Body Armor Category

Monday, December 30, 2013

Many firearms instructors, myself included, have a saying that goes something like this "train the way you fight." Meaning that, if you're training isn't related to real-life scenarios, you're
doing something wrong. Outside of my basic NRA handgun classes, my other (limited) firearms training classes are geared to real-life training. When on the range, we don't train you to stand there, squared off to a target, at a pre-determined range, and just stand there and shoot. No! Instead, my training consists of on-the-move training, as well as firing at a 180-degree area. We shoot right to left, and front to back. We shoot on the move, too - as well as from behind cover, and in the prone and kneeling position. In a real-life active shooter situation, you can't just stand there and square-off, and keep shooting - if you don't move, you'll die - simple as that.
After the first shots are exchanged, you should be seeking cover, or changing your plane, and reloading and looking for other threats. While there's nothing wrong with learning basic Marksmanship skills; sight picture, trigger control and follow-through, in a real-life deadly shooting, you need to be on the move, and make good use of cover and concealment if possible. Look, this isn't the Old West, where you and an opponent stand face-to-face, and see who can draw their weapon the fastest. That will get you killed. You have to train the way you'll fight - be it in the military, law enforcement or as a civilian gun owner. This also means using the weapon and equipment that you'd be using on the streets or on the battlefield.
Uncle Sam issues hard body armor to our troops, and it's really good armor - it's made out of ceramic and compressed aluminum (I believe), and it is designed to trap the rounds fired into it - thus, breaking-up the ceramic/aluminum plates - they are meant to be some what fragile - it's the way they absorb the rounds - by breaking apart. However, one serious drawback to this type of hard body is that, when worn in training, these plates take a beating, and they can break or fracture when you go prone, or for that matter, if you accidentally drop you body armor carrier on the ground. Some law enforcement agencies actually have their had body armor (ceramic-style) x-rayed yearly or an CT scan used - very expensive procedures for ensuring that you hard body armor plates haven't been damaged.
Today we consider Warrior Trail, a company manufacturing a patented type of hard body armor training armor - please read that again, this isn't hard body armor, instead it is TRAINING body armor. It is designed and manufactured to the same size, shape and weight as ceramic-type hard body armor plates. If you're on a SWAT team, for instance, you will be training the way you'll fight - and that means wearing your hard body armor - if your department issues it. Only problem is, if your training is real-life training, your very expensive hard body armor plates can and will get damaged. You may not see the damage visibly, but the damage might be there, and if you take a hit during a call-out, from a high-powered rifle, your plate might fail - causing serious injury or death.  Training can get very expensive, if your department has to keep inspecting your body armor plates, via x-rays, CT scans or ultrasounds, and in this day and age of budget shortfalls and restraints, it can cut down on your equipment budget rapidly.
I received several training plates from Warrior Trail - and once again, keep in mind, that these are not actual hard body armor plates, they afford you NO ballistic protection - they are designed to be inserted into your body armor carriers - after you've taken out your real body armor plates. Then you can proceed with real-life training scenarios, where you can go prone, and just totally train the way things would happen in real life - without the fear of damaging your real body armor. Warrior Trail training body armor plates, are the same size and approximately the same weight as ceramic type hard body armor plates are - I know, I have hard body armor plates, and I compared them to the Warrior Trail plates - they are almost identical. Keep in mind that, different companies who manufacture hard body armor plates will have slightly different variations from one company's plates to another company's plates. However, all things considered, the Warrior Trail plates will feel just like your real hard body armor plates when you insert them into your vest.
Now, just to remind the purchaser, the Warrior Trail training plates come with a warning on them, alerting you, that you have no ballistic protection, and there is a hole drilled in the plate - this should be enough to alert the wearer that this is not real body armor - even though it looks like and feels like the genuine article.
Warrior Trail training body armor plates are manufactured out of a proprietary polymer material, and it is tough stuff. I did place it in a carrier, after removing the real body armor plates, and I couldn't tell or feel any difference between the real body armor and the training body armor plates - felt the same. I also totally abused the training plates, threw them on a concrete walk, threw them down my gravel driveway - and even skidded them down my driveway, as well as throwing them against trees. While the training plates took a beating, they didn't fail. In a "train as you fight" training exercise, you'll think you're wearing your real body armor plates in your carrier. Now, as an aside, make sure you switch out the training body armor plates for your real plates when you are done training. Might be a good idea for your unit or buddies, to do it all at the same time, and inspect one another's carriers - to make sure you have put the real body armor plates back inside your vest, instead of the training plates. You can also place a Velcro patch - supplied by Warrior Trail - on your carrier, right on the front of it - to alert you that, you still have their training plates inside your carrier. PLEASE! This is important, don't forget to switch the training plates out for your real plates!
If you're a Prepper, out training with some friends, it's a great idea to have these training plates inside your vest, instead  of the real plates - you don't want to have the added expense of having to have your real plates inspected yearly, to know they will still provide the ballistic protection you want. Also, these training plates are a good idea if you are in a ROTC college training program, basic military training, Military Academy, National Guard unit, police, sheriff, FedGov law enforcement agent, etc. Also, they are a good idea to have when making an airborne jump, practicing water survival with your gear on, land navigation - just about any place where you'd be training wearing your real hard body armor, is where you can wear the Warrior Trail training plates in your vest.
Warrior Wear has a motto of their own, and it is "train as your fight - at a fraction of the cost" - and that's something to keep in mind. Hard body armor doesn't come cheap, and you don't want to damage your real body armor, while out training - and not even realize you've damaged it. Warrior Trail training plates start at $59 per plate, and goes up from there, depending on the size. Still, this is a worthwhile investment - save your real hard body armor, for a call out or military operation - and use the Warrior Trail training plates for all of your training purposes. Don't take a chance, you have a lot of money invested in hard body armor ceramic plates, spend a little money now, for some training plates. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I am a fan of Infidel Body Armor, and appreciated the recent review by Pat:  Pat's Product Review - Infidel Body Armor Goes Soft.  As a member of the LE community, I always wear [Level]  IIIA soft armor on duty, and while it will stop some rifle rounds, a piece of ceramic or steel armor is definitely better as it spreads the impact over a larger area.  My reason for writing is to familiarize your readers with an aspect of all soft body armor that carries NIJ ballistic ratings.  It is very important to note that the ratings allow for approximately 44mm of back face deformation.  This means that you are going to have a bruise "to beat all bruises", and possibly some broken ribs and internal organ damage, even when soft body armor does its job of stopping the bullet.  This is why I have a raid vest with steel plates to go over my soft armor.  If you are in the market for body armor and can afford it, get both soft and hard.  The ceramic is a little lighter and will generally stop AP better than steel, but it breaks when it absorbs the hit, so if Uncle Sugar isn't buying you a replacement plate, I'd go for steel with an anti-spall coating.  Get on YouTube and watch the body armor tests, research the NIJ ratings and find out more than just what certain levels will stop.  If you are planning on being in a gunfight, expect to get shot, and even if you're wearing body armor, expect a [blunt force trauma] injury from the impact. - Carl C.

Monday, December 9, 2013

One of the best pieces of kit for law enforcement, military and civilians, in the 20th century, has been, in my humble opinion, body armor. While many believe body armor to be a fairly recent invention, it is not! I know body armor - the type that stops bullets, has been around since the 1920s - armor for stopping swords and arrows has been around for centuries. I had my first experience with soft body armor in 1980, when I owned a gun shop, and bid on a contract to provide soft body armor to a fairly large police department in 1980. I won the bid!
Some months back, I reviewed Infidel Body Armor and I came away quite impressed with their hard body armor - it easily defeated many high-powered rifle rounds, including .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, 7.62x39 and even an armor piercing round of .30-06 - it took more than 100 rounds from an AK - and all handgun rounds and 00 buckshot were no match for this hard armor. However, with many things in life, there are always compromises - in this case, AR500 steel body armor plates and a carrier weighed about 20 pounds - and toss in your gear, and we are packing some serious weight around.
Enter Infidel Body Armor's new Trauma Max Level IIIA soft body armor panels. Over the years, in my law enforcement and security career, I've worn soft body armor while on the job - while is was comfortable, and gave me the confidence I needed on the job, it was bulky and one had to purchase uniform shirts one or two sizes bigger in order to wear the soft armor under your shirt. Still, it was worth the extra effort. Soft body armor has continued to evolved over the years, and what Infidel Body Armor has come out with is the lightest and thinnest soft body armor I've yet to see.
Each soft armor panel weighs about a pound - yes, you read that right - one pound, so a set of two panels is a mere 2 pounds in weight. Additionally, they are approximately 1/4 inch think (thin?) - again, you read that right - soft body armor, that is rated and certified at threat Level IIIA is only about a quarter inch thick. Each panel is 10x12 inches in size, and taper towards the top of the panel. This is stand alone soft body armor. I know that some manufactures who produce ceramic hard body armor, provide soft panels to wear behind their ceramic panels, to soften the blow from a high-powered rifle round - not a bad idea at all. The Infidel Body Armor - this new Trauma Max is designed to be stand-alone level IIIA soft armor.
Threat Level IIIA is a step down from the protection of Level III. It designed to stop most common handgun rounds, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .45ACP, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and even .44 Magnum rounds. Additionally, these soft armor panels are certified to Military Standards to stop fragmentation from grenades. I know what Kevlar is, it's been used for many years and was, at one time, the only type of material used in soft body armor - and it works quite well, however it is bulky and it takes many layers to stop handgun rounds - it's thick! The Trauma Max is manufactured out of Kevlar KM2 and Goldflex - a combination that makes this body armor thin and lightweight, and effective enough to stop all of the above handgun rounds.
I'll be the first to admit that, I'm not an expert when it comes to body armor. Different types of materials have been used over the years to produce soft body armor - some works better than others - some are more expensive - a lot more expensive - than other vests, while some are reasonably priced. The Trauma Max provides up to 40% blunt force reduction, too.
I'll relate a story, at one time, I was a distributor for some soft body armor, that was one of the lightest weight body armors around at the time - it didn't fit into a traditional soft body armor carrier, instead a special, heavy-duty t-shirt was designed with pockets inside the T-shirt - front and back - that the soft armor panels fit into. Now, according to the maker of this armor, it was rated to stop a Winchester 9mm Silvertip JHP round. I was training a small, rural police department in SWAT methods, and I decided to see if they were interested in purchasing this body armor. I took a soft armor panel, taped it to a phone book, and placed a 1-inch wooden board behind it - and at 25 yards, I had one of the officers fire at the body armor panel. The 9mm Silvertip JHP round not only complete penetrated the soft armor, it penetrated the phone book and the wooden board behind it. Needless to say, I didn't get a sale that day - and I cut ties with that company in short order. Their armor didn't even come close to stopping one single round that they claimed it would stop! Was my testing scientific? Of course not, and any testing I've done since then, hasn't been scientific - but neither is getting shot on the street a scientific test. What happens - happens!
I received two Trauma Max soft armor panels, and a carrier from Infidel Body Armor - the Trauma Max Threat Level IIIA panels do not come with a carrier - however, you can purchase outside the shirt carriers from them - they have many different styles, or you can purchase under the shirt soft body armor carriers from any number of sources. I'm hoping, in the very near future that, Infidel Body Armor will offer concealable under the shirt carriers for this armor.
Not everyone needs to wear their soft armor under a shirt, and they choose to use a carrier that fits over their clothing, where they can have MOLLE webbing for attaching other gear, like spare magazine pouches. Not all SWAT teams wear hard body armor - they can be seen wearing an outer vest, that has soft armor panels inside of them - just like Infidel is offering. In any event, you have a couple choices here, you can purchase an over the clothing vest from Infidel or just purchase the soft armor panels from them, and look for an under the shirt armor carrier from one of many suppliers. And, if you purchased any of the Infidel hard body armor from them, these panels will fit right behind the steel plates - giving you additional blunt force trauma protection from taking a hit from a high-powered rifle round - a darn good idea if you ask me.
On to my non-scientific testing of the Trauma Max soft body armor - and I've used this same method for many years, when testing soft body armor. I placed one panel in the front pocket of the carrier, and put a phone book behind the carrier. And, at 25 feet, I fired different types of handgun rounds into the carrier with the soft panel inside of it. I fired 9mm FMJ as well as JHP rounds, and .357 Magnum rounds, as well as FMJ and JHP .45ACP rounds into the test panel. I didn't fire all the rounds into the same spot - I fired at different areas of the panel, in all, I fired six rounds into the test soft armor, and there was no penetration. Now, without a doubt, you are going to get some serious bruising and possibly a broke rib when you take a hit from something like a .357 Magnum round, but it beats the alternative - penetration of your body! Some pages in the phone book were "broken" from the impact of the rounds - but once again, your body wouldn't have been penetrated, as the rounds were all stuck in the Infidel Body Armor Trauma Max panel.
Due to the FedGov shutdown, I wasn't able to access the NIJ web site, in order to see how many rounds are used to test the various types and threat levels of body armor hits they will take during testing. I don't think they fire more than a few rounds into soft body armor panels in their testing, though. I was very impressed with the way the Trauma Max IIIA panel stood-up. I know I could defeat this armor - and I will get out for some more testing, to see just how many more rounds of handgun ammo this panel will take before it fails - and all body armor will fail if you shoot it enough times. But just for fun........
Now for the good news, if you purchase one Trauma Max panel from Infidel, it's only $160 and if you purchase two panels they are $305 and this is a special right now - they normally cost more. And, you can find outside the shirt armor carriers for as low as $100 from Infidel, too. Check out the various carriers they have, they are all slightly different from one another. And, if you already have an armor carrier/vest, you'll only need the Trauma Max panels by themselves. If you've purchase the Infidel hard armor with a carrier, then the soft panels are really a good thing to add - to no only reduce blunt force trauma, but for those call outs where you might only need protection from common handgun rounds. There will be times when hard armor might be too heavy, or too confining, and soft body armor will get the job done alone!
Infidel Body Armor started with an idea and concept, and that was to produce affordable hard body armor, for the Prepper and the Survivalist - and they accomplished that goal. And, their armor was not NIJ certified when they first came out with it - it's a very expensive testing procedure to get body armor certified by NIJ. However, they had numerous requests from police officers, who wanted the hard body armor, but couldn't use it on-duty, if it wasn't certified by NIJ. So, Infidel went through the expensive process of getting their hard armor plates certified - and then they set about to produce soft body armor panels, and once again, they are certified to NIJ standards, and Infidel is living up to their goal, of producing affordable body armor - soft and hard - that is NIJ certified for civilians as well as law enforcement. So, before you lay down a thousand dollars for a big-name soft body armor set-up, do yourself a favor, and check out the Infidel Trauma Max Threat Level IIIA line.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I love the SurvivalBlog site and love the product reviews. They are always very helpful. Regarding Pat's recent product review on EnGarde Hard Body Armor, I thought I would help you and Pat on the BUY AMERICAN front, and recommend Infidel Body Armor, which is made right here in the USA. (In Texas.)
The Infidel armor sues the same AR-500 steel panels.  Great carriers, and great add-ons. I bought one 8 months ago and I love it! I'm going to buy some more. Check out their video tests of the panels under repeated fire. That is what sold me on them.
Keep the faith, - Jeff N. in West Virginia

JWR Replies: Thanks for that suggestion. We too prefer American-made products, but we also run un-biased reviews of imported products, for the sake of fairness. Pat has already posted one favorable review of Infidel Body Armor, and he has one more that is being readied another review about the latest soft body armor from the same company.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Since 1980 I've had a real interest in body armor. Back then, I ran a gun business and I was contacted by a fairly large Oregon police department to bid on a request--they wanted for some soft body armor. I placed a bid, and much to my surprise, I won it! At that time, the biggest name around in soft body armor was Second Chance. I contacted Rich Davis at Second Chance, and told him I had won a bid to supply a fairly large police department with soft body armor. However, I didn't have the funds to purchase the armor from Second Chance. No problem! Davis simply had me add the name of Second Chance to the bid, and he sent me the armor, and he received a check, and sent me my share.

EnGarde Body Armor contacted me, and wanted to send me one of their hard body armor carriers, complete with hard body armor panels to test for SurvivalBlog readers. Over the years, I've tested many different types of soft and hard body armor, some failed my testing, while some more than lived up to their claims. While I make no claim of expertise' in the area of testing body armor, I have walked away with some interesting results over the years. One company, that is no longer in business - wonder why? - is because their armor failed miserably in my testing - simply placing their soft armor panel in front of a phone book, and firing a 9mm round, that the company claimed their armor would stop. Unfortunately, I was performing this test in front of a police department, that was interested in purchasing this T-shirt style soft body armor. Not only did the 9mm round in question completely penetrate the vest, it also completely penetrated the phone book behind it. I didn't win an order for body armor that day. However, I'm glad I performed the test, seeing as how I was a retail dealer for that particular brand of body armor - it opened my eyes!
EnGarde Body Armor is located in The Netherlands, however, they have offices all over the world. So, if you live in a country outside of the USA, and wish to purchase their body armor, please contact them, for a location near you. The USA has very strict laws regarding the export of body armor - you simply can't live in another country, and if you happen to see body armor for sale in the USA and want a dealer to ship it to you - they can't! It's against several Federal laws!
A little background on EnGarde is in order. They are a leading manufacturer of high quality armor products, utilized by law enforcement, military and civilians all over the world. They also take great pride in the performance, comfort and durability of their products. Their vests outperform the standards set down by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) which is recognized the world over for testing and setting the standards in body armor protection levels. To be sure, you can't just purchase any old body armor - you have to understand the threat-level you will be facing, and act accordingly in picking the right threat level for your needs. Over the years, in law enforcement and in private security work, I only felt the need for soft body armor - designed to stop most common handgun rounds. However today, I might look at things differently if I were still involved in those lines of work.
I received the EnGarde T.R.U.S.T.  plate carrier that is normally offered with a Level IV level. Mine came with two Level IIIA soft panels. The Level IV plates are for stopping high-powered rifle rounds, like those you'd encounter on a battlefield: 5.56mm 7.62x39 and .308 Win. I believe that many SurvivalBlog readers are more interested in hard body armor, than they are the soft panels, if it came down to a TEOTWAWKI scenario - then again, I could be wrong. However, the set-up I received was Level IIIA and it will also stop many common handgun rounds, as well as some rifle rounds.
You will find two different types of hard body armor on the market, one is from steel plates that are called AR-500 steel, and the other are ceramic plates, which is what EnGarde sells for their hard armor needs. Of course, there are endless debates as to which is better, the AR-500 steel plates or the ceramic plates? And, I have no intention of getting into that debate here, or through e-mails. Both types of hard body armor have their pluses and minuses. The AR-500 steel plates are heavier than ceramic plate. The AR-500 steel plates can take many multiple hits without failing. The ceramic plates are lighter - quite a bit lighter and more comfortable. However, they aren't rated to take as many multiple hits. I believe NIJ tests armored plates - for hard body armor - to withstand 6 or 7 hits without failing. And, if you are in a place where you have been hit 6 or 7 times by high-powered rifle rounds, you should be in a different place - simple as that. Some claim that ceramic hard armor plates are a bit fragile, and you shouldn't drop them or they'll crack or break in short order. And, to be sure, the plates aren't just manufactured out of ceramic material - Aluminum is added to the ceramic plates - and some companies closely guard their secret formulas for good cause. Again, I'm no expert in this field, so keep that in mind.
According to the NIJ standard, a Level IV plate should be able to stop one (only) round of .30 Caliber (7.62 NATO) armor piercing round (AP M2 ball) at 2,880 FPS. Most level IV ceramic plates in the market tend to fall apart after one hit from an AP round - the EnGarde can take several rounds of fire. Unfortunately, my precious few rounds of 7.62 NATO AP ammo had been used for testing another hard body armor, so I didn't have any AP rounds to test on the EnGarde ceramic plates.
Before testing the EnGarde hard body armor, I placed the two hard ceramic plates, along with the two soft armor panels in the plate carrier that was sent to me - it was easy to insert the plates and the soft panel, however it took a little bit of time to get the carrier all adjusted so that it was comfortable. I wore the carrier and plates around my homestead for several hours, and made a few more small adjustments. And, as time goes by, you will probably make a few more adjustments, so it all fits and feels just perfect on your body. I will say though, that the ceramic plates with the soft armor panels in the T.R.U.S.T. carrier were very comfortable to wear. And, if something isn't comfortable, you're not going to wear it - period! A lot has to do with the plate carrier you select, and how many adjustments are available on the carrier.
Now, while the NIJ testing facility has their scientific methods for testing body armor, I prefer to just do it out at my usual shooting spot, and I simply placed the hard armor against a tree and fired at it from 25 yards away, with a Springfield Armory M1A rifle, loaded with military surplus ammo - ball ammo. I don't know what the ballistic were, as my chrony long ago gave-up the ghost. I fired at the EnGarde hard plate 10-times, and not in the same area - I fired at various areas of the vest, and there was no failure - however, I was getting close. Another 10 rounds and the ceramic plate had failed. Now, that's not to say ceramic plates "failed" my test - far from it. It outperformed NIJ hits by quite a bit. The ceramic plates are meant to break apart - that's the way they are designed - they captured the bullet fragments as the bullet hits.
I still had one ceramic plate left for testing. On another outing, I took a bolt-action .30-06 rifle, with some FMJ ammo, and once again, at 25 yards, I began firing at the plate. To my surprise, the plate held-up for the first four rounds. I reloaded and began firing again, and this time, between rounds, I went downrange and checked the plate for penetration. It was on the 8th round, that there was a failure of the plate. Again, while I use the word "failure" the plate performed as expected - it actually performed better than expected.
I also tested the soft armor panels, that are rated to withstand 9mm and similar handgun rounds, not rounds fired from a rifle. And, to be honest, I lost track of the number of hits the two soft panels took from a 9mm and .45 ACP handgun rounds - without failure. But both panels were starting to look pretty ragged - but they didn't fail! Now, the idea of having the soft panels behind the hard ceramic armor is to absorb some of the blunt force trauma - and that's a good thing. And, you can also wear the soft panels as a stand alone set-up, if you  feel you will only be facing common handgun rounds. You actually have the best of both worlds with this set-up from EnGarde Body Armor.
The two ceramic hard armor plates are rated at threat Level IV, and the two soft armor panels are rated at Level IIIA - you are actually getting two different vests, for the price of one - if you use the T.R.U.S.T. carrier by itself, or you can purchase another carrier for use with the soft panels - a carrier that is more appropriate for soft body armor panels.
My testing wasn't scientific. Then again, if someone is shooting at you in the field, you're not concerned with how well the armor stands up under controlled scientific conditions - you only care that the armor does what it's supposed to do - stop the bullets from penetrating your body - and that's what it's all about, isn't it?
I've looked around and found hard body armor, with ceramic plates (only) in a carrier, for as much as $2,000+ now keep in mind that, that is just for two ceramic plates and a carrier. I've also seen ceramic plates with a carrier for under $1,000 and everywhere in between. And, in many cases the seller was a private individual, so you have no idea how well the armor was cared for. Buyer beware!
Now, math wasn't my best subject in school, however I did learn to add and subtract, if nothing else. I'm told by Iwan Luiten, at EnGarde Body Armor, that his product manager informed him that the EnGarde T.R.U.S.T. plate carrier, is normally offered with the Level IV and Level IIIA panels, and the entire set-up is priced at $599 USD plus shipping. Now, in my book, that's one heck of a deal, on not just the plate carrier with the Level IV hard armor plates, but you are also getting two 9mm soft armor panels. That is a deal you don't want to miss out on, if you're in the market for hard body armor. I've seen soft body armor cost a lot more than this - and with this EnGarde set-up, you are getting a carrier, plus hard plates and two soft panels!   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, August 10, 2013

[Editor's Introductory Note: I sometimes receive quite lengthy articles that are mix of great practical information and extended political narratives. In such cases I sometimes opt to edit out the particularly ranty sections. Where I have done so, you will see: "[Some deleted, for brevity]". My apologies, but to make an article of this length readable, editorial discretion is a must. Furthermore, I have to recognize that all politics are local. Since SurvivalBlog is a publication with an international readership, I feel obliged to chop out political discourses that would be of little or no interest to my readers in places like England, Germany, or India.]

My family and I have received so much benefit from all of the information from SurvivalBlog as fellow blog readers, that we wanted to give something back.  Hence we decided we would submit this entry into your writing  contest.  Hopefully it will help other readers, who like us, struggle with both, not seeing as clearly as we may think what lies in store for us, nor knowing exactly how to prepare for it when we do see it.  While there is something to be said for lessons learned the hard way, as we all know, there is also never enough time to make all those mistakes again for yourself. So for that reason, as well as all the wasted time & resources we've fumbled our way through, we would like to share with other readers the lessons we've learned, with the hope that they will help someone else streamline their preparations better than we did.  We certainly don't have all the answers, in fact I can't even say for sure that the answers we do have are the right ones for anyone other than us, it's just what we've found, and how we have addressed our various concerns.  I guess here's also where I should say, "your individual mileage may vary." To best convey the lessons we've learned  I would like to do it in three distinct sections. First, how we arrived at where we did, secondly, the information which generally guided our then redirected and more aware thought process, and finally, the actual equipment and decisions that actually got us to where we wanted to be. 

I should start off by saying that we are middle class Americans.  Christian, law abiding, patriotic, and freedom loving of course.  We are not disenfranchised, anarchists, social malcontents, nor psychotic. We are just worried by what we see happening in our country.  I'm a ten year military veteran, former police detective / SWAT officer, and now a licensed in a medical private practice. My wife works as a sales representative. We have three sons who are in their mid to upper teens.  We're just average, everyday people by most standards.

Like most folks, we thought we had been moving along the prepping path fairly smoothly, until recently when my wife and I both began to feel very uncomfortable with what we were seeing regarding how easily our various elected "leaders" were apparently embracing the concept of "political corruption with impunity".  Additionally, we were very concerned not only with how all of us, as citizens were being treated, but the very way in which these same "leaders" seemed to view us at a fundamental level.  They seemed to be barely able to conceal the disdain they have, both for us, as well as the constitutional rights we claim, when we question their actions, and seek their accountability. 

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Our hope and goal of course, is to be able to remain low profile, and stay in the home we are preparing on our northern Idaho ranch.  It is, after all, our primary security and logistical base.  I know many of us realize that at some point we may need to defend our homes, as well as ourselves, be it just as a single family, or in cooperative groups.  Home defense, to whatever degree may be required, I happen to believe, can only be realistically attempted against civilian threats, and even then, only in reasonable numbers.  Certainly not against any, even moderate size, or type of conventional military, or militarized police forces.  Like most in the prepper community, we want to avoid any armed confrontations with anyone, to whatever degree we can.  Our intent has been to do that by being as discreet as possible.  Knowing that will only go so far however, our simultaneous plan has been to make our ranch as inaccessible, and undesirable of a target as possible.  Worth neither the risk, nor the cost, to any potential miscreants. Should the worst come to pass, hopefully, Good Lord willing, there will be an evolution into cooperative communities throughout The Redoubt, be that simply a single street, a whole neighborhood, or entire communities.  An evolution into working together for their mutual security, as well as other common benefits.  The down side to this hope however, is that such cooperation will likely take time before people realize the logic and mutual benefit in doing so, as well as to develop the willingness to trust anyone again.  In view of these things, our mindset had been to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.  All well and good I suppose, until in our scenarios, we started replacing criminals and looters with federal sanctioned enforcement troops, who viewed us as "the threat".  We then started wondering, what happens at that point?  More importantly, what if these same "leaders" who show such disdain for the citizenry and their constitutional rights now, become a bigger component in this forthcoming problem?  What's left then, just to run and hide?  I must admit, we considered that tactic. Just hide, survive, wait for the dust to settle, and then help rebuild. Hard for us to swallow to be sure, but something we had to consider, none the less.  In the end however, we felt that simply leaving our ranch to be plundered, and running away to hide, in what we access would clearly be a hostile environment at that point, with no additional substantial support structure in place to sustain us, just to avoid potential conflict, put us all in an equal, albeit different type, of danger that is every bit as grave.  

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Up to this point, our preparations being geared towards living discretely and then hiding and waiting things out, was not a bad starting framework.  However, given these aforementioned realizations, we have been forced to evolve in our thinking, and therefore make some adjustments to our preparations as well.  Due to the increasing concerns these realizations have have brought to our attention, my wife, now thoroughly stressed out, opted to turn it all over to me (God bless her) to find the solution.  To that end, I began doing research both historically, as well as regarding current military forces, and their use in quelling the civil unrest that's currently going on around the globe.  As a result, I've come to the conclusion that there will very likely be more violence directed at dissenting citizenry than we personally were anticipating. That appears to be the common thread in how these situations unfold. Additionally, as for us, we were probably too open in voicing our opinions about the current state of affairs in our country, letters to newspaper editors, etc.  Thus, I don't think we can effectively "fly under the radar" at this point.  We've already spoken up and drawn all the wrong kinds of attention to ourselves, "making the list", so to speak.  Decision's I'm not sure I would make a second time. They only served to draw negative attention to our position on these social issues, while producing no apparent immediate positive change.  Why send out such an alert, when we are all so closely scrutinized?  Why inadvertently shorten your G.O.O.D. reaction window, and become one of those first houses visited without warning?  Was it worth it or not?  I cannot say. 

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Things in recent world news, as well as events here in the various scandals of our own government,   It scares us to death.  It's as if our elected leadership has been empowered, and turned down the path of trampling any of our rights that are not convenient for them.  Usurping authority, abusing citizens, and not to sound melodramatic, but turning not only ungodly, but just plain evil.   Such demonstrated behavior compels us to believe that without the boundaries of accountability and resistance when needed, their abusiveness will not end, but rather will only expand and grow worse, until it destroys us all.  If that's in fact true, and we see no reason to think otherwise, then the hide and wait scenario has a very limited shelf life after all.   No more "low profile", hide & wait it out.  We're all going to have to stand the line, or live with something much worse than what we're complaining about right now!  While we can't speak for anyone else, we've decided that we're not up for passing that legacy on.  The buck had to stop somewhere, & that's where some new stuff for us had to begin. These realizations have changed both our thinking, and how we prepare, we believe for the better. This section was about realizing the underlying threat.  The next two sections respectively are about better understanding that threat & how to cope with it, and then the item by item list of how we modified our preparations meet this evolving threat. We hope that it helps others to to take a look with fresh eyes at their own preparations and consider the realities we did not.

[Some deleted, for brevity]

I also learned military operations today are primarily focused around the concept of forces being "inserted" near a conflict area.  This can be done via airborne drops, rotary wing, vehicle, etc type transport.  Once deployed, forces may have to move on foot a couple clicks to an objective, where they perform their specific mission, and walk back to their vehicles or extraction point for transportation back to their base of operations.  They don't really march in & out any more, which enables them to carry more high tech gear on their missions, the downside of which equals heavier combat loads.  It also means however that in carrying that extreme load, they are unable to move as quickly during actual contact (look at pictures of guys in full kit and see how likely you think it is that they can effectively get prone, & when they do, that they can get back up & quickly sprint to a new position). Additionally, unless it is an "Elite" soldier, whose physical conditioning standards are significantly higher, they are not going to carry all that gear very far very fast (below is an AAR about that). Regarding that issue, I learned that overall, in today's conventional military forces, although some have the title, there is generally speaking, no longer a true "Light Infantry".  By light infantry I am referring to foot-borne units that are capable of rapid movement over long distances of varied terrain, being able to rapidly engage a non-static, elusive target. All my reading led me to believe that in significant part, the inability to move as quickly, having a less intimate knowledge of an operational area, and the dissidents ability to "disappear into the indigenous local populations" (which in some instances supported them in their cause), seemed to account for most of the problems abusive governments had with using conventional military forces to deal with dissident type problems, and offset much of the benefit of the increased technology. (now the caveat, that does not of course include the numerically limited, elite units such as Rangers, S.F., SEALs, etc, as that is precisely their game.) It seemed as though this would be applicable to us as well, rather I should find myself at odds with abusive government enforcers, OR an overwhelming group of marauding civilians wishing us harm, and that could not be successfully preemptively repelled at a greater distance.  Being able to move faster & farther, knowing the area better, and being able to disappear, seem generally beneficial across the board.  I further discovered that when confronted by a force by which you are outgunned and out supplied, a static defense (such as defending a home against a military or militarized police unit) is almost certainly a losing proposition.  However, if you turn the tables, and they have to carry all those beans and bullets as they pursue you, and you are fluid, fast (i.e. can travel light due to pre-positioned cache points), and can blend in, they are generally not able to be very effective in such a dynamic situation.  Basically, what it all boiled down to is that it's hard to catch a ghost.  In support of that, I also came across some interesting information from a S.F. NCO in Afghanistan, that the average fighting load carried by a combat infantry soldier in the mountains of Afghanistan is 60-80 lbs. Now bear in mind that that is what he is carrying in the midst of the actual combat, i.e. closure with the enemy. This same soldiers "approach march load" (which is what he carries to sustain him in the field just getting to the fight) is between 130-150 lbs.  It is also noteworthy that the load weights listed, only addressed the "doctrinal load", and did not include the inevitable addition of personal items that most guy's also carry.  Now I realize, these are fit and conditioned young men, but that's a lot of weight to pack, and having a little brother currently over there, I know the Hindu Kush mountains are some serious mountains.  Thinking about that, and digging further I found this information, which puts into perspective the results of carryings such massive loads.  This is an excerpt from an after action report from a first sergeant in the 187th infantry regiment of the 101st airborne div. during operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.  It stated:

“We had extreme difficulty moving with all of our weight. If your movement would have been to relieve "a unit in contact", or a time-sensitive mission, we would not have been able to move in a timely manner. It took us 8 hours to move 5 klicks. With just the vest (Interceptor Body Armor vest) and LBV, we were easily carrying 80 pounds. Throw on the ruck and you’re sucking.”

I also discovered in this information that these incredible loads were based on apparently short term needs vs more protracted time periods, because they were factored on 48-72 hr regular re-supply.  They are not able to be self reliant any longer than that and remain at full capability.  Now one of the things I found particularly interesting about this information, was how it related to a previous study conducted by the U.S. military that I found, (it seems the military quickly forgets the lessons of it's past).  In this study, they determined that a soldiers maximum "approach march" load should not exceed 55 lbs. That was the maximum that he could carry, and still possess the energy to be able to fight effectively when he got to the fight.  Now bear in mind, that "approach march load" is inclusive of all the gear they carry, period.  The study further determined that a maximum 48 lb "fighting load" could be effectively carried in actual combat if it was carried by a "conditioned soldier".  

Now, that's all interesting stuff, but why go into it? For several reasons.  Because I wanted to understand something about those who may be sent to come after us, and at least in part, some of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to have a better understanding of both myself, as well as the physical abilities we need to possess.  Realizing that while in good health,  I am no longer the highly fit, conditioned soldier of my youth, this helps put into perspective the importance of our daily PT regimen because survival isn't something that is graded on an age curve.  You either will, or you won't.  The age, we're stuck with. The mileage, and the wear and tear, well, it just is what it is. The conditioning however, that is within our control to improve every day.  This information was also helpful when we got down to seriously culling our gear.  When I looked at all our preps in the harsh light of these weight recommendations, it was clear that we were carrying far too much in our BOBs.  Think about how much faster could you run, or if necessary, better defend yourself, if you were carrying less weight.  When it comes to surviving there are no points awarded for second place, we want to have every advantage possible, even before we start cheating!  For me, this is when I realized that the gear we were amassing, and the way we were planning to utilize, and transport it, was totally inadequate for this updated scenario.  Our gear was set up great for an extended "backpack" type movement, or to pack it all on the mules and haul it up to a remote alpine static location & hide there until the smoke settled.  We definitely were not however, set up for a "break contact" type running gun battle while trying to E&E from folks intending to incarcerate, kill, or perhaps do even worse things to my family and I.  What we were doing wasn't going to cut it for people who had to be alert, fluid, and ready for a spectrum of scenarios.  Scenarios ranging from the daily working and defending of our ranch, to short range patrols around our AO / Community, to fight, disengage & run from surprise encounters, and unexpected E&E when you might not have all your gear with you, and progressing all the way up to proactive offensive actions.  All while still trying to function in discreet daily living on our ranch.  A pretty broad spectrum to fill.  What we needed was a system, and gear, that would be as adaptable to both home / ranch security, as to living in the field, or on the run, and it all had to be able to be accomplished potentially without the availability of the ranch as a base to work from any longer.  So, we switched from a full size, catch-all emergency / survival pack system which involved a get home bag, a B.O.B., separate cold weather gear packs, and a separate tactical gear set up, to a lighter, more efficient, integrated four tier system.  I was able to, for the most part, use gear I already had to accomplish this, although some new stuff was required.  

Now that we've identified the threat, and have a fundamental understanding of it as well as it's various strengths and weaknesses, we can now look at the actual equipment changes we made to address those issues.

Before delving into how we cut incredible weight from our loads, and streamlined our equipment, we feel it would be irresponsible not to point out something that is best expressed by a saying from a man with some real credibility in this area.  "Software trumps hardware."  My interpretation of this is, skills are more important that excess equipment.  Beware of the trap many of us have fallen into, gear is absolutely necessary, however, training and the high level of skills it produces, even more so.  That being said, onto the gear!  Oh, and by the way, I have no affiliation with any of these products other than as a consumer, except the Kydex mag pouches, which we make ourselves.

The first sorting out, or "Culling" of our gear, was done according to this new load weight information, and threat expectations.  It was done according to the recommended mnemonic of SMOLES. This stands for Self defense, Medical emergencies, Observation, Lost & found, Extreme weather, Survival.  Focusing on those priorities, with an eye on cutting weight, actually reduced what we thought was a pretty "Necessary stuff only" out by about half.  We were feeling pretty good at that point, little did we know we had barely scratched the surface.  With our newly updated version of "necessary" gear as a starting point, we began looking at putting it into tiers, and found some great recommendations out there to combine with our own experience.

In breaking down my tiers, I found it most effective if it is built upon a base uniform, and then each tier folds into the next, but is independent from it.  This is important since it, in essence, this prioritizes the gear.  The very first issue I ran into however, was how I was going to be able to have my Tier 1 gear (basic survival essentials) on me at all times, as that was our goal for Tier 1.  I'm sure there are a lot of other ideas about how to skin that particular cat, but the way I did it, was opt for a style of military clothing called Combat Vehicle Crewman (CVC) coveralls. They are a type of coverall that looks very much like the flight suits we built our ghillie suits on in the military. They are inexpensive and they are actually ideally suited for my purposes.  They are fire retardant, have re-enforced knees, elbows, and seat. They also have both a front zipper that opens from the top down as well as up from the crotch up, and a seat flap, (trying to be discreet here) both of which are quite utilitarian when you are wearing a tac-vest with plates and a battle belt, and don't want to have to virtually disrobe when nature calls, hence this also makes them unisex applicable.  Additionally, they have 9 zipper closure pockets wherein I can secure all of my Tier 1 gear.  Thus, as long as I'm dressed, it is with me.  The only adaptation required was to put in an additional chest pocket I reinforced with kydex to support my P220 when I'm not wearing my Tier 2 gear, and sewing on some 1 3/4' exterior belt loops.  

Regarding clothing, and viewing it in light of using it in the Rocky Mountains of the pacific northwest, and in an attempt to more or less standardize, we tried to err on the side of going bit  overboard, knowing we can cull it down as necessary.  Some of our selections were due to what we felt is the very real possibility that we may end up living in a field base camp(s) situation for an extended period of time.  Therefore, durability, medical, as well as hygiene issues came up in our considerations, and influenced some of our choices.  We decided to start at the basics, and worked our way through a complete set of field clothes.  Since the CVCs may be a bit warm during the hottest time of the year in the Pacific Northwest (although I don't think unbearable, by any means) we put extra cost into undergarments to stay as dry as possible, and avoid things like severe rashes, yeast infections, etc, as those types of issues not only interfere with your ability to move rapidly, but can also be an unnecessary drain on medical supplies.  We avoided cotton altogether.  We did some research on a product called Under Armor Heat Gear.  Well made, it wicks moisture extremely well, eliminates chaffing, dries quickly, and is antimicrobial.  Additionally, it comes in a style that acts very much like the nylon leggings I used to wear under a karate gi, to allow it to slide freely and not bind up during kicking, jumping, etc.  Thus they have the same effect regarding combat athleticism in the CVCs, as an added benefit.  They also have shirts to match. That is what we use under the CVCs as a base layer.  For cold weather we also have the underarmor cold gear, which we already knew, works fantastically.  Polypropylene sock liners, again wicks moisture, and eliminates friction, helping to eliminate blisters, etc.  Wool outer socks for cushion, as well as being insulating even when wet, have been useful in all weather.  We discovered that a style called "wader socks" work the best for us. 

Footgear has been an individual choice, it's only requirement being, that it is constructed of heavy leather to minimize the potential penetration of snakebites.  Those are overlapped with TurtleSkin snake gaiters.  Many may think I'm crazy on this one, but here's our logic;  Without antivenin a Rattlesnake bite's hemotoxin can be bad at best, and fatal at worst.  Discounting the approx 20% of bites that are "dry", that still leaves 8 out of 10 bites that potentially envenomate the person struck.  Medical care being uncertain at best, we were not willing to gamble on those odds.  Antivenin is not something we can access, nor stockpile.  Contrary to popular belief, they don't always rattle, before striking, or rattle early enough to be of any help.  According to a gentleman at Turtle Skin who happened to have spent a great deal of time working in the woods for the forest service in northern Idaho, and is quite familiar with the area, it's unlikely that any of us would run across a rattlesnake. However, "unlikely" is not the same thing as won't.  Living and operating in the woods constantly, can only increase our "unlikely" chance of that one "run in" with one. While we are normally very alert to the things around us, as well as avoiding high risk behaviors and places for them, our concern is, that in running from pursuers, or trying to navigate and hastily exit a two way firing range, we'll likely have other things on our mind, and may find ourselves stepping in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This strikes us as one of those times where an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.  Moving on, we included KEPS (knee & elbow pads) which anyone who as ever had to drop to their knees or prone on rocky ground will understand, and for headgear use the old standby USGI boonie hat.  Lastly we all have solar watches that also contain a digital altimeter, compass, and barometer in them.  This constitutes our basic field uniform.  (BTW, should anyone else opt for CVCs, be sure to break up the solid OD color with some Rit dye in spray bottles, it works great, if you don't then they will stand out.)

\This brings us to the four tiers of our gear.  Tier 1 is our basic survival stuff.  It's the stuff we figure you should always have on your person in such an environment.  It's a pared down compilation of various experts recommendations, as well as our own experience.  It's primary purpose is that if due to some threat, I needed to immediately run without any other gear, or had to ditch my gear so that I could run faster than the "fed-ex man" pursuing me with my FEMA invitation, I would still have what I needed to survive until I could get to either a safe place, or a cache site.  ~ yes in our system we chose to employ the use of cache sites for long term emergency resupply ~  Tier 1 is what you have on you when you are just working, etc. within what you consider to be your secure area, whatever that may be at any given time. This gear provides for the needs of defense, shelter, navigation, fire, water, and food, and would never be discarded.  The way I currently have it configured, it all fits nicely in the nine various pockets of my slightly modified CVCs.

Our Tier 1, "Survival Load" that, Lord willing, we will never be without, consists of the following:

1. SIG P220 & one spare mag in modified, kydex re-enforced, zippered chest pocket of my CVCs (whenever not in Tac gear). (S.S. 220 with 1full 8
        rd mag and 1 in the chamber + 1 spare mag of eight 230 gr. JHP's weighs a total of 53.6 oz OR 3.35 lbs.

2. Leatherman Wave tool. (weighs 7.9 oz)

3. #550 cord (50' daisy chain weighs 3.9 oz ~ we also use #550 cord in my boot laces, 5" daisy chained pull tabs on all 9 zippers, with a cord-lock 
         on the end of each.  Those pull tabs, while just normally handy, when "unchained", each also provide 2'4" of emergency cordage, believe it or 
         not.  9 separate 2'+ sections (12' worth) of #550 cord with a cord lock on each. (Great for shelter construction, making a yeti for concealment, 

4. Small Silva compass. Explorer Pro High Vis.  (This is redundant, in case of failure of the digital compass built into our watches) (1.0 oz)

5. Small flint & steel fire starter & 15' roll of jute. Tie 3 or 4 overhand knots back to back and then leave 3-4" of cord & cut.  Fray the un-knotted
        end into a "bird's nest" & strike a spark. Works great & lasts long enough to get your twigs going well and then some. (Jute weighs 1.7 oz & the
        "Light my Fire" flint & steel weigh 0.3 oz, for a combined total of 2.0 oz)

6. A small collapsable MSR dromedary type bag (we use a Camel-Bak bladder & tube) and purification tablets to purify it. (2 liter bladder & tube
        = 7.3 oz, 1 bottle Potable Aqua & 1 bottle of Potable Aqua+ , weigh 1.1 oz each, combined total of 9.5 oz and will treat 25 ltrs of water)

7. Small fishing kit (a roll of spiderwire, some small split shot & some #10 hooks in a Zip-Loc bag.)

8. Casualty blanket for shelter ~ Heavy duty, OD green / reflective (with 4 daisy chained, 5' long sections of #550 cord, one attached to each 
        corner grommet.  All you then have to do is make some quick stakes, or use some rocks for that matter (weighs 11.8 oz) 

9. A rat trap (Works great for catching squirrels around the house here, but I need to test it, out in the field) (weighs 5.4 oz) [JWR Adds: I'd rather carry 10 wire snares (also about five ounces, combined weight) for 10 times the number of chances to catch critters.

10. Plain fish netting (two pieces, approx 12"x24" and 2'x6') In the military, I learned in Survival / E&E, staying hidden is very important.  With the
        2X6 netting you just cut a slit in the middle of for your head, drape it over you like a poncho, and secure it around your waist with your belt or
        #550 cord and you have the foundation for a quick, makeshift bushrag.  Thread it with whatever foliage is appropriate.  Use the 12x24 over your
        boonie hat, for your head veil.  Not as effective as my full ghillie suit, but it's field expedient, light weight, and it's quicker and easier to throw 
        together than a yeti. It's also versatile and can be used for other things as well.

11. Gig head. Cut shaft for it in the field, if needed. For frogs, fish, reptiles, small mammals (weighs 1.7 oz) [JWR Adds: For safety, be sure to cap your gig's points with a piece of rubber or a wine bottle cork, when stowed!]

