Night Vision Category

Friday, November 29, 2013

Here in Alaska, people often block incoming light with a single layer of aluminum foil.. the kind from the supermarket.  It is difficult to sleep here in summer when the sun never sleeps.  This same method would work to keep light in. 

light weight
easy to store

Regards, - Carol S.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hello Jim,
I've been following the window light blocking conversation with interest. The prospect of spending money and time for highly specialized fabrics or felts, for a highly specialized purpose, which may or may not be a future necessity, just doesn't feel affordable or practical to me. In comparison, I believe my simple, flexible, and inexpensive alternative approach has much to offer.

I've been stocking up on large Polar Fleece blankets, as a multi- purpose basic material, from my local thrift store, where I can often find a queen or king size for around $10. Two or three folded layers will block out any light as necessary. The fabric can also be used for clothing, for insulation, for padding, and for so much more. I prefer to think in terms of basic "building block" materials that can serve many functions, and this is one good example.

Keep up the great work! - J.S.

JWR Replies: Regardless of your solution, be sure to check your completed handiwork from outside your house on a dark night, first with your naked eye, and then with a starlight scope. Any small remaining light leaks (typically seen around the edges) can be remedied with black gaffer's tape.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dear JWR:
This might have been thought of before, but I just stumbled into something called LED strip lights. Here is a sample.

They come in 15 meter rolls, are about 1/2 inch wide and have 300 individual LED lights. They can be cut into segments between every third light. They run off of 12 volts DC and are actually rather bright while using little electricity. If you purchased one of those little strips the reloading companies sell to mount inside the press so you can see what's going on, it is probably this stuff. There are several versions. Some have 150 light and some have larger LEDs that put out more light. There are several colors available including multi-color ones for holiday lighting.

I'm seeing a lot of possibilities for emergency use. A strip with six LEDs on it will light most of the rooms in my house well enough to get around in. It will also provide enough light to read by if placed close to the book. It isn't the most pleasant light, though I haven't sampled the other color variants, but it beats no light. I took a battery holder that holds 8 AA cells I got at Radio Shack and made a portable light for about $4 plus the cost of batteries. It isn't elegant, but it sure is cheap. If I'm doing the math right, a strip of six LEDs are using .02 AH, so those eight AA batteries should provide several days of run time.

You could probably improve the quality of light with lens or diffusers.

I just checked it outside and if placed about seven feet in the air, a strip of six will light about a 20 foot in diameter circle reasonably well. It's not a floodlight, but if you are in a darkened house looking out, you will be able to see what's out there.

It also seems to run well on NiMH rechargeable batteries . A solar charger and some rechargeable batteries should be able to keep you in light for quite a while. I'm also sure the more innovative can come up with better ideas for implementation.

Should you want to post it, I trust, of course, that you won't use my full name.

Thanks and God Bless. - T.M.G.

JWR Replies: Although LED light strips and tubes have been mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, this topic bears repeating.

If you buy either red or blue LEDs, then they won't spoil your eyes' natural night vision, for when you step outdoors.

My favorite suppliers for LED lights is Creative Lighting Solutions, a small company launched in February of 2007 and based near Cleveland, Ohio.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I've just listened to another interview you gave, and noted yet again that you consider light control of utmost importance.  I have several suggestions from the fabric store.  There is a material that really does work perfectly for light control at a reasonable cost (helped by the readily available Joann Fabric Store - also online - 50% off coupons): drapery lining material referred to as 'blackout' fabric.  A common brand of this fabric is Roc-Lon, if searching online for it. 

Another fabric I've worked with is the Warm Window insulated shade system ( and also carried at most Joann Fabric stores).  This system uses multiple layers of fabric which not only produces a blackout effect but also provides a vapor barrier and a nice layer of insulation for windows.  This fabric can be used to make something like a balloon shade, which can be raised and lowered according to need without removing/disassembling anything.  They look great, as this fabric is covered with an attractive fabric of your choice.  I've made these myself and they do work incredibly well.  This system (check the web site) recommends sewing magnetic tape into the outer edges of the shade and putting magnetic tape onto the edge of the window where the fabric should meet to form a seal.  I'm trying to think of something other than magnets as they may not last as long as you need them or be 'my-life-depends-on-it' strong.  The fabric is kind of expensive, but it doesn't scream 'prepper', looks good in any home, and adds insulation value to the window every single day.

Both these fabrics are ideal also for those who need total darkness to sleep or trying to sleep during daylight hours.  These fabrics are vastly superior to any other kind of blackout fabric attempts such as window quilts that just use multiple layers of heavy fabrics.

The Roc-Lon blackout fabric is light enough to be held up on the interior of a window casing by an el-cheapo tension cafe rod.  For those who would like to try this fabric but are not sewers I have used safety pins to fasten the top of the fabric to the tension rod (top and bottom rods can both be used - fold a bit of fabric around the rod then pin into place at roughly 3-5" intervals) and then removed/replaced each morning/night.  This would be an inexpensive way to test this fabric for yourself.

For those who don't sew, go to a fabric store to look at the fabric for yourself; then ask if the sales staff know of a local person who would make these up for you.  A local fabric shop likely has many, many business cards from local seamstresses who are experienced and looking for work.  Since it's not obviously 'prepper', there's no loss of OpSec.

Good luck to us all, - Lilia

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

James Wesley,
I have found red dot scopes to be real helpful, and great for target shooting and plinking.  The problem of course are the [button] batteries. I have a cheap red dot on one of my [Ruger] 10/22 fun plinking gun.  Everyone loves it.  However, too Many times I have left the sight turned on only to have a useless device atop my rifle. I have spent much money on the special "photo type" batteries for these illuminated scopes (with and without reticles). Those scopes that have a regular reticle and the option of illumination is not as catastrophic as a red dot with a dead battery and no quick back up iron sights.  I have added Trijicon RMR Dual-Illuminated Sight (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex) to two of my survival rifles. The illumination of the dot is done with with ambient light and has tritium illumination for low light/night conditions.  The great thing is the the ambient illumination will last forever.  It is always there - no switches, no batteries, no problem.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation this is what you want.  If you are on watch at night or low light the tritium illumination is always there when you need it.  Yes they are expensive ~$500, well worth the investment, they are built rugged and solidly reliable.  This could be your life depending on this device, how much is that worth?  Do you want to bet your life on a $39 piece of junk?  You get what you pay for.  Yes the tritium will degrade, that will be anywhere from 5 to 15 years depending on who you talk to and how good your eyes are. However the daytime function will always be there.  The sights can always be returned Trijicon and the tritium replaced for a fee.  the choice if color is amber or green - no red, I have no problem with the amber.  As time goes on how much have you spent on these expensive batteries?  Something to consider.  I have no association with Trijicon or any financial interest, just a satisfied customer. - Richie in New York City

JWR Replies: Most people don't realize it, but most disposable button batteries can be recharged. And even better for preppers, there are very compact photovoltaic button battery chargers available. Just be advised that these are not automatically regulated, so you have to keep track of the number of hours that they are charging in full sunlight.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I know that over the years, and in many articles, I clearly stated that when lasers for firearms first came on the market, they were mostly considered "toys" by most professionals, myself included. The lasers back in the day, were big and bulky, cost a lot of money, and the battery run-time was short. Additionally, there really wasn't any way to holster a handgun with a large laser on it - no one made holsters to fit the cumbersome handgun lasers. So, for the most part, lasers didn't catch-on, at least, not right away. They were a rich man's toy.

Today, there is a  huge line of laser products for rifles, shotguns and handguns made by with Crimson Trace Corporation (CTC). I've tested a number of CTC products over the years, and have been totally impressed with all of them. I've toured their manufacturing plant, and got a real insider's look at all that is involved in producing CTC products. It isn't simply a matter of slapping a red or green light on a module and shipping it out the door - a lot of research and development is involved in coming out with CTC products. Just the R&D alone is quite a project, and it requires a lot of work to come up with the various lasers for the many firearms that CTC lasers are installed on. Then we have the production department, and I'm here to tell you, a LOT of work goes into assembling a pint-sized laser for handguns. Plus, each and every laser is individually focused before it is shipped - again, no small project, to be sure. I've watched CTC technicians assembling lasers, and it is a meticulous job - one I clearly couldn't do because I couldn't even see some of the wires they were attaching inside the units - they are very thin.

CTC was the first company, to my knowledge, to come out with "instinctive" lasers. Now, what does that mean? Well, many laser units have to be switched on and off - it takes a decisive movement. Instinctive lasers are just what it sounds like - they come on "instinctively" - you don't have to think about it - just grab your firearm as you normally would, and when you do, the pressure on the laser by one of your fingers automatically turns the laser on. Release the pressure and the laser goes off - couldn't be any easier than that - you just don't have to think about it - the laser is ready to go on when you need it. There are a few units that also have an on/off switch that you can use to keep the laser turned off if you don't think you'll need it - the 1911 grips lasers come to mind. I personally keep CTC lasers turned in, if they have that switch. I don't want to have to think about it - I want my firearm ready to fire when I'm ready to fire.

The CTC product under review today is their MVF-515 laser, and this is for a railed AR-15 type of rifle. Although, you can also attach it to a standard forearm if you attach a separate rail to it. However, many of the standard "plastic" forearms don't stay in the same place - they tend to wiggle around a bit, throwing-off the laser from the intended aiming point. However, for CQB use - up close and personal - the laser won't be "off" by enough to matter if you are taking a center-of-mass aiming point. Still, it's wise to use the MVF-515 on a Picatinny railed forearm for best results. For this article, I used a parts AR - the lower receiver was from POF USA - and they make piston-driven ARs - but also sell lower receivers that can be used to assemble a direct gas impingement upper or a piston-driven upper - my sample has a standard Direct Gas Impingement upper, there is also a quad-rail forearm, and the MVF-515 slipped right on without any problems.

Now, the MVF-515 sample I received had the green laser aimer - and you can even see the bright green dot from the laser in bright sunlight - so long as the target is very far away. I believe lasers are best used at 50 - 75 feet, especially in daylight. Even though you can see a red or green laser from hundreds of yards away, you can't readily ID you target at that distance to make a clean kill shot. So, I believe lasers are best reserved for up-close and personal use. CTC also offers a separate laser module unit - this means you can switch the laser module out in a few minutes from red to green, or green back to red. CTC send me a separate red laser module to test with the green MVF-515 unit. And, it only takes a minute or two to change the modules back and forth.

I don't know how much the MVF-515 weighs, but it was under a pound - maybe even half a pound. I'm not one of these folks who will take a 6-1/2 to 7 pound AR/M4 rifle or carbine, then add another 5 or 6 pounds to it - just doesn't make a lot of sense in my book, no sense at all. Part of the concept behind the 5.56mm round is that, you have a small, light-weight package to shoot this round through. I couldn't tell you the number of ARs that I've seen with all manner of toys attached to 'em - to the point where you really wouldn't be able to carry the gun very far comfortably, nor would you be able to deploy it rapidly. Still, a lot of mall ninjas and armchair commandos insist on attaching everything they can buy on their ARs, no matter how impractical it all might be. Sorry, I'm of the old school, in that, less means more, and the less I can attach to my ARs, the better I like it. As a matter of fact, most of my ARs don't have quad-rails on 'em, so I'm not tempted to hang a lot of junk on 'em to start with. We can agree to disagree on this - if you are comfortable adding a lot of useless toys on your ARs, then go for it. As for me, I'll go the opposite direction, and only put on my ARs the bare essentials.

What we also have with the MVF-515 is a powerful 150/200 Lumen LED light module - it's built into the MVF-515 so you don't have to attach a separate light - nice, real nice! The anodized tang is the foundation for the rock-solid foregrip on the MVF-515 and is made out of 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum for a lifetime of service. The laser and light are instinctively activated as you hold the weapon, and activation switches are ambidextrous - which allows the operator to select the light or the laser individually or simultaneously.  On top of that, both the light and the laser are functions are programmable with three illumination modes to select from including: independent momentary, strobe or constant on. A master on/off switch permits complete shutdown of either the laser of the light.

The material that the actual MVF-515 us made out of is black polymer - super tough stuff. The overmold rubber activation switches are easy to activate, too. Laser battery life is 6-hours of constant on - and will last a lot longer by using it on/off - just when needed. The laser is sighted at the factory for 50-feet, and if you need to adjust it for longer distances, it's easily done with supplied Allen wrenches. The MVF-515 also has a 3-yr full warranty - should you have any problems.

Okay, enough about the specs of the CTC MVF-515, how did the unit actually work in practice? Well, I'm here to tell you, that attaching the unit couldn't be much easier - only takes a minute or less. However, the user has to decide exactly where to place the unit on a quad-rail - some folks like 'em farther out on the quad-rail than others, some like 'em as close to the mag well as possible. I took the middle ground and placed the MVF-515 just about in the middle of the POF USA M4 sample - it felt extremely comfortable there for me - not too far and not too close. I did experiment with the laser placed as far forward as possible, and found it tiring to have to have my left arm extended so far forward on the quad-rail. Experiment to find the "sweet spot" for your own use when you get an MVF-515 for your gun.

With the green laser module attached, I headed out to my usual shooting spot and set-up a target at 25-yards away. Even though it was very sunny out, I could still easily see the green laser dot on the target without any problems. I fired and found that the shots were just a tad lower than where I was aiming. Again, this unit is sighted-in at the factory at 50-feet, you can adjust the point of aim/point of impact to your own liking. I didn't really see any need to make any adjustments for my use - the difference between the aiming point and point of impact were enough to matter. I tried aiming at some trees and brush with the green laser attached, and the green dot was all but lost in the bright sunlight. I switched over to the red dot laser - again, this only takes a few minutes to do. While I could still see the red laser dot on my target in the bright sunlight, I had to struggle a little bit to focus on it - which wasn't a surprise. For daytime use, the green laser is the way to go if you are expecting to take a shot under bright sunlight. For low-light or indoor shooting the red dot was more to my liking. While the green dot laser worked well under low-light conditions, it was actually a bit too bright - the red laser dot was easier on the eyes. Experiment with both and make your own choices...what's nice is that, if you purchased the MVF-515 with either the red or green laser attached, you can purchase the other color laser separately and it only takes a few minutes to change out the laser module.

I wish that, when I was in law enforcement - public or private - that the MVF-515 would have been around, I surely would have had the MVF-515 mounted on my AR or M4 back then. The intimidation factor alone, with a red or green dot on a bad guy's chest is often enough to put a stop to any further hostilities if you ask me. I know that, if someone were pointing a gun at me, with a laser on it, and I saw that little red or green dot over my heart, I'd think twice before making a move - simple as that. Another nice thing about lasers is the fact that, they allow for VERY rapid target acquisition - you don't have to close your eye to get on target - both eyes are open. This really makes it fast getting on target with a bad guy. If you are a home owner, and your bedside has a laser on it - anyone who might be breaking into your house will wish they were some place else if they saw that laser pointed on their chest - I know I would, if I were a bad guy.

In firing more than 500 rounds of various Winchester, Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition though the POF USA parts gun, the CTC MVF-515 never came loose, nor did it need any adjustments when I switched from the red to the green, and back from the green to the red laser modules - the point of aim stayed the same - and I really did switch the modules back and forth a number of times. The MVF-515 never worked itself loose from the quad-rail, either - and I can't say that about some other lasers I've played with over the years. While this wasn't a test of the POF USA parts M4, the gun performed great, never missed a beat - whoever built this M4 up, knew what they were doing. I was getting one-hole, 3-shot groups all day long with all of the above ammo at 25-yards - you can't ask for better performance than that. I couldn't pick a winner from any of the ammo - all ammo went into one hole at 25-yards!

Anything negative about the MVF-515? Well, not really. The unit performed as it was supposed to. However, take some time to go over the instructions and learn about the different modes that the laser and light have to offer - and practice the different modes - it does take some time to get it all mastered.  I really liked the strobe from the light - it would easily confuse someone who looked at the light - and if they had a weapon, it would make it difficult for them to deploy it against you. The steady "on" mode for the light is also really nice - again, if a person is temporarily blinded, it makes it difficult for them to attack you. The strobing laser is sort of cool, too - it catches your attention in no uncertain terms.

Full-retail for the MVF-515 with the green laser module attached is $649 and you can add the replacement red laser module for $249 more - a bit spendy? Yes, but you are getting Crimson Trace Corporation quality (and made in the USA, too) and they don't make junk - simple as that! I believe the MVF-515 would be an asset to anyone who uses an AR or M4 for self-defense. I know this product is used by thousands in our military and in law enforcement. If you want the best-of-the-best, for a worthy addition to your AR or M4, then this is the one product I highly recommend that you attach - you can keep most of the red dot holo sights - I'll take the MVF-515 for CQB use...for long-range shooting, a holo red dot is great to have, though. But for CQB, I can't think of a better thing to add to your AR or M4 - and it won't weigh the gun down like so many other "toys" tend to do - and many of those toys will fail you when you need 'em most - the MVF-515 won't fail you under harsh conditions. You should also be aware that, many green dot lasers don't work well when temps drop below freezing, the  folks at CTC figured out how to overcome this with their green laser module. If you want a laser for $29.99 - then go out and waste your money - you'll be sorry you paid a red cent for junk. If you want what is the best instinctive lasers on the market, then CTC is the only way to go in my humble opinion.

If you plan on using your AR or M4 for self-defense - I honestly can't think of a better product to add to your gun. If you are in law enforcement or the military - there is no excuse to not have an MVF-515 mounted on your weapon - it can and will save lives - simple as that. Save your money and buy the best!

Iain Harrison is the new PR/Marketing guru at CTC - and if his name sounds familiar to you, it should - he was the winner of the first season of the popular "Top Shot" television program. Iain went above and beyond to get me the MVF-515 samples for this article. And, Iain wouldn't have joined the CTC team, if he didn't think their products were the best-of-the-best. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, October 22, 2012

When the power goes out, the lights go out - simple as that! Many people will then reach for a flashlight, only to find, that the batteries are dead, or dying - assuming they can even find a flashlight at night, when the power goes off. I have to admit, in my younger and dumber days, I fell victim to this many times. Living in a rural area, especially during the winter months, our power goes out several times due to trees falling over on power lines. Last time, we were without power for several days, in the winter when a huge snow storm knocked down hundreds of trees onto power lines. We have electric heat, too - but we keep a kerosene heater on-hand, and it really heats our house nicely - thank you!
Look, let's be brutally honest here, old-style D-cell flashlights, that cost a buck or two just don't cut it any longer - they don't through much light, and they aren't very durable, unless you go to some of the better "police" flashlights, even those aren't as good as they should be. Over the past half dozen years or so, technology has really gone wild when it comes to small flashlights, that throw a tremendous amount of light, using nothing more than A, AA or AAA batteries - which are still fairly inexpensive. When my wife and I were first married in 1979, I worked two full-time security jobs, one of which was, patrolling around the wooded areas around Trojan Nuclear Power Plant (now dismantled and gone) all night long, with a K-9 companion. I carried a "lantern" style flashlight, the ones that take those big and expensive rectangular 6 Volt batteries - that only lasted an hour or two. Needless to say, it didn't throw a good amount of light, and I was buying batteries several times a week - and it was big and bulky to carry and handle. I would have paid anything to have had one of the new hi-tech flashlights that are available today.
Leatherman Products recently purchased a company called LED Lenser which is producing some very affordable, hi-tech, super-bright, small flashlights. I received three samples for test and evaluation for this article, and I'm totally impressed with them all. Up first is the LED Lenser M7. is only 5.39" long and weighs a mere 6.81-oz, and runs on 4 AAA batteries. We're talking a little flashlight that throws as much as 220 lumens (with a boost to 235-lumens), at a distant of 650-feet. Living out in the country, I had ample opportunity to test the brightness of all the LED Lenser flashlight samples sent to me, and I'm here to tell you that, the M7 does as advertised - I can easily light-up the distance of two football fields. Power time for the M7 at 220 lumens is 1-hour, however, there is another setting on it that gives you 30-lumens that will last for 11-hours. Yes, you read that right eleven hours - and that will easily last you all night long in your dark home at night when the power goes out.
The LED Lenser also has Rapid Focus which allows you to go from reading to searching by using the thumb on your holding hand to simply slide the bezel away from you (pushing forward) in one seamless movement.  Many flashlights you have to use two hands to adjust the focus, assuming you have the feature on your flashlight. I could easily light-up my entire front yard by focusing out, instead of focusing in, for a tighter light. The M7 is made out of aircraft grade black anodized aluminum for a lifetime of rough use, too. The M7 also has what is called "Smart Light Technology" and this gives your 8 different sight functions, including a strobe for blinding and disorienting someone who might be a threat to you - and this works as well in daylight as it does in the dark, too. Ok, I have to admit it, but I did have to go to the instructions that came with the M7 to figure it all out...I was playing around with this light, and it kept doing "different" functions for me, and I couldn't figure out what I did wrong. You don't need a PhD to figure it out, but you really need to read the instructions and practice.
One more feature I'd like to mention is the Advanced Focus System is the patented combination of reflector and lens to create a light system that provides both a focus beam for long-range and a homogenous split-beam for u-close reading - easier to see than explain, but it's one of those "gee, why did I think of that" things. Also the M7 comes with 4 AAA batteries (nice) and a polymer clip-on "holster" that allows you to carry the M7 on your belt or pants. There's a small lanyard ring on the butt of the flashlight, right next to the push-button on/on button. You can also lock the flashlight head so as to not move it from long-distance to up-close reading. I really like the M7, it will get the job done if you are in law enforcement or a home owner who needs to see what went "bump" in the night. While not really designed as a non-lethal weapon per se, it will easily temporarily blind an attacker with the bright 220 lumens that it emits - giving you time to escape or find a weapon with which to defend yourself with. Full-retail on the M7 is $100. Yes, that is a little bit spendy, but I've had other hi-tech flashlights, that easily cost more than twice this amount, that didn't have the features the M7's a best-buy in my book for a flashlight that has so much to offer.
Next up is the P7  that is only 5.24" long, and weighs in at 6.77oz, and it also takes 4 AAA batteries (included). Now, the P7 doesn't have all the same features as the M7 does, it doesn't have 8 different functions, and you may not need all those functions. However, you do get 175-lumens, with a power boost up to 210-lumens for a one hour run time. Or you can power down to 27-lumens for 13-hours, if you don't need a super-bright light all the time. The P7 also has the Advanced Focus System as well as the Rapid Focus, plus the Dynamic switch that Pros want to switch at lightening speed and adjust brightness equally fast. This baby would make a great flashlight for around the camp fire, walking the dog in low-light or whatever chores you have that require added light. At only $60 full-retail, its worth checking out.
The last LED Lenser I received was the P3 AFS P  - and this little power house is my favorite of the samples I received. The P3 is small, really small at only 3.66" long, and it weighs a mere 1.48-oz. We're talking small, very small! The P3 has 75-lumens, and a one hour run time on a single AAA battery. Yes, one hour at 75-lumens with one AAA battery! And, believe me, this is a lot of light in a little package. The end of my driveway is about 80-feet from my front door, and I could easily light-up that area, as well as across the road to the mailboxes, and onto my neighbors pasture with this little light. Again, it is made out of aircraft grad black anodized aluminum, and it has the Rapid Focus feature as well as the Advanced Focus System. It comes with a battery, and a small Nylon carry pouch that you can slide onto your belt and have this little baby with you all the time. There is also a key ring attached, so you can add your house and car keys to it. There is also a pocket/clothing clip, if you want to carry it attached to your pants or shirt pocket.
Without a doubt, the P3 is a keeper, and anyone and everyone can benefit by having one of these itty-bitty flashlights on their person, in a purse or any place. You will have a hour of light in an emergency, and we're talking 75-lumens of light, not 15-20 lumens that the average 2-D Cell flashlights give out - that don't throw the light very far, and they don't last very long. And, it really isn't a problem to carry a spare AAA battery in a coat pocket, either. Full-retail on the P3 is only $40.00 and this one is the best-buy of the three I tested, in my humble opinion, and I like the fact that it is soooooo small and handy, you can have it with you all the time, even clipped to a shirt pocket or pants pocket.
Back to my days patrolling around Trojan Nuclear Power plant...I couldn't tell you the number of times I had to use a flashlight to light-up an area when I heard something go bump in the night, or when the interior guard company could call on the radio and report an alarm went off on the fence surrounding the plant. I worked for a different company than the one providing security inside the plant. There were usually two of us patrolling around the outside of the plant - usually in wooded areas. We worked from sundown until sun-up - we're talking a long shift, walking all night long with a K-9 partner, with no back-up other than our K-9 partner or the other officer - and it might take them 20-minutes to reach me if there was a problem. One of the biggest "problems" we had was the head of security at the plant, he was always "testing" us, to see if he could sneak into the plant. That never happened, we caught him every time, and would hold him on the ground with our K-9 partner barking and on high alert, until our other human partner could assist. I would have loved to have had one of these LED Lenser flashlights back then. It would have been much easier holding someone at gunpoint, with a smaller, hi-tech and super-bright flashlight, than with an old "lantern" style flashlight. I could have seen a lot farther in the dark with a super-bright flashlight, too. And just think of the money I could have saved by buying AAA batteries over the old big rectangular flashlight batteries.
On more than one occasion, I shinned by flashlight on a momma black bear that roamed the woods where we patrolled - and she had a cub with her. So, we were always on alert for the momma black bear and her cub. The LED Lenser flashlight shinned into her eyes might have given her cause to roam some other area. In short order, I started carrying a Remington Model 740 .30-06 semi-auto rifle, as a back-up to my .38 Special revolver after my first encounter with the momma black bear. We also had packs of feral dogs that caused us a lot of problems - again, a super-bright flashlight, like one of the LED Lensers would have been nice to have on-hand. A good flashlight can make all the difference in the world!
Look, if you're still using a dollar 2 D-cell flashlight from the dollar store, get rid of it - simple as that. Get yourself a hi-tech flashlight, that throws a lot of light, is light-weight and will give you a lifetime of service. Your life and the life of a loved one might just depend on a really good flashlight. When I hear something go bump in the night, or one of my German Shepherds starts barking, the first thing I reach for is a flashlight - then a firearm, before I go investigating in the dark. A person can't hide from the bright light emitted by the LED Lenser - even the small P3 with the 75-lumens. Once you go hi-tech flashlight, you'll wonder why it took you so long. You can pay a LOT more for a hi-tech flashlight than the LED Lenser line-up has to offer - by why pay more? Check out the complete line-up of LED Lenser flashlights on their web page, and I'm betting good money, you'll find more than one you've simply gotta have. BTW, all LED Lenser flashlights are also waterproof, too! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Good Morning Mr. Rawles,
I too suffer from color deficiency and have had first hand experience with Trijicon, ACOG and other illuminated optics.  For me the red and green reticles "disappear" on any background other than white. 
With the assistance of many a friend and family member we have done extensive testing to be able to determine what works for me. The answer to my color woes is amber reticles. No mater the background the amber stands out brilliantly.  I've had the opportunity to view the amber reticles against woodland, desert, tiger stripe, Multicam, ACU and a dozen other types of camouflage and have yet to find a color or pattern (including natural backdrops) that caused the amber disappear.  I'm blessed in the fact I didn't have to waste hard earned money trying to find what works for me and haven't had to play the "return and restock" game with any distributors.  

I've also recently found a manufacturer that builds optics specifically for color blind shooters. The company is called Browe, Inc. I'm currently saving up to purchase one of the BCO optics from them with their blue reticle technology as blue seems to be the kindest color to those of us with color deficiencies. I will say this in closing as well, I do not rely solely on illuminated reticles, I have plenty of "standard" scopes with crosshairs, mil-dots and BDC reticles to be swapped out "when the batteries won't charge any longer" and all of my weapons have iron sites if the scopes get damaged.
Thank you for a great blog site! - Terry in Denver

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I live in the hinterboonies -- hours from anywhere where I can 'try-out' the different colors of Trijicon ACOG sights.  God willing, I'd like to purchase one for my .223.  Since I'll have to purchase by mail-order I want to specify the right one the first time.  I'm hoping for help from you, or one of your experienced readers.

In my early 20s I had to take a flight physical.  Boy was I surprised to learn, for the first time, that I had a degree of red/green color blindness.  I can see red.  I can see green.  I can match my clothes.  But, the charts don't lie -- I am color blind.  I've been told that 10% of men have the same condition.

So, here's my question.  What's the best color ACOG for a heavily-forested (conifer) environment for a user such as mine?  I'll bet the military has done the research, but I don't know how to access it.  I'm not looking for an 'I like this' answer -- I want to know what the research supports.  Again, I'm not profoundly color, just mildly so.

I would also appreciate a recommendation on reticle style.  There are so many to choose from.  What would be best for dynamic defensive work?

Thanks, - C.K.

JWR Replies:

ACOG scopes are presently available with red-, green-, or amber-lit reticles. Generally, red is the best all-around color for lit reticles, regardless of red-green color blindness issues. Nearly all military contract ACOGs have red reticles specified, after extensive testing by Natick Labs, and in the field. There is a good discussion of military ACOGs (U.S. Army and Marine Corps) archived at The Highroad (THR).

It is noteworthy that back before 1995 Trijicon made a 1" traditional tube (pre-ACOG) scope with a selector ring that switches the reticle from daylight-gathering (a deep orange-red), to three different tritium-lit colors: red, green, and amber. Finding one of those scopes would be ideal, to provide greater flexibility for lighting conditions and background foliage colors. I have three of these scopes that I purchased around 1991 and I have used them extensively. They are still quite serviceable, even given the half-life of tritium. (Tritium is a glowing radioactive gas--a hydrogen isotope--with an 11.2 year half-life. Thus, a tritium element is about one-half as bright as when new after 11 years, one-quarter as bright after 22 years, and so on.) The elements in my 1991-vintage scopes are starting to get noticeably dim, so I will soon to ship the scopes to Tooltech (the factory authorized smithy) for new tritium elements. They then should be be good for another 20+ years. To the best of my knowledge, ACOG scopes have never been made with selectable-color reticles. (Changing colors necessitates a trip back to the factory.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I am looking to purchase a really good spot light. Do you have any suggestions? I have had far too many pieces of junk that were supposed to be great. I figure that you are the man to ask. Thanks, W.P.

JWR Replies: While they have some utility in controlling predator wildlife (depending on your state's fish and game laws, of course), I DO NOT recommend visible spotlights for any retreat defense situations.  Spotlights pinpoint your dwelling and can make you a target.  There could be some utility in infrared spotlights set up a distance for your position (NOT hand-held!) , but if your opponent has any sort of night vision gear, then again you are making yourself a target.

With those provisos out of the way, this is one of the better ones.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SurvivalBlog is the best in it’s field because it draws upon the different skill sets and experiences of it’s readers. On that note, I would like to offer up my own experience for the benefit of other readers. I am a former Army Infantry Sergeant with combat service in Afghanistan and am currently a private security contractor. I was not a prepper before my service there. However, witnessing a post-collapse environment first hand made me confront some painful realities. I hope to God that my experiences will aid fellow preppers by giving them insight in to one type of collapse and it’s repercussions.

-You must have someone with some sort of medical experience in your retreat group. While dealing with Afghani civilians and prisoners or war, it was painfully obvious of their lack of all but the most primitive healthcare. In that country, there are countless deaths that could have been easily prevented by access to medical professionals and antibiotics. Wounds improperly sutured that become infected are a perfect example. If you have no antibiotics, what would you do?

-Medical supplies go very quickly when someone is wounded or sick. In our small medical clinic, items such as gauze, rubber gloves, painkillers, and antibiotics were always in short supply. Further, many with chronic medical conditions died for lack of supplies. When there is no bottled oxygen, insulin, or critical medications, people will die. I’m sorry, this is just what I saw.

-In a grid down situation, sanitation will quickly become a nightmare. In Afghanistan, trash quickly piles up with no one to pick it up. Soon, it becomes putrid, especially food and medical waste. Further, rats and feral dogs eat the trash and become ill which can bite humans. You must have a plan on how to effectively deal with waste or risk diseases and illness.

-Amongst the Afghanis, I have seen more than a few missing fingers, hands, and burns. This comes from improper handling of explosives and improper protective equipment while working. In a grid down situation, it goes without saying that the smallest injury could be fatal if an infection set in. You must wear personal protective equipment for everything you do that could harm you.

-When deployed, Soldiers commonly suffer from pink eye (conjunctivitis), cellulitis, Urinary Tract Infections other improper hygiene medical issues. Don’t overlook basic hygiene. If you only have three persons defending your retreat and one is on bed rest with an infection, your eight hour guard duty shifts just went to twelve hours. That may not seem substantial, but trust me, it is.

-Post collapse, expect a number of forgotten diseases to re-emerge. Amongst Afghani civilians, I have personally seen Tuberculosis and Polio. In a land with few antibiotics and hospitals, public health will fall apart. There are hospitals and clinics in Afghanistan, but most have to drive for hours across dangerous terrain to get to them. Further, fuel is scarce, so many needlessly die from preventable diseases.

-True security requires manpower. Positions must be effectively manned 24/7, 365 days a year. If they are not, any competent enemy will infiltrate your position. Split the day in to shifts, keep in mind that the longer the shift, the harder it is to stay alert. Leaders must inspect positions, as people will fall asleep on duty. This is why the shorter the guard shift the better, as men will remain more alert. When Soldiers man an Observation Post (OP), they generally pass off observation duties every hour because their eyes get tired from looking through optics. Remember, you have to be lucky all the time, the enemy has to be lucky once.

-The value of proper body armor cannot be overstated. I know men who would be dead now if it wasn’t for modern ceramic rifle plates. In a world where there is no ambulance to rush you the ER, do you want to risk a preventable mortal wound? At a minimum, buy a plate carrier to hold a front and back plate. On the topic of ballistic protection here is a useful fact for your general knowledge. Fired from 200 yards away, it takes one of the following to stop a 7.62x51mm (.308) ball round: 15 inches of pinewood boards, 10 inches of sand, or 3 inches of concrete. These are real figures that I have personally verified.

-Optics save lives. By “optics”, I mean rifle scopes, binoculars and spotting scopes. In Afghanistan, no one opens fire without first confirming “PID”, Positive Identification of the target by looking through a scope or binoculars. At distance or in low light, it is harder than you might think to distinguish friend from foe.

-In Afghanistan, the bad guys don’t always look like bad guys. As a matter of fact, they go to great lengths to avoid looking like bad guys. This is a key idea. When planning on attacking a position, the Taliban will attempt to infiltrate it with spies who pose as workers or they will even use children for this. Keep this in mind when a group of women and children approach your retreat.

-Night Vision Devices (NODs) are an absolute game-changer. Without them, the night is a scary place. The Taliban are terrified of our ability to operate at night. But understand the limitations of NODs. The Taliban knew that the best time to attack NATO was at dawn or dusk. NODs aren’t as useful then because of their light-gathering ability.

-If you have a firearm, you must have at least the basic spare parts for it. While at a test fire range, a soldier in my unit snapped his weapon’s firing pin due to the extreme cold. If we hadn’t had a spare, he weapon would have become a paperweight.

-In Afghanistan, the Taliban and less scrupulous Police will set up simple roadblocks to kidnap, rob, or murder. There is a reason why in the military, roads are known as an “LDA”, or Linear Danger Area. In a post collapse situation, how long would it take armed gangs to construct roadblocks along main roads? How would you circumvent these?

-In Afghanistan, corruption is rife amongst the Police and Army. Thus, is a post collapse environment, be very careful of who you trust. Just because some claims to be an authority figure, doesn’t mean that they are. The Taliban would sometimes steal Police and Army uniforms to infiltrate bases.

-Ask any combat veteran about his worst fears and encountering a competent sniper will be at the top of the list. However, this works both ways. Even a man with a scoped rifle in a designated marksman role can be a game-changer. A well- concealed sniper can defeat a much larger adversary, especially if they panic. In your retreat group, it is crucial to have at least one competent long range marksman with a suitable rifle.

-Ammo storage? As much as humanly possible. Rounds go fast. Also, store numerous quality magazines, cleaning supplies, and spare parts. In Afghanistan, I didn’t see anyone trading gold or silver, but weapons and ammunition were almost accepted currency in some places.

-Gas engine vehicles are quieter than diesels. Whenever we tried to sneak up on a village in our diesel vehicles, the enemy would be gone before we got there. When assaulting, a better idea to dismount your vehicles about a mile away and move in under concealment. The only exception to this is if you have a key weapon mounted on the vehicle.

-In Afghanistan, pickup trucks are used as improvised fighting vehicles, troop transports, and ambulances. Don’t underestimate the utility of a pickup truck. For an improvised fighting vehicle, the Taliban generally line the bed with sandbags and mount an automatic weapon on the top of the cab.

-Gasoline/diesel, along with food, will become the key resource. In post collapse Afghanistan, gasoline/diesel allowed mobility and kept the electricity on. Mobility was key because he who controlled the road, controlled movement of people and goods.

-In his book, CPT Rawles calls water the key resource. He’s right. If one of our patrols ran out of water and couldn’t re-supply, they were in deep trouble.

-Water is heavy, around 8 pounds per gallon. You must have a plan to transport it if need be. The average soldier carries around one gallon on patrol with more in his vehicle. When digging fighting positions or marching, 1gal/day is a very conservative estimate so plan accordingly.

-Just because you are careful with water, doesn’t mean others will be. I have seen women and children collecting water from a river that has dead animals in it upstream. It pays to do some reconnaissance on your potential water source.

-When storing bottle water, it’s better to leave in a cool, dark place if possible. If left exposed to sunlight for weeks on end, it can get moldy.

-As anyone who has been to a bazaar in Iraq or Afghanistan will tell you, there are generally no receipts or exchanges. If you don’t inspect your purchase, you made a grave mistake. It was not uncommon to encounter Afghanis with disabled vehicles. Why? They purchased watered down Gasoline/Diesel.

-As I mentioned earlier, I never saw anyone using gold or silver as a de facto currency. What was used? American Dollars, Euros, firearms and ammunition, gasoline/diesel, canned goods, hand tools, and skill sets. By skill sets, I mean it was not uncommon to see an Afghani mechanic trade a repair job on a vehicle for a goat or canned food. Remember, skill sets are more important than expensive gear.

-Post collapse, the first winter will be devastating. In Afghanistan, before the winter came, it was common to encounter civilians needing MREs and canned goods because their crops had failed. In a world without modern pesticides, irrigation, and mechanized farm equipment, would you bet you and your loved ones lives on your crops succeeding?

As a people, the Afghanis have suffered greatly over the past three decades. In my observation, the power of their faith plays a crucial role in their survival. Regardless, of your faith or beliefs, it is important to thank God for every day. Also, don’t hesitate to take a moment to ask for his wisdom and strength to make it through a tough time.

In closing, I would like to thank CPT Rawles and all of the contributors to SurvivalBlog. I apologize if my view is grim, but it’s what I saw with my own eyes in a nation that had underwent a form of internal collapse. My distilled message is this, you need a tribe to survive. In Afghanistan, villages band together and survive. You need the varying skill sets, ideas, and manpower of a group to make it through a collapse. Thank you for your time and consideration and God bless all of you and the United States of America.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I enjoy your blog and support you in a small way with the 10 Cent Challenge.  After reading your response to the Battery-Powered House Interior Lighting letter, I want to add some information that I learned at a FAA seminar that I attended.  The FAA is now endorsing blue or green lighting in the cockpit of all aircraft (general aviation and commercial).  The green and/or blue takes less energy output for the eyes to see details.  Also, red lighting can be seen from further away than blue/green (red is used to designate towers and tall buildings at night, where blue is used for taxiway lights because it stands out less at a distance).  I would strongly advise the use of controlled blue or green lights for interior lighting and keep the bulbs/LEDs out of direct line of sight of windows.  - Carl


I wanted to add a few tips.

We recently purchased a set of low-voltage,solar-powered LED string lights from a Target chain store.  They are similar to Christmas lights, but the bulbs are of various shapes/designs (we opted for a set that looked like little snow globes or disco balls.)

These lights don't have any sort of connector (12 VDC nor 110 VAC.)  Instead, they only have a small solar panel, that's [directly] attached to a sealed battery pack.

During our first camping/outing with the lights, we read the instructions, which said that they required five hours of full sunlight before they would be ready for use.  (We had arrived at our campsite about an hour before sunset, so we had no hope that they would work...)

Much to our surprise, they worked perfectly.  Initially, their light source seems pretty weak.  But, as the skies grow dark,and your eyes adjust, they actually begin to seem pretty bright.   We strung them above/around the opening of our tent, and they functioned like some sort of "street light" of sorts (making entry/exit of our tent safe & sure.

We attempted to sleep with the lights still on, to see how long they would last.  (A mistake.)   At 2 a.m., they were still so bright, that we were having trouble sleeping.  So, I turned them off.

The next day, we angled the solar panel to face the sun.  (The panel/battery has a clip,which we attached to an external tent pole on our dome-style tent.)  We then departed for the day (which turned out to be a windy day.)

When we returned,the little solar panel had spun on the pole (due to the winds,) and was now face-down in the tent (instead of facing the sunshine.)  We still had an hour of sunlight before sunset, so there was still hope...

After sunset, when we turned the lights on, they (again) worked like champs.  We wondered, though, if they would still hold-up as long as the night prior?...

About an hour later, as we were building our campfire, they died...  (We assumed they just didn't get enough sunlight, and we were regretting that they didn't have a 12-volt plug or alligator clips.)

Later, however, as the fire dimmed, the little lights sprung back to life!!!

Go figure -- they also have a built-in light sensor/switch.  They automatically turn off, when there is sufficient light (to save their battery.)   We had light from them all night (again.)

I have been disappointed by so many "solar yard/path lights" in the past.  I almost didn't buy these.  But, their LED functionality got the best of me -- and I'm so very glad that I bought them!

Granted, they are not "high beams."  These are essentially "super" night lights (or minimalist emergency lighting.)
They are enough light to "get the job done" -- and not much more.  But, they are kind of cute, too!
As outdoor lights, they are also water-resistant.  As low-voltage, they are also safe to the touch (even if/when wet.)

This essentially-free lighting was enough for 90% of our tasks in/around our tent and camp site.  Only a few times did we need to turn on a lantern, or flashlight for specialized tasks (like cutting in our kitchen area.)

On that note, this was also the first time we tried using one of the new LED-style Coleman lanterns.  We still brought our Coleman-fueled lanterns, as well as our propane lanterns along, too.  We are life-long campers,and Coleman-powered lamps just seem to be as natural as S'Mores over a camp fire.  But, the sensitive mantles, and glass lenses, plus the Coleman white-fuel cans, and the propane bottles, and the small funnels, and such add up to a lot of possible "points-of-failure."  I was pleasantly-surprised by the amount of zero effort light that our new battery-powered LED Coleman lanterns provided!

One of them was powered via a pack of four D-cell batteries.   The other had an integrated battery pack, which you could wall-charge (or hand-crank!!!)  I'm somewhat sorry to say, that our old-school lanterns will be moved to the bottom/back shelves of our garage now -- because we now favor the newer, lighter-weight, easier & safer to operate LED lanterns.

We have also purchased a roll-up solar panel to charge any/all of our batteries, too.

Granted, there isn't always a sunny sky.  But, one full charge of these little lights, seems to last for multiple nights.

We also bought a hand-crank handheld LED flashlight, too.  Again, it's not as powerful as our Mag-Lites. (I think someone on the Moon could see our Mag-Lites!)   But, they are much lighter and a quick crank of the handle for 30-60 seconds or so, provides us with hours of lighting.  (Whereas dead batteries in the Mag-Lites provides zero light.)

Peace & Preparedness, - J.H.

Another option that has worked well for me is the use of marine-type [low votage DC lighting in the house.

I have a LED chart light set up as a reading light on the back of the head board that I use day to day for my reading and as a bed side lamp. It is powered off of a deep cycle battery in a battery box under the bed. (Yes batteries make hydrogen gas while charging and anyone who is not a big boy and understands this should probably not do it.)

This combo will run many days without a charge and makes a great bed side light as well. One of these days I am going to run the numbers and see exactly how many hours this thing will run, but the battery is so ridiculously over-sized for this application I have not bothered yet. - S.D. in W.V.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I am a deputy sheriff in Louisiana and patrol primarily on the night shift. A few nights ago my shift was alerted that the main city in our parish was under a complete "black out", meaning a total loss of ALL electricity. The reason for the blackout was unknown but the repercussions were great. The power stayed out for a mere hour and a half, but that was all it took to cause  chaos all throughout the city. In this hour and a half multiple shootings occurred, multiple wrecks occurred on the highways and city streets, and multiple stores and businesses were broken into and looted due to security systems malfunctioning. All within that small hour and a half. It really shows how fragile the order in our cities hangs in the balance. People who would probably have been watching television or engaging in other peaceful activities, were gathering in the streets starting fights. All because the lights and tv turned off. Wow. Only a handful of people had nothing to worry about because they were prepared with a few necessities such as: flashlights, food, water, protection (I.e.  Rifle, handgun, or shotgun). 

I am writing this to remind you of the importance of being prepared for a "lights out" situation like this. This type of thing happens all the time and can happen in your area  anytime. These are some minimum guidelines for what you need on hand in a two to three week blackout scenario. It doesn't matter how much food and water you have if you can't see it. It doesn't matter how many guns and and ammo you have if you can't see to shoot them. And it certainly doesn't matter how many great flashlights, lamps, and lanterns you have if you don't have food, water, and defense because looters can walk  straight into your home and take anything and everything they please (including your life)!

I will be so bold as to say if the blackout had continued throughout the night it would have escalated into an all-out riot. You might say "no way! Not in America! This isn't Europe!". Yes, in America, small town America. People have become so dependent on electricity and have been brainwashed into a "welfare mentality" meaning everything is somehow " owed" to them to the point that when something breaks their cycle, I.e. a "blackout" they will do anything necessary to "get (by force)" what they want. More commonly known as "looting". You will start to see this type of thing happening more and more in the near future because history always repeats itself. Look what happened in New Orleans, Louisiana  after Hurricane Katrina. A large storm causes long term power loss and flooding. And because no one stocks more than a day or two worth of food what do they do? They take what they want; by killing, looting, and plundering. Civil neighborhoods turned into all out war zones! Very few people were prepared for what occurred. It was several days until order was semi restored and weeks until it was fully restored. This is very close to home, and it could happen to you at any moment! Don't be a pacifist. Understand me when I tell you this is the real deal.

  As a well informed survival minded individual there are a few things you should have prepared for the event of a " Total blackout".

1) Light:

I recommend  having a couple different forms of light on hand for such a situation.

A) Low light.

If living in a well populated area you don't want to bring attention to your house. So you will want to keep a lantern ( oil, kerosene, or battery powered) or candles to be able to move freely within your dwelling without being spotted easily. A low light can be spotted short at short range but with draw much less attention then a generator lighting the whole house. While a generator can be very useful, using it can mark you as a target for looters. I personally like "crank" lanterns that you simply crank to recharge. Oil and kerosene lamps burn long hours on small amounts of fuel and are highly efficient. Also keep two or three small headlights on hand, they make lots of things much easier when your hands are free.  

B) High intensity light

I recommend a high powered light small enough to be easily handheld in order to use with a handgun. LED lights use very little battery while providing a very bright beam. My personal favorite is the Streamlight \Strion (rechargeable AC or DC voltage). It lasts up to eight hours and is highly dependable. It can be fixed to a  rifle, shotgun, or used free with a handgun. A very bright light is highly useful in a tactical situation. A concentrated beam will blind attackers momentarily and provide a easily followed field of vision allowing for faster target acquisition. Don't go without this! If you can't identify your target then you may end up shooting your neighbor. There are multiple lights similar to the Streamlight Strion on the market ranging from forty to one hundred dollars that are just as capable. 

