are very reputable. Remember that if you use FRS, GMRS, CB, 2-Meter, or any other radio-based communications system that you should consider it non-secure (vulnerable to interception). Also be advised that most of these bands have line-of-sight limitations. 

The capability for really long range communications (such as HF transceivers) may be a huge morale booster in the event of TEOTWAWKI.  Odds are that you will have relatives living at the other end of the continent, or perhaps even overseas.  Being able to relay messages back and forth to them will be very reassuring. WTSHTF that sort of reassurance will be crucial to keeping everyone at your retreat sane.

I'm curious to know what you think are the three most likely threats that we face?  Pick and choose from the list below--or perhaps you recognize a threat that isn't on the list.

Please e-mail me your top three, in order of likelihood. I plan to summarize the results of the survey in about a week. Special thanks to SurvivalBlog reader that prefers to be anonymous who provided the list below.

Natural Disasters on Earth
Short Term and Regional
-Severe Storms
-Tsunami/Tidal Waves
-Fires - Forest/Brush
-Drought (Dust Bowl)
-Animal caused famine (i.e. locusts)
-Microbe caused disease (i.e. malaria)
Long Term / Climate Change
-Global Warming
-Ice Caps Melting, Oceans rising
-Ozone Loss/UV Damage
-Gulf stream changes, climate shift
-Global Cooling/Ice Age
-Global Pole Shift
-Super storms (likes of which never seen in modern times)
Disease, Plague, Pandemics coming from nature
Asteroid or Comet Impact
Solar Flares/Coronal Ejections
Alien Invasion – non-intelligent (Andromeda Strain, virus, bacteria)
Alien Invasion – intelligent life (War of the Worlds Scenario)
Religious End of the World (Anti-Christ, Second Coming, etc.)

Man-made Accidental Disasters
-Nuclear Reactor Disaster
-Chemical Disaster
-Biological Disaster
-Global warming as shown above if cause in part or whole by mankind
-Genetic Engineering gone wrong – GMO fears
-Nanobots gone wrong – the gray goo, replicant, or the Blob scenario
Wars or acts of Terrorism
-Nuclear weapons
-Biological Weapons (smallpox, anthrax, ricin, etc.)
-Chemical Weapons (nerve gas, mustard gas etc.)
-Conventional explosives/weapons
Economic Collapse – all versions thereof, breakdowns for any reason, depression
Social or Government Collapse/Revolution
GLAZIS – World socialism or World Government take over

I enjoy your blog and its part of my daily reading. I have a 2004 GMC Yukon XL that is a flexible fuel vehicle. We recently had a station start selling E85. This last fill up was at $1.66 per gallon versus the $2.08 of unleaded. Nice savings even with the station being a little out of the way. You can go to several of the ethanol web sites and many have complete list of vehicles that can handle E85. Keep up the good work and Merry Christmas. - "SEMO"

I've listened to your advice and digested what you've written over a number of years now. You are a confirmed Model 1911 [.45 ACP] individual. (Gee, ya think?) At any rate, I thought I'd pass along what locked me into .45 ACP 1911s and the results. I know, I should start this out with "Now this is no sh*t", since it's a war story from Vietnam.
I had been supporting an A team, [of the] 5th SF Group for 8 months or so. The guys took pity on the poor pilot and would occasionally take me out on a patrol with them. (What a hoot!) Anyway, we were doing a trail ambush and when it triggered, this huge NVA comes charging across the clearing straight at me and totally charged up on some fun drug. Using my favorite Swedish K [Karl Gustaf M45 9mm Parabellum SMG] , I hit this guy with 29 rounds center chest of aimed fire and he didn't even slow down. The "old guy" Team sergeant (my Nanny) hip-butted me out of the way and dropped the NVA with three rounds from a M1911 [.45 ACP] center chest and, I swear, it stopped the guy dead in his tracks and laid him down backwards. That [Swedish K] was the last 9mm I ever carried out of CONUS. While I was in southeastern Mexico working with the group stopping the Cuban insurgency, I acquired my Detonics Mark VI .45 and have carried it ever since. Now I carry a pair [of them] and they are still my only handguns without Tritium [sights]. I just don't trust any gunsmith not to screw up my slides. Just won't. While in Brazil and Chile, my Detonics reliably did what the SF team sergeant's 1911 did in RVN .... more than a few times. I like 9mm but work is work and remember, SAS does carry Uzi's ... but, little known fact, they are chambered in .45 ACP, just like the Secret Service's. Actually, I prefer Mitch Werbell's M10 and M-11. Regards and enjoy the snow. Want some more? I'll send ours south. :-) - The Army Aviator

"King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman: Well I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman: Well how'd you become king then?
[Angelic music plays... ]
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony." - Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Monday, December 19, 2005

We woke up to a foot of fresh snow this morning.  It is nice knowing that we have a well-stocked house and a couple of fully snow-capable four wheel drive rigs. Our kids had great fun sledding. But I'm not looking forward to the toboggan run down the mountain tomorrow morning.  I commute to a "real job" as a technical writer five days a week.


How to Find Ethanol Compatible Vehicles (SAs: Alternate Fuels Ethanol, Survival Vehicles, 4WDs, SUVs, E85)

I recently had a SurvivalBlog reader contact me, bemoaning the fact that he was unable to find a 4WD pickup or SUV that could run on an E85 ethanol blend at any of the car dealerships in his area. He told me: "I've called them all and had no luck. They say that those are really rare."  He offered to pay me a consulting fee to help find him one. I told him that consulting wasn't necessary. I just referred him back to the ethanol articles in the SurvivalBlog Archives, and I mentioned that he should do a search at, (, click on the "Alternative fuel" check box in their Used Cars search window, and select a 200 miles radius for the search. The reader e-mailed me again just an hour later to thank me and to report: "Success!'. There were lots of listings, mostly in the nearby metropolitan region. He said that he planned to buy a flexible fuel 2003 Ford Explorer with a tow package. "And it's even olive drab!"

To reiterate from some of my previous posts on the subject, here is a little background information on finding a comparable vehicle: 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 a 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.)

Your average car salesman is not well educated about ethanol-compatible vehicles. So if you ask about them the right question in the wrong way, you are likely to get a negative answer or dumb looks. If you ask about a "E85-compatible", or "ethanol-compatible", or "alternative fuel", they might be stumped. You should ask if they have any "flexible fuel" vehicles in their inventory. (A few years back, the different American car makers use a variety of terminology, but more recently that have reached a general consensus to call them "flexible fuel vehicles" or FFVs.)

I'm confident that E85 compatible rigs will become more commonplace in the next few years, once Detroit's engineers get some common sense in Post-Katrina/Post-fuel price shock America. For survival use, the ones that look the most promising to me are:

  • 2005-2006 GMC/Chevrolet Suburbans, Tahoes, Yukons, and 2500HD Pickups with 5.3 liter Vortec engines.
  • 2003 and 2004 Ford Explorers with 4.0 liter 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, they are reasonably priced. More importantly, Caravans get 21+ MPG, which is important these days.)

Not all of the above mentioned models are FFV. 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. As a visual indicator when you visit dealer lots: Some vehicles have a special sticker inside the gas cap door, indicating that they are E85 compatible.

Electricity 101:
Electricity is fundamental to our first world every day life. We know electricity mostly in one of two forms in the home, from the wall, and in a battery. The electricity that comes out of the wall is high voltage (~110-120 volts [JWR adds: alternating current (AC), in North America--except Mexico, which uses a more macho 127  volts] AC), relatively low amperage, and alternating current. The electricity that is stored in batteries comes in a variety of voltages and amperages but is always direct current (DC). Size AA batteries are 1.5 volts, along with most other battery types, with the notable exceptions of 9 volt and your car’s 12 volt. Batteries can be split into two categories and many subcategories, but all will either be single use, or rechargeable, with the difference being the chemistry of the battery. Since the topic of my essay is alternate power, I am going to concentrate on rechargeable battery banks, and the generation of electricity.

Batteries 101:
Rechargeable battery banks or “house” banks are collections of batteries that can be charged and discharged as a group to lengthen battery life. Most modern battery banks are lead acid batteries, although there are various types. Deep cycle batteries are different from the lead acid battery in your car. The difference is the thickness of the lead plates in the battery. As a battery discharges, the lead plates become dissolved in the acid solution, and when it is recharged the lead plates reabsorb the lead in solution (not quite but close enough). If there the battery becomes too discharged, or is discharged too deeply too often, the lead plates become worn enough that they can’t reabsorb the lead onto the much depleted plate, and the battery needs to be replaced. This is why your car battery dies eventually, especially after a long period of disuse where it is slowly self-discharging, or after it becomes too deeply drained. Deep cycle batteries are less affected by those abuses because of their thicker plates, but they will eventually be destroyed by the same process as their chemistry is the same. Although the advantage that car batteries has is by having a greater number of thinner plates their cranking amps, or amps available all at once, is much higher. By linking many batteries together, the same amount of power drawn total is split more ways and is less per battery, which translates to a longer life for all of the batteries. Since all batteries are DC, you need a device called an inverter to change DC into AC, which is what most plug-in [household current] devices use.

Advantages of off-grid power:
Off grid power is power generated off of the electrical grid. The electrical grid is the power we get through the walls, and the power that is lost for a few days, weeks or months following a natural disaster. Off-grid power is power you generate so that if following a natural disaster or black out, or just if you are in the boonies, you still have power. There can be a mix of the two, so in case of emergency, or just for small amounts of power generation, you can have an inter-tied system in which you can have most of your power or regular use power from a utility company. Off-grid power’s primary advantage is if the grid goes down permanently or electricity becomes very expensive you can still generate your own. Charge Controllers let you put the optimal charging voltage into your battery bank. For optimal battery life, varying voltages should be used during the different phases in the recharge cycle. For all parts of the cycle you need more than 12 volts in the case of a 12 volt batter to recharge your battery, and the amount more will vary based on the type of battery you use.

PV Panels:
Photovoltaic ("PV") panels generate power from the sun. They generate DC voltage at small amperage, but they are very low maintenance; they are mounted on racks, and these racks can be connected to [passive or clock drive] trackers. This system lets you control the wiring, and trackers let the panel’s track the sun, as the sun travels across the sky, the angle at which the panel would optimally face changes. So to let the panels track the sun, you need a rack on a tracker. This increases the amount of sun hitting the panels, and thus the amount of electricity generated. [JWR adds: Unless you live in a equatorial region, you will also want to seasonally adjust the angle of your PV panel rack, to roughly match the sun's path above the horizon.]

Living with an Alternate Power System:
This can be a tricky thing, since we waste a lot of power every day. Phantom loads, or power used by devices that are not in use is a big contributor. TVs, VCRs and many other devices draw a substantial amount of power even when off, because they are in a state where they can be turned on right away, and draw power. Similar to when a car is idle, it might not be moving but the engine is on, and the car is using gas, just so it can move right away. Other things to avoid are incandescent lights, which draw several times what their fluorescent equivalents draw. Cooking and heating with electricity is also a big draw, microwaves, toasters, ovens, and space heaters are big electricity hogs with easy alternatives. Refrigeration is also a big draw, but there isn’t really an easy equivalent. There are other forms of preservation, but there is no substitute for refrigeration. [JWR adds:  Propane refrigerators are still made. Odds are that you can "size" your PV system much smaller if you use a propane refrigerator.] Most forms of electronic recreation can also be big draws, most notably the computer, followed by the television, and on to stereos.

Merry Christmas All,
As 2005 draws to a close, I look back and ask myself "Am I better prepared than I was at this time last year?"
Quite honestly, a lot of what I accomplished was attributable to "". A fine bunch of folks who trade practical information. Anyway, here's what I did/added during 2005:

1. Installed a wood burning stove in the house.

2. Insulated and dry walled the outbuilding which functions as reloading area, ammunition storage and shop. A separate room within a room provides climate controlled food storage area. (8 below zero this morning outdoors, but in the pantry, a balmy 45.)

3. Installed wood/coal stove to provide backup heat to the outbuilding and pantry.

4. Installed 500 gallon propane tank and 100 gallon diesel fuel tank as emergency fuel storage.

5. Added 500 rounds of 12 gauge buckshot to the ammo storage. (Got a good deal on Hornady Light Magnum.).

6. Put a semi load of logs in the field for firewood. That is a good 2 or 3 years worth, even when used as primary source of heat.

7. Added some silver to the "silver supply".

8. Found some Merino wool pullovers on eBay at a heck of a price. Bought a dozen in mixed sizes.

9. Put two cases of canned butter in the spare freezer.

10. Added a case of WW2 surplus bore cleaner, two dozen German military magazine carriers, a dozen German military G3 cleaning kits, a case of MRE heaters and a few pints of cheap booze to my bartering area.

11. Rotated the flour by donating six 25-pound bags to senior citizen center and replacing them at COSTCO.

12. Adopted a Blue Heeler named "Baxter" who is one heck of a watchdog.

13. Bought a spare pair of Meindl cold-weather hunting boots.

Now that looks like a pretty expensive year, but I traded and bartered for a lot of it. I bought one stove from an outfit that was getting out of the stove business. The other I salvaged from a house that was being demolished. I have a brother who is a HVAC contractor and I traded him an elk hunt for the stove installations, dry walling, etc..

Now for 2006...

My biggest project for 2006 will be replacing the stove in the outbuilding with a coal burner. Reason? They just re-opened a little "Mom and Pop? coal mine 20 miles from here and they get $35 a ton. I'm studying for my "Ham" license and hope to get that done. Give my son the rest of the Buffalo meat in the freezer and order another whole Buffalo. (Cut, double-wrapped and frozen for $1.99 a pound)... average about 400 pounds of meat. Get Lasik eye surgery. Lose another 10 pounds. Donate more to the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Write my elected "representatives" about the direction the country is headed. Buy American. Remember the words of Thomas Paine: "It is the duty of the Patriot to protect his country from its government."  Regards, - Hawgtax

I have been thinking about my 401(k) money that I can't get to till I am 59-1/2. I have done some homework on it, and here is what I have found out. Our Federal Government has confiscated the gold eight times in the past. When they do, they pay face value. Double Eagles are $20.00, that's it. Talk about taking it in the neck! There is a way to put gold into an account, where it is stored for $100.00 per year, in the owner's name, but it seems one cannot get [numismatic] pre-1933 gold coins (which are non-confiscatable) put away in this manner. I am wondering if any of your readers might know of any coins that can be stored this way that are not subject to confiscation?
The places I have talked to are Lear Financial, and Midas Resources. They both put the gold physically in a vault somewhere in Delaware. Supposedly the largest vault in the US.
If I pull my money out of the account before I am 59.5 years old, I end up losing almost 50% to taxes and penalties. Maybe 50% is better than potentially nothing? Then I could invest in numismatics, or silver, neither of which are subject to confiscation, for all I know. -  Sid, Near Niagara Falls

JWR Replies: There is no sure way to avoid confiscation if your gold is held by any banking institution. The politicians might even get grabby with numismatics.  I have a gold self-directed IRA vault account with . They hold a small quantity of Gold Eagles in my name.  I'm a big believer in investing in tangibles. I do have an IRA, but since 1999 it has been a self-directed gold coin IRA with American Church Trust. The folks at Swiss America can help you set one up. Under some circumstances a 401(k) can be rolled over into an IRA. You might consider that. Parenthetically, I should mention that I'm 45 years old. The pessimist in me says that there is no 100% guarantee of ever cashing out my gold IRA. So I'll never increase the size of that account to any a substantial percentage of my net worth.  I believe in tangibles, in hand!

I recommend that you consider any IRA and/or 401(k) strictly a "maybe." At least the dollar units that they are denominated in is a maybe, so that makes the whole proposition a maybe. The majority of your gold and silver should be kept at home, very well hidden  Do not trust safe deposit boxes. You never know when some "emergency" will be declared. If that were to happen, then the only way that you'll ever get back into you safe deposit box is in the presence of taxing officials and their armed minions. That is the way that modern government works, all over the world: wormy little bean counters with clipboards, and big dumb oafs with guns to back them up. Call me paranoid, but I understand both human nature and the nature of government.

Hi Mr. Rawles,
I saw your posts today on the HK91s. I’m not sure if you are aware but there is now a new “clone” by JLD Enterprises. The PTR-91. These are made on HK tooling but with modern CNC processes. These are very affordable, under $1000 through many dealers online. They fix some of the original problems of the HK91, though you will still want a trigger job, and a mag paddle release. One of the main differences between the PTR-91 and HK 91 is the barrel. The PTR-91 does not have a hammer forged barrel, rather a heavy target barrel. One of the leading members of JLD was formerly employed by HK. The rear site is also much improved and the rifle comes with a shoulder pad, and the no-ban guns come with a flash hider.

If your readers are interested in a PTR-91 they should make sure the serial number starts with an A denoting that JLD produced the rifle. If the serial number begins with a B it denotes that the receiver was purchased for assembly by some other company and the rifle is not made by JLD which is superior in quality.

Most importantly you get a very accurate rifle with the HK91's utter reliability at a very reasonable price. And right now the magazines are extremely affordable. Tapco has [a quantity deal on] 50 [used  20 round alloy] magazines for $50. - Jennie Sequa

JWR Replies:  I am familiar with PTR-91s.  I've seen them at gun shows but I've never fired one. OBTW, I am dubious about them being made with original HK tooling, for two reasons: First, I have read that their receiver dimensions do not match the original HK. Second, I've read that the front of their magazine wells have a different geometry that the original HK, making it difficult to quickly change magazines.

Jim -
I have to pick a small bone with you on your response regarding what ways to trick out your 1911. During a special symposium at Gunsight with 11of 12 shooters being prior service and/or law enforcement, 10-15% of all rounds in the targets hit the hand/pistol of the bad guy - seems there is a mechanical slaving of where the eye focuses and where you hit the target in some cases (the eyes and weapons system are calibrated to hit what is sighted--sort of like a chin turret on an Apache or Cobra)

Why on earth would you think that your right hand will always be happy/healthy/functional in a fight? ALL 1911s should have an ambidextrous safety in case of injury, or equipping a southpaw on your team. Combat Tupperware [Glocks with no manual safety lever] has this taken care of.

Slide releases are not to be used according to my instructors (Clint Smith, Pat Rogers, Louis Awerbuck). Rather, you reach over the top of the slide, grasp it with your four fingers against the bottom of the palm of your hand, and you "tear the slide off" if you need to cycle the action for whatever reason. The idea is to get every single iota of energy out of the spring to chamber the round which may have dirt, blood, mud, flesh bits, etc., competing for the limited space of the pistol's chamber. Using the slide release doesn't give as much of a run at chambering the round. Why spend Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) on an accessory you don't need/use?

While a 1911 (that runs right - something that can be tough to find) is a superb weapon, why spend $1200+ for one that I then have to accessorize/have slicked up when I can get a Glock 21 that runs out of the box for about 1/2 that? No flame war wanted, just pointing out that 2 for 1 price is an attractive feature (as you where driving towards with your sage advice to get a second one, or how about TRAINING to effectively use the one you have!!!). Some hate the Glock's size/grip - to each his own - I would never feel undergunned with a 1911 and it is a mechanical/design work of art/masterpiece. You do, however, need to be taught/train on how to make it run in a bit more depth than the double action only (DAO) "safety in the trigger" Glock.  My $.02, FWIW. Keep up the great work!!! - Beach

JWR Replies: Unless someone trains with a M1911 without the use of the slide release from day one, then it is impossible to expect that they won't revert to using the slide release lever in the heat of combat. Remember the maxim:  The first/oldest training is the deepest ingrained.  I've heard many stories about police officers that subconsciously fight just the way they trained. For example putting either the fired brass from revolvers or empty magazines from auto pistols in their pockets. They don't even realize that they've done it until after the smoke has cleared and they've regained their wits.

I agree with your advice on ambidextrous safeties. If someone has the budget for it, then that modification is worth doing, even for right handers. But in general, I try to keep M1911s as "stock" as possible. Even in stainless steel, there is no reason why a combat ready M1911 has to cost more than $800. We have a couple of stainless M1911s in our family battery that I bought used and that cost no more than $650, even after the necessary mods.

"Roads are like filters. The rougher, the finer the filter." - Joseph Wood Crutch

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Today we present another entry in Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!)  The deadline for entries is the last day of January, 2006.

We are pleased to post the following article on selecting clothing for winter outdoor survival. It was written by a serving military officer and certified winter instructor that lives Somewhere in Scandinavia. I was impressed by his excellent English.  In fact, his article took less editing than many that I've received from native English speakers. 

To survive a sustained period of cold the most important thing is to know how to pick the right clothing and utilize the clothes to its fullest extent. This means understanding the body`s heat production and how choosing the right clothing can regulate and maintain warmth depending on what kind of activities one does. Clothing in itself does not produce any heat, but they retain more or less the heat that the body produces depending on their material. Fabrics that are lose and fluffy feels warmer than hard fabrics because the fibers contains more air. Another important point, is to be aware of the formidable loss of fluids that stems from undertaking physical tasks. This moisture will be caught in the clothing without our notice.
A The body`s heat loss happens mainly due to the following four reasons:

1.) By Circulation
The heated air closest to the skin, is driven off and is replaced with cold air (convection), this is most noticeable in strong, cold wind.

2.) By Transfer
Contact between the body and the ground you lay of sit upon. Cold soles steal warmth from the body (Conduction).

3.) By Radiation
The body gives off heat to the surrounding area when these are colder than the body, this has little effect for a fully clothed person during the winter.

4.) By Vaporization
When sweat on the body and in the clothes vaporizes
To assure that the body has the right working temperature (+37 degrees Celsius/98.6 degrees F) the loss of heat and the heat production, needs to be balanced. The key to balancing is found in the clothing and the regulating this.

Overly Exposed Body Parts
About fifty percent of the body’s heat production draws off from the head and the neck. Those parts is therefore key elements when it comes to regulating surplus body heat, bare headed, open in the neck to get rid of the excess heat or conversely maintaining it by means of a cap and/ or a scarf.
It’s the so called extremities, hands, feet, ears and nose that’s most exposed to the cold. Small cylindrical body parts, for example the fingers has a major heat loss because of large surface in relationship to volume. By using mittens instead of gloves the total surface will be less and it will be easier to keep the hand warm.

The Task of Clothing
Clothing's task is to help us keep the body temperature correct. The clothing shall isolate against the cold and give protection against wind and rain. It shall also provide the possibilities for ventilation so that hot air may be drawn off together with body moisture. Dry air has small capacity for heat transfer.
More thin layers of clothing traps more air and will give better insulation than one thick layer of clothes. Protection against wind is accomplished by using a dense outer layer, waterproofs or impregnated cloth as a outer layer protects against wet weather, but the biggest problem in the winter will be heat regulation. Its important that one can vary the clothes and the amount of clothes, so that you don’t becomes overheated. Its therefore important that you utilize the layering principle as to using several thin layers of clothing where each garment is of proper size and used correctly and that the materials in the garments is chosen with care.