12. Blackhawk Serpa holster (weighs 4.3 oz + 2.0 oz for chest adaptor = 6.3 oz total)

13. Pistol mag pouch (weighs 2.2 oz)

Tier 1 weight before culling:  103.1 oz, i.e. 6.44 lbs.  We felt that this was too much, so after consideration, we made the following initial cuts:

The ever-painful "Culling Of The Gear":

Dropped gig head (-1.7 oz), P220 (-38.4 oz), 2 empty magazines (total -5.0 oz), 17 rds of ammo (-10.2 oz), holster (-6.3 oz), mag pouch (-2.2 oz). Combined weight of these cuts was 3.99 lbs.
(The pistol and ammo can be replaced if the threat situation merits it.) 

Total weight of my Tier 1 load is after culling is: 2.46 lbs) 

Tier 2 is all of our basic combat gear, our "Fighting Load", or "Kit", if you will.  It's contained on our Tac-Vest / battle belt.  In my case, I opted to attach a battle belt to my plate carrier tac-vest. While I wouldn't say it's necessary for everyone, due to my body geometry (i.e. long torso) it's just the way I chose to go.  It gives me a little more real-estate to put my gear on, without interfering with my ability to get prone, should I need to.  Tier 2  is supplemented by your survival load which you will always have on your person.  We would be wearing Tier 2 gear for example, anytime there was an elevated threat level, when performing security operations at the ranch, or of course for anything that took us out into the field, things of that nature.  It is not a "stand alone" gear list however, it both builds upon the Tier 1 gear, and is in turn, supplemental to the Tier 3 gear as well.  It is divided this way so that if any of us were to find ourselves in a fix and needed to hastily E&E, and our combat gear was slowing us down too much, we could ditch it in order to run faster, and come back for it later.  Meanwhile we still have all of the necessary 1st tier gear on our person, because it is not actually attached to the Tier 1 gear.  The important point here being that you can dump Tier 2 and still have your survival load. This gear would be the last of the three tiers to be discarded.  Our goal here, although probably unattainable given our choice of battle rifle and caliber, is to keep the combined weight our Tier 1 & 2 gear to right around 40 lbs, with a maximum of 48 lbs.

My Tier 2, "Fighting Load" consists of the following:

1. Tactical vest:  We went with Blackhawk's S.T.R.I.K.E. Commando Recon front & back plate carriers, along with Infidel Armor front & rear ballistic
        plates.  Heavier than I'd like, but they fit into the budget.  We've gone to wearing our's while doing PT & H2H practice, & it's beginning to feel a
        little less foreign at least. (plates and vest collectively weigh 268 oz, i.e. 16.75 lbs).

2. Battle belt (attached). We went with High Speed Gear's "Sure Grip" belts for those who wanted them, with a Cobra riggers belt as an under belt.
        (weight unknown at the moment)

3. M1A Rifle mag pouches, X 6.  We went for seven 20 rd mag's - two on the vest, two on each side of the battle belt (both in the event of an
        extremity injury, as well as I reload faster from different sides, depending on my shooting position) & one in the rifle.  Went with kydex, since that
        is my side business anyway, and made our own custom mag pouches. (weight per mag pouch is 3.5 oz, for a total of 21.0 oz)

4. M1A magazines X 7 ~ one carried in the rifle and 6 spares (loaded w / 20 rds each), (weight per empty mag 8.6 oz, loaded mag is 26.6 oz, X7
        = total of 186.2 oz or 11.6 lbs)

5. M1A rifle, in Sage EBR mod 1 configuration, with scope, with no mag. (weight 224 oz or 14 lbs) 

6. M1A rifle sling (I did not opt for a fancy "tactical" sling, instead I went for the simple Blackhawk "Rapid Adjust" 2 point sling.  With SOCP, as my
        primary form of H2H, you will understand why I chose to avoid a 3 point tactical sling.  (weight 5.9 oz) 

7. Pistol mag pouches, X 1 .  Again we went with the kydex, and made our own custom single mag pouches. (weight is was excluded at Tier 1)

8. SIG P220 SS magazines X 2 ~ one in pistol + 1 spare, loaded w / 8 rds each +1 extra for the chamber (weight was excluded at Tier 1)

9. SIG P220 ST, .45 ACP (weight excluded at Tier 1) 

10. Dump pouch.  We went with the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. folding dump pouch, mounted rear center of the battle belt so that it was accessible with
        either hand.  (weight 8 oz)

11. SOCP dagger (While some may cringe at the non-utilitarian nature of having a "dagger", and I would have too, it's not what you're probably 
        thinking it is.)  Since we use SOCP (my brother is a SF NCO), in part, for our hand to hand / CQB defense, this is actually fantastic.  If you're
        curious, then do a web search on it.  Watch Greg Thompson's demos and see for yourself, it's fairly close to perfect, especially when you are loaded down in kit
        and things need to be simple and effective!) (weight 2.5 oz)

12. Tomahawk. Some may think I'm crazy on this one too, but honestly, after spending a lot of time in the woods using it for everything from
        firewood, to pulling the handle out and using it like an Alaskan Ulu knife, I've found it's a lot more versatile that my ghurka kukri.  It's quite handy, and
        between it and my Leatherman I've had no want of anything edged. I made a custom kydex sheath for it, it stays out of my way, but is handy when I
        need it.  (weight 30.0 oz)

13. B.O.K.  (You could think of it as a trauma first aid kit) (weight 18 oz estimated)

14. 2-Way Radio (currently undecided on model)  (weight TBD)

15. Poncho with liner, in pouch on rear plate carrier (weight is approx 21 oz for poncho and 21 oz for liner, TOTAL is 42 oz)

16. An empty, drawstring closure pouch on the back of my Tac-Vest for carrying dehydrated food, as well as being able to carry your emergency 
        water bladder when you're not packing your Tier 3 Camel-Bak.  (weight 12 oz)

Tier 2 weight before culling:  817.6 oz, i.e. 51.1lbs. The initial weight of our Tier 2 gear was more than we were satisfied with, so again, we let the culling begin!

After consideration we made the following cuts:  As much as I hated to, I reallocated the tomahawk to Tier 4 (-30.0 oz), & reallocated the poncho / liner (-42 oz) to Tier 3 as it's only necessary away from home. 

Combined weight of these cuts was 72.0 oz, i.e. 4.5 lbs.
Total Tier 2 weight after culling:  46.6 lbs.

Results: Combined Tier 1 and 2 "Fighting Load" weight is:  49 lbs (goal is 48 lbs or less) compared to 60 - 80+ lbs, for an average conventional foot soldier, or enforcer who may be pursuing the pleasure of our company [JWR Adds: Note that his calculations are based on an empty Camel-Bak and minimal rations. The weight of water and food adds up quickly.

Missed the weight allotment goal for the Tier 1 and 2 combined "Fighting Load", by 1 lb.  I really would like to do more reduction. However the body armor and the M1A EBR are big drains against our weight allotment.  The weight of the .30 cal ammo is also not helpful.  While we did not opt to trade away what we see as a ballistically more beneficial caliber for our varied purposes, one could clearly present a legitimate case for the lighter weight of both the AR platform rifle, as well as it's lighter .223 caliber ammunition in this particular context. Those tradeoffs just are what they are however, not much can be done there.  Unquestionably, without just the armor plates alone, the load is reduced by 15 lbs, ( down to 30.41 lbs) but that option was off the table for us.  Expecting the lack of surgical facilities to deal with a thoracic gunshot wound, we don't see that as a chance worth taking.  The reality is, this is going to be the Tier where the the real weight is. I'm not sure anything else can be cut at this point, after all, we need what we need, & then cull out the rest. This heavy stuff (i.e, the armor plates, ammo and rifle) are necessary.  At this point I guess that just means more PT, and after all, 48 isn't that old, right?

Tier 3 is our S.R.R.P. (Short Range Reconnaissance Pack).  It falls under the higher combined weight restrictions of the "Approach March" load's 55 lbs maximum weight, although should still be as minimal as possible.  For us, that currently means it should be somewhere in the area of about 6 lbs.  We knew from the beginning that was not going to happen.  The pack and water alone weigh more than that already. . .  This is the gear that it would take to sustain us, in addition to the items in Tiers 1 & 2, for those times you would be in a potentially hostile, field environment, overnight and up to 3 days.  You are basically living out of a Camel-Bak.  Logistically speaking, this is to enable you to perform short term patrols / missions within your AO.  It is supplemented by the equipment that is already contained in your Tier 1 and Tier 2 loads.  It is the "less essential" gear that could/would be dropped prior to dropping the Tier 2 gear, if anything had to be dumped.  Agai, it is not actually attached to the Tier 2 gear, it simply augments it.  Excluding Tier 4, this gear would be the first option to be left behind.

My Tier 3, "S.R.R.P. load" consists of the following:

1. Camel-Bak W / bladder.  We use the Rim Runner model. (36.5 oz) (note: the H2O will weigh an additional 4.4 lbs, a total combined weight of 6.7

2. For "field rations", so to speak, as I am only addressing a 24 - 72 hr window, we decided to go with the "Mainstay" emergency ration bars.  Good
        for five years, these come in 400 cal meal bars, 6 to 9 in a packet depending on what you order.  You can check the other nutrients on line if you 
        are interested, but they're good.  Additionally, they do not increase your thirst, a good thing if you find yourself in an unexpected situation where
        water is either scarce, or if the incoming fire that your attempts to access it creates irritates those around you. A 2,400 cal pack contains six 400
        cal bars, each a meal they say, and weighs 16 oz.  the 3,600 cal pack contains 9 of the same bars and weighs 24 oz. They figure that at 1,200 cal
        a day, this is a two day supply pack, however they are also thinking in terms of someone in a life raft on an ocean.  But honestly, how far are you
        really going to walk per day, in that case?  Being a "land lubber", I planned for a higher caloric need of 2,400 cal per day.  Six bars a day, 
        breaking it down however you want.  The good thing about this however, is that should you need to reduce your consumption for some reason
        and stretch this supply out, or share with someone, you can easily do so.  I also include 3 multi-vitamins as an additional margin.  (weight is 48 

3. Petzl headlamp with one set of spare batteries (4.3 oz) 

4. Casualty blanket to wrap up in (this = 2, 1 for shelter, which is in my survival load, and now a second one to wrap up in)  (11 oz)

5. Poncho (with liner) (42 oz) 

6. Underwear, extra pair (U/A Heat Gear type) (2.2 oz)

7. Poly-pro sock liners, extra pair (0.6 oz)

8. Wool socks, extra pair (6.7 oz)

9. Under Armor cold weather hood (1.6 oz)  

10. Solo stove / pot (16.3 oz)

11. Leather gloves  (4.8 oz)  

12. Safety pins X3 (0)  

13. Area map (N/A)

14. ACE wrap (2.2 oz)

15. E-Tool (40 oz)  

16. Note pad & pencil  (1.7 oz)   

        UPON TERRAIN, 

*** Rope for rappelling seat and a 100' rappelling rope (NOT FACTORED IN AGAINST WEIGHT ALLOWANCE.)

Tier 3 weight before culling:  170.4 oz = 10.7 lbs + 6.7 lbs = 17.35 lbs.  The initial weight of our Tier 3 gear was way more than we were satisfied with, so again, we continued with the culling.

After consideration we made the following cuts:  Reallocated the e-tool to Tier 4 (due to high wt. & limited use, more useful in establishing a remote base camp than on a S.R.R.P.) (-40.0 oz), dumped the spare sock liners (-0.6), spare wool socks (-6.7 oz), solo stove & pot (-16.3 oz. With the Mainstay rations no cooking is required, & with H2o tablets no boiling water is necessary on a 3 day patrol), 1 Mainstay 2,400 cal packet (can live for 3 days with NO food, so can surely do fine with 1,600 cal, i.e. four bars per day)(-16 oz), casualty blanket (may rethink in winter, along with socks) (-11 oz), spare underwear (-2.2 oz).

Combined weight of these cuts was 92.8 oz, i.e. 5.8 lbs.
Total Tier 3 weight after culling: 11.55 lbs, (without H2o weight 7.15 lbs.)

Results: Combined Tier 1, 2 and 3 "Approach March Load" weight is:  60.61 lbs (56.21 lbs without the H2o) compared to 130 -150+ lbs, for the average "Marching Load" of a conventional foot soldier, who my be pursuing my family & I …  

While 5.6 lbs over what we wanted for our Maximum March Load, given the larger, heavier rifle, the heavier basic load of ammunition, and the extra 15 lbs of armor, we are quite happy with where we are at this point.  The bottom line:  We got the "Fighting Load" to 49 lbs,  one pound over our 48 lb. maximum goal, but still  11 - 31 lbs lighter than that of potential pursuers.  We got the "Approach March Load" to within 5.6 lbs of our 55 lb. maximum limit goal, but are still 69.4 - 89.4 lbs. lighter than that of potential pursuers.  The difference being more than the weight of our entire Marching Load Out. Frankly, at this point I think we have more or less reached bare bones, if you will.  I just can't find any more reasonable cut's to make, so for additional gains at this point, the game has to change from an issue of hardware (equipment) to one of software (skills, tactics, conditioning, area familiarity, etc.). 

Tier 4 is my L.R.R.P. (Long Range Reconnaissance Pack).  It's incomplete at this point, still undergoing construction and refinement. It is the gear that would allow us to set up a distant field base of operations.  It is primarily the equipment required for establishing a primitive alpine safe haven, should you be forced from your normal AO. It would also serve to develop a base camp of a semi permanent nature, from which could be conducted security patrol operations to a distance greater than that which your SRRP provides for. The areas for camps were pre-selected as optional sites and then will be chosen specifically depending on the situation. The pack will contain more rations, to sustain you during the initial set up of your field location.  As well, it will have a longer term shelter system, increased & upgraded medical supplies, and additional munitions.  This is not a tier that would normally be carried in the field, and with any luck will be transported by pack animal, although it, out of necessity, is man portable as well. It is best thought of as a sort of foundation level, emergency camp construction pack.  It's intent is to provide for the needs covered in S.M.O.L.E.S.  (but of a base camp nature), and expands upon the equipment you already have at your disposal via the first 3 tiers.  At this point, ours contains the following, although exacts amounts and weights have not yet been determined:

1. Backpack (Gregory, North Face and Dana, internal frame packs, although any quality pack will work, this is just what we have).
2. Food, dehydrated (additional rations).
3. Second full set of clothes & cold weather gear -fleece pants & top.
4. Medical kit (more inclusive).
5. Shelter ( a new enclosed 4 season hammock design).
6. Spare magazines and ammo. 
7. Spare weapons parts (Firing pin, extractor, cleaning supplies etc).
8. Mission specific items, (Rappelling ropes harnesses, etc).
9. Mini-mag light with solar rechargeable batteries and spare bulbs.
10. Range finder & spotting scope.
11. Weatherproof notebook.
12. Additional H2O purification tablets.
13. Additional roll of jute rope.
14. Tomahawk.
15. Mess kit.
16. Wyoming saw.
17. Spare parts / sewing kit.
18. P220, mags & ammo.
19. Solo stove & pot.
20. E-Tool.
21. Second causality blanket.
22. Spotting scope.
23. Solar charger kit.
24. 100' of additional #550 cord.
25. Night vision optic is currently under debate as it has an IR illuminator as enhancement option, and given the preponderance of IR detection 
        devices out there in the hands of anyone and everyone, we are evaluating the risk of sending out such a beacon as opposed to the reward any night 
        time surveillance ability may offer.  Of course the logistics of it are an additional concern. May well end up becoming a cached away special 
        purpose tool, since we already have it.

While tier #4 is still a work in progress, and being interfaced with pre-positioned caches and preps, we look for it to eventually, like the other 3 
        tiers, come together as part of a cohesive system.  

Hopefully this information will be of use to other prepper's in understanding, more fully than we did, the dangers facing us all, as well as the need to adapt to it.  While certainly not the only way to address these issues, we hope our solutions will stimulate thoughts, and help other survivalblog readers find the ways that best address the issues facing them in their unique situations.  Master your skills, travel light and fast, blend in well, and most importantly, trust that God often shows His strength through our weakness!  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dear JWR,
I am an avid motorcyclist. (I've logged more than 300,000 miles, and I'm 40 years old.) I recently noticed a trend on bike blogs regarding ATGATT, spoken as"At-Gat." This acronym stands for All The Gear, All The Time. In other words, if you believe a helmet (or leather jacket or good sturdy boots) to be a good idea at any time, you should wear them all the time.

Personally, I wear a helmet, leather jacket, good boots, gloves, etc. whenever I'm on the bike. I usually wear them when I'm not on the bike as well, out of habit. But I also carry a decent medical kit on the bike or in the truck, whichever I'm using at the time. I'm an EMT and like to be prepared for incidents that occur when I'm not on the clock. Add a bullet/stab-proof vest whenever feasible, a sidearm (when allowed, which in my case means not at work), materials for making fire, a knife and some other goodies, and I think I have ATGATT.

This term has replaced EDC in my vocabulary: Your "every-day carry" should be "all the gear, all the time." It doesn't take much space or weigh much if you go minimalist, and it really could save your life, or someone else's. I also have a G.O.O.D. bag, and one for my wife and daughter, but if necessary I'd be fine with the things I carry/wear every day. I'm not saying I carry an axe, adze and flock of chickens with me. Difficult, that would be. But I could go into the boonies now and stay there for a week or perhaps a month without suffering much, partially due to experience and partially due to equipment.

Thanks again, JWR, for providing SurvivalBlog. I learn something new every time I visit, which means frequently. - J.D.C. in Mississippi

JWR Replies: Your point is well taken. It reminds me of a conversation that I had with my late wife, The Memsahib back around 2006. We had just seen some news footage of a street riot in the Middle East, and I asked rhetorically: "What is the best way to survive that, aside from conveniently not being there? Her response: "Well, I suppose a full set of off-road motorcycling gear would be a good start."

And it bears mentioning that a large portion of life-threatening trauma (both combat and accidents) is head trauma. Kevlar helmets (including the later-generation ACH and MICH) are sold by several mail-order firms like Proper sizing is important for helmets, so don't just buy any Kevlar helmet on eBay. Many of these same companies also sell kevlar body armor vests. There again, sizing is crucial.

Following the theme of your letter, it is important to wear a full set of safety gear whenever you fire up a chainsaw, even if it just to "make a couple of quick cuts." (Kelvlar safety chap, boots, combination helmet with face screen, etc.) Murphy's Law dictates that the one time that you omit the safety gear will be the time that your foot slips.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just a note on the penetrating power of the 5.56 NATO M855 ball round on various materials.  Much ink has been wasted noting the presence of a steel or tungsten “penetrator” being manufactured inside the M855 round. It weighs about 3 grains.  It is insignificant so far as getting the bullet inside a car unless you open the door first.  True, any load in the 5.56 will make impressive wounds or even penetrate 1/4” or even 3/8” mild steel long as there absolutely nothing in the way before it arrives on target.  Put a 1/8th inch tick sheet of aluminum a foot in front of it, and witness a stunning reduction in it’s effect on the steel behind.  Two sheets of 1/8” steel plate, with a foot of air between them will stop the 5.56 cold.  Any load.

In my experience on several junked cars, an ordinary car door will, more often than not, stop the 5.56 before it can enter the passenger compartment and cause anything like a serious wound. Inserting a piece of 3/4” plywood inside the door of a 1988 Buick Station Wagon, I was unable to get any penetrations in the 5.56 caliber, regardless of the weight of the bullet.  But note that I did not try the newer bonded LE loads, nor the ammunition using the Barnes solid copper bullets. These show better performance on auto bodies.  The largest shred of bullet that even stuck to the outer veneer layer looked like a piece of glitter.  Contrast this to routine through and through holes in the plywood made by garden variety 9mm, .40, and .45 pistol ammunition.  

Occasionally, a bullet would hit window control hardware, or lock work, and fail to make it through, the most did. The 5.56 launches a very tiny, low mass bullet at high velocity.  When it encounters any sort of layered barrier, it self destructs, yielding all of it’s energy upon whatever that material is. Heavier, sturdier .30 caliber rifle bullets represent a very serious threat to occupants of a motor vehicle, and require expensive countermeasures.  But don’t be fooled by the impressive holes in homogenous steel plate, thinking the 5.56 will replicate this performance on a steel auto body or door.  If you must use an AR system on a vehicle, then consider the far superior .300 AAC Blackout cartridge, launching serious high-mass .30 caliber bullets. Avoid the light weight varmint-type bullets...the 147s and 125 Sierra’s shine in this arena. - Paul S.

JWR Replies: For far more reliable penetration of car doors, .308, .30-06, and 7.62x54r will rule the day. Black tip armor piercing (AP) bullets are best, but plain old FMJ ("ball") penetrates admirably. Yes, a .50 BMG rifle would be better, but a .308 is far more portable and versatile.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Recent conflicts overseas, namely the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have shown the usefulness of hardened vehicles in environments where governments were unable to provide for the security of the public or governments ceased to function at all.  Lessons in vehicle defense were hard learned in many cases, however the ability to freely maneuver under adverse conditions (such as those that may be encountered post-SHTF) is a much needed capability.  Improvised systems and designs based on proven engineering methods to defeat small arms and small improvised explosives can be adapted for use by the prepared individual to provide for a higher degree of security in movement.  The basis for all designs examined will focus on protection balanced with mobility, as any truly purpose built armored vehicle has to balance mission accomplishment with adequate levels of protection.  With materials readily available to most American consumers, a vehicle can be equipped to perform a wide range of operations from logistical convoys to patrols through potentially hostile territory.

A look at modern armored vehicle construction and what it is designed for is helpful in understanding the engineering behind defeating various weapons, and can be scaled to fit just about any platform imaginable.  For instance, a modern Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (MATV) has several aspects of its armor built to mitigate shape charges and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that detract from vehicle application and maneuverability, like its limited field of view.  The hull shape is designed almost like a v-hull boat to help direct energy waves from explosions around the occupants of the vehicle, but almost in every case this results in suspension and axle components being separated from the vehicle.  While the occupants may still be alive, the vehicle is most certainly useless for transportation unless it’s repurposed as a gondola car.  The compromises made with most commercially available armored vehicles balance the level of protection, mobility, cargo capacity, visibility, offensive capability, and survivability.  The more purpose built any one type of vehicle is, it tends to perform exceedingly well in one or two of the above areas, but suffers in others.  Mission type and availability of components will play the largest roles in armor design, such as cargo trucks retaining load capacity may not have the same protection levels due to lack of space and vehicle size.  With improvised armor solutions, the highest levels of protection will sacrifice the speed, mobility, and longevity of the equipment, but do have their application.  The lower levels of protection may offer an additional security measure for longer range reconnaissance patrols or cross country movement where enemy contact is unlikely and the extended range and maneuverability of a lighter vehicle are more advantageous.

An in-depth study at threats encountered and ways they are handled will provide the foundation for whichever armored application will work best, then an analysis can be made as to the materials and construction for each protection measure.  The various threats most likely to be encountered in a post collapse society or one without the rule of law are as follows: small arms fire, improvised explosives, incendiary weapons, low-level conventional explosives, and a collection of terrain or environmental threats.  The below breakdown will list the threat and what engineering components are implemented to counter them; these engineering designs are best employed with tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to provide the highest degree of protection, however those TTPs are better tailored to situational and individual conditions than covered by a generic threat response.  For every imaginable conflict, a TTP should be developed and practiced by those participating in the operation to ensure the highest probability of success. 

Small Arms Fire:  Small arms are defined as those that can be operated by an individual and are man-portable, such as conventional rifles, shotguns, and pistols.  Light to medium machine guns also fall in this category, as the projectiles are not designed as anti-armor (in most cases) unlike their heavier brothers.  Historically, hardened steel or iron has proven effective at defeating small arms, and most any metal an inch thick will protect from .50 caliber rounds on down.  It is impractical in most cases to use inch-thick armor however, and improved designs are readily available that are lighter and more easily adapted to vehicles.  Kevlar is one such material, which is a thin nylon fabric that is matted many layers thick to provide ballistic protection.  This can sometimes be found in industrial applications where ballistic shielding is required around equipment, but is often prohibitively expensive.  A more easily found replacement is bulk nylon cloth with either stitching or resin added.  While not all nylon fabrics share Kevlar’s anti-ballistic properties, a thick (one inch or more) matting of nylon either tightly woven or bonded with resin or epoxy will offer some flexible and light-weight protection from pistol, shotgun, and some rifle rounds.  Bolts of fabric can be found at places like Wal-Mart, and each 52”x40 yard bolt, along with two gallons of fiberglass resin, could provide enough materials for one smaller vehicle packed between the door panels and sitting on top of the floor boards or roof.  A side note on Kevlar and anti-armor rounds: the M855A1 5.56mm NATO ball ammunition, and other types of military sabot/SLAP ball ammunition contain tungsten or steel penetrator tips.  These are very effective against mild steel and Kevlar, which is why many small arms protective inserts (SAPI plates) are ceramic.  The M855A1 is rated to penetrate 3/8” of mild steel, so consider this in material selection.

Improvised Explosives:  Any device which uses a rapidly expanding propellant or explosive charge to inflict damage falls within the “improvised explosive device” category.  This includes a wide range of devices, from black powder in a pressure cooker to a howitzer shell wired for command detonation.  Regardless of construction or means, there are two principal threats with IEDs: one is the concussive blast wave created by the localized pressure from the explosive, and the other is primary and secondary projectiles in their many forms.  Projectiles range from shrapnel and lead shot to heavy-metal rods, as is the case in shaped charges.  Concussive blasts are best defeated by channeling their pressure away from or around the vehicle, which is very difficult to accomplish without a purpose built hull.  Mild steel or magnesium-alloy steel in over one-inch-thick continuous pieces are used in MRAPs, and would be difficult to fabricate at home.  However, the convex design of many bulk fuel tanks (like propane and gasoline) could be cut to fit many different vehicle sizes and provide a measure of protection against concussive blasts.  This will reduce the ground clearance of the vehicle and may have adverse effects on drive train performance due to excessive heat build-up.  None of the purpose built vehicles will place armor over the exhaust systems because of this, so be mindful of exhaust routing if under body armor is used. 

For protection against projectiles, the same techniques are employed as those to defeat ballistic threats with the exception of shaped charges.  Shaped charges employ a directive metal cone, normally copper, to multiply and focus blast pressure.  The explosive is focused in such a small area that the pressure wave generated acts upon metals as if they were a fluid, and under the principals of fluid dynamics, incompressible.  Imagine an explosive force that renders a normally solid metal hull to act like a shield of water with hollow core.  The pressure exerted on the exterior would allow the shield to rupture and transfer energy to the hollow center where the force becomes a concussive pressure wave.  Glass and ceramic layers were found to be incredibly effective in disrupting shape charges, as when the explosive pressure makes contact with the ceramic plate, the concentrated path of the charge is disrupted and not able to transfer energy like a fluid, which shields an inner skin of metal from penetration due to the blast.  These can be improvised by using ceramic flooring tile, and while these tiles may not be heat tempered, they are a light-weight addition that can also provide for additional ballistic resistance.  Using thinner (3/16” to 3/8”) sheet steel, these tiles can be sandwiched in between for door skins and passenger or engine compartment shielding.

Incendiary weapons:  Thermite and Molotov cocktails are easily improvised by nefarious groups and can be devastating weapons against vehicles, as many components and cargoes are extremely flammable.  Modern tactical vehicles are designed with automatic fire suppression systems, as IEDs, incendiry bullets, or tracer bullets can ignite the vehicle fuel or cargo.  These systems are generally high flow dry powder or CO2 systems that would prove difficult to improvise without a pre-staged stocks of fire suppressant tanks.  Insulating the vehicle armor on both sides can provide a measure of resistance until a conventional extinguisher can be used to put out the fire.  There are plenty of light-weight and flame resistant coatings available in mat and spray on applications, the easiest to be found is in junk yards as under-hood insulation.  These high density mats are not flammable and can easily be cut and glued onto the interior of armor paneling to provide the vehicle occupants the time necessary to escape from a danger zone without risking vehicle systems or excessive passenger compartment temperatures.  Two part urethane coatings, such as truck bed linings, have also been found as a great exterior coating for armor that assists with ballistic and incendiary protection.  Almost all new production armor vehicles use these coatings on the exterior of the entire vehicle, and have the benefit of protecting the armor from corrosion and being easy to apply.  While none of these will stop thermite from burning through due to its extremely high temperatures, they will provide the operator with valuable time to deal with a situation.

Low level explosives: While it is difficult to imagine the possibility of encountering land mines or howitzer shells in a post-collapse situation, encountering pipe bombs, black powder, or Tannerite powered devices would be inevitable at some point.  These explosives do not function like a shaped charge or high explosive, but instead use the rapidly expanding gas pressure from the charge combusting to blast secondary projectiles or cause their enclosure to rupture and fragment.  These threats are handled in much the same way as ballistic projectiles are as the accompanying blast pressure wave is negligible.  Steel sheets with a three to six inch gap in between filled with packed sand or concrete work very well to prevent fragments from penetrating, but these enclosures can be excessively heavy.  If a smaller area, such as an exposed gunners position in the bed of a truck, has the space and capacity, this is a viable and attractive option that provides better and more resilient protection than sand bags or other alternatives that may not withstand the vibration and flex that a mobile platform encounters.

Terrain and environmental threats: One of the most often encountered issues with mobile armor is the cumbersome and heavy design of a vehicle that may need to operate off road or in less than ideal road conditions.  Traction and suspension issues that are common in mud, sand, and snow are magnified if the vehicle is substantially heavier and has less suspension flex.  Additionally, road conditions that stress the suspension will push components past their failure points with the added weight of armor.  Upgraded vehicle components are necessary to counter the issues encountered with the additional weight of armor if any sort of longevity is expected out of the platform.  Suspension upgrades should include heavier-duty and longer travel springs, larger shocks, and heavier duty axles/axle shafts.  Tire size and load range should also be increased; weight is better distributed across an area if the tire is wider and taller.  Drive trains should be toughened up with heavy duty transmissions and additional cooling systems.  Running several small oil coolers for the engine and transmission will provide extra fluid capacity and allow one to be bypassed if it is punctured.  Because the armor places more load on the engine, consider upgrades to engine power and a free-flowing exhaust, which will assist in keeping the engine cool as well.  High temperatures have been known to disable armored vehicles that were not equipped to cool a harder working drive train. 

Now that the treats and appropriate countermeasures have been identified, a closer look into choosing and up-armoring a specific vehicle can be investigated.  While there is no “one size fits all” option, for the typical family-oriented prepper nothing larger than a one-ton (or perhaps flat-bed) truck would be practical.  For larger vehicles, there are more available methods, but they fall well outside the scope and price of most individuals’ needs.  One-ton trucks and SUVs are common and readily available now, with many preppers already owning one, so the focus of specific modification instruction will apply to these but many modifications can be scaled down for smaller applications.  Before considering armoring a vehicle, ensure that it is mechanically sound and all regular repairs are completed.  An invincible truck with a seized engine is a great land anchor but a poor tactical vehicle.  If practical for your application, the installation of a heavy-duty lift kit and larger all-terrain tires will make for a better armored foundation.  If the towing and payload capacity would be exceeded by the additional armor weight, installing air bags to the factory or aftermarket springs will assist in handling the extra load.  A note on springs: the military was in a period of transition throughout the war, and both leaf sprung and coil sprung variants of the same vehicle could be found.  The same is true in many cases in the civilian world, many manufacturers have stopped using leaf springs both front and rear and now use coils or torsion bars in the front end.  While coil springs provide better on road handling and a smoother ride, they are not as resilient to overload or the constant stress of armor.  The military found many stock coil springs fatiguing prematurely, and in some cases breaking into pieces.  Leaf springs did not suffer many of these issues regardless of the load placed on them, and although they do not offer the same performance, are often a better choice for armored vehicles.  The same thing was found regarding solid “live” axles versus independent suspension, where the solid axles required fewer (if any) upgrades to handle the additional stresses, but independent suspensions suffered regular failures.

Adding the lightest level of armor can be accomplished with little more than scrap sheet steel and bolts; simply find 3/8” thick plates and bolt them on top of existing body panels.  Use twice to three times as much hardware as normal for the application, a good rule of thumb is a bolt every 6 inches along the edges of the panel, two inches away from the edge.  While not as strong as a continuous weld, this will help prevent distortion of the panel due to explosive pressure and aid in longevity.  All hardware should be grade 8 if it’s available, lower grade bolts can be sheared off with small arms fire.  Another easily applied light armor option is the “L door,” where a panel of steel is cut to fit the dimensions of a door exterior including the glass, then notched in the front towards the A pillar to provide visibility while still offering protection for the head and shoulders of the occupant.  These can be hung from a channel bracket that rests on the window frame of the existing door, and have the benefit of being easily installed and removed.  With subsequent levels of armor, the standard framing and hinges for the doors will not support the weight, so consider welding the doors to the frame or removing the doors entirely and mounting a heavier duty frame and hinge in place.  The most neglected component of door armor is the latching mechanism, which has to be just as strong as the hinge.  A single point of contact is not enough for a heavy door, so consider a multiple bar lock style of latch, like one would find in a safe door.  For upgraded protection, the inner door can be gutted of window glass and other components then paneling, like aluminum street signs, can be added to the interior side to create a large cavity within the door.  This can then be filled with sand, ceramic tile, nylon/Kevlar matting or a combination thereof.

For hood, fenders, and other body panel protection, consider using a mix of scrap steel sheets bolted to existing frame or body parts and tiles mounted with brackets or channels in the steel.  If the tiles are mounted in a channel or with brackets, they have the advantage of being easily replaced if broken by incoming rounds.  Do not place solid sheets of metal over the grill as this will cause overheating of the engine and under-hood components.  Louvered steel or iron can be easily made to fit over these sensitive areas by cutting the steel into two inch wide strips and bolting or welding them into a frame at a 45 degree angle.  Spacing can be changed to add more protection but at the cost of airflow.  Sand bags stacked on the hood or along the inside of the vehicle may be a field expedient method for minimal protection, but this will prove very heavy and cumbersome without providing a substantial degree of protection or allowing for heat transfer from the engine to the ambient air.  Instead, mild steel and tile can be used to protect the floor boards and interior of the vehicle without expending cargo capacity and space. 

Field of view and transparent armor have been a weak point for armored vehicles since their inception.  Due to the limited availability and excessively heavy weight of transparent materials, most applications restrict the amount of glass as much as possible, often sacrificing visibility for enhanced protection.  In modern designs this has still held true, mainly due to the material limits and current engineering technologies.  Ballistic glass has not changed much since the advent of clear polycarbonate, or plastic based transparent materials.  These are employed in layers with tempered (or heat treated) glass to create a dense transparent panel that can withstand multiple high powered rifle round impacts.  The sheets of glass and polycarbonate vary in thickness but are typically ¼” to 3/8” thick, and between three and 12 layers are used depending on level of protection.  The frame is critical to effective transfer of force from glass to vehicle body, and should be sufficiently over-built to accommodate the level of threat expected.  Overall size of the glass also plays a role in resistance to forces, such as IEDs, as the larger surface area of solid glass increases the stresses placed on the frame.  Smaller is better when mounting transparent armor and will save weight while increasing strength.  Custom ballistic glass makers can be used to provide prefabricated transparencies of just about any size, however basic protection can be accomplished by adding layers of Lexan (the most common brand of polycarbonate used) to existing tempered safety glass.  Two layers of Lexan, one on the exterior and one on the interior, bonded to the safety glass with pressure sensitive adhesive will provide protection from shrapnel and low powered cartridges as well as large hand-thrown objects such as rocks or bricks.  Any more protection will require a custom frame as the existing A pillars that support the windshield will not withstand a substantial amount of force or weight.  Using small residential windows layered with Lexan would work well and could be easily mounted in sheet metal fabricated for the doors for enhanced windows.  A note on working with polycarbonate is it becomes more flexible when mildly heated and can be cut with a hot knife easily, with masking tape on both sides of the material along the desired cut to preserve surface transparency and reduce the risk of fractures.

While practical welding, fabrication skills, and familiarity with basic automotive tools are required to perform the majority of these modifications, they are developed over time and with hands-on training in order for one to be proficient with their applications.  A good recommendation however would be to take a welding class at a local technical college, or failing that, purchase a hobby welder and practice with scrap metal at home.  Most heavy, armor grade steels will require the use of a 220 Volt or larger welder, wire-feed being the first choice and arc (or stick) welding being a cheaper alternative.  Heating many of these metals with oxyacetylene welding will weaken them, making it an impractical method for armor construction but can be used in place of a plasma cutter or circular saw if there is no alternative.  Bolting of armor pieces has been found an effective method, and is generally more viable due to the availability of hardware and assembly tools.  Locating scrap metal sources is critical to this endeavor; some universal resources could be dumpsters, shipping containers, storage tanks, rail cars, guard rails, and junk yards.  Use a magnet to check for non-ferrous metal, like aluminum, which is not ideal for armor construction and requires different welding methods.  If the metal is non-magnetic, it will not be suitable for most MIG or stick welding.

Having the ability to up-armor and harden your vehicle may be critical to your bug out plan or continued survival, and with the correct approach can be accomplished to protect your assets and provide enhanced security in a challenging situation.  Should the time arise when you desire mobile protection, employing these methods may provide you with the advantage needed to prosper where others fail and enhance whatever transportation plan you have in place.  Please research specific parts and attributes of your vehicle beforehand, and use appropriate protective equipment when welding, using hand tools, or going into unfriendly territory. 

Safety Notes: Never weld on a vehicle while the vehicle battery is still connected, as this will damage the vehicle electrical system.  And do not turn your vehicle into a Mad Max look-alike without first consulting your spouse as this may be hazardous to your health, especially if it is the one they use most frequently.  Lastly, remember to keep the vehicle's rubber side down.

Monday, February 4, 2013

In the past, working as a police officer, security officer and private investigator, I used to wear soft body armor - it only made sense to give myself every advantage available, and to afford myself a better chance of going home safely at the end of the day. Body armor isn't anything new, I believe it was used as early as the 1920s - in a more modern form than the armor that knights used to wear into battle.

Richard Davis, who started Second Chance Body Armor (now out of business) paved the way for much of today's soft and heavy body armor. If memory serves me correctly, Davis started selling his soft Kevlar body armor in the early or mid-1970s. He made quite a name for himself, by actually demonstrating the effectiveness of body armor in live-fire demonstrations. He would fire a .44 Magnum handgun (with full power loads) into his own chest, while wearing his body armor. Needless to say, it was a very effective marketing tool. I still remember when I owned a gun shop in Portland, Oregon, and I bid on a large quantity of body armor for the Salem, Oregon police department and won the bid. However, I didn't have the funds to purchase the Second Chance Body Armor, so I contacted Davis and explained the situation to him. He told me to add his name on the awarded bid, and he sent me the armor, and I sent him a check.

Today, there have been many advances in the design and effectiveness of body armor. Many police officers, wisely wear some form of soft body armor under their uniform shirt. The only problem I see is that most police officers still attempt to wear the same size shirt, and you can clearly see the outline of the armor under the shirt. This isn't rocket science. Get a shirt that is a size or two bigger! And, for some strange reason, I see many police officers wearing their "concealable" body armor over their shirts! Come on! The idea is that, the bad guys don't know you are wearing the armor, so if they shoot, they will shoot a center of mass. But if they see you are wearing body armor, they will go for the head. This is common sense!

Recently, Infidel Body Armor sent me a sample of their hard body armor for testing. This is super-tough stuff to be sure. A complete set-up, with a front and back steel plate and a vest make up the set. The hardened steel plates are made out of AR500 steel - this is the same stuff they use to armor Hummers and other light military vehicles. This is 1/4 inch hardened steel that has a polymer coating on the front and back and comes in a vest. They offer several different styles and designs of vest you can pick from. Each steel plate is bent at a 20 degree angle to conform to your upper torso. The polymer coating on the front and back of each plate is worth note. This coating prevents bullets from splattering off the armor and into your face or arms or lower body. In effect, it is something akin to a sponge - it traps the bullet fragments in the polymer. Each plate is 10 by 12 inches and weighs 7 pounds. Heavy? Well, not as heavy as you think, when you actually put the armor inside of the vest and put it on. I was actually surprised at how comfortable the entire set-up felt.

Chad Cooper, who owns and operates Infidel Body Armor, also sent me a single steel AR500 hardened steel plate for my testing. And, it had already been shot with a .30-06 armor piercing round. There was some damage to the polymer coating, but only a very slight dent to the armor itself. Cooper told me that he didn't know if the polymer coating would stay on the plate - he attempted to re-coat the plate with more polymer coating - so I had been warned ahead of time. If you'll go to the Infidel Body Armor web site, you can see the steel plates being tested, and not with just a few rounds, but with many rounds - as many as a hundred rounds fired into a single plate. The standard for testing the effectiveness of any body armor is that it will withstand 7 hits from the calibers of ammo it is meant to stop. Infidel goes above and beyond in their test. No, their armor is "certified" by the big name company that does this sort of certification, but that means absolutely nothing to me!

Cooper has designed his line of hard body armor for the Prepper crowd, not for law enforcement. Law enforcement requires a certain certification for armor, and that means you pay a lot more for that certification. Cooper's intent is to provide the Prepper with the most effective hard body armor, at the most affordable prices around. He has reached that lofty goal!

Look, the last thing you need in a SHTF scenario is having yourself or a member of your group taken out of action by being wounded or killed. You don't have an endless supply of replacements like the military does, so if a group or family member takes a hit, or is killed, it can put your group in serious jeopardy. A lot of Preppers don't take this into consideration - losing someone to a bullet to the torso. Sure, we all want to think it won't happen to us, but we all know better than that, don't we? You can have all the latest gee-whiz gear and weapons to aid you in your survival, but if you are shot, what good will you be to the rest of the group or yourself? Something to think about!

I took the Infidel Body Armor steel plate out for some testing as soon as I received it. I fired 10-rounds of .308 Winchester FMJ ammo at the plate. On the first round, the polymer coating flew off, as I was warned it might do. I taped the polymer coating back on around the edges of the plate, and continued firing. There were some small dents, hardly worth noting. And, I removed the polymer coating and saw all the little bullet fragments that it had trapped under it - preventing what could have been small shrapnel injuries to the wearer. Additionally, most of my hits were dead center on the plate - one round on top of the next, and still no sign of penetration or of the plate weakening. On several more outings, I fired a grand total of 100-rds of .308 Win. ammo at the plate, ammo from Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Buffalo Bore produces some pretty hot loads, and still there were no signs of the plate giving way or failing. On several other tests, I used some Federal 5.56mm 62-grain steel penetrator ammo on the test plate, again, no failure on the plate, and it really just shrugged off the 5.56mm ammo. Handgun rounds? It was a total waste of time firing those at the plate. All my testing was done from only 25 feet! There were no splash-backs from the bullets, they were trapped in the polymer coating.

Infidel Body Armor rates their plates at threat Level III+ and I don't see any reason to question this, even though they are not "certified" by the big name company that does this sort of thing. The body armor is rated to withstand 9mm, .357 Mag, .45 ACP 12 GA shotgun, 5.56mm, .308 Win, .30-06 and many other lesser calibers. Infidel has on-going tests and haven't had any failures in their steel plates. I have dealt with Chad Cooper before, on some of his other products, and find what they sell to be of the highest quality, and they are just good people to deal with, too.

As I mentioned above, Infidel Body Armor is designed and meant for Preppers, or anyone else who might feel the need for very affordable body armor, including police officers, if they can get past the idea that this armor is "certified." Again, a certification means nothing in my book. It's what the armor does on real life that matters to me. When you get something "certified" you are paying a lot more money just to have a name or title associated to your product, which means the cost is passed on to the consumer. The US military won't let their troops wear this armor because it hasn't meet their standards, and that's too bad. Why are we, the taxpayers, paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars more for body armor, just because it has a certification on it, or a certain brand name? You can be getting the same or better life-saving coverage for less money? That's the FedGov for you: if there is a way to waste our tax dollars, they will find it. I'm not expert on body armor, but I know what my own testing has proven to me. Hits at any angle didn't penetrate the Infidel Body Armor. I was totally impressed!

If you are serious about your survival in a SHTF scenario, it's worth checking out the line-up of body armor that Infidel carries. Now for the good news, depending on which plate carrier you elect to buy with your plates, the prices are very affordable. It's way less than you will pay for similar hard armor that may not have the polymer coating on it. The Stryker vest with a front and back plate is only $305, and the Viper carrier and two plates is $375, and the Banshee carrier with two plates is only $425. If you buy elsewhere you can easily pay double, triple, and more for similar vest and plates. The goal was to produce the best hard armor around, at a price point that was affordable, and Infidel Body Armor reached that goal. Their initial goal was to be at $300, and they only exceeded that by a few bucks. You can even use your own vest if it has plate carriers in it. However, the plate carriers that Infidel sells were designed specifically for their plates. I mentioned that the vest with plates was extremely comfortable, and it was. I was really surprised how comfortable the vest with 14 pounds of steel plate was.

I should mention, that even though the polymer coating that had been re-coated came off on my first shot with a .308 Win round, this won't happen when the plates are snuggly inside the carrier. There's no place for the coating to go, and it will stay on the plates!
With all the stuff happening in DC these days, it's only a matter of time before they get around to banning body armor for civilian use. As a matter of fact, there are a good number of locales that already outlaw the use and purchase of body armor by civilians, just like some places won't allow you to put a laser on a firearm. The insanity never ceases to amaze me. So, if you are in the market for some serious body armor that will stop most common high-powered rifle rounds and handgun rounds, I highly recommend the product line at Infidel Body Armor. Why pay more? - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, January 4, 2013

I have seen a great deal of information over the years concerning the “Bug Out Bag” but very little that addresses the “Get Home Bag”. Considering the fact that most of us spend a good portion of our day away from our homes, I would have expected to see a greater amount of attention paid to the subject. Benjamin Franklin said it best, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

I reside in a semi rural area outside the megatropolis of Southern California, I work in downtown Los Angeles which requires a 1/2 hour drive to the train station, a 1-½ hour commute by train and a 10 minute subway ride to reach my place of employment. A very small number of people in this corner of the world are fortunate enough to be able to utilize public transportation. I consider myself lucky in a sense, not having to battle through the daily road war. It comes at a cost however. At a minimum, I am away from my home 14-1/4 hours a day during the week and the commute costs me $17 a day.

Observing my fellow train commuters, almost no one is carrying a pack of any kind. The packs that are being carried contain laptops or other personal items. I get delayed 2-4 hours a month on average for locomotive failures, accidents at crossings or freight activity. Nothing serious has happened so far but you would think folks would realize something could happen and we could be on our own. I was on the subway platform the other day with a fellow employee who also rides the train; I asked him a hypothetical question. Assume that a massive and sustained power failure just occurred, what would you do? He said that he never contemplated that possibility and had no plan to get home. Given the fact that we live in Earthquake country, I find that irresponsible to say the least but sadly, not unexpected.