 C) Batteries

If using battery powered light keep enough batteries on hand to run them for two weeks. Rechargeable batteries will save you money in the long run, but are highly expensive.  Although you can use an DC car charger to charge them in your vehicle. I would suggest having several "shake" flashlights on hand. They last a good length of time off of two minutes of shaking.

2) A one month supply of food.

While I personally advise several months supply,  but you should have at least a months supply for a blackout situation. I recommend easily stored, long lasting foods such as MRE's and canned goods for your months supply. Try to keep some of your supply in easily transportable containers in case there is a need to bug out with little or no time to pack. There is a few tricks to keeping food in your freezer good for a few days. Put several bottles of water in your freezer filled not quite to the brim. These will freeze  keeping most of your food in the "safe zone" for  two to three days.

3) A large supply of water.

Water can be easily stored in 5 gallon bottles lining your garage or basement. Between cooking and drinking I would  have no less than twenty,  five gallon bottles. I also highly recommend having  some sort of water filtration system for when your supply dwindles to supply you water from natural sources .

4) Home defense.

    A) firearms

I recommend a pump 12 gauge shotgun, two .40 caliber handguns, And an assault rifle, which will be highly useful in many situations including the event of "bugging out". I would stress the need for regular practice with your home defense firearms. You need to be proficient with each one. Under pressure you are only as good as your training! "Practice makes perfect" rings very true when it comes to this. Take any "home defense" courses possible. A shotgun in skilled hands is one of the most effective weapons in home defense. A handgun will be very useful as a secondary weapon. And a high capacity assault rifle ( Such as an AK-47, AR-15, or Mini-14) will save your life in a firefight. You don't want to be out-gunned!

    B)  Ammunition.

I recommend 00 buckshot for 12 gauge, and hollow point ammunition for handguns. With a minimum of three magazines, and 500 rounds per firearm. Remember, this is merely the minimum of what you should have. I would recommend 5,000 per firearm and ten magazines for each as a for more adequate supply . Keep your ammo in a dry place in airtight containers where it is easily accessible.

    C)  A plan. 

When looters come pounding on your door you can call 9-11,  but don't expect a quick response if any due to the high call volume. Block doors and windows with heavy furniture or appliances, but keep in mind you need a quick escape route, I.e. a window or side door. Have Bug Out Bags ready for the event of riots or fire. Have at least $250 cash in hand,  seeing that credit or debit cards will get you nothing with the power off.  

Lastly, keep in mind that roads may be blocked, so use a vehicle that can drive off road if needed in the event of a bug out (SUV or Truck). Map several routes out of the city. I recommend using GPS as long as the system is working. This will make detours much more effective when roads are impassible. Have a destination pre-planned that is not in the city. A friend or relative in the country is ideal if you don't have a preplanned bug out destination. 

These are some rough guidelines that may help you be more prepared for a blackout situation. Keep in mind that ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and thunderstorms can potentially cause this scenario. Don't be naive, be prepared!

Note: this is targeting people who live in urban areas, as country people tend to have most of the things on my list in stock and are used to power outages. These are minimal guidelines for mere survival, I would strongly suggest more food, water, and defense (guns and ammo) than listed. Good luck!

JWR Adds: Be sure to see the many articles in the SurvivalBlog archives that discuss tritium sights and light amplification ("starlight") night vision equipment.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The price of thermal imaging has dropped to the range of Gen III night vision - about $2,000.  My bug out location has a valley with a stream at bottom and a wooded hillside, plus surrounding pastures and woods.  I wanted the tactical advantage to be able to tell if predators (particularly 2 legged) were in the trees at night.  I purchased an FLIR PS24 handheld from Sportsman’s Guide, member price $1979.97, and shipping is often free if you wait for a coupon code sale.  After waiting about five weeks, it shipped factory direct from FLIR.  My darling wife asked: said “How much did you pay for that?!”  I had to make it my only Christmas gift this year…

The unit is hand-sized, 12 ounces, pretty rugged and advertised watertight (although I did not try to submerge it).  It has lighted push keys for On/Off, Display Brightness, Display color select, and 2X zoom/Freeze frame.  The color selection is White on black background, black on white, and white on black with varying levels of red highlight.  I like the first “red” setting, called “I1“.  There’s an eyepiece focus tab for +- 2 diopters.  The unit has an internal Lithium battery, and a USB-Firewire cable with an AC power supply for charging.  When off, the brightness button toggles an LED for use as a flashlight.  There is an auto-shutdown after 5 minutes if no buttons are pushed, and a 4 second boot-up when turned on.  When it first arrives, you need to charge it about 5 hours before use.  An LED indicator lights yellow when charging, and green when fully charged.  It comes with a wrist lanyard, soft rubber tethered lens cap, and black soft pouch.  A MOLLE belt carry pouch is available via mail order.  The manual says its range of operation is -4 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.    The unit can be tripod mounted.  The manual says that a man is detectable at 350 yards.

Performance is amazing!  While the screen resolution is not a crisp as a GEN III NV, the thermal response is fantastic.  With it, I was able to determine that my stream has a contributing spring on my property - the water showed a warm underground inflow as bright white.  After standing on the deck for about one minute, step back and your boot prints are clearly visible on the deck, as is your hand print on the railing.  You can pick up thermal leaks on your cabin doors and walls - where calking or insulation is needed.  Retained heat from stone walls is evident, as well as septic tank covers - even when buried under a couple inches of soil, IF there’s no snow cover.  You can see a thrown cigar butt in the grass long after red ash fades.  The advantage to a hunter seeing game come in range during low light would be considerable.  Finding a downed deer in brush would be much easier.  The retained warmth from mechanical equipment like cars or electrical equipment like camera pods show up clearly.  I’d expect you could also find “warm” electrical junction boxes with the unit, thus potentially saving yourself from a home fire risk.  There is no difference in the unit operation daylight vs. night, but of course cold weather makes the thermal contrasts sharper.

Wildlife shows up white hot, easily visible 150 yards away.  Closer, animals show tinges of red in the eyes, head and chest.  I could immediately see five deer in the pasture, and when nine deer then collected in the trees I could see them move off single file up through the trees across the valley, 200 yards away.  Note that with a GEN III ITT monocular I could not see any identifiable shapes or movement in the trees, but with thermal the deer were easily visible.

You can hide from thermal imaging. I found that glass acts as a mirror; a white-hot candelabra bulb is not visible through a double pane window standing only 2 feet away - all you see is your reflection in the window.  Thermal images reflect off still water as well.  I’d expect a space blanket “hide” to shield a thermal signature about the same.  I found that the soft rubber eyecup is easily dislodged - I almost lost it in the grass - I’d recommend that you use black electrical tape to secure it to the unit.  Battery life is good, about 4 weeks of use 10 minutes per night.  The manual states that the unit has to be returned to the factory for battery replacement.  Fog or falling snow does decrease the sharpness of the thermal contrast on the screen.  I was not able to test the effect of smoke by the time of this review.

If I could have only one, either the GEN III NV or the FLIR thermal, I’d go with the GEN III but only if it was weapon-mountable and [used in conjunction with] a good NV compatible red dot scope.  But as a hand-held only unit, the FLIR is superior, especially if you need to know where anything warm-blooded is at night.  I called my darling wife out to the deck the night the deer were playing ‘follow-the-leader’, and she spent a while observing them.  Afterward, she asked, “Do you think we should buy a second one of these?”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Prepping on a budget is quite important to my family as I am sure it is to many avid readers of this fine blog.  I have purchased the book, "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times" and am following it to the best of my ability and financial means.

However one aspect that is woefully lacking is my nighttime surveillance capability.  Sure I have strong LED flashlights with rechargeable batteries, solar panels ready to recharge those batteries at a moments notice, and enough batteries to last a lifetime.  I have solar powered motion sensitive lighting on each corner of my house just like any good Prepper.

However in many instances that I can envision, I would want the capability see what is going on in and around my area of operations (AO) without alerting what I am attempting to observe that I am attempting to observe it.  Whether it is shooting that feral hog out of the garden, observing the deer that are eating my grapes, or seeing what that two legged predator is doing walking my fence line on the back of my property.

I have been looking and reviewing various night vision scopes and binoculars, however of the ones that I reviewed, none that were in my price range seemed worth owning and the ones that were barely in my price range had marginal reviews. 

With money being so tight just to make ends meet, let alone prep, I simply could not afford to roll the dice and take the chance that a particular night vision scope would fulfill my purpose.  And, even if it did, with the" two is one and one is none" philosophy; I certainly couldn't afford multiples of any of the scopes that I had seen.Not only that, but even if I could find an affordable (to me) night vision scope and I could afford to get multiples of that scope, I would need one that could fit multiple uses as well.

For example, I would need one that I could fit as a head-mounted unit to use as a hands free unit that would allow me to keep my hands free for other things and still see good enough to scout.  I would want a handheld one that I could have on me at all times just in case I get caught out after dark.  I would want one that I could mount behind the iron sights or scope of my ARs.  And, to make it all worse, I would want several of each to allow each member of my family and group to have the same capabilities.

With all of these things on my checklist, it certainly appeared that I was going to have to sacrifice and either have one that I squeezed into many roles, or spend more money than I could really justify on trying to cover all of the roles that I needed to.

Then Christmas rolled around and I went shopping for my children.  As I was walking down the toy aisle of my local big box retailer, I came upon a infrared binocular toy from Spy Net that had been marked down.  So I took $20 out of my prepping budget and made the purchase.  With the caveat that if I didn't like what I was seeing through them in a test, it would still make a cool Christmas present for a 10 year old boy.

Now I might lose some readers here, but please bear with me.

This night vision toy functions only as an IR viewer--it does not have an light amplification intensifier tube.  It uses any ambient light source and two built in infrared lights (if there is no sufficient ambient light source) to light the way.  Instead of an intensifier tube, it uses a tiny CMOS camera that transmits to a small LCD screen.  The upside to the CMOS camera is that it will not be damaged by a sudden bright light source like some early intensifier tube night vision equipment, and can still function during the day.  The downside is that they are not as durable as intensifier tube night vision devices and they rely on a lot of circuitry to operate.

When I brought it home and test it as soon as it was dark, outside. The first thing that I noticed is that it does an amazing job of using any ambient light source.  The small CMOS camera and screen showed decent detail and I could mostly identify people at a decent distance (25 to 30 yards), not just as people, but also some facial features allowing recognition. 

The second thing that I noticed is that the two built in infrared lights were woefully inadequate at lighting anything beyond 15 feet.  The good news is that I was only looking for the first thing, because I had no intention of using the built in lights anyway since they had no control to turn them off if they were not needed (or desired).

I had purchased this with the specific intention of taking it apart and modifying it to increase its capability and increase its durability several fold.

As I took it apart, it amazed me on how compact and small the actual functional unit was.  About 90% of the size of the binoculars was just empty air surrounded by plastic that was made to look high tech for a kid's toy.  The actual unit was able to fit in the palm of my medium sized hands with room to spare.

So after disassembly, and removing all of the extraneous controls (it has the ability to record and playback video and audio which I didn't need and just added extra bulk), so those circuits were quickly cut and removed along with their corresponding wiring and controls. 

I was left with just the CMOS camera, the circuit board, the attached video screen (about .75îx1î) the power switch and the battery pack. 

My next job was to fashion up a durable housing to place this in.  Since it is so small, I was able to make the housing a bit larger for durability. 

I was originally wanting a cylindrical tube, however because the rest of the unit was square, using a round tube would increase the size of the whole unit too much, so I used a thin walled square cross-section aluminum tube and placed the circuits inside.  To help increase durability and protect the circuits, I poured clear resin inside the square tube and let it dry (keeping the resin away from the actual camera or screen of course).  This will help reduce any shock that it might endure as well as protect the circuits and wires from damage.

I used a very small section of square tubing to house the unit itself, then I added in a shade on the backside (between the screen and the users eye) to help cut down on the glare from the small screen.  Lastly I added on a rubber eye piece from an old scope, so the user could get a good "eye weld" onto the scope for optimum viewing.

Since I had removed the very inadequate infrared LEDs, I replaced them with a Solar Force flashlight with an infrared emitter.  The flashlight is mounted to the outside of the unit, so it could be removed and replaced if necessary.  The final step that I used was wrapping the entire thing in Kydex and heat forming it around the aluminum tube.  This made it easier to handle and added yet another layer of protection.

So for a bit under $50 for the entire thing (which unfortunately entailed some trial and error with the aluminum tube and Kydex forming) I have a functional, seemingly durable night vision scope (durability testing will come after I have made a few more and established a solid methodology of how I am going to use these).

My next version (which I have already ordered) will be a bit more compact with a smaller housing and I will use it as a single side head mounted unit.  This will allow me to use it as both a hands-free unit for observation, but will also be able to use a rifle or pistol in the dark (after much practice of course).

My intermediate plan is to have one of these for each member of my house as well.

I have not tested these extensively for durability yet, but I can honestly say that it works better than I had could have hoped for.  This first unit is just a bit unwieldy, but I am not discouraged at all since this is my very first unit.  I am certain that I will find many ways to improve it as I discover the ways that I will use it and how it can be modified.

In my humble opinion, this could never take the place of a dedicated, purpose built night vision device, but like the old saying goes, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

I would rather have limited night vision capability than money put back saving for a better unit.  And for the very limited amount of money that these cost, it could be a great intermediate step and backup as needed.

JWR Adds: Most night vision monoculars are not up to the recoil stresses of mounting on a rifle--even a light-recoiling 5.56 mm. Also, the mounting interface for anything other than a purpose-built rifle scope tends to be problematic. Even a scope without a reticle (depending on the reticle of red dot scope mounted behind it) can still be a challenge to mount with reliability. The "duct tape and bailer twine" school of gunsmithing (also known as WECSOGing) is fraught with peril. In essence, re-purposing a toy IR scope can work with very limited reliability, but don't expect it to work for you as anything more than just a hand-held monocular.

The next step up from a toy IR scope like Robert describes is buying a Bushnell Gen 1 night vision monocular. For under $180, these are sturdy, reliable, relatively weatherproof, and they have a decent built-in IR light. They operate on two standard AA batteries. They can sometimes be found used on eBay for less than $90.

Beyond that, purpose-built rifle starlight night vision scopes start at around $400. A fairly decent civilian model is made by ATN: the MK350 Guardian. But keep in mind that there is no true low-cost substitute for mil-spec quality. Sadly, that level of quality comes only with a high price tag.

If you already own one or more night vision monoculars (such as a Yukon), then a low-cost alternative is to wear a night vision monocular in a head mount or helmet mount, and attach an infrared laser to a Picatinny rail on your rifle. The rifle is then shot "from the hip", using the the laser pointer for aiming. (Sort of a "Poor Man's PAQ-4".)

The bottom line: I recommend that you buy the best night vision gear that you can afford. As Robert pointed out, that can begin with a miniscule budget. Watch eBay closely for used Russian night vision monoculars (such as the Night Owl Brand.) These sometimes sell for as little as $60. They are better than nothing. Even after you eventually save up and buy the PVS-14 of your dreams, be sure to retain your older, less expensive, night vision gear. Those will be useful for spares, or worth their weight in gold, for barter.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I visit your blog daily and the link to a map showing gang presence in the United States caught my eye. I note that my home is within one of the "moderate" gang activity areas. That is not news to me.

We are about a mile from the perimeter of the "war zone" of our city in a semi-rural part of town. We hear gunshots (within a half-mile of the house) nightly and the roofers who replaced our shingles last year remarked at the number of bullet holes in our roof. Those shots came from the street in front of our house. Gangbangers are notoriously bad shots, and the holes in the roof were from "wannabes" just firing at anything big enough for them to hit.

I keep a a "rapid response" kit next to the bed for anything that seems to be more of a threat than punks indiscriminately firing weapons out of the windows of their cars. I am up two or three times a night every week to check out the action.

Immediate survival may necessitate the use of a "pre" bugout bag such as my rapid response kit. You need, of course, a firearm that you would want knowing you were going to a gunfight. In my case, it is a 12 gauge riot gun fully loaded with 00-buck and the hammer down on an empty chamber (I'm anal about gun safety). My gun belt will be on my hips with a .45 Colt and two additional magazines on the belt. My cell phone is also part of the kit.

I wish I had night-vision goggles. But lacking that, I have a small flashlight to light the trail through our woods, and a larger hand-carried "Second-coming-of Christ" beam to light up the whole scene when it seems appropriate.

Thankfully, I have been "called to action" for serious gang related activity only a couple of times. The police were on scene within 15 minutes, but that's a long time to wait when punks are shooting at you...even if they are miserable shots. - Ken F.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I'm writing to comment on something in your nonfiction book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It": On page 206 you state: “Without proper blackout precautions, your house will be a
'come loot me' beacon that can be seen for miles at night.”I can’t stress light discipline enough. Here’s an example: About fifteen years ago my parents went to dinner at The Cougar Inn on Lake Wenatchee [in eastern Washington]. It was a dark night and on the way back from dinner they looked across the lake and saw a faint green flashing light it the vicinity of their un-lit cabin. Arriving at the cabin they found the light source for the flashing: The light that could be seen from slightly over one mile was the reflected light inside their cabin of the video cassette recorder (VCR) flashing "12:00, 12:00, 12:00."

That was one mile away. The VCR was sitting in a corner in a built–in cabinet, and not pointed directly at the window.

Don’t ever tell yourself, “Oh, it’s okay, it’s not that bad.” What’s not that bad? The act of being raped, robbed, and murdered, or the light leaks? Even the smallest light leak can be an invitation to disaster [in a grid-down situation, where all of the houses are blacked out.] - Rick B.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I still remember when some of the first lasers for handguns came on the commercial market. At the time I was working for the late Col. Rex Applegate, and he received several handgun lasers to test. As was usually the case, the job of testing was passed along to me, and I reported my findings back to Applegate. At the time, I thought that lasers on firearms were more of a gimmick or for that matter, just plain ol' toys. No one made holsters for handguns with laser - simply because the lasers were so big - it wasn't practical to carry a handgun with a laser mounted on it.

Well, times change, and product improvement and technology have produced some very small lasers for firearms. I no longer think of lasers as mere toys to play with. I sincerely believe that, lasers can aid a shooter under the right circumstances, especially low-light shooting. I've been testing some LaserLyte products for about a year and a half now, and I'm amazed at just how small, and effective their products are.

One of the first products I tested wasn't a laser. Instead, it's a very small flashlight that they dub "FlashLyte": that mount on the Picatinny-style rail on a handgun's rail (semi-autos). Now, the FlashLyte isn't designed for law enforcement or military use. Instead, this product is designed (and priced) for the home owner to use on their "bedroom gun." You know what I'm talking about - the gun you keep handy in your bedroom, should you hear a bump-in-the-night.

The FlashLyte is a triple-cluster of LED lens engineer to pump our 25-lumens of bright light at your target. This is more than enough light to light-up the living room in most homes. Additionally, the FlashLyte will also temporarily blind a suspect if you point it in their eyes. I'm not aware of a smaller flashlight that can be mounted on a handgun, than the FlashLyte. It takes but a minute to mount the FlashLyte on your handgun that is equipped with a Picatinny-style rail, and your good to go. If you have a bedroom gun, then you really need some sort of illumination source to go with it - and what better place to have a light, than mounted on your handgun?

When I heard from my friend Laura Burgess who does the PR/Marketing for LaserLyte, that they had a laser mounted in the rear sight for handguns, I thought perhaps she had had one too many drinks. In short order, a sample of the Rear Sight Laser from LaserLyte arrived at my front door - it was for a Glock 19 and other similar Glocks. I couldn't believe how darn small the RSL was. It only took me a couple of minutes to remove the factory Glock rear sight, with a brass punch and plastic hammer, and install the new RSL in its place.

The RSL is now available for several popular handguns, with more to come. What I like about the RSL is that, it's easy to mount, easy to zero and easy to use. As you draw your handgun from your holster, you simply place your thumb on the activation switch on the rear of the RSL and it turns the laser on. Additionally, there is a constant as well as pulse mode. The pulse mode is activate by pressing the activation switch twice. And, studies have shown, that a pulsing red laser seems to be more intimidating than a steady laser for some reason. I tend to agree. the RSL has a 1-hour constant on, and a 2-hour pulse battery supply. What's not to like here?

Several months ago, I received the LaserLyte K-15 Kryptonyte Rifle Laser for testing. I mounted it on my MGI Hydra modular rifle, that has a quad-rail forearm. Again, it was quick and easy to mount, just a couple screws and I was in business. Now, if you've never used a green laser, you're in for a a treat - they are much brighter than red lasers on - and you can see them under most daylight conditions. I'm a firm believer is the less-is-better, when it comes to mounting things on my AR-15 style rifles. Any more, I've seen people with so much gear mounted on their ARs, that the gear weighs more than the actual rifle does. I'm getting older, and I just don't want to pack any more weight than I have to on a firearm. So, I'm particular about what gear I add to my ARs.

I like the K-15 Kryptonyte, and I have to chuckle at the name. Everyone knows that Kryptonite can kills Superman...and if you see how bright the green laser is on the K-15, you'll know that whoever is pointing this laser at you means business - that the bullets are gonna hit where the light is aimed. I zero all my lasers for 25-yards, on rifles or handguns, as I believe that's a reasonable distance to use lasers at. I know, I know, lots of companies advertise that their lasers can be seen at a mile away. Okay, good for them, but I can't hit a target at a mile away. I think lasers are best used for close-in CQB distances.

The K-15 has a constant "on" switch on the rear of it. There is also a momentary on feature, that is used with the 10-inch long tape switch, that I mounted on a vertical fore grip. I would like to see LaserLyte include a vertical fore grip with the K-15, as I don't see many people using the momentary "on" switch just stuck on the fore end of an AR or other similar rifle. I mounted my K-15 on the top rail of the quad-rail on my Hydra. You can mount it on any of the four positions if you desire. The K-15s super-bright green laser gets your attention, even in bright sunlight. And, the battery lasts for up to six hours. I just think that my Hydra looks super-cool with the K-15 mounted on it, and it's a useful addition if you ask me. BTW, LaserLyte just came out with a coyote brown K-15 - the standard model is black.

One thing to keep in mind with any green lasers is the fact that, they don't operate in temps below freezing. So, if you live and work in a climate that has temps below freezing, then you might not want a green laser mounted on your firearm. I'm not sure of the science involved in the making of a green laser, but I understand that advances are being made in this regard concerning the temps at which they will operate.

I also tested the V2 laser, and this little gem mounts on the Picatinny-style rail on your handgun. And, it can also be mounted to a quad-rail on a rifle, but it's real purpose is on a handgun. The V2 is a true subcompact laser, too. I haven't seen anything smaller. The V2 is activated by a small red button on the rear of it - and it can be turned on in a split second. I really liked the V2, and I'm gonna see if I can't beg a couple more samples from LaserLyte for some of my other handgun. the V2 is small enough that it will allow holstering in many ballistic Nylon holsters, too. There are several other lasers for handguns from LaserLyte, however, I haven't tested them, so I'll refrain from commenting on 'em here, other than to say, I'm sure they are top-notch if they are like any of the other products I tested from LaserLyte.

Whenever I mount a scope on a rifle, I use the Laser Bore Sighting System from LaserLyte. This neat little device allows me to get my scope on paper at 25-yards, and more often than not, I've been dead-on with my scope after using the Laser Bore Sighter. this system consist of a laser device that you stick in the end of your barrel, and you turn it on. Aim your rifle at the special target that is included with the system, and place it on the bullseye, then adjust the crosshairs of you scope, to match the laser's red dot on the target. More often than not, when I head up to my shooting spot to live-fire the rifle, the shots are hitting exactly where the crosshairs are aimed. It's a very quick and easy system to use. However, you must remember to remove the laser from the end of your bore before firing live ammo, if you don't you will blow your gun up - simple as that. The Laser Bore Sighting System has saved me a lot of money in ammo, and the darn thing just works simply.

What I like best about LaserLyte products is that they are affordable. And, compared to the cheap imports that sell for less money, the LaserLyte lasers work as advertised and will last a long, long time. I've tried some of the cheap Chinese imported lasers that cost $25 and they are junk, don't waste your money on 'em. Get something from LaserLyte that will suit your needs and work when it's supposed to work. Lasers aren't just "toys" any longer. They are a worthwhile addition to your firearms. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello Mr. Rawles,
Could you post some qualities to look for in an AN/PVS-14 Generation 3 night vision monocular/weapon sight? I would like to support one of your advertisers, but the different quality levels (apparently due to the sensor quality) is different even within the same make/model across different US manufacturers, but at very different prices.  Have you any thoughts? Best Regards, - Tom

JWR Replies: If you want to buy the best, then you need to get a military specification Gen 3+ AN/PVS-14 monocular that comes with a Litton factory data sheet.  Have one hand-picked for the maximum number of line pairs and minimal scintillation. (Scintillation is an image degradation commonly called "the sparklies".) If possible, make arrangements visit the seller's store on an evening, and do side-by-side tests with multiple scopes. (Or offer to pay the vendor to do so, if you can't travel there.) Even with data sheets, the image quality differs a bit. This is because even though night vision equipment is mass produced, their michochannel plates are hand-assembled into image tubes in a clean room. This is very delicate and precise work. It is as much an art as it is a science. Some of ITT's assemblers have been doing these tasks for 20+ years.

You can order a mil-spec night vision monocular with confidence from any of SurvivalBlog's advertisers. But beware of those fly-by-night sellers who's idea of "re-mamufacturing" is rebuilding surplus scopes on their kitchen table. There are also a few vendors that are selling scopes with forged data sheets. Again, buy only from reputable dealers.

Friday, February 25, 2011

In a world where everything normal has been turned up-side-down and chaos and anarchy may be the order of the day, we will have to adopt a "security first" attitude.  Where our attitude today may be "trust but verify", our attitude post-TEOTWAWKI should be "verify then cautiously trust."  Whether it's dealing with a stranger in person or talking over the radio, we should exercise extreme caution and be on guard against providing information that someone with ulterior motives can use against us.

In a situation where a few people have provisions to sustain life but most people do not, there is a ready-made hostile environment for those who are prepared.  As soon as people consume what food and drinkable liquids they have in their homes and whatever they can manage to get from grocery and convenience stores, they will begin to realize the gravity of the situation.  And when they realize that the government isn't going to come to their rescue, they will begin to panic.  At that time, many people will feel justified in stealing and even killing to obtain food and water.  Desperate people who have never experienced hardship and who have always had everything they wanted can quickly become treacherous and ruthless in their pursuit of life's necessities.  Even people who were formerly your friends may be willing to do whatever is necessary to take what you have, whether by stealth or by force.

Many people will gather all of their guns and camping gear and head to the nearest lake or river where they will set up camp and stake out a "piece of water" and hope they can find food somewhere.  Others will just prowl around looking for someone who has what they want.  They will beg, trade, steal and eventually kill to get what they want.

It then becomes a matter of intelligence (information) gathering; to figure out where there is food and water and what it would take to get it.  The more intelligence that can be obtained about a target, the easier it is to take it down.

It may very well turn into a virtual "fox hunt" with you being the fox and the Golden Horde being the hounds trying to find the fox and his stash of supplies.

In that sort of environment, security is paramount.  An integral part of overall security is intelligence gathering.  Every bit of information your foe can gather about you enables them to formulate a plan to take what you have. If they can learn details about your "retreat", your level of security, your habits and your capabilities then they have a better chance of defeating you with the least amount of risk to themselves.

A sobering thought is that if people know that you have food, water, fuel for heating, lighting and cooking and they have none of these things, they will be willing to risk everything to get them.  They will also discover, sooner or later, that they cannot carry all of that stuff to their house, if they even have a house.  So, ultimately, the conclusion they will come to is to eliminate the current occupants so that they can just move in to your house.

You may not think of your house as a retreat.  That's because we currently don't have anything to fear from those around us.  If that changes, then our natural reaction is to withdraw from our surroundings and become wary and defensive.

A retreat compound is defined as an enclosure containing a house and outbuildings etc.  You may or may not have a fence surrounding your property.  If you do, your fence probably is not the type that would keep people out if they were determined to enter the property,  Whether you property is already fenced or not, a minimalist compound can be created by defining the perimeter of your property with a fence of other obstacles or with early warning devices and by "hardening" your defenses.

In military terms a "hard" target is one that has tight security and substantial defenses and a "soft" target is one that has neither security or defenses.

A hard target is one that would be difficult to successfully attack and a soft target is one that would be easy to successfully attack.  For example, as  it relates to terrorists, a hard target would be a nuclear power plant and a soft target would be a school or shopping mall.  The nuclear power plant has security measures such as a high, electric fence with razor wire on top and flood lights lighting the fence and perimeter and, defense measures such as armed guards with attack dogs patrolling the interior.  Schools and shopping malls have nothing to deter or to impede terrorists.

In order to harden your retreat you would strive to make it impossible or at least difficult for intruders to enter the property.  Since that isn't possible for most of us, the next best solution is to have an early warning system to at least alert those in the retreat of an intrusion.  There are commercially made systems available if money is not an issue.

The most expedient and economical solution is the old "wire and tin can" method.  This is simply small food cans or aluminum beverage cans strung on a wire and suspended a few inches above the ground. Large pebbles or marbles placed in the can.  When someone trips over the wire, it shakes the cans and the marbles rattles in the can.  Aluminum beverage cans  may be the best choice since they have a smaller opening in the top which would help to prevent the marbles from bouncing out.  You could also run the wire under the hole to make it even less likely that the marble would bounce out. punch a few small holes in the bottom of the can so that rain won't be caught in the can which would muffle the rattling sound.

The time to begin planning your defensive measures is now.  Don't wait until Schumer knocks on your door to start making plans because at that time there will be many other things to attend to and it will be difficult to concentrate on things like that.

Make a diagram of your retreat including all outbuildings, trees, pump houses, raised bed gardens, retainer walls etc.

After you have your diagram, the first thing to do is to walk the perimeter of your property and study your retreat from all angles.  Put yourself in the place of an attacker and think about how you would lay siege to that retreat.  Then think about measures you could take to thwart such an attack.  

As you think of things that you want to incorporate into your security system, write them down in list form.  If six months pass before it happens, you will not remember everything you thought about doing.

Things to consider:

1) Visibility:  What can you see from the various parts of your perimeter? Could people in the house see you; could you approach the house without being seen; what can you see inside the house; can you see exterior doors; can you see beyond the house on one or both sides; can you see outbuildings and can you tell what they are being used for.  You should also go through your house and look out each window to determine the parts of your retreat that cannot be seen from inside the house.  These blind spots will require additional attention.

2) Cover and Concealment: "Concealment" is defined as any obstacle that conceals you from view but would not stop a bullet from hitting you if you were hiding behind it. Examples of concealment would be weeds, a bush or even a thin wall.  "Cover" is defined as anything that provides a measure of protection from bullets.  Examples of cover would be a rock wall, a large tree or even a ditch.

Are there any items of cover or concealment on your retreat that an attacker could take advantage of i.e. weeds, brush, trees, old vehicles, farm equipment, raised bed garden, unused structures; what could an attacker see from behind each of these.

Consider removing weeds and bushes that provide concealment.  Also consider removing old vehicles and unused structures from the property and moving farm machinery to an area where it would not benefit an attacker.

Write down, in list form, your observations and ideas for hardening your retreat.  

Once you determine where your strong defensive areas are and where your weak areas are, draw out on your diagram where you would put your early warning systems.  Your early warning systems should first be located in the most likely avenues that an intruder would take to get to the house and also the most vulnerable sides of the retreat.  You may want to draw those in red or otherwise indicate that those are the most important.  After that, draw in other early warning stretches to construct if you have enough wire and cans.  Avoid simply running a straight line of wire around your property.  Take advantage of existing objects to attach the wire to such as fences, power poles, clothes line poles, etc.  If you have enough wire and cans,  consider running staggered and overlapping stretches.  Be sure to draw out each one on the diagram so you have as little as possible to think about when the time comes.  Cans can also be wired to bushes and existing fences to provide additional coverage.

Next, identify the areas of cover that an enemy would likely utilize.  Determine what advantage he would have in taking that position.  Also determine what action you could take to defeat him in that position.  For example, if he is taking cover behind a tree, is there a position of cover that you could move to where he would be exposed?  This information will aid you in determining the defensive positions for you defenders.  In the case of a tree, where the tree is barely wide enough to conceal his body, he will be partially exposed if two defenders can move to each side far enough to form a 45 degree angel to the tree.

Consideration can be given to rendering a position of cover untenable or at least uncomfortable.  A wooden stand-off can be made of old lumber and secured to the back side of a tree to prevent some body from being able to get close enough to the tree to be concealed.

In the case of a berm or low wall where an attacker would have cover only when laying or kneeling behind the object, broken bottles could be strewn in that area.

If you have a wood pile, consider moving it (when the time comes) into you back yard or other position near the house.  This will help prevent it from being used by an attacker as a position of cover or for a means of ambush on a group member retrieving wood.  The wood pile could also be used to construct defensive positions or to camouflage their purpose.

If you have blind spots (areas of your retreat that cannot be seen from inside the house) give special consideration to how you can make it difficult for an attacker to take advantage of that.  One possibility is to mount a mirror or a wide angle rear view mirror on the outside of the house next to a window so that you can look out the window at the mirror and see down the side of the house where the blind spot is.  Mount it as high as possible so that it isn't as likely to get knocked off.

If you have places in the outer part of your retreat where you don't normally need to walk, you could dig random holes about a foot wide and a foot deep.  If an intruder manages to get past your early warning system at night, he may step in a hole and fall, making a noise. [JWR Adds: All defensive measures on your property that might cause bodily harm should be taken only after a complete societal collapse. Otherwise, you might be sued by an injured trespasser. We live in a litigious society!]

Determine where your defensive positions will be on all sides of the house.  Do not use windows as defensive positions because you don't want your windows broken out,and you don't want to frame yourself as a target. Your defensive positions should be outside of the house.  Ideally, each position should be such that the defenders can be re-supplied from the house and also to enable them to retreat into the house if necessary.  Ideally, each defender should be able to see and communicate with at least one other defender.

Assign each defender a permanent position so that there is not confusion about who is going to what position.  A cache for each position should be maintained in the house near the closest door leading to the respective positions.  The cache should consist of the firearm assigned to a given member, ammo for that weapon, a hat or cap to shade the sun and a tactical flashlight.  In cold or rainy weather it should also include appropriate attire.  The idea is to minimize the time spent getting people to their assigned positions and to ensure that they arrive with everything they will need.

If you have a position that has only short ranges because of a solid wall or buildings close by, this defender should be assigned a shotgun since they are most effective at close range.

Use whatever materials you have on hand to build or enhance a defensive position.  Burlap sacks from pinto beans and rice could be filled with sand or dirt to enhance a position.

Your vehicles can be positioned so that they provide a defensive position.  Park them close to the house so that your position can be on one side of the vehicle.  Try to position vehicles so that they are close to a door in the house for easy access.  The engine compartment and wheels provide the best protection from bullets.  If vehicles are left a distance from the house, they provide a position of cover to an attacker.

Ensure that there is sufficient coverings over the windows to prevent light from candles and lanterns from being seen outside.  This is an indicator to potential attackers that someone lives there and that they have provisions.

A defender should be on guard duty 24/7.  This is not a happy thought, but it is imperative unless you live in a remote area where you are sure there are no other people.  It will be especially difficult if there are only 3-4 competent members to rotate shifts.  The night shifts will be the most difficult and especially in the winter.  You can't see or hear well enough from the inside the house to be effective and therefore the night guard will need to spend most of the shift outside the house.  The ideal position for the night guard would be on the roof, however, most of us don't have easy access to the roof without using a ladder.  Also, constant walking on the roof will damage the shingles causing the roof to leak.

The most dangerous time of day for an attack is at first light.  That is the when the attackers can see where they are going and that is when the members of the retreat are either still asleep or are thinking about breakfast and changing guards. [JWR Adds: This also explains the long tradition of pre-dawn and dusk "Stand To", in armies around to world.]

The aluminum can cans on your early warning system will reflect moonlight.  This can be both a benefit and a disadvantage.  The disadvantage is that it might enable an intruder to see the early warning system and to avoid it.  To prevent this, spray the back side and top of the can with flat black spray paint.  Do not paint the side facing the house.  If light reflects off the cans toward the house, you will be able to see if someone walks between you and one of the cans.

When you are speaking to a stranger, never provide information about yourself, your family or your situation.  If a stranger comes to your retreat asking for help, be cordial and help to whatever extent you can or are willing, but be suspicious of them and do not let your guard down.  Regardless of how congenial they are and how desperate they may seem, don't become complacent.  Even if they are genuine, they are still on an intelligence gathering mission, whether they realize it or not.  Like a stray dog that learns where to get a hand-out, they are making a mental note of what kinds of supplies you have and what they might expect to get from you in the future.

Never assume that what you see is all that there is.  While one person is talking to you at the front of the house, several others could be approaching the house from behind or even from all sides.  Or, others may be watching from a distance to see what your reaction is to the person approaching the retreat.

Any time a stranger approaches your retreat, all defenders should be alerted to take their positions while two members deal with the stranger.  Everyone should maintain their positions until the stranger leaves and is well clear of the retreat.

Do not allow a stranger to approach the house.  Stop them a distance from the house.  The closer they get to the house, the more intelligence they can gain.  One member should go out to them and see what they want.  Another member should observe from a short distance.  This member should be armed and capable to deal with the stranger in the event it is a trap.  If you decide to give assistance, do not tell him/her what provisions you have and do not allow them to follow you.  The  member talking with the stranger should retrieve the supplies while the other member continues to observe them.

Be on guard about answering any questions they might ask about the retreat or the occupants.

If any of the defenders see other strangers, the entire retreat should be alerted to a possible attack, including those dealing with the stranger.  If it is a matter of seeing other people observing from a distance, the stranger should be questioned to get as much information about their group and their intentions as possible.  Intelligence gathering is equally important to you as it is to an adversary.

In the foregoing situation, the person coming to your retreat could obtain a lot of intelligence about your situation such as how many people are there, if they are armed and, if so, the type and number of weapons, whether the security in and around the house is tight, relaxed or non-existent, what supplies you have and where they are stored.  They can also get a close-up look at your defenses and security measures.

The information that that person takes away from their encounter with you may make the difference between having your retreat assaulted or not.  If they noticed that security was tight and that the retreat is hardened, they may just move on and look for an easier target.


You can't have too much wire.  In addition to lots of wire for your early warning system, you will need wire for many other projects.  It's a good idea to have various gages of wire since different applications require different gage and strength wire.  Your early warning system should have wire that does not reflect light and that is strong enough that it won't break if somebody trips over it.  Army surplus stores carry military trip wire that comes on a wooden spool.  Half of each spool is green to blend with grass and half if it is yellow to blend with sand or fall leaves.  It is designed to be used with booby traps and illumination flares. 


Ideally, each retreat should be equipped with enough long guns to arm each person who is competent enough to handle one effectively.  Handguns should be reserved for only close quarters combat.  A shotgun should only be assigned to those members who understand the advantages and limitations of the weapon and who have had experience shooting one.  A shotgun is an ideal weapon for repelling attackers as long as the person using it understands the effective range of each type of shell and uses it accordingly.  Shotgun shells come in a variety of loads, from small lead shot for bird hunting to a 1 oz. slug for hunting big game.  Bird shot is useful at closer ranges, generally out to about 25 yards.  

Various sizes of larger shot are also available, from BB to 00 Buckshot.  The larger the shot, the greater the effective range.  The ubiquitous 00 Buckshot can be effective out to about 50 yards depending upon the brand.  A shotgun slug can be accurate to 100 yards and beyond and it is effective at whatever distance you can hit the target.  Shotguns are faster to engage a target than a rifle because they don't require as precise of a sight picture, unless you are using a slug.  The drawbacks of shotguns are: they have a limited cartridge capacity requiring you to reload them frequently, the shells are large and bulky making it difficult to use in a situation where you need to carry a large amount of ammo, and having the right type of load in the gun at the time when you need it.

Someone using a shotgun in a defensive situation should be very discriminating and conservative about his shots.  Where it would not be unusual to go through 100 rounds of ammo with a carbine in a firefight, the same amount of ammo for a shotgun is a lot of ammo.


With no electricity, most after dark activities will be conducted by lamp, lantern or candle light.  One huge exception is security.  A flashlight is a must for night time security.  Another must is to have a flashlight with a push button on/off switch that can be manipulated with one finger.  When you are on night watch duty, you will need to be able to use a flashlight with your weak hand while maintaining a firing grip on your weapon with your strong hand.  The weak hand holds the flashlight in alignment with the barrel of the weapon while supporting the fore end of the weapon with the back of the wrist.  If you hear or see something that leads you to believe that someone is approaching the retreat, the weapon is aimed in the direction where you think the intruder may be and the flashlight is then turned on just long enough to determine if there is someone there, and if so, to determine if he is a threat or not.

In tactical situations, you need to be able to turn the light on and off quickly.  The only time you use the light is to briefly check a suspicious movement/noise.  Each time you turn the light on, you identify your location to a potential enemy and you also compromise your night vision.  For that reason, the light should not be on any longer than necessary and, after you turn it off, you should move to one side or the other if possible.  If an enemy decides to shoot at you, he will shoot at the light.  If the light goes off before he shoots, he will try to shoot where he last saw the light.

It's difficult to imagine having too many flashlights.  I think the average retreat with 5-6 adults should have at least 10 flashlights, six or more of which should be the tactical variety since every defender should have one.  Any flashlight can be used for doing chores where a lamp or candle is not practical, but the tactical flashlights should be reserved for only security purposes.  Also, the best light for doing chores is a head lamp which leaves both hands free to work.

Flashlights often get broken or the switch malfunctions.  For that reason it's a good idea to have enough spares to allow for some loses.  Currently, flashlights are cheap, unless you are talking about Surefire or Streamlight.  While these lights are great tactical lights, they have one drawback: they use expensive, odd size [CR-123] batteries.  And for the price of one of those you could buy 10 less expensive flashlights.

I am a firm believer in standardization and redundancy where possible.  I try to buy as many electrical devices as I can that utilize AA batteries.  That way you just buy one type of battery and it works in everything from flashlights to radios, to beard/hair trimmers.   And you don't have to guess how many batteries you will need for each device.  For $50 at Costco you can get a lot of AA batteries and if you use a flashlight only when absolutely necessary, they will last a long time.

Tactical flashlights should always have fresh batteries in them since it is critical to be able to see as well as possible if you are being attacked at night.  As the batteries in the tactical lights begin to lose power, they should be changed to a utility light or head lamp where maximum output isn't critical.

Now is the time to begin collecting cans.  I recommend saving aluminum beverage cans and a good assortment of food cans, especially the larger sizes food cans.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation we may find several uses for them and the availability will be limited at that time.  In addition to making improvised cook stoves as I outlined in my previous SurvivalBlog article "Off The Grid Cooking", they may be useful for repairing or fabricating other things.  For example, I recently built a rocket stove from materials that I had on hand.  To make the outer shell of the stove I cut the bottom out of a popcorn tin and attached it, end to end, with another popcorn tin using metal cut from food cans and riveted to the popcorn tins.  With the exception of the electric drill to drill the holes for the rivets, I made the outer shell using only hand tools and improvised materials.  It would have been more difficult to make using a hand drill, but now impossible.

I know that storage space is a problem for most of us, however aluminum and steel cans can be stored in the attic where it is normally too hot to store most things.  Bottles and jars will also store just fine in the attic with the exception of canning jar lids.

In a TEOTWAWKI situation, we will not be able to run to the store every time we need something.  We will have to improvise with what we have on hand.  We may have to make repairs on the house (especially the roof), bike tires and inner tubes, clothing and anything else we use frequently.  We may also need to make something from scratch such as a holster, sling or a knife sheath.  We may even need to fabricate something completely unique.  For that reason, it is advisable to have on hand a good assortment of materials to work with.

For those of us who plan on "bugging in", there will be a lot of work to do in a very short period of time if the bottom falls out over night.  A lot of that work will require tools and various materials.  Since we may not have electricity, I recommend acquiring some basic hand tools if you don't already have them.

Some of the projects on my list of things to do are: 1) move the wood pile to the back yard and use what "T" posts and fencing I have to build a fence on the back side to discourage thieves; 2) put up an early warning system; 3) build an outhouse; 4) dig a small pond in a natural drainage to catch rain water.

All of these things requires tools.  I have compiled a list of items that I want to have on hand to accomplish these tasks.  I have also included other items that I think would be good to have on hand.

  • Wire (lots)
  • Hanger wire
  • Brace and Bit (old style hand drill)
  • Drill bits
  • Wood saw
  • Pruning saw
  • Tree limb loppers
  • Axe
  • Hacksaw
  • Hammer
  • Sledge hammer
  • Screw drivers
  • Pliers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Diagonal cutters
  • Good quality tin snips
  • Vise grips
  • Pop rivet gun & rivets
  • Files
  • Crescent wrenches (2)
  • Shovel
  • Assorted length deck screws
  • Assorted nails & tacks
  • Roofing nails
  • Assorted cotter pins
  • Large hinges
  • Utility knives
  • Propane torch with extra bottles of propane
  • Paracord
  • Clothes line cord
  • Rope Lamp cord
  • Heavy weight fishing line
  • Caulking gun
  • Indoor/outdoor silicone caulk 
  • Tubes of Liquid Nails or construction adhesive
  • Heavy gage clear or translucent plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Flat black spray paint
  • Staple gun & staples
  • Assorted leather
  • Leather punch
  • Leather lacing material
  • Rivet setting punch & anvil for leather work
  • Assorted length rivets
  • Extra bicycle tubes
  • Tube patch kit
  • Foot pump
  • Miscellaneous lumber

A good place to look for many of these items is your local Habitat For Humanity Thrift Store and hardware store discount bins.  Amazon has brace and bits but they can often be found at antique stores too.  Make sure that they work well before you buy them.

If you should happen to have a window broken out, you will want the heavy gauge translucent plastic sheeting to replace it.  It's hard to heat a house with a window out.

I fully endorse what others have said about 2 liter bottles.  I would include gallon and half gallon juice bottles.  They are great for storing sugar, rice, corn meal, black eye peas, baking soda and other things that you don't purchase in large enough quantities to put into 5 gallon buckets.  Also food from a 5 gallon bucket can be transferred to plastic bottles for immediate use making it easier to access the food and still keeping it sealed.

These bottles are also good for giving food or water to someone passing by.  Because of the flat shape of the half gallon juice bottles they would be good for UV light sterilization of questionable water.


I have determined to stop giving old clothes to the thrift stores.  In a full grid-down situation, we here in the southwest will be hard pressed to get enough water to drink and cook with let alone for washing clothes.  I suspect that we will have to wear a set of clothes until we can't stand them any longer and then dispose of them.  And we may only get a bath when it rains.


I have been stocking away Lava brand bar soap.  Lava soap was more common years ago.  It is impregnated with bits of pumice and was typically used by mechanics to cut grease and oil off their hands.  It lasts forever because it doesn't generate gobs of suds like other bar soaps do.  For that reason it takes less water to rinse the soap off.  And the pumice would probably feel pretty good if you hadn't taken a bath in months.  The only place I have found it lately is at a Dollar Store.   