The body will always give off moisture in the form of perspiration. In the winter most of the sweat will be contained in the clothes and the clothing should therefore be made out of fabrics that will allow the humidity to escape through it. If we hinder this process by using for example waterproofs as an outside layer the humidity will be gathered on the inside of the clothing in the form of rime or ice. The moisture is therefore one of the bigger adversaries in winter time, not only from the outside but also from the inside.
The clothes should with this in mind be of a kind that facilitates temperature regulation by opening and closing at the following points: Wrists, ankles, neck, front, under arms and at the waist. This is what is called "chimney ventilation." For proper use, the clothing should be loose fitting and give the possibility to facilitate ventilation. Trousers that sit tight around the waist or clothes that are held together by belts or straps will hinder the ventilation for winter use. Braces (suspenders) are recommended instead of belts.

Principles for Layering
The clothing is normally to be divided into three main layers :
  - Isolating layer
  - Windproof layer
  - Waterproof layer
The isolating layer is closest to the skin and is made up of underwear (both long and short) shirt, sweater and socks etcetera after circumstances. Wool is by far the best material for the isolating layer and it retains its isolating capability with 80% even if soaking wet and is reasonable fireproof to boot. None other natural or man-made fabric comes close to the capabilities of wool. The negative sides of it is that its expensive, its not as durable as other fabrics and it may itch if its of a lower quality.

The windproof layer's primary function is to keep the warmed up air in the isolating layers. The fabric should be windproof but it should also let through as much as the humidity as possible. The waterproof layer is used in sleet and rain, if outside humidity was the only thing to consider the requirement of the clothes would be that they was 100% waterproof . Things are not so easy because we also has to take into consideration that we must “bleed off" excess humidity from the body – the main thing to take under consideration is then to find out what is the worst: being wet from the inside out or vice versa.

Most people are most likely to dress once in the day regardless of what that day may bring - putting on everything that’s needed for that days coldest possibility before leaving the house, sweating, enter ones car going full blast on the heater, more sweating, drive to the destination of that days undertaking and step outside and instantly begin freezing because of heat transfer due to vaporization and heat transfer. Taking one's time to regulate and utilize the clothing in a proper manner will ensure that you’re able to keep comfortable for longer periods of time when you’re exposed to the cold.

In my experience, most of the three point nylon tactical slings that are on the market are outrageously over-priced. You often pay as much as $49 for a couple of dollars worth of nylon and hardware. Even with a few dollars more for their labor, these marketeers are still selling a 400%+ markup item! So I was pleasantly surprised to find that a gent in North Carolina that runs a home-based business making "No Nonsense" two point and three point nylon slings. The really good news is that they are just $5 each postage paid for the two point type, and $9 each postage paid for the three point. He even offers further quantity discounts. Optional attaching clips for HKs are available for an extra dollar. It is refreshing to see that someone is out there that makes a quality product and that just wants to earn an honest buck without a lot of marketing hype. See: (He is a friend of "The Pre-1899 Specialist", that provides Mr.Austin his web space.)

"Never fear the want of business. A man who qualifies himself well for his calling, never fails of employment." - Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An interesting piece recently ran in Fortune magazine, regarding billionaire Richard Rainwater's views' on Peak Oil.  (The "Hubbert's Peak" in global oil production, expected sometime in the next few years or perhaps 20 years, or perhaps 100 years, depending on who you talk to.) See:,15114,1139979-4,00.html SurvivalBlog reader Chuck, who first mentioned the Fortune article to me commented:  "I had the opportunity to review several of Richard Rainwater's oil deals while at Mitchell Energy. His projects were always well conceived and forward-looking."

The Israeli sling is the product of requiring most Chaileem since the surprise Yom Kippur war in 1973 to carry their personal weapon everywhere they go until
they exit active duty. This leads to a design for a sling that is as comfortable in a bus terminal hitchhiking or walking in town but still quick to bring into action. The only thing I can think of to improve the Israeli sling is to replace the front cord with Kevlar boot lace threaded through parachute cord to resist UV, Kevlar is very heat resistant. Here with semi-auto being the general rule barrel heat is less of an issue. Compact M16 variants [CAR-15, M4] are most common and combat soldiers usually receive a tritium reflex or ACOG scope. Israel has dropped the superior plastic magazines for the much inferior easily damaged jam prone American aluminum mags. Due to safety concerns unless in combat areas most units require magazines out of the weapon, there is a gadget which fits in the magazine well and holds the mag parallel to the barrel, when required the gadget is ejected turned 90 degrees and the loaded magazine is inserted. The cheaper alternative is to use a 5mm thick O-ring to bungee a mag (or jungle taped double) to the weapon. "Jungle" magazine arrangement are side by side duct taped together with a spacer to allow them to be inserted into the mag well, they are both positioned upright as an aluminum (or any mag) is at risk of damage if the lips are scraped or struck. Have fun browsing about our military and police forces and their gear:

Mr. Rawles:
I have watched the posts about slings. I have tried them all, or at least it seems like it. The slings by Tactical Intervention are the best, IMHO. Mike is an honest man too. Great product, great service.  See:
Sincerely, - Straightblast

Mr. Rawles,
I've just finished reading your novel "Patriots", and wish to thank you for providing such an insightful guide to preparation and the survival mindset, and a pretty darn entertaining read, to boot! My question concerns your preference for the M1911 .45 ACP pistol as a sidearm for one's survival preparations. I wholeheartedly agree with you on the round's advantages over lesser-powered cartridges such as 9mm or .40 S&W. And, since the ergonomics of the 1911 design in particular tend to suit me well personally (indeed, to whom does it not), I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding the myriad configurations this weapon is available in today; precisely, things such as beavertail grip safeties, beveled magazine wells, front/back strap checkering, etc. Do you think these features are more "show" than "go?" Also, should one avoid altogether "high -end" offerings from custom shops like Wilson Combat or Les Baer? The quality of parts and workmanship are readily apparent, yet as you allude to in Patriots, would the tight tolerances worked into each custom weapon make for questionable reliability under field conditions? Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail, sir. May God bless you and your family. Regards, - Mark T.

JWR Replies: needless to say, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool .45 ACP Colt Model 1911 user. The Combat Tupperware crowd considers the 80 year old design archaic, but I find the M1911 eminently practical. For right-handed shooters, the only modifications that I recommend are: feed ramp polishing, an extended slide release, and perhaps tritium sights. Everything else has marginal utility, and if taken to extreme can actually decrease reliability and combat utility. I consider even the extended slide release optional, depending on the shape of your shooting hand. (If you can reach the standard slide release without shifting your hand, them leave it as is. For left-handed shooters, the only other mods that I would recommend would be an ambidextrous safety and an ambidextrous extended slide release. Instead of pouring an extra $1,000 into a pistol on furthering modifications, I'd rather spend that money on a second M1911 for another family member, or on training at a school like Front Sight, or more ammunition.

OBTW, some of you might be interested in reading the FAQ that I wrote about M1911 magazines.

I agree about getting a real HK91 and not a clone. The HK91 is a great rifle with a few easily corrected but serious weaknesses.

The trigger is heavy and poor, but an inexpensive and excellent fix is available from

The sights are mediocre, but the “1200 meter sight”, which can be found on the gun boards such as or is much better, and can be drilled or fitted with an insert to provide the ideal aperture.

The narrow, hard plastic butt stock can be punishing, but the butt end piece can be replaced with a wider rubber part from HK (from the HK21 or 23 belt fed machine guns) that is much more comfortable, and which avoids slippage. From an HK dealer or the above gun boards.

The magazine release button is suboptimal, but a “Tac-Latch” provides much more ergonomic operation in a low-priced drop-in part, from

For optics mounting, the Brugger & Thonet mount is best, because it does not damage the receiver, and provides a see-through view with the iron sights if the optics are fogged (or worse.) It provides a lower mount than the original STANAG clip on mount. Avoid the B-Square mount, because they can cause receiver damage from over tightening.

The HK91 may not quite be capable of the same accuracy as an M14/M1A, but it never malfunctions, and nothing ever breaks. - Mr. Bravo

JWR Adds: As I mentioned in my novel Patriots, the only other major design flaw of the HK91 is that unlike an AR-series, M1A, or FAL, the HK91 does not have its action lock in the open position after the last round in the magazine is fired. In the stress of combat, this could leave someone thinking that they still have ammo when they are actually holding a rifle with an empty magazine. (Read: potentially deadly.) This can be avoided by loading the last two or three rounds in each magazine with tracer ammunition. When you see a tracer flash, you swap magazines.

OBTW, tracers are banned in California, but then again, so are HK91 rifles. So if you live in California, there are a couple of more reasons to vote with your feet!

A note on you post of 12/15 about the SAR-8. I wish I could point you to a single place on the Web where you could verify this, but there isn't one. I gathered this info from a number of gun discussion boards after my (opportunistic) purchase of an SAR-8 at a gun show.
There are two distinct SAR-8s, both handled by Springfield Armory. One is a steel receiver, made in Greece on original HK tooling. Known there as the SAR-3, it was changed to the SAR-8 by over striking the markings on the gun. Being an import, there are some restrictions on what you can do with it, such as adding flash hiders.
[JWR Adds: See the correction on that point, below.]
There is also another SAR-8, built in the US on an Imbel aluminum receiver. It qualifies as a US manufactured gun, and since the 1994 ban is dead, are pretty much able to be modified as you wish.
[JWR Adds: Actually, being built on an imported receiver, it still needs to have 10 U.S. made parts.] It has some minor differences from a "real" HK, but nothing that can't be dealt with fairly easily. You can recognize these by the aluminum receiver, green furniture and rail machined into the top of the receiver. As I mentioned earlier, I bought an SAR-8 a couple of years ago for a song, NIB. Mine is one of the Imbel aluminum receivers, so I view myself as fortunate (although many would disagree--the Imbel receivers seem to have a bad reputation). After some initial teething problems that I was eventually able to trace to bad magazines (lesson learned--stick to steel), it's been a reliable performer. If anything ever goes wrong with it, Springfield has a lifetime warranty, and there are quite a few stories of folks being offered M1As as direct swaps or as a "swap plus small amount of boot".
I'd like to find one or two more of these, but interestingly enough, the few I see are commanding prices above what I paid for mine. Make of that data point what you will. I enjoy your blog, even though I don't get to stop by as much as I would like. Keep up the good work.- The Freeholder


Mr. Rawles,
I have read and enjoyed both your book and the Survival Blog. I have found them very useful and thought provoking. Whether I agree with something or not is of no consequence EXCEPT when the information is factually in error and might mislead some folks who depend on it. Such is the case with the following:

The SAR-8 (Springfield Armory's clone of the HK91) are well made (much better than the CETME). Their only serious shortcoming is that they lack a flash hider. Be advised that a large number of SAR-8s were illegally retrofitted with flash hiders. (The 1994 ban expired, but the original import ban that bans flash hiders is still in effect!)

I am an 07- FFL/SOT so I keep up on these things. The 1994 ban DID restrict flash hiders and threaded barrels along with folding stocks, high capacity mags and bayonet lugs. Of course, it is gone. The 1989 import ban DID NOT forbid flash hiders, threaded barrels or the other “evil features”. What it DID do was mandate not more than 10 imported parts on certain guns. Therefore, the addition of a flash hider to an SAR-8, FAL, HK, AK etc will require that the gun be in compliance with section 922 and have NOT MORE than 10 imported parts. If the gun was originally equipped with 10 or fewer imported parts you can add all the “evil features” you wish so long as you do not thereby exceed the limit of 10 imported parts. I hope this clears up a common misconception that might lead folks to think they can’t add a flash hider or other feature to their SAR-8 or other gun. Sincerely, - M.G.

JWR Replies: My most humble apologies for the error. Thanks for pointing that out. I will go back and will correct my original post. Assuming that the fake (unslotted) pinned-on pseudo flash hider that these rifles came with counts as one of the ten requisite U.S.-made parts, then removing it and replacing it with an original German, Greek, Pakistani, or Portuguese-made flash hider would be a violation of the Federal law, unless you substitute an American-made part to "keep up the parts count."  Ditto for removing the original goshawful-looking thumbhole stock.  I recommend T. Mark Graham of Arizona Response Systems as a source for the replacement U.S.-made parts, as well as some great gunsmithing and refinishing services. See:

"...there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight. Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him. - Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Friday, December 16, 2005

Today we present another entry in Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!)  The deadline for entries is the last day of January, 2006.

There is always talk about the ‘survivalist mindset’ and how important it is to anyone who is going to prepare themselves and their family for whatever crisis they foresee. Some people get this mindset from previous experience (like Katrina survivors who we can hope will become advocates of personal preparedness), others from their religious convictions (Mormons, awaiting the Tribulation, etc), others get this mindset from objectively viewing world events and decide the world is risky place, and many others get this mindset from other places. All of these people, however, have at least one thing in common in their survival mindset - the need for discipline and balance.
As anyone who has prepared, or is preparing, for uncertainty can tell you, there are a lot of things to do. There are things to be bought, mapped, planned, diagrammed, learned, prepared, tuned-up, sharpened, sighted-in, oiled, cleaned, built, dug and stored. There is, it seems, no end to the things to be done. The one thing more than anything else that will get these things done is discipline - the discipline to stockpile food when the supermarkets are full, the discipline to store ammo when the stores are open, the discipline to save money when you’ve just gotten a raise, etc. However, discipline without balance is almost as bad for your plans as no discipline at all.
In good times, when we have our jobs, heat in our house, water in our taps, food in our cupboards and gas in our cars it is incredibly easy to slack off or even ignore our plans to prepare. And when a blizzard or hurricane shows up and knocks out the power, the pumps and the petrol we start kicking ourselves for not keeping up on our preparations…and then the lights get turned back on and we go right back to neglecting our plans for ‘next time’. I’m sure we all know someone who says he’s going to be prepared for the next hurricane or tornado or whatever. He buys a case of bottled water, maybe he gets some food, and a few weeks later he’s the owner of a shiny new pistol. And then he starts tapering off… He buys a little food one month and then does nothing for six months, after that time he might buy some batteries and flashlights and then he seems to lose interest and nothing more becomes of his great plan and desire to be prepared. The intentions were good, but the follow through was weak. This is a classic example of a lack of discipline.
Balance, the other important aspect of the mindset, is completely absent in the person who goes in the opposite direction than the one just described. He sells the jet skis, liquidates his investments, builds a concrete bunker, wears camo every day, spray paints his truck in a camo pattern, eats MREs for breakfast and has no time for anyone who isn’t in 100% agreement with him on his timetable for ‘the big one’. His wife is ready to leave him, his kids are embarrassed by him, his boss has put him on notice, the people in town call him ‘that crazy survivalist guy’ and his friends don’t know what to do with him. If the disaster he’s preparing for does happen he’ll probably come out fine, but if it doesn’t he’s going to be a lonely, miserable, tragic figure. Classic example of discipline, but no balance.
How does a person achieve the discipline and balance to prepare for an uncertain future while still maintaining a comfortable present? For each person it’s different. The easiest way to is to ask yourself if, in a future crisis will you be glad you did whatever it is you're doing at this moment. Two years from now when the power is out and the blizzard is raging will you be glad you spent $35 on new computer games or will you be glad you spent it on 5-gallon drums of kerosene? In a year from now when travel is restricted due to bird flu concerns will you be glad you spent $150 on designer running shoes or will you be glad you spent it on canned food and bottled water? I’d say it’s a safe bet that as people were standing on roofs waiting for help after Katrina none of them were thinking “Man, I’m glad I spent $700 on SuperBowl tickets and didn’t waste it on gasoline and a generator.” Discipline is being able to stay focused on the ‘big picture’ - being prepared - even while the everyday world provides you with limitless distractions and reasons to not prepare.
On the other side of the coin, you have to have enough balance to sometimes decide that, yes, you’re going to spend $20 on a movie, popcorn and drink simply because you want to. Or you’ll compromise and see the movie for ten bucks, skip the snacks, and take the remaining ten dollars and squirrel away some D batteries or a couple gallons of white gas. That’s the sort of compromise that is a win-win situation… you still move forward in your preparations but you still have a pleasant and happy life outside of your survivalist interests. A good sense of balance will keep you from sacrificing your present happiness for future security. You could probably use the words ‘balance’ and ‘judgment’ interchangeably in this example. Do you have the good judgment to know when you should live it up a little and when you should knuckle down and get busy? There is nothing wrong with ‘splurging’ every once in a while as long as it isn’t at the expense of other things we should be doing. All work and no play does make Jack a dull boy, but then again Jack was never preparing for the end of the world as we know it. There is a middle ground where you can still have a good time without being neglectful of your plans to prepare, finding exactly where that middle ground is will make your life much easier.
Discipline keeps you on track, it keeps you focused, and it keeps you always moving forward towards your preparedness goals. Balance keeps you from losing sight of everything other than your preparedness goals. It makes you stop from time to time to enjoy what you’ve got going on in your life, now, in the present. Balance keeps you from sacrificing the good times to prepare for the bad times. In a nutshell, balance is what keeps you from ‘going too far’ or ‘over the top.’
If you can balance your ‘civilian life’ with your ‘survivalist life’ in this manner, not neglecting either one but not sacrificing one for the other, then you’ll have developed the discipline and balance to keep both lives stable and on-track. If your big disaster occurs, you're ready for it and if it doesn’t occur you won’t be moaning about how you wasted opportunities and time that you’ll never get back.

When most people think of a “condo”, they usually picture a flat or apartment in a high rise. Think instead of a more rural a recreational condo like a multi-family mountain ski chalet or some vacation condos on the beach or lakeside. Now consider the possibility of putting such a condo development in some rural rolling hills countryside adjacent to some farm land and combining the concept of a recreational retreat with a survival retreat. In this way, your survival retreat becomes a group endeavor, which offers several cost-saving advantages, establishes clear rights and responsibilities, and, also importantly, an operating system of government.
Survivalists tend to be individualists, thus they are going to want their own space at least some extent, be it a room or a complete townhouse. Condominium law clearly provides for private space and public space, which are clearly defined in writing with rules, financial responsibilities, and penalties included. The condominium association, which enforces these rules and manages the public areas, is a democratic system of government elected by the owners. Also, new condominium laws have allowed for even more flexibility; say each unit also gets a private amount of garden space on common land, a private locker in the main shed, two parking spaces, etc. It is limited largely by imagination of the developer and then the association.
Remember, it is of course cheaper to built multi-tenant buildings than separate houses for many reasons. Savings can be expanded by including common heat for at least common areas, building a highly efficient earth bermed design, or heating common areas with a wood fired outdoor system running hydronic heat (i.e. ). Consider sharing a $25,000 2.2 KW solar panel system or a 3 KW or larger windmill (i.e. ) which chares a large battery bank system that serves everyone. If you don’t use electricity to heat or heat water, for the stove, for the dish washing, air conditioning, or for the clothes dryer (use gas, propane, wood, or other sources instead) you really don’t need that much power. Most electronics don’t draw that much, and to be even more efficient, you could wire some special outlets for straight DC if you can get the voltages correct for what you are trying to run (TV, computer). Better to get a large generator and a backup than one for each unit, and to standardize on fuel, and buy in bulk. These shared costs can be very clearly divided among condo owners, even with meters installed, if need be, to be completely fair. If individual members want more, then they can buy more for their condo unit. The point is, it creates a system of working together and sharing costs, while still allowing people to have their own private supplies in their own private spaces. IMHO this is why communes don’t work, and why condos are growing in popularity. In a condo system, you are held accountable for what you must give to the group, but beyond that, if you want your part of it to be nicer, that’s fine. Inequality in your own unit is up to you, and you are the master of that space, though you owe some service for the common good. This creates a workable, fair, balanced system subject to review by an elected association.
Now imagine the aspects of defense. You have the chance to set up communication, surveillance, and command systems to be in place from the start. Defense really takes several persons to do effectively, and a condo development with multiple units, with many families working together, gives you the people power to pull from and create an effective defense, not to mention an entire cohesive, and extremely self-reliant micro community.
Common areas can include common buildings for storage, maybe a green house, swimming pool, fishing pond, a farming operation, or how about a mess hall, a large commercial style kitchen that can feed everyone. One person can cook for 2 or 20 in just a fraction more time if you have the supplies and equipment. (This also frees up people to do other things.) Consider a walk-in deep freezer, and a food storage system everyone shares. Ideally, most owners would want the flexibility each unit having its own kitchenette, but cost will dictate whether this is set up more like a large house with many bed and bathroom units (more like a dorm, bed & breakfast, or hotel) or more like a group of apartments or town houses with some common areas also.
All too often in survivalism, you have one spouse that is into it far more than the other. This is where making the condo survival retreat into a recreational complex is a great way to justify the cost. Personally, it would be ideal if the condo association owned a large amount of farm land and either had a farming operation going, or worked with a local farmer to do that so food production capability, and food storage was always in a ready state. Put in a fish pond, chicken coop, bee hives, and have small animal herds you can grow quickly if you need to with plenty of feed in silos (which can also make great observation or defensive positions too). For the “city folk”, such a rural retreat offers all the outdoor stuff, camping, hiking, hunting, working on the farm, ATVs, fishing, (if up north – snowmobiling, cross country skiing, show shoeing, etc.). Remember paint ball is a great way for your group to get to know each other and train. Thus the condo serves many purposes; recreation, piece of mind, and a real estate investment (though there would no doubt be some rules as to sale or transfer of interest). Consider it if you are planning a survival retreat with others. - Rourke  ( )

I read today your recommendation to stock hollowpoint pistol calibers for barter. Why, exactly? I typically have been buying and storing inexpensive but name brand ammo for barter purposes, and usually in solids - 158gr .38, 230 grain .45 ACP, etc. I also use this sort of ammo for practice, and save the high performance ammo for defensive use.  Thanks for your time, - Flighter

JWR Replies:  I anticipate that only half of my post-TEOTWAWKI customers will be knowledgeable about guns.  To the uneducated, hollow-points seem tremendously more deadly than full metal jacketed or soft led loads.  So, with that in mind, when I buy extra ammo for barter, I tend to buy hollow-points. This same reasoning even goes for .22 rimfire hollow-points! Yes, I know that they don't expand appreciably more than lead round nose. But my potential barter customers will think that hollow-points are "better" so they will give me more for them in trade. It sounds silly, but I see this sort of thing go on with know-nothing customers at gun shows all the time.(I've been renting tables at gun shows for almost 20 years.)