I feel the need to carry some items with me that might improve my chances of returning home in reasonable condition should a major “Event” take place. If heading home does not appear possible, I will head towards an alternate rally point to meet up with my wife. I always have a Get Home Bag with me. Over the years I have redone my bag a number of times. Currently, my bag is actually not a bag, I use an aluminum attaché. Something that had always bothered me in the past was the inability to secure the contents of my bag. The attaché I am using solves that problem providing me a locking device and some degree of EMP protection which I never had previously. The hard case also provides the contents impact protection should something fall on it or I drop it.

I selected an aluminum Samsonite attaché. It measures 18 x 13 x 4 inches and has a very stylish business appearance. If I were a tradesman, I would have selected a model suitable to the field I worked in to avoid drawing any unwanted attention to myself. The first thing I did was to beef up the case. I have used Armorcore ballistic protection products on a couple of projects at home and got the idea to have my case do double duty by providing me with some personal protection in addition to carrying my equipment. I acquired some level 3 ballistic fiberglass. It is 7/16” thick, weighs 4.8 lbs per square foot and will stop a 240 grain .44 Magnum traveling 1,350 fps. I fashioned some brackets inside on one side of the case that permit me to remove the panel if necessary. I had it welded in by a professional as I do not weld aluminum enough to trust my work. I refinished the case in a gun metal gray. It should provide center mass protection and will defiantly protect my equipment from most gunshots. I do not wear body armour everyday, aside from a law enforcement individual, who does? My thoughts were some potential protection is better than none at all. To secure the case contents, I purchased some Pick N Pluck Foam from Pelican Case. The Model 1520 case is close to the size of my attaché and it allowed me to easily fashion cut outs to cradle my equipment.

To a certain degree, the contents of your bag, or case, are personal choices depending on your perceived needs. I consider the basics to be Water filtration, Personal Protection, Communications, Shelter and Food in that order. In the worst case scenario I expect it to take 48 hours to reach my home or rally point if I have to start from the furthest point away from my destination. To fulfill my first requirement, I carry the Life straw for water filtration. They are small, easy to use and are good for 20 gallons of filtration. I have a couple of coffee filters for pre filtering if necessary and carry a couple of 1 quart Mylar water containers. If I am at work when something happens, I have a 100 oz Camelback hydration pack in my file cabinet and more water available to me than I could carry.

I have a trio of options for my Personal Protection needs: a Glock 36 .45 ACP. As this is California, it must be carried unloaded in a locked case. I keep the magazines on my hip in a leather pouch that also has a locking hasp. This setup is not great for a quick response but it keeps things legal. I have two additional defensive tools. As Los Angeles has restrictive knife laws, I carry a CRKT M21 tactical folding knife in town. When not in Los Angeles , I instead carry a Cold Steel Bushman Knife with a Paracord wrapped handle. The 4 oz Fox Labs Mark 5 flip top pepper spray rounds out the field. Having choices permits the appropriate level response for a given situation.

My next priority is information and communication. I use the Puxing PX-888K Dual Band Handheld Receiver. This radio has VHF, UHF, 2 meter/440 MHz, NOAA weather and public safety frequencies. I have a nice tactical headset for hands free use. It also works with Dakota Alert products which I utilize at home. For me, a 200 channel scanner was my next choice. Monitoring police and government communications could prove useful. I also carry an older Smartphone in my case. I replaced one recently with a newer model but retained the old unit. Although I have no cell service associated with it, you can still make 911 calls, a feature that will most likely prove useless in a major incident. However, the phone has a 32gig memory card that I permanently installed. I have an extensive electronic library, how to videos, pictures of important documents, insurance and bank account numbers, a movie or two, music, Kindle e-books and some games. I have a spare battery and the device is password protected

Sheltering maybe required during my journey so I carry the Emergency Zone Mylar sleeping bag as well as an emergency blanket and Poncho. I carry some Survivor Industries Mainstay 1200 emergency food bars. I maintain a two month supply of A-Pack MREs at work and I can carry some in my hydration pack if I am starting from work.

So I can see into the immediate future, I have a small monocular in my case. Spotting trouble in advance will enhance my ability to avoid it. I do not expect trouble initially, maybe the first 12 hours, but as people get past the initial shock of an event, things will change quickly. To deal with darkness, I have a Streamlight Strion hand-held light and the Argo headlamp, more than enough lumens to light the way but I will need to careful not to draw attention to myself.

As some unforeseen task will undoubtedly come up requiring tools, I have the Leatherman Surge on hand which should prove useful. I carry Padlock shims; they will come in handy when I find that someone inadvertently locked a gate or access to something. The remainder of my goods are fairly standard. Cash in small denominations, basic first aid items, dust masks, means to build a fire, Kleenex travel packets, not necessarily for my nose, handi-wipes, bandana, chamois, compass, a map etc.

My goal was to keep the weight of my Get Home Case under 25 lbs. The weight of the attaché came in at 20 lbs and change. I pull it around on a small luggage dolly. I removed the wheels that came on the dolly and I installed larger balloon tires so I can traverse uneven terrain with ease. I can collapse the handle and carry it all if I am in a hurry. I can also carry the case contents on my belt by means of clip, nylon carry case and in my pockets. This would allow me to travel without the case or use it to carry other items.

When I finally reach home or my rally point, my Get Home Case becomes my Bug Out Case, if required. It will be supplemented with additional weapons platforms, ammo, food, larger water filtration equipment and more of everything which I can carry on my luggage dolly should my other means of transportation be unadvisable. My wife has a similar case in her car. She is only a couple of miles away from home at any time but has what she needs if it all goes wrong.

The majority of you have likely taken all of the above into consideration and planned accordingly. If not, I guess I will not be seeing you at Bartertown.

JWR Adds: One advantage of a locking attache case is that in many jurisdictions, a locked piece of luggage is not subject to search without a warrant or the most dramatic "probable cause" situations. (Consult your state laws, for details.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hello Mr. Rawles,
I don't like to bother you, but I would like it if you could let your readers know that if they are wanting to do something to help protect kids/ teachers in schools that don't allow weapons, a gift of a ballistic clip board (from one of SurvivalBlog's advertisers) would be a small step. I have a female teacher friend that accepted the gift to her. I know she's not pro gun, but also know she's pro kid, so I figure this is a fairly inexpensive way to allow some sort of capability of protection in a 'gun free' zone, without having to debate/preach the necessity of using weapons.
Just a thought, and thank you for your time. - Earl

Friday, August 31, 2012

It can be a daunting task this day and time selecting what to carry and how best to carry it. With the vast selection of government issue and commercial load carrying equipment available today. In this article I will be addressing the items of common U.S. military issue.

I’m constantly fielding questions from friends and coworkers about what system, manufacturer, and color/pattern is best. Well there is no easy answer so I will try to clear away some of the fog for everyone. I will be drawing on over 20 years of experience as a man whose wore many hats that included service with the U.S. Army (Airborne Infantry), Texas State Guard (MP), Private Security Officer, Civilian Police Officer and as a Private Contractor.

There are two basic groups to load carrying equipment the first is the combat/fighting load. This group will allow you to carry ammunition, water, some food, first aid kit, weapons maintenance kit as well as additional weapons such as a pistol and knife.

The second group of load carrying equipment is the existence load this is the backpack/rucksack component of your load. The existence load is for extended operations when the soldier will be in a field environment for an extended period of time. I might also add that this could be used for a bug out scenario for those of us who are preppers.
The two basic platforms in use today are ALICE and MOLLE though the CFP-90 rucksack from the IIFS system is still in use by some units.

The following is a fairly complete listing of the US military load bearing systems issued from the ALICE era to the present day:

ALICE-All Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment.
IIFS-Individual Integrated Fighting System.
MOLLE- Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment.
BALCS-Body Armor Load Carry System.(the ballistic upgrade of the MOLLE system)
SPEAR-Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements.
RACK-Ranger Assault Carry Kit.
ILBE-Improved Load Bearing Equipment used by the U.S. Marines.

All Purpose Lightweight Carrying Equipment (ALICE)
I have used this system and like it very much. The trick is to learn how to balance the harness so everything rides comfortably. Most of my time in service I served with units created to operate behind lines with little chance for re-supply so as soon as the new saw drum pouches began to arrive we started using two on each side of our harness instead of the standard 3 mag pouch for extra rifle/pistol mags and grenades, yes it was heavy but it is better to have and not need than to need and not have.
The basic ALICE platform consists of a utility belt, suspenders, butt pack, 2-canteens with cup and canteen covers, 1 compass/first aid pouch and 2 rifle ammo pouches. The butt pack though not always issued is useful in carrying a poncho and liner, food rations, additional ammo and other mission essential equipment. This system is very rugged, well balanced and well ventilated even with the addition of a knife and holster with side arm. Pouch placement is essential the butt pack is just that it is centered on your lower back with the canteens placed on the back side of your left and right hips. The rifle ammo pouches should be placed on the front of your left and right hips. The compass/first aid pouches are positioned on the loops located on the front shoulder of the suspenders. If carrying a pistol it is wise to carry 2 rifle mags pouches on the opposite side and 1 on your holster side for a better balance. Typically a good location for your knife is on the front suspender strap of your weak side, a little 100mph tape will help hold the sheath in place as well as silencing and securing other areas of your harness. We would also usually remove the metal ALICE clips and use 550 cord to tie the pouches in place, some would also use zip ties in place of the ALICE clips.
Though MOLLE is the new standard most would prefer to have the ALICE harness in areas when body armor or a heat retaining vest is not feasible such as jungle operations.

ALICE Pack Medium/Large
The Large ALICE pack is what I carried for most of my time in service. I was first issued this pack at my very first duty assignment which was with the 101 st Airborne Division. Overall I had very good experiences with the pack after I learned how to pack it correctly.

The ALICE pack is a very rugged external frame rucksack that is still a favorite among soldiers. It is still used by many special ops soldiers in place of the MOLLE rucksack because of its proven performance and its external metal frame that out performs the plastic frame used with the current MOLLE pack. The large ALICE pack has one large main compartment, a flat document pocket in the top flap, 3 large external pockets evenly spaced across the lower back of the pack with 3 smaller magazine sized pockets centered above them (large pack only). The pack has multiple ALICE attachment and strap loops on the sides and bottom of the pack for additional equipment such as e-tools, 2-qt canteens, sleeping pads and sleeping bags. The 2 outside large pockets on the pack have pass thru pockets for carrying long items such as skis and snowshoes. Many have even taken to attaching the MOLLE sleep system carrier to the bottom of the pack for their sleeping bags and additional equipment also the improved MOLLE pack waist belt can be used on the ALICE pack frame for improved comfort. The closure straps on the top are often used to carry a rolled up sleeping pad. There is also an internal pocket designed for carrying man pack sized radios. The pack has 3,800 cubic inches of storage and is rated to 70 pounds although I have carried loads over 100 pounds.

Individual Integrated Fighting System (IIFS)
Tactical Load Carrying Vest
The tactical load-carrying vest is constructed of a seven ounce nylon fabric printed in the woodland camouflage pattern and weighs 1.8 pounds empty. The tactical load-carrying vest is compatible with the standard individual equipment belt. The individual equipment belt is secured to the tactical load-carrying vest with 10 belt loops that use both hook and pile fasteners and snaps. The tactical load-carrying vest has four permanently attached ammunition pockets that can carry six 30-round cartridge magazines for the M-16 rifle. The pocket covers are secured by one snap and a strip of hook and pile. A pull tab is used to open the pocket. Located directly below the ammunition pockets are two fragmentation grenade pockets. The shoulders are protected by 1/2 inch [1.27 cm] foam padding. The tactical load-carrying vest closes in front with two chest straps using plastic quick release buckles. Two 2¼ inch [5.71 cm] webbing and two D-Rings sewn to the back of the tactical load-carrying vest can be used as equipment attachment points.

Combat Field Pack M-1990(CFP-90)
The CFP-90 was part of the Individual Integrated Fighting System(IIFS) first issued in the late 80’s and was very short lived soon to be replaced by the MOLLE system. My first experience with this pack was while I was serving with a Long Range Surveillance Detachment(LRSD) and later heard that only select units were issued this system. My experience with the pack was overall very good but I can’t say the same for the vest that accompanied it. The vest was very hot and did not ride well on me. The pack only had one downfall that I noticed was that when the patrol pack was attached to the pack(on the top of the pack) the combination rose very high above ones shoulders making it difficult to traverse under anything low hanging. I personally have carried loads well over 100 pounds with this ruck.
A well-designed suspension system based on two internal aluminum mainstays supports a two-chamber pack. This system with the padded shoulder straps and adjustable weight placement wins the approval of many who have deployed with this backpack. The main pack can be augmented by an optional attached patrol pack. In other words, a soldier can carry a major load to a base position and then detach the smaller and more convenient patrol pack to carry essential equipment and supplies for forays in the surrounding territory, leaving the major load behind. The detachable patrol pack stats are 1200 cubic inches of cargo space split between 2 compartments. The main compartment is padded to help protect the wearer from sharp items. This main compartment also has 2 tie-downs to help keep equipment in place and stable. Other features include a false bottom in the main compartment. This allows placing the major weight components high in the pack. A lower compartment for lighter components such as the sleeping bag. This false bottom can be removed to allow for one large compartment. One large pocket on the right side and two pockets on the left side. Foam pad at the small of the back to enhance airflow and minimize sweating while providing comfortable support. Vertically adjustable shoulder strap attachment system. Hip belt with padding to provide minimize discomfort under heavy load. Draw strings, snap buckles, zippers, etc. for convenient attachments and closures. Padding on the shoulder straps has a mesh back design to permit airflow where the load tightens to the skin. Because of the design of the suspension system, the pack can be adjusted to the desired high or low position on the back. In this manner it can be adjusted for large people as well as for average size or for smaller people. Rain-resistant nylon provides solid construction and durability, holding up well in heavy use. The capacity of this pack is 4,400-5,550 cu in (expanded).

Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment (MOLLE)
I have used this system and like it just fine but I prefer for the pouches to be mounted on the body armor rather than the FLC, its just a better fit and feel to me.
The basic MOLLE Fighting Load Carry set consists of the following pieces
1- MOLLE II Fighting Load Carrier (FLC) Vest
1- MOLLE II Camelbak Hydration Carrier
1- MOLLE II Camelbak Hydration Bladder
1- MOLLE II Waist Pack with Stowable Straps
2- MOLLE II Canteen/Utility Pouches
3- MOLLE II Double Mag Pouches (M16A2 - 30RD Carbine)
2- MOLLE II Frag Hand Grenade Pouches
1- MOLLE II Bandoleer Ammunition Pouch 6 Mag

The basic MOLLE platform consists of a vest with either ballistic or non ballistic properties with attaching points generally referred to as MOLLE or PALS(pouch attachment ladder system). The pouches have a strap system that is woven through the ladder straps on the outside of the vest and the back of the pouch. The vest is usually covered on the front, back and sides with a PALS grid system that allows the wearer to place the pouches on the vest that best suit’s the individuals preferences. Typically the vest will be set up as follow: the lower front of the stomach area wrapping around both sides will be where the rifle mag pouches would be placed, the front upper chest area weak side will have pistol mag pouches and above that will be a small compass/strobe pouch, the upper front strong side chest area will have a small general purpose/shotshell pouch making sure that there is no obstructions for your rifle stock placement. The weak side of the vest is typically reserved for an op-order/logistics pouch with the first aid/blow out pack placed on the strong side of the vest, the back top center of the vest is where your hydration bladder is placed and below that if carried is where you will place your general purpose/butt pouch. If needed you can also place additional 1quart canteens on either side of the back lower vest. Some systems allow for a hip belt that is attached to the bottom of the vest for additional carrying options these can also be extended with sub load carrying platforms such as a weak side mag dump or protective/gas mask pouch and a strong side drop leg holster. The various MOLLE platforms in use by the U.S. Military also include a number of chest harnesses. The most widely used is the Ranger Assault Carry Kit (RACK) system designed for the Army Rangers.

The MOLLE Rucksack
The MOLLE Large Ruck has a capacity of 4,000 cubic inches. The detachable side sustainment pouches can hold 500 cubic inches each. The detachable sleep system carrier
weighs 3 lbs and has a volume of 1,200 cubic inches. The detachable patrol pack can be attached directly to the MOLLE main ruck system or worn as a stand alone patrol pack. With a total capacity of over 1,700 cu inches the pack consists of a large main pocket, a zippered front cargo pocket and separate exterior hydration sleeve. Within the front cargo pocket is also a small utility pocket with Velcro flap closure for smaller items. The pack features a separate exterior slot pocket to integrate with hydration systems and MOLLE attachment points along the padded shoulder straps with quick-ditch buckles. Other features are quick ditch shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap and low profile waist belt and external hydration sleeve, MOLLE webbing on the sides of the main pack and four lateral cinch straps to compress and stabilize interior contents. Main compartment capacity is 1,300 cu inches, outer cargo pocket capacity is 576 cu inches. The rucksack's main body has a zippered internal load divider, and openings at the top and bottom ends, to allow a sleeping bag (or other gear) to be loaded and unloaded independently without the need for an external sleeping bag carrier. The top flap of the large ruck is a mesh pocket for documents. It is secured with a hook and loop closure. The large ruck has two large, removable sustainment pouches which attach to the side of the ruck using the same interlocking attachment system as the FLC pockets. These sustainment pouches each contain two D-rings on the sides, which allow them to be carried by a general purpose sling for alternate uses. The sustainment pouches can also be added to the side of the smaller assault pack. All of the large pouches of the MOLLE system have D-rings on the sides to allow the item to be slung with a GP sling.

Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR)
I have no first hand knowledge with this system but will include it for information purposes. The components of the SPEAR platform designed for special operations forces are listed below.
1 set vest panel (left and right)
1 set shoulder pad assembly
1 belt with buckle
1 set H harness assembly
1 set flotation element set (left & right & back & shoulder)
1 pouch, M4 Ammo (3 Mag) with Frag & multi-purpose grenade, right
1 pouch, M4 Ammo (3 Mag) with Frag & multi-purpose grenade, left
2 cover, canteen, 1 quart
2 pouch, general purpose (Large)
2 pouch, general purpose (Small)
2 Alice adapter
3 pouch, M4 ammo (2 Mag, 30 rd)
3 pouch, M4 ammo (1 Mag, 30 rd)
2 pouch, M60/SAW, 100 rd
2 cover, canteen, 2 quart

SPEAR/MOLLE Special Forces UM21 Backpack System

The system includes:
1 Main pack
1 Patrol Pack
1 butt pack
2 compression stuff sacks
2 patrol pack stuff packs

This modified commercial Backpack Subsystem consists of a backpack, patrol pack, and butt pack. The backpack's state-of-the-art internal frame affords a stable platform sufficient to carry 120 pounds effectively. The backpack transfers load efficiently from the shoulders to the waist and provides adjustments to fit the 5th-95th percentile male SOF operator. The butt pack attaches to ELCS or the backpack; the patrol pack attaches to the backpack, and is compatible with the other Spear BALCS components. The one size subsystem weighs 17 pounds. This backpack system is part of the U. S. Government Body Armor Load Carry System (BALCS )and has seen extensive use by American special operations troops in Operation Enduring Freedom.
In addition to the packs patented suspension system, another key feature of this system is its modularity for use with the U. S. Government Load Carry System ELCS and is also compatible with Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements SPEAR and BALCS components. Developed for long-range reconnaissance missions, this backpack, composed of aircraft-grade aluminum stays, a sturdy internal framesheet, and an adjust-a-cant hip belt and patented Flo-Form II molding technology provides a highly efficient carrying system, capable of supporting extreme loads easily and comfortably. The pack design provides for customized distribution of weight to allow the wearer to locate the optimum adjustment for various terrain or conditions of any march. By utilizing the pack’s suspension adjustments, weight may be shifted entirely onto the hips, entirely onto the shoulders or distributed evenly between the two.

Ranger Assault Carry Kit (RACK)
I have used the RACK platform and found it to be a very stable package for short engagements but the wearer would be limited by the space that is available to actually attach your pouches. The area of the harness that allows for pouch attachment is from the upper chest down to the upper to middle stomach with a small area that wraps around a short distance on both sides. This is partially remedied by using the sub load pouches and platforms that are available from this package and other MOLLE platforms in common issue. This system was mainly designed for a limited fast assault which the Rangers have practically perfected. The RACK system uses the same rucksack as the standard MOLLE system.
The Ranger Assault Carry Kit contains a load-bearing vest platform, utility leg pouch and (11) additional pouches which includes the following:

1 RACK load bearing vest with stowable bib for extra munitions and gear
1 RACK leg bag with attachment strap
1 canteen/utility pouch (will also hold (5) 30RD USGI 5.56mm magazines)
4 30RD USGI 5.56mm magazine pouches with shotshell/light stick/cuff loops (8-magazine capacity)
4 fragmentation grenade pouches
2 radio pouches - one each for SABRE Radio and PRC-126 Radio

ILBE (Improved Load Bearing Equipment)
Once again I have no field experience with this system but have researched it as a possible upgrade/addition to my own kit. I felt it should be included here for information purposes. I can assume that since my brethren the U.S. Marines are currently using this system it is probably a very capable system. The ILBE uses the same basic combat load as the current MOLLE system, it is just an improved rucksack over the current MOLLE rucksack.
The ILBE (Improved Load Bearing Equipment) backpack, is the current backpack of choice for the U. S. Marine Corp. It was developed to replace the ALICE backpack, and the MOLLE system backpack. Designed by Arc’teryx’s LEAF (Law Enforcement and Armed Forces) program and manufactured by Propper Inc., the USMC ILBE is made from Cordura 725 denier fabric, with pixilated Marpat printed onto it. The pack also bears a PALS grid for smaller modular attachments.
The ILBE system is comprised of three main components the main pack, the assault pack and the hydration system. Each of these can be swapped around depending on the requirements of the mission and the load a soldier needs to carry.

ILBE Configurations
Because the ILBE has been designed to be configurable for the requirements of each mission, it has three main load configurations.
Assault Configuration allows the ILBE to carry primarily ammunition and water, and other essential fighting gear. It is the lightest configuration allowing marines the greatest amount of mobility during combat. The Assault Configuration uses the ILBE Assault Pack and the hydration system.

The Approach March Load is a heavier configuration designed to give 90% combat effectiveness to marines who will be faced with extended periods of time without re-supply. The Approach March Load uses the ILBE Main Pack and the hydration system for a medium sized load.

The Existence Load is the heaviest load, designed for longer periods of time where re-supply is not possible. Climate, season, and terrain determine what needs to be brought along for the mission. This is the full ILBE load that uses the Assault Pack, the Main Pack and the hydration system. It allows a Marine to carry a full 120 lbs of gear and equipment for extended missions.
Well that about concludes my overview on the different U.S. Military Load Carrying Platforms. I have tried to give a complete overview of each separate system with more in-depth comments on the systems that I have personal experience with, I was left to research some of the newer platforms that are reserved mainly for special ops soldiers and some of the improvements that have taken place on some of the systems since I last used them. Whatever the case, a new system will undergo numerous improvements as the soldiers using them in the field suggest certain changes. The thing to realize is there is a reason that some of the older systems developed decades ago are still in use today and that is they work, they are reliable and constant upgrades and improvements to the systems will extend the usefulness of them for many years to come. Typically a man will tend to use today what he was issued in his time of service with a few modifications or upgrades and that will probably be the case for future generations as well. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced the ALICE, IIFS and MOLLE systems and can tell you that as far as I’m concerned each one definitely has a place in my prep locker.

JWR Adds: Some readers are probably wondering: "What on Earth would I do with a frag grenade pouch?" Fragmentation grenades are banned in most countries. (Here, Swiss citizens have us bested. In some cantons they can buy them at waffen shops.)

Those of us that buy surplus web gear end up with few of these pouches. I've learned that each compartment of a grenade pouch will fit any of the following:

  • One standard U.S. military battle dressing (depending on its vintage.)
  • Many multi-tool pliers
  • Many compact LED flashlights (Surefire and other brands.)
  • Most compasses
  • Two 50-round boxes of .22 rimfire ammunition. (Wrap them in Ziploc bags first.)
  • One 20 round box of 7.62x39 ammunition. (Again, wrap them in Ziploc bags first.)
  • 5-round stripper clips for many bolt action rifles

Of course, grunts all round the world have also found that they also fit less crucial things like packs of cigarettes and iPods, and...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hello Mr. Rawles,
After perusing the contents listed in survival kits, Bug Out Bags (BOB), and Get Out Of Dodge bags (GOOD), it seems to me that they all have one common glaring omission. That omission is knee pads. It occurred to me recently while fixing a roadside flat that so many survival/TEOTWAWKI tasks require one to get "down and dirty", i. e., working on one's knees. Knee pads can remove a lot of the "pain and suffering" from tasks such as firestarting, fence building/mending, emergency roadside vehicle repair, chainsaw sharpening, and a whole host of other tasks. Not to mention saving wear and tear on those high-dollar Multicam britches.

There are many different brands and types of knee pads, and the range of choices is truly vast. However, for my BOB and vehicles, I went with simple foam pads from Home Depot that are about 1/2 inch thick, cheap, weigh almost nothing, and are far better than nothing at all. - Larrynaz

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dear James:
The body armor ban in Alberta, Canada comes into effect June 15th, 2012.    To summarize, unless you are using Body Armor in your exempted profession, e.g., police, security, etc., etc., you have to get approval to buy, or own Body Armor.  FAQs see:  Body Armour Control

Fortunately, there is an exemption for "an individual who has been issued a valid licence under the Firearms Act (Canada)", and - contrary to the FAQ page above - my reading of the actual law indicates that this exemption for Firearms License holders is not restricted to the scope of your profession.   See:  Exemptions, Section 4 (f) of the BODY ARMOUR CONTROL ACT

Nova Scotia's upcoming ban does not have an exemption for Firearms License holders (like Manitoba.) 

These are very odious laws.  Innocent folks will die, or be injured because it did not seem worth the extra expense or hassle to proactively get Body Armor.  And do you think the gang members will be overly concerned about a getting a permit for their illegal Body Armor, to go along with their illegal guns, or illegal drugs? 

Free persons (who respect the rights of others) should not have to beg a bureaucrat to get permission to protect themselves.  If you have to get permission to protect your life, well... exactly what rights do you have? Yours Truly, - Nick  at Body Armor

Friday, April 6, 2012

The time may come when all order and civility have broken down into chaos and unrestrained evil. You were a wise prepper and worked through your list of lists, acquiring all of the necessary knowledge and tools for survival. All of your bases are covered. Your survival retreat is intact and manned by your entire survival group. Each individual is most likely capable of firing a weapon and you probably have a survival retreat defense plan in the event a band of raiders, or some other group of people who wish you harm, decides they want to take what isn’t theirs. One skill may have been overlooked however… What is your plan, if a group of individuals must leave the defensive perimeter of your survival retreat? How do they mitigate risk before departing? How do they act and move? How do they posture themselves for a high rate survivability? What actions do they take in the event of being engaged in a firefight? These are all valid and relevant questions that need solutions in a post collapse environment. Tactical movement skills necessary when moving off of a retreat, on foot and overland, include: bounding, bounding over watch, movement to contact and react to contact. These terms may be foreign but I assure you, you will feel more confident and better equipped with some small unit tactics knowledge after reading this article.

The small unit tactics that I will discuss here in this article can be tailored to any situation or terrain. These tactics are meant to be used within a loose system or framework. It does not have to be “By the book.” There is plenty of room to adjust the tactics to fit the situation. The number of personnel can vary and does not need to be fixed. The best way to master these tactics is to train to the point where you are comfortable adjusting them to fit the need. Everything I discuss here in this article can be found in multiple military manuals (I will reference as I go) all of which are available to the public. Nothing I discuss will be sensitive or secret in nature. These are simply some small unit tactics that have been used for a long time.

First I will discuss the administrative organization of the group of people leaving the immediate area of your survival retreat. For the sake of continuity when I am referencing this group of people, their number will be nine, and they will be called a squad. This squad of nine personnel will want to posture themselves in such a way that improves all of their chances of coming back to the retreat alive. It is also important the squad be broken down into two smaller elements with element leaders and a leader over the entire squad. The smaller element leaders will now be referred to as team leaders. The overall leader of the squad will be referred to as the squad leader. The two teams within the squad are Alpha and Bravo teams. In this article each team will consist of one team leader and three additional riflemen. The squad leader manages the team leaders and the team leaders manage their individual teams. So in review; there is a squad of 9 personnel, that is broken down into two teams, Alpha and Bravo teams, each team consists of four personnel, one team leader who manages three additional rifleman, the squad is managed overall by the squad leader. It is imperative that survival retreat members elect tactically competent people as leaders for extra-retreat excursions before actually going on, what I will now reference as a patrol.

After SHTF “Old World” leaders may not have what it takes. The positions or offices that once protected individuals as leaders, though they were not capable or proficient as leaders, will no longer exist. The law of the jungle will now be in effect. Those individuals who are capable and competent will be easily recognizable, and out of necessity placed into positions of leadership. I realize that is a lot of information so if you need to, go back and read from the top of this section.

Now that the administrative portion is out of the way we can discuss the tactical organization of the teams and squad. Each team, as we discussed before, will be comprised of four personnel. In this article, during movement, each team will be in its own wedge formation with the team leader in front of his team. I would like you to visualize four personnel in an echelon or inverted V formation with the team leader at the front of the direction of movement. One rifleman will be off to one side and staggered behind the team leader with the other two riflemen off to the other side staggered off of one another.  I made a simple illustration below:

                 ^    TL                                                       TL= Team Leader

   ^    RFLM            ^      RFLM                                RFLM= Rifleman

                                           ^     RFLM                       ^ = Person

There is a visual in the Ranger Handbook SH-21-76 under Formations. I highly recommend using a search engine to find images of a fire team wedge before continuing on. Now that the team formation is solidified in your mind, think of Alpha team in a wedge formation followed behind by Bravo team also in a wedge formation. Both fire teams are moving together in the same direction of travel. In between the two teams is where the squad leader is positioned during patrol. This position gives him moderate to high control over the squad. The two fire team wedges combined together with the squad leader is called a squad column fire team wedge. I made a simple illustration below to demonstrate a Squad Column Fire Team Wedge.


                   ^    ATL                                                     ATL= Alpha Team Lea

    ^    RFLM              ^      RFLM                              BTL= Bravo Team Leader

                                             ^     RFLM                      SL= Squad Leader

                    ^    SL                                                       RFLM =Rifleman


                       ^   BTL

            ^   RFLM            ^   RFLM

^   RFLM                            
Once again use a search engine to look at a picture of a squad column fire team wedge before continuing on (supplement rifleman in the grenadier and squad automatic weapon positions, unless your squad is fortunate enough to be equipped with such weapon systems). The distance between each man and each team can vary terrain dependent and movement technique desired. For example on open ground with few obstructions you can space out 35 or even 50 meters between personnel and the same distance between teams. The opposite terrain would be woods or a forest where visibility is restricted, and distances between personnel and teams can be as close as 10 to 15 meters. The distance and staggering of the personnel in the squad column fire team wedge is meant to increase survivability so a single burst of fire cannot take out more than one individual. As I explained before, the concepts of these tactics are loose and can be adjusted as necessary. Now that the squad column concept is understood we have the basis for the rest of the article. From now on when I say squad, refer to the squad column fire team wedge visual. Remember you can always go back and review the previous concepts before continuing on.

You should have a warm and fuzzy at this point in regard to the squad column fire team wedge. It is important for each member of the squad to know and understand the 5 Principles of Patrolling before heading out from your retreat. The 5 principles can be found in the Ranger Handbook SH-21-76 Chapter 5 Patrols. Even though no one in your survival group may have military experience, these principles still apply and are relevant to any group of people moving through a possibly hostile area after a total collapse scenario. The 5 principles as they appear in the Ranger Handbook are:

  • Planning. Quickly make a simple plan and effectively communicate it to the lowest level. A great plan that takes forever to complete and is poorly disseminated isn’t a great plan. Plan and prepare to a realistic standard and rehearse everything.
  • Reconnaissance. Your responsibility as a Ranger Leader is to confirm what you think you know, and to learn that which you do not already know.
  • Security. Preserve your force as a whole. Every Ranger and every rifle counts; anyone could be the difference between victory and defeat.
  • Control. Clear understanding of the concept of the operation and commander’s intent, coupled with disciplined communications, to bring every man and weapon available to overwhelm the enemy at the decisive point.
  • Common Sense. Use all available information and good judgment to make sound timely decisions.

Your squad is assembled and spaced out, ready to initiate movement into whatever area that you intend to go outside of your survival retreat.  You begin movement at “Patrol speed.” Essentially it can be as slow or as fast as you want, situation dependent and movement technique desired. You want to move at a speed that is conducive for each individual to scan with their eyes the area the squad is moving into, as well scanning the flanks and rear. You also have to decide the current threat level to your squad and how likely it is there are people who wish you harm where you are going.  I will skip the Traveling technique because contact with potentially hostile groups must always be assumed in a post collapse scenario but please research this technique on your own if you wish. The squad leader should direct the squad to assume Traveling Overwatch, in which contact with hostiles is likely. In this movement technique, terrain dependent, there are 20 meters of dispersion between personnel and 50 meters of dispersion between fire teams. The lead team should be far enough in front of the trail team to detect and engage any threat to the squad, as to allow for the trail team to not become decisively engaged with an enemy. This allows the trail team to be in reserve and maneuvered by the squad leader to support the team in contact and destroy the hostile force. \

The second movement technique that I will discuss is Bounding Overwatch. This movement technique is used when contact with hostiles is imminent. The distances between personnel and teams remains the same as Traveling Overwatch, but as always can be adjusted situation dependent. During Bounding Overwatch, the forward team will occupy an overwatch position while the trail team bounds to a position alongside or forward of the overwatch team. The overwatch team is static and occupies any cover (object or position that can stop bullets) and or concealment (object or position that hides personnel) it can find, to cover the bounding team’s route, with fire if necessary. The bounds can be successive (the bounding team moves up alongside or online with the overwatch team) or alternating (the bounding team moves up and passes the overwatch team). Once the bounding team completes it’s bound and sets in, it then becomes the overwatch team and the previous overwatch team becomes the bounding team and initiates its bound. These movement techniques can be found in the Ranger Handbook SH-21-76 in Chapter 4 Movement. Search Traveling Overwatch and Bounding Overwatch on an internet search engine to find more information of these movement techniques.

So far, no offensive tactical operations have been discussed. A tactical operation called Movement to Contact is used as an offensive operation to gain or regain contact with an enemy unit. This would be used in the event that you have a general idea where hostiles may be. I do not advise the use of this tactical offensive operation using an element as small as a squad, especially in a post collapse scenario when you have no reserve force. In fact, Movement to Contact is reserved for a platoon size element in support of a larger force. With that disclaimer aside Movement to Contact if modified, can be an effective tool for your squad in a post collapse scenario, if the right conditions are met. An example of the circumstance when I would use Movement to Contact would be; if it became apparent that a small number of hostile individuals were in vicinity of my survival retreat and could be approaching. To avoid a firefight at the survival retreat and mitigate the risk of other survival retreat members becoming casualties I would muster the squad and conduct a movement to contact in the direction of the last know location of the hostile individuals. This is still not a perfect solution. Other considerations must be taken into account such as leaving a defendable position and who will remain behind for retreat security. It is just an example of when this offensive operation could be used.

Now let’s look at how to conduct Movement to Contact with your squad. There are two types of Movement to Contact: Search and Attack and Approach March.  Search and Attack is used on an enemy that is most likely dispersed and is not expecting attack or is expected to withdraw. The overall intent is to deny the enemy movement by saturating the area with platoon, squad, and team sized elements that find, fix, and destroy the enemy. This could prove difficult for a squad to do but against a small number of hostile individuals it is possible. The second type of Movement to Contact is the Approach March. The concept for this technique is to make contact with the enemy using the smallest possible friendly element. Once contact is made using the smallest element and the enemy has committed to the fight, all of the remaining friendly units maneuver on the enemy and overwhelm him. Once again this technique is intended for multiple platoons, squads, and fire teams in support of a larger force. This offensive tactical operation can be altered for use by one squad, given the right conditions.

For a the practical application of Movement to Contact for use by one squad it will be necessary to combine the two techniques, as you will recall are Search and Attack and Approach March.  It will take some creative thinking to maneuver a squad in order to saturate an area, make contact with only a fire team, and finally maneuvering the remaining team to crush the hostiles. The best solution would be to give clear and concise guidance to your team leaders to get both teams online, Alpha on the left and Bravo on the right. The teams should be in a shallow wedge. The distance between personnel and teams will need to be exaggerated, covering a larger area than normal. This is so that if one team makes contact with the hostiles, the other team will not be decisively engaged. This tactic may entice the hostiles to fully commit before they are aware of the other team. Once the hostiles are committed in a firefight with the first team the remaining team can move into position to bring the full force of the squad’s firepower on and overwhelm the hostiles. Remember that nothing is ever certain and this plan is not fool proof. There are many other ways to address the issue of possible attackers moving in on your survival retreat, Movement to Contact is just one tool in your bag. Consider your options, and then act. For more information on Movement to Contact reference FM 3-90 Tactics, Chapter 4 Movement to Contact or SH 21-76 Ranger Handbook Chapter 5 Patrols. You can also do a search of Movement to Contact in an Internet search engine.

Up until now we have discussed how to assemble your squad, move your squad, and find the enemy. Finally we come to how to destroy any would be attackers. The scenario is you’re squad has left the survival retreat, as it has before. Every member has their head on a swivel looking for signs of danger, rifles at the ready. You’re not looking for a fight, but are ready if one comes your way. You’re focused on the task at hand, whether it is gathering supplies or going to a town meeting your squad is ready to do what it needs to.  Multiple individuals a few hundred feet in the direction your squad is traveling expose themselves from behind cover and begin to fire their weapons at your squad. You’re squad’s training kicks in, you begin React to Contact.

React to Contact is a battle drill. A battle drill is defined as an action rapidly executed without applying a deliberate decision making process. Basically it means it is an instinctual reaction that has been engrained into your mind and body. You know what you need to do and you act immediately. Like the scenario I described above, your squad, specifically Alpha team, has been engaged by several hostile individuals to your front or 12 O’clock position. Multiple things occur all in the same instant, upon receiving hostile fire. They are: return fire, seek cover (preferably in the prone) and alert the rest of the squad to the hostile’s location by use of the 3 D’s (shout out: clock direction, distance, and description of the hostiles. This sounds like: “Twelve O’clock, 100 meters, 3 enemies behind a berm). Since Alpha team is in front of Bravo team and the hostiles are to the 12 O’clock position, only Alpha team returns fire. Bravo team will hold their fire so they do not shoot their fellow squad members in the back. Bravo team’s job is to seek cover, echo the 3 D’s, pull security to the flanks and rear, then await further instructions. Alpha team upon contact, will rapidly fire at known, likely, and suspected locations of hostiles simultaneously seeking cover and giving up the 3 D’s. When Alpha team is behind cover, generally online with one another, and engaging hostile targets, the squad leader will move up to their position. The squad leader will get eyes on the hostiles and receive a report from the Alpha team leader.  At this time Alpha team will be attempting to gain fire superiority over the hostiles.

Observing three hostiles the Alpha team leader informs the squad leader he can’t take them without Bravo team. The squad leader acknowledges and instructs the Alpha team leader to continue to suppress the enemy. The squad leader will also tell the Alpha team leader where he intends to maneuver Bravo team.  This scenario, in a moderately wooded area, has three hostile individuals about one hundred meters to the 12 O’clock position. They are lying prone and firing from behind a low berm, obscured by brush. To the squads left flank the woods become less dense and the ground slopes downward. To the squad’s right flank the ground slopes slightly upward with several large rock formations on the high ground. The squad leader likes the high ground and the possibility of using the rock formations as cover so he will be flanking to the right with Bravo team. The squad leader moves back to the rear where Bravo team is pulling security and informs them of his plan (the elapsed time from contact to now should be very short, approximately 30-40 seconds. The longer Alpha team spends slugging it out with the hostiles, the higher chances of a friendly casualty and more ammunition being expended than necessary). Bravo team gets up and follows the squad leader. He rapidly retrogrades with Bravo team back the way they came, preferably out of sight of the hostiles but remaining within hearing distance. Once he believes he has gone far enough he and Bravo team move up to the high ground far enough to turn back toward the contact and moves above the rock formations perpendicular to the hostile’s position. Alpha and Bravo teams will essentially be forming an L shape and be able to overwhelm the hostiles with fire from two directions. I have included a simple illustration for an example:


Hostiles                  # # #               <             Bravo Team



Alpha Team   ^        ^        ^        ^

Once Bravo team is online perpendicular to the hostiles and are not compromised, they will begin to creep forward undetected to the last covered and concealed position in between them and the hostiles. In this case it will be the rock formations. Under the guidance of the squad leader Bravo team will open fire on the hostiles with a rapid rate of fire. After a few good seconds of a hammering the enemy position, Bravo team with begin bounding to the hostile’s fighting position. Bounding with a total of 5 personnel will consist of individual bounds. One at a time, while the other team members cover their movement with fire, each individual will bound up to the next cover. They will each stay in an imaginary “Lane” as to not stray into other team members' covering fire. Each bound should be 3-5 seconds.  At the end of each bound the individual drops down into the prone behind cover then begins to fire on the hostiles while covering the next individual’s bound. This should be done very rapidly in succession and in specific order. Back at Alpha teams position the Alpha team leader will be watching for a shift fire signal from the squad leader who is bounding with Bravo team. The shift fire signal is a predetermined audio and or visual signal given by the bounding team, to the support by fire element, to shift their fires away from the advancing team. So in this case Bravo team is bounding from right to left as seen by Alpha team, Alpha team will be shifting their fires to the left approximately 15 degrees ( 30 degrees if using a belt fed weapon on bipod) in front of Bravo teams advance, but continue to fire. The Alpha team leader has complete control over his element and can shift the team’s fire on his own if he feels Bravo team is at 15 degrees and no shift fire signal has been given.

Once Bravo team has one bound remaining before assaulting through the objective, the squad leader will give the lift fire signal.  Alpha team will pour on an increased amount of fire onto the hostile’s position for a battlefield handover to Bravo team. After a few seconds of cyclic rate of fire Alpha team will stop firing completely. Bravo team will pick up their rate of fire once Alpha team has lifted fire in order to compensate for the reduced volume of fire on the hostile’s position. Bravo team will make the last bound and then collectively get up approximately 35 meters before the hostiles and assault through the objective. Remaining generally online and staying in their individual lanes, Bravo team will quickly move through the hostiles fighting position shooting any armed individuals and clearing any rifles that are found. Once Bravo team has cleared through and has taken up defensive positions 35 meters past the hostile’s fighting position, Alpha team will also pick up and assault through the hostiles fight position. They too will take up defensive positions.

At that point, while maintaining security, execute a 100% check on men, weapons and equipment. This is to ensure everyone, their weapons, and gears are accounted for. Any friendly or hostile casualties can be treated at this time. It would be best to check the bodies for identification to use in notifying any local authorities that may still exist. React to Contact seems difficult and confusing but when actually put to practice it is rather simple. This is only one way it can be done and there are many alterations that can be made. Once the concept is concrete in your mind you can take that base of knowledge and adjust this battle drill to fit the situation. More information can be found in FM 7-8 Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad Chapter 4 Battle Drills and in the SH-21-76 the Ranger Handbook Chapter 6 Battle Drills.

In no way is this article comprehensive or exhaustive on small unit tactics. This barely scratches the surface on the specific tactics I described alone. This article was meant for individuals who may not have considered these things as an important subcategory of their overall survival education. Like I have said several times in my article there are many ways to do the same thing when it comes to small unit tactics. If you master the basics you know all there is to know. In reality there are no advanced small unit tactics. The idea again, is to master the basics so you can operate within a framework of knowledge and modify these tactics to suit your needs and the situation. I urge you to take this seriously because there will be no cavalry that swoops in and saves you at the last second. There will be no “That was a close one!” Either they will die, or you will. It will come down to who is better trained. Survival is most likely when risk is mitigated to the highest degree. I say most likely because it is impossible to avoid risk entirely. Risk mitigation in order to survive can come in many forms. Preparing for all possible situations or difficulties that may arise is the preferred method for survival. I say all of this to emphasize that all facets of preparation are necessary in the full spectrum of survival. Learning to fight as a unit is just one more skilled needed for TEOTWAWKI.

JWR Adds: Learning military tactics could indeed prove crucial, depending on the severity of WTSHTF. However, keep in mind that standard military doctrine is far more aggressive and risky than would be appropriate for most foreseeable situations faced by survivalists. Keep in mind that military tactics are geared toward offensively, boldly, and rapidly taking and then holding ground, while at the same time incurring "acceptable losses." It also assumes that advanced medical care is available rapidly via helicopter Medevac. Modern military organizations also have the advantage of helmets and Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) being available for every soldier. Your mileage may vary substantially. (As a survivalist, your tactical concerns will more likely be primarily defensive, less hurried, and with a premium placed on minimizing casualties.)

Also, keep in mind that unless you are sitting on a stockpile of a lifetime supply of ammunition, then the typical military "suppressive fire" doctrine will probably be either out of the question, or curtailed substantially.

I recommend modifying military tactics to suit your particular circumstances. Typically, this would mean operating with less speed, greater stealth, and an emphasis on camouflage. Also, depending on circumstances, it would also mean conservation of precious ammunition and pyrotechnics.

Under current U.S. Army doctrine, there is just one Squad Designated Marksman (SDM) per squad. But for TEOTWAWKI, I would advocate having as many as three per squad, especially in open terrain. That will increase your standoff distance and hence minimize friendly casualties. I would also recommend having every member of your patrol wear full ghillie suits in all but the hottest weather.

The bottom line: When you are out patrolling with members of your own family, then the concept of "acceptable losses" takes on a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles:
n reference to the recent SurvivalBlog article "Surviving The Cold", by The Other D.B.: It is never repeated enough: wet cold kills.   The advice to test your rain gear with a garden hose is priceless.

A piece of kit that I have found invaluable exercising or working in the cold is the Neck Warmer / Head Wrap. This is a simple tube of stretch polypropylene or polyester fleece or wool.  Critical to better protect the vascular area where you lose the most heat--our head and neck.

You can see some examples at these three vendor sites:

Using a Wrap as a base layer allows you to apply the layering effect for your head and neck, fine tuning your head and neck insulation to your level of exercise and heat buildup.  If you only have one thick layer on your head, you have to choose between a hot, sweaty head with your hat on, vs. chilling off too fast going bare.