[JWR Adds: The preceding article might at first glance seem to be a rudimentary approach to retreat security to folks that are advanced preppers. Concertina wire, trip flares, night vision gear, infrared illuminators, and electronic intrusion systems are all great, but just keep in mind that they aren't in everyone's budget. And your preparedness timetable may be shorter than you think--so those goodies might not be available at any price. So it is important to know how to revert to the "old school" approach that Chino describes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mr. Rawles:  
I ran a recon/sniper unit in Viet Nam.  We had first generation starlight scopes and tweaked M14s and we shot the dickens out of the bad guys.  I was tasked with keeping a critical part of Hwy 1 open and would often do road security taking a jeep with a borrowed xenon searchlight to provide additional infrared (IR) support for my snipers. It would cast shadows at 500 plus meters and you could not see it with the naked eye.  

Many of us have more prep to do than budget to spend... but being able to see at night can literally amount to life or death. An inexpensive Yukon Gen 1 device (under $200) with a $40 Brinkman 3Meg Searchlight (comes with a yellow, red and blue plastic filter) and eight 4" x 4" sheets of red and blue cellophane ($2.99 per roll at Hobby Lobby) will create a situation where you can light up your surroundings (no visible light) to make sure the bad guys are properly welcomed.  

Powering up the Brinkman (with the blue filter and cellophane sheets), you do not see anything but a soft blue/red (barely visible at 10 feet) haze, yet you can see into and behind bushes, trees and all other types of cover at distances far enough out to make a difference.  The down side is that with and active IR emitter you do become a target for other night vision devices (unless they shut down due to overload... which the Brinkman will provide if they are looking at it directly)... unless you have a standoff.   Several of us are working on mounting the Brinkman (multiple locations) with remote directional turning  and on/off switch so we can activate, point and take action and not be in any light splash or reflection.  

This combination works almost as well as the equipment I used 40 years ago in Viet Nam.   Just wanted to pass on a good solution. - David R.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

James Wesley:
I am writing by the light of a post-apocalyptic reading lamp I just constructed. From a string of LED Christmas lights, I removed two sections of just three LEDs each. To each of these I attached in series a single 100 Ohm resistor from the parts bin at Radio Shack. A goose-neck work light provided a good reflector and glare control. I cut the plug off the other end and crimped on the connectors appropriate to my battery. The battery was salvaged from a defunct computer UPS. They are common to alarm systems and are not expensive new. About 12" of electrical tape to cover my splices and some string to arrange the bulbs just so in the work light. For a more permanent project I would solder and heat-shrink the splices and add a fuse.

In addition to looking like something just a bit too civilized to make it into a Mad Max movie this lamp puts out enough light to read by easily or do fairly detailed hand work. This is far more than my oil lamps can do. It draws .055 amp at 12 volts or seven tenths of a watt. Add a few bits of solar panel from some garden lights and the right diode and it can be made rechargeable. Tie it in to a more sophisticated off-grid power system for even better results.

I have small ones around and fear fire. Glass oil lamps are a nightmare. Even kept high and out of the way I can picture a high spirited little darling tossing an object just right and chaos follows.

If I can figure out how to integrate it aesthetically I plan to 'nightlight' the whole house. The same series circuit can be reproduced over and over in a parallel run using a light gauge wire.

Any parent can probably sympathize with trip hazards due to small people around. Stumbling around in the dark is dangerous and inefficient. Integrating something like this in a discreet way could be valuable. Maybe add a light sensor so they come on dimly as path lighting all night, and include an override switch to turn them up to full brightness as needed, or cut them entirely for light discipline. A relay powered by the solar panel could hold the circuit open until it had no more energy to contribute, then the lights would come on.

The same approach could be managed with unmodified Christmas lights and an inverter. Running an entire string of 60 lights plus the paying for losses in converting from AC to DC is fine of you have power to spare. But it silly when all you need is half a dozen lights at the right place.

Wish I had a better closing line but it is getting late and I need to go dig up a potentiometer for this lamp. - Vlad

JWR Replies: Low power DC lighting is great for retreats with alternative energy systems. And of course LEDs are the most energy-efficient source of light. For use at retreats, I recommend getting segmented strings of red LED lights. Several vendors make LED "Rope" strings divisible into three-foot segments that are custom made to work on 12 VDC power sources with no modification. (This is a plus for those that are not adept at wielding a soldering iron.) Why red, you ask? For preserving your best natural night vision. This is the same reason that many navies around the world still "rig for red".

Monday, January 4, 2010

The next thing that I would like to cover is mode of transportation. When the society collapses more likely you will have to leave your home. Having a 4x4 vehicle that is equipped with everything that you need to survive would be everyone’s choice for travel but that sometimes might not be possible. In the broken society there is no law. Everyone and everybody is a target. Traveling in the vehicle on the road or off the road is extremely risky. First, vehicles make noise and everyone can hear you. Second, vehicles are big and they can be seen. It is just way too hard to travel in the vehicle and not to be spotted. In a vehicle you will be ambushed by groups and the individuals. One of the reasons for this is that there will not be enough gas and just you traveling in the vehicle will make everybody think that you are a rich target and you will be attacked. If you plan on traveling long distances, you will be ambushed and if you might survive one or two ambushes but you will not be able to survive every ambush that you might encounter. Like I mentioned before, when the society collapses, there are no laws and everyone makes their own laws any way they like it. In Bosnia there were armed individuals and groups that would shoot at the vehicles just for fun to see how quick they can stop it and trust me, two M53s (Yugo version of German MG-42 light machineguns) supported with several AKs will stop most of the civilian vehicles very quickly. Traveling in the vehicle would be easiest way, but this might be putting yours and your family lives in danger but when the times comes, every individuals will have to decide for themselves on how they will travel and they will not have a lot of time to make this decision, so plan ahead.

My preferred method to travel was on horseback. The horse is quiet and it can go across terrain that not even 4x4 can. The horses also don’t require you to carry around jugs of spare gasoline since their food grows all around you. I would also recommend traveling on the horse back in the area that is covered with anti-personnel mines (minefields). Believe it or not, horses are extremely smart animals and sometimes they know where not to step. If your horse does step on a mine, you have a lot more chance to survive since his body will create some buffer between you and the blast and might give you another chance. The horse will also hear way before you any movement or any signs of life and if you know your horse, you will be able to read these early warning signals.

Since I am talking about animals, next thing that I would like to cover is food that they provide. While I was on the move, I was never long enough in one spot to grow a garden, but catching an animal for meal was another story. Good part of Bosnia is mountainous and wooded area, and there was some wild life to hunt at beginning but later on, this has changed and it was harder and harder to find wild life. First thing that I would like to recommend is to have some kind of small caliber weapon for taking small game. Shooting a small rabbit with 8 mm Mauser does not leave you a lot of meat to eat. Also learn to set traps for small animals. In certain parts you could hunt with your firearms but then you might be somewhere where you can’t shoot since you don’t know where exactly you are or what is around you. Another thing that you should learn is how to field dress an animal. I understand that a lot of people hunt and know how to do this but there are also people who have never hunted or seen an animal be field dressed and just seeing this might make them sick. Another reason for knowing how to field dress and animal is that you want to get maximum amount of food from it. You might not get to many chances to take an animal and when you do use everything from it that can be used.

The next thing that I want to cover is clothing that you wear. Most of survival oriented people, including myself, would wear some kind of military camouflage uniforms for several good reasons. Some of the reasons are durability, most of the military uniforms are quality made and will outlast a lot of civilian clothing. Pockets to store things since uniforms have a lot of them in the right places. Blending in with natural backgrounds, since military uniforms are not made out of colors that stick out. Recognition of other members of your group by having all of the group members wearing same camouflage pattern. If you will wear military type of uniform, make sure that you have some civilian clothing with you as well. If you are captured by military, militia, armed renegades or anyone else, you will be treated as a combatant just because of the military clothing that you are wearing. Even if you are not armed it won’t help you out. I have personally witnessed a young man pay dearly just because he was wearing old Yugoslavian Army boots. The mentality of you enemy might be that you are a combatant if you show any interested in military equipment. So, if you are wearing military clothing be ready to lose it quickly and change in to something else. If you are captured in the middle of nowhere with any kind of uniform on and no other clothes to change in to, that could be bad for your health.

Another thing that I want to cover is one of the important pieces of your equipment, and that is flashlight. I had a low quality flashlight (I though it was good because there was nothing better on the market) and it died on me the first time it got wet. In the USA there is unlimited number of good quality flashlights so if you are going to have a flashlight make sure that you have a good one. And have backup one as well. Flashlight is a must have item and the cheap one will not last you long. This is true with any other equipment. I understand that times are hard and money is the issue for a lot of people but buying quality equipment will probably save you money in the long run since this equipment will usually last for the long time. One thing that I really wish I had was night vision device. Most people know the area that they live in and can move around that area in the middle of night without any problems, but when you end up in the different part of the country, and you can’t orient your self and is middle of the night, this can become challenging. Night vision would be tremendous help.

Although I previously mentioned bartering with ammunition, one other thing that I would like to mention to have for trading is cigarettes. I did not even think about this before things went bad but I was lucky to have a grandmother who smoked two packs a day and she always had several cartons of cigarettes stored. The smokers become so desperate that they will give you almost anything for a cigarette. I have see people in prison and refugee camps become so desperate that they would pick every leaf of all the trees in the yards, dried them, wrap them in the old news paper and smoke them. A lot of people got sick of this since they were smoking everything they could find.

The one topic that I would like to cover last and I think that this is one of the most important topics is what happens if you are captured prisoner. Humans are some of the worst animals and will commit atrocities that are far worst that any wild beast could do. And the worst part about this is that humans will do it for no good reason and that they will find humor in at while they are torturing someone. Animals kill because they are in fear, protecting their families or hunt for food but we, humans, are the ones that will do it for no good reason. I was captured as a prisoner and have promised to my self that if I survive I will never become a prisoner in a society with no laws again. After the war I have moved to USA and since then have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans both as a soldier with elite unit of US Army and as a private contractor and during my deployments I did not know if I will survive the deployments but I did know that I will never again be captured. This is something that every individual needs to think about. If society collapses and you are captured, you will be at the mercy of your captors, who might not have any mercy. There wont be laws and rights to protect you and nobody will be there that you can call for help or complain to. I hope that I was able to provide at least some useful information for the readers and gave them some ideas. Keep your powder dry. - The Bosnian Survivor

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mr. Rawles,
There are several proven, low cost techniques that can be used against thermal/infrared imagers. But none of them last an extended period of time. While they are not fool-proof they certainly do work well enough to frustrate the US military in Afghanistan.

The first method being used is for men to lay down in a small depression in the ground and cover themselves with a heavy wool blanket every time they hear an engine overhead -- be it a helicopter or the lawn-mower whine of a drone. This technique is well documented based on visual surveillance of groups of Afghans. All they did was to prop up the edges of the blanket with twigs to let their body heat escape around the edges of the blanket. This disrupts the pattern of the human body such that there is a warm spot but it does not look anything like a person.

A step up from this is to use one of the Space Blankets available on the market to do the same thing. They reflect heat right? If you have one of the heavier ones laminated to a ground cloth they can be used over and over again. In fact there is a poncho version of the space blanket that is very effective for this purpose even if you are moving about.

For shelter areas you can use mass (think of adobe houses) to diffuse the heat signature such that while the whole house will glow a bit it is impossible to see inside the house. Similar methods can be used in the field. For example, when digging a fighting position always use overhead cover if possible and pack the overhead cover with dirt or stones. This, combined with the use of blankets or tarps to screen the "windows" will render most thermal imagers unable to track you.

Finally there is always deception. In one exercise with a law enforcement team, we created a large number of "false" positives for them to track using small candles and Mylar balloons. Since aluminumized Mylar is the primary component in the space blankets, if you direct a small heat source onto the exterior surface, the whole surface will reflect the heat source and appear to be a large heat signature. (The aluminum can also be used to fool radar -- the balloons can be strung in a line so many feet or inches apart -- and as long as that distance apart is close to the wavelength of the radar beam the balloons appear to be one large solid target. I found this out many years ago when I was living very close to the largest helicopter base in the Argentine army just outside Rafael Castillo. We could float a string of balloons and get an almost immediate response ...)

Another trick is to place a small candle (120 hour candles work well for this) under a piece of metal about the size of a hubcap or 20 gallon drum lid -- as the candle burns it heats the entire surface without any hot spots but rather fairly even heating. To the poor chap looking through the thermal imaging gear now sees a heat source that is about the same size as a person's head and is not moving the way an animal would when a helicopter is overhead. So it has to be checked out.

Then there is my favorite one. Simply lay down to take your nap amongst a herd of goats or a flock of sheep. - Dr. D.

JWR Adds: Another method of infrared camouflage is to encamp in an area with numerous natural hot springs and pools. Since these are often associated with natural salt licks, these areas tend to attract wild game. Thus, not only will the hot springs themselves create distractions, but so will any deer (and similar-sized hoofed animals) that are in the area.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A period of lawlessness may prevail after any major interruption of services. We all know this and try to plan. But have we really realistically faced what this means? Once the food trucks stop arriving, US cities and towns have less than a week before food riots and general looting begins. If things get really bad, there are going to be literally millions of people starving, thirsty and sick, willing to do whatever it takes to survive. The simple math points to a huge die-off unless the government can maintain control and re-institute some emergency measures. In the worst case scenarios, almost any preparations you can make seem woefully inadequate. The challenge may come down to surviving the die-off and not becoming one of the unmarked graves.

Face facts, this throng of hungry, desperate people are going to be heavily armed, just like you. Many of them are going to have military and law enforcement experience. Also, remember that every piece of military equipment in the government's arsenal is going to be owned and used by someone. Those machineguns and rocket launchers and mortars are not going to just evaporate. [JWR Adds: It is noteworthy that with very few exceptions, National Guard and Reserve units have not stored live ammo at their local armories since the 1960s. Looters might eventually cut their way in to arms room vaults, and they'll indeed find mortars, machineguns, and grenade launchers, but not mortar rounds, grenades, or belts of machinegun ammo. Their ammo is stored only at active duty installation Ammo Supply Points (ASPs).] The point is, the teeming population is not just going to die off quietly and go away until all of the food they can locate is gone.

Whether these hungry people come at you as small gangs of thugs or as ad-hoc governments equipped with arm-bands, they are going to systematically look for food and supplies. If you are anywhere near a population center, you are going to be looted and perhaps killed. No matter how many buckets of nitrogen packed wheat you have cleverly stored in your basement, you are almost certainly going to lose it all when the local "committee" searches your house for "contraband" or "hoarding".

Single family dwelling homes and apartments without power are nothing more than inconveniently located caves. They are impossible to hide and very difficult to defend. Any determined group of raiders (or whomever) are going to pick your bones if you try to "Custer" inside a modern American home. The very fact that you are living there will be proof that you have something they want. If it looks deserted, they will still search the place thoroughly looking for food. When that happens, you will either have to fight to keep your possessions or you will have to evacuate or "bug out". Where will you go? What will you need to carry? Most "Bug out Bag" plans that I have seen don't measure up. A planned evacuation is a lot better than a "grab stuff and go" emergency. Your current home can be expendable if you plan for it.

For folks with military training, or the willingness to learn, a compromise can be to set up a semi-mobile encampment. This concept is based on a Long Range Surveillance (LRS) "Hide site". Sort of a patrol base for extended stay. For an explanation, see the Wikipedia page on LRS. Most LRS hide sites are used for a maximum of two weeks, but their occupancy can be extended for months with additional supplies. If you use your head setting up a hide site, you can avoid having to fight to keep your things. It's much better to hide than fight. Setting up a site is relatively simple if you follow sound tactical principles. With a little luck and discipline, you can stay invisible for extended periods.

The reference document for LRS hide sites is US Army FM-7-93. Appendix E contains a lot of good source material. While most of this field manual will not be appropriate for simple survival, it contains a lot of good ideas if you have no experience and have never considered this topic. You don't have to create a site as extreme as the FM describes to have a survivable hide site.

The location you select is the most important factor. Ideally, you need a patch of wilderness that offers nothing that anyone wants. Parks and national forest lands are good choices. The only resources there are firewood and perhaps game animals. If you can find an area that has neither of these, you are better off still. The point is this: Find a place where nobody is going to go looking for something they need. Desperate people are not going to walk randomly, they are going to drive if they can and walk if they must. They are going to follow lines of communication that have a reasonable chance of taking them to resources. If you can find a place that is isolated away from roads and undeveloped, you are half way there.

You need to choose an area within half a tank of gas to your home, but a mile or so from the nearest road or anything most people would want. It needs to be close enough to a creek to carry water and as rough and remote as you can find. At such a site, you could conceivably remain for months without being detected. With a little planning, you can build a hide site in a matter of hours and it will be stronger tactically than any normal dwelling. Plus you can make it as undetectable as your imagination and discipline will let you.

If you already have a well stocked retreat or working farm with dozens of acres, consider pre-positioning most of your goods in hidden caches on your own property, and setting up a hide site in advance. When (not if) your retreat is attacked, you will have someplace to run and supplies that remain available. You can even use your existing well or water supply if you plan well. Remember, if you make your retreat too comfortable, someone may take it from you and keep it. Try to make it look like any other house without water or power and looters will probably just move on once they sack it. You can move back in later and tidy up the mess instead of having to fight. Hide your comforts and supplies well.

I recommend "digging in" three different sites, within rifle range of each other, all of them concealed and preferably booby-trapped. (LRS teams always carry a lot of mechanicals, like Claymore mines. Finding them is hazardous to your health and killing them is even harder). The basic hide site is low and hidden. Any tarps you use must be as close to ground level as possible and well hidden from view by covering them with dirt and debris. Setting up inside stands of scrub brush is a common tactic. Digging most of it underground is also common. The goal is to make the site as invisible as you can make it, even from close range. You want a casual intruder to walk right by it without noticing anything.

1st site. A kitchen area/living area/kill zone with fighting positions dug-in for emergencies. Make it as hard to find as you are able. Use brush and natural terrain features to mask it from casual view. If attacked or discovered, the guard post (described below) will be your ace in the hole. If your site is discovered or someone approaches, dive for cover and wait them out. If your kitchen area remains undiscovered, all is well, but If you absolutely have to fight, being dug in with a real fighting position will give you a major edge and your guard post will come as a very nasty surprise.

2nd site. A Guard post/sleeping area/fighting position well hidden. It should overwatch both other sites and have a good field of view covering likely avenues of approach. These two sites should be able to provide supporting fire for each other. You also need to provide a covered egress route of some kind in case you have to evacuate the site. Radios to communicate between fighting positions are very handy and so are night optical devices of all kinds. During hours of activity, this site remains manned by a guard with a rifle. At night it is the only manned site. One person stays on guard and everyone else can sack out.

3rd (or more) sites. A cache for most of your stores within rifle range but completely concealed. If you lose your entire hide site, you can always double back in a few days and pick up your stuff. The third cache is a life saver if you really have to run for it. This site should be completely undetectable. That means buried and carefully camouflaged. A good reference for establishing a cache is Army TC 31-29/A

A Fourth site for the truck(s) and other vehicles should be established about a mile away. Make your vehicles look abandoned and drain them of fuel. Make no mistake, they really are abandoned. You may be able to recover them, but you will probably lose them. Once you occupy your main site, you must not keep visiting your vehicles. [JWR Adds: It doesn't take long to remove their batteries. This further disables the vehicles to discourage theft, and those batteries could come in handy. And even more elaborate measure os putting vehicles up on blocks and removing their wheels to hide them separately. That will truly make them look abandoned, and make it very difficult for the vehicles to be stolen. ]

You should be able to carry water to the kitchen area and purify it, do all your cooking and eating and living there. Generally do anything there that is hard to hide. Sleep off-site at the sleeping area in case the main base is discovered and attacked at night. If you have at least three adults, you can keep a guard at all times and still get all the chores done. Fewer people means you will only occupy your sleeping site at night. Six or more adults would be needed to make a hide site into a fortress, so you are depending on stealth for most of your protection. If you are alone, stealth is all you really have.

Cover your tracks. Don't wear a path between your sites. You don't want discovery of one site to lead to discovery of the others. This goes double for your water source. There should be no way to tell someone is using the creek, well or pond. This takes a lot of discipline.

Your kitchen area is the hardest to hide. Smoke from cooking fires is the biggest danger. You can avoid detection by using a propane or other type of cooking stove and cooking only non-smelly foods. (Odor from grilling meat can carry for miles, but simmering cracked wheat is not so bad.) If you plan to cook something smelly, consider cooking it up to a mile away from your hide site to avoid detection. In any case, no food should be eaten or prepared in the sleeping area. The sleeping area and guard post must remain undetectable at all times.

If the kitchen area is discovered while you are sleeping, you can either choose to fight or give them the kitchen. You may be able to lay low and avoid detection even if a whole gang shows up and discovers your kitchen/living area. They will only get a portion of your stocks and everybody gets to live another day. If you have access to Claymore mines and/or M16 bounding mines, you can probably use the kitchen as a kill zone and wipe out many times your number in bad guys, but remember, stealth is your biggest defense and any fighting entails a lot of risk.

Strangers that stumble upon your site can be dealt with in several ways. Simply hiding is a good approach if you can pull it off. If hiding is out, you will either have to talk to them or fight. If they are hunters and seem fairly well provisioned, be friendly and show them as little of your site as possible. Under no circumstances, show them your main food cache. Everyone has limits, so don't tempt them. They should not see anything they are willing to fight to possess. A couple of buckets of food are probably not worth getting shot over. If they are a small group and desperate, consider adopting them. Most people are pretty decent and if they see a good reason to team with you, they will do it. If you are all trying to survive and they see you as an ally, you are probably fairly safe. The added security of a few extra people could be a real plus. If your site has been compromised, remember, you can always move. You can even leave your cache in place and simply move your other two sites a couple of miles and you may be safe again.

You will need some supplies and equipment to hide in relative comfort. The suggested bug out bag for this scenario is a whole pickup truck load of stuff: Even if you wind up going to a shelter or a community center, you won't be showing up hungry with your hand out.

Weapons: In order to fight realistically, you will need a good rifle and of course ammunition for anyone in the group with skill. I personally prefer an old scoped Ishapore 2A1 [Enfiield] chambered in 7.62mm NATO, but almost anything will do as long as it is robust and you are skilled with it. Also a pump shotgun with lots of buckshot can be a real killer in a night fight. Night sights of some kind on the rifle are really useful. Modern thermal sights can be devastating. With luck and discipline you won't ever need to shoot anything, but having any firearm is much better than having none at all, and a rifle always beats a pistol at long range.)

An extra rifles to cache, with ammo, might be handy if you can keep them weatherproof.

Lots of buckets of storage food (Keep it all cached except one or two buckets at a time). 10 or more 5 gallon buckets of food per person is not excessive. The more food you have with you, the longer you can stay.

A case of MREs for each person, stored in the sleeping area. Also, your packs need to be wherever you are at all times. Remember to store water in the sleeping area. More than you think you need.
A main kitchen and backup stuff to keep cached. (in case you lose the kitchen).

When you are setting up your site, you will have to make multiple trips from the vehicles, but the more food you have, the longer you can stay hidden. Multiple caches can be strung out along an escape route or the route back to the trucks. Also, you will need basic camping gear and water purification, field sanitation supplies etc.

For each adult:

Backpack with frame : This is your last ditch bag and should be near you at all times.
Water filter (PUR backpack model) is a good one
polar pure Iodine crystals in every pack. They are light, cheap and essential.
Several plastic garbage bags. These have multiple uses. You can't have too many.
2 x canteens with cups. This allow you to carry some water and cook if you must.
6 x MRE in the pack (12 more at the cache or sleeping site)
P38 can opener
2 butane lighters
2 camping candles or other heat source
Box of self striking fire starters are sometimes handy

* LED light and spare batteries (rechargeable) can come in handy
*Someone should carry a 4 watt solar battery charger. These are important to have along [to charge batteries for night vision, communications, and intrusion detection gear.]

Generator radio AM/FM/Weather (with cell phone charger and LED light) This is a critical piece of equipment, so have two of them, but be careful not to play it out loud. Ear buds or head sets will keep you from giving your site away. Boredom is your biggest enemy and a radio can be a great way to stay entertained and silent [when not on a watch shift.]

A good sleeping bag is a must. It's cold underground or when you aren't moving.
Insulating ground pad is also a must.
1 emergency blanket/poncho
1 poncho liner (Army. Great piece of gear!)
1 x large drop cloth and a roll of heavy plastic are handy for underground living.
1 hat and wool glove inserts
1 set of thermal underwear (tops and bottoms)
An extra set of clothing. BDUs or other outdoor wear and a spare pair of boots (Clothing can be rolled up inside a plastic sheet and put into a laundry bag and carried outside the pack). Remember, extra socks and underwear are always needed!

Ka-Bar sheath knife (7 inch) or equivalent.
Leatherman Multitool or a Swiss army knife
Small machete (at least one in the group is very handy and has multiple uses).

Medical Stuff (I recommend keeping this with your last ditch bag)
Spare eyeglasses if needed
First Aid Kit for minor wounds
sewing kit
Imodium for emergency treatment of diarrhea (packets of salts are even better)
iodine swabs
burn cream (not much is needed, but if you need it you will be glad you have it)
Chap stick or petroleum jelly
white tape
emergency blanket (cheap is fine)
Scalpels or Razor blades
Safety pins
Large bandages (2 or 3 can be life savers if someone is shot)
Dental floss
hand sanitizer
Insect Repellant
small lock blade knife
Prescription medication
ID cards, credit cards, cash on hand

A pistol of some kind. I highly recommend the Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum and a couple of speed loaders.

Other stuff to load in your truck or large car:
A bicycle! You can load a lot of stuff on a bicycle and cut down on the number of trips required from the vehicles to the hide site. Bike tracks are a giveaway, so make sure they start at least 25 meters from your vehicles and erase them as well as possible after the last trip. Whatever you use, be prepared and willing to haul everything by hand from your vehicles to the site. Without a bike or dolly, its going to require something like 12 trips. You can improve on this by using a cargo carrier of some kind. Vary your route between the vehicle and hide site to minimize your tracks. You might want to unload and then move your vehicles to avoid anyone tracking you.

Shovel, crosscut saw, axe or hatchet and pick axe (army E tools are light, but not as good as full size tools). All tools should be loaded in a bag that you can sling or tie to a bike.
100 ft roll of repelling rope may be very handy. 550 cord is also handy.
A roll of wire for rigging noise makers and rigging brush and shelter

Food: You will want 10 or 11 buckets for each member of your group:
6 buckets of wheat, 2 buckets of beans and 4 gallons of oil.
2 buckets of rice (and a bucket of sugar if you wish). and 2 pounds of salt. Spices and bullion are
very nice to have, but beware of odors!
This will be the bulk of your provisions and will weigh something like 400 pounds per person! Don't begrudge the weight. It will get lighter soon enough.
*24 rolls of toilet paper (in a plastic bag) You will miss this if you don't have any.
At least one grain mill. Two is much better. You can hide the extr aone in your cache.

(Split between 2 Duffel bags per 2 people): (this is your kitchen/living area stuff)
24 x MRE
Sterno stove + large candle heater in a can (12 face-inches of wick makes a lot of heat)
Fuel (10lb, paraffin to recharge cooker. Each pound will burn several hours with care )
If you are going to burn wood for fuel, use a hobo stove to minimize smoke and light.
4 pots. (2 for cooking, 1 for cleaning and one left with the food cache.)
A dutch oven is really handy. You won't regret the weight long when you cook with it
Tea, Coffee, Sugar, Gatorade powder
Tobacco (2 x 6 oz cans with rolling papers) (for those with a monkey on their backs)
Water, 6 liters (12 x 1/2 liter plastic bottles)
plastic bags. 20 heavy trash liners and 20 freezer storage bags
Spare batteries (12 x AA. Mostly for charity)
Soap, washcloth and towels (2 large ones)
4 large Poly Tarps (camo) and 550 chord
Fem pads (for that time of month. Include at least one bag per female per month)
Deck of cards
Bible and other reading material. Boredom will get you killed. Depression will too.
It might be worth the weight to carry a lot of books. Reading is a quiet activity and could keep you from going out of your mind!

In a suitcase or preferably another bucket that's waterproof (keep in the sleeping area.): Hat and wool glove inserts for each person. Extra clothing is good to have.
A wool sweater and outer cold weather gear. Blankets will be handy.

If you can manage to set up a hide site with these few essentials without anyone observing you, you can probably stay hidden for up to 200 days with care. That six month breather will allow you ample time to assess the conditions of the local area and plan your next move. More importantly, if a major population die-off is going on, a well stocked hide site will allow you to miss most of it. Hiding outdoors is not easy or comfortable, but it may be your best way to keep breathing.

[JWR Adds: Even the best defended retreat can't expect to hold out against a determined and well-equipped fighting force. If you hear that the muy malo hombres (or a nearby polity with kleptomaniacal intent) is heading up the road, abandoning your retreat may be your only choice.

As I have mentioned time and again in SurvivalBlog, pre-positioning supplies at your retreat is essential. You will not have time to pack. If you are fortunate, you will have time to put on your shoes. Having a hide prepared a half day's hike from your retreat, with food and gear already there, means you could avoid having to choose between an untenable fight and starving in the woods. Having a hide prepared could give you a couple weeks in safety to see what develops. You could then return to (or retake) your retreat, or abandon the area entirely, at your discretion.]

Monday, November 16, 2009

One of the most troubling things I see when speaking to people about going off grid is how badly they want to keep all of their electrical appliances and just spend many thousands of dollars on a battery bank more appropriate for a U-boat and solar cells or generators to keep them topped off. Having had a minor role in a micro-satellite system design proposal one thing you learn when confronted by limited power supply is to either economize or do without.

The appliances you own for on grid use are not efficient. They are built to be inexpensive or if you are better off durable, even the fancy electrical appliances out of Europe with the Energy Star are in reality a big waste of power once you are paying by the off grid watt for solar panels and battery banks. There is no reason a normal family shouldn't consider an off grid option for their home. Even in a national emergency and societal breakdown it is very rare for supplies of diesel fuel, gasoline, kerosene, and LP gas to be unavailable for long periods at some price.

Dryer - Enemy number one especially in a large family, a solar clothes dryer is under $5 at nearly every hardware store, ask for a clothesline. Folding indoor drying racks are very popular in Israel. Even in winter indoor drying can be assisted by using a fan, it will also keep the air humidified. After trying the above and finding you just can't make it there are LP gas heated clothes dryers, but these still need mains power for the drum motor.

Oven/Stovetop - There is no reason to use electrical power for cooking. Excellent caterer grade ovens and stoves are available at most appliance stores which run totally on gas. Some may use an electrical ignition or thermostat but nearly all can be retrofitted either with a piezoelectric (no battery needed) spark starter or can just be lit with a match avoiding the danger of the old style pilot light since they now are equipped with a thermal safety. Most people find they actually prefer gas once they are used to it as it is a more even heat. We have had good success using MSR camping kerosene burners when the gas to our home was unavailable for a few weeks.

Hot Water - Nearly any off grid home will benefit from the addition of a solar collector in addition to a well-insulated gas water heater. Think about turning down the thermostat or using a secondary gas instant heating system and low flow shower heads to stretch your hot water supply.

Heating - Most stores and contractors can provide a wide variety of wood, pellet, gas, kerosene, or oil-fueled stoves and furnaces and space heaters. Insulation is key to keeping your alternative heat system from breaking your bank account.

Power Tools - Some older large shop tools can be powered by a PTO shaft or belt system. The possibilities from a gas motor, to steam, to hydro and beyond are limited only by your imagination.

Water pressure - In many areas there is not enough wind for a windmill to keep a water tower full so an electrical or gas pump might work better once all factors are evaluated. If your retreat is located below the summit of the hill it would probably be much easier to install a pool or cistern on the summit to provide pressure for firefighting operations even if your pump is destroyed, for every foot of elevation .433 pounds of water pressure is required for filling your tower or cistern and this pressure is returned when water is used in your home or property. Anyone living in a wilderness area should have in addition to a gravity fed water system of at least 1,500 gallons and a 300 gpm capacity, and at least one portable reservoir. There are portable swimming pools that are the same as US Forest Service uses for firefighting, and a gas powered portable pump for emergency firefighting. Descending water can be run reverse through some pumps generating electricity making it a very effective and inexpensive way to store electrical power once your battery banks are full.

Refrigeration - Most readers if their inventory their refrigerator will find mostly leftovers or things which actually will last until consumption without refrigeration. There are high quality kerosene and LP gas powered absorption refrigerators, some with secondary mains power optional, available from a few suppliers even in the US.

For those with the skills required to build and test a system which can withstand 250 psi anhydrous ammonia, copying the old Crosley Icy-Ball chest refrigerator-freezer is a thrifty option. Since anti-drug manufacturing laws make obtaining anhydrous ammonia difficult, an icy-ball can be built with drains on the absorptive water side to self distill ammonia from cleaning solution. A warning: Ammonia is a dangerous respiratory irritant and any homemade system should be used with caution and kept and recharged outside in case of leakage. One DIY design includes a shutoff valve to keep the ammonia from reabsorbing until the valve is opened allowing it to be stored in a charged condition.

Before refrigeration people would buy eggs and milk fresh in the city or if they could have chickens and a cow or goat would produce their own. A chicken is easily consumed by even a small family once cooked, in less than a day.

A water evaporation cooler cabinet is another very cheap option for keeping food.

Lighting - Gas mantle lighting once found in most urban homes is not difficult to implement using either camping lamps and piped gas or better yet certified indoor lamps. While in college I worked in a gun and camping shop which sold a reverse fitting for refilling disposable Coleman LP gas cartridges from the older non-tip over shutoff bulk tanks making camp lights highly practical for hanging. It must be remembered that gas lighting presents an increased fire hazard so precautions including avoiding clutter and considering the floor and wall surface must be taken into account. Battery powered florescent and LED lights and LED nightlights are also useful for reading and small tinkering. Metal halide lighting is much more power friendly than incandescent if large areas require illumination for security purposes.

Communications - Your radio communications system should have a redundant battery bank and power supply should your services be required in an emergency. It should be remembered the operating rule of just as much power as required and the usage of low power consumption modes like CW. Tube systems are notoriously wasteful of power and tubes have limited life so these should be kept as backup systems in most cases. Only power up satellite Internet systems after you have typed up all the e-mails and set them up to send immediately after going online. There are offline viewers which will call up all the web sites you normally visit and grab them all for later viewing.

Television sets, satellite receivers, and large stereo systems are wasteful of electrical power if left on. A small notebook computer for occasional movies and an MP3 player for music will save many valuable watts. Unplug or employ a disconnect switch [or power strip with switch] on all electronics unless they are in use. This will protect them from power surges in addition to eliminating sleep-state power draw. [Also know as a "phantom load."]

Telephone - If your retreat can obtain telephone service a secondary redundant system connecting you to selected neighbors can be set up in some areas by ordering an old style alarm or bell line to one central home, this is usually cheaper than a line with actual telephone service, and should work in most telephone systems even if the central office with its redundant power goes offline but the wires are still intact. The Telephone company will either splice the wire pairs at the neighborhood box or at the closest central office, officially only for alarm systems, it is possible to set up anything from long run Ethernet or simple voice lines with an old style "everybody rings" party line. This will not save off grid watts but is a good way to add redundancy to your retreat.

Safety - Install at least two combo carbon monoxide sensing smoke alarms in your home in addition to a smoke alarm in every occupied room. In these alarms, install long life lithium batteries and check on the first of the month and every time you change to or from daylight savings. DO NOT use rechargeable batteries for your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms!

Due to the higher fire risk using flame-based alternatives to electricity I even more strongly recommend installation of fire sprinklers in all rooms, flame hoods over all cooking surfaces with automatic sprinklers that have a manual activation, and at least two standpipe and hose cabinets with 100 gpm gravity flow minimum per standpipe, ABC-rated fire extinguisher, gloves, goggles, and Nomex face shroud. Install outdoor standpipes and stocked hose locker for wildfires, a charged mobile phone for 911 (BTW, you need not have an active calling plan to use a cell phone to call 911 in the USA) and if you have to retreat from interior firefighting. Most importantly have an evacuation and rendezvous family accounting plan and volunteer with the local volunteer fire department, learn when the fire is just too big to fight by yourself.

With an engineering eye it is often possible to reduce your home or retreat electrical requirements to an inexpensive few hundred watts once alternatives are considered. Shalom, - David in Israel

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another good product for light shades is Reflectix Insulation.

Basically Reflectix is bubble wrap with aluminum foil bonded to one or both sides. I have used it to make thermal drapes for my home, and know that it blocks all visible light. You can buy it at most Home Improvement centers. It commonly comes in 25' rolls that are 16", 24", or 48" in width.

Last winter I bought a 4'x25' roll and had enough to do my entire house. (9 windows of various sizes) the cost was about $40.

Manufacturers claim that reflects up to 97% of all radiant heat, so not only will you save some energy, I would expect it to be somewhat effective against infrared and thermal imaging.
I know that the temperature in my old Mobile Home came up a good 10 degrees F in just the 45 minutes it took me to put up my blinds.

While I made my blinds so they can be rolled up during the day time, it would be very easy to find some way to anchor them on the sides and at the bottom so they would completely block all light at night.
Thank You JWR for a great site. - Fanderal

Friday, October 9, 2009

In the film industry we use a very cheap and very opaque product to block out windows. We often need to shoot [indoor] night time scenes during the day and can't have any stray light.

Product is called Duvetyne, it's a very, very heavy black cloth. We even use it for flags and cutters, which are light-blocking pieces that we put in front of lights as big as 20K (20,000 watts) to deflect and control stray light. This stuff works great.

Here is a supplier of Duvetyne.

Has it for $8.25 per yard (60" wide), so it really is cheap as dirt. You can buy a 50 yard roll for a little over $400, which has got to be enough to do the windows on two or three average houses. At that price I wouldn't want to be using old rags and what have you. I hope that this helps. - Adam

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'd like to shed some light on what it might be like to move across an unfamiliar area without money or adequate supplies. This might come in handy when you have to bug out following a natural disaster or other societal disruption. It might provide tips on how to avoid apprehension or detection while traveling. In addition, it might help you in determining a place for your retreat and anticipating refugees. Finally it might prepare you for some of the emotional and physical stresses you will face if you find yourself bugging out.

I live on the US Mexico border and there is a constant flow of illegal aliens and drug smugglers passing through and around my city. I live in the busiest area for smuggling drugs and people in the United States. Being a Border Patrol agent I also have up to date information on the trends and tactics illegal aliens and drug smugglers use to avoid detection and move to the interior of the United States. I have also tracked and apprehended countless groups of illegal aliens and drug smugglers. I will try to pass on some of my knowledge of how these people move from Mexico to the United States.

Most illegal aliens are extremely poor and are willing to walk through the desert for days or weeks, sometimes with small children. There are exceptions to this; most of these are drug smugglers. They have plenty of money, support vehicles, scouts and communication equipment. My focus in this article will be aliens that jump the fence and walk across the desert.

They mostly move at night without flashlights. During the day they sleep in clumps of trees or rocks or in caves. They seldom travel alone. Most are in groups of two to twenty. The guides have developed networks of trails and hiding spots to move through the desert. Some larger groups have several guides with one or more on a high ridge top to provide information about the movements of the Border Patrol or other people that will inform law enforcement of their location. The guides use cell phones or two way radios to communicate. They guide their groups to water in cattle tanks or streams. The groups can go for days without eating. When we apprehend a group in is common for them to tell us about dead bodies they passed on their way. They also tell us of injured or sick aliens that were left behind. Most of the apprehended aliens ask for food and water right away. When we give them food they eat ravenously.

In most cases the guides follow natural and manmade landmarks. The most obvious are game trails and dirt roads. They also follow canyons, natural gas lines, electrical power lines, railroad tracks, rivers and fence lines. For example a group will travel 50 yards off to the side of railroad tracks in thick brush. (This might be a factor to consider when choosing a retreat location. You don’t want groups of refugees traveling near your retreat because they are following railroad tracks or electrical power lines.) They seldom travel on high ridges because our cameras and radar will pick up their movements. They usually walk down trails with thick trees and bushes providing cover. They like to move through deep canyons with sandy washes at the bottom. Many trails military crest ridges where our cameras cannot see. When they must travel through flat open areas they might wait for hours until all the Border Patrol vehicles clear from the area before they continue.

During the summer they travel at night because it is cooler. If they have enough water they will continue during the day and only stop when they absolutely have to sleep or if they get heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion affects your judgment and can lead to heat stroke and death very quickly. The best way to prevent this is to get out of the heat, drink plenty of water and reduce your physical activity. For some reason people with heat exhaustion remove their shoes. It does not occur to them to drink the rest of their water. I once found an alien under a tree nearly dead with a full bottle of water. When EMS arrived they had to give him four IV bags before he finally had to pee. It just shows how heat exhaustion can affect your judgment. Another time we found an alien sitting up with his legs crossed in the middle of a paved road with his shoes removed. He died sitting there waiting for a car to come rescue him. He probably did not realize that the blacktop in the sun is one of the hottest places for him to stop.

During the winter they walk at night because it is too cold to sit still. When there is no cloud cover the temperature can drop well below freezing. We use long range FLIR cameras and thermal imaging to locate groups. These cameras show small changes in temperature and you can actually see the cold air collected in valleys on still nights. A cow or rabbit shows up as a bright white spot on the screen because it is so warm compared to the surroundings. When groups stop on cold nights they usually stop at the military crest of a hill because the air is warmer at the top of a hill. During the day they sleep in areas hidden by trees and bushes. They huddle together to keep warm and many of the women get raped or assaulted. We find the "lay-ups" littered with empty food containers, water bottles, clothing and backpacks. There are some lay-ups that are so filled with junk it looks like you stumbled onto a landfill. This is also a common area to find dead bodies.

Part of my job is to search apprehended aliens for weapons or drugs. I have noticed they all carry the same items with very little variance. They are all wearing two or more pairs of pants and several shirts. I assume this is to avoid stickers and thorns and to keep warm. In the winter they have three or more pairs of pants and long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts and beanie caps. Their clothing is almost always dark colored. Most of the clothing is cotton and is very worn out. I have never caught an alien wearing Gore-tex or down. I can count on one hand the number of aliens I have caught wearing gloves.

Some of them have backpacks with meager supplies of food and water. The food is usually tortillas, bread and sometimes canned food. I have also seen quite a few aliens with Pedialyte. Other items include a cigarette lighter, plastic bag with raw garlic, identification cards, money and toilet paper. I am not sure what the garlic if for, maybe to keep mosquitoes away. When I ask them they usually just shrug and say they eat it. Some carry religious articles like rosary necklaces or virgin Guadalupe candles. This always amazes me they would carry a 2-pound candle for miles when they could have packed more food or water. Other items I find but not as often include cell phones, kitchen knives, medicine and pictures of family members. I have never found a flashlight, multi-tool, compass, GPS, duct tape or other items usually associated with a bug out bag. Most of the backpacks are very poor quality with one or more zippers broken. You would be amazed at how they patch, wire and tie backpacks closed when the zippers break.

The water containers you could find at a gas station, anywhere from quart to gallon size. If the aliens do not have a backpack they carry the bottles in their hands. Sometimes they tie two of them together and sling them over their shoulder. Some of the water bottles are painted flat black so they cannot be seen at a distance. If I catch the group far enough north where they have refilled their bottles from tanks or streams the water is very dirty. I don’t think they have the time or perhaps even the knowledge to filter it through a shirt. I have actually seen tadpoles and small water creatures swimming in water bottles of apprehended aliens.

One thing I will never get used to is the smell of twenty people that have traveled a week through the desert without a shower. I have located and apprehended a group at night using only my sense of smell. I am not joking. When we pile them in our transport vans the smell is overwhelming.

Most of them are dehydrated and most have cuts and scratches. By the time we catch them the cuts are infected. I once chased a group through a field of jumping cholla [cactus] at night. When I caught them they were covered in cactus spines. They had no tools to remove the spines so they were using fingers and teeth to try to remove them. Twisted and broken ankles are also common. Many of the women are pregnant. If they can get into the United States to have their children then those kids will be United States citizens.

It is amazing how many husbands leave their wives and children behind when their group gets chased by Border Patrol. The hardest thing to see is finding small children that were left behind. One day we found a six year old boy wandering through the desert because he became separated from his mom the night before. If was cannot find the parents the children are returned to Mexico and will end up in an orphanage. This kind of thing happens almost every day.

Another time we found a guy wandering around and he was almost delirious. He could barley talk and looked dazed. When we finally got him back to our station he did not want to eat or drink. He just sat on a bench and stared at the ground. He later told us that a week earlier he paid a guide to get him and his wife and three year old daughter into the United States. Once he crossed the border the guide hit him on the head and disappeared with his wife and daughter. He had spent the following week wandering around looking for his wife and daughter. I think that under such circumstances I would be a wreck too.

Some of the lessons I have learned from them: You can do much more than you think you can with much less. Using guides in unfamiliar areas is very valuable to avoid detection but don’t trust them. Also carry basic medical supplies and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Finally don’t waste your money and time on useless items. If you have never hiked a trail at night without a flashlight you need to try it. It is amazing how much you can see and hear when hiking at night. Stop frequently and listen for 30 seconds at a time. One night I heard a noise that was over 30 yards away from me. I judged by the amount of noise it was a group of people. I went over to investigate and was surprised to find a slow moving tortoise walking over dry leaves. It is amazing how much sound a person walking makes.

I also have learned by experience that certain pieces of gear are essential for my job. Some of these I would discard if I was traveling cross country in a bug out scenario. I think weight would be the primary factor. When I go out in the field I always wear gloves to avoid scratches and cuts on my hands. I also wear eye protection, even at night. I once saw an alien that had his eye jabbed by a branch at night. It was horrible. I almost always have scratches on my face from walking down trails with thorns and branches coming across the path. I never use a flashlight unless I am tracking, and then it is only briefly. I carry small electrolyte packets with me and plenty of water. I wear long sleeve shirts. I also carry a GPS receiver, electrical tape, pocket knife and plenty of extra ammunition.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In the days following a societal collapse, there will be some people who will be on the move from where the problems exist to where they hope safety lies. There can be many reasons why people are on the move, and an equal number of reasons why someone else may wish to stop your progress. Getting on the move and out of a hostile area as early as possible in the wake of a collapse is a significant key to one’s survival, as well has having buddies to cover you during your travel.

The sooner you get on the road, the less your chances of encountering problems. A few people will recognize the early signs of collapse and get moving out of town long before traffic becomes a problem. Others will recognize the issue within twenty-four hours after the event takes place, and will be on the leading edge of the traffic during the exodus. The majority will not realize the seriousness until it is too late. These people will get caught-up in the traffic jam that will rival the exodus of Houston during Hurricane Rita, where I-45 and I-10 were packed full of cars stopped on the highway for 100 miles. Many people ran out of gas on the side of the road and found themselves without food or water since they had only moved a few miles in four hours.

You may be a well prepared family, but for one reason or another are caught on your heals when a collapse occurs. This leads you to stay put longer than you would have liked, but you have no better tactical choices but to lay low at home or work for a few days before bugging out. You do not want to get caught in a highway traffic jam following a collapse. If you get stuck, you will have to leave most of what you packed into your vehicle(s) and move out on foot amongst the thousands of ill-prepared people on the roads doing things they would never have considered during normal times.

Those who are forced to wait out the initial exodus and are moving out of urban areas several days or weeks after the collapse will have a higher probability of coming in contact with an expedient ambush roadblock, both in the city and on rural roads outside of small towns. An expedient ambush roadblock is one set-up in haste with readily available materials and personnel. There will be plenty of desperate people who were caught unprepared for such an event; their lack of morals and innate nature to survive will drive them to take from others, with deadly force if necessary. It is your job to protect your family and yourself from these threats, especially when on the move.