I just watched the video of the geysers in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Just downright amazing what I saw. No, not the geysers ..... the people and what they said:
Newsgirl ...... "Something never seen here before and will never be seen again." ???
Lady on the street .... "I'm just concerned that it may pollute our water supply."
Newsgirl ... " State officials say that fast moving natural gas underground is forced into pushing upwards."
Newsgirl ..... "State officials are trying to determine what the source of the natural gas is."
Do any of these people have any clue what pre-earthquake symptoms are?
Apparently not or at least they're not bringing it to the attention of the public. Personally, If I saw this occurring around me, I would rapidly either leave immediately or become very uneasy about staying. Whew! Better there than here, huh?
A last comment. It was part of the seven states report. (on the Tennessee side) All seven states concurrently and independently ran reviews and investigations on the possibility of another occurrence of the great Memphis quake. Eventually, all the states found out that all of the other six states had performed essentially the same review. Amazingly all seven had essentially arrived at the same conclusion. If I lived in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, I'd be leaving con mucho rapidemente.
Regards, - The Army Aviator

"To be ignorant and simple now--not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground--would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered." - C.S. Lewis

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today, I'm catching up on replying to some older e-mails that included multiple questions. Because of time constraints, those are the ones that end up at the bottom of my "to do" list.  So if you'd like to see your questions answered  promptly, please limit your question e-mails to a single subject. Thanks!

You're correct in that you should use whatever sling works for you, and if you're still using that old M60 sling set-up that you used to use "back in the day" works for you, great. Sling technology and technique has come along way since then though. Single point, two point, and triple point slings are now available that make it generally better to use the sling than the archaic idea of "no slings on patrol". There's too many out there to bother naming, and all have strengths and weaknesses, but when sling shopping, look for a sling that does what you want it to do. For you, the M60 sling does what you want, that's fine. I prefer a sling that keeps the gun in a specific position and orientation for transitions to my sidearm, and for other things like operating equipment, driving, opening doors and admin use, but still keeps the rifle exactly in
the same spot, with the same side against my body, and does so comfortably. Of the slings out there, most are a variation on the theme. Single point slings attach the rifle to you at one point on the weapon. This arrangement can be anything from a loop, to a snap link [rock climbing carabiner] running through the stock of your M4 and attached to your body armor, to far more complicated stuff.
Two point slings, like the M60 you use, or the Israeli, and most other "tactical slings" are like this. I use the Israeli sling and it's a good, effective and simple device. The sling is a very long strap. The strap is adjustable, and there's also a Fastex-type buckle that you use to shorten it a specific amount. The slack when the buckle is connected is equipped with velcro and stays secure and out of the way. This way the rifle can be slung over your head and shoulder, more comfortably and more securely, but the
simple release of the Fastex buckle will allow you the extra length needed to use the rifle with no problems. It has both hooks and para cord for attachment. There is a compartment that you can keep earplugs in. The Israeli sling does everything fairly well, and some things quite well, though it's slower to employ in some cases. As an all-purpose, general use sling for doing other things while remaining armed and able to fight quickly, it's one of the best I've run across. Not what I prefer to use if I know I'm going to fight, but it's what I prefer to use if I just need to have a long gun with me.
Other tactical slings get more complicated in use, but are better for fighting than the Israeli sling. These slings seem to most novices and many old-timers;) as contraptions that you don't need, but properly employed are quite useful. The British SA-80 sling is slightly over-complicated for what it does, but it and most other tactical slings work all abut the same. Some are just simpler to figure out. Some guns, like the older HK roller-delayed based line, actually have a third mounting point for special sling. If you have a weapon so equipped, then full advantage should be taken.
Which sling is the right one for you to use is a matter of what you want that sling to do for you. The Israeli sling is pretty hard to beat for most general use though. I'd take it over most of the "tactical" slings for everyday use in 95% of the situations you'd encounter in real life. If you have to lug a rifle around with you and still live your life, it's just the ticket. Which is why the Israelis designed it that way. - "Doug Carlton"

JWR: Adds:  Some of you that have read my novel "Patriots" may recognize "Doug Carlton." Like a lot of the other characters in the book, "Doug" was based on a real-life friend of mine, that I've known since college.  We went through ROTC together. "Doug" later went on to be a distinguished U.S. Army helicopter pilot.  He now works in the transportation industry on the East Coast.

I found the following at the CongressDaily ( web site. Excerpting briefly from their story: "President Bush's request for more than $7 billion in emergency funding to prepare for a possible outbreak of avian flu "had better pass" before Congress adjourns for the year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist [who is also a medical doctor] , R-Tenn., declared Sunday.  "We need to be prepared," Frist said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," adding, "I'm very hopeful that we will invest $7.1 billion to look at prevention, to look at care, to look at treatment." The measure might be attached to the fiscal 2006 Defense appropriations bill, although some House conservatives are insisting that the $7 billion be offset.

Fears of a pandemic have increased as a virus infecting millions of birds has spread throughout Asia and parts of Europe. The so-called bird flu has not yet appeared in the United States or spread from person to person abroad, but officials worry that it could mutate and become highly contagious because humans have no immunity to it. Frist said the spending request is only a fraction of an estimated $675 billion hit that the U.S. economy could take, with possibly two million dying from bird flu and up to 90 million sickened. "I don't think it's going to happen right now or tomorrow," Frist said. "But if it does happen, it's devastating."

Mr. Rawles:

I have some questions for you: [JWR's replies are in line, in bold]

1.) Regarding the Sambucol products.
--Does this product have any preventative component or do you only take it when symptoms occur?

Take it only immediately after symptoms occur.

--How many 7.8 oz. bottles do you recommend for storage for a family or families in a homestead?

We are a family of five, and I bought six bottles.  But we plan to be living in isolated self-quaratine, here in the boonies.  And BTW, half of what I bought was intended charity.  For those of you that are not self-employed or otherwise don't anticipate being able to live in self-quarantine, you should probably buy a larger quantity.

2.) Regarding discussion on G.O.O.D. vehicles.
--I reviewed all the articles and posts and it appears that the consensus is that pre-1993 vehicles offer the best EMP protection. Do you have any new info or insights on this subject.

Pre-1993 is a fairly safe bet for diesel engines, but not for gasoline engines, which started "going electronic" in the late 1970s. Unless you are quite familiar with car engines, you really need to consult with a mechanic from a dealership for the particular manufacturer of your vehicle to be certain that any particular make/model/year has a traditional rotor/points/condenser ignition system and that it has traditional carburetion rather than electronically-controlled fuel injection.  BTW, many gas-powered engines from the 1980s and 1990s can be retrofitted with a traditional ignition system. Again, you need to ask someone with expertise to ascertain the details. Alternatively, you can buy one or more spare identical electronic ignition system CPUs from wrecking yards to store in metal cans. (Faraday protection.)

3.) Regarding storage foods
--What percentage of MRE's and freeze-drieds do you recommend?

That depends on your circumstances.  For someone that lives at their intended retreat year-round, as much as 90% of their storage food should be in bulk containers such as five gallon pails.  But for someone that plans to "Get out of Dodge" (G.O.O.D.) at the 11th hour, perhaps as much as 25% of your food should be divided equally between freeze dried and MREs. (And of course nearly all of the bulk storage food should be pre-positioned at your retreat.)  See my Links page for recommended vendors.  If you buy your storage food from any of them, please mention where you got the recommendation. (Many of them are SurvivalBlog advertisers--or they should be.)

--Are there any other types of storage foods that you would suggest?

Don't overlook stocking up larger quantities of the wet-packed canned foods that you use on a regular basis.   Yes, they are fairly bulky, heavy, and need to be rotated frequently, but "per dollar" they are a fairly efficient use of household funds for storage foods.

Also consider the new retort packaged foods (such as stews. These are quite convenient. There are also a surprising number of canned foods that have switched to pull top lids in the last couple of years. OBTW, mark the date of purchase with a Sharpie pen on ALL storage foods, so that you can rotate them consistently.

4.) Regarding the Housing Bubble and Real Estate
--If the bubble is to burst in 2006 wouldn't that lead to much lower real estate prices? Therefore would it be prudent to wait for this before purchasing land for a homestead/retreat? Or should we not concern ourselves with what the market is doing?

I am of the opinion that the biggest declines in house prices will occur in urban and suburban real estate.  Productive farm land will probably only go down slightly, since it has been depressed (in terms of its real value) for decades. And houses on 5 to 40 acres in choice retreat locales might actually go up in price, as yuppies flee the cities in opening stages of the next depression.  IMHO, you can't go wrong buying a house on a 40 acre parcel with productive soil and spring-fed water and that is situated in a lightly populated region well removed from the major population centers.  The downside risk is minimal.

5.) Regarding barter guns and ammo
--In a post TEOTWAWKI barter economy which do you think will be more in demand-shotguns or pistols? Could you please give us your reasoning on this?

Both will be in demand, but it primarily will be pistols will be sought by untrained suburban know-nothings.  (Shotguns are much more effective!)  So if you are buying for barter, buy large caliber (.40 S&W or .45 ACP) used Glocks, SIGs, or Berettas, and/or American-made (preferably Colt) stainless steel auto pistols. If you are buying with the intent of being able to arm your neighbors for mutual defense, then buy used Remington or Mossberg 12 gauge riotguns.

--You have highly recommended the .308 Winchester caliber for the MBR but what exact specifications [of ammunition] (manufacturer, grain, FMJ/JHP) do you suggest we purchase?

For self defense, I recommend that you buy 80% full metal jacket ("ball") ammunition, 10% match, and 10% pointed soft point soft nose. For barter, buy mainly hollow point common caliber pistol ammunition and .22 Long Rifle rimfire ammunition--again, hollow points.

6.) I have been considering purchasing a Springfield SAR-8 rifle chambered in .308.
A.) What is your opinion on the SAR-8 as a MBR?

The SAR-8 (Springfield Armory's clone of the HK91) are well made (much better than the CETME).  Their only serious shortcoming is that they lack a flash hider. Be advised that if you replace the original pseudo flash hider with a real one, that it must be a U.S.-made part, since the 1989 ban (still in effect) requires that the rifle retain 10 U.S. made parts.

If you can afford it, buy an original HK91 rather than a SAR-8.  Magazines (they both use the same type) are currently cheap and plentiful, so buy a pile of them.  (Something like 50+ of the West German alloy magazines. They can be had for as little as $2.50 each from mail order firms like Cheaper Than Dirt.)

B.) The iron sights on this weapon do not have tritium; do you suggest I have it installed? Or have a scope mounted?

I'd recommend that you get  a tritium-lit scope (preferably a Trijicon brand) on a quick-detachable claw mount. Tritium iron sights are available for the HK91/SAR-8 but they would be redundant to a tritium-lit scope. If you decide to NOT get a scope, then it is worth the money to buy tritium element sights.

3.) What type and brand of scopes do you like? 

For purely long range work, most of the Leupold or Nikon mil-dot scopes are excellent.  For the best "all around" scope, I prefer the Trijicon AGOGs.

7.) I am planning on purchasing a quantity of gold; do you recommend bullion or gold coins? - Dr Sidney Zweibel, Columbia P&S

IMO, bullion gold (bars) are only for the super-wealthy.  Because it requires assay before resale, I don't consider bullion gold appropriate for most survivalists. As previously stated in my SurvivalBlog writings and in my novel Patriots, gold is too compact a form of wealth for barter purposes.  Buy one $1,000 face value bag of 90% (pre-1965) silver dimes or quarters for each family member for barter before you move on to buying gold. Then buy your gold in the form of 1 ounce Krugerrands or Canadian Maple Leafs, since those have the lowest premium (dealer's profit, per coin.) Avoid the Chinese Pandas.  There are far too many of those being counterfeited! For our readers overseas, buy whatever coins are the most recognizable locally. (e.g. Australian Koalas, British Sovereigns, Swiss Vrenellis, et cetera.)

I would like to know:  Some things should be stored at "0" degrees. Other things at "70" degrees. Some can tolerate light, some requires dark.(Some medicines, batteries, et cetera.) Anything you could mention would help on this subject. THANKS, VERY MUCH. Survival Minded, - Brother Slim

JWR Replies:  I see a FAQ coming!  I'm sure that a number of SurvivalBlog readers will have a lot to add to this (and please do!), but here is a list of guidelines, for starters:

1.) Gardening seed should be stored in the dark, above freezing, in low humidity. The refrigerator is ideal. Seal them in Mason jars or in Ziplock bags to protect them from humidity.

2.) Most herbs, batteries, liquid medicines, liquid/caplet vitamins, and chemical light sticks are also best stored in the refrigerator.

3.) Most medicines and vitamin powders and tablets are best stored in the freezer.

4.) Most storage foods should stored in the dark, in the coolest (but not ever below freezing) part of your house.

5.) Ammunition should be stored in sealed ammo cans. Tupperware will also suffice. It stores longest below 80 degrees, so don't store it in an attic. Ammo should never be stored in the same room as oil, solvents, bore cleaner, or paints, since the fumes from these will deaden primers.  For the same reason, if you keep any guns loaded, that ammunition should used up in target practice once every 18 months (or less), and replaced with fresh ammunition that has been stored in sealed ammo cans.

6.) Liquid fuels of all descriptions should be stored in sealed containers, in a cool, dark place, the appropriate stabilizer added. Heat, moisture, and the opportunity to evaporate are what will shorten the storage life for liquid fuels.

7.) Matches should be stored in tupperware-type containers to protect them from humidity.  Resist the urge to store them in Mason type jars.  (Glass makes nasty shrapnel--and it would indeed be just that if the matches were ever ignited by heat or friction and there was no place for the resulting gasses to escape.)

8.) Paper products and ladies' supplies should be protected from humidity, but heat is generally not a problem. Keep them out of direct light.

9.) Do not store any flammables beyond your immediate needs in your house, barn. or garage. You should construct a dedicated "paint shed."  OBTW, for the foregoing, I don't class standard ammunition a "flammable."  Keep it close at hand, but hidden from burglars.

I was checking the prices on base metals today and saw that copper is at $2.10 a pound. Pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper, and 153 of them make a pound of copper. Any thoughts to using pre-1982 U.S. pennies as barter in addition to silver? If nothing else, I've been saving my pre-82 pennies for a few years. I have a few pounds worth. It's not something I'm 'stockpiling' by any means, but every time I check my change I look for the 1981 (and earlier) pennies as well as the pre-65 dimes and quarters. It's also a slight moral booster, considering it's few and far between that I find a pre-1965 anything. OBTW: Silver took a nose dive the past few days, so if any readers missed the boat this would be the time to climb on board. - Prometheus.

JWR Replies: You are correct that pre-1982 pennies are 95% copper.  (The later ones are zinc tokens that are just flashed with copper.) It has been said that "silver is the poor man's gold."  So I suppose that by the same token (pardon the pun) copper is the starving man's silver. However, per dollar value, pennies are extremely heavy and bulky. I guess that it wouldn't hurt to have a few rolls of pre-1982 pennies on hand to make "change" for junk silver barter transactions.  But from a practical standpoint, at current copper prices it is hardly worth your time to sort out the pre-1982 pennies. At this juncture I should mention that there is apocryphal story about a church minister living in Germany in the 1920s--during the Weimar Republic mass inflation. During the mass inflation, he saved all of the copper pfennings from the donation plate.He eventually filled a disused bathtub with them.  When the D-Mark paper money was finally totally repudiated (used for kindling), he and his family were able to eat and had extra for charity, due to his foresight. I think that it would take similarly traumatic times before pre-1982 pennies ever become an "investment."

"Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer." - Psalm 19:14

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If you are on friendly terms with any dealers in preparedness/self-sufficiency products, or realtors in retreat country, please encourage them to advertise on SurvivalBlog.

One of my long term goals is to own a diesel pickup. A mechanic friend of mine down in California, a true Ford guy all the way thru would say that the time tested and proven International engine used in the the Ford pickups was the most reliable--with the Cummins running a very close second (It should be noted Ford owns a controlling interest in Cummins and Ford does/has used Cummins in several of their industrial projects, including farm equipment and heavy duty trucks). I don't know all the details but I will say that from my own experience the Ford/International trucks, namely the 6.9 liter of the 1980s was a long-lived engine. I once was at a Ford dealership in southern California when a fellow brought in a 1986 F-250 non-turbo 6.9 liter diesel to 'trade-up' to a more modern pickup (this was in 2000). His truck, which he claimed had never gone thru a rebuild, had just had regular maintenance had 688,000 miles on the odometer!
The guys at the dealership were astonished and even mentioned contacting the corporate headquarters to use his story as an example of Ford reliability. I myself own a 1973 1 ton GMC with the very reliable 454 gas engine and I have given serious thought to pulling that out and sticking in a 6.5 Diesel. I would more than likely go from my present 9-10 MPG to 15-17 (even with a 3 speed turbo 400 tranny behind it.) If there are any folks out their giving this consideration (those of us with older pickups) they may want to consider this as an option and if they are running an older 3 speed like a turbo 400 or Ford C-6 and they want better highway performance, look into 'Gear Vendors' over/under drive. See: This, I'm told, will turn that old tranny into a real highway cruiser. Story has it that the guys on the hot rod circuit and at the drag strip swear by 'Gear Vendors', they are rated at handling 1,200+ horse power! Hope this helps someone that is hanging onto there old pickup but wants the reliability and performance of the newer rigs. Thanks, - Jason in North Idaho

JWR Replies: If your 1973 Ford still has a rust-free body, then it may be worth doing. To achieve full reliability on a truck that old will probably require a lot more work than just re-engining. Read: extensive and expensive.  (For instance: a new wiring harness, rebuilding both differentials, a new drive shaft or at least new U-joints, re-arching the springs, considerable other suspension work, possible steering work, new master cylinder, new radiator, et cetera.) When all is said and done, you might be better off finding another 1 ton 4WD that was built in the the early to mid-1990s with a dead engine as your starting point. Rebuilding a 10 to 15 year old vehicle is a much less daunting task that rebuilding one that is 32 years old! Once a rig is more than 25 years old, it generally requires a true "zero time" rebuild.  Again, that is extensive and expensive. In the interim, you can use your running 1973 until the project on the "new" pickup is done, and then sell it off. Just my $0.10 worth--"your mileage may vary." (YMMV.)


I am a fan of Mr. Skousen and have the latest edition of his book, or perhaps I should call it a treatise, The Secure Home. I agree with the problems of government among the independently minded (too many cooks in the kitchen, need a head chef), which is why I evolved to the condominium approach, especially as a second home only. Subdivision associations are notoriously too weak to handle the day to day squabbles with people living next to each other full time, and the leakers in particular. It reminds me of Ross Perot’s United We Stand Party, which once they all got together, realized the only thing they could clearly agree on was that they all didn’t like Democrats or Republicans. - Rourke

Last night on the National Geographic Channel there were two shows [that were aired] back to back that were of interest to anyone in the survival community.

1. Avian Flu Pandemic detailed the history of the bug and the 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong. It showed the spread across Southeast Asia and the methods that are being used to control the spread. Discussed the use of Tamaflu as a treatment and how most governments are reluctant to stockpile it until there is an obvious need. A World Health Organization scientist stated that when such a pandemic does occur it will be too late to stockpile an the only way to survive will be to stay home and take care of your own family. Stated that we will be reduced to the basic human unit "the family". Also talked about a case that is believed to be human to human transmission. This case was believed to be transmitted to a family member in close contact with a sick girl who had caught the virus while playing near diseased chickens. This girl's aunt survived the disease, but the girl did not. Also stated that a problem with developing a vaccine for humans is that since [fertile] eggs are used to grow flu virus for vaccine production the eggs are killed by the virus when it is injected into the eggs. The eggs are vulnerable to the virus just as the chickens are.

2.The other program was on Biological Terrorist Attack. This program went through the list of the Center for Disease Control's top six dirty bugs of germ warfare. Very eye opening and very chilling.

Anyway, all this spiked my interest so this morning I went to the National Geographic web site and was looking for more information about Bird Flu. I found a link on the news page to two stories on bird flue that should interest everyone.

1. Bird flu vaccine helps stop the spread of the disease in chickens.

2.Bird flu fears cause spike in the sale of Star Anise Spice.
This spice is used in the manufacture of Tamaflu according to this article and people in Asia and the U. S. are buying it as a herbal medicine for use against the

The link is: (Scroll down to "Health")

OBTW, scroll on down to: Pulse of the Planet. See the article titled: Southwest Rodent Boom to Cause Deadly Hantavirus Outbreak

The article says that in roughly one year to eighteen months after a wet winter as we had in the southwest in 2005 causes a boom in rodent population and so more contact between deceased mice and humans increasing the cases of the disease among humans. Stated that the summer of 2005 already showed a rise in the reported number of cases. Thirty-six percent of human cases are fatal. This should start us all thinking more about rodent control around our stored food, et cetera.

Thanks again for all of your great work in providing this site and for all the very much needed information that is shared by everyone here. Count on a donation from me to help with the blog's cost in the very near future. Long Life, - Overhill

Rourke, a SurvivalBlog regular contributor, sent the following:
* - Indicates they are original or modified by me
The other ones are off various web sites that have Jeff Foxworthy jokes.
Obviously the addition of Redneck Survivalist was from me
*If your MREs consist of Jerky, Slim Jims, Cheetoes, and Bud Light, you may be a Redneck Survivalist.
*If you have ever tried to grill Spam, …
If you have more electronic equipment in your truck than in your house, …
*If you think of pig manure as a valuable resource and you can think of several uses for it, …
*If you listen to the weather so you will know how much electricity you will have that day, ….
*If someone says Christmas ham, and you think you are getting a radio, …
If you have to go outside to get something out of the fridge, …
If the hood of your truck is higher than the roof of your house, …
If your tires are worth more than your truck, …
If your honeymoon involved time at a deer camp, …
If you always thought “Guns and Roses” was something you get for your anniversary, …
If your favorite restaurant has a gas pump in front of it, …
If your favorite cologne is Deep Woods Off, …
If your 23-channel CB radio is used to communicate with your family, …
If you’ve ever had a conversation about truck tires that lasted more than an hour, …
If you keep catfish in your aquarium, …
If you know how to milk a goat, …
If your flashlight holds more than four batteries, …
If your 5-year-old can rebuild a carburetor, …
If your wife’s best shoes have steel toes, …
If your idea of home security is keeping all the guns loaded, …
*If your idea of gun control means being able to hit what you aim at, …
*If you don’t know your Social Security number, but know 2nd Amendment, the Star Spangled Banner, and the Preamble to the Constitution word for word, …

JWR Adds: 
Let me know if you have any others to add to the list.  A tip of the hat to comedian Jeff Foxworthy, ( ) who inspired Rourke's post.

Ponder the full implications of  The Debt Clock. See:

. . .

SurvivalBlog reader H.W. mentioned that Jim McCanney at has a series of lectures about extra solar system objects for the next eight weeks. (The series began 12-8-2005).At the website scroll down until you see the archives for each week's show.

. . .