These Wraps are so light you can keep extras in pockets, so you can swap out to a dry wrap if you do get sweaty.   In the cold I like to use two at a time - one as a neck and lower face wrap, and one as a base layer on the head, under helmet or cap.   I keep two in my car, two in my pack, and two in the pocket of a jacket.

Another great feature is that they dry out very fast attached to the outside of your pack.

Beyond being a neck warmer or head warmer the Wrap can also be a balaclava, helmet liner, dust mask, facial camo, goggle cover, sun protection, etc., etc.:


Another somewhat obscure article of clothing with similar benefits is the "neck dickie".

These are available in a Coolmax sweat wicking Military Brown at Vendio and heavier fleece.

This is literally a  polo neck that has been cut off to just cover the neck and upper chest and back.  The huge advantage here is that you can add a layer without adding more bulk on the shoulder socket/arms, and it can be quickly and easily pulled off to adjust your layering (without the hassle of taking off a jacket or pack, or webbing).

Important proviso - as with almost all synthetic materials they are lighter than wool - but are vulnerable to melting in a fire, causing more severe injury than a natural fabric burning.  Don't wear synthetics in high fire hazard areas!  (Note - there are synthetics made out of Nomex that are fire-retardant - but they are very pricey.)

Full disclosure: We sell head wraps as accessories to our tactical goggles, but - we specialize in Body Armor, not clothing, and are really not looking to sell small, individual clothing items, so our bias here is quite minimal!

Yours Truly, - Nick at

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
This a reply to the reply to "A Combat Gear Primer" by WildcatActual.  While it is true that a direct hit from a high-powered rifle such as a Russian Dragunov firing a 7.62x54R will not/should not penetrate military grade body armor I would like to add to the comment of "These are but two examples of the fallacy that blunt force trauma from a bullet hit will incapacitate an individual wearing body armor":

I have a personal experience in this.  I was in Mosul, Iraq in 2006.  Our unit was tasked to clear and old cement factory in the city.  This cement factory was a sniper's dream, and the insurgents made good use of it for that very purpose.  Several guys had been hit in and around this area from sniper fire.  Our unit had received a "tip" that the same sniper who had, just days before, killed another US soldier was back at the factory.  Our unit rolled in there ready to take this guy down once and for all.  We thought we had a pretty good idea where he was shooting from.  We set up a perimeter inside and dismounted the Strykers.  The weapons team advanced on one of those tower looking rock crusher things and our 6, the Medic and myself took up a covering position at the back rear of the vicinity.

The weapons squad was no more than a few seconds into there bounding when I was thrown face-forward into the dirt.  It felt like someone had had come up behind me and kicked me as hard as possible in the back. I could barely breath, I had no idea I had just been shot in the back.  The next thing I knew someone was dragging me to the other side of the vehicle.  My whole body hurt, but yes, I was able to regain my composure and get back up to my knees after a minute or so, but just barely.  Was I "out of the fight"?  No.  Was I as as combat effective as I was a few minutes ago?  No way! To make long story short, we still did not catch the sniper and I had one cracked rib and a nasty bruise in the shape of a SAPI plate on my back.  One more round to the same area and I would have been done.  

Finally, I know the exact video the reader is referencing about the soldier who is shot and gets right back up, and I have some further information on this as well.  The soldier in the video was shot with a Tabuk-S Assault Rifle, which is basically an AK-47 with a long, heavy RPK type barrel.  This is not really a Sniper Rifle per se but an SDM weapon that fires a 7.62x39 AK-47 round which does not have the punch of a full-power 7.62x54r round.  So is it possible that a person wearing modern body armor can be taken down with a single hit?  Lets just say I am glad I was dragged to cover because at that point I didn't even know my name let alone able to get there on my own. - Van  D.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Greetings Mr Rawles,
"G.I. Jim" recently opined in follow-up to "A Combat Gear Primer" that while effective in stopping bullets, modern body armor will not protect you from blunt force. While true in a general sense, Jim's comment that blunt force will incapacitate someone is simply untrue. The documented history is clear on this but two individuals immediately come to mind:

1.) Richard Davis, the founder of Second Chance Body Armor, who routinely had himself shot with a .44 Magnum at contact distance to prove the value of his product. He was never incapacitated in any way.

2.) Fast forward to the recent war in Iraq and the widely-shown video of an American medic shot by an Islamist sniper. The soldier is hit, falls, but instantly gets up with his weapon shouldered and seeks cover. This lucky young man was never out of the fight.

These are but two examples of the fallacy that blunt force trauma from a bullet hit will incapacitate an individual wearing body armor. - WildcatActual

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dear James:
There is a nasty trend to require a government permit to possess body armor.  This is very disturbing because the right to protect yourself is the most basic of human rights - the right to life.  It is  a slap in the face to deny law-abiding people protection that is [in itself] purely passive and harmless.

Australia has "led the way" in telling citizens that they need state  permission to protect themselves - armor is illegal to import without permission, and illegal to own "without authorization" in several Australian states.

Now this evil idea has caught on with Canadian politicians - in 2009 the province of British Columbia made it illegal to possess body armor without a permit.  To get a permit you must "prove a reasonable need".

Exceptions are made for law enforcement, licensed security workers and  "Individuals who possess a valid firearms licence". Otherwise, no permit means your armor can be seized, up to a $10,000 fine and six months in jail.

If you believe you are "at imminent risk" you can apply for a 90 day exemption and hope that the bureaucracy approves it before you are attacked. Good luck with that!

Manitoba has passed a ban with NO exemption for firearms license holders.

Alberta's ban
is currently awaiting final proclamation.

and Nova Scotia is now proposing a ban.

This legislation is evil because it will cause the death of innocent folks who, because of  all the bureaucratic hassles, cannot (or will not) buy a vest ahead of time.  Then they will not be able to get a vest fast enough when the need arises.

The argument given is to keep criminals from using armor but this is naive, as serious criminals will have little problem buying armor via the black market.  Do criminals have too much of a problem getting illegal guns or drugs?  Should we ban cell phones, because they are so useful in carrying out a crime?

Over the years I have helped many people who needed protection in a hurry: victims of criminal attacks, fearing further attacks, and witnesses to court cases, to name just a few examples.

In the US a felony conviction bars you from using Body Armor, but law-abiding citizens are perfectly free to protect themselves.  Right now the only notable exception is Connecticut that has a ban on mail order sales. (But you can still buy locally).  We hope this odious legislation does not spread, but advise folks to be on the lookout, especially in the "Nanny states".  Be ready to call your Representative vote at the ballot box. And be ready to vote with your feet, if need be.

Yours truly, - Nick at Body Armor

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dear Jim:
To follow up on the recent letters, we supply roughly half inch thick ballistic steel to stop .30-06 AP threats. (NIJ  Level IV ).

The tradeoff is that you are looking at roughly double the weight -- 20 lbs. per square foot.  So for the hypothetical 36" by 36" piece it adds up to roughly 180 lbs.  Ceramic tile can provide AP or Level IV protection at less than half that weight - but much more expensive.

Your point about spall is well taken. I would worry most about the bullet splatter or ricochet from a round plastering itself onto the threat side face of steel plate.   Eye protection is mandatory anytime firearms are in use, but especially here.

Your idea to angle the plate is a great one. Just be sure you are directing ricochets and bullet splatter in a safe direction!   (You do not want to have your head sticking up over a plate angled toward you!)   Ideally, you want to direct bullet splatter and ricochet away from you.  So shutters that lock open at an angle are an idea here, to give a protected firing port.

Assuming a bullet that would otherwise be a perfect 90 degree hit, a .25" thick steel plate angled at 45 degrees effectively gives you a 0.35" plate thickness. Or in metric terms, 6.4mm becomes almost 9mm.  Over 40% more effective thickness, plus you are encouraging the round to take the path of least resistance, and ricochet rather than penetrate.  There is a good reason that tanks have sloped armor on the front!
Yours truly, - Nick at Body Armor

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mr Rawles,
I found A.Y.'s suggestions to be very astute and workable, and wish to add a few of my own.

Underclothes: fencers over the years have pressed the bounds of stab- and slash-proof clothing. There are a number of SPECTRA fencing undershirts, that are of the same quality, if not better, as LEO anti-knife gloves. They also have the added bonus of being made with the express purpose of being stab proof. That said, still hurts like the dickens when one really gets gut stabbed. Having worn one in 90 degree sun, I can attest that not only are they comfortable but do a decent job keeping one cool.

Shoes: I wholeheartedly endorse his suggestion that on wearing steel-toed sneakers. I have worn these exclusively for about 12 years, and they have saved me more than once. Sears carries them, usually in the $30-40 range. They generally last me around 2 years, and I do a lot of hiking and running in them.

Jackets: motorcycle jackets do wonders for basic protection. Often either full leather (think motorcycle gangs) or leather-kevlar combination, most rated in the range of 100 feet of abrasion resistance. That's sliding on asphalt at 50+ mph. Many combo jackets come standard with padding in the spine and elbow areas, as well as have special pockets for more protection. Great for protests and random street brawls as well. Caveat: when purchasing leather only, make sure it is not fashion weight leather. eBay is especially bad for listings of motorcycle style jackets that offer minimal protection.

Motorcycle gear is especially useful for personal protection
. I was once the victim of an attempted robbery while fully geared (helmet, gloves, jacket, 511 tactical pants and steel-toed sneakers) on my bike. I was blind-sided and knocked off the bike, and the attackers proceeded to kick and hit me with sticks. While bruised, the above gear kept me from suffering more than minimal damage, and allowed me to fend them off.

In closing, I hope these personal anecdotes and suggestion help expand this often overlooked but extremely important aspect of self defense. - R.I.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dear Jim:
I was in Cairo with my wife and two kids six weeks ago at the tail end of a 13 country 3 month trip. I was traveling with some custom bulletproof vests for all of us (thanks to Nick at They were inserted in our backpacks and no one was the wiser at airport security. In Cairo, I had no sense whatsoever that it was a powder-keg, ready to explode. My wife laughed at the extra weight I hauled around with us. Now seeing on television the places where we walked looking like a war zone, she's not laughing anymore. - S.F. in Hawaii

Monday, January 10, 2011

I recently got an irate letter from an outspoken Peak Oil commentator who often stresses "community agriculture" and "sustainable development." He castigated me for "advocating a fortress mentality..." and "encouraging gun-buying..." I think that he meant those as insults, but I took them as compliments.

I am indeed an advocate of the fortress mentality, and fortress architecture. The two go hand-in-hand. As I pointed out in my book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It", modern American architecture with flimsy doors and large expanses of windows is just a 70 year aberration from a global norm that dates back many centuries. The real tradition in architecture outside of the tropics has always been to build homes with small windows, very stout doors, and lots of mass in the walls to absorb projectile impacts and to delay entry by evil-doers. Since 1945 we've been blessed to live a country that is relatively safe and peaceful. But don't expect that to last forever. Plan and build, accordingly.

Just look at the long history of the mote-and-bailey and castle in Europe and Fujian Tulou (Hakka) in China. Or look at the stout walls that are still the norm in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And consider the HESCO bastions that are almost always used by the U.S. military when deployed in any of the world's hot spots. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There is no substitute for mass. Mass stops bullets. Mass stops gamma radiation. Mass stops (or at least slows down) bad guys from entering a home and depriving its residents of life and property. Sandbags are cheap, so buy plenty of them. When planning your retreat house, think: medieval castle.

The fortress mentality necessitates adopting fortress architecture. Whether you turn yourself into a moving fortress (with body armor), or you decide to design fortress features into your next home, I recommend that you prepare for as many different threats as possible. If you cannot afford to build your house like a fortress, or if that would "stick out" where you now live, then at least add a combination vault/shelter basement room to your house. (Either via new construction, or by remodeling.) Several SurvivalBlog advertisers can supply the know-how and crucial components for such a project such as inward-opening vault doors, blast valves, and HEPA filters. These companies include: Hardened Structures, Safecastle, and Ready Made Resources.

The bottom line is that in the event of societal collapse, looters will prey upon those who are obviously weak and defenseless. Unless they are suicidal, looters will consciously pass by any well-defended retreats. Why would they go up against an Alpenréduit when they could instead go pick on some defenseless granny living in a veritable glass box, a mile down the road? Why would they risk getting ventilated by a group of well-armed Rawlesians who are standing behind ballistic protection--especially while living in a world without readily-available medical care?

Planning ahead for bad times isn't paranoia. It is prudence. An integrated national defense should start with every hearth and home, and proceed systematically all the way to national borders. This is the true and righteous fortress mentality. The Swiss call this an "intellectual defense of the homeland" (Geistige Landesverteidigung). Their well-armed citizenry and their extensive system of réduits (many of them very well-hidden) have kept them free and essentially independent for 720 years. We should learn a lesson from that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dear Jim:
Regarding force multipliers, you touch on early warning with SIGINT, HUMINT and night vision, but I would argue that more immediate early warning through intrusion detection or perimeter security should be stressed as well:

If you are not aware of the bad guys approach, then all your other defensive measures are for naught.  Even just having a minute to muster a defense, instead of 10 seconds, could make all the difference.  Imagine an early warning on the approach of intruders at O-dark-thirty, with your entire team wide awake and suited up in defensive positions, vs. waking up to the sound of gunfire to mount a defense.

Some examples of perimeter security to give you early warning:

• Electronic motion detectors, or ground sensors. [Typically either passive IR or seismic.]

• Electronic hearing amplification. [JWR Adds: The Walker Game Ear hearing aids are very compact and have automatic noise suppression, so they work like electronic ear muffs.]

• A trip wire connected to tin cans, or a chemical light stick (visible light or IR) or blank cartridge. [JWR Adds: Magic Cube photographic flash cubes can also be set off, using a paper clip and a trip wire. It is quick and easy to use clear packing tape to attach them to a post, tree, or large bush. Magic Cubes are no longer manufactured but are still often sold on eBay and Craigslist.]

• Military grade thermal imaging scopes would be the ultimate for your OP, but are still $10,000 plus, the last time I checked

• Don't forget the obvious - a cleared field to approach your homestead versus an overgrown field. How have other folks dealt with this issue?  What worked, what didn't?

Regards, - OSOM


Regarding force multipliers, I would like to mention body armor.  Obviously, protecting the main target area on the body "puts the odds in your favor" as we say.

Being in the business of selling body armor (I run BulletProofME) I am obviously partial to ballistic protection, but no less an authority than Boston T. Party lists body armor, along with night vision and secure radio communications as “... An order of magnitude advantage”. (See his book Boston on Surviving Y2K .) - Nick

Monday, September 6, 2010

Good Morning Mr. Rawles,
Last year my former boss--with whom we used to have a Bible study--and who is a former Marine, called me up on a Saturday morning, and inquired about a firearm that I would recommend for a semiautomatic sidearm that he and his wife would be able and to shoot comfortably. Without knowing much about what he had in mind, I told him about the top companies, and that a 9mm would be sufficient for his wife, as long as they used +P or +P+ defensive hollow-points with a heavy bullet weight, and if even this was too stout for his wife you can always get a heavier recoil spring for those loads. There is no magic bullet for handgun ballistics, none are moving fast enough to create hydrostatic shock, and a 9mm in the head or center-mass is better than .40 S&W, 10mm, or .45 ACP in the shoulder or arm. He then proceeded to tell me about "Patriots" and gave me the run down.

I was away from home at the time but I purchased the book when I got back. My wife read it, and we purchased three copies and have passed them on to friends and family to plant the preparedness seed. Due to a limited budget, we have not been able to move to a rural area yet; however we are currently planning to move after my wife finishes out this semester. After being laid off this summer, she went back to school for web design so she could work from home, wherever we live. Amongst all of our current planning and preparations, my wife and I found out that we are pregnant with our first child. This adds a unique dimension to how we think about preparedness now. (Seriously understated.)

We began prepping with a three-tiered system: Alpha - essentials, may have to be carried to our family’s place in the mountains on foot. Bravo - things to G.O.O.D. with in our small SUV, such as tools, spare gas, weapons and ammo cans, and our current “hurricane kit” full of canned goods, medical supplies, and water. Charlie- If we have any room left in vehicle, non-essentials such as books. I have a nice set of the classics I want my kids to read someday.

If TEOTWAWKI were to happen tomorrow, we could no longer bug out on foot. In addition to being nauseated, my wife is fatigued and takes long naps in the afternoon. Food and rest is key for her right now due to the nature of the many things that are growing. She is also very hormonal and I don’t think she could cope with the stresses of combat or fatigue. She cries during commercials now too instead of just the cheesy love story.

We keep our G.O.O.D. bags ready on top of kit in master closet. I don’t know if she could fit into any of her cammies, or body armor--God forbid she took a round to the chest--the blunt force trauma would kill the baby] and I am wondering what we are going to do during the last trimester when it won’t fit at all. Hopefully we will be moved to our mountain home in January (she’s due in April). Then she won’t have to bug out to anywhere (far) and her duties would be concentrated in a LP/OP capacity and not in the field.

If we were not able to “bug out at the eleventh hour” and get the jump on the golden horde, I am sadly looking at what we would have to do to dig in. It certainly would not be ideal, but I am looking at all options. We have friends who could eventually make it to our place, but I would never be comfortable in the small condo we occupy. We would have to go somewhere. We have a state park a few miles away, that I believe we could melt into with a small group of us for security, and it is passable on foot from the condo to there. It would be like a permanent camp-out.

My former boss who told me about "Patriots" lives on the far side of this state park with animals and a little land. In order to thrive in a TEOTWAWKI scenario he would need a good group of workers and guys who are familiar with security, weapons, and field medicine, just to keep what he’s got. You cannot secure a retreat with 3-5 people. We would bring our own supplies and hunt the plentiful game I have seen in this state park. As an aside it personally offends me when I speak to people- friends or even family, who insist that if the SHTF they will “come to my house”. A friend and I were joking that A). I probably won’t be there, B.) if you haven’t prepared you aren’t leeching off of me, and C.) I might shoot you and take whatever you have in your pockets. I would never assume that I could go to anyone’s house without my own supplies and invitation to stay.

A third option is to survive until after the baby is born if we are still here in this state, and then hump it out to family in the mountains. This seems the most dangerous and you always have to factor in Admiral Murphy. (Of Murphy's Law.) He will throw multiple monkey wrenches into your plans. I cannot imagine keeping an infant quiet is easy, but somehow the Indians did it. Even using small unit tactics in a ‘V’ formation with wives at a good interval behind us, stray rounds will still kill. This is not an option I would be looking forward to at all.

The conclusions I am approaching are to be Semper Gumby ("Always flexible"). Adapt to any situation- even a hormonal, pregnant wife. Use my head, the solution is usually there, I just have to have the presence of mind to see it. Plan for a worst-case scenario and I will never be caught with my pants down. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Last but certainly not least is prayer. Praying a lot is no substitute for good planning and due diligence; but without it, you will not be in constant communication with the real Commander in Chief, and thus will not be as effective as you can possibly be. By the way, I loved the movie Gods & Generals as it portrays General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as a superb commander and pious man, who also loved his wife well. - “Jeremiah Johnson” in Florida

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I am a public school teacher with five kids and one income. There is little in the way of extra cash to protect the family, but I will do my best to prepare for TEOTWAWKI. If you want to plan well; plan as if it was a lesson plan and you are going to teach it to a class. My class is my family the the goal being not to get anyone panicked (Refer to # 9 below). Having a receptive audience is difficult, because of what I deem…complacent comforts. These are built into the core and routine of our everyday lives that we depend on all to often (you know what they are).

Suburban survival is a surreal world of isolation. You feel alone although you are surrounded by tens of thousands of complacent people who are very comfortable in their grid dependent homes and lifestyles. Try living in suburban New York in which neighbors think you’re getting wacky because you talk of preparing for an event that they deem impossible or extremely remote.

You ask that I provide what works. I provide to you what may work and what does not work when trying to explain to neighbors the concept that more people prepared the less people in need . Going Social and leading a group of individuals is not an option. Sorry, but human nature is 90% reactive and 10% proactive. If you are reading this wonderful blog and this story I tell, then good for you, welcome to the proactive10%. But does anyone really know what will work? You ask for what is proven. Nothing is proven when it comes to TEOTWAWKI. Just prove to yourself that you have prepared for the worst and hope for the best to the greatest of your ability without losing your mind.

What may work is what I have planned for this summer.

1. Two years ago, this house I bought has a chimney with the wood stove removed. I have since bought a wood stove on eBay and will install it this summer. Contact local tree services for what is known as a hook (someone who can give you free wood because around here it costs them money to get rid of it).
2. The back 6 feet of my garage is walled off as a walk in pantry and safe room. Steel racks from target $80 to store the basic recommended foods and three 5 gallon clear water containers. Stores such as and sell a nice three bottle storage rack and a $4.00 hand pump.
3. We like to go camping, so the escape gear is packed and ready to go in the garage. I have three day MRE food packs for each child. Books, games, toys and blankets. I like the items from if you want it all pre-packaged.
4. The Aqua Rain Gravity Water Filter will be used for long term water consumption because I have a fifteen diameter above ground pool that maintains 5,000 gallons of water. Fun to play in and a nice supply of water when filtered. Five gallon clear containers will be wheeled to and from the pool to a basin and then filtered and stored.
5. As an alarm. We have a small barky Cairn Terrier. He has proven to be very territorial. I have encountered many dogs in my life and the small ones seem to bark at strangers the best. Not to scare them off but to let you know there is an intruder.
6. Pray. With the Lord there is confidence and the resolve that you are giving it your best shot and some things are just plain out of you hands and in His.
7. Stay fit. Run and stretch. Exercise with you family. Personally I run and work out with a 1” by 3’ wooden staff. [These are commonly called "dog chasers'] It is cane-like and there are many defensive and offensive forms that can be used.
8. I have friends who are police officers and have never fired their weapon in the line of duty. Do you really want to shoot someone? I train my family for a chaotic attack. We have code words and all have set actions when the code word is mentioned. No matter how crazy things get remember that everything is negotiable. Have a planned system for dealing with a threat other then sending bullets all over the neighborhood. If you can offer an item or two to the desperate individual (who may truly need help) then do so. If they really look like trouble or if they are armed then at least have pepper spray ($11.99 per can here in New York). If you are going to shoot someone, then expect to be shot at as well. You can always think from the other end of the barrel as well, by checking out this web site.
9. Communication - The FEMA and have suggestions on how to communicate to you kids so they know that what you are preparing for is legitimate. The other type of communication Midland Nautico NT3VP VHF 88-channel Two-way radio covers many of the important radio bands as well a my CC SWPocket AM/FM Shortwave Pocket Radio From C. Crane Company.

10. My preparedness approach, in a nutshell:

Heat- Wood

Cook- Wood Stove

Light – Oil Lamps

Food – Stocked bulk items

Water - Aquarain Water filter 2000gallons per filter

Books - Survival (I own three right now), and fiction

Kids - Lots of Books Games, Toys (Legos) and art supplies

Long Term:

Food – fishing and trapping (raccoon/squirrel, locally)

Barter – Lots of practical things and 1 ounce US Silver Eagles (Currently @ $19 each)

Money - $5 Bills (x 50) as a cash reserve

Protection - The Lord gave us our eyes, ears and intuition.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Most folks focus on vests first when it comes to ballistic protection, but the head should not be neglected. Obviously your brain is one of your most important organs, one of the most sensitive to blunt trauma - and the body part most likely to be exposed when you are behind cover!

A helmet is not a "discreet" piece of gear, and not appropriate for everyday use, but helmets are much-needed ballistic protection in a bad to worst-case situation, e.g., a homeowner in a Hurricane Katrina type situation, or a patrol officer rolling up on a potential shooting. In that kind of situation you would probably prefer that bad guys see that you are armored and a "hard target", in order to deter an attack. Most importantly, you would (we hope!) be behind cover with just your head showing - so wouldn't it be smart to protect what is most exposed?

Helmets are also excellent for lessening blunt trauma, though you should be aware that any impact on the head is a serious threat that causes some level of injury - no armor makes you invulnerable. The blunt trauma protection of a helmet is often not given enough weight. Think about it - in a high-threat confrontation you would often be coming under fire and moving as fast as possible, perhaps in the dark. Very likely you would be hitting trees, walls, cars, the cover you are diving for, etc., etc. in your haste to get to cover. Any helmet (even a bike helmet) is desirable so that crashing into hard objects is less of an impact on the brain, possibly saving you from being knocking disoriented or unconscious.

Helmets are excellent ballistic protection from pistol-caliber threats (and Fragmentation) but, sorry to say, rifle protection helmets are not on the market. Traditional mil spec PASGT helmets stop Level II threats (9mm pistol / .357 Magnum) and the latest mil spec, the Advanced Combat Helmet (aka ACH aka MICH) stops Level III-A threats (9mm sub-machine-gun / .44 Magnum). Most people focus on this small increase in ballistic protection of the ACH over PASGT, but what is much more important is the big improvement in blunt trauma protection.

The traditional PASGT Kevlar Helmet has a leather and nylon suspension system that is not particularly comfortable, and provides very little blunt trauma protection. But the latest mil spec for the ACH is a pad system inside the helmet (3/4th inch or 1" thick / 19 - 25mm) that absorbs a lot of shock that would otherwise be transmitted to the skull.

If you already have an older PASGT not to worry! You can upgrade with a PASGT Retrofit Kit to bring the old PASGT up to the ACH standard for blunt trauma cushioning.

If $70 is not in the budget, there is a very inexpensive accessory called the Parachutist Foam Impact Liner that is almost as good. Airborne troops used to get a 1/4" (6mm) thick pad which the Air Force research found is roughly 70% as good as the ACH pad system. We would recommend that as a minimum upgrade to older PASGT helmets.

Either way, there is one upgrade to vintage PASGTs that is mandatory to keep the helmet secure, and prevent bobbing of the helmet when you are moving. This is replacing the old 2 point chin strap with a 3 or 4 point system that connects at the back.

Helmet Buying Checklist

1. PROTECTION - whether it stops Level II or Level III-A threats is less of a factor than whether it has an ACH blunt trauma pad system. Personally I'd rather have the old PASGT Level II protection - with the ACH pads retro-fitted in - than a newer Level III-A helmet without the ACH Blunt Trauma Pads.

2. COVERAGE vs. ERGONOMICS - the ACH shape has no brim, and is cut short on the back and sides for better hearing, and better ergonomics in the prone position. The PASGT has a brim, and is longer back and sides for more coverage (photos).

You can get Level III-A helmets in the PASGT shape, so it really depends on your situation and personal preference as to which is better for you--e.g., maximum protection in a vehicle, or for a non-combatant - go for full coverage with the PASGT shape. For a "trigger puller" who needs to go prone - ACH.

3. COLOR is not a determining factor as you can spray paint the helmet, or put a cloth helmet cover on. We do recommend Tan as a good all around color, as solid Black can tend to stick out.

4. FIT AND STABILITY is critical. The chin strap must be connected at the back as well as the sides. The helmet must fit snugly and comfortably even with no chin strap. Get a good head measurement to ensure a good fit.

The bottom line - in a bad situation you want ballistic and blunt trauma protection on your head. You have two eyes, two arms, two legs, and two lungs - but only one brain, so keep it safe!

Yours truly, - Nick, Manager

Monday, January 12, 2009

The following are some hopefully useful field expedients, substitutes and spares, all of which can be had for a buck to about ten bucks each:

#1: Drywall Saw: if you don’t have one of those all-purpose $49.95 survival knives or field shovels from Gerber or Glock with the accessory root saw, or you’ve found that the finger-length saw blade on a Swiss Army folder leaves a lot to be desired when cutting a 2x6 [board] down to size? A bow saw or flexible survival kit saw are a couple of possible candidates that may be up to the task, but so too is an inexpensive drywall "stab" saw. The blade on the one I got for a buck in the closeout tool bin at my local Big Box store hardware department has a blade just a smidgen under 7 inches long and saw teeth that cut on the push stroke on one edge and reversed teeth that work on the draw stroke on the other. It also has a sharp enough tip on the blade point to poke through drywall or thin wood paneling, hence the term "stab" saw.

The handle on mine, made/distributed under the GreatNeck brand, P/N 4932, is hard plastic and black rubber, comfortable enough to use for repeat cutting. Though that handle included a molded-in flap pierced for a lanyard or hang cord, the handle itself is stout enough to be drilled at the butt end for a hole for a wrist lanyard or dummy cord. So I modified mine to eliminate any chance of the cord tearing through the molded flap. I also did a little reshaping of the handle on my saw with a file to get it to better fit my hand, so there is enough material molded around the blade at the handle end for personal modification to suit.

In addition to the obvious uses for field carpentry, mine’s proved useful on the rib cage and pelvic bones when field dressing whitetail deer. There are certainly other times in the woods when a nice quiet saw is to be preferred to noisier if sometimes quicker tools like machetes or hatchets, as well as being lighter in weight. A drywall saw is easily carried in a homemade or improvised leather or nylon web belt sheath, or a short length of metal tubing can be squashed flat and the saw blade inserted, both for protection for the blade from other residents in a toolbox and to keep the saw from chewing holes in a pack or rucksack pocket. Mine also fits in a scabbard meant for an M7 bayonet for an M16 rifle, which I picked up for a couple of bucks in the junk box at my favorite army-navy surplus store. That has the total cost for my saw under five bucks, so I went back and bought two more, one for a pal and one as a spare for myself. Using a saw to cut those little figure-four release triggers for small game snares or dead fall traps beats doing that task with most knife blades, by the way, though setting snares in the cold is not real high on my list of fun things to do. But if you’re going to try it, I suggest you first practice setting the things when it’s warmer out...and using a saw instead of a knife to build your hare-trigger releases. (Yes, that spelling was intentional!)

#2: Snow Camo Overwhites: I live in snow country where sets of military over-white trousers and parka can be useful during the white time of the year, and yes, I have a good set. But my back-up plan consists of a large white vinyl trash bag that can either be used for its intended purpose or can instead have neck and arm holes poked into it in a pinch, then to be worn to help keep drizzle and sleet off. It’s considerably more glossy and shiny than I care for, which can be cured either with a few vertical stripes of flat white automotive spray paint, or an XXXXXL white t-shirt can be added over it- unless, of course, you are a XXXXXL T-shirt size as is, and you have to use a white pillowcase or kiddy bed bed sheet substitute instead. Really large used T-shirts go for 50 cents each at my local Goodwill thrift store, and since I’m not planning on wearing these against my skin, I’m not the least bit squeamish about getting one that’s been used. And while I was there I found a pair of much-dripped-on white painter’s pants for a buck, too, oversized and baggy, just right for wear over warmer trousers underneath. A few shots with the ol’ 99-cent can of flat white spray paint, and I was right in business. Admittedly, they were still loose enough on me that I needed a pair of elastic carpenters’ suspenders to help hold them up, and those suspenders were available only in blue or red, not white. Out came the flat white spray can again, which took care of that, backed up by a wrap or two of white athletic bandage tape over the too-shiny buckles, which both locked them in place and ensured there wouldn’t be any giveaway shine even if the paint flaked a bit. It didn’t hurt to have that pair of short lengths of tape handy should they be needed for other uses, either. That white spray paint also works real well on surplus store desert helmet covers to whitenize them for winter wear, then useable either as field jacket or parka hoods, or as, of all things, wintertime helmet covers.

#3: Inexpensive Lockblade Folding Knifes: I like nice pretty folding knives, both factory and custom, and some are so pretty and beautifully crafted that it seems like sacrilege to drop one in a pocket, let alone open it up and actually use it; the one I got as a present a couple of years back is like that. So in my pocket rattling against my keys instead is the cheapie $1 lockblade folder I picked up in the sporting goods/camping supplies department at my local Wal-Mart. Packaged as "Ozark Trail #3074," the knife’s 31⁄4" blade is jinked (partially "sawtoothed) along the rear third of its belly edge, is marked "stainless," and is retained by a screw, making sharpening and other maintenance simple. The knives’ handles/scales are a hard black plastic that’s sufficiently impact resistant that of the dozen or so examples I have none have yet suffered breakage or cracking, though one that came in contact with a hot Jeep exhaust manifold melted and blurred a bit. Now that one’s a "parts queen" donor for any of the others that might have a blade chip or snap a point. That hasn’t happened yet, the only replacement so far needed on my stable of cheap Chinese folding pointy-sharpie things having been that of a replacement blade pivot screw that came loose on one and got away in my pocket. The scales are a little squarish for my taste, easily fixed by rounding off the edges and corners with a file or sandpaper, and yep, there’s a well-placed hole for a dummy cord lanyard or key ring. One so equipped resides on a spare bootlace that goes around my neck when I’m kayaking in the summertime, and twin brothers of the cheapie Wal-Mart folder live in the glove box of each of my vehicles, my tool boxes, in one pocket or another of most of my rucks and daypacks, on my key chain and there’s one in the drawer of my computer desk where it does double duty as letter opener and box tape slicer. There are some users who don't care for the idea that the knife can be disassembled and have concerns that parts can become unattached and lost. I haven't had that happen yet, but I figure screw tightness checks are routine maintenance, and I will use a threadlocker if I think it's necessary.

#4: Singlepoint Balance Sling: I had always wanted to be a high-speed, low drag, tactical operations operating operator, but had never been able to come up with one of the $35-$50 3-way HK or Vickers slings that all the gun shop commandos and SWAT Team guys who’ve never fired a shot in a real world gunfight keep insisting to me that all the real professionals use. Adding a center-of-balance attach point for a centerpoint sling is a simpler alternative, and can be accomplished with nothing any more complicated or expensive than a screw-in eyebolt at the point where the wrist of a shotgun’s butt fits into the gun’s receiver, an expedient that goes at least as far back in historic use as Doc Holliday’s sawn-off double-barreled scatterguns. For the sling itself I used a five-foot length of black 1-inch wide tubular webbing as used for rock climbing harnesses, also very useful for belts and regular weapons slings. The advantage of using the tube web in this application is that the tube web is hollow inside, and inside went a 48-inch-long elastic bungee cord. The hook of one end of the bungee’s elastic shock cord was then crimped to the front snaploop of a very used AK-47 sling that had pulled out the oil-rotted threads holding it on, though all sorts of alternate snaps and swivels [or a 550-cord loop] could be used instead. The ones found on $2 surplus Swiss gas mask bags are especially excellent, with or without the bag strap attached. The hook then attaches either to an AK or other rifle’s front sling swivel, or at the new midpoint location if the hardware for that application is installed. A friend who saw and tried my centerpoint sling on my AK wanted one for his new M4 configuration AR-15, and since he already had a sling attach point installed as the stock locking plate of his CAR-15, all I had to do was add the sling’s body loop and the strap with the swivel snap. In his case, that snap was made from a pear-shaped key ring mini-caribiner, after threading a short piece of clear plastic gas line tubing over it to keep it from scratching the rifle finish and keep potential rattling silenced.

At the other end there’s a loop just large enough to go over the user’s shoulder across the chest front, again with the elastic cord keeping it snug. With the sling snap attached at the midpoint I can hold my rifle in both hands and extend it out to arm’s length in front of me, and the elastic and slightly muzzle-heavy weight with a loaded mag in places returns it to a muzzle-down port arms position. This allows a fast transition from carbine to handgun, handheld radio/cell phone, or my ice cream cone, depending on my priorities at the time. I really prefer to have web or leather slings on weapons that may be fired enough to get more than a little warm, since nylon slings can melt through if they come in contact with a hot barrel. I’ve also had my doubts about the general utility of balance point slings, but this is my opportunity to try one out for a while, and there do seem to be two situations in which mine has proven useful for me. One is while standing around with the weapon at ready for long periods of time, as when at a guard post or waiting to hit the firing line on a hot range, probably why they’ve been so popular with some troops in Iraq. The other is when aboard a motorcycle, snowmobile or ATV and the right hand is occupied with operating the vehicle, which would be a really nice time to have a shorty bullpup weapon instead. But when what you’ve got is what you’re going to have to use, I’ll admit the springy sling may be worth being fitted.

#5: Gear/Armor Carrier Vest: Now that I had my new SWATzie sling I now needed a black tactical vest and armor plate/pad carrier to go with it, and $2 seemed to be a good price to give for the basic start for one. That was for two of the polycloth black shopping bags from my local Wal-Mart store at a buck each, offered as an alternative to the usual flimsy plastic variety. Aside from the low cost, their big attractions were their 12" x 12" square size, and the pair of 11⁄4" wide straps that serve as the bags front and rear handles. Cutting away the stitching that held the end of one strap at the mouth of one bag left an attached double strap that was long enough to go over my shoulder and connect the first bag worn in front to the second one across my back. The other strap was similarly modified, but on the other side of the handle, giving a strap on either side to connect to the other bag, one on the front left side of the front bag, and the other on the right rear of the same bag. The straps on the other bag were modified the same way, but alternated in mirror-image reverse, so that the outside left strap of the front bag’s strap connected to the outside left of the rear bag, and the inside straps likewise went to the attach points of their respective counterparts. In my case, just the straps of one bag worn draped over my neck probably would have been enough to position the front bag high enough in front that the bag’s open top came to about the height of a field jacket’s front collar button. That configuration is very similar to the old Military Armament Corporation (MAC) Ingram M10 submachinegun carry bags [made of then military-standard olive drab canvas] that unfolded for wear beneath the user’s neck, the inside of the MAC bags being lined with a Kevlar pad. I wanted protection and other features in back, though, so initially went with the twin bag approach. The bag in back rode high enough that it too left just enough room for a jacket or shirt collar to fit beneath it, and it covered my upper back and shoulders nicely. Both bags rode high enough that an equipment belt can be worn underneath, and the belt can be put on either first or after the vest is in place; others of different body sizes may find they’ll need more of the adjustment provided by lengthening both shoulder straps. Alternately, a set of padded shoulder straps salvaged from a day pack or ALICE ruck shoulder straps could be used instead.

Inside the rear face of my front bag went a used and expired Kevlar soft vest obtained in a trade from a retired cop neighbor of mine. Inside the front face of that same pouch went a military SAPI plate, hopefully capable of withstanding rifle fire--or maybe not as effectively as desired: the military has been replacing them with a newer E-SAPI version--an enhanced SAPI plate. I also added a "kangaroo pouch" extension extending from the bottom of the front bag, [made from a third black cloth shopping bag folded in half top-to-bottom, giving a 6-inch extension and raising the basic cost of the rig by another whole dollar. The Kevlar padding from another soft vest went in the bag in back. I can add yet another "kangaroo" drop pouch location on the bottom of the rear bag, should another 8" by 12" SAPI or E-SAPI plate come my way and I feel like spending yet another dollar, and depending on whether I want the extra SAPI protection low over my kidneys and spine, or higher at my shoulder level. Until then the ballistic pad from a vest fired into for testing rides at a height in between, sealed in a large vinyl pouch to prevent the pad from becoming soaked if I get caught wearing the vest outside in the rain, or go for an unplanned swim. No, you shouldn’t use expired or damaged vest inserts or material. Yes, you ought to spend the bucks for the very best body armor you can afford, and if you’ve developed tastes based on personal experience, go with it. But if all you have on hand is less desirable material, it may be better than nothing, so long you’re under no illusions about its lessened effectiveness.

At the bottom edge of both the front and rear bags’ exterior I added a left and right-side horizontal black nylon strap [sections left over from building the sling described in section #4 above] and quick-release buckle to connect the front and rear bags at my waist. The buckles came in a package of three from the craft section of my local fabric shop, and one had been used on a holster project, leaving the two I needed. I notice, however, that these not only appear identical to the ones used on grocery shopping cart kiddy seat belts and will fasten with the cart buckles just fine, but also are even identified as having been made by the same manufacturer. [Ask nicely at your grocery when they change their shopping carts’ seatbelts for newer ones less frayed or for ones with a newer advertising message and you may get a grocery bag full of the old ones for free.] In any event, the bottom straps do a fine job of keeping the bottoms of the vest bags from flopping around, and mine can be adjusted for anything from t-shirt weather to opened up enough to fit over a parka or field jacket with winter liner. Velcro attachments would probably work just as well.

Upgrades and enhancements: I also added velcro at the edge seams of the bags to help the bags maintain their flat and square profile when other items like my cheapie overwhites and poncho are added inside between the ballistic panels. Likewise I added matching facing velcro straps to the former cloth handles, now over-the-shoulder straps, which helps them stay together to be slid through the adjustment buckles for them, which are former metal sling adjustment keepers.

The Velcro came from the craft department at Wal-Mart in a strip about 3⁄4-inches wide by 3 feet long for a little over a buck. Yes, there are uses yet to come for the leftover hook-and-loop pieces.
I wanted a way to carry ammo and other goodies with my cheapie vest, and since they’d be a bit difficult to get to with the vest padding inside, that meant pouches for them on the outside surface, leaving the bag interiors to function as a drop pouch for empty magazines or clips or other non-disposable novelties. The solution to hanging external pouches or other accessories was easy, and all it took was a bunch of 12-inch long black nylon inch-wide straps laid out in horizontal rows across each bag’s outside face, separated by about a half inch. If that sounds like MOLLE rack webbing, it should because that’s a good approximation of what it is, though spaced primarily for ALICE gear rather than MOLLE. Accordingly, the critical dimension is not the spacing between the straps, but the distance from the bottom edge of each lower strap to the top edge of the upper strap, which should be from about 2-1⁄4 inches to no more than 2-3/8 inches, the inside height of an ALICE fastener. The front face of my vest wound up with nine rows of webbing, seven at the bottom and two at the top for first aid packet or compass pouches. On the back outside face, it’s also covered top to bottom with nine rows of the webbing, allowing anything from a Camelbak canteen pouch, a couple of 2-liter GI bladder canteens or ammo pouches to be fitted. The spacing for the vertical stitches that hold the straps to the fabric is approximately 1-3/16ths inch apart each and I made up a spacer from a narrowed wooden paint-stirring paddle to keep them in a reasonably uniform vertical line. Note that the metal ALICE clip fasteners will chew through web straps fairly rapidly, since they’re really meant for use on the heavy- duty web of a pistol or LBE belt. One answer for this is to use the commercially available and relatively inexpensive ALICE strap-type adapters; another is the old airborne unit trick of replacing each ALICE clip with at least two separate loops of parachute cord, knotted tight and with the ends at the knot fused by heat to prevent the knots from working loose. Now if you come across a military vest or armor carrier with the MOLLE straps worn through, you’ll have a good idea as to the likely cause, and how to prevent a repeat if you adopt the vest and repair the damage.

As an added benefit, the resulting ALICE/MOLLE web slots are just large enough to allow the body of a 12-gauge shotgun shell to fit, with the shell’s rim keeping the round from dropping through. That inspired me to build a second vest primarily for use with a shotgun. Lacking the bottom extensions it’s accordingly shorter and more compact, and so can be worn reasonably concealed beneath a GI field jacket. The old Second Chance Z9 that was the first vest I owned back in the 1970s rides in front in this one, and I’m still looking for another castoff vest for the back pouch. Additional boxed ammo carried in pouches in back helps balance the load on my shoulders, and helps prevent me from kicking myself for not bringing more ammo along for those parties that last longer than anticipated.

A third, similar vest was made at the request of a friend for carrying .50 caliber rifle ammo, among other items. It’s similar to my second "shotgun" vest, with a few variations described later. Other specialized applications may well come along, and I expecting that vests to serve as at least temporary expedients for dealing with them can be launched at a cost of around two bucks each, for a start.

The triple-magazine ALICE pouches for M16 magazines fit very nicely at the bottom corners of my first "rifle" vest, though M16 magazines aren’t what are in them. With the two inside top anti-rattle strap tabs that separate the three magazines removed, an M16 pouch is just right for an 8-round M1 Garand clip of .30-06 ammo laid flat. Alternate the bullet ends left to right as more loaded clips are added, and they’ll hold eight clips, nine in some if an extra one is crammed up into the pouch cover before snapping it shut. I’ve got two pouches so filled on the back bottom corners of my long vest and another up front, [and a holstered handgun where a fourth ammo pouch could go] giving me 192 rounds in 24 clips carried in three pouches. Conveniently, my Garand ammo is stored in 192-round cans, in clips; isn’t it splendid how such things sometimes work out?

A load like that with the added weight of vest pads and plates can get heavy after a bit, so I added some of that black nylon webbing along either side of both of the adjustable straps to help spread the weight; padded pack straps are a possible solution for this problem, too. Those leftover short sections of Velcro strip were added to three of the webbing rows approximately centered on the front panel on the third, fourth and fifth rows from the top. Their mating sections were added to the back of a largish US flag patch, which I’ll continue to consider wearing so long as this country and its Constitution remain at least partially workable institutions. Since situations in which wearing a bullet-resistant tac vest with a couple of hundred rounds of Garand ammo are not only possible but appear to be becoming more likely of late, there may be some question as to how long that "workable" consideration will last. Others may find flags of state or local jurisdictions, their religious or veterans organizations, or family or group identification symbols or name tapes to be more suitable or to the point.

Oh yeah: the black Wally-World bags come with the motto "Paper or Plastic? Neither", and "Wal-Mart" printed across their front. Various cures for this can be as simple as just facing those slogans inward, turning the bags inside-out placing the lettering in the inside where it won’t be seen, to a few shots with the trusty 99-cent spray paint can, the flat black one in this case. I found that the paint solvents softened the bag lettering enough to allow the printing to be scraped away, but turned one inside out for better access to the stitching of the handle straps anyway. If you don’t care for the black colored bags, blue ones from Kroger grocery stores can be used instead, or bright orange ones from the Big Lots retail chain. I’m sure that the selection can vary depending on what stores are in a particular area; I haven’t found suitable bags in winter white yet, but either a white cover can be added to the front and rear faces of the pouch sections, or that ever-handy can of flat white spray can be again called to duty. An inexpensive camouflage bandanna can be used as a sewn-on cover before ALICE or MOLLE webbing is added instead, for those wishing to match their other field gear or maintain uniformity with group camo; likewise the remaining material from the back of a camouflage shirt blouse or lightweight T-shirt could be used. I've also found that the JoAnn Fabrics shop chain offers a very similar bag in a Loden/British Racing Green for a buck each, and a few of them may be the beginning of my next project.

Those who’ve seen how glaringly black vests fluoresce in current night vision equipment seem to be less enthusiastic about using all-black gear, but television and movies have done their best to condition their zombie audiences to accept those in the black tac vests as being the ultimate in authority figures. That kind of mass conditioning may be helpful to domestic concentration camp guards, but the cowering habits of sheep-like GDP en route to the slaughterhouse may also be utilized in making one’s exit from such locales by other individuals or groups wearing the black vests, at least until the urban inmates discover that many of those in the black outfits may not have their best interests at heart.