While traveling in a vehicle on the roads, you may encounter various types of roadblocks or ambush points. Some may be fairly elaborate, while others may be quite simple. All are equally deadly. The primary tactic you will need to thread your way safely through one of these expedient ambush roadblocks is what I call R.O.C.S.: Recognition, Observation, Covering Fire, and Speed.


Recognizing that something you see ahead is a potential ambush site is the first key to success. An ambush site can appear as a traffic accident (as illustrated in Patriots), a fallen tree near or on the road, abandoned/broken down vehicles, anything blocking all or part of the road, detours, refugees, high ground on one or both sides of the road, bridges, and anything that looks like it does not belong on, or near, a road. These are the types of expedient ambush sites that someone may quickly create in the days following a societal collapse. It is up to whomever is leading, to recognize that a potential exists and to move into the observation phase.


Once you recognize a likely ambush point (LAP), you have two choices: divert your course and completely avoid the circumstance, or observe and evaluate the site. You can either stop well short of the potential ambush point and observe through a scope or binoculars, or have a passenger continue to observe while on the move. Observation is a form of Intel. Look for signs of movement, or things that seem out of place. Reverse what you see and put yourself in the place of the ambusher. Where would you hide? How would you set it up? How many people would you need to pull off an ambush? What weapons would you use? What tactics would you employ? What is your end game?

At this point, you need to determine if what you see is worth the risk of approach or if you need to turn around and find a different route (if possible). Anyone traveling with you should also evaluate the situation and help with risk assessment. Once a decision is made to approach and pass the observed site, cover[ing fire] is needed.

Covering Fire:

This is a two or more person/vehicle job. This means that if it is just you, your wife and the kids, that you need to move out of town in two vehicles. Hopefully you have friends traveling with you to a new location who also have a vehicle and weapons. For [overwatching] cover[ing fire] during the operation, the lead vehicle stops at a distance from the LAP that is within the range of the weapon being employed. For most weapon platforms a good distance is 100-300 yards. This ensures accurate shots and plenty of ballistic energy. The lead vehicle should place their vehicle at a 45-degree angle to the direction of travel and the weapon system should then be employed across the hood so that the engine block provides a [limited] ballistic shield for those person(s) providing cover[ing fire].

The trailing vehicles should move past the lead vehicle with Speed. Once beyond the LAP, those vehicles stop and provide cover for the other vehicle(s) yet to pass through the site. Again, the vehicles that have already passed the LAP should stop within range of the weapon(s) being employed and turn their vehicles 45-degrees to the road and take personal cover behind the engine, covering the passage of the trailing vehicles.

[JWR Adds: The concept of covering fire is actaully better termed suppressive fire. The term "cover", properly, only applies to barriers that provide ballistic protection to those behind them. So "covering fire" does not provide cover, nor concealment, only supression!]


Passing through the LAP with adequate speed, and setting up a covering position on the far side for the trailing vehicles as fast as possible is key to minimizing exposure for all concerned. You do not want to drive so fast that you could lose control of your vehicle if you suddenly had to swerve or take significant evasive action.

Having short-range communications for these types of situations is also a smart idea. This can be done with CB radios, or inexpensive GMRS/eXRS two-way radios. Radios will be especially helpful during nighttime operations of this type. When the lead vehicle can communicate to trailing vehicle(s) that there is a LAP ahead, this can start a desired chain reaction that can significantly increase the odds of surviving one of these situations. Communications can also be an aid when the lead vehicle passes an unseen ambush point and can radio a warning to following vehicles, which can immediately render covering fire and/or take evasive actions.

The following is a fictitious scenario using all of the aforementioned, with three families in three vehicles approaching a potential ambush site seen from one mile away. The cars are traveling 200 yards apart. (After the SHTF, when traveling by foot or vehicle, travel should always be conducted in tactical columns, where a specified distance is maintained between people or vehicles. Staying too close together and/or tailgating are unacceptable risks after SHTF, when traveling.)

Lead vehicle (vehicle 1): “LAP ahead, one mile”

Trailing vehicles stop in place, while vehicle 1 moves forward another 1/2-mile and evaluates the LAP. The lead vehicle stops and uses 10x50 binoculars to scan the area. No movement is noticed, but it looks like a large tree was dropped across one lane of the highway. The base is obviously recently cut, and there are no other dead trees nearby. The leaves still have a greenish tint and have not yet browned, but are wilted.

Lead vehicle radios the trailing vehicles: “No movement seen, there is a way past the LAP on the opposite shoulder and grass. Watch the tree line on the right side of the road. Lots of dense cover there. We will move ahead to 200 yards and set-up.”

The lead vehicle approaches slowly to within 200 yards while the trailing vehicles move to within ½ mile away. The lead vehicle stops in the road and turns to 45-degrees to the direction of travel and both occupants exit the drivers side and set up across the hood with their AR-10 rifles with ACOG scopes.

Lead vehicle radios the trailing vehicles: “Go!”

The first trailing vehicle (vehicle 2) gets up to speed and approaches the LAP while the lead vehicle continues to scan the LAP through their scopes, ready to fire upon any threat. The vehicle passes the LAP with no problems and goes 200 yards beyond and sets up an overwatch position on the other side, careful to orient themselves so as not to fire upon the vehicles on the other side. They are covering with scoped AR-10s scanning the LAP.

Vehicle 2 radios: “We are through and set up. Go!”

While vehicles 1 and 2 maintain covering positions, the last vehicle (vehicle 3) gets up to speed and starts to pass the LAP. As they do so, gunfire erupts from the tree line (in this instance, the ambushers were caught unaware by the first vehicle and were alert when the next one came through.) Vehicles 1 and 2 open fire on the tree line, while the passenger in vehicle 3 opens fire while passing the ambush. Once beyond the ambush point, vehicle 3 sets up 220 yards on the other side of the ambush to the rear and right of vehicle 2, and provides covering fire along with vehicle 2.

Vehicle 3 radios: “We’re set. Covering. No fire from the trees. Go!”

Vehicle 1 remounts and charges through the ambush point with no gunfire coming from the tree line. They drive beyond the other two vehicles and all personnel remount their vehicles and resume their travels.

At this point, it would be wise to find a secure place to stop and evaluate your persons and vehicles. You don’t need to stop all jumbled together, especially if there is more than one person per vehicle and everyone has a radio. Each vehicle stops a couple hundred yards apart and while one person provides cover, the other goes over the vehicle and passengers, looking for trouble.

You would want to check the tires, engine soft points (hoses, belts, etc.) and look for leaks (anti-freeze, fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid, etc.) Be sure to check each other carefully as adrenaline will be high and a person who has been shot or injured may not feel a wound at this point. Address any issues as quickly as possible and continue moving.

Other Considerations

Stopping to evaluate and/or cover a position may not be advisable in some circumstances. You do the best you can at evaluating while on the move, radioing your findings to your travel companions, and then pushing through. This is where speed comes in to play. The faster you can get through the LAP the better your chances of survival. Your passenger (if you have one) helps with navigation, assessing threats, and provides cover during the encounter.

Choosing weapons is always a difficult decision, especially if you are going to be defending your life with them. For situations such as the one presented above, the longer the effective range of the weapon, the further away you can stay from the LAP, increasing your chances of survival. You must also consider that just because you can easily shoot a M1A or even a .50 Barrett, your wife or teenager may not be able to adequately handle such a weapon in a life-or-death cover fire situation. [So a .223, 5.45x39, or 7.62x39mm rifle may be more apropos.]

Having a scope on your weapon will also increase your shot accuracy and your ability to observe the area for movement while your weapon system is employed. We all want to be accurate with open sights at long ranges, but if you are trying to hit the small exposed body part of a person behind cover at 250 meters, it is easier to find the body part to shoot at with a scope. People do not always present themselves as a nice squared-up silhouette like at a shooting range. When your target has taken cover, you may only get to see the top of a head, or part of an arm or leg. Putting a bullet in an extremity might not kill them, but it may take them out of the fight.

For night operations, having some form of night vision technology could become critical. These systems allow you to see through the darkness and into the darkest of shadows. Generation I systems are only adequate to about 50 meters and cost under $200. Generation I+ systems have a little more clarity and cost $300-500. Generation II and II+ systems can now be had for less than $1,000 new, and can be found cheaper from time to time in the used marketplace. These go up to $3,500 depending on features and manufacturer, and have a range from 100 to 200 meters with quite clear optics for the price. Generation III night vision has come down quite a bit and can be had for $3,500-$5,500. Personally, I cannot see enough difference between quality (with the exception of extended recognition range) of the Gen II and Gen III night vision to compel me to spend the extra $2,500+. There is also "Generation IV" night vision, which I know very little about. Prices seem to be in the $4,500-5,500 range. A Gen II, III, or IV night vision monocular could be a life saver, especially if you can get one that comes with an optional weapons mount.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I frequently stress the importance of well-balanced preparedness in my writings. All too often, I've seen people that go to extremes, to the point that these extremes actually detract from the ability to survive a disaster situation. These range from the "all the gear that I'll need to survive is in my backpack" mentality to the "a truckload of this or that" fixation. But genuine preparedness lies in comprehensive planning, strict budgeting, and moderation. Blowing your entire preparedness budget on just one category of gear is detrimental to your overall preparedness.

Another common mistake that I see among my consulting clients is an over-emphasis on either very old technologies or on the "latest and greatest" technologies. In the real world, preparedness necessitates having a bit of both. At the Rawles Ranch we have both 19th century technology (like hand-powered tools) and a few of the latest technologies like passive IR intrusion detection (Dakota Alerts), photovoltaics, and electronic night vision. My approach is to pick and choose the most appropriate technologies that I can maintain by myself, but to always have backups in the form of less exotic or earlier, albeit less-efficient technologies. For example, my main shortwave receiver is a Sony ICF-SW7600GR. But in the event of EMP, I also a have a pair of very inexpensive Kaito shortwaves and a trusty old Zenith Trans-Oceanic radio that uses vacuum tubes. Like my other spare electronics, these are all stored in a grounded galvanized steel can when not in use.

Here is my approach to preparedness gear, in a nutshell

  • Redundancy, squared. I jokingly call my basement Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR)
  • Buy durable gear. Think of it as investing for your children and grandchildren. And keep in mind that there'll be no more "quick trips to the hardware store" after TSHTF.
  • Vigilantly watch Craigslist, Freecycle, classified ads, and eBay for gear at bargain prices.
  • Strive for balanced preparedness that "covers all bases"--all scenarios.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability (Examples: shop to match a 12 VDC standard for most small electronics, truly multi-purpose equipment, multi-ball hitches, NATO slave cable connectors for 24 VDC vehicles, Anderson Power Pole connectors for small electronics--again, 12 VDC)
  • Retain the ability to revert to older, more labor-intensive technology.
  • Fuel flexibility (For example: Flex fuel vehicles (FFVs), Tri-fuel generators, and biodiesel compatible vehicles)
  • Purchase high-quality used (but not abused) gear, preferably when bargains can be found
  • If in doubt, then buy mil-spec.
  • If in doubt, then buy the larger size and the heavier thickness.
  • If in doubt, then buy two. (Our motto: "Two is one and one is none.")
  • Buy systematically, and only as your budget allows. (Avoid debt!)
  • Invest your sweat equity. Not only will you save money, but you also will learn more valuable skills.
  • Train with what you have, and learn from the experts. Tools without training are almost useless.
  • Learn to maintain and repair your gear. (Always buy spare parts and full service manuals!)
  • Buy guns in common calibers
  • Buy with long service life in mind (such as low self-discharge NiMH rechargeable batteries.)
  • Store extra for charity and barter
  • Grow your own and buy the tooling to make your own--don't just store things.
  • Rust is the enemy, and lubrication and spot painting are your allies.
  • Avoid being an "early adopter" of new technology--or you'll pay more and get lower reliability.
  • Select all of your gear with your local climate conditions in mind.
  • Recognize that there are no "style" points in survival. Don't worry about appearances--concentrate on practicality and durability.
  • As my old friend "Doug Carlton" is fond of saying: "Just cut to size, file to fit,, and paint to match."
  • Don't skimp on tools. Buy quality tools (such as Snap-on and Craftsman brands), but buy them used, to save money.
  • Skills beat gadgets and practicality beats style.
  • Use group standardization for weapons and electronics. Strive for commonality of magazines, accessories and spare parts
  • Gear up to raise livestock. It is an investment that breeds.
  • Build your fences bull strong and sheep tight.
  • Tools without the appropriate safety gear (like safety goggles, helmets, and chainsaw chaps) are just accidents waiting for a place to happen.
  • Whenever you have the option, buy things in flat, earth tone colors
  • Plan ahead for things breaking or wearing out.
  • Always have a Plan B and a Plan C

If you are serious about preparedness, then I recommend that you take a similar approach.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have been reading your site for almost a year now and am grateful for your advise. I've read both Patriots and Retreats. Currently, I live in suburban Detroit and am looking for a farm out in the country. I'm good on food and many other items, but question my weapons battery. BTW, both my wife and I have attended the excellent training at Front Sight. Currently I have three handguns: an XDM-40 with four mags, Steyr M40 with four mags and a Taurus PT92 9mm with two mags. My long guns include two short-barrel 12 gauge shotguns with one having a dedicated light, one DPMS {AR-15 clone] .223 with dedicated light and Trijicon ACOG 4x32 scope, one DPMS .308 AR-10, and one Ruger 10/22. Crossbows are on my wish list. I have between 1,000 and 2,000 rounds of ammo for each weapon. I want to buy more ammo as well as reloading equipment and supplies.

I want to buy a scope for the 308 and decided on a Leupold Mark-3 4.5-12x 40mm scope. My concern is night vision. Do I get a dedicated night vision scope for the .308 and forget the Leupold, or a stand alone [hand-held] night vision glass? What good is it to see with night vision, if I can't see it thru the scope to shoot? I don't think I'll need night vision in my subdivision, until I purchase the farm, but think I should get it now well it is still available. Of course my budget and lovely bride will only go for so much. Can you please advise?

Thanks so much, - RP

JWR Replies: Assuming that it is equipped with a flash hider, you should set up your AR-10 with an AN-PVS-4 Starlight scope, as your dedicated night-fighting rifle. With a throw-lever scope mount and a flip-up back-up iron sights (BUIS), you can quickly detach the Starlight scope and use the AR-10 for daylight shooting. (But of course be sure to do some target shooting tests to insure that the scope has correct "return to zero", when re-mounted. Be patient and plan to buy bolt action .308 (such as a Savage Model 10) for daylight long range shooting. (That is where the Leupold Mark-3 4.5-12x 40mm scope that you mentioned would be most appropriate.)

And BTW, buy more magazines! With a renewed Federal ban now looming, you should acquire at least six spare mags for each handgun, and at least eight spares for each battle rifle. Buy them now, while they are still affordable. Full capacity magazine prices are likely to triple or quadruple if the Federal AWB is renewed.

Hi James,
I've been reading your blog for the last two years. Let me just tell you that you've been an inspiration to my family and my friends. We have recently acquired a country property here in Canada and are in the process of building our retreat.

One thing that I have completely ignored, was the need for night vision equipment. In the country, in remote locations, or when the grid goes down, it is almost completely dark at night. I mean you cannot see two feet in front of you.

I've been researching what is the best night vision equipment to use for patrolling, security and combat. I think I'm going with Gen2 goggles, but there is this one product called SuperVision by company called Xenonics. But I'm not sure how it works and whether it is suitable for retreat defense.

Looking at different night vision products, my question to you is: What is the best option for avoiding night vision device (NVD) detection [by an opponent that has their own night vision gear]?

The IR beams that some equipment generates or IR gun sights will be visible to someone using passive NVD, right? I'm just thinking that the best night vision equipment will be the one that has no signature, or are all NVDs visible to other NVDs?

Another problem I see is that most firearms leave flash signature. Does the Vortex [flash hider] eliminate the flash completely? I think defending your retreat at night is a completely new ball game, there are many things that most of your readers might not be aware of or experimented with. I think NVDs are a must, just like the firearms. Without a good night vision equipment you cannot defend your retreat at night unless you get a good illumination from the moon. Thanks, - Peter

JWR Replies: Let me begin by stating forthrightly that the claims of the makers of Supervision are more marketing hype than substance. They do not perform well out in the boonies where there is not much ambient light. Instead, go for mil-spec Gen 2 night vision gear, or better yet Gen 3 if you can afford it.

Vortex type flash hiders reduce muzzle flash by about 90%. This video clip shows the dramatic difference of a rifle with and without a flash hider. (Can you see why I've had the muzzles threaded on all my bolt action centerfire rifles?)

For versatility, I prefer weapon-mounted scopes that can be detached for use as hand-held monoculars.Make this your first purchase. If you have a big budget, then you can go on to buy goggles, but get your weapon sight first.

You also asked about opponents equipped with vision gear being able to detect you. In brief: If you use active IR devices (illuminators or lasers), they can definitely be seen! But it is important to note that even "passive" night vision gear casts a back-light. (This is the light of the image that you are seeing being cast on your face.) Through another NVD this looks like a bright flashlight! For this reason, I discourage SurvivalBlog readers from buying any night vision scope that does not have a baffled ("flap") eyecup type eyeguard. (The baffle only opens when you have the scope pressed up against your eye, minimizing back-lighting.) This fault is common with nearly all of the commercial night vision gear on the market. (But some of these scopes can be retrofitted with mil-spec eyeguards.)

My recommended suppliers for Starlight weapon sights and goggles are JRH Enterprises and Ready Made Resources. For full mil-spec units as well as spare intensifier tubes, talk to STANO Components.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Introductory Note from JWR: The following was posted at the Mike's Madhouse forum, one of the Baen's Bar Forums. (This is the forum moderated by SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large, Michael Z. Williamson.) It illustrates how incredibly naive some newbie gun owners can be. It also underscores a couple of my oft-repeated mantras: Survival is not about gadgets. It is about skills. And, tools without training are almost useless. Owning a gun doesn't make someone a "shooter" any more than owning a surfboard makes someone a surfer. Reading this letter made me laugh hysterically, but it also made me sad to think that for each "rescued' newbie that is successfully mentored by a skilled shooter, there are probably one or two others that remain blissfully ignorant. Even worse, some of these latter-day gun owners might think that merely buying several thousand dollars worth of guns and paraphernalia has somehow made them "prepared." Here is the post:

"This last week I had a conversation with a associate at work. First let me tell you about him, he's a little liberal and by that I am saying someone who is left of Obama. He starts up the conversation with "you know about guns right, could you teach me how to shoot my guns," at this point I am speechless, I mean this person is about the most liberal person I know. First I have to pick up my jaw and my hamster fell out of his wheel is laying on its back doing the kick'en chicken. Flabbergasted that I am I ask what type he owns and he tells me that they are "those M16 machine guns and a 45 cal automatic."

Having known him for about six years and he is a friend (we agreed to not talk about politics and religion years ago) I asked, "What does your wife think about the guns?" He answered: "Oh she knows we bought two of each" (Jaw on floor, Hamster now in critical condition), you have to know his wife more to the left than him, and the last time she visited [my home] I had to swear that all the guns were locked up so the children were safe.

The first thing I ask, do you have a gun safe, answer: "No and don't worry we haven't bought bullets yet." I tell him sure, I will walk through weapon safety and will teach him to shoot. By the way where did you buy the weapons? His answer: The local local "sporting warehouse" . I told him to bring the weapons Friday and I will go over range and weapon safety, and we'll go to the range on Saturday (today).

On Friday afternoon he brings the weapons and accessories over. Now I won't say the salesman saw them coming but, he sold him: two Pelican rifle cases with locks,two Blackhawk drag bags, two Pelican pistol cases. The "M16 machine guns" turned out to be a pair of S&W M&P PSX [semi-auto only M4 clone rifles] each with a Trijicon ACOG and with a green laser and forward pistol grip with flashlight and with bipod and only one magazine [for each emphasis Mike's] about the only missing accessory is the latté maker (a whole 'nother story)

Now I have seen decked out M4s before but this was ridiculous. With all [items] mounted weight about 15 lbs unloaded. The .45 turned out to be a Kimber SIS with 2 magazines and a shoulder holster and a belt holster with a gun belt, magazine holder. Now he isn't hurting for money but this is taking him to the cleaners. So first thing I start taking off cr*p, laser goes, pistol grip with flashlight goes, I start to take off the Trijicon but did you know that the M&P does not come with iron sights?

I had to ask [facetiously] why they didn't get a laser for the Kimber. His answer "It's on order."

Next, I put all the excess stuff in the handy Pelican box and walk through weapon safety. If you notice there were no eye or ear protection, cleaning kits [included] with all this gear [that he was sold].

First thing, I show them how to disassemble and clean the M4 and Kimber. I decided that we would start with the pistol and that I would bring a 22 for them to start with. The range went well we started with the targets at 5m then to 7m, 10m and so went flawlessly. No great groups but at least they were hitting the targets. We shot about 500 rounds of . 22 and ended with 200 rounds of .45.

They had fun and [I helped to create] another [enthusiastic] gun owner. I got them to start using a my favorite gun shop for their future purchases. (She liked my SIG P226 and wants one now).

We stopped at the warehouse [store] and returned some of the excess equipment, about $1,500 worth. I told them to practice the basics, and then if they wanted to they could get other accessories. I will be taking them to a different range tomorrow for the M4. Wish me luck. Now, if I could only revive my hamster!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I sat down to see what I could offer to share with other SurvivalBlog readers. Many topics have already been covered, so I will attempt to go somewhere new.
I am a law enforcement officer by trade, and hope to provide a unique perspective as such. I have seen shootings, stabbing, burglaries, robberies, etc. I have served both search and arrest warrants. I work in the southwest US, and have worked in very affluent areas as well as very poor areas. What follows are some observations of my time on the job, relating to a few different areas and crimes that occur. Hopefully some people will get something out of this. None of this is to be construed as legal advice, strictly observations. All are very applicable to everyday life, and will be highly applicable at TEOTWAWKI .A good teacher once said “I am not showing you the way, only A way.” I apologize in advance if I jump around between topics:

Of all the shootings I have seen, whether officer involved or not, shot placement has been the key to success (success being the death or incapacitation of attacker). Regardless of bullet or weapon type, a solid hit will end a fight. I have seen Black Talon .45 ACP ammo through the stomach fail to incapacitate someone, as well as .223s with poor shot placement fail to stop an attacker. Both subjects lost a lot of blood, but were able to continue to fight. A few recent shootings involved 9mm FMJ ammo. All were fatal, and all were solid hits to the heart/lung area. The take home lesson is that shot placement is key to survival, regardless of caliber. Obviously, proper ammo choice with proper shot placement is best. (I know it has been discussed before, but bird shot is not an effective defense load)
So how can we improve our shot placement? Shoot more. Dry fire. Practice. Then practice some more. If you do not shoot, learn. Whether you are a beginner or advanced shooter, do not forget to work on the basics- sight alignment and trigger control. There is no substitute for trigger time and fundamentals. 22 conversion kits are widely available for many guns for practice at reduced cost. AR-style sights are also available for 10/22s if you prefer that route over a conversion kit. Shorter, more frequent practice sessions are more beneficial than infrequent longer sessions, whether live or dry fire.

After improving static shooting skills, focus on stress shooting. Attend a training course. Practice what you learn in the course. A 2-4 day course will expose you to a lot of new ideas. It is up to you to reinforce them [with practice] when you return home. Only through repetition will these movements become second nature. Join a local IDPA league. The stress of competition will help. Become physically fit. Studies with police and simmunition/judgmental shooting scenarios showed that the more physically fit an individual, regardless of all other factors, the more likely they were to succeed on the simmunition portion and the less mistakes they made on the judgmental portion. (Think about how sports teams make more mental errors late in a game when fatigue sets in) All subjects showed an immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The more fit individuals showed a more rapid return to normal levels, often before the end of the scenario. Combine physical exertion with shooting. Try doing sprints/pushups/jumping jacks, then shooting. Use your imagination.

Learn to clear a malfunction on your weapon. All guns will jam at some point. Ejected shells have bounced off walls and landed back in an open recoiling action. Strange things happen. Know your chosen weapon’s action of arms. Learn to do so with economy of movement. You can purchase dummy rounds or assemble them from spent cases. Throw a few into your magazine next time you shoot, and clear the malfunctions as they happen. It will also show any flinching problems. Teach someone else to shoot. You will be amazed at how much you will learn teaching someone else.


A-Points of entry-
Residential burglaries are an all too common occurrence. The most common points of entry I have seen are door and open windows. For some reason, crooks have an aversion to breaking windows on houses, though it will happen. (Perhaps the Broken Window Theory is true…) “Smash and Grab” activity does happen, but tends to be more vehicle related. (Practice good OPSEC in your vehicle. Do not leave valuables in plain view. Do not place gun stickers on your vehicle, etc)

A few bad guys that have been willing to talk have mentioned that you can shut a door after kicking it in, but a broken window is harder to hide from neighbors. Go and look at your front door. Find your lock plate. When a door is forced, this is the part to give, with the plate coming loose and breaking the trim. Get a screw driver, and remove one of the screws. Realize that this is what is securing your front door. Now go buy longer screws, and replace them immediately. A security door is also a huge plus, as it opens out and requires different techniques to remove. They are not fool proof, but do more to make someone choose another house which is the ultimate goal.

Open windows are the other really common method of entry. Any time any work is done on your house, check all of your windows. It is disturbingly common for workers or anyone in your home to leave a window open in a unused room, or unlock a seldom used door and then return later. Follow workers when they are in your house (Side note on this… I recently had a water heater replaced. I would have done it myself, but it was still under warranty and was free. While chit-chatting with the worker, he asked if I was a cop. I told him no, then asked why. He replied that the only people who watch him work tend to be cops. Just like you are observing others, do not forget that you are being watched as well.) Sterilize your house prior to allowing workers in. Do not leave out firearm accessories, bank statements, etc. Bars on windows are also effective in limiting possible points of entry. They may be against fire code (check your jurisdiction), and reduce points of exit as well. Roll shutters are another really good option here. Many newer homes have a window to the side of the front door. Consider a metal grate or something similar inside to prevent breaking the window, then undoing the locks. These windows, even when frosted, also provide a visible indicator about how many people/when someone is coming to the door, eliminating surprise.

B- What is taken
Cash, firearms, jewelry, electronics, tools, credit cards, personal info, bank statements. Anything that they can pawn or trade for drugs. If you go on vacation, take your spare vehicle keys with you. A recent trend has been to load up the second car parked in the cover of the garage, then drive it away with all of your stuff. Buy a gun safe, preferably a heavy one. Don't forget to lock your safe (No, I am not kidding about this.) Bolt your safe down. I have seen studs cut from the wall to remove a safe. I personally have not seen one pried from the floor yet, although I am sure it has happened. Bolt it to both floor and walls and be safe. Write your serial numbers down also, especially for firearms. (Be very careful with this list, for obvious reasons, especially with private party gun sales. Keep a copy somewhere other than your safe also) It is very hard to prove ownership or log an item as stolen without the serial number.

Robberies occur all the time, everywhere. Situational awareness is the most beneficial for preventing these. You are most vulnerable at times of preoccupation. Fumbling with keys, exiting/entering a car or residence, running with your headphones on, etc Carry bags in a manner to leave your gun hand free, assuming you are carrying concealed. Pay attention. Pause before entering exiting anywhere. Stop, look, and listen. Take a few seconds to do this anytime you enter or exit anything. Make it a habit. You see all the time on surveillance footage of people walking into a liquor store as it is being robbed. Try to stop, look and listen before you enter the store. After you enter, step to one side and do it again. Park in well lit areas. When in your vehicle, keep your doors locked. Do not pull up directly behind the car in front of you and box yourself in. Know where exits are in restaurants and businesses. Listen to your hunches. Home invasion robberies are increasingly common as well. Security doors pay huge dividends here. Even a highly trained SWAT team either has to pry or yank these with a vehicle, before dealing with the interior door. This buys you time. Time equates to distance and options, which equate to safety. Have a dog, and lock all of your gates. See above about window bars. A fenced yard helps. Most states have laws that recognize fenced yards as having a higher expectation of privacy than a non-fenced yard, and a corresponding reduced standard for lethal force action inside said fence. (i.e. the "reasonable person" test, an intruder climbing over a locked gate into a yard with a dog would be expected to be a greater threat than an intruder that was at the front window of an unfenced yard.)

It is not unreasonable if the “police” come to your door to ask to see a badge, preferably a commission card, as these have an officer’s photo. Look though a different window and see if a car is outside. Call the agency they say they are from and verify they are who they say they are. If in doubt, wait and verify. Keep your doors locked when you are home, not just when you leave or before bed.
Police are not trained to look for "bad guys." They are trained to analyze behavior and patterns. When something looks out of place, it is cause for concern.


I work nights, so most of this section will be related to this. I have approached many houses. Let me walk you through what is typical for my squad. Hopefully it will grant some insight into the mind and method of potential attackers.It starts outside of the residence, down the street. Turn off your vehicle lights before you turn onto the street. Park your vehicle so it is not in plain view. Take advantage of other parked cars, as well as the shadows in between street lights to conceal your car. Exit the vehicle quietly. Do not slam your doors. Turn of/disable your vehicle dome light prior to opening your door. Secure any loose or rattling equipment. Stop, look, and listen while still at your car. Let your eyes adjust. Identify the target residence. Depending on the threat level of the suspect or call type we number anywhere from two to six. Approach the house, again taking advantage of lighting and concealment. At the house, stop, look and listen. Are there motion lights? Video cameras? Is there a fence? Is the entire yard fenced? Is the gate locked? Are there cars in the driveway? Are the hoods warm? Most residences have an exposed front and a fenced back yard, so we will assume that is the case. Is there an alley? If so, send one or two people to cover points of exit/look through rear windows. What do you hear? Television? Fighting? Screaming? A shower? A racking shotgun? Whispering? Is there a barking dog? (Pepper spray is effective and commonly used to silence barking dogs. Many SWAT teams now carry suppressed weapons strictly for this purpose. Many cops also carry dog treats.) Look at windows. Can you see through the blinds/curtains? Do an experiment at your residence. Turn on an interior light in a room, and go outside to the window. How much can you see in? Can you see through the corners? What about where the curtains are supposed to come together at the bottom? Do this for all the windows. What do you see inside? How many people? Men, women, children? Are they calm? Are they armed? At the front door, we unscrew light bulbs, adjust cameras, cover them with rubber gloves if they do not move. Spray paint would be effective also at taking care of cameras that do not move. Consider installing a light fixture with a completely surrounded bulb, one that takes a screwdriver to change, or mounting it higher up.. When you knock on the door, move away to a position of cover. Again, stop look and listen. Does the television go off? Who yells to who to get the door? Corners of buildings provide more “cover” than the middle of a wall, as most construction backs multiple 2x4 or 2x6’s up at this location. Have someone watching through a window. Usually by shadow or change in light you can tell when someone is coming to the door, and often how many.

When entering a house

The most common mistakes when clearing a residence are noise discipline and speed. Slow down. Do not move faster than you can take in important details. Be as quiet as possible. The idea is to catch them before they catch you. They are waiting for you. Do not give them any advantage.
There is much debate about building clearance, and many schools of thought. Here are some universal points to all methods:

You need at least three people to be safe. Never search by yourself. More people are better. Cover reflexive angles of one another. Smooth is the goal. Do not stand near the walls. You do not want to risk giving away a position by running your equipment against a wall. This also gives you more options should you engage and have to move. Move slowly (one minute per hundred square feet is not unreasonable). When “pieing” [or "pie slicing"] a room, examine each new degree of the pie from top to bottom , and back again. Hunters will understand this better, but you are not looking for a whole person. You are looking for parts. A toe, an ear, an elbow. Likewise, when clearing, have your upper body move before your lower body (i.e., lean and clear, then move your feet underneath you….repeat….practice with a friend/spouse or a mirror [with and absolutely cleared and double-checked firearm]) and keep your elbow tucked under your weapon, so the first thing the bad guy will see is half the barrel of your gun and half of that eye. (Notice I said “that” eye. Learn to shoot with your off hand, and practice. It is impossible to safely clear a house with the gun in one hand the entire time.) Practice house clearing. Get a friend, family member. Go through your home. Go through theirs. Take turns being the good guy/bad guy. Do it during the day. Do it at night. Repeat. People hide in all sorts of places. Cupboards, washing machines, inside couches, between mattresses, etc. Do not move past anything you have not cleared. You do not want to be worried about something behind you while clearing. If a door is locked and you have to bypass it, get creative. Lean something up against the door so you will know if it is opened behind you. Tie it shut. Do not make more noise than you need to. Do not be afraid to kneel or squat when pieing. People are expecting certain things. Think outside the box.

As far as lights go, there are two schools of thought. The first, turn on lights as you enter the room. You can see, but the enemy can also. The second, use a weapon mounted or handheld light. You can illuminate an area, kill the light, then move. Try both and see what you prefer.

B-Defensive Measures
Consider all of the proceeding section of what attackers do. Apply this to your home. Imagine you are at home, watching television. The neighbor’s dog starts barking, or your's does. The dog suddenly stops. You still get up to investigate, wisely. You go to turn on your outside light, and the bulb does not work. At this point in time the hair on the back of your neck should be standing up. Pay attention to all of the small things. You check your security camera, and suddenly it’s looking at a view of the wall. If a security camera is not working, blocked, etc, lights not working, dog stopped barking (or still barking like mad) these are clues to put on your vest and load your weapon. (You do always put on your vest and grab your weapon when you go to investigate bumps in the night, right? )

Look at your home. Put up a fence around your entire yard. Build a full size fence, not a half one. Clear an area for 8-to-10 feet on either side of the fence, the entire way around. Do not take the time to put up a fence and then provide an easy means over it. Lock the gate. Get two or three large dogs and let them have free roam of the yard. They make “shake” alarms for fences that will go off when the fence is disturbed. They can be made to ring your cell phone (As in your phone rings, you answer, a computer voice states "You have a fence activation on the north side of your property."). Look at your outside lights also. Where are the dark spots? Where are blind spots that you cannot see from your windows? Consider discrete mirrors in strategic locations to check blind spots. Mount your lights high so they cannot be unscrewed, and get fixtures that protect the light bulb. Install security cameras. Consider a few camera pointed towards your house, possibly under eaves or overhangs that will be easy to miss. Where are your children’s rooms in relationship to yours? Where are the bullets that you may be shooting going to be flying? What walls can be made bullet resistant? I have been in homes where the people literally filled the half walls at the top of the stair case with sand/sand bags to provide a fortified fighting position for the family. Other ideas include surplus vests, Kevlar sheeting, etc stuffed in this area. Another option is to fortify your children’s rooms if they are on the other end of the home, but this also provides an intruder with a potential stronghold. Consider interior flood lights. The same people with the sand bagged half walls had flood lights above the stairs, facing down. With the positioning of the lights, it blinded everyone to the defenders at the top of the stairs.

Every home has ambush spots. When you are practicing clearing your house, think about what spots give you problems. Blind corners or multiple doors in close proximity are nightmares while clearing. Find a spot on the far side of the room or down a hallway where you can view these problem areas. One where you can view a problem area and fortify is an ideal location. Stairwells make good options. While you are practicing clearing your house with someone else, take turns being the “bad guy.” See where you want to hide, where you have the best advantage.

I hope this helps. People often talk about hardware versus software. In these tough economic times, hardware is not easy to come by. Software is cheap. Try to still obtain what you can when you can, but focus on learning skills--any skills. Plant a garden. Change your oil. Help someone with a construction project. Read a book. Learn to bake bread. Learn to distill alcohol. Reload. Take a first aid course. Cook with your food storage. Volunteer somewhere where you can learn something. Practice bartering your skills for goods or services. YouTube is an amazing resource out there if you are unsure how to do something and don’t know anyone that can teach you. If you already have skills, teach them (while still learning new ones.) Spread the word to those that will listen. Post a youtube video about preparation, or about any skill that you have. Teach someone to shoot. You can pick up a surplus Mosin-Nagant rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition for around $150, depending on where you live. Encourage everyone you know to buy one or two.) is a great resource also regarding questions about ammo ("I wonder what happens if I shoot layers of sheet rock with "X" caliber...") Show your friends SurvivalBlog. Sow the seeds of preparation in all you come across. Continue to prepare, pray, and be safe. - Eli

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I have a red dot sight battery, lithium Energizer CR2032, which was stored in it's original packaging in a refrigerator since May 1996, almost 13 years ago. I recently opened it and have been testing to see if it would still work, at present I have about 11 hours of use on it. I know this is anecdotal, but the point is, if you use red dot aiming devices and it uses one of these type batteries, it is probably worthwhile to store a good supply of batteries for long term use. Regards, - K. in Texas

JWR Replies: Lithium batteries should be stored in a refrigerator. But reader Shirley A.--who is an audiologist--mentioned that this is a bad idea for zinc air batteries. She notes: " not store zinc air batteries in the refrigerator. The batteries are inert until the tab is removed. Once air reaches the hole(s) on the back of the batteries, they become activated, hence "air-activated" batteries. The humidity in a refrigerator will cause the protective tabs to become loose, thus allowing air to reach the holes and activating the batteries.They will all go dead in a short time. Zinc air batteries should be stored in a cool, dry environment, like a dresser drawer. For the same reason, don't store your batteries (or your hearing aids) in the bathroom."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Although we in South Africa do not live in a TEOTWAWKI situation, we routinely have to deal with constant attempts to appropriate life, possessions, and freedom that could be good training for a TEOTWAWKI situation. The following are some real life insights as to what and how we handle these regular attempts at property liberation on our homesteads and surrounds.

We are fortunate to live well outside of South Africa’s largest city, our community is isolated and not visible from any main road. To a point where people that live in nearby areas do not know where our entry road is, and have to be given detailed instructions on how to get to our community. (I’ve even had a 20 year resident of an adjacent area tell me outright that I’m lying and no such road/area exists. What a great place to be!) There are a total of 24 families in our area, not all participate in the community [security effort] and only one other family has a preparedness mindset. Almost every member of the community is very private and the idea of personal privacy and property rights is taken very seriously. Of the 24 families there are nine that take an active role in protecting the community totaling 15 men. Our community is situated in a blind valley with a single very defendable entrance, there are however two additional tracks that can be used for either a north or south escape route if you know where to find them.

Most of our threats consist of one or more of the following.(In no particular order) Stock theft, cable theft, fencing or dropper [(cattle chute)] theft, house breaking, armed home invasions, rape and other crimes. There is also a marked increase in produce theft (directly from fields) in recent months.

What also needs to be understood is that in the rural areas there are specific crime ‘seasons’. Outright you can peg the December/January and Easter periods as a very high probability of stock theft, then the last two weeks in any month with increases in housebreaking and implement/equipment theft. Our analysis of this suggests that people are looking for meat in December/January and April for family [summer and fall] feasts. And at month end they are looking for a bit of cash to tide them over till payday or they have just plain run out of cash and need more.

The number one livestock theft item is sheep, they are simple to lift onto ones shoulders and carry off without a sound (sheep make no noise at night if manhandled). Cattle are the next most frequent target. of theft. How this is achieved is the cattle are often liberated early evening (20h00 – 21h00) and a team of thieves will work as follows. A Cutter will walk ahead and cut any fencing about 100m in front of the cattle, then three drivers will drive the cattle along the chosen route, typically the hocks are slashed so that the cattle cannot run, they are then prodded with sharp sticks or bicycle spokes in the correct direction. The animals are generally butchered in the veld and only choice portions are taken, or they are herded directly to a township/village for slaughter. They are often herded over 20 or 30 km in one night. Making track and trace is sometimes extremely difficult. The sad thing about this is that if you do recover your animals before they slaughter them, the animals need to be put down anyway. We have even had a situation where large ‘steaks’ were cut out of living cattle and they were left to be found in the morning. Goats and Pigs are very low down on the list as they will vocally announce their displeasure at being manhandled. This PDF describes another very well known way of transporting stolen stock long distances.

With regards to implements and equipment theft. Very high on the list are hand tools, power tools, generators, water pumps, borehole pumps, and electric gate motors--in fact anything that can be pawned or sold off quickly. A new phenomenon that has recently reared its head is that people are stealing metal gates and droppers, we have yet to catch one in the act, however we believe it’s for the scrap metal market. New fencing is also quick to go, especially weld mesh and Bonnox-type fencing. As it’s easy to roll up and cart away, and has a quick resale value on the open market if priced right.
To counteract the effects of crime in our area we have established for a number of years now a very effective farm watch system that includes the following. (I will cover each point separately to provide insight into the logic and tactics):

Highly visible motorised patrols:
The main point of these is to provide a “show of force” and it is mainly used as a deterrent during low crime times. The use of vehicle mounted Search/spot lights is heavily employed. One of the largest drawbacks is that ‘they’ can see you coming and a) either scamper off to find a quieter area to harass, or b) just drop into the grass that is typically 1 metre (3 feet) high, and then effectively become invisible. Another drawback is that once the patrol ends this can be easily be seen, due to a lack of lights sweeping the roads and properties.

Foot patrols: These are undertaken specifically during times of harassment, or in peak crime times. Foot patrols generally consist of two separate patrols of minimum three individuals each, contact via radio is available but only used as and when required. A preset route is followed, there are a total of nine routes, typically only four are covered by both patrols in an evening. Each route has specific LP/OPs developed as well as caches of food/water and medical [supplies] on the longer routes. Some routes are never more than about 300 - 500 meters from a lot of the homesteads and others can take one over two kilometers from the nearest homestead.

LP/OPs: Generally performed on off nights where ‘nothing is going on’. Members will walk out onto their own properties and take up specific LP/OP to generally [listen and] observe. This is often tied in with the final checks on animals, stores and stables. The interesting thing is you are able to track the movement of an individual(s) from well over two kilometres away, just by listening to the night sounds of animals. Dogs, Plovers, Geese, Guinea Fowl, and peacocks, frogs/toads, and others can all give an indication as to what is happening in the area. We have got to a point where just by listening to the sounds of the local critters, both wild and domestic, we are able to make a good judgment call if a impromptu patrol needs to rustled up. Most evenings we can track the return of staff members and labourers as they walk back from the local shebeens.

Contact Routes:
These are predefined routes that each farmer will take when a contact is established. This has worked very well for us on a number of occasions leading to the arrest of six individuals and the peppering of at least three that have escaped, with bird shot liberally inserted into their Gluteus maximus. The adage in our area is not to have someone die on your property, rather wound [them] and let them spread the word. It the best advertising you can get for a peaceful nights rest. They also cannot go to a hospital as this raises questions. We have heard via the grapevine of one individual that had a friend digging around in his butt with a piece of bent piece of wire to try extricate shot. Somehow I don’t think he is coming back. [JWR Adds: Things are different here in the oh-so litigious US, where wounding a miscreant is an invitation to a huge civil lawsuit. I advise American, Canadian and British SurvivalBlog readers: Don't pull the trigger unless your life is immediately threatened.]

Basically there are two types of contact:

1) Farm based. When there is an attack on a particular farm then the alarm is raised via, land line, cell phone, radio or audible sirens. Information is generally given to wives for relay, as husbands prepare, as to what portion of the farmstead is threatened. A ring is established around the farm with selected individuals providing direct support at the farmstead, once the farmstead is cleared then the ring closes along predefined routes. BTW, it is vitally important that the outer ring is maintained, as often a lot more is seen from the ring than from the farmstead. In addition all lights on all farms get turned off, specifically to assist the guys with Night Vision, but we have found that those that don’t, can also see better without distracting ambient light sources. Lastly, the explicit rule is that if it’s your farm / livestock under attack then you are not to leave the house! There is no need for a hostage situation or to allow for a penetration of your family's security, or God forbid a friendly fire incident. That is why you have neighbours.

2) Infrastructure based: Typically this is cable theft, we are very proud of the fact that we are one of the few rural areas in South Africa that has had no interruption of our telecoms service in well over 18 months. We have taken the initiative to install alarms on our lines that activate as soon as there is a voltage drop. ([Caused by a] cut line) This triggers a response where farmers scramble to cover specific points. The amazing thing is how fast these cable thieves can move. They cut and drag 150-200 metres of 50-pair cable well over 500 meters in a matter minutes. It took us a while to get our attack honed, but now we have a 100% strike rate and no more cable theft.

Most patrol members are armed with Shotguns and occasionally with a sidearm, a 2-way radio, torch, Night Vision if they have the gear, and a small first aid kit is carried by one member. A handful of heavy duty cable ties [for use as handcuffs are also carried. Each member is also at liberty to equip themselves with what they feel is necessary. What we find is that new members tend to go all out on kit, and it only takes about two weeks for them to start reducing the amount of glory kit they carry to the minimum. (We actually have a pool bet going on the number of patrols walked with full kit, we always do the two longest for them on the trot. Hey, we need some fun.)

Some additional information, many thieves will plan their attacks long in advance with scouting and intel well sourced, either via the local labourer population or via direct observation. One of the most common and disturbing warning signs that you will get, is that dogs are being poisoned in the area. Depending on the poison used, it will generally be a fast acting (in a matter of minutes) the most common poison is Aldicarb or Temik a restricted use agricultural pesticide. Luckily we have not had any incidents in our area, but all around us there are reports of multiple dogs going down in a single night.
Finally, one of the benefits of living in [the old] South Africa (pre-1994) was conscription, with two years of compulsory military service, for most straight out of school. This has put most of the ‘older’ (I say that with care as I’m yet to hit 45) members of our group with a military service background and we have been through some of the Border War. All of this helps to set the tone of patrols and provides the training and discipline for younger members.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Greetings Mr. Rawles,
I read your blog everyday and am learning so much. Thanks for your dedication to helping prepare us for the future.
In reference to the recent article on home security, we lived in Argentina for three years and we could all learn from their security measures. The first house we lived in had steel shutters, as did everyone in the neighborhood, and they were all shut at night. The doors have locks that automatically lock when you leave the house. The small front yards usually have tall steel fences with the same height gates. The gates were also locked at all times. Homes that didn't have shutters of some kind, had bars on all the windows. Big dogs were also the norm. The back yards were usually walled in by concrete block walls sometimes 10 feet tall. At our second house, one of our neighbors had concertina wire around the top of their walls.
It is a normal custom to clap your hands to alert someone you were at their front gate. It would be very rude to try to enter someone's front yard without being invited first, and is usually not possible due to the locks and dogs.

But, as new houses were being built, we were seeing less and less of the shutters and bars, more American style houses were being built and that's a shame.

It was very difficult at first to live with these kinds of security measures, but after awhile it became normal and comforting to know your house was secure. Gun control is very strict and very few folks have guns, so home security was very important.
Just wanted to share those observations with you. Thanks again for your hard work.
Warmest Regards, - Beverly A.


Hello James Wesley, Rawles:
Feed lot panels are extremely useful for hardening windows against dynamic entry.
For those who are not familiar with the product, feed lot panels are welded wire product. They are typically 16 feet long. The height varies but is typically 54" high. The wire is very stiff (typically #4 or #6 gauge) and the wire is galvanized for long life. The panels are inexpensive and semi-rigid.

We recently replaced a 13' x 69" bay window with a 60" by 60" picture window (one pane) flanked by a couple of 60" high by 24" wide double hung windows. Our primary goal was to increase energy efficiency by reducing cold air infiltration during the winter and to improve our cross ventilation during the summer.