As reported by Reuters-Italy, Frank Holmes, the CEO of U.S. Global Investors predicts the spot price of gold to advance to $650/oz. in Aught Six.
He cited short supply and burgeoning demand, particularly in Asia. See:

. . .

The recent correction in the price in silver (currently down to around $8.50 per ounce) might be a good chance to buy, those of you that thought that you missed the boat.  I don't have a crystal ball, but logic dictates that silver will probably be back to +/-$9.30 by the end of  the year. That will just about cover what you would pay in a typical dealer's commission.  (The dealer's premium much higher on silver than gold, due to higher shipping costs.) OBTW, the temporary disparity with the price of gold (which hasn't corrected nearly so much) has pushed the silver-to-gold price ratio to more than 61-to-1!  (Two weeks ago it was 58-to-1.) So this might also might be a good chance to "ratio trade" and diversify into silver for any of you that feel over-invested in gold. (For example, if you do not have enough silver on hand for barter.) As my brother says: "Balance in all things!"

"Life is a great adventure and I want to say to you, accept it in such spirit. I want to see you face it ready to do the best that lies in you to win out. To go down without complaining and abiding by the result... the worst of all fears is the fear of living." - Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Many thanks to all of you that responded to our Ten Cent Challenge! OBTW, a few of you that are serious Secret Squirrels sent anonymous greenback cash or PMO payments without return addresses, so I was unable to send you personal thank yous. So let me express my thanks here: A SINCERE THANK YOU!

A brief reminder to e-mail us your entries for the second round of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. 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 decided to repeat it. "Round 2" of the contest will end on the last day of January, 2006.

A fast moving storm moved across the mountains, dumping heavy wet snow. The eight Mountain Men had made an almost fatal error. They stayed too long in the high country. Now cut off from retreating from the mountains they must survive and winter in this valley high in the mountains in what is today Wyoming. The pass was filled with eight feet of wind drift snow that no man or beast could enter or leave until the Spring thaw. The eight men decide to spend the week hunting for food to store for winter. At the end of the week only one small deer was taken. All the hunting parties reported the same thing, the valley was empty of large game. At the end of the second week there food was completely out and the men were hungry and cold. Finally one man suggest that they trap the beaver for food. Throughout the winter they caught enough to survive. Not enough to make and easy living but enough to pull through the brutal winter. A early spring thaw in March open the pass and a small of herd of 11 buffalo enter the valley. Soon the buffalo were turned into steaks and roasts. The men had survived the winter of 1804-05.

I read this account years ago and it has effect my life in many ways. Many lessons are taught in this short story. The unprepared can die. Counting on harvesting large game is not always possible. When hunting fails their traps saved their lives. Today we have more modern equipment lightweight snares that can catch and hold the animals. How to set these snares is simple. First you need to understand the basic parts. On one end is swivel. This so the animal can twist without breaking the cable. The next part is called a support collar it looks like a small piece of spring. The support collar job is to hook on to the support wire to hold the snare at the correct height. Next is the self-locking snare lock. There are different types of snare locks. Some such as the cam lock are designed to kill the animal. Others are designed to relax once the animal is caught, like a choke collar.

Say that you want to snare the raccoon that is coming into a corn field. You walk the edge of the woods and find the trail entering the field. Normally the coons will leave sign on what trail they are using like pieces of corn stalk and if you follow the trail in sometimes you find a pile of rocks or log with pile of corn cobs around it. The coons do this a lot in coyote areas. They are vulnerable to coyote attacks in the open so they learn to grab a corn cob and enter the woods climbing on a rock pile so they can watch for coyotes as they eat. On this trail you will find a place to set the snare where the trail is narrow down. Like between two small trees or under a fallen branch, limb, or tree. You can anchor the snare with 1/2" steel rebar stake. Or go around a tree feeding the snare lock through the snare swivel. Open the snare to an 8 inch loop and set it three inches off the ground. You can use light wire like 14 gauge wrap around the tree with a small piece coming off. Bend this over at the end and feed it into the support collar. That is it. When the coons comes down the trail he walks into the snare and is caught.

Snaring is literally that simple. No big secret trick to it. Now using scent lure to help increase your odds of catching animals. Lure are designed to attract the animal to the snare or trap. Normally lures are made out of 4-to-6 different ingredients. The difference between us and animals is that animals smell so much better, so they can tell each different part of the lure. Animals just like people have different taste. You might like Pizza Hut and your friend would prefer McDonalds. By having the different ingredients you cover a wider choice for the animals. Basically you cover something that will cause the vast majority of the animals to come visit the set. The lures are high concentration and designed to last for years and years. When using snares it is a good idea to place a small amount on a cotton ball on each side of the snare. Not real close to the snare about 2-3 feet on either side of the snare. This increases the odds that the animal will take the trail your snare is on.

Now when using a conibear trap you normally want the lure on the other side or behind the trap so the animal is trying to pass through the trap to get to the lure. My bucket set (as seen in my Beginning Trapping DVD) and some raccoon lure placed on a cotton ball. Toss the cotton ball behind the trap. This has caught thousands of coons for my students. One real good friend caught a 39 pound coon using this system. When other folks ask what he uses for bait and lure, he says that he "...can't remember." Like a fishermen, he told me, he has kept his lure secret so he could catch more animals. :-)

Just like any fast moving storm you too may be caught in a life or death struggle. Remember the old Mountain Man story the traps are why they survived the winter. Today, other factors can be just as fatal as being trapped in a mountain valley for the winter. Today it could be the Bird Flu, terrorist attack, economic collapse, etc. The old Boy Scout motto applies: always be prepared because as we have seen, being unprepared could be a fatal mistake. - Buckshot (Of Buckshot's Camp:

Thanks for your info on EMP protection, but it has created more questions than answers on some points. My current EMP protected items include several 12 volt inverters, solar chargers, shortwave, CB, and FRS Radios. I believe that most items on the grid will be cooked (those plugged in) People preparing today are putting money into generators, and solar power with Trace inverters. These are supposed to be “fine” with an EMP but a modern car will be toast? I am going to build a steel building, with small mesh in the concrete pour and have the whole thing grounded (giant Faraday box). That should cover the modern truck, tractor, ATV and generator. Any thoughts? - Rusty

JWR Replies: An "EMP Proof" garage is a great idea for anyone that is living in "footprint country."  (Within 280 miles of a major urban area--and hence at risk to a terrorist EMP nuke attack.) Needless to say, be sure not to run any cables (power, phone, or data) into a Faraday structure!

Is the sling that David is referring to in his latest piece; "David in Israel Re: Firearms for Survival" the same type as that shown in this link?  - Thanks, C.W.

JWR Replies: Yes, believe that is the type that he was referring to.Ther Israeli sling arrangement is nice in that the sling is top-mounted so that the rifle doesn't flip upside down when you let go of it. Sling arrangements for rifles tend to be very subjective and personalized. Use whatever works best for you, your stature, your personal circumstances, and your intended use.  For me, a plain old M60 black padded nylon sling works fine for nearly all of my rifles and shotguns in most circumstances-- assuming that they have top mount sling swivels. This sling is quiet and foolproof.  It is also long enough that it can be very versatile.  (For example, a few M60 slings linked linked together with couple of saplings and a poncho can make a hasty stretcher.)

OBTW, for those of you that are newbies:  Proper "patrol carry" of a long gun in hostile territory is normally with the sling completely detached and stowed in you pack or in a cargo pocket. That way you keep your rifle in your hands, where it belongs. For really long distance marches while carrying a rifle slung (in semi-secure territory), the rifle is best carried horizontal at your waist (using top mount sling swivels or a top-mount sling adapter--such as the excellent Holland's of Oregon rifle stock pouch with top mount sling D-ring). In my experience, it is best to have the sling  routed only around the back of your neck. That way you can shoulder the rifle quickly. Do not route the sling under one arm or it will hamper you in getting the rifle into action.

Good to see this discussion of Seismic Intrusion Detectors. Since I've been using these for the last 20 years I thought I'd pass along some of my experiences with the systems and devices. First, the AN/PSR-1A:
I got my first one at a gun show after looking high and low for them. The seller had no idea what it was. The previous owner had left the D cells in it until it corroded. It came with the original four sensors plus another 14. Super neat. With a good set of batteries and holders it's worked like a champ ever since. Sure it takes commo wire but so what. The nicest thing about it is with a small 9 volt DC radio shack amplifier and a clip lead you simply clip onto the leads showing the indication and you can not only hear stuff, you can listen to conversations. It's that good. [Here is a real life example:] You should have heard whatever it was that was eating the deer it took down and NO, I didn't go down there until morning.

Secondly, the AN/TSR-3A Wireless Seismic Intrusion Detection Set:
I originally got a set of these neat RF (read wireless) units for peace of mind while camping and then bought more as I ran across individual units. Daily, I use one in each vehicle as a wireless alarm, set to the minimum sensitivity and with the sensor horizontal (which is the least sensitive position). If the car even moves a little or even a fingernail tap on the window, the 2 meter on my belt beeps merrily away and I can be as far as a mile or two away from the vehicle. They come as a set of four on one of six frequencies (I think it's 6) so I acquired mine on three different frequencies.
Between the different frequencies and the fact that they each beep out 1,2,3 or 4 beeps, each with a different tone, I readily know where the action is.

BTW, "Springmtnd" was dead on regarding Merino Wool! It's great (and, now, newly acquired) ... Thanks!
Regards to you and the Memsahib.- The Army Aviator

Letter Re: Photocell and Seismic Intrusion Detection Systems (SAs: Retreat Security, Intrusion Detection)

Have you checked out "Dakota Alert"? (See: Intrusion detection is their specialty. - S.A.M.

JWR Replies: The Dakota Alert sensors are far more reliable than those Chinese junk systems that you typically see on eBay. You pay more for quality.

Wanted to comment on your reply to Rourke. I agree with you that independently managed homesteads are superior to the communal style that Rourke describes, but for a different, much simpler reason: human nature. In ANY communal system where fixed resources are shared, some members consume more than others, and the others get jealous. This is the basic reason that communism is untenable. A small group of people (family size) can emphasize frugality and make it stick, because wasting resources really may kill a loved one. The more extended the group becomes, the less well people know each other, the less 'real' the threat is to any individual, and the more envious of others any one may become. Rourke's idea of banding together for common defense is certainly a good one, but unless someone can ensure that all of the participants begin with equal resources and consume anything communal at an equivalent rate, then the seeds for destruction will have been sown. Just to be clear, I am not denigrating human selfishness in any way. I, in fact, defend rational self-interest as the well-spring from which society has emerged. But I also know that while self-interest is in the nature of every man, rationality is not. Keeping the groups small and self-managed, in a voluntary association with others, is the only tenable arrangement for long term survival. - M.W.

I received this earlier this morning: "You might pass this on to the blog from Joel Skousen. Rourke doesn't have a clue about how ugly the infighting and disagreement can be in among independent-minded and argumentative survivalists--especially those that start out as religious communities. I've seen virtually every survival community blow apart or split into various factions over the knotty decisions about shared facilities! Bad idea. JWR is right--keep it all private except for perhaps the water supply." Great site and blog, - W.

I just saw your letter from Rourke regarding survival communities. What he's describing is very similar to a concept called "Co-Housing". [It] combines both private property with commonly-owned (or controlled) property. Good information about the concept and implementation variations available at   Hope this helps! Debra (at The Claire Files)

Mr. Rawles,
The Rivendell community in rural Virginia was set up along similar lines in the buildup to Y2K. The folks there were interested in forming an explicitly Christian, Reformed, home schooling community that would foster group self-sufficiency. Their website ( is still active, but seems to have changed to theological study.  - TFA303

You are going for an entire community then, in which case I would recommend you actually form a Village and have self-government. (City is too complex). Now Disney in Florida even made its own county, but I doubt that will happen again. Still, a Village can be very powerful if you can do all the development up front. Set up police, fire, even schools, and public buildings and systems with survival in mind. What an opportunity. However, as it grows, the survival mindset of those started it is likely to be diluted, and that will show up in elections over time. As a primary residence community, I think it will be hard to get such a concentration of survivalist in a small area, thus I have gone toward the recreational retreat community or condo idea, thus pulling them from all over to an area with good survival capabilities.

I agree how great it would be to form an entire community with all that, but very few from my experience can afford that, thus I have trimmed down my dreaming. In fact, in polling I found $10,000 down and $500 a month was about the maximum you could expect from even the upper 10% of survivalists toward a retreat (besides their home). This is one reason I started with the condo idea, but for people with even lower budgets, I think the best solution is a trailer park/RV park lot. Now this would involve having well, gray water, and black water hook-ups with a common septic system and well, common electric off-grid power, a common building/bunker which will preferably be an earth shelter or concrete dome (i.e. with community bathrooms, showers, and kitchen and emergency housing, so it will stand up to a tornado even if all the trailers are lost. You make a good point about single source point failures, thus have dual systems set up would be a good idea, and over sizing them, so if one goes down, the other can pick up the slack. Hardened storage would also be good idea. Selling a very small lot for $5,000 would provide a lot of money for such improvements, maintained by a reasonable monthly or annual fee. Also, such lot could be leased out when that person is not there, just have a clause that they can be asked to leave within 24 hours and refunded the money, or some sort of escape clause if the owner is bugging out the site. Used hunting trailers around here are around $2,000. It seems to me the least expensive option. Once again, good to be near some farm land and an agreeable farmer for food production. - Rourke

"The nobler the language, the more nefarious the purpose of any legal instrument." - Mel

Monday, December 12, 2005

I have updated yesterday's post (Dec. 11, 2005) on the potential radius of EMP effects. The revised figure is a radius of 280 miles, based on a higher anticipated maximum potential altitude for some business jets. (See below.)

For those who have ever considered the idea of a survival community, I would like to propose a few ideas for consideration from a real estate developer’s perspective. The idea of cluster communities in rural areas is a growing idea in states including Colorado. The idea is to take some land, say 100 acres, and rather than breaking it up into twenty 5 acre lots, you instead cluster the lots into twenty 1 acre (or less) lots, and leave the remaining acreage as an undeveloped buffer owned by the subdivision association (or a LLC it controls), which is then controlled democratically by the home owners. Taking this a step further for survival purposes, it would be advantageous to have a good part of that common land in crop production and have a working relationship with a farmer, or perhaps work out the entire deal with the farmer who owned the land in the first place to continue farming that portion of land, and hopefully even bring in a little revenue.
Development costs for improving the lots are where this idea really shines. While it is usually a good idea for each home to have its own well, shared septic systems and backup power systems are cheaper if shared. Whether by a large conventional septic system, a mound system, or a mini-sewer plant, a waste water treatment system can be designed for easy and continuing operation after TSHTF. Same goes for large backup generator systems, which can be run off large propane tanks for long term fuel storage, or diesel fuel, which lasts for a good eight years with the stabilizer in it. The costs of a large battery [bank] system, and perhaps a solar array and wind mill can all be added into the development costs. There is also the opportunity to wire for an underground house to house phone or some type of intercom and party line communication system for alert, command, and control. Communications after phone lines go down is often overlooked even though they are the key to tactical coordinated defensive responses. Also, transmissions can give away your position, as well as be monitored.
Also, since the media strives to make “survivalist” a bad word, or as a new generation things instead of people eating bugs and getting voting off the island, the community should rather hold out itself as being and example of alternate energy, green building, green space, off-grid living, and self-reliance living. Think about would you would build into such a development. - Rourke (

JWR Replies: My covenant community concept is a bit different:  Start with a 640 acre section of land and subdivide it into 20 to 60 acre parcels, leaving a 20 acre "Commons" green in the center. Also somewhere near the center of the section, set aside a few half acre lots for stores, small businesses, and an acre for a church meeting hall/community center. IMHO, a development with larger parcels and a reserved place for commerce would lend itself to greater self sufficiency and a real sense of community that rourke's plan outlined above

Other than shared wells, I'm not a big believer in public utilities. I think that having separate family-owned off-grid power systems would be much more resilient than the "single point of failure" created by having a shared power utility. In the region that I'm considering, undeveloped land sells for around $4,000 to $5,000 per acre for 20 acre parcels. So buying a 20 acre chunk costs about the same amount as buying a 1/2 acre lot in the suburbs.

OBTW, I'd like to gauge the level of interest for such a project. If any of the readers of SurvivalBlog have the means and a sincere interest in being part of a survival-oriented covenant community in the inland Pacific Northwest, just send me an e-mail with "Preparedness Community" in the title, and I will file them away until the project gets going.

Could you tell us more about a seismic intrusion detection system? Until your recent comments on this being necessary for the security of a hidden retreat, I had never even heard of such a thing. There must be more novices like me who are soaking up like a sponge everything you write, and would be very interested in knowing more. Thank you, - Joe.

JWR Replies:  I cannot over-emphasize the need for a proper intrusion detection system for a retreat. The simplest are the photocell "driveway alarms" which are commonly used on farms and ranches in the west. Most folks buy them just to have advance waning on when the UPS truck is approaching with a delivery. But they would also have some utility in a slow-slide scenario.  If looters are stupid enough to come right up your driveway in the middle of the night, such a system will tip you off and give you enough warning to man a defense. Unfortunately most of these are dependent on 117 VAC power. You can often find these on eBay. Just be sure to get sturdy "Commercial" style system if you want it to last. (The $20 cheapo made in China systems are not designed to last.) You can expect to pay $50 to $150 for one of the good reliable ones.

Far more sophisticated systems have been used my the U.S. military since the 1960s. These used buried seismic probes to detect approaching vehicles, the footfalls of approaching troops, and even the vibrations from low flying helicopters. These are battery operated, and designed for tactical field use in all weather. The early type are hard-wired (typically with commo wire.)  The later ones are wireless, but require more batteries, since a small radio transmitter is mated to each seismic sensor. Once you get used to using one of these, you can learn to easily differentiate between the footfalls of a man and a deer. I'm not kidding.

The "old reliable" is the hard-wired AN/PSR-1A.  It was still used by USMC active duty units up until a few years ago. In fact, a few might still be lingering around USMC reserve units.  They use six D-cell batteries, or can easily be adapted to any other 9 VDC source. They use 1950s technology (EMP proof) and are a bit heavy for man-pack use. The 1950s-style headphone supplied with these are a joke, but very simple to replace with a modern pair of headphones. Just make sure that the new ones have correctly matching impedance. Otherwise, I have no complaints about these units. They work fine for a fixed-site retreat. OBTW, SurvivalBlog readers Kitiara and John at the Forevervain Blog mentioned that they recently obtained one of these sets through eBay.  Good choice!

OBTW, if you are an electronics wizard, Al Glanze at STANO Components ( ) has several hundred spare PSR-1A seismic probes available. They are very rugged.  If you were to mate some of these with a modern chassis (the PSR-1A circuit diagram is pretty simple) with a DSP chip that could trigger an audible alarm, you could build yourself a fantastic retreat security system.

One of the best recent-production U.S. military systems is the AN/TRC-3A Wireless Seismic Intrusion Detection Set. This model will work well for both fixed site retreats and mobile (patrolling bivouac site) use. These are often in stock with a number of vendors including Ready Made Resources (one of our advertisers) and Fair Radio Sales. Both of these companies are very reputable. They can also be found on eBay, buy beware that eBay sellers are notorious for selling nonfunctional used electronic gear.

A seismic intrusion detection set will be a tremendous labor saver in the the event of TEOTWAWKI-type collapse. While they are not a proper substitute for a 24/7-manned LP/OP, having one of these sets could mean the difference between life and death if you are operating a survival retreat that is short-handed.  When prioritizing your purchases, a good quality (full mil spec) seismic intrusion detection set should be near the top of your list. Don't skimp on this expense, or you will surely regret it later!

Mr. Rawles,
One vehicle that I would like to point out which I believe is pretty EMP proof is the earlier Dodge Diesels...from around 1989-1993. They have 12 valve Cummins engines which are completely mechanical driven with the exception of a 12 VDC battery which basically keeps the fuel pump open. As long as you have simple 12 volt battery power the vehicle cannot be shut down. These vehicles can be acquired from around $4-10k depending on condition and options. For simplicity you do not want the 24 valve and it should also be noted that one can easily get 400,000 miles out of a well maintained Cummins diesel engine. There are also several good internet resources for the do-it-yourself mechanic for maintenance such as and BTW: Patriots is a great book! - John

Bill in North Idaho's letter intrigued me, so I did some digging and thought you would be interested in what I found. The FinCEN FAQ is pretty clear that the requirements of being a 'dealer' only applies if you buy and sell more then $50,000 in one calendar year/tax year, so if you're buying up bullion and not selling it (i.e. hoarding it) you don't count as a 'dealer' so this specific ruling doesn't touch you. What it does do, is make most people selling lots of gold/silver/jewels into 'dealers' which means they file IRS form 8300 and report it if a transaction is over $10,000 or they believe that multiple transactions to one person will equal $10,000. Under my reading of this, you can get around being on file somewhere by doing one of three things:
1) Don't Buy From A 'dealer' Part I: 'retailers' are not always 'dealers' under this language (if they buy from US sources they're probably not), so ask where you buy if they comply with the FinCEN Anti Money Laundering rules. Note that this will probably raise more alarm bells than SurvivalBlog readers would like and might get your name on a 'suspicious transaction' form.
2) Don't Buy From A 'dealer' Part II: Private individuals who do less than $50,000 a year don't count, so find a like-minded individual and buy from him/her.
3) Do It Slowly. Even under this ruling, buying from a 'dealer' your name shouldn't go on a federal form unless you break $10k in one day. Spread out your purchasing to multiple stores over a period and don't buy from one store too often. Don't let them take your name/info and if they ask, don't go back.
This should, by my reading, keep your name off of any government forms. I don't even know who you would ask for a 'professional' opinion, maybe a tax lawyer, but I'm certainly not one.

Hi Jim,
Just wanted to send a short note to let you know how much I enjoy the site and the information there. Also, awhile back, Buckshot had posted a great article on trapping and a special on his DVDs trading for some 90% [pre-1965 U.S.] silver. I wanted to let you know what a great guy Buckshot is, and Mrs. Buckshot is pretty terrific as well. I've done a little trading with him and found him to be an honest and straightforward guy. His videos and traps are terrific!  Their e-mails and service is second to none. I'd recommend him to all your readers. Thanks Again, - Craig

"The first panacea of a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; and permanent ruin." - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Please continue to spread the word about SurvivalBlog. Just a brief mention of our URL in your e-mail footer will add thousands of daily readers.