As for sourcing components, I happened to get a deal on a couple of a hundred 18-inch sections of nylon strap from the industrial surplus outlet of a manufacturing plant. New web from commercial sources can be used instead; one pal of mine used a couple of cheap nylon dog leashes to make his, and inexpensive import nylon slings are another source of alternate potential raw material. Those wanting olive drab straps instead of black can use the material from the Swiss military web straps offered by Sportsman’s Guide, 6 of them 31 inches long and 14 that are 66" each, all with plastic pinch-release buckles, and under $15 for all 20, their item # 124510. Sportsman's Guide also offers 1-inch wide nylon strapping in 125- yard rolls as their item # 132816, but you don’t get any buckles with that deal. My ballistic pads and inserts have been collected from a variety of sources and applications over the years, but those looking for their own suppliers of those components should check with the offerings of or as possible sources.

Previously I’ve never cared for vests for much other than the specialized ones for aircraft survival gear, [which can be slung over flight deck seats when not in use] M79/M203 ammunition or photographic gear. The polyvalence of having body armor and ballistic plate carriers do double-duty as attach points for web gear is too obvious to avoid, however, particularly since the armor carrier makes the use of web gear or LBE suspenders underneath both hot and uncomfortable, and can restrict access to gear carried underneath. Two bucks [or four] for a pair of shopping bags as a starting place for an armor/gear carry vest seems like a good bargain to me, though you’ll have considerable time and hand work putting one together after you decide just how you want it arranged.

The vests made from 12"x12" bags front and rear work out a little short so far as complete lower torso coverage goes, but that can be an advantage for those who expect to spend lengthy periods seated in vehicles or elsewhere. Adding the extensions like those I used for my SAPI plates provides an additional 6-inch deep pocket that runs horizontally completely along the front of the vest, long enough inside for double-taped "royal" AK or RPK magazines, full-length Sten, Swedish K or Thompson SMG magazines, or for use as a "drop pouch" for expended magazines or recovered clips in the case of my Garands. Those without such concerns can use the long horizontal space for chem-lights, highway flares or pop flares, pistol mags or a gas mask or night vision device, as available.[JWR Adds: I do not advocate taping rifle of SMG magazines "end for end" . This often results in the downward-pointing magazine getting jammed full of mud when you jump down prone. So instead, tape the pair together parallel (with both tops pointing upward.) You can use a short length of dowel, and a pencil, or even a couple of thicknesses of MRE spoon handles between the magazines, to make them angle apart from one another, to provide the necessary magazine well clearance.]

Those who are really tall might want to consider the possibility of stacking two bags piggyback, front and rear- four bucks worth, again. Alternately, that open space beneath the rib cage not well covered by a single bag [or the small of the back, for the rear bag] can be used for a front- attached drop magazine pouch or reversed fanny pack, or in back, for an extension for a poncho or sleeping bag carrier that rides below the 12" x 12" dimensions of the bags. If a fanny pack is used low across the back, the waist straps from it can be used for the waist/belt line connecting straps between the front and rear bags, saving the separate addition of those components. It’s also a common feature on commercial vests to include multiple belt loops extending beneath the vests’ bottom edge at the belt line, allowing an equipment belt to be supported by the vest itself. Such can be added and used if that’s your preference.

One additional word of warning: the allegedly recycled plastic-weave material from which the raw material shopping bags are made does not seem to be especially fireproof or fire-resistant, and the nylon straps added for gear attachment certainly are not. A dunking of the vest in one of the commercially available fireproofing chemical mixtures could be a wise final finishing step once the vest is completed but before other equipment is installed. That may be more of a consideration if you’re an armored fighting vehicle crewman or plan to hang around the exhaust downdraft on either side of a CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter exit ramp, but do be cautious when close to campfires or other open flames, and try not to excessively antagonize anyone operating a flamethrower.

#6: Too-big, worn-soled Moccasins fix: I’d been watching for a decent pair of mocs for most all of last year’s yard sales, but all that turned up [at the last yard sale of the season, of course!] was a pair that was way oversize and had both soles worn through. No worries, for 50 cents for the pair, they were a bargain, just a quarter apiece. I spent part of the winter cutting away the worn-through bottoms and peeling off the glued-on strip of finest plastic beading in the decorative native pattern of the Made in China tribe. On Memorial Day weekend, off I went to the Buckskinners' and Revolutionary War Reenactors’ Rendezvous where the sutlers and craftsmen had set up their booths and tents on Sutler’s Row. I found the guy I was looking for, a leathersmith who offered a resoling service for mocs, with buffalo leather soles for $2 per sole. That gave me a pair of newly-resoled slightly oversize mocs for just under 5 bucks. I added a pair of glue-in padded insoles, let them dry, and then checked their fit: still floppy. The next addition was a pair of $1.98 cotton booties, which I installed by wrapping my feet in plastic shopping bags and then putting on the booties, and then liberally slathering rubber cement over the booties and the places inside the mocs I could reach, pretty much everywhere once I had them turned half-inside-out. Insert glue-coated bootied foot in moccasin, allow to dry, and then repeat on the other foot.

While I was waiting for the second foot’s new addition to dry, I carefully removed my other foot from the first one, leaving the bootie and plastic bag inside. I then had at it with my paramedics’ shears and cut away all of the former bootie that showed outside the edges of the moccasin, then slowly and gently began peeling away the remains of plastic bag from the moc’s interior. Again, by the time I had finished with the first foot the glue had set up enough for me to begin on the second. I set them aside to cure up overnight, and as it turned out, they had all weekend. When I tried them on again, the fit was just right, tight enough to stay in place without flopping or raising blisters, and loose enough I could nudge one off with help from the toes of the other foot.

The insulation from the cold provided by the cotton bootie bottoms was a nice feature, but one I’d have rather avoided for extended summertime wear or for wear in situations in which the things were likely to get soaked. If I hadn’t had the services of the rendezvous craftsman, I could have likely have done a fair job of resoling them myself, or could have let a local shoe repairman- getting harder to find nowadays- do the job. But he did a very tidy job, had materials that were unavailable to me, and the skilled experience he had at doing dozens of pairs of mocs at each of these events he attended far outweighed the cost of his very reasonable price. Interestingly, that leatherworker who did my resole work had another pair he was working on when I picked mine up. Belonging to a big feller pushing over 350 pounds or so, the addition to his mocs included the bottom of a pair of flip-flop shower shoes added as a cushion to the underside of his mocs before the buffalo skin retread went on and concealed that decidedly non-period padding. That combination would indeed help keep ground dampness from morning dew or a light rain off the bottom of one’s feet, though, and if needle and flax or waxed linen shoemaker’s threads weren’t available, at least some similar work could probably be managed with a tube of shoe-goo and/or some staples. And maybe an old pair of cast-off donor flip-flop shower shoes.

Yeah, during this year’s yard sale season, I kept my eyes open for any more good deals on moccasins, with no real sweet finds. But now I’m happy to find any good deal on mocs whether they’re my size or if they happen to be a bit bigger, and smaller ones go into a "trade goods" bucket. Any time I can get a pretty good pair of mocs for under a couple of bucks, I figure I’ve done okay; I spend a lot of time in the things, indoors and out, so spending another five dollars or so on a pair to extend their service life and improve their fit seems like money well spent. That’s not only much less than what a decent pair of even imported lined mocs will run new, but I suspect those buffalo hide soles are going to last me a good long while. And interior padding added to a pair of oversize shoes or boots when nothing else is available could save someone an awful lot of blisters.

#7: Fifty Caliber Spare Ammo Carriers: When a pal of mine managed to scrape up the bucks to get the .50 caliber long-range rifle he’d wanted for some time, he came to me for advice and counsel on ammo and accessories, since I’d gotten myself one as a 50th birthday present a few years back. Could I make one of those two-dollar tac vests [#5 above] for him, but set up for .50 x 99mm Browning MG ammo for his Big Rifle instead of shotgun shells or MOLLE gear? Why sure, I told him, it being just a matter of having three rows of loops per row of shells, the one at the bottom consisting of smaller bullet-diameter loops to keep the cartridge cases from dropping through, the rimless but bottlenecked .50 cases not being as well retained by the top row of webbing as rimmed shotgun shells are. I believe it would have been no great problem to space rows of eight cartridges across the 12-inch space available, but he was happy with a pair of rows of six shells each, with a little extra space in front, a configuration that does make removing them from the loops a bit easier and keeps the vest’s weight down. On the back, he specified an all-web covering, giving him the option of carrying additional ammo in pouches, or canteens, Camelback water bottle, or other useful goodies back there. I don’t expect he intends to do much crawling beneath barbed-wire fences for long distances, especially on his back, while he’s equipped with his big long-range noisemaker.

A dozen rounds is a good beginning for an ammo load out for the big loud rifle, but a way to easily increase that amount by double or triple was still needed. In the big box in one gun shop I visit pretty regularly all sorts of used holsters, pouches and cast-off accessories from trade-in guns can be found. Though I’d pawed through the contents before and noted an odd trio of residents therein, I’d never had a use for the particular items I had encountered and had no immediate use for them. Apparently, other customers had felt the same way, because there they remained, despite price tags of five bucks each. Now they had suddenly become useful; I paid for the three and picked up a fourth one new in the packaging, at a cost more than the three used ones combined. The items in question were vinyl plastic "Sidesaddle" 12 gauge shotgun shell holders meant to be bolted to the side of Mossberg 500 series scatterguns; similar models are available for the Remington 870 and Winchester 1200 guns, and several other models. The problem is that with the aluminum receiver of the Mossberg guns, the receivers can be warped inward if the sidesaddle attaching bolts are overzealously tightened. The previous owners of the guns traded in with their spiffy tactical ammo holders still mounted had apparently found that out the hard way.

One simple answer if using the things on a shotgun, especially if it’s a gun other than the model the device is meant to be mounted upon, is to attach it to the stock instead, using wood screws and/or multiple wraps of tape. In this case instead, the ammunition holders were fitted up to each other, back to back, with a short section of seat belt webbing removed from a junked car mounted in between as a spacer. The spacer web extends just far enough from either end of the two shell carriers to allow a pair of grommets to be added at the corners of both ends. This allows a carry strap with snap hooks to be hooked to them for carry in either a vertical or horizontal position. The strap I favor for the purpose is the one that’s used for the U.S. military 2-quart bladder canteens, since it’s wide, adjustable and comes with a snap hook at either end; the Israelis are also real fond of using these as top-mounted M16A1 rifle slings. Since the ammo being carried is a dozen rounds of .50 caliber instead of a dozen lighter-weight shotgun shells, the wide strap is advisable since it helps spread the load across the shoulders.

With the six-.50 rounds of one carrier facing forward and the others pointed to the rear, [or up and down, if a horizontal carry position is used] it’s a simple matter to peel off individual rounds as needed, either to load the noisy rifle, top up a magazine, or refill the vest loops. If the user prefers to have them all face in the same direction, they can be inserted in that way instead. There’s a possibility that rounds could drop out or be knocked off inadvertently, since the .50 rounds are much longer than the shotgun shells that were fully covered when in the carrier slots. That leverage of the longer ammo can be taken care of by having a pouch on the belt into which the carriers can be dropped when on the move, one on either side, or velcro or snap-on covers can be made and installed.

Those who don’t have a .50 but are looking for a means of carrying a dozen extra reload rounds for a shotgun may also find that fitting two of the sidesaddle carriers mounted back-to-back is a suitable way of doing so, especially if an over-the-shoulder strap is added. That allows a quick "grab-and go" procedure of quickly taking up the shotgun by its sling in one hand and the dozen-round ammo carrier in the other, then tossing the ammo carrier’s strap over a shoulder to free up the hand with the ammo for other purposes.

#8: Knife Handle Repair: While at the local thrift store looking for really big undershirts, white painters’ pants and worn-out, torn or ugly belts [a buck each, and dandy material for knife sheaths or reinforcing cheap import book bag/backpack shoulder straps for more severe duty] I made my usual search of the used kitchen cutlery box; this time I struck pay dirt. With items ranging from 25 cents to an extravagant $2.50, I zeroed in on a 7-inch blade Ontario Knife Co butcher’s knife, with a 50 cent tag sticker on it; when I picked it up I found out why: the wood around the rivets on the starboard side grip scale had split and required repair or replacement. Can do!

Yep, I could have just whittled and sanded a twin of the good one, drilled out the remaining rivets, replaced them, and it would have been almost as good as new. I could even have just epoxied the old handle back on, good for at least a short-term fix, but probably a repair that wouldn’t survive hard use. Instead I took some of that black nylon web strap material left over from building those $2 tac vest/ armor vest insert carriers, and cut a section long enough to go from the back of the blade’s edge along the handle where the grip scale had been, wrapping around the butt of the handle at the end, then back again along the other side to match where I’d begun, but on the other side. Then I cut another one, same length. Mine worked out to just over 91⁄2 inches long; shorter or longer handles would of course require shorter or longer sections. The point, though, is that the length of strap material that covers both sides is made from one continuous strip of web.

The next step is to liberally coat both sides of the knife blade where the handle rests with epoxy [knives that have a short tang instead of full-blade-width material for grip attachment get a different fix, discussed later] and to press the web, not along the sides of the grip where the wood scales had been, but along the top and bottom, again, wrapping around the butt. When the epoxy has tacked up sufficiently to keep the web in place, fold the material sticking out to the sides down against the handle area. Don’t worry if there’s a gap, but if a dry test fit before applying epoxy shows any overlap, you may want to trim a little off the edges so that they neatly butt against each other. At this point I begin wrapping the handle area with plastic shopping bag material cut about a half-inch wide, overlapping each wrap just snug enough to hold the webbing tightly against the handle. When you get up to the end try to tuck the section wrapping around the handle’s end in as tightly as you can; if it won’t cooperate, there’s a cure for that after it’s dried.

Once you’ve completely covered the handle with the plastic bag material wrap, you’re ready for the next step, which is a single-layer wrapping of more of the bag material around the entire handle. At this point, I add a pair of corrugated cardboard pads over the handle area- you may not need it. I then put my handle in a vise and tighten that sucker good, squeezing the epoxy into the nylon web and getting a good bond to the metal beneath. I let it set up overnight at least, a weekend if possible- the directions for your epoxy, room temperature and your experience with your favorite flavor of epoxy may vary. When it’s nicely set up and cured a couple of days later, I peel away the plastic bag strip, and if necessary I’ll then hold that butt section momentarily over a candle if needed to get a good fit on that back-end fold. The idea here is to heat the material just enough to soften it, not for it to catch fire. Again, squashing it in a vise while it cools may help, but if you don’t have a vise, you can do about as well by setting the handle on the edge of a brick on it’s side, using another brick on top for pressure, and adding a concrete block on top of the upper brick for additional weight.

The next step is a repeat of the first, but using that second strap you cut to size, except that this time the web will be placed flat on the handle sides instead of the edges the first strip covered. This time you do really want as good a fit as possible at the back edge of the handle, and this time, since the epoxy is going to bond web-to-web, my first wrapping to secure the web in place while it sets up is a covering of black nylon fishing line. Then I add the plastic bag strip, then squish that feller real good in the vise, and go away for a day or two. Or three.

Unwrapping the bag material is like Christmas, I’m surprised almost every time, sometimes good, sometimes not. If the repair is to your satisfaction, good on you. If not, some more carefully applied heat, a little more epoxy here and/or there, and some more of that fish-line wrap may fix your problem. If not, you can always get out the rasp or a wire wheel on a drill and start over. Or use leather from those cheap thrift store belts instead, though it doesn’t wrap around the ends as well and heat won’t help shrink it to fit- you may be better off cutting a separate piece for each side’s handle if you use leather. I’ve repaired the handles of around a dozen knives and one hammer using variations of this method, some of ‘em toolbox knives that get knocked around and rattle in the box quite a bit. So far, I haven’t had to redo any of the ones I’ve reworked this way, and some of those repairs date back to 2000. Though some folks like to use a loose wrap of cord around the handle so that it can be unrolled and used for alternate purposes in an emergency, I’d rather have the most secure handle possible and carry spare cordage wrapped around a knife’s sheath and as a sheath tie down. That personal preference is up to the user, but I’ve yet to run out of cordage and regret not having access to that epoxied to my knife handle.

As for those knives with narrow tangs or less than full-length material where the handle attaches: I’ve done the same sort of thing with a cord-and-epoxy repair, except that in this instance I use heavy nylon cord [trotline cord from the Sporting Goods department] instead of flat web. If there’s a hole through the tang from a previous attach rivet or screw, I start on one side there, go through any existing or added hole to the other side, and then both radial wrapping and back-and-forth linear runs of cord begin. Once it’s built up enough to act solidly enough as a handle again, a cover made of a short section of that black hollow-center tube webbing can be used if flattish grip sides are preferred. If not, just go at it with more and more trot line, and again, finish up with a finer fishing line or even heavy carpet thread in the color of your choice if desired.

The application of composite cord/epoxy handles is not limited to knife blade repairs of course, but may also be of use to those looking for a way to utilize hacksaw or Sawzall blades made for cutting metal as emergency hand tools. The back-up plan to this application is to use a pair of vise-grip locking pliers as an expedient handle for a metal-cutting saw blade, allowing later use of the blade in the tool for which it was designed if desired or possible, but the added permanent handle is certainly more comfortable for extended in-hand use. Neither should the possibility of adding a handle to a worn-out or broken saw blade reground to a knife edge be overlooked; power hacksaw blades are particularly nice for this application. Those who wish to build their own survival knife with saw teeth on the blade spine and a sharp belly edge can begin with a new power blade, rework that blade to the length and shape they prefer, and add a handle as per the above. Their resulting tool will be at least reasonably capable of either whittling or cutting metals.

#9: BugOut Bag folding fork and spoon [or "Spork".] This one is an idea that’s neither new nor original, but like the others is one that’s been further modified to fit my particular needs and the material available to start the project. In this case, I wanted a compact fork and spoon for use with both my personal bugout bag, as well as extras for the 30-day supply bags carried in my vehicles. My first attempt consisted of simply shortening a pair of the utensils in question, then drilling a hole in their shorter handles for a connecting lanyard or key chain. But they rattled.

During the Second World War, some German troops were equipped with a mess kit fork-and-spoon combination that had the handles of the utensils shortened even more, then were joined by a rivet that served as a pivot, allowing them to fold and nest into each other nice and compact. When folded out, the opposing tool became the handle end for its partner, allowing shorter handles than if they had been separate items. I cut the handles of my first-draft unit down further, drilled them for the pivot and joined them together. Opened, the utensil’s fork was sturdy enough to assault combative peas, or, with the other end, the spoon was ready for the annihilation of soups. Folded, the unit was compact enough to slip handle-first into the side of a first-aid or compass carry pouch, through one of the webbing loops of a tac vest or armor plate carrier, or, temporarily, in the top of one’s boot if the cuffs are bloused into it.

I began my initial limited production run of enough of the folding utensils for my BugOut Bag, 3-day pack and 30-day packs, plus one each for the glove boxes of each of three vehicles, and a couple of spares. Improvements/additions included grinding a flat screwdriver tip on the end of either handle just past the rivet, one that is narrow enough to service M1911 grip screws and my pocketknife blade pivot screws, and the other a bit wider. Adding a second pair of smaller holes further down the handle with another rivet set into one handle so that the rivet’s head acted as a detent into the mating hole in the handle of its partner made the lockup of the unit more positive when in the open position. And naturally I added a small hole for a dummy cord lanyard to prevent loss either from dropping or absent-mindedly setting it down and forgetfully walking away from it. This is why they’re called dummy cords.

It turned out that the first dozen I built for myself weren’t enough: others who’ve been around me when I’ve been using mine have asked me to build one or more for them too. I’ve also got a simpler variation that simply consists of a fork-and-spoon pair riveted together end-to-end but doesn’t fold. That version goes along with bulk packages of food in storage, along with a P-38 military folding can opener. The two items can be connected together by key chain, one of the ubiquitous mini-carabiner snap links or a chain repair link, or on a lanyard cord long enough for the useful tools to be carried or temporarily draped around a user’s neck.

#10: Shoestrings. Speaking of hanging things on a cord around one’s neck: I frequently keep a quarter-sized "button" compass and small pocketknife around my neck on a spare bootlace; and some of us old-timers include a military P-38 C-ration can opener as well, even though the days of the issue of C-rats are long gone. This used to be a common practice when I was in the military, threading the bootlace cord into the plastic protective tubing we put over our dog tag chains to keep the cold chain off our bare skin. I’ve yet to really need these minimalist survival tools, though I’ll be glad enough to have them if I do suddenly have a critical use for them, but the extra boot lace has come in handy numerous times. Sometimes that’s actually been as a replacement for a shoelace that’s broken on a shoe or boot, but there’s a swell flash of realization when you really need a short length of strong cord and then remember you’ve got one handy right around your neck.

Variations on this idea include using braided nylon #550 pound test parachute suspension line, also known as "parachute cord" instead, or using fisherman’s twisted cord trot line, both of which are available in a variety of colors and sizes/strengths. The #18 twisted nylon cord I use is rated at 113 pounds test, and the thicker #36 cord is listed as good for 320 pounds; if anything stronger is required I reach for my roll of parachute suspension line. Short sections of any suitable cordage are useful as "dummy cord" lanyards for weapons, knives or other critical gear, especially when in or around boats, snowmobiles, or motorcycles. Cord can be such an excellent replacement for the metal ALICE equipment clips for U.S. belt equipment that some military users pitch all their metal fasteners; just be sure and use at least two separately knotted cord loops as the silent and nonmetallic replacement for each ALICE clip if you do this- and three per is better.

I’ve also known one trooper who used military issue WD-1/TT commo wire as replacement boot laces in a pinch; the civilian-world equivalent would be stereo speaker wire. Clearly, he didn’t have an extra bootlace worn around his neck...
Final thoughts: My adaptations, field expedients, and shade-tree modifications are ones that were suitable for the tasks I’ve had at hand, the tools I’ve had available, and the skill levels and experience I’ve got at working with the tools I had for what I was doing. Changing materials or methods may be perfectly suitable for your needs, you may conclude that some of the items or modifications just aren’t worth the trouble, or that the expenditure of a few more bucks on more specific-purpose items is a better idea- and for you, that may well be. For others, some of these adaptations may be the only gear that fits a minimalist budget, or that allows the purchase of other necessities. In other cases, some of the items presented here may serve as spares, with better top-grade [and top-dollar!] equipment better used for the job at hand until it fails from overuse or is otherwise expended- and my low-bucks methodology may give you a back up plan to turn what might have been a disastrous shortage into an inconvenience. As with all things, your mileage may vary, and remember that all of my demonstrations have been performed by a professional on a closed course.

Way back in the early days of World War Two, when wartime shortages and rationing began to affect stateside consumers, a motto appeared by which many, perhaps most of those recent survivors of the Hoover-Roosevelt Depression lived. Some thirty-five years later it was revived and applied to those living in politically [and physically] embargoed Rhodesia, also engaged in a war, theirs simultaneously against foreign invaders, domestic terrorists and sellout politicians [in England and] within. Now there may be another resurgence of the applicability of that motto, and we may soon be in a much better position both to more clearly understand and appreciate the creativity and resourcefulness of those who lived by those words earlier, as well as finding a few of their earlier methods and techniques useful in our time as well: "Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!"

Friday, January 2, 2009

Good Morning, Jim!
I am a long-time regular reader here with a question. On your blog you've been recently posting about various web gear, etc. I have long desired to build some of my own gear using nylon straps and high strength plastic buckles, tensioners, and adjustment components typically found on outdoor gear. The problem has been finding a source/supplier for these components. Do you have any recommendations?
Thank You, - John Geerman

JWR Replies: In my experience, piece parts for Fastex buckles and similar parts are ridiculously expensive if bought new in small quantities in a "brick and mortar" retail store. Lower prices can be found in bulk online (for example, at eBay), REI (Fastex quick release buckles and "tri-glides") and Reef Scuba (for nylon webbing material). But I've found that it is often best to simply find "trashed" military surplus backpacks and well-used older generation Load Bearing Vests (LBVs), and cannibalize them for their hardware. Check around at your local surplus stores to see what they have.

The Swiss Army surplus waterproof Alpine backpack extensions, for example, have a profusion of redundant hardware--including the hardware and straps such as the extraneous tie-down straps like those designed to hold down a Swiss "Darth Vader" helmet when stowed on the back of the pack. If you take half of these off, you still have a quite useful waterproof bag, plus a big pile of male and female Fastex type connectors, short length of straps, and tensioners.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In a recent post you mentioned unbuckling your ALICE belt when going prone. I learned a little trick in ROTC using a carabiner and two pieces of 550 [parachute] cord. First, adjust belt the way you want it. Second, tie the two pieces of 550 cord onto the end of the ALICE belt and hook them together with the carabiner. Adjust the length of the 550 cord to get the slack needed when going prone. This allows you to keep your belt buckled but when you need additional slack, just release the buckle and the 550 cord keeps the belt from flopping around too much. Don't tie the 550 cord together, as the carabiner allows you to unhook the belt quickly if you fall into a creek or river and need to dump your LBE - Bill N.

Dear Jim:
Thank you for referring readers to us for advice on web gear. At BulletProofME Body Armor we are authorized dealers for Blackhawk and SpecOps tactical nylon gear, but really our focus is body armor. Normally we only do quantity orders for tactical nylon, outside of specific armor-related items we stock. But we can give some good advice on the questions to ask to help avoid major mistakes.
There is such a huge selection to choose from these days, and so many different situations, it is hard to give universal advice. Some basic questions are in order - and probably mandatory to remind “gear freaks” to keep it practical! ;-) . There is no one right solution, and all solutions have tradeoffs:

1. What are the possible situations / circumstances ? Under contract for a year of security duty in “the Sandbox”, or trying to keep the neighborhood secure during a power outage… As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind".

2. What do you really need to carry? More weight and bulk = less mobility. versus “two is one, and one is none”.

3. How discreet do you need to be? A basic kit on a belt might be preferred to avoid the martial image that a full chest and drop leg rig gives off. On the other hand, if you were doing a ‘Neighborhood Watch on Steroids” in a post-Hurricane Katrina type situation, you might want to be more overtly armed and armored to deter looters.

4. In a similar vein, does the setup identify you as one of the good guys? In a chaotic active shooter incident you don’t want to be the recipient of “friendly fire”.

5. Used with, or without a backpack, or day pack?

6. Can you access your most time-critical items standing, kneeling, sitting, prone - or in a vehicle? (By the way, the practice of putting lots of equipment on the belly area is a really bad idea when you really need to get low and prone…)

7. Can you get in a vehicle and drive reasonably comfortably with the rig on?

8. Can you keep your pistol and spare mag in the same place whether it is concealed carry, open carry, or on a tactical rig? This is so that your pistol draw (and spare magazine draw) are always the same in your muscle memory. You probably don’t have the time to do the amount of draw practice you really should right now - why add another draw to practice? Keep it simple for your muscle memory with less chance of a slow or fumbled reaction under life-threatening stress.
A similar line of reasoning applies to rifle magazine pouch placement - keep it simple and consistent.
For example, assuming you are not a full-time SWAT officer, holsters on drop legs are probably not such good idea, unless you can really make the time to practice a different draw stroke until it becomes instinctive under high stress. (We do recommend drop legs for additional ballistic protection and secondary pouches.)
A belt attached to armor is a great idea to keep it consistent, and all one piece.

9. How fast can you put the gear on? Waking up to the sound of breaking glass at 3 a.m., or a patrol officer pulling up to a bad scene - then it had better be fast to throw on. Keeping it to just a belt is faster, or all web gear on one piece of armor with MOLLE [attachment points].

Some options for speed:

Spare ammo already on the rifle
A “Grab and Go-bag”
Bandoleers (Note that these can flop around, but they are very fast to throw on.

Yours truly, - Nick at

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I love the questions on web gear. Best advice I can give, having gone through multiple iterations of trying this and that, is to divide up your load. What do I mean by this?

In the military they have a “combat load” and an “approach load” concept. Your “combat load” is the web gear that you see troops with all the time – their “battle rattle.” On the other hand the “approach load” is similar to what we would refer to as a survival load (roughly).

The major problem with web gear is that it does not work with any backpack that has a waist belt unless you set it up to not carry anything on the pistol belt unless it is carried with a drop leg (thigh) type of setup. Oops, no ammo pouches or canteens on the pistol belt. That means that forget the cheap ALICE gear etc. unless you plan on walking only for a day and not even spending the night in bad weather. You have to go with a vest type setup right out of the gate if you want to use a large backpack.

Personally, I have used an Enhanced Load Bearing Vest (ELBV) and H-harness that can carry eight M16 magazines in chest mounted pouches, or a no-name (custom made) survival vest that carries magazine pouches on the belly with some success. I prefer the ELBV as it can take all the cheap ALICE gear in a pinch. It also does not dig into me when I go prone like the other vest (which I only use when I am out hunting any more as it makes the perfect day pack with minimal survival gear – which is what it was designed for). I then have my pistol in a drop leg holster so that it rides below both the pistol belt and the backpack waist belt. On the other side I have a knife in a drop sheath and pistol magazine pouches in a drop leg configuration (holster and magazine pouches from Black hawk).

Water is in a hydration bladder inside the backpack as well as two one quart canteens (you can’t beat the old canteen cup and canteen cup stove with any modern gear) and two two quart canteens in or on the backpack. I would recommend people look at the Kifaru line of backpacks – they are rock solid (mine has survived three trips to the Middle East and one swing through Afghanistan) and built by the guy that started Mountain Smith. They are pricey but they don’t fail in the field and wear like a dream.

I also carry on the outside of the backpack a Camelbak hydration pack with 100 ounces of water. It has just enough carrying capacity to make up for the butt pack that I used to carry on my pistol belt (poncho, some food, and SERE gear). In a fight I can ditch the backpack in under a minute, get the Camelbak on, get one of the two one quart canteens clipped on, and shove the Russian Spetsnaz shovel into the loops on the Camelbak (designed to carry ice axes) after I take it off of the larger backpack. So, while not perfect it is the best thing I have found to date.

A couple of tips no matter what brand/setup you go with. First, go prone and roll around on the ground. Your magazine pouches should not dig (try to land on one if it digs into your diaphragm …) and at least some of them should be accessible regardless of the position you are in. Second, you should be able to roll over and over and low crawl with the rig. I saw one kid with a ton of gear not be able to get low enough behind a street curb one time and he ended up a casualty. [JWR Adds: One reason that I prefer traditional pistol belts and suspenders is that by simply unbuckling the pistol belt latch, any pouches in the front can be pushed to the sides (putting all the weight on the suspenders), allowing the wearer to low crawl effectively.] Remember that hard objects in your backpack become shrapnel when hit by bullets. Third, when you jump up and down you should not make any noise.

When you are done with your web gear buying and backpack buying and you start to load up, keep this in mind. On your web gear you only want those things that you will need in a fight.

The Colonel that was portrayed in the movie “Blackhawk Down” now has an infantry battalion in Iraq. Because of his experience with the [Mogadishu] “Blackhawk Down” affair he now never leaves his compound without having at least 30 loaded magazines on him. Plus he carries a combat lifesaver kit. This outfit has the best ones on the market today. - Hugh D.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
I just wanted to get the word out to all that have not heard yet, all non-CARB (California Air Resources Board)-approved fuel cans will be no longer be sold nationwide [in the US] after January 1, 2009. That means you will not be able to buy any more of the ever-so-useful NATO gas cans to store fuel in and I assume any other fuel can that does not meet this new regulation. I know this is a little late to post this, I just found out myself a few days ago. I talked to Maine Military Surplus this morning and they still have a few left and are expecting a new shipment soon although they had to pay more for the latest ones. With shipping these were just over $26 apiece. Anyone who thought this was a free country needs to think again.

Thanks so much for all you do, Mr. Rawles. I hope you and yours had a very Merry Christmas. - S. in Oklahoma


I read the recent post on CARB compliant gas cans that are going to be mandatory for the US in January. Here in Pennsylvania we've had them in place for a while now. It might be good to let your readers know what they're in for.

My first words of advice to anyone in a non-CARB compliant state -- go buy any "old style" gas cans that you can find now if you need them. The new CARB compliant cans are a real pain in the rump to use. The CARB compliant cans are the most over-engineered product I've ever seen. They're airtight, child-proof, and typically require 3 hands to get gas out of them. The first models used a spout that hooked onto the lip of a gas tank and needed to be pressed in to actually let gas out. Newer models use a lever-style handle that's easier to deal with, but there's a child-proof tab that needs to be pulled back before the lever can be pressed. Fortunately that child proof tab can be removed out in about five seconds to make the cans much more user-friendly. The CARB compliant cans are ventless; there's no more little vent opening and the venting is actually done through the spout. This prevents evaporation that occurs when the vent spout is open, but it means that air has to come in while gas flows out and that makes emptying a can much slower. It also means that older spouts won't work well with new CARB compliant cans because they aren't designed for venting through the spout. Emptying a 5 gallon CARB compliant gas can through its supplied venting spout takes about 5-to-6 minutes -- but it seems a lot longer when you're holding the heavy can with one hand and pressing the pour lever with the other.

Fortunately, I've found a solution to the whole CARB compliance debacle -- the tried and true siphon hose. I recently bought a "Super Siphon" from Boat Show Products -- what a great product! Unlike the CARB compliant spouts, the Super Siphon can empty a fives gallon can in two minutes or less. I was looking for the fastest and easiest way to fill up my cars from gas cans. The super siphon fits the bill. It uses a ball-check valve to let liquid in but not back out, so there's no manual sucking gas through the hose required. You just shake the check-valve end of the siphon hose up and down into the gas can until the gas fills the hose and starts the flow then physics takes over and the gas moves. I position the gas can I'm filling from on a step ladder to keep it higher than the car's gas tank opening. No mess, no heavy cans to hold and the fuel gets transferred quickly. Plus, I don't need to stand there holding the can while it fills - my hands are free and I can pay attention to something other than the gas can (Like getting the next can ready to go).

I have no business connection with the Super Siphon or the vendor, I'm just a happy customer. I just wanted to pass the info along to anyone who stores gas for a bug-out situation. There are other similar siphons on the market and it might even be possible to build your own if you can find the check-valve piece somewhere. I highly recommend that everyone who intends to fill their car with a gas can at some point actually try it. Most CARB compliant cans don't have nozzles long enough to fill a car, and even if they did it's a challenging if not impossible hold the can, fumble with the child safety lock and the gas release lever all while trying to keep the gas flowing into the 3/4 inch opening of the gas tank. Siphoning is definitely the way to go.
Thanks for you blog; I've enjoyed reading it. - Doug in Pennsylvania

JWR Replies: Thanks for your letter. An even faster method than a siphon pump is a homemade 12 VDC fuel transfer pump. Every prepared family should have one or two of these.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
Thank you very much for your web site. I have been reading it every day for the last two months. It is a wealth of knowledge. Read your book as well. I have been researching food, water et cetera for quite a while and your site has helped a great deal. My family will be quite prepared for whatever in short order. The one thing that ha me confused is web gear/tac vest/ALICE gear. In your book you refer to a certain type of web gear but I am having trouble putting all of the pieces together. I am ex-Coast Guard and not at all familiar with land gear. What web gear goes with what pack and belt, et cetera? Can you help me with a list of compatible gear or recommend a book or manual? Thanks, - Kurt in Washington

JWR Replies: There are umpteen opinions out there on web gear, so take the following as just one man's view. Although they are currently all the rage, I am not a fan of load bearing vests. I still primarily use the old tried-and-true ALICE gear, although I have upgraded from the traditional "Y" suspender harness to the more heavily-padded Eagle Industries Ranger "H"-harness.

The new modular MOLLE (spoken "Molly") vests are more versatile than the older-generation Woodland camouflage vests that have stitched-in magazine pouches, but I prefer having nearly everything handy at belt level. I've found that it is slow and cumbersome to get magazines in an out of pouches that are any higher than my solar plexus. So that is why I'm still an ALICE LC-2 vintage dinosaur. But as they say, "Your mileage may vary" (YMMV).

Adding body armor to the equation changes things considerably, since full Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) with a MICH helmet weighs anywhere from 19 to 25 pounds, depending on sizes and how many add-on pieces--such as upgraded SAPI plates--are included. And keep in mind that those figures do not include the weight of ammo, magazines, a full hydration bladder, and various wunderkind gadgets. When wearing non-concealment body armor, a load bearing vest/carrier does make sense. Talk to the folks at (one of our advertisers) for details on getting set up with body armor, pouches, and hydration systems that are practical and comfortable. As I've mentioned before, fitting is crucial with body armor, so talk with an experienced dealer with a big inventory and responsive customer service policies that can fit you properly.

Here is a brief overview on the older ALICE generation US military web gear. Greater detail can be found in FM 21-15, "Care And Use Of Individual Clothing And Equipment", which can often be found at, Midway,, and

Here is a PDF of a Fact Sheet on the latest MOLLE generation US military web gear. Since this is the era of the high tech Stryker soldier, most of the "documentation" for MOLLE gear is actually in the form of instructional DVDs. Oddly, I've never seen these DVDs for sale in the civilian world. (But no doubt the Airsoft Mall Ninjas have a secret distribution system, via Bit Torrents or some such.)

The majority of ALICE and MOLLE items will interchange--meaning that in most instances you can clip an ALICE magazine pouch onto a MOLLE vest, or attach a MOLLE pouch onto a ALICE belt. Don't be worried about mismatched colors or camouflage patterns. Practical civilian survival "ain't a beauty contest." In real world camouflage, randomness is a good thing. Anyone that tries to tell you that all your gear has to be "color coordinated" is a poseur.

Both ALICE and MOLLE gear is available from U.S. Cavalry Store. (BTW, if you follow that link then we'll get a little piece of the action when you order.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

The blog post regarding diesel gelling is correct for the most part. However there are solutions that are easy and inexpensive. There are many aftermarket additives that will keep your fuel oil from gelling and also raise the cetane level of the fuel. The cetane level is similar to the octane level of gasoline, the higher the better it burns. DieselKleen, Stanadyne and others are good choices. My 6.0L Ford F350 gets a full mile per gallon better mileage with the addition of DieselKleen and I have not had a single engine problem in over two years of operation. One gallon of DieselKleen is about $17 dollars at Wal-Mart and treats 300 gallons of diesel fuel. For climates where freezing temperatures are a concern, make sure to purchase an additive that has anti-gelling properties. DieselKleen in the silver container is the anti-gelling formula. Hope this helps. - Jim T.


Those of us who live in Canada (in my case 60 miles northeast of Toronto) and drive diesel vehicles (1990 diesel Land Cruiser, HDJ81) know the problem of diesel gelling all too well.
However there are measures you can take to lessen the problem, e.g. add an anti-gelling diesel additive with every fill up, the amount varies with brand). In addition install a heater on your oil pan, a block heater to warm the coolant, and lastly and by no means least, wrap your battery (two batteries, in my case) with an electrically heated battery blanket. Also, use a lighter weight oil in the winter, such as 5W40. Regards, - Mark N.

JWR Replies: As this article (cited in Eric's letter) describes, unfortunately the currently available selection of additives do not work in preventing wax dropout in the new USLD formulations.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mr. Rawles;
In the event of total meltdown, have you thought about using bulletin board systems (BBSes) as a means of communicating? If, and that could be a big if, the phone land lines were still operating, but ISPs were down, then a BBS would be a excellent way to keep folks informed. Pre-Internet I ran BBSes with multiple phone lines with great success. Just an idea.

Also, while on that topic, has there been any discussion as to shortwave frequencies that you may support? Is there/are base stations set up for relays of news and information? A survival Net so-to-speak. I come from a hard core marine/yacht background and the are cruiser nets worldwide, depending on what ocean you are in at the moment. Something like that for landbase usage would, to my way of thinking, help to ease folks' minds, pass on latest news and to quiet down the rumor mills that spout false info. I can't stress the need for people to become well versed in the ownership and usage of shortwave amateur sets. They can be had on the cheap and be in use now! This is not something that you have to stash away until you need it but a tool that you can enjoy for years to come. They are also a good way to access e-mail accounts when your current provider is down. I won't this all this here as there are books on this topic and pages of programs that will work with a SSB/Ham system, either land-based or marine based. - LAS

JWR Replies: Since traditional telephone services, DSL, cellular services, ISPs, and the Internet are all more or less dependent on grid power, I expect them to all go down within a few days of each other, in the event of major catastrophe. There will, however, be some utility in ham radio based packet radio and digipeter networks, that can operate like BBS servers and even like a quasi-Internet. These can operate over long distances in the HF ham bands. There are also some regional 2 Meter Band networks that are partially served by photovoltaic-powered repeaters. So parts of those networks might also remain intact. Because many older hams are retiring, there are lots of used radios and packet TNCs on he market, selling for very reasonable prices.

Rather than "re-invent the wheel", I recommend joining and expanding existing packet HF BBS networks, such as those listed at One word of warning: Do not just bookmark the Totse page. Like all the other World Wide Web pages, the Totse page will vanish if the power grid goes down. So be sure to print out an updated hard copy, roughly twice a year. (Mark your calendar.)

I also recommend joining an existing topic-based scheduled ("same time, same frequency") HF ham call in. Perhaps some SurvivalBlog readers that are active hams can recommend an existing scheduled meeting time and frequency to discuss preparedness topics.

Parenthetically, I should mention that since the sunspot number is currently fairly low, this is now a great time to join a network. (If you can get connectively now--with such poor skywave propagation--then odds are that you will be able to do sp just about anytime in the future!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
I came across this today, and thought you'd be interested: Police: WIU students arrested with cache of weapons.

The key points are:
1.) They were stopped for speeding and their truck searched
2.) Both men had gun permits
3.) They were arrested for possession of firearms and ones' home searched
4.) Both are now facing legal battles - [even though] no laws [other than the speed limit] have apparently been broken

Blessings & Good Health, - Christine

JWR Replies: A few of my observations:

Did you notice the box for the FN FS2000? It looks like they had a big gun-buying budget.

If they were indeed just out hunting, then why were they wearing body armor? That seems a bit odd, but they were certainly in their rights to do so.

I have my doubts about the article's mention of a "silencer." Odds are that either a. ) It wasn't really a suppressor--just a misidentified muzzle brake, or flash hider, or b.) It was an NFA-registered suppressor. The bottom line is that they may not have been doing anything illegal, other than exceeding the posted speed limit. (Although I have no idea if it legal to carry a loaded firearm in a private automobile in Illinois like in The Unnamed Western State (TUWS), where I live. Knowing Illinois, I suspect that they've restricted that right.)

It is curious that the illinois journalist mischaracterized the four guns (one rifle and one pistol per man) as a "weapons cache". That is a pretty modest quantity for a "cache". In Texas, in fact, that would be considered traveling "lightly armed."

And on the lighter side, here is a bit of conjecture, from your friendly Editor: Can you imagine if this had happened in Wyoming instead of Illinois? The exchange probably would have gone something like this:

Deputy: "Do you know why I pulled you over?

Student: "I think it was because I was going 70 in a 55 zone.The 70 zones are so much more common, so that's what feels like a normal speed to me."

Deputy: "You boys need to slow down, especially after dark. Consider this a warning.

Student: "My apologies, officer. I'll do my best to keep a closer eye on the speedometer."

Deputy: "Whatcha boys doing out here with those NVGs?

Student: "Huntin' coyotes."

Deputy: "Had any luck? I hear the price of pelts is was up this year. Oh, you should watch for bobcats, too. I hear those pelts are fetching $800 apiece for nice ones. Now don't forget to slow down. Good luck with your hunt, boys."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Here's a beginner's list I made for my [elderly] father today:

{Brown pearl] rice does not store well. Neither does cooking oil so that needs to be fresh. No, Crisco doesn't count.
Coconut oil would be your best bet.
Wheat berries - 400 pounds - bulk order at your local health food store
Beans - 400 pounds - bulk order at your local health food store
Mylar bags
Country Living grain mill
propane tanks, small stove and hoses to connect
freeze dried fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat if you can find them.
500 gallons of water [storage capacity. Rainwater catchment is a common practice in Hawaii]
Water filter

Cast Iron Cookware

FN PS 90

10 PS 90 magazines

5.7 handgun

10 FN 5.7 handgun magazines

5.7 ammo

Training: Front Sight four day defensive handgun course. (Note: eBay sometimes has course certificates for $100!)

Body armor: Nick at

Personal medications
Augmentin antibiotic
Up to date dental work
Anti-fungal spray

$10,000 cash in small bills
100 one-ounce silver coins ( or

Gasoline in 5 gallon cans or better yet, this.
Gas stabilizer
Mountain bikes
Air pump

Rechargeable Batteries
Battery charger
Hand held walkie talkies
Topographical map of your area
Spare eyeglasses
Shortwave radio
Home generated power
12 volt battery system
Good backpack
Good knife
Good compass
Good shoes
Bar soap
Dental floss
Toilet paper
Fishing kit
Salt licks
Connibear traps

Regards, - SF in Hawaii

JWR Adds: The following is based on the assumption that SF's father also lives in Hawaii: Because of the 10 round magazine limit for handguns, I recommend that Hawaiians purchase only large bore handguns for self defense--such as .45 ACP. Both the Springfield Armory XD .45 Compact or the Glock Model 30 would both be good choices. The "high capacity" advantage of smaller caliber handguns is not available to civilians in Hawaii, so you might as well get a more potent man stopper, given the arbitrary 10 round limitation.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Howdy Mr. Rawles!
Before I begin, I’d like to offer my congratulations on your fine novel being republished. I’ve read it once myself, then again to my family (I hate television, reading is good family entertainment) which should be considered high accolades in itself. Currently my copy is in the Pacific Northwest, bound for the midwest next, as it continues to travel the country within my circle of friends.

I read the posted letter by R.P. on 26 August, and associated recommendations on holsters, slings, and web gear, and thought I’d offer some discussion on the matter:

The main reason pistols are currently worn on thigh rigs has less to do with ‘CDI’ [“Chicks Dig It”] factor and more to do with accessibility. When one wears a vest festooned with pouches, the bulk of these tend to hinder proper presentation of the pistol when the holster is worn conventionally on the pants belt. That is, if the pants belt can even be seen, as most wear their vests low enough to preclude such. The addition of body armor only exacerbates the situation. The pistol, therefore, is typically moved elsewhere – mostly onto a thigh rig or integrated into the vest itself. This is far from a new style though – the old leather 1911 holsters hung down from the frog clip to accomplish the same purpose.

As you noted, thigh holsters typically aren’t comfortable while ‘on the move’ . They are good for one thing though, and that’s an assault. Thus the reason that laden troops are often seen with them – those troops are equipped for an assault. Additionally, a conventionally mounted holster will typically interfere with a ruck waist belt. If not precluding ruck use entirely, at a minimum compromising comfort.