I had some fairly extensive conversation with the contractor regarding my desire to have sufficient "beef" beside each window to be able to run several 5" x 1/2" eye-bolts beside each window (with the eyes of the bolts aligned in the vertical direction), slide the trimmed-to-fit feedlot panel over the eye-bolts, and then drop a cane bolt through the openings in the eye bolts.

(Minor detail notes: Roof overhang requires that cane bolts be inserted from bottom, but "drop in from top" is a more natural word picture. Also desirable to use a cushioning material to hold panels away from frame of window to eliminate scarring. Rubber or vinyl garden hose is a possibility.)

He was very happy to comply. Each window is framed in with 2x4s next to the window frame, but then a 4x4 was bracketed into the top and bottom headers immediately beside the 2X4s on each side of each of the three windows. Wood is cheap.

Feed lot panels can be defeated. But defeating them requires time and tools...not something typical home invaders want to expend/lug around. Feed lot panels also help protect windows against airborne, flying trash during extreme wind storms. They may be ugly, but they are cheap, durable and relatively easy to install, given proper tools and some time and the foresight to have enough wood to bolt into. - Joe H.



I've already made numerous changes to my home and property to thwart / limit any would be thefts and boosting the overall security. A number of ideas came from your web site. Thanks.

Other than the simple measures of installing a Radio Shack microphone/speaker and, locking the doors of my barns with snap links and walking out the front and locking that door, I am worried for my horses if someone should try to force their way inside and manage to stay very quiet. I'm very impressed with my $149 Radio Shack investment, you can hear everything and my house is 300 feet away.

Can you offer any additional advice on making barns more secure? I'm more concerned about the horses than all of the tack and saddles. But those items aren't cheap either. Thanks, - Pete in Florida

JWR Replies: I do have one specific recommendation: Buy a MURS band Dakota Alert infrared intrusion detection system. (Available from MURS Radio, one of our advertisers). Put one Motion Alert Transmitter (MAT) out at the end of your driveway, and one "watching" the front of your barn door. We use Dakota Alerts in conjunction with matching frequency Kenwood MURS band hand-helds here at the Rawles Ranch on a daily basis. We have been very satisfied with their quality and reliability. In our experience, this combination is ideal for detecting intruders on likely avenues of approach.


Dear Mr. Rawles,
First, as always, I am compelled to thank you for your service to all those who would learn from your knowledge and efforts. My 2009 10 Cent Challenge contribution is forthcoming, but it is only a small token of my appreciation in light of all that I have learned from your excellent blog.

I wanted to add a note of my reality to your recent excellent comments on the sorry state of home architecture in our country today. I live in a typical recent-construction, middle class, Metro Atlanta home with a brick front facade, and Hardiplank (a concrete-like product molded to look like wood siding) on the remaining three sides. It is essentially three stories, with a "daylight basement" comprising the first story. Many of the "weak links" that you pointed out exist in my home, but we did install a fairly comprehensive alarm system.

Last February, while my wife was at work and I was taking my son to daycare (it was 11:15 a.m.), thugs broke into our house by kicking through the basement wall! Evidently, the crooks suspected, or noticed, our alarm system, and tried to bypass it by going through the wall. It would have worked if the dummies hadn't opened the basement door preparing to depart with their loot. Of course, opening the door set the alarm off, and they fled never having made it out of the basement. They did steal an old rifle that I had recently bought, and had left in a storage closet awaiting a good cleaning. All in all, we were very fortunate.

I write not to simply share my story (which is, unfortunately, not very uncommon), but to point out what I learned:

1. Though Hardiplank, and similar products, have many virtues, resistance to invasion is not one of them.The concrete feel and appearance gives a false sense of security. I was shocked to learn that the only thing between my "inner sanctum" and the bad guys was the Hardiplank, fiberboard sheathing, and drywall! Even if your 1st story sheathing were 5/8" plywood it would present a much more formidable barrier!

2. If I had heeded my instincts, the burglary could have been avoided. I try to live in "condition yellow", though I slip into white more than I would like. That morning, while buckling my toddler into the car, I noticed a rough-looking young man walking slowly up the sidewalk. By the time I had buckled my seatbelt, he was ambling back down the street in the opposite direction. All of the alarms in my head went off, but I didn't call the police to investigate (something that they encouraged me to do in the future while discussing the event). I did, however, step back inside and turn on the alarm, which I didn't usually do for such short trips (things are different now). If I hadn't turned on the alarm, I would have probably walked right into a home invasion in progress (stupidly in condition white!) after dropping my son off. As it was, as soon as I got the call from the monitoring service, I knew exactly what had happened, and who had done it! During the frantic 3 mile drive home, my main concern was, "what will I do if I arrive before the police?" At the time, I had no firearm with me, which leads me to my final point.

3. Any time you walk into your home [after an absence] in condition white, with no way to defend yourself, you invite disaster. Yes, I know it can be terribly stressful to admit to yourself that our society has "come to this", and some people would rather just play the odds and hope it doesn't happen to them. I feel that God was watching over me that day (by the way, the police were on site when I got home - it had only been 20 minutes since I left the house) and gave me a second chance. I guess I could remain in condition white, and hope it doesn't happen again, but I have responsibilities. God gave me a second chance, and I am committed to learning from this experience. You'd better believe that I will arrive home in condition yellow to orange, looking for any hint that something is awry - especially if my family is in tow! Oh yeah, and my next house is going to be as solid as I can afford, and then some!

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas, and will have a terrific new year. Best Wishes, - SH in Georgia


I have been an advocate for survivors of violent crimes. I would like to point out some things that I have been tracking for almost a year now. (I have 'home invasions" as a google search alert and get messages on this topic many times a day). First, I have noticed that most of these invaders are not so much interested in carting away ill-gotten booty from the residence that they have invaded as much as the first object is to terrorize and torture those in the dwelling. This is a major change in the high level of deprived violence of these burglars who are now being reported as "home invaders". The attacks are sadistic, whereas, twenty years ago true sadistic attacks were more rare as the goal seemed to be to steal and leave. Second, these sadistic home invasions are world wide. I have not yet figured out why this is so. It is, however, concerning that no place seems safe from this bizarre rise in sadistic violence. Perhaps it can be linked to violent video games? I am not sure what else could link these acts world wide. Third, unlike violent home crimes in years past, the home invaders are attacking during the hours when it is more likely that the residents are home. (Most of these invasions seem to take place between 11 PM and 5 AM). Clearly, unlike in early times when the criminal element wanted to avoid the residents, this new class of thugs want that violent encounter.

I think this does require that decent folks to have a change in understanding what is taking place. These criminals are not just getting the pleasure of taking your property but they want to cause you and your family extreme fear, terror, and pain. Passive conduct by the victims that might have allowed these thugs to rob your home and leave you alone might have worked twenty years ago, but I think today's home invaders first literally will want a pound of your flesh. On a positive note, I have also read of numerous residents who have successfully fended off the invaders by being properly protected within their homes. I am 'surprised" that the media doesn't seem to do much coverage of these heroic deeds of the victim defending himself or family members from these sadistic invasion. - Advocate for Survivors of Violent Crimes


Dear Mr. Rawles.
Regarding your post on Tuesday December 30, titled "Letter Re: Home Invasion Robbery Countermeasures". I would like to see you elaborate on the "Countermeasures" portion of the title. Specifically, could you show some real examples that people could use as "force multipliers" similar to this . Maybe you can do a post on with and without grid power in SHTF scenarios.

For example I live in a suburb of a city of about 80,000 people. I live on a corner lot and have a fenced in back yard. What low-tech methods could I deploy to allow full coverage around the perimeter of my property to signal of coming trouble. It would help if the ideas were designed to not create an abundance of false alarms and not alert the surrounding neighborhoods like a trip alarm.

I don't have a retreat location but I'm getting my finances in order to allow a property purchase soon. If TSHTF tomorrow, I would need some simple ideas to keep my family safe as long as possible.

BTW, I read your "Patriots" novel and it was awesome! I am about half way thorough your "Rawles Gets You Ready" course and it too is great. Thanks, - Steve F. in Louisiana

JWR Replies: A corner lot is problematic. Depending on the landscaping that is prevalent in your neighborhood, if it would not look too out of the ordinary then you might consider planting a "decorative" thorny hedge around as much of your perimeter as possible, and install a gate across the front of your driveway. Make both the maximum height that you can get away with, without being branded as the Neighborhood Paranoid Poster Boy. The gate should have a spiked top of some sort, to discourage gate jumpers. Just inside the gate, position a passive infrared Motion Alert Transmitter (MAT) for a Dakota Alert. You should also plant thorny bushes below each of your windows.

Motion-activated floodlights are inexpensive and very easy to install.(They are available at home improvement and hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's.) If the power grid goes down, you really should bug out ASAP, but if you are forced to stay, then solar-powered floodlights might suffice. (But note that their reviews mention that they have a short service life. So it is best to just test them but not mount them outdoors until needed.) Under those circumstances, a pair of night vision goggles would be a must. (And if you have those, you might want to retrofit your floodlights to use infrared bulbs. Being battery powered, your Dakota Alert system will continue to operate without grid power. But of course keep plenty of spare batteries on had for all of your flashlights and other home security and communications electronics.

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, December 13, 2008

The purpose of this article is to put another skill (if not a skill, perhaps a seed) in the mental toolkit of preparedness-oriented individuals. Although not an exhaustive study on clandestine operations, this article will give you a glimpse into an advantage seeking two part mindset – sabotaging the enemy’s equipment and keeping your equipment from getting sabotaged! It is assumed the condition under which this article would find use is the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). Please don’t go do something listed in this article that you don’t have the skill or legal right to do.

You want to ensure the survival of yourself and your loved ones. I’m sure you’ve made preparations to do so, right? You have to keep your equipment preparations running to get a tactical or survival advantage from them. You must learn to see your equipment through the eyes of a saboteur. This will allow you to spot equipment vulnerabilities. Why would anyone want to sabotage your gear? They would do it for the same reasons they would threaten you in the first place. Their lack of morals, planning, and diligence, brought to the surface by a desperate situation, leads them to persecute you for gain. Your equipment stands in their way. The reason could be that they don’t want you to have anything they don’t have!

Some may consider sabotage a little too proactive – too dangerous even. We’re talking nightmarish end-of-the-world stuff here. We’re talking about using any and every tool in the box to keep our loved ones safe. Sabotage is a no-brainer if you are gutsy enough to use recon teams or actually make an armed stand. Once you get past the negative aura of the word “sabotage,” you realize it is indeed a valuable skill. Why would we ever want to sabotage someone’s equipment? It is the same reason that causes us to buy expensive battle rifles and copious quantities of ammunition – to deny the enemy the ability to take our freedom and lives. If you do not maintain or gain the tactical advantage, will not the enemy gain it? What good is a stockpile of all the latest gear or a heap of brain power and courage if you simply refuse to fully use it? Learn to see the enemy’s equipment through the eyes of a saboteur to reap huge tactical rewards. Perhaps the elimination of the enemy’s advantage will spare you from having to take his life. Sabotage can have a large psychological impact. A discovered act of sabotage lets the enemy know that they are not safe. It will throw them “off their game.”

You can hide in your retreat, counting bullets while sporting only your lucky camouflage boxers. However, you wouldn’t need that expensive battle rifle and all that ammunition if no one could ever find you. You will have a confrontation with a hostile organized group. It’s too small a world with too few morals. Ruthlessness is surely a trait that would allow said hostile group to survive in lieu of preparedness. They’ll be roving the wasteland looking for more supplies and victims. Their survival would be evidence of their pillaging proficiency. As we all learned in grade school, bad people don’t fight “fair.” There will most likely be more people in their group than in your group. As we get older, we realize that fighting “fair” really means fighting with a handicap. There must be some pseudo-religious notion in the subconscious mind of upright people that tells them anything remotely perceived as “sneaky” is wrong. When someone threatens the life of you and your loved ones, then you must do whatever it takes to protect yourselves. This is why survivalists who actually survive TEOTWAWKI will use tools like sabotage.

Types of Sabotage
The first type of sabotage is covert. That is, the target does not discover the non-working machine for some time or discovers the non-working machine but does not immediately suspect foul play. This type of sabotage requires the most skill, time, and planning. A lightly armed team of two lookouts and one technician, each fully blacked-out with NVGs and good noise discipline, could accomplish a fantastically effective covert sabotage. One person with nerves of steel, a pile of patience, and the proper motivation can work wonders too! Some of the reasons for covert sabotage are listed below.
1. Keeping the target from knowing there is a hostile force in the area.
2. Attempting to avoid retaliation from target.
3. Extra time for escape and evasion.
4. Attacking the target right before it discovers its equipment doesn’t work (surprise!).
The second type of sabotage is overt. It could be loud, fast, and ugly. It could also be just loud, just fast, or just ugly. If this type of sabotage had a mascot, it’d be a sledgehammer. Once the target gets near the machine, it’s red alert time. The target may even hear or see the sabotage happen. It doesn’t matter; you just want his machine out of the game! Overt sabotage is mostly the stuff of last ditch seat-of-the-pants defenses. Some of the reasons for overt sabotage are listed below.
1. Approaching enemy vehicles.
2. Quickly shutting down enemy communications.
3. Diversions.

Covert Vehicular Sabotage
Covert vehicular sabotage can range from slowing the target down to keeping them from moving at all. Probably the most cunning covert design is that which leaves a small team stranded some distance from base camp. The designer would have a good opportunity to ambush the stranded team. The following list is a sample of what can be done. It is mostly arranged from mild to wild. Not all items are applicable to all vehicles. Some of these items may require the use of an “improvised” car door key. Some vehicles have the hood release cable located directly behind the grille, which can be manipulated to open the hood without gaining access to the interior of the vehicle. Remember, it is assumed that the perpetrator has put some thought and planning into situations like these:

  • Water in the fuel tank. What is more innocuous than this?
  • Loosened valve stem on one of the tires - just enough so that the tire will be flat in the morning.
  • Replacement of a critical fuse (fuel pump, ignition) with a blown fuse of the same value.
  • Cut on bottom (non visible) side of main engine belt deep enough to reach the interior cords. This action removes most of the belt’s tensile strength and creates a stress riser in the belt. The result is no alternator, water pump, power steering, or AC – oh my.
  • Loosened or removed lower radiator hose clamp. Coolant will leak out under pressure when the engine gets warm (away from base camp that is). Loosened oil plug or filter. Oil will leak more freely once it is warm (away from base camp that is).
  • Loosened battery cable. This could turn into a nasty surprise if the battery is emitting hydrogen when the sparks start.
  • Un-plugged vacuum lines.
  • Modified ignition timing. Distributor equipped vehicles only.
  • Plastic electrical connectors un-plugged from critical sensors – just enough to break electrical contact. A look of authenticity is given when the small connector retainer arm is broken.
  • Switched spark plug wires that are similar in length. Not for coil-per-plug vehicles.
  • Bleach in the fuel tank. Once cranked, the engine will eventually sputter and stop. (Mythbusters rule!).

Examples of Overt Vehicular Sabotage Here is a partial list of the easy, ugly, quick, and dirty.

  • Slashed tires
  • Cut fuel lines
  • Cut transmission lines
  • Cut coolant hoses
  • Cut under-hood wires
  • Large holes put in the radiator or fuel tank
  • High-powered rifle bullets fired into the engine block or transmission of approaching enemy vehicles
  • Explosives wired to the ignition switch circuit

Examples of Stationary Equipment Sabotage

  • Cut power wires
  • Cut control wires
  • Cut antenna signal and guy wires
  • Loosened electrical connections – done when equipment is de-energized
  • Water or dirt placed in bearings
  • Removal of chain master link retainers – done while equipment is stopped

Protecting Your Equipment from Sabotage
We have explored some sabotage possibilities. Hopefully you will start examining your equipment for possible vulnerabilities. It is not possible to list every conceivable scenario here like a playbook, therefore, it is important you learn to use your imagination and think like a saboteur. Use the following list as a starting point:

  • Know your equipment
  • Inspect your equipment often
  • Don’t leave equipment where it is visible - if possible
  • Always lock every lock (sidearms excluded)
  • Mark the head of bolts and the bolted equipment with aligned paint dots for indication of tampering
  • Use fasteners with tamper resistant heads (High security bits are uncommon)
  • On vehicles, cover the lower engine compartment openings with expanded metal
  • Run power and communications wiring underground and have it enter a building through the floor thereby minimizing outside exposure
  • Run critical wires in conduit
  • Run “dummy” wires in plain sight while hiding the route of the actual critical wires
  • Install an alarm with security lights and motion detectors in critical areas
  • Use dogs to alert you to suspicious activity
  • Use sentries to watch the premises
  • Move the equipment to a secure shelter or build a secure shelter around the equipment

Use layered security (combination of all) for the most effective setup. - A. Farm Graduate

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hi Mr. Rawles:

In your comments to the family living in Trinidad & Tobago, you wrote: "As your budget allows, buy a small solar charger for your AA and AAA NiMH batteries."
Do you have personal experience with any of these solar chargers? Can you recommend any? Many thanks, - Larry T.

JWR Replies: Depending on your budget, solutions can run from "micro", to "mini", to "maxi." These inexpensive solar chargers sold by Ready Made Resources (one of our long-time advertisers) work fine as a "micro" solution., but be advised that they are not waterproof. I recommend setting these up on a windowsill, inside a south-facing window. In my experience, it is best to buy at least two of these chargers, since they charge slowly, via "trickle charging".

Moving up to the "mini" solution, there are these 6.5 watt flexible (amorphous), photovoltaic (PV) panels. Even modest-size PV systems with a small deep cycle battery bank can make a huge difference in providing small scale lighting and battery charging for crucial security measures such as radios and night vision equipment. There are so many LED lights, battery charging trays, and various pieces of electronic gear available that will run directly from 12 VDC or from a DC-to-DC converter, that you might be able to skip the expense of a full-up system with a large AC inverter.

If you have a bigger budget, Ready Made Resources (RMR) and other vendors can also supply larger pre-packaged PV power systems, either with or without an AC power inverter. (Without an inverter, they will provide only 12 volt or 24 volt DC power.) RMR even has experience designing "maxi" systems--6 KW or larger. (BTW, they offer free alternate energy system design and consulting.)

Keep in mind that starting January 1st, grid-tied PV systems will be eligible for a 30% Federal tax credit in the US. Many states also offer their own tax credits. In some states such as Florida and California, the combined Federal and state tax credits may reduce your expense by as much as 70%, when all is said and done.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dear Mr. Rawles,

I read Mr. Romeo's retreat plans, and I would like to add a couple of things to his preparations list. The one glaring omission I see in his list is a lack of HF communications gear. VHF radios are line of sight communications, which is great if you're planning on staying within range of the coast. If he plans on heading out to deeper waters though, HF gear becomes a lifeline to Pacific maritime nets, weather information, and other useful resources. Even if he doesn't plan on transmitting, an HF receiver would allow him to listen to shortwave broadcasts. Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand broadcast to the Pacific almost around the clock, as well as other world services. I would think he could even tune into a lot of American medium wave AM stations at night as these radio waves carry well over water.

I think his case might be one of the few where an upgrade to a .50 caliber [BMG] rifle might be warranted as well. If the coasts of East Africa are any guide, the high seas could be an extremely dangerous place to be after a major disruption. The 50 caliber would make his a vessel that most pirates wouldn't want to bother with.

Just my $.02 worth, adjusted for inflation. Keep up the great work! - Tim in Baltimore


Thanks for all you do: I read your recent advice to a mariner to buy several parachute flares if they are within his budget. At ~$70 USD per flare that's a bit steep when compared to buying a east-bloc (mine's Polish,) 26.5mm flare gun as seen here for $30. These flare guns are not considered deadly weapons by the BATFE, so there is no restriction on their shipment by mail.
Furthermore, a box of 10 Czech army surplus white parachute flares will run $40. [Although they don't reach the same altitude and are not as bright as the ones that JWR suggested,] this would allow anyone to have 10 flares for the price of one. Multiple colors are also available. For full disclosure, I have no connection to the "Ammo to Go" company other than being a regular customer of theirs who is quite happy with the service and their prices, and I recommend them to friends. BTW, I recently got 20 rounds of AP ammo for my 8x57mm Mauser--something that is nearly impossible to find elsewhere!) Keep on rocking in the free world! - Eminence Frontman

JWR Adds: I also own a 26.5mm flare pistol, and recommend them. Mine is a Bundeswehr surplus P2A1, manufactured by Heckler und Koch (HK). I should also mention that there are chamber adapters made by several companies that allow US-standard 12 gauge nautical flares to be fired in 26.5mm flare pistols. One manufacturer of these adapters that I recommend is Tactical Innovations. And, BTW, the same company makes excellent milled aluminum 25-round magazines for Ruger 10/22 rimfire rifles. My family has extensively tested one of these magazines here at the Rawles Ranch and found that they are very reliable and trouble-free. It might be wise to order a few of these magazines before the upcoming election. Any new ban on full capacity magazines will sure cause prices to triple overnight.

Friday, October 17, 2008

There may come a time when a survival retreat will need to be defended, and a properly prepared perimeter will be key to the success of the defense. While many survival-minded individuals and retreat groups have likely considered the possibility of a defense scenario, many are at a loss as to how to plan for such an situation. If the time comes, a well-thought, methodically planned perimeter defense will hold up better than simply having “a bunch guns and ammo.”

Fighting positions offer several advantages during perimeter defense. Proper positions allow the defenders to observe possible threats with reduced risk of detection, protect the defenders from attack, and serve as a point of reference for reporting events to other members of the retreat. They also form a buffer between the outside world and the retreat. Fighting would-be attackers at “arm's length” is preferred to fighting them inside the retreat, because it keeps the threat away from important assets and personnel.
Fighting position placement will vary widely depending on terrain, but should always be done with 360 degree security as the goal. Follow the acronym OCOKA [Observation and fields of fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Key terrain, and Avenues of approach } when considering terrain:

Observation and Fields of Fire – Positions need to be located so that the area outside the perimeter may be observed in all directions. Fields of fire/observation (or sectors) should overlap. For example, if one position is observing 12 o'clock to four o'clock, then the next position might observe three o'clock to seven o'clock. Other positions would cover similar sectors ensuring the entire “clock” is observed.

Cover and Concealment – Cover is protection from projectiles or other forms of attack. Natural cover, such as logs, dirt berms, or stone are advantageous in a rural or remote environment since they blend in and are often readily available. Man-made cover could include vehicles, retaining walls, sand bags, furniture, or dumpsters. Concealment is protection from observation. Good positions offer defenders a place to hide to avoid being detected and blend in with their environments.

Obstacles – Obstacles force attackers to slow down, stop, or change direction when trying to approach a fighting position. Some natural obstacles include downed trees, cliffs, ravines, streams, boulders, and embankments. Some man-made obstacles include fences, road barricades, concertina wire, parked vehicles, debris piles, berms, and ditches.

Key terrain – Key terrain is any piece of terrain which offers a definite advantage to whoever occupies it. For example, a hill overlooking the retreat would provide obvious advantages for anyone wanting to defend or attack it. Other key terrain features might include intersections of roads or paths leading to the retreat, areas affording excellent cover or concealment, or supply storage buildings.

Avenues of approach – Positions should be able to monitor the roads, paths, waterways and open areas which offer access to the retreat. Attackers are much more likely to come up a driveway than through a forest heavily overgrown with brush. The farther the visibility on avenues of approach, the more warning defenders will have.

After determining where to emplace fighting positions, available personnel must be taken into consideration. If only two or three people will be defending the perimeter, then it may not make sense to build a dozen positions. Even with a dozen people, not everyone will be able to man the positions all the time. Everyone needs to rest some time, so personnel will need to man the positions in shifts. In such a scenario it would probably be better to setup half a dozen fighting positions which could each be occupied by two people at times if needed. If the situation necessitates more fighting positions than available personnel can occupy, then decoys can be placed in unmanned positions.

Equipment will also be a factor in preparing fighting positions. A backhoe can easily dig a foxhole in mere minutes, whereas it may take an hour or more with e-tools or spades. There may only be enough sandbags on hand to fortify a few positions. Different types of weapons work better in some locations than in others. Don't put the only sniper rifle on the retreat at a position that will be guarding a 100-meter approach up a ravine if there is a position overlooking half a mile of road leading to the driveway. Yours should balance caliber, range, and rate of fire around the perimeter where they will be most effective.

Once the terrain, equipment and personnel considerations have been made, the type of fighting position should be selected. As there is an inverse relationship between the protection offered by a position and the time it takes to construct, the type of position chosen will depend on the opportunity cost between the two. The basic types of fighting positions suited for most retreats will be the hasty, the one-man position, and the foxhole. Each will be described briefly here. For more detailed information, see the following US Army Field Manuals: FM 7-8 (Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad) andFM 3-21.9 (The SBCT Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad).

Hasty positions – These positions consist of nothing more than a shallow trench just large enough for a defender to lay prone. The hasty offers no overhead protection and little protection to the front or flanks, but it is the quickest to construct. If there is plenty of time to prepare, then pick a different option. Ideally, one position should consist of two trenches aligned in a V so that two people may occupy it and cover a wider sector (each prone in one leg of the V).

One-man positions – These positions are usually holes just large enough for one person. Cover and concealment can be added to protect the defender. Positions with only one person are the not as desirable as positions with two or more because they leave one person responsible for an entire sector. If something should happen to that one person, then the perimeter would have a gap. If using one-man positions, locate them within site of each other.

Foxholes – Possibly the most recognized fighting positions, foxholes are two-man pits which are the ideal choice for perimeter security. Foxholes should be dug approximately two meters by half a meter and armpit-deep to the tallest defender (shorter individuals will have to stand on something). This will ensure the best cover and natural shooting positions will be afforded to all personnel. Cover and concealment should be added to the fronts and sides of the hole, leaving the two front corners somewhat open for observation/fire.

Create a sector sketch for each position. Draw a pie wedge which represents what the position's field of observation/fire looks like from the perspective of the person occupying it. Include direction and distance notations. Draw in trees, buildings or other obstructions and label dead space which cannot be viewed behind these obstructions. This information can be used for planning interlocking sectors of fire with other positions. Post a copy of the sketch in the fighting position, so that anyone occupying it has an idea of what they are responsible for watching and where the trouble spots are.
Also, keep a copy or each position's sketch at the retreat command post (CP) for “big picture” planning and situational awareness.

Fighting positions on the perimeter, once established, should be continually improved. Sectors [of security responsibility] should be cleared of objects limiting lines of site. Cover should be added to the front, sides, rear, and top of the positions. Camouflage should be checked by walking out 50 to 100 meters and observing the position; if it doesn't blend well with the background it will have to be improved. Communication equipment should be added. TA-312 field telephones or similar closed-circuit devices are a good choice. If practical, stock fighting positions with first aid kits, ammunition, water and other supplies. Details and changes should be added to sector sketches. Crawl trenches can be added between fighting positions for a safe way to move between them.

After fighting positions are well-established, extend the perimeter with obstacles. Put concertina wire or brush 50 to 150 meters beyond fighting positions. Add serpentine barriers or speed bumps to roads or paths. Fell trees across unused avenues of approach. Put up fences. Anything that makes the perimeter harder to breach should be considered.

Early warning systems alert defenders to a possible attack. It's better to have some advance notice that someone is coming than to be caught by surprise. Some early warning systems are active (require personnel to function). Once such system is a listening post/observation post (LP/OP). LP/OPs are positions which are strategically placed outside the perimeter in a locations which offer observation of a likely line of attack. The object of LP/OPs is usually not to engage attackers, but rather to communicate back to defenders on or inside the perimeter about suspicious activity or pending attacks before trouble reaches the perimeter. Since communication is an LP/OPs biggest weapon, each one should have at least two forms of communication if available. LP/OPs should be camouflaged to the maximum extent possible. Individuals manning the LP/OP should be well disciplined at light and noise discipline to further avoid detection.

Passive early warning systems do not require constant attention from personnel to function. Ordinarily this might include a security system or even a dog that always barks when a stranger approaches the house. A retreat perimeter defense scenario may call for some less conventional options. Passive early warning devices need to be easy to build, effective, and require little maintenance. Trip wires are cheap, and meet these requirements. A simple trip wire can be constructed from "Spiderwire" (or other high-tensile, low-visibility filament), a plastic spoon, a clothespin, and WD-1 commo wire (other stranded pair wire, such as speaker wire, will work). Construct the trip wire [release switches] as follows:

  1. Split apart a several inches of the two WD-1 elements and strip back a few inches of the insulation on both wires.
  2. Pinch open the clothes pin and wrap the exposed wire from one element of the WD-1 around one jaw of the clothespin. Do the same with the other element and the other jaw of the
    clothespin. When the clothespin closes, the two exposed elements should be in contact.
  3. Tie the clothes pin to a fixed object.
  4. Tie the spoon handle to a piece of Spiderwire (you probably want to drill a small hole in the spoon handle).
  5. Clip the bowl part of the spoon in the jaws of the clothespin in order to insulate the two exposed wires from touching each other.
  6. Tie the other end of the Spiderwire to another fixed object across the path, thus forming the trip wire (it should be taut enough to stay suspended across the path, but not so tight that the spoon
    pulls out of the clothespin).
  7. Connect the far end of the WD-1 to the the device to be triggered.

Tripping the line causes the spoon to be pulled out of the clothespin and the exposed wires to touch each other. This completes the circuit at the far end of the wire. This simple switch can be used to activate flares, lights, or alarms.

If no alarm circuits are available, improvised devices like the following may be fashioned. (Check state and local laws, first!):

20 oz bottle blast alarm:

  1. Drill a small hole in a the top of the bottle cap.
  2. Insert an Estes model rocket igniter (available at hobby shops) into the hole and seal with adhesive or melted plastic (cut off the safety seal ring from the cap and melt with a lighter)
  3. Fill the cap nearly full with [FFF or FFFF black] gunpowder.
  4. Pack dryer lint into the cap on top of the powder.
  5. Screw the cap tightly onto the bottle.
  6. When the two ends of the rocket igniter are attached to a power source (6-volt battery
    should be enough) the bottle will explode with a loud bang.

Fuse flare (homemade flash pot, similar to devices available at theatrical shops):

  1. Carefully break and remove the glass in a screw-in [AC electric] fuse. (the kind used before circuit breakers were the norm in American houses).
  2. Use tin snips to cut 3⁄4 of the way through the metal strip in the fuse.
  3. Screw the fuse into an ordinary lamp socket (socket should be pointed upwards).
  4. Place photographic flash powder (available at theatrical supply stores) in the fuse.
  5. When power is applied to the fuse body, the flash powder will create a bright flash of light.
  6. A piece of Scotch tape will help keep the powder in the fuse
  7. Use model rocket igniters or fine gauge (0000) ] steel wool connected to the electric leads to light the fuse.

[JWR Adds: Although this improvised method will work, it is both expensive and labor intensive. I recommend stocking up on large 1960s-vintage photographic flashbulbs, such as Westinghouse M2 bulbs. These are available on eBay for as little as 40 cents each, if purchased in quantity. (One recent eBay auction was for 300 "new old stock" M2 flashbulbs and the winning bid was just $77.) You might also be able to find similar flashbulbs via Craig's List or Freecycle. BTW, if you use extreme caution (gloves, safety goggle, et cetera), a hole can be drilled into some flashbulbs, so that a pyrotechnic fuse can be inserted into the mesh core. This allows flashbulbs to double as fuse igniters. Resist the urge to trickle in blackpowder to create a blasting cap. This is far too risky!]

Roman candles or other fireworks:

  1. Use model rocket igniters or [a thin twist of fine gauge (0000)] steel wool connected to the electric leads to ignite the fuse on the firework.
  2. Tape the wires securely to keep them from being dislodged.

A standard operating procedure (SOP) should be developed after the perimeter infrastructure is in place. The best perimeter infrastructure in the world is useless if those defending it are uncoordinated. The SOP should address who will occupy each fighting position and what their areas of responsibility are. It should also specify when, how, and who will perform other critical security tasks including patrolling the perimeter for weak spots, checking communications equipment, re-supplying or redistributing ammunition in the event of an active engagement, treating casualties, rotation of challenges and passwords, length of guard shifts, and anything else that is imperative to the specific retreat. All members of the retreat should be familiar with the SOP, and defensive scenarios should be practiced on a regular basis, preferably by battle drills or at least by talking through the process with the aid of diagrams or sand tables.

While having to resort to defending a retreat is not desirable and may not seem likely, it is still a realistic possibility. Taking the time to build a well planned perimeter defense will be a real advantage in the event of an attack. Going without a plan could be chaotic at best, and cost precious supplies or lives at worst.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hi Jim,
I just read your novel "Patriots" and studied the Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, and both are excellent. [In them,] you talk about chem lights (otherwise known as glow sticks) for in your car for changing tires, handy around campsites, and what not. The shelf life on these, as you mentioned, is very short (couple of months in a car [in a hot climate]) and they are not cheap (or maybe just I am cheap). I found this video on making an LED version of them that is reusable.

Seems to me like a good idea for recycling the older ones that are now dead. You can buy LED glow sticks as well which may be cheaper and easier from places like this. I have no affiliation with them and have never bought from them, but just wanted to show an example.
Thanks, - Rutger (Temporarily in Costa Rica)

JWR Replies: Perhaps the easiest method for creating a glowing wand was suggested by The Gun Plumber over at The FALFiles: "After the light stick is expended, cut the end off, dump the liquid and glass ampoule [and discard safely], then tape the plastic tube to your Mini MagLite flashlight to make an IR wand--the plastic tube is the IR filter! As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, there are some huge tactical advantages to using infrared light sticks if you own any Starlight-type (light amplification) night vision gear.

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

Monday, September 1, 2008

Regarding Pete C.'s article on night operations: The great (but now sadly defunct) magazine "Coevolution Quarterly" had a great article about night vision development sometime in the 1980s (I've got a copy of it hanging around here somewhere, if only I was organized enough to lay my hands on it) that gave a brilliant method for training night sight via peripheral vision. The technique involved taking something like a lightweight brazing rod and attaching it [off-center] to the bill of a baseball cap. On the end of the rod, you attached a small white ball or disc, which you focused on as you walked. Finding a clear path on a moonless, lightless night, you put on the cap and focus on the ball/disc and begin walking. I tried this a couple of nights and though it took a while to really get the technique down, when you became adjusted to it, the effect easily rivaled that of artificial night vision devices. Apparently, with a bit of repeated practice, you can do away with the cap and fall right into the "de-focus" that allows or the ready use of peripheral vision for natural, intensified light gathering. Pete C's article reminds me that I need to try this again, and get comfortable enough with it that I can do it at will. Regards, - Hawaiian K.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sometime in the future, in a post-TEOTWAWKI environment, your retreat group may decide to send out small teams to conduct either reconnaissance or security patrols. They may want to collect information on what is happening at the nearest town or confirm/ disprove the accuracy of any information (rumors) previously attained. Whatever the mission, these teams must function as a cohesive unit every time. Their success or failure will depend on everyone’s ability to operate during darkness or periods of reduced and/ or limited visibility (to include rain, fog, snow, etc.) even if they do not have the aid of night vision devices because of expense, loss, and/or damage.

Psychological Effects
The inability to see well in darkness leads to doubt and increases apprehension. Darkness always brings out an individual’s weakness, especially in lethal situations. It has been demonstrated many times in both military and police situations that if a team member is confused, frightened, or operating in a diminished capacity, the entire team will suffer. This could lead to over-caution, which might make an individual a better target due to slowness or additional time spent being backlighted or silhouetted. The team’s ability to function (and fight) at night is directly related to confidence in individual skills, unit teamwork, and confidence in leaders.
At night, objects or shadows can appear “real”, exaggerated to the untrained mind. These illusions can come from the over-active imagination (and viewing too many horror type movies; which, due to darkness, the imagination cannot separate fact from fantasy. Illusions may also come from:
- Confusion due to an error of the senses: hearing, smell, and sight
- A mistaken impression in the mind (a low tree with no leaves on its branches is a man standing with a rifle, etc.).
- A confused mind and personal fears or phobias (a piece of rope is a snake; a clothesline full of cloths is a group of people, etc.).
As stress increases, individuals may also imagine dangers, causing fear or even panic. Fear can cause uncertainty, which could cloud an individual’s decision-making capability. This is true in all untrained or marginally experienced people. Training will diminish this dilemma (however, to some extent it will always be there); confident in their abilities, individuals and teams will be better prepared for what they may encounter

Physical Factors
Just as darkness affects the mind, it also affects the senses. Maximizing the capabilities of the senses will enhance an individuals ability to move and fight at night. Improving the senses of hearing and smelling requires training; vision is maximized by understanding how the eye operates differently at day and night and how to efficiently use its capabilities.

Hearing: At night, hearing becomes more acute. Several factors contribute to this: increased concentration; sound travels farther in cooler, moist air, and less background noise. Practice and training will help overcome an individual's fear in what they hear at night. Training enables individuals to discriminate multiple sounds, faint sounds, and sound source directions. Below are some examples of sounds that you might encounter and the distances the normal human ear can hear at night:
- Normal Footsteps (20 – 30 meters)
- Footsteps over leaves and branches (60 – 80 m)
- Normal conversation (90 – 100 m)
- Conservation in low voice (35 – 45 m)
- Coughing (55 – 65 m)
- Cocking / loading a weapon (400 – 500 m)
- Motor vehicle movement on a dirt road / highway (500 m / 1,000 m)
- Screams (1,500 m)
- Single rifle shot (2,000 – 3,000 m)
- Automatic weapons fire (3,000 – 4,000 m)
Remember sharp sounds carry much farther, and unnatural sounds are much more easily identified. When patrolling, whenever possible, try to use natural or normal sounds to mask your movement. Move quickly as possible when these sounds can be used to your advantage (e.g., a car drives by, a gust of wind through the trees, etc).
Check team members and equipment for objects, which can make noise. Have member’s jump-shuffle before moving out. Some things to be aware of:
- Loose change or keys in pockets
- Hand guards or sling on weapons
- Loose boot laces
- Loosely attached items, such as flashlights
- Items that “flop” forward when you stoop or bend over
- Water sloshing in a half-full canteen

Smell: Of all the senses, smell is used the least and often ignored. In the movie “Uncommon Valor”, Col. Rhodes (Gene Hackman) tells the team “…we will be eating nothing but Vietnamese food from now on. We don’t want to be tromping through the jungle smelling like Americans”. This was because different diets produce different characteristic human odors. With some training, individuals should be able to easily detect and differentiate between different odors. Additional clues like exhaust from fuel-burning engines, cooking odors, campfire, tobacco and aftershave can linger long enough to signal an individual/ team of possible contact. Below are some examples of odors that you might encounter and the distances the normal human nose can detect them at night:
- Cigarette smoke (150 m)
- Heat tab (300 m)
- Diesel fuel (500 m)

Vision: Vision at night is different from vision during the day. At night, eyes cannot differentiate color, and easily blinded when exposed to light. The color receptors are clustered near the center of the retina, creates a central blind spot, which causes larger objects to be missed as distances increase. Below are some examples of light sources that you might encounter and the distances at which these light sources could be seen at night with the naked eye:
- Lighted cigarette (500 – 800 m)
- Lighted match (1,500 m)
- Muzzle flashes from small-arms weapons (1,500 – 2,000 m)
- Flashlight (2,000 m)
- Vehicle headlights (4,000 – 8,000 m)
While at the retreat, members know that during the hours of darkness, everyone must observe strict blackout rules. Windows, entrances, and other openings through which light can shine must be covered with shutters, screens, curtains, and other special opaque materials to prevent light from escaping. The same is true while out on patrol (e.g. if you need to review a map, use a tactical red lens flashlight (with cardboard filter cutout – to create a smaller beam); be on the ground and under a poncho). If members are lucky enough to have night vision devices, be aware that they can throw off a retro-reflective glow commonly know by soldiers as “cat-eyes” reflection. This glow could be seen by others also using night vision devices. Members should always assume that others, not in the group, have just as much or even more technology as they do.

Relation of Vision to Light and Shadows:
- When light, such as the low full moon is faced vision is decreased.
- When light, such as the high full moon, is behind, vision is increased.
- When light is straight overhead, the effect is neutral. To the patrol looking for a target, both are easily seen when moving, and hard to see when in the shadows or stationary.
- Direct lighting will ruin your night vision.
- It is easy to see looking from darkness into light, but nearly impossible when looking from a lighted area into darkness. (e.g. standing near a campfire).
- When holding a light, you become a long-range target, while you can only see your immediate surroundings.
- Silhouetting an object with light from its rear will clearly define it.
- Camouflaged individuals in the shadows are extremely hard to see, even when moving.
- The smaller the object, the further away it will look. The bigger the object, the nearer it will appear making range estimation difficult.
- Bright objects will seem closer, obscured or dark objects will seem farther away, again making range estimation difficult.

Improving Night Abilities
Awareness: Become in tuned with your surroundings – be able to differentiate between what is normal, and what is not (or being able to notice the absence of normal sights, sounds, objects, or activities). It is also being able to subconsciously catalog the various sounds and have a mental alarm when something is not right. Being aware is something that can be developed through training. Remember, you do not always have to be in camouflage, with weapons or on patrol to conduct training. Some examples of exercises that individuals or a team can practice (day and night) are:
- In either an urban environment or at the retreat, sit quietly and carefully, listen to each and every sound, identify and cataloging each individually, rather than incorporating it into the overall drone creating by the mass of sounds. Be aware of what is natural, or normal, and when the sounds should be heard (e.g., birds singing during the day and not at night). Lock the sound into your subconscious so that you will be able to take warning when their absence is inappropriate, as well as when their presence is normal. When doing these exercises, simply relax, breathe deeply and focus your mind.
- Practice on smelling techniques. Face into the wind, nose at a 45-degree angle, relax, breath normally; then take sharp sniffs, concentrate and think about specific odor.
- Practice moving at night or with a blindfold, becoming aware of texture and feel.
- Practice moving through various terrains, during different times of the day and the year; and in various weather conditions.
- Sit around a moderately normal area, such as dry, short grass (not knee-deep dry leaves) with everyone’s eyes tightly closes, head down. While everyone is concentrating on listening, have one team member try to move toward someone else and try to touch them, without being detected; or place someone in a designated area, and try to move the team to the position without being detected. With practice, members will be surprised not only at how well they can now move more quietly; but also, how good they have become at detecting sounds.
Dark Adaptation: Is the process by which the eyes increase their sensitivity to low levels of light. Individuals adapt to the darkness at varying degrees and rates. During the first 30 minutes in a dark environment, the eye sensitivity increases roughly 10,000 times, but not much further after that time. [JWR Adds: A good diet that has plentiful Retinol (the animal form of Vitamin A) is also important. Just keep in mind that because Vitamin A is fat-soluble, you should not over-dose on Vitamin A. Remember the standard KADE rule for dosing vitamins that are not water soluble!]
- Adaptation is affected by exposure to bright lights such as matches, flashlights, flares, and vehicle headlights; taking 30 - 45 minutes for full recovery.
- Night vision devices can impede dark adaptation; however, if an individual adapts to the dark before donning the device, they should regain full dark adaptation in about two minutes after removing them.
- Color perception decreases during darkness where light and dark colors distinguished depending on the intensity of the reflected light.
- Visual sharpness at night is one-seventh of what it is during the day, this is why individuals can only see large, bulky objects.

Protecting Night Vision: While working and performing tasks in daylight, the exposure to this light will directly affect night vision. Exposure to bright sunlight for two to five hours causes a definite decrease in visual sensitivity, which can also persist for equally as long. During this same time, the rate of dark adaptation and the degree of night vision capability will be decreased. These effects are cumulative and may persist for several days. Therefore, neutral density sunglasses or equivalent filter lenses should be used during daylight when night operations are anticipated.

Night Vision Scanning: Dark adaptation is only the first step toward maximizing the ability to see at night. Night vision scanning enables individuals to overcome many of the physiological limitations of their eyes and reduce the visual illusions that so often confuse them. The technique involves scanning from either right to left (or from left to right) using a slow, regular scanning movement. Although both day and night searches use scanning movements, at night individuals must avoid looking directly at a faintly visible object when trying to confirm its presence.

Off-Center Vision: Viewing an object using central vision during daylight poses no limitation, but this technique is ineffective at night. This is because the eye has a night blind spot that exists during low light. To compensate for this limitation, individuals use what is called “off-center vision”. This technique requires looking approximately 10 degrees above, below, or to either side of an object rather than directly at it. This allows the peripheral vision of the eye to remain in contact with an object. It must be noted that even when off-center viewing is practiced, the image of an object viewed longer than two to three seconds tends to bleach out and become one solid tone. As a result, the object is no longer visible and can produce a potentially unsafe operating condition. To overcome this condition, the individual must be aware of this phenomenon and avoid looking at an object longer than two to three seconds. By shifting their eyes from one off-center point to another, individuals can continue to pick up the object in his peripheral field of vision.

Training: While at the retreat, it is important to set up realistic training scenarios, using role players, and in the terrain, your team is most likely to encounter. Since night operations are a broad topic, covering a full spectrum of many necessary skills, the following minimum things should be evaluated:
- Discipline and teamwork.
- Proper use of cover and concealment (including react to flares - ground/ air)
- Selection of proper positions and routes (geographic study of the terrain to include potential obstacles, natural or man-made)
- Noise and light discipline.
- Team’s ability to follow its plan.
- Use of contingency plans.
- Employment of proper tactics.
- Proper undetected movement
- Traveling formations (file versus wedge)
- Good planning sequence.
- Stealth techniques (night walking, stalking)
- Proper use of camouflage.
- React to unplanned contact (immediate action drills – contact front/ rear; right/ left; ambush, etc.)
- Movement on ridges and hilltops (which lead to detection).
- Abort and rally point exercises.
- Crossing danger areas (roads or open areas).
In addition to the above, the follow areas should be evaluated for urban environments:
- Moving past windows (low and high).
- Moving through doors.
- Getting over walls and fences.
- Getting under chain linked fences.
- Observation and movement techniques.

Although, modern electronic night vision devices are available, not everyone will be able to afford them or know how to use them to their full capability. Remember that fancy equipment is in no way a substitute for complete, balanced, and specific training. Therefore, night training is a "must" requirement for all individuals/ teams at your retreat. It will allow everyone to become confident in their abilities (obtaining high morale and a mental offensive spirit) even without the aid of night vision devices.

The last piece of advice I will leave you with is: The only thing more difficult than training (or planning for an emergency) is having to explain why you didn’t train. Good-luck and God Bless!

FM 7-70 Light Infantry Platoon/Squad, Appendix D, Night Operations
FM 7-93 Long-Range Surveillance Unit Operations, Appendix K, Night Operations.
Brown, Tom, and Bolyn, Heather. “Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking”. Penguin Group Inc., New York, New York, 1986

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mr. Rawles,

Thanks for the great articles. I have been able to check out your web site for several months, and have recently been able to purchase thru private channels an M1A (Smith Enterprise receiver) battle rifle. It came with a McMillan fiberglass stock and two 20 round"W"-marked magazines. I have purchased four more of the same magazines through Cheaper Than Dirt, and wanted to know if you had any recommendations on scopes and scope mounts. There seem to be a lot of cheap import scope mounts, but many customer reviews are mixed. Also, with this type of weapon, a poorly made scope will show fast. Most US military scopes are designed around the .223 (5.56mm NATO) round. Any idea on where to start with this?

I should let you know that I have land that will be used for my retreat. I will be putting a cabin together come Spring of 2009, and the land is lightly treed rolling hills. I plan to use this firearm as a fixed defensive weapon, since it is fairly heavy compared to my other firearms. I have the heavy steel bipod for this, and with the soon to be compliment of six 20rd magazines and 22 stripper clips, this should make for a decent piece. I have seen Yukon night vision scopes, but have no idea about the quality. Any advice would help a bunch. Best Regards,- J.M.R.