SurvivalBlog reader Joe. K. mentioned in a recent e-mail that one of my heroes, Dr. Jack Wheeler, posted a dismissive article about the EMP threat, back in June. (It was posted at Wheeler's excellent "To The Point News" subscription website:  )  Wheeler is a fascinating fellow. Back in the 1960s, he swam the Hellespont, climbed the Matterhorn, and went tiger hunting as a civilian in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. All of this before he was 25 years old. He also spent a lot of time living with head hunters in the Amazon jungle. But I digress...  Wheeler's article, titled "The EMP Annoyance" soft-pedals the EMP threat. Although Wheeler is usually spot-on in his economic analyses, I think that he missed the mark in this case  His main premise is based on the fact that the Starfish Prime EMP high altitude hydrogen bomb test at Johnston Atoll in 1962 caused only transitory power grid and radio disruption 700 miles away in Hawaii. But what he forgets is that those were the days of simpler electronics--when much of America was still primarily using electron tubes and just a few transistors. Modern microcircuits, with their incredibly small gate dimensions are at an order of magnitude greater risk to EMP.

Wheeler is correct in his assertion that terrorists will probably not have access to hydrogen (fusion) bombs--just traditional fission bombs.  Nor will they have access to any means of detonating a nuke at extremely high altitude to maximize its line of sight (LOS) "footprint" area of effectiveness. But nation states like China have both.

Several SurvivalBlog readers have written to ask me about the greatest potential effective range of an EMP-optimized nuclear detonation. The answer is both easy and impossible to determine. Let me explain. First, the easy part. The basic LOS footprint range calculation is really simple. It is essentially the same as the calculation that is used to determine the maximum effective range for a VHF or UHF radio onboard an aircraft. Referring back to one of my unclassified notebooks from my Electronic Warfare (5M) course at Fort Huachuca, I find: Assuming level terrain, the maximum potential radius of LOS in nautical miles (nmi) = square root of the emitter's altitude (in feet) x 1.056. Hence, that would be 149.3 nmi at 20,000 feet ASL, or 191.8 nmi at 33,000 feet ASL. (A typical jet or C-130's service ceiling. SurvivalBlog reader "Flighter" mentioned: "...some of the larger business jets such as the Airbus ACJ, Gulfstream, Challenger, and Citation are certificated to fly at or above 41,000 feet. The Sino Swearingen SJ30, is perhaps the highest flyer with a certificated ceiling of 49,000 feet. A dangerous parabolic flight profile could with supplemental oxygen for the flight crew perhaps push apogee to 75,000 feet in a few aircraft models. (Hey, it would be a suicidal flight anyway.) That is probably the highest altitude that could be expected for a terrorist to touch off a nuke--at least in the near future. That would equate to a footprint with a 280 mile radius.

Now on to the part that is impossible to predict: long range linear coupling.  Because telephone lines, power lines, and railroad tracks will act as giant antennas for EMP, the EMP waveforms will be coupled through those structures for many, many miles beyond line of sight (BLOS). Just how many miles BLOS is not yet known. I believe that if it were not for the advent of the Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty and the Outer Space Test Ban Treaty, the DOD and AEC would have had the opportunity to conduct far more extensive tests to further characterize the panoply of potential EMP effects. But those test bans have kept us in the dark. In the absence of practical data, there is a lot guesswork, even among "applied physics" specialist nuclear weapons scientists. We may not know the full extent of the EMP risk until after we see that bright flash on the horizon.

For planning purposes, you can probably safely assume that if you are living more than 280 miles from a major city, then your vehicle electronics will be safe from a terrorist  nuke's EMP. (Since you will be BLOS to the EMP footprint of a nuke that is set off below 75,000 feet ASL.) Your home electronics, however, anywhere in CONUS might be at risk due to long range linear coupling--that is if your house is on grid power. This, BTW, is one more good reason for you to set up your own off-grid self sufficient power system.

I'll start with a confession: It is hard for me, a true "heavy battle rifle/ M1911 .45/ one shot is all it takes" kind of guy to advocate hosing down and running. Reading posts
about the tinkering and modding is fun but as I hear the Arabs across the wadi from me get all fired up and shoot into the air (I hope). I realize it is not about looking cool but staying alive. Attacking the most controversial issue, let's sit back and watch the flames spread from this!

1-Concealment and deception. Be "The Gray Man" (see my post on this concept, Thursday, November 3, 2005 in the Survival Blog Archives), avoid the fight.

2-If it is too difficult, eventually you will likely not do it. [For example, heavy/ungainly guns get left in places where they are not quickly accessible.]

Speaking with survivalists, the first topic is almost always firearms. While a fun hobby we must discuss separating the hobby aspect from the application. A survivor with limited resources must consider the utility of the tool he intends to purchase. The firearm is not to be on the top of your preparation list. Don't let the Audie Murphy fantasy knock you off the track to survival.

Reasonable assumptions to be applied to survival weapons:
1- You are not the Army, so don't try to copy the army
2- You are not an offensive unit--his is contrary to survival in almost all cases.
3- Hunting is for sport, trapping and/or livestock are food except in cases of target of opportunity, the time wasted on a hunt is needed elsewhere.
4- In most locations the largest dangerous animal is a human.
5- Long range shooting is both fun and cool, you likely won't have a good reason to do that.
6- A heavy weapon will slow you down some no matter how strong you are
7- People are rightly frightened by bullets whizzing past them

We can waste quite a bit of time fighting over these assumptions but we are looking at statistics and not an emotional attachment to a favorite in your collection. This is to be primarily a defensive arm to keep you alive--saving you from one or more raiding thugs, before order is restored.

Group 1
Heavy battle rifles are awesome to behold, tossing a 180 grain slug at the bad guys or imagining the force of a butt stroke from the oak stock is what some fantasies are made of. Reality is that unless you have a disability which limits your running they make the quick sprints that save lives more difficult. The heavier slug is not a major deciding factor unless you plan on assaulting troops in body armor. For survival, I consider these in a similar class to a light machine gun, good for a fixed fortification or military assault but not for protection.

Group 2
Assault style rifles, SMGs, and carbines offer a handy easily portable weapon but can provide quick suppressing and aimed fire assuming a large magazine. A few shots to keep their heads down as you back up is what living to see another day is made of. Only the most hardened (stupid) soldier will not duck when gunfire is aimed in their direction. The chances of you taking an aimed (G-d forbid) kill shot are low, you and your loved ones should be worried about how to get away with the time you have bought. Try to get a weapon which has some aimed fire accuracy beyond 10 meters. CAR-15/M4 with an Israeli sling would be my choice.

Group 3
Scout Rifle
Light and handy, reliable bolt action accurate at long range. Sadly it may be less of a deterrent as it doesn't look as aggressive. A beautiful hunting or ultra light sniper arm, [but] its slow action makes laying down suppressing fire impossible.

A regular magazine is good for carry and normal usage but in the case of an encounter with rifle armed opponents a 30 round mag will give you the spray power
to make your escape. A detachable stock (if available/legal in your country) helps with aim and handling, but you likely will be drawing from a holster and not have
time to attach it.

Combat is usually fast and unexpected--an ambush or a raid. Humans with a desire to live will almost always disengage at any sign of real resistance. Suppressing
fire while not normally lethal will buy time for retreat and maneuver.

Fantasy is made of one shot kills. This fantasy is built in static training ranges. Marksmanship is absolutely vital (thousands of rounds a year) but training should include several sprints before quickly taking you place on the line, while you are still winded. ALWAYS HAVE A SAFETY SPOTTER. While winded, practice taking snap shots from holster and slung positions.

Team paint ball (real competition not weekend buddy fun) will safely let you experience something like the confusion of a firefight and the utility of suppressing fire mixed
with a few aimed shots.

Proper training and drill time must be invested to use aimed fire during a fire fight. Even the most committed range shooter likely has not had the proper mental/psychological drilling to enable them to effectively return aimed fire if ambushed or raided. It takes real discipline to keep to the plan and fall back in an organized way rather than dropping pack and running (sometimes the best tactic) or laying down fetal position and expelling ones bowels.

Interestingly, since the Yom Kippur war standard selector setting on our M16s is on semi-auto after they almost ran out of 5.56 ammunition.
In serious combat units most soldiers pack a M4 orCAR-15 with a reflex sight with one or two ACOG scopes per squad. The reflex sight chalieem can do
snap shots while the sharpshooters get the more distant targets.

See: A sub part of this site was mentioned in the article that you posted Friday, but I’d recommend posting this main page of the site.

People forget we had an asteroid pass very close to us last year, just 2/3 the distance to the moon. (Called a lunar distance or "LD").

Let’s look at two more things. 1.) NASA just recently proved they can hit an asteroid with a satellite. Doesn’t that strike you as at least a little odd they would spend the money to do that just for researching the impact? 2.) Now, did you also notice that the military is working on a new type of “bunker busting” nuclear penetration bomb that survives for 100 milliseconds, burrowing into the ground through concrete and steel, and then goes off? Put the two together and you have a far more realistic approach to busting an approaching asteroid than was portrayed in the movies Deep Impact or Armageddon. - Rourke

Mr. Rawles,
I have been enjoying reading your excellent blog. Some thoughts for you on the post from Rourke and the troubles presented by EMP.

The only circuit breaker that could possibly open before an EMP surge could do damage are some large (400+ pounds) industrial types and they start at about $40,000. Be quite the installation. Any breaker you can get for less than that just ain't nearly fast enough.

You want to be a bit careful about installing a grounding system in your house that isn't connected to the house's grounding system, if it has one. The National Electrical Code forbids it, and for good reason.

Let's say I build a Faraday cage in my basement, and drive a ground rod just for it. Now let's say that my home is grounded--most are. If the physical arrangement of my cage is such that I can touch the cage and something else metallic in my basement, such as a washer, dryer, freezer or some such because there are now two separate ground pathways there can be a voltage difference between the two and since I'm touching both I become the conductor for any voltage differences. Does that make sense?

Grounding systems for some large installations can be huge and very complex, but they are all, electrically one system so no voltage differences can exist.
Hope this helps. - Catshooter

Most all of the current US Army field manuals (FMs) are available for download directly from the Army at:
Note: Some are restricted access to those with a .gov or .mil address, but many can be downloaded by anyone. BTW, the Army for some reason decided to 'modernize' the numbering system and the 5-series manuals are now 3-series. Generally, though, the older manuals (some of which are available, as mentioned, from or are also useful. The newer manuals are more technology intensive than the older ones. It's good knowing the current state of the art though. Keep up the excellent work on SurvivalBlog!

JWR Adds: Anyone in the active military, Reserve, in the National Guard, retired from the military, or that works for a defense contractor can get a Army Knowledge Online (AKO) web account. (See: ), which will give you access to the entire library of U.S. Army manuals. I presume that AKO accounts might be also available or anyone that is on a Civil Defense team.

I just discovered that SurvivalBlog reader Matt C. has his own blog: Matt's blog centers on his tactical firearms training. He is a regular shooter at a weekly class taught by a certified CHL/Lethal Use of Force trainer. Matt chronicles these lessons and passes on some great pearls of wisdom. Be forewarned that he uses a bit of off-color humor and language, but I recommend his blog. Good stuff.


Some disturbing reading on GWB's opinion of the Constitution:


I heard that George at The Pre-1899 Specialist has put some of his hand selected Model 1893  8x57mm Oberndorf Mauser bolt action rifles (German made, Turkish contract) on sale for $169 plus shipping. See: NO FFL is required for shipping right to your doorstep, in most states.

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." - Patrick Henry, during the Virginia Convention to Ratify the Constitution (1788)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Electromagnetic pulse (EMP), is now a commonly know effect thanks to movies showcasing the nuclear version such as Goldeneye (James Bond) and the remake of Ocean’s 11 which shows a non-nuclear version. The real question for survivalists is: what is EMP actually going to do to my valued equipment and what can I realistically do about it? Let’s start with lightening since it is very well understood. We know that lightening will tend to seek out the highest conductive point that is grounded and then seek to flow through a conductor, often back and forth a few times, until the electrical charge imbalance between the cloud and ground is neutralized. To protect buildings, lighting rods have been erected on them historically to channel the electrical current around the building and into the ground.
With EMP the concept of channeling the energy away from what we wish to protect is somewhat similar. EMP is a pulse of energy, and travels through everything. The idea is to shield something from it my placing it in (surrounding it with) a conductive (metal) box that is then grounded (preferably into the earth). The conductive box thus channels a large amount of the electrical energy passing into it down the ground, sparing what is inside of it from the full force of the electro magnetic pulse.
The good news is such a Faraday Cage or Faraday Shielding need not be expensive. A metal file cabinet or inexpensive light weight gun safe will work. I bought a used heavy metal box that I think was originally used to keep coal or sand in. What you want is a complete and connected conductive metal (steel) exterior surface, not a grid or cage with gaps (this is why the term Faraday Cage is actually not a good term since with a cage people think of bars). [JWR Clarifies:  Actually, a cage-like structure would work, but the largest gap in the mesh would have to be less than 1/4 of the wavelength of the expected pulse. Hence, 1/2" wire mesh should be sufficient.]  Ideally you should connect a very heavy gage electrical wire (monster cable or 220 volt heavy electric wire) to a stand-alone dedicated ground (usually a copper rod drilled in below your basement floor). Some people say connect it to your copper plumbing or steel pipes. The problem with this is that the pipes could act as an antenna and actually channel energy to the Faraday shield. Just talk to an electrician about putting in a ground.
Although the Faraday principal says the electrical items are safe inside as long as they are not connected or touching the exterior shield, I think you still have to worry about the spark gap. Thus my advice is to put your expensive electronic stuff (computer, laptop, night vision, digital camera, radio equipment, etc.) into plastic tubs with plastic lids, and that then into the Faraday Cage. Plastic of course was developed as an insulator for radar in WWII, which due to it’s high voltage had to have an insulator between metal parts so the electricity didn’t just spark through the air (spark gap). Mineral oil has also been used as an insulator in high voltage equipment.
Remember, having anything plugged in, or hooked to an antenna defeats the purpose of shielding around it as you have provided an electrical highway [an unintentional antenna] right in. The use of a [lightning protection fast] fuse on such necessary plugged in equipment is probably your best bet as I fear a circuit breaker is not going to react quickly enough to save delicate equipment. However, I am not an electrical engineer nor am I claiming to be an EMP expert here. I am just trying to apply practical solutions to the problem and welcome the constructive criticism or correct by others who are more knowledgeable and can offer better solutions to the problem. - Rourke

More on the subject:
Understanding EMP:  
EMP Bomb: 
Faraday Cages: 
Duncan Long on EMP:

Dear Mr. Rawles,
On 5 Dec. '05 you recommended the "5-" series Army Engineer Corps manuals. [Some of] these manuals are on the net to download at More U.S. military manuals can be downloaded from links at: .   And BTW, is a very good site to see what the military is planning for a influenza outbreak. - Simon.

Beware of a second pouring to thicken a concrete shelter lid for added fallout protection. It is essentially a dead load that causes the lid to get closer to it’s stress limit. Thickness adds strength only when it is part of a single pouring, with all the needed rebar integrated. I would advise consulting an engineer before adding unforeseen load to a concrete span. - Mr. Bravo

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning that! I have just added a proviso to my original post.

It looks like our rulers are going to tighten the noose on reporting requirements for bullion purchases to chip away at anonymous buyers effective January 1, 2006. See:   FDR started the ball rolling in 1933. See:

This FINCEN ruling may be the precursor to the next confiscation coming down the pike. Instead of “hoarding”, the new buzzword is now money-laundering prevention. As with guns, the strategy is to attach names and addresses to potentially confiscated goods to facilitate asset seizure and forfeiture.- Bill in North Idaho

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." - Ayn Rand, from the novel Atlas Shrugged

Friday, December 9, 2005

The statistical chance of a large asteroid striking the Earth in any given year is very small--in fact almost statistically insignificant--since such events occur on average only once in more than 10,000 years. However, the consequences if such an event were to occur would be tremendous--perhaps even an "extinction level event."  Recent advances in astronomy have led to the realization that a large number of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that have true "Earth-crossing" orbits was far greater than was originally estimated.  See:

The Tunguska, Siberia event in 1908 and the Curucá incident in Brazil in 1930 (in both of which it is suspected that a small asteroid vaporized before striking the Earth) are indicative that he asteroid threat is real. The1997 asteroid XF11's near miss (see: should have served as a wake-up call, but politicians tend to be complacent about subtle threats unless they suddenly become non-subtle and a goodly number of registered voters get obliterated. 

Here is another interesting site to peruse:

It is not reassuring to read that a number of  asteroid "near misses" (in terms of astronomical units)  were detected only after the asteroid had passed.

A recent article in England's Guardian newspaper outlined the threat posed by the 390 meter wide Apophis asteroid, which could strike the Earth in 31 years. An asteroid that large could represent the risk of major climate change but not quite an extinction level event. (That would probably take an asteroid more than a kilometer in diameter.) In part, the article stated:  "NASA has estimated that an impact from Apophis, which has an outside chance of hitting the Earth in 2036, would release more than 100,000 times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima. Thousands of square kilometers would be directly affected by the blast but the whole of the Earth would see the effects of the dust released into the atmosphere." To read the entire article, see:

The World Tribune recently published some interesting excerpts from the new book, "War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World", by Frank J. Gaffney and Colleagues, reprinted with permission from the publisher, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. OBTW, I had the privilege of meeting Frank Gaffney, back when I was on the editorial staff of Defense Electronics magazine. I was favorably impressed with both his acumen and his common sense. For the full text of the review, see:

Mr. Rawles:
You recently advised your preference for masonry, adobe, and rammed-earth retreat construction for the obvious ballistic protection and I agree. But here in northern Idaho and Montana we have recently experienced increased earthquake activity and you might caution your loyal readership to visit the excellent USGS website which provides detailed USA earthquake zone maps. Three million folks in Pakistan are now presently homeless because their bullet-proof houses crumbled after the earthquake. Before anyone builds their retreat they should also learn about California earthquake building codes and how to add inexpensive metal strapping to wood construction so their retreat does not also become their coffin in the event of an earthquake. Simpson Strongtie Corp's website is the industry standard for hardening construction. Regards, - "Book"

JWR Replies: In that impoverished part of the world they are famous for building masonry buildings with reinforcement, since re-bar is expensive--at least by Third World standards. But I definitely agree that regardless of how much re-bar you might add, a wood frame house is much more suitable than masonry in earthquake country.

With regard to motorcycles and EMP, modern Japanese and German bikes (I cannot speak for Harleys) have black boxes that are susceptible to EMP in the same way that car electronics are. Older bikes, of course, used points ignitions and should survive unscathed. A good rule of thumb to use would be that if a car of a particular year would survive, then a motorcycle of that same year probably would too. Might even be able to add a year or two, since bike development was always a little behind cars in the '70's. Depending on your primary anticipated needs, I would look for a mid-to-late 1970s Honda twin, like a CB500T. Slow but bulletproof. Lots of them made for many years. Some bikes from that era used 6 volt systems (the CB500T included). I know that the CB500F (four cylinder from that era) used a twelve volt system and is a much better street bike. The twin would be a better off-road bike since it is much lighter. Any off road use should involve different tires. Both Hondas had 19" rims if I remember correctly. Not sure if modern dirt bike tires would fit. Most Japanese bikes from that era should work in a SHTF scenario, with lots of parts commonality between models of the same brand. The beauty is that you could probably pick up three or four of the same older model right now dirt cheap, and have a couple of entire bikes worth of spares. The Japanese would use the same motor in several different models, (like street bikes and Enduro bikes), and just change the gearing (internal and sprockets) for different uses. If I had to think of the things that seem to wear out on these bikes it is cables and bulbs. A spare rectifier and a couple of sets of points and you should be good to go. Another thing to consider is that while the fast bikes of the time (GS1000, KZ1000, XS1100, et cetera) are still great bikes for highway use, they are all close to 600 pounds, and would be quite a handful if used off-road. Hope this helps. - The Other M.W.

James K is right to assume that a motorcycle can make a good back-up BOV. A dual-sport style motorcycle is fuel efficient, off-road capable and can split lanes in a sudden G.O.O.D. situation (being from CA, I assume that James is in a urban or suburban environment). Fortunately, these are also the simplest of modern road bikes. Although fuel injection is becoming more widespread, all new DP bikes are still carbureted (with fuel being fed by gravity). For simplicity's sake, air-cooled is the best option here, since it is one less system to fail. Models like the Honda XR650 and Suzuki DR650 would both offer excellent performance and fuel economy. A bike equipped with a kick starter would be great, although I am not sure that a decompression solenoid would be affected by EMP. All modern bikes are vulnerable to EMP since they use digital/transistorized ignition systems. The good news is that these components are small and can be sealed in a homemade Faraday cage.
[JWR adds: Such as a metal can or biscuit tin with a metal lid.] I am currently working on building a battery box that will be large enough to house the ignition circuitry along with the battery. Spare ignition wires, and another ignition module/voltage regulator would be wise precautions. - "Bossaboss"

I see the question of EMP and motorcycles came up. Many of the newer bikes have computerized ignition systems. Some even have similar fuel injection. They are getting so hi-tech that they are in the same boat as the newer cars. The prospective buyer just has to do a bit of homework and find an older machine with [a traditional] points ignition. With most brands, it has been a while since any have used points ignition, but there are many bikes in garages with few miles on them that are hardly ridden. Unfortunately, they almost always need: new tires, new battery, and to have their carburetors cleaned and re-built. Then you are ready for the road. It pays to use gas stabilizer when storing, or shut off the fuel and run the carbs dry, thereby preventing varnish build-up in the carbs. It is also a handy place to keep a little emergency fuel handy for the generator or whatever while in storage for the winter. I always shut off the fuel and run the carbs dry as winter approaches, not knowing when the roads will be salted later in the fall. Now they have. I have had friends tell me I will dry out the seals in my carbs that way, but it has never happened yet, after many years of doing it this way. Thank you for keeping this going. - Sid, Near Niagara Falls

JWR's Comment:  Once again, the SurvivalBlog readership has responded generously to a casual request for information. I am constantly amazed by the breadth and depth of knowledge that you folks have. Your collective knowledge is one of the most important factors that has led to the phenomenal success of SurvivalBlog. MANY Thanks!

"Thunder", one of the senior members and moderators over at The Claire Files Gulching/Self-Sufficiency Forum just posted a couple of useful URLs on various designs for homemade backpacking stoves. See: and


The last time I checked, the spot price of silver was at $8.99 per ounce and gold was at at $522.30 per ounce. Those of us in the contrarian "Gold Bug" minority camp are finally feeling vindicated. There will probably be a profit taking dip soon, so stand ready to throw some of your spare change at this charging bull.  OBTW, you can get live quotes on precious metals with our free ticker down at the bottom of the SurvivalBlog Investing page.


I spotted an interesting background piece on Able Danger over on See:

"The reality is ... pandemics happen. When it comes to a pandemic, we are overdue and we are under prepared."
- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, as recently quoted at

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Please e-mail me your favorite quote and I'll likely post it as a SurvivalBlog "Quote of the Day."