I’ve been working through these issues for years, and have come to some conclusions:

No one rig will ‘do it all’. Compromises abound and are mandatory. For the vast majority of time (as it applies to me) a light vest, at the
most, is all that is called for.

I am not personally a fan of the heritage [LC-1/LC-2 series] deuce gear. Not that the concept is wrong, bad, or anything else – but the ALICE clips (or as my associates and I came to call them, “meat hooks”) really did need to be jettisoned. They rub body parts raw, blistered, and cause other similar problems when used for any significant length of time. As well, the magazine pouches were designed more for extreme magazine retention and protection (security) than allowing a speedy reload, and the closure hardware on them never was very robust. When I had evolved my deuce gear as far as it would go, my pouches were all lashed to the pistol belt with gutted paracord. Using the grommets of the belt and the freshly-emptied ALICE clip slots on the pouches, paracord can be worked tight enough to prevent pouch movement laterally and vertically. Another consideration is that by using paracord, there is less metal to clink against other items. This technique worked well in my opinion, and happened to be identical to the way – in both layout and attaching - one of my closest friends independently evolved his LBE in Ranger school. If one is really attached to that generation of equipment, then I recommend this method of pouch attachment, as it is a quantum step up in comfort! Just make sure that the knots are oriented away from your body and melted somewhat, to prevent them from coming loose and the paracord sheathing from unraveling.

In my opinion the new generation of MOLLE load bearing vest (LBV) is superior to the old deuce gear - of course allowing that everyone is different. Not only are the MOLLE vests superior in comfort, but the modularity offers the capability of repositioning your pouches to find the placement where they feel best for that individual. I personally prefer the slightly older models that use two buckles in the front, as opposed to a zipper. Conveniently, these vests are low enough in cost that purchasing one per rifle, carbine, or shotgun isn’t cost prohibitive.

Like R.P. and yourself, I have attended Front Sight. I’ve also attended other top-notch institutions – I typically attend at least one course per year. As such, it should come as no surprise that after significant attempts at finding “a better way”, I also advocate using a conventionally mounted belt holster. It seems we prefer the same manufacturers as well – Blade-Tech and Milt Sparks specifically. The Milt Sparks folks talked me into trying the Summer Special II and I’ve been happily using that for the last three years or so and actually prefer it to the original Summer Special. I would also add Lou Alessi to the recommended holster-maker list, as I’ve been using his leather belt holsters for the last decade or so and am quite taken by his execution of the old Bruce Nelson design, which Lou calls the DOJ holster. Specifically, I prefer the slightly modified version he made for Dick Heinie. Those can still be ordered as such directly from Lou, as Dick quit carrying them. I’ve used several gun belts over the years, but eventually stuck with the Riggers Belt offered by The Wilderness. I prefer mine with the optional 5-stitch reinforcement, to make the belt less flexible under load.

I have found that the key to proper pistol presentation when wearing a vest is to have the vest ride high enough that it doesn’t interfere with the holstered pistol; not quite as high as a chest rig, but almost. As well, when laying out the pouches for attachment, I leave a open area on my front and both sides; approximately 10:45 to 1:15, 2:00 to 4:30, and 7:30 to 10:00 are all open space. This allows unimpeded access to a properly holstered pistol, as well as the spare pistol magazines and such on the opposite hip. The open area directly to my front is so that I can assume a solid prone position without lying on full magazine pouches; I space the pouches such that they act as wheel chocks when I’m in the prone. With the vest riding at this height, other items can be carried on the belt with decent access – a knife, pistol magazines, flashlight, multi-tool, and compass for example. With all that open area though, the vest really doesn’t carry much. As I’m not employed to assault enemy positions, I don’t need an assault vest. What I do need – and what the vest provides – is water, more ammo for the pistol and carbine, navigation, communications, and a blow-out kit. If called for, a PVS-14 or PVS-7D in rigid case can be quickly and securely attached to the water carrier on the back. As the unofficial motto of my favorite school says, “shoot, move, and communicate”, this vest is geared to meet those needs. What it is not geared to meet is self-sustainability. This vest shouldn’t be confused with a rig meant for patrolling, what one would choose to wear when knowingly venturing into unfriendly areas, or anything to sustain oneself longer than a few hours. Essentially this is a vest to be worn when contact isn’t expected, just something to work ones way back to a nearby resupply.

For the applications where the light vest isn’t sufficient, a ruck is called for, as well as a vest that works well with a ruck but also has the volume capabilities for sustainability. Of course, this is a trade-off, and there are many trade-offs involved in choosing kit. As always, determined by METT-T [Mission,+Enemy,+Terrain,+Troops+Time Available]. At this time, for a patrolling / heavy vest, I’m evaluating the K171 Arktis model. It’s heavier, bulkier, doesn’t allow unimpeded pistol usage (the pistol is stowed in a cross draw integral holster and meant to provide security over speed), and favors security over speed in reloading – but it does carry a patrolling load well.

On the topic of slings, I realize this is personal preference, but I prefer different slings for different applications. On a battle rifle or a precision rifle, I prefer the Quick-Cuff from Tactical Intervention Specialists. I’d been using these slings for years before our military adopted them as part of issue sniper kit - they really are top-drawer quality. I’ve used them on long-range courses and competitions and never regretted it. It doesn’t do anything that a good loop sling doesn’t do – it just does it faster and easier. For shotguns and carbines, it’s difficult to find better than the Giles or Vickers slings, in my opinion. When set-up such that the buttplate is approximately one fist height below the chin, these work very well.

At this point though, I’d like to reiterate your admonition that training must be sought. If a trip into the Arizona or Nevada deserts, the Oregon mountains, the Oklahoma hills, isn’t a viable option at the moment, then I also advocate the Appleseed Program [rifle matches and clinics]. These fine, hospitable folks will get you spooled up on the basics of marksmanship quickly and efficiently – I should know, I’ve been volunteering as an instructor for almost a year now. All the best, and God Bless! - Bravo

Friday, June 27, 2008

One of the constant knocks by the mainstream media on the preparedness movement is the oft-touted canard that preparedness, indeed the “survivalist” mindset is nothing more than an excuse by far-right loons to engage in Rambo-esque fantasies of firearms, firefights and macho posturing. While there is a scintilla of truth to this in some far dark quarters of doomsday lunacy, it is for the most part fiction. (This matches JWR’s caveat on discussing unregistered suppressors [in the US] or other illegal preparations). So that we bring no discredit on what is nothing more than prudence, perhaps a few short observations can be proffered here so those of a serious nature can learn to assume a proper martial mindset without resorting to hysteria.

Preparedness, survival, or any other euphemism one can assign to our interest is as much mindset as gear, land or other physical manifestation of prudence. It is in itself a way of life that incorporates simple daily teachings, practice, and when training, the incorporation of real-life situational aspects that can better model an actual emergency scenario or a situation of social unrest. Any competent defense professional will say that greatest advantage in warfare is information, followed by logistics, then combat power. It’s no use having the greatest army in the world if you don’t know where the enemy is nor if you can’t you feed your troops. As Napoleon so famously postulated, an army marches on its stomach.

So with those adages in mind, how does one prioritize daily living to more readily understand these concepts? We all have things we do on a daily basis, so the question of incorporation becomes one of time management, especially given the marvelous source of information now available in today’s 24 hour “always on” culture. For instance, instead of perusing the morning newspaper or watching the morning breakfast, find several reputable financial news sources such as the online versions of the The Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. Start educating yourself on how markets move, how seemingly insignificant moves in commodities or futures, such as pork or wheat can have a direct impact on your daily life. This also gives you markers to start creating your own scenario planning data for acquisition planning, and in the worst case, a timeline for moving to your retreat. American’s are notorious for living in a bubble, in what is now a deeply materialistic culture, and missing the obvious signs of downturns both in the US and abroad. This new discipline has an upside as well, in that by becoming a more financially-aware individual, you can make more informed decisions on how to manage cash flow or even become a day-trader, freeing up capital for other, more serious purposes. Understanding the world around you, looking at information as intelligence rather than simple factoids and being aware of the bits and pieces that can provide a different and in many instances, a more accurate picture of what is really going on, is a skill that will pay one back in spades. Think outside the box!

Next, personal fitness is a must. In any crisis situation, adrenalin levels, stress, even physical injury can manifest themselves in a variety of ways that can cripple or terminate the best laid plans. It is therefore mandatory that anyone considering a preparedness strategy baseline their family health. The advantages of this are twofold: first, it gives one an idea of how much exercise they will need to incorporate into daily life to bring them to a level of basic fitness of a recruit in the US Army, ideally the Marines, which is not as hard as it may appear. Second, this will aid in identifying a medicine acquisition plan for family members so you are not caught short in a crisis situation. There won’t be heart or blood pressure tablets around if the mob has burned all the Walgreen [Pharmacies]. Gun shows are great places to get surplus, mil spec-quality first aid equipment, along with catalog houses that supply paramedics or EMS personnel. The best book on the subject is the US Army Special Forces Medical Manual, available anywhere, along with “Where There is No Doctor” and “Where There is No Dentist”. (I will cover medicine in a survival situation in greater detail in another post.) Learn how to take your blood pressure, especially pre- and post-exercise so you understand the difference between resting and active pulse. The various military physical fitness programs are all available on the web. Pick one that you can realistically follow upon consulting your physician, and then be rigorous in its application.

You want lean, endurance-based conditioning – not necessarily big bulky SEAL-like muscles. I can remember from my [USMC Force] Recon days watching these guys while with them at dive school, getting all bulked-up and then not being able to run worth a damn with my fellow Marines. You want endurance, endurance, endurance. Muscles will come, and remember: shooting skills are as much a kata as a karate movement and are technique-based on a solid, lithe platform. Incorporate a martial art into your training regimen if possible. This can be a speed bag, or large punching bag, dojo work, sparring with a partner or any other self-defense program. These teach discipline, respect for the art, and most importantly, stamina and situational awareness, all priceless skills in a crisis situation. These types of activities begin to solidify the warrior mindset, and in solidifying this mindset, you now assume the duty, indeed the responsibility to only use these skills in the protection of kith and kin, and not as a license to bully, cajole, or simply show-off. Many years ago my first sensei gave me an axiom that rings very true: “One warrior may spot another in an instant. Be it by the way he moves or by the way people avoid him. The problem lies when would-be warriors and/or fools attack a true warrior. The fool may seem to back the warrior down, but the warrior knows by instinct that he outclasses the opponent and does nothing, or just kills.” By increasing you martial acuity, you will soon learn to spot fools, an invaluable skill not only in crisis situations, but in life in general.

Learn to live in the outdoors. Go camping or hiking with your family as much as possible. Carry weight when you hike, so you get used to load bearing. Increase it, and record you accomplishments. Not only is it great exercise, but it allows for team-building activities and provides an avenue to understand group dynamics and how task-oriented your family is or is not and what your personal and familial endurance levels are and should be. Bring map and compass and learn orienteering skills, and if possible, find the local orienteering club and go on organized compass courses when you can. Land navigation is an invaluable skill along with map reading (topographic – not your normal service station map of greater Canton…). This was the greatest challenge when I attended [US Army] Ranger school, the skills of pace-setting and azimuth shooting, particularly at night. Remember, you may not have the luxury of G.O.O.D. as a family unit, so it is imperative everyone know how to find your retreat, rally point, or rendezvous site by azimuth and location. Moreover, in fleeing, you may need to alter your route intentionally if pursued, and you will want to keep your bearings so you eventually end-up where you need to be. This will help bond your family unit, and help in math skills with kids. Thinking on your feet and being able to understand where you are without navigational aids is the ideal. Hold a rehearsal drill with a prize or incentive at least yearly. Also have a vehicle plan that works on the same level – and here any of the relatively inexpensive commercial GPS systems can be a great help. However, don’t become reliant on them, as they fail, they require power, and they can be tracked. Map and compass are best – master them. Have your kids join the scouting movement in your area as this will also provide an inroad to appreciating living rough. I learned more about outdoor living in my 10 years of scouting than was ever taught to me in the many schools (with the exception of S.E.R.E. – Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape) that I attended whilst in the military. Lastly, get local guidebooks that identify edible plants and animals indigenous to your potential egress/retreat area. Again, take the family out and do some plant, bird, and animal spotting. Knowing how animals behave – particularly what they eat – can give you insight into how they react around humans, particular those humans not know to them. Understand the ebb and flow of the environment around your egress and retreat area. The warrior knows his terrain intimately and it is a force-multiplier in a crisis situation. From the Art of War, on the Varieties of Terrain for the commander: “if ignorant of the conditions of mountains, forests, dangerous defiles, swamps and marshes he cannot conduct the march of the army…”

We’ve now started to look at incorporate an intelligence gathering outlook on life, followed by a fit state of readiness for the unexpected, now what about conflict? Unless you live in a state that allows concealed carry, you most likely will not have much experience in the carry of, or more importantly, the skills of living with loaded firearms. The old soldier’s adage of training as you will fight is key here: living with live weapons does not impart a casual familiarity that can lead to tragedy, more so the understanding of levels of readiness depending on the scenario. Combat pistol and rifle craft will be followed in another post and there as many philosophies as there are gurus. I subscribe to the school of Jeff Cooper and Mel Tappan, and readers are encouraged to seek out their writings. Suffice to say, in regards to our emerging warrior ethos, the idea is mastery, as a weapon is only as effective as the mindset and situational awareness of the person wielding that weapon. Begin to think of becoming one with your chosen piece; don’t choose a combat handgun, rifle or shotgun simply on caliber and aesthetic appeal. You want to ensure you have good grip control, eye relief (for rifles) and for shotguns, that the stock fits snugly when snapping the weapon to your shoulder. This is especially critical when fitting weapons for women and children. Your martial mentality is the platform for that weapon to be effective so it is imperative it feel comfortable. Next, find an air pistol and air rifle that resemble your chosen battery. Rather than wasting ammo “snapping-in” on the range (and fielding potential embarrassing and/or curious questions), use these tools to get the feel for breath control, trigger pull and eye relief. Use toy soldiers to simulate range. If you pick a particularly loud air rifle, check local ordnances prior to beginning your training. I have used air pistols in my garage for many years with no problem. Just ensure you have sufficient target backing. You will be amazed by how well you shoot your live weaponry once you’ve disciplined your stance, breathing and bench positions with the air weapons.

One of the reasons I stress familiarity with a martial art is that all involve a relatively similar pre-contact stance. That is, feet slightly wider than shoulder width, a light bend in the knees coupled with a straight back and slight relaxation in the elbows in a punching position. This easily translates into the FBI “A” (“triangle,” “apex,” etc.) shooting position when using a pistol. There are a variety of shooting stances; find one you’re comfortable with and practice it until it becomes rote. I like to shoot on BLM land where I can set up a loose range with a variety of targets that can simulate a variety of situations. Moreover, one can carry side arms “live,’ the most important part of the exercise. Always use caution and appoint one of your group as range master. I cannot emphasize enough the importance in warrior thought of acclimation to daily use of one’s weapons. Each pistol, rifle and shotgun, and the associated ammunition and accessories, all have specific, indeed quirky, characteristics that are best discovered and addressed in a benign environment. Another advantage of the informal range is practicing contact drills in the form of fast draw and point shooting; again, topics for another time, but key to the mindset. In conjunction with the mechanics of the draw and basic tactical levels (safe – elevated – hostile), there is the consideration of dress and load-bearing equipment. We’ve all seen pictures of militia-types and airsoft rifle enthusiasts kitted-out to the nines, but in reality, no warrior worth their salt dresses in such a poseur fashion.

Kit should be scenario, then mission-driven. It’s ok to mix commercial and military gear, as it gives you the best of both worlds, along with adaptability and more importantly, a covert OPSEC profile. One need not run around in camouflage with chickenplate-enabled body armor and all the other stuff that goes with such a mindset in order to present a hardened, tactical, preparedness profile. Try running 10 to100 yard wind sprints with what you consider to be “appropriate” gear, along with running up and down hills, pausing frequently to set-up a shooting position, and you will soon see what gear is needed and what quickly proves superfluous. Moreover, one quickly grasps the need for constant conditioning, proper diet, and rest – again, train with the gear you intend to use in your preparedness planning. Crisis situations entail short-burst energy requirements, breath control, noise and movement discipline and a host of soft-skills that are much more important than having “cool” gear. You may have the slickest web gear, a trick battery of personal defense weaponry, and way-cool “digital” cammies, but if you’re too winded to hold an aim point, too thirsty sucking down water like there’s no tomorrow (and at that rate, there won’t be…), or cramping and puking for lack of salt, you are now ineffective as a resource, a drain on those dependent on you, and more likely dead, as you were not sufficiently aware tactically, as you were too troubled sorting yourself out… The warrior is ready at all times, and uniformly effective, regardless of time, place, or contingency.
I rarely wore the same load bearing equipment (LBE) configuration twice, as operational contexts were always different.

The axioms I lived by were simple enough: keep your [front] belt area free of any pouches or protuberances; this allows you to lie flush when rounds start flying; next, position you main weapon’s magazine pouches on your side, slightly behind your hip or ideally, over your kidneys, as again, when prone, they are easier to access without elevating your profile. You drink more than you shoot, so canteens can be located at the traditional hip pistol position; use [CamelBak-type water] bladders where possible, as they are less noisy, hold more, and can double as a pillow, rifle rest or anything else you can come-up with. 1 qt. plastic mil spec canteens are fine, but I normally carried them on my main LBE framed knapsack or butt back. Use mass to distribute weight (your hiking with weight pays off here). If you do use them on your waist belt, ensure they are positioned in such a way that you won’t injure yourself collapsing quickly on the deck, nor are they in the way of your weapons carry. Never attach a side-arm to an LBE belt that leaves your body. Drop-leg pistol holsters seem all the rage, and for Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and urban warfare, they have a place. In a retreat scenario, less-so, as they will hang on fencing, drag on brush, and hamper quick ingress and egress from vehicles. Use good quality leather or black nylon (i.e. low-profile, non-martial appearing) pistol dress when not in tactical mode, and again, wear it as often as possible so it becomes second-nature. Shoulder holsters are good for this as well; just ensure it fits, can carry spare magazines, and that you have practiced drawing from the holster so it is not a liability. As to holster location, again, this is personal preference, as some like to cross-draw (i.e. a right-handed shooter holsters their piece on the left hip, magazine facing the target, and draws across the body) or use the simple hip draw. [JWR Adds: The disadvantages of cross-draw rigs have been previously discussed in the blog.] Concealed carry is much in the same vein, although by its very nature, you normally carry a smaller weapon, using a variety of purpose-built holsters on the arms, legs, inside the belt, or small of the back. I like the small of the back myself. Constantly experiment with your LBE until it is no longer “fiddly” and fits and works the way you desire. Run in it, dive on the ground in it, get it wet, understand how it behaves in a variety of circumstances. Use black electrical tape, or ideally, mil spec“100 mph tape” (in reality, olive-colored gaffer tape) to secure loose straps and to cover metal or plastic tabs or sharp edges that might become noisy or otherwise problematic in use. Don’t use black duct tape as it is too sticky and leaves a residue that gets on everything.

In recapping the warrior mentality relative to equipment, remember that less is indeed more; the more you pre-place, the less you need in a bug-out kit. Blend in and look "conformist" as much as possible, using situational awareness, concealed carry, and normal attire when going about your business in urban and non-conflict rural areas. Don’t depend entirely on surplus or new mil spec gear; use the best kit for the job, but more so, maintaining a martial “look” may draw the authority’s attention or encourage other fools of a tin soldier mentality to take you on. Adjust your kit profile to the appropriate level of security and risk and you should be fine. Lastly, you must reconcile in your mind the concept of deadly force. Regardless of how prepared your scenario, you may be forced to confront those that wish you harm, and you will die if you start the mental ethical thought process at the contact point. Knowing your tools, knowing where to shoot, and understanding the need to shoot will allow you the upper hand when dealing with fools. Concise action can often abrogate the need for violence; so again, preparedness can be as much a tool of avoidance as much as kinetic action. Deadly force will comprise several upcoming posts and I will also provide a topical reading list in the next few weeks, addressing not only use of deadly force, but the warrior mindset, how to plan and what constitutes strategy, tactics, and conflict. In the meantime, start thinking about times you’ve been scared, or in a heightened state of anxiety, or even shot at. What went on in your mind? How perceptive were you? What physiological signs manifest themselves? How did you compensate? In short, begin to analyze things from an angle of what you would do, say in an airplane crash or severe auto accident – I call this reaction planning, and it will save your life. Understand that danger has constants, just like any other natural phenomena. The more you think of “what-ifs?” the more you will be ready for crisis.

In closing, preparedness, like any other skill, is much, much more mental than physical. The successful preparedness planner is in essence a renaissance thinker, as you must understand and appreciate a variety of skills, and master the most critical at least at a basic level. In creating this series of articles, I will be working with a variety of assumptions: many of my readers will have had some military or scouting background, and possess a passing familiarity with firearms. You may have only just started to think about contingency planning, and I encourage you to mine the marvelous resources of SurvivalBlog. Next, that you have families, and you intend to incorporate your family or immediate friends or relatives into your planning; also, you are in the early days of simply trying to sort through the myth and reality of what the preparedness movement and mindset entails, along with the commiserate moral, ethical, and practical considerations one must entertain to not only thrive in a crisis situation, but also maintain the social mores of being a good citizen, neighbor and staying within the remit of reasoned law. And like a good scout: Be Prepared… Stay tuned! - "Jeff Trasel"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It was June, 1998. Y2K was a salient topic of conversation. It got my attention. When the electricity went off and there would be no water to drink, and no fuel to move food to the JIT grocery stores, I could see things getting very ugly. I had been willing to fight for this nation as a member of the US Army. Now it was time to fight for my household. I bought a Springfield Armory M1A. I bought a safe to store it in. I bought another M1A (for the spousal unit of course!) I bought ammo. Lots of it. I bought gear. I bought food. I became awakened to the idea of being self-reliant.
That was 10 years ago. Y2K didn’t cause a global melt down. (Although I have a friend in the service that sat in a command bunker holding his breath at Y2K – the government didn’t know what was going to occur.) I have not had to live through or endure Hurricane Katrina. No participation in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, I can’t claim a campaign ribbon for any disasters. Am I upset or sorry that I have changed my life to follow a path of self-reliance? Most definitely, absolutely not!

Let me share with you the good and the bad of what I have done in the last ten years. So often, people new to self-reliance are like ants at the foot of a mountain staring up with their head touching their back wondering how in the world they will ever be able to replace modern society and be able to take care of themselves WTSHTF. Well, truth be told, you can’t do it overnight unless you’re Warren Buffet. I am walking, talking living proof, however, that you can make significant progress. Let me show you!

In order to show you that you do indeed have cause for hope, let me share a few of my screw-ups. How about the initial purchases I made while in a state of “marked concern” when I became “self aware” with regard to self – reliance. The money I invested in self-reliance was my spousal unit’s “down payment on a house”. Do you think this view of “my nest” versus “the world may end” led to some intense “discussions”? You bet your last dog flea it did. For much of the intervening 10 years I have been the one prepping while my wife harbored a severe grudge against the entire topic because I spent our money for the house down payment on crazy self-reliance materials. A grade of “F” to me for consensus building. She is just beginning to come around in the last two years. Poster child example of a bucket of wet sand. (If two guys fight, they belt each other like two crazed wolverines. Eventually they realize they were stupid for fighting, shake hands, forgive and are back to being friends. Kinda like a cow urinating on a big flat rock – big splash and splatters, but it dries up pretty quickly. Get in an argument with a gal and it is like pouring water into a bucket of sand – the surface may dry after a bit, but it stays wet down in that bucket for a long time.)

I very religiously squirreled away Gillette Atra razors because that is what I used each day. The handle that you click onto the blade cartridge gave up the ghost after many years of faithful service. The stores don’t sell them anymore! Now I have three dozen packs of five cartridges with no way to use them to shave! Fortunately, I did find a second/spare handle in my stores and will be able to use them up. Did I re-learn some valuable lessons? You bet!

Two is one, and one is none.
You need to see what you have (inventories!)
Store what you Eat/use – I did great on the cartridges, but forgot spare handles!

In the run-up to Y2K I bought a dozen 6 volt golf cart batteries to be able to set-up some kind of power system in the house. Great intent. No photovoltaic panels No wiring until last year. They have been “stored” sitting on pallets in a friends storage building for 9 years because I have not been able to get to the replacement power system yet. I could have used that money for a higher priority item.
The spousal unit and I built our home last year. We did many things very right. Some learning experiences occurred, however. Maybe chief amongst them is my underestimation of the massiveness of the size of this endeavor! I joke with friends about not being free from the To Do list to be able to get into trouble for at least five years! Fix the septic pond berms. Sort out the “scrap” lumber. Put a deck on the back of the house so the [building] code Nazis will give us the permanent occupancy permit. Fix the leaking pressure tank in the basement. Fix the DR mower. Mow. Clear 30 trees dropped to get the septic pond clearance (not done with that one yet). Cut and split and stack firewood. The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong – I would not trade my homestead back for city living for anything. Was I able to foresee the "second & third order effects” of the change to a country homestead? Nope. Not even having read Backwoods Home magazine for 8 years. Thank God I listened to my in-laws and did not try to finish the upstairs interior construction while living downstairs!

Prior to Y2K I tried very hard to create a group. It failed in many ways. Had Y2K caused the feared problems, we would have been road kill. Okay, we would have been the third or fourth critter on the highway run over by life, but we were nowhere near ready to deal with WTSHTF/TEOTWAWKI. The Yuppie Queen and her husband went right back to spoiling their princess/daughter, buying Jaguars, clothes, and hair implants. You know - living the typical American city life. The other couple moved out onto 20 acres in a very rural county and raise goats and chickens. I am on 20+ acres and moving in a self-reliant direction. Two out of three ain’t bad!

I endured the gauntlet of multiple careers trying to find a fit for who I am. Thankfully, my spousal unit was trained well by her farmer parents. We never carried any debt other than the mortgage. One thing we did do smart was under-buy on our home with a condo (sixplex) in town. No car payments. No credit card payments. We kept 3-6 months of expenses in savings. One business venture was as a franchisee for Idiotstate. Massive mistake. Four years with no income for me and a net loss of $60,000 overall. What preps could you get done with an extra $60,000? I am certainly not happy I put one in the “L” column. I am not proud of failing. I am proud of jumping into the fight and giving it my 110%. As they used to tell me in the military, “What an opportunity for character building!” Learning lesson for me was that I should never have stopped Soldiering. I simply have green blood. I have returned to the Army by working as a tactical/leadership contractor at a nearby Fort and getting reappointed into the National Guard. Will a deployment take me away from directly protecting The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU)? Yes. Does staying employed doing what God designed me to do mean we’ll have a steady income? Likely. Does a pension check from age 65 on make us better able to care for ourselves? You betcha. The world may not disintegrate in 30 days. It may actually remain fairly normal. One has to prepare for that contingency as well.

By now you have to be thinking “What a knothead! This guy couldn’t find his fourth point of contact if you put one hand on a cheek!” Well, not so fast there Skippy! I have a thing or two that should go in the “W” column. I should give you a massive dose of hope! Let me describe to you in a quick overview where I have come to in my 10 year quest to become more self-reliant. First, about our home…

Your home is your castle, right? Well mine actually kinda is. It sets on a chunk of land that is 20+ acres. The terrain is rolling and 95% wooded. It butts up against a cemetery to the north, a 900+ acre conservation area to the south, a river to the west, and a section line to the east. The home is an Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) structure. The walls are 1” of concrete fake rock veneer, 2.5” of foam, 8” of reinforced concrete, 2.5” of foam, 5/8” of sheetrock. It is “round”, being made up of 12 wall sections each 8 feet in width. Two stories with a basement. About 1,800 square feet of living space. (2,700 with the basement, however, that area is not finished yet.) Geothermal heating/cooling and a soapstone wood stove. Metal roof. No carpeting – oak floors and tile. The wellhead is inside the home so I don’t have to worry about winter breakdowns or freeze-ups, nor losing access WTSHTF. We are running at top speed towards the 20% equity checkpoint in order to get rid of the bankster-invented Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) extortion racket. (We have a credit rating of 804, so the “risk” the bank incurs by carrying our note is a freaking joke!). It suits our lifestyle very, very well. Our intent was to have a very low maintenance home. Having lived here one year in two more weeks, it looks like we have a very big check mark in the “W” column. More details on the design/floor plan in a future article!

Weapons & Training
We have an M1A set-up for combat, and one set up for long-range precision work. The Glock 21 [.45 ACP] is the base pistol for the household, with one for each of us and a G30 [compact Glock .45 ACP] as back-up. The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU) doesn’t carry a rifle or carbine, just the pistol. (More on that later.) Training for both of us includes Defensive Handgun 1 and Team Tactics with Clint and Heidi Smith at Thunder Ranch. I have also had General Purpose, Urban, and Precision Rifle with Clint. I completed a special symposium at Gunsite (pistol, rifle, shotgun, carbine). I am an NRA Certified pistol, rifle, and home defense instructor. I have several other weapon platforms as a “Dan Fong” kind of guy. The two rifles with accoutrements, and the four pistols with same were certainly not cheap. Nor was the training. I do, however, know how to properly employ them now.

Food & Supplies

The spousal unit & I could stretch the on-hand food to cover two years. Canned freeze dried is 45% of it, bulk buckets is 45%, and “normal use” food is the last 10%. We have built a rolling rack set of shelves for the 3rd part to ease rotation of the canned goods with each grocery store trip. No, I haven’t found the secret spy decoder ring sequence on how to rotate the bulk and freeze-dried stuff with our normal, both of us work, lifestyle. The sticking point for this area I see is that WTSHTF, Mom & Dad in-law, Sister-in-law, Brother-in-law with wife and two princesses (one with hubby), and my Mom & her husband will show up on our doorstep. That makes for an even dozen mouths to fee

Now for a bit more detail. First topic up, IAW my military training, is Security. The base of everything here is God. I have chosen to bend my knee to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I can amass all the weapons, ammo, food and “stuff” you can imagine, but He is the one ultimately in charge. I am charged to be a prudent steward of His possessions - my family, property, vehicles, food, weapons, ammo, etc.. I am definitely striving to be the ant storing things for the winter. If you ain’t right in this area, it will really matter in eternity.

Part of your security is weapons. There are sheeple, wolves, and sheepdogs. I am definitely in the 3rd category. In today’s world your “teeth” are your firearms. I plan from a Boston T. Party paradigm of having a battle rifle. Hence, the M1A. Were I starting over today, I would likely go with a FAL, but now "I will dance with the one that brung me". Or maybe just accept the brilliance of the M1 Garand at $620 delivered to your doorstep from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). I do have two of these. Hard to argue with .30-06 ball. I renovate Mausers as my hobby and so have a .35 WAI scout rifle. A second one in the more common 7.62x51 chambering is in work now. I laos have a Mossberg 835 [riotgun], two Ruger 10/22s (one blued, one stainless), Ruger MKII stainless .22 LR pistol, S&W 625 pistol in .45 ACP/.45 Auto Rim, a few Enfields, and a couple of Mosin-Nagants round out the field.

Let me detail for you the path to get to the Glocks. I think it may save you some of your money. I received a Colt Gold Cup [M1911] .45 ACP pistol from my Dad as a graduation gift from the Hudson Home For Boys [aka USMA West Point]. Great intent. A weapon as a gift – how can you ever be wrong in doing this?! However, a terrible choice as a combat weapon. The Gold Cup is a target pistol. Tight tolerances. Feeds only hardball, and that can be tenuous proposition. I carried it on the East-West German border leading patrols. The rear sight broke twice. The front sight shot off once and tore off twice. It was a jammomatic. I hated it. Sold it to a guy that wanted to target shoot.

Took that money and bought a stainless Ruger P90DC. Sack of hammers tough. always goes bang when you pull the trigger. Inexpensive as far as handguns go. After some marked de-horning, you could even make it run in a fight without shredding you at the same time. One marked problem. Two [different weight] trigger pulls [for first round double action versus subsequent round single action.]. This started to teach me to throw the muzzle down as I pulled the trigger in double action. This nasty habit caused a problem when you were firing the 2nd through X rounds, as now it operates as a single action. TLSU had a heck of a time with it at Thunder Ranch. Clint loaned her his G21. No more trigger problems.

Still bowing at the altar of the 1911, I bought a Kimber Compact to carry instead of the Ruger. (I still have the Ruger – it is still “the gun that my Dad gave me” and no one buys the P90 used for anywhere near it’s initial cost, so I can’t sell it without taking a significant bath on it.) The Kimber was going well. Then I got a little too aggressive at slamming magazines home in the shortened grip and jammed it. Then the recoil rod unscrewed itself during an IPSC run and seized the gun while messing up the trigger. Off to Kimber. Free warranty work and 48 hours without my self-defense pistol. Now I have no confidence in the pistol. I Loc-Tite’d the recoil rod and staked it so it wouldn’t come undone again. Then I sold it.

Glocks cost roughly one-half of what a Kimber does. Crummy factory sights, but all my pistols wear tritium anyway. No ambidextrous safety required. My short fingers are mated to big palms, so I can handle the grip. TLSU has been trained on the Glock Model 21 (G21). It ain’t an issue of psychological derangement like many guys get about their 1911/Glock/H&K/Springfield, but it is a comfortable and working relationship between Glock & I. I have a G21 and a G30 for both of us. They always go bang accurately and they have never rusted. I am not pleased with Gaston [Glock]’s refusal to take responsibility for any mistakes they make in manufacturing. No problems with the G21 however. A pistol is what you use to fight your way back to your rifle, which you shouldn’t have laid down in the first place.
M1As hit my safe because it is what I knew from the service. They also fire a full power cartridge, 7.62x51. It makes cover into concealment. I don’t have the other 10 guys in an infantry squad fighting with me so I can maneuver under their covering fire. I have to hit the bad guy with a powerful blow once and move on to the next wolf/bad guy. Mouse guns firing rabbit rounds don’t scratch that itch for me. To each his own. My two are old enough to have USGI parts and good quality control. Here are the mods I made to my “combat” M1A. Maybe they will help you:

Krylon paint job to disrupt the "big black stick" look
M60 [padded] sling
Front sight filed down so that zero is achieved with the rear sight bottomed out
Handguard ventilated
National Match trigger group, barrel, and sights (came as a “Loaded” package from Springfield)
Rear aperture drilled out to make it a ghost ring
Skate board tape on slick metal butt plate
For the “Surgical” M1A (it shoots1/2 minute when I do my part):
National Match loaded package
Trigger assembly additionally tuned at factory
Unitized gas system
Factory bedded
Stainless barrel
Swan rings and QD bases
Leupold M3 3.5-10x40 scope
Handmade leather cheekrest

Other weapons - I have two M1 Garands. Both were bought from the CMP. One is stored offsite with a "Bug-In Bag" (BIB). One is a Danish return, less wood, that I re-stocked. TLSU has claimed this one as hers. Ammo from the CMP is cheaper than any other cartridge out there, save the communist surplus stuff. An M1917 Enfield (also from CMP) is in the safe, along with a 2A, a #3, and a #4. A VZ24 is stored offsite. The first Mauser I renovated is sitting there as an additional .30-06 with a Trijicon 3-9x40 tritium-lit scope. A Remington 700 with Leupold VX-II scope is in the safe, but likely to be sold soon. A Mosin-Nagant (M44 or M38) ride in each vehicle.

I formerly had [Ruger] Mini-30s. I could never find any 20 or 30 round magazines that would function reliably. I sold them and got SKS carbines. When I quit holding out for TLSU to become a Warrior and carry one, I sold them off to fund other toys. I am pondering the purchase of an AK folder because it is a sack of hammers tough and can be transported discretely. I don’t know if I have ever come out on the positive side when selling a gun. Now I have to re-buy an AR-15 to have one for training purposes. The SKSs could be useful for arming the family showing up on your doorstep. Hindsight being 20/20, I would caution against selling any gun you buy. (The 700 mentioned above is a 2nd precision weapon and I have no AK to train with. Still deciding.)

Ammo is required to feed these weapons. I have over 10,000 rounds of 7.62x51. I have over 10,000 rounds of .22 LR. No, I don’t think these amounts are enough. Now that the costs of ammo have risen to heart stopping levels, I really don’t feel like I bought enough in the past! I need to plus up the quantities/smatterings of other cartridges that I have like .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .40 S&W.

The location of my home is the best I could get balancing competing requirements. It is as far from the city as we can get and still stomach the drive to work. It is between two major line of drift corridors – 12 miles to the major one, 8 miles to the secondary one. It is bordered by neighbors on only one side. The folks in the cemetery don’t say much. The critters in the wildlife area are more vocal - the ducks, turkeys, geese, hoot owls, loons, coyotes sound off regularly. We don’t mind. About 95% of the property is wooded. A few hickory, lots of oak. walnut, (unfortunately) locust trees are all there. The local river comes out of it’s banks about every other year and blocks our driveway for several days, but never comes near the house. The German Shorthair is long in the tooth for security, but she is there. A new pup is in the pipeline.

I would feel a great deal more secure if the homestead was picked up and dropped into Idaho or Alaska. It is about as good as we can do, though, staying near a major city so we can have decent paying jobs. There are some improvements we can make though. I just bought a weather alert radio from Cabela’s today. Tough to hear tornado sirens when you live miles away and have 1 foot thick walls! We need a driveway monitor/alarm. Again, the superior insulation of the walls means we hear nothing outside. I can see the utility of sandbags if things got really ugly. Some more land line communication assets would be useful. I think an AR-15 for training people would be useful, as would an AK. Overall, I think we have done pretty well in the security arena.

Our Home
We started the 10 years in a condo. It was part of a six-plex set on a small pond. I hate Homeowner’s Associations and their covenants! We could afford the mortgage on one of our two paychecks. Good thing! I didn’t get a paycheck for four years. We scraped by. Two years after re-entering the job market we built our house. We worked on the plans for five years. Beware! Finding a property piece and building a non-shoebox home on it is not for the feint of heart! You effectively are funding the construction of a mini town. You build and maintain mini roads (your driveway). You must build and maintain a mini sewage plant (Your septic system/pond). You must build and maintain a mini water plant. (Your well.) You must perform mowing and tree removal for the mini parks of your town (Your “yard”/acreage). I will write a separate article detailing our construction woes.

Let me highlight some of the self-reliant features of the house for you. We did not want to spend a constant stream of Federal Reserve Notes [FRNs]on maintenance. We used insulated concrete form (ICF) construction for the structural strength and the energy efficiency. The metal roof should outlast us. The geothermal and the R-50 walls of the ICF are paying us back the initial investment in construction costs. We opted for no carpeting due to the track in mud nature of the property, having a dog, and me having allergies. Wood and tile floors don’t hold dirt like carpets do. Less fire hazard as well. We used commercial steel doors for the exterior and security-need spots. They have ASSA [high security] locks. They have peepholes.

The basement has a 10’ square root cellar for the storage of canned produce from the garden. It also has a safe room/shelter. 12” of concrete overhead. The well head is enclosed in it. Land line telephone and power service into it via buried lines. Food stored in it. DC wiring in place to the attic for when we get to the photovoltaic [PV] system. We also ran DC wires to each room in the house for the use of LED lighting off of a battery system. The soapstone wood stove augments the electrically driven geothermal. (In spite of several damaging thunderstorms this past year, we have not lost power so far – great job juice Coop!)

The stairwell was kicked out onto the W/NW of the house. This shields the house from the hottest part of the day’s sunlight, and the coldest winter winds. We made the stairwell an extra foot wide. What a huge nice difference that foot makes to walking up and down each day, not to mention moving stuff up or down them! The mud porch/entry was set up for coming in with muddy boots, or for snow covered coats. We should have made it 1’ wider, as it can be a little tight. The bench is great for donning/doffing boots. The tile is easy to clean the muddy paw prints, human or canine, off of.
Windows were one of the few areas that caused some fireworks. TLSU wanted a green house in order to take advantage of the great view of the property. I wanted firing ports to defend against mutant zombie hordes. I am still hugely uncomfortable with the nakedness the windows leave us with. Yes the view is great, but what about when we experience incoming rounds, or more mundanely, when someone comes out to the property while we are away from the house all day at work and they help themselves to our stuff? Some relief is in sight, however. We are pricing Shattergard vinyl film for the ground floor windows.

Things That are Still Need on the Home
The great thing about the R-50 ICF walls is that they are R-50 and pretty tough. The bad thing is that they are R-50 and pretty tough. We can’t hear anything without a door or window being open. Hence the just purchased weather alert radio for us from Cabela’s this week. It is kind of eerie waking up at 0200 hours and having no idea if the thunderstorm is just a thunderstorm or if it is a tornado. The television is useless when the rain is so heavy that the dish won’t get a signal. With regard to 2-legged varmints, a driveway MURS Alert system is on the purchase list as we have had multiple invited guests show up, beat on the front door, and have to walk around to the living room windows to get our attention so they can be let inside. Okay for invited guests – certainly too close for uninvited varmints!

The entry hallway was one of TLSU’s “must haves” in the house layout. It has worked out well in terms of traffic flow and such. The security door at the foot of the stairs is a tough choke point to deal with at 0500 in the dark. No light installed there means nothing is visible through the peephole. I will have to install a camera and/or light so I don’t open it to let the dog out in the morning and get rushed by 2-legged varmints.

So far, the only commo needs are between myself and TLSU. When the sister-in-law, brother-in-law, parents-in-law and my Mom show up and we start pulling security, we will need to be able to talk more. I have an old set of TA-312 [field telephone]s and wire for the primary LP/OP, but obviously will need more in this area. Just not a sexy/fun area to spend FRNs on for a combat arms kinda guy, but I am working on the self-discipline needed.

We did look ahead and sink the FRNs into running 12V wires in the home for future installation of PV panels and batteries. Obviously things like the Shattergard film, more food, more Band-aids, etc., are of a higher priority though. We are working our tails off to reach the 20% equity mark to get rid of the PMI extortion as well. I still have an ASSA lock to install on the shelter door, and one to put into the basement door. Other projected door enhancements include armor plates for the front, outside basement, shelter, and outside storage doors. There just never seems to be enough $ to go around, does there?

The other major source of fireworks during the home design/build was on-demand water heaters. Having taken a 30 minute hot shower with one in Germany for 5 marks while on an FTX, I well understand what a brilliant piece of technology they are. TLSU, having never been outside of CONUS cannot give up on the electric water heater. She still doesn’t believe that the electricity will ever go out for more than an hour or two. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to draw hot water at the kitchen sink, and take a hot shower from a propane fired on-demand heater? She doesn’t get it yet. Obviously not something to break up a marriage over. We really did very well on the whole house building thing. The opposite of what everyone warned us about. I am pretty proud of that performance!

We started a garden this spring. So far, it is an endeavor run by TLSU. Spinach, onions, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, beets, and some herbs. I have not been able to convince her to expand the size. She wants to learn in steps and I am the whacko that orders 100 seedlings at a time from the conservation department, which then overwhelms us in the planting department. For example, the first iteration of this tree-planting endeavor, we got them the Thursday before Easter weekend. Friday night and all day Saturday we planted our buns off. TLSU was indeed a great Trooper about it, planting right along with me. Sunday was spent at church and pigging out at family’s homes for Easter. Monday I had shoulder surgery to grind off bone spurs and remove cartilage chips. Too much, too fast. But at 7 FRNs per 12 seedlings, how can you argue? I have to admit though, that after two years of the 100 seedlings, I am ready to give it a rest. This year we settled for seven apple saplings. Initial inspection of the cherry, pecan, oak, walnut and persimmon seedlings around the house reveals about an 80% survival rate. Only another 10 years and we will be getting food from them!

The initial freeze dried and bulk storage food needs to be rotated. Anyone figured out how to do this kind of at home cooking when the two of you work? The canned/”normal” food is now being rotated with each grocery store trip. We have canning jars for this year’s veggies and the root cellar has a robust collection of shelves to store them on. How much is enough? I don’t know. Four geographically separate and secure stashes of three year’s worth of food for all of the family? Who knows!?

I have Boo-boo kits just about everywhere now. You know, the band-aid and antibiotic salve with ibuprofen kit that handles 90% of life’s issues in this area. Now comes the high-dollar investment stuff. The combat blow-out packs for gunshot wounds or serious car wrecks. I did go along on a buying trip to a medical warehouse and got some catheters, sutures, gauze pads, etc.. I did get in on the last great iodine buy before our loving big brother government banned the sale of iodine to us mere citizens. (It is a stewable ingredient to make drugs, you know – “we must deprive/punish all to protect you from a few. Oh, well, you don’t need to be able to sterilize water anyway – we’ll take care of you on that too….”)

TLSU and I eat very healthy food – locally raised beef with no antibiotics or growth hormones. No growth hormone dairy products from a local dairy. Spinach from the garden. There are sugar detectors on the doors. Also, no chips allowed. We get to the dentist regularly. We both do Physical Training (PT) . She jogs 3 miles, 3-4 times per week. I run over lunch at work about 4 miles, 4-5 times per week and lift weights twice per week.

“Needed Still” list includes: Blow out kits, more bandages, more hospital type stuff, more medicines, syrup of ipecac, more antibiotics, more feminine stuff (think of a vaginal yeast infection with no drug store open), drinking alcohol, poison Ivy soap and remedies, athlete’s foot cream, more baby wipes, more hand sanitizer, all forms of baby stuff, get the bone spur ground smooth in my other shoulder and the cartilage chips taken out, get rid of the cat (allergies).

We still have the same vehicles we had in 2001. A 1998 Toyota Corolla bought with 30,000 miles, and a 1999 Ford Explorer bought with 45,000 miles. Both were paid in full when bought. Both avoided the 25% loss of value when driving a new car off the lot. The Corolla gets 37 MPG. I hate it. Every bit of plastic on it has broken – the car door locking mechanisms, the trunk lock, the ventilation system fan. It gets 37 MPG. I can’t find anything to touch that. The Ford is too big to get decent mileage, and too small to really be a useful truck. It is paid for and has AWD/4WD. It always starts. Both vehicles have BIBs and gas masks in them. Both have trunk guns. Both have roadside gear to help ourselves out of a jam. We are saving for the replacement of them both. We are going to be saving for quite a while. We need more cash in the BIBs and Bug Out Bags (BOBs)

All of the preps in this section were done via Cabela points. I bought gas and paid for business expenses - everything I could pay for with a credit card was paid for with the Cabela’s credit card. You get points at some sickening rate of $.01/FRN spent, $.02/FRN in the store. However, when you buy $6-8,000/month of stuff between personal and business stuff, it adds up! The gear for the BOBs & BIBs, weapons gear and parts – a significant percentage – 85%+ - came from Cabela [credit card bonus] points. When I got birthday or Christmas monetary gifts I spent them on self-reliance items. We did this never incurring any interest penalties because we zero the balance out each month. Our BOBs are set-up to sustain us for 10 days. They are packed in Cabela’s wet bags for load out in five minutes. Originally I sought to wear a tactical vest and ruck. After two unsuccessful winter BOB campouts where I could barely waddle one mile with both of them on at the same time, I dropped the vest. TLSU’s back is in tough shape due to scoliosis, so she is not humping any mammoth rucks with the extra three mortar rounds and can of 7.62 linked. We also decided that the G21 was what she could carry and dropped the SKS and chest pouches of 10 round stripper clips. Her ruck is a Camelback Commander. That is as big of a ruck as she can hope to carry without killing her back. We are not leaving home to go on a combat patrol in Hit or Fallujah. We are fleeing some kind danger and have every intention of avoiding additional entanglements, to include government hospitality suites in stadiums.