JWR Replies: I recommend that you buy at least two more, and preferably four more magazines, to be ready for truly Schumeresque times. The original "W" stamped magazines were made by Winchester. But be advised that there have been some reports of faked "W" and "BRW S-1"--marked M14 magazines currently on the market. Because the markings on these replicas area almost identical to the originals, the only way to be absolutely sure that you are getting the genuine article is if you buy ones that are still in the original government issue VCI paper wrapper, with military contract markings. The good news, however, is that the functional reliability of the replicas is just as good as the originals. But collector-purists would be incensed to find that they bought fakes. (For details on M14/M1A magazines, see my FAQ on the subject.)

I highly recommend the ARMS #18 scope mount. The Springfield Armory (commercial) steel scope mounts are also excellent. In my experience, even their early generation (single thumb screw) mounts are "bomb proof" at holding zero. I've owned each, and I have no complaints about either of them. I've heard that Smith Enterprise M1A mount is also excellent, but I've never tried one.

Avoid the cheap imported M14 scope mounts .I have read that many of them have either inconsistent quality control (dimensional) problems, return to zero problems, or both.

For scopes, I recommend any of the following:

Leatherwood ART scopes.

Leupold Mark 4 (PR LR) 4.5-14x40 Mil-Dot scopes. (These require 30mm diameter rings.)

Trijicon Trophy Point scopes (with tritium-lit reticle)

AN/PVS-4 Starlight scopes, such as those remanufactured by STANO Components, Inc. (Get an original USGI M14 Starlight scope mount.)

I do not recommend most of the inexpensive starlight scopes made in Russia. They have notoriously uneven quality control and poor image quality. For more details on night vision gear, see this letter in the SurvivalBlog archives.

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 9, 2008

Mr. Rawles:
I was working through my "List of Lists" yesterday, and a thought struck me like a lightning bolt: Without batteries--lots of rechargeable batteries--I'm hosed. There are so many items that I'll depend on in an emergency that need batteries: My weather radio, Kenwood MURS handhelds (thanks for that suggestion, BTW), starlight scope, and my flashlights. (And thanks also for your suggestion of IR [flashlight] filters). Without [those battery-powered items as] "force multipliers", I'd be at huge disadvantage to looters, who could be wandering the countryside in droves, if and when it all hits the fan. So, with that realization, I'm investing in a small [photovoltaic] solar panel [for battery charging], and a boatload of NiMH batteries. Do you still recommend All-Battery [as a supplier]? And who sells a small panel--say 5 to 10 watts--that is reliable and weather-tight?

The battery situation reminds me of that old poem: "For want of a nail, the shoe was lost..." Thanks In Advance, - George L.

JWR Replies: Yes, is an excellent source. If you can afford to, buy a triple or quadruple set for each piece of gear that takes batteries. (Even if you don't use them all yourself, the extra batteries will be ideal to keep on hand for barter and charity.) You are correct in mentioning the NiMH low self-discharge (LSD) technology (such as the Sanyo Eneloop). It is currently the most reliable rechargeable battery on the market.

As I've mentioned in the blog before, if you cannot afford a large battery bank of deep cycle batteries, then at least buy a "jump pack" 12 VDC gel cell unit. These are available with either110 VAC (US/Canada) and 220 VAC (UK) utility power charging cords. You can then plug in a 12VDC "smart" battery charging tray (using a DC power cord with cigarette lighter plug.) That is far more efficient than using an AC inverter and then a DC transformer (like those in most home battery chargers) That way you are just changing one DC voltage to another DC voltage--instead of a DC inverted -to-AC-and-transformed-back-to-DC proposition. (Which is very inefficient.)

To keep your "jump pack" charged, I recommend the small PV panels available from Northern Tool & Equipment--one of our Affiliate Advertisers. Once you are at Northern Tool's web site, search on Item # 339973.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers." (Proverbs 24:5-6)
Most survivalist planning focuses on physical needs—food, shelter, clothing, first aid, self defense. While the physical essentials rightly belong at the top of the list, there's almost always some empty space left in the locker/bunker/trailer/back-of-the-truck for...something. What to put in there?

Human beings are social animals, and we need each other; God has woven this into our genetic code. A "Lone Ranger" survivalist might have an edge in the short-term, but a group of survivors has a distinct long-term advantage—if they can overcome the challenges. Other than basic supply-scale issues, the primary challenges facing larger groups center around communication issues—making sure everyone is fully informed and knows The Plan. Communication helps build trust, and trust-based relationships are exactly what you need as a survivor—whether you're dealing with your family, or with the family down the road, in the next county, or across the globe.

One of the reasons I enjoy being a technology consultant is the fact that technology brings people together. Postal mail, telephone, fax, mobile phones, email, text messaging, videoconferencing, two-way name it, it's basically about human communication. As I formulate and revise my overall survival plan, I find myself evaluating various technology gadgets in this light: Would this gizmo (whatever it is) provide communication benefits to me if I were in survival mode, and, if so, is it feasible and reasonable to utilize it in that capacity? Note that what is "feasible" and "reasonable" are almost completely subjective, depending on the skill set of the particular individual or group—those who have a "techno-wiz" or two in their midst can obviously support more complex technology than others. By evaluating your group's capacity for utilizing technology, and carefully selecting from some proven technologies, you can improve your survival capabilities in numerous ways by improving your ability to communicate within your group of survivors, be it large or small, and increase your access to outside resources. Here are some ideas:
Get your ears on. The mobile phone infrastructure may or may not be operational, and even if it is, your survival retreat might not have decent reception—so don't count on it. If your group consists of more than one person, odds are that you will need to split up at some point, and radio communications give you a huge advantage in almost every situation—especially if you run up against an aggressor. Anything is better than nothing, so at least grab a set of inexpensive "bubble pack" FRS/GMRS radios. Better still, see if you can develop a relationship with a like-minded radio guy in your area, and draw upon his expertise. Find yourself an expert and get educated.[JWR Adds: See the ARRL for a directory that will include a ham radio club in your area.]

Get eyes in the back of your head...or house. A good survival retreat includes a security system, and this is a great place to leverage technology. D-Link, TrendNet and others make decent network cameras, both wired and wireless, for around $100 each. You can string network wires through the trees, direct-bury, or go wireless. Virtually any inexpensive wireless access point (e.g., Linksys/Netgear/D-Link cable/DSL routers, Apple AirPorts, etc.) can be used to provide a basic communications network for wireless cameras. Using multiple cameras with software like Security Spy for Macs or NCH Software for Windows, one person with a laptop computer can cover a lot of ground just sitting in a chair. You can even configure the software's motion detection features to alert you (by making a noise, flashing the screen, etc.) when anything moves, so the man on duty doesn't have to keep his eyes glued to the screen. Much of this equipment runs on 12 VDC, so it's perfect for photovoltaic-powered systems.

Own the night. Get some night vision equipment. Others have written extensively and with much more knowledge on the subject than I possess, but if you can see in the dark, you have a huge advantage over the guy who can't. Find yourself an expert and get educated. 'Nuff said. [JWR Adds: One night vision gear vendor that I recommend is JRH Enterprises.}

Get connected. What happens to the internet after TEOTWAWKI? A safe assumption is that the Internet will be unreliable at best, and possibly unusable. This may be true to varying degrees on a global or regional scale, but understand that the internet itself is simply a conglomeration of smaller networks. If you've built a security network like the one mentioned above, you can use point-to-point wireless links to connect your survival retreat with your closest like-minded neighbor (you do know your neighbors, right?), so you can communicate more quickly and easily. Remember, there is strength in numbers—especially when you can maintain good communications. What's more, if you build a "mesh" of interconnected networks, if just one location has internet access, those communication and information resources immediately become available to the entire mesh. Remember all those articles you always meant to print out but never did? If the server is still online, now you can get to them!

The least expensive wireless point-to-point equipment is generally going to be a pair of weatherproofed 802.11b/g radios hooked to a directional antennas. The disadvantage to this configuration is that 802.11b/g is a "line-of-sight" technology that uses microwave frequencies—so, anything that would heat up in a microwave oven will attenuate the signal. Thus, if your two locations are separated by foliage or terrain, you'll have to get those antennas up over the treetops. Not only is that a hassle, but it's also a very easy way for non-friendlies to locate your retreat. In that case, you'd be better off utilizing more specialized equipment from a manufacturer like Motorola or Trango. It's pricier, but it's non-line-of-sight (NLOS) and will shoot through trees.

Light 'em up! A good solar power system is a great addition to a survival retreat in any case, but it becomes a necessity if you want to leverage electrically-powered technology. A basic solar power plant is comprised of one or more photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which generate electric current whenever they're exposed to light, one or more deep-cycle batteries to store the excess power for later use, and electronics to regulate the voltage and manage the battery charging. Power is usually delivered at 12 VDC, which can be converted to 120 VAC using an inverter—though it's more efficient to simply use equipment that will run on 12 VDC. Don't skimp on photovoltaic gear, and I recommend sizing your solar panels to at least double your usage projections. For one thing, you'll always want more juice than you think you'll need. For another thing, many vendors quote solar panel performance based on best-case conditions, and even if they regionalize their numbers for the amount of daylight in your area, they typically use an average length-of-day instead of the shortest length-of-day, and they either ignore or underestimate the effects of cloudy days, dust coating, bird feces, etc. on PV panel performance. Solar power is quiet, too, so you won't be giving away your position with a noisy generator. [JWR Adds: One alternative energy system vendor that I recommend is Ready Made Resources Also, don't overlook the references available at SolarDoc, at Backwoods Home magazine, and at Home Power magazine.]

Protect your equipment against electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The general effects of EMP are fairly well documented, but the specific effects of EMP on various types of electronic equipment, and the most effective ways of protecting that equipment, are not so well-documented. EMP is surrounded by misinformation, urban legend, and simple unknowns. Most "experts" on EMP seem to agree that the most straightforward way to protect equipment is probably to store it inside a "Faraday box," which could be made by lining the inside of a metal filing cabinet with several layers of newspaper, or wrapping a cardboard box with a couple layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Stored in these containers, your electronic equipment is reasonably protected against EMP. Note that I said "reasonably." When we're talking about EMP, we're talking about nuclear attack, and survivability—for electronics and people alike—is obviously highly dependent on where you are in relation to ground zero, so all you can do is make reasonable preparations and pray to God for grace.

Only you can determine whether or not the benefits of these technologies are worth the money and effort in your particular survival plan. If you decide to utilize any particular technology, I highly recommend building and testing the system now, before it's needed. And, of course, you should always have a "Plan B" for those times when—not if, but when—the technology fails. EMP, rainwater in the wrong place, a broken wire, and a dead battery all have the same end result—dead equipment—and you need to plan for it. Note, too, that the ideas presented here were kept to a basic level of information due to the limited scope of this article—each topic would easily merit a fairly lengthy book, if not a complete volume, in order to be explored to a satisfactory degree—so I strongly encourage you to seek further knowledge in those systems that are of interest to you.

Again: Find yourself an expert and get educated. If you're an expert in one or more survival fields, find someone who wants to be educated and teach them. Being a survivalist doesn't mean you have to be antisocial. Remember that part of your survival plan should involve building relationships with like-minded people who have, among them, a diverse enough skill set to be able to handle the widest possible range of survival tasks. One of the primary uses of communications technology, aside from its immediate tactical use, is to build and maintain these kinds of relationships even (or especially) in a survival scenario."Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no-one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Here is a non-exhaustive list of Internet resources, to help get you started:

Night vision:
Optics Planet

Point-to-point and outdoor wireless:
Radio Labs
Trango Broadband
Motorola PTP
MoonBlink Wi-Fi

Photovoltaic power:
Solar Power Directory

EMP protection:
AusSurvivalist EMP Protection Pages
Faraday Cages
1997 Military EMP Hardening Handbook EMP Hardening Handbook

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I was wondering: How many batteries should I store for all my radios, flashlights, smoke detectors, and so forth? I'm also planning to get night vision goggles, soon. I assume rechargeables, right? If so, what kind [of rechargeables], and who has the best prices? - T.E. in Memphis.

JWR Replies: I recommend buying mainly nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Stock up plenty of them, including some extras for barter and charity. Unlike the older Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) technology, NiMHs do not have a "memory" effect. (The diminished capacity because of the memory effect has always been one of the greatest drawbacks to NiCds batteries.) The best of the breed are the latest Low Self Discharge (LSD) variants, such as the Sanyo Eneloop.

One discount supplier with a very good selection that I can enthusiastically recommend is They also have great prices on "throw away" batteries, such a lithium CR-123s.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The key to successful defense is defense in depth. In each layer of security it’s imperative to have a full 360 degree protection afforded by whatever measures, methods or technology you employ. Where it’s simply not possible to secure your entire perimeter due to terrain or financial limitations, it’s important to know what’s not completely protected, why it’s not protected, and what it’s not protected against.
To plan your retreat security, start at the conceptual level. Define what is to be protected. It might be your primary residence, or it might simply be a cache containing bug-out supplies. Decide now what the parameters of a successful defense look like (My food is untouched, 50% of my food is untouched, 25% of my food is untouched, there are no bullet holes in my roof, etc…). Identify, in writing, the consequences of failing to achieve the specified parameters. Doing these things serves two purposes. First, it will help you do develop the proper scope for your plan. Second, it will help you make some difficult decisions regarding rules of engagement and alternatives planning.

Threat Assessment
Next, you have to consider what the threat looks like. The threats are specific to your situation and you have to decide what level of threat you’re willing or obtain the capacity to defend against. City dwellers might be faced with threats like small bands of unskilled scavengers, or large groups of semi-skilled gang members with reasonably good equipment, where the rural resident may be more likely to encounter small groups of highly skilled woodsmen. Your specific threat is entirely dependent on where you are, and who is there with you.
What the threat looks like will dictate how you prepare for it, and it’s definitely not a “one size fits all” exercise. Decide now what your rules of engagement are, and the level of threat that initiates a flight response versus a fight response. A threat that is larger, more skilled, or better equipped than what you prepared for will simply overwhelm your physical security system. For example, a threat capable of long-distance attack may never engage your security at all while still being able to attack people or things at the resource. Concentrating on high-speed avenues of approach will be appropriate for opportunistic or vehicle mounted threats, but completely ineffective against the savvy scavenger with a modicum of hunting skill.
Failure to identify the threat correctly might result in too much security, which could have been invested in food water or power, or too little security, which will result in someone else gaining the benefit of your preparations.

Security System Design
All security systems have to incorporate three key fundamentals – detection, delay, and response. You must be able to detect an intruder to be able to respond to him, and you must be able to respond before he reaches the critical resource.

Intrusion detection ability comes in many forms, and they have been discussed exhaustively here and elsewhere. Our primary concern is that the detection capability is effective, layered, and sustainable.
It’s imperative that your sensor system have a high probability of detection with a low false alarm rate (FAR)--where we don’t know why the alarm went off) and nuisance alarm rate (NAR)--where we know why the alarm went off, but it wasn’t something we wanted to detect). In other words, it’s good if the dog barks, but not if it barks at everything… or nothing at all. It’s also important to note that people are notoriously poor sensors. Studies conducted by Sandia National Laboratory indicate that a human has a 2% probability of detection under normal conditions, and that they are only effective for the first 20 minutes of a watch. In other words, invest in technology if funding and opportunity allow you to.
Using cumulative probability equations it’s fairly easy to determine that several less than perfect sensors arrayed in series can be more effective that one reasonably good sensor operating alone. One layer of sensors operating at 90% probability of detection (PD) will cost a fortune and provide a 90% cumulative probability of detection (PDC). Two layered sensors operating at 70% PD will offer a PDC of 91% at a lower total price:

PDC = 1-(1-PD1)(1-PD2)
= 1-(1-0.7)(1-.07)
= 1- (.09)
= 91%

If possible, place sensors at the perimeter of your property and again at a defined line within your property. As shown in the example above, two layers of average quality detection devices are more likely to detect a bad guy than one layer of good sensors.

Sustainability of detection devices will be a key issue. If your detection solution is electronic, you have to have means of providing electricity. Fortunately, many technical solutions are designed to work off of 12 volt DC electric or AA batteries and have low power requirements. It’s important that you pay attention to the technical specifications when purchasing equipment. It’s prudent to acquire replacement units or parts in the event that equipment malfunctions or is damaged. Electronic sensors and associated support equipment may not be within your budget. If this is the case, you may elect to go with more cost-effective biological sensors (dogs, geese and others). They will have a reduced capacity to warn you when intruders are coming because they can’t observe your entire perimeter and they, like people, are easily distracted. They require some level of preparation with respect to food and health care, though this should be manageable for most budgets. The major drawback to biological sensors is that while cost effective to purchase and maintain, the opportunity to keep spares on the storage rack isn’t there. In the event that your biological sensors are damaged, replacements may be difficult to obtain,

The objective of an effective delay system is to delay the bad guy from reaching the objective long enough for the good guys to get dressed, grab their arms, and engage him in a firefight. In practical terms, the bad guy’s timeline from engaging the security system (encountering the outermost sensors) to execution of objective is usually measured in seconds. Your job is to make it enough seconds that you can respond before it’s over.

Delay can come from mechanical obstacles, or it can come from distance. The effectiveness of an obstacle is measured in seconds. An 8 foot chain link fence can be scaled by a human in 10 seconds, and so it’s worth 10 seconds in timeline calculations. Distance is also accounted for in seconds, but is dependant on the movement rate of the bad guy. 100 meters is worth 25 seconds of delay if the bad guy is moving at 4 meters per second. Having a large property can be an asset if your security system is set up properly, but is not, in and of itself, an asset. The only barriers or distances that matter are those that are observed by a sensor system.

Specific delay systems have also been discussed exhaustively here and elsewhere. It’s important to note that barriers effective against one threat may be far less effective against another. For example, anti-vehicle ditch works will provide infinite delay for most vehicles but only a few seconds delay for a bad guy on foot. On the other hand, a wide open field may delay a bad guy on foot for minutes, while delaying a vehicle only a few seconds.

The term Response, in the context of physical security, refers to the people; the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP); and the equipment used to neutralize the bad guys. Here’s where you have to ask yourself four questions:
1.) Do I have enough people to secure my critical resource?
2.) Do I have the right training?
3.) Do I have the right equipment?
4.) Do I have alternative plans?

Under optimum conditions, the US military operates under the assumption that it takes 5.2 people to man each security post 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This assumption accounts for eight hour days, leaves of absence, sick time, and all of the variables that mean people won’t be coming to work. It’s likely that you won’t have the manpower to support more than a post or two under these conditions. The fewer people you have to man each post means that, in order to maintain proper security, other tasks start to go undone. If you have only two people per post, for example, that means 12 hour shifts seven days a week with no rest – leaving no significant time for farming, gardening, or other tasks. The alternatives are to accomplish other tasks while abandoning security requirements, or to make arrangements before TSHTF to group with other like-minded people to provide around the clock security.

Proper training for response forces is imperative. At a minimum, each person must be familiar with the rules of engagement and the standard operation procedures required to accomplish the mission. In many cases, this will mean that you need to define what the mission is and how it’s to be done and put it in writing. Additionally, you have to define the threshold for response and the threshold for flight – put that in writing too. Every member of your response force should be proficient in every weapon system employed. Ideally, they’re all using the same weapon type, but in the event that they’re not, they need to be able to use each other’s arms. Every member of the security force should also be familiar with the terrain out to the maximum effective range of their weapons. Advanced training with firearms is desirable, but not always cost effective for groups of any size. If you ask, I’m certain you’ll be provided with contact information for half a dozen quality sources for firearms training.

Proper equipment and familiarity with the equipment breeds confidence in your security forces. Ideally, all of your people will have identical gear. This will ensure that spare parts are available and that weapon magazines are interchangeable in a firefight. A proper kit will include firearms, ammunition, protective gear, restraint devices, and non-lethal weaponry. Suitable arms for your security forces will be of a weight and configuration that can be handled by all of your personnel, chambers a round suitable for your purpose, and has a maximum effective range that can reach the edge of your perimeter (unless you have a really huge place!). The bottom line answer to the question “what’s the best rifle?” is – the one your personnel can use effectively to put rounds on target. Military security forces in garrison typically carry 120 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition when armed with an M16. Depending on your arms, you may vary the load out, but in a firefight you really want as much ammunition as you can carry on an “all the time” basis. Protective gear, whether in the form of body armor or defensive fighting positions (DFPs), should be able to handle impacts from any ammunition common in the retreat’s region. For body armor, [NIJ] level IV protection is desirable, though the type and manufacturer of the armor is really a matter of taste. DFPs should be constructed with overhead cover – more for comfort than protection (unless the neighbors have mortars) – and double thick sandbag walls. Restraint devices are for the bad guys that make it through the initial firefight, or for the bad guys who surrender before a firefight takes place. There are a number of items that fit this category, though I won’t offer specific discussion about any of them except to say that heavy duty wire ties work really well in this capacity. Last, each of your personnel should have access to less-than lethal control methods. Most likely, your rules of engagement don’t go directly from harsh words to lethal firefight – neither should your equipment.

If you’ve given the threat sufficient thought, then you’ll recognize that the security situation will vary widely by the level of threat present in your area. While you are planning, make sure that you address as many of the conceivable scenarios as you can. Once you reach that threshold between viable defense and non-viable defense, put together pre-planned alternatives to standing and fighting. Make sure your group knows when to bug-out and where to go. If possible, pre-position bug-out caches to facilitate these plans.

In conclusion, proper retreat security is a huge, but manageable task as long as you approach it in the correct context. The specifics on how you address individual elements within the fundamental areas of Detection, Delay, and Response are less important than addressing them in a balanced and systematic way. In order to detect the bad guy, you have to have a means of detection, it has to be effective, and it has to be on. In order to slow the bad guy down, you have to have obstacles that are pertinent to his preferred mode of travel, you have to have enough of them so that his total travel time is longer than it takes your personnel to get within rifle range, and they have to be observed. To respond effectively and neutralize the bad guy, your response forces have to numerous enough to counter bad guy forces, they have to know the rules, and they must have and be familiar with their equipment. Lastly, in a “no-win” situation, everyone has to know when and how to get out, and where to go.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the past week I've had three newcomers to write and ask me to summarize my world view. One of them asked: "I could spend days looking through [the] archives of your [many months of] blog posts. But there are hundreds of them. Can you tell me where you stand, in just a page? What distinguishes the "Rawlesian" philosophy from other [schools of] survivalist thought?"

I'll likely add a few items to this list as time goes on, but here is a general summary of my precepts:

Modern Society is Increasingly Complex, Interdependent, and Fragile. With each passing year, technology progresses and chains of interdependency lengthen. In the past 30 years, chains of retail supply have grown longer and longer. The food on your supermarket shelf does not come from local farmers. It often comes from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This has created an alarming vulnerability to disruption. Simultaneously, global population is still increasing in a near geometrical progression. At some point that must end, most likely with a sudden and sharp drop in population. The lynchpin is the grid. Without functioning power grids, modern industrial societies will collapse within weeks.

Civilization is Just a Thin Veneer. In the absence of law an order, men quickly revert to savagery. As was illustrated by the rioting and looting that accompanied disasters in the past three decades, the transition from tranquility to absolute barbarism can occur overnight. People expect tomorrow to be just like today, and they act accordingly. But then comes a unpredictable disaster that catches the vast majority unprepared. The average American family has four days worth of food on hand. When that food is gone, we'll soon see the thin veneer stripped away.

People Run in Herds and Packs, but Both Follow Natural Lines of Drift. Most people are sheep ("sheeple"). A few are wolves that prey on others. But just a few of us are more like sheepdogs--we think independently, and instead of predation, we are geared toward protecting and helping others. People naturally follow natural lines of drift--the path of least resistance. When the Schumer hits the fan, 99% of urbanites will try to leave the cities on freeways. The highways and freeways will soon resemble parking lots. This means that you need to be prepared to both get out of town ahead of the rush and to use lightly-traveled back roads. Plan, study and practice.

Lightly Populated Areas are Safer than High Density Areas. With a few exceptions, less population means fewer problems. WTSHTF, there will be a mass exodus from the cities. Think of it as an army that is spreading out across a battlefield: The wider that they are spread, the less effective that they are. The inverse square law hasn't been repealed.

Show Restraint, But Always Have Recourse to Lethal Force. My father often told me, "It is better to have a gun and not need it, than need a gun, and not have it." I urge readers to use less than lethal means when safe and practicable, but at times there is not a satisfactory substitute for well-aimed lead going down range at high velocity.

There is Strength in Numbers. Rugged individualism is all well and good, but it takes ore than one man to defend a retreat. Effective retreat defense necessitates having at least two families to provide 24/7 perimeter security. But of course every individual added means having another mouth to feed. Absent having an unlimited budget and an infinite larder, this necessitates striking a balance when deciding the size of a retreat group.

There are Moral Absolutes. The foundational morality of the civilized world is best summarized in the Ten Commandments. Moral relativism and secular humanism are slippery slopes. The terminal moraine at the base of these slopes is a rubble pile consisting of either despotism and pillage, or anarchy and the depths of depravity. I believe that it takes both faith and friends to survive perilous times. For more background on that, see my Prayer page.

Racism Ignores Reason. People should be judged as individuals. Anyone that make blanket statements about other races is ignorant that there are both good and bad individuals in all groups. I have accepted The Great Commission with sincerity."Go forth into all nations" means exactly that: all nations. OBTW, I feel grateful that SurvivalBlog is now read in more than 100 countries. I have been given a bully pulpit, and I intend to use it for good and edifying purposes.

Skills Beat Gadgets and Practicality Beats Style. The modern world is full of pundits, poseurs, and Mall Ninjas. Preparedness is not just about accumulating a pile of stuff. You need practical skills, and those only come with study, training, and practice. Any armchair survivalist can buy a set of stylish camouflage fatigues and an M4gery Carbine encrusted with umpteen accessories. Style points should not be mistaken for genuine skills and practicality.

Plentiful Water and Good Soil are Crucial. Modern mechanized farming, electrically pumped irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides can make deserts bloom. But when the grid goes down, deserts and marginal farmland will revert to their natural states. In my estimation, the most viable places to survive in the midst of a long term societal collapse will be those with reliable summer rains and rich topsoil.

Tangibles Trump Conceptuals. Modern fiat currencies are generally accepted, but have essentially no backing. Because they are largely a byproduct of interest bearing debt, modern currencies are destined to inflation. In the long run, inflation dooms fiat currencies to collapse. The majority of your assets should be invested in productive farm land and other tangibles such as useful hand tools. Only after you have your key logistics squared away, anything extra should be invested in silver and gold.

Governments Tend to Expand their Power to the Point that They Do Harm. In SurvivalBlog, I often warn of the insidious tyranny of the Nanny State. If the state where you live becomes oppressive, then don't hesitate to relocate. Vote with your feet!

There is Value in Redundancy. A common saying of my readers is: "Two is one, and one is none." You must be prepared to provide for your family in a protracted period of societal disruption. That means storing up all of the essential "beans, bullets, and Band-Aids" in quantity. If commerce is disrupted by a disaster, at least in the short term you will only have your own logistics to fall back on. The more that you have stored, the more that you will have available for barter and charity.

A Deep Larder is Essential. Food storage is one of the key preparations that I recommend. Even if you have a fantastic self-sufficient garden and pasture ground, you must always have food storage that you can fall back on in the event that your crops fail due to drought, disease, or infestation.

Tools Without Training Are Almost Useless. Owning a gun doesn't make someone a "shooter" any more than owning a surfboard makes someone a surfer. With proper training and practice, you will be miles ahead of the average citizen. Get advanced medical training. Get the best firearms training that you can afford. Learn about amateur radio from your local affiliated ARRL club. Practice raising a vegetable garden each summer. Some skills are only perfected over a period of years.

Old Technologies are Appropriate Technologies. In the event of a societal collapse, 19th Century (or earlier) technologies such as a the blacksmith's forge, the treadle sewing machine, and the horse-drawn plow will be far easier to re-construct than modern technologies.

Charity is a Moral Imperative. As a Christian, I feel morally obligated to assist others that are less fortunate. Following the Old Testament laws of Tzedakah (charity and tithing), I believe that my responsibility begins with my immediate family and expands in successive rings to supporting my immediate neighborhood and church, to my community, and beyond, as resources allow. In short, my philosophy is to "give until it hurts" in times of disaster.

Buy Life Assurance, not Life Insurance. Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are many-faceted. You need to systematically provide for Water, Food, Shelter, Fuel, First Aid, Commo, and, if need be, the tools to enforce Rule 308.

Live at Your Retreat Year-Round. If your financial and family circumstances allow it, I strongly recommend that you relocate to a safe area and live there year-round. This has several advantages, most notably that will prevent burglary of your retreat logistics and allow you to regularly tend to gardens, orchards, and livestock. It will also remove the stress of timing a "Get Out of Dodge" trip at the11th hour. If circumstances dictate that you can't live at your retreat year round, then at least have a caretaker and stock the vast majority of your logistics in advance, since you may only have one trip there before roads are impassable.

Exploit Force Multipliers. Night vision gear, intrusion detection sensors, and radio communications equipment are key force multipliers. Because these use high technology they cannot be depended upon in a long term collapse, but in the short term, they can provide a big advantage. Some low technologies like barbed wire and defensive road cables also provide advantages and can last for several decades.

Invest Your Sweat Equity. Even if some of you have a millionaire's budget, you need to learn how to do things for yourself, and be willing to get your hands dirty. In a societal collapse, the division of labor will be reduced tremendously. Odds are that the only "skilled craftsmen" available to build a shed, mend a fence, shuck corn, repair an engine, or pitch manure will be you.and your family. A byproduct of sweat equity is muscle tone and proper body weight. Hiring someone to deliver three cords of firewood is a far cry from felling, cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking it yourself.

Choose Your Friends Wisely. Associate yourself with skilled doers, not "talkers." Seek out people that share your outlook and morality. Living in close confines with other families is sure to cause friction but that will be minimized if you share a common religion and norms of behavior.You can't learn every skill yourself. Assemble a team that includes members with medical knowledge, tactical skills, electronics experience, and traditional practical skills.

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. (See the SurvivalBlog Archives for the many articles and letters on Retreat Architecture.)

Always Have a Plan B and a Plan C. Regardless of your pet scenario and your personal grand plan of survival, you need to be flexible and adaptable. Situations and circumstances change. Always keep a G.O.O.D. kit handy, even if you are fortunate enough to live at your retreat year-round.

Be Frugal. I grew up in a family that still remembered both our pioneer history and the more recent lessons of the Great Depression. One of our family mottos is: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without."

Some Things are Worth Fighting For. I encourage my readers to avoid trouble, most importantly via relocation to safe areas where trouble is unlikely to come to visit. But there may come an unavoidable day that you have to make a stand to defend your own family or your neighbors. Further, if you value your liberty, then be prepared to fight for it, both for yourself and for the sake of your progeny.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I finished my copy of the [post-nuke novel] "Malevil" [by Robert Merle.] One scene that was particularly well done was when the looter/vandals start destroying the wheat planting. I could see myself paralyzed by the dilemma: If they completely destroy my garden,then my family's survival becomes less--perhaps very much less--probable. When I start shooting them their probability of survival drops to zero.

From my understanding of decision making, especially decision making under stress, it is very important to have crystal clear, absolutely unambiguous triggers or "switches". Pull that trigger or switch and the pre-made decision is implemented.

Triggers need to be revisited as circumstances change. Rowdies pilfering pears from the tree in your yard should elicit a different response today than it would after TSHTF.
I can make the case that anybody who does not demonstrate absolute respect for another's private property will imperil other's lives post TSHTF. Post TSHTF, the margin for error will be very much less. The margin between a child surviving until the next harvest, or not surviving, could easily be as small as 25 pounds of corn or wheat. Under a "Malevil" or "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse" scenario I think I would have few qualms about shooting. However, circumstances that are less absolute would be very difficult for me.

I suspect that you have given the topic substantial thought. Is there a short list of questions to "test" a circumstance-a short list that would be of use to the SurvivalBlog community? Thank You, - Joe and Ellen

JWR: Replies: One important yet sadly under-emphasized aspect of preparedness is access to less-than-lethal weaponry.

Having less-than-lethal weapons available to supplement your firearms is important for two reasons: 1.) To show restraint and respect for human life, and 2.) To keep you out of jail for reckless endangerment, assault, attempted murder, or murder. I cannot overstate the point that the chances of a full-blown multigenerational societal collapse are very small, Thus, the odds are that you will still have contact with functioning police and sheriff departments, and might end up answering to the criminal justice system if you use unjustifiable or disproportionate force in self defense.

Of course if someone is shooting at you, you have the right and duty to defend yourself and your family. (As a Christian, I found this piece by Brandon Staggs, and this Crusader Knight piece helped me resolve this issue with certainty.)

Do not endanger yourself unnecessarily just for the sake of employing less than lethal weapons. There could very well be a situation where you think that you are dealing with an unarmed intruder, only to have them then produce a concealed weapon. If that happens, it could easily get you killed. For that reason, I recommend concentrating on less-than-lethal weapons that you can employ from a distance. Anything "up close and personal" has multiple risks. One of the principles that is stressed again and again when training police officers and prison guards is that proximity increases risk. If you can maintain distance form your opponent, you will minimize your risk of being overpowered or killed. This also meshes nicely with the "defense in depth" approach that I stress with my consulting clients. By placing multiple barriers between your family and the bad guys, you will greatly increases your chances of avoiding harm.

Sometimes a display of force will be enough to discourage looters to go find easier pickings. One of my consulting clients is rancher in the intermountain west that has large a 3/4"-thick steel plate hung up on chains above his perimeter fence gate, which is 250 yards from his house. (He has a typical western ranch entry gate with a very high, stout crosspiece.) He's told me is that his intention is that if miscreants stop and show signs of forcing his gate, he will used a scoped FAL rifle to apply several rapid shots to that steel plate. He calls it his "Go away" bell. Hearing that "bell" will be a clear message to the malo hombres: "You have 250 yards of open ground to traverse to get to my house. Do you feel lucky, or bulletproof?"

In hours of darkness, in genuinely Schumeresque times, it is likely that a semi-auto burst of tracers fired over the heads of a gang of looters might have a similar effect. One of my readers also suggested placing Tannerite targets in prominent positions around a retreat perimeter. Depending on the circumstances, that might be a good technique for getting ruffians to leave.

One strong proviso: The use of "warning shots" could be misconstrued. State laws on this vary widely. In some states, this is often considered justifiable, but it in others it is a potential felony. I would only recommend doing this in the midst of a true "worst case" societal collapse, only from a long distance (firing from cover), and only if no law enforcement were available to call. Do not do this in present day circumstances or you will risk getting sued or prosecuted!

Please don't mistake any of the foregoing as sure solutions. Merely scaring off looters might not be sufficient. Certainly don't use displays of force more than once, per customer. The first time should be their only warning. Be prepared, if need be, to follow it up with a genuine dose of RBC if they persist and thereby demonstrate that they plan to do you in.

Here are some other non-lethal weapon options:

Pepper Spray Alarms - either trip wired or set off by electronic sensor. These can fill a room with pepper spray in seconds. One variant fires up to four times in sequence. A friend of mine has one of these mounted in the vented bottom of a mailbox on his porch. It is wired for activation (on command) from inside the house.

"Ferret" 12 gauge shells (These are shotgun shells, that instead of lead pellets contain large capsules of CS tear gas or OC powder. They form an irritant dust cloud, on impact. These are not very effective outdoors, but they are very effective in enclosed spaces. Say, for example, you saw an intruder enter your garden shed, but would feel endangered if you left your house to approach the shed to confront him. Two or three Ferret rounds fired into the shed would probably do the trick. (Passing through a sheet of plywood, in fact, is the best way to get full dispersal from a Ferret round.

CS riot control grenades. These are similar to a smoke grenade, but issue forth huge clouds of CS smoke. I see a few of these at gun shows, including some that were marketed by Smith & Wesson. They can be thrown, but also could also be rigged to be set off by pulling a cable or lanyard, from a considerable distance. Since most of these these are pyrotechnic, be forewarned that there is a fire hazard. Some of the latest ones use CO2 to propel a vapor.

Rubber bullets and beanbag rounds. These are deigned to bruise rather than penetrate. (This ammo was originally designed for riot control.) Be careful to aim fairly low to void any pellets striking you opponent in the face.

Speaking of these, I've heard of rubber bullets being used on moose and bear in residential areas. These critters often become destructive, typically tearing apart people's fruit and nut trees. Rubber bullets and 12 gauge beanbags are a non-lethal solution.

Pepper gas and CS (liquid stream or fog) dispensers. These are risky because they requite proximity. But at least the dispensers are small and can be kept close at hand. Here at the Rawles Ranch we have occasional ursine visitors, so except in winter (when bears are denned up) all of the members of our family habitually go armed whenever we step more than a few yards away from our house. Before they were old enough to carry handguns, our children usually carried large 15% pepper spray (OC) canisters.

Tasers. These could be practical, but again, they are only useful with about 15 feet. I don't recommend them unless you live in a gun-deprived locality.

Stun guns. Even worse than a Taser, these require direct contact. I don't recommend them

Impact weapons (Batons, kubatons, walking sticks, et cetera) These are at the bottom of my list because they require immediate contact. They also require considerable training and practice. Their application in subduing someone is practically a martial art form, and is much, much more difficult than portrayed in movies and television. Too little force can merely be antagonistic or possibly result in a miscreant disarming you and use the weapon on you. . Too much force can be crippling, disfiguring, or lethal. (Any blows to the neck or head, for example, are potentially lethal, and if you use them, in the eyes of the law it would not be much different than pulling the trigger of a gun.)

You might also find some other weapon possibilities at the web site.

Without having non-lethal weapons available, your only other choice would be attempting to use a lethal weapon in a less than lethal manner (typically, with warning shots.) Do not consider using a firearm with the intent to wound an opponent. By doing so, at the very least you will create an adversary that will most likely seek vengeance whenever and wherever he can get it: There is nothing quite like a vendetta, particularly during a period of lawlessness. He may later ambush you. He may snipe at your retreat from long distance. He may poison your well. He may burn your grain fields. He may even wait and later meet you in court, where he will have some nasty scars to display. I regularly get letters from readers, asking about using bird shot or the proverbial "shotgun loaded with rock salt". Those are both likely to either get you killed, or get you sued out of all of your worldly possessions. In short: don't consider using any intentionally maiming weapon.

Whenever you use amy weapon, you need to think through the implications. Even what looks like a "worst case" situation might suddenly and unexpectedly end. When order is restored, you could be facing your opponent in the most dangerous arena of all: the courtroom.

Think Through Anticipated Levels of Force

When police officers train, they typically learn force escalation. An officer doesn't doesn't use his service automatic on an unruly drunk. That would be considered grossly disproportionate force. Law enforcement officers have detailed rules of proportionate force and force escalation drilled into them from Day One at the academy. Civilians are not held to quite the same standards, but proportionate force and reciprocal escalation of force are both long-standing precepts used by the court system in judging guilt or innocence.

There might be a situation where uninvited guests are raiding your garden or fruit trees. If it is dark (quite likely), you may not be able to determine if they are armed. In such a situation, it might be better to have alternatives like trip flares or remotely triggered floodlights. Also see some of the recent SurvivalBlog posts on infrared (IR) floodlights and/or IR cyalume trip flares used in conjunction with Starlight technology (light amplification) night vision gear. These will give you a strong advantage and most likely send the ruffians to flight.

Is Mr. Badguy there to siphon the gas out of your vehicle, or steal the vehicle itself? Does he want apples from your orchard, or does he want to kill you and take over your retreat? Is he there to steal a couple of chickens, or to kidnap your daughter? Does a stranger merely want a handout or is he looking for the chance to carry out a home invasion?

How can you determine their intentions? That is a toughie. But there are some red flags to watch for. If a party that is approaching your retreat dwelling is entirely armed men, then odds are that they have murder on their minds. But if a group includes women and children, the threat level is likely much lower. (They probably wouldn't endanger them if they were expecting lead to soon be flying.) Are they dressed in normal clothes, or in BDUs and war paint?

Is law enforcement help available? If law enforcement evaporates at some point in the future, even people living inside city limits may be in a comparable situation.

There is an old saying: "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail." Make the effort to acquire non-lethal weapons. I'd hate to see a SurvivalBlog reader use excessive force, just for lack of a less-than-lethal arrow in his quiver. Use them, when possible, but again only if and when doing so won't endanger yourself or your family.

Ironically, in many cases it is easier in the US to acquire lethal ammo than it is to buy non-lethal ammo and items like CS gas grenades. (Often, although they are legal to possess in most jurisdictions, because of company sales policies they can only be ordered on law enforcement letterhead.) So finding what you need might take a bit of looking and/or require the aid of sympathetic intermediaries. Two closing proviso: Consult your state and local laws before ordering any weapons, be they lethal, less-than-lethal, or non-lethal. None of the preceding should be considered legal advise. Consult your local laws and, as appropriate, seek qualified legal counsel.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hi Jim
What are your thoughts on the advantages of basements for cool storage, elevated construction for flood protection, sod roof/earth contact for insulation versus steel roofs for water collection?
Perhaps some of the SurvivalBlog readers may wish to submit hypothetical retreat layouts with advantages and disadvantages and why they would choose a particular layout design. Regards,- JG

JWR Replies: A sod roof or earth-berming creates some contradictions in retreat design goals, most notably that they typically block the defender's view of one entire flank. This can be partially mitigated by properly placing supplementary defensive positions. Sod roofs are also contradictory with the goal of rainwater catchment. My general advice is: Unless you also expect your roof to provide gamma (fallout) shielding, then use metal roofs in dry climates.

There are several distinct approaches to retreat architecture. These should all be modified depending on your local climate and the particular threats that you anticipate.

In an area with a high water table, earth-sheltered houses can only be considered if you start out by building above the existing grade, and build up embankments from there. Details on underground house architecture and design are fairly well described at the Davis Caves web site.

In a dry climates with deep wells, water catchment is a paramount concern. In those areas, I generally recommend one story house designs (to maximize roof surface area), and metal roofs for the house and all outbuildings, with rainwater catchment systems for all of them. Even small sheds should be equipped with gutters and rain barrels.

Anyone living in a high population density area or that is along a potential refugee line of drift should make the need to repel looters one of their primary design considerations. This means large cleared areas in all directions ("clear fields of fire"), ballistic hardening (most easily accomplished by sand or gravel-filled bags--see my comments later in this post), infrared floodlights (for use in conjunction with Starlight scopes and NVGs), and plenty of defensive concertina wire or razor wire. In essence, you want to make your house a "tough nut to crack", so that looters will quickly decide go find easier pickings.

A completely different approach is to make your house blend in with the terrain and go un-noticed. Outside of heavily-wooded areas, this is very difficult to achieve. Furthermore, the goal of self-sufficiency brings along with it the need for barns, greenhouses, wood sheds, photovoltaic panels, and various outbuildings such as hen houses. It is not realistic to expect that you can make all that magically disappear. But at least if you live on acreage in wooded country, you can make the entrance to your property look nondescript. If you have one of those fancy driveway entranceways, then recognize the fact that they scream: "Here is the home of someone wealthy." My advice is to tear it down. If anything, you want your entrance road to look as much like a disused logging road as possible. Plant additional screening trees. Plant native shrubbery to make the entrance narrow and uninviting. If you have a perimeter fence, you might want to make your entrance gate look as much as possible like nothing more than a continuation of the perimeter fencing.

Regardless of where you live, it is important to black out all visible light. Odds are that in a grid-down collapse, you will be one of the few people in your area that still have electricity. Any visible lights at night will thus attract looters. So bes sure to lay in the supplies that you'll need to completely black out your windows and make a light-proof "airlock" for any frequently-used exterior doors. (A wooden framework that is a bit bigger than a phone booth, covered with blankets, works fine.)

As recently mentioned in the blog, extra thick masonry construction is the best choice for ballistic protection. Another great option is an Earthship tire house. But even well-reinforced masonry and Earthships are problematic in earthquake country. There, wood frame construction is ideal, given its inherent flexibility. But what if you live in earthquake country and you want ballistic protection? What a quandary. Unless you are a multimillionaire that can afford hundreds of yards of Kevlar, then the only viable solution is to be ready to build small sandbag-reinforced fighting positions inside of your house, set back several feet from the exteriors windows. This will not earn you any Martha Stewart style bonus points from your spouse, so don't consider doing this before the balloon goes up. Just keep all of the requisite materials handy. That big pile of 3/4"-minus gravel can be explained as "some extra rock for maintaining our driveway." OBTW, unless your house is built on a slab, you will probably have to heavily reinforce the floors beneath your planned sandbagged positions, to allow them take the extra weight. If you aren't a do-it-yourselfer, then have a story ready for any workmen that come to do the job. For example, you might tell them that you have a bad back and are planning to buy a king size waterbed.

Regardless of your design approach, give it some serious thought and prayer. Life is full of trade-offs. If you can't afford to build a retreat that is way out in lightly-populated country, then recognize the fact that there will be lots of hungry, dispossessed people wandering by (or through) your property in the event of a "worst case." Plan accordingly. Defensive architecture by itself will not be enough. Defending a retreat will take 24/7/365 manpower, and that of course necessitates teaming up with other families.

The possibility of a worst case situation complete with "mutant zombie bikers" is of course very small. Rather, the odds are that in the next Great Depression the lights will stay on, crime will be relatively under control, and most of your attention will be focused on your garden and orchard output rather than perimeter security. But if and when things ever do get truly Schumeresque, then the best words of guidance that I can give in a nutshell are: to think: "medieval castle."

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.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've decided to finally purchase an AR-15 type .223. I've decided on a DPMS Lo-Pro 16 for my .223 carbine. I'm looking into a Mueller lighted-reticle scope, in the area of 2-10x40 or so. Mueller has prices that are quite decent, given the quality, and the reviews I've read. I also have a friend with a Mueller setup on his AR-15.

For a .308, I've looked over many of the FN-FAL and G3 type rifles and their clones, but an AR-type platform has been highly recommended to me: The Rock River Arms LAR-8. It uses the AR-15 design from Eugene Stoner, and accepts Metric or Inch FN-FAL magazines. This seems to me to be the best of both worlds, inexpensive, reliable magazines, and the solid AR platform, made by one of the top leaders in AR type rifles for military and law enforcement.

Please offer any advice or opinions regarding these choices, I value your opinion, and the opinions of my fellow survivalblog readers. I'd appreciate any input from folks out there that have the RRA LAR-8, especially. I'm also thinking of the Mueller scope for this rifle. (Specifically, the Mueller Tactical 4-16x50mm or the Sport Dot 4-16x50mm both priced around $240-$250.) Thanks again! - R. in New Hampshire

JWR Replies: I generally prefer gas piston designs, since the Stoner gas tube design is notoriously prone to fouling. But if you are scrupulous and consistent about firearms cleaning, then it should serve you well.

The Rock River brand has a good reputation, and since their .308 AR can use inexpensive FAL magazines, they are at the top of my list. I wasn't aware that they could accept inch (L1A1) magazines with the large locking lug. (You might want to double check that.)

I just heard from another reader that Rock River Arms has started shipping their LAR-.308 in 16", 20" and 24" Barrels. If that will be your dedicated "reach out and touch someone" long distance shooting rifle, then you might consider getting the 24" length.