In my continuing search for the most ideal way to construct a secure home or remote retreat with elements of survivability, stealth, off-grid living, and yet keep it within the bounds of conventional financing, I keep coming back to a version of the same idea; to build under your garage, especially if it is attached. In the Northern region where I am (Michigan), since one must dig down four feet for foundations to safely be below the frost line anyway, the additional cost of going another 4 or 5 feet isn’t very much. In fact, with the home I just completed, I figure my additional cost of building a retreat under my three car garage was about $25,000. This includes the Fort Knox vault door, plumbing, electric, HVAC run and return, treated floor, and hydronic heat I put down myself. With 780 square feet of living space, that’s about $32 per square foot for space that would have otherwise been filled in with dirt. Try to add on to your house for that cost. Besides the costs, though, it was something I could do even with subdivision building restrictions which would not have allowed me to build a bunker
The concept is simple and made easy by using reinforced poured concrete walls 10” thick, and by using Span-Crete® or any pre-stressed concrete product, which in my case covers a 30 foot open span ($10,500). Often, for not much more money, you can have them add more steel to take even more weight. I know someone who did this so he could drive in his 13,000 pound Bobcat into his garage with bunker under it. The two foot wide segments are quickly set in place by crane ($500), then they are covered with 2” of hard foam insulation, a 60 mil over-sized rubber roof membrane ($700), and then 4 inches of concrete is poured over that (which you were going to pour for your garage floor anyway, thus zero additional cost). I curled up the edges of the rubber membrane against the concrete walls of the garage (which come up about a foot then are wood). After the garage floor was done, I cut the excess member off about four inches up, then covered it with 2x6” treated wood, nailed to the wall and caulked it. The rest of the construction is conventional. There is a main doorway accessible from the basement through what looks like a closet. It goes down a few steps because it is slightly lower than the rest of the basement, and has a separate sump pit and pump out. There is a Fort Knox inward-opening vault door so that if the house collapses, the door will not be blocked by debris since it opens into the retreat space. I also recommend a mechanical lock, since electronic locks could be destroyed by EMP (how frustrating would that be). Some people talk about blast doors. IMHO, if a vault door is not enough, you had better move further away from ground zero. Six inch diameter PVC was used in various places before pouring the basement walls for HVAC forced air in and out, also with two separate air vents, intake and outtake, and two more to run electric service and hydronic heat hook ups through. Though my lot and situation did not allow it, a secondary entrance/exit is a very good idea. Mine is unfortunately a pick axe. To save on another vault door, you can use an old gun safe and torch open the back as a walk through. Spend the money to have a good contractor seal and insulate the exterior walls, such as one that offers a dry basement guarantee of at least 10 years ($800 more for me--the entire house was $2,600). For the basement floor, I used Rust-Oleum basement floor sealer. I also used the non-skid additive, and it produced a very nice finish ($150). Just be sure to ventilate when you do that or you will have a headache. Electrical is simple, just conduit to outlets all around on the painted concrete walls and ceiling, and regular ceramic light fixtures with efficiency bulbs. A great place to have put the generator would have been under the stoop of the front door, had I been a better planner. Mine is out in the open, but I am putting in a DC backup system that also runs to a solar panel on the roof. So what you finally get by doing this is the addition of highly secure space to an otherwise conventional home that most people would never expect to be there in a residential home, under where you park your vehicle. Since this was less than 20% of the cost of the house, and added a lot of “storage space” or could be a “home theater” room, the bank didn’t have a problem with it. On the plans, it just looked like more finished basement space. One more thing, I also ran plumbing into mine to allow for bathing. (A shower, not a tub). One of the first things that I've noticed about the bomb shelters and safe rooms that I have seen is the lack of a toilet. Even if you don’t want to do the expense of running plumbing, be aware there are many vented dry toilet or marine type (pump-out) alternatives. If you are going to spend that much, I say at least spend a little more an make it civilized.- Rourke

JWR Adds: For new construction, I recommend going to the expense of putting 10" to 12" of reinforced concrete overhead. That is sufficient to make your basement double as a fallout shelter. But that upgrade will of course make it obvious to the building contractors what you have intended. A ceiling of say eight inches thick probably wouldn't arouse suspicion. Perhaps a "do it yourself" second pouring of concrete would work (IF the floor beneath is engineered to take that sort of dead load), for those of you that are Secret Squirrels.

I also recommend that you fully conceal the entrance to your shelter. There are a number of ways to make a doorways disappear. Anyone that is relatively skillful with hand tools can build a pivoting bookcase door. (Tres Batman, Tres Chic.) To make the doorway less apparent, first remove all of the molding and then lower the top of the doorway from the standard 78 inches to perhaps 60 inches--filling in with framed rectangle and sheet rock. (Of course you'll have to be familiar with how to frame with 2x4s, cut sheet rock, tape, and texture to make this look right.) Then you can position a five foot tall bookcase in front of the the doorway. Yes, you will have to stoop each time that you pass through, but the entrance will be far less perceptible to all but the most keen observers. BTW, there are lots of similar ideas in the slim little tome titled: "The Construction of Secret Hiding Places" by Charles Robinson, (1981) published by Desert Publications.

Two inexpensive approaches to basement shelters that I've recommended to consulting clients are: A.) Making a full size basement appear to to be a "half basement" by the addition of a solid wall or false wall. (Either make a hidden door through the false wall, or a trap door to the walled-off room from a room upstairs) and B.) Making a basement disappear completely, by concealing its entrance (as described above) and by using some earth berming to hide any exterior evidence that the house ever had a basement.

In a recent economic analysis piece featured by our friends at, (, Paul Tustain outlines just how bad the national debt situations is, he compares our situation to Argentina a few years ago, and he predicts that Uncle Sam will inflate his way out of the jam. My extrapolation of Tustain's remarks--and from what I've read from many other analysts: One likely end result will be a dollar crisis and gold at perhaps $2,000+ per ounce. Meanwhile, the expert "chartists" like Clive Maund (see: tell us that in the recent run-up past $510 per ounce, gold has pushed so far above the 90 day moving average (90 DMA) so rapidly that it is substantially overbought. (See our free precious metals tickers at the SurvivalBlog Investing page.) The chartists predict a temporary retracement--perhaps bringing gold to as low as $480 per ounce before the bull resumes his charge. That dip might be a buying opportunity for those of you that presently feel like you've missed the boat. Maund says that any retracement in silver will be much smaller and shorter-lived. The silver bull, he says, will barely pause to catch its breath. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I predict substantially higher prices for gold and silver before the end of GWB's second term.

I have been purchasing my silver from a store in Reno Nevada and have never had a problem with them.

I read your blog everyday at lunch, I enjoy it immensely. I was wondering what your thoughts were on vaccinations.  Last month I was vaccinated for Flu, Pneumonia, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Tetanus and Diphtheria. I am 50 years old and had the usual vaccinations when I was a child, is there anything else that I should consider getting?  Have a Merry Christmas. - Jim from Illinois

JWR Replies:  I have very mixed feelings about inoculations. Currently, with the emerging threat of Asian Avian Flu, the only one inoculation that I strongly recommend getting is Pneumovax 23.  That one is reportedly good for 10+ years and protects against 23 different strains of pneumonia.  It will of course do nothing to stop the Asian Avian Flu itself, but it may prevent pneumonia co-infections.  (Respiratory co-infections are expected to be a big killer if and when Asian Avian Flu ever mutates ito a strain that is easily transmissible between humans.)

[Your post on Tuesday December 6, 2005 was] good info on high versus low [retreat terrain selection.] Remember: distance = safety. The further away you are from the threat, the safer you will be from the threat. As a former Recon Marine, I learned first-hand that invisibility is far superior to visibility. Keep a very low profile. Exercise strict noise, light, and movement discipline, and you will have an edge on the competition. Semper Fi, - Old Sarge

"Success demands a high level of logistical and organizational competence." - General George S. Patton, Jr.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

To start, I'd recommend the "5-" series Army Engineer Corps manuals. You will find some great ideas there. There was also an anonymously penned small paperback book titled  "Defending Your Retreat" (1978) published by Delta Press. I assume that it is still in print. It includes good descriptions on placement of defensive
wire, (both concertina and tanglefoot) and one of the best discussions on the use of flares (trip flares and parachute flares) that I've seen in print anywhere. The second half of the book is a reprint from an Engineer Corps field manual. IMO, for a retreat house nothing beats living in a masonry, adobe, or  rammed earth house with a fireproof roof. (metal or tile.) Ideally, if there are any exposed beams, they should be swathed in sheet metal to make them less vulnerable to Molotov cocktails. (You can paint the metal to make it look decorative.) The specifications for bulletproof steel window shutters and upgraded doors are described in my novel Patriots.  The novel also mentions a handy formula for calculating the weight of plate steel.  This can be important when considering what sort of hinges are needed, as well as the hoists and or jacks required for handling something that heavy. (I've found that a rolling engine hoist works well. The trick is to move very slowly and carefully, with lots of planning and communication/agreement on exactly what is planned by everyone involved before making the smallest move. A moving 200 pound piece of plate steel can be very unforgiving when fingers of toes get in the way--especially if it falling. Remember: 32 feet per second, per second!)

A few years back, I helped a friend design a slip-form concrete house with a native rock facade. The roof is metal, but it is there mainly there for show, since the house also has a 6" thick reinforced concrete roof, beneath. Since the house sits in a canyon, he only has to worry about one vehicular approach. There are abrupt four foot high terraces and "decorative" concrete planter boxes around the house that prevent vehicles from getting up close and personal. On a related note: A simple solution to the potential RPG/LAW rocket threat is also described in Patriots.

Mismanaged for many years by a horrendously corrupt and inept communist government, Zimbabwe's economy is sliding into deeper Schumer. SurvivalBlog reader Lyn recommended this article:,5942,17457835,00.html
The Australian newspaper reports that the mass inflation continues: "A US dollar now costs $Z61,000 at official rates and $Z85,000 on the black market."
The economy continues to decline, along with farm production. Now starvation is a real threat in a country that once fed much of sub-Saharan Africa. To make matters worse, the infrastructure is crumbling--including sewage treatment plants. The Australian reports that there is the risk of disease--with cholera and amoebic dysentery likely.

You will note that I often focus on Zimbabwe because it is a prime example of a "slow slide" situation. The conditions go from bad to worse, but gradually, so that there is no decisive trigger for a popular counter-revolution. Pray for the people of Zimbabwe. Comrade Mugabe and his cronies must go!

For some tragicomic relief, SurvivalBlog reader M.Z. recommended this pictorial article: showing the civil war in Liberia. I surmise that a few squads of soldiers that was trained to aim and use fire discipline could clear the city of this riffraff in short order.

I saw your post today about scrap metal. My brother was in a rather serious relationship with a wealthy Chinese girl (both college students). Her family owned a number of restaurants and my brother got to be very close to the family. The family’s primary wealth came from selling scrap steel to main land china though. My brother also believes the family was into some sort of organized crime, and slowly backed out of the relationship with the girl fearing for his safety. He is an international business student and is very astute when it comes to financial matters, and the amount of money this family was making with this venture piqued is curiosity.

I find it disturbing finding out they are buying up so much brass as well. It blows my mind that we trade with favored status to a nation that considers us an enemy. More policy makers should read Sun Tzu. - Sam Markley

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Do you have any information on the vulnerability of modern motorcycles to an EMP? I do not currently own one, though thinking seriously about buying one (a model with off road capabilities has a lot of potential as a back-up escape vehicle) . The information I've read on the web (about EMP and vehicles) is all focused on automobiles. Sincerely, - James K., Peoples Republic of Kalifornia

JWR Replies: Sorry, but that is outside of my base of knowledge. Perhaps one of our readers will chime in with some details.

Lest we forget: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan...As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense...With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God."
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt - December 8,1941

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Don't forget to place your order for your SurvivalBlog merchandise soon to be sure to have it in time for Christmas.  A SurvivalBlog logo T-shirt, hat, or bumper sticker is the ultimate conversation starter--one, in fact, that may help you meet important friends--perhaps friends that will save your life.

I often have SurvivalBlog readers and consulting clients ask me about the "ideal" terrain for a rural survival retreat house. I must report that there is no single "best" answer because there are significant trade-offs related to terrain. Castles were situated on hilltops for centuries, for obvious reasons: Enemies had to fight uphill Defenders were able to see approaching armies from a long distance. They were also able to exploit the potential energy of stored boulders and other heavy objects. However, in the context of a modern survival retreat, a commanding position makes hilltop structures hard to miss.

The goals of privacy and advantageous fields of fire are often mutually exclusive. Likewise, a hilltop position and a spring water supply are also mutually exclusive in all but the rarest of cases.

I did some consulting for one retreat owner in the Inland Northwest who owns a small secluded side canyon that adjoins a fairly major river. From nearly all of this 120 acre parcel there is no line of sight to neighboring ranch houses. It is a landlocked parcel--you must transit through a half mile of a neighboring ranch before reaching to the highway.  There is only one viable road approach to the property. With dense timber in the canyon, the access road is a long series of potential ambush sites for defense. The canyon is narrow enough that if the road were blocked--(by a D6 Caterpillar tractor and/or fallen trees, for instance)--there would be no way to get vehicles in there. Just one well-positioned listening post/observation post (LP/OP) would provide plenty of warning time under most circumstances. In my opinion, if a particular group of looters is stealthy enough to approach without being noticed by a 24 hour LP/OP and seismic intrusion detection sensors, then they would be a  formidable test to any retreat's security, regardless of terrain advantages or disadvantages.

Being down in a canyon is also has an advantage for noise and light discipline.  When everyone for miles has no power, and you still do, (because you planned ahead and put in a PV, wind power, and/or microhydro power system), those lights can be a "come loot me" beacon. Sitting on high ground further magnifies the effect. (Blackout blinds and other countermeasures are mentioned in my novel Patriots.) Further, a retreat on commanding high ground is a lot more likely to be spotted by looters making a "sweep" through an area than one that is nestled down in a tree-filled canyon. The major drawback--as is often mentioned--is the inherent disadvantage of being on low ground versus high ground. In general, I agree that it is best to opt for a piece of high ground with open fields of fire. In this particular instance, however, I supported the decision on where to build the house. The owner realizes that his decision will necessitate posting more security (including a seismic intrusion detection system) to allow more warning time of anyone approaching on foot.  The worst case would be a large group approaching on foot by an unlikely route (i.e. not on the road), at night.  Under circumstances like that, it would take a very hard home, indeed, to keep the bad guys from coming in the door. OBTW, I'll have more on the "Harder Homes and Gardens" aspects of retreat architecture in an upcoming post.

Mr. Rawles,
I am an avid gardener, motivated by a belief in producing as much of my own food as I can. There are many, many ways to devise your own greenhouse. Given a situation where you have limited supplies, this gets interesting. Being a cheap Yankee, I don't like buying much unless I really need to. But sometimes it's better to pay and have, than to wait for the time to make something you may never have. After researching quite a bit on the topic of greenhouses, I decided to go with a hoop house. (See: I just wanted to get the ball rolling. A number of things I noted:
-They are located in New England, so I could reasonably compare their experience to mine (and shipping was cheaper)
-Snow-loads have not been a problem. I've swept off over 1.5 feet of wet, northeast snow and noticed very little structural stress.
-When I got the delivery I said something to the effect of "that's it?" the materials included are very small, so buying a kit, or taking one down with the anticipation of putting it in a truck and heading are both very realistic
-Once you get the kit, and look at the components: you will also probably say "that's it?!" because most or all of the items (except for the UV [resistant] plastic) are readily found at a hardware store (you'd need a tubing bender to get some stuff right). My point is that once you saw it maybe you'd be industrious enough to make your own kits to sell or trade.
-Having wooden sides, adding a small wood stove is a simple task. For fun, I have enjoyed February days out there, burning just a little wood. I am confident that I could live in this shelter with that small wood stove.
-As of late November, I am still picking greens and carrots. Spring and fall months I plant cold hardy crops you cannot plant in the garden. Summer I plant stuff that doesn't usually have a chance here in northern Vermont. This past summer I harvested 30 pounds of sweet red peppers from just two 3'x6' beds. The mantra is 'plant in season.' I also get my seedlings started out here before they head outdoors.

I'll wrap this up with a couple of other points to consider:
-It is very important to remember this: during winter months you are not so much 'growing' as you are extending the harvest. Elliot Coleman's book goes into great length of this alternate mindset.  See: Expecting to grow tomatoes in January is fine if you have a powerful heat source and supplemental light. That is not for what we are planning for.
-See: These guys are not just selling catalogue items here. They are living the life. A simple incorporation of solar and
radiant (perhaps you already have solar? or burn wood and would like to capture some of that heat for other means?) into a greenhouse would make a
world of difference. We should all be planning on sustainable heat sources rather than trying to power a 60,000 BTU propane heater in the greenhouse. (It defeats the purpose.) In conclusion, I think that a hoop house could be a perfect shelter to get someone started. Like a mini-Earthship, you can live and grow food with it. - Z.H. in Vermont

The note from "Christian Souljer" in the Pacific Northwest today (Monday) points out the elevated price available when recycling brass. I was talking to
Nikki at River Valley Ordnance ( the other day. [She told me that] brass is high now because China is paying top dollar for brass, including the once-fired brass that RVOW would normally buy from the government to remanufacture for us non- government types. Not so long ago, RVOW was able to buy .223 [U.S. military 5.56mm NATO M16 brass] in 5,000 pound lots; Nikki says it looks like the minimums are going up, possibly to 100,000 pound lots, because Chinese are buying so much surplus brass. I wonder why... Do you remember reading about how much scrap iron the Japanese were buying from us in the 1930s? - Dave in Omaha

JWR Replies:  It isn't just brass, Dave. According to Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (, the mainland Chinese have also driven up the prices of scrap steel, stainless steel, nickel (to make stainless steel), copper, bronze, and lead.  In many cases they are buying everything that they can lay there hands on. Note that the following observation may just be evidence of that "free floating  anxiety" that I was once accused of in a televised debate, but methinks that the extent of the Chinese scrap metal buying frenzy cannot be attributed solely to China's economic renaissance.

For those of you that read German, consider this interesting web site:  (A lot of the links are to English sites. I hadn't seen some of these links aggregated anywhere else--for example the ones on meteor strikes )


If you are looking for some military surplus bargains, see:  (Here is your chance to attend a DRMO auction and pick up, for example, some bales of concertina wire at scrap metal prices.)


There are some interesting surplus dealer links at:  Some of these guys should be advertising on SurvivalBlog!

"Fortune favors the prepared mind.” - Louis Pasteur

Monday, December 5, 2005

We are seeking additional overseas correspondents and/or Profiles for SurvivalBlog, particularly in dangerous locales, countries with religious persecution, and/or countries with recent insurgencies or economic troubles such as: Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, China, Columbia, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Haiti, India (preferably someone living in or near the Kashmir), Indonesia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Nigeria, Pakistan, The Philippines, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

Our readers would benefit from your "lessons learned" and even just hearing about your day-to-day experiences. (How you survived hyperinflation, how you avoided kidnapping, your countermeasures for street crime, et cetera.) I'd also appreciate hearing from anyone that has recently lived in a high crime inner-city area in the United States.

The pay for your writing: zero.  (Well, perhaps the occasional free book or sample merchandise.) The rewards: tremendous.  You'll know that you are helping many thousands of people gain valuable knowledge and motivation to be able to survive, if and when the First World starts to resemble the Third World. Don't worry about your spelling or grammar. We'd like your input, even if English is not your first language.  I'll handle the editing.

The highest level of tzedaka (charity--the same word root for righteousness) is where you never find out who receives and the receiver never finds out who has
given. In the holy Temple there was a large box where people would drop off money and the poor would withdraw it was impossible to tell the donors form the
receivers. In modern Jewish religious communities a Gamel Chesed (carrier of kindness) will deliver food packages on a regular basis as a family in hard times
needs, these families will likely find envelopes of cash appear in coat pockets or under doors (rent the family friendly movie Ushpizin to get a better idea of how it works). It is considered evil speech to finger out a person who is known for giving tzedaka directly as he might be mobbed by the poor and depleted. This delivery also keeps the poor from feeling beholden to their known donors.
In a survival scenario the ancient wisdom of an anonymous surprise gift of supplies distributed by a designated messenger (like The Postman) will reduce the danger of you becoming known as the house with supplies to be constantly begged or raided. Always remember as I have said before your responsibility bulls eye starts with you in center-then wife and kids, other family, neighbors, more distant victims, and so forth.

Tehillim (Psalms)
The writers of the Tehillim were holy men who inspired by the Almighty wrote poems which were meant to among other things invoke the trait of mercy from the
Creator. It has been a constant that in times of trouble we have resorted to prayer, fasting, and charity to overturn a harsh decree against us. Tehillim falls in the core of our appeals to the King of the Universe. When expressed in Hebrew they are at their most potent and beautiful. I (with no financial or other interest) personally recommend one of my favorite artists singing these as I would imagine David the king or the Levim in the Temple would have.   See: or do a web search for Tehillim for other artists. BTW, I always carry either my larger prayer book which contains all of Tehillim or a small pocket size compendium that measures about 2" x 3".

On Expedient Shelter/Greenhouses:  You are right the human waste was to be baked and re-cultured before being introduced into the system guess most of us don't have a small reactor to provide the unlimited heat/radiation as a Mars  expedition would have. I think there are enough collective brains amongst SurvivalBlog readers to design a concept pop-up settlement for vehicular bugout or being forced from your primary retreat.

On Mobile Ham Gear: The ADSP2 is a good unit (only DSP unit I have used please suggest better) if you can find them at a radio shop, on sale they go as low as $70 they have the ADSP2 board inside for less then the board itself is sold. You can solder in a switch for the filters and add a headset jack, or just pull the board and install it inside your radio, instructions are on the Internet. It really makes extended monitoring less exhausting. 

Mr. Rawles, I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I noticed that many references are made using the surplus TA-1 telephone. A household telephone can be used for a point-to point two-way communications by using 4 wire cable, a 9 volt battery (better 12 volts) a 300 ohm resistor, two momentary switches and two signal devices such as a piezzo device or buzzer. A 9 volt battery will furnish telephone comm. for several miles but have never used one over two miles.
I am also a Amateur Radio Operator, (57 years) and if you must go backpack with HF there's nothing lighter than a HF CW rig such as a Elcraft K1 I built 3 or 4 years ago. CW [manual morse code] still has it's place in emergency communications. However the Yaesu FT-817 is another but heavier choice that works very well. With a small homemade 50 watt linear amplifier you should not have too much difficulty communicating by SSB anywhere in the US and beyond depending on band conditions of course. It also works with my K1. Just my two cents worth. - M.C., Sr.