The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU)
I started self-reliance the wrong way. No consensus development. I saw a danger and acted. I am a male/sheepdog/warrior type. I am not sure that I could have ever persuaded her to participate in any meaningful manner before Y2K. She has only recently begun to do so after eight years of seeing me provide for and protect her. I was, however, stubborn/strong enough to do what I thought was the right thing and to heck with what was popular. Most “males” check their gender specific anatomical gear at the wedding alter and continue on in sheeple status. I get that females are the nurturers. I get that they work from an emotional starting point, not logical. Not wanting the tornado to destroy the house or the hurricane to wreck your and the adjoining three counties is, at best, the French method of addressing life. TLSU is finally helping me to rotate food via the grocery store purchases. She no longer rolls her eyes or sighs disgustedly when I spend my Cabela points to buy gear. Once I explained to her that I was planning to shelter and feed her parents and siblings and that our one year of food wasn’t going to feed all of them for very long, she started to get on board. She even likes spending the points off of her Cabela’s card now. She is running 3-4 times per week and gets some PT from work outside in the garden. She has come a long way. As best as I can tell, she will not ever be a warrior. We have come a substantial distance from sleeping on the couch each time a self-reliance topic hits the table of discussion though. A definite and growing check mark in the “W” column!

Skills that I have acquired:

Rifles – renovating Mausers and training at Thunder Ranch helps your ability to use these tools immensely.
Soldering – fixing plumbing leaks myself vs. paying a plumber $200 to show up and start billing me for work
Building – I invested 13 full work weeks of time during the building of our home helping the contractor. Some of it was the nubby work of cleaning up the scrap and sawdust. Some of it was banging in joist hangers. I laid all the tile and 95% of the wood flooring in the house.
Fix-it – the DR Brush mower has long passed it’s warranty period and while performing quite admirably, does need attention every now and then. The 1974 F100 demands attention regularly. Each of these repair work challenges teaches me a little more about mechanical items and taking care of things myself.
Sewing – Yes, my dear Grandmother taught me to sew buttons, and my Mom taught me to survival sew/repair things. A 1960 gear driven Singer sews nylon gear though!; )
Skills still needed:
More First Aid – it appears that a first responder or wilderness 1st aid course may be in the cards for this year.
More Hand to Hand – my goals and objectives list has had this goal on it for several years. Good news – I got started on knocking it off the list. Bad news, it revealed an “old man” shortcoming in my shoulder. Good news, I am getting the shoulder fixed (hopefully) during “normal” times versus after Schumerization. I just may get ambushed and not have my trusty M1A in hand. Having unarmed defense skills means never having to be a steak dinner/victim.
More riflesmithing – each birthday or Christmas gift of money has been partially apportioned to the purchase of gunsmithing tooling. I need more practice with the tools I have. I still need more tooling. I recently secured Parkerizing gear, but have not gotten the metal stands for the tanks built. Still, progress is progress and I can already do more to maintain weapons than 95% of the population.
Knife making – I just cringe at the idea of spending $300 for top quality knives. CRKT is my friend. Even better is learning to assemble the scales and blank myself. Eventually, knowing how to forge blanks myself would be useful.
Mill lumber – with 95% of my property wooded, I have the material to be self-reliant with regard to my lumber needs. I need a way to saw the tree into lumber though. First, the mill, then the skill to use it. Then I have the gear to diversify my income and help others.

Have I always done the smartest thing? Absolutely not! Much to the crazed satisfaction of a former operator buddy, I have cycled through the “best/high dollar” gear approach to the “sack of hammers USGI/AK” school of self-reliance. Don’t get me wrong – I ain’t surrendering my Kifaru rucks anytime soon! However, there were a great number of FRNs spent on those self-reliance tuition payments! Have I learned a lot? Absolutely, yes! Am I better able to maintain my independence and protect and provide for my family? Absolutely, yes! Could you do better than I did? Good chance. Have you done as much as I have in the last 10 years? Only your freedom, loved ones, and the quality of your life post-TEOTWAWKI depend on the answer to that one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mr. Rawles:
I've seen your advice on guns and commo gear, but what do you recommend for bulletproof vests? Should I have one for concealment, and a separate [heavier] one for a stand-up fight in the worst case? Or is there a compromise thickness? Also, what do the [NIJ vest rating] "Levels" stand for, exactly? Thank Ye Much, - Arnie V.

JWR Replies: I forwarded your questions to Nick at, since his knowledge of body armor dwarfs my own. Here is his response:

Dear Arnie:
Your questions are very well put.  The most basic question of Body Armor is - do I need to stop rifle fire or pistol fire?  It's all a tradeoff of weight and concealability versus protection.

Soft concealable vests (e.g., Kevlar) will NOT stop rifle fire, but are rated Level II-A or Level II for standard handgun threats, or Level III-A for more exotic pistol threats such as 9mm sub-machine-gun or .44 Magnum.  Weight is only 3 to 6 lbs. (1.4 to 2.7 kg.) generally.

Rigid Rifle Plates are rated Level III to stop lead core .308 Full Metal Jacket (NATO 7.62 x 51mm), or Level IV to stop steel core .30-06  Armor-Piercing (AP).  Rifle Plates, are generally 10" by 12" (25 by 30 cm.) and will add 7 to 18 lbs. to a vest, depending on the type chosen, as you need a pair for Front and Back protection, .

For technical details on the NIJ ratings, see the ballistic ratings chart.

Tactical Body Armor, e.g., the Interceptor vest we are running a special on is roughly twice the weight of a concealable, torso protection vest at 10 lbs. (4.5 kg.), but twice the coverage area with extended torso protection, plus neck and groin protection.  But then you add the weight of Rifle Plates!

Here's a quick and dirty guide as to how armor can be configured - click the links for example photos:

1.  Concealable Vest for pistol protection on the torso e.g., 4 lbs. (1.8 kg.)

2.  Concealable vest with Rifle Plate Pockets and  Level IV Rifle Plates Front & Back, and pistol protection all around, e.g.,  ~16.5 lb. (7.5 kg.) - this would be "concealable under a jacket"

3.  Level IV Stand-Alone Rifle Plates in a Rifle Plates Carrier for rifle protection only on the Front & Back, ~15 lbs. (6.8 kg.) - this would be "concealable under a jacket".  Level III Ultra-light Polyethylene plates would be just 7 lbs. (3.2 kg.)

4.  Overt Tactical Body Armor for pistol and sub-machine-gun protection, ~10 lbs. (4.5 kg.) (without Rifle Plates)
- "concealable under a jacket" if neck and Groin Protection taken off.

5.  Overt Tactical Body Armor with Level IV Ceramic Rifle Plates, e.g., 22.5 lbs. (10.2 kg.)   (You can also add side Rifle Plates)

For running around town to protect against street crime, a concealable vest makes the most sense as handguns are the most common threat.  Just as important, being concealable, light, and easy to wear, it will be worn more often.  As we say - the best vest for you is the one you actually have on when being shot at!  (As opposed to a heavier vest left at home in the closet.)  We spend a lot of time talking folks out of concealable Level III-A vests for more concealable Level II vests that are easier to hide under light clothing.

For continuous use in a low threat environment, it might even make sense to forgo the vest and use a ballistic insert to make a Ballistic Backpack or Briefcase. A briefcase or backpack will usually be around, rather than a vest that won't always be worn because of heat buildup, or clothing choices.

For high threat situations, e.g., glass breaking at 3 o'-clock in the morning, or standing guard in a Hurricane Katrina style disaster, maximum protection in both coverage area and protection level makes the most sense.  Hence Tactical Body Armor with Rifle Plates, and maybe even Side Rifle Plates.  The extended coverage and rifle protection gives you a much "warmer and fuzzier" feeling when you are in a real "two-way range" situation!

So, if you can afford it, both a concealable torso vest, and an extended coverage Tactical vest with Rifle Plates is the optimal solution.  Just as pistols and rifles serve different purposes with different capabilities - it's always a tradeoff between convenience and weight vs. protection.

If your budget dictates one or the other, go with what fits your circumstances most often.  Discreet, concealed wear all day in low threat areas, or overt Tactical armor for shorter duration, high risk situations.

If you need to split the difference, you might want to consider a modular Rifle Plates Carrier to upgrade your concealable vest with rifle protection.   Going the other way, you can strip down an Interceptor vest, removing the neck and groin components for a torso vest concealable under a light jacket. Yours truly - Nick, Manager,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Morning, Jim!
Just a quick addition for your readers to your recent note about potatoes gaining in popularity: most of their useful nutritional value is in their skin and outermost fractions of inches. I believe this is true of most root vegetables. Peeling these vegetables just renders them as a wad of starch or carbohydrate - much less useful for your body than the good Lord intended them to be. All they really need (especially if grown in a home garden where you know what went into the soil) is a quick rinse and a light scrub.

Ideally your order of produce procurement would be as follows:
- home garden or friends' gardens
- public market/farmer market
- grocery store (produce sits for days before it gets displayed!)
- big box store with produce department (yuck)
So, no, peeled, frozen, fried and salted french fries do not really count as your healthy serving of "vegetable." And if you really have some ingrained loathing of potato skins and must peel them, at least put the peels in a compost bin! - Carl H.


I enjoyed your novel ["Patriots"] immensely. The tenets of your philosophy of survivalism are well thought out and codified.

I believe we are missing the boat when we don't consider the better alternative of planting and/or storing potatoes as a survival basic food source, rather than wheat, or other grains. Potatoes grow easily virtually anywhere, produce abundantly, the plants are unobtrusive, and are not foraged by deer, among other things. After TEOTWAWKI, it would be a lot easier to plant and subsist on them rather than large gardens.- Jim F. in Oregon

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

This is in response to TDs’ article on Retreat Livestock Guardians. My wife and I left the computer industry about 10 years ago and established our little retreat in N.E. Texas. We have 60 acres with a stream, couple of livestock ponds, well, and a cistern. We presently have as livestock: Boer goats, horses, donkeys – (both standard and what is called Giant), pigs, ducks, and chickens. And of course several cats. Cats keep the snakes, tarantulas, rodents, and other small nuisances away from the house and barns.

Why I am writing is because when we moved out here from Dallas, all the local livestock producers were just going on and on about the Great Pyrenees as guardian animals. So, when we purchased our first set of goats, (20 females and 1 male), we built two pens for them. One for birthing, and one for the male to reside with the females until time for birthing.

What I found out about the Pyrenees [breed] was absolutely true. The one we acquired from another established breeder became part of the herd, and was every bit as described by TD in his article, except for one thing. These animals bark at anything and everything. Especially at night. When our first one was a puppy, I was really impressed with her, because she bonded with the animal and family right off. Was very quiet, and was very little maintenance. Until she turned about a year old. Then the barking started. And never stopped. If a leaf was blown across the pasture at night, that animal went off like an air raid siren. Wife thought if we got her a mate, that that might reduce the barking. So, we acquired a male from another breeder, this one the same age as our female. Well, then we had two alarms going off every night at anything. Armadillos, possums, skunks, squirrels, deer, and I mean anything that moves at night, these two sounded off. And they are quite large, male approximately – 90 pounds, female approximately – 75 pounds, and quite loud.

Even though we enjoyed the personalities and the great job these two did with the herds, when trying to have a retreat where the main entrance and most of the acreage is concealed and not very recognizable from the road, the noise these two made could be heard literally for about a mile. So even though they performed to expectations, for the purpose of our retreat, they were a liability. I also checked with other livestock producers in the area that had these animals, and found out that this is the norm and not the exception. All of these livestock guardian dogs have a tendency to be excessively loud at night. And that is just unacceptable for the operation and purpose of this retreat. So now the donkeys are fulfilling that obligation. The two standard donkeys are in with the horses. And the two giants are in with the goats.

I have got to say, I am very, very satisfied with the results. I have watched the two standard donkeys go after a couple of coyotes with absolutely not fear at all. Ears laid back and not a sound. Just full speed ahead, then both in a coordinated attack run off any and all predators. The two giants, since they are in the pens with the goats, have not yet had to demonstrate their abilities, because watching through night vision goggles, I have just watched the predators emerge from the tree lines, take one look at the donkeys, and fade back into the woods. Guess they already had altercations with their kind before.

One thing that I was worried about, was what I had heard about donkey braying at all hours. Both daytime and nighttime. I have not found that to be the case. So far, the only time these animals bray, is at feeding time. And then, only somewhat quietly. Really no louder than the ducks. On a side note: You want a good nighttime early warning system- Ducks. Normal varmints, coons, skunks, possums, whatever can wander all around and the ducks will not emit any noise unless they try to get into the pen that the ducks are locked up in every night. But let anything larger, or not normally supposed to be around that time of night show up…. And those ducks are alerting everyone and everything. Wife and I are really attuned to sleeping peacefully throughout the night, subconsciously filtering out all the normal nocturnal noises until the ducks go off. Then I up and out the door in a flash, armed and looking for the cause of the alarm.

This is not to say we are not looking for some sort of canine. I do believe that one is a necessity, but we just have to find the right breed. One thing we have been talking about, to suite the needs out here is a type of dog I had before joining the Marine Corps. It was called a Basenji. This breed is a descendent of African wild dog that does not have the capability of barking. The one I had was always silent unless growling or a kind of whimper when feeding time was at hand. The dog actually prevented a burglary of my apartment one night. I was asleep in the back bedroom, and the dog must have heard the perp quietly knock out a pane of glass next to the front door. You know how apartments are not really made for security. Anyway I was woke up by a loud yell of someone in pain. I dressed and turned on the lights in the living room, and sitting by the window was that little Basenji with quite a bit of blood around his mouth and on the surrounding windowsills. Apparently, as the perp reached through to try to unlock the door, the little do just waited until the perfect opportunity, and latched on. Let me tell you, for a relatively little animal, about 45 pounds, the dog has quite a set of jaws on him. These dogs are known for clamping down on an extremity and not letting go. Not just a bite and release. Now as far as little children, these little dogs just love them. They will endure just about anything from children. Very loyal animals and very quick learners. Obedient and smart. Now, how they will do out here [at our ranch] I don’t know yet. But it looks like we are going to give one a try and see how it works.
Anyway, just wanted to put in my two cents worth in about the dogs in a retreat environment. The livestock guard dogs, in a non-SHTF environment, like the Pyrenees are absolutely wonderful, and exactly as described by TD. But – When you do not want your location to be compromised by unnecessary and excessive barking, maybe an alternative is needed. Respectfully, - B.W.

Friday, February 22, 2008

In the Second World War, the United States had nearly two full years to ramp up military training and production before decisively confronting the Axis powers. In the late 1970s, looking at the recent experience of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Pentagon's strategic planners came to the realization that the next major war that the US military would wage would not be like the Second World War. There would not be the luxury of time to train and equip. They realized that we would have to fight with only what we had available on Day One. They dubbed this the "Come as you are war" concept.

In my opinion, the same "come as you are" mindset should be applied to family preparedness. We must recognize that in these days of rapid news dissemination, it may take as little as 10 hours before supermarket shelves are cleaned out. It make take just a few hours for queues that are literally blocks-long to form at gas stations--or at bank branches in the event of bank runs. Worse yet, it may take just a few hours before the highways and freeways leading out of urban and suburban areas are clogged with traffic--the dreaded "Golden Horde" that I often write about. Do not make the false assumption that you will have the chance to make "one last trip" to the big box store, or even the chance to fill your Bug Out Vehicle's fuel tank. This will be the "come as you are" collapse.

The concept also applies to your personal training. If you haven't learned how to do things before the balloon goes, up, then don't expect to get anything but marginal to mediocre on-the-job training after the fact. In essence, you have the opportunity to take top quality training from the best trainers now, but you won't once the Schumer hits the fan. Take the time to get top-notch training! Train with the best--with organizations like Medical Corps, WEMSI, Front Sight, the RWVA/Appleseed Project, the WRSA, and the ARRL. Someday, you'll be very glad that you did.

The come as you are concept definitely applies to specialized manufactured equipment.You are dreaming if you think that you will have the chance to to purchase any items such as these, in a post-collapse world: razor wire, body armor, night vision equipment, advanced first aid gear, tritium scopes, dosimeters and radiac meters, biological decontamination equipment, Dakota Alert or military surplus PEWS intrusion detection sets, photovoltaics, NBC masks, and semi-auto battle rifles. Think about it: There are very few if these items (per capita) presently in circulation. But the demand for them during a societal collapse would be tremendous. How could you compete in such a scant market? Anyone that conceivably has "spares" will probably want to keep them for a member of their own family or group. So even in the unlikely event that someone was even willing to sell such scarce items, they would surely ask a king's ransom in barter for them. I'm talking about quarter sections of land, entire strings of well-broken horses, or pounds of gold. Offers of anything less would surely be scoffed at.

Don't overlook the "you" part of the "as you are" premise. Are you physically fit? Are you up to date on your dental work? Do you have two pairs of sturdy eyeglasses with your current prescription? Do you have at least a six month supply of vitamins and medications? Is your body weight reasonable? If you answer to any of these is no, then get busy!

Even if you have a modest budget, you will have an advantage over the average suburbanite. Your knowledge and training alone--what is between your ears--will ensure that. And even with just a small budget for food storage, you will be miles ahead of your neighbors. Odds are that they will have less than two week's worth of food on hand. As I often say, you will need extra supplies on hand to help out relatives, friends, and neighbors that were ill-prepared. I consider charity my Christian duty!

I have repeatedly and strongly emphasized the importance of living at your intended retreat year-round. But I realize that because of personal finances, family obligations, and the constraints of making a living at an hourly or salaried job, that this is not realistic--except for a few of us, mainly retirees. If you are stuck in the Big City and plan to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) at the eleventh hour, then by all means pre-position the vast majority of your gear and supplies at your retreat. You will most likely only have one, I repeat, one G.O.O.D. trip. If there is a major crisis there will probably be no chance to "go back for a second load." So WTSHTF will truly be a "come as you are" affair.

With all of this in mind, re-think your preparedness priorities. Stock your retreat well. If there isn't someone living there year-round, then hide what is there from burglars. (See the numerous SurvivalBlog posts on caching and constructing hidden compartments and rooms.) Maintain balance in your preparations. In a situation where you are truly hunkered-down at your retreat in the midst of a societal collapse, there might not be any opportunity to barter for any items that you overlooked. (At least not for several months. ) What you have is what you got. You will have to make-do. So be sure to develop your "lists of lists" meticulously. If you have the funds available, construct a combination storm shelter/fallout shelter/walk-in vault. It would be virtually impossible to build something that elaborate in the aftermath of a societal collapse.

A closing thought that relates to your retreat logistics: The original colonial Army Rangers, organized by Major Robert Rogers during the French and Indian Wars of the 1750s had a succinct list of operating rules. The version of the "Rules of Ranging" recounted in the novel "Northwest Passage" by Kenneth Roberts started with a strong proviso: "Don't forget nothing." That is sage advice.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dear Jim:
There is an "urban myth" that Body Armor "expires" after the official manufacturer warranty runs out. Actually, the standard five year warranty is simply based on the insurance companies legal need to limit their liability - not on the actual performance of armor. (I have a sneaking suspicion that manufacturers don't complain too much about being able to sell new Body Armor every five years either!)

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has found that 10 year old used armor tests as good as new. Since we deal with a lot of Police Surplus we run tests on the oldest and worst looking vests we see (vests we would never sell because they are over 25 years old, on the old NIJ 0101.02 standard). Oddly enough, these old and beat-up vests always stop 9mm +P FMJ and .357 Magnum +P JSP for us.
Here is a direct link to data and photos.

Of course decertified Zylon vests are not to be trusted - regardless of age. However, good Body Armor lasts much, much longer than the five year warranty/insurance policy.
Thanks, - Nick, Body Armor

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I hope you or some of your readers can help me. I am looking at getting a bullet proof vest. The more I learn about it everyone says that they are really only good for about five years. Then you should replace your vest with a new one. That is fine if I were a police officer and used it everyday, but I am not and would only wear it during my training drills. My questions is, is the five year limit just a way for the companies to limit there liability and get you to buy a new vest every five years, or do they really go bad? I did order a test panel from and when I did some testing it seemed to stop everything it should have and then some. This panel was over 10 years old. The other problem is that this equipment is very expensive and I really do not need it unless something bad happens. My fear is that I invest a large sum of money now and in five short years the investment is no good and I have to replace it. I also realize that you cannot even test shoot it to see if it is still stopping bullets because that will weaken the vest. Please let me know your thoughts on this. How long do you keep your bullet proof vests, and how should they be cared for? Thanks, - Korey

JWR Replies: The five year figure that you heard cited was a very conservative manufacturer's estimate, and was based on the assumption of daily wear in a harsh environment. Such estimates are published primarily for liability reasons. The much greater useful longevity of Kevlar vests has been well documented at and other body armor web sites. I recommend that all SurvivalBlog readers take the time to read through the extensive information on body armor vests and helmets that is available there, free of charge

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dear Jim:
Boston T. Party backs up your opinion on the value of Body Armor - to quote: “... An order of magnitude advantage” ("Boston on Surviving Y2K and Other Lovely Disasters").
you posted a good letter from Ryan that mentioned adjusting your buttstock length to account for Body Armor, web gear, etc. The main point to test all your gear - all at the same time - is a real nugget of wisdom. It's amazing the glitches that pop up that you can never foresee until you test.

One thing to note - 2" is probably a little too much compensation in buttstock length unless you have very thick clothing and web gear as well. Ultra-light Polyethylene Rifle Plates are just under an inch thick (~2.5 cm.) but the most protective Level IV Ceramic Rifle Plates are only 0.75" (~2 cm). So an inch of adjustment with web gear is probably a good estimate.
We offer both Ultra-light Polyethylene and Ceramic Rifle Plates with a "shooters cut" on the Front plate. So, with this taper at the top of the plate, you can get a buttstock plant directly onto your body (or soft armor). See this photo page. So you would have just 0.25" (~6mm) of soft Body Armor under the buttstock with "shooters cut" plates.
Yours Truly, - Nick - Manager, Body Armor

JWR Adds: My approach at compensating for the thickness of body armor and/or heavy winter clothing is as follows: Size your buttstock with assumption that it will be used in conjunction with body armor or heavy winter clothing. Then, in instances where you are shooting in casual circumstances without body armor (or in warm weather), simply add a slip-on recoil pad to make up for the difference in stock length. That pad can be removed in seconds, if circumstances change.

For any readers with HK91s or CETMEs (or clones thereof), I recommend that you buy a couple of inexpensive spare military surplus G3 stock sets s from Cheaper Than Dirt. They currently have G3 stock sets on sale for under $10, complete with a pair of handguards and a pistol grip! (See item # MGR-281 in their latest catalog.) With a price like that, you can afford to buy several stock sets and get creative. Do some WECSOG experiments with a hacksaw, two-part epoxy, and various recoil pads--while of course saving your original stock in its original configuration. OBTW, I am not a fan of the G3 "A3" collapsing stock, since it has a buttpad that is uncomfortably small and curved, and its stock rails do not provide a consistent cheek weld. An A3 stock might be useful in confined spaces (such as defending a vehicle), but otherwise, I do not recommend them.

For any readers with M1As, I recommend that you buy a few inexpensive spare stocks from Fred's M14 Stocks--they have thousands of M14 stocks in inventory--and shorten them as needed, adding recoil pads in the process. OBTW, I am particularly fond of the Pachmayr "Decelerator" recoil pad. One of your spare stocks should be cut extra short, to accommodate any small-statured shooters at your retreat. Just keep in mind that when you switch stocks on an M1A or M14 that it may have to be re-zeroed. Test your rifle's accuracy with each of your spare stocks well in advance of Schumeresque times.

For any readers with AR-15s or AR-10s, I recommend that you buy a complete spare collapsing (CAR-15/M4 Carbine style) buttstock assembly. You should preferably one that has three or four adjusting "position" notches. For fine-tuning the length of pull, someone skilled with a drill press can add additional adjustment notches.

We use L1A1s here at the ranch, three of which are equipped with extra short length-of-pull "Arctic" Maranyl stocks. These stocks were used extensively by the British Army in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, where they wore body armor for foot patrols in inimical places like Ulster and Belfast. Thankfully, L1A1 buttstocks have hard plastic pads that come in several lengths, although changing them is a bit time consuming, since the recoil spring nut must be removed. Arctic length Maranyl stocks can occasionally be found on eBay. Unfortunately, metric FALs--at least "as issued"--do not have as much stock length flexibility as L1A1s. However, as with an HK91, you can buy a couple spare stocks and do some WECSOG experimenting. The limitation, however, is the protruding recoil spring tube.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The recent SurvivalBlog article on snap shooting was great. I think that there is one useful thing to mention and that is how body armor vests (particularly thicker ones with rifle plates) change the way you shoot. The first and most obvious change to the proper way to shoot both rifles and pistols is to always face the target with your body armor! This means facing your chest directly towards the enemy, it really changes the way snap shooting works. Bringing rifles on target while keeping your chest straight toward the target is something that needs to be practiced for awhile. Doing the same with pistols is easier but still must be practiced. When wearing body armor also change the way you shoot from the prone to reflect the protection of the vest. Instead of the traditional strong side knee bent lying mostly on your weak side the way to do it is flat on your chest straight to the target so the vest protects you as much as possible.

The second way that body armor changes the way you shoot is ergonomics. Vests add thickness to all sides of your upper body. If your long gun has a stock that is exactly the right length for you [when wearing street clothes] then it will be roughly two inches too long. This is where M4 or HK91 adjustable stocks are real nice. Web gear is also going to fit smaller. These little things get to be a significant problem after a while. Try to get some hours at the range practicing snap shooting. Practice shooting with your entire kit (weapon, web gear, body armor, [and helmet]) now, so that if you need to change something you can do it before you really need the stuff--[in times when] going online and ordering a larger vest or shorter stock will probably be impossible.

Body armor is a big purchase (about the price of a decent battle rifle especially if you get [SAPI] rifle plates). After stocking a good pantry full of food and a basic firearms battery for each adult (with plenty of ammo and accessories); I can not think of another more useful item to have. - Ryan

JWR Replies: I agree with you wholeheartedly that body armor should be a high priority purchase. It is one that is often overlooked by my consulting clients. As your budget allows, each adult family member at your retreat should buy a Level IIIA concealment vest and a Kevlar helmet. If you have a big budget, then also buy an Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) vest (or equivalent).

If I had to choose between buying a second gun and buying body armor, I would definitely choose the body armor! Consider it part of your life insurance--the type that insures that you don't die--as opposed to traditional life insurance that pays after you die. (Well, technically, it would be "assurance", rather than "insurance", but you get my point.) Do some comparison shopping, for price, quality, and proper fitting. (The latter is crucial.) One vendor that I recommend offers all three is (I was recommending them long before they ever became a SurvivalBlog advertiser.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hello Jim,
I am very new reader of your blog and am just now starting to go through the archives. Based on what I’ve read so far, I commend you on putting together a useful, fact-intensive blog on “survivalism” (whatever that means), that isn’t geared towards loony, off-the-reservation, tinfoil hat-type readers, who believe that 9/11 was a plot masterminded by Halliburton.

That said, one problem I suspect I will have with your blog is that you consistently seem to be preparing for an extreme, and more-or-less permanent, breakdown of society—or TEOTWAWKI, if you will. In one of your blog posts, you noted that the problem with preparing for TEOTWAWKI, is that “between now and then, you have your life to live.” This statement is particularly true for those of us who don’t live out West, don’t live in rural environments (let alone, gasp, urban east coast cities), have young children, drive a minivan, and enjoy otherwise the soft, latte-sipping lifestyles of Yuppiedom in the second Golden Age of American wealth.

My family and I fall into that category to a great deal. Don’t get me wrong: I e-ticketed most of my courses at Gunsite, so I’m no head-in-the sand sheeple. And I’m a pretty capable empty hand fighter. But I also grew up in the suburbs and didn’t exactly spend my youth learning to trap, fish, hunt, or plant seeds. I am married to a lovely wife who has no interest in learning to run a carbine, and we have a young daughter who prevents us from grabbing bug-out rucks and heading off to the bush for two weeks. In any event, if we ever managed to actually get from our 30th floor apartment in Manhattan to the bush, I’m not sure we’d know what to do.

The point I’m making is that there are a lot of people like us—people who live in cities, who don’t feel in the least bit at home in the outdoors, who aren’t going to learn about land nav or plotting azimuths, who aren’t going to buy a bug-out retreat in the country that is going to lie empty 52 weeks a year, and who are basically screwed if TEOTWAWKI actually and truly arrives.

Barring TEOTWAWKI, it seems to me that we are infinitely more likely to face moderately scary scenarios, like Hurricane Katrina and necessary urban evacuation, some urban 1970s style civil disturbance but nothing like Mogadishu, high-intensity individual criminal acts, a low-order terrorist event nearby and the accompanying panic, or some other situation shy of the worst case scenario.

We urbanites can prepare for those events, while not being entirely distracted from our workaday “ordinary” lives, or dedicating ourselves to trying to get off-the-grid. I certainly have made some attempts to prepare. For example, I have no doubt that we’re in the 99th percentile of Manhattan preparedness by virtue of the fact that we own:

- a well maintained and fueled Honda CRV with GPS, local region street maps, XM radio (for news), an empty 5 gallon gas can, and various vehicle repair tools
- a (legally permitted) pistol and shotgun, and enough ammunition for a firefight and reload under civilian ROEs
- $4,000 in cash
- a week of MREs and water, full rations
- a PVS-14 [night vision] monocular
- soft body armor
- basic camping equipment
- various tools like a good knife, a pry bar, Surefire lights, chemlights, paracord, etc.
- a fully stocked medical kit, 30 days of scrip drugs, and a copy of “Medicine for the Outdoors”
- personal hygiene gear
- a roll of 1mm poly sheeting and a ton of 100 mph tape
- full face respirators and disposable N100 masks
- GMRS radios, shortwave radio, a hand crank radio
- a ton of batteries
- a USB key and a 500 GB backup drive with all our important information
- 1 box of critical paper documents
- clothing suitable for the seasons
- baby stuff

Most of this gear is boxed, labeled, and stored in a single closet that we’ve dedicated to SHTF equipment. The other stuff (car, guns, cash, key documents, etc.) could be policed up in 10 minutes, and is written down on a checklist. If we had to, I reckon we could shelter in place for a week, or we could bug out in an hour (assuming, of course, Manhattan was not totally gridlocked).

I’d be very interested in your thoughts about what urbanites should be doing to prepare for bad times, given the restrictions of space, limited knowledge of/interest in outdoorsman skills, “Yuppie” lifestyle constraints, etc. Thanks. - D.C.

JWR Replies: For someone that lives on Manhattan Island, you are definitely quite well-prepared!

Some preparedness upgrades that I'd recommend for you:

1.) Pre-positioning some supplies stored with friends or relatives, or perhaps in a commercial storage space, at least 150 miles out of the city, on your intended "Get Out of Dodge" route. (For that dreaded "worst case.")

2.) Adding a rifle to your firearms battery. With New York City's semi-auto and magazine restrictions, you might consider a .308 Bolt action with either a small detachable magazine, or perhaps a non-detachable magazine. A Steyr Scout would be a good choice. Some semi-auto rifles that might be approved include top-loading M1 Garands and FN49s. (No doubt easier if you are a member of a CMP-associated shooting club.) If you can't get permit approval for any modern rifles, then there is a handy exemption for long guns "manufactured prior to 1894 and replicas which are not designed to fire fixed ammunition, or for which fixed ammunition is not commercially available." You might consider a pre-1894 production Winchester Model 1876 or 1886 in an obsolete caliber such as .40-60 or .45-90. (See my FAQ on pre-1899 cartridge guns for details. Be sure to select rifles with excellent bores and nice mechanical condition.

3.) A small photovoltaic panel for recharging your flashlights, radios, and night vision gear batteries.(Along with a 300+ Amp Hour 12 VDC "Jump Pack" (such as's item # ZX265545) and 12 VDC "DC to DC" battery charging trays and the various requisite cords.)

4.) A supply of antibiotics.

5.) Consult your local fire code, and store the maximum legally-allowable quantity of extra gasoline, assuming you have a safe place to store it. (I realize that most Manhattanites have their cars stored commercially with no additional storage space, and it can be a 20 minute car-juggling exercise just to get your hands on your car, depending on how "deep" you are parked.) If extra gas will be stored in your vehicle, then be sure to get one or more Explosafe brand fuel cans, and strap them down securely so that they will maintain their integrity in the even of a vehicle collision. You might consider upgrading to a mid-size 4WD SUV (such as an E85-compatible Ford Explorer) and have it fitted with an auxiliary roof rack where you can carry extra gas cans. (Again, I realize that most Manhattan parking garages have height limitations, but do your best.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I couldn't help but respond to the blast of letters re: ".223 as Man Stopper", as most of my time in the employ of our Uncle Sam was engaged in the testing and evaluation of small arms, OPFOR and NATO. (As a matter of full disclosure, I did not offer any opinions or make decisions regarding their respective performances; rather, I merely conducted the tests and recorded the results. Therefore my opinions were/are not colored by the political intrigues of small arms procurement procedures). The trap we, as survivalists/retreaters fall into when looking at our weaponry is to look to the military. Survivalists are not infantrymen!!! Military doctrine is based on large numbers of well-armed, well supplied men engaging in unit activities to accomplish a specific mission within the parameters of acceptable losses. Survivalist do not operate in the same world. Who in your group is an "acceptable loss"? Your wife, husband, son, daughter, neighbor?

The best lens to focus your preparations through is that of the early settlers in the Old West. Constantly at risk from hostile natives and marauding bandits, they stocked their homesteads high with arms and ammo, and always carried at least two guns in every foray away from the home. The ones that made it also planned retreats, escapes, and hideouts, equally stocked, around frequently visited locations on their homesteads.

So, what is the best caliber? The 7.62mm NATO is an excellent (but heavy) man stopper, and the 7.63x39 is a decent (200 meter) cartridge, the ballistic twin of a .32 Special or moderate .30-30. The 5.56x45 is currently in use by all NATO countries, save Turkey and Greece (they're soldiering on with their [Heckler & Koch] G3 variants). Its limitations are well known but the body count continues to rack up, and has for the last forty years. Very accurate, easily controllable (especially in full auto) and light weight (read: easy to carry a lot of; see full auto mention). It's like the Aussies say about beer: "The best beer in the world is the one in your hand!" Pick your poison, but remember the Five Rules of Gunplay that my Grandpa taught me: 1) Shot placement; 2) shot placement; 3) shot placement; 4) always shoot enough gun; 5) never get shot for lack of shooting back! Something to consider, thinking like a farmer rather than a commando.
As always, keep the Faith, - Bonehead


Scientific evidence supports Martin's observations of the .223 Remington as a man stopper.
There is a substantial body of academic forensic analysis of the .223s terminal performance. This includes extensive autopsy work, as well as prolonged accumulation of wound and mortality data from battlefield and law enforcement encounters.
The United States Department of Defense studied terminal performance of the 5.56 NATO round during the initial deployment of that round to Southeast Asia. Setting aside the later problems that would tarnish the M16 reputation, and unfortunately taint the round by association, the terminal performance of the round itself was deemed to be excellent.
The most documented encounter involving the .223 is the infamous FBI Miami shootout. With the exception of several presidential assassinations and attempts, this is the most carefully, forensically analyzed gunfight in history. In that fight, five FBI agents were hit with a .223 round fired from a Ruger Mini-14: Head (1), neck (1), arm (1) and torso (2). All four of the men hit in the torso, head and neck were immediately removed from the fight. The man hit in the arm was unable to operate that limb.
You suggest that slow expansion soft points are needed for the .223 to be potent. [JWR Adds: I think that you misunderstood my statements. I stated that fast-expanding soft-nose .223 varmint bullets would not stop an armored opponent at long range.] The .223 FMJ was developed specifically to remove that need. At appropriate weight, velocity, and stabilization, the .223 was designed to overcome the disadvantages of internationally mandated military FMJ ammunition. It yaws upon entry into flesh, tumbling and travelling sideways to create a large wound channel, coming apart during the process.
Yes, .30 cal rifles have superior penetration performance against targets behind cover, and in the case of rounds like the .308 Win., will carry more energy at very long ranges. But they don't necessarily have better terminal performance than the .223 at the ranges at which most people are capable of
accurate fire.
Factor in the number of platforms available, the ubiquity of the ammo, the low recoil, the cost, the ability to store and carry more rounds: The .223 is a very good choice in a main defensive weapon.
Regards, - Rich S.


Jim & Co.,
I hadn't had much time to read the blog in the last few weeks (maybe months) but was greeted with another discussion of caliber selection, and thought I would throw my hat into the ring. Of all the ammo out there, some of the worst you can chose is SS109, unless you are trying to shoot long distances for area effect with an M249. That steel they put in the nose is only there so that the nose wouldn't be too heavy, not so it would "penetrate" better.
While I don't disagree with the opinions of some of our men and women in uniform about caliber selection (mostly because it's their a** on the line), combat is a numbers game, and everything comes with trade-offs. For your MBR you have to choose between weight, round count, penetration, range and knock-down power. When we fought the last two world wars 60 rounds was considered a combat load, and any of those rifles could punch through several concrete houses before they stop. The .308 is a little bit lighter,
and has a little bit less punch, but is deadly accurate past 1000 yards, but still suffers from the same inherent drawback; weight.
The .223 (5.56x45mm) has an advantage in this arena, it's fired from a lightweight gun (nominally 8 pounds) it has low recoil and high second follow up shot potential (in full auto mode) and the ammo weighs about 1/3 of the .308. Playing this strictly as a numbers game, you can now carry three times as much ammo for the same given weight. Would you rather: land one round of .223 causing a serious wound, or take the chance of missing and not hurting your assailant at all?
Another point that is often forgotten, people are really not all that big. Typically we are thin skinned, and are maybe 8-18" thick from front to back, side to side. Thus any kind of "penetrator" round will simply punch a clean hole right through, and not do very much damage (arguably the biggest issue with the .223 vs .308). As a follow up, it bears repeating, any wound over 2" deep has a very high likelihood of being fatal. With this in mind, even explosive varmint bullets will penetrate this deep, most likely tearing through soft body armor up to 500 yards.
The main kill method for bullets, clubs, and rocks is not penetration, it's energy transfer. It's how much blunt force trauma you can inflict on your enemy. To this end a bullet which penetrates will not transfer much of this energy, but a hollow point, or frangible bullet will.
In my opinion, those varmint bullets, or frangible bullets are the way to go for putting your enemy in the ground. Both of these will give higher rates of energy transfer, destroy more tissue, and based on the guaranteed fragmentation at long range are likely to cause very high bleed rates in whatever you decide to put them into.
Also, some of the other letters referenced military development pushing back towards larger caliber rifles such as 6.8 SPC and others. This is utter garbage, as the military is still buying more 5.56 rifles, as well as putting out further competitive bids for 5.56 caliber weapons. While it's nice to see the 6.8 out there, and I am always impressed with it's performance, will it be replacing the 5.56 any time soon? I really really doubt it. However, it looks like the Brits are dropping the .308 as being too small for sniper purposes, and are rolling out a few new variants in .338 Lapua.
Some links for people to digest:
Tavor21 rifle headed into service with Indian special forces
The USA's M4 Carbine Controversy


Dear Jim,
Once again I feel called to step in and provide some info on 5.56 ammo.
First, as I've said before, for long-term situations I'd prefer a bolt action rifle in a common game caliber of the area (8mm, .30-06, 7.62x54, .308). This gives ultimate reliability for best cost.
However, there are times when high output is necessary. At those times, you need a fast firing weapon in the standard caliber of the area. In just about the entire civilized world, that caliber is 5.56mm. There is no point in stocking a "wildcat" caliber, and little in stocking a non-standard round. I love the .45 ACP, but 9mm and .40 are far more common in official supply chains, which will have ammo long after .45 ACP is exhausted in stores. Actually, I prefer .45 Long Colt, but it's no longer US issue and a bit hard to find in strategic quantity.
As far as rifles, .308 is getting very pricey, very fast. It also means a heavier weapon, heavier ammo and more recoil. In a G.O.O.D. situation, all these are relevant.
In such a situation, I don't plan on stopping for long. I don't plan to hang around to find out if my rounds killed or merely wounded a goblin, and I don't expect most goblins, rioters, etc, will act like hardened combat vets and stick around for an extended fight.
My sources (beyond my own decades of experience) include a Navy combat medic who has treated more than 400 casualties in our current nastiness. In his words, he's never seen a serious torso or head hit with 5.56 that was not incapacitating or lethal. I can testify firsthand from running a training range that most troops do not shoot exceptionally well. Add in the fog of war and a natural fear reaction, and, with no disrespect intended, I'll bet any amount of money that most of the "multiple torso hits" that didn't take a bad guy down were probably multiple torso misses. We've all been positive that we hit a target that didn't react, and must be defective. Or else the weapon is. It's human nature to trust ourselves, if we are healthy. But it doesn't matter what you miss with. It won't work.
Did some hits fail to stop the bad guy? Certainly. Bob Dole took multiple German 8mm hits in WWII. Should we assume 8mm is an inadequate stopper and go back to .45-70?
For information and reassurance I offer the following links:
An extensive, official analysis of wounding mechanisms in small arms projectiles.
An Army LTC's take on matters.
A ballistics tutorial.
Also, one cannot equate ".308 or 7.62 Soviet." Apart from a similar diameter, the two rounds have nothing in common. This is the "bigger is better" school, which taken to its extreme would equate 9mm and .375H&H. Both are "Big." The question is, do they have enough power to penetrate, and do they terminate in a fashion that will cause sufficient wounding? At 400 yards, the 5.56 is comparable in power to a .45 ACP at the muzzle. Is that the definition of "inadequate"? Especially since the odds of any one of us engaging a hostile target at that range, and hitting, are very close to zero (and I speak as someone with military match trophies on the shelf behind me, using a standard H&R contract M16A1 at 400 yards).
5.56mm causes greater wounds than 7.62X39. This has been demonstrated and documented hundreds of thousands of times since Vietnam. It is also a more effective round in terms of rounds per pound for transport. See Dr. Fackler's documentation above, among others. For example:
5.56mm will go through at least 12" of pine...and keep going.
Neither 7.62 NATO nor 5.56 will penetrate a 6" sandbag.
5.56 will penetrate two Level IIIA vests with hard trauma plates.
SS109 spec 5.56 has better armor penetration than some 7.62 NATO loads. (This site has lots of useful info, but is starting to decay. I've sent a reminder to the hosts.)
As far as I'm aware, the myth of the US military "returning" to .30 caliber has been around for 40 years, ever since 5.56 was adopted. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is number of rounds per pound for logistical supply, this is never going to happen. If you run out of ammo, it doesn't matter what you could have shot the bad guy with. Even if it were inadequate, I'd rather have half a 210 round loadout of 5.56 than none [remaining] of a 100 round loadout of 7.62.
By the way, I've been performing a dirt test on one of my AR-15s. 2000 rounds over a year so far with no cleaning. The only failures have been due to $3 used sold-as-parts Israeli surplus Orlite magazines.

I should also mention the following data that I found at

"Combat operations the past few months have again highlighted terminal performance deficiencies with 5.56x45mm 62 gr. M855 FMJ. These problems have primarily been manifested as inadequate incapacitation of enemy forces despite their being hit multiple times by M855 bullets. These failures appear to be associated with the bullets exiting the body of the enemy soldier without yawing or fragmenting. This failure to yaw and fragment can be caused by reduced impact velocities as when fired from short barrel weapons or when the range increases. It can also occur when the bullets pass through only minimal tissue, such as a limb or the chest of a thin, malnourished individual, as the bullet may exit the body before it has a chance to yaw and fragment. In addition, bullets of the SS109/M855 type are manufactured by many countries in numerous production plants. Although all SS109/M855 types must be 62 gr. FMJ bullets constructed with a steel penetrator in the nose, the composition, thickness, and relative weights of the jackets, penetrators, and cores are quite variable, as are the types and position of the cannelures. Because of the significant differences in construction between bullets within the SS109/M855 category, terminal performance is quite variable—with differences noted in yaw, fragmentation, and penetration depths. Luke Haag’s papers in the AFTE Journal (33(1):11-28, Winter 2001) describe this problem."

So obviously one also must consider the construction of the projectile. With that in mind, and the wonderful mass of data available here, I'm still very happy with 5.56, with the right ammo selection (as with any caliber). - Michael Z. Williamson


Mr. Rawles,
The posts about the .223 on your web site reminded me of an article I recently read [At Michael Yon's web site] and thought you would be interested.

The takeaway line from the article: "Prosser shot the man at least four times with his M4 rifle. But the American M4 rifle [cartridge]s are weak - after Prosser landed three nearly point blank shots in the man’s abdomen, splattering a testicle with a fourth, the man just staggered back, regrouped and tried to shoot Prosser.”

Keep up the good work, - Jack


Okay! Hold on a minute, I did not say that I preferred the .223, I just said I found a new found respect for the .223. I have seen what it can do. I was only comparing chest size and penetration. In the right hands the .223 is a very formidable weapon. If all I can see is the boot or hand or leg or arm it will have serious hole in it and the varmint will be out of the game along with the two it takes to haul them out of the line of fire, and I may get them too with my .308.
The .223 68 grain is not extra heavy by any means when you consider the available bullet weight spectrum. The various arms conventions re hollow points will not apply as society breaks down. The dead never complain.

To Stephen in Iraq, CDR, Clyde, Jack, and all the readers of the blog. My favorite .308 cal shoots a solid 168 grain boat tail crimped molly bullet. These are not super hot hand loads. They are loaded to the same specs as standard mil spec .308s. They are just faster because of the moly. Faster gives me a longer battlefield zero.

For all you new readers I fully support Jim's position regarding the .308 as the primary battle weapon. I personally hold that our primary survival caliber is a .308 in a semi auto, backed up with other common calibers like .30-06, 7.62x39, and .223.