In their short track record, the Mueller scopes have a fair reputation for quality. Just one proviso on Mueller scopes: Don't be deceived by their German-sounding brand name and their clever "Euro Coating " and "German post reticle" marketing rhetoric. Mueller scopes are made in Mainland China, using lenses that are mass produced in Japan.

Be sure to a lay in a large supply of button batteries, and store them in your refrigerator. OBTW, one little known fact is that most low voltage (1 to 2.5 volt) button batteries can be recharged, with varying degrees of success. Get a compact solar button battery charger. (Also great for hearing aid batteries.)

I think that a 2-10x scope for a .223 is overkill, since .223 is not a 500 yard cartridge (unlike .308, which definitely is.) In my experience, a fixed-power 4x scope will suffice for a .223 out to 350 yards. And beyond 350, you are using the wrong rifle. I recommend the Trijicon ACOG TA-01-NSN with the donut reticle. These are much more expensive than a Mueller scope, but YMMV.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hello James,
I've been putting off acquiring a AN/PVS-4 [--a Starlight technology electronic light amplification night vision weapons sight--] for too long primarily due to the expense (and other priorities). The time has come to get one from STANO Components night vision (and I'll be sure to mention your blog). I'll be getting a Gen2 refurbished scope with a new [image intensifier] tube and the other details you mentioned recently. I have three options for mounting the scope. I am inclined to mount the scope on my M1A Match (at present is equipped with a 10x super sniper scope) but have other options, an AR-15 or a FN-FAL (none of these have optics).
Note: I have one M1A but two AR-15s and two FN-FALs. I do have a Springfield [Armory M1A] SOCOM (.308) but that is probably not the best choice here. I understand that I should be able to remove/mount the AN/PVS-4 scope without messing up the zero each time but would prefer to just mount it on a firearm and just leave it there as the full time dedicated night firearm. Plus, not having to remount it is just one less thing to do.

I just want to be sure that I'm not missing anything tactically or otherwise before I advise STANO Components to set it up [with a reticle] for .308. Thanks for any input, - Pete.

JWR Replies: I agree that your SOCOM-variant M1A would be a poor choice for use as your dedicated night-fighting rifle. They have 16.25" barrels and consequently have a huge muzzle flash. While a .223 might suffice, I believe that a .308 is much more effective, particularly at long range. I would recommend mounting the Starlight scope on one of your FALs, for two reasons:
1.) FAL (and L1A1) flash hiders are fairly efficient.
2.) FAL scope mount top cover have a good reputation for "return to zero" when removed and reinstalled. Even the inexpensive TAPCO top cover mounts exhibit remarkable return to zero stability.
And thanks, BTW, for mentioning SurvivalBlog whenever you deal with any of our advertisers--or any companies that are potential advertisers.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I just returned from the SHOT Show held in down in Mordor (Lost Wages, Nevada.) Here are my top three favorite innovations that I saw there.

1) This product is number one by a long shot. It is a huge monumental leap in technology for night vision. My buddy just back from Iraq fell over when he saw it. SuperVision(tm) Digital Night Vision. Forget the blurry and hazy green from the past. The new generation shows clear blue-gray out to 300+ yards. Its clarity is impressive and the cost is half of the current top offering of night vision. for live video.
Downside-only have handheld unit-working on rail mount for front of scope-due soon.

2) A 5 inch by 3 inch water purifier that purifies up to 2000 liters, and costs only $59.95. It fits in the palm of your hand--very small and compact. Made by Middleboro Water, LLC ph. (508) 947-6824

3) A multi-tube Magazine located in fore-end stock of a semi-auto shotgun. When one tube is empty you rotate the stock to engage a new tube. Total capacity is 16 rounds. Made in Meridian, Idaho. See: SRM Arms PDF and Defense Review article. [A hat tip to Ron A., for sending those links.]

Cool factor: Beretta Pistol with 1000 diamonds embedded in the pistol grips. 90 carats total. And of course, a Perazzi shotgun set: a .410, 28, 16 and 12 gauge shotgun set costing a mere $447,000. Pocket change!

The 2008 SHOT Show had 7,000 vendors and new overflow tents in the parking lot. As you can guess I only saw a percentage of the show in two full days. God Bless, - B.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Start your retreat stocking effort by first composing a List of Lists, then draft prioritized lists for each subject, on separate sheets of paper. (Or in a spreadsheet if you are a techno-nerd like me. Just be sure to print out a hard copy for use when the power grid goes down!) It is important to tailor your lists to suit your particular geography, climate, and population density as well as your peculiar needs and likes/dislikes. Someone setting up a retreat in a coastal area is likely to have a far different list than someone living in the Rockies.

As I often mention in my lectures and radio interviews, a great way to create truly commonsense preparedness lists is to take a three-day weekend TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” with your family. When you come home from work on Friday evening, turn off your main circuit breaker, turn off your gas main (or propane tank), and shut your main water valve (or turn off your well pump.) Spend that weekend in primitive conditions. Practice using only your storage food, preparing it on a wood stove (or camping stove.)

A “TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” will surprise you. Things that you take for granted will suddenly become labor intensive. False assumptions will be shattered. Your family will grow closer and more confident. Most importantly, some of the most thorough lists that you will ever make will be those written by candlelight.

Your List of Lists should include: (Sorry that this post is in outline form, but it would take a full length book to discus all of the following in great detail)

Water List
Food Storage List
Food Preparation List
Personal List
First Aid /Minor Surgery List
Nuke Defense List
Biological Warfare Defense List
Gardening List
Hygiene List/Sanitation List
Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
Power/Lighting/Batteries List
Fuels List
Firefighting List
Tactical Living List
Communications/Monitoring List
Tools List
Sundries List
Survival Bookshelf List
Barter and Charity List

JWR’s Specific Recommendations For Developing Your Lists:

Water List
House downspout conversion sheet metal work and barrels. (BTW, this is another good reason to upgrade your retreat to a fireproof metal roof.)
Drawing water from open sources. Buy extra containers. Don’t buy big barrels, since five gallon food grade buckets are the largest size that most people can handle without back strain.
For transporting water if and when gas is too precious to waste, buy a couple of heavy duty two wheel garden carts--convert the wheels to foam filled "no flats" tires. (BTW, you will find lots of other uses for those carts around your retreat, such as hauling hay, firewood, manure, fertilizer, et cetera.)
Treating water. Buy plain Clorox hypochlorite bleach. A little goes a long way. Buy some extra half-gallon bottles for barter and charity. If you can afford it, buy a “Big Berky” British Berkefeld ceramic water filter. (Available from Ready Made Resources and several other Internet vendors. Even if you have pure spring water at your retreat, you never know where you may end up, and a good filter could be a lifesaver.)

Food Storage List
See my post tomorrow which will be devoted to food storage. Also see the recent letter from David in Israel on this subject.

Food Preparation List

Having more people under your roof will necessitate having an oversize skillet and a huge stew pot. BTW, you will want to buy several huge kettles, because odds are you will have to heat water on your wood stove for bathing, dish washing, and clothes washing. You will also need even more kettles, barrels, and 5 or 6 gallon PVC buckets--for water hauling, rendering, soap making, and dying. They will also make great barter or charity items. (To quote my mentor Dr. Gary North: “Nails: buy a barrel of them. Barrels: Buy a barrel of them!”)
Don’t overlook skinning knives, gut-buckets, gambrels, and meat saws.

Personal List
(Make a separate personal list for each family member and individual expected to arrive at your retreat.)
Spare glasses.
Prescription and nonprescription medications.
Birth control.
Keep dentistry up to date.
Any elective surgery that you've been postponing
Work off that gut.
Stay in shape.
Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.
Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.
“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)

First Aid /Minor Surgery List
When tailoring this list, consider your neighborhood going for many months without power, extensive use of open flames, and sentries standing picket shifts exposed in the elements. Then consider axes, chainsaws and tractors being wielded by newbies, and a greater likelihood of gunshot wounds. With all of this, add the possibility of no access to doctors or high tech medical diagnostic equipment. Put a strong emphasis on burn treatment first aid supplies. Don’t overlook do-it-yourself dentistry! (Oil of cloves, temporary filling kit, extraction tools, et cetera.) Buy a full minor surgery outfit (inexpensive Pakistani stainless steel instruments), even if you don’t know how to use them all yet. You may have to learn, or you will have the opportunity to put them in the hands of someone experienced who needs them.) This is going to be a big list!

Chem/Nuke Defense List
Dosimeter and rate meter, and charger, radiac meter (hand held Geiger counter), rolls of sheet plastic (for isolating airflow to air filter inlets and for covering window frames in the event that windows are broken due to blast effects), duct tape, HEPA filters (ands spares) for your shelter. Potassium iodate (KI) tablets to prevent thyroid damage.(See my recent post on that subject.) Outdoor shower rig for just outside your shelter entrance.

Biological Warfare Defense List
Hand Sanitizer
Sneeze masks
Colloidal silver generator and spare supplies (distilled water and .999 fine silver rod.)
Natural antibiotics (Echinacea, Tea Tree oil, …)

Gardening List
One important item for your gardening list is the construction of a very tall deer-proof and rabbit-proof fence. Under current circumstances, a raid by deer on your garden is probably just an inconvenience. After the balloon goes up, it could mean the difference between eating well, and starvation.
Top Soil/Amendments/Fertilizers.
Tools+ spares for barter/charity
Long-term storage non hybrid (open pollinated) seed. (Non-hybrid “heirloom” seed assortments tailors to different climate zones are available from The Ark Institute
Herbs: Get started with medicinal herbs such as aloe vera (for burns), echinacea (purple cone flower), valerian, et cetera.

Hygiene/Sanitation List
Sacks of powdered lime for the outhouse. Buy plenty!
TP in quantity (Stores well if kept dry and away from vermin and it is lightweight, but it is very bulky. This is a good item to store in the attic. See my novel about stocking up on used phone books for use as TP.
Soap in quantity (hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, cleansers, etc.)
Bottled lye for soap making.
Ladies’ supplies.
Toothpaste (or powder).
Fluoride rinse. (Unless you have health objections to the use of fluoride.)
Livestock List:
Hoof rasp, hoof nippers, hoof pick, horse brushes, hand sheep shears, styptic, carding combs, goat milking stand, teat dip, udder wash, Bag Balm, elastrator and bands, SWOT fly repellent, nail clippers (various sizes), Copper-tox, leads, leashes, collars, halters, hay hooks, hay fork, manure shovel, feed buckets, bulk grain and C-O-B sweet feed (store in galvanized trash cans with tight fitting lids to keep the mice out), various tack and saddles, tack repair tools, et cetera. If your region has selenium deficient soil (ask your local Agricultural extension office) then be sure to get selenium-fortified salt blocks rather than plain white salt blocks--at least for those that you are going to set aside strictly for your livestock.

Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
“Buckshot” Bruce Hemming has produced an excellent series of videos on trapping and making improvised traps. (He also sells traps and scents at very reasonable prices.)
Night vision gear, spares, maintenance, and battery charging
Salt. Post-TEOTWAWKI, don’t “go hunting.” That would be a waste of effort. Have the game come to you. Buy 20 or more salt blocks. They will also make very valuable barter items.
Sell your fly fishing gear (all but perhaps a few flies) and buy practical spin casting equipment.
Extra tackle may be useful for barter, but probably only in a very long term Crunch.
Buy some frog gigs if you have bullfrogs in your area. Buy some crawfish traps if you have crawfish in your area.
Learn how to rig trot lines and make fish traps for non-labor intensive fishing WTSHTF.

Power/Lighting/Batteries List
One proviso: In the event of a “grid down” situation, if you are the only family in the area with power, it could turn your house into a “come loot me” beacon at night. At the same time, your house lighting will ruin the night vision of your LP/OP pickets. Make plans and buy materials in advance for making blackout screens or fully opaque curtains for your windows.
When possible, buy nickel metal hydride batteries. (Unlike the older nickel cadmium technology, these have no adverse charge level “memory” effect.)
If your home has propane appliances, get a “tri-fuel” generator--with a carburetor that is selectable between gasoline, propane, and natural gas. If you heat your home with home heating oil, then get a diesel-burning generator. (And plan on getting at least one diesel burning pickup and/or tractor). In a pinch, you can run your diesel generator and diesel vehicles on home heating oil.
Kerosene lamps; plenty of extra wicks, mantles, and chimneys. (These will also make great barter items.)
Greater detail on do-it-yourself power will be included in my forthcoming blog posts.

Fuels List
Buy the biggest propane, home heating oil, gas, or diesel tanks that your local ordinances permit and that you can afford. Always keep them at least two-thirds full. For privacy concerns, ballistic impact concerns, and fire concerns, underground tanks are best if you local water table allows it. In any case, do not buy an aboveground fuel tank that would visible from any public road or navigable waterway. Buy plenty of extra fuel for barter. Don’t overlook buying plenty of kerosene. (For barter, you will want some in one or two gallon cans.) Stock up on firewood or coal. (See my previous blog posts.) Get the best quality chainsaw you can afford. I prefer Stihls and Husqavarnas. If you can afford it, buy two of the same model. Buy extra chains, critical spare parts, and plenty of two-cycle oil. (Two-cycle oil will be great for barter!) Get a pair of Kevlar chainsaw safety chaps. They are expensive but they might save yourself a trip to the emergency room. Always wear gloves, goggles, and ear-muffs. Wear a logger’s helmet when felling. Have someone who is well experienced teach you how to re-sharpen chains. BTW, don’t cut up your wood into rounds near any rocks or you will destroy a chain in a hurry.

Firefighting List
Now that you have all of those flammables on hand (see the previous list) and the prospect of looters shooting tracer ammo or throwing Molotov cocktails at your house, think in terms of fire fighting from start to finish without the aid of a fire department. Even without looters to consider, you should be ready for uncontrolled brush or residential fires, as well as the greater fire risk associated with greenhorns who have just arrived at your retreat working with wood stoves and kerosene lamps!
Upgrade your retreat with a fireproof metal roof.
2” water line from your gravity-fed storage tank (to provide large water volume for firefighting)
Fire fighting rig with an adjustable stream/mist head.
Smoke and CO detectors.

Tactical Living List
Adjust your wardrobe buying toward sturdy earth-tone clothing. (Frequent your local thrift store and buy extras for retreat newcomers, charity, and barter.)
Dyes. Stock up on some boxes of green and brown cloth dye. Buy some extra for barter. With dye, you can turn most light colored clothes into semi-tactical clothing on short notice.
Two-inch wide burlap strip material in green and brown. This burlap is available in large spools from Gun Parts Corp. Even if you don’t have time now, stock up so that you can make camouflage ghillie suits post-TEOTWAWKI.
Save those wine corks! (Burned cork makes quick and cheap face camouflage.)
Cold weather and foul weather gear—buy plenty, since you will be doing more outdoor chores, hunting, and standing guard duty.
Don’t overlook ponchos and gaiters.
Mosquito repellent.
Synthetic double-bag (modular) sleeping bags for each person at the retreat, plus a couple of spares. The Wiggy’s brand Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System (FTRSS) made by Wiggy's of Grand Junction, Colorado is highly recommended.
Night vision gear + IR floodlights for your retreat house
Subdued flashlights and penlights.
Noise, light, and litter discipline. (More on this in future posts--or perhaps a reader would like to send a brief article on this subject)
Security-General: Locks, intrusion detection/alarm systems, exterior obstacles (fences, gates, 5/8” diameter (or larger) locking road cables, rosebush plantings, “decorative” ponds (moats), ballistic protection (personal and residential), anti-vehicular ditches/berms, anti-vehicular concrete “planter boxes”, razor wire, etc.)
Starlight electronic light amplification scopes are critical tools for retreat security.
A Starlight scope (or goggles, or a monocular) literally amplifies low ambient light by up to 100,000 times, turning nighttime darkness into daylight--albeit a green and fuzzy view. Starlight light amplification technology was first developed during the Vietnam War. Late issue Third Generation (also called or “Third Gen” or “Gen 3”) starlight scopes can cost up to $3,500 each. Rebuilt first gen (early 1970s technology scopes can often be had for as little as $500. Russian-made monoculars (with lousy optics) can be had for under $100. One Russian model that uses a piezoelectric generator instead of batteries is the best of this low-cost breed. These are best used as backups (in case your expensive American made scopes fail. They should not be purchased for use as your primary night vision devices unless you are on a very restrictive budget. (They are better than nothing.) Buy the best starlight scopes, goggles, and monoculars you can afford. They may be life-savers! If you can afford to buy only one, make it a weapon sight such as an AN/PVS-4, with a Gen 2 (or better) tube. Make sure to specify that that the tube is new or “low hours”, has a high “line pair” count, and minimal scintillation. It is important to buy your Starlight gear from a reputable dealer. The market is crowded with rip-off artists and scammers. One dealer that I trust, is Al Glanze (spoken “Glan-zee”) who runs STANO Components, Inc. in Silver City, Nevada. Note: In a subsequent blog posts I will discuss the relationship and implications to IR illuminators and tritium sights.
Range cards and sector sketches.
If you live in the boonies, piece together nine of the USGS 15-minute maps, with your retreat property on the center map. Mount that map on an oversize map board. Draw in the property lines and owner names of all of your surrounding neighbor’s parcels (in pencil) in at least a five mile radius. (Get boundary line and current owner name info from your County Recorder’s office.) Study and memorize both the terrain and the neighbors’ names. Make a phone number/e-mail list that corresponds to all of the names marked on the map, plus city and county office contact numbers for quick reference and tack it up right next to the map board. Cover the whole map sheet with a sheet of heavy-duty acetate, so you can mark it up just like a military commander’s map board. (This may sound a bit “over the top”, but remember, you are planning for the worst case. It will also help you get to know your neighbors: When you are introduced by name to one of them when in town, you will be able to say, “Oh, don’t you live about two miles up the road between the Jones place and the Smith’s ranch?” They will be impressed, and you will seem like an instant “old timer.”

Security-Firearms List
Guns, ammunition, web gear, eye and ear protection, cleaning equipment, carrying cases, scopes, magazines, spare parts, gunsmithing tools, targets and target frames, et cetera. Each rifle and pistol should have at least six top quality (original military contract or original manufacturer) full capacity spare magazines. Note: Considerable detail on firearms and optics selection, training, use, and logistic support are covered in the SurvivalBlog archives and FAQs.

Communications/Monitoring List
When selecting radios buy only models that will run on 12 volt DC power or rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery packs (that can be recharged from your retreat’s 12 VDC power system without having to use an inverter.)
As a secondary purchasing goal, buy spare radios of each type if you can afford them. Keep your spares in sealed metal boxes to protect them from EMP.
If you live in a far inland region, I recommend buying two or more 12 VDC marine band radios. These frequencies will probably not be monitored in your region, leaving you an essentially private band to use. (But never assume that any two-way radio communications are secure!)
Note: More detail on survival communications gear selection, training, use, security/cryptography measures, antennas, EMP protection, and logistical support will be covered in forthcoming blog posts.

Tools List
Gardening tools.
Auto mechanics tools.
Bolt cutters--the indispensable “universal key.”
Woodworking tools.
Gunsmithing tools.
Emphasis on hand powered tools.
Hand or treadle powered grinding wheel.
Don’t forget to buy plenty of extra work gloves (in earth tone colors).
Sundries List:
Systematically list the things that you use on a regular basis, or that you might need if the local hardware store were to ever disappear: wire of various gauges, duct tape, reinforced strapping tape, chain, nails, nuts and bolts, weather stripping, abrasives, twine, white glue, cyanoacrylate glue, et cetera.

Book/Reference List

You should probably have nearly every book on my Bookshelf page. For some, you will want to have two or three copies, such as Carla Emery’s "Encyclopedia of Country Living". This is because these books are so valuable and indispensable that you won’t want to risk lending out your only copy.

Barter and Charity List
For your barter list, acquire primarily items that are durable, non-perishable, and either in small packages or that are easily divisible. Concentrate on the items that other people are likely to overlook or have in short supply. Some of my favorites are ammunition. [The late] Jeff Cooper referred to it as “ballistic wampum.” WTSHTF, ammo will be worth nearly its weight in silver. Store all of your ammo in military surplus ammo cans (with seals that are still soft) and it will store for decades. Stick to common calibers, get plenty of .22 LR (most high velocity hollow points) plus at least ten boxes of the local favorite deer hunting cartridge, even if you don’t own a rifle chambered for this cartridge. (Ask your local sporting goods shop about their top selling chamberings). Also buy at least ten boxes of the local police department’s standard pistol cartridge, again even if you don’t own a pistol chambered for this cartridge.
Ladies supplies.
Salt (Buy lots of cattle blocks and 1 pound canisters of iodized table salt.)
(Stores indefinitely if kept dry.)
Two cycle engine oil (for chain saw gas mixing. Gas may still be available after a collapse, but two-cycle oil will probably be like liquid gold!)
Gas stabilizer.
Diesel antibacterial additive.
50-pound sacks of lime (for outhouses).
1 oz. bottles of military rifle bore cleaner and Break Free (or similar) lubricant.
Waterproof dufflebags in earth tone colors (whitewater rafting "dry bags").
Thermal socks.
Semi-waterproof matches (from military rations.)
Military web gear (lots of folks will suddenly need pistol belts, holsters, magazine pouches, et cetera.)
Pre-1965 silver dimes.
1-gallon cans of kerosene.
Rolls of olive drab parachute cord.
Rolls of olive-drab duct tape.
Spools of monofilament fishing line.
Rolls of 10 mil "Visqueen", sheet plastic (for replacing windows, isolating airspaces for nuke scenarios, etc.)
I also respect the opinion of one gentleman with whom I've corresponded, who recommended the following:
Strike anywhere matches. (Dip the heads in paraffin to make them waterproof.)
Playing cards.
Cooking spices. (Do a web search for reasonably priced bulk spices.)
Rope & string.
Sewing supplies.
Candle wax and wicking.
Lastly, any supplies necessary for operating a home-based business. Some that you might consider are: leather crafting, small appliance repair, gun repair, locksmithing, et cetera. Every family should have at least one home-based business (preferably two!) that they can depend on in the event of an economic collapse.
Stock up on additional items to dispense to refugees as charity.
Note: See the Barter Faire chapter in my novel "Patriots" for lengthy lists of potential barter items.

Mr. Rawles,
My wife and I are are in our 50s, (never had kids) and we live in a four bedroom house on 80 acres (mostly leased out [for farming]), eight miles outside a town of 20,000 population, in south-central Iowa. Two of our cousins and one nephew--all military vet[eran]s--that live in town are planning to come out [and live with us], if and when times get nasty. We have now have (or will soon have) all our basic preparations in hand, including a three year food supply for five people, which we got mostly through Safecastle and Ready Made Resources, plus some extra meats from Freeze Dry Guy, and some canned butter from Best Prices Storable Foods. We also took your advice and upgraded to a propane [chest] freezer. (That took a lot of searching, believe me!) It now holds almost a a side of beefalo, and almost 15 gallons of frozen olive oil. (Thanks for mentioning [fats and] oils--that was something that we had totally overlooked!).

My wife and I plan to book the four day handgun course and the four day rifle course back-to-back at Front Sight, with some sightseeing in Vegas, on the weekend in between [the two courses]. We are going in April--before the really scorching weather starts in southern Nevada. (We've been warned about the summers there!) Per your suggestion posts, we [standardized] with Glock 21-SF .45s and FN-FAL clones. With five of each--not to mention the rest of my [gun] collection, which was ah-hem substantial before I ever started reading your blog--we should be able to hold off a small army. We have well water, but have a very reliable windmill that pumps [water up] to a 850 gallon tank with its overflow piped to a 2,700 above-ground concrete cistern for irrigating our garden. Water is not an issue.We also have oversize propane and home heating [oil] tanks. (Large enough that they've each prompted comments from visitors. I've just told them that I like to buy in bulk whenever fuel prices dip.)

Now that we have all the basics covered, we are ready to acquire some stocks for barter, assuming one of your "Grid Down" collapses. We have plenty of [storage] space, since our house has a full unfinished basement. FYI, it has never had any dampness or flooding problems.What do you suggest as the most important barter [item] to stock up on? We also want to have extra items for charity. We plan to do that through our church, so that our family name never gets mentioned. - Karl in Iowa

JWR Replies: It sounds like you are "Away squared"!

For anyone living in an inland area, I consider salt the highest priority barter and charity item. Buy a lot of salt, in several forms. As space allows, buy 20 to 30 of the 50-pound plain white salt blocks from your local feed store. These are great for barter--both for folks with livestock and for people that want to attract wild game. Buy a couple of 25 pound sacks of iodized salt for your own use. Also buy 100 to 200 of the standard cardboard one pound canisters of iodized salt for small scale barter transactions.

The second highest priority for barter and charity is fuel. If you have an outbuilding that can provide safe and secure storage, then buy at least a 20 one-gallon gallon cans of Coleman stove/lantern fuel, 30 to 50 standard propane cylinders (the size used for torches and camp stoves) and 40 to 60 one-gallon cans of kerosene. You might also lay in a few extra welding cylinders (Oxygen and acetylene.)

Also store some bulk fuel. If you can afford it, also install a 300 to 800 gallon underground gasoline tank and a 600 to 2,500 gallon underground diesel tank. (And of course make sure that you have at least one diesel vehicle.) You should carefully camouflage the filler necks and hand pumps for those tanks, as I've previously described in the blog. (In the "Search" box in the right had bar, enter the word "wine".) If you ever use any of your gas or diesel for barter, do not reveal how much you have stored, or the fact that you have underground ranks. All that your customers should be allowed to see is a few 5 gallon cans. Also, depending on the local circumstances, you might also consider getting a pair of used 80 gallon aboveground tanks (typical farm and ranch tanks on metal stands) clearly stenciled "Unleaded" and "Diesel" to leave behind your barn unlocked and nearly empty, as a decoy for burglars.

The third highest priority for barter and charity is common caliber ammunition. I have discussed this at length before in SurvivalBlog. (In the "Search" box in the right hand bar, enter the word "wampum".)

Beyond, those three categories of high priority barterables, if you still have extra cash and storage space available, see my book SurvivalBlog: The Best of the Blog - Volume 1 and/or the SurvivalBlog archives for dozens of other barter items that have been suggested by blog readers.

OBTW, one of my consulting clients recently suggested buying several extra pieces of inexpensive night vision gear, such as first generation Russian monoculars. These would be in demand from any folks fearing nighttime attacks from looters. Since light amplification night vision gear is still relatively uncommon it would surely be a desirable item for barter. If you are looking for night vision gear, please contact our advertisers such as JRH Enterprises and Ready Made Resources, first.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The size AA battery is the ubiquitous form of mobile power that is presently available. There is a large amount of off the shelf devices that use AA cells. They are available everywhere at low cost. They are cost effective and very safe for lighting. The breadth and depth of equipment available in a portable format is unparalleled by any other type of battery. I will cover the known factors on how to care for and use this resource to help end users get the most out of their equipment.

To start, some general information that covers all types of cells. Cells do not like heat. Heat increases the chemical reactions occurring inside the cell, and thus the self-discharge and other chemical reactions in cell. A cell will lose it's charge and lower it's life span. Keep them cool.

Cells shouldn't get wet. Keep them away from moisture. You should avoid circumstances that will result in condensation on the cell.
Do not drop or roughly handle them. Especially in the case of rechargeables, you can break the separator inside the cell and you may end up with complete cell failure. Inside of a device they're a little more durable, your device will provide some impact protection and buffering.

Do not store your batteries inside of your device for long term readiness. There is a good reason they never come this way from the manufacture in the package. It's not good for your battery and you run a much larger risk of cells leaking or venting into your device. On a short term basis in a device that sees regular use, leaving the battery in is fine.

Matched cells perform better. A battery will only perform as well as the weakest cell. Avoid mixing brands, dates, and especially chemistries and you will get the most out of your cells. The more cells a device has, the more matches cells you need to provide. So it's easier to feed devices that use a smaller number of cells.
In general, take care of them and they'll serve you well.

Primary (use once) cells are the most straight forward. They usually have expiration dates printed on the cell or package. It's important to note that this date is an average amount of time for a specified failure rate. "Fail" is defined as having less than ~85% capacity (depends on manufacture), thought it can also mean complete failure with 0% recoverable capacity. The closer a battery is to it's expiration date, the less capacity it will have and the more likely you are to encounter completely failed cells. Even with expired cells though, they often work. I wouldn't choose to use them in really important applications, but they are still useful.

"Heavy duty" cells generally are not worth messing with - they are cheap, light weight, and low capacity. They seem to only be made to sell to the "lowest possible price" consumers. I would never buy or store them.

Alkaline are the best bang for the buck primary cells. You can pick up a pack of 48 cells for around $10 at COSTCO last I checked (Duracell is believed to be the OEM for Kirkland brand cells). The price has gone up approximate 10-15% in the last year, which seems likely to continue. Alkaline's are good performers under "average" conditions. They do not like low temperatures, and they do not like high current draw (cameras, some flashlights, and possibly other devices). Once you place a battery into a device, I recommend you use it up. Do not return [primary] cells into storage once you've started to use them.

Lithium cells provide the widest temperature and current rating of all primary cells, though you pay the most for the best performance. I do recommend having a few for important gear, red dot sights, night vision,and so forth, [reserving them] especially for emergency winter use.

Rechargeable cells are much more economical for the regular user. Unfortunately they require better understanding to maximize their useful life. So I'll go over NiMH extensively and also address NiCd.
In a quick overview of the current tech of AA cells. NiCd is the most durable battery chemistry, it has capacities ranging from 600-1000 [mil-Amp Hours] (mAH) It has the best temperature performance envelope, endures heat and over charge best, will operate with more cycles. NiMH is the most common consumer cell these days, mostly due to the capacity advantage which run in the 1800-2700 mAH range at present. NiMH also has a new variant on the market I will dub low self discharge (LSD) cells. LSD cells are in the range of 2000-2100 mAH as of this writing and have many advantages over traditional NiMH that mostly come from an effort to stabilize it. They are new, so some data points are not borne out over years, but current evidence indicates that they perform as advertised. I recommend LSD cells for most people over all other varieties, I'll go into more detail why below. First, the brands and types currently on the market. The top brand in my opinion is Eneloops (2000 mAH) from Sanyo, it simply does the low-self-discharge thing better than the competition. The rest of the field seems to originate from a single manufacture or the same licensed design, but there are a bunch of competing cells. Rayovac Hybrids, Hybrios, Titanium Enduros, and a bunch of others (2100 mAH). Given equivalent, or near equivalent prices, I'd pick the eneloops.

In both types of chemistry, the higher capacity cells are more fragile than the lower capacity cells. It's an engineering trade off. The 2700 mAH whiz bang top-of-the-line cells are not your best bet for good durable cells, they are actually fairly fragile (chemically and physically) because of this trade off. Around 2000 mAH is not only cheaper (usually) but yields a cell that will see a longer service life, more cycles, and less likely to fail if dropped. Lower than 2000 in NiMH does not appear to hold significant advantage in durability in most respects. LSD cells appear to be at least as durable as their 2000 mAH NiMH counterparts.

Standard NiMH cells have an approximately life span of 3 years. Cheaper brands may have less. NiCd cells have an estimated 5+ year life span. Much beyond these points or even before them (especially with high capacity cells), increased internal resistance, lowered capacities, and higher self discharge are the norm. NiCd doesn't exhibit a large amount of this and usually fails with internal shorts (complete failure) or excessively high resistance. These numbers are very temperature dependant, colder storage conditions will lengthen the time, warmer will lower it. LSD NiMH cells currently have no data in this regard, they're advertised as having better longevity than NiMH cells, and I would tend to believe them due to the engineering trade offs picked. However, they've only been out for about 1.5-2 years now. To date, my oldest cells (1.5 years old), lightly used, perform like new - so far so good.

Self discharge is one of the biggest inconvenient things about rechargeable cell use. NiMH cells discharge by themselves very quickly. They discharge on the order of a couple of months when new and the rate increases significantly with age and use. NiCd cells have about half the self discharge rate and this usually won't vary much up until cell death. LSD cells shine in this regard, the self discharge slows down after a charge to almost a stand still in a little over a months time. LSD cells will retain around 85% (Eneloops) to 80% (rest of the field) charge after a year of storage at around 70 degrees.
Keeping the voltages up during use is important for many devices and one of the principle reasons rechargeables deliver poor performance in some devices. Standard NiMH suffers from voltage sag over time. It will start out at a nice high 1.4 volts fresh off the charger. Soon it finds it's way to 1.3-to-1.2 v open voltage. If left on the shelf it will fall over time. Many devices require a minimum voltage to operate correctly, if this minimum is above what your battery can deliver under load your device will shut down (can be 1.2v per cell, and NiMH will often fail to meet this under less than ideal circumstances!) If you experience significant performance difference between primary cells and rechargeable cells (especially older ones) this is likely the problem, especially combined with self discharge "usable capacity" drops very quickly. NiCd cells can suffer from a form of voltage sag, it is not as pronounced as NiMH but it can also happen in mid-discharge and is related the over marketed term cell "memory". This problem can usually be corrected with a couple exercise cycles and a good top off charge. LSD cells retain their voltage very well on the shelf, like their charge, and also deliver better than average voltages in normal use anyway. You will usually see much better performance from LSD cells in these voltage sensitive devices than NiMH or even NiCd. If you've been frustrated with rechargeables in the past in some of your devices give some LSD cells a try!

The most common method to kill cells is poor charging practices. I can't stress this enough, especially with NiMH cells, buy a good ["smart"] charger. Usually cells are allowed to "cook" on a standard charger for far, far too long. Remember, heat is bad! It's normal for them to get warm at the end of a charge cycle (not burning hot!). If they continue to stay warm (or worse, hot) for several hours later, you have a [traditional "dumb"] charger that is cooking your cells. I recommend a Maha-C9000 as a good high end charger. On a lower budget I recommend a Duracell 15 minute charger. {To be ready for various circumstances,] I prefer to have both chargers available. The C9000 is a slower charger (relatively) but it will not cook your cells, you can leave them in the unit. The unit has options that allow you to easily exercise cells and see if they are improving. You can match cells to obtain the best performance from them and identify poor performing cells quickly. It also charges individual cells rather than pairs, which is better for them - especially a mismatched pair. The Duracell 15 minute charger is a quality unit that also allows "busy you" to not walk away for hours waiting for, and forgetting about, your batteries. You will be less likely to forget about them and allow them to be cooked on the charger. Some good charging technology goes into the 15 minute chargers, so while they are a little rough compared to a good slower charge - they are actually very good at what they do, especially compared to the cheap junk [chargers] on the market. Fast charging is also fairly energy efficient, reducing the power required to get a full charge. Both of these chargers run on 12 volt DC input so they can plug directly into 12 volt systems allowing for use in a car or directly off a battery based [alternative energy] system (PV, wind, etc).

Do not charge cells when they are below freezing (32 F/0 C). You will damage them. If you really need a charged cell, warm it up in your pocket (preferably the charger too) and use the 15 minute charger. The charge cycle should provide enough heat to keep it above freezing until it's done. Avoid chargers that come with your cells, generally they are poor.

When brought out of long term storage, cells will usually need "exercise". NiCds especially need fairly significant exercise before returning to full capacity. 5+ full cycles may be required, rule of thumb is exercise until you stop seeing capacity gains. This is easiest with a charger like the C9000 with capacity readouts. NiCds should be stored discharged. NiMH cells should be stored with a charge. LSD cells require significantly less maintenance and may not need any exercise at all and will likely have a serviceable charge intact after storage, depending on the length of time in storage and at what temperature.
NiMH cells like to be treated gently. When you're done with your device, recharge the cells. The more shallow the cycle the better. Full cycles will wear on them the most. Keep NiMH cells topped off and they'll last the longest. Occasionally you may need to perform a deep cycle to restore some performance if the cell appears to be waning. The more advanced NiMH care systems like on the Toyota Prius reportedly keep cells at 60-80% capacity and only use about 20% depth in discharge cycles, which seems to be the most chemically repeatable and stable region. NiCds stand up to abuse a lot better, in fact a regular full discharge is good for them and will help you avoid issues with the cells. It's not required for every charge, but once a month or so should keep it's performance high.

I suggest avoiding C and D size rechargeable cells. They are expensive, there are no LSD variants at present, your charging options are more limited, they take forever to charge, and there are adapter sleeves readily available to make AA cells fit these sizes. D sized alkaline cells are reasonable for storage and use for the price. C size cells are usually overpriced and are often repackaged AA cells anyway - use the adapters. COSTCO presently sells an excellent Eneloop kit that includes 8 AAs, 4 AAAs, 2 AA->C adapters, 2 AA->D adapters, and a cheap charger for $26.

Earlier generation NiMH cells had a very poor temperature envelope. There are evidences that this has improved and the LSD introduction advertised even better cold temperature performance. Unfortunately, to date, I am unable to find information or a datasheet to quantify this. I've done a bit of my own testing down to 0 F, the limit of my freezer, and have found no appreciable drop in capacity (old NiMH tech struggled below freezing). I can't really quantify if LSD NiMH is inferior or superior to NiCds at present, so suffice it to say they both do reasonably well in the cold (just remember not to charge them when they are below freezing).

In summary, I don't see any reason to buy any non-LSD NiMH cells these days. LSD tech has dramatically improve the performance and user friendliness of the cells, and hopefully longevity, durability, and cycle life too. However, it is new and relatively unproven tech. NiCd is the old known workhorse and there is good reason why power tools and similar equipment still ship with NiCd cells. It's worth having a few NiCds around as a backup because of their track record. For general use, the Sanyo Eneloops are the way to go.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I read the responses to my article and wanted to write a reply that addresses Pathfinder's comments, which in a nutshell said my examples with [registered] suppressors [for firearms] and night vision were dangerous and would give the wrong idea about being a "survivalist".

Pathfinder, I appreciate your worry that some people may have an over active imagination and end up doing some bad things given the ideas for possible tactics to use in an absolute worst case scenario, or that these tactics may scare off people who are just learning about survivalist information and browsing the site. However, as you said yourself, "we do not know how severe, how long, how dangerous, or how chaotic the theoretical "hard times" can or even will be! I feel the need to prepare, but I pray that I never need to use it."

You are totally correct. that "We do not know how severe, how long, how dangerous, or how chaotic" things will be. For all we know, a terrorist nuke could go off in Los Angeles tomorrow morning, crash the world economy, have complete breakdown of law and order, martial law, and implementation of numerous executive orders (that are already on the books) that would turn the United States into something worse than Nazi Germany within a month. So since I don't know the future and what it may bring, what harm could it be to allow my imagination to consider the absolute worst possible scenarios and what I would need to do to survive them? Night vision and suppressors have excellent non-combative uses. It is nice to star gaze with night vision, and having suppressors lets me shoot without hearing protection on.

But if things ever really go south, I can use those things and all the clever tricks I can think of, to defeat my enemies and be a shining example of what one free American can do without the aid of a Nanny government. The greatest strength is in you, the individual citizen. With our freedoms we can arm ourselves, train ourselves, and protect ourselves and our neighbors during times of crisis. That is what America is supposed to be about, safeguarding the inherent rights and freedoms of the individual human being to allow for the greatest growth and strength of each individual. I choose to exercise my right to bear arms, of all kinds, and am proficient in their use. And should danger of any kind ever arise to threaten myself, family, friends, community, or country, then that danger will be met by what is the single best answer to all dangers--a prepared American citizen. - Robert R

Saturday, January 19, 2008

As preface, I would like to say that I abhor violence and believe killing should only be done when absolutely necessary, but if things in America ever deteriorate to the point of national collapse, with murderous gangs of looters, or other violent oppressive groups wandering the land, it might be worth going on the offensive instead of sitting tight and hoping for the best. Even in the most well-defended retreat, a dedicated group of aggressors has all the time in the world to devise an attack strategy that could defeat you. They could rain .50 caliber rounds on you from a mile away, or take pot shots at you any time you peek out a window or attempt to go outside, until you run out of food or ammunition, or they could set your retreat on fire.

Sometimes it is necessary to go on the offensive to erase the enemy capability to do you harm. One or two well-equipped, well-trained individuals can defeat a much larger force. Unconventional tactics must be adopted, with a guerrilla "hit and run" strategy in mind. Sun Tzu wrote the widely known "The Art of War" [which is available as a free e-book.] It is still taught in military institutions around the world. The concepts laid out all those years ago are still the same that work today.

For the sake of brevity, this is my extremely condensed version of The Art of War. (I suggest that you get a copy and study it.) These are the principles that guide my ideas in resisting an government gone crazy, foreign invasion, or terrible social disorder where all Schumer has broken loose.

1. When you avoid battle, you are invulnerable. When you partake in battle, you become vulnerable. (this ties directly with Concept 2:

2. Only choose the battles that you know you will be victorious in. Having the wisdom to avoid battles you cannot win, and knowing how to strike when you cannot lose, makes you invincible.

3. It is greater to take the enemy's weapons, equipment, food, resources, than it is to destroy them.

Concepts explained

1. It is pretty easy to understand this concept. If you never attend the gun battle, you can never get killed in the gun battle. If you decide to show up, you risk being shot. This brings us to the next concept, which is extremely simple if you keep concept #1 in mind, but extremely complicated because…

2…there are in infinite amount of possible variables that could contribute to your tactical situation. The enemy may or may not have snipers over looking his "weak" points to pick off possible troublemakers.
The enemy may or may not have any number of tools at his disposal, from land mines, to guard dogs, thermal night vision, surveillance drones, or any assortment of lethal and unseen assets intending to capture or kill you.

This is where knowing your enemy comes into play. You have to make a study out of the enemy. When do certain activities happen? (Guard shift changes, meal time, sleep time, patrols, et cetera.)
What is left unguarded and when? What is the chain of command? Where are the communications located? What events will cause a mobilization of forces? All these questions and many more must be asked and answered. It only benefits you to know as much as possible about your adversary.

All that information helps you to decide if you can potentially make a strike against your enemy without taking losses, or by taking acceptable losses. Acceptable losses in a group of five family members may mean that only a plan that is likely to produce no losses is acceptable. But if you are taking part in a full scale guerilla war against an occupational military force, then some losses may be acceptable if certain objectives have to be met for victory on a strategic level.

Concept 2 is to only fight when you know you will win. This is done by gathering as much information as possible and putting yourself in your enemy's shoes so you can choose when, where, and how you want to fight.

3. If possible, recover any assets from your enemy that may be of potential use. Magazines, weapons, armor, night vision, batteries, anything. This also means gathering items of possible intelligence value like; unit patches, force deployment maps, supply information, duty rosters, and chain of command information. You could even steal uniforms for possible impersonation of enemy forces in later operations. Your victory is all the sweeter if your engagement not only produces dead bad guys, but extra weapons and supplies to continue the fight and lessen the strain on your own supplies.

Make the best use of your money to allow you the most capabilities in combat.

Arm and equip yourself in a manner that allows you flexibility in tactics so you can choose to fight and win in instances that someone might normally be unable to fight at all. For example.

Example: John decides he is going to buy an M1A, a FAL, two AR15s, two Mini-14s, one Glock, one SIG pistol, one HK pistol, and a couple of revolvers. He buys 10 sets of woodland BDUs and 3 pairs of GI combat boots. He spends an additional $2,000 on all the different spare magazines that he will need for all his different guns. He spent roughly $12,000 for everything and is essentially limited to carrying one rifle and a sidearm, and being camouflaged in a woodland environment no colder than 45 degrees. The other weapons will stay at home and he can't go out on operations during the winter months because he would freeze.

Example: Bill buys an AR-15, mounts an EOTech sight with night vision capability and an AAC suppressor, along with 500 rounds of subsonic .223 ammunition. He buys a set of decent Generation III night vision goggles. He buys a few sets of BDUs for the summer months and heavier clothing for the winter months, including cold weather boots. He also buys a .45 pistol with suppressor and pretty much all .45 ammo in the 230 grain weight is subsonic already. Last but not least, he buys a tactical vest to carry all his magazines and side arm in for easy access.

Bill spends about the same amount of money as John, yet is a much more well-rounded warrior. He can operate in just about any climate, save for extreme weather. He could sneak around at night with night vision goggles and utilize his suppressed weapons to take out any threats with barely making a sound [that could be heard more than a short distance away]. (Subsonic ammunition is essential.)

Bill could sneak into an enemy camp and quietly send potentially dozens of people off into the after life with his suppressed pistol, and walk away without anyone ever knowing he was there. John on the other hand could do no such thing. John would stumble through the darkness, possibly bump into someone, and discharge his weapon, waking up everyone within a mile.

So try to spend your money in ways that add to your capabilities. Some redundancy is good, but some flexibility is very important as well.

Be creative in your tactics Be creative in your fighting. Use outside the box thinking. For instance:
In many previous wars, weapons have been booby trapped to explode when fired. Ammunition can be loaded to explosive pressures and left for the enemy to find. Poisons quietly poured into tomorrow's breakfast ration during the night could potentially incapacitate a large majority of the enemy force in one sitting. Creating diversions to draw attention away from your main objectives is often a good idea. Setting fires in multiple places simultaneously creates confusion and panic. You get the idea, just be creative. Use all things to your advantage!

Most people reading this blog have probably read JWR's novel, "Patriots": Surviving the Coming Collapse", so I will use a few examples of how things could have gone differently if the characters in the book had some other equipment on hand during some of their battles.

Somewhat early into the book, a number of vehicles try to attack the retreat but are stopped by small arms fire and are eventually killed after a gun battle with some well trained and entrenched defenders. Just to throw out an idea for additional defensive measures. Create pieces of cover for attackers to use when attempting to overtake your position. If you are over looking 200 yards of open grass, you place seemingly harmless things leading up to your position that can be used as cover. Maybe a small shed that one might think is used for storing tools.

When attacked, enemy forces will try to use this shed for cover and will take refuge behind it. Unknown to them, the shed is filled with 50 pounds of Tannerite[--a binary explosive target mixture that is legal for individual to own without any permit or license in most of the US--] and gasoline. When they get close enough to use it for cover, you shoot the shed, detonating the explosives and fuel, creating one h**l of a blast and fireball, and eliminating [or at least badly discouraging] the attackers that were hiding behind it.

Another situation the characters found themselves in was when they were driving to go rescue two of their own who hadn't been able to make it to the retreat. On the journey they encounter a road block and one of their members is shot and killed. That night the two remaining members of the rescue team ambush the road blockers and kill them during a pretty one sided shootout.

If the rescue team had a set of night vision goggles they could have traveled completely by darkness and possibly avoided detection. Also, upon spotting the road block, one member could have approached the road block on foot with a suppressed pistol and neutralized all the threats as they slept without drawing any attention to the area with loud gun shots and without risking any team members in a shootout.

I hope that this helps everyone think more outside the box when considering their preparedness plans. Be as aggressive as possible without being reckless. Remember the basic concepts and think, move, and fight like a predator.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The letters reacting to my friend's mobile, radio-controlled Glock platform make some very good points. The triggering systems of these particular machines were built on very simple eccentric cams (powered by cannibalized motor-driven wheel components) that were intentionally de-powered after a single revolution. In this configuration, shots were limited to about a one second interval, requiring another push of the button for another shot. It could've been made into a "rapid fire" mechanism but the builder didn't see any advantage to such a modification.
The trigger used a redundant system of three simultaneous frequencies in order to compensate for the potential of radio signal mishaps, and if I recall correctly, a couple of them were unusual ones (this was above my pay grade but child's play for my acquaintance.) He figured that the chances of all three required frequencies hitting the antennae of his creation at the same time, accidentally, was nigh on to nil. However, I should also add that his proposed usage of these machines was limited to the most dire of circumstances.