You gotta love a well put together MIA. Too bad that Springfield Armory doesn't seem to be up to the task.
The M1A, my favorite battle rifle, but is probably the worst as far as scoping goes. Scopes of conventional eye relief have to mount very high for the ocular to clear the rear sight assembly, this makes for funky stock welds and other problems. As well the side position on the receiver of the scope mount generally has the ocular too far back and close to the eye, causing grief when shooting from all positions even when cantilevered rings are used to move the scope forward. This problem is compounded by the short mounting “pads” of the ARMS #18. Which also happens to be one of the best scope bases otherwise IMO. The Brooks style mounts have a solid rail to mount on but are heavy and bulky and start you down the path to a M21 clone.
There's no doubt in my mind that an optic makes it easier to get good hits fast in the 300-500 yard slot that we seek to control with rack grade weapons and ball ammo. It becomes painfully clear (or not so clear, a funny ) as the ranges get 300 yards and out and the targets are of realistic color and pattern, such as those shot during our Wyoming Rifleman Challenge. Throw in a blowing dust cloud, 100 degree temps boiling a thick mirage and then have the shooters "watch and shoot" for a series three second exposure.
So far in my experience the most practical of the scoping options for the M1A is the forward mounted Intermediate Eye Relief (IER) scope. Springfield Armory sells a satisfactory mount and Leupold and Burris make decent scopes. The scope mounts low with the ocular just even with the ejection port and with the right rings about 1/8" above the upper hand guard. This leaves the receiver open for quick cleanings or stripper clip top offs as well as trouble free ejection. The eye relief is fine with a full field of view from all positions.
I had my doubts about the Springfield Armory forward scope mount at first, it’s clam shell design clamps around a standard contour barrel and that just doesn‘t seen to be the road the accuracy IMO. While a concern it wasn’t enough to keep me from mounting one up when it came my way. I prepped the mount by chasing the screw holes, degreasing them and a drop of red Lok-Tite in each. I also cleaning the surfaces coming into contact with the barrel to degrease them and put a few drops of red Lok-Tite on both parts. Placed the mount in rough position and snugged the screws.
Getting the scope mount square to the receiver was a concern, what I ended up doing was using my scope reticule leveling tool, that is held in place by a rubber band and indexing off the top of the rear sight ears. I got it were I wanted and tightened everything in typical alternate fashion. I added the proper size hex head wrench key to my butt stock cleaning gear and also check the screws at every cleaning on the bench . The mount has never shifted as far as I can tell after several thousand rounds. This can probably be attributed to the generous girth and the length of the mounting screws. Something I did notice after a few hundred rounds was that the back edge of the mount had the finish worn off by the motion of the operating rod. No metal just the finish, so I beveled it back a bit. And hit it with some marking die to see what was going to happen next, nothing happened. I still check the mount at every cleaning but no longer expect to find it falling off.
I have IER scopes mounted on M1A’s in both Warne and Leupold QD rings and have found that both work fine. Something I did with both is lap the rings before I mounted up the scopes. I lap all my scope rings just to take any bind out of the mounting process and to help with repeatability should the scope have to come off and be remounted.
The downside to the forward IER scope is that it's limited to 2-3/4 power magnification with no provisions, as issued, for come-ups past battle sight zero. Of course this is a real drag for the rifleman wanting to control that 300-500 yard slot.
Compensating for range is handled to my satisfaction by adding a Butler Creek elevation knob, about $25 from Brownell's. In my experience the knob provides repeatable, precise elevation control. The laser engraved index marks are a bit over 1 MOA in value and definitely close enough to be used with ball ammo rule of thumb come-up’s for good work to 500 yards. You will be on at 600 with the rule of thumb come-up but high and you will shoot over at 700. No big deal just don’t come up the whole rule of thumb come-up. It’s easy to simply computer print the come-ups on a large mailing label stick it to the stock and cover with clear packing tape. The 2-3/4X magnification and NATO spec ball cone of fire start making 600 plus shots an iffy thing anyway when you factor in holding off for the wind. We goof around with this 500 yard plus shooting and I have tuned the data but I really consider the rig to be a solid 500 yard rifle in practical terms. With match ammo and some more magnification the IER scoped M1A could very well be stretched to 700 yards if the wind wasn’t too awful wild.
So far all I’ve done about wind compensation is holding off, using the size of the target, reticule sub tension values and rule of thumb NATO ball hold-off values . It works good enough, but gets twitchy past 500 yards.
When the IER scoped M1A is used 500 yards and in, the rifle/scope combo has proven to be a solid performer in my experience and I’m pleased with it so far. I have to say, I don't really believe we have the right scope yet. The right scope would [be an IER with] a straight, mil-spec 30mm tube, luminated reticule, MK4 M3 style knobs and mil dots. - Dennis Ross, President, Wyoming Rifleman Association


Hello James,
I've noted some discussions regarding the Springfield Armory products. Before buying [an M14 clone], folks should take a serious look at what the guys at Smith Enterprise have to offer. I've had several Garands rebarreled there, as well as some scope mounts installed on an M1A. Good folks doing good work!  See:  - Dutch in Wyoming

JWR Adds: In addition to Smith Enterprise, there are also high quality M14 clones and receivers built by Fulton Armory (, LRB (, and several other vendors. OBTW, Smith Enterprise also make the excellent Vortex series flash hiders that I've had installed nearly all of my bolt action rifles by Holland's of Oregon.

Hello James,
I thought this information might be useful for the blog readers: Metal Recyclers (in the Pacific Northwest) are paying $0.97 per pound for "yellow brass" (used cartridge brass with or without a fired primer). I reload some of my own ammunition, but I had been saving non-reloadable cartridge cases, .22 brass etc. for recycle, and I took in over 100 pounds and I was able to get nearly a dollar per pound. Handy extra cash for those who have extra un-needed brass. The cash from the sale can go towards other preparedness items. Note: To give the readers an idea of the volume I am talking about - one 5-gallon pail nearly full of used cartridge brass is approximately equal to 60 pounds or more (depending on the type and size of brass cases). My pail was mostly rifle brass. God's Blessings to You & Your Family, - Christian Souljer

We recently heard that there are several RWVA Appleseed Shoots scheduled for early 2006: in North Carolina February 25/26; in Kentucky March 25/26; and in Indiana is the last part of April. (They are still working out the date for the latter)  The cost is $45 for one day; $70 for the weekend. Shooters age 20 and under shoot free. Pre-registration is most appreciated. See: for details.

And for those of you in the Pacific Northwest, don't miss the annual dynamite shoot ("The Boomershoot") in north-central Idaho. It is scheduled for April 30, 2006. It will be preceded by a Precision Rifle Clinic on April 28th and 29th.  (Highly recommended.) The Boomershootis a blast (literally) and surprisingly instructive on practical long range shooting--with a bit more excitement than a typical paper-punching high power match. ("That blowed up, real good!") If it isn't pouring rain, I suggest that you shoot prone rather than from a bench, to give the event more practical applicability. So bring a shooting mat or tarp. See:

"You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don't do too many things wrong." - Warren Buffett

Sunday, December 4, 2005

We just surpassed four million page hits!   Many thanks for helping SurvivalBlog be such as success.  Keep spreading the word. If you could include SurvivalBlog's URL in your e-mail ("sig") footer, it would be greatly appreciated.  Perhaps something like this: -- Bookmark it. It May Save Your Life!

Hello James,
The Blog just keeps getting better and better. Kudos!

I'm in the "luxury" stage of my pantry building and recently calculated the cost/benefit of storing butter. I figure butter would not only provide a psychological boost during bleak times, but would make a great barter item as well.

I looked at three different methods:

1, Canned Butter Powder - Storage life of 6 to 8 years. Requires reconstituting. Cost per pound of table ready product - $8.45

2. Canned Butter - Storage life of 3 to 5 years. Requires no reconstitution. Cost per pound of table ready product - $5.26

3. Can your own. ( Storage life of 3 to 5 years. Cost per pound (buying butter at a shoppers club) - $1.69, plus cost of jars.

So... if I'm willing to provide the labor, I can stock up on real butter for less than half the cost of the butter powder, even factoring in a 50 percent shorter shelf life with the home-processed product. I've found that's a pretty typical spread between rolling your own or paying for someone else to spice and dice. - Dutch in Wyoming

I thought you readers might be interested in this.
Here is a news report that details the hidden safes. The third video is the important one about the safes.  See:
Here is the home page for the company that put the safes in the cars:
I was impressed. - Cube

A couple of tidbits regarding the king of the battle rifles:

M14 magazines are now just $10 each at Midway - they have secured a lot of Taiwan mags - these are made on USGI machinery that we sold to the Taiwanese. Yes, I feel stupid for having bought my supply @ $35 each! 
[JWR's Comment: If they are blued, then they are Taiwanese. If they are gray phosphated (Parkerized), then odds are 90% that they are mainland Chinese.]

The "chopping" of the barrel from regular length to scout length is a very complicated operation requiring the re-milling of the spline [cut] on the barrel, etc.. Fulton Armory has the gear/expertise to do it, but not sure of anyone else. They are a bit slow due to their backlog of work.

USGI parts have become scarce so newly manufactured Scout & SOCOM [variant]s should be checked out for having "real" parts and newly manufactured ones swapped out accordingly. 
[JWR's Comment: Nearly all Springfield Armory M1As made since the early 1980s have less than half original USGI parts.  Up until about 1985 you could special order one with Springfield Armory's "All GI Parts" option.  IIRC, that cost an extra $200+.  I bought my first M1A in 1981--a special-ordered heavy barrel Super Match in an E2 stock with the "All GI Parts" option. That rifle cost $880, which was a fortune in those days. But these days just an E2 stock with all of the metal parts costs around $600.  That is one of the reasons that I switched to L1A1s.  But I still miss that Super Match. Sniff!] 

If it would help, I could share some modifications that were passed on to me by Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch/learned from use - let me know if you want them. - D.B.

In a follow-up e-mail, D.B. added:

These are what I have done to prep my M1A for Schumeresque use:
1. On the advice of Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch, I filed the front sight blade down the point where the rifle is zeroed at 100 yards with the rear aperture bottomed out. This way you don’t have to worry about the peep getting bumped down/off your zero when you are carrying/using your rifle. You need to determine what the best round for your use is – Talon demilled USGI ball, Hirtenberger, Winchester 150 soft point, etc.. Depending on your anticipated engagement parameters, maybe it should be set for 275/50/300 yards.
2. Again, per Clint, I put grab loops on the bottom of the USGI M14 mags [to facilitate getting them out of magazine pouches quickly.] Clint originally recommended the 100 MPH tape loops. However, knowing the life expectancy of 100 MPH tape under heavy use/heat/sweat/rain is 6-12 months, I went a step better. Bought 1/8” stainless steel cable from the hardware store and drilled a hole thru both sides of the magazine and created a loop of wire with a ferrule. Then put JB weld over the ends of the clipped wire to prevent the painful little poking that occurs from a frayed wire. Size them large enough to fit gloved fingers. These are the “sack of hammers” approach – yes, there are commercially made Mag-Pulls, but if my life is on the line, I want it Russian/11B grunt/Jarhead/sack of hammers tough. Clint was OK with the arrangement on my next trip. Also, can them clip empty mags to a carabiner after a magazine swap--as opposed to using a dump pouch – just my way of skinning this cat – YMMV.
3. Skateboard tape on the USGI metal butt plate so it doesn’t slip off during MOUT ops/movement. The recoil pad that Springfield Armory put on doesn’t help me use the rifle for it’s secondary purpose (a pugil stick – WARNING – those who insist on using the varmint round .223 platform, you can only use that miserable excuse for a rifle to butt stroke the bad guy one time – better make it count!)
4. Krylon wasn’t around when I did it to mine, but that is what I would use now to stripe/disrupt [camouflage] the solid black of the rifle. Paint the metal too – keeps it from rusting – the Brits are famous/infamous for it.
5. Take a Dremel tool and put air holes in the top hand guard to ease cooling. I don’t have any empirical data showing “X%” cooling rate improvement, but it makes me feel better that I am caring for the rifle as best I can. Recommend removing it B4 drilling so you don’t go too far/into the barrel.
6. The insides of the ears protecting the front sight blade are painted gloss white to reflect as much light as possible onto the blade as long/as soon as possible during reduced visibility.
7. I drilled holes in the side of the foreend and using 1” rings mounted a 6P Surefire to the stock. According to Surefire, they won’t withstand the recoil, but I have only replaced one bulb over the course of Urban Rifle, a symposium at Gunsite, and lots of training. I use the G2 [light] now, it is cheaper by 1⁄2 - I used Brownell's bedding compound to epoxy in the nuts on the inside of the stock so they meet the 11B level of reliability – while mine is on the correct side of the stock (right hand side since I shoot the weapon the best way/as a southpaw) it works just fine for the wrong sided use (right handed) as well – guess you could try on the bottom, but could affect your prone/barricade shooting/get in the way more
8. I don’t hang an extra mag on the butt – you need to be able to “switch hit” from right to left shoulder to properly operate in MOUT scenarios and one of those is prohibited by having a mag on the butt stock
9. Consider heavily training opposite handed – the rifle “sings” when you run it left-handed – you can see the breech without removing the weapon from your shoulder – you can run the bolt from a better mechanical advantage/keeping your left hand on the pistol grip – I am left eye dominant and fairly ambidextrous, so this rifle rocks for me - YMMV
10. I have an M60 sling on it to hang the rifle from my neck/be able to drop it in case of malfunction to transition to sidearm – need a one point hook system, but haven’t been able to develop that yet
11. Use the cleaning kit area in the buttstock for it’s intended purpose
12. Have a ruptured case extractor on your line one level of gear – if you have any reloads in your BOB replace them with factory, and better yet, USGI rounds to preclude ever using the tool
13. Learn to use a spoon [stripper clip guide] and stripper clips so you don’t have to carry so many mags
14. Only use USGI mags on this weapon!
15. I drilled out my aperture to make it into a true ghost ring after shooting my first scout rifle – you can still be precise, but it really speeds up your ability to hit closer targets quickly
16. The second M1A (remember the motto: Two is one, one is none) is set up with a Leupold M3 scope on SWAN/ARMS QD levers. (Sorry, but SA’s mount is not stable.) Unitized gas system, stainless match barrel and trigger, bedded stock – I made out of leather with USGI sleeping pad padding, a cheekiest to get my eye socket aligned with the scope – there is no such thing as a “chin” weld – you must have a secure place to lay your face behind the scope to get accurate shooting. At Precision Rifle, I ran the tower drill getting 2 hits out of 20 rounds trying to use the chin weld – after 2” of sleeping pad and athletic tape were added, the group shrank to .75 MOA out to 600 yards. This rifle has a M1907 leather sling and skateboard tape on the buttpad for slippage prevention. I have not drilled the handguard on this one as it would contribute to mirage problems.
17. Remember – you sweated and cussed humping the ammo for this 9-to-10 pound pig – it turns cover into concealment, so make every one of them count--get a hit! Hope these help our patriots out there! - D.B.

JWR Adds: The only other modification that I recommend for an M1A is painting the handguard FLAT black. The original brown finish on USGI .fiberglass handguards tends to reflect as they get older and worn. OBTW, speaking of handguards, you mentioned: "Take a Dremel tool and put air holes in the top hand guard to ease cooling"  Personally, I don't recommend that. Ventilation holes or slots will put "mirage" heat distortion lines up into your sighting plane. (This is primarily an issue for long range match shooting with iron sights.) Also, avoid the early USGI ventilated handguards (the ones with the parallel rows of slots)--they were discontinued because they tend to be fragile.

Mr Rawles,
I just wanted to send you a note suggesting another dealer from whom to buy $1,000 face value bags of [pre-1965] junk silver. I am not affiliated with him in any way, just a happy customer. The dealer is Hannes Tulving, [in southern California.] His web site is: In my experience he deals in primarily in bullion, and very little in numismatic products. I'm a very happy customer and have referred several people to him over the years. - E.L.

"Guns and ballistics have fascinated me since boyhood, and I hope this elemental pleasure will endure, for it has offered me a great deal of pleasure as well as kinship with others that only ballistics and a cozy campfire could possibly create. Such cartridges as the .270 Winchester, .300 H&H Magnum, .30-06, and even some for the big-bore British favorites are as interesting to me as though magic were contained in these combinations of figures....What has been the result? I have reached up to the gun rack and taken down the .30-30 carbine by some process of natural selection, not condoned perhaps by many experts by easily explained by those who spend long periods in the wilderness areas. The .30-30 Winchester carbine is light, short, easily worked through dense forest areas and, when carried over arduous trails, lends itself well to canoe, pack-horse, and dog-team travel. Also it is vested with the crowning glory-the open hammer and the lever action, which symbolize the outdoors as do the pattern of a snowshoe or a canoe."  - Calvin Rutstrum, The New Way of the Wilderness, 1958

Saturday, December 3, 2005

I was looking over some of my old Mars proposals and wanted you to give a spin off to try in your colder area. This is an idea that popped into my head during my 105 minute bus ride as I thought about how most survivalists have no idea how to feed themselves or where they will live once they bug out.

The idea is a double wall UV-transparent greenhouse with spacers between to make for good airspace insulation. Hydroponic tubing of a larger diameter would be connected to a curtained off outhouse toilet (and a runoff gutter rain barrel) returning nutrients to the loop under the black plastic ground sheet feeding the plants. A black cover could be added
during snow (melt it away) or at night for more insulation. A small domicile could be located at one end and curtained off. The attractive feature to this (it could be a kit) is that a landless survivalist or a poor farmer could set up a real food producing system and home in 1-2 days in any place with water supply and even poor soil, sand is best.
The real problem is clogging the tubing with feces... and toilet paper could not be used in this system. Sludge from the compost pile would be dumped occasionally into the toilet.

X-meters of UV plastic
x-meters black UV plastic
x-feet of PVC tube (frame)
x-feet PVC hose perforated (large enough to stay clear)
1-composter toilet (plumbed into system, crank mixer/pump)
x-sandbags (ballistic protection)
1-runoff rain barrel (plug/valve near bottom to plumb into system)
1-hand pump kit
x-assorted vegetable starters
x-bamboo starters
1-Tyvek instruction manual on how to setup and heat shelter, germinate and grow seeds and cuttings.
A hand pump, pipe, and a sand spike would be a nice addition for the kit buyer. including sand bags in a kit would allow making of a "meklat" shelter partially dug in for those who want ballistic protection. This would likely last a maximum of 1-to-2 years but this would allow a permanent settlement to be built.

JWR Adds:  I have one point of disagreement: "Night soil" (composted human waste) should not be used as fertilizer for growing vegetables.  The risks far outweigh the benefits!  I suggest only using waste from cattle or other herbivorous livestock for such a scheme.

Here is how to bake bread over boiling water:  Get wide mouth pint mason jars, or empty cans all the same height, and grease them with shortening. ( Oil will make a more gummy texture but is fine to use also.) Many cans have little ridges in the center and make it much harder to get the final breads out.
Set the jars in a pan and fill with water to 2/3 of the jar height. Jam in enough empty jars if necessary so they don't tip. Or stones, anything. They must fit snugly and not fall over. Bring water to a boil.
Make batter. Typical yeast dough bread recipe needs 10-12 pint jars 1/3 full of dough. (For bread, you need the jars out of the water, fill them 1/3 full and let rise. Or use the quick recipe which may use twice as much yeast. Then put them back in the dry pot and add hot water. )
For cake mix, cornbread, muffins, etc, with about 2 cups of dry ingredients, use 4-5 jars half full.
Cover loosely with clear plastic wrap or a Baggie, rubber band around the top. You need air to escape as it cooks but steam to stay out. For long term prepping, maybe aluminum foil would be better, or lids greased underneath placed loosely on the top.
Cover the pot. Bread and cake will take maybe 45 minutes, heavier corn bread will take an hour. Overcooking is not a problem for the most part. Try and keep the water level up, if you can boil water in another pot and add it, if necessary. This recipe is very "forgiving."  You can make the batter and put it in cold jars in cold water and then put the whole thing over a fire, and start timing it when the water gets hot.
Slide out for pint size loaves of bread.
You can make smaller cakes or muffins, just fill jars 1/4 full of batter for one cup sized results.
Try some butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar in the bottom of the jar, and mix raisins in the bread dough. Fill 1/4 of the jar or a little less. This makes nice survival cinnamon rolls.
The bread will not have a crust, but you can slice it and toast it in a pan or over a fire.
Remind your children that many early settlers cooked this way. Boston Brown Bread was a popular dish made by early New Englanders to eat with Boston Baked beans.

Here is one recipe for Boston Brown Bread:
2 c. whole wheat flour( or 1 c whole wheat and 1 c rye)
1 c. yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. raisins (optional.)
2 c. buttermilk, room temp.( or just use milk from that powered milk in the preps pile)
3/4 c. molasses ( or honey)
Generously grease 2 (1 pound) coffee cans or 3 (1 lb.) vegetable or fruit cans; set aside. In a large bowl, combine whole wheat flour, rye flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt. Add raisins, if desired. Toss to separate and coat with flour mixture.
In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk and molasses. Stir into flour mixture only until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn into prepared cans, filling evenly. Cover cans tightly with 2 layers of foil; tie with string. Place a rack in a large kettle. Place cans on rack. Place kettle over low heat. Add boiling water until halfway up cans. Cover; bring water to a gentle boil. Steam bread 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Add more boiling water during steaming, if necessary. Carefully remove bread from cans. Cool on racks at least 30 minutes before slicing. Makes 2 or 3 small loaves. 

Just a quick note on Bings post, taking up a martial art may be the perfect activity for many people on this site. Not only can you get in shape, but you will learn some self-defense techniques (more or less, depending on how 'martial' the art is) and do it with a group of people who are WAAAAAY nicer and more approachable than people in your average gym. Classes are usually made up of all sorts of people, including athletes, housewives, businessmen, kids etc. Everyone welcome and everyone is very helpful, since they all started the same way, on the lowest rung of the ladder. One of the things I love about it is that you get out of it what you put in to it, work harder, gain more, learn more. You can make every hour a good workout if you want to, you can practice in your living room if you need to, you can develop a warrior mindset, you gain grace, power, flexibility, endurance, discipline - what's not to like?  Keep up the good work! - M.W.

I would just like to point to a very nice (if somewhat costly) piece of radio equipment, The Buddipole from:  It is an extremely flexible antennae system, which gives you coverage from the 40 meter band through the 2 meters - it is possible to tinker with a lot of different setups and it has a proven track record and is currently in use with your Special Forces teams as well as numerous hams. Budd Drummond who runs the company also has a very good customer service and is a great person to discuss antenna needs with. (Just for a teaser: the smallest variation of the system weighs 2 pounds and is approximately 13 inches long - how is that for portability?)