Here we use mil spec .223 and .308 ammo. However, Jim is very right in developing ballistically matched rounds for each weapon. We have done this. In my bolt gun I prefer to use 168 grain
bullets but will use mil spec as well. Now I am a older fart, can't run a long distance, but can walk all day with short breaks. Will defend my home and will seek out varmints using the shoot
and scoot principal. For me accuracy and long range is more important than firepower, however we have both.
So for all you .308 buffs, "I are one" too. My favorite hunting caliber is a .300 Weatherby magnum, and yes, I shoot 168 grain boat tail bullets in it as well. - Martin

JWR Replies: Thanks to all of those that commented. There is certainly no lack of controversy on this topic!

One important point of clarification: I specifically mentioned that current fast-expanding .223 soft nose "varmint" ammunition lacks penetration against armored opponents at long range. It works fairly well "up close and personal", or against someone that is not wearing body armor. But even then, it may take several shots to put Mr. Bad Guy out of the fight, during which time he very well might still be launching lead at you. So once again, if I have the choice, I will grab a .308. It has often and rightly been said that in gun fights there are no second place winners.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dear Jim:
You are spot on with your recent recommendation to think about concealable body armor first. As we say: "the best vest for you is the one you’re actually wearing when shot!" And being easy to wear and concealable makes a vest much more practical and used more often. It is analogous to self defense with pistols vs. rifles. Rifles are indeed superior protection - but pistols save more lives because they are actually carried and available most often.

I must add a caution to your advice about relying on two Level II vests to perhaps stop a rifle bullet. In some cases, where the rifle bullet is slowed down by cover, yes. We have had a concealable Level II vest come back from Iraq, after saving a service member who was hit with AK-47 fire--but first the bullet had been slowed and deformed by the back of an unarmored vehicle.
Generally soft body armor will never stop direct [rifle] fire. Rifle bullets are travelling at 2 to 3 times the velocity of pistol bullets, and have a more pointed-penetrating tip, and thus will likely penetrate even two Level II or III-A soft body armor vests. Two times Level II does not equal Level IV! ;-) Better to save the money from the second vest and spend it on Rifle Plates and a modular Carrier, or Rifle Plate Pockets as a second outer shell carrier for your vest.

Your advice on helmets is wise - I'd rather have the older, heavier PASGT Kevlar Helmet with the MICH blunt trauma pad system, than a newer helmet with no pad system.

Finally, thank you for your kind words about our dedication to sizing and fitting. We work very hard at this as there is a delicate balance between the amount of protection and coverage vs. comfort and concealment. It is really worth spending the time to get detailed measurements, and to discuss trade-offs between protection levels, models and sizes.
Yours truly, - Nick, Body Armor

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mr. Editor:
I have been working on preparedness for my family for five years now, but I realized that there is one area where I'm lacking: body armor. What sort of vest do you recommend, both for concealment-type and for the "worst case" sort of situations? What [protection] "level" vest rating should I get? For home defense in an out-and-out TEOTWAWKI, should I also buy a kevlar helmet? Are used vests worth buying? Which dealers are trustworthy? I live in a suburb of Atlanta [Georgia, USA], but my work frequently takes me downtown to places like Peachtree Plaza. (Downtown Atlanta has a high crime rate.) Thanks, - Peter G.

JWR Replies: In my experience, most survivalists make the mistake of buying Level III body armor, and then rarely wearing it. It is just too heavy for day-to day wear, especially in a hot, humid climate. A vest is useless if it is always hanging in your closet.

My low-budget approach has been to buy two NIJ Level 2 vests for each adult: One that is my size and one that is slightly larger, with an additional trauma plate. A Level 2 vest will stop most handgun bullets (see the NIJ ratings). And a Level 2 vest is fairly comfortable to wear and relatively inconspicuous, even in an office setting, if you pick your clothes carefully. (For example, opaque, loose-fitting shirts and sweaters.) For defending your retreat, both vests can be worn together. Worn in that manner, the two vests will provide a good chance to stop some rifle bullets--even better than a Level 3 vest. If you have a really big budget, you might consider buying both a Level 2 vest and a full coverage high rating (Level 3 or Level 4) military body armor such as Interceptor Body Armor (IBA). With upgrade plates, those vests can easily cost more than $1,000 each. Although I suspect that the prices of both new and used IBA will come down, since it is being made in very large quantities to support OEF and OIF troop deployments.

Used body armor can be worth buying, if you buy from legitimate dealer. There is a surprisingly large number of "low hours" vest one the market, primarily from people that wash out of police academies.

I strongly suggest that you buy at least one and preferably two spare vest carriers (the out fabric shell). That way you can have an extra carrier, so that you can alternate them, for laundering.

Helmets do make sense for defending a retreat. It just takes a moment to put one on. Their cost has come way down in recent years, with the profusion of used USGI kevlar PASGT helmets on the market. I recommend finding the right size PASGT helmet, and then upgrading it with the latest chin strap and perhaps a MICH-type suspension system.

The vendor that I recommend for both vests and helmets is I have been recommending them for years--long before they became a SurvivalBlog advertiser. They have a wide selection, very competitive prices, and they are quite knowledgeable. Most importantly, they are experts at vest and helmet sizing, which is crucial. Presently they are offering a free shipping special for anyone that mentions that they are a SurvivalBlog reader.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Hey Guys,
I was the first to order an Interceptor [body Armor (IBA)] vest from and I am very pleased. I disassembled the vest to check the inserts, and there was a momentary panic because they were made by Second Chance in 2005. I sent the serial number and lot number in to Second Chance, and they told me the vest had no Zylon. With that knowledge, that vest turned into a heck of a deal. Thanks, - Jeff

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hi Jim
I found the article about real gunfights, earlier this week, very interesting. I happened to run across this video of a real gun fight between quite a few law enforcement officers s and one guy with a battle rifle.

I am no gun expert, but it sure taught me a few things:

1) Never take a handgun to a rifle fight

2) Take cover. These guys just walked out the door and got shot.

3) Riding on the hood of a car is not a good tactic.

All the best, - Kurt

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dear Jim,
Dragonskin Armor, from all non-PR reports, isn't nearly as good as its designers would like us to believe. (Also see: this article, as well as this one.)
Dragonskin is claimed to meet Level IV standards, but has only been certified by the NIJ to Level III. And that's only one model of several--others are not certified at all. They are being sued by the USAF over this fraudulent claim.
After several delays refusing to provide test samples to the Army, the Army purchased some and sent them to an independent lab. [The manufacturer] Pinnacle claims these tests were "incomplete." True. Because Dragonskin failed the tests almost at once, so why continue?
It can't survive high desert temperatures or other environments--the glue fails, the ceramic delaminates and it loses protection.
Meanwhile, despite Pinnacle's vicious smear campaign, Interceptor [Body Armor (IBA)] does stop rifle fire and is saving lives. It is possible to do better, I'm sure. I'm hesitant to believe a company that falsifies its standards is the one to do so.
I hate to sound biased, but to me Pinnacle appears to be a scam artist. I wouldn't be surprised to see the owner somewhere tropical with a suitcase full of cash in a few years. - Michael Z. Williamson

Friday, June 8, 2007

I noticed the letter you posted about the man who bought his interceptor armor from eBay. Much of the Interceptor [Body] Armor on the market is stolen property.
Many times it was stolen through supply [channels] and that is one of the reasons so many troops had to buy their own.
On many of the tactical forums you have to be able to produce proof that you bought the interceptor armor legally.
The interceptor armor itself is outdated. It is very heavy and bulky. Dragonskin is also not available to civilians. You have to have a end user certificate to even get the stuff. Thanks for the great site. - Meerkat, Murfreesboro Tennessee

Dear Jim:
Dr. Richard makes a critical point about avoiding defective Zylon vests on eBay, but I must add some cautions to his suggestion about buying used Interceptor armor. For the sake of full disclosure, here at we are about to advertise a $500 special on our brand-new Interceptor Outer Tactical Vests on SurvivalBlog. But the following information is factually verifiable for any skeptics.
Beware of Stolen Interceptor Armor
Unless the armor was bought with private funds, it is U.S. government property and should have been turned in by the user. The Army criminal investigations unit has been aggressively confiscating undocumented armor from both military and non-military personnel, and prosecuting dealers who knowingly bought stolen armor. This has been such a problem, we simply won't buy Interceptor armor without verification of it's title - just like a car.
Beware of Damaged SAPI hard plates
Unless it has been abused, there shouldn't be a problem with the protection level of the aramid (i.e., Kevlar) soft ballistic panels in the Interceptor. Aramid does not degrade noticeably just from age.
Be very, very careful with SAPI Rifle Plates
These Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPIs) are made out of boron carbide and are more fragile than Ceramic Rifle Plates. Some will have hairline cracks not visible unless X-rayed. Even just improper packaging for shipping can leave them damaged (I swear a lot of the delivery drivers are former shot putters, the way they throw packages around! )
Also, unless it is an Enhanced model (E-SAPI) it is not full AP protection like Level IV Ceramic Rifle Plates, the original SAPI mil spec called for M-16 and AK-47 threats to be stopped - but not AP rounds.
Finally, regarding the "better" Dragon Skin. Well, Pinnacle has an impressive public relations machine, but they have only had the vest certified to Level III standards (to stop .308 FMJ) by the NIJ (National Institute of Justice). If I really had a superior product that was being ignored by the Army, I'd have it Level IV certified (stopping .30-06 AP) and sell it to police customers - why hasn't Dragon Skin done this? They only have a Level III certification on file.

We have customers in The Sandbox who bought Dragon Skin, but just couldn't take the extra weight. Just like everything else, take the time to dig below the marketing hype and know what you are buying. Thanks, - Nick, Manager, Body Armor


I am a new reader of the your blog. (About two months now) I even submitted a story [to the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest] about raising chickens for survival protein. It did not win, but hey it was fun to be published, and maybe it can help out someone else. Maybe I can try again next month I would love to have a copy of your book. It sounds good. And I am addicted to the blog. I read it almost every day.

The reason I read it is because I do most of these things any way but now I can learn to do it the right way. Thanks for all this great info. You may even see a few dollars in snail mail in a few weeks.

I was looking at the info about body armor and how some of the good stuff from Iraq is showing up on eBay. That got me thinking. Do you have any past info about body armor, what the rankings mean? What the ball park prices are and how to find used stuff. (I do love eBay) I think this would be a great Item to get a hold of but I need more info before I make any purchases. I looked over the web but all I can find is info from the sellers and some times I have trouble believing every thing the sales person tells me. Any info would be great. Thanks, - Korey

JWR Replies: A good description of the NIJ body armor protection standards numbers can be found in this primer. I have no idea about current auction pricing on IBA. Just be sure that what you buy comes with an original receipt or military Statement of Charges. (Items that are misplaced by soldiers are often paid for via Statement of Charges.)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Military surplus Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) is starting to show up on eBay from Iraq war veterans who had to purchase the military spec armor themselves before the military was able to issue the armor to every soldier. This week, I purchased a full set of the Interceptor body armor with the front and back small arms protective insert small arms protective insert (SAPI) rifle plates from an Army officer via eBay. This equipment is heavy (around 17 pounds) tactical armor that is bulky. It offers good protection and intimidation factors for post-TEOTWAWKI uses and is perfect for guard duty or working security related jobs. The Dragonskin armor is better but is too expensive (~$5,000) unless if you need it for a day job (e.g. contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan). I would still recommend separately buying a concealable, lighter Level IIIA bullet proof vest for use in day-to-day, non-tactical applications, particularly for trading and leaving your home or retreat during an economic collapse or severe economic depression. Finally, your mileage can vary purchasing on eBay. The condition of the equipment varies greatly, not all auctions include the SAPI rifle plates, and some are for the older (defective) versions that used the Zylan material. I would recommend that SurvivalBlog readers create an e-mail alert on eBay to have eBay send them an email when the key word "interceptor armor" appears in new auctions. There are some bargains and more sets of Interceptor Body Armor are starting to show up in eBay auctions. - Dr. Richard

Monday, May 21, 2007

Some of these stretched the 100 word limit. (I skipped posting one that rambled on far beyond the limit.) The poll's premise in a nutshell: "If someday you went to the gates of a survival community post-TEOTWAWKI and pleaded the case for why you should be let past the barricades and armed guards to become a valuable working member of the group, would you get voted in? Taken objectively, would you vote yourself in?"


I am a shoe maker (not just a repairman) can repair saddles tan leather have done ranch work mechanics weld gardening skills set a broken bone stitch up a bad wound can bake bread etc, shooting skills need work only 5.5 MOA on AQT. Can milk a cow make butter some basic carpentry skills can use a wood lave make one if needed to know how to set up wind / water power to a shop or mill make some one laugh when things are bad can teach can also learn.know how to adapt over come make things work specialization is for insects.
Some limits to work: mild back problems cannot do a lot of over head work.
1 CETME rifle with 12 mags, ALICE pack, compressed MREs, 1 folding shovel camo nylon rope water filtering canteen extra canteen freeze dried canned soup 1 empty
small can rubbing alcohol cotton balls (cheap cook stove) 1 cooking kit 1 med kit 1 multi tool 1 roll toilet paper 1 wash cloth 2 tooth brushes tooth paste 1 belt with bayonet for CETME one pocket knife canteen & pouch cleaning kit for rifle and butt pack 2 mag pouches fishing line and hooks matches 4 Bic lighters 1 Iver Johnson 5 shot .38 S&W revolver 36 rounds of ammo, Flecktarn camo pants and shirt vest 1 light weight sleeping bag wool socks and a spare pair sturdy boots, Carthart coat tan 1 pocket size bible etc,,


Many years' experience in:
Primitive Skills:
*edible and medicinal native plants
*cordage and rope making
*hide tanning
*bow and arrow making
*bow hunting
Contemporary Skills:
*organic gardener
*orchard (fruit and olive)
*firearms use
Mid-50's, good shape for age, 6'4", 225#. Wife, mid 50's, 5'10", 150# (who shares many of the above skills, plus expert at canning/freezing, quilting, tatting, making clothes and moccasins).
Both have a sense of humor and aren't afraid to work.
In packs, besides personal gear:
*heirloom seeds
*one .308 MBR, one .223, with magazines and ammo
*two .45 Governments


Age 25, weight 160, excellent health, single. Engineer, engine mechanic, builder, jack of all trades. Trained and competitive marksman. Skilled teacher. Tolerant, thick skinned, sense of humor. Introvert, not loner. Schooled in college, educated in real life. History buff and cook.
Competent with photovoltaics, backhoes, generators, concrete, gardens, propane systems, AC and DC electricity, firearms, computers, welding.
Most importantly: not a prima donna, armchair commando, or busybody.
Equipment includes rifle, pistol, small amount of ammo, soft body armor and binoculars.


Age: Near 60. Can still see well enough, without glasses, to shoot back.

Old, tired, wore out. Been around the third world several times. (South America, South Seas, East Asia) Can't lift a third my own weight. Don't eat much. Know how to do just about anything.

Will arrive with 30 Lbs water, 30 Lbs freeze dried food, Ruger Mini 14, S&W 659, 100 rds for each, a few old books. and 50+ years usable knowledge. That about 100 pounds? (Worst case here. Actually, I would attempt to bring my entire robotics shop. Attempt, I said! )

Skills: Artificer. If you can picture it, I can make it. Make a windmill from a starter motor. Make my own tools as I need 'em. Bend railroad rail with no more than an axe and 6 young men for the bull work. Machinist, electrician, carpenter, stone layer, robotics engineer .


Age 25. Ex-military.
Trained extensively in: Perimeter reconnaissance,
Instructor of: full-spectrum warfare, defensive fighting positions, combat operations.
Expert marksmen: M16A2, M4A1 (GUU-5/P), M9. Expert in FN-FAL, M1A/M14, AKM, M16/AR-15 Family, 1911-A1, M9, CZ-75. Proficient with many other firearms.
20/15 vision. Reloading/Gunsmith hobbyist.
Physically/Mentally Fit.

Equipped: FAL Carbine (18"bbl). Custom 1911A1. PASGT Kevlar Helmet/Vest. Boots/Socks. Woodland BDUs.
Custom LBE: Seven 30rd FAL Mags(210rds). Eight 8rd 1911-1 Mags( 64rds). Two 1-quart Canteens (Full). Multi-tool.
Medium ALICE pack: Five 20rd FAL mags (empty), Two SA Battlepacks (280rds). Two Boxes .45ACP (100rds). First-Aid Kit. Extra BDUs (1 set). Cans of Soup (5). Mess Kit. Local Map/Compass.


Phd/MBA expert (37) on alternative energy and appropriate technology. Tool maker and builder/manufacturer/processor of useful post-TEOTWAWKI machines, trade goods, and alcohol (own BATF-licensed alcohol fuel still). Russian MBA wife (35) survived fall of Soviet Union and 1998 crisis. 4 yo and 10 mo daughters. Home machine shop, tools, anvil, forge, ethanol still, large printed alternative energy / appropriate technology / engineering / survival library, and inventory of preparation items greatly exceed the 100 lb per person limit but would be worthy of a group salvage/recovery mission. G.O.O.D. bags contain standard items recommended by Rawles, et al. Additional personally carried gear would include M1A w/ Leupold scope, AR-15 with trijicon night sites, Glock 21 (45ACP) with Trijicon night sites, Berkey water filter, laptop with large collection (>500 books) of appropriate energy and appropriate technology books on CD, Robinson curriculum on CDs for home schooling kids, ten 15"x15" fresnel lenses capable of starting fires in 30 seconds, disassembled 2" diameter alcohol still column with supply of vapor locks and 1 lb of ethanol yeast, and a few of my more portable tools (blacksmith hammer, hardy, & gloves; measurement tools; multimeter; temperature measure).


48 y/o 6ft 180lb male – good health
- Can walk 20 mi/day in full gear
- “Rifleman” with .308 MBR
- Doctor (emergency medicine and minor surgery)
- Gunsmith and reloader
- Cook

Backpack (40 lbs)
Sleeping bag/tarp
(2) BDUs & wool socks
Rain gear
Soap/camp towel/toothbrush
Food bars for 1 week
Water filter/bottle
Cookset/Trioxane tabs
Small survival kit (Fishhooks, matches, snares, etc)
AR-7 and 200 rounds

Web gear (35 lbs)
First aid/trauma kit
G23 + 2 mags (51 rounds)
8 mags .308 (150 rounds)

Barter/buy-in: (25 lbs)
Minor surgical set
Local anesthetic/syringes
2000 doses various oral antibiotics and pain meds!


I feel I would be a great asset to your community. I am a seventh degree black belt in American freestyle combatives and I could easily teach your people the skills to handle themselves in this perilous time. I also have an extensive background in firearms handling,gunsmithing and reloading. My real expertise thought is as a meat butcher. I can literally take a beef ( or any wild or domestic animal) from the field to the table. I bring with me a full set of cutlery tools, including saws,steels and several knives. I also carry a AR-15 w/8-20 round, loaded mags. A Glock 19 w/mags, and a Rem 870 tactically modified. I have a full set of ultralight camping gear including, freeze dried food,tent, sleeping bag,etc. My loyalties are to God, Country, and my brothers at arms.


repaired furniture
a little basic farm work(irrigation, pick rock)
assembled some field sprayers
inventory control/purchasing
some hunting
a lot of fishing
a lot of target shooting
cashier(a lot)
lube and oil cars
built 40 wood tables for an assembly line
sorted recycled paper
stock shelves
gas station attendant
a little gardening(corn,peas,onions)
unarmed watch
yard work(mowing, weeding)
sandwich/donut driver
some bow and arrow
some encrima [Philippine stick fighting martial art]
some cooking
printers helper
some CPR


Male, 38, 160 pounds. Reasonable shape.
Suturing, minor surgery, advanced airway management, cautery, fractures, casting, NBC treatment, tooth extraction and making dental fillings. 2 home births. Pistol. Morse code.

Sutures, antibiotics, casting supplies, complete surgery tools and dental extraction set.
.45, scoped M21 sniper rifle plus ammo. Field scope, rangefinder. Level 4 bulletproof vest, helmet, FRS radios.
Water filter, water, food, tent, sleeping pads and bags, heirloom seeds.

Two boys, 7 and 9 and wife. All with level 3a vests. Kids with .22 rifles and ammo. Wife with 9mm, AR-15 and ammo. Knows some gardening. Kids learning morse code.


Have excellent interpersonal/negotiation skills
Have made a sufficient study of military history/combat tactics/military strategy
Maintain a vegetable garden/fruit trees
Have studied/used survival techniques in N.A. and C.A.
Have knowledge of indigenous edible plants/animals in N.A. and C.A.
Have skill-at-arms on US/ComBloc small arms
Am expert in usage of map and compass
Have field grade(ditch) medical skills
Maintain personal combatives skills
Can forage and improvise like nobody’s business
Have seen the elephant

Weaknesses –
No livestock husbandry experience
Not a carpenter
Middle aged
Average driving skills

Probable TEOTWAWKI employment:
Retreat security
Weapons maintenance and training
Strategic Planning and Implementation

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dear Jim,
Basic leatherworking [suggested in the recent poll on potential TEOTWAWKI home businesses] is fairly easy, if time consuming. Shears, a punch and strong thread are all that's needed. Fine work or more elaborate items than pouches, belts, hats and such take practice, but the leather can frequently be salvaged from mistakes and reused.
I think the most important aspect of the skill for a TEOTWAWKI environment would be skinning, curing and tanning. Brain, urine, vegetable and oak tanning are time consuming (Everything about leather is), but books exist and functional (as opposed to pretty) leather isn't too hard to produce. It's worth practicing once or twice now.
Also don't forget that dried rawhide, or leather boiled for a few seconds. (Oil isn't necessary. Water is preferred) is hard enough to armor against cutting edges and some blunt impacts. -
Michael Z. Williamson

JWR Adds: Most SurvivalBlog readers will recognize the name Michael Z. Williamson (since he frequently sends us e-mails), and many of you have probably read some of his books. (He is a well-known science fiction and military fiction writer.) But you may not have heard that he is also a part-time sword and knife maker. He is a co-owner of a custom edged weapon biz called, appropriately enough Sharp Pointy Things. He has also considerable experience doing historical reenacting. So when Mike mentions the utility of boiled leather for armor, he speaks from first hand experience! And for any of you thinking about about buying any sharp pointy things to prepare for that dreaded multi-generational TEOTWAWKI ("MGTEOTWAWKI") scenario, then Mike is the man to see.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Here's a link to an e-mail written by a Marine Corps Intelligence officer in Iraq. It's humbling to read first hand the sacrifices our troops endure for us. But in all dark clouds, there is a silver lining (in this case from a preparedness perspective). In the near future, there are going to be a lot of medical personnel returning to civilian life that know exactly how to treat gun shot wounds and conduct "walking bloodbanks". May the Lord bless you with one near your home.

Other stray thoughts: keep an eye out for the new [Interceptor] body armor if it ever hits the surplus market. Also, the next generation of expert firearms instructors is being molded right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once again, may you be blessed with one near your home in the future. - Rookie

JWR Adds: My favorite snippet from the Marine Corps officer was this: "Best Chuck Norris Moment - 13 May. Bad Guys arrived at the government center in the small town of Kubaysah to kidnap the town mayor, since they have a problem with any form of government that does not include regular beheadings and women wearing burqahs. There were seven of them. As they brought the mayor out to put him in a pick-up truck to take him off to be beheaded (on video, as usual), one of the bad Guys put down his machinegun so that he could tie the mayor’s hands. The mayor took the opportunity to pick up the machinegun and drill five of the Bad Guys. The other two ran away. One of the dead Bad Guys was on our top twenty wanted list. Like they say, you can’t fight City Hall."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Some corrections and additional points regarding swords, crossbows, leaf springs, etc.
1) The Japanese do not have a monopoly on “cutting” swords; most European swords before c. 1500 (and even after this point) were quite capable of serous shearing blows. See Ewert Oakeshott's "Sword in the Age of Chivalry" and "Records of the Medieval Sword" for more details.
2) An “epee” or “foil” is utterly useless as a weapon, being for sporting use only. The rapier (which is what the epee/foil is based loosely on) is somewhat useful,
but is a somewhat degenerate sword style, introduced after swords were becoming secondary weapons on the
3) “Great Swords” are not all that heavy – 3 to 5 lbs is typical.
4) For quality modern reproduction swords, go to Arms and Armor or Albion Armorers. These tend to be high-end, but are made not only of top notch material, but are exact reproductions that have all of the fighting capability of the original Mediaeval arms that saw real combat, including proper balance, weight
distribution, etc. Other quality manufacturers include Cold Steel (as mentioned), Del Tin, and Lutel in the Czech Republic. Moral: you get what you pay for.
5) The above being said, some lower end reproductions from China and India are of adequate quality, especially Hanwei Forge and Windlass Steelcrafts. I avoid the Hanwei simply because it is out of China.
Neither is perfect, but they will be adequate.
6) This poster, alas, knows little about European swordsmanship. Go to Chivalry Bookshelf for solid information on this subject. Also, check their links section for sites that perform training, etc. in true European martial arts.
7) I suspect a European sword can be drawn as quickly as a katana…
8) Bows are simpler to make than crossbows. Unless your foes are running around in chainmail or heavier armor, there is little need for the penetration power
of the crossbow. Don't forget you need to make arrows/bolts for these weapons! This is a separate skill.
9) Blackpowder is a sustainable resource, so there is considerable payoff in researching pre-smokeless powder weapons… I was working on an article for
SurvivalBlog, and still am, but have found that it is going to take awhile to write it to do it justice.
10) While one technically can use a leaf spring for a crossbow prod, it is a much more difficult proposition than most realize. Simply attaching a spring to the end of a block of wood will not do it. It requires
fairly precise design and especially heat treating to pull off. For additional problems vis-a-vis leaf springs see below. For those still interested in crossbows, consult New World Arbalest and UC Crossbows
11) Swords are not all that easy to make, either. Well, at least to make correctly… Spend some time exploring the FAQs and articles on Arms & Armor or Albion, along with SwordForum or to learn some of the pitfalls. I have forged a couple of Celtic sword blades (one from a leaf spring and the other from a bar of 5160 spring steel) and it is tough
work. But it can be done.
12) While mail is easy enough to make by using simple butted rings, it is difficult to make correctly (i.e. with overlapped and riveted rings alternating with solid rings that are either punched from sheet, or
overlapped and forge welded) so that it really works.
13) Swordsmithing and armoring are quite fun, I highly recommend getting into it, if you have interest. But don’t neglect gunsmithing…
14) Finally, while leafsprings are good steel, there are a couple of pitfalls. First, they often have some degree of fatigue induced microfracturing, which can naturally cause problems, and second tend to "remember" their curvature, making simply flattening them out and reshaping them problematic at best. For this reason I usually relegate scrap leaf springs to shorter swords or knives, since these problems are less apparent on shorter lengths. Note that the above problems can be mitigated or eliminated, but you really have to know what you are doing. Too long to
explain here, I’m afraid.
P.S. Do not neglect simpler melee weapons, such as spears, axes, maces, etc. Spears, in particular, were really the dominant battlefield weapon, and maintained more importance than the sword, even into modern times (think:: bayonet on end of rifle) - GFL

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Dear James:
J.H. is absolutely correct in that you should avoid body armor with Zylon, and that most of the "big name" brands in Body Armor have put out Zylon models. Some Point Blank production was only 20% Zylon, but it's just not worth taking the chance. For any vest you should check out the manufacturer's website, and then if there is any question of Zylon, get a confirmation in writing of the ballistic fibers used.
The recommendation to buy only NEW armor is not always the best advice, though. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has tested 10 year old USED Body Armor and found it tested as good as new, see
This applies to Aramid, i.e., Kevlar or Twaron vests, and NOT Zylon, of course. We have tested 10 to 25 year old aramid ballistic panels (some in bad condition) and they have always stopped the common pistol threats, including the standard test rounds of 9mm FMJ, and .357 Magnum at +P velocities
Ballistic protection levels explained at:
So, buy the best protection you can afford. But get a used vest, rather than no vest at all. It's like poker...
One vest and one gun, beats NO vest and two guns!
The point about the practicality of concealable vests over Tactical Body Armor is very well taken. Better 50% protection that you are wearing 100% of the time, than 100% protection left at home in the closet! The best vest for you is the one you are actually wearing when shot!
For guard duty in a crisis, nothing beats the turtle-shell feeling of a Tactical Vest and Rifle Plates - though it is a good idea to cover it up with a jacket. But make the concealable vest the first priority.
One of the questions we are most often asked is which ballistic protection level to get: Level II-A, Level II or Level III-A, from thinnest to thickest. Again, often less is more. Better the Level II-A or Level II that you can easily conceal and are wearing, rather than the Level III-A at home in the closet. Level III-As stop more of the uncommon threats like 9mm sub-machine-gun and .44 Magnum, but this is a very small percentage of the threats on the street. The real advantage of the thicker Level III-A vest is more blunt trauma protection - possibly letting you return fire more effectively.
We have an in-depth, generic Guide to Selecting Body Armor for those who want to learn more: Yours truly - Nick - Manager, Body Armor

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'd read your post in SurvivalBlog about body armor - someone had asked for some recommendations. I own a small company and my employees wear armor, I've worn armor for ten years... And there have been some upheavals recently that those looking to acquire used body armor need, desperately, to be aware of that weren't addressed in your answer - which was adequate but I felt needed elaborating on - so here goes!


Both Second Chance and Point Blank are facing bankruptcy and major lawsuits associated with some of their vests - specifically the so-called 4th generation fibers known as Zylon, Second Chance used them in it's ULTIMA, ULTIMAX and TRIFLEX series of vests and Point Blank (who also make the PACA brand vest) used them in too many products to list here - so I'll give you the PDF link to the document on file in the current civil case against them.

I could ramble on about the foreign buyout of both companies prior to their spectacular failure rate - but it's irrelevant to survival. So, what brand to buy?

Gee, I guess that means Safariland or ABA (American Body Armor) are safe huh?

Nope! Everybody messed up! Again, too many products to list here - here's another link for Safariland's vest exchange program.

I'd guess that the above manufacturers represent about 90 percent of the total law enforcement vests sold in the last ten years. They'd still own the market today, if they hadn't gone to Zylon to try and increase flexibility in the vests.

Yes, there are other manufacturers (a couple dozen in fact), nearly all of them import their vests from our Chinese friends, few manufacturers make them here - and you can still get a quality vest WITHOUT Zylon from these guys... but you need to know more, you should understand what soft body armor can and cannot do.

The basic theory behind soft body armor is the same as a baseball glove, spread out the impact and it doesn't do as much damage (or penetrate) Kevlar fiber has tremendous linear strength to other fibers, tightly interwoven like a trampoline, and layered, it catches the bullet, spreads out the impact and your skin is not penetrated - you go up in levels from IIa -> II -> IIIa (IIIa is the highest soft body armor rating - above that is level III and IV, hard ceramic plates)to defeat the more energetic 9mm rounds which are only a real threat for one reason, they are more pointy than other pistol rounds and FAST. Essentially, to defeat soft body armor you need to be fast and/or pointy - a 22 LR Stinger round is plenty fast, but is blunt tipped and will not penetrate even the lowest level of soft armor. The newer 17 caliber ballistic tips are a real threat to soft body armor. A 17 HMR I fired at a level II vest panel, waltzed right on through. Granted it was an old vest panel (about 8 years) but it seemed solid to me. I don't know what energy might be left after penetration, I just wanted to know if it WOULD penetrate. Ironically, 12ga slugs and 44 Magnum rounds are so flat that even a IIa will stop them, you don't get the higher rated soft body armor the heavy rounds - you get them to defeat 9mm subgun rounds. This logic stemmed from, I believe, the idea that you should always wear a vest that will stop the bullets you carry. And with many police agencies carrying 9mm HK-MP5 variant subguns, it spawned the popularity of the IIIa level vest. The dinky little round that FN developed for their P90 was specifically meant to defeat soft body armor - hence the near moratorium (note that they are now marketing a 16 inch barreled version of the P90 now for civilian sales) on the gun for civilian use, and the absolute moratorium on the 'good stuff ' (steel tipped) and FMJ versions of their ammo. The new ammo for the gun is aluminum tipped, and deforms too easily to defeat a IIIa vest - or so I am told.

Incidentally, "NO!!!!" I will not conduct a series of tests to determine what newfangled bullets will or will not penetrate soft body armor. Hundreds of guys with more time than me have already done so. Google is not just a cute sound made by a baby. Look it up.

Things like ice picks and shanks go right through soft armor (sharp and pointy). Your vest will give you some protection against slicing damage in a knife fight, but almost none against a vigorous stab. There are a whole generation of specialized 'stab' rated vests that prison guards wear, although Second Chance does make a vest that has dual layers (ballistic and knife), I think they call it the Prism series.

All centerfire rifle bullets will penetrate soft body armor too. You hear/see those 'trauma packs' or 'plates' that some manufacturers put in their vest - they are NOT rated to increase the stopping power of the vest - they are to spread out potential heart stopping, or rib breaking (with accompanying lung puncture) impacts and decrease the amount of damage you might take if you get in a head on collision. Second chance used to make a hard-plate that increased your ballistic protection, they still do - but they add a LOT of weight - for about the same weight you can get a REAL ceramic plate that IS rated to stop rifle rounds.

The only thing that will reliably stop rifle rounds (most of them) is ceramic plates, commonly referred to as SAPI plates by the military. They are typically 10 inches by 12 inches (size varies with application) and slip into a carrier over your soft body armor, they are meant to be used in conjunction with the soft armor as some rifle rounds will fragment on striking the plate and the vest is supposed to catch those fragments. It is not very reassuring to know that only a 10 by 12 inch square on your torso is resistant to rifle bullets - but you shouldn't be presenting ANY target to a looter/criminal - much less a fully exposed torso. Plates are HEAVY - not something you'd wear everyday. You are far more likely to be wearing simple soft armor in an everyday scenario, or while out working in your victory garden.

My entire point isn't to dissuade you from buying body armor, it is to make it clear that you need to do your research before you buy - especially if you are going to buy used, or off of Ebay. You need to understand the limits of it, and find a way to make it part of your routine. Just yesterday a police officer was killed in a city south of me, I will be sending a contribution off to his widow - he was not wearing his armor when killed - although the department had issued it to him. Body armor is uncomfortable to wear, but if you do it often enough it becomes less annoying. That's why I had some panels inserted into a levis jacket - even in a casual setting, I can have it with me without arousing suspicion (unless someone picks it up!).

Were I to make a recommendation, find a used vest that you can VERIFY was sold in the last year or two, VERIFY has no Zylon in it, and VERIFY that it has not been exposed to harsh environments. Apparently Zylon was super-sensitive to getting damp/wet, all manufacturers used to encase the panel in Gore-Tex to help with wicking away sweat, now some are encasing it in a thin rubber casing to totally exclude water dampening the Kevlar - because, YES! Even Kevlar will deteriorate with prolonged or repeated exposure to dampness/heat/sweat/bad-breath, etc... And when you get that used vest delivered, take the panels out and look at the dates or date codes listed, a LOT of used vest hawkers on the internet buy new carriers (the thing the panels go in) and the vest looks new in photos - but may contain ten year old panels. So, again, if you MUST buy used - buy from someone with a solid, honest reputation that you can VERIFY.

Soft body armor needs to be comfortable, if it's ill-fitting you wont like wearing it, ergo, you will NOT wear it. For that reason I do not recommend EVER buying a used vest that doesn't fit your measurements exactly. If you go to a police uniform shop, they'll measure you for a vest, and then you'll know the exact size front and back panels you'll need to find in a vest. Be careful though, some uniform suppliers are 'snooty' - believing that only police officers and other government agents should have soft body armor (no kidding). In some states you may not legally possess body armor. I'm pretty sure New York City restricts it, as well at the PRK.

So be wary, do your homework and be patient for the right used vest to come along. For TEOTWAWKI I must say I prefer concealable body armor - what the goblins don't know about they can't take steps to circumvent. Make it obvious that you wear armor, and I can guarantee you a looter will stay awake nights plotting his next head shot. While you are toiling away insuring the survival of your family, they have ALL DAY to plan looting you - it's their CHOSEN CAREER PATH.

In case you folks are wondering about the body armor I own...

1 Point Blank full vest tactical carrier (external) - with IIIa panels made by another manufacturer
2 sets of SAPI plates one level III and one level IV that fit in the above vest
2 PACA concealable IIIa vests. (kevlar only) 1 year old and 4 years old.
1 tanker style kevlar helmet
1 USGI camo pattern flak vest, five years old - fits nicely under either PACA. I'd rate it at a IIa for most applications, maybe a little less. It is, however, intimidating to wear - psychological factor is why I have it.
1 Levis denim jacket with IIa panels integral to the torso and back and upper arm. I can wear this anywhere and NOBODY knows I'm armored.

OK, so maybe I do have a bit of armor - and that's not counting what I have for the family, maybe someday I'll post the picture of my eight year old daughter and her somewhat large vest and AR-15.

I did manage to get hold of a few dozen "destroyed" body armor panels (for testing!), I trimmed, sandwiched and overlapped them in a few waterproof (vacuum) bags and sized them for my door and rear panels in my '65 Landcruiser. I'd considered using lexan laminate bullet-rated plastic, but MAN is that stuff expensive!!! I didn't pay for the 'destroyed' body armor panels, so it was just labor to make them. My source was a body armor representative that was swapping out vests for a couple of local departments (police departments buy new vests every five years regardless of use/wear) - this activity happens every day around the country - where do you think a lot of those used eBay vests come from? These panels are somewhat stiff given how I fastened them to one another, and are two layers thick everywhere with IIIa panels. These used vests are shipped overseas for police officers over there who cannot afford them. England is a big benefactor from this program, and many eastern bloc countries. (Was that politically correct?)

ALL that being said, body armor is something that is not only 'nice to have' but lends a passive safety factor to your life - you don't have to 'display' it for it to be useful, and the stuff keeps you warm in the winter! I've had to lay prone for extended periods of time in the snow, and the armored parts of me stayed very warm, it also smoothes out the rocks that always seem to exist in any terrain that you might be called upon to go to ground on.

What do I think you should get? I think you should buy NEW - it's somewhere between $300-500 dollars for a quality Level II these days - or you could go the used route, but I don't think it's worth my life to save 100 bucks... I read a passage from John Ross's "Ross in Range" commentary area ( that says something along the lines of 'Friends don't let friends buy junk guns.' - and I'd like to second that opinion but apply it to body armor. The time to find out that your body armor was just a little TOO old to stop that 9mm round going a measly 1000 f.p.s. is not when you're wearing it. I'd also suggest reselling it every three years and using the proceeds to upgrade to the new stuff. If the political rhetoric hits the revolving finger slicer you might be faced with a few years of using the stuff - and unavailability of new replacements. The more life you have in the vest when the balloon goes up, the longer it will be useful. Or rotate the used vests (if you can afford it) to the barter goods bin (and seal them away from moisture and heat) - if you think a tanned piece of leather will be worth something in a disaster - imagine what value will be placed on any body armor you have tucked away as surplus. - J.H. in Colorado

Monday, February 20, 2006

I'm a newbie at preparedness. I have some nitro-packed storage food and I'm working on buying a few guns and getting training.  I think I'll start with a course at Front Sight. But for immediate needs, I'm about ready to buy some body armor for "just in case."  Are the mil surplus flak vests that I see advertised for +/-$80 a good deal? - T.Y.

JWR Replies: I highly recommend the training at Front Sight it is top notch! About body armor; first things first: Forget about the older-vintage military surplus "flak" vests" that you saw advertised. These are primarily designed to stop shrapnel, but not bullets. Most of the pre-1985 military issue vests would barely rate Class IIA.(Which is lower than Class II, if you aren't  familiar with the rating system--that numbering system confuses a lot of folks.) I do not recommend them. About their only advantage is that some have a collar, which provides better neck protection than typical law enforcement (concealment) vests. IMHO, you are better off buying a law enforcement trade-in vest, Class II or higher. (Which would be: Class II, Class IIIA, or Class III.) Used Class II vests start at around $200.

My personal approach: For myself, I bought a pair of slightly used Class II vests, with one of them slightly larger than the other, plus a trauma plate. This cost less than buying a new Class III vest, and they are more versatile than a single heavy-weight vest.  I can wear either of  them alone for concealment, or I can wear *both* plus the trauma plate in between when the Schumer really hits the fan. This will provide better than Class II protection.

BTW, the Memsahib has a Class IIIA vest, contoured for ladies. It also was a trade-in vest, which she got for a bargain price at a gun show.

Two body armor dealers that I recommend are: Y2K Body Armor (which is operated by T. Allen Hoover) and Body Armor.  Of the two, Terry Hoover seems to have the best prices. He specializes in vests that come from police academy wash-outs.  These are "low hours" vests that are in great shape and very reasonably priced.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

(Quoting the American Forces Press Service, Jan 10, 2005, by Jim Garamone) The Army will continue to improve body armor issued to soldiers, and will begin manufacturing side-panel inserts to the Interceptor ballistic armor (IBA), officials said here today.  The side panels, which weigh three pounds, will be made of the same material as the small-arms protective inserts.

Army Col. Thomas Spoehr is in charge of fielding body armor. He said the Interceptor body armor now issued to servicemembers protects against most of the threats they face in Iraq and Afghanistan today. "It's the best body armor in the world," Spoehr said.

And the proof is in the number of people who are alive today because of the armor. One documented account from June 2003 showed an Iraqi shooting a soldier at point-blank range in the chest with a shotgun. The young soldier picked himself off the ground and arrested the Iraqi.

The Army is making changes to the protection system, Spoehr said, but has to be careful to balance changes with mission. "You could outfit a soldier from head to toe in armor, and he would be completely useless," he said. "We have to be sensitive to the weight burden we put on soldiers in that arduous environment over there. Every ounce that we put on the back of a soldier could mean the difference between their ability to accomplish the mission or not."

Weight is a huge factor, officials said. The average infantryman carries 85 pounds of gear into battle, according to officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga. This includes weapons, ammunition, water, protective gear and so on. The Interceptor armor - the vest and Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates, along with neck and groin protection - weigh in at about 16 pounds.

But the improvements planned for the Interceptor armor will increase the weight. Enhanced SAPI plates will add three pounds to the weight, and side-panel plates another 3 pounds. Other shoulder and side protection adds five pounds. Wearing all pieces of the Interceptor armor could add about 27 pounds to soldiers' burden.

By comparison, the "flak vest" of Vietnam came in at about 25 pounds, and the original flak vest worn by airmen during World War II weighed around 40 pounds, Air Force Museum officials said.

But in addition to weight, commanders have to look at constriction and how much ability soldiers have to move their arms and legs and get in and out of vehicles quickly, Spoehr said. "It's not as simple as going to a catalog and ordering it," he said.

He said the commander has to control this factor. The body armor is modular, and commanders can assess the threat and how much armor soldiers should wear.

"We're going to be producing a new side-armor plate," Spoehr said. "If the mission doesn't accommodate wearing that new side armor plate, then the commander can direct, 'Don't wear that today.'"

For example, while the side armor adds 3 pounds, it does provide more protection. "We want to give that type of an option to commanders," Spoehr

Army officials said they continue to monitor all aspects of fielding the armor. A check of the books revealed that 8,000 of the vests did not go through inspection, Spoehr said. The Army recalled those vests on Nov. 12, 2005, and would not issue them. No piece of armor will be issued to soldiers without undergoing a painstaking inspection process, he emphasized.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and be safe.  - Chuck.

Monday, November 14, 2005

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2005

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

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

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

Sunday, September 18, 2005

It seems to me that I was reading some of Reason Kearney's writings and he said the EMP damage to cars, etc was waaaay overrated. Of course, that was back when cars had a lot of non-solid state stuff and tube radios. I do remember he said all you had to do to protect the radio was ground the antenna to the car body. (Tube radio, I expect) and not to worry about the alternator and starter (unless you were smack dab in the middle of the flash). When he wrote that, we already had alternators in lieu of generators. Seems like the Army specifies that you should disconnect all antennas and power connectors prior to a [nuclear] detonation.It appears like your engine ought to still turn over and if your ignition system survives, your car might run.[JWR comments: True for most diesels and for any vehicle with a traditional points/rotor/condenser ignition--but not true for electronic ignitions or for electronic fuel ignition electronics.]

Just a thought, with the army switching from the Personal Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet to the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH)--commonly referred to as a MICH (Modular/Integrated Communications Helmet) ,which it isn't really. The real MICH meets the same specs as the ACH but is reserved for special function groups. The ACH, however, is designed (as I recall) to maximally deflect 12 mm upon impact from a 9mm at (forget what speed, something pretty average though.). More a police level resistance than a combat one. Oh that's right, that's what the military will be for. Sorry, I forgot! Why I brought this up is ....... Good opportunity! The PASGT helmet is rated a lot higher in projectile impact and they are about to become dirt cheap. I've never minded the weight or configuration of my PASGT and it's stable as heck for using the PVS-14 [NVG]s. Good thing to have, keeps the sun out of your eyes and the rain off of your neck and projectiles from knocking the golley-whomper out of you. Just be sure to get the airborne nape pad. Although, something you might want to look at is a real MICH helmet. For general wear around the property after TSHTF, it'd be light and generally effective but then you could always grab the PASGT while locking and loading. A MICH and a pair of good gloves might save you some distress "When there is no doctor".

Off on a Tangent: On the NOROTOS, Inc. mount... Waste of money in my opinion so far. Single point release, too easy to bump and bingo, no
NVD. I'll give it some more time and let you know.

Comment: I have opined for awhile that "they" are reducing the ability and effectiveness of our troops equipment. Now we have a "lighter" helmet that "enhances vision and hearing on the battlefield". Sounds to me like the REMF's bitched about the weight and so they cheapened up the effectiveness. Just like they reduced the calorie count of MRE's because the REMF's were getting fat and now "Real" combat troops gotta eat two MREs to have an effective meal in combat. Look at the covers for M998's and 5 tons. Sucky plastic. How about the 9mm sidearm while the operators in Afghanistan ordered in .45s and pallets of ammo when they found out the 9mm didn't put their opponents down? And the 9mm [Beretta M9] magazine springs hung up, disabling the weapon. Modern military controls areas, grunts control the dirt..... AND the government fears the ex-military because the ex-military has seen that one man with a rifle can bring a government down. My grandfather told me that. Nuff bitching.

Like you I carry a .45. Since Mel Tappan's time back in the seventies, I've had my pair of Detonics Combat Masters, and I carry every day.

Oh, I should mention that the FreezeDryGuy's food is good. You have to follow the instructions on rehydrating the meat but then it's great on the BBQ grill
or the frying pan. - The Army Aviator

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