I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that this kind of construction should be left to the most technically capable among us (building this kind of thing from scratch as my friend did is well beyond my present abilities). I will also note that finding a safe place to work on something like this is quite difficult as any responsible gun range would ban these contraptions as fast as they would a drunk hand-gunner. The point I was making is that variations of these things are starting to be purpose-built for the military and that it is inevitable that the same technology is going to eventually filter down to the civilian market, from OEMs to home-brew copycats.

In the eight or so years since these "toys" were tested, technology has jumped by leaps and bounds. New examples could incorporate GPS and software limiters that specify where shots can't be fired (to protect yourself and your neighbors) along with a number of non-lethal alternatives including green laser "dazzlers" which can be used to temporarily blind or disorient an attacker. They could also be built without any ballistic hardware, making them simple mobile platforms for wireless cameras to operate as surveillance in dangerous conditions. In case it hasn't been said enough already, don't build anything lethal along these lines unless you're a professional with an ingrained obsession about safety! - Hawaiian K.

JWR Replies: Use extreme caution and do plenty of research before contemplating using any laser with the intent to "dazzle" an opponent. Some laser wavelengths are not considered "eye safe"--they can cause irreversible retinal burns. OBTW, I discussed both eye safe and non-eye safe lasers in my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse" and in a series of articles that I wrote when I was a full time associate editor for Defense Electronics magazine, back in the late 1980s. These articles primarily described the U.S. Army's now defunct Dazer (hand held) and Stingray (tactical vehicle/aircraft-mounted) laser weapon programs. Both had been intended to counter enemy EO sensors, but were unfortunately indiscriminate in damaging the Mark I human eyeball. (They used high power Alexandrite lasers, which were not eye safe.) As I recall, the Dazer program was cancelled around 1992, and the larger Stingray system development was de-funded in 1996, right around the time of ratification of the UN Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. (Main reference: Rawles, James W. "Directed Energy Weapons: Battlefield Beams." Defense Electronics, August 1989. v. 21, no. 8, p. 47-54.)

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.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One thing to note about generator noise reduction. It's not just a matter of running quiet by normal standards. It's a matter of running quiet when nothing else is making any noise. With the grid down, a lot of normal background noise will be gone. That was one reason for my choice of solar electric power over a generator. - Raymond

JWR Replies: Remember that light discipline will be just as important as noise discipline, post-TEOTWAWKI. It is important to have the materials on hand to black-out your windows. Regardless of your power source, if you have power when nobody else does for blocks--or miles, then your house would be a "come loot me" beacon at night. Buy a stack of 1/2-inch plywood and two dozen 2"x4"x8' studs now. Carefully measure and cut inserts for each of your windows, and label each of them for quick reference. The edges can be wrapped with rags or old blankets. They can be tacked in place (so that they don't fall inward) with finishing nails or power screws driven in above, parallel to the sheet of plywood. At the same time, build a framework of 2x4s so that you can make a relatively light proof "airlock"--something a little bigger than a phone booth. It can be covered in opaque blankets. That way you can open your front door without fear of a blast of light escaping. T o be prepared for any overlooked light leaks, buy a few cans of expanding insulating foam (such as Dow "Great Stuff", available at any hardware or building supply store such as Lowe's or Home Depot) and some dark spray paint. Once you have your blackout shutters up, do a check for light leaks. As a final test, look for light leaks while wearing night vision goggles. (You will be amazed at what you missed!) It takes considerable effort to make a house that light-proof. But perhaps that is overkill, considering the capabilities of most would-be looters.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I'd appreciate your advice. I am in the process of getting my family dialed-in for a long term collapse. (My main concern is a post-Peak Oil economic collapse.) Since I expect "the problem" to last at least 5 or 10 years before the economy gets reorganized (at a much lower level, and prolly much more dispersed and localized), I have worries that if I get a Starlight scope or goggles that they will be inop[erative] within three or four years, given constant use. From all that I've read, even the best [light amplification] tubes eventually burn out. I'm also worried that it would take 40 or 50 rechargeable batteries--even those gee whiz nickel hydride "no memory" batteries to last me [through the scenario]. What is the best alternative for someone looking at a 10+ year problem, yet still wanting the advantages of Starlight-type technology? And is there anything else that is low tech (other than friggin' bells on strings) that I can use for night time defense of a retreat out in the wilds? Thank You Sir, - Allen D.

JWR Replies: There are a couple of alternatives that I can suggest. First, is buying a brand new "low hours" Gen 2 or Gen 3 night vision scope that uses standard type AA batteries plus a spare intensifier tube, and of course plenty of spare batteries. My recommended suppliers for Starlight weapon sights and goggles are JRH Enterprises and Ready Made Resources. For full mil-spec units as well as spare intensifier tubes, talk to STANO Components. For additional rechargeable batteries at a discount price, contact As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, every well-prepared family should also have a small PV panel for battery charging.

One lower technology alternative to Starlight technology, as described in my novel "Patriots", is tritium-lit scopes, such as those made by Trijicon. I am often quoted as saying that I consider them "the next best thing to a starlight scope." I still do. We have six of these scopes on our rifles here at the Rawles Ranch, including three ACOGs. The half-life of tritium (a gaseous isotope of hydrogen) is 11.2 years, meaning that through radioactive decay they have one-half of their original brightness after 11.2 years. So the practical effective life of a tritium scope is 22 years, and the practical effective life of tritium iron sights is 33+ years. (The latter are much too bright for my liking when new from the factory. We have three Colt M1911 series .45 ACP handguns that were retrofitted with factory-fresh Trijicon iron sights in 1994. Now, some 13 years later, in my opinion they have only just now "mellowed" (by radioactive decay) to the point that I consider them practical for tactical night shooting. I probably won't have them replaced until around 2024. Trijicon scopes and iron sights are available at quite competitive prices from CGW. (One of our advertisers.) Tell them that Jim Rawles sent you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I have been corresponding with an infantry soldier (E-6 [pay grade]) in Iraq named Ray that I met through BTW, thanks for running that free ad for them on SurvivalBlog. All those "forgotten" soldiers need our real support--not just a "Support Our Troops" yellow ribbon magnet on the backs of our cars. In the last 8 or 9 months I have sent more than 30 "care packages" in [Priority Mail] Flat Rate boxes to [ addressees in] Iraq and Afghanistan.

In our e-mails, one of the things that Ray mentioned a couple of times really impressed me: It is that one of the crucial logistics for modern armies is spare batteries. He described how they go through hundreds of them, for radios, tactical flashlights, sensors, laser target illuminators and designators, and night vision gear/thermal sights. As I look forward to potential hard times in this country, I think that we should learn a lesson from the Iraq experience: never run out of batteries.

So I've resolved to never let my family run out of batteries, even if the "problem" lasts for a decade. I took your advice and got a small [5 watt] solar [photovoltaic] panel from Northern Tool & Equipment which I've already rigged to charge batteries, using an "automobile" (12 volt DC) charging tray. (It looks like a regular home charger, but it has a 12 volt [input power] cable with a cig[arette] lighter plug.) This gives me straight DC-to-DC charging, without an energy hogging inverter in the middle of the equation. Thanks also for making that suggestion! For my retreat , I'm planning to buy one of the 8 watt panels from Safecastle, in a similar battery charging arrangement. That way I'll have a separate charging system, even if I have to E&E on foot and leave my 5 watt battery charging panel at home. I've also stocked up very heavily on nickel [metal] hydride [NiMH] batteries.of various and sundry sizes, plus some of the older nickel cadmium [NiCd] batteries, and some Duracells. My question is: What more should I do, and what is the best way to store all of the batteries that I'm acquiring? Thanks for all that you provide for free in SurvivalBlog. You should make the 10 Cent Challenge mandatory. Maybe with a password for most of what is on your site that only paid subscribers would have. You are way too generous. Giving it all away is no way to make a living. With Kind Regards - Paul G.

JWR Replies: Thank you very much for raising this important issue. You are absolutely right. Without a reliable long term supply of batteries we will lose some of our best tactical advantages for retreat security: radio communication, electronic intrusion detection systems, and night vision goggles/sights. Think about it: The only way that a small group can effectively defend a rural retreat is with these technological advantages. Without batteries, we would soon be back to 19th Century technology and tactics. Since modern tactical electronics are "force multipliers", the lack of them would reduce the effectiveness of our defensive measures. Making up for that loss would necessitate having a lot more manpower. And more manpower means more retreat floor space and more food. That additional food means more land under cultivation, and more land under cultivation and means a larger perimeter to defend, and so forth. You can see where this logic leads: Instead of owning a little two family 20 acre low profile retreat, you'd need 10 to 12 armed and trained adults and perhaps 40 to 100 acres, depending on rainfall and soil fertility. Being the local Lord of the Manor is not conducive to keeping a low profile!

You are right that it is wise to stock up on batteries. Try to get rechargeable batteries for as many devices as possible. In fact, compatibility with rechargeables (versus expendable "throw away" batteries) should be a key determining factor when selecting any electrical or electronic equipment. My favorite source for batteries via mail order is (One of our affiliate advertisers.) They have great prices and a huge selection.

If space permits, you should store all of your small batteries in a sealed bag (to prevent condensation) in the back of your refrigerator. This will extend their useful life.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I greatly appreciate SurvivalBlog and the solid, thoughtful info it contains, and have printed out numerous posts for future reference. It seems for many the ideal is having a bug-out location, so perhaps readers could glean some useful information from my experience owning and operating a fair-sized ranch, one of the goals of which is to be as independent as possible.
Specific observation on particular issues:
Top of the list, everything else is secondary. If you don't have indoor water for cooking, bathing, toilets, etc., the quality of life quickly plummets. Try hauling all of the water you need from the creek for a few days and you'll agree. Make a reliable water supply your top priority.
Absent a pure gravity-flow situation from a spring or lake, without outside electricity you can lift water with a wind-powered mill, solar pump, or conventional submersible pump powered by a generator. Because of our location in central Texas with abundant sunshine, we chose to employ solar-powered pumps. They cost about the same as a windmill but pump more water and are far more reliable. We currently have three solar pumps made by Grundfos, each powered by two 170 watt solar panels. Two of the pumps are in wells about 100' deep, the other is in a spring-fed lake. These types of pumps have the huge advantage of using both 12 volt or 220 volt standard power, so they can be powered from the grid, by generator, from the solar panels, or even by jumper cables from a vehicle, which gives lots of options to keep the water flowing. You just have to be certain to unplug the solar panels from the system before using 220 volt power. The pumps supply 3,000 gallon storage tanks with float valves; when the tanks are full the float cuts off the flow of water and a pressure switch at the well turn off the pump when pressure reaches 60 lb. The storage tanks then supply water gravity flow to the house and orchard/garden. We also have 10,000 gallons of storage which catches water from the roof, and can be routed into the house by simply opening a valve.
No matter how carefully a plumbing project is planned and materials lists are drawn, such as adding more irrigation to the garden, for example, it is rare to complete work without another trip or three for additional materials. I would advise having plenty of spare fittings and pipe, as well as items like pressure switches, breakers, and on/off switches. It is also an obvious advantage to have a standard pipe size, say 1 inch, so spare parts are interchangeable.
Give a great deal of thought to your water system. Good planning at the start will allow different aspects to be tied together for redundancy, as well as prevent haphazard add-ons later, not to mention needless expense. Once the system is in place and operational, it is relatively maintenance-free, with only the rare switch failure or even rarer leak.
For household use such as cook tops, ovens, hot water, and even lighting, propane is hard to beat. With a large tank (I recommend a minimum of a thousand gallons), the supply can be stretched to last for years. And propane has zero storage problems, being practically immortal.
Diesel and gas storage have been discussed at great length, so I won't add to that here.
It's hard to have too much two-cycle oil to mix with gas for chainsaws, as well as motor oil and filters (start saving used motor oil for chainsaw lube), hydraulic oil, grease, and differential lube. Also, we have more problems with tires (due to cactus and mesquite thorns, primarily) than any other mechanical problem, so gallon jugs of a tire sealer product and a reliable way to air up tires, even if only a hand pump, is essential.
Cooking oil, lamp oil, and light lubrication oil can be pressed from sunflowers, walnuts, pecans, flaxseed, peanuts, and many more. A simple hand-cranked press ( looks to be adequate for household use, though I can give a further report once my sunflowers ripen next fall and I've given it a thorough test-drive. Olive oil can be used for the same purposes, though olives will only fruit in the far southern reaches of the US and the equipment to extract the oil is fairly expensive. Even so, we've planted a dozen olive trees and we'll see how they do.
Solar power with an inverter is an option I'm exploring for running power tools and refrigeration, but as yet have no direct experience with it. But it seems a viable alternative, with limits.
It takes a vast amount of experience and experimentation to reliably grow, process, store, and save the seeds from vegetables (Grandpappy's thoughts on seed saving were excellent, BTW). If the extent of your preparations in this area is a supply of heirloom seeds and three books on gardening, I've got some bad news: you're gonna starve. But don't despair, a great deal can be learned on a small scale: grow just a couple of tomato, squash, beans, peas, etc., and keep experimenting and saving seeds until you find what works best in your location. Once you know how to grow particular vegetables, it's relatively easy to ramp up the area to grow a significant food supply. But if starting from zero, it will take several years to become proficient.
Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are the way to go for most vegetables, at least in our locale, as they not only save water but reduce weed competition. Corn is the only plant I still put in rows and irrigate in the conventional way.
Our orchard is only now coming of age and starting to produce, as the trees are four years old. The forty fruit trees are also drip irrigated when necessary. One of the biggest problems related to fruit trees, aside from pests and diseases, is varmints; coons, possums, and ringtailed cats. Our solution when the fruit is ripening is leaving a dog in the fenced-in orchard at night.
We obtain more food from our 1.5 acre orchard and garden than we do from the rest of the ranch combined, and we only plant a small portion of it each year, so production could be greatly expanded in a pinch.
The whole key to security, in my view, lies in not being surprised. If the first inkling I have of trouble is when six vehicles with twenty-five armed men slide to a stop in my yard then I'm in exceptionally deep Schumer. So a layered approach, as James has outlined, makes excellent sense. Observation Posts (OPs) and MURS-type detection equipment [such as a Dakota Alert] are essential to having early warning to problems, and for most of us, if we're alerted, we'll be a very tough nut to crack.
A couple of good, well-trained dogs much more than pay their own way, acting as an alert and deterrent for intruders, as well as trailing game, barking at poisonous snakes, and, as mentioned earlier, keeping varmints out of the orchard and garden and away from the house. At the risk of blaspheming, if I had to pick only one rifle , it would be a .223. Now I'm well aware that a .308 has a lot more energy, range, and penetration, and I have several battle rifles in .308 that I love, but for one weapon to carry everywhere, every day, .223 is my choice.
First of all, I can't begin to count the number of deer and large feral hogs I've killed with one shot from a .223, so I have plenty of confidence in the round. But from a more practical standpoint, I've been amazed when carefully reading history with the number of settlers killed by Comanche indians in the old days right in this area because they were caught unarmed. And I realized they were usually caught unarmed because it's hard to weed the garden, cut wood, catch a cow, plow a field, wash clothes in the creek, butcher a hog, gather pecans, and a thousand other practical tasks when constantly toting a heavy rifle.
And the same may well hold true for us someday. A six and half pound .223 in AR platform or Mini-14 will be a lot more likely to be at hand when needed in the midst of constant work than a twelve pound H&K. Your mileage may vary, of course. - Bois d'Arc

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thanks for your efforts and the structure of your blog. I appreciate the lack of flaming and demeaning commentary. Wanted to get more input on this subject " Hiding retreat versus open fields of fire/visibility". We are leaning towards camouflaging, as much as possible views of our home from the road. However, this conflicts with my Army provided training, where on fire bases, we have open fields of fire and high visibility. I believe we need a compromise. As a less than visible retreat will avoid [confrontation with those who are] the less observant. But open fields of fire/ visibility give us tactical advantage. I would like to see some discussion on this please. I am aware of some fast growing trees, very fast that can help with camouflage. Thanks so very much. - EG

JWR Replies: You've brought up one of the most frequently asked questions from my consulting clients. It is the classic contradiction: concealment versus defendabilty. The most defendable positions are on barren hilltops, but those are also the most visible from a distance.

Ideally, you could pick a retreat parcel that can provide both open fields of fire out to 50 or 60 yards yet not have a house visible from nearby roads. But of course this isn't always possible. So you have to ask yourself: What do I expect to happen in my region in the event of a socioeconomic collapse? Will there just be an increase in burglary, or out-and-out attacks/home invasions by large organized groups of looters?

In my estimation, light discipline will be more important than line of sight issues. I foresee that a post-TEOTWAWKI world will be very dark at night. Just a few weeks into the problem, even the houses owned by people that have backup generators will go dark, as they begin to run out fuel. If you have an alternative power system (PV, wind, micro-hydro) then don't flaunt it. It is essential that you put blackout curtains backed by black sheet plastic inside all of your windows. Be sure to check for light leaks, preferably using night vision goggles. Even heavy wool blankets and drapes tacked up inside your windows will leak light, but backing them with heavy black sheet plastic (not just black trash bags) does the trick. (Tape the sheet plastic in place over the windows, leaving no gap where the sheeting meets the window frame, using opaque duct tape.) Without proper blackout precautions, your house will be a "come loot me" beacon that can be seen for miles at night. But with proper light discipline, at least your house will look anonymously dark--like those of your neighbors, who have no power. Consider getting infrared (IR) floodlights to light the exterior of your house. They can be motion sensor activated. That way, unless your potential attackers have night vision gear, your house will appear dark, but your yard will actually be well-illuminated (as seen through your night vision goggles.)

If you can afford to buy a large parcel, I recommend a layered defense that is adaptable to changing circumstances. (All the way up to the dreaded "worst case" societal collapse.) The outer-most layer is where you should install your seismic intrusion detection sensors. This gives you early warning of approaching malefactors. Any access roads should also have a MURS frequency Dakota Alert (or similar) wireless IR beam motion detector. Then, depending on your situation you might want a screen of trees for concealment. Next, some open ground, then a tall chain link fence. Then more open ground close to your house and outbuildings. This area should be crisscrossed with tanglefoot wire. (Which I will describe later.) Lastly, thorny bushes beneath each window, and beefy steel shutters.

Even well-manned retreats should supplement their guard staff with both dogs and intrusion detection systems. Reliable night vision gear is also a must. But please note that technology by itself is insufficient. Intrusion detection, communications, and night vision technologies are force multipliers, but you still need underlying force. It takes 24/7 manpower to defend a retreat. I describe how to set up and man LP/OPs and a CQ desk in my novel. "Patriots"

Now, getting back to concealment: There are advantages in most situations in adding some "privacy screen" trees to block the view of your house from any regularly-traveled roads. Depending on the lay of the land, leaving 30 yards of open ground (for defense) and then another 10 yards of thickness for the privacy tree screen will probably necessitate a property that is at least 10 acres.

Some fast-growing screening tree varieties include Portuguese laurel (prunus lusitanica) and Leyland Cypress. In cold climates, Lombardy Poplars do well. Parenthetically, a continuous hedge of all the same tree variety will be perceived as an obvious man-made planting, at just a glance. So it is best to plant a mix of tree varieties with semi-random spacing, to make your screening grove look more natural.

Regardless of what you decide to do in terms of concealment, be sure to leave at least 20 yards (60 feet) of open ground for last-ditch "ballistic defense." To slow down intruders, think in terms of gates, cables, and "decorative" berms to stop vehicles. Install a chain link fence. This will keep your dog(s) in and at least slow down the bad guys. Remember the old military axiom: Any obstacle that is not under continuous observation and covered by [rifle] fire is not a true obstacle--it is just a brief delay to the advance of the enemy.

Keep some concertina wire or razor wire handy, but do not install it in pre-Schumer times. This wire should be installed only after it is clear that law and order has completely broken down. At that point appearances and pre-Crunch sensibilities won't be nearly as important as a ready defense. In fact, odds are that when your neighbors see you stringing concertina wire, they will ask if you have any extra that you can spare! You can install concertina wire or razor wire on the top of your fence, and if you have plenty of it available, some more staked-down horizontal rolls, just beyond your fence.

Both inside and outside of your "last ditch" fence, you can crisscross some tanglefoot wire (as described in my novel) This type of wire is designed to slow down attackers--preventing them from charging your house. It should be strung at random heights between 9 inches and 40 inches off the ground. This is just one of the last layers of a layered defense. Every second that your various obstacles slow attackers down represents one more second available to stop them ballistically.

All of the foregoing, of course assumes the unlikely worst case. But by being ready for the worst you can handle any lesser threats with ease.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I can definitely say that the XS Sights work as advertised. I've tried them on the Mini-14 and AR-15 carbines, and in both cases they enabled accurate 100 yard plinking at night and fast acquisition with full sights. With a peep-sight equipped rifle, the Tritium front is the most worthwhile upgrade. If you can see the sight through the opening, you're going to hit what you're pointing at. For around $100, this is a very worthwhile upgrade for any gun that gets used at night. - Arclight


While reading earlier today OSOM's posting re "Night Sights for Pistols", I remembered an advert in a recent issue of Shotgun News, which showed two products (named "Diamond XT"; and " Diamond SAS; from a company that calls itself "Nikko-Stirling Optics." The visual, located on the "XT" page, appears to be just what the proverbial doctor ordered, for such CQ and CQ/T (courtesy of IOR - Valdada and Leupold) situations which may pop up. Better than the long in use 3-dot system? Would seem so to me. - Ben L.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mr Rawles:
Given that it is illegal anywhere that I know to hunt at night, and extremely inadvisable to hunt in low-light conditions - what in the heck are they making night sights for that fit hunting guns? It does seem okay to make them to fit on a rail - as backup, but for a typical battle-outfitted rifle with an ACOG or EOTech you can't use those sights, they would be obstructed by the base. And if you're going to put backup iron/night sights on a hunting rifle - would the money be better spent on a scope with an illuminated reticle? I may be barking up the wrong tree, but could someone correct my logic if I'm wrong in believing that XO has produced a product that is nearly illegal to use, with a limited market? - Jim H. in Colorado

JWR Replies: "Self defense" is a legitimate use to cite as justification for installing night sights. Also, in most states, hunting some species of predators and varmints--most notable raccoons is done almost exclusively at night, and allowable under fish and game regulations.(See you state's "hound hunting" regulations.) I haven't heard of these sights being illegal in any state, but pleas correct me if I'm wrong. I highly recommend getting tritium sights on all of your battle rifles, as a backup to a tritium lit scope, such as an ACOG. Ditto for you hunting rifles if you can afford to do so.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Dear Jim:
After doing some night shooting courses with no night sights on my long gun - ( bad idea :-( ) I found XS Sights for long gun tritium retrofits. Fortunately, I was also introduced to their pistol sights for faster day and night sight shooting - 24/7 Express Sights.
You really need to see the photo to appreciate the design, but basically it make the rear notch a very shallow V with a tritium "I" bar in the low center. The front sight is tritium surrounded by a big white dot - so you get the tritium at night, but also a big white dot for faster day and low light shooting (when [the glow of] tritium is not as noticeable). Typical pistol combat distances of 1 to 15 yards you just put the dot on and shoot. Over 15 yards you focus on the top of the dot for a more precise aiming point, and to avoid shooting slightly high.
Having done some Force on Force courses, I realized how valuable making a "flash" sight picture even quicker could be, so I got a set of the Big Dots to test. (Standard size is a compromise - not worth it, go for the Big Dot.)
Bottom line they are significantly faster for combat shooting. These are not precision target sights, but my IDPA accuracy stayed the same in practice and competition. The big improvement was that sight alignment came I'd say roughly 20% faster. Finally won my division in the area match after putting on the XS Express Sights!
I'm taking off my 3-dot tritium sights and retrofitting all my carry pistols with the Big Dot. Regards, - OSOM

Monday, December 18, 2006


Who makes the best Gen 1 and Gen 2 night vision optics? I am not sure I can afford to purchase Gen 3 for five people at this time. I can afford Gen 1, maybe Gen 2.
Thanks, - Martin

JWR Replies: I'd recommend that you purchase a professionally re-manufactured U.S. military contract Gen 2 scope such as the AN/PVS-2B. Beware the many "kitchen table" re-manufacturers out there! Buy a full mil spec scope from a reputable vendor such as Ready Made Resources or STANO Components, that will have a genuine, new, Gen 2 image intensifier tube with a bona fide data sheet.

The following is some guidance and contact information that I included in my newly-released Rawles on Retreat and Relocation book:

Late issue Third Generation (also called or Third Gen or Gen 3) starlight scopes can cost up to $3,000 each. Rebuilt first gen (early 1970s technology) scopes can often be had for as little as $500. Russian-made monoculars (with lousy optics) can be had for under $100. One Russian model that uses a piezoelectric generator instead of batteries is the best of this low-cost breed. These are best used as backups--in case your expensive American made scopes fail. They should not be purchased for use as your primary night vision devices unless you are on a very restrictive budget. (They are better than nothing.) Buy the best starlight scopes, goggles, and monoculars that you can afford. They may be life savers! If you can afford to buy only one, make it a weapon sight such as an AN/PVS-4, with a Gen 2 (or better) tube.(Or the bulkier AN/PVS-2 if you are on tight budget.) Make sure to specify that that the tube is either new or has very "low hours", that it has a high line pair count, and it that displays minimal scintillation. (My troops used the highly technical term "The Sparklies"to describe the scintillation phenomenon.)

Again, it is important to buy your Starlight gear from a reputable dealer. The market is crowded with rip-off artists and scammers. (A Russian importer who shall remain nameless once offered to supply a U.S. dealer with forged data sheets "at no extra charge" with each starlight scope purchased wholesale. Caveat emptor! As previously mentioned, in addition to Ready Made Resources, another dealer that I trust is Al Glanze (spoken "Glan-zee") who runs STANO Components in Silver City, Nevada. Contact: STANO Components, P.O. Box STANO, Silver City, Nevada 89428 FAX: 775-246-5211. Phone 775-246-5281/5283 or 1-888-STANO-FX (1-888-782-6639) Or e-mail:

Sunday, December 3, 2006

I had delayed writing a review of the Yukon night vision rifle scope because I have to wonder who else is reading your site. I don't want to do a disservice to all the good folks that visit your [blog] site. I surely don't want the bad guys knowing the following. Unless they stumble on it themselves. If they are going to use one I would rather they use one of these gems. I may buy a few
other night vision scopes just to see if the problem is in the design or I got a bad one. Here's what I
The scope is a Yukon Gen 1 with a illuminated circle/dot reticle, 1.5x42mm NVRS. It has an IR illuminator that supposedly gives it a 350 yd. range. I found that when the scope is first turned on with the illuminator off the operation is normal. The resolution is was a challenge seeing a 4x6 foot target board 100 yards down range. I had an equally difficult time
finding my (black) horse in the pasture 50-60 yards out with fresh batteries. With the illuminator on targets were easier to spot and maintain.
Now the fun part: After the illuminator was switched off the IR source continued to produce an output albeit at a LOWER INTENSITY but VERY visible.
So, not sure what I was dealing with, I ran a test. While in a very dark closet the NVRS was switched on nv only and I donned a NVG to "see" what I
would find. Nothing. Okay. I then switched on the illuminator which functioned fine. I then switched off the illuminator and sure enough there was a healthy glow emanating from the IR diode. I waited quite a while and re-checked the IR just to be certain I was not seeing some persistence in the diode and/or circuit that drives the diode and it was still producing an
output. I shut off the NVRS and the IR glow was still present. If the batteries were removed from the NVRS and after the IR circuit discharged the NVRS and illuminator would function normally until the IR switch was again out in the "on" position.
I can assume that either the IR driver has a component leaking current to the diode, a very long time constant on a capacitor or the "problem" is in the design. Either way this is one accessory I would not want to have on me in a TEOTWAWKI situation. The green "power on" indicator LED is bad enough. It lights up the operator's face as a beacon in the night!
So, as you can see - if the problem is in the design and not confined to the one that I had - I would rather the bad guys have the scope. I do tell those I trust, respect and would like to see remain at 98.6 degrees F. - Joe

Monday, November 20, 2006

What do you and your readers suggest for someone living in a rural area who needs a good strong light for prowlers? I live on top of a mountain in a cove surrounded by three sides by hills.

On occasion, we have trespassers at night riding the ATV trails along the hills who are out to steal tools, gas, etc. There have been more than a few occasions when I've walked out to my car late at night to get something and realized there were people in the trees.

One night I turned my rather anemic Surefire 6P [flashlight] in their direction, and spotted the bottoms of boots or tennis shoes heading up the hillside.

What Id like to have is advice on a good hand-held spotlight that I can use to pick out people in the trees up on the side of the hill late at night. Is this a viable option for an armed person, or should I just try and get a 120 lumens lamp for one of my Surefires?

Do rural folks maintain any light equipped firearms for nighttime problems with prowlers, or even predators after their livestock? Thanks, - L.K.

JWR Replies: To properly answer your questions, I need to do so to address two disparate circumstances, pre-TEOTWAWKI and post-TEOTWAWKI, which in many ways necessitate mutually exclusive security preparations. I once had a consulting client tell me that he was planning to purchase a big 10 KW propane generator for his isolated retreat, so that he could power numerous vapor lamps around his house, if and when the Schumer hits the fan. It took a while to convince him that he needed to think about some alternatives, to match both his locale and the severity/circumstances of potential Schumeresque situations. Let me explain:

Pre-TEOTWAWKI: Under present circumstances, security lighting is a benefit. You will have law enforcement available to call. Prowlers aren't likely to shoot at you. For pre-TEOTWAWKI, it is best to think in terms of active defenses, such as vapor lights, 1,000,000 candlepower 12 VDC handheld spotlights (such as those sold by US Cavalry Store and, full spectrum trip flares, noisy dogs, peafowl, and noisy electronic alarm systems.

Post-TEOTWAWKI: At some future date, security lighting could be a potential hazard. If and when the power grid goes down, the few families that have alternative energy will be very noticeable, especially as time goes on and stored fuel for generators begins to run out. After that juncture, the few folks with alternative energy (wind, solar, microhydro, etc.) will be very noticeable unless they are careful. The consensus among looters may very well be: :"If the have the money to make their own electricity, then they have things worth stealing." You do not want to present a "come loot me" beacon at night! In fact, it will be best to make blackout covers for all of your windows that can be installed from inside the house. These can be fabricated from scrap cardboard. Check carefully for light leaks.

Some other differences, post-TEOTWAWKI: You will have no law enforcement available to call. Prowlers will be likely to shoot at you. For post-TEOTWAWKI, it is best to think in terms of passive defenses, such as starlight scopes, infrared chemical light stick trip flares, quiet (but alert) dogs, tanglefoot wire, concertina wire, and silent alarm systems. (See the Profile for Mr. Tango for some ideas on infrared floodlights that can be used in conjunction with night vision equipment.)

Regarding your question about mounted lights: With the exception of infrared illuminators, I generally discourage mounting lights on guns intended for use post-TEOTWAWKI. If left turned on for more than just an instant before shooting, a visible light mounted on a gun can turn you into a natural target. If you feel the need for illuminating targets for post-TEOTWAWKI security, then I'd recommend that you be the armed man hidden in the shadows that remotely turns on a floodlight.(As opposed to being the man holding the light--or holding the gun with an attached light--who in effect announces: "Here I am!"

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Dear Jim:
I know your site talks about night vision ["Starlight" light amplification technology], but thermal night vision if you can afford it is far superior for hunting/perimeter defense/tracking. It doesn't matter about movement or camouflage [since these can literally see body heat.] See: and
- S.F.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I've been running night vision since I learned to fly with them back in 1978. Not to disparage the writer's comments about how good the "Mini-14" monocular is, because it is a good unit. However, it's been my experience that the PRC-14Delta (Government) model is even better. Yes, a papered version costs more than a civilian Mini-14 but it's worth the money. And, as an additional note, the manual gain adjustment of the PRC-14D is invaluable. It's there for a reason. You strap it on and adjust the gain until you have maximal effectiveness of both eyes (One aided eye and one un-aided eye). Auto gain doesn't allow for that and limits you to only using one eye to effectively see. It's normally too bright to utilize both eyes, especially in dark arenas.
I use automatic gain adjusting Night Vision weapon scopes, but for the head unit, automatic gain adjustment doesn't work well.
Further, don't confuse ABC (Automatic Brightness Control) with gain adjustment. ABC is a protective function to turn the scope off before it's tolerance to bright light is exceeded.
Also, even though NVDs are really neat, you don't actually need an NVD unless it's so dark you can't see you hand in front of your face. This was one of the original design parameters. BTW, they can be effectively and comfortably utilized with the PASGT original Kevlar helmet, as well as the new Army ACU or the Marine helmet. However, the Navy SEAL Boat Helmet (which was the original MICH (Modular Integrated Communication Helmet) is the best I've found. It's available, custom built, from Regards, - The Army Aviator

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hi Mr. Rawles,
I read your novel Patriots for the first time a few months ago and wanted to tell you that it was one of the most educational and eye-opening books that I have read. Plus, the plot made it difficult to put the book down once I started reading! Patriots really opened my eyes to many survival and self-sustainability issues that I hadn't considered previously and for that I want to thank you. I think it is a true service what you have done to those just learning about these issues and so I have been recommending your book to everyone I know. I also recently came across your blog and have found this to again be a great source of information.
I sent an annual payment for the ten cent challenge a couple of days ago and wanted to help contribute with a bit of information for anyone looking for night vision devices (NVDs):
I was looking for a night vision monocular and after researching several of the sites, I came across an interesting offer on They carried all of the popular models plus a device called the "Mini-14". This is a Gen-3 device, which in comparison to the PVS-14, is 1) smaller and lighter, 2) waterproof to 66ft, 3) uses only one AA battery (or smaller lithium battery) instead of two, 4) comes with several additional accessories, and, 5) is comparable in price or even slightly cheaper.
The only feature that it lacks in comparison is that it doesn't allow manual adjustment of the gain, which I've read might be an issue in urban environments (the gain does adjust automatically though). Now, the interesting offer on this site was that they had obtained some 'Select' versions, which included the [amplification tube manufacturer's] data cards and were guaranteed to be above certain thresholds in features such as line pairs per millimeter (LP/mm), signal to noise (S/N) ratio and sensitivity. Moreover, they offered a hand-select service which assured receipt of the very best of these units. "Mike" is the one to talk to there. He was very helpful in educating me about the differences between the various models / brands as well as some of the more general NVD information. There is a also a nice forum on their site where users discuss the different units.
I decided to purchase the unit and have to say that it is by far the single most amazing acquisition that I have ever made (truly worth every penny). The clarity and brightness at night is jaw-dropping! And, I would have to believe that this is one of the finer examples of a Gen-3 device. So, I just wanted to pass along this information in case it would helpful to anyone interested in these devices.
Thank you very much again for what you have done in educating everyone and I look forward to many more daily blog updates! - Scot

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Fellow SurvivalBlog Readers:  
JWR is dead-on regarding his advice on NVGs or NVDs. I accumulated 11,000+ first pilot time and started out flying with
AN/PVS-5s. The ANVIS you are flying with are great for aviation or driving but suck for ground pounding. I like my nostalgic PVS-5s with the cut away for peripheral vision improvement but upgraded them to Gen3 tubes thru Ed Wilcox, Wilcox Engineering and Research: A good, fair and highly qualified man to deal with.
For ground pounding, in addition to a dedicated NV weapon sight, I settled for a PVS-14D 72 line pair monocular from NVEC (Complete with data sheet, of course.). With the adjustable gain, I have the best of vision utilizing both eyes, one aided and one unaided. BUT you just can't drive or fly with only one eye. :-)
Since 1999, my favorite page, the most knowledgeable and filled with people like Lanny Leonard who actually like to help people is: If you want to learn about NV devices, here's the place. No pushy sales and no pushy adds. Just NV talk and lots of good experience that rubs off. Hope this helps. Best Regards,- The Army Aviator


Hello James,
In my limited experience with NVGs, I have noticed lots of differences. You do not want to save money on these if you take home defense seriously. I personally think you are wasting your money on a Generation 1.
1). The intensifier tubes have a "shelf life". Buying new is important if you can afford it. As you previously recommended, buying a scope rather than a pair of binocs is a must. Seeing your "threat" does nothing when you can't even focus on your sights.
2). Pay attention to the field of view, minimum focus distance, etc.... I don't know about you, but I would sure like to be able to see what is 20'-70' away from me and make an assessment, some optics don't focus on items closer than 50 yards!!!
3). Illuminators are a dead giveaway to someone else with NVGs. It is like the "raccoon" eye effect you mentioned, except in this case, it's like turning on a flashing neon light pointing at you. This is true for Lasers as well. Also, it is my understanding that illuminators can cause burn on the intensifier tubes. My knowledge is limited, but I think this was true on all but the latest patented NVGs. Also, do some research. Do not take your recently purchased NV item and peer out the glass in your home or vehicle. In certain instances, (i.e.- illuminators), this can cause permanent intensifier burn out. I try to be careful with purchases that cost over $700,...hope this information is accurate and may save you the unknown danger to your potential lifeline!
4). There are many options with optics now. I personally am intrigued by ATN Corporation's Day/Night Scope System. With a simple twist, you remove the NV system and the main body of the scope system stays mounted and keeps Zero! How cool is that? Kills two birds with one stone, Hence helping justify the expense, (at least to the Mrs., ha ha).
As as a side note, these products may be useful in obtaining game, (legally of course) or for that matter, protecting your heard of livestock from coyotes or similar predators. In my state, there is no clause against night vision as long as it does not "project a beam or ray of light", (i.e.- such as a laser or a NVG illuminator). Food for thought. - The Wanderer

JWR Replies: Thanks for your comments gents. In addition to the The Army Aviator's recommendation for Wilson Engineering and Research, as previously mentioned, three night vision gear vendors that I personally know and trust are JRH Enterprises, Ready Made Resources, and STANO Components, Inc. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mr. Rawles,
I wanted to say I enjoy your blog very much and look forward to it everyday. I am happy to contribute to your 10 Cent Challenge. Regarding your 20 February post on NVGs, I've looked at a few web sites just to see what is available. I have never actually put one of these models on so I may be out to lunch but it seems that most of the NVGs are built to cover your whole eye, allowing no peripheral vision, amplified or otherwise. I am currently an F-16 pilot in the Air Force and we fly quite a bit with NVGs. Our NVGs do not cover the entire eye and are more like a set of binoculars (without the amplification) positioned in front of the eyes. This is gives us the ability to glance down into the cockpit (a must in order to kill and not be killed) and have peripheral vision (though it is not amplified by NVGs of course). 40 degrees of NVG vision is not a lot and is akin to looking through a toilet paper tube. Having the ability to glance down at your weapon or detect movement out of the corner of your eye (movement, even at night, is best seen with your peripheral) is priceless. Once again, maybe I am wrong about the way they sit on your eyes but it not, then it is definitely something to think about. I would rather have 40 degrees of night vision and and still able to look down and have peripheral vision versus 40 degrees of night vision and nothing else. Once again thanks for putting such a great blog together. - Sterno

JWR Replies: Many thanks for your input. In my experience, the requirements for NVGs in ground combat are much different than for use in a cockpit. The biggest tradeoff is peripheral vision versus the risk of "raccoon eyes." Let me explain: If you have the goggles set forward on a typical helmet mount to allow peripheral vision then they cast a bright glow on your face. This glow can be seen by someone in front of you for well in excess of 50 feet without NVGs, and for hundreds of yards with NVGs. That is one of the reasons that I prefer either NV weapons sights or NV monoculars with rubber eye cups (with the folding flap that opens only after your have pressed it to your face. To a bad guy in the distance, using any sort NV device without an eyecup looks like like you are shining a flashlight in your face.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Are you going to do a post on [Starlight] Night Vision Goggles, where to buy, and what type of NVGs is the best? - K.T. [of KT Ordnance]

JWR Replies: The light amplification NVG market has become crowded in recent years, primarily with junk that is prone to failure. I most strongly recommend that you you buy only good quality scopes. This generally means American or Israeli-made, not Russian.

If you can only afford one piece of starlight gear, then make it a weapon sight. You can always use a weapon sight dismounted (as a monocular), but you cannot mont a monocular or a pair of goggles to a weapon. (Yes, I know, you can use NVGs in conjunction with a laser aiming light, but that is adding another layer of logistics complexity.) I would rather have one reliable first generation ("Gen 1") or second generation ("Gen 2'") scope such as an AN/PVS-2 than I would three or four fragile, unreliable Russian scopes for the same amount of money.

If you have a lavish budget, go for broke: buy a redundant set of two or three Gen 3 scopes (such as AN/PVS-4s) and two or three NVGs (such as AN/PVS-7s). If you have bagoodles of money, you might even consider getting a few AN/PAQ-4 laser aiming lights and perhaps even one of the new Raytheon Gen 2 "Warrior" IR-50 thermal weapon sights that are just coming onto the civilian market. But hang on to your wallet... The IR-50s currently cost around $20,000 each!

When selecting any starlight gear, buy only equipment with guaranteed "low hours" U.S. full military specification tubes that come with authentic data sheets specifying their actual measured number of line pairs.  If you have the opportunity to do side-by-side night-time comparisons, pick a device that has minimum scintillation (a.k.a."the sparklies"), a maximum number of line pairs, and the best possible optical clarity.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for someone who is looking at the potential of  a "long term worst case" situation, you should buy only equipment that is compatible with standard "off the shelf" rechargeable NiMH batteries. As David in Israel is fond of mentioning: "Remember, you are not the U.S. military with a huge budget and a long logistics tail."  Plan and make your purchases according.

Three night vision gear vendors that I know and trust are JRH Enterprises, Ready Made Resources, and STANO Components, Inc.  All three of these firms are competent, trustworthy, and will go to the extra effort to make sure that you are completely satisfied.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mr. Rawles,
First let me say that I love the blog. Also, your book ("Patriots") is my all time favorite fictional survival book. You will have to give us an update on when the new edition with extra chapters is due out.
A little background on myself, for the past few years I have been flying helicopters in support of a military survival school in the Northwest. I average a handful of night flights each month and when we fly we use current issue NVG’s. We normally fly at 300 feet above the ground and have little to no cultural lighting (city lights) as we are over National Forest lands. For this reason I would consider the amount of light we fly with to be similar to a TEOTWAWKI scenario (no cultural lights.)
Now I would like to add some thoughts about the tritium sight thread from Monday. The benefits associated with tritium sights definitely outweigh any disadvantages. I consider your comments on tritium sights to be correct for worst case. By that I mean you would get the penlight in the face effect (we call it "raccoon eyes") if you were operating in an unlit building, in a cave, or possibly outside on a very overcast and moonless night with no cultural background lights. Tritium sights should not be overlooked when trying to decrease your tactical profile but I personally would not excessively worry about them. Like yourself, I would use a full flap holster and that would be the extent of my mitigation. To give some perspective on light sources in a different situation, I remember flying a couple weeks ago with a full moon and having a hard time seeing an IR (infrared) strobe. And we had to request the IR strobe after being unable to identify a group in which an individual was swinging a chemical light stick attached to a 2 foot cord around in a circle. I would like to point out to your readers that wearing their own set of NVGs would give them a much greater light profile (very bright raccoon eyes) than tritium sights would. NVGs are a huge force multiplier and I don’t recommend going without them but when they are used they should primarily be used to scan and only for a short duration.
Two things that I would be more concerned about are fire and light discipline. As far as fire goes, even a fire that has no visible flames really pops out when viewed on NVG’s. That is because the goggles sensitivity peaks near the red/ IR spectrum of light. If you must have a fire, bury any left over embers and move far away when you are done. Like I said, goggles really pick up red and IR lights. Brake lights can be seen for miles and those red filters used on flashlights to read maps are almost just as bad. Get rid of the red filters and carry a blue/green filter instead. The blue/ green filter allows you to maintain your night vision while offering a slightly smaller light profile than the same flashlight in plain white.
Regards, - The Northwest Helo Pilot

Monday, October 10, 2005

What are your thoughts regarding tritium nights sights giving away your position to someone using Gen III or better night vision? - Gung-Ho

JWR Replies: Thanks, Gungie, you raised an important point! Even first generation starlight (electronic light amplification) devices can detect the illumination of tritium sights. For someone looking at you through a starlight scope or NVGs, if you are holding a pistol in your hands that is equipped with fresh tritium sights, then it will give the same visual impression as if you had a penlight shining in your face. If holstered, this usually isn't an issue, depending on the holster design. (This is one reason I like the versatile Bianchi UM-84 holster.When I carry a handgun as a backup to a long gun, I use the Bianchi with the full flap installed. This completely covers the rear sight. When out berry picking in bear country, I remove the flap and use just the "thumb break" retention strap.) For rifles, a tritium front sight post can be quickly shrouded to almost "zero out" its light signature--typically with a short length of black plastic house wiring insulation. I prefer this method because the front sight is still usable--albeit degraded--in a pinch.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Just a recommendation for Robert Henry of JRH Enterprises and his wife. Good man, dependable and fair. His merchandise is always a good product.
Whenever I've dealt with him, I can only say it was "always a pleasure".

Oh, for your PVS-14, they finally came out with something handy and servicable.For $44 U.S. Tactical sells PVS-14 hard case for your belt. Fits with the mounting arm attached and has capacity for two spare AA size batteries. I'll let you know how well it lives. Regards, - The Army Aviator

Monday, September 19, 2005

I have been checking out solar battery chargers and came across the link below. Perhaps some of the other SurvivalBloggers would be interested! - G.C.P.

Click here: AA-SOLAR - Solar AA Battery Charger

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I should point out that the battery offer by Botach is a high risk issue. Botach is a scum sucking bottom feeding scammer! Check the comments at and - They have a horrible reputation. I can also attest personally that they and have ripped me off (on an expensive rifle scope deal) as well as two of my associates (various rifle parts). I strongly encourage folks to slit their wrists before buying from Botach! - A.M.

JWR Replies: Don't hold back, A.M., tell us how you really feel! (Seriously, I appreciate your advice. I've removed that post.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Hi Jim,
On Survival battery on a budget: It doesn't really matter what you have as long as it is of good quality and you know how to use it. For instance, an M1 Garand is certainly a viable rifle, especially in areas where others may not be legal, but it may not be the best rifle for me. For others it might be the best choice over anything else. The key reason is training. My father (drafted for the Korean War in the 50's) would be much better off with an M1 Garand than a FAL. Why? Because he knows it inside and out. The same goes for many folks that have military experience. If I were to choose a 5.56mm, it would be an AR-15 platform, not because it's the best rifle ever made, but because after ten years in the Army it's an extension of myself. Training and experience is the key. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, you're better off buying a cheaper gun and spending money on training, than buying an expensive gun and shooting it from the bench once or twice a year. Gizmos, gadgets, and dollars do not make up for skill. Only skill matters. Get professional training from one of the many instructors that teach carbine or rifle classes. Which brings me to J.B.'s question on night vision, etc. Training is again the key. It doesn't matter if you have NVG's if you can't use them effectively. It takes training, and a lot of it to really use the potential of night vision systems. Don't fall into the expensive trap of buying a night scope and thinking you "own the night." The scope is just a tool. You have to know how to use the tool effectively. Now night is just another environment. Since it can be half the day or longer farther north, it's pretty important to know how to operate at night. Again, training is the key. The only way to get good at night is to train at it. You won't make up for lack of training, by buying gadgets. Training at night will put you ahead of those that don't when you're in that environment. Too many people get hooked on the gear and ignore training. Your brain is your primary survival tool. - "Doug Carlton"

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