As for further investigations into "stealth operations", I would like to recommend this site: , its a ham in England with interesting solutions to running low to none visibility stations with various equipment. - "Beau-Cephus"

Regarding the HF stations in today's blog: The "MFG" cited should read "MFJ".  [JWR adds: I just went and fixed that. Thanks!]
I would also recommend a BETTER quality than the little travel tuner. Why go so small when your already toting around a pack full of other gear. The SGC ADSP2 is way overkill at $130 its a bit much for a survival station. I would also suggest adding a good set of headphones to the list. The "spool of wire" should be a bit more descriptive. What kind of wire, For power? for antenna?, co-ax? If for power, then you should not have a very long run. If for antenna the list should also include "antenna building" supplies such as insulators and center conductors. Might want to include some coax to connect the antenna to the radio as well as some patch cables to connect he radio to the tuner. The Ham stick is a single band antenna, you would need a pack of hamsticks to cover many bands as well as a ground mounting system. No mention of how your going to connect or hold the UHF/VHF antenna up in the air. Need some mast and co-ax Why go to a sub laptop, use a normal sized one. Again you already need a Sherpa to carry all this stuff. How big of a solar panel does he plan on carrying? The 706 draws 2 amps at idle with no audio, Its a power pig and not very solar friendly. Same issue with the battery Not sure if he talking about 16 D cell batteries. If so they things will be drained in just an hour with JUST the 706. I can drain a car battery in a weekend if I leave my 706 on all the time. Not that this is not a good radio, I have 4 of them, but his List is just incomplete and not functional as a portable station without a good power source handy. Also just a note, the 706 will go on the AM broadcast band with mods, Its just above the 160m ham band. If you want a true ham portable station the SGC 2020 or the Yaesu 817 is your only option. If you want a GOOD package station then the Yaesu 897 is a good option. - Gary in Ohio

I enjoy most of what Survival Blog puts out, but the Puru Saxena article is a bit misleading. Mr. Saxena seems to be a bit confused into thinking that 1) all inflation is the same and that 2) control is the same as eliminate. The Federal Reserve's monetary policy is, has been since its inception, and will most likely continue to be creating inflation. This is not at issue, as the Fed is happy to point out. What Mr. Saxena seems to say is that control over inflation should equal eliminating inflation. The Fed strives to keep inflation within a small range of values (from about 2.0 to 4.0% a year) and manipulates some choice interest rates as well as the monetary supply via the bond market. In this sense, the Fed is most certainly controlling inflation to be a known acceptable value, as opposed to "hyperinflation" as seen in Germany post-WWI. The "grim reality" that Mr. Saxena posits is not only true, it should not be a surprise. Mild inflationary economies are not only more pleasant to live in, they are more stable as they contribute to the ability of banks to loan money, businesses to take loans and individuals to profit. Any economy can self-destruct if enough of the right people do the wrong thing, but it isn't because of the existence of inflation.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am merely an Economics student and will certainly yield the floor to anyone with greater experience in the field, but I felt the need to offer an alternate point of view. - P.H.

"Thomas Sowell, who is one of our favorite commentators, points out three things that make the collectivists uneasy.  These are cars, guns and home schooling, all of which grant to the individual a degree of independence of action which terrifies the champions of the super state. Cars, guns and home schooling reduce the need for the statism so prized by the socialists.  They do not wish you freedom to move around.  They do not wish you to be able to protect yourself.  And they do not wish you to decide what your children should be taught. Such things reduce the power of the state over the citizen.  If you know any Democrats you might make that point to them." - Jeff Cooper, Cooper's Commentaries, 9-98

Friday, December 2, 2005

Today, we offer another entry for Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

Back pain is the second most common complaint, following headaches, of patients visiting doctor’s offices today. Activities such as heavy lifting, twisting while holding a weight, or lifting at odd angles frequently trigger the onset of back pain. Unfortunately, these are the exact activities that could occur while trying to hurriedly load a vehicle to evacuate or while pulling a 72-hour kit out of the trunk of your car. A back injury during an emergency would suddenly limit your ability to respond effectively. This report will list the most common types and causes of back injuries followed by preventative measures to minimize the chances of suffering a back injury.
The straw that broke the camel’s back is an adage that applies to most back problems. Many people have heard someone say that they “just bent over to pick up a (insert your own light object here) and my back went out.” It usually isn’t the activity that causes the problem, but the years of lifting improperly with a weak back, sitting with poor posture, repetitive lifting, and normal degeneration of the spine. Lifting injuries can be classified in three ways:
Muscle Injuries: These occur when too much weight is lifted from the wrong position causing more stress than the muscle can bear. This force causes tiny tears in the musculature known as muscle strain. Muscle strain can be very painful and make moving extremely difficult. Generally, muscle strain repairs itself in a few weeks to months.
Disc Injuries: The discs are located between the bones of the spine called vertebra and act as a shock absorber or a ball bearing. Discs are composed of fibrous rings that can bulge or even rupture when injured. Pain is usually sudden and may radiate down into the leg. Numbness may also occur in the leg. Disc injuries may resolve themselves after a few weeks or may require surgical intervention in severe cases.
Joint Injuries: The spine consists of numerous bone-on-bone joints. If one of these joints is overstressed, the joint can slip and often times become locked. These joint deformities frequently pop back into place on their own. They may require physical manipulation via physical therapy or chiropractic care.
The best treatment for a back injury is to avoid having one. Here are a few suggestions to help avoid a back injury. First, plan what you are going to do and then do it in the safest way, which is not necessarily the quickest or easiest way. Get help with objects that are too large to lift alone. This seems extremely simple, which is why so many people often fail to even consider it. Always lift with a straight back, lifting with your legs. Remember to keep your chest pointed forward, as just bending the legs can cause a bend in the spine as you lift an object that is low to the ground. Feet should be shoulder width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other.
After the lift, keep the object close to your body. A simple experiment to show the importance of this is to hold a gallon of water to your chest and walk around your living room. Next, do the same thing but hold the water at arm length in front of you. It makes quite a difference. While turning with the weight lifted lead with the hips and not the shoulders so that your body will stay in line. While carrying the weight remember to keep good posture and do not stoop.
Good physical conditioning is also important to maintain back health. Activities that improve core muscular strength such as walking, sit-ups, leg raises, and alternate arm/leg lifts while lying on your stomach are excellent strengthening activities. Another lazy man’s way of strengthening core musculature is to sit on an exercise ball--the large ones used in Pilates classes. I sat on one while watching an hour long television program one night and found muscles that I had forgotten the next morning.
If you are currently experiencing any back problems, seek treatment now. Doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors can all give advice and treatment for back injuries.
I hope that this article has given you some thoughts on back care and will motivate you to study the subject further as I have only scratched the surface. During times of stress and hectic activity is not the time to learn about such things the hard way. Take the time now to start strengthening your core muscles and practice safe lifting techniques each day. - "Doc Savage"

I hear that silver spiked again today. I'm very glad I took your advice and bought a half-bag of junk silver last month! It was as easy as you say. I just called the local coin dealer with the biggest ad in the yellow pages. Their price was about $200 cheaper than Swiss America's.

Would it be worth the bother to clean the coins? Virtually all of the coins are quite dirty. My main purpose in storing these coins will be for future barter, if necessary. I'm guessing they would be more attractive for barter if cleaned up.

If I were to clean them, I would just use one of the commercial liquid cleaners commonly available at the local kitchen store for cleaning sterling silver. Any advice on which ones would be safe for junk silver? Maybe some of your readers have already figured out the cheapest and safest method.

Also, one observation. Even though I live in a large metropolitan area (Los Angeles) with millions of people, the dealer was confused at first at what I wanted, so I had to be very specific. This tells me virtually no one in my area is looking for junk silver. It kind of implies junk silver is still not on the public's radar, or worse, no one is really preparing for anything.

And finally, yes, I'm leaving Los Angeles as soon as I can!

Always Learning More, - Rookie

JWR Replies:  Coin collectors almost universally frown on polishing, chemical dipping, or buffing coins. (The latter is called "whizzing" by numismatists.) I recognize that "junk" silver coins currently have little, if any, collector's value. But consider the following. First:  You never know what coins have been overlooked before any given bag is run the coin counting machine.  There might be a scarce coin (mint date, mint mark, or unusual strike.)  Second: In a few generations, the consensus view of what constitutes "junk" may change considerably.  So for the sake of your grandkids, it is best not to polish or dip your coins.  Third:  You stand to gain virtually nothing by polishing coins if your intended use is barter based on their silver bullion content.  They are supposed to look old. In the eyes of most potential traders, "old and grungy" means genuine. (New/shiny looking coins might be more suspect as counterfeit.)

I just thought I'd share some notes on my efforts. In the suburban setting I currently live in, I feel that my biggest day-to-day threat would be from a major earthquake hitting nearby. I would view this as a short-term emergency (2 weeks, perhaps) with somewhat localized impact. While there could be mass looting and rioting, I don't feel it's that likely in my particular neighborhood, although I do maintain a stock of arms, a bullhorn, spotlight, extra batteries, etc.
My current target is to have a 1-month supply of food items, with a mix of ready-to-eat canned foods and bulk rice and beans. I have purchased three 20 pound propane tanks for the barbeque, and an adapter hose so that I can run my small coleman stove off them, in addition to stocking extra 1 pound cylinders for camping. I also purchased a 6 gallon turkey fryer set. I'm already into camping and Ham radio, so I'm mostly covered on shelter and communications.
My plan for an earthquake or other natural disaster is to help myself, then my elderly immediate neighbors, collaborate with a couple of other neighbors and possibly set up to distribute meals to the surrounding survivors.
The turkey cooker, with rice, beans and assorted canned goods to throw in could allow me to supply several daily "gumbo" type hot meals to 20+ people. I think by design it would use gas more efficiently than trying to cook on the barbeque.
I consume mostly fresh foods, so my plan is to every one to two years simply give my canned stuff to the food bank or Boy Scout canned food drive and buy more.
All of this, (with the exception of guns, ham radio gear and other valuables) together with approximately 70 gallons of water, is housed outside in a shed, which should offer some protection from my house falling on it and spoiling or making it inaccessible.
  [Note from JWR: Make sure that your shed stays cool.  Heat kills the nutritive value of canned food quickly!]
Some quick notes on "store bought" preparations:
- A case of Top Ramen just fits inside a 5 gallon bucket
- A 25 pound sack of rice from the asian store fits with a little room left over.
- The medium-size Rubbermaid bins can hold a flat of bottled water, plus about 2/3 lighter stuff on top (gotta be able to lift it).
- Get some #10 cans, even if you don't think you'll use them. A Hobo stove constructed from one will allow you to cook over salvaged bits of wood and wreckage. Make sure to have a hacksaw, pliers and can opener on hand [to make a hobo stove.]
- If you stock bleach for disinfecting water, take a Sharpie marker and write the formula (drops per gallon, teaspoons per 5 gallons, etc.) on
the bottle. This way, there will be no question when you need it.

I'm sure there are things that I'm missing, but at least it's a start. - John in California

Tennessee Stud (Lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)

Along about eighteen and twenty-five
I left Tennessee very much alive
I never would have got through the Arkansas mud
If I hadn't been a-ridin on the Tennessee stud
I had some trouble with my sweetheart's pa
One of her brothers was a bad outlaw
I sent her a letter by my Uncle Fud
And I rode away on the Tennessee stud

The Tennessee stud was long and lean
The color of the sun and his eyes were green
He had the nerve and he had the blood
And there never was a hoss like the Tennessee stud

One day I was ridin' in the beautiful land
And ran smack into an Indian band
They jerked their knives with a whoop and a yell
But I rode away like a bat out of hell
Well I circled their camp for a time or two
And showed what a Tennessee hoss could do
And them redskin boys never got my blood
'Cause I was a-ridin' on the Tennessee stud


We drifted on down into no man's land
We crossed the river called the Rio Grande
I raced my hoss with the Spaniards bold
Till I got me a skin full of silver and gold
Me and a gambler we couldn't agree
We got in a fight over Tennessee
We jerked our guns, he fell with a thud
And I got away on the Tennessee stud


Well, I got as lonesome as a man can be
Dreamin' of my girl in Tennessee
The Tennessee stud's green eyes turned blue
'Cause he was a-dreamin' of a sweetheart too
We loped on back across Arkansas
I whipped her brother and I whipped her pa
I found that girl with the golden hair
And she was ridin' on a Tennessee mare


Stirrup to stirrup and side by side
We crossed the mountains and the valleys wide
We came to Big Muddy and we forded the flood
On the Tennessee mare and the Tennessee stud
Pretty little baby on the cabin floor
Little hoss colt playin' 'round the door
I love the girl with golden hair
And the Tennessee stud loves the Tennessee mare


Thursday, December 1, 2005

Today, we announce the winner of Round 1 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.The first entry for Round 2 is also posted today.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest Winner Announcement (SAs: Home Schooling, Disaster Preparedness, Survival Mindset, Firearms Training, Caching, G.O.O.D. Kits, Provisioning. Retreat Logistics, Firearms Training)

The judged winner of Round 1 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest is B.H. in Spokane, for his article titled "On Preparing Your Children", which was posted on October 24, 2005. Congratulations, B.H.! I will confirm his address and mail him a four day Front Sight course certificate. Because we received so many great articles, we have decided to repeat this contest.

Round 2 of the contest begins today and will end on the last day of January, 2006. For this round of the contest, special judging consideration will be given to the article with the most useful and detailed information on a practical skill that is applicable to a TEOTWAWKI situation. The entries in Round 1 were predominantly motivational pieces. Those were great articles, but with our audience they were like "preaching to the choir." So for this round, please keep it practical. The prize is worth up to $2,000 and is fully transferable.

And BTW, for any of you missed it, you can read "On Preparing Your Children" in The SurvivalBlog Archives.

The following is an example of a pack-portable Ham station that is usable in most modes:

Icom 706 MK2G HF/6M/2M/440 bands in SSB, FM, CW, and AM
MFJ travel antenna tuner
MFJ Mighty Mite 110-240 to 13 Volt 25 Amp power supply
SGC ADSP2 digital noise reduction (DSP) and filter speaker
Morse Code Key [JWR adds: Preferably with a detachable thigh-mount clip or thigh strap for use in the field.]
Spool of antenna wire
Hamstick antenna
HF Dipole Antenna
VHF/UHF antenna
Toshiba MobilePro sub-laptop (an inexpensive serial terminal for TNC)
KAM Kantronics TNC
Solar panel
16xD cell NiMH battery
Lightning/EMP dissipators for all antennas
Pigtails, ground wires, and stakes
Line surge protector

Such a setup could be made packable and run totally off grid. A packable station is especially useful if you are forced to move on in a hurry, or circumstances dictate that you travel light.

One limitation is that this system is unable to transmit on regular AM or FM commercial broadcast bands. Depending on your role in a disaster recovery, having a regular broadcast transmitter may be a useful option to get emergency information out to the community. Research the current Federal rules on running low power FM and AM stations. Broadcast band piracy will for sure land you in hot water, so always work with local government and FCC if you wish to provide this emergency service. As always, proper licensing is required to use this gear, the time and effort you spend studying will pay off when you are using the equipment. (Don't just study the test pool questions.)

JWR Adds: "Micro FM" transmitters are available from Rocky Mountain Reliable ( and several other reputable vendors. Special low power FM licenses are available through the FCC. Also keep in mind that Federal regulations allow transmission in any band under true emergency/distress circumstances. A low power FM license and the proper gear may put you in the role of the "go to guy" for pulling a community through in the event of a natural disaster or a man-made TEOTWAWKI. One distinct approach is to "fly under the radar." The alternative "high profile" approach is to make yourself so invaluable (as a source of information/coordination) that everyone in the community will wannt to be your de facto security committee. Decide which approach is most appropriate for your circumstances--and your envisioned scenario(s)--and plan accordingly.

The following post is the first entry for the judging of Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest.

There are many useful survival/preparedness lists out there. All have the usual items and practices in common (survival knives, fire starting materials, food storage methods, etc.), but over the years I’ve also noticed several gaps in common. These tend to be of the nasty “I wish I’d realized I would need this item before” variety. This is especially alarming as these gaps could be remedied in most cases very inexpensively or even just with a little forethought.

1. Bleach. No, it’s not a substitute for a proper water filtration system, but in a pinch it does just fine and it’s incredibly cheap. Bearing in mind that where survival gear is concerned, “two is one, and one is none,” what do you have as a backup in case that fancy $250 water filter breaks or is lost? A little bottle of plain, non-scented 5-6% hypochlorite bleach will go a long way to ensuring you have potable water. I’m still saving up for a top-of-the-line filter system, but you can bet I have plenty of bleach stored in the meantime! And if you are looking for the most valuable thing to store for charitable purposes in a crisis, pound for pound it’s bleach. Just ounces given in charity will purify many gallons of water for needy groups of people who might otherwise die without it.

2. Sunscreen. I’ve never seen this on a “bug out bag” list, and in my opinion, omitting it is a big mistake. When TSHTF, in most cases you’re going to be spending a lot more time being active out-of-doors than is usual. (Even if you plan to hole up in a shelter, you’ll probably have to travel to get to it.) This means sun exposure. It’s dangerous because you’ll probably be focusing on other things (such as survival!) and won’t think about your level of sun exposure until it’s too late. If you’re one of those lucky folks with enough naturally-occurring melanin in your skin to shrug off solar radiation, great! However, if you live in North America or Europe, odds are that you’re light-skinned, and therefore exceedingly vulnerable. As little as a few unprotected hours in direct sunlight will sap your strength and can cause debilitating burns. Northern latitudes won’t save you, either; six hours of sun in northern Idaho this April knocked me out of commission for a full day, and I’m from California! My brother, a licensed dermatologist, recommends sun block (not “suntan lotion”) rated SPF 30 or higher.

3. Antibacterial Soap/Disinfectant Hand Rub. Washing our hands routinely is something we all take for granted. In a crisis situation, luxuriously bathing your hands in hot soapy solution won’t be an option. Just a couple of drops of a travelers’ disinfectant hand rub solution lets you clean your hands without water. And for more extensive cleaning, for just a few dollars you can purchase a 64-ounce jug of antibacterial soap. It would have been worth its weight in gold to hurricane victims….

4. Toothbrush/Dental Floss. That these items are missing from most “bug out bag” lists I’ve seen makes me worry about the dental health of some survivalists. All the stored food in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t eat it due to tooth pain from a cavity. While you’re thinking about it, get your teeth fixed now. Where There Is No Dentist is a great book, but the smart survivalist will have obtained a clean bill of health from her dentist before TSHTF.

5. Eyewear. Everybody needs at least one pair of sunglasses, preferably two. (You’re going to be outdoors sometimes, remember? See point 2, above.) If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, store spares. Get Lasik or other vision-correction surgery, if you’re so inclined and can afford it. And if your vision’s already 20/20, then shouldn’t you protect those vulnerable eyeballs? ANSI-rated safety glasses (clear shooters’ glasses are fine) are great in this regard and can be had for as little as $10.

6. Measure Your Distances. You could use measuring tape, an odometer, or another measuring device, such as string. It depends on the application. The point is not so much to have a measuring device as to have used it beforehand – because, if all of a sudden you need to know a distance, you probably won’t be able to measure it at that particular moment. Concrete examples: what good is it for me to know the pattern of my defensive shotgun load at 20 yards if I don’t know how many yards it is to my back fence? I’ve zeroed my rifle at 300 yards, but if my bug out vehicle dies and I’m stuck in my home against an advancing mob of looters, it would be good to know that the other end of the street is 200 yards away so I can adjust the sights. Similarly, traveling my preplanned bug out route, it may become critical to know the width of a city street in yards, the length of a city block, or the distance between two way points. Take note of these beforehand!

7. Test Everything. How many of us assemble our survival gear, and then store it in a closet against the day it’s needed, instead of using it as often as possible? Camping is a great way to test most or all of your survival supplies at the same time, but most people don’t go camping more than once or twice a year. You can get more dividends by using some of your gear on a daily basis wherever you can. Be creative! You can discern some important truths that would be costly to learn later. For example, it’s better to learn now that you need to add dietary fiber supplements to your food stocks than to suffer a bout of diarrhea in the midst of a crisis. Want to find out for sure? Declare a “stored food week” and eat nothing but stored food all week. How about nonfood items, such as sun block? Ever measured how much sun block you actually use on a typical day out-of-doors? That information could keep you from storing too little. And consider that “bug out bag” sitting in the trunk of your car. Ever actually lugged it more than a few yards? Better to take a weekend hike and find out now that it’s 30 pounds overweight before you try to hike to shelter in an emergency and have to ditch it because it’s too heavy. Or, you might decide to lose 30 pounds from around your middle instead. I’m reminded of an account of a recent tactical shotgun shoot. Participants agreed that shotgun shell bandoliers were awkward and unwieldy, except for one fellow. He had successfully secured his bandolier between his beer belly and his man-breasts! Well, he may have a lot of firepower, but in a crisis he’ll probably have a heart attack before his ammo is used up. There are, sadly, more than a few survivalists who are penny-wise and (literally) pound-foolish in this regard. Get in shape, folks! But that’s the subject of another article.

Howdy Mr. Rawles,

I have been reading your blog for the last week or two, and I also read your book [Patriots] last week (lots of good info, thanks!) I have a question regarding the post referenced in the subject line: Are the GRC-215 radios available surplus, or is there something similar available on the commercial market? Since I have been following your thoughts I have become more interested in communications (never thought too much about post-SHTF comm before), and I would like to eventually get something similar, although a SSB capable CB will probably come first, and I will need to get a Ham license. - Mark. G.

JWR Replies: AN/GRC-215 backpack HF transceivers are often available from Fair Radio Sales, along with many other military surplus radios AND my favorite military surplus field telephone: the TA-1. (These are ideal for coordinating retreat security with your neighbors during a grid-down situation.) OBTW, why this company is not yet a SurvivalBlog advertiser is a mystery to me. (I think that they'd be a natural.)

Dear James,
Regarding the naysayers about Nanomasks, I would like to comment that for most of us price is an issue in practical preps for any disaster. The company openly acknowledges that after 48 hours due to the moisture buildup you should change the filter. But two masks and 25 filters cost less than 50 bucks, so that is a fifty bucks for fifty days. Filters are cheap.
The N95s with exhalation valves cost over four bucks at WalMart for two, and over five at Home Depot for two, so you need to wear each one also for two to three days to pay a dollar a day to filter air.
Would anybody want to wear an N95 longer than one day? The virus lives on soft material for at least another day and you can't clean it. The Nanomask in contrast is hard plastic and you can wipe down the edges that touch your face, or dip the whole thing in weak bleach before you put in a new filter. An N95 walking through the store is one thing, but if you had direct contact with a very sick family member, why not pay the same price for two days with a nanomask that you'd pay for two days with an exhalation N95?
The airtight seal and the maker's claimed filtering capacity is such a major difference, for such a potentially fatal disease, that I can't see any reason not to try and get an airtight nanomask. - Lyn

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant." - Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Satires